Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, or HVAC, is extremely important to the comfort level of your home. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of false information out there about how to care for your HVAC system and the best ways to conserve energy. Here are some of the most common myths you’ll find about your HVAC system, and the truths that will keep you comfortable in any weather.
- Closing the Vents in Empty Rooms will Save Energy. This one sounds like it makes a lot of sense, but unfortunately it doesn’t work. Closing vents has the potential to increase air pressure in the air ducts which can cause leaks at their seams.
- The Location of the Thermostat Doesn’t Affect Heating or Cooling. If you put your thermostat too close to vents, radiators, or windows, it may cause the system to continuously shut down before it’s supposed to or leave it running for too long.
- You Should Cover Your Outdoor Unit During Winter. If it’s expected to snow, you should place a board over your system’s fan, but otherwise it’s best to keep the area clear. Covering a unit can trap moisture and speed up corrosion. Also, try to keep it clear of surrounding plants as they can hinder air flow. Keep plants at least 3 to 5 feet away, but see if you can’t keep your unit in the shade as it will then use approximately 10% less energy.
- You Only Have to Change Your Filter Once a Year. Though that would be nice, it is recommended that you change your filter every six months, and even more often if it’s in constant use, subjected to dusty conditions, or you have pets that shed. Dirty filters can block airflow and reduce your system’s efficiency, but changing the filter routinely can lower your HVAC energy consumption by 5 to 15%.
- Turning Your System Off When You Leave is a Waste of Energy. Many people believe that turning your AC up or you heat down a bit saves more energy than turning the whole thing off when you leave. In reality, it is always more beneficial to switch off your system when it’s not being used. Programmable thermostats are worth the investment as you can set them to automatically turn off at your usual time of departure in case you forget.
Of course, your HVAC maintenance is only one part of the efficiency equation. An energy-efficient unit cannot reduce your electric bill alone. Work to keep up regular home maintenance like replacing window seals, loose siding, or poor insulation.
It’s that time of year when it warms up to the point of inspiring you to finally go out to your backyard and ready it for outdoor entertaining. Got a small space? There are always things you can do to turn your outdoor space into a haven for dinner guests.
The first and most important element of getting the space ready is to arrange your outdoor furniture to maximize space. That means placing it around the perimeter of the deck or patio even if you’re used to having it in the middle. Even the table that will hold the buffet should be placed somewhere other than the center, so it gives your guests plenty of room to stand or move around.
Large floor pillows are great for outdoor entertaining, especially when you have limited outdoor seating. Find a few extra spots for guests to sit without taking up too much space (including the grass if it is part of your entertainment area) to add an extra element of coziness.
Now for decor. Experts say to use color wisely in a small space. Stay monochromatic (grays, whites, tans) for the big stuff (furniture cushions) while adding pops of color with pillows, pots, or an outdoor area rug in eye-catching colors and patterns.
Potted or hanging plants can be a focal point, even if there is plenty of foliage on hand. But experts say to place it strategically in your entertaining area to liven things up and make your modest space feel like an exotic retreat.
And don’t forget to put light on the subject! Strings of bistro lights instantly open up a small space and offer a warm glow for a cozier vibe. Covered candles add a nice touch as well. Even those cute little battery-powered mini-lights curled up inside a lantern can add a magical touch.
Now you're good to go! You have an entire summer and fall to look forward to as the weather turns entertainment-friendly. You can use even that modestly-sized back yard as a comfy retreat for both you and your guests. Oh. And don’t forget the food.
It’s no secret that the home buying process is an emotional one, with more ups and downs than an office elevator on a Monday morning. It helps to know what you’re getting into and have the knowledge that will help you combat the confusion and successfully make it through to a new home. Here are our 5 top tips for homebuying.
- Plan Ahead. It’s important that you get all of your ducks in a row before you dive into the process. List out all of your needs and wants for a new home and plan what it’s going to take for you to get there. Interview and hire a real estate agent and lender, work on getting pre-approved, create a budget, and then work on scheduling when you’ll be able to visit houses. Staying organized and on top of the process early on will help you from getting tangled up in everything later.
- Consider Your Safety. Researching a neighborhood before you chose to move is always important, but even more so if you’re concerned about your safety. Look up the area’s crime rate, talk to the police and the people who live in the area if you have questions, and drive around the area in the evening to see what the activity levels and street lighting are like.
- Don’t Waste Time. If you’ve found a good real estate agent, chances are they won’t be sending you to random open houses and will instead be weeding through listings to find houses that suit your needs. Take your agent’s advice and try not get hung up on little things that could distract you from what it is you’re really looking for. At the same time, don’t try to rush the process. This is a big decision and it should not be taken lightly.
- Prepare Your Pennies. You’ve talked to your mortgage lender about your budget and your down payment, but there are other closing costs you need to make sure you’re aware of. You’ll be required to pay inspection fees, taxes, and insurance fees at closing so make sure you plan ahead. Also talk to your lender about your monthly mortgage payments as more goes into that than just the principle mortgage payment. Make sure you’re aware that your monthly payment will also include interest, taxes, and insurance.
- Work With People You Can Trust. Ask advice from the people you know at any point in the process. Look to your friends and family for professional recommendations to help you find your real estate agent and your lender, but also do your own research. Read reviews and talk with various professionals to find someone that you think you’ll easily be able to work with and who will make the home buying process a painless and understandable one.
Animals, like humans, get stressed during a move. Sometimes, they end up even more stressed since they don’t quite understand what’s going on. It’s important that you work to make this move as smooth as possible for their sake and your own sanity.
Be Aware of Pet Laws and Regulations. It’s important that when you move into a new neighborhood you’ve educated yourself on all of the local leash laws, pet ordinances, and licensing requirements. Your pet may need extra vaccinations or certificates depending on where you move to.
Update Pet Identification. Whether your pet wear’s an ID tag or has a microchip, you’ll want to get their information updated to incorporate your new address as soon as possible. No matter how careful you are with your pets there’s always a chance they could get lost in your new neighborhood.
Talk to your Vet. You’ll need to gather all your pet’s medical records before you move, but it’s also important to talk to your vet to receive any insight on how you can make the move more comfortable for them. If they’re naturally nervous, your vet may have some medication or behavior modification tactics that will help them relax. (It’s also a good idea to try and get any vaccinations updated if necessary.) Finally, especially if you’re moving out of town, try to have a new veterinarian lined up before you move.
Pack Over Time. Try not to save all your packing for the last minute. Pets are not fans of change and will get worked up if everything suddenly disappears at once. Plus, pets can feel your anxiety and it can make them nervous. Pack a little bit each day to take some of the anxiety away from the both of you.
Keep them Secure. If you’re moving to another house in the same town, see if you can leave your pet with a friend. If not, try to keep them in a crate or a room with some of their favorite things and check on them periodically throughout the day. If you’re moving far away, be sure to keep them in a crate, pet carrier, or, at the very least, on a leash at all times. The stress could cause even the best behaved pet to run off, so keep them easy to control at all times.
Prepare a Travel Kit. Have your pet’s favorite things set in a box that is easy to access as soon as you arrive in your new home. Small toys and blankets can stay with your pet during the move, but things like food, water bowls, and beds should be right in the back of the truck. Also, if you’re traveling far, make sure enough of their food has been packed and it's readily available so that you won’t have to dig through all your boxes just to feed your four-legged friend.
Take a Walk. As soon as you have some amount of free time, take your pet for a walk around the neighborhood. This way you can both familiarize yourselves with the area and, if you have a dog, they can relax by exploring all the new smells. Try to introduce yourself and your pet to as many neighbors as possible while you’re out so that if your lovable little friend gets lost they will know who look for.
Congratulations! You popped the big question and everything went swimmingly! Now you get to spend your time, energy, and enthusiasm on planning your wedding and new life together. Of course, this means thinking about and asking the other big question: Should we purchase or rent our first home?
Most American couples aspire to someday own a home of their very own, and who can blame them? With economic advantages such as building your equity and receiving tax deductions, and social advantages including community and security for your family, it’s no wonder that owning a house has remained a central part of the American Dream for years. However, this doesn’t mean that running out and buying a home right after the wedding is the right choice for everyone. There are three questions you need to ask yourself before deciding to buy or rent your first home together:
- Are you staying local? If you plan on moving soon it might not make sense to own a long-term proposition.
- How are your finances? If you’re going into this new life with a lot of debt and a low credit score it may be best to wait to own till you’ve improved your finances.
- Do you have savings? Between down payment requirements and the occasional emergency, it’s important to have some kind of cash reserve to fall back on.
Of course, it has become quite common for couples to get married later in life and is thus more likely for one, if not both, of the newlyweds to already own a home. This then creates the alternate version of the big question: What if one (or both) of us already owns a home?
This pretty much eliminates the renting vs. owning question entirely and presents a new line of options to consider. Based on your lifestyle, location and finances you could choose one house to live in and then either rent or sell the other, or you could sell both houses and work together to buy a new one for your new life.
Again, there are many factors to consider when it comes to making your new housing choice, so it’s important that you look into meeting with a financial advisor and a mortgage originator on top of your meetings with your wedding advisor.