Energy Tips for Colder Weather

Real Inights from Realtors Decorating Ideas Cold Weather Efficiency Add A Touch of Warmth Choosing Stain Color Kitchen Remodel Winter Storm Preparedness

Energy Tips For Colder Weather

(NAPSI)—Here’s news that may warm your heart-and your home.

There’s now a new resource from the Eldercare Locator to help keep older adults safe and warm during the cold weather months. It’s a brochure called “Winter Warmth and Safety: Home Energy Tips for Older Adults,” and it provides tips about preparing a home for winter weather and saving money on energy expenses.

Hints To Help You

The brochure suggests you:

• Make sure your home is energy efficient by installing a programmable thermostat and sealing and insulating ducts.

• Learn about energy assistance programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and utility no-cutoff programs.

• Avoid the risk of home fires by not using your stove or oven to heat your home.

• Make sure carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working properly.

• Learn about Weatherization Assistance Programs (WAP).

• Be sure to schedule a check-up of your heating equipment. Dirt and neglect are the No. 1 cause of heating system failure.

• Insulate water pipes to avoid freezing and bursting. Be sure to drain and turn off outside waterspouts.

• Identify alternative living arrangements should extreme weather conditions occur. Have a plan ready.

Learn More

For further tips and a free copy of the brochure, which is available in English and Spanish, call (800) 677-1116 or download it at www.eldercare.gov. The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging.

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Real Insights From Realtors

(NAPSI)—For many people, buying a home is a goal they aspire to achieve and often the most significant financial decision they'll make in their life. If you're among them, consider this advice: Given the mass amounts of information, data and tools available, it's critical to work with a professional who can help you make sense of it all. During the home buying or selling process, it's wise to follow these tips:

• Work with a local expert. Realtors are the most trusted resources for up-to-date, comprehensive and accurate real estate information when it comes to navigating each step of the complex home buyers process. More than four out of five recent home buyers and sellers used a real estate professional, according to the National Association of Realtors.

• Learn about the area. Looking to move to a new neighborhood? Chances are you're unfamiliar with some characteristics of the area, such as traffic patterns on busy streets and the best schools within the district. Realtors have a finger on the pulse of each market where they do business. They're responsible for knowing the nuances to consider before buying a home and can leverage that expertise to help you.

• Seek accurate information. Many websites offer to help potential home owners find the perfect house. Some people have even suggested the Internet will eventually make buying a home as easy as buying an airline ticket or a stock certificate. However, consumers often complain that some of the information provided on these sites is either out of date or inaccurate, creating confusion and frustration.

A Realtor, on the other hand, can provide valuable counsel, discuss listings, show you homes in person, negotiate on your behalf and help you stay focused on the emotional and financial issues that are most important. That may be one reason 88 percent of buyers in 2013 used a real estate agent, up from 69 percent in 2001.

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Decorating Ideas

(NAPSI)—While holiday decorations are a great way to spread the joy of the season, you have to make sure they’re safe.

Tips To Help

Whether you decorate indoors, outdoors or both, there are certain electrical safety tips you need to keep in mind:

• First, always purchase electrical decorations and lights from reputable retailers and make sure they’ve been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

• Next, plan out your decoration arrangements so no outlet is overloaded and no cords are pinched by furniture or under rugs. Once you’re ready to decorate, inspect all electrical decorations for cracked, frayed or exposed wiring. These can pose shock and fire hazards and should be thrown away. When hanging holiday lights, don’t connect more than three strings of incandescent lights. Alternatively, consider purchasing LEDs, which use less energy and let you safely connect more strings together.

• When decorating outdoors, bear in mind that some common electrical products you use inside, such as holiday lighting or extension cords, may not be suitable for outdoor use. Check each product’s labels or packaging to determine whether it’s for indoor or outdoor use. Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which are designed to protect from electrical shock and electrocution. If circuits are not GFCI protected, you can get portable outdoor GFCIs where electrical supplies are sold. They require no special knowledge or equipment to install.

• Once you’ve safely put up your decorations, continue to ensure your electrical safety by turning off all electrical items before leaving the house or going to bed. To reduce your risk, it’s also important to keep Christmas trees hydrated and at least three feet from heating equipment or any open flame, such as a candle or fireplace.

Be vigilant about heeding these hints from the experts at the Electrical Safety Foundation International and give yourself the gift of safety this holiday season.

Learn More

For more electrical safety tips for the holiday season and beyond, visit www.esfi.org.

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Top Cold Weather Home Efficiency Tips

(NAPSI)—Homeowners can prepare for cold weather by taking simple energy efficiency measures that will reduce energy consumption and heating bills.

What You Can Do

• Install and set a programmable thermostat. Homeowners can save an estimated 10 percent per year on heating costs by using a programmable thermostat and setting the heat to run only when they’re home.

• Use sunlight to your advantage. During winter months, take advantage of sunlight by opening curtains during the day to allow the sun to naturally heat your home.

• Reduce energy for water heating. Water heating accounts for roughly 14 to 18 percent of most home utility bills. Reduce costs by making sure your water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and wrapping a water heater jacket around it if it’s more than five years old.

• Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.

• Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

• When using the oven, resist the temptation to open the door to check on a dish’s progress. Every time you do, the temperature inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees, forcing it to work even harder (and use more energy) to get back to the proper cooking temperature.

• Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open; it lets warm air go right up the chimney.

• Have a technician inspect and confirm that your appliances are running as efficiently as possible, so you can conserve fuel and save money.

• Hire a professional to maintain your heating system. Arrange for annual maintenance with a qualified technician. This includes checking the airflow over the coil, checking that the combustion process and heat exchanger are operating safely, and ensuring proper airflow to each room.

• Clean the air filters once a month and replace them regularly.

• Consider purchasing a propane generator. When other power sources fail, a propane generator can keep your house operating without interruption. Propane is an approved clean alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act. It’s a nontoxic, American-made fuel that doesn’t contaminate groundwater or soil and a low-carbon alternative fuel that produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than most other energy sources.

• Call your propane provider to discuss contracts, delivery options and payment plans that fit your budget and needs, advise the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council.

“By planning ahead and taking steps to reduce energy consumption, homeowners can help make sure everyone has a comfortable and safe winter,” says Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO.

Learn More

Further tips and other resources can be found at www.PropaneComfort.com.

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Adding A Touch Of Warmth To Your Holiday Celebration

(NAPSI)—At holiday time or anytime, for many busy people, a fire in the fireplace can provide an escape from day-to-day chaos, an opportunity for a romantic interlude, or a great accompaniment to an entertaining evening with family and friends.

An Efficient Way To Enjoy A Fire

Making that even easier is a nature-inspired firelog that can transport you to a different place and time with the strike of a match.

Crafted from real hardwoods and featuring up to a 24 percent more efficient burn than that of other brands, Pine Mountain® fire logs burn cleaner and greener than ordinary cordwood. You simply place the firelog on the fireplace grate and light the arrows marked on the wrapper. Then, sit back and enjoy a beautiful fire. Pine Mountain firelogs are available in two-, three- or four-hour burn times. As the match is lit and the fire begins, chaos can turn to comfort for you and your family.

Learn More

For further information, go to www.pinemountainfire.com, www.facebook.com/PineMountainFire or call (877) 402-5185.

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Choosing Stain Color

(NAPSI)—When it comes to giving your home natural warmth and beauty, few things compare to wood—and wood is surprisingly flexible when it comes to color. Whether you’re refinishing your floors or cabinets, restoring a fine piece of furniture or creating a new look distressing an existing piece, wood stain can enhance the beauty of the wood and add to your style.


From traditional colors such as walnut or oak, to trendy espresso or weathered gray, you can choose from a variety of wood stains or create your own custom colors by mixing stains. The experts at the Minwax Company have tips to help:

• Each species of wood accepts stain differently. A dark walnut stain will look different on pine than on cherry. Test the stain on an inconspicuous area of the wood first to see the true color.

• Use a pre-stain wood conditioner to prevent streaks and blotches and ensure the wood absorbs the stain evenly.

• For beautiful, even color, thoroughly stir—not shake—the can to distribute pigments that may have settled on the bottom.

• If you create a custom color, measure each shade carefully and write it down so you can re-create it.

• For an antique or distressed look, layer lighter and darker stain colors. Once the stain has dried, lightly sand away the top layer in different spots and then protect the piece with a clear finish. See the Minwax Pinterest board “Distressed Furniture Projects” for more information.

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Getting The Most Out Of A Kitchen Remodel

by James Young

(NAPSI)—According to the U.S. Census Bureau, homeowners spent $130 billion on remodeling projects last year. If you hope to join them anytime soon, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind. After all, a kitchen remodel can give you one of the best returns on investment as long as you know where to save and where to spend.

I help homeowners who dislike their kitchens evaluate all their options, from cabinets to countertops. Here are a few tips for a kitchen renovation that's worth the time and investment.

• Play with color. You spend a lot of time in the kitchen and you want it to be an inviting, comfortable place. One way you can really spice things up and show your true personality is with paint. Go bold or lighten things up with your favorite wall color; it's really up to you and your personal style. It's also one of the most inexpensive things to change down the road, so don't be afraid to go outside your comfort zone or experiment with the latest color trends.

• Mix and match materials. Combining materials of different textures—such as stainless steel, concrete and reclaimed wood—adds warmth and visual interest. Invest in a marble slab for baking prep and a coordinating laminate or solid surfacing on other surfaces. This is your kitchen; get creative.

• Make a statement with countertops. One place you can make a big statement is with countertops. The amount you spend on this item should account for only around 10 percent of your kitchen renovation budget. For this reason, I prefer working with Formica® brand laminate. Through the latest design and print technologies, you can get the look of granite and marble without breaking your budget. For example, the 180fx® line of laminates captures the true scale and color variation of exotic, natural surfaces but at a fraction of the cost.

• Update your cabinets. While this can be a pricey endeavor, new cabinets can completely transform the look of your kitchen. No budget to replace them completely? You can create a unique look by adding laminate to the fronts of cabinet doors and drawers. Even more simple: Update them with a coat of paint, add new hardware and you'll be all set.

For more tips on renovating and getting the best bang for your buck, visit the Knowledge section at www.formica.com.

• Mr. Young is a licensed contractor, electrician and TV host.


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What To Know About Winter Storm Preparedness

(NAPSI)—Many homeowners overlook one of the most important things to prepare for when the holiday season rolls around—winter storms. Experts believe homeowners are unprepared for winter storms, putting their families and their home in danger. So while you’re decking the halls for the season, make sure you take the following into consideration and ensure your home is both merry and safe.

Major Dangers Associated with Winter Storms

Homeowners can face major dangers when winter weather rolls around, including damage from the weight of ice, snow and sleet. In the case of major snowstorms, families can even be trapped in their homes due to blocked or frozen entryways. Cracked or burst water pipes connected to anything from steam and hot water heating to a fire-protection system can be extremely costly. Even after the storm, melting snow can cause major flooding.

Tips to Winterize and Protect Your Home

Though the list of winter weather dangers runs long, there are 10 easy steps that can ease or prevent these issues, all while creating a safer home environment during emergencies.

1. Install weather stripping.

2. Have your furnace/heating system serviced at the beginning of each season to ensure it runs properly, and have the filters changed.

3. Move furniture away from vents.

4. Add rock salt and sand to emergency kits to help melt ice on walkways.

5. Install roof-heating cables to prevent ice dams on roofs and gutters.

6. Insulate pipes.

7. Place a cover over attic stairs.

8. Insulate outlets with gasket covers.

9. Invest in an automatic home standby generator, such as those from Generac, that automatically provides power for heat and electricity when there is a power outage. They turn on as soon as the power goes out and stay on until utility power is restored.

10. If you have extra money in your budget, go for attic insulation, which can save as much as 30 percent on heating costs.

As a leader in power equipment serving residential, light commercial, industrial and construction markets, Generac’s products are available through a broad network of independent dealers, retailers, wholesalers and equipment rental companies. Basic winterizing for a home can be done for less than $200, but by investing in installations like attic insulation and a Generac home standby generator, you get the best level of protection from winter storms.

Learn More

For further facts and advice, visit www.Generac.com or call 888-GENERAC.


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