New Home Discounts

Maximize Space

Prevent Roof Damage

Supplemental Heating

Smoke Detectors

Protecting Sprinkers

Hosting for the Holidays

Caulk and Save Engergy


Renovations Can Make Your Home Less Of A Risk of Insurers

(NAPSI)-Safety features reduce insurance premiums for cars; can they work for homes, too? The short answer is: yes.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, making a home disaster-resistant is one of the best ways to lower home insurance rates.

“Most insurance companies offer discounts to home insurance premiums based on what homeowners do to mitigate against loss,” said Loretta Worters, vice president at the Insurance Information Institute. “For example, there are new- home discounts, mainly because new homes have new roofs, wiring, plumbing and heating, and therefore are less susceptible to fire. But if a homeowner replaces these systems on an older home and notifies the insurer, there is a good chance of receiving a 10 to 15 percent discount on insurance premiums.”

Location, Location, Location

Location also plays a part in risk assessment.

“There are state-specific discounts in particularly vulnerable areas of the country,” said Worters. “In Florida, for example, with the risk of hurricanes extremely high, you can save up to 30 percent on your premium by installing basic shutters. In regions of the country prone to wildfires, insurers look at everything from building materials to landscape vegetation.”

Fire: Disaster’s Common Denominator

Fire is one major risk that concerns all insurers. Therefore, it makes sense that fire-related improvements offer the best chance for a premium discount.

In fact, many insurers even offer discounts to nonsmoking households because of the number of home fires started every year due to cigarettes.

Fortifying the home’s exterior is an obvious way to help reduce the risk of loss due to fire, especially in rural areas.

Siding materials with high fire ratings (meaning they resist burning for at least one hour) are preferred, and these should benefit from an interior wallboard that retards the transfer of heat from the exterior to the interior.

Fortifying The Exterior

Remington Brown, P.E. of the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), points to siding as a critical component of reducing a home’s risk factor.

“IBHS recommends a systematic approach to property protection, based on the specific perils to which an individual home is exposed,” said Brown. “Step one is to strengthen a home’s outer envelope—notably roof and wall systems, doors, glazed openings and the foundation.”

Fiber cement siding, like James Hardie’s HardiePlank lap siding and HardieShingle siding products, is widely used because of its noncombustibility rating and its recognition for use in several one-hour fire-resistance-rated wall assemblies. James Hardie siding is recognized by CAL FIRE for use in Fire Hazard Severity Zones in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

In addition to superior fire performance, James Hardie’s specially formulated fiber cement has a FEMA Class 5 flood resistance rating and is rated to withstand 150 mph winds.

It’s as beautiful as it is durable, too, designed to closely mimic the look of wood.

For More Information

For more information about home renovations and insurance discounts, visit the Insurance Information Institute at www.iii.org or the Institute for Business & Home Safety at www.ibhs.org.

More information about James Hardie’s exterior siding products is available at www.jhsavings.com.

Fortifying a home’s exterior does more than reduce your risk of loss. It may also reduce your insurance premiums.

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Five Ways To Maximize Small-Space Living On A Budget

(NAPSI)-Whether it's your first apartment or a college dorm room, outfitting a small living space to be comfortable and functional is a challenge. Target Style Expert for Home Sabrina Soto says the key to making any small space work is to make it your own. She offers five ideas for getting the most out of your tiny dwelling on a tight budget.

Start with storage

Small spaces demand making creative use of every nook and cranny. In a dorm room, take full advantage of the closet by adding hooks along the walls and shelves at top and bottom. Use the back of the closet door for shoe or accessory storage, and put large or bulky items in storage boxes under the bed.

When possible, choose items that can do double duty. In a small apartment, Soto suggests using a storage trunk as a coffee table. It's the right scale, and provides a convenient hiding place for books, magazines and coasters. A Room Essentials Trunk with Faux-Crocodile Trim ($39.99) comes in a variety of fun colors. Use file cabinets as end tables, and place your desk behind the sofa to double as a console table.

Get coordinated

By mixing and matching similar-hued bedding, bath towels, throw pillows, storage boxes and even kitchen tools, you can create a space that feels bigger than it really is. Pull the look together by extending the color scheme up onto the walls with a canvas print, a collection of picture frames or decorative mirrors. The Room Essentials collection from Target includes color-coordinated must-haves, priced from $3 for desk accessories to $29.99 for a reversible quilt.

Think small

Want a refrigerator for your dorm room but worried that there isn't enough space? Emerson makes a 2.8-cu.-ft. Mini Fridge ($89.99) that will fit under a table or loft. Its door is a dry-erase board so you don't need a separate note board for communicating with your roommate.

Fitting a desk into a one-room apartment can be a challenge. The Room Essentials Desk ($49.99) is small enough to tuck behind a couch or in a corner and comes in fun colors to coordinate with furnishings. Pair it with a Bungee Chair (also $49.99), rather than a standard desk chair, and it will double as guest seating. Add an Epson All-in-One Printer, Scanner and Copier ($29.99) and you have an efficient home office!

Make it personal

A great way to make any space feel like your own without spending a dime is to personalize the room by decorating with favorite items from home. Highlight memories with pictures and cards on a collage board, or frame a few favorite photos and cluster them on the wall. Add the throw that grandma knitted for you or a memento from your last family vacation and the room will feel more like a home.

Cut out the clutter

Eliminating clutter from counters, couches and beds will go a long way to making any space feel more spacious. Clear off counters and keep tools organized with drawer dividers and shelves on walls. In the bathroom, hang a storage cube above the toilet to hide away beauty and personal care products.

Stacks of old magazines and pizza boxes will make a small space seem even smaller. Soto says, "Go green by recycling everything as soon as you're done with it."

For more ideas from Soto on decorating on a budget, visit www.target.com/home.

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Is Your Home's Roof Ready For The Harsh Weather Ahead?

(NAPSI)-When it comes to protecting the value of your home and what’s in it, think two words: your roof.

Your home’s roof is its first line of defense against rain, snow, cold air and harsh weather in general. And so if you’re smart, experts say, you’ll want to check what kind of shape yours is in twice a year.

That means being on the look-out for missing shingles or deteriorated flashing (the metal that seals bends and joints on skylights, chimneys, etc.). More than 90 percent of roof damage occurs in these two areas, and catching it early can be key to preventing bigger problems.

Here are more hints that can help:

Knowing When To Inspect

Check your roof every spring after severe weather and every winter before the worst weather sets in.

What To Look For

• Examine the roof edge for damage from wind, rain or ice dams. The dams occur when water freezes and backs up under the roofing system.

• Inspect for signs of mold, algae and mildew, such as dark spots and discolored shingles. Inadequate or faulty shingle underlayment can be behind this.

• Look for blistering or peeling paint due to poor attic ventilation.

Roof Maintenance

Leaves, sticks and other debris can cause water to back up and flow under a roof, so clean out your gutters and roof drains regularly. Also, check that all gutters are securely fastened to the house and that downspouts are pointing away from your home.

What To Do If You Spot Damage

If your inspection reveals roof damage, work with professional roof contractors who are bonded, insured and use quality materials. They can help you prolong the life of your roof and keep you from having to spend money on costly future repairs.

A free service that helps homeowners find a qualified roofing contractor is available from North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, GAF Materials Corporation. Call (888) LEAK-SOS or visit www.gaf.com.

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Preparing For Cold And Stormy Weather

(NAPSI)-After a rough winter like last year’s with its below-normal temperatures and record-breaking storms, many homeowners are taking a new look at shortcomings in their heating systems and possible solutions.

Sometimes the solution for chilly spots in your home is not a complete new system but adding supplemental heating.

At least 64 percent of homeowners agree they have at least one hot or cold spot making parts of their homes uncomfortable during certain times of the year.

INVERTER-driven split-ductless and split-ducted products can be a great solution. Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating Solutions, a leader in providing eco-comfort systems, offers a variety of ways to alleviate hot and cold spots.

With the company’s M-Series systems, homeowners have solutions for heat pump and cooling-only applications that accommodate single- or multi-zone installations requiring energy-efficient solutions and personalized comfort. All Mitsubishi Electric systems use environmentally friendly R410A refrigerant, and many systems feature an INVERTER-driven compressor to use energy more effectively.

The M-Series features enhanced indoor and outdoor units designed for maximum energy efficiency and limited or no ductwork.

Installing the new M-Series in the home can help homeowners save up to 40 percent on air-conditioning usage when compared to standard or conventional systems.

Several of the M-Series systems are ENERGY STAR-rated to help homeowners earn residential tax credits.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the Stimulus Bill) is set to expire in December 2010 but homeowners may qualify for state and local residential tax credits after that. These vary depending on your location.

For details on the federal credits which can range up to $1,500, visit www.mehvac.com/taxcredit. To find out about state and local tax credits, visit www.dsireusa.org.

For more information about Mitsubishi Electric products, visit www.mitsubishicomfort.com.

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Daylight-Saving Time: What To Do With Your "Extra" Hour

(NAPSI)-Many people are looking forward to the “extra” hour of sleep that comes with daylight-saving time. However, that extra hour can help keep families safe if it is used wisely. Whether making a potentially life-saving change in your home or reaching out to help others,Êhere are a fewÊideas to make the most of the added hour:

Helping Yourself

• Change the batteries in your home smoke alarms. That’s the recommendation from the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and Energizer, who partner on the Change Your Clock Change Your Battery® program, recognizing the fact that almost two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors. The IAFC also recommends a mix of both ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors be installed to alert you to all types of home fires.

While 96 percent of American homes have at least one smoke alarm, 19 percent of all homes with smoke alarms do not have at least one smoke alarm that works, mostly due to missing or dead batteries.

In addition, roughly 4.5 million homes are at risk by not having smoke detectors at all. Take the time to install detectors if there isn’t one in your home. The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code recommends a minimum of one smoke alarm on each level of a home, including one inside each bedroom and one outside each sleeping area.

• In addition to changing the batteries in your smoke detector, inspect them. Alarms that are more than 10 years old should be replaced, as should any that are damaged, painted over or show signs of wear. Clean and dust them. Plan to clean and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors once a month.

• Change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors. Every home should also have at least one working carbon monoxide detector on each level of a home, including one outside each sleeping area. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless. The National Safety Council reports that almost 700 people die each year as a result of unintentional poisoning by gases or vapors in nonfire situations. Carbon monoxide was involved in the majority of these deaths.

• Draw out a family evacuation plan for every member of the household. Include exits from all rooms of the house including each bedroom and basement. Then set up a family meeting time and practice the plan to make sure it works. Adjust the plan if needed. Only 23 percent of U.S. families have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.

Family evacuation plans are critical to home fire safety, but can also be useful in many types of emergencies. Here are a few more suggestions for preparing for other hazards and emergencies that may require evacuation or sheltering in place:

• Check the batteries in your flashlights and keep them next to your beds, in the kitchen and other heavily used rooms in the home.

• Have a family scavenger hunt. See how quickly you can gather the things you need in an emergency. The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security suggests including water, food, battery-powered radio and flashlights with extra batteries, first-aid kit, change of clothing, blanket or sleeping bag, a manual can opener, and any special items needed for your family. Use these items to create a household emergency kit.

• Gather important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, Social Security cards, passports, identification and bank account records and place them in a waterproof portable container. Make sure to include a list of the persons in the household, their names and ages, weights, allergies and any medical conditions and update periodically. Also keep a list handy with doctors’ names and phone numbers, emergency contacts and utility emergency phone numbers, such as for gas, electric and water companies.

Helping Others

For 23 years, Energizer and the IAFC have worked together on the Change Your Clock Change Your Battery program, along with thousands of fire departments nationwide, to help reduce the number of homes without working smoke detectors. They remind communities to check and change their smoke alarm batteries and to make sure their smoke alarms are working. Through the program, Energizer has donated more than four million batteries to local fire departments.

This year, residents can take a simple step to protect themselves and also help local fire departments across the country protect families in need. Everyone can help supply local fire departments with free smoke alarm batteries to distribute to communities nationwide. Beginning October 16, a visit to www.facebook.com/energizerbunny can help drive the number of batteries that Energizer will donate to local fire departments, up to 400,000 batteries.

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Protecting Your Sprinkler System On Colder Days

(NAPSI)-While it may be time to head indoors for the colder months, there’s still one more gardening task you may want to take care of.

To ensure a healthy lawn and garden in the spring, take a few simple steps to ensure that your sprinkler system is ready to withstand the colder months.

If they are not properly protected, inground irrigation systems can be damaged by harsh winter weather. Protecting them is easy enough. Here are a few tips to help:

• Turn off your timer. Automatic systems have a controller or timer. Most controllers have a “rain” or “off” mode that shuts off the signals to the valves. The controller continues to keep time, the programming information (start times, valve run times, etc.) isn’t lost and the clock continues to run. The only change is that the valves will not activate.

You can also shut off the power to the controller, but if you do, you’ll need to reprogram the time and potentially all the other settings when the weather warms up.

• Shut off the water. You can protect the main shutoff valve against freezing by shutting off the water supply. Make sure the valve is wrapped with insulation (foam insulation tape and a plastic bag). If your system doesn’t have a main shutoff valve, install one to protect your investment.

Aboveground piping also needs to be insulated and you can use self-sticking, foam-insulating tape or foam-insulating tubes found at home supply stores.

• Keep the pipes from freezing. If you live in a very cold area, consider removing the water from the pipes and sprinklers so the pipes don’t freeze and burst. There are several ways to drain pipes: manual drain valves, automatic drain valves or the compressed air blowout method. But proceed cautiously. Since there could be potential safety risks, contacting an irrigation specialist is a good idea.

• Insulate backflow preventers and valves if they are aboveground. You can also use insulation tape for this, but be careful not to block the air vents and drain outlets on backflow preventers.

Before winterizing your system, you may want to consult an irrigation specialist, such as those at Rain Bird.

• Learn more. For more irrigation tips as well as information on where to find a specialist to help you winterize your system, visit www.rainbird.com or call (800) RAINBIRD.

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Hosting For The Holidays

(NAPSI)-If you’re hosting this holiday season, you may care to consider these simple and affordable ways to throw a great bash without breaking the bank or your back:

Fix It Before The Feast

For quick fixes around the home, a bottle of glue can be a great companion. Whether it’s a chipped bathroom tile you’ve been meaning to reapply, a trim that broke away long ago, loose fabric on the living room sofa, a broken chair back or a handle that’s been missing from your slow cooker, a dab of glue can provide a simple solution to help you avoid calling in the repairman or rushing out to buy new items. Keep this all-in-one tool handy in a convenient drawer so you can find it quickly in a bind.

Decor For The Senses

Now that your house is glued back together, it’s time to move on to decorations. Adding some festive touches around the home can be an easy way to get yourself and your guests in the spirit of the season. To appeal to their senses, instead of lighting candles, try rolling some pinecones in fragrant holiday spices such as cinnamon and ginger, brushing a water-glue mixture onto the surface of the pinecone to help your favorite scent stick. These great-smelling decorations can be used in a bowl, as an ornament, glued into a wreath or made into a table centerpiece. Another fun idea is to create holiday-inspired candy wrappers to cover store-bought chocolate bars. Not only will these tasty treats look great arranged in a bowl, they make for a no-fuss dessert or a fun parting gift for your guests.

Creative Crafts

As for what to do with the kids while the adults enjoy some eggnog, a fun craft may be the answer. Provide older children with instructions on creating snowmen out of old tea boxes or help the little ones make Santa’s reindeer with a stash of candy canes. They can even create fun slime using Elmer’s Glue-All, in festive colors.

With these quick fixes and a little creativity, your holiday party can be a great success. For more ideas, including seasonal crafts and activities for kids, visit www.elmers.com.

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Get A Big Bang For Your Energy-Efficient Dollar

(NAPSI)-There’s a vast array of energy-saving “to dos.” These helpful tips can guide you:

Start with the Right Caulk-Silicone: The Long-Lasting Weatherization Solution. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save 10 percent or more on your energy bill by air sealing. However, not all caulk provides energy savings over time. One hundred percent silicone caulk does. Leaks frequently occur in and around homes in places where extreme temperature fluctuations, moisture, humidity and damaging UV rays take their toll. Unlike acrylic caulk, which is vulnerable to these elements and can break down over time, silicone remains permanently flexible, shrinkproof, crack-proof and waterproof. In fact, 100 percent silicone remains unaffected by all weather and temperature conditions, so it helps prevent gaps and cracks, through which energy dollars can pass, from reforming. Look for GE Silicone II Window & Door or GE Silicone II W/D Supreme. If you need to paint the area, try new Groov by GE, which performs and lasts like a silicone and is easy to apply and paint like an acrylic.

Install Programmable Thermostats in the Proper Location. According to energystar.gov, you can save about $180 a year by properly setting and maintaining programmable thermostat units. But be sure the unit is mounted on an interior wall away from heating or cooling vents or other sources of heat or drafts. A false reading as a result of cool drafts or excessive warm air can lead to unnecessary energy consumption.

CFLs: Today’s New Styles Are Brighter. The average CFL lightbulb will save you about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about six months, according to energystar.gov. Want to be more energy efficient but find that the light is too dim? Try a brighter bulb-CFL equivalencies are based on the overall light output of the bulbs. Because CFL light appears diffuse, however, the same output isn’t always enough.

For more information on how to weatherize your home, visit www.caulkandsave.com.


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