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1,500 Reasons To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
And Save Money This Year
2009−2010 Federal Energy Tax Credit Program Ends Dec. 31, 2010

(NAPSI)-Even though the heat is on for homeowners wanting to cash in and make energy-related home improvements before the end of the year, there's still time to take advantage of the 2009−2010 Federal Energy Tax Credit.

Passed as part of the Economic Stimulus Bill and set to expire at the end of the year, the 2009-2010 Energy Tax Credit allows homeowners to claim tax credits equal to 30 percent of product and installation costs--up to $1,500--for qualified energy-related home improvements. The tax credit applies as a direct reduction of taxes owed.

As the deadline approaches, now is the perfect time to conduct an energy audit of your home to determine which energy upgrades will provide the most bang for the buck. An energy audit looks at the efficiency of a home's heating and cooling system, ways to conserve hot water and electricity, and helps determine exactly where a house may be wasting energy. These energy assessments can be done by an individual homeowner or a professional energy auditor.

The average household will pay $2,200 this year on energy costs, with heating and cooling accounting for nearly half that amount (source: Alliance to Save Energy). These costs are projected to keep rising for the foreseeable future. The good news: There's plenty that consumers can do to make a lasting difference when it comes to home energy management and do something positive for the environment at the same time.

Installing an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system can provide homeowners with much-needed relief from rising utility bills and energy costs. Top-quality HVAC companies like Trane offer a variety of high-performing and high-quality systems for the home.

An additional benefit to making improvements can be seen in a home's value. According to the Appraisal Institute, for every dollar saved in annual utility costs, homeowners can expect to add $20 to their home's market value.

When looking at more efficient HVAC systems for your home, it is important to remember two useful performance rating systems: the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). They compare systems on different scales, and a higher number or percentage indicates a more efficient system. So for homeowners looking to stay cool before the end of the year, the Trane XL20i air conditioner, for example, has a SEER of up to 20.0, making this product one of the most efficient on the market.

When it comes to heating, the AFUE rating is key to helping find the most efficient product for your home. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas prices will jump 8.2 percent, followed by home heating oil at 6.6 percent, in 2011, leaving homeowners with high-priced home heating costs for the coming winter months. If upgrading your home's heating system fits the bill, consider installing an efficient furnace with an AFUE rating of 95, which uses significantly less energy.

If you are thinking of making home energy improvements this year and using the tax credit, it's important to get started as soon as possible.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you contemplate making the best energy upgrades to your home:

• Not every product qualifies for the credit;

• Products must be for the taxpayer's primary residence;

• Check with a Trane Comfort Specialist dealer and tax pro so you know what systems qualify and to ensure that you have the proper documents and tax forms;

• Products must be placed in service from Jan. 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2010;

• Products must have a manufacturer's Certification Statement to qualify;

• Save all receipts and paperwork.

For more information on energy-related savings and tax credit information, please visit trane.com/Residential/Trane-Owners/Energy-Tax-Credit-Summary.

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Keep The Environment In Mind When Siding Your Home

(NAPSI)-Here's how to go green and turn your neighbors green with envy at the same time: vinyl siding. It has a strong reputation as an affordable, low-maintenance and long-lasting material that brings color and beauty to the exterior of a home. A recent study by the Vinyl Siding Institute, Inc., however, reveals that vinyl is also a very eco-friendly material that can help homeowners "green" their home.

Consider the ingredients that make up vinyl and work your way through the product's life cycle.

Vinyl is primarily made up of two simple materials: common salt--one of Earth's most common compounds--and natural gas. In the manufacturing process, scrap material can be reworked into the production process, resulting in virtually zero waste at the plant and alleviating the burden on landfills. Vinyl requires less than half the energy and fuel needed to manufacturer brick and mortar, making it an extremely efficient, more sustainable process.

A high-recycled content can be incorporated into vinyl siding, which is one of the most coveted green product attributes. Products such as CertainTeed CedarBoards Double 6-inch insulated siding boast a 60 percent recycled content--the highest recycled content in the industry for this type of siding. Additionally, vinyl siding is lighter than other cladding materials, which means less fuel and few carbon emissions to transport.

Designed to withstand prolonged exposure to the elements, vinyl is built to last. In fact, many vinyl siding products are backed by lifetime warranties. New technologies that enhance color retention and impact resistance contribute to long-lasting curb appeal. Ultimately, the longer the siding stays on the house, the longer it will stay out of the landfill. However, when homeowners are ready to replace their siding, it can be recycled--yet another green benefit of using vinyl siding.

Few resources are needed to maintain vinyl other than soap and water. No painting, staining or caulking is required, which helps eliminate the release of harmful toxins into the environment. Also, vinyl is impervious to termites and resistant to stains and moisture.

For those homeowners who love the look of wood, there are new technologies that transform vinyl material into unbelievably realistic wood grain textures. And, with such innovations as CedarBoards insulated siding, homeowners can reduce their energy bills and their carbon footprint.

Given the wide range of eco-friendly attributes vinyl siding brings to a home, it's an excellent choice for homeowners looking to go green.

For more information or to find a contractor, visit certainteed.com.

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Home Projects Start With A Great Finish

(NAPSI)-An inexpensive way to help your home's exterior look elegant for years to come can be done by refinishing the wood.

Amazingly, you can get professional-looking results even if you do it yourself. Here are a few tips from Tom Lee, vice president marketing at Behr and an expert in stains and finishes:

Tips for Wood Staining Projects

1. Pick the finish.

Lightly wood-toned finishes add color to wood while enhancing the wood's natural beauty. These last longer than traditional clear finishes. Semi-transparent stains let the natural grain and texture of the wood show through and provide more durability than clear or wood-toned products. The most durable finish, solid color stains reveal the wood's texture but generally conceal the grain, making them good for older, blemished wood and projects using different types of wood.

2. Prepare the surface.

For best results always follow the label instructions on the wood stain products and any wood stripper or wood cleaning products used to prepare the surface.

• Use plastic sheeting and painter's tape to cover all items that cannot be removed (planter boxes, air conditioning units, drains, etc.). Wet vegetation with a garden hose and cover with drop cloths for protection from overspray and drips.

• Be sure to use any recommended personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

• Replace any damaged wood.

• Check to be sure you are using the appropriate sanding tool for the surface (sanding block, pole sander, sanding pads, etc.) and lightly sand the surface with 80- to 100-grit sandpaper.

• Clean surface and remove mildew stains if necessary.

3. Apply wood stain.

• Pour the stain or finish into a paint tray or 5-gallon bucket.

• Starting in a corner and following the grain of the wood, cut in a 2- to 3-inch-wide area with a brush where a roller cannot reach. Cutting in means applying stain to the outer edges of the project area with a brush before rolling.

• Dip roller into the product.

• Remove excess product by rolling onto the ribbed section of the paint tray or bucket grid.

• Continuing in the same corner, roll the product approximately five feet onto the surface that was cut in. Don't overlap onto a surface not being completed.

• Immediately brush out roller-applied stain to unify the appearance and work the stain into the wood.

• Reload the roller and apply the product to the next section, back rolling into the previously applied area. Continue until the project is complete.

Behr offers Premium Solid Color and Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Wood Stains and Transparent and Wood-Toned Wood Finishes that use an advanced 100 percent acrylic resin to protect decks, siding and fences from sun, rain, snow and ice for years.

The new formula allows the stains and finishes to penetrate even deeper into wood fibers and provides a superior adhesive bond to the wood substrate. Made with NanoGuard technology, the improved formulation was developed to enhance resistance against moisture, UV damage and stains--the result is improved surface protection and longevity. The added durability reduces the likelihood of peeling, improves performance over knots and increases color retention. The complete protection against the elements results in a beautiful-looking, longer-lasting exterior wood surface.

What's more, Behr's Premium Exterior Weatherproofing Wood Stains are available in 8-ounce samples that let you test color and opacity before you buy. In addition, you can use the samples for small projects such as bird feeders, mailboxes, kids' craft projects and doll houses.

These stains and finishes are available exclusively at The Home Depot where you can also get help on applicator recommendations, product selection and project inspiration at the interactive WoodSmart by Behr Kiosk. The kiosk also features a video demonstrating proper application and time-saving tips.

Learn More

Further information is at www.behr.com.

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Call For Repair? Appliances Now Do It For You

(NAPSI)-While household appliances have continued to evolve over the years, one aspect has stayed the same: the occasional breakdown and need for service. Thanks to the latest technology, however, even the traditional repair call has gotten an upgrade.

A new kind of service program proactively monitors appliances 24 hours a day, seven days a week and reports any faults or potential problems to a service center. A fault code will either trigger an automated e-mail (offering a corrective strategy) or analysis by a technician who, if need be, will schedule a service appointment.

Using wireless, local area network technology and application software, Miele's RemoteVision- enabled products are monitored 24/7. This dedicated "link" allows for the secured transmission of vital performance data.

The most common service issues are user-related faults, whether it's a refrigerator door left ajar or a washing machine with too much detergent. Through modern technology, these former aggravations now have easy, identifiable solutions. Owners might be provided with care recommendations, troubleshooting e-mails, or service notifications alerting them that an in-person appointment is recommended, all tailored to the product and problem.

"With RemoteVision, we can help to immediately correct or even prevent an issue simply by contacting a customer and avoiding any potential frustration or downtime," says Matthew Kueny, Miele's director of technology. The system is now available for all the company's refrigerators, wine coolers and select washer and dishwasher models.

To learn more, visit www.mieleusa.com.

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Reducing Sources Of Indoor Pollution

(NAPSI)-If you like to think of your home as a safe haven to escape pollution, you may want to take a deep breath before stepping through your front door.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor pollution levels are two to five times greater than those found in the outdoor air.

While this can be a serious problem for those suffering from asthma, allergies or emphysema, it's not healthy for anyone, especially small children. Because they breathe in 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults, children are more vulnerable to the effects of pollution.

Efforts to rid your home of dust, dirt and allergens could even make things worse, as many poorly sealed and filtered bagless vacuums add to the pollution by releasing lung-damaging particles back into the air.

Here are a few tips to help reduce indoor air pollution.

• Properly maintain heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, changing filters regularly.

• Use only nontoxic household detergents and cleaning agents.

• Open the windows when weather permits.

• Clean up water leaks that can lead to the formation of mold.

• Choose a vacuum cleaner with a filtering dustbag and reputation for providing superior dust retention and filtration. Bagless vacuum cleaner bins can be an environmental hazard when emptied into the garbage. Dust poured from a bin emits fine particles back into the air. That's also true for any open bag that's pushed into a garbage bag.

A recent independent scientific study shows that some vacuums with HEPA filters do not effectively protect a home's air quality and unfiltered air may escape, releasing as much as 2−14 million lung-damaging particles per minute into the air on average.

These particles can pollute indoor air quality for hours after the vacuum is turned off.

The scientific study showed that the Miele vacuum, with its Sealed System engineering, equipped with a unique AirClean Filter-bag and certified HEPA filter, had significantly lower rates of particle emissions than competitive models. The vacuums captured and retained over 99.9 percent of harmful and lung-damaging irritants, making them a serious cleaning tool for maintaining an allergy-friendly environment.

For more information, visit www.mieleusa.com.

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Hidden Risk For Eye Injuries At Home

(NAPSI)-Homeowners are busy with home improvements year-round, yet many people fail to take the proper precautions to protect their eyes from potential harm.

Nearly 1.5 million eye injuries in the United States occur annually in the home, despite the fact that 90 percent of these injuries could be prevented by using protective eyewear. Eye injuries most often occur when people are in a hurry.

Eye injuries in the home can be prevented by taking the following steps:

• Remind family members to put on safety glasses when starting a project.

• Check the lawn for debris that could potentially become projectiles before starting yard work.

• Keep a pair or two of protective glasses around the house in places that will remind you to wear them.

For more information regarding eye safety, download The Vision Council's, Eye Safety At-a-Glance Protecting Your Vision at Home, available at www.thevisioncouncil.org/consumers.

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Tips To Help You Plan A Smooth Move

(NAPSI)-Some say it's a period of time that's worse than rush hour or tax time. What is it? It's moving season.

Each year, 40 million Americans move, with half of all moves taking place between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Although the average American moves 12 times in a lifetime, it never gets easy.

HGTV's Libby Langdon and David Gregg--she is a home design expert; he's a new-product specialist--say "moving stress" stems from a lack of planning and preparation.

"Nobody likes to move; it's a complete upheaval of your life," said Gregg. Both agree that by incorporating the right technology with the right design elements, you can eliminate much of the stress.

Here are their tips:

Clear Out The Clutter

Gregg suggests that moving is a great time for introducing new technologies to organize and de-stress your living environment.

"The average person has five to six remotes sitting around on the coffee table," he said. "Moving is a perfect time to clear out the clutter and get rid of them all, except for one. Upgrading to a universal remote can help; they've gotten a lot simpler to both program and use."

Hide The High Tech

Also, Gregg recommends hiding all your tech equipment behind closed doors or in other, less-traveled rooms. By using a device called a radio frequency extender, you can keep your DVD player and other electronics hidden and still operate them from up to 100 feet away.

Create A Familiar Feeling

As a designer, Langdon believes the key to a seamless move is to focus on creating the feeling from your old house in your new home. She notes this can be done in a number of economical ways.

"Think vertically when it comes to your drapes and hang them where the wall meets the ceiling instead of at the top of your window frame," said Langdon. "This draws your eyes upward, making the ceiling seem higher and your rooms feel bigger."

Update With Paint

Langdon also points out that when it comes to paint, people tend to be fearful of picking the wrong color.

"Painting your walls is an inexpensive way to update the look of a room with your existing furniture," said Langdon.

Creature Comforts First

Above all, Gregg and Langdon say you can eliminate a great deal of moving-related angst by making sure creature comforts, such as your cable television, your Internet and your phone services, are transferred prior to your move. You can even schedule this transfer at no cost at www.cablemover.com, where you'll find additional tech and design tips to "smooth your move."

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Clever Ways To Declutter Your Closets

(NAPSI)-In your household, what's the most difficult area to keep organized? If you answered "bedroom closets," then you're with the solid majority.

Seasonal bedding, clothing and shoes, limited closet space and people's general reluctance to purge old or unused items all lead to our closets being a constant mess. Here are some tips for taking control of your closets:

1. Purge and Donate Regularly. Don't let old or unused items take up precious space in your closet. A useful rule of thumb is anything that hasn't been used in the past year needs to be donated. There's somebody your size out there who can use your old outfits, so pass them along and cut the closet clutter. Your donation is probably tax deductible, too.

2. Store Off-Season Clothing and Bedding. Why let your winter coats and extra bedding crowd out your summer dresses and lighter blankets, and vice versa? Season-specific items don't need to take up space in your closet year-round. Use spring and fall cleaning seasons as opportunities to move seasonal items into another storage area. If extra storage space is at a premium, you can store clothing and extra bedding under your bed, or in the garage, attic and basement by packing them in Space Bag vacuum-seal storage packs. These packs not only compress items enough to triple your storage space, they protect from dirt, dust, moisture, mildew and odors, so you can store them almost anywhere.

3. Maximize Storage Space. If your closet's cluttered appearance is due to a lack of space, there are easy ways to make the most of the space you have. Hanging a second rod below your closet's original hanging rod will give you plenty of extra space to hang shorter items. You can hang shelves in the upper half of your closet to accommodate folded items, and if shoes are taking over your closet, consider an over-door or under-bed organizer.

Need More Help? Check out the Space Bag Clean That Closet Challenge for the chance to win $1,000 toward helping you get organized and a consultation with a professional organizer. To learn more about the contest and for more tips on how to tackle organization challenges all around your home, visit www.SpaceSaversCommunity.com.

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