What not to do as a new home owner

Becoming a new home owner is a very exciting time. There are plenty of new tasks to take on after obtaining the keys. However, there are some things a new home owner should NOT do after moving in.
1. Not being familiar with the new home
There are parts of a new home that the new owner should be aware of. The main water valve and circuit box are two crucial components of a home. Locating these two items is very important as a home owner. In case of an emergency such as a burst pipe, there may be no time for scrambling to find the circuit box or water valve. In addition, it is good practice to label it, so it is clear which fuses belong to each room.
2. Not paying attention to the foundation
The foundation is arguably the most important aspect of a home. Something as simple as the slope of soil around the foundation can be indicative of big problems. If the soil does not slope six inches over ten feet, water from snow and rain can seep into the foundation causing cracks and leaks. This kind of repair starts at several thousands of dollars and can be devastating for home owners.
3. Cutting down trees
Cutting down a tree can seem like a small task anyone can do. Home owners should always hire a professional for this service. Even smaller trees can be awkward and are hard to control once they are fall and can crash into a home or garage/shed. Fixing a repair from a tree taking out the roof is much more costly than hiring for professional removal.
4. Drilling into walls carelessly
Much like removing a tree, hanging décor or shelves can seem like an easy job. However, one must be very cautious when putting holes in the wall. Behind the walls, there could be electrical wires and cables, duct work and plumbing pipes that could be damaged by a drill. To prevent costly errors, use a stud finder to help avoid wires and ducts. Even if a stud indicates clear to drill, only drill about 1.25 inches in to avoid hitting anything important.
5. Not insulating
Not only is a house uncomfortable when it is too hot or too cold, it is also very costly to the home owner. Check the attic for insulation depth to know if a home needs to be insulated. Home owners should know where the entrance to the attic is, and how deep the insulation is. If insulation is not 10-14 inches deep, new insulation should be put down. Also, ensure the hatch to access the attic has insulation covering it as well to ensure minimal air leakage.
6. Not cleaning gutters
Cleaning gutters is a chore many people hate. It can be a pain to get on a ladder and clean filthy debris from above. However, neglecting this task can mean serious water damage to the roof and the home in general. Clogged gutters can interfere with proper water flow from the property. Clean gutters will ensure water flows away from the house and not into it.

10 Ways to Save on Energy Costs This Winter

Whether you’re hoping to ease your impact on the planet or just want to save a few dollars, reducing your energy use can help you get there. In fact, 10 percent of renters in a recent Rent.com survey said that utilities are their biggest monthly expense, coming in third after monthly rent and groceries.

Heating and cooling your apartment, especially those in regions with extreme temperature shifts, can be among the more expensive components of your utility bill. Luckily, making some easy adjustments in your home can dramatically reduce how much you spend on energy.
Here are several tips to reduce energy consumption and maintain comfortable temperatures in your home this winter:
1. Use the sun for free heat. That bright orb in the sky should be the focus of temperature control in your residence throughout the year. Open the curtains on your south-facing windows during winter days to bring free heat into your home. Close your window coverings when the sun goes down to keep the heat inside.
2. Bundle up with warm accessories. This is one of the easiest ways to save on your heating bill. Instead of turning the heat up, put on a cozy winter sweater and warm socks. Keep throw blankets on your couch, and add an area rug to insulate the floor.
3. Use ceiling fans to your advantage. Homes that have better ventilation and airflow can be more energy efficient in the summer and winter months. If you have ceiling fans in your apartment, you have more control over ventilation than you know. Ceiling fans can be used strategically to achieve better airflow: counter-clockwise will push hot air up in the summer and clockwise will trap heat inside to keep your rooms warmer during cooler months. Turn your ceiling fan on a low setting to gently push hot air back down.
4. Adjust the thermostat at night. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save about 10 percent per year on your heating bills by turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours. Consider investing in flannel sheets and a warm comforter for your bed and keeping your apartment cooler when you sleep.
5. Only heat the rooms you use. If you have rooms that you never use, like guest rooms or large storage areas, close and seal off the vents in those rooms to be more energy efficient and direct the flow of air to the rooms you use most. Energy bills run, on average, $183 per month. By using a space heater in the rooms where you need it and setting the thermostat to 62 degrees, you can save approximately $200 each year.
6. Keep your furnace clean and unblocked. Keeping your furnace and vents properly maintained will reduce energy consumption and help you save. Check your furnace filter monthly, and replace it when it gets dirty.
7. Get a humidifier to add moisture to the air. The air inside your home can become very dry. Moist air feels warmer and holds heat better, so a humidifier can help you feel comfortable when your thermostat is set at a lower temperature. You can also increase the humidity in your apartment with a collection of house plants.
8. Invest in insulation. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs are lost each year due to escaping heat and cold air in homes without proper insulation. Get some inexpensive insulation from your local home improvement store, and cover up all those areas where heat might escape. Start with foam weather stripping for your doors and windows; it’s cheap and is extremely easy to apply.
9. Decorate with LED lights for the holidays. Buy new LED holiday lights, which use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than older, incandescent lighting. In addition to consuming less energy, LED lights don’t emit as much heat and are more resistant to breakage, making them a safer alternative. Bonus tip: Always unplug your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house. As with all appliances and electronics, your holiday lights will continue to draw power even when not in use, which adds unnecessary expense to utility bills.
10. Only use exhaust fans when necessary. Exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom pull the hot air that rises to the ceiling out of your apartment. Use exhaust fans sparingly, and shut them off when you are done with them. You can always call your friends at Green Apple Mechanical at

  • (888) 611-7191

How to Cut Your Heating Bill Without Freezing Your Tail Off

Baby, it’s cold outside.
And once the temperature drops, those utility bills start to rise—which can leave you and your bank account caught off guard.
The energy-savvy among us may already have a leg up on some power-saving moves, such as sealing the cracks around our doors or lowering our thermostats. But there’s a lot more you can do to offset that painful spike in utility costs—and it won’t involve expensive appliance upgrades or using TaskRabbit to find someone to make retrofits around the house.
We tapped experts to provide seven easy-on-the-wallet tips that will help lower your home’s energy use this winter with minimal effort from you—and you may even be able to use a few of them to save green all year-round.

1. Keep Your Hot Water Heater Cozy
Snuggling up with a good, warm blanket once the cold streak hits is likely a part of your winter ritual—and it’s also a good idea for your hot water heater, too.
Kerry Urbaniak, lead electronics instructor at the Ecotech Institute in Aurora, Colo., suggests wrapping a special insulating blanket around your water heater to minimize the amount of heat that escapes from it. “Depending on your [energy-usage] habits, you can get a 20% increase in savings by putting a wrap on it,” he says.
Luckily, water heater insulating blankets run in the $20 to $30 range, and you may be able to get discounts or rebates from your utility that help lower the cost further. Some utilities may even offer to install them for you at little to no extra cost (although you can find DIY instructions here).
Urbaniak also suggests keeping the appliance’s temperature setting at 120 degrees, which should be high enough to meet a typical household’s hot-water needs while also minimizing heat loss. “For every degree you set it above 120, you’re losing efficiency,” he adds.
And don’t shut your hot water heater off if you’re leaving town for the holidays. Rather, just turn the temperature down: “It’s costlier to let it cool down completely and then have to heat it back up again,” Urbaniak says.
2. Pay Attention to Your Pan Size
How many times have you stuck a tiny pot on a giant stove burner because it happened to be the only one without a dirty dish lying on top of it?
You may be inclined to stop that bad habit once you realize how much energy you’ve been wasting: According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a six-inch pan placed on an eight-inch burner wastes more than 40% of the heat produced—so try to match your pot or pan size as closely as possible to the size of the heating element.
Cleanliness is also an energy-efficiency virtue when it comes to your stove: Wipe up splashes and spills on your reflector pans because they’ll better reflect heat when they shine, according to Kurt Blumenau, a spokesperson for PPL Electric Utilities, based in Allentown, Pa.
One other quick kitchen tip? Whenever possible, use a crock pot, pressure cooker or microwave to make your meal—all three use less wattage than an oven or stove. “Slow cookers and microwaves can cut as much as 50% of energy consumption, compared to other appliances like ranges or ovens,” says Lise Dirlam, a faculty instructor also with the Ecotech Institute.
3. Go Dark—With Your Curtains
You already know that window drafts are bad news for your energy bill—but did you know that the color of your curtains could also make a difference?
“Dark curtains help absorb sunlight and can take a passive solar approach,” says Urbaniak. He adds that in the winter, more light is also likely to enter your house because all the leaves that may normally block the sun’s rays have fallen to the ground.
Urbaniak uses this tip for his own home. He has louvered blinds installed on his sliding glass doors for privacy, but because they don’t provide much insulation, he covers them with dark drapes for the winter months.
4. Avoid a Deep Freeze in Your Fridge
We know, you like your water pitcher icy cold. But by keeping your refrigerator at icicle-forming temps, you’re paying for more chill than you need: According to the Department of Energy, the optimal temperature to keep your fridge is between 36 and 38 degrees, while your freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees.
Urbaniak adds that it’s worthwhile to take a vacuum to the refrigerator’s coils to get rid of the dust and grime that can build on this oft-forgotten spot. “When the coils are clogged, heat doesn’t transfer as fast, so the motor has to work harder—which wastes energy and depletes the life of the fridge,” he says.
5. Give Your Radiators Room to Breathe
Forget feng shui. There’s another type of energy flow to keep in mind when it comes to your furnishings: “Make sure none of your furniture is blocking the radiator or the vents in the floor,” Urbaniak says. “If you interfere with the heat source, it will have to work harder.”
Also, if you’re thinking of painting a radiator to make it more aesthetically pleasing, you might want to think twice. “If there’s paint on it, it acts as an insulator—leaving it bare metal makes it more efficient,” Dirlam says.
If your heat comes through registers, you can also conserve energy by closing the ones in the rooms you’re not actively using. For example, if no one is in the bedrooms during the day, you can keep them closed until it’s time to sleep, suggests Urbaniak.
6. Create Better Light Bulb Moments
Even if you haven’t swapped out those old incandescents, you can still get more bang from your lighting buck with some careful placement: Positioning your lamps in corners will better illuminate your space because both walls will reflect the light back into the room, says Jorge Mastropietro, AIA, founder of JMA, a New York-based architecture firm with experience in low-energy passive design.
And don’t forget to dust off those bulbs—dirt can absorb as much as 50% of the light, according to Blumenau.
Ultimately, though, when your old bulbs burn out, you’ll want to upgrade to more energy-efficient versions for long-term cost savings. According to the Department of Energy, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use only a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer; Light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs use about 20% to 25% of incandescents and last up to 25 times longer.
7. Be Aggressive About Passive Energy
You’re likely already familiar with the notion that electricity-sucking “vampire” appliances are adding unnecessarily to your utility bill. But realistically, you can’t unplug all the tech in your house every day—so where should you be focusing your energy (pun intended)?
Here’s a hint: “Anything that can use a remote control is always drawing power,” Dirlam says. So while you may be loathe to unplug your big-screen TV or DVR every day (lest you lose the latest episode of your favorite hit show), you could probably stand to turn off your stereo equipment, speakers or DVD player, for instance.
An easy way to stop their passive energy use is to plug those energy suckers into the same power strip and then shut the power strip off each night, suggests Dirlam. Otherwise, she says, “they’re always on, even in standby mode.”

9 Ingenious Ways to Save on Heating This Winter

Winter’s chill brings cozy decor and lazy afternoons spent sipping cocoa in front of the fire, but it can also bring major electrical bills. If heating your home is seriously expensive, then you’re going to want to read these nine cost-effective ways to stay warm this Winter.
Plastic Wrap Windows
If you’ve ever stood next to a drafty window, then you can attest that they’re major culprits of heat loss. Keep the cold air out affordably by covering windows with plastic. DIY window insulation kits are generally under $20 and allow you to secure plastic sheets with insulated tape and shrink wrap it with a hair dryer.
Add a Storm Door
Create an extra layer of padding between the elements and your house by adding a storm door. While it’s a little bit pricier up front, you can reduce energy loss up to 50 percent by purchasing a storm door made with low-emissivity glass or coating.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Instead of keeping your heat on full blast all day, use a programable thermostat to set the temperature to turn it down while you’re out in the middle of the day and turn it back up right before you come home in the evening. Turning the temperature back at least 10 degrees for eight hours a day can save you up to 15 percent a year on your heating bill.
Fill in Insulation Gaps
Invisible cracks and gaps around the house allow valuable heat to seep out. Taking a little time in Summer or Fall to caulk or weatherstrip these leaks around the house will save you big money on your energy bill come Winter. Common areas in need of insulation include the space between the baseboard and the floorboard, behind electrical outlets, and around windows and attack hatches.
Hang Thermal Curtains
Invest in curtains with thermal lining. They’ll block heat and UV rays in the Summer and keep the cold air out in the Winter. When the mercury plummets, you can cut your energy bill down by up to 20 percent by keeping drapes closed during the day.
Reverse the Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans usually have a switch you can flip to change the direction the fan blades are rotating in. By simply switching it to clockwise rotation in Winter, you’ll push hot air that has risen to the ceiling back down into the room. Doesn’t get easier than that.
Put Layers on Yourself
It’s a lot cheaper to throw on a sweater and some fuzzy slippers than to crank up the heat every time you get chilly, so keep warm layers close at hand and the temperature at a reasonable setting.
Improvise Wall Insulation
If tearing down the drywall to add insulation isn’t an option, then it’s time to get clever. You can line chilly external walls with cold-absorbing materials like a tall shelf filled with books, use decorative screens as cold air blockers, and even line baseboards with cardboard.
Position Furniture Around Heat Sources
For a free and temporary fix, give your living spaces a Winter makeover by rearranging furniture away from cold external walls and around heat sources, like the fireplace. It will make those frigid nights more enjoyable.

TIME TO WINTERIZE YOUR CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONER

Your HVAC unit—also called an outdoor or central air conditioner—keeps your home dry and cool during hot, humid months. As the warm summer days fade to chilly fall weather, it’s time to winterize the HVAC unit to safeguard against snow and ice. Winterizing your central air conditioner also prevents rust damage and keeps critters from nesting inside mechanical parts.
Winterization of your HVAC unit is a straightforward do-it-yourself home improvement project. It takes just a few minutes of your time to complete. By following these simple steps, you can help keep your central air conditioning unit clean and in top working condition for summers to come.
The best time to prep your HVAC unit is early fall, just before you close the windows and turn on the heat. Watch the weather and pick a sunny day when your outdoor air conditioner can air dry completely. If today is the day to prep your AC, put on your work gloves and let’s get to it…
Here’s a list of what’s needed to winterize your HVAC unit: a garden hose, a clean rag, tubular foam or rubber pipe insulation, tees and elbows, and an outdoor air conditioning unit cover.

  1. Remove leaves, twigs and grass clippings. Use a garden hose to rinse the outdoor air conditioner, removing droppings, bugs, dirt and dust. Allow the HVAC unit to dry completely.
  2. Locate the electrical circuit. It usually has a plastic or metal lid. Remove the lid and flip the switch to cut power supply. This prevents the unit from turning on during a warm winter day, which keep water out of the unit that could freeze overnight and damage your HVAC unit.
  3. Install tubular foam or rubber pipe insulation with tees and elbows around pipes to protect against freezing. Cut the foam to fit by length and diameter of the pipe. Place tees and elbows first. Frost King foam pipe insulation is self-adhesive, making it easy to install.
  4. Cover the HVAC unit with a waterproof air conditioner cover. Our covers are made to fit outdoor air conditioners, but some DIY homeowners prefer to use bungee cords, vinyl tie-downs and even plywood+a brick to further secure the cover and protect the unit.
  5. Throughout winter, be sure to remove snow, ice and debris from the top of your HVAC unit. Adjust the cover to keep in place. Plus do what you can to remove dead leaves, small branches and any hibernating animals from underneath your outdoor air conditioning unit.