Electric Bills Too High: 13 tips for reducing energy costs

lightbulb

With the price of everything these days, it is nice to be able to save money in some areas. The cost of utilities can account for a significant portion of the family budget every month, and the two biggest electric users are heat and air conditioning. It is possible to shave a few dollars off your electric bill every month with some easy to implement conservation measures.

1. Check with your electric company and find out if they offer “off peak” hour usage. An off peak hour is a time of day when consumer energy costs are lower. It’s typically when energy demand is at its lowest. If your energy company does offer off peak hour energy hours, you may find out those hours coincide with your schedule. If so, do your heavy cleaning, laundry, and cooking chores then, instead of during more costly hours.

2. When purchasing new appliances, make sure they are energy efficient. One appliance can cut $100 or more off your yearly electric bill. Imagine what a kitchen full of energy efficient appliances will do to your yearly electric bill.

3. Keep refrigerators and freezers out of sunny spots in the kitchen. The warmth will keep the refrigerator in cooling mode and running more often than necessary. Also, make sure there is air space around the appliance to allow for proper air circulation. Be sure to keep the refrigerator closed. Unnecessary opening will just make the refrigerator work harder. Replace the sealing gaskets around the refrigerator and freezer doors periodically to be assured of a tight fit.

4. Only run the dishwasher when it is full, unless it has a setting for small loads. If your dishwasher is an energy efficient model, it may have an efficiency setting, allowing it to use less water for each wash cycle.

5. When you replace light bulbs, use CFL light bulbs. CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamps. They use about 75% less energy and cost a little more than the light bulbs you may be using at present. But in the long run, the savings in electricity will offset the cost of the CFL light bulbs. Consider using LED lights when possible. LED’s are highly efficient.

6. Consider painting the walls in rooms in light colors, and installing light carpet. The rooms will appear lighter, longer. Which means you won’t need as much artificial lighting.

7. Unplug electronic devises when not in use, especially chargers for cell phones and music players. Unplug power strips when not in use, too. An item that is plugged into a power strip will use electricity even when the device is off.

8. Install programmable thermostats and preset the heat and air conditioning to go off at night and when no one is at home or to turn on just before occupants return home. That way the house is not being heated or cooled unnecessarily and off at times when there is no one home.

9. Install insulation in the attic, if there is none, and apply weather stripping around doors and windows. That will keep cold air from seeping in around doors and windows and eliminate, or at least minimize greatly, heat from escaping through the attic.

10. When doing laundry, hang clothes on a clothesline outside to air dry rather than using the dryer all the time. If the weather is not cooperating, dry the clothes on a clothes rack in the house or on an enclosed porch.

11. Instead of using your air conditioner all the time, install ceiling fans. The fans will circulate the air and make the air feel cooler in the warm weather and warm in the cooler weather.

12. Plant shade trees and other vegetation around the perimeter of the house to provide shade and insulation from the cold.

13. When cooking on an electric stove, always boil water in a pot with a cover. An open pot will lose two thirds of the energy. Turn off the stove about 5 minutes before the food is done cooking or turn the oven off about 10 minutes before the food is done cooking. The food will continue cooking even after the cook top and oven are turned off.

Implementing even just a few of these ideas can save you significant amounts over the course of a year.

What can you do to save electricity right now?

Time for a splurge: 5 things that are worth the extra bucks

usaa_spring_2008_cover_cb51

I recently read an article in USAA’s member magazine that discussed 5 items that are worth spending a few extra bucks.

Below, I will share an overview with you in hopes that you too will agree that these things are certainly worth paying top dollar.

1.  Running shoes- there is just no point in buying cheap sneakers.  They will only hurt your feet and not last as long as a well constructed pair. After all $50 a few times a year is worth running or walking pain-free.

2.  Estate Planning- While this is a complicated issue, there are a lot of good options available. You can do it yourself, or consult a professional.  For a referral to an expert, please contact me.

3.  Mattress- Think about the amount of time you spend sleeping and then consider this one of the BEST investments you can make.  Be sure to check coil count, gauge and filling materials when selecting a mattress.

4. Kitchen Knives- Ever tried to cut a carrot with a dull knife?  You will either cut yourself or exert so much force the cutting board flies off the counter!  Look for a high-carbon steel blade that is made from a single sheet of metal.  Plastic handles can easily crack so wood or metal are a better option.  Don’t forget to have them sharpened yearly (or more frequently for heavy usage).

5. Interior Paint- There are a lot of mixed reviews on paint. Most professional painters will have their favorite products and I encourage you to go along with the expert advice.  Higher quality paint will spread more evenly, require fewer coats as it is more viscous and in the end last longer than a thin, cheap, watery paint product.

I hope that you also find these tips helpful! Happy shopping and enjoy spending those extra bucks.

 

 

 

What’s That Smell???

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After my last post, I received a few requests for more detailed information about getting your home ready for showing.  While I can’t give away ALL my trade secrets (you have to hire me for that!), I thought the following might be helpful whether or not your house is on the market.  If you have pets, messy kids or smoke, these tips will help you set the stage for a clean scent!
Natural Ways to Scent Your Home

Let’s face it, artificial air fresheners can only do so much to make your house smell “fresh.” Some can even be toxic to your health.

Even candles or wall scents often smell heavy and full of chemical fragrances.  An overpowering smell is not something anyone wants to walk into, especially if you’re allergic to chemical fragrances.  There are lots of ways to make your house smell like it has just been cleaned, like dessert is being baked, or just naturally beautiful.  The best way to do this is by simply using your stove rather than a spray bottle.

Stove scents

Aromatherapy is a wonderful tool to help you relax or re-energize using familiar scents.  You can create the feel of a crisp autumn afternoon or a day at the beach throughout every room in your house using only your stove and a few simple ingredients.  One great way to do this is by boiling a few teabags in a pot of water.  You can also add scents and extracts to this water to create a steam that releases these pleasant smells.  If you’re looking for an even fresher approach, try taking natural herbs and spices like mint leaves and boiling those as well.

It’s a great idea to match the scent to the room decor or the time of year. A Christmas mix of cinnamon and cloves is wonderful in the winter. But you may want to go with a floral version in the summer.

 

Pleasing scents for the home

Cinnamon-Best if used in sticks for a stronger overall impact.  Good for a heavier spice scent indoors.  Remember to only use a small amount because it can be overpowering if too much is used.

Cloves-You can use whole cloves, ground cloves or a drop of clove oil in water to create a Christmas feel in your home. Cloves and cinnamon make a nice mixture.

Ginger-For an Oriental smell.  It can be very strong depending on the dosage you choose to use.  Do not hesitate to mix this with cinnamon.  Together they create a spicy and delicious smell.

Lavender-If you like the smell of flowers then your house could have the feel of walking into an English garden in summer.

Lemongrass-Being more of a citrus scent, this isn’t for everyone.  Either you love it or you hate it.  It is perfect for making your house smell like it was just cleaned.

Vanilla-Almost everyone loves the smell of vanilla.  Whether it is faint or heavy is completely up to you.  Most commonly it is associated with baking, which is great for your kitchen. (be cautious, this can also be a sensual smell if overdone- I recommend sticking to fruity fragrances!)

Mint-Like lemongrass, mint is great for making your house smell like it was cleaned just minutes ago.  Make sure you don’t confuse “mint” with “peppermint” when using extracts. Mint smells clean, peppermint smells like a candy cane at Christmas.

Rose-A light floral scent that is very calming. You can use rose essence or rosewater

Tea- Tea bags of any variety are prime for this because they contain multiple herbs, which make for a variation in scents.

 

Simmer but don’t burn

Put about five cups of water in a saucepan on the stove. If you’re using an extract or oil, you only need a drop or two in the water. If you’re using whole herbs or spices, just a teaspoon or so is all you need. Let the mixture simmer, but be sure not to let all the water evaporate. You don’t want to burn the ingredients. That smells terrible!

Gentle scents are a wonderful way to make people feel welcome in your home. And using natural ingredients like these are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than any chemical fragrance. Give these recipes a try for your next party or open house.

Please Buy My Dirty House: Home Staging 101

messyroom

So, you want to sell your home for top dollar in a market flooded with similarly priced homes but don’t have a clue where to begin? Well, let me tell you a story. Then I will review the do’s and don’t’s of listing your home plus 5 things you can do to stage your home for sale.

I spent part of my day touring homes that are currently on the market in my area.  Among them I found a plethora of burnt out light bulbs, cobwebs, peeling paint on the exterior of one and the interior of another. There were dead lawns, decaying flowers and overgrown trees. One literally reeked of smoke.  Another was touted as a Colonial, but no mention of the fact that it was truly Colonial in it’s vintage, decor and furnishings.  The agent stated it was built in ’75 and I had to ask if she meant 1775 or 1875? !?! Turns out it was 1975. Could have fooled me.

Another home recently featured a photo of a staircase to nowhere! It had a bookshelf at the bottom.  One more I viewed today showed photos of ALL the children’s toys on the floor of the playroom.  They all sound inviting, right?  NOT! Another favorite of mine of the magnet field on the refrigerator- remove everything from the front and sides.  Ok, you can leave my business card.

If you truly want to SELL your home you should begin by a basic decluttering.  Pack at least 50% of what you own and get it out of the house.  Remove personal photos, diplomas, trophies, statues and souvenirs from trips of yesteryear.  Yes, you need to pack up Grandma’s spoon collection too.  Oh, and that poster from the concert you attended in 1985 has to go.  Remove anything that will distract someone from their primary focus: YOUR HOME.

Next, walk through the house looking UP at the ceilings, lights, fans and vents.  They need to look brand new.  Clean or replace them, and make sure all the light bulbs work!

Now, we are ready for the hard part: the bathroom. This is critical. Pay attention.  Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to see any remnants of anything that goes on in this room.  It needs to be spotless.  EVERY DAY.  Keep the Lysol wipes handy, buy a case of them and leave them in a cabinet nearby so when you are done in there you can eradicate all evidence of having used it.  Remove the used towels, rugs and toothbrushes.  Get a set of white “showing” towels that you display.  And don’t forget to put out a fresh roll of TP! You can go the extra mile and make one of those little flowers at the end of the paper- no kidding, buyers WILL take notice.  If you have a shower curtain, get a new one.

Ok, now you are almost ready.  One more thing: the exterior.  Yes, that has to be cleaned, shined, pruned, weeded, watered, replaced and perfected.  It is the first thing a buyer will see when they approach your home and it has to look GREAT.

So, you think you are ready now???  If so, it is time to call in a pro.  A seasoned pro with a eye for detail.  You need a REALTOR who will assist you in setting a fair market price, staging the home and advising you throughout the process.

5 things you MUST do when staging your home to SELL

1.  cut the grass, add flowers, landscape

2.  replace light bulbs with highest wattage possible (and safe)

3.  dust every crevice and be sure to remove cobwebs

4.  clear off your counters and fridge

5.  wipe down all sinks every day- especially the bathroom

for more information about staging, contact me or visit:

http://www.hgtv.com/decorating-basics/15-secrets-to-selling-your-home/pictures/index.html

No, You May Not Waive My Commission: I’m a REALTOR

forsale

My grandfather always told me, “If you’re gonna go, go first class”. Now, for most of us, that is just not practical when it comes to travel.  But, I think he had a deeper meaning here.  I think he was trying to teach me to be a first class person.  He was also a salesperson and he was very successful selling shoes.  (Yes, I come by my shoe habit quite naturally!)  He was honest, straightforward and no nonsense 100% of the time.  He was a first class guy!

When I started my career in 2001, there had been a report published that stated Realtors were regarded only slightly better than used car salespeople.  That made me sad for so many reasons.  There are a lot of amazing people in this industry and many of them have a lot of integrity.  Like any business, there are the good, the bad and ugly.  I had a LOT of questions.  Had I really a joined a group of people that were so lowly regarded?  What could I do to change that perception? How could I stay above the rest? Now I can safely say that I can accomplish all of these by staying honest, straightforward and no nonsense 100% of the time.

So when I recently had someone, who was not my client, ask me to essentially waive my commission it made my skin crawl!  This is not volunteer work.  I know, because I do a lot of that too.  This is my profession and I treat it as such.  I can only hope that others will see it this way.  I had to step back and reflect on the idea of being a first class person.  I firmly believe that by staying in “first class” will help people like this recognize the value and professionalism of a Realtor.  Only a true Realtor has signed an extensive code of ethics, taken additional training in the state laws surrounding the industry and agreed to be part of this elite group of professionals.

So the next time you have the choice of going first class, I urge you to do it.

Donald Trump for President: Good for the Country, Good for Real Estate

When I first saw the news that Donald Trump was considering a move to be the next President of the USA my first thought was, why on earth would Donald Trump make a good President?

Three reasons come to mind:

1. He is an effective CEO
2. He knows how to hire the right people for the job
3. He is not afraid to fire the wrong people from the job

He clearly knows how to surround himself with the right people: smart, savvy, respectful, thoughtful and successful. He is passionate about real estate and understands how to build wealth versus debt. Can you imagine the national SURPLUS instead of the national DEBT? Trump has shown television viewers for years how to FIRE ineffective employees and has managed to build a huge following by only keeping those whom he feels will help him build his power and wealth. He is animated in his public speaking and captivates audiences. This is a very powerful tool for a politician (and I say that as a Politics major who has a MA in Speech Communications). This might be a good idea after all.

He has the resources to run an amazing campaign, he is strategic in his spending and understands the power of making smart investments in both time and people. He might just be what our country needs right now. I look forward to seeing how his plans unfold.

WELCOME to Keeping It Real Local

Joe

When I first embarked on creating a blog my first instinct was, “who is going to want to read what I write?” But when I decided to focus on keeping it real and keeping it local the goals became clear. Yes, it sounds corny, but it is the topic I can write about most eloquently. I promise not to regurgitate the news or bore you with uninspiring factoids about our region. I will do my best to share with you the current events and information that I hope you will also find interesting, inspiring and fun!

I was saddened and inspired by the recent passing of local community pillar, Joe Press. It is rare that a person comes along that can truly leave a mark and make an impact on a community in so many ways. Although I never met him personally, I certainly knew of his work and commitment to Framingham, MA. Joe devoted his life to helping others in need. I think we can all learn something from him. Take a moment to make a difference in a life today. It can be something small or large, but I guarantee you will feel better knowing you made a difference. Joe did!

Here are my top 5 suggestions for making a difference in your community:

  • Volunteer at a local food pantry/soup kitchen
  • Visit with elders in their homes or nursing home facility
  • Become a helper in a local school- reading, math or science
  • Help with a Spring clean-up effort in your neighborhood
  • Get involved with local politics