5 Ways to Insulate Your Windows

While looking into the best way to insulate our drafty windows this winter (apart from replacing them), we put together this mini-guide of solutions we found so far, including the pros and cons of everything from layered curtains to shrink-wrap film.

1. Rubber Weather Sealing: You can buy strips of self-stick rubber weather sealing at a hardware store or online. Cut long strips down to fit your window dimensions, then peel and stick to the frame to close any gaps and keep out drafts.

Pros: Cheap, effective, minimal alterations to appearance of windows.
Cons: When you peel away the rubber strips, they can damage paint or leave a sticky residue.

2. Window Insulation Film: You can buy window insulation kits from a hardware store or online. Kits usually include plastic shrink film that is applied to the indoor window frame with double-stick tape, then heated with a hair dryer to shrink the film and remove any wrinkles.

Pros: Cheap and effective.
Cons: Gives windows a cloudy, shrink-wrapped look.

3. Cellular Shades: Cellular Shades insulate while still letting in light through the windows. They can be ordered and custom cut from home and design centers.

Pros: They let in light and can be custom-fitted for doors and windows.
Cons: They can be expensive and may not insulate as much as heavier curtains.

4. Layered Curtains: Use heavy fabrics or layered curtains over the windows to keep out drafts.

Pros: Looks good, can be matched to your home decor.
Cons: Curtains can be expensive and heavy drapes can block out light.

5. Draft Snakes: Draft snakes are fabric tubes placed on a window sill or under a door to prevent cold air from creeping in. You can make one by sewing a tube of fabric to fit the width of your window and filling it with dried rice.

Pros: Cheap, easy to make as a DIY project.
Cons: It only insulates the window sill, not the glass or frame.

Quality Living From the Team that Cares

Wasting energy on Thanksgiving? Don’t be a turkey.

1. Install a dimmer switch for the dining room chandelier. Every time you dim a bulb’s brightness by 10%, you’ll double the bulb’s lifespan. Most CFLs don’t work with dimmers, but you can create mood lighting with incandescents and LEDs. The dimmer switch will cost you about $10.

2. Plan side dishes that can cook simultaneously with the turkey. If you cook dishes at the same temperature at the same time, you’ll reduce the amount of time the oven has to be running — it’s easier for the cook and saves energy, too.

When you start cooking

3. Lower your house thermostat a few degrees. The oven will keep the house warm. You also can turn on your ceiling fan so it sucks air up, distributing heat throughout the room.

4. Use ceramic or glass pans — you can turn down the oven’s temp by up to 25 degrees and get the same results. That’s because these materials retain heat so well, they’ll continue cooking food even after being removed from the oven.

5. Use your oven’s convection feature. When heated air is circulated around the food, it reduces the required temperature and cooking time. You’ll cut your energy use by about 20%.

6. Cook in the microwave whenever possible. Ditto slow cookers. Microwaves get the job done quickly, and although slow cookers take much longer, they still use less energy than the oven. Resist the urge to peek inside your slow cooker: Each time you remove the lid, it releases heat and can add about 25 minutes of cooking time to your dish.

7. Use lids on pots to retain heat. The food you’re cooking on the stovetop will heat up faster when you use lids.

When it’s cleanup time

8. Scrape plates instead of rinsing with hot water. Unless food is really caked on there, your dishwasher should get the dishes clean without a pre-rinse. Compost your non-meat food waste. Check out these other Thanksgiving clean-up tips.

9. Use your dishwasher. It saves energy and water, so only hand-wash things that aren’t dishwasher-safe. Wait until you’ve got a full load before starting the dishwasher. Be sure to stop the appliance before the heated dry cycle; just open the door and let your dishes air-dry.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/saving-energy/how-to-use-less-energy-thanksgiving-day/#ixzz3J3aKgsUn

Quality Living From the Team that Cares

Prevent Pipes From Bursting

 A much colder winter this year predicted by The Old Farmer’s Almanac threatens to cause even more frozen pipe damage to homes than last year unless home owners fight back the cold with simple steps to protect homes.

According to claims data compiled by Nationwide and Allied Insurance, the average frozen pipe insurance claim tops more than $10,000. In just three years — 2009-2011 — Nationwide and Allied received more than 30,000 home owners’ frozen pipes claims from across the country, totaling more than $2.1 million.

The top states for frozen pipes claims were Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, New York, and Maryland.

“Ruptured pipes in winter are one of the most common claims and the onslaught of a predicted colder winter will no doubt make it a tough season for home owners unless they take preventative action to protect their homes,” said Pete Lore, Nationwide associate vice president of claims. “We urge home owners to take action and avoid frustration caused by frozen pipe water damage, especially those traveling away from home for significant periods of time.”

Frozen water can cause pressure buildup leading to pipes bursting. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing, where holes in the home’s outside wall for television, cable, or telephone lines allow cold air to reach them.

Try these tips to keep water in your home’s pipes from freezing:

  • Keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around pipes (particularly in the kitchen and bathroom).
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. Another option is to drain the water system, especially if your house will be unattended during cold periods.
  • Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the heat transfer, often times the more insulation the better.
  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.

Read more at: www.houselogic.com

Quality Living From the Team that Cares

Tax and Home Records Checklist

Here is a great article I stumbled upon on HouseLogic.com about what to keep and for how long. Read on.

If you’re going to file a claim or take a deduction, you’d better have the paperwork to back it up.

Unless you’re living in the 123-room Spelling Manor, you probably don’t have space to store massive amounts of tax and insurance paperwork, warranties, and repair receipts related to your home. But you’ll definitely want your paperwork at hand if you have to prove you deserved a tax deduction, file an insurance claim, or figure out if your busted oven is still under warranty.

Except for tax paperwork, there’s no official guideline governing exactly how long you have to keep most home-related documents. Lucky for you, we considered the situations in which you might need documents and came up with a handy “How Long to Keep It” home records checklist.

First, a little background on IRS rules, which informed some of our charts:

  • The IRS says you should keep tax returns and the paperwork supporting them for at least three years after you file the return — the amount of time the IRS has to audit you. So that’s how long we advise in our charts.
  • Check with your state about state income tax, though. Some make you keep tax records a really long time: In Ohio, it’s 10 years.
  • The IRS can also ask for records up to six years after a filing if they suspect someone failed to report 25% or more of his gross income. And the agency never closes the door on an audit if it suspects fraud. Just sayin’.
HOME SALE RECORDS
Document How Long to Keep It
Home sale closing documents, including HUD-1 settlement sheet As long as you own the property + 3 years
Deed to the house As long as you own the property
Builder’s warranty or service contract for new home Until the warranty period ends
Community/condo association covenants, codes, restrictions (CC&Rs) As long as you own the property
Receipts for capital improvements As long as you own the property + 3 years
Section 1031 (like-kind exchange) sale records for both your old and new properties, including HUD-1 settlement sheet As long as you own the property + 3 years
Mortgage payoff statements (certificate of satisfaction or lien release) Forever, just in case a lender says, “Hey, you still owe money.”

Why you need these docs: You use home sale closing documents, receipts for capital improvements, and like-kind exchange records to calculate and document your profit (gain) when you sell your home. Your deed and mortgage payoff statements prove you own your home and have paid off your mortgage, respectively. Your builder’s warranty or contract is important if you file a claim. And sooner or later you’ll need to check the CC&R rules in your condo or community association.

ANNUAL TAX DEDUCTIONS
Document How Long to Keep It
Property tax payment (tax bill + canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Year-end mortgage statements 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
PMI payment (monthly bills + canceled check or bank statements showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Residential energy tax credit* receipts 3 years after the due date of the return on which the credit is claimed (including carryforwards**)

Why you need these docs: To document you’re eligible for a deduction or tax credit.

*Energy tax credits for alternative energy sources; credit expires at the end of 2016.

**Tax credits that you carry forward from one year to a future year, such as when you don’t have enough tax liability to offset the entire amount of the credit. (You can’t deduct more than you earn.) Only certain tax credits can be carried forward. Check with your tax pro about your particular circumstances.

INSURANCE AND WARRANTIES
Document How Long to Keep It
Home repair receipts Until warranty expires
Inventory of household possessions Forever (Remember to make updates.)
Homeowners insurance policies Until you receive the next year’s policy
Service contracts and warranties As long as you have the item being warrantied

Why you need these docs: To file a claim or see what your policy or warranty covers.

INVESTMENT (LANDLORD) REAL ESTATE DEDUCTIONS
Document How Long to Keep It
Appraisal or valuation used to calculate depreciation As long as you own the property + 3 years
Receipts for capital expenses, such as an addition or improvements As long as you own the property + 3 years
Receipts for repairs and other expenses 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Landlord’s insurance payment receipt (canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date showing the deduction
Landlord’s insurance policy Until you receive the next year’s policy
Partnership or LLC agreements for real estate investments As long as the partnership or LLC exists + 7 years
Landlord insurance receipts (canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after you deduct the expense

Why you need these docs: For the most part, to prove your eligibility to deduct the expense. You’ll also need receipts for capital expenditures to calculate your gain or loss when you sell the property. Landlord’s insurance and partnership agreements are important references.

MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS
Document How Long to Keep It
Wills and property trusts Until updated
Date-of-death home value record for inherited home, and any rules for heirs’ use of home As long as you own the home + 3 years
Original owners’ purchase documents (sales contract, deed) for home given to you as a gift As long as you own the home + 3 year
Divorce decree with home sale clause As long as you or spouse owns the home + 3 years
Employment records for live-in help (W-2s, W-4s, pay and benefits statements) 4 years after you make (or owe) payroll tax payments

Why you need these docs: Most are needed to calculate capital gains when you sell. Employment records help prove deductions.

Organizing Your Home Records

Because paper, such as receipts, fades with time and takes up space, consider scanning and storing your documents on a flash drive, an external hard drive, or a cloud-based remote server. Even better, save your documents to at least two of these places.

Digital copies are OK with the IRS as long as they’re identical to the originals and contain all the accurate information that was in the original receipts. You must be able to produce a hard copy if the IRS asks for one.

Tip: Tax season and year’s end are good times to purge files and toss what you no longer need; that’s often when the spirit of organization moves us.

When you do finally toss out your home-related paperwork, use a shredder. Throwing away intact documents with personal financial information puts you at risk for identity theft.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but isn’t intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/taxes-incentives/how-long-to-keep-tax-records/#ixzz3IrqV6fUR

Quality Living From the Team that Cares

To-Do Checklist for November

The weather may be turning chillier and the leaves disappearing, but with Thanksgiving and the winter holidays approaching, you’re likely to have a bustle of activity indoors. Get ahead of things this November by checking these items off your to-do list, and rest easy in a cleaner, cozier home.

Selling Your Home Tips

Improving the interior – Basics:

If the first impression of your home is negative, people think of other reasons why your home isn’t right for them. Understand this: buyers DO NOT return to homes if they were turned-off on the first visit.

A showing is like having a job interview. You want to look your best. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. If you really want to sell faster, look at each room, as well as all interior areas in light of the following:

Clean and eliminate clutter:

  • Removing clutter reduces buyer distractions and increases visual space. Eliminating stuff also creates more storage space. Think model home.
  • Collections of hobby knick-knacks, Hummels, plates, trophies, magazines, paperwork, an excess of family pictures and such should be minimized or packed out of sight.
  • Organize overstuffed shelves, bookcases, and contents of cabinets.
  • Remove anything that holds an odor in the basement. Air it out. Use a fan and a dehumidifier if it’s damp or musty. The storage of clothes and boxes accentuates a moisture problem. Get them out of there.
    Water is always the source of the problem. Redirect it away fro the house.
  • It should go without saying: dust, wax and vacuum.
  • An extra bonus is that if you’re getting rid of stuff – you’ll get a jump on packing for your upcoming move.

Closets:

Accept the fact that curious buyers will open all doors and cabinets.

  • Box up, donate or throw out excess from closets, including extra towels, out of season clothing, seldom-used shoes, games, etc.
  • Neatly hang remaining clothes with an eye on creating the appearance of having space for lots of extra garments. Those thick plastic hangers are recommended. Removing closet excess but not making an appealing presentation diminishes your efforts. Shoot for a spacious and neat look.
  • If you’re the perfectionist type, neatly arrange shoes in closets, shirts should all face the same direction, equal spaces between hangers and so forth. This will add another dimension of being well maintained.
  • If closet space is limited, double up on hanging space by repositioning the rod higher. Next, install a lower rod for a second tier of clothes.
  • Add inexpensive closet organizers and basket drawers in the master bedroom.
        

Walls and ceilings:

  • Wash baseboards and touch-up scuff marks.
  • Repair plaster cracks, nail pops and repaint in neutral colors or off-white.
  • Remove dust from ceiling fans and dead insects from overhead lighting. Yuck.
  • Living areas are the top priority. Neutralize the kid’s bedroom walls by removing posters. Consider repainting.
  • Don’t forget to vacuum those dust-filled return-air grates.

Flooring:

  • Have carpets professionally cleaned right before going on the market.
  • Replace worn/soiled/outdated carpeting and linoleum. Depending on the quantity, this can be expensive. You’ll have to weigh the cost versus the positive emotional appeal the expenditure will bring. Living area carpeting is much more important than bedrooms.
  • If hardwoods are under the carpets to be replaced, have carpets removed and inspect the floor. Exposed hardwoods are a great selling feature.

Spaciousness:

  • Create space by removing the dining room table leaf and extra chairs.
  • Remove excessive furniture, especially more than one dresser or chest in spare bedrooms. This will make rooms appear larger and improve traffic congestion. Minimal is good. Again, think model home.

Windows and doors:

  • Clean all windows or at least ones receiving direct sunlight since they really highlight dust and dirt.
  • If window screens are out of season, remove them for a clearer view.
  • Clean your skylights thoroughly–rejoice that it will be for the last time.
  • If you have those old, hard to use, triple track storm windows thhat you just hate, store them away if it isn’t winter.
  • Squeaky doors and cabinets can be repaired. Oil the hinges or a silicon spray.

Storage of excess:

  • Whether it’s furniture, hobbies, old receipts and records, toys, clothes or whatever, get rid of it or store this stuff in order to maximize your space. Ask yourself, “Am I turning into a hoarder?” Scary.
  • For storage, consider the attic, garage, your brother-in-law’s or rental of a storage compartment. This is critical.
  • If you feel your home is a little bare from eliminating excess furniture and accessories, that means you’re doing a good job!
            Use off-site storage

USE OFF-SITE STORAGE RENTAL. This will give you an edge. Your competition won’t even think of this.

 

Work reminders:

  • Cleaning products and lawn equipment are examples of everyday items that remind buyers that houses require maintenance.
  • Paint cans, caulk tubes, paint removers and the like should be out of sight.
  • In an effort to keep everything positive, carefully consider what should be hidden from prospective eyes.

Problem reminders:

  • Strive to minimize situations that remind buyers of daily maintenance:
  • Fix leaking faucets, toilets, clogged sinks and eliminate discolored sink stains.
  • Check under sinks for signs of water problems.
  • Repair cracks in garage, but focus on basement floors. Use a strong caulk or a ready-mix concrete.
  • Replace worn caulking in the bathrooms.
  • Remove or relocate excessive cleaning supplies.
  • Replace faulty light switches. Also keep extra bulbs handy.
  • Attend to loose railings, shaky banisters and broken door hinges.
  • Store out of site things like ant and bug sprays, mousetraps, lawn and grub control products. They suggest problems and shouldn’t be visible. Portable space heaters hint of inadequate central heating unless you’re located in a year round hot climate area.
           Second chance

  You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. This is more than just a clever phrase.

Quality Living From the Team that Cares

Protect & Seal Your Driveway

It’s bad enough that cracks in the driveway are unsightly – they also allow water to get beneath the surface. Protect it at its surface with a quality sealant before winter arrives.

You may decide to hire out for the job, but doing it yourself is easy and will save you a bundle of cash.

Preparation:

  • Begin the job by cleaning out the larger cracks in the asphalt surface. Pull all weeds from their roots.
  • Carefully fill any large cracks with appropriate filler.
  • Remove any dust or pebbles with a push broom – they will create imperfections in the surface if left there.
  • Tape the edge of the driveway, to make application process easier.
  • Consult a home building center to help decide the proper amount of asphalt sealer needed (for your size of driveway).
  • Check the weather forecast. Make sure there’s no chance of rain within 24 hours of asphalts sealer application.

The job:

  • Stir buckets of sealer, or leave upside down overnight.
  • Spread the sealer from side to side. Apply a thick coat, or two thin coats over two days.
  • Use a brush or squeegee to spread it evenly, if needed.
  • If it’s very hot outdoors, and the sealant begins to dry, mist it gently with a hose.
  • Remove tape and check for places you may need to re-coat.
  • Let driveway cure for at LEAST 24 hours. Do not walk on it before this time.
  • Wait one week before parking or driving on it.

Quality Living From the Team that Cares

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