Last week we posted a list of easy home maintenance tasks you can do yourself to lower your energy costs this Fall and Winter. But many homeowners don’t realize the savings that can be achieved by spending a little money up front to properly maintain your home each year. We’ve consulted some local experts at Roscoe Brown to bring you the best annual maintenance checklist.
With fall just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to give your home an energy efficiency assessment. Are you setting yourself up to save money in the coming chilly months, or will you need to pay through the nose again this year?
Smart home technology has been something that we as a population have longed for; science fiction shows and movies have wowed audiences with ideas for home automation that most of us would really like to enjoy in our day-to-day lives.
This is a sponsored post brought to you by HMS Home Warranty.
Water is an important resource, however many homes use more of it than they realize. As such, it’s vital to consider the ways homeowners can conserve water as this will ultimately create positive environmental changes and cut costs for them as well.
July 15th is Pet Fire Safety Day. At first glance, it seems like another obscure “holiday” that was more or less invented out of nowhere by the news spreading on social media. But by all means, this is no “National Cheeseburger” type of day. In fact, it’s a day to think about the unthinkable and plan ahead for emergencies to keep your furbabies safe.
Not only is it important to have emergency escape plans put in place for your pets, but it’s incredibly important to know how to prevent pets accidentally causing fires.
An estimated 500,000 pets are affected annually by fires each year.
As the year shifts further into autumn, temperatures continue their downward trend in most parts of the US. With the approach of winter weather, many people are looking for new ways to save energy (and money).
Perhaps you need to conserve your energy use due to budget constraints or a desire to build up your savings. You may also be thinking about your carbon footprint and its effect on our planet. Whatever your reason(s) for wanting to save energy this winter, you’ll benefit from putting at least some of the following tips into action:
Layer up – Get into the habit of keeping your heat set a few degrees lower than you have in the past. The general rule of thumb is that you can save 5% on your heating bill for each degree that you lower your thermostat. Stay comfortable by wearing more layers around the house – including a cozy sweater, thermal underwear (if needed) and fluffy socks. Add an extra blanket to your bed as well.
Use solar power – Even if you don’t have solar panels in your home, you can still take advantage of the sun’s rays to heat up your home. To do this, keep your south-facing window coverings open during the day to welcome in the sun’s natural heat. When the sun goes down, make sure all blinds and curtains in your home are closed to keep as much heat in the house as possible. Additionally, invest in thermal blinds or drapes to help keep drafty windows from letting in too much cold air.
Winterize your windows – If you have especially drafty windows that are still letting in too much cool air even with thermal window treatments, you may need to take extra steps to stay warm. The two most effective ways to winterize drafty windows are by caulking around the exterior of the window and applying plastic wrap over the inside. The plastic stripping you’ll need comes in easy to install window insulation kits and can be found at most hardware stores.
Change your filters – It’s recommended that you have your heating system examined once every year before severe winter weather arrives. This yearly check-up by a professional will catch any problems before they cause your heating system to fail, which could prove to be inconvenient, uncomfortable and even dangerous if it happens when temperatures are extremely low. At the very least, be sure to replace your heating vent filters on their recommended schedule. When filters are not replaced on time, they become ineffective at doing their job, and they start to restrict air flow throughout your home. This will increase your energy costs.
Don’t heat the whole house – This is especially true if you have a large home, but small and medium-sized homes will also use less energy if you focus on heating the rooms you actually use. To do this, close the heating vents in rooms you don’t use and seal them shut with a vent cover. Close the doors to any unused rooms, and make sure that heating vents are open in the rooms you spend the most time in.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a character-filled historic American home, by now you realize the importance of ensuring that it remains preserved in its historic condition so as to accurately represent the historic period in which it was built.
Many historic homes of significant age have been left to wilt in disrepair for decades, requiring a complete renovation in order to restore their grandeur and beauty. However, if your historic home has been well-maintained, it obviously won’t need a total overhaul to fall in line with its proper design time period.
Regular care, upkeep and repairs (as needed) will guarantee that your historic home holds onto its historic character and curb appeal. What follows is a list of features on the exteriors of historic homes that make the biggest impression. Pay close attention to these areas of your historic home:
Shutters – From the late 1700s into the early 1900s, proper shutters were used functionally in order to offer protection from the elements (usually rain or hail) while still allowing the homeowner to enjoy the outside air through the shutters’ vented slots. Although shutters are still found on many homes today, they often don’t have the same size dimensions that traditional historic shutters had. Today’s imitation/non-functional shutters are purely decorative; in order to stay in line with your home’s historic period, the shutters should be large enough to cover the entirety of the window(s) they surround when pulled closed (if it were possible to do so).
Exterior doors – If your historic home’s exterior doors are currently painted white, take a closer look around the edges or in any nicks in the paint. Many historic homes still standing today originally had dark-colored outside doors as well as window sashes. If your home was built in the 1800s or early 1900s, select an extremely dark green or black for at least the front entry door. The window sashes should be painted to match.
Storm doors – The storm doors we see on homes today were added after the home was originally built and don’t fall in line with the historical design of the rest of the home. To improve the look of your home’s entry, select a storm door with very little paneling or design on it. Opt for full-view so that your (now appropriately dark) front door can shine through. It’s best to choose a storm door made from a material that can easily be painted to match the color of your dark front door, like wood or metal.
Exterior coverings – Many older homes were covered with siding in the mid-1900s. By removing as much artificial siding (aluminum, vinyl, etc) as possible, you’ll literally be exposing your home’s original design. Ideally, you’ll be able to remove siding from all sides of the home; alternatively, remove as much as possible. Expose the original brick or stone that was used to build the home for maximum curb appeal.
By keeping your historic home within the design styles used when it was built, you’re performing a very important task in helping us hold onto our valuable American history.
As you plan fun and exciting adventures with your friends and family this summer, some of them are bound to find you entertaining at home, especially if you have a welcoming outdoor living space and/or swimming pool.
Relaxing with your loved ones in the comfort of your own home has a variety of benefits – not the least of which is the money you’ll save over gathering at a fancy restaurant, club or hotel. Being at home is also where we’re all our most authentic, relaxed and comfortable.
If you’ve invested significantly in an outdoor living and entertaining area, you’re quite likely to have multiple get-togethers at your place as the weather heats up – especially if you have a pool. However, keep in mind that although your guests will undoubtedly spend countless joyful hours splashing about, they’ll eventually get hungry and ready for a change of pace.
Accordingly, in planning summertime events at home, ensure that everyone will have plenty to eat by asking each guest to bring one hot food, beverage or dessert item. Additionally, prepare other ways to keep everyone entertained and happy. One thing that’s certain is that music is a universal form of pleasure! If your party eventually moves indoors, just be sure that your indoor stereo system is queued up ahead of time.
If you want to add to the summer ambiance by providing your friends with outdoor music, there are several good ways to make this happen:
Portable speakers for your mobile phone – These are probably the most commonly used and popular way to listen to music when among friends without plugging up your ears with earbuds, thereby making conversation nigh on impossible.
Wired outdoor speakers – A little more involved and expensive than portable speakers is a permanent set of speakers made specifically to stand up to any and all kinds of weather. The sound quality you’ll get from a permanent, wired sound system will blow any portable speakers out of the water. Many sound systems today also have the option to plug in your mobile device so you can play music directly from your favorite playlist.
Fake rock speakers – A double entendre, these speakers can indeed play rock music with the bonus of also looking like natural sandstone rocks that belong in your backyard. If you’re not into the look of high tech stereo equipment hanging around your pool or lounge area, a set of Bluetooth rock speakers will do the trick quite nicely while looking like a real piece of nature. Most decent rock speakers, like the set by Sound Appeal, found on Amazon, are rugged and hold up quite well to most weather conditions.
Go old school with a portable radio or boombox – If your gathering is relatively small, and your crowd prefers to listen to CDs or the radio, you can opt for a number of extremely affordable boombox options that also have the added benefit of being super portable. This might be the route to go if you’re listening to a sports broadcast, reminiscing over favorite albums, or have a favorite radio show you and a few friends enjoy listening to together.
Create an Outdoor Oasis in Your Backyard this Spring
Spring has definitely sprung, and what better time than now to take action on transforming your backyard into your own personal oasis? If you have recently purchased a new home, you may be working with a blank slate that is ready for your unique style stamp. If you’ve lived in your home for many years, you may be ready to make some realchanges to your outdoor space.
When you imagine your dream outdoor getaway, what comes to mind? Naturally, the heat of intense Texas summers dictates that you have some form of refuge from the sun. Do you like to entertain? If so, remodel your outdoor space into a luxurious extension of your indoor space, giving you room for bigger and better parties.
Some possible features that will undoubtedly inject a breath of fresh air into your backyard include:
Custom built swimming pool – If you’re shooting for the stars (and your budget can handle it), a custom-built free-form backyard pool is without a doubt a showstopper that will be a hit with guests of all ages.
Gourmet kitchen – Every pool party needs scrumptious snacks to accompany it, but the host always ends up missing out due to running inside to the kitchen and back again. You can go for a full kitchen complete with granite counters, full size appliances, a refrigerator, dishwasher and pizza oven. Even a partial kitchen with a cooktop stove, mini-fridge and sink can significantly spice up get-togethers without tiring out the host.
Lush landscaping – Turn your outdoor space from a yard into an extension of nature itself. Plant layers of plant life from ground cover to shrubs, bushes, flowers and different-sized trees. By going for a layered feel, you’ll best recreate how plants grow in the wild, bringing a private sanctuary type feeling to your property.
Water features – With or without a swimming pool, features with running water have been shown by studies to produce a sense of clarity and serenity. Most Americans vacation near bodies of water; why not bring your ‘vacation’ home with you and enjoy it daily? Being near the sight and sound of running water can improve your level of creativity and can even heal what ails you! Ponds, water walls, waterfalls, hot tubs, wishing wells, small man-made creeks, birdbaths, hanging fountains, and reflecting pools will all add the tranquil ambience you’re looking for.
Stone pathway – To add to the sanctuary feeling of your backyard retreat, create a natural, winding pathway made from local Texas stone. As you stroll down the path through the colorful blooms while listening to the gentle rippling of your water feature, take a deep breath and you’ll instantly unwind from even the toughest day.
Arbor/Pergola – By including a pergola into your backyard design, you’ll have a nice spot to sit amidst your landscaping that is protected from the sun. Alternatively, encouraging some climbing vine plants to grow over top of an arbor that sits above your natural stone walkway will add to the hideaway feeling of your new backyard oasis.
What to Plant in Your Yard for Curb Appeal this Spring
One of your first chances to impress potential buyers is when they first pull up to the exterior of your property. Typically, buyers are brought in through the front of the home, which gives them a chance to have a brief look around the front yard (if applicable), as they make their way to the front door. This period of time, although brief, is extremely important. Your home is making its first impression. Everyone knows you never have a second chance to make a good first impression!
With that being said, wowing your potential home buyers with attractive curb appeal really doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Make sure your front lawn is manicured and that there is fresh mulch in all plant beds. If you have any bushes or shrub-like perennials, trim them back so that all walkways are accessible. Get rid of any weeds in all flower beds, and consider some of the following colorful design techniques:
Create a visually appealing rear border in flower beds. Tall border plants are usually placed in the back of a flower bed to give a sense of the bed’s boundaries. Tall border plants include: tulips, lilies (oriental lilies, giant lilies and day lilies), delphinium, black eyes Susan, Hollyhock, tall phlox, sage, and switchgrass.
Plant bright and affordable annuals front and center where they’ll be seen. Even if you don’t have the time (and/or money) to invest in adding numerous layers to your flower beds, swing by your local garden center and pick up an assortment of brilliantly colored annuals. The type of annuals you plant should depend on how much sunlight your flower beds get. Some colorful full sun annuals include impatiens, begonias, pansies, morning glories, petunias, marigolds, geraniums and zinnias. Ideas for partial sun annuals include geraniums, salvia, coleus, African violets, wax begonias, violas, African daisies and flowering kale plants. Full shade annuals are less common, but they do exist! Try Swedish ivy, wishbone flowers, baby blue eyes, calendula, alyssum, lobelia and snapdragons.
Mix and match colors and textures. Whether you’re working with flower beds or floral walkway borders, plant annuals in a variety of sizes, colors, textures and shapes. This will create visual interest for everyone who tours your home.
Mix and match blooming schedules. Do a little research into the blooming schedule(s) and length of blooms before planting anything. Since your house may be on the market throughout the spring and into the summer, you’ll want to plant flowers that bloom at different parts of the growing season. This will mean that there will always be some flowers in bloom during the warm months that your home is on the market.
If you have some outdoor plants in pots, be sure to give the containers a good cleaning. Consider replacing pots that have become damaged and/or are no longer attractive. Another fun way to bring interest to all of your outdoor plants is to make decorative labels for each type of flower/plant/bush. Stake the labels into the plant’s pot or in the ground beside each plant so potential buyers know what they’re looking at. Without realizing it, they may start picturing themselves working in their brand new garden that has been so lovingly started for them.