Preparing Your Home for Summer

Preparing Your Home for Summer 1

As summer approaches, everyone starts to shift their concerns from staying warm to cooling off. Some of the steps you take to stay warm while keeping energy costs down could cause you problems when the summer arrives. For example, if you are still using thermal sheets in the summer because you did not change them over after the winter ended, then you are forcing yourself to use more energy to cool your home at night. These are the types of details you need to worry about as you prepare your home for summer.

With a little attention to detail, you can keep your home cool without boosting your energy bills. It only takes a few days to go through the checklist of things you need to do to make sure that your house is ready to take on summer, and the results will be well worth the effort.

Preparing Your Home for Summer 2

Check Your Insulation

If your insulation is several years old and has never been replaced, then this summer is the time to replace it. Good insulation will reduce the work load on your air conditioner, and keep your operating costs down. When you reduce how much your air conditioner has to work, you also reduce the risk of overwhelming your home’s electrical wiring and creating a fire hazard. Check your insulation and add more if it is needed, or replace your insulation if it is old.

Open the Windows

Preparing Your Home for Summer 3

On days where the temperature is moderate and there is a nice breeze, you should turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. You will help to refresh the air in your home, and you will reduce your energy usage.

Ventilate Your Roof

The vents you see on roofs work in conjunction with the vented overhangs to get good airflow through the attic and under the roof. A roof that is not ventilated can exceed temperatures of 100 degrees during the summer, and cause your air conditioner to work overtime. Get a professional roofer to check out your roof and make sure it is properly ventilated.

Get Some Fans

On those days where the heat and humidity are high but not unbearable, then utilizing fans instead of your air conditioning will save you money. You may want to consider getting some decorative ceiling fans installed in the main rooms of your home to add some functionality to your home’s interior decor.

Protect Your Windows

When the sun is beating down on your home, then close the curtains or shades in your windows to prevent the temperature in your home from going up. If you install awnings over your windows, then you can still allow natural light to get into your home without having the effects of direct sunlight. If you prefer a more natural barrier, then plant some trees or high bushes outside of your windows to block the sunlight.

Get Your Air Conditioner Looked Over

The money you would spend on having a professional technician inspect your air conditioner before summer begins will pay for itself in energy efficiency. A technician can change your filters, and clean out your air conditioner properly so that you can keep your operating costs as low as possible.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat will allow you to set a higher temperature when you are not home so that you use less energy. You can also use your thermostat to make your home coolest only at night to make sleeping easier, but without running the air conditioner at those lower temperatures all day long.

Move the Heat

Preparing Your Home for Summer 4

Anything that generates heat while it is running should be moved away from your thermostat to prevent the heat from these devices from triggering your air conditioner. It is important that you give your thermostat all of the space it needs to get accurate readings to prevent unnecessarily increasing your energy usage.

Clean Out the Refrigerator

Over the course of the winter, people tend to allow items to pile up in their refrigerators and freezers. When you overload your refrigerator, it has to work harder to keep food cold. When you add in the higher temperatures during the summer, then you have a recipe for disaster. As part of your summer preparations, you need to clean out your refrigerator and keep it clean during the warmer months.

When you do your spring cleaning, you should also give plenty of thought to the warmer summer months that are on the way. With a little extra preparation, you can keep your home cool this summer without paying a fortune for energy bills.

Renovation Loan Basics

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Renovation Loan Guest Blog
Todd Miles

Written by Guest Writer Todd Miles, Evergreen Homes Regional Manager 

Most people have things about their home, or a home they want to purchase, that they absolutely love. From the perfect backyard to an amazing kitchen, we are obsessed with different parts of our homes. But often, there are also those areas that need some work. Pink tile in the bathroom? A galley kitchen that is closed off from the living room? A roof that leaks? From aesthetic to structural, there are often things that need to be changed through a renovation.

But as with most construction, renovations can be pricey. You need to find a trusted contractor, purchase supplies, obtain needed permits and maybe even contract with architects or engineers. For many renovations, a renovation loan can finance your improvements or repairs in one mortgage inclusive of the home loan and renovation costs.

To qualify for a renovation loan, properties must be a single-family, two-family, three-family or four-family dwelling that is at least a year old. Mixed-use properties are eligible if the renovations are solely on the home portion of the property and condos qualify if they are approved for FHA loans. Some of the actions you can take with renovation financing on an eligible property includes:

  • Purchase a home that you would like to renovate
  • Purchase a home with the intent of moving it to a new location and foundation
  • Refinance an existing mortgage to allow for renovation expenditures
  • Convert a single-family dwelling into a two-, three-, or four-family dwelling
  • Decrease an existing multi-unit dwelling

For the renovation and repair stage, a partial list of repairs that qualify include:

  • Structural alterations and reconstruction
  • Modernization and improvements to the home’s function (updated kitchens, bathrooms, basements, etc.)
  • Changes that improve appearance
  • Reconditioning or replacing plumbing
  • Installing a well and/or septic system
  • Adding or replacing roofing, gutters and downspouts
  • Adding or replacing flooring
  • Major landscape work and site improvements
  • Energy conservation improvements

If you’re thinking of making renovations to your home, or purchasing a home for renovation, make sure you engage a home loan professional as a part of your research and discussion. They can discuss your financing options and help guide you through the process.

Want to write for BBB Northwest? Contact Managing Editor Veronica Craker at 206-676-4105 or email her at veronica.craker@thebbb.org for a chance to be a featured writer on this blog.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

The start of a new year is the perfect time to make some changes for the better, whether in your personal life, your professional life, or a little bit of both. Instead of limiting your New Year’s resolutions to yourself this year, why not make a few for your home as well? By tackling some of those much-needed renovation and repair projects around the house, you and your home can both be as healthy and happy as possible in 2016.

FM House Resolutions Blog 1.11.16

  1. Out with the old and in with the new

Tired of wrestling with your old lawnmower or temperamental stove? Stop. Make this year the year you finally replace those headache-inducing appliances with something new, energy-efficient and easy to use. If you’re tight on cash, consider looking at gently used appliances to help you upgrade without sky-high prices.

  1. Say goodbye to clutter

Even if you keep your home clean and organized, there’s probably more clutter underfoot than you realize. Take a long weekend and tackle one room after another, getting rid of everything you don’t need. Donate what’s still usable and dump the rest. Even though you probably had a reason to save those bank statements from 1992, it’s now time to say goodbye. Don’t forget to shred documents with any personal information.

  1. Make sure you’re safe and sound

Your home may look great, but is it as safe as it could be? Even if you’ve never had any issues before, there’s no such thing as being too careful. Resolve to make your home safer this year, whether that means upgrading your security systems or simply double-checking smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries more often.

  1. Reduce, reuse, recycle

It’s a good motto to live by, especially when it comes to your home. Reducing your energy usage can be a great way to cut back on monthly expenses and live a greener lifestyle. By taking simple steps like turning off lights before leaving home, setting appliances to economy or energy saver mode and improving your home’s insulation, you can reduce your bills and do your part towards helping the environment.

  1. Take a second look

When was the last time someone took a look at your HVAC system? If you aren’t sure, it might be time to call in an expert to perform a routine inspection. Be regularly servicing your appliances, you can have a better idea of your home’s needs, saving money on repair costs and taking care of maintenance problems before it’s too late.

  1. Exercise your green thumb

Plants can do wonders for the look and feel of a home, both inside and out. If you have property outside, make this the year you tend to the garden, planting a mix of beautiful flowers and useful herbs and vegetables to create an attractive and functional space in your yard. No room outdoors? Consider a window herb planter instead.

  1. Improve organization

You’ve cleared out your clutter, but what about those essentials you can’t part with? Improving your organizational system can go a long way in keeping your home neat and organized. Rather than keeping piles of paper sitting around or purchasing unattractive filing cabinets, consider investing in cube shelving units with wicker baskets to keep files in one place without sacrificing decor.

  1. Stock up on the essentials

Are you ready for a natural disaster? Things like tornadoes, power outages, hurricanes, and snow storms aren’t common, but getting caught unaware can be devastating when danger strikes. Stock up on basics like flashlights, batteries and bottles of water to ensure you’re ready, just in case.

  1. Do it yourself

Have you been putting off those big renovation projects because there’s no room in the budget? Instead of hiring an expensive contractor, take care of those little projects yourself. Many websites have tutorials that can help you take care of things like installing tile, replacing carpet and repainting, letting you spruce up your home for a fraction of the cost.

  1. Keep it clean

Finding the time to clean can be a real challenge, especially when you work during the day and take care of your family at night. Rather than letting things get out of hand, establish a cleaning schedule early, with different chores assigned on different days. Once you get into the rhythm of handling responsibilities on a daily basis, it’ll be much easier to work household tasks into your schedule.

A new year isn’t just a chance to improve yourself; it’s a chance to improve your home, too. By making these 10 New Year’s resolutions, you can make sure this will be your house’s best year yet.

Preparing Your Home for Fall

As much fun as summer can be, it has to end at some point. As the trees begin to change and the weather shifts from hot and humid to cool and crisp, it’s time to accept that fall has arrived once again. Whether you’re sad to see the sweltering weather end or are looking forward to unpacking your favorite cold weather clothes, there’s a lot to do to get ready for the changing seasons.

bench-forest-trees-path

While the weather during the fall in much of the country remains tolerable for outdoor activities, winter temperatures will be here before you know it. With these helpful tips, you can easily ready your home for fall, and the colder temperatures to come.

  1. Pack up your summer clothes

Some of your summer clothes may be appropriate for light layering in the fall, but most of your shorts and tank tops are ready to be retired for the season. Packing up your summer clothes can make more room in your closet for sweaters, long pants, boots, and coats, making sure you’re prepared for the brisk chill of fall and the colder weather around the corner. Make sure your store your clothing properly to ensure your favorite summer duds are ready for next year.

  1. Check your doors and windows

Did you know that one of the best ways to waste energy is to leave gaps and cracks in your doors and windows? Every year, millions of Americans spend far more than they need to on their heating bills, simply because their home isn’t energy efficient. Before the cold weather sets in, put up storm windows, and seal cracks around windows and doors with caulk and tape to make sure the cooler months are as comfortable as possible.

  1. Clean our your gutters

As the leaves begin to turn, you know you’re only weeks away from them falling off entirely and stopping up your gutters. Before you find yourself with a big mess on your hands, take the time now to clean out your gutters and drainpipes to prevent the possibility of water damage and clogs. A clean early in the season may not suffice through the winter, but it will make sure you’re prepared for the harsher weather to come.

  1. Make sure your heater is ready for anything

Even in the Southern states, heat is a necessity in the winter. The last thing you want is to turn on your thermostat on the first frosty night, only to find yourself with no heat. Make sure your vents are clean, your filters are in good condition, and your heater is in good working order. This may be a job you can do at home, but if you aren’t sure what to look for, enlisting the help of a professional may be in your best interest.

  1. Take a look at your fireplace

When the weather gets cooler, nothing is quite as inviting as a warm fire. When your flue isn’t clean, however, you may be facing bigger issues. Before tossing wood in the fireplace and lighting it up, take the time to investigate all vents and flue operation to make sure cold air can’t get in and soot and smoke from a fire can’t get out. Keep in mind that some animals like birds like to make homes in chimneys; be sure yours is clear before starting a fire.

  1. Check your water heater

When was the last time you drained and cleaned your water heater? When the weather gets chilly, it’s much harder to heat your water, which means that it’s important for your water heater to be in good working condition. If you haven’t serviced your water heater recently, now may be the time to drain your water heater and clear out any debris. If you aren’t sure your water heater is performing up to par, bringing in a professional may be an asset.

  1. Inspect your roof

If you have a heavy rainstorm or a foot of snow, can your roof take the burden? Before settling in for another chilly fall and a freezing winter, take a look at your roof for weak spots, cracks in your shingles, granules, and wind damage. If you see anything that looks off or unstable, a roofer may be what your home needs to weather this winter’s storms.

Preparing your house for fall may be a hassle, but it’s one you’ll thank yourself for later. With the right measures taken now, you and your family will be prepared to settle in for the fall and winter, no matter what may be coming your way.

Aim for a Hassle-Free Move with BBB’s Tips

movingmonthMoving is never easy. In fact, it can be a real hassle, especially on a fixed budget. I’ve done it at least a dozen times since I graduated college, moving all across the country. And while I consider myself a savvy consumer, I have made a few big mistakes along the way.

Some of the worst moving stories I’ve heard, however, happened while I was working as a TV news reporter.

I remember interviewing a family who moved to the Seattle area from the Midwest and literally had their personal belongings held hostage by the moving company. The family was verbally quoted one price and then charged more mid-trip. Unable to pay, the movers held on the family’s belongings and starting charging them daily for storage costs.

Eventually law enforcement got involved, but that wasn’t until six months after the family had already moved. They were living in an empty apartment and sleeping on their clothes. They chose to go with movers who quoted them a low a price, and they never got anything in writing—and they learned a tough lesson from that experience.

Sadly, rogue movers are everywhere, giving the industry as a whole a black eye. In March, Better Business Bureau teamed up with the Oregon Department of Transportation in an undercover sting operation where law enforcement busted several illegal movers.

Then for National Moving Month in May, BBB worked with the Washington State Utilities & Transportation Commission to issue a news release with safe moving tips.

Within 24 hours of sending out that release, BBB and UTC appeared on local TV news programs 26 times, reaching an estimated 250,000 households. Each time, consumers were urged to check bbb.org first to find movers they can trust.

Before a customer even packs a box, BBB and UTC offer the following tips for hiring a moving company:

  • Contact the UTC to confirm the company has a valid permit and inquire about any consumer complaints. Call 888-333-9882 or visit utc.wa.gov/movingtips.
  • Check with BBB to find out the company’s rating and determine if there are any complaints filed against them. Start at bbb.org/search.
  • Be sure to receive a free written estimate—moving companies are required to provide one.
  • Get estimates from at least three different companies and do not make a decision based on price alone.
  • Finally, do not sign any incomplete documents. Make sure all forms are as complete as possible.

The bottom line: moving can be hassle-free if you take the time to research businesses and get everything writing. Remember that estimates are only educated guesses, but final prices can vary depending on the actual services performed. From what I’ve seen, most problems arise from disagreements about estimates, liabilities or damages.

If you have an issue with a moving company that you just can’t resolve on your own, file a complaint with BBB and the appropriate government agency.

Heaven forbid you ever have an experience like the Seattle family I interviewed—but if you do, call law enforcement immediately.