Consumer Real Estate News


    • 7 Cost-Effective Ways to Reduce Heating Bills

      20 February 2018

      (Family Features)--Many homeowners think big when trying to find effective solutions to skyrocketing heating bills, like replacing the furnace or installing new windows, but there are plenty of smaller projects that can make a difference when it comes to your energy savings this winter.

      Consider these tips to keep your home cozy without your energy bill putting a damper on the season:

      Take advantage of solar heat.
      Installing solar panels is one sure way to capture the sun's energy, but there are other ways to harness that heat. Unobscured windows and skylights can let the rays in, and with them comes some heat. Leave curtains open during the day and trim foliage outdoors to provide a clear path for sunlight. Just be sure windows are well-sealed so you're not offsetting any heat gain with a cool draft.

      Install or upgrade your heat pump.
      Heat pumps work differently than traditional cooling and heating systems. They recycle heat found in the air and ground, moving thermal energy between indoors and outdoors instead of generating it from scratch by burning fossil fuels. When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-one-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

      They can save electricity costs by 30-40 percent.
      In particularly cold climates, technology is making it possible to reap energy-saving benefits. An option such as the Hyper-Heating Inverter(r) from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating offers a significant advancement in heat pumps. This technology uses an intelligent compressor system to deliver heat even when outdoor temperatures are as low as -13 F, and a quick-start feature provides warm air instantly.

      Move furniture away from vents.
      Free air flow is an important component of efficient heating and obstructed vents interrupt that process. Not only can furniture be damaged from the continual air flow of a vent, it can block the circulation patterns that were intended when your home's ductwork was installed. For optimum efficiency, avoid placing furniture on top of vents, and if it's impossible to avoid, close those vents so the airflow is directed elsewhere.

      Reverse your ceiling fans.
      Your ceiling fans can play an important role in air circulation. Leaving them off will obviously make rooms warmer, but some circulation can be a good thing. Most fans offer a switch that lets you reverse the fan direction, which pushes air upward instead of down. This makes for less of a cooling effect while still moving air for better temperature distribution.

      Install a programmable thermostat.
      A degree or two may not feel like much of a difference, but it's a change you'll definitely see on your energy bill. Just a small adjustment in your standard thermostat setting can result in reductions of 5 or even 10 percent of your overall bill. Another potential big-impact strategy: adjust temperatures when you're away from home. A programmable thermostat will let you turn temps down when no one is there to benefit from the warmth, then bring them back up shortly before you're scheduled to return home. When you're away unexpectedly or need to adjust your typical schedule, an option like the kumo cloud(r) mobile app offered by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating allows control of your home's cooling and heating system from your smartphone or other connected device.

      Adjust your hot water heater.
      Not only can keeping the air comfortable add up, so can heating water for basic household functions. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heating is the second largest energy expense in most homes. However, you may have your heater set higher than necessary. For every 10-degree drop, you can expect to reduce energy costs by 3-5 percent.

      Insulate the attic.
      A poorly sealed or insulated attic can be among a home's biggest energy drains. Warm air naturally rises, but rather than recirculating throughout the home, it may be wasted if it's just escaping out of the attic. Sealing cracks and adding insulation can help reduce this loss. Don't overlook the access door, which can allow warm air to escape if it fits poorly or isn't well-sealed.

      Source: Mitsubishi

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Cookware Gets Healthy

      20 February 2018

      Americans’ growing focus on fitness and nutrition has found its way into our kitchens - not just in terms of the food in the fridge, but the cookware on our counters and stoves as well. Consider some of these items to get your kitchen tools on point with your health goals:

      Kombucha maker. At this year’s Atlanta Gift and Home Furnishings Market, Typhoon Homewares introduced a line of fermentation and kombucha-making sets under its Kilner brand. Known for its high levels of probiotics, antioxidants and vitamins, Kombucha is a fermented tea that has become increasingly popular among the health-conscious. This line now allows you to make it at home as opposed to paying the high prices often found in stores.

      Rice cookers. From all varieties of pressure cookers - including the latest sensation, the InstaPot - to simple rice cookers, these handy counter-top gadgets allow you to quickly cook all varieties of rice and grains, including super nutritious quinoa and couscous.

      Green and copper pans. The eco-friendly GreenPan or increasingly popular copper pans offer the benefit of non-stick surfaces, which means you can cook without fats, like oils and butters. To preserve these pans, use only wooden or plastic utensils. Metal will scratch and ruin the non-stick surface, essential to avoiding those unhealthy fats.

      Herb and veggie preservers. Our best efforts at using more fresh herbs and vegetables often go to waste as these items go bad before we can finish them. There are several inexpensive gadgets that help preserve fresh herbs and veggies longer, however, such as Food Huggers that fit snuggly over those half cut fruits and vegetables.

      Blenders, big and small. Whether you go all out with a Vitamix, or keep it simple with a NutriBullet, it’s easy these days to make a quick, nutrient-dense smoothie, soup or dip. There’s something to fit everyone’s kitchen and budget.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 3 Ways to Make Hard Conversations Easier

      20 February 2018

      Whether it's a big talk with the boss, a deep process with your partner, or breaking some hard news to your folks, communication is hard when the stakes are raised. Below are three tips to help.

      Work on body language. You know what your mouth is saying, but what about your body? It can be hard to move outside your mind and examine your body language. Are you closed or folded with arms and legs crossed? Is your body pointing away from your conversation partner? Pay mind to your body language before you begin speaking and monitor it as you go, too. This will help stop you from sending nonverbal messages that may not align with your words.

      Know what you want. It may seem ridiculous, but so many of us enter important conversations without a clear outcome in mind. Whether you want something vague like to simply be heard, or a more pointed goal, such as securing a raise or dividing chores with your spouse, enter the conversation with a clear goal in mind. This will help mitigate unnecessary back and forth and keep you focused.

      Create a calming ritual. If you're the type to get worked up before a big talk, create a calming ritual to have beforehand. Whether it's five minutes of meditation, a walk around the block with your pup, or a journaling session about what you hope to achieve from your talk, taking a moment to ground yourself can be helpful.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 5 Ways to Springify Your Home

      19 February 2018

      Winter got you down? Bring a little spring into your home long before the season arrives with these few simple tricks:

      Set a flower budget. While it’s certainly not a necessary expense, adding an arrangement of fresh flowers to your home weekly might be well worth the mood-boosting value they bring. Opt for your local supermarket instead of the florist and stick with brightly colored mums, carnations and daisy to keep the investment low. Or up the springtime vide with a bouquet of pastel colored tulips

      Force bulbs. If you can’t wait to see those first harbingers of spring pop up through the ground outdoors, plant some bulbs in a few pots around the house and watch them sprout and bloom long before the calendar turns to spring.

      Trick your senses. There’s no law that says scented seasonal candles must be used in said season! Use the powerful sense of smell to make you feel like spring, even if the weather outside says otherwise. Try a lilac, hyacinth or rose scented candle, or take it a step further and light candles that smell like the beach or warm-weather fruits like peaches or watermelon.

      Lighten your surroundings. There is also no decorating rule that says you must wait until spring to replace your heavy drapery with your airy sheers. Doing so will instantly brighten your mood by letting more natural light and sunshine in.

      Start your veggies from scratch. Make a small investment in a few indoor potting supplies and start your tomato and other vegetables from seed this year. Choose a sunny window and watch them sprout. By the time the weather is ready for them outdoors, they’ll be strong enough to plant.By taking these few simple steps, you’ll be feeling like spring in no time!

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 5 Tips to Deal with Stock Market Volatility

      19 February 2018

      A volatile stock market can be stressful for anyone who has invested a chunk of change.  Here, Aadil Zaman and Syed Nishat of the Wall Street Alliance Group, offer their top 5 tips for successfully navigating through market volatility:

      Be mentally prepared for market declines. Market corrections are an essential part of a healthy market. At any point in time, an investor should be prepared for a 10 percent to 20 percent pullback. If the recent two-days fall made some investors feel restless and stressed, then it may be time to reassess their risk exposure to make it more conservative. On the other hand, corrections present an opportunity for those investors who are sitting on a large amount of cash to identify entry points in the market to put their money to work.

      Factor in rising interest rates. Recent data has shown that the economy is improving with unemployment falling and GDP growth increasing, which will eventually lead to inflation pressures. One of the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve is to control inflation, and this is accomplished by raising interest rates. As the market adjusts to the realization of higher interest rates, it may fluctuate. Therefore, while designing an investment strategy, it is essential to take higher future interest rates into consideration.

      Watch the municipal bond market. Volatility could cause a short-term fall in the municipal bond market, which may create an opportunity for investors who are in a higher tax bracket. Consider that a yield to maturity of 3.5 percent per year on a high grade insured municipal bond that is trading at par is equivalent to making a 5.83 percent per year after tax return for someone who is in the 40 percent tax bracket - and that too, with very low risk.

      Stay away from leveraged ETFs. Leveraged ETFs are bad news for the individual investor. These are complexed products that are often misunderstood and could cause market volatility as well as distortions.

      Identify your worst-case scenario. This is an important exercise for investors, so they can understand their pain threshold. At present, the likelihood of a market decline to the extent of what happened in 2008 is low, however, one should always ask, "What if 2008 happens again?" Understanding this worst-case scenario will help investors stay calmer and have an investment approach that is closely aligned with their individual level of risk tolerance.

      With greater participation in the stock market through machine trading, ETFs and robo advisors, volatility is here to stay. For this reason, it is important for investors to take into account a high degree of market fluctuation in their portfolio design. As everyone’s situation is unique, be sure to discuss any decisions with your financial advisor.

      Source: Wall Street Alliance Group

      Published with permission from RISMedia.