10 Tips & Tricks for Having the Cleanest Home on the Block

So it might almost be summer already, but if you’re just getting around to your spring cleaning now, here are a few ways to make it look like you’ve been this neat and tidy through ALL the seasons!

 

1. For the Shiniest Stove Grates…

Seal them in a plastic bag with just a touch of ammonia over night, and let the magic happen! But DO NOT mix ammonia with any other type of cleaner!!!

 

2. For a Sparkling Sink…

Clean it regularly, just like you would your dishes, with hot water and dish soap. For extra sparkle, use a light dusting of flour and a microfiber cloth to get those tough bits left behind. Make sure to rinse with hot water!

 

3. For the Freshest Fridge…

Hang a some activated charcoal in a fabric sachet inside of your refrigerator. It will soak up an unwanted odors. Find one here.

 

4. For a Meticulous Microwave…

Steam clean using a bowl of water filled with sliced lemons. Set the timer to 5 minutes, and once it’s done, leave the door closed for 5 more minutes. Not only will your microwave have a lemony-fresh scent, but any tough stains will wipe off easily with a cloth!

 

5. For (Literally) Stainless Steel…

Use a coat of Pledge! Yes, it’s THAT easy, and an under-$5 fix for those smears and smudges that plague our beautiful appliances. For larger appliances (fridges, ovens, etc.) make sure to place some kind over covering on the floor so you don’t slip, and then spray away! Allow the Pledge to soak in for a few minutes, before you remove with an old towel or shirt. The same goes for the smaller pieces, but it may be easier to spray the Pledge onto a cloth first, for increased precision.

 

6. For a Shaped-Up Shower Curtain Liner..

Throw it into the wash with some towels and bath mats! To be clear, the curtain itself should be washed separately and according to the directions on it’s tag, but the liner can be tossed in with other items. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone, while also eliminating one of the grossest and most visually-unappealing sights to see in a bathroom–a moldy shower liner. YUCK!

 

7. For a Timeless Toilet…

Rub away the most impossible stains with a pumice stone. It will help remove anything from lime, to calcium and even rust! While your at it, soak the bowl in some vinegar overnight to remove hard water build-up.

 

8. For Fabulous Faucets…

Vinegar AGAIN! What can’t it do? Wrap the faucet and other hardware in vinegar-soaked paper towels for an unparalleled removal of stains and build-ups.

 

9. For FAN-tastic (Heh) Fan Blades…

Do your dusting with an old pillowcase. This way, you’ll collect all the dust from the top and bottom inside of one contained vessel! No more dust storms when you switch that baby on for the first dire summer cool-off!

 

10. For a Hairless House…

Use a squeegee and a spray bottle full of water to get stubborn pet hair out of pretty much any surface!




Deer-Proof Plants for Your Summer Garden

Do you love spending hours in the sunshine beautifying and perfecting your landscape? Does all that work get destroyed by those pesky deer constantly roaming the yards of PA homeowners? Here are some plants that are sure to withstand those unwanted visitors!

 

1. Forsythia

Forsythia plants like:

  • At least 6 hours of full sunlight
  • Well-balanced soil pH
  • Moist, but well-drained soil

Fun Fact: Forsythias are actually members of the olive tree family!

 

2. Geraniums

Geranium plants like:

  • Lots of sun, but not always direct. They flourish and bloom in medium temperatures
  • Relatively dry soil–they’re pretty drought resistant!
  • Pots and other containers

Fun Fact: Geranium root is considered to be an effective holistic treatment for conjunctivitis (Please consult your doctor before trying that out at home!)

 

3. Echinacea (Cone Flowers)

Echinacea plants like:

  • Full sun for 5+ hours. They will grow toward it!
  • SPACE… these guys can grow up to 4 feet tall!
  • Neutral soil with a pH of 7

Fun Fact: Echinacea blooms are actually made up of several small flowers, for maximum effectiveness in attracting insects

 

4. Clematis

 

Clematis plants like:

  • Cool soil
  • Sunlight
  • A trellis, or other support system for the vine

Fun Fact: Clematis are closely related to Buttercups

 

5. Coreopsis

 

Coreopsis flowers like:

  • Full sun
  • Seasonal pruning
  • Limited fertilizer

Fun Fact: Coreopsis gets its name from the Greek word for “bed bug” because of the shape of it’s seed, which resembles an insect




10 Smart Ways to Save on Utility Bills

Looking for simple solutions to lower your water, gas and electricity bills? You’ve come to the right place!

In the Kitchen

Dust Off Refrigerator Coils

Making sure these get a little love every so often will allow your fridge to function on less power, and it will keep your food colder!

Fill the Dishwasher to the Brim

Maximize the washer’s efficiency by waiting to run it until it’s absolutely full. Your dishwasher will use the same amount of water no matter the number of dishes inside, so it will be most efficient to clean as many as possible at once.

In the Bathroom

Put an Aerator on Your Faucets

These are easy to to apply and can actually save a lot of water waste! Look for some that will run between 1/2-1 gallon per minute for a bathroom faucet, but be sure to find some that fit your make and model!

In the Laundry Room

Use a Clean, Dry Bath Towel to Dry Loads Quicker

Throw in a clean, dry bath towel with whatever you are drying, and it will absorb a lot of water from the wet clothes after about 15 minutes. They will finish drying much faster, and save your dryer some work!

Clean Out Dryer Vents & Lint Screens

Removing lint is a great way to save some money AND eliminate a very common fire hazard. Use can use any sort of small suction tool to clean the area in which the lint screen sits, and a drain snake to clean out the larger vent. This will reduce energy waster and lower the amount of electricity used by the dryer.

Whole Home

Switch to LED Bulbs

If you currently use CFLs or incandescents, switch to LEF long-lasting, efficient, equally affordable, and bright lights! They last almost twice as long as their CFL counterparts, and the cost savings isn’t too shabby, either!

Adjust Thermostats Seasonally

Just adjusting by a couple degrees cooler in the winter and a couple warmer in the summer will not make a noticeable difference in the comfort-level of the house, but it can make an almost 3% difference in your bills! If you don’t want to have to remember to do it, investing in programmable smart-thermometer is another great option.

Get a Rain Barrel

If you’re someone who loves to garden, has a bird bath, or any sort of water feature, this is a great way to use natural resources!

Turn Off Power Strips

Literally almost every appliance and their respective chargers still leach a small amount of power from the outlet, even when they are off or not in use. If you have several of these devices, that can really add up! A good solution is to plug your chargers, TVs, etc. into a power strip, and simply turn it off when you leave the house. This will cut the power supply and save you tons of wasted energy.

Use Blackout Curtains in the Summer

If you’re lucky enough to have windows that already help with climate control, you may not need this tip. However, if you have large, single-pane windows that let in a TON of light AND heat, investing in some blackout (or even just thick) curtains will keep the room temp down, and your AC and fans won’t be working so hard.

 

 




No Mess, No Stress: 5 Clever & Practical Home Hacks for Any Daily Disaster

So you’ve just moved into your new home…you are surrounded by boxes and feeling a bit overwhelmed. It’s an exciting time to start fresh, but then you remember all the people asking if you’re stressed about the “big move” and now you know why. Don’t let the chaos of moving get you down! These easy home hacks will make organizing, cleaning and settling into your home feel like a breeze!

 

  1. The REAL Purpose of Plastic Bread Ties

Use these babies as an easy labelling system for anything and everything you will inevitably have plugged into one huge power strip while you try out different set-ups in each room. Never have an emotional breakdown untangling cords again!

 

  1. Bugs BEWARE

If you are anything like me (and most women in America) you barely want to squish a bug, let alone dispose of it after the deed is done. To avoid having even making eye contact with any pest you come across while carefully placing the aforementioned power strip in the corner, use a lint roller! *rolls, squishes, throws away entire lint roller*

Don’t be this guy.

 

  1. Dish Disasters

Okay so while you were fending off that horrible bug, maybe you let dinner sit on the stove just a tad too long…now after that traumatizing insect experience, you’re also left with a burnt-on mess on your brand new cookware. Yikes! Don’t worry, this can be fixed. Take it from the girl who could burn water. Just fill whatever charred vessel you’re dealing with and fill it with warm water, some dish soap and a dryer sheet. In 20-30 minutes the pan will look as good as new, without all that extra soaking and scrubbing and crying!

 

  1. Watch the Wood!

While you were pining over that beautiful pan, perhaps you set it down on your beautiful wooden dining table while it was still wet. Just when you thought your troubles had ended, you’re left with an enormous pan-shaped water ring, right where your mother-in-law likes to sit. Have no fear, white ring remover is a real thing! For immediate ring removal, try this!

 

 

  1. It’s Crystal Clear

It’s been a stressful day. At least you have your gorgeous spa-quality bathroom to retreat to when you want to unwind. Disoriented after all the bustle of the day, you accidentally walk straight into your glass shower door, leaving a perfectly-formed smudge print of your face. You try everything you know to get it off, but the door, once pristine and crystal clear, is now left streaky and clouded. You use what’s left of your energy to walk over to your wet-bar to try to take the edge off—but don’t reach for that bottle just yet, unless it’s Barkeeper’s Friend! The ceramic/glass cooktop cleaner works wonders on glass shower doors!

 

 

Do you have any hacks that keep your home running like a well-oiled machine? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below!




What Does “Green” Really Mean?

A closer look at the energy efficiency and sustainability practices in new construction.

 

One of the great benefits of building new is energy efficiency. Although the laws vary per state, the U.S. Department of Energy has set standards for local entities to monitor energy use in residential construction, and other industries. These regulations are in place improve and preserve environmental conditions, develop the economy of the energy sector, and improve quality of life for citizens. For example, a term you may have heard is “LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified”, which means a building is recognized as one which meets the criteria of a sustainable space that is highly efficient and promoted cost-savings.

Another framework for assessing efficiency is the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index. Often required by law, the HERS Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance. This index measures the efficiency of homes compared to a standard new construction, with a score of 70 (average for new construction) being more efficient than a new home, and a score of 130 (average for resale) being less efficient.

These factors and assessments weren’t necessarily taken into consideration during the construction of older homes, as initiatives for “green building” have only really taken off in recent years. But today, all builders should take energy efficiency initiatives into account, because newer, more energy efficient homes are good for our planet, our wallets, and for our people! But what really goes into building a “green” home, and what is it doing for you? Energy efficient building is a helpful solution to a lot of common problems that come with older, less-efficient homes. Keep reading to find out how!

 

Appliances

This is probably the “no-brainer” of the list, but almost all modern household appliances, kitchen, laundry, heating and cooling, etc. are certified by some sort of energy efficiency monitoring entity. New energy efficient appliances use up to 50% less water, electricity and other energy sources. Not only will this reduce the amount you’d spend when compared to powering a 10+ year-old appliance, but you’d also cut your waste of natural resources in half!

 

Windows

There is no sense in letting all the money you spent on controlling the temperature of your home go right “out the window”. Window technology just keeps on improving! Double and even triple-paned windows save hundreds of dollars in energy costs per household per year. To keep it simple, the point of energy efficient windows is to keep the heat inside when it’s cold, and outside when it’s hot. This is achieved by replacing the outdated drafty windows with new and improved sealing techniques and glass treatments that can block up to 90% of UV rays. Imagine the savings in heating and cooling your home if every window let in only the desired amount of heat energy!

Ducts

In an energy efficient home, tightly sealed ductwork is a staple. Properly sealed ducts improve the distribution of airflow throughout the house and prevent hot/cold spots from popping up in different rooms. Ensuring your ducts are sealed will also improve the performance of heating and cooling equipment. The more conditioned air that escapes your ducts, the more your HVAC equipment struggles to keep up that comfortable temperature we all want in our rooms. Without all that air leaking, there will be much less wear-and-tear on your system. This will save you tons of money in the long run on heating/cooling bills!

 

Ventilation

Without proper mechanisms for air to escape, gas-fired appliances can cause a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide in a living space. This creates an uninhabitable environment that poses a variety of health risks and can even lead to death. Energy efficient homes ensure that there is fresh air ventilation for all appliances, such as HVAC equipment, washers and dryers, water heaters, stoves and more.

 

Insulation

Keeping some forms of air and energy in a home is just as important as letting all the bad stuff out. Lack of proper insulation allows conditioned air to leak out through the gaps in insulation at an incredible volumes. The leaks lessen the efficiency of HVAC systems just like poor ductwork, but also put homes at risk for a poor exchange of air. This often leads to excess humidity and in turn the buildup of mildew that can cause structural damage. Other issues that come along with improper insulation are roof leaks and frozen pipes that come with the melting and freezing of water in the winter. To avoid all of these problems, energy efficient homes use state-of-the-art insulation that is tightly sealed and responds properly to moisture and temperature conditions.

 

To learn more about Energy Efficiency standards and other related topics, visit the Department of Energy’s page on Residential Construction !