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 !

 




8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for a Pittsburgh Winter

Pennsylvania is a beautiful state that is lucky enough to experience all four seasons in all their glory each year. Here in Western PA we have lush, green Springs, warm, sunny Summers, crisp, colorful Autumns…and that one season we all try to forget each year: Winter. It usually starts in late November with the first powdery white snow fall. It charms its way into our hearts at first, filling us with nostalgia and cheer…until the temperature drops into the tens, our gutters start to freeze, and we have to get up before dawn just to heat our cars and shovel walkways! Needless to say, Pittsburghers are familiar with the harsh realities of the season, and we’ve become experts at all-things-home-maintenance for winter, from energy saving hacks to damage prevention. If you are new to the area, new to your home, or are just looking for some ways to lessen the stress so you can curl up by the fireplace with your cocoa—have no fear! Here are some tips and tricks to prepare your home for a Pittsburgh Winter:

 

  1. A (Ceiling) Fan Favorite…

Quick science refresher: hot air rises! So in a room, especially one with high ceilings, it can be challenging to heat the whole space and not spend a pretty penny doing so. A neat energy saving tip from Energy Star is to reverse the direction your ceiling fan is spinning. This will produce an updraft that will push the hot air down to the living spaces, and let you turn down the thermostat a few degrees!

 

  1. You’re Ice-Dammed If You Don’t (Check Your Roof and Insulation)

An ice dam is an accumulation of ice on the eaves of a sloped roof caused by the melting and refreezing of snow. The build-up of ice often causes water from the melted snow to leak into openings in the roof and cause a lot of water damage. Whether you choose DIY or consult an expert, searching for and repairing areas of poor insulation or leaks in the roofing can save you tons, and even prevent ice dams from forming at all.

 

  1. Is Your Heater Running? Well You Better Go Catch It!

It’s hard to imagine a more frustrating scenario than your heat suddenly going out in the dead of winter. It’s inconvenient, often expensive and let’s not forget COLD. For a much lower price tag ($80-$100) have an inspector come give everything a tune up and make sure that furnace or heat pump is running like a well-oiled machine. This will ensure that your system is working at its maximum efficiency for the season, and you’ll get a bonus test of Carbon Monoxide levels!

 

  1. Caulk This Way!

This might seem self-explanatory, but it’s easy to miss the smaller gaps that form in the caulking between siding and windows and doors. Take a quick look around your home and seal up those leaks before you hunker down this Winter. Experts recommend silicone caulk, because its durable and shrink-proof. Find some here!

 

  1. Get Your Mind INTO The Gutter!

If possible, try to get up there before the first freeze of the season! If you’re in Pittsburgh, you know that already happened, but it’s never too late! Removing dead leaves and other such objects from your gutters can help prevent roof and siding damage to your home. If you DIY it’s free, but affordable gutter-cleaning pros near you are just a Google search away. Check out www.ImproveNet.com for an estimate in your area!

 

  1. Chimney Sweeps Aren’t Just for Mary Poppins

There’s nothing cozier than enjoying relaxation time in front of the fireplace on a cold evening. No one wants to think anything bad could ever come from that! However, it’s an important responsibility to brush up on some fire-safety basics before we go into hibernation for the year. Have a chimney inspector come and check things out to make sure your chimney is free of debris and in good repair. You want to keep the fire contained in the fireplace, and not the chimney flue! 16% of structure fires and almost 20% of civilian fire-related deaths between 2010-2014 were caused by heating equipment—fireplaces included. So get that chimney cleaned, and don’t forget to replace batteries in your smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms!

 

  1. Sprinkler Systems: Drain or Be Drained (of funds)

You’re going to have to get the pros involved on this one, but it will save you in the long run. Expect to be charged $50-$150 based on the size of your irrigation system, but make sure to get it drained out to avoid freezing and bursting!

 

  1. The “Mower” The Merrier

If you have some leaves piling up on your lawn, you’ll be happy to know that end-of-season raking is sooo last year. The hot new trend is mowing your leaves instead! That’s right, studies show that mowing your leaves into mulch helps to fertilize your lawn under all that snow, leaving you with lush, nourished grass for the Spring!

 

Do you enjoy reading about Home Improvement? Keep an eye out for more posts on how to care for your home, or leave us a message to suggest a topic you’d like to learn more about!