RE/MAX 440
Carol L Hirst
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
 Phone: 610-405-3069
Office Phone: 215-643-3200
Fax: 267-354-6238 
CLHirst@comcast.net
Carol L Hirst

My Blog

3 DIY Projects to Improve Energy-Efficiency

January 14, 2016 2:45 am

(BPT)—You don’t need to hire a professional to make your home more energy-efficient.

We’ll say it again: You don’t need to hire a professional to make your home more energy-efficient. In fact, with just a few tools, most homeowners can greatly reduce their monthly utility costs, as well as lessen their home’s carbon footprint, by DIY-ing energy-saving projects around the home. For example:

Replace Worn Weather Stripping – Replacing worn weather stripping on doors and windows not only prevents cold drafts in your home, but also helps save on heating costs. To remove old stripping, simply heat caulk with a hair dryer to loosen, and use a paint scraper to peel away the old layer.

Swap Furnace Filter – Before you turn on your furnace for the season, check the filter. If it looks dirty, it needs to be replaced—the average cost of a new filter is $10. Regularly changing the filters in your heating system can drastically improve both its longevity and efficiency. If using your heat daily, aim to replace the filter every four to six weeks.

Cover Bare Floorboards – Non-insulated floors cause up to 10 percent of a home's energy loss. If you have wooden floors, consider adding rugs to help reduce some of that loss. If you spot cracks or gaps in the floor, apply a silicone-based filler to seal.

Source: Bernzomatic

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

What Will Homes Look Like in 10 Years?

January 14, 2016 2:45 am

Accessibility. Automation. Conservation. Health. Safety. These themes are expected to shape the future of residential home design, according to a recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) report.

“Historically, the dominant factors in home design have been economic and demographic shifts,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “Residential architects are seeing these forces at play in their vision for the next decade, as well. Homeowners have indicated a strong preference for functionality, accessibility and sustainability over the last ten years, and architects expect that to accelerate, with increasing demand for healthy building materials and furnishings, along with designs that provide measures of resistance to weather-related calamities.”

The themes above will inform the following major design trends in the next 10 years:

1. Technological Integration – Technological integration will become more prevalent, with both dedicated support for personal devices and automated controls for temperature, security and lighting.

2. Non-Toxic Materials – Increased awareness about environmental health issues will lead to more widespread use of low- or no-volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for paint and composite wood, as well as natural fiber upholstery, carpets without polyvinyl chloride backing and air purification systems.

3. Disaster-Proof Design – There will be a growing demand for design that strengthens homes against natural disasters, including elevated residences, windows with impact glazing, dedicated safe rooms and backup power generation.

4. Energy-Efficiency – The next 10 years will see an increasing use of energy-efficient and other sustainable design elements and products, such as solar panels, water reclamation systems and tankless water heaters.

5. Aging-in-Place Plans – More homes will include aging-in-place and universal design elements to accommodate an aging population, including wider hallways, added handrails and one-level living spaces.

6. Open-Concept Living – Kitchens will continue to serve as the focal point of the home highlighted by open-design concepts.

7. Outdoor Space – The next 10 years in residential design will also include a heavy emphasis and investment in outdoor living spaces.

8. Home Offices – As employment situations evolve and workplace norms fall by the wayside, more households will require space devoted to home offices.

9. Infill Development – Infill development, or the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels of land within existing urban areas, will result in smaller, better-designed homes.

10. Urban Characteristics – There will be a strong preference for urban lifestyle qualities in communities, leading to higher-density developments that provide amenities to residents.

Source: AIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Replacing a Home Appliance? Why It Pays to Buy New

January 13, 2016 12:45 am

When a major household appliance needs replacing, you may be tempted to save some money by purchasing a used or refurbished model. Be forewarned: what you save now may end up costing you more down the line, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

Why? Used or refurbished appliances may not be as efficient as the latest offerings, resulting in higher energy bills.

Consider this: a 20-cubic foot refrigerator manufactured in 1991 consumes, on average, more than 857 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year, while a 22-cubic foot refrigerator carrying the ENERGY-STAR® label manufactured in 2012 consumes only 452 kWh a year. That difference amounts to over $50 in savings per year for the typical household.

Used or refurbished appliances also have the potential to break down, resulting in more costs for repairs. And, secondhand appliances may have a lower life expectancy overall, especially if the previous owner neglected to conduct regular maintenance.

Keep in mind some states and utility companies offer sizable rebates when you purchase new energy-efficient appliances, and even when you recycle your old appliances.

In sum, a new appliance, when designed with energy-efficiency in mind, is a far better deal than a used one.

Source: AHAM

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Now's the Time: Test Your Home for Radon

January 13, 2016 12:45 am

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is responsible for over 20,000 fatalities each year. To avoid exposure to radon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly advises homeowners to test their homes for elevated levels of radon.

“Radon—a serious health threat to our families and communities—can be easily avoided through testing,” says Ron Curry, regional administrator of the EPA. “Testing for radon will save thousands of lives, prevent burdensome health care costs, and make America’s homes and schools safer for future generations."

You can test your home for radon with an affordable, do-it-yourself kit available at many home improvement and hardware stores, as well as online. If you prefer not to conduct the test yourself, you can hire a qualified radon professional.

If you’re in the market for a new home, make it a point to look for radon-resistant construction—your builder should have this information readily available for you.

Source: EPA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

5 Paint Color Trends That Imitate Life

January 13, 2016 12:45 am

Call it life imitating art, in reverse.

Interior designers often consult cultural trends to inform décor choices, especially paint colors. This season, color expert Sara McLean of Dunn-Edwards Paints forecasts a “combination of colors” that reflect current lifestyle preferences—colors that can be applied in any home.

“I believe that the combination of colors tell the story,” says McLean. “It’s about the entire palette and how a collection of colors evokes a feeling, an era or a scene.”

These color combinations include:

• Rose shades of pink, such as blush, with fresh and fruity pastels

• Deep, Prussian blue contrasted by stark whites, or Air Force blue with Scandinavian gray

• Rich, saturated reds, such as burgundy and Bordeaux, with poppy corals or softened peach tones

• Acidic green-yellow with turquoise, indigo, navy and periwinkle blues

Color combinations will also multiply, McLean says, to include rainbow coloring, manifested in color-blocking, flecked or speckled paints.

Source: Dunn-Edwards Paints

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Late Winter Prime Time for Tree Pruning

January 12, 2016 12:36 am

(BPT)—Homeowners: don’t hibernate! Tree pruning around your property is crucial in winter months. Why? Pruning trees and shrubs during their dormant cycle reduces the risk of pests or disease, and ensures a full growing season come spring, according to the experts at Husqvarna (www.husqvarna.com).

There are several species that can be pruned during winter months. These include:

Hardwood Trees – Pruning hardwood trees in winter is easy thanks to their lack of foliage. Branches should be cut just above the branch collar, which is the space where the limb and the tree come together. This area of the tree is rich in anti-microbial chemicals to help the tree heal from pruning without suffering decay. Clippers can be used to trim smaller branches, but for larger sections or dying plants, use a chainsaw.

Flowering Trees or Shrubs – Want the best blooms next summer? Prune any tree or shrub that flowers after May 15 late in winter. To handle those projects efficiently, use a hedge trimmer.

Fruit Trees – Winter is also a great time to prune fruit trees. Each species of fruit tree has special considerations you must take into account before pruning, so research your species before doing so. Once you're finished, your efforts will be rewarded in the spring with larger, sweeter fruit.

Bear in mind branches that pose a falling risk should be handled immediately.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Americans Say Now's a Good Time to Sell

January 12, 2016 12:36 am

Considering selling your home this winter? You’re in good company. According to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index™ (HPSI), the share of homeowners who believe now is a good time to list their homes for sale recently rose 4 percentage points to 8 percent. What’s more, 35 percent believe now is a good time to buy.

“Consumers ended the year on an improved note with regard to their income, job security, and overall economic outlook,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “This more positive consumer sentiment brought the HPSI up a few points, moving the index up for all of 2015.”

According to the Index, 85 percent feel secure in their employment situations, and 15 percent have a significantly higher income than the year prior.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

2016 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report: The Best Bang for Your Buck

January 12, 2016 12:36 am

Remodeling your home this year? Expect to yield larger returns on your investment come resale, especially if the project includes an upgrade deemed most valuable in Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report. The top five recouping projects in each cost category of the report are:

Under $5,000
1. Mid-Range Fiberglass Attic Insulation (Recoups 116.9 percent of project cost)
2. Mid-Range Garage Door Replacement (91.5 percent)
3. Mid-Range Steel Entry Door Replacement (91.1 percent)
4. Upscale Garage Door Replacement (90.1 percent)
5. Upscale Fiberglass Entry Door Replacement (82.3 percent)

$5,000 - $25,000
1. Mid-Range Manufactured Stone Veneer (92.9 percent)
2. Mid-Range Wood Deck Addition (75 percent)
3. Mid-Range Vinyl Siding Replacement (73.2 percent)
4. Upscale Fiberglass Grand Entrance (69.6 percent)
5. Mid-Range Back-Up Power Generator (59.4 percent) 

$25,000 - $100,000
1. Mid-Range Basement Remodel (70.4 percent)
2. Mid-Range Major Kitchen Remodel (64.9 percent)
3. Upscale Composite Deck Addition (57.7 percent)
4. Upscale Bathroom Remodel (57.5 percent)
5. Mid-Range Bathroom Addition (56.2 percent)

$100,000+
1. Mid-Range Two-Story Addition (69.3 percent)
2. Mid-Range Family Room (67.9 percent)
3. Mid-Range Master Suite Addition (64.1 percent)
4. Upscale Major Kitchen Remodel (61.5 percent)
5. Upscale Master Suite Addition (57.2 percent)

Keep in mind inexpensive projects tend to reap the highest returns—in fact, four of the five projects that cost less than $5,000 for a professional to do were ranked in the top five overall for cost recouped.

Source: Hanley Wood

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

5 Ways to Renew Your Commitment to a Better Financial Future

January 11, 2016 2:36 am

Most of us would concede our financial plans need improvement. In fact, according to a recent Northwestern Mutual study, just one-quarter of participants in the study felt secure in their ability to achieve their financial goals.

"Like any other partnership, creating a fulfilling financial life requires attention, consistency and communication," says Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning and sales for Northwestern Mutual.

Barsch advises revitalizing your strategy by:

Making a Quarterly Date with Your Financial Plan – Only one-quarter of study participants who’ve created a financial plan review it on a quarterly basis. This is a missed opportunity, Barsch says, to reconnect with your financial resources and objectives and adjust to changing needs and market developments.

Talking It Out – Candid conversations with loved ones about financial priorities are essential to remaining committed to your retirement and lifestyle goals. Moreover, depending on your challenges and objectives, you may want to consider getting guidance from a professional.

Planning a 30-Year Vacation – If packing for two weeks away can be challenging, imagine preparing for a 30-year vacation. That’s essentially what retirement could be for many Americans as life expectancy increases.

Your "luggage,” or financial strategy, says Barsch, has to accommodate routine expenses like food and shelter, healthcare costs, lifestyle needs and perhaps even a legacy for your loved ones or a philanthropic organization. In a time of ebbing social safety nets and rising costs, proactive financial planning is key to shaping the retirement experience you've worked hard to enjoy.

Shedding the Debt Weight – Your financial happiness may be hamstrung by debt baggage. Revisit your budget and create a strategy to commit to a smaller number of credit cards and lighten your loan load as much as you can.

Remember: LTC Is the Same as TLC – The U.S. government estimates 70 percent of adults 65 or older will require some form of long-term care, or "LTC.” And the financial implications of caregiving can be quite sobering, explains Barsch, potentially accounting for a quarter of a caregiver's monthly budget. Tapping into savings or retirement funds and/or reducing discretionary spending are common ways of managing the financial demands of caregiving.

Barsch says this approach, however, could actually create more stress because it may impact lifestyle and future financial security. Proactively exploring options for long-term care planning can mitigate the pressure around care decisions for you and your loved ones.

Source: Northwestern Mutual

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Ask the Plumber: How to Conduct a DIY Leak Test

January 11, 2016 2:36 am

Did you know more than one trillion gallons of water leak from homes across America each year?*

“People are often shocked at the volumes of water wasted through household leaks,” says Paul Abrams, ROTOGreen expert with Roto-Rooter. “A dripping faucet is easy to ignore and fix whenever you get around to it, but numerous small leaks can add up and have a very noticeable impact on the water usage and water bill.”

The average household can save up to 10,000 gallons of water each year simply by fixing leaks—one of the biggest culprits of which is toilets, which can leak up to 200 gallons per day. To detect for leaks in the toilet(s) in your home, Abrams recommends the following DIY tricks:

• Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and wait 15 minutes. If colored water appears in the bowl, you have a leak. Repairing this type of leak is best left to a professional plumber.

• Sprinkle a pinch of flour or talcum powder on top of the water in your toilet tank. Watch it carefully. If it drifts toward the tank’s overflow tube, then you have an overflow leak. Overflow leaks can easily be repaired by replacing the float valve.

*U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Source: Roto-Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags: