Switching Internet Providers

What to Know When Switching Internet Providers

Residential internet service is a competitive business. Internet technology continues to evolve and new players are always entering the market. Therefore, the best deal you could find five years ago may not be right for you today. Also, many internet providers offer limited-time reduced pricing, which can cause your bill to increase significantly after the promotional period ends. It’s worth periodically checking your options to determine whether it’s time to switch internet providers (ISPs). We will help you evaluate what you need in an internet package and explain how to switch internet providers.

Determine your internet needs

The first step in determining your internet needs is choosing which types of internet can best meet those needs. Although more speed is always fun to have, the speeds you need will depend largely on how you use the internet:

  • Casual browsing and social media: Casual web browsing and social media don’t require a lot of speed. Anything up to 25 Mbps should be enough, with the higher end of the range giving you some wiggle room to stream a movie now and then.
  • HD video streaming: Technically, you need about 5 Mbps for HD streaming and 25 Mbps for 4K streaming through Netflix and about twice that for YouTube. In reality, though, these services tend to buffer (preload video) at much higher speeds. If you can, go for a connection that’s at least 50 to 100 Mbps.
  • Online gaming: Gaming only requires speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps, depending on game specifications, but lag can be a problem. For the smoothest gameplay, online gamers should connect at 50 to 100 Mbps or more.
  • Homes with just a few devices: The above recommendations apply to one or two devices connecting simultaneously. If you have a small household, follow the suggestions above.
  • Homes with many connected devices: If you have an internet-connected smart home, or your family has a lot of devices, go for a faster connection. For example, the HD streaming speeds detailed above are per device. If your family watches different movies in different parts of the house, each connection needs plenty of speed. Choose a connection that’s at least 150 to 200 Mbps.

As you might expect, different types of internet cater to different needs:

  • Fiber-optic: Fiber-optic internet carries data on light signals along fibers bundled together in cables. It offers speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) for both downloading and uploading and is a popular choice for those with smart homes and those interested in future-proofing their internet connection. However, it’s not yet available in many markets as of early 2020.
  • Cable: Cable internet connects to the same network as cable TV, using space on designated channels. Average cable download speeds are up to 200 Mbps, and many companies now offer speeds of 1,000 Mbps. Unlike fiber, though, upload speeds are slower than download speeds due to providers prioritizing the activities we do most online. Cable internet is widely available across the United States, except in very rural areas.
  • DSL: Short for digital subscriber line, DSL internet uses the extra bandwidth on your traditional home phone line. It doesn’t take over the entire line, but service quality varies depending on how far you are from the closest access point. Download speeds of up to 100 Mbps are available in some areas, though speeds under 10 Mbps are more typical, especially in rural areas. DSL can be a very cost-effective choice, especially if you already have a landline home phone.
  • Satellite: If you live in a very remote area, satellite internet may be your only option. There are only two satellite internet providers in the United States: HughesNet and Viasat. Speeds are limited (about 25 Mbps with HughesNet and 30 Mbps with Viasat) and the service is relatively pricey.

What to expect when switching internet providers

Switching internet providers is not always straightforward. You may need to pay a contract buyout fee, though some providers will pay off your old contract when you switch to their service. You may find that your current provider suddenly offers you a better deal when you call to cancel service. Your favorite internet provider may not offer service in your area, or you may lose bundling discounts if you don’t also change your TV and phone services.

How to switch internet providers step by step

Fortunately, it’s possible to switch internet providers by taking a step-by-step approach:

Step 1: Research new providers

The first step is to learn which internet providers offer service in your area. You can use this zip code search tool to narrow down your search to providers in your neighborhood. Research available plans to determine which ones might fit your needs and budget. You might wonder, “Can I switch internet providers mid-contract?” If this is a concern for you, look for a new provider that will buy out your existing contract.

Step 2: Call your current internet provider to inquire about deals

Before you sign up with a new provider, call your existing internet provider. Companies prefer not to lose customers, so they may offer you a good deal to stay. If your current service is acceptable, it’s worth comparing the offer to those you found from other providers to see if it makes sense to stick with your existing ISP.

Step 3: Overlap your services

If you’re wondering how to switch internet providers without losing internet, the solution is to overlap your services. Don’t turn off your current service until your new service is installed and working properly. You will end up paying for a few days of both services, but it may be worth it to avoid losing your internet.

Step 4: Choose your installation

Depending on the type of internet service you choose and whether your home has existing lines, you may be able to install your new internet yourself or you may need professional installation. Your sales representative should be able to help you decide which type of installation is right for you.

Step 5: Test your new connection

If you have a professional installer come to your home, they will make sure the connection is working properly. If you install your own equipment, take the time to check out a few websites and maybe stream a TV show to make sure there are no problems with the connection.

Step 6: Return your old equipment

When your new connection is running properly, cancel your former service and return all equipment that belongs to that provider as soon as possible to avoid fees.

Frequently asked questions

Should I switch internet providers? 

Only you can decide whether switching internet providers is right for you. However, with technology evolving rapidly and new companies continually entering the market, it only makes sense to review your options every year or two to see if there is a better choice. You’ll also want to consider switching if you need faster speeds or feel you’re paying for internet speeds you don’t need. 

Can I switch internet providers mid-contract? 

You can always switch internet providers mid-contract, but there may be a contract cancellation fee. If you are concerned about this, choose a new provider that is willing to pay off your old contract. If you can’t find one who will buy out your contract, it may still be worthwhile to switch if you’ll save money in the long term.

How can I switch internet providers without losing internet? 

The best way to switch internet providers without losing internet is to overlap your services by a few days. Though you will have to pay for those days, it allows you to get your new service up and running before your previous service is disconnected.

Which type of internet should I choose? 

Which type of internet to choose depends on your budget, geographic location and internet needs. Fiber-optic and cable internet are the fastest, and cable is widely available. DSL and satellite may be the only options in more rural areas. DSL is generally inexpensive, but the signal degrades the further you are from an access point. Satellite is reliable but pricey. Consider all factors when making your decision.

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3 Features to Look for in a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Every day we are exposed to carbon monoxide gas from the burning of carbon-based fuels including coal, kerosene, natural gases, oil, propane and wood. Typically, this toxic gas would be expelled out of the home through vents, but it doesn’t always happen. The Centers for Disease and Control estimates that 2,244 people died between 2010 and 2015 due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. A carbon monoxide detector helps protect you and your property by detecting carbon monoxide leaks before they become lethal. Basic carbon monoxide detectors cost as little as $20. Since it’s critical that this gadget not let you down, we cover the basic features you should consider when buying a carbon monoxide detector. 

Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector

Homeowners often do not see the need for smoke detectors because they think the presence of fire will be obvious. However, most fire victims succumb due to inhaling smoke as opposed to the fire flames or heat. A smoke detector is helpful should a fire start while you’re out or when you are asleep. 

Smoke alarms can use either photoelectric smoke detection or ionization detectors. As the name suggests, the former uses light sensors. When smoke particles break the beam of light, the alarm is triggered. In ionization smoke detectors, an electric current passes between two diodes. Interruption of this electric current by smoke particles triggers the smoke alarm. 

On the other hand, carbon monoxide detectors use electrochemical sensors, biomimetic sensors, or metal oxide semiconductors. Electrochemical sensors feature electrodes submerged in a solution. Once the carbon monoxide levels in your home exceed a specific limit, the electrodes sense a change in electrical currents and trigger the alarm. Biomimetic sensors have a gel that changes color when it absorbs carbon monoxide. The color change sets off the alarm. In a metal oxide semiconductor, excess carbon monoxide lowers the gadget’s electrical resistance, which triggers the alarm. 

You can buy a combination of a smoke and carbon monoxide detector such as the Kidde carbon monoxide detector, which saves you money and space. You only need to test and change the batteries on one device instead of two. However, remember to look out for the device’s end-of-life warnings and ensure that it meets the third-party standards. Battery operated devices have a lifespan of about two to three years, while hard-wired ones can last for up to 10 years. 

Interconnected carbon monoxide detector

In some instances, you can connect all the carbon monoxide detectors so that they all go off when one is triggered. By interconnecting these devices, you can meet the building codes in your area without physical wiring. It can also be helpful if you have a big home, so you will hear the alarm going off in a different part of the house. The downside of such a system is that it will be hard to know what part of your house triggered the alarm. 

Smart device integration with carbon monoxide detectors

The best carbon monoxide detector on the market today can be interconnected with the smart devices in your home. You can download an app on your smartphone through which you connect to your smart carbon monoxide detector. If there’s carbon monoxide detected, not only will the alarm go off, but you will also receive a notification on your phone. Most smart carbon monoxide detectors will inform you of the location or room affected and instruct you on how to respond. For example, it could prompt you to call 911 if the situation is severe, or just to open a window and contact non-emergency services for a minor problem. 

You can also connect your smart carbon monoxide and smoke detector to your home’s thermostat. Once this device is triggered, it prompts the thermostat to turn off the HVAC so that the poisonous gas or smoke is not sucked into the unit and circulated throughout your house. 

Smart device integration means that you are assured of your home’s safety even when you are far away. You will also receive a notification on your phone should the device get deactivated. Unfortunately, the unit and installation costs of these devices are usually high. 

Frequently asked questions

Do I need a smart carbon monoxide detector? 

If you spend significant time outside of your home, adding a smart carbon monoxide detector allows for remote notifications if something goes wrong. If you’re strained for cash and you are mostly home, you can do with a conventional detector.

What’s the best carbon monoxide detector placement?

Carbon monoxide detector placement is critical for it to be effective. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you install your carbon monoxide detector at most five feet above the ground. This is because carbon monoxide easily blends with the air in your home and rarely rises. If you are installing only one carbon monoxide detector, install it close to the sleeping area and ensure that its alarm can wake you.  

Where can I buy a Kidde carbon monoxide detector?

Apart from their website, you can buy Kidde carbon monoxide detectors (and other similar brands) from approved outlets, including Amazon, Grainger, HD Supply and Home Depot, among other stores. 

What should I do if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off?

If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, let fresh air into the building by opening all windows and doors. Turn off any fuel-burning appliances and go outside with your household and pets, even if you feel fine. Do not go back into the house until the source of the leak has been fixed, which means you might have to call 911 if you cannot fix the leak yourself. Make sure every member of your family knows how they should react should the alarm go off. 

What are the maintenance requirements of carbon monoxide detectors?

Carbon monoxide detectors need regular maintenance to ensure they work optimally. For starters, test and clean the device once a month. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on what the alarm should sound like, as well as how often you need to replace the batteries. 

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HVAC Maintenance Tips

Homeowners must perform routine HVAC maintenance for air quality safety reasons. Scheduling HVAC preventative maintenance ensures it performs properly and prolongs the lifespan of your unit. Neglecting your system could lead to inefficient performance and system failure. There are several HVAC maintenance tasks you can complete on your own, however, some require an HVAC specialist. In this guide, we outline the dos and don’ts of HVAC maintenance.

DO: Seasonal HVAC preventative maintenance

At least two times per year, schedule HVAC preventative maintenance with a professional technician. Maintenance should involve a furnace or heat pump inspection that includes cleaning and an annual tune-up. Schedule maintenance for your air conditioning system in the spring and your furnace or heat pump either late summer or early fall. That way, your unit is running optimally and efficiently as soon as you turn it on.

If your HVAC technician discovers a severe problem, they can deal with it before it leads to other problems, and before it’s time to switch over from heating to cooling or vice versa. A tune-up typically includes a thorough inspection including checking the heat exchanger for cracks, checking refrigeration, cleaning condensate tube build-up, condenser cleaning, lubricating all moving parts and replacing filters.

DO: Change your filters regularly

Even though your HVAC specialist is checking filters twice annually during maintenance and tune-ups, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them. Typically, HVAC systems have either a 30-day fiberglass filter or a three-month pleated filter. Because they have such a short lifespan, you should check them regularly. Even if it’s ahead of schedule, change them if they’re dirty.

Leaving a dirty filter in an HVAC unit makes it work harder. The harder an HVAC unit has to work to circulate air throughout a home, the more energy it’s using. A dirty filter also strains the system’s fan, which can also make it work too hard.

DO: Keep the area clutter-free for healthy systems

Seasonal HVAC maintenance should also include keeping the area around HVAC units clear both indoors and outdoors. That means there should be no build-up of debris, dirt, grass or leaves. According to the Department of Energy, you should leave at least two feet of space around outdoor HVAC units to ensure they operate efficiently.

DO: Regulate your internal temperatures

The Department of Energy states that, when homeowners turn their thermostats back by 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours daily, they can save 10% on annual heating and cooling bills. Further, if you set your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter when you’re awake and lower it when sleeping, that also saves on energy costs. Use that same strategy in the summer by setting thermostats at 78 degrees when at home and keeping it warmer when away.

Using programmable or smart thermostats is a simple way to control your home’s heating and cooling efficiency. You can control this thermostat technology from a smartphone or tablet from any location. Some smart thermostats can even learn your habits, adapting so you don’t even have to program energy-saving adjustments.

DO: Do visual inspections during your HVAC maintenance

At least once a year, perform a visual inspection of your system to make sure nothing looks awry. Check that condensate or evaporator coils aren’t dirty, that coils are not frozen and there are no water leaks. Look for damage to fins and, when the unit is on, listen for strange vibrations or sounds. Contact an HVAC professional if you notice anything that needs addressing.

DO: Maintain your carbon monoxide detector

When you’re operating an oil or natural gas heating system, you’ll also have a carbon monoxide detector. Make sure you’re testing the carbon monoxide detector at least once monthly. If the unit has replaceable batteries, change them at least once every six months or when you hear a single beep every minute. These detectors are essential for HVAC maintenance because, if it starts beeping four times with a pause, that means your HVAC unit is leaking, and you must get outside into fresh air and call 9-1-1 immediately. It’s also essential to remember that the average lifespan of a carbon monoxide detector is between five and seven years. Some monitors will notify you that they need replacement if they beep five times every minute.

DO: Make a seasonal HVAC maintenance checklist

Creating a seasonal HVAC maintenance checklist gives you all the to-do’s to add to your calendar. You’ll want to add professional seasonal maintenance to the calendar, which will include turning the water on in the fall, replacing the humidifier wick, turning the water supply to the furnace off in the spring and inspecting air conditioner refrigerant lines before summer. Additional checklist items include checking thermostat settings, tightening electrical connections, lubricating all moving parts, inspecting the condensate drain and checking the system’s controls. 

Make sure your calendar has reminders to schedule this maintenance, change your air filters monthly (or every three months depending on the type), replacing batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and inspecting your system.

DON’T: Ignore higher utility bills

If your HVAC system doesn’t receive regular maintenance, that could mean it’s running less efficiently. As a result, it’s consuming more fuel and causing higher utility bills. High energy bills indicate that the system either isn’t functioning as it should or that it might be time to replace it with a more energy-efficient unit. Look at the age of your HVAC system to determine if it’s time for an upgrade that meets efficiency standards.

DON’T: Be afraid to call in an HVAC professional

While there are many things you can do to ensure that your HVAC system is running optimally from season to season, there are limitations. HVAC specialists are trained and must follow building codes to ensure your home is safe. They also manage all electrical component installation to ensure efficiency. A sign that you need to hire an HVAC professional includes your system continuously turning on and off, or short-cycling. You might also need an HVAC professional if there is excessive noise when you start up the system.

Frequently asked questions

When do I need to schedule professional HVAC maintenance?
Schedule professional HVAC maintenance twice per year. Your air conditioning system should be checked in the spring and your furnace or heat pump in late summer or early fall.  

What temperature should I set my thermostat?
The Department of Energy suggests setting thermostats to 68 degrees during the winter when you’re awake and lower for sleeping. In summer months, keep thermostats at 78 degrees when you’re home and set it to higher temperatures when you’re out, adapting it as needed for your health needs. 

What does an HVAC tune-up include?
Seasonal tune-ups include a thorough inspection, checking the heat exchanger for cracks, checking refrigeration, cleaning condensate tube build-up, condenser cleaning, lubricating all moving parts and replacing filters.

How long does an HVAC tune-up take?
Depending on your HVAC system’s configuration, plan on tune-ups to last about one hour. Include an additional 30 to 45 minutes if any refrigerant is needed.

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Bed and Mattress Height

Most people think about the size of the mattress when it comes to finding a new bed. But bed height and mattress height are often overlooked as factors that affect personal comfort, body health and the overall aesthetic of your sleep space. An amazing night’s sleep is quickly undone if you struggle to get out of bed.

How to determine the best bed height for you

Why do you want to purchase a new bed?

Purchasing a new bed and mattress is no small investment. We spend one-third of our lives sleeping (or trying to), so finding the right mattress affects our overall well-being. Make a list of what you love about your current mattress and what you don’t. Is it challenging getting into or out of bed? Do you and your partner not have enough room to stretch out comfortably? Take time to build the perfect bed by making an educated decision based on your sleeping position, firmness level and your bedroom’s decor.

What physical factors should be considered in bed height?

Consider your height versus the overall bed height to ensure a seamless sleep experience. If you’re petite, you shouldn’t need a step stool to climb into bed. Conversely, if you’re tall you don’t want to have to crouch awkwardly to get onto the mattress. Generally, a bed should hit around knee-level, or about two feet from the ground. 

Age is another critical factor in choosing bed height. Aging adults may lose balance or fall from a too-high mattress height. A mattress height that is too low can cause painful pressure on joints. The proper bed height can help prevent injuries and strains.

What medical factors should be considered?

Medical factors such as fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease and muscle pain play an important role in determining the best overall bed height. Think about the ability to get in and out of bed easily and without putting excessive strain on your body. Getting up from a low-height bed can cause unnecessary pressure and pain. Alternatively, if your feet can’t touch the floor while sitting on an 18-inch memory foam mattress on top of a 9-inch box spring, getting up from a higher bed can cause similar issues.

If you have physical issues or limitations that require a specific bed height, talk to your doctor for a recommendation and customize your mattress and bed frame accordingly.

What mattress size fits your needs spatially and aesthetically?

While a king size mattress offers plenty of sleep real estate, does it fit your bedroom space? Compare your overall room measurements to the bed measurements (mattress and frame included). Make sure you’ll be able to move easily around the bedroom and still have space for your furniture.

Mattress size and bed height can also affect the aesthetics of a room. Traditional bed heights complement larger rooms with vaulted ceilings while low-profile mattresses give the appearance of more space.

Typical bed and mattress height

When choosing your new mattress, consider the overall bed height including the bed foundation or box spring. The Better Sleep Council shares, “while most people focus on the mattress for comfort, in reality, your foundation is responsible for much of your bed’s comfort and support.” 

Here are some popular bed types and their typical heights:

Futon bed height

The futon of yesteryear has had a complete overhaul. Modern-day futons provide the multi-function of a sofa during the day and a sleeper at night. Upholstered in a variety of materials including leather, faux-leather and fabric, futons easily integrate into an apartment, guest bedroom or small space. The futon’s “mattress” portion is approximately 5 inches in height with an overall futon height of 15 inches off the floor, creating a low-profile, contemporary look. Selecting a futon doesn’t mean skimping on comfort. Serta’s 15-inch Rane futon contains high-density foam webbing cushions and pocket coils.

Adjustable bed height

Smartphone apps and wireless remotes often control these tech-fueled adjustable bases. With features such as USB ports, under-bed lighting and adjustable legs, these bases provide the ultimate control over bed height and sleep position. From watching TV, reading a book or combating a night of snoring, power bases can be elevated or lowered. The adjustable legs come in three 3-inch pieces allowing customization of bed height based on your specific needs. Pair a 12-inch memory foam mattress by Tempur-Pro Adapt with their 9-inch adjustable power base for a high-tech and ergonomic slumber. When choosing an adjustable base, always take into account the range of motion in addition to the bed height.

Platform bed height

Platform beds provide a lower bed height as they are a flat foundation without the added height of a traditional box spring. Made up of a solid flat material, grouping of slats or a lattice-type grid, platform beds provide a stable surface on which your mattress can rest directly. Platform bed heights vary from 2-inch ultra-low profile to the standard 5-inch height. Platform beds go hand in hand with memory foam. For example, Leesa details that their memory foam mattresses are designed to rest on a flat, firm and sturdy surface. For a compact bed height, pair the Leesa 10-inch memory foam mattress with their 7.5 inch foundation.

Traditional bed height

Traditional bed foundations are most commonly known as box springs. The standard box spring height is 9 inches, with the option of a low-profile box spring at 5 to 5.5 inches in height. Keep in mind a standard box spring will add considerable overall bed height as opposed to platform beds. Before purchasing your new mattress and foundation, always thoroughly read the warranty. Case in point, if you use a box spring with a Purple mattress, the warranty will be voided, as a box spring does not properly support Purple’s foam and hybrid mattresses.

Trundle bed height

Trundle beds provide extra sleeping space cleverly nestled under a larger bed. Typically on rollers, trundle beds can be easily moved when needed and hidden out of sight when not in use. Due to their compact size (most often a twin size mattress) and lack of a box spring, trundle beds are lower in height. A good option is the compact and comfortable Essentia Wholebody Beausommet 8-inch memory foam mattress. Note, however, sleepers who are tall, elderly or have back or joint pain should choose another location to rest their head due to the trundle’s low bed height and sizing.

Pillow top bed height

Foundations aren’t the only variable in bed height. Mattresses with a pillow top add extra height to your bed due to the additional layer of cushioning. Pillow top bed heights can range from 13 inches for the Avocado Green mattress with an attached pillow top to a sizable 18 inches for the Beautyrest Black K-Class pillow top. The extra padding within the pillow top can be composed of several different materials. Memory foam, cotton, latex, regular or polyurethane foam are popular pillow top fillers. Keep in mind the additional bed height when choosing your sheet set, as pillow top mattresses require deep pockets.

Should I choose a new bed based on height? 

Basing a bed selection on height is more important than you might think, especially if you have health issues. You’ll have many choices of mattresses and beds based on height, mattress type, sleep position, firmness level and physical needs will ensure quality sleep and a sound investment. One way to test a potential bed height is to try sitting and getting up from various chair heights. Once you find the height that feels best, you can find a bed frame, box spring and mattress that together make the height you

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Top Home Bathroom Flooring Options

Choosing the most suitable bathroom flooring can be daunting. You want your bathroom flooring to complement the rest of the home yet still withstand high moisture levels, humidity and heavy foot traffic. The sheer number of bathroom floor designs, colors, textures and material types further complicate the process. To help cut through the clutter, we’ve narrowed down the best flooring for bathroom areas as well as the pros and cons of each.

Best waterproof bathroom flooring options

There are many bathroom flooring options on the market today, with many of them claiming to be waterproof. But are they? Waterproof flooring means that no water or moisture will penetrate it no matter how long the floor is exposed. In genuinely waterproof flooring materials, the waterproofing product is baked in rather than just being used as a coating. By contrast, water-resistant floors are usually not resistant to moisture under the top layer of the floor. 

While the flooring material may be waterproof, the subfloor is usually not. As such, water can seep through cracks, between floorboards or along the wall and cause damage to the bathroom’s structure. Bathrooms often need a silicone sealant around bathtubs and toilets no matter what flooring type you choose. 

Waterproof bathroom flooring is easier to clean and maintain, but it also protects. Because water will always find its way down through cracks on the floor or in walls, this leakage can manifest itself in the form of damp ceilings or walls, especially if the bathroom is on an upper floor. As waterproof flooring is watertight, there’s little risk of leakage.

Waterproof vinyl flooring

Gone are the days when vinyl was perceived as flimsy or cheap. Today it is one of the most popular flooring options for its durability and comfort. Vinyl planks and tiles come in virtually any color and style imaginable.

Waterproof vinyl flooring’s core is reinforced by additional layers to enhance its rigidity. When shopping for waterproof vinyl flooring with rigid core construction, you are likely to come across wood plastic composite (WPC) and stone plastic composite (SPC).

As the name suggests, WPC incorporates fine sawdust or other wood-like materials, a thermoplastic resin, fiber and a foaming agent. Sometimes referred to as wood polymer composite, this type of flooring material is lightweight, resilient, warm and comfortable when you are standing for long periods.

SPC vinyl flooring material uses ground limestone, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and stabilizers. SPC is thinner, denser and heavier compared to WPC flooring. Due to its thin nature, there’s little padding underfoot, which makes it less comfortable.

Types of waterproof vinyl flooring for bathrooms

Waterproof vinyl plank

Waterproof vinyl planks are perhaps the most popular WPC vinyl flooring option on the market today. Made to mimic hardwood floors, they are available in several shapes and sizes.

Waterproof vinyl tile

The top surface of waterproof vinyl tiles is glazed, preventing moisture from seeping through it. Most mimic natural stone, but there are a few that look like wood.

Pros and cons of waterproof vinyl

Pros:

  • Affordability: Vinyl is relatively inexpensive as compared to other flooring options such as porcelain tile or hardwood.
  • Ease of installation: Because vinyl is lightweight, you can cut and adjust it to fit your bathroom floor exactly.
  • Waterproof: Vinyl floors are water-resistant, making them practical for bathrooms.
  • Versatility: Vinyl flooring is available in many shapes, textures and colors.

Cons:

  • Impossible to repair: Once damaged, vinyl flooring cannot be repaired. You have to replace the entire tile or plank.
  • Prone to wear and tear: Compared to other flooring materials such as hardwood that can last a lifetime, vinyl flooring has a maximum lifespan of about 20 years.
  • Tough to remove: If installed using a vinyl adhesive, vinyl floors are challenging to remove.

Porcelain and ceramic tile bathroom floors

From the appearance, it’s difficult to tell porcelain and ceramic tile apart. Both are made from a clay mixture that’s heated in a kiln. However, porcelain flooring is made of refined clay and is heated at higher temperatures making it denser and more durable than ceramic. Porcelain and ceramic are often the best tile for bathroom floors for durability and affordability.

Types of tile floors for bathrooms

Porcelain and ceramic planks

Technology has made it possible to achieve the appearance of a hardwood floor while maintaining the features of porcelain or ceramic floors through planks that mimic real wood.

Porcelain and ceramic tile

Homeowners are particularly fond of porcelain and ceramic tiles for their bathroom floors due to their versatility and durability. Porcelain tiles are harder, denser, tougher and less porous. On the downside, they are more expensive than ceramic tiles. Ceramic tiles are more affordable because they are less refined, but are also less durable.

Thin-gauged floor tiles

Gauged porcelain tiles (GPT) measure 36-by-36 inches or smaller. These tiles offer superior porcelain features that are only available from natural stone or marble. Gauged tiles are available in a wide range of styles, textures and colors.

Pros and cons of tile flooring

Pros:

  • Easy to maintain: Tile floorings are normally coated with liquid glass which protects them from stains.
  • Chemical and heat resistant: Tiles made of porcelain and ceramic do not corrode when exposed to chemical agents or extreme temperatures.
  • Diverse colors and styles: Tiles are available in a wide range of colors, patterns, sizes, styles and textures to fit most decor.
  • Durable:  Porcelain and ceramic tiles are rather long-lasting. And water-resistant.

Cons:

  • Hard surface: This type of flooring can be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods.
  • Professional installation is required: Even slightly uneven tiles can result in breakage, so the installer needs to be skilled and knowledgeable.
  • Cold: This type of floor gets cold during colder months.
  • Grout lines: It’s impossible to prevent grout lines entirely. Tiles need some maintenance to keep grout lines clean and mold-free.

Natural stone tiles

When used on your bathroom floor, natural stone tile adds warmth and depth to the bathroom. The tiles are uniquely textured and colored, and can be made of marble, granite, limestone, slate and travertine, among others.

Pros and cons of natural stone tile flooring

Pros:

  • Enhances your bathroom’s elegance: Natural stone flooring can be beautiful and enhance your decor.
  • Aesthetic value: While the tiles may be the same material, each has a different coloring or grain alignment, which adds depth and texture to the space.
  • Increases home resale value: Natural stone flooring is as expensive as it is unique, thus improving the home’s value.
  • Durability: Natural stone is long-lasting when compared to other flooring materials.

Cons:

  • Expensive: Compared to other flooring materials such as vinyl, natural stone is quite costly.
  • Uncomfortable: Like ceramic and porcelain tile, natural stone adapts to existing weather conditions. The floor could become uncomfortable to walk on in cold weather.
  • Difficult to maintain: Soaps and detergents can lead to floor discoloration.
  • Porous: Unlike glazed porcelain or ceramic tiles, natural stones are quite porous and prone to water damage.

Water-resistant laminate floors

Laminate flooring came up as an easy-to-install and more affordable option to hardwood flooring. Since its inception, laminate flooring has undergone tremendous improvements. Today, it is difficult to tell hardwood and laminate flooring apart. There are also laminate flooring styles that resemble natural stone, vinyl and even tiles.

Pros and cons of water-resistant laminate floors

Pros:

  • Easy to install: Laminate flooring is lightweight, so it’s easier to install and ideal for a DIY bathroom floor remodel.
  • Waterproof: Laminate flooring is water-resistant, especially when silicone-sealed around tubs and toilets.
  • Affordability: Laminate flooring is an affordable alternative to hardwood and other flooring types.
  • Durability: Waterproof laminate is long-lasting and practical for a high-traffic bathroom.

Cons:

  • Difficult to repair: While it is durable, laminate flooring has to be replaced when damaged.
  • Less versatile: As it is a relatively newer material, there are fewer options when it comes to design and style as compared to other flooring types.
  • Appearance: While laminate may mimic natural stone or hardwood, it can look less realistic up close.

Engineered wood floors

If you are keen on getting long-lasting hardwood floors for your bathroom, go for core engineered wood floors. Unlike traditional hardwood floors, core engineered wood has several layers, with the outermost layer being hardwood veneer. The inner layers are made of hardwood, fiberboard or plywood.

Pros and cons of rigid core engineered wood floors

Pros:

  • Water-resistant: Compared to traditional hardwood, engineered hardwood does a better job of reducing moisture problems.
  • Easy to install: Real wood flooring is rather difficult to install, unlike engineered wood flooring which can utilize click-lock installation.
  • Easy to clean and maintain: As engineered wood is coated with wood veneer, it is easy to clean and maintain, holding up well against dents, fading, scratches and stains.

Cons:

  • Price: Compared to conventional wood, tile vinyl and laminate, engineered wood is considerably more expensive.
  • Health concerns: Some people have allergic reactions to the adhesives used to bind the various layers of engineered wood together
  • Prone to damage: The outermost surface is not scratch-resistant and needs more care than other types of flooring.
  • Fewer chances of refinishing engineered wood: Unlike traditional wood flooring which you can re-sand numerous times, engineered wood cannot be sanded (or only once) due to its thin top layer of hardwood.

Frequently asked questions

What are some bathroom floor tiles for a high-use bathroom?
Porcelain tiles are great for high-use and high-traffic bathrooms as they are denser, harder and less porous than other types. Ceramic tiles have the same benefits as porcelain tiles but are more affordable. Vinyl is the most affordable option for a high-use bathroom.

What are the best cheap flooring ideas?
Laminate and vinyl are both affordable flooring options for a bathroom. Both come in various styles, designs and colors and are two of the more easily installed flooring types.

What are some small bathroom tile ideas?
A small bathroom should have small- or medium-sized tiles in neutral colors. It is not a good idea to install large tiles in small bathrooms. Apart from disrupting proportionality, large tiles may need to be cut off, resulting in waste, which can also interrupt any patterns. 

What are the best bathroom flooring ideas for households with kids?
Porcelain and ceramic flooring is great in a kid’s bathroom. These tiles are scratch-, stain- and water-resistant. They are also more durable than bathroom vinyl flooring and can withstand splashes from exuberant playing in tubs and sinks.

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Best Memory Foam Mattress

Expertly crafted to adapt and conform to your body, the best memory foam mattresses deliver customized support and comfort. These foam mattresses have an elasticity from polyurethane foam that enables the mattress to bounce back to its original form, hence the reference to “memory.” In addition to the cradling comfort and alleviation of pressure points, memory foam mattresses provide motion isolation, which is fantastic for co-sleepers who actively change position throughout the night. 

The best memory foam mattress you can buy today

A restful night’s sleep is essential to your overall wellness. We have selected the best memory foam mattresses that you can buy with confidence. All prices are valid as of May 2020.  

Best memory foam mattress overall: Novosbed by Goodmorning.com 

Crafted with three zones of high-density memory foam, the Novosbed provides everything you should seek out in a foam mattress including even weight distribution, body contouring, relief of painful pressure points and motion isolation. Novosbed offers three firmness levels so you can customize — soft, medium and firm — along with sizing from twin, twin XL, full, queen, king and California king. 

What sets the Novosbed apart from its competitors? The three-zoned memory foam cares for comfort, support and long-term durability. Its Comfort Zone with high-density memory foam keeps airflow circulating and comfort consistent. The Transition Zone is all about pressure point relief through body contouring, plus the bonus of motion isolation. Last but not least is the Support Zone of premium support foam for even weight distribution.

The Novosbed mattress ranges in price by size from $799 (twin) to $1,199 (California king). As memory foam mattresses feel different for every sleeper, take advantage of Novosbed’s Comfort+ 120-night sleep trial that provides a free Comfort+ kit to allow for firmness adjustment. Shipping is prompt with one to five business days in Canada and five to 12 business days within the United States. Novosbed backs its memory foam mattresses with a 15-year warranty and free returns.

Customer reviews rank this foam mattress with an overall score of 4.8 stars out of 5. With over 5,000 verified customer reviews, Novosbed customers consistently note alleviation of back and shoulder pain along with the pleasure of not feeling their partner’s movement at night.

Other great memory foam mattress choices

Best memory foam mattress for hot sleepers: Cocoon Chill by Sealy

Due to high-density foam and lack of air circulation, some memory foam mattresses tend to sleep hot. The Cocoon Chill by Sealy memory mattress offers cooling technology. Cocoon’s Chill is encased in a stretch-knit cover known as Phase Change Material that not only absorbs but dissipates body heat. The result aims for a refreshing night’s sleep on a cool-to-the-touch memory foam mattress.

As opposed to other Sealy mattresses sold in stores, Cocoon was created for direct, online sales. Personalize your comfort level by choosing either Medium Soft for a cozier feel or Extra Firm for a sturdier feel. As with other memory foam mattresses, the Cocoon molds to your sleep position, body shape and size.

Cocoon by Sealy occasionally offers sales. Sale pricing in May 2020 for the Cocoon Chill ranges from $387 twin (regularly $600) to $741 California king (regularly $1,150). Select the size that best fits your sleep needs as Cocoon is available in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king and California king. With free shipping, a 100-night sleep trial, a 10-year limited warranty and free returns, hot sleepers can test out this memory foam mattress choice. More than 5,000 reviews from verified customers include praise of the quality of sleep, lack of neck and back pain upon waking and superior customer service support. Cocoon’s average of 4.7 out of 5 stars makes it a solid contender in the memory foam mattress market.

Best organic memory foam mattress: Puffy Original by Puffy 

There is an eco-conscious movement in the mattress community, and many people are replacing their traditional mattress with an organic memory foam mattress. The Puffy brand delivers an organic memory foam mattress that cradles and supports your body, alleviating joint pain and uncomfortable pressure points. Made without mercury, formaldehyde, lead or other heavy metals and ozone depleters, Puffy foams provide the peace of mind that you’re sleeping on a mattress that is better for your health and our environment.

Sizing includes twin, twin XL, double, queen, king and California king, with pricing during Puffy’s Spring Sale 2020 from $495 twin (regularly $795) to $1,050 California king (regularly $1,350). In addition to the Puffy Original, Puffy offers the Puffy Lux and Puffy Royal. Puffy offers a lifetime warranty and a 101-night risk-free sleep trial in your home to decide if the Puffy memory foam mattress suits your needs.

In over 6,000 verified reviews, customers noted the Puffy Original as a quality organic memory foam mattress at an attractive price point. Puffy customers gave high marks for both comfort and support, noting less tossing and turning throughout the night.

Best memory foam mattress for back pain: GhostBed by GhostBed

Back pain affects all aspects of our lives including quality of sleep. GhostBed has created a memory foam mattress with aerated latex to deliver optimum support and spine alignment. GhostBed’s top layer is focused on comfort and pressure relief. The middle gel memory foam layer provides added pressure point relief along with heat absorption. The base foam layer ensures your entire body is evenly supported. The result? Potentially a pain-free restorative sleep.

Sizing includes twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king and split king. GhostBed offers four models: the original GhostBed, GhostBed Luxe, GhostBed Flex and GhostBed 3D Matrix. During GhostBed’s current 2020 sale, mattresses are priced from $409 twin (regularly $545) to $1,118 split king (regularly $1,490). It’s easy to test out this foam mattress with GhostBed’s free shipping to all 48 continental states, 101-night sleep trial and a 20-year warranty.

U.S. News & World Report ranked GhostBed one of its top-rated mattresses for back pain. GhostBed ranks high in customer satisfaction. Awarded 5 out of 5 stars on Google reviews with 17,000 reviews from real customers, GhostBed is highly praised for alleviating back, joint and hip pain.

The Freshome research team analyzed memory foam mattresses on the following criteria: brand, price, materials, warranty, trial period, delivery and shipping costs. In addition, real customer reviews and ratings provided valuable insight in selecting our best memory foam mattresses.

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Kate Watson-Smyth on Post-Pandemic Design And Our New Normal

Photo by Rekha Damhar

As we all adjust to a new normal and begin ushering in a new age of post-pandemic design, it’s best to turn to the experts. We wanted to hear directly from inspiring home designers about ways to adjust your space during this time. So we spoke with Kate Watson-Smyth, a renowned home designer and bestselling author who heads Mad About The House, for some essential design insight. 

Q: What are some ways you’re staying sane right now while staying at home?

A: Well in many ways things haven’t changed that much for me as I have always been at home writing, so I’m probably reasonably well placed for a lockdown. That said, I wouldn’t normally have two teenage boys and a husband at home all the time either. I have finally stopped watching the news all the time – even for a trained news journalist that became too much –  and I make sure I get dressed and put makeup on every day. If I didn’t do that then, for me at least, it would be a short slide to staying in pyjamas and bed till lunchtime or beyond. I wish I could say that regular exercise was keeping me sane but sadly I can’t seem to find the motivation to do any!

Q: How can people arrange or design their homes to accommodate staying in for long periods of time?

A: Firstly, you need to work out what you need from your space and remember that it won’t be like that forever. So, if you need to move the coffee table to make room for a YouTube exercise class, or for the kids to build a giant fort from cardboard boxes then do it. Or if you need to make a proper homeworking spot then do that. If at all possible move the sofa so you can put a table next to the window – you might have more room if the coffee table has already gone!

The next really important thing is that you need to be able to make a distinction between the working day and the relaxing evening. Use some of the time you would normally have spent commuting to put the work stuff away – laptop in a drawer, paperwork in a box that can slide under the table or be tucked away at the end of the sofa. Changing your clothes is an effective way to change the mood and then spend the rest of your “commute” having a cocktail or a cold, iced drink to really switch from work to home. We have made a real ritual of this with a tray of drinks, a bowl of (usually tinned) olives and a crisp or seven. We are definitely all eating too many crisps. If you have small kids then they can watch tv while you have your cocktail hour. That way everyone gets a break from everyone else and you can reconvene for dinner.

In the morning take the work stuff out of that box and arrange it on the table with your favourite mug and even a vase of flowers to make your desk environment feel proper rather than makeshift.

Research has also shown that surrounding yourself with family pictures or souvenirs that bring back happy memories is key to being happy yourself so include some of those objects on your new desk.

If at all possible avoid working from the sofa or the bed or they will become bound up in work vibes and it will be difficult to relax in the evening.

Q: What lasting changes from the pandemic do you think we will see in home design? What do you see for the future of design?

A: I think it’s clear that employers will have to accept that working from home is doable, practical and doesn’t have a negative impact on productivity. It’s also possible that people will run screaming back to the offices and refuse to work from home ever again! Joking aside, I think we will finally see a rise in well-designed, beautiful office furniture that looks as happy at home as it does at work. For example, at the moment office chairs are ergonomic and ugly and the best way to get round that is to reupholster one in the fabric of your choice. We might see more dining tables with cable management built-in and desks that can double up as dressing tables. Multi-functional furniture will be key – our homes are already multi-functional; the furniture needs to catch up.

Multi-functional furniture will be key – our homes are already multi-functional; the furniture needs to catch up.

Q: On your blog, you said your philosophy is, “Your home should tell your story. It should make your heart sing when you open the front door.” What story will our homes tell now?

A: Now at the time of writing I suspect a story of chaos and mess as people adjust to having everyone at home at the same time and in for the whole day rather than coming and going. In the future, perhaps new home design will involve more natural light either via skylights or internal windows. As the homes probably won’t get bigger, our lifestyles will have to adapt to living in multi-functional spaces – perhaps we will finally start buying less and buying better. I wonder if open-plan living will fall out of fashion; it’s fine when you want to keep an eye on small kids, but when you have more people living and working in the same space you yearn for walls to divide areas up and mean that one can work while another listens to music.

Q: Can you tell us more about how people can achieve that visual story?

A: If we are going to be spending more time in our homes then we need to get the décor right and that means working out what we like and what our personal style is. When it comes to colours always ask yourself how certain shades make you feel and decide if that is the right feeling for the room you are looking to decorate. Vintage always adds character to a room and creates a more bespoke and individual look. But you can also paint cheap pieces of furniture to create something that’s uniquely yours. In my new book. Mad About The House, 101 Interior Design Answers (Pavilion £20) I say that before you start any scheme you should ask yourself six questions: who, what, when, where, why and how? Who is doing what where and when? Why do you want to redo this room? How are you going to pay for it? The answers for a couple with a kid will be very different from a couple of twentysomethings or a pair of pensioners. Work these things out before you go near a paint chip and you will already have some idea of what you are trying to achieve.

Q: What are some tips for balancing functionality and beauty? What pieces can you think of that blend the two?

A: In an ideal world, if we look back to William Morris then everything we have should be both beautiful and useful. To quote another truism, beauty is also in the eye of the beholder so everyone’s idea of that will vary. It’s up to you to work out what function you require from your sofa so that you can buy the right one for you. One person may want a large lounging modular piece where they can stretch out on and watch films while another wants something more upright for conversation and cocktails.

But there are a few pieces that are universal – a console table with drawers can double up as a desk and a dressing table – put the laptop in the drawer at night and take the mirror out. A bookshelf works for both books and displaying happy memories in the form of photos or objects. A coffee table is good for family games and resting your drinks on. A stool can be both side table and extra seating. The Saarinen Tulip table is both a beautiful dining table and a great place to work. The Wegner wishbone chair is comfortable enough for dinner and for wrestling with spreadsheets.

Q: Which two adjectives would you use to describe your interior style now? Have those changed from the two adjectives you’d have chosen when you started out?

A: I always used to describe my style as urban glamour, I’m not sure I’ve strayed too far from that although perhaps now it might be a bit more vintage elegance.

About Kate Watson-Smyth: 
Kate Watson-Smyth founded her multi-award-winning blog madaboutthehouse.com in 2012 and has now written two best-selling books of the same name. She was the first interiors Instagram account in the UK to receive a blue checkmark and has 226K followers. Together with television presenter Sophie Robinson, she hosts the interiors podcast “The Great Indoors” and she is currently working on the next installment of the “Mad About The House” series.

You can find more insight from Kate in her latest book, “Mad About the House: 101 Interior Design Answers,” on her blog and on Instagram.

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9 Easy Indoor Plants You Can Buy Online

It’s the perfect time to bring the outdoors in with some easy-to-keep-alive plants. We rounded up some of the best indoor plants that have some real moxie, need minimal watering and have flexible lighting preferences. 

Most of these plants can be purchased for around $20 to $40 online from retailers like Walmart, Amazon, The Sill, Home Depot, Horti, Plants.com and Bloomscape. And if you have pets, we recommend you double-check whether the plants are safe for their species.

1. Aloe vera

Aloe plants come in many shapes and sizes, making it easy to purchase something curated to your space. It’s a succulent with southwestern vibes and a timeless look. Aloe prefers bright indirect light and needs little water. You’ll want the soil moderately dry between waterings. You can also harvest the sap for home remedies and skincare, but don’t remove more than a third of the plant if you wish to keep it alive. 

2. Cactus

There are many different varieties of cactus and they’re all pretty resilient. A cactus prefers warm and sunny spaces but is low-maintenance enough to survive in most places. They need so little water that the easiest way to kill them is by overwatering. A cactus is a simple way to spice up your space a bit and is the perfect prickly pet. 

3. Cast iron plant

These plants are as indestructible as their namesake. A cast iron plant can grow in a wide range of temperatures and prefers lower light. You can even leave it in a dark corner to add a pop of year-round green. The leaves are thick and deep green and the plant is overall lush. The cast iron plant grows really slowly, so you should buy it at your desired size. This is typically bigger than your average countertop plant and is best suited for a tropical touch to a living room or bedroom. 

4. Hoya

Hoya plants have a unique bulbousness to their leaves. These succulents are also called wax plants because of their shiny look. They’re fast-growing and its leaves will trail or climb up to four feet long. You can plant them in a hanging basket or train them to grow up a trellis. Hoya plants will occasionally bloom fragrant flowers in small clusters, especially if you keep them in brighter light. They need little water and you’ll want to allow the soil to dry between waterings.

5. Jade

A jade plant can survive weeks to a month without water because it stores the water in the stems and leaves (common for succulents). The jade plant will basically hibernate if it doesn’t get enough water, and then rehydrate and grow once it’s watered again. It has a thick stem and the oval-shaped leaves grow in a bush-like cluster. They prefer bright sunlight and you should allow the soil to completely dry before watering. They can live for a really long time and are often passed through generations. 

6. Philodendron heartleaf

As the name suggests, this plant has heart-shaped leaves and long spindly stems. It’s a durable and adaptive plant that can add a romantic touch to your home. It prefers indirect light, or bright shade, and can grow or trail its vine up to eight feet — perfect for draping over a bookshelf or dresser. The philodendron heartleaf is also easy to propagate, so you can gift a starter to friends. This plant is super cute, but kind of dangerous, as it is poisonous to pets and humans if consumed. 

7. Rubber plant

The rubber plant, or rubber tree, is a dark green and modern looking plant. It has a shiny look and can complement more industrial and dark color schemes. If you don’t prune the longer stems, it can grow into an actual tree. The rubber plant prefers medium to bright light (but not direct sunlight) and limited watering. If the leaves look droopy, it may need more water. If the leaves turn yellow or brown, the plant is being overwatered. 

8. Snake plant

The snake plant succulent has uniquely tall and straight stalks that make for an interesting focal point. They are extremely easy to care for, will certainly survive your two-week vacation and probably prefer you to forget about them. You also won’t have to worry about repotting to accommodate growth and can keep it in lower light. This hardy plant is also known to be an air purifier. 

9. Spider plant

Spider plants are fun, bright and have an eye-catching shape. The leaves are a bouncy, long and thinly arching. Once the plant grows pretty big, the ends start sprouting baby spider plants that you can snip off and use to grow a new plant  (they resemble tiny spiders, hence the name). You can plant them in pots or in a hanging basket. The spider plant prefers indirect sunlight and cooler temperatures. This plant is also known for its air-purifying abilities. 

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How to evaluate a home security system

A home security system is your first line of defense when protecting your family and your property. But home security systems come in all shapes and sizes, from complex, professionally installed systems to simple DIY setups. 

Choosing the best home security system can be intimidating, but it’s easier once you know what you need. We’ll guide you through some important questions you should ask to help you find the home security system that’s right for you. 

Home security facts

What is a home security system?

A home security system usually starts with a control panel that acts as the “brains” of the system. The control panel uses your home phone line, a cellular connection or a broadband connection to call for help in case of an unauthorized entry or signal. Most home security systems also have a device called a “horn” or “sounder” that creates a loud alarm when a security device is tripped. It can be part of the control panel or placed in a separate location. 

Basic wireless home security systems use contact sensors and motion sensors that send signals to the control panel. You can place contact sensors on doors and windows so that an alarm will sound when they’re opened. Motion sensors use passive infrared (PIR) to detect movement. They’re usually placed in the corner of a room and will sound the system’s alarm when tripped.

If you’re looking to go beyond basic home security, you can add in more devices like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, video surveillance cameras, video doorbells, automated lighting, flood sensors, freeze sensors and more.  

With all the options available, it can be hard to even know what to ask when shopping for a home security system. Here are the top five questions you should ask when evaluating a home security system.

How much protection do we need?

When deciding how much protection you need, the most important consideration is the size and layout of your home. 

If you live in a small apartment, a basic system with just a few contact sensors and a motion detector might be all you need. But if your home has multiple entrances and windows at ground level, you’ll probably want more protection. Keep in mind that multiple entrances and/or windows can often be covered with a single motion sensor instead of multiple contact sensors. 

If you frequently travel out of town, you might want to add smoke detectors and home automation capabilities to your alarm system. This lets you arm and disarm your security system from anywhere using an app on your smartphone, and you can also connect smart locks, thermostats and interior and exterior lights for added security and convenience. Video surveillance is also a good idea if you’re frequently away. 

What are our home security must-haves?

Once you know how much protection you need, it’s time to think beyond the basics and consider the features that will help you feel safer on a day-to-day basis. 

For example, if you live in a neighborhood that’s a hot spot for door-to-door salespeople, doorbell cameras, outdoor video cameras and motion sensor floodlights are good investments. If you live in a more secluded area with a long driveway, you might decide to get a driveway alarm. If you have kids, smart locks and home security camera systems are useful. 

How much do we want to pay?

Though it’s not true for all home security systems, a common rule of thumb is that systems that cost more up front typically have lower monthly fees, whereas systems that are cheap (or even free) to install will likely cost you more in monthly monitoring fees. 

On average, you can expect to pay around $200 for a basic, DIY, self-monitored home security system. DIY systems frequently have optional monthly monitoring, so you’ll pay anywhere from $0 to $30 a month for monitoring. You can have a basic system professionally installed from $49 to $99, but your monthly fee will probably be between $20 and $30 or more, because it includes the cost of the equipment along with monitoring.

You can save a significant amount of money in the long run by choosing a home security system with a higher upfront cost, but if you’re on a budget, it might be easier to spread out the cost over several years. 

Do we want the system to be professionally monitored or self-monitored?

Traditional, professionally monitored home security systems send a signal to a monitoring center whenever there’s an alarm event. Monitoring center dispatchers can then call police or firefighters to your residence if needed. Self-monitored systems send an alert to your phone instead, and it’s up to you to call 911. 

Self-monitoring is a great option if you’re on a budget, but because you can easily miss an alert, you don’t get the same level of security as you do with a professionally monitored home security system. 

Do we want to sign a contract or not?

There are many contract-free home security systems, but contracts can help keep your monthly fees low. Before signing a contract, it’s important to understand the company’s cancellation policy, including any fees or other expenses you might be responsible for if you have to cancel. 

Also consider your situation: Is there a chance you could move before the contract term is up? Can you still keep your contract and your home security system in your new home? Make sure you know all the details before signing on the dotted line.

Top home security systems

ADT

ADT is known for its longstanding reputation in the security industry. Its professionally installed wireless home security systems are a good option for those who don’t feel comfortable with a DIY installation. ADT requires a minimum three-year contract, with professional monitoring fees starting at $36.99 a month. It offers virtually every type of security device on the market, and has several redundant monitoring centers throughout the U.S. so you’ll never be without monitoring coverage.

Cove

A basic home security system with Cove will cost you around $275, and monitoring fees start at $14.99 a month.It’s pretty bare bones — the company only sells ten pieces of equipment — but it also comes with a price lock guarantee, and its DIY installation is known to be one of the easiest in the industry. It’s a good choice for smaller homes and apartments. Cove works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, but you won’t see smart door locks, smart lights or other home automation products in its lineup, so if having a smart home is important to you, you might want to keep shopping.

Frontpoint

Frontpoint’s affordable, DIY home security systems make it a popular choice among both homeowners and renters. Installation takes less than 30 minutes, and basic home security system packages start at $99 down, with no long-term contract. The only catch is you can’t monitor your own security system — you have to pay a monthly fee to have it monitored by Frontpoint, and at $44.99 a month, you’ll pay more than you would with other home security monitoring plans.

Link Interactive

Link Interactive skips upfront equipment costs and instead rolls it all into your monthly monitoring fee. Once your system is paid off (or if you choose to use existing equipment you already own) you’ll only pay $30.99 a month for monitoring. Link Interactive has a keypad with two-way voice so you can talk to dispatchers at the monitoring center if you can’t get to a phone. Installation is DIY, but you can customize your system so you get only the devices you need. Link Interactive is a lesser known company, but it gets an A+ and a 5-star customer rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Nest Secure

Nest Secure has devices that are both beautiful and highly functional, and it’s a great choice for home security if you already have a Nest thermostat. Nest Secure has unique features like door and window sensors that do triple duty as motion sensors and night lights. Nest Protect is a combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm that can communicate with your Nest thermostat to turn off your heating and air system if it detects a problem. You can also add on video doorbells and cameras to your system, but Nest cameras have been the subject of some recent security concerns. Nest Secure packages start at $399 with DIY installation. You can monitor your home security system yourself or opt for professional monitoring through Brinks.

Protect America

With no upfront costs and monthly monitoring starting at $19.99, Protect America offers a pretty good deal on DIY home security, but there’s a catch: The low monthly fee is only for landline monitoring, and it comes with a 36-month contract. Still, if you’re looking for a long-term, bare-bones, low-budget option, Protect America is worth considering. Unlike many home security companies, it offers a lifetime warranty on all equipment and a price lock guarantee, so you can rest assured your monthly monitoring fees will never go up.

SimpliSafe

Simplisafe is a DIY home security system with equipment packages starting at $229, but you can get a discounted price when you sign up for professional monitoring. The good news is monitoring is month-to-month, with no contracts, and starts at just $14.99 a month. The bad news is you don’t get mobile access unless you pay an additional $10 a month. Simplisafe equipment is sleek and attractive, but it’s also more basic and not as user-friendly as more expensive systems. Still, it’s an affordable choice, especially for those with smaller homes and apartments who don’t need all the bells and whistles. 

Vivint

If you want all the latest smart home gadgets without having to install them yourself, Vivint is a good choice when it comes to professionally installed home security systems. Installation fees start at $99. Vivint’s equipment is top-notch, but it’s pricey — expect to pay close to $1,000 for a basic system. Fortunately, Vivint offers financing, so you can roll in the cost of your equipment with your monthly monitoring fees, which start at $29.99 a month. 

Comparing home security system companies

ADT Cove Frontpoint Link Interactive Nest Secure Protect America SimpliSafe Vivint
Starting price for installation $99 $275 $99 $0 $399 $0 $229 $99
Installation type Professional DIY DIY DIY DIY DIY DIY Professional
Smart home integrations Works with Alexa, Nest, Ring and Z-wave devices Works with Alexa and Google Home Works with Alexa and Google Home and Z-Wave devices Works with Alexa, Google Home and Z-wave devices Works with Nest and Google Home Works with Alexa, Google Home and Z-wave devices Works with Alexa and Google Home Works with Alexa, Google Home and Z-wave devices

*Prices as of March 31, 2020

Shopping for home security doesn’t have to be painful. First, decide on a budget and determine your basic security needs by asking the five questions outlined above. (Remember, you can always choose to add more security later on.) Then, check out our top picks for the best home security systems and decide which is right for you.

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Test your internet speed: 3 key numbers to understand

When you sign up for service with an internet provider, you’re usually provided minimum download speeds that support your online activities. You’ll often pay more for higher speeds, so it’s important to know if you’re getting what you’re paying for and if any factors are slowing it down. To do this, you’ll need to learn how to test internet speed.

Performing an internet speed test online can tell you a few things about your home internet such as download speed, upload speed and ping. If it sounds complicated, we can help learn everything you need to know.

How do I test internet speed at home?

Performing an internet speed test online is fairly simple. To test internet speed, simply find a website that offers a free speed test. Internet service providers like Spectrum and AT&T offer these speed tests to anyone, regardless of whether or not you’re a customer. There are also independent third-party websites like Fast.com and Speedtest by Ookla that host free speed tests. 

The FCC recommends different internet speeds based on the number of devices in your household and your online activity levels. For light use by one or two users, you can get by with a slower speed of 8 Mbps or lower. Two or three devices running moderate internet activity will require speeds of at least 12 to 25 Mbps. For more devices, or if you participate in high-bandwidth activity like HD video streaming or online gaming, look for speeds of 25 Mbps or higher. For the highest-bandwidth internet users, like live streamers and online video creators, fiber-optic speeds can give all the download and upload speed they’d need to keep creating. 

What are download speeds in an internet speed test?

The download speed you see in the speed test refers to how fast your device receives digital information from websites and other online sources. A couple of examples are when you load a webpage or stream videos. Usually, your download speed will be significantly higher than your upload speed. This is because for most internet users, the majority of internet activity consists of downloads and service providers will prioritize that usage. Download speeds are measured in megabits per second, abbreviated as Mbps.

There is some controversy over advertised internet speeds from service providers. Most providers advertise “up to” a certain speed, a loophole that means you won’t always get this maximum speed, especially during peak usage hours. Other factors that may affect your internet speed include how many other devices are accessing the internet and how far you are from your wireless router. 

What are upload speeds in an internet speed test?

When you perform a speed test, you’ll also be given your current upload speed. This is a measurement of how fast your device can send data to the speed test’s server. Upload speeds come into consideration when you upload photos and videos to a social networking site or send a file via email. Like download speeds, upload speeds are also measured in megabits per second (Mbps). If your upload speed is significantly slower than your download speed, don’t worry – this is completely normal.

Upload speeds might be affected by the browser you’re using or a firewall on your device. You might need faster upload speeds if you regularly need to upload large media files, such as if you create audio or video content for work or as a hobby. Most providers of DSL and cable internet will prioritize download speed, but you’ll find that fiber internet often supports upload speeds as high as download speeds.

What is ping in an internet speed test?

Ping measures the responsiveness of your internet connection, or how long of a delay there is between the moment you send a request for data and the moment your device receives that data. Ping is measured in milliseconds, noted with the abbreviation ms.

Your ping might be slower if you’re using a wireless connection instead of a wired connection. It will also be affected by the number of devices and volume of bandwidth currently using your home internet connection. Ping is especially important with activities like online gaming, which rely on a real-time connection to the game server and other users. A slow ping can give you a disadvantage by delaying your reaction time in the game.

How do I troubleshoot my internet speed?

  • Check for internet activity on other devices. If other people in the home are online while you perform a speed test, internet speeds will measure slower.
  • Restart your modem and router. Sometimes unplugging these devices for 30 to 60 seconds and turning them back on (called a “power cycle”) helps you get a more accurate result.
  • Move closer to your router and check its placement. If the antenna on your router is pointed in the wrong direction, it may result in a slower internet speed test result. WiFi range extenders can help with this.
  • Call your internet service provider. If you are consistently getting slow internet speeds and have exhausted all troubleshooting options, your provider might be able to help by resetting your connection or giving other tips. An old rented modem or router can be a major culprit.
  • Switch to a different internet service provider. If your internet speed test results consistently show slower speeds than expected, it might be time to think about switching to a different provider.

Frequently asked questions 

How do I test my internet speed?

You can use a free internet speed test online to test internet speed. These are available for free from many internet service providers and third parties. Simply find an online test and click the button on the page to start. There is no software required to download to perform the test.

How can I make my internet speed test online more accurate?

To get the most accurate internet speed test results, make sure no other devices are currently using the internet for high-bandwidth activities such as video streaming or gaming. You should also test internet speed at different times of the day to learn the differences in speed between peak and off-peak hours. Restarting your router and modem before performing the test can also make your results more accurate. 

Is it normal for my upload speed to be slower than my download speed?

Yes, it’s completely normal for download speed to be significantly faster than upload speed. This is because most of your online activity like surfing the web and streaming video content relies most heavily on downloading data. The providers allow faster download speeds to accommodate for these use cases, though fiber internet often has the same speeds for downloading and uploading. 

How do I improve my ping speed?

If you test internet speed and find that your ping is slow, try moving closer to your wireless router or switching to a wired connection with an ethernet cable. Consider trying a WiFi range extender if you absolutely must use WiFi. 

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