Everything you need to know about ADT home security systems

A home security system can provide peace of mind for you and your family, but choosing one can be a confusing process. If you’re curious about the ins-and-outs of ADT home security, you’re in the right place. We’re here to help you wade through the technical jargon and filter out the vital information.

An ADT home security system comes with brand recognition, but you need to know what devices and services you need to protect your home before you sign up. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of the company’s offerings, as well as a breakdown of ADT home security costs and customer reviews. Even though ADT has been around for many years, make sure you read up on all you need to know before entering a contract.

What is ADT home security?

ADT (American District Telegraph) formed 145 years ago following a nighttime break-in. The founders used a telegraph “call-box” to connect more than 50 homes to a residential security system. Today, ADT home security has over six million customers throughout the U.S. In early 2019, ADT acquired the security company LifeShield, which allowed ADT to expand into the DIY home security market.

ADT home security systems come in three standard packages that can include various primary and smart security services. When it comes to ADT home security costs, the standard options are some of the more expensive security systems in the market and often require professional installation. On the other hand, Blue by ADT is a newer contract-free solution for customers looking for DIY and ‘build-your-own‘ security systems.

ADT home security notable features

  • ADT offers a number of add-on smart home accessories, from smart locks to smart light bulbs. Smart home accessories work with Amazon Alexa, Kwikset, and Z-Wave.
  • Home security features connect to a mobile app for easy control. This app offers 24/7 emergency services at the push of a button.
  • The digital panel has a modern design that you can program with the touch of a finger.

ADT packages and prices

ADT home security systems come in three standard tiers, plus the more affordable Blue by ADT. Before choosing a package, note what each package includes, as well as the cost of each. To access detailed plans and pricing, you will have to contact ADT for a free quote. To give you an idea of the ADT home security costs, here are four basic offerings to choose from: 

ADT Essentials

ADT Total Protection

ADT Premium Protection

Blue by ADT

  • Equipment price: Depends on which kit you choose
  • Monitoring costs: $19.99/mo.
  • No contract
  • Includes professional monitoring? It can, depending on your plan.

*Information as of 2/19/2020. Information sourced by SafeStreets, an authorized ADT provider, and Blue by ADT. 

Understanding ADT pricing

Standard ADT is more expensive than many other home security systems. According to Consumer Reports, the average monitored home security system costs $40/mo. ADT’s monitored systems begin at $36.99/mo. — and that’s for its most affordable plan. So ADT will cost you more than some other home security systems. However, ADT uses authorized dealers for its day-to-day sales, so you may be able to find a more affordable option through them. Note that some prices may vary based on the service dealer. 

Not included in these monthly fees are taxes and additional charges. ADT may charge for activation, early termination, guard response service, local permits, and security deposits.

However, if you choose Blue by ADT, you have a much more flexible home security plan. First, you choose the equipment, with costs ranging from $199.15 to $346.34, and build the security system you need. Then, you choose whether or not you want to self-monitor or choose a professional monitoring service, which you can get for $19.99/mo. If you’re worried about the cost of traditional ADT security packages, it’s worth checking out Blue by ADT.

ADT equipment

With any ADT home security plan, you can get an array of digital and smart home equipment. The digital panel is the touch-screen center of your security system, and you can get a wireless key fob that allows you to disengage the security system remotely. Motion detectors can go on your windows and doors, and you can register contacts in the system, so it knows who is allowed in and out of your home. The doorbell, outdoor cameras, and indoor cameras all connect to the ADT app for easy checking. However, ADT equipment remains company property.

ADT home security systems also can include smart home devices that use Z-Wave technology. For example, you can install a smart door lock or smart light bulbs that make your day-to-day easier. ADT also sells smart garage controllers — in case you can’t remember whether you closed the door when you left — and smart thermostats to program your home to the perfect temperature.

ADT home security system installation

Installation costs of an ADT home security system range from $99 to $199, and it depends on which package and service you select. ADT sometimes offers a DIY option for people who prefer to install the system themselves, but this isn’t always the case. 

On the other hand, Blue by ADT is all DIY. Everything this package offers runs on a wireless platform, so there are no wires for you to install. That way, you don’t pay for installation.

ADT reviews

It’s essential to look at ADT home security reviews. ADT has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, but customer reviews aren’t quite as brilliant. Reviews range from one to 3.5 stars. According to customers, the prices and the strict contract seem to be the most off putting parts of the service overall. The lower scores appear to stem from poor customer service experiences and a lack of flexibility in the contracts. However, reviews of ADT home security systems are better than or on par with the competition.

Pros and cons of ADT

Advantages of using ADT

  • Offers smart home devices
  • Well-known brand
  • Can go DIY and contract-free with Blue by ADT

Disadvantages of using ADT

  • Contract penalties
  • Traditional plans are on the more expensive end
  • Low customer service ratings

Frequently asked questions

  1. How much does ADT cost? Monitored plans range from about $37 to $53 a month. All plans come with a 36-month contract.
  2. Can you get professional monitoring with ADT? Yes, all traditional ADT systems come with professional 24/7 monitoring. If you go with Blue by ADT, you can decide if you want to self-monitor or pay for professional monitoring for $19.99/mo.
  3. How much does professional monitoring with ADT cost? ADT includes professional monitoring in all its traditional packages, and the price of the package depends on which one you select.
  4. Do I have to have to pay for installation? Yes, unless you go with a Blue by ADT package where you can set it up yourself, you’ll have to pay between $99 and $199.
  5. Can I get out of a contract with ADT? Always read the fine print before you sign any contract. ADT requires you to sign a 36-month contract before you can get service, so take a look at the cancellation policy carefully before signing.

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Nordyne Heating and Cooling

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Nordyne, also known as Nortek Global HVAC, is a manufacturer of heating and cooling products. The company creates innovative and thoughtfully designed equipment. They also value the input that they receive from customers when considering their solutions. 

From commercial buildings to homes, Nordyne’s lineup will surely fit your needs. If you’re curious about the brand, this guide offers information about their products such as their furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps and packaged systems. 

Nordyne products

Nordyne is the manufacturer for world-class brands like Gibson, Maytag, Mammoth, Reznor, NuTone, Broan, Intertherm, Frigidaire, Miller and Ambirad. Here are some of the products that you should take note of. 

Nordyne furnaces 

Nordyne has gas and oil furnaces. Their units can keep your house warm and keep your energy bills affordable. 

Gas furnaces 

Nordyne gas furnaces are offered by brands like Miller, Maytag, and Gibson. 

Maytag furnaces can save your bill thanks to their efficiency levels of up to 97% AFUE. Every model is equipped with the SmartStart technology which lets the furnace learn the startup characteristics of your furnace and adjust the firing percentage, which can help extend its life. The PGC2TE and PGC2TN models have a 96% AFUE two-stage rating with a variable-speed performance. These models sell for between $2,032 and $2,832.

Miller gas furnaces include the CMF95 Series which has a 95% to 96% AFUE. These extra high-efficiency models feature an innovative SmartLite Control Board and tubular primary heat exchanger for long life. It costs $2,064 for the unit alone.

Gibson offers two-stage and single-stage fixed-speed gas furnaces. Gibson does not offer specific models for their furnaces, instead, they are classified through their AFUE rating. Those who often experience cold climates are advised to choose high-efficiency units to save on heating costs. Their units have a maximum efficiency of 96% AFUE. Prices for their furnaces range from $1,350 to $3,950.

Oil furnaces

Nordyne oil furnaces can send a wave of warm and refreshing air throughout your home. The company’s oil furnaces are sold through their brands Miller and Intertheim. 

Both brands offer the M1 Gas & M5 Gas and Oil Furnaces with 80 and 83% AFUE. The 83% AFUE M5 Oil Gun furnace model includes a sealed combustion system vent that can exhaust gas from the outdoors and attract 100% outside air for the burner. Meanwhile, the 80% AFUE Intertherm M1 Gas Gun model can easily be installed into an enclosed closet, alcoves or utility rooms. The price for the series ranges from $878 to $1,517. 

The CMF series includes the reliable and dependable CMF2 model with 80% AFUE oil furnaces priced at $2,147. These units come with a Multi-speed blower and multi-fired burner to guarantee efficiency and long-life. 

Heat pump

The ideal heat pump keeps your home cozy and provides humidity control. Nordyne manufactures heat pumps that can keep your home warm or cool depending on the season. The company’s heat pumps are sold through the brands Gibson, Frigidaire, and Maytag. 

The F Series has energy-efficient technology which includes the FSH1BF model. This model boasts a 16-SEER and 9-HSPF efficiency levels. It is also equipped with the Copeland Scroll UltraTechTM Compressor so it can keep up with the heating and cooling demands of your home at any time of the day. The heat pump costs $1,000. 

Models in the E-series deliver durable equipment and reduced cooling expenses. The ESH1BF model can increase dehumidification capabilities. They also have technology features that resist damage to maximize lifespan. It can deliver efficiencies of up to 16-SEER and 9-HSPF. The model costs $700.

Air conditioner

The company offers air conditioner units under the brand Maytag. Their lineup includes a split system and packaged air conditioners with SEER ratings of up to 20. 

The IQ Drive series boasts a 20-SEER air conditioner that is extremely efficient and ultra-quiet. Their iQ models come in both split systems or packaged setups. The PSA1 BG is a popular air conditioner offered by their Maytag brand and has a maximum efficiency of 20-SEER. It operates as quietly as 57 decibels. The unit claims to have energy-saving performance thanks to an inverter-driven rotary compressor that can modulate between 49% and 118% of capacity. The price of the system ranges from $3,040 and $8,340.

The CSA1BF is a 16 SEER model air conditioner that has a Micro-Channel coil to boost durability and eco-friendliness. It has a 2-stage compressor that ensures improved efficiency and quiet operation. The unit is priced between $3,040 and $8,340. 

The F-series air conditioners by Frigidaire feature durable Micro-Channel coil technology and quiet operation. The FSA1BF, 16-SEER air conditioner model meets Energy Star efficiency standards. It runs at a low noise level for quiet offices and homes. The model is worth $2,425 to $3,250. 

Packaged systems 

Those who want to get cooling and heating from one space-saving unit can use Nordyne’s packaged systems from their brands Gibson, Frigidaire and Miller. Their units are characterized by galvanized steel, corrosion-resistant drains pans and externally accessible service ports. 

Miller features an efficient split system and packaged air conditioner and heat pump that will help address your cooling needs. The P7RE model features a 14 SEER packaged system air conditioner and heat pump that can keep your home comfortable all year-round. The state-of-the-art two-stage scroll compressor ensures it has high efficiency and low sound levels. The model costs $2,500. 

The 14-SEER gas and electric systems by Gibson combine heating and cooling functions in one conveniently packaged system. These models combine the features of a furnace and air conditioner in a single package. Although Gibson has no specific models, they offer three main types of 14-SEER packaged systems. You may contact them through their website to find the prices.  

A Frigidaire R6GI is a 20-SEER and 81% AFUE gas or electric packaged unit. The model modulates from 40% to 118% which means it can make adjustments to achieve the cooling demands in your home and reduce utility bill spending. The model costs $5,500.

Nordyne warranties 

Nortek Global HVAC products are usually backed with a long-lasting warranty. The warranty coverage varies for each brand but they typically last from five to ten years. If users lose the warranty document, they can head to Nordyne’s warranty inquiry lookup services on their website.   

Nordyne product reviews

Like with any purchase, it’s advisable to thoroughly research the product before buying. You can learn more about Nordyne’s products by checking out their reviews. Reviews typically feature the price as well as pros or cons which can help you assess if it is suitable for your needs.

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Aging in place: Renovating with independence in mind

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Most Americans settle in a home, envisioning a permanent life refuge. Achieving this vision of aging in place, though, means preparing the home now to anticipate future needs. Doing so successfully can allow older adults to remain independent, autonomous and in charge of their home security as they age.

As many as 94% of today’s older adults (defined as ages 65+) wish to stay in their own homes as long as possible. This group, as of 2010, accounted for 13% of the population (40 million people), and that number is projected to increase to 20% of the population by 2030.

Studies show there are numerous benefits to home-based aging, such as increased life satisfaction, quality of life and self-esteem. Maintaining familiar surroundings and connections is also a benefit, allowing older adults to remain close to friends and neighbors, keep the same doctors and visit favorite coffee shops and grocery stores.

The time is now to start planning for down-the-road needs, like modifying your home to accommodate future accessibility needs, home security and even live-in care. It is important to understand the appropriate renovations that may be required and to equip the home with modifications that are right for you and any caretakers providing attention as you age in place.

What you should know about designing a home while aging in place

Studies confirm there are benefits to keeping older adults in their homes longer, such as maintaining more independence and connection to friends and family, as well as avoiding the high costs of institutional care. Luckily, there are many options, services and helpful solutions available to help us stay independent as we age at home.

Basic home renovations

Improve lighting

Improving the lighting in the home is an inexpensive solution that can provide an increased sense of safety and security for older adults — safeguarding against stumbling and falling, as well as break-ins. Consider adding lighting strips to stairways and other dark areas inside the home, as well as installing exterior lights that can be programmed to turn on and off, creating a pattern to deter break-ins. Nightlights are also a recommended addition — great for hallways, bathrooms and on or near steps.

Add easy-use fixtures and safety considerations

These simple home modifications are easy to implement and can have a significant impact on improving security and comfort in the home as we age:

  • Install oversized light switches ($6 to $28)
  • Replace faucet knobs with levers ($22 to $400)
  • Use automated garage door openers ($128 to $250)
  • Purchase larger digital display options for remote controls, phones, and screens ($7 to $545)
  • Add grab bars or rails around the home to prevent falls and improve mobility ($14 to $100)
  • Consider chair and toilet lifts ($18 – $100)
  • Use cord covers to prevent tripping and falling ($10 to $50)

Update your flooring

Falls are prevalent as we age in what should be our safest environment: our home. And flooring is often the biggest culprit. Loose rugs, slip-inducing mats, and curly edges on carpets are among the most common dangers. Many preventive measures are easy, DIY and often relatively inexpensive. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Secure rugs throughout the home: Use double-faced, anti-slip rug tape to secure the edges of all area rugs firmly to the floor. Or consider using an underneath rug pad, with options adhering to vinyl, hardwood and other flooring. In the bathroom, use bathmats with a good, surface-gripping backing.
  2. Install anti-slip flooring throughout the home: Ensuring the type of flooring installed in the home (and especially in the bathroom) isn’t slippery is an important consideration for older adults. Some anti-slip flooring options include vinyl, ceramic tiles, and even bamboo.
  3. Contrast for visibility while moving throughout the home: Consider varying the colors and textures of the flooring used throughout the home to provide better visual guidance, especially in transitional areas in the home, such as a sunken living room.

Advanced home renovations

Sophisticated upgrades to help current and future home healthcare needs not only add protections, they often heighten future selling prices. Keep in mind for some of these more advanced home modification tips, outsourcing to a professional may be necessary.

Assistive renovations

Widen your doorways: Even just carrying packages can make doorways impassable, so imagine providing adequate space for assistive devices like wheelchairs. To meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards, doorways should be at least 36 inches wide.

Add a stairlift: Unless you’re enjoying single-story living (or unless you have a downstairs bedroom and bath), many people need to navigate stairs in the home. In these cases, stairlifts are a great tool.

Keeping the home secure

Home security systems are an essential tool for being alerted to dangers you may not sense, like fire, carbon monoxide and break-ins. And these tools become even more critical for older adults. According to the National Fire Protection Association, people ages 65+ are twice as likely to be injured or killed by house fires, compared to the rest of the population.

For outside the home, consider installing security cameras, which can allow loved ones to monitor fall-prone areas around the home. 

Assistive technology

There is a lot of assistive technology available today, including devices, software programs and equipment that’s specifically designed to help people work around their challenges — from arthritis-friendly light switches and easier-to-grip drawer pulls, to computer voice recognition programs, entryway ramps and more. Here are a few assistive devices for you to consider when updating your home for current or future assistive needs:

  • Clap-detection lights: Turning on lights with the clap of your hands makes turning lights on/off much easier. Plus, set the device in its “away” mode, and your lights will turn on with the detection of any sound, which can deter break-ins.
  • Smart entryway: Assistive tools like key finders, keyless doors and doorbell cameras make entering the home and monitoring activity at the front door easier. Learning who is at the front door from the safety of your couch reduces the need for unnecessary movement around the home, which can also prevent accidents and falls. 
  • Home hub automation: Smart home options are now available to provide a one-stop solution for controlling your digital life at home, from programmable temperature controls and sophisticated home security systems to playing music and helping you keep track of appointments. For example, Amazon’s Alexa allows users to easily keep track of daily activities, call their doctor and even order food. And home hub security systems can offer older adults a greater sense of control over the safety of their home and valuables, all from the leisure of their couch.

Why designing with in-home care in mind is a good idea

Considering the high costs of long term care options in the U.S., it’s not surprising people are turning to alternative solutions. Although costs vary by state, let’s take a look at the average monthly costs of some of the more common long-term care options available:

  • A private nursing home room: $8,364 per month
  • A semi-private nursing home room: $7,362 per month
  • Assisted living facility: $3,862 per month
  • Adult day health care: $1,562 per month

To avoid these costs, and if in-home care is your goal, it’s important to start making plans now — so you’re not managing last-minute renovations and home modifications to accommodate the needs of caretakers at the same time your health takes a turn. 

Some of the in-home care services you may need to consider planning for include health care aides, registered nurses, physical therapists, social workers and other specialists that make home visits. Your in-home caregiver might also be a companion or a loved one. Regardless of who is providing the care, it’s important to ensure your home is ready, so you can more easily adapt should the need arise.

Renovating your home for the future

When renovating your home, it’s important to keep future health challenges in mind, and the possibility of needing in-home care. Understanding your needs — and the needs of others potentially sharing your space — will create a more harmonious and comfortable environment while aging in place.

Creating a bedroom on the main floor of the home is ideal — allowing for easier accessibility throughout the home. In addition to reducing the use of stairs, main floors also provide faster exits to safety in case of emergencies — like injuries, break-ins or fires.

To accommodate live-in care, or for having loved ones stay, a separate bedroom is an essential consideration. Make sure the room has easy access to a bathroom, and even consider installing a small kitchen. 

You’ll also want to equip your home for caregiver accessibility, including:

  • Installing smart locks, so people who take care of you always have access to the home.
  • Ensuring caregivers have access to WiFi, so they’re connected in the event of an emergency, or to purchase necessary items online.
  • Providing caregivers access to security systems, so they can help monitor the home in an emergency.
  • Adding more electrical outlets in the home, in case there is medical equipment to set up in the future.
  • Creating wider doorways and entryways for wheelchairs, as well as ramps for wheelchair accessibility.

Financial assistance for home modifications

Paying for Senior Care outlines four sources of assistance available for those needing to make home modifications to accommodate the needs of older adults and of those with disabilities, including financial loans, grants, labor and equipment loans:

Four types of assistance for home modifications

  1. Low-interest loans: Some organizations, mainly governmental, offer low-interest loans for home modifications or guarantee loans so banks are less restrictive with their lending requirements. Since these are loans, they do need to be paid back.
  2. Home improvement grants: These (usually one-time) grants are available for a specific home modification purpose, and do not need to be repaid.
  3. Free labor: Another form of assistance is free labor to make home improvements. This is commonly offered by non-profit organizations or charities. Materials are not covered. The building of a wheelchair ramp is a common example.
  4. Equipment loans: Some organizations make free, long-term loans of home modification materials. As an example, a portable wheelchair ramp that does not need to be returned until the borrower moves from their home or no longer requires the use of it.

Options for financial planning

There are also several programs and other assistance programs available for qualified individuals to take advantage of to help with home modifications for the purpose of keeping older adults at home longer. Some of the most notable options are:

  1. Medicare Advantage: Beginning in 2019, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans now include benefits for home modifications, such as assisting with the addition of grab bars, stairlifts, and wheelchair ramps in the home
  2. Medicaid HCBS Waivers and Home Modifications: Most states have Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Waivers, which help qualified individuals stay at home and receive in-home care and assistance with home modifications. Each state offers different programs with different eligibility requirements and benefits. 
  3. Veterans Programs for Home Modifications: The Veterans Administration (VA) offers grants, including Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grants, Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grants and Home Improvement and Structural Alteration (HISA) Grants, to help veterans remain in their homes longer.
  4. Non-Medicaid Government Assistance for Home Modification: The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers HUD Home Improvement Loans, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Grants. Additionally, quite a few states offer various assistance programs that are referred to as “nursing home diversion programs,” and some of these programs offer home modification as a benefit. Review this list of state assistance programs that offer home modification benefits to see if there’s a program available for you.
  5. Non-Profit and Foundation Assistance for Home Modifications: Many non-profits and organizations (such as Rebuilding Together) offer financial aid and volunteer labor to help older adults remain in their homes. Another option is finding local, volunteer community resources and projects that may help assist with home modifications.

Set your sights on home sweet home…forever

People are living longer and the percentage of older adults in the U.S. is on the rise. This means there is an increased demand for long-term care solutions. The good news is remaining independent and autonomous in the home you know and love as you age is possible. With the right planning and assistance, older adults can easily make modifications to the home — such as updating the lighting in the home, taking advantage of assistive technologies and even renovating the home to accommodate live-in care. Make these changes now and create a comfortable and safe space that you can continue to call home…forever.

Bio

Wendy Meyeroff, a plain language expert in B2B and B2C health/tech communications, has helped clients across the U.S. for 20+ years with journalism and marketing materials. Wendy has a specialty: writing for and about boomers, and mentoring outreach to ages 50+.

 
 
 
 
 

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Freelancing with a disability: Designing an accessible work from home space

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Disability can happen to anyone at any time. Sometimes people have a chronic medical condition from childhood, or one that comes on in middle- or late-age. Others might have a disability due to an accident or illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. That’s 26% of adults (1 in 4) who have some type of disability, including the following:

  • 13.7% with a mobility disability (extreme difficulty walking or climbing stairs)
  • 10.8% with a cognition disability (difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions)
  • 6.8% with an independent living disability (difficulty running errands by themselves)
  • 5.9% with a hearing disability (serious difficulty hearing or deafness)
  • 4.6% with a vision disability (low vision or blindness)
  • 3.6% with a self-care disability (dressing and/or bathing is difficult)

Of the 155 million employed workers in the U.S., the U.S. Census Bureau reports approximately 9 million have a disability, and 58% of those with a disability work full time, year-round.

For people with a disability who find full-time work for traditional employers to be challenging, however, freelancing and working from home can be a great option to consider.

Why freelancing or consulting is a good option for people with disabilities

According to the 2019 Freelancing in America study by Freelancers Union and Upwork, an estimated 57 million Americans freelanced in 2019 — evidence of its increasing popularity, particularly among younger generations. The study also found 46% of participants agree freelancing provides needed flexibility because they are unable to work for a traditional employer due to personal circumstances — with 43% of that group citing health issues (physical disease, disability, mental health, etc.) as the cause.

More and more Americans are becoming long-term career freelancers. And although many people with disabilities are still able to work traditional jobs successfully, freelancing opens up additional options for some.

For example, freelancing often eliminates a commute, which can benefit those with mobility disabilities. Freelancers also have the freedom to structure their business and workday around any physical or mental needs. For example, they can work during their most productive time. If they require extra rest, they can take time during the day to recoup their energy. It also affords the flexibility to juggle work, family and medical appointments more easily.

Freelancers are also able to enjoy the benefits of working in a space that is comfortable and inspiring, without having to worry about typical office distractions, like noise, unsuitable lighting or uncomfortable office furniture — all of which may be factors affecting some workers with disabilities.

When you’re self-employed, you also have control over accepting or declining any project. Having this kind of control over your time, work and client relationships is not only empowering but also has a positive impact on mental and physical health.

With freelancing booming, there are plenty of job options for people with disabilities to choose from, including:

  • audio content transcriber
  • customer service representative
  • data entry professional
  • graphic designer
  • social media/digital marketing manager
  • translator
  • tutor
  • virtual assistant
  • voiceover talent
  • website designer
  • writer/blogger

Freelancing isn’t limited to these more traditional titles, either. If someone has skills and/or advanced knowledge of a topic or in almost any niche field, they can market those skills to companies that need their specialized expertise and offer remote work.

How to create the right environment for productivity

One of the great benefits of freelancing is creating and working in a space-optimized for an individual’s needs. If you’re thinking about modifying your home’s work area, the end result should be a stimulating space designed for trouble-free navigation and ultimate comfort.

Here are some tips to help design an accessible workspace to accommodate freelancing with disability:

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Lighting

Lighting doesn’t just make it easier to do work; it also makes a difference in mood. Allowing in as much natural light as possible can lift moods and even ease anxiety. According to a 2019 Future Workplace study, natural light has a significant impact on workplace wellness.

Use blinds or other window coverings, such as sheer curtains, to help control the amount of light coming in. Keep a chair near a window for reading or working in natural light.

Place lamps and other fixtures in appropriate places to ensure brightness where it’s needed most. Add table lamps, floor lamps and clip-on lights to illuminate the area where work will be done. Be sure not to have the light pointed directly into anyone’s eyes.

For those in a wheelchair, lighting can be placed low. However, if someone has limited vision, avoid low-hanging lights that might get in the way.

Halogen bulbs provide maximum lumens, which is a measurement of brightness. Using 60- to 100-watt lighting is usually comfortable, but you may want to try a few lighting options to see which works best for your specific needs. Light options include halogen, fluorescent or incandescent.

Install light switches so they’re easy to reach from the freelancer’s range of motion. You can also use voice-activated or motion-sensor switches for hands-free lighting.

Furniture

Being able to navigate a workspace easily can be the difference between loving or dreading work. Having the right amount of space and the right furniture is paramount.

If you are modifying a space to accommodate a wheelchair, you’ll want a desk at the right height and width so the chair can roll under the desk with no impediments. An adjustable desktop is ideal because it allows the surface to be placed exactly where it’s needed. The desk should have shelves and drawers within easy reach. They can be labeled with bright colors and large letters for those with low vision.

Set up the desk and other furniture pieces in a way that allows a wheelchair to turn around without bumping into anything. Leave at least 32 inches between furniture pieces to ensure a wheelchair can pass. Placing bookshelves and tables along the walls will keep the middle of the room open.

Don’t settle for just any furniture. Select pieces that fit the freelancer’s personal style. Desks made for people with disabilities are available, but if they don’t match the existing décor, or simply look too functional for one’s taste, then check out desks with parts that can be adjusted. National Business Furniture offers a variety of adjustable height furniture selections in different colors and styles.

People with mobility challenges may need to raise furniture to be able to sit comfortably and stand up safely. Raising the height can be done by placing furniture coasters under desk, chair or sofa legs, or by extending the legs with small blocks of wood. To lower furniture, like desks, to make them more accessible for someone in a wheelchair, the legs can be shortened or replaced with shorter pieces.

People with low vision or who are blind should consider eliminating coffee tables, end tables and other low pieces that could be trip hazards. Keep furniture in the same place at all times to avoid accidents.

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Storage

Having an organized work area is essential for sustained productivity and safety. When supplies, files and work tools are within easy reach and are readily identifiable, you can continue working without having to take time to search for an item.

For those with low vision or who are blind, a few tips can save time. For instance, use embossed letter stickers on file folders to designate what they contain. Or, place an embossed letter on a switch plate — “F” for the overhead fan and “L” for the light, for example.

Color coding with bold colors is great for organizing projects by categories. Color code files and file labels, too. You could also write notes in colors and keep colorful markers, pens or stickers on your desk for this purpose. To compensate for low vision, use embossed letter stickers to indicate the colors for each item. Be sure everything is kept in the same place at all times.

To make it easy to access materials, put them in cabinets or storage bins that don’t have doors. If you do use doors, install large handles for easier gripping. Set a rule that any drawer or cabinet door must be closed immediately after use to avoid creating obstacles for those with low vision, and to avoid obstructing the path of a wheelchair.

Also, keep the desk area tidy and safe by using a cord organizer to corral all cables and electrical cords, keeping them off the floor, out of the way and out of sight.

Once the work area has been organized, share the system with family, friends or caregivers. Ask them to be sure everything is in its designated place, including supplies and pieces of furniture.

Technical considerations

In addition to design modifications, there are technical factors to consider as well when designing an accessible workspace. For example, depending on the specific needs of each individual, there are dozens of assistive and adaptive technologies available that help people with disabilities to accomplish specific tasks. Check out this list of tools and tips to get started:

  • The number one tool a freelancer needs is a strong and reliable internet connection. Nothing is worse than working on a project that’s due the next morning and the internet goes out, or you’re conducting a video conference and the lack of speed causes the meeting to buffer. Check out internet reviews to choose the best provider.
  • Electronics designed for people with low vision include telephones and calculators with large print dials and keypads. Using a large screen with high definition will also help increase visibility. Adding a fully adjustable computer mount allows the screen to be placed at the best height and angle.
  • Software can offer further assistance for people with low vision. Apple has a built-in feature on every Mac called VoiceOver that includes verbal descriptions of what’s happening on the screen. It also reads all content aloud and magnifies the screen.
  • Microsoft has created tools and features for Windows 10 and Microsoft Office to make computers more accessible for people who have disabilities around vision, hearing, speech, mobility and learning. For example, Microsoft’s Narrator feature reads the text on the computer screen, including calendar events and notifications. Microsoft’s Magnifier tool  allows the entire screen or portions of the screen to be enlarged. Check out Microsoft’s online guide to learn more about all of its accessibility tools and features. Visit the Microsoft accessibility playlist on YouTube for more features and troubleshooting guidance.
  • NV Access, founded and managed by two business partners who are blind, provides free software in many languages for people with visual limitations. They believe everyone “deserves the right to freely and easily access a computer.”
  • Other companies also offer speech-to-text or voice-to-text apps that assist with “writing” emails, reports, notes, etc. Dragon Home and IBM Speech to Text are a couple of examples.

For additional options and ideas, the University of Arkansas Disability Resource Center has an extensive list of assistive technology to consider, including many free products.

How to pay for modifications

Several opportunities exist to help with funds and people-power for making modifications to an in-home workspace to accommodate a disability. Here are a few resources to research while putting together a comprehensive plan and budget.

Local, city, county & state grants

Rebuilding Together is an organization where neighbors help neighbors to improve the safety and health of their homes. Local affiliates are scattered across the U.S. and are ready to pitch in and assist.

Joni and Friends is a Christian-based organization providing programs for people around the world who have disabilities. The organization has chapters across the U.S. that can assist with local resources. The group also offers the Christian Fund for the Disabled (CFD), a grant for individuals who have adaptive needs not covered by insurance, Social Security or other sources. Application guidelines for a CFD grant can be found here.

Grants for veterans

U.S. military veterans may be eligible for a Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) or a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The SAH grant helps service-men or women who have service-connected disabilities build a home or remodel an existing home to suit their needs or pay off unpaid mortgages for homes acquired without a VA grant.

With an SHA grant, the funds could be used to adapt a home owned by the veteran or adapt a home owned by a family member where the veteran will permanently live. The severity of the disability determines which grant an applicant is eligible for.

The American Red Cross assists eligible veterans, as well as active service members, with financing for home modifications for those who experienced a disability while on duty.

Because the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) is committed to helping members of the U.S. Army remain independent, they offer financial assistance for needed home modifications for veterans and others.

The Gary Sinise Foundation’s Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program also provides grants for veterans to either modify their current living space or to build a new, specially adapted smart home.

Grants for specific home modifications

Several national and state programs provide financial assistance to help make home modifications more affordable.

The Lion’s Club International is known for assisting people with hearing impairments and visual disabilities. Reach out to a local Lions Club chapter to see what they can do toward assisting with home modifications.

Check with a local American Parkinson Disease Association chapter for any grants they might offer or to learn about any grants they might contribute to in your area.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America (RESNA) Catalyst Project, which offers helpful resources as well as technical assistance on home modifications, may offer grants in your state. You can also check out the National Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources to find local resources and available financial assistance.

Applicable tax deductions

As you work freelance and make needed adaptations to your workspace, keep careful records. Working with any online accounting software can make expense tracking easier and simplifies the process of collecting information needed for income tax preparation.

First, it helps to know exactly what you can and cannot write off as a business expense while using a portion of your home to run a business. For example, you can choose to write off the mileage for driving to and from client meetings, called standard mileage rate, rather than writing off other vehicle expenses, like gas, insurance, tires, oil, parking fees, etc.

The IRS publication 583 states, “To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your field of business, trade or profession. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business, trade or profession.” Necessary expenses include those related to internet connections and phone service.

The IRS has home office deduction information available to provide a clear understanding of allowable tax deductions for freelancers who use a portion of their home for their business. States may also offer tax credits for home modification. Those can be found on each state’s official government website, if applicable.

Design an ideal workspace to thrive as a freelancer

Freelancing can be freeing in many ways, especially for someone with a disability. It allows the convenience of working in a space created to meet specific needs, which can increase productivity, focus and overall well-being.

Many organizations and programs are available to assist you or someone you know with a disability who chooses to work as a freelancer from the comfort of home. Use these resources and get started designing the ideal, accessible home office space — perfect for launching and sustaining a successful freelancer career.

Nicki Escudero is a Phoenix-based freelance writer and journalist with more than 18 years of experience in the publishing industry, writing for global publications and international magazines. A former expat living in Australia, Nicki has a passion for world travel and loves to learn about new cultures.

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Find the Best Internet Deals for Your Home Internet

Everyone needs to access the internet these days, whether just to send emails or to connect multiple PCs, tablets and TVs in the household for gaming and live TV streaming. When selecting an internet service provider, your choices involve more than speed alone. Internet providers also offer a wide range of the best internet deals which, might be compelling enough to convince you to switch providers.

What kinds of internet deals should you look for? The answer depends on your needs. Telecommuters, gamers, occasional web users and rural residents each benefit from different types of internet deals, for instance. A telecommuter working from multiple locations is more likely to benefit from free WiFi hotspots than a gamer whose main requirement is super high bandwidth at home. Free installation may be more advantageous to a rural resident putting in a complex satellite setup than to an occasional web user who only requires a low-speed DSL modem running over standard phone lines.

To help you decide when going to Google looking for “internet deals in my area,” here’s a quick glimpse at some of the internet deals you can find, together with examples of deals offered by various companies.

Best internet deals

  • Bundling; Bundling is one of the many types of internet deals that can save you money. Customers get discounts on services by combining (or “bundling”) internet service with phone and/or TV service from the same provider.
  • Free equipment: Free equipment is another common internet deal, with the type of equipment varying according to the type of internet service. Cable providers sometimes offer free cable modems.
  • Free installation:  A cable provider might offer a free self-install kit, whereas a satellite internet provider might send out a specialized service technician free of charge.
  • Contract-free plans: Many internet service plans require you to sign a one or two-year contract in order to get service, and to pay an early termination fee if you end service before the contract is up. Other plans, however, are contract-free, letting you pay on a month-to-month basis and quit the plan with no financial penalty.
  • Sign-on deals: One typical sign-on deal is to offer a discounted rate for internet service if you do agree to a contract. Providers also run “limited time” specials that entitle you to pricing discounts or other perks only if you sign up before the promotion ends.
  • ‘No data cap’ plans: Some providers charge you extra fees, or “throttle” (slow) your service, if you exceed a company-imposed monthly limit on data. Others, though, don’t place any caps on the amount of data your household can use.
  • WiFi hotspots:  Some internet service providers operate networks of WiFi hotspots, and offer these to their users. Subscribers needing WiFi connectivity while away from home can access these hotspots via laptops and other mobile devices from wherever they are situated.
  • Antivirus protection: It’s crucially important to protect your devices from viruses, malware and other kinds of cyberattacks. In another type of internet deal, the internet provider lets you download antivirus protection and other security software free of charge.

Best home internet deals

ProviderType of InternetBest ForAvailability 
AT&T DSL, fiber, fixed wirelessBundles 21 states
Charter Spectrum CableTelecommuters41 states
XfinityCableGaming and home entertainment39 states, plus District of Columbia
HughesNetSatelliteRural residents50 states
OptimumCable, fiberSeniors and low-income families 4 states

The availability of these and other Internet providers varies according to location. To see internet deals in your area, use the ISP.com zip code finder 

Compare internet deals

AT&T

One of the largest telecommunications companies in the US,  AT&T began in 2014 to deploy super high-speed fiber services at up to 1 Gbps in dozens of cities across the US. AT&T’s internet customer base remains much larger, though, for DSL. Only about 40 percent of AT&T’s DSL customer base achieves speeds of 100 Mbps, with the remainder receiving lower rates of 4 Mbps or 25 Mbps. All AT&T customers get free access to the company’s huge network of WiFi hotspots.

Whether you’re interested in lower-speed DSL or ultra-fast fiber, AT&T is great for bundling deals. On the downside, though, the terms of these deals can be complicated, and you need to look at the fine print. As of January 28, 2020, AT&T offers a bundle combining internet service with its DirecTV service for $79.99 monthly (plus taxes and an internet equipment fee) for 12 months, with 24-month TV and 12-month internet contracts and a combined bill.

What’s more, customers placing online orders with internet or either DirecTV or AT&T’s other TV service, Uverse, get $350 in reward cards for use with retail stores, restaurants, and online ecommerce sites. AT&T recommends internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps for TV service.

Charter Spectrum 

Charter Communications became the second-largest broadband provider and third-biggest pay provider in the US through a 2016 merger with Time-Warner and Bright House Networks. Available to over 30 percent of the US population, Charter’s Spectrum cable service includes more than 28 million signed-up residential and business customers across portions of 42 states.

Spectrum is ideal for households that don’t want to be tied down by contracts, as well as for customers such as telecommuters who are frequently on-the-go. The company offers contract-free plans and will even buy out your contract with another provider, reimbursing you for ETFs of up to $500. Spectrum customers get free access to Charter’s nationwide WiFi hotspot network. Spectrum’s speeds range from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps, depending on location, and all cable packages come with a free cable modem and free antivirus software.

Pricing starts at $49.99 monthly with a 12-month agreement. Charter also offers Spectrum TV bundles, along with a mobile app for live TV streaming to your device no matter where you roam.

Comcast Xfinity

Comcast’s consumer and business cable customers amounted to more than 31 million nationally. as of the third quarter of 2019, making the company the number one provider of cable internet access in the US. Under the brand name Xfinity, the company also sells cable TV and digital phone services. In addition, Comcast owns Sky, a large European pay-TV provider, as well as NBCUniversal.

Comcast is a particularly enticing choice for customers who need supremely high bandwidth for internet gaming, or for streaming media to multiple TVs, PCs and other devices. In most of the markets it serves, Comcast offers a 2 Gbps fiber plan called Xfinity Gigabit Internet Pro, as well as a 1 Gbps plan known as Xfinity Gigabit Internet.

Some Xfinity plans are less costly. As of January 30, 2020, Comcast provides a $79.99-a-month bundle with 200 Mbps in bandwidth, TV service and unlimited voice calling “to nearly half the world,” with a two-year agreement. This internet deal also includes downloads of movies and TV shows through the Xfinity Stream app, and — as a limited time sign-on offer–  a free self-installation kit otherwise valued at $59.99. Other advantages available to Xfinity customers include access to millions of hotspots nationwide, a free download of Norton Security Suite, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

HughesNet

HughesNet is available in every state in the US, including Hawaii. Unlike Viasat, its major satellite competitor, HughesNet offers bandwidth of up to 25 Mbps — a speed commonly accepted as adequate for video streaming — with all its plans. The company does not guarantee, however, that you will achieve this speed. 

HughesNet’s services are best suited for people in remote rural locations where high-bandwidth connectivity is not available through cable or DSL. Home WiFi is included in HughesNet’s plans. Pricing is determined not by internet speed, but by amount of data used each month, HughesNet offers four price tiers, ranging from 10GB to 50GB. HughesNet imposes data caps, too, although these are “soft” rather than “hard.” If you exceed the data allowed in your plan, the company slows or “throttles” your service to almost a standstill – 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps — until the close of the current billing cycle.

Installation can be a slightly complicated process. It involves setting up and connecting a WiFi modem with a HughesNet LAN cable inside the home, as well as installing a satellite dish in the correct position on the rooftop. HughesNet does offer limited time promotions for free installation of equipment. Voice service is available, too.

Optimum Online

Altice acquired Cablevision in 2016, after purchasing the assets of another US cable provider, Suddenlink, in 2015. The Optimum buyout included three services: Optimum Online, Optimum TV and Optimum Voice. In September of 2018, the company launched a new 1 Gbps fiber service on Long Island, known as “Optimum Gigabit,” with plans to roll out fiber throughout the Optimum and Suddenlink coverage areas and to ultimately raise speeds to 10 Gbps.

As of January 30, 2020, most Optimum Online customers have a choice of five service tiers. These range from Optimum10, providing speeds of 10 Mbps, to Optimum400, supplying 400 Mbps. Additionally, in a limited-time promotion, Optimum offers a 300 Mbps plan priced at $39.99 per month for one year,  with free installation. Customers must also pay a monthly charge to lease a cable modem. On the other hand, you also get a number of free perks as an Optimum customer, including mobile hotspot access, internet security powered by McAfee and email. Optimum offers contract-free plans, with buyout offers of up to $500 from contracts with other providers. TV and phone bundling deals are available, too.

Beyond all that, many seniors and low-income families living in Optimum and Suddenlink coverage areas are eligible for an internal deal called Altice Advantage. This program provides 30 Mbps internet service at a discounted rate of $14.99 monthly. Eligible participants can also purchase an Acer laptop for $149.99. Optimum covers portions of New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Suddenlink’s coverage area includes parts of nine states in the West, Southwest, and South.

Call now to learn about internet deals near your home

When you’re shopping for an internet provider, internet offers and deals are a very important part of the equation. With the right deals in place, you can save money and gain valuable free perks. To find cheap internet near you, use this zip code tool. To ask questions and get further help, call ISP.com.

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Bedroom Windows Buying Guide

Bedroom Windows Buying Guide

Bedroom window treatments aren’t given much thought by many homeowners or renters. You might throw something over the window to block out light if you sleep late or skip it altogether if you’re an early riser. But bedroom window valances, curtains or other window treatments can help turn your house into a home, adding a uniquely personal touch. Here is what you should know.

bad bedroom cleaning habits 3
Image: Ant Clausen/Shutterstock

What are bedroom window treatments?

Although curtains are certainly included, window treatments provide a variety of options to dress-up your bedroom window. Ideas run the gamut in styling, from vintage to ultra-modern. Bedroom window treatments include everything from shades to formal drapes, as well as decorative valances, window scarves and cornices that sit above the window.

Master bedroom window treatments are often used to add luxury and serenity to the room, while window curtains for a bedroom in another part of the house might impart a different feel or function. For example, blackout curtains can make it easier for a toddler to nap.

How to buy the best bedroom window treatments

The best bedroom window treatments are the ones that work for you. You might want simple curtains for a bedroom window in a minimalist room or heavy formal drapes topped by valances in a vintage-inspired room.

It’s also important to consider the actual window. Bedroom windows come in many shapes and sizes, and some lend themselves more easily to small window treatments like mini-blinds. If your window glass is thin, thermal insulated curtains can help improve room comfort.

Choose colors that blend with the existing colors in the room, including paint and trim, for a peaceful and harmonious look. Or add drama to the room with contrasting colors and bold patterns. A color wheel can help you select colors that work well together.

Types of bedroom window treatments

Although there are seemingly innumerable styles, window treatments fall into a few simple categories:

Curtains and Drapes

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but curtains and drapes are not exactly the same thing. Both consist of two panels that come together in the center of a window (though single panel curtains also exist), but drapes are thicker, longer and more formal than curtains.

Curtains and drapes come in a range of light filtering options, from sheer to max blackout:

  • Sheer: Sheer curtains allow nearly all light to filter through. They can help reduce glare without blocking your ability to see out the window.
  • Semi-sheer: Semi-sheer curtains provide some privacy, while still allowing a great deal of light into the room.
  • Room darkening: As the name implies, these curtains greatly reduce the amount of light that comes into the room, creating a soft twilight effect.
  • Blackout: Blackout curtains offer privacy, noise reduction and some insulation while creating a dark sleeping environment even during the day.
  • Max blackout: For a truly dark sleeping experience, consider max blackout curtains, which filter 99% to 100% of light. They also provide maximum privacy and insulation, as well as protection against noise pollution.
  • Thermal insulating: Some curtains or drapes, especially blackout and max blackout styles, have an extra back panel of acrylic foam for further insulation. It’s also possible to buy a separate insulating liner for existing curtains or drapes.

Shutters

Shutters are generally the most expensive window treatment for a master bedroom or other room. However, they add the timeless elegance of wood to your bedroom design. Off the shelf shutters are available, but it’s typically better to have them custom made. This ensures that they properly fit your window for maximum protection, privacy and room-darkening effects, as well as aesthetics.

Blinds

Generally the least expensive option, blinds are also the simplest of the master bedroom window treatment ideas. Slatted and operated with a cord or small handle, blinds can sit inside or just outside the window. They can be a great choice for modern, minimalist bedrooms.

Shades

Shades are a fabric option similar to blinds. They come in several styles, from simple roller shades to elaborately folded roller shades, and in different levels of light filtration. Depending on the style, shades can go with nearly any bedroom.

Valances, Window Scarves and Cornices

Bedroom window valance ideas also include decorative window scarves and cornices, but the three are not exactly the same thing. A valance is a piece of fabric that hangs at the top of a window. Simple valances are casual, while box valances hang straighter and are considered more formal. A window scarf is a long piece of fabric that is draped loosely around a curtain rod. A cornice is a wooden frame that may be painted or covered in fabric and hung at the top of the window.

Valances, window scarves and cornices may be used alone, but they are often paired with curtains or drapes. They can add visual interest, contrast or even drama to a master bedroom window. They are sometimes used in other bedrooms as well, especially rooms with a vintage or shabby chic decorating aesthetic.

Choose the right size

Choosing the right size window treatment is extremely important. But how to measure depends on which type of window treatment you select.

For blinds or shades that will be mounted inside the window frame, measure both the length and width of the window in three different spots. Use the narrowest width and the longest length. If they will be mounted outside the frame, measure the outside of the frame and add 1.5 inches to each measurement to account for overlap.

For curtains or drapes, measure the width of the window and then add 3 to 8 inches, depending on how full you want the curtains to appear. To choose a length, decide where you want the top and bottom of the curtain to be and measure the distance between those points. Formal drapes tend to be floor length, or even puddle on the floor, while more casual curtains may hang just below the windowsill.

Interior shutters are measured similarly to blinds or shades, but exterior shutters are significantly more complicated. Consider having your window professionally measured or follow the manufacturer’s measuring instructions for the specific shutters you choose.

As long as the width is at least as wide as the window frame, you have a great deal of latitude with valances and cornices. Window scarves are the most flexible, as they are draped rather than precisely hung, but for best results choose a scarf that is significantly longer than the width of the frame.

Compare bedroom window treatment costs

Master bedroom window treatment ideas often involve multiple pieces, such as two curtain panels and a valance, so when looking at costs be sure to include everything you will need. You can find window treatments for less than $15 at big box stores, or pay hundreds of dollars per panel at specialty shops. Curtain rods are sold separately and can drive up the price. In general, the bigger the window, the more you will pay to cover it. Floor-length drapes are also typically more expensive than windowsill length curtains, and the material that you select matters a lot in the final price.

Read bedroom window treatment reviews

Bedroom window treatments come in all types, sizes, styles, and price points. Yet none of these factors is necessarily an indicator of quality. The best way to know if you are choosing window treatments that will last is to read customer reviews of them. Look for comments on durability, ease of installation and even whether the indicated sizing is accurate.

Installation

Installing most bedroom window treatments is relatively simple. You will need some basic tools such as a drill, a tape measure, a level and some screws, along with a ladder. You may also need anchors to secure the mounting brackets or hardware to the wall, depending on the type of walls you have and whether you are drilling into a stud. Outdoor shutters can be a bit tougher to install, as can window treatments for windows that are very high or large or are located in an awkward area such as above a stairwell. Always seek professional assistance if you have any doubts about your ability to safely perform the job.

Bedroom window treatment brands

There are innumerable brands for each style of bedroom window treatments, and which is objectively better depends on your individual needs. In many cases, store brands (Amazon, Home Depot, The Shade Store, Bed, Bath & Beyond) are every bit as durable and long-lasting as more expensive specialty brands. Custom window treatments are also available from both national brands and local shops. Focus on features and reviews rather than brand names, and you will find the window treatments that are right for you.

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Heat Pump Troubleshooting and Repair

Clean off your HVAC system every time you see that it’s collected dirt and debris. Image: Shutterstock/ Christian Delbert

A heat pump is one of the essential units in your home or office that operates throughout the year to cool or heat the space. While an efficiently running heat pump offers savings on your energy bills, the same unit can cost you more if not appropriately maintained. Moreover, due to its mechanical nature, a heat pump is likely to undergo wear over the years and show signs of poor performance eventually.

We’ve prepared a handy guide to assist you in recognizing these issues early so that you don’t end up spending on costly emergency repairs. Find out how you can fix some of the common heat pump problems and know when it is necessary to call an HVAC professional. The guide also provides tips on how to maintain your heat pump to ensure reliable performance all year round.

General maintenance tips for heat pumps

With proper maintenance and care, you can extend the life and performance of your heat pump and prevent sudden breakdowns. Here are some of useful maintenance tips:

  • Regularly clean the filters and replace them monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Make sure that the outdoor unit is not covered with plants and inspect the unit for any debris or ice formation. Regularly clean the unit to ensure proper airflow, especially after bad weather.
  • Avoid placing furniture or other objects near the indoor unit to prevent blocking the airflow.
  • Inspect for loose electrical connections and tighten them if necessary.
  • Check for any refrigerant leaks and top up the unit with the correct refrigerant.
  • Make sure to turn on the unit at least once every season if not in regular use.
  • Consider having your heat pump checked once per year by an HVAC professional.

Common heat pump problems

Your heat pump may run into issues over time. It may not cool or heat effectively, or might not work at all. The following are some common heat pump problems and possible ways you can fix them. Remember, if you need help, you can always consult an HVAC professional to assist you with heat pump maintenance.

Heat pump not turning on

If your heat pump isn’t turning on, it is likely due to an electrical issue. The first thing you need to do is check if your heat pump is receiving power.

If the power switch is on but the heat pump is still not working, the issue may be with the thermostat setting. Make sure that the thermostat is set to the correct mode. If you replaced the thermostat recently, you also need to check if it matches your system and is wired correctly.

Before you make a service call, make sure to also check for tripped circuit breakers or a blown fuse in the panel box. Flipping the circuit breaker and replacing the fuse might solve your issue. However, if the switch trips again, there likely is a short in the electrical system. In such cases, we recommend calling a trained professional to fix the issue.

Repair Cost: Replacing a tripped circuit breaker or a broken condenser switch can cost you around $150-$230. However, if the issue is with a broken electric motor, the cost can go up to $400.

Heat pump not cooling

If your heat pump isn’t cooling properly, first check the thermostat settings. If the temperature settings are correct, the issue might be with the thermostat wiring. Have a professional help you rewire the thermostat correctly so that it registers the temperature differences successfully.

You might also want to check if the outdoor unit is clogged with debris. Clean the unit and check if the air filters need replacement.

A heat pump might not offer effective cooling if the refrigerant level is low. A system with a low charge is also a sign of leakage. Consult an HVAC professional to fix the leakage and top up the system with the correct refrigerant.

If the above fixes don’t help, a reversing valve is likely faulty. Again, you’ll need a professional to handle this issue.

Repair Cost: Rewiring a thermostat can cost around $40 to $70 while topping up the system with refrigerant will cost about $75 to $150. The cost of replacing a faulty valve costs roughly $450-$600.

Heat pump not heating

If the heat pump isn’t providing enough heat, you should first check the thermostat settings. Most likely, the thermostat isn’t sending the signal to the outdoor unit.

The heat pump may not provide enough heat if the outdoor unit is entirely covered with snow during the winter. Consider washing the snow or debris away using a hose.

A damaged reversing valve or defrost timer can also be to blame if the heat pump isn’t able to heat the indoors properly. Have a trained professional help you with the replacement.

A system low on refrigerant charge can also lead to ineffective heating. Consider topping off the heat pump with a correct refrigerant charge. Let an HVAC professional help you in identifying the refrigerant leaks and topping up the system.

Repair Cost: Repairs related to the thermostat can cost between $40 and $150, while the cost of replacing a reversing valve is around $400-$600. Defrost timer replacement averages to $200 to $250.

Heat pump makes noises

Over time your heat pump may start producing unusual noises, and it is important not to neglect these signs to prevent your system from falling apart completely. If you hear humming sounds from your heat pump, the hardware might be loose. Tighten the fasteners if necessary.

However, if you start hearing strange sounds like squealing or grinding, the issue might be more severe, such as a faulty compressor or worn-out motor bearings. In such cases, turn off the unit immediately to avoid further damage and seek professional help to identify and resolve the issue. Repair Cost: The cost of replacing a compressor can range from $800 to $1,200.

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Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner

Living in a state with a moderate or variable climate means having multiple options for how you want to tackle the seasonal changes in weather. Most commonly, you’ll find yourself debating over heat pumps and air conditioners. 

Air conditioners are devices that absorb warm indoor air and supply cooler air instead. Heat pumps also perform the same operation, but in addition to cooling the indoor air, heat pumps can also supply hot air. On warmer days, you can use it as an air conditioner, and on cooler days, you can use them to heat the room.

If you’re planning to invest in an air conditioner or a heat pump, it is vital to consider factors such as the type of unit, unit size, energy efficiency, and cost. Continue reading this guide to learn how air conditioners and heat pumps work, the types available, and the benefits of each. Compare the costs associated with HVAC systems and find out which is best suited for your cooling or heating requirements.

SEER rating
A SEER rating is a measure of your HVAC unit’s maximum possible efficiency. Image: Shutterstock/ Konstantin L.

Heat pumps

Heat pump costs and sizes may vary, but they all have the same working principle. Let’s find out more about an HVAC heat pump system.

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is a device that transfers heat between the air inside a building space and the air outside. In a warmer climate, the unit extracts heat from the indoor air and transfers it to the outdoor air. During cooler days, this process reverses, and the unit absorbs heat from the outside air and delivers it indoors. The unit is efficient enough to extract heat from the outside air even during freezing temperatures. However, when there is no heat left to extract, an electric heater will heat the outside air to warm the indoors.

Types of heat pumps

Heat pumps are classified into two major types, air source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps. An air-source heat pump utilizes heat from the outside air, while a geothermal heat pump extracts heat from the ground.

Depending on the design, heat pumps are generally available in two types, split type and packaged units. A split type heat pump consists of two separate outdoor and indoor units, while a packaged unit comes with all the components of the system housed in a single cabinet.

Sometimes, a packaged unit also includes electric heating coils or a gas furnace, which supplements the heat pump to deliver warm air indoors during frigid weather conditions.

Heat pump benefits

  • For moderate climates, heat pumps are generally more cost-effective and energy-efficient than other means of heating, such as oil or gas furnaces.
  • Apart from lowering energy consumption, these units are also safer and relatively environmentally-friendly.
  • Heat pumps can provide both cooling and heating, eliminating the need to have a separate system to fulfill heating requirements.
  • Modern heat pumps are also reliable and have a long lifespan of around 10-15 years.
  • Depending on the area you live in, buying an energy-efficient heat pump can also make you eligible for tax rebates.
  • Heat pumps require less maintenance compared to traditional heating and cooling systems like wood stoves or fireplaces.

Heat pump costs

The cost of a heat pump with installation depends on many factors, including the unit type, size of the unit, energy efficiency ratings, location where you need the heat pump installed, and the necessary amount of ductwork.The average price of a house heat pump with installation can vary from as low as $4,100 to as much as $20,000 for a geothermal unit installed.

The best way to get accurate details on pricing and guidance on selecting the right size heat pump for your home or office is to consult a local HVAC professional in your area.

air conditioner - ducts
Your return grills, or the covers on your vents, could be to blame for your A/C issues. Image: Mile Atanasov/Shutterstock

Air Conditioners

Similar to a heat pump, an air conditioner is also available in different sizes and types, with different energy efficiencies. Let’s find how this HVAC system works in more detail.

What is an air conditioner?

Similar to a heat pump, an air conditioner performs the same job of transferring heat from one place to another, however, an air conditioner is only capable of cooling. This means that it extracts heat from the indoor air and transfers the heat outside.

The components used in this device are also similar to a heat pump which consists of an outdoor unit housing a condenser, compressor, and fan. The indoor unit includes an evaporator and a fan. A refrigerant circulates through the condenser and evaporator, absorbing heat from indoor air. The resulting cold air moves through the ducts using the fan and cools the indoors.

Types of air conditioners

Air conditioners are available in different types, including central air conditioners, split-type air conditioners, window air conditioners, and portable units. Despite their various configurations, the working principle remains the same.

A central air conditioner packs evaporator, condenser, and compressor in a single unit and is often placed on a roof. The unit is connected with the supply and return ducts installed along the walls of a home or office.

Split-type air conditioners have two separate outdoor and indoor units, and the air supply is through the ducts. There are also mini-split air conditioners that have a smaller footprint and do not require ductwork for air supply. The cold air blows through a slim indoor unit mounted on the wall.

A wall unit also combines all the components in a single box that can fit on a window. This type of air conditioner is ideal for cooling a single room. A portable air conditioner is similar to a window unit but can be easily moved from room to room.

Air conditioner benefits

  • Air conditioners offer optimum climate indoors, providing a comfortable environment even during the warmest days.
  • AC can encourage better sleep as the room temperature remains steady and at comfortable levels.
  • An air conditioner can help to improve indoor air quality by reducing allergens and pollutants.
  • Properly air-conditioned rooms can reduce dehydration

Air conditioner costs

The cost of an air conditioner can vary from $150 to $10,000 depending on the type, energy efficiency ratings, and the unit size you choose. You’ll also need to include installation cost, which can range from $1,000 to $6,000 and is dependent on factors such as unit size, the location where you need the AC installed, and the amount of ductwork that goes into setting up the system. Buying a more energy-efficient model can also save money in energy costs over time.

For accurate air conditioner pricing, consult an HVAC professional in your area.

The post Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner appeared first on Freshome.com.

The Ultimate Home Security and Safety Checklist Every Family Needs

Whether you’re planning on moving, are in the middle of a move, or are simply looking to upgrade your current setup, home safety and security are extremely important. In the United States, a home burglary happens every 23 seconds — but you can take a few simple steps today to ensure you don’t become a statistic. Review our checklist to see how secure your home currently is, and what you can do to make it even safer.

Home Security

Protect your home from burglars by ensuring that your home is equipped with helpful security features and technology. Make sure: 

  • All doors are secured with deadbolts
    • About 58% of burglaries involve forcible entry, which can be deterred by strong locks. All locks should ideally be changed before you move into a new home, and all deadbolts must be in working order.
  • All windows and sliding glass doors can be locked or secured with dowels
    • This is especially important if you live on the ground floor or if your windows or sliding glass doors are accessible from the street.
  • A neighbor or nearby friend has a copy of your house key
    • This is very helpful if you lose your keys or need a trusted person to access your home.
  • Each member of your family has a key
    • This can prevent lockouts and other inconveniences or emergencies.

 

  • Your valuables are secured in a safe
    • The average victim loses $2,416 in a burglary. Keep items like passports, fine jewelry, and birth certificates in a safe that is fireproof, waterproof, and anchored to a wall.
  • Your home is equipped with a security system
    • Consider surveillance cameras, doorbell cameras, and/or motion sensors.
  • Your home has flood lights and motion-sensitive lights
    • Strong, bright lights can be a deterrent to thieves looking to slip into your home undetected.

  • Your indoor and outdoor lights are on a timer
    • 65% of burglaries happen during the working hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Timed lights can prevent burglaries if you’re out of town or away most of the day.
  • You have exterior signs or decals stating your home is monitored 
    • Burglars are often deterred if they suspect they could trip a security system.
  • Your doors and windows can be locked remotely 
    • Many security systems have features that enable you to control locks or even your garage door from your smartphone. 
  • Trees, shrubs, and bushes are trimmed to minimize hiding spots for burglars 
    • Landscaping features should not obscure your windows or your yard, as they provide an ideal hiding space for would-be burglars.

Home Safety

Make sure you and your family are prepared in case of emergencies, natural disasters, or daily accidents. 

  • You have a first-aid kit handy
    • Your kit should include basic items like band-aids, gauze, and ice packs, and should be easily accessible.

  • You have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
    • These come standard in most homes, but check often that yours are in working order. One in four smoke alarm failures are caused by dead batteries. 
  • Fire extinguishers are available throughout your home
    • 52% of house fires are caused by cooking. Be sure you have portable fire extinguishers available in your kitchen and other areas of your home.

  • You have basic emergency supplies like batteries, flashlights, candles, canned goods, and bottled water
    • Keep your home filled with light sources and stocked with food and water in case of a power outage or storm.
    • If you want to make sure you always have emergency supplies on hand, refer to the list here to stock your supply kit.

  • You have an emergency escape plan
    • Every member of your family should know how to escape in case of an earthquake or fire, and where the meeting point is. 
  • Your home is covered by basic insurance policies
    • Depending on your location, this could include flood, fire, rental, and theft coverage.

 

  • Your home is child- and pet-proof
    • If you have a young child or pet, you’ll want to make sure wires and outlets are covered and out of reach. 

Download and print our Ultimate Home Security and Safety Guide to begin to prepare your home.

 

The post The Ultimate Home Security and Safety Checklist Every Family Needs appeared first on Freshome.com.

Find Cheap Internet Plans for Your Home Internet

Home office in back room of home

Adjust your computer for maximum comfort. Image: Shutterstock/Artazum

Some internet providers are cheaper than others. Their affordable price may be based on speed and data caps. Some internet plans can be bundled with your phone service and TV service. However, once the promotional or introductory rate has expired, you’ll need to pay for the regular price of the product. 

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve done our research and collected cheap internet services that will satisfy your needs. 

Cheap internet fees to consider  

To ensure your money is well spent, here are a few things to consider when shopping for cheap internet plans. 

Cancellation or termination fees – Some internet plans require users to opt-in on a contract that may last for one to three years. Breaking the contract may cost hundreds of dollars in cancellation fees.

Installation fees – These are fees related to the setup and installation of the equipment by a professional technician. 

Buying or using necessary equipment – Internet providers may require an additional modem and router fee. 

Introductory offers – There is usually a cheap introductory offer to encourage customers to move to another internet service provider. After the promotional offer has expired, customers pay more expensive regular rates. 

Data limits or data caps – Internet plans may be cheaper because of data limits or data caps. However, if users go over the limit, they may be charged with additional fees.

How to save money on cheap internet plans

If you’re on a tight budget, here are some hacks to get cheap internet plans. 

Bundling – Companies may offer bundled plans that let them get cable, internet and phone service at a discounted price. Choosing bundled deals are often a lot cheaper than buying each service individually. 

Promotions – First-time customers can take advantage of promotional or introductory rates for one year. 

Freebies, perks or discounts –  Consider taking advantage of plans that offer promos like free installation and free equipment. Some ISPs offer discounts to students, military personnel or senior citizens. 

Low-income assistance programs – ISPs may offer assistance programs to families with low income so they can get internet access. 

Top providers of cheap internet 

In the following table, we compare the top providers of cheap internet to help you assess your options.

Provider: CenturyLink

Availability: 36 states

Top Speed: Up to 940 Mbps

Satisfaction Rating: 69/100 2019 ACSI score

Starting Price: $49/mo.

Contract: N

 

Provider: Cox

Availability: 18 states

Top speed: Up to 150 Mbps

Satisfaction Rating: 59/100 2019 ACSI Score

Starting Price: $29.99/mo

Contract: N

 

Provider: Frontier

Availability:  29 states

Top speed: Up to 115 Mbps

Satisfaction Rating: 57/100 2019 ACSI Score

Starting Price: $27.99/mo

Contract: N

 

Provider: Verizon

Availability: 11 states

Top speed: Up to 940 Mbps

Satisfaction Rating: 68/100 2019 ACSI Score

Starting Price$39.99/mo

Contract: N

 

Provider: Xfinity 

Availability: 39 states

Top speed: Up to 2,000 Mbps

Satisfaction Rating: 57/100 2019 ACSI Score

Starting Price: $39.99/mo

Contract: N

*As of 1/24/2020

Note that the availability of these providers and the prices may vary based on your location. We highly recommend the use of our zip code finder tool to find out the cheap internet service options in your area. 

Comparing cheap internet providers

There are a variety of fees and extra costs charged by internet providers so here’s what you need to know.

CenturyLink

CenturyLink’s speed ranges from 20 Mbps to 940 Mbps from $49 per month. Some perks include no contracts, no cancellation fees, and 24/7 internet support. Users can bundle their internet plan with the CenturyLink phone plan for unlimited nationwide calling and a DIRECTV package. However, their cheaper plans may be slower than advertised.

Cox 

Cox internet speeds range from 10 Mbps to 150 Mbps with a price starting from $29.99. Additional bundle offers include phone, TV equipment and access to premium channels. Although their internet plans seem cheap, their extra charges include a modem rental fee, an optional “Cox Complete Care” service at $10 per month and a self-installation fee at $20.

Frontier 

Frontier’s internet plans range from 6 Mbps to 45 Mbps with a price starting from $27.99. Frontier offers cheap internet plans and users can save more by bundling with Frontier TV and Frontier Voice for long-distance calling. While first-time customers can waive installation fees, their plans have a late payment fee of $10 and early terminations fees of up to $400. 

Verizon

Verizon’s speed ranges from 100 Mbps to 940 Mbps with a price starting from $39.99. Customers have the option to bundle their internet service with a TV package, home phone, and 24/7 customer support. Unlike other providers, Verizon offers internet security at an additional cost in their subscription plans, which may drive away potential customers. However, parents may love their premium plans which include a free 12-month subscription to Disney+.

Xfinity

Xfinity’s speeds range from 15 Mbps to 2,000 Mbps with a price starting from $39.99 per month. Customers have the option to bundle their Internet service with cable TV which costs $49.99 per month. All their packages include a Voice Remote and a 4K streaming box at no additional cost. The drawback to using Xfinity is the additional fees such as the HD fee for $10, an additional TV fee of up to $9.99 per month and DVR fee of $10 per month.   

How easy is it to switch to a cheap internet provider?

Before you make the switch to a cheap internet provider, consider the fees for breaking the contract. Cancellation fees are usually around $200 and there are hidden fees in your new internet service. 

Most internet providers will charge for installation and setup which can cost up to $200. You may even need to reuse, rent or purchase new equipment. To get an accurate quote, visit the ISPs website or contact customer service. 

Frequently asked questions 

  1. Is there low-income internet assistance? 
    ISPs that offer low-income assistance programs such as Cox Connect2Compete (up to 15 Mbps for $9.95 per month,  Spectrum (up to 30 Mbps for $14.99 per month) and Xfinity (up to 15 Mbps for $9.95 per month).
  2. Can I get free WiFi? 
    Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity users can stay connected by accessing the company’s WiFi hotspots scattered across the city. Cox has the largest WiFi network which features 650,000+ internet hotspots nationwide. 
  3. How can I save money on internet services? 
    Customers can save money on internet packages by utilizing bundles, promotions, and discounts. 
  4. What’s the cheapest kind of internet connection? 
    DSL is usually the cheapest kind of internet connection. 
  5. How much should a cheap internet cost? 
    Internet plans can cost as low as $27.99 per month but know the hidden fees to avoid extra charges.  

Call now to learn about cheap internet providers near you

Finding cheap internet service providers is fast and easy. Use ISP.com’s zip code finder to find the best deals in your location. You may also get in touch with ISP’s dedicated team to get help and ask questions about each internet provider in your area.

 

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