How to Choose the Right Home Security System for Your House

Ensuring the safety and security of your home is serious business. When it comes time to install a home security system, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to be sure to pick the right one. So what should you be looking for when you decide which security system to buy?

With that question in mind, we’ve laid out a few of your biggest considerations below. Read them over so you can feel confident that you know how to keep your family safe.

home security system

Home security systems have evolved far beyond the basic alarm. Image: Sami_lelya/Shutterstock

Wireless vs. hardwired

Traditionally, security systems have relied on analog phone lines to provide you with around-the-clock connection to your security company. While companies still offer these types of systems, you may want to think beyond them. Hardwired phone lines are becoming increasingly rare these days and may soon be totally obsolete.

Instead, your real choice is between a connection that’s through your wifi or cellular network. Ideally, you should choose a model that has the capacity to connect through either method. That way, while the bulk of the monitoring happens over wifi, you’ll still be protected if your network goes down.

monitor

It’s important to consider who you ultimately want to be responsible for monitoring your home’s safety. Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Professional vs. self-monitoring

Luckily, if the idea of being watched over by a corporate security company doesn’t appeal to you, you now have the option to opt out. So-called self-monitoring security systems allow you to take overseeing the safety of your home into your own hands. With these systems, you receive an email or a text message when a threat is detected. Deciding what step to take next is up to you.

However, if you prefer the idea of having someone there to watch your back, you can always go the traditional route and get a professionally-monitored system. Just be aware that receiving 24/7 professional monitoring usually comes at an extra cost per month.

features

Think about which additional features you might want your security system to include. Image: Grzegorz_P/Shutterstock

Consider additional features

Thanks to new advances in technology, a home security system is now capable of doing much more than sounding an alarm and alerting the authorities. Are you looking for a more comprehensive approach to security? You may want to invest in a system that includes some additional features, such as:

Video monitoring

Most smart home security systems offer a video monitoring option. With most video monitoring packages, you place cameras around the perimeter of your home, which you can then check in on from an app. Some security packages allow you the option to upgrade to indoor monitoring, as well. Other systems include an option that allows you to see who is at the front door each time the doorbell rings.

Light/lock controls

The next feature to consider is having the ability to control the locks on your doors and/or your lights with just a tap of a button. Typically, you control these tasks via an app. Some systems also give you the opportunity to control other aspects of your home, including your HVAC system.

Sensors

Some home security system packages include motion-activated sensors. Exactly what these sensors can do may vary. Sometimes they can be used to turn lights on if motion is detected. Other times, they’re part of the system that allows you to unlock your door from afar.

The post How to Choose the Right Home Security System for Your House appeared first on Freshome.com.

20 Fab Hammocks and Hanging Chair Styles for a Summer Siesta

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Hammocks are hot right now. It’s partially because the boho-chic trend is so popular (and a hammock chair is a great boho accessory). And what better time to enjoy some gentle swinging or a siesta in a hanging chair?

There are endless styles on the market so we’ll focus on ones that are comfortable and incredibly stylish. Here are our favorite hammocks right now:

Swing chair with stand styles

If you don’t have space to hang a hammock, a modern swing chair with a stand is a great option. Place it in a corner or near a window and add some pillows to make the swing chair inviting and comfortable.

modern hammocks, hanging chair and swing chairs

Hammocks

The classic hammock is normally hung between two trees or posts. Or you can buy one that comes with a hammock stand. Many styles are lightweight and portable, making it possible to have a siesta nearly anywhere.

hanging chair and hammocks

Manaus Majesty Hammock at Amazon, click for price

hanging chair and hammocks



Modern hanging chair styles

Hanging basket chairs or hammock chairs are one of the most popular hammock styles because they work in small spaces.

swing chairs, hammocks and hanging chair styles
swing chairs, hammocks and hanging chair styles
swing chairs, hammocks and hanging chair styles
swing chairs, hammocks and hanging chair styles




You can hang most of these hammocks and hanging chair styles indoors or outdoors. Find a favorite spot, set one up and enjoy the relaxing summer ahead!

The post 20 Fab Hammocks and Hanging Chair Styles for a Summer Siesta appeared first on Freshome.com.

How to Flush Your Hot Water Heater

Your hot water heater is your pal. Very few people look forward to a cold shower, but a luxurious steamy one or — better yet — a long soak in the tub can be just what you need to decompress from a stressful day or shake off muscular soreness. Your hot water heater takes care of you, and you need to return the favor. How? It’s pretty simple, actually. Flush it once a year. Now, unless you’re a home maintenance pro, that probably begs a question. How do you flush your hot water heater?

Fear not, hot water lover. We’ve assembled a simple step-by-step guide to help you get through this process with minimal mess and optimal results. But first, let’s talk about why it’s important.

flush your hot water heater

If you like your hot showers, flush your hot water heater once a year. Image: Andrey tiyk/Shutterstock

Why you need to flush your hot water heater

You probably already have a lot of home maintenance needs pulling at your attention. Why add one more to the list? Because you like hot water, that’s why. And you want to keep it flowing freely in your home. And without a regular flushing, your water heater can suffer from a buildup of sediment. This reduces the efficiency of your hot water heater and can even plug up your water lines. That’s no good. But don’t stress. With a pretty simple yearly flush, you can keep your hot water heater running efficiently and extend its lifespan.

How to do it

Ready to get started? You won’t need much. Really, the key essentials are:

  • A hose
  • A towel
  • A wrench

This list assumes that you can run the hose somewhere to allow the water from your hot water heater can drain safely. If not, get a couple of five-gallon buckets ready to capture what you drain. You might also want to consider the bucket method if you’re water conscious. If you let the water cool first, you can use the water in your garden. Just avoid giving it to delicate plants that might not appreciate the sediment the water likely contains.

In addition to gathering your materials, there’s another key step you really can’t skip. Check the warranty for your hot water heater. Performing maintenance yourself, even simple maintenance like this, could void your warranty. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Assuming your warranty gives you the go-ahead, you’re ready to get to it.

flush your hot water heater - temp

If you have a gas water heater, turn the gas control to “Pilot” before you get started. Image: Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock

Step one: Cut off power and water

Safety first! Make sure your water heater is disconnected from its power source before you get started. If it’s electric, that means turning off the circuit breaker at your main breaker panel, then unplugging it. If it’s gas, note the temp it’s at for later, then turn the gas control knob to “Pilot.” Make sure your water heater is completely turned off before you move forward because draining water away from the heating element when it’s working can damage it.

Then, turn off your water heater’s water supply by shutting off the cold water valve. It will be located at the top of or above your water heater along a pipe that supplies it with cold water. A 90-degree turn will usually shut off the water.

If you can, wait overnight before you proceed to step two. This will allow your hot water heater to cool off so you’re not dealing with scalding water in next steps. If you can’t, use extra care.

Step two: Prevent a vacuum

You don’t want anything funky happening with your water lines while you flush your hot water heater, so go turn on the hot water somewhere in your house. Having this water source open will prevent a vacuum from forming as the tank drains.

flush your hot water heater - hose

Connect a hose to your hot water heater to drain the water and sediment without a huge mess. Image: C5Media/Getty Images

Step three: Get ready to drain

You’re about to empty out your hot water heater and all that water needs to go somewhere. Control it by connecting a hose to the drain valve. It will be located at the bottom of your water heater and will probably look a lot like a standard garden faucet. Tighten the hose with a wrench and drape a towel over the connection so you don’t have to deal with any spray issues.

Feed the hose somewhere the water can safely drain or put it in a bucket. Next, open the pressure relief valve towards the top of your water heater. It’s usually a lever you simply flip.

Step four: Drain it

If you didn’t let your water cool, be ready for hot water to flow quickly out of your tank. Consider gloves or towels to protect your skin. If you’re using the bucket method,  have a second bucket ready to take its place when it gets full. Alternately, you can turn off the drain valve when the water nears the top of your bucket, drain it, then reopen the valve and refill your bucket, emptying as needed until your water heater is empty.

Ready? Open the drain valve and watch all that water and sediment pour out. Keep going until the tank is empty.

Step five: Flush it

Reopen the cold water valve at the top of your tank for a few seconds, then shut it off again and let the water drain. This will stir up any leftover sediment so you can fully flush your hot water heater. Repeat this process until you don’t see any more sediment coming out of your tank.

flush your hot water heater - sink

Leave all your faucets open as you refill your hot water heater’s tank to prevent air bubbles. Image: bmphotographer/Shutterstock

Step six: Refill it

Close the drain valve and close the pressure relief valve. Disconnect your hose. Next comes a sort of annoying step. Turn on all the hot water faucets in your house (sinks, bathtubs, showers, etc.). Having these freely flowing as you refill your tank prevents any pressure issues from arising within your water lines.

Then, turn the cold water supply back on and let your tank fill. Once it’s full, slowly reopen the pressure relief valve again to let any excess air get released. Then, close it again.

Now, head back to your faucets. Once water flow returns to steady (keep an eye out for hiccups and spurts that are indicative of air bubbles), turn them all off.

Step seven: Restore power

If your water heater is electric, plug it back into the wall before you restore power to it at your main circuit breaker. Then, turn it back on at the breaker box.

If it’s gas, relight the pilot and turn the knob back to the temperature at which it was previously set.

Listen to your water heater. You’ll be able to hear it start working again. In about 30 minutes, test that you have hot water again.

Voilà! You’ve just learned how to flush your hot water heater, extending its life and increasing its efficiency. Again, make sure you check your warranty before attempting any maintenance yourself. You can also always hire a licensed professional to flush your water heater. The point is simply to take good care of your hot water. Now, it’s time to reward yourself. But will you choose a shower or a bath?

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Exclusive! HGTV/DIY Host Matt Blashaw’s Outdoor Lighting Tips and Tricks

You’re probably ready to start relaxing and entertaining outdoors during the day and at night. For the latter, you’ll need strategically placed lighting for safety reasons. But there’s no reason why your lighting can’t be both functional and stylish.

Matt Blashaw. Photo credit Chaz Curr

TV host, landscape expert and realtor Matt Blashaw. Photo: Chaz Curr

Matt Blashaw, the popular HGTV and DIY host of Yard Crashers, Money Hunters and Vacation House For Free, has teamed up with the makers of Philips Hue smart lighting. Freshome asked Blashaw (who is also a landscaping expert and realtor) for some tips to help transform your outdoor spaces with the latest lighting available today.

Lights can help to create the perfect ambiance. Image: Travis Wolfe/Shutterstock

Lights can help to create the perfect ambiance. Image: Travis Wolfe/Shutterstock

Choose the right lighting

“Make sure you use lighting that’s specifically designed to withstand the elements. It should be outdoor-rated,” Blashaw tells Freshome. There are a lot of different types of outdoor lighting, so how do you know which should be used in which applications? Blashaw offers a quick guide.

Pathway lights serve a variety of functions.

Pathway lights like the Philips Hue Calla Outdoor Bollard serve a variety of functions. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

“Install pathway lighting to create an inviting path up to your front door, spotlights to enhance structures and create subtle moods and lightstrips under your shade structures to transform the area into the perfect entertaining space,” Blashaw says. He also recommends swapping out your exterior wall lights to add color and drama.

“No matter what kind of light your home requires, from the driveway to the front door to the patio in your backyard, lighting is a great way to transform your space.”

Use a variety of lights to achieve the perfect result. I

Use a variety of lights to achieve the perfect result, like the Philips Hue Calla Outdoor Bollard. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

Pathway lighting

“Pathway lighting is perfect to define walkways, add safety and connect your outdoor spaces visually,” Blashaw says. “Space out your pathway lighting to get the proper amount of coverage. I like to leave about 6 feet between lights.”

Philips Hue Lily.

Use Philips Hue Lily Spotlights on a wall or in your flowerbed. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

Spotlights

“One of my favorite lighting elements to install in a yard are spotlights, but you should be thoughtful about placement,” Blashaw says. He recommends that you pick a few of the most visually interesting plants or trees to illuminate. Then, use other types of lighting in planters to balance the effect. “This will provide visual definition to your space and not wash out all of the detail your yard has to offer.”

You can also create focal points with the Philips Hue Lily Spotlight. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

He says that spotlights can be placed either in front of or behind the trees in the landscape. “Each position creates a completely different effect,” Blashaw says. “Lighting from the front will enhance the plants’ natural texture and cast a silhouette on any structure behind them for even more visual interest.”

Philips Hue Lily Spotlight‘s integrated color bulbs allow you to change the ambiance. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

“Lighting a tree from the front with two spotlights on either side will enhance the texture of the bark and leaves,” Blashaw says. “I will sometimes install the spotlight on the ground at the rear of the tree in order to separate it from the rest of the landscape and set a dramatic mood.”

If you want to make a large yard seem cozier, Blashaw says you should only light the elements that are closer to the living space. “Don’t light trees and shrubs that are too far in the distance without adding any lights in between them and the living space,” he recommends. “I like to use spotlights in the planter beds and bollards on the pathway that closely interact with my main living space.” To achieve the best effect, make sure that you’re also properly maintaining your lawn.

Philips Hue Outdoor Lightstrips are bendable and durable. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

Lightstrips

“Lightstrips are the perfect way to create a one-of-a-kind event in your yard 365 days a year,” Blashaw says. One advantage of lightstrips is that Blashaw says they can be shaped to fit the contour of any garden bed or defined space in your yard.

Use Philips Hue Outdoor Lightstrips to create diffused light. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

“I love to install them right against my planters to add a one-of-a-kind look and make them sparkle,” he says. “Add them to the planter beds in front of your house, too, to turn up the curb appeal and define your landscape.”

Make your home a welcoming sight.

Make your home a welcoming sight. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

Wall lights

“You can’t forget about finding the right light to highlight the facade of your home,” Blashaw says.

Traditional wall lanterns can also add interest to your home's exterior.

Traditional wall lanterns like the Philips Hue Inara Outdoor Wall Light can also add interest to your home’s exterior. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

“Add lights to each side of any front door entryway to give your guests a welcoming entrance,” Blashaw advises. In addition to providing safety, wall lights can also be used to create the desired ambiance. Here, your color choices are important.

Floor your backyard with soft colors.

Floor your backyard with soft colors using the Philips Hue Discover Outdoor Floodlight. Image courtesy of Philips Hue.

These lighting tips can help you bring your outdoor spaces to life. But if your home isn’t ready for summer, check out this list of interior and exterior maintenance tasks that you need to tackle ASAP.

The post Exclusive! HGTV/DIY Host Matt Blashaw’s Outdoor Lighting Tips and Tricks appeared first on Freshome.com.

How to Decorate with Neon Lights Indoors

Are you looking for a way to add a fun, artsy twist to your home? Then you might want to consider neon lights.

At first, this can feel like a tacky idea usually reserved for bars and the windows of tattoo parlors. But you can actually make neon lights work right in your home in ways that are classy and add a unique style. From accenting wall art and word art to more extreme uses like making a futuristic game room, you may be surprised to learn just some of the possibilities of neon lights in a residential space.

This is also a fairly easy way to get a new look in your home. Many custom neon fixtures can run around a couple hundred dollars or more from a shop. But you can also find neon-style signs for residential uses on sites like Amazon. Take this “dream” sign, for example. These tend to run around $10 to $80 depending on the size and complexity of the design. And generally, neon-style signs take just a few minutes to hang. Lighting a whole room with neon lights, however, might take the help of a professional remodeler or electrician.

Neon Lights Home Sign

For a cozy, welcoming feel, choose neon words with a domestic connotation. Image: JY J/Shutterstock

Use Words to Create Ambiance

The most common way to use neon lights, or even neon-style LED lights, is to use them to spell out certain words that create a specific mood in the home. For instance, the sign in the photo above creates a comfortable feel by literally just spelling the word home. Some other ideas for neon word signs that would look great in living rooms or bedrooms include:

  • Welcome
  • Family
  • Dream
  • Inspirational quotes, like “do what you love”
  • Hello
  • Be happy
  • Goodnight
  • Good vibes only
  • Your favorite song lyrics

Along similar lines, you could also go with different images, like moon outlines.

Neon Lights Accent Colors

Neon lights can also accent the elements that are already in the room. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Accent Items with Neon Lights

Another great use for neon-style lights is to use them to accent items you already have in the home. You can see in the photo above how you could use a neon lighting style around art on the wall, as is the case with the red lighting on the wall hanging. It really makes the bright art pop all the more.

You could also use neon lights to add a glow from under major pieces of furniture. An example is the light that glows from under the cooktop island in the photo above. People often place colored lighting under cabinets for some accent lighting, so why not go neon?

Neon Lights Game Room Design

Vertical neon lights can create a massive statement look. Image: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

Create a Futuristic Space

A more involved idea comes in the form of the game room in the photo above. By adding neon vertical lighting, you can create a room that has a futuristic element to it. As the photo above shows, this is the perfect setting for a gaming room. But it could also work in artsy bedrooms, den areas and man caves.

For this idea, you would need thick neon lights sold in straight bars. You might also have to hire a professional remodeler or electrician to hook up the lighting properly.

And remember, properly installed and constructed neon lighting should never run warm. If you find one that is, you will want to invest in a higher quality light.

The post How to Decorate with Neon Lights Indoors appeared first on Freshome.com.

How to Save Money on Furniture by Knowing What to Keep

Bedroom Furniture Ideas

Combine old and new furniture for a stylish new bedroom. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

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When you’re ready for a new look for your home, your budget may not stretch far enough to replace every piece of furniture in a room. Keeping what you love and what works in your home while strategically adding new pieces is a great way to save money. 

Whether you’re redecorating or moving, knowing what to keep is essential. So how do you make hard decisions about what stays and what goes?

Drawing up a simple floorplan of your space is the first step to knowing how much furniture you’ll need. Then, measuring out and taping your new layout will help you see what will work in your space. You’ll be able to easily pinpoint holes where you need to add new furniture. 

Living Room Decorating Ideas

Create a stylish living room with just a few new pieces of furniture. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

What furniture styles are the easiest to add to your space?

When you bring new furniture into your home, you don’t have to stay with the same style as your existing decor. That said, there are styles that are easier to incorporate. Look for furniture that has simple and clean lines, like contemporary and mid-century modern pieces. Adding these styles can also give your space a trendy update without a big price tag. 

Transitional is a comfortable style that draws from traditional and contemporary lines. This popular style works well for updating a traditional home without going in an entirely different decorating direction.

If your room already has a strong style story, simple additions won’t detract from what you already have in there. If your room is neutral or decorated in simple furnishings, then look for dynamic new pieces that give your space that pulled-together look. 

Colorful Dining Chairs

Brighten up your dining room with colorful new chairs. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

How to make the biggest impact with new furniture

Purchasing the right furniture and accessories can make a big impact on your room, even if you only choose a few items. Here are the furnishings that make the biggest splash:

  • Accent Chairs: Create a new conversation area in your living room.
  • Dining Room Chairs: Colorful chairs can be the answer to a boring dining room.
  • Dining Room Bench: Need a little more space for dining? A new bench can replace two dining room chairs and give your table an updated look.
  • Bedroom Accent Chair or Bench: Every bedroom benefits from a simple seating space.
  • Console Table for Foyer: Add this accent piece to liven up your home’s entryway.
  • Ottomans and Poufs: Bold colors and boho fabrics are the on-trend looks right now.
  • Sofa and Chair Covers: High-quality furniture covers can extend the life of your sofa and chairs and incorporate new colors and textures into your room.
  • New Lamps: Lamps and light fixtures can feel dated after several years. A new lamp is an effortless mood-lifter for a sleepy room.
neutral living room ideas

You can use color to update your living room with pretty new accessories. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutter/Stock

How to use color to style your new and old furniture together

Color is the element that can tie your existing furniture with your newly-purchased pieces. Using color as the unifying feature in your space is a simple way to make your new style look effortless. Here’s how to make the most out of color in your rooms:

  • Use Your Existing Color Palette: If you love your color palette now, then shop for new furniture and decor that works with everything you already have — simple!
  • Add One or Two New Accent Colors: Have fun with color by adding new decor to your color scheme.
  • Use Accessories: Colorful accessories can serve as a bridge between all of your furniture. Add throw pillows, artwork and decorative items with colors from your existing and new furniture. 

The post How to Save Money on Furniture by Knowing What to Keep appeared first on Freshome.com.

Container Gardens: Landscaping for Renters

container garden 3

Completely removable and customizable, a container garden is a renter’s dream. Image: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

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So you’re renting. And, sure, that’s going to limit you in some ways. You probaly won’t replace those countertops you hate and you’re not going to paint the walls (you might throw up some removable wallpaper, though). But you can transform your outdoor space. With a container garden, you don’t need your landlord’s approval to avoid forfeiting your security deposit.

Why container gardens are ideal for renters

A container garden presents a world of possibilities. Homeowners love them for a few of the reasons we’re about to get into, but they really shine if you’re paying rent for your space. Here’s why.

container garden 2

Your container garden can move with you. Image: Visit Roemvanitch/EyeEm/Getty Images

They’re not permanent

It’s the renter’s dilemma: do you live with parts of your space that you dislike or do you risk losing your security deposit to change them? We can’t help you out with that terrible bathroom grout or oddly colored carpet in your bedroom, but when it comes to outdoor space, we’ve got a solution. If you want to landscape your space in a way you can remove without a trace, choose a container garden. When you move out, all you need to do it pack up your pots and your landlord will be none the wiser.

They’re portable

Plants are expensive, especially if you want large-scale ones to capitalize on the plant-focused design trends taking over in 2019. And it’s a real shame to dump money into something you’re going to have to leave behind when you hand over your keys.

But with a container garden, you don’t have to worry. All your lovely plants can come with you wherever you relocate to next.

container garden 1

You can add a container garden virtually anywhere to put your personal design on your outdoor space. Image: Linda Raymond/Getty Images

Containers are design-friendly

Oftentimes if you’re renting, space is tight. You want to make your rental feel like your own, but options can feel limited. Expanding your design into your outdoor areas expands your opportunity to make your rental feel like home. And it can take formerly dreary areas — like a concrete patio or plain front steps — and transform them.

And planters are pretty versatile these days. You can get ultra-mod monochromatic concrete ones, metal ones, and patterned ones. You can go with the classic terracotta or put your plants in rustic-inspired wooden planter boxes. Your options are endless, which means your design options are, too. You can use the containers you pick to set the tone for your outdoor space. It’s where your green thumb meets exterior design.

They don’t need soil

If you’re a renter with an actual yard, congrats. But if you’re living in a walk-up with a small patio, an apartment with a concrete slab out back, or a rental with virtually no outdoor space, you don’t have to give up your landscaping dreams. With a container garden, you can add some green without any preexisting soil.

container garden 6

Ready, set, plant! Here’s what you should know about setting up your garden. Image: PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson/Getty Images

How to set up your own container garden

Sold on the idea? Sweet. Because we’ve got more good news: starting your container garden is easy. Like, really easy. Take a quick look at the steps:

  • Pick your location. It helps if you have a fair idea of what types of plants you’re going to want since certain types of plants require certain amounts of light. Think through where you’re going to put your containers and how you’re going to arrange them before you start buying stuff.
  • Pick your plants. Next, choose your plants. Again, remember to think about their light requirements. If your chosen place doesn’t have much light, don’t worry. Just head to the indoor section of your home improvement store and choose from the plants you find there.
  • Pick your containers. Now that you know which plants you’re going to use, you can get containers that will fit them. Pro tip: check the bottom for drainage holes unless you’re keen on drilling them yourself. And if you’re going to be placing your container garden somewhere draining water could be an issue (e.g., on a wood surface), buy saucers to place under your containers, too.
  • Get a watering can or pitcher (if necessary). If you don’t have a water source near where you plan to place your container garden, buy something to make watering easy.
  • Buy soil. Unless you’re really talented or really lucky, you probably didn’t choose plants that will fit exactly in each of the containers you chose. Buy some potting soil to help them fit comfortably.
container garden 5

With proper plant care, your container garden will thrive. Image: Maskot/Getty Images

Now you’re ready to get to planting. Make sure you read the care tips on your plants before you take them out of their pots or toss those little plant care tags they stick in the soil.

Then, water regularly, give them plenty of plant food and you’ll be well on your way to the container garden of your dreams.

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Small Apartment in Taipei Reveals Great Storage Options

All images courtesy of A Little Design.

This small apartment in Taipei, Taiwan, envisioned by A Little Design studio, ranks high in creativity. Despite a total living space of 22 square meters (236 square feet), the flat is as practical as it gets.

According to the designers, the space clearly defines all the living functions. The stairs lead the way to the upper “bedroom” but also increase the accessibility to the cabinets in the wall. A fridge and a cupboard are located under the stairs, thus expanding the kitchen.

“The sofa area behind the wardrobe is a small, cozy corner which makes up for not having a living room,” the designers further explained. “The sofa can also be used as a single bed to host a guest and the deep drawers below complement the storage.”

Specially designed for a business person permanently on the move, the apartment had to include an ingenious solution for a working space. It more than meets that requirement. First, it has a retractable table upstairs that serves as a desk. Additionally, a side table adjoins the sofa on the ground level, perfect for placing books and magazines when working. And the sofa becomes an ideal reading nook with plenty of natural light coming through the large window.

Enjoy the virtual gallery below and let us know if there are other details that you find inspiring.

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Here’s Why an HVAC Inspection is Worth the Cost

Is an HVAC inspection worth the small price now? Absolutely, especially when you consider you’re avoiding a big, unexpected repair bill later. During an annual HVAC maintenance visit, a licensed AC technician can spot issues and prevent the need for costly repairs.

HVAC maintenance by HVAC technicians near me

An annual HVAC maintenance visit can save you on repair and energy costs. Image: Serenethos/Shutterstock

Is an HVAC inspection worth the money?

An HVAC system costs thousands of dollars and features lots of moving parts that wear down over time. A neglected system doesn’t work its best.

According to the contractor-consumer matching website Thumbtack.com, the average HVAC technician charges $50 to $80 for an AC service tune-up. Compare that to a repair, which can run you between $150 and $1,000 on average, and it’s a no-brainer. It pays to prevent HVAC problems before they happen.

You’re also likely to save money on your energy bills after a spring HVAC maintenance visit. The Department of Energy says that routinely replacing or cleaning your AC’s air filters (one of the jobs an HVAC technician performs during the tune-up) can reduce your home’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

HVAC inspection and AC maintenance schedule by HVAC technicians near me

An HVAC inspection should be performed at least once per year. Image: I AM NIKOM/Shutterstock

When should I schedule an HVAC maintenance visit?

Spring is an ideal time for HVAC maintenance. You’ll be running your air conditioner soon enough, so get your preventative maintenance in early. The last thing you want is your AC to break down and leave you in the lurch on the hottest day of summer. And scheduling an HVAC inspection before the summer busy season could save you money on the visit.

If your system also includes heating, the technician can inspect the heating elements during the same visit. Or if you use your heating as much as your air conditioning, you may want to schedule two inspections separately: a spring inspection to review your AC system and a fall inspection to review your heating system.

HVAC technicians near me for HVAC service

During an HVAC maintenance visit, the technician reviews and inspects all components. Image: Joyseulay/Shutterstock

What should I expect during an HVAC tune-up?

An HVAC technician will set a time to visit your home. The HVAC maintenance visit takes about an hour. If the refrigerant needs a refill, it may add another 30 minutes to the service visit. During your appointment, a technician will inspect all the components of your system. This includes checking:

  • The thermostat
  • Electrical connections
  • Refrigerant levels
  • Controls

And adjusting, replacing or cleaning the coils, plus:

  • Adjusting and lubricating moving parts
  • Straightening the fins
  • Cleaning the condensation drain
  • Changing the air filter
  • Adjusting the blower motor and all belts
HVAC inspection

A licensed HVAC technician is familiar with all aspects of an annual HVAC maintenance schedule. Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

How to choose an HVAC technician near you

Most states require HVAC technicians to be licensed (or certified) and insured. There’s good reason for this requirement: state licensing programs are designed to protect consumers by requiring that HVAC technicians have experience working with heating and cooling systems and are adequately insured to cover anything that could go wrong while working in your home.

Once you find an HVAC technician near you, you can check to see that their license and insurance is up to date, by state, at contractorquotes.com.

HVAC maintenance schedule

One of the HVAC maintenance jobs you can DIY is to keep your unit(s) clear of shrubbery and debris. Image: Christian Delbert/Shutterstock

Can I do my own annual HVAC service or should I hire an HVAC technician near me?

There are a few things you can do to maintain your HVAC system yourself. Most maintenance and service, however, should be left to a licensed professional, or you could void your warranty. Some of tjhe tasks you can do yourself to extend the life and function of your heating and cooling systems include:

  • Change your filters at least once a year
  • Trim all grass and shrubs around the AC unit outside and clean away any debris like cobwebs or leaves
  • Check the insulation around the exterior unit for damage
  • Clean the air vents inside your home

Your HVAC unit is an essential part of your home. Just because it quietly runs behind the scenes doesn’t mean you can forget about it. An hour of your time once a year and an affordable visit by a licensed HVAC technician can extend the life of your unit — and your family’s comfort level.

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Tips for Restoring Your Wood Floors

Hardwood floors have an incomparable beauty and they can add warmth and style to any room. Whether you have a traditional home with architectural details or a modern, industrial space, hardwoods fit right in. That’s why many homeowners even use hardwood floors in kitchens and bathrooms.

If you’re fortunate enough to have original hardwood floors, consider restoring their original beauty. Below are tips from two hardwood flooring experts to help.

recoat floor

Sometimes, your floors only need a recoating. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Recoat or Refinish?

If your wood floors start to look dull, they can be renewed through recoating. “A maintenance coat involves cleaning the existing floor’s finish, then lightly sanding it,” explains Brett Miller, VP of Education & Certification for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). “After that, you just need an application of a fresh new coat of wood floor finish.”

Miller recommends applying a new coat to your floors every three to five years. However, he says your maintenance schedule may depend on wear and tear, as well as your lifestyle.

“However, a complete sand and refinish is recommended when there are deep scratches, dents and other flooring damage,” Miller explains. He also recommends this process if the finish is worn away and the bare wood is exposed. This may be the case if you purchase a fixer-upper home. And there’s another benefit to doing a complete sand and refinish. “Sanding a floor back to raw wood is the perfect opportunity to change the color of the floor,” Miller says.

equipment

The right equipment makes a big difference. Image courtesy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing.

Don’t Use the Wrong Equipment

“Wood floor restoration starts with sanding the floor,” Kate Gailunas, Interior Designer and Owner of N-Hance Wood Refinishing, explains. “This strips away the previous finish and removes surface-level scuffs and scratches.”

However, if you try to sand the floor with home power tools, she says you might sand the floors unevenly. And that’s the best-case scenario. Gailunas warns that you could also severely damage the wood. “Do it right — use a drum sander,” she advises.

before and after

Before and after. Image courtesy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing.

Avoid Uneven Sanding

But even if you use a drum sander, there’s no guarantee that you won’t make mistakes if you’re not careful. “Under-sanding can leave spots of old stains or finish,” she says. “And then these areas are unsuitable for refinishing.”

And, there’s something even worse than under-sanding. “Over-sanding can lead to divots or scratches that only a professional can fix,” Gailunas says.

even color

Take your time to ensure an even color. Image: pics721/Shutterstock

Be Aware of Improper Edging

Also, be advised that a drum sander cannot get close enough to your walls and baseboards to sand them. “To get these areas, you’ll need an edger,” Gailunas says. You’ll also need to be patient when using the edger. “Don’t rush these areas, because it results in a noticeable color/texture difference around the edge of the room with a higher risk of degradation,” she says.

before and after 2

Before and after photos. Image courtesy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing.

Notice Lingering Wood Dust

The sanding process will create a lot of wood dust. “Keep this in mind when you’re applying the stain/finish to your floors,” Gailunas says. Thoroughly clean the floors first. “If you don’t, these particles will become embedded in the stain/finish,” she warns. “Vacuum up as much dust as possible, then give your entire room a detailed cleaning before applying any kind of stain/finish.”

don't use steam mops

Don’t use steam mops. Image: Photographee.ee/Shutterstock

Don’t Use the Wrong Products & Materials

A lot of products claim to help restore the beauty of your wood floors. “Only certain types of stains/finishes are suitable for certain types of woods,” Gailunas says. “Others are specially formulated for specific uses.” She warns that choosing the wrong stain/finish could give your floors an unappealing appearance. And if that’s not bad enough, Gailunas says the wrong product could cause accelerated wear or discoloration.

Miller agrees. “Only use professional products recommended by your contractor, flooring manufacturer or finish manufacturer,” he advises. “Don’t use steam mops and never use anything from the store that claims to restore luster or add shine.” In fact, if you use the wrong type of cleaning product, Miller says you might not be able to apply a new coat of finish on the floor. “Or you could damage the finish and possibly damage the wood.”

To be on the safe side, he recommends using a wood flooring professional.

avoid temperature fluctuations

Avoid temperature fluctuations. Image: pics721/Shutterstock

Maintaining Your Wood Floors

Since wood is an organic material, Miller says that it will react to its environment. “In humid environments, wood gains moisture and can swell,” he explains. “In dry environments, wood loses moisture and can shrink.” If the environment changes, Miller says there will be changes in the floors themselves and how they perform.

For example, moisture can cause the floors to cup. This causes raised edges and lowered centers. “On the other hand, if your floors lose moisture, they can gap or split,” Miller says. “This can occur between floorboards or on the face of the boards.”

If these gaps and splits occur but then go away during seasonal changes, he says there’s no reason for concern. “However, if the gaps in your floors are large or do not close during more humid months, it’s time to call a professional.”

Fortunately, there is a way to minimize these issues. “Keep your home between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and between 30 and 50 percent humidity year-round,” Miller advises. To do this, you’ll need to be sure your thermostat isn’t producing ghost readings and false numbers.

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