5 Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Summer

There’s a lot of information out there on how to make your home more energy efficient. While it’s all meant to be helpful, some of the advice is not the most practical. Not all of us can afford to install solar panels or to buy all new appliances. With that in mind, we’ve brought you a few budget-friendly ways to save on energy. Read on to learn how to start lowering your utility bills.

energy efficient

An energy audit will take stock of your home’s strengths and weaknesses. Image: tommaso79/Shutterstock

Get an energy audit

If you’re unsure of where to start with making your home more energy efficient, having an energy audit done is a great first step. Also known as an energy assessment, these audits are designed to take stock of how much energy your home is currently using, to identify problem areas where energy might be being wasted and to offer suggestions on how to solve those issues.

As for how to get an auditor out to your home, calling your electric or gas utility company may be your best bet. There’s a good chance they’ll either conduct assessments themselves or be able to recommend local auditors. However, if not, the Residential Energy Services Network offers a search directory for qualified professionals. Just remember to always do your research before hiring any service provider to come into your home.


Insulating your attic will help keep cool air where it belongs. Image: Arturs Budkevics/Shutterstock

Insulate your attic

Your attic isn’t just a place to store your excess belongings. It’s also one of the places in your home that’s most likely to let cool air out. This, in turn, causes your HVAC systems to have to work harder, using more energy overall. However, by adding some extra insulation, you can go a long way towards keeping your temperature-controlled air where it belongs.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs — and an average of 11% on total energy costs — by taking the time to properly insulate your home. Here, they especially recommend insulating attics, crawl spaces and floors.


Fixing drafty doors and windows will keep you more comfortable indoors and help you save big. Image: Ray B Stone/Shutterstock

Seal drafty doors and windows

In addition to insulating the attic, you can also take care of any drafty doors and windows that might be allowing cool air to escape your home. While an energy auditor will be able to identify these “cold spots” during your assessment, you can DIY this task just by paying attention to where you can feel drafts coming through on windy days.

As far as how to do the sealing, this is definitely one home maintenance task where you won’t need to call in a professional. Adhesive sealing strips are sold at nearly every home improvement store. Once you have the strips in hand, it’s simply a matter of measuring the area you need to seal, cutting the strip to size and applying it securely.

light bulbs

Change out your light bulbs for newer, energy-efficient varieties. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

Change your light bulbs

If you can’t afford to splurge on a new energy-efficient appliance package or to upgrade to solar panels, replacing the light bulbs in your home is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to make a difference in your energy usage. This move can help you save around 5% on your total energy bills.

In terms of which lighting options offer the biggest savings, you have three choices:

  • Halogen incandescents: Halogen incandescents are popular bulbs because they come in a wide range of shapes and colors. In addition, they tend to work well with dimmer switches. However, while they do meet the minimum energy-efficiency standard, they are not the most efficient option that’s currently available on the market.
  • Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs): CFLs are where you really start to see energy savings. These bulbs use about one-fourth the energy of traditional incandescent options. They also are said to last up to ten times as long. While these bulbs did not offer a lot of variety when they first came out, they are starting to become available in more shades and colors.
  • Light emitting diodes (LEDs): Though LED lights have been traditionally used in outdoor applications, they are becoming more commonplace in indoor settings. LEDs use only 20% to 25% of the energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace. They also use 25% to 30% of the energy and last 8 to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents.

Plugged-in electronics like coffee makers can use up a lot of unnecessary energy. Image: rawf8/Shutterstock

Unplug energy vampires

This last tip is more of an ongoing effort than a one-time task. Though it may be convenient to leave electronics plugged in even when you’re not using them, the reality is that unless they are certified as energy-saving, they are likely wasting energy. Directenergy.com estimates that you can save $100 to $200 per year simply by unplugging these devices when they’re not in use.

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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.


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.


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.


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.

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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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Should You Repair or Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit?

Your HVAC system is one of those unsung heroes in your home. When it’s working well, you hardly notice. When it starts to falter, it becomes a big problem. Your HVAC system is responsible for keeping your home comfortable, no matter the temperature. If you find that your home is too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer, it’s probably time for some HVAC maintenance. Knowing whether to repair or replace your HVAC when it’s malfunctioning is important. This can involve a professional evaluation and some checks you can do, too. Always check with a trusted pro before you decide to repair or replace your HVAC unit to save time and money. But here are some general tips for how to know whether you can give your HVAC unit a tune-up, or it’s time to get a new unit altogether.

Row of HVAC units outside of homes

Well-maintained A/C units will work better, longer. Image: Shutterstock/Christian Delbert

Repair your HVAC if:

  • It’s less than 10 years old. Consider the age of your HVAC when deciding to repair or replace. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that the average lifespan of an HVAC system should be between 10-15 years. Of course, that’s not to say that an HVAC system can’t fail before then, but if yours is less than 10 years old, it’s probably cheaper to have it repaired than to buy a new one. Whatever’s wrong with your HVAC should be a minor fix unless it’s over 10 years old.
  • You’ve checked the ductwork. A lot of HVAC issues don’t have to do with the unit, but the duct work. In fact, 10 to 30 percent of the air leaks out before it even gets to your home, so a check of the ductwork can save you big bucks. Having a professional check your ducts and seal any gaps for around $50 can make your HVAC will run more efficiently with a relatively cheap fix.
  • You’ve performed regular maintenance. If you’ve had your HVAC system checked and maintained over the years, you shouldn’t have any major problems. Simply clearing your unit of debris, dust, and dirt, and having regular tune-ups should save you from major problems like failure or inefficiency. Make HVAC maintenance part of your spring and fall checklists and you’ll save time and money.

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Large master bedroom with ceiling fan

Can’t keep cool? It might be time to replace. Image: Shutterstock/JR-Stock

Replace your HVAC if:

  • It’s more than 15 years old. Once your HVAC system is nearing its 15th birthday, it’s also nearing the end of its lifespan. Sure, you could fix whatever’s causing it to malfunction, but chances are that you’ll just have another issue crop up next season. The components in your HVAC start to age and malfunction, which means it might be cheaper to just replace the unit than to pay for repairs year after year. A new unit usually costs anywhere from $5,ooo to $7,00o. It’s a big investment, sure, but it also means a new, more efficient unit.
  • You notice higher energy bills. Feel like you’re suddenly paying more for heating and air? If you get sticker shock every time you open your heating and cooling bills, it might be your HVAC’s fault. As systems age, they simply become less efficient. That means your HVAC is working overtime to heat and cool your home, which means it costs more to run. Calculate out how much extra you’re paying in energy bills and you’ll probably find it’s less expensive to get a new unit.
  • Your unit isn’t doing its job. If you notice that some of the rooms in your house are never as comfortable as they should be, it could be an inefficient HVAC unit. If it’s malfunctioning or aging, it means it can’t keep up with the demands of your home. In the summer, some rooms feel hot or you notice that the unit is running day and night to keep you cool. In the winter, you might notice that you’re always cold or constantly cranking up your thermostat. Keep comfortable by installing a newer, more efficient unit and your home will be more comfortable.


Financial tip: when to repair or replace

Still undecided? Knowing whether to repair or replace your HVAC unit comes down to cost. An easy calculation to make if you’re not sure is to get an estimate for HVAC repair. Then, multiply that number by the age of your system in years. If you get an estimate for $385 and your unit is 12 years old, you get a number of $4,680. Check that against the price of a completely new unit. If it’s more than the cost of a new unit, replace it. If it’s less, you can probably get by with just repairing the system.

Still have questions? Talk to an expert

Your best option is to consult a local HVAC professional for their opinion. Your HVAC system might not be the most exciting part of your home, but it might be what makes the biggest difference in your comfort levels. Take good care of your HVAC with regular maintenance and it’ll be easier to tell when to repair or replace the workhorse of your home.

Why Isn’t My Air Conditioner Working?
Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating? 
Building Your Energy-Efficient Dream Home
Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit

The post Should You Repair or Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit? appeared first on Freshome.com.

Life Hacks: 5 Things Busy People Need to Simplify their Lives

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Do you ever feel like life gets busier year after year? Us too. The digital age was supposed to make things easier for us, but it’s just made us have to do more in less time. Fortunately, there are some things we can do to regain our sanity. We polled our Freshome team to find out what life hacks they think busy people need to simplify their lives. Here are our top five life hacks.

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A planner can change that way you live your daily life. Image: Pra Chid/Shutterstock

A calendar or planner

There’s nothing quite as terrible as realizing you’ve forgotten something important. That’s why our top life hack is to create a system that works for you and to stick with it. Using a calendar or planner to keep your life organized is a game changer.

If you want to start with personal life organization, here’s a pretty Watercolors Monthly Planner from Target to get you started. Or, if you want to go bigger, you can mount a large-scale master calendar somewhere everyone in your family will see it to keep everyone a little more on top of their game. Put this Yoobi Magnetic Notepad from Target right next to it and have your family add grocery needs so your next trip to the store can be that much more effective.

Even if you prefer to keep your master calendar digitally, a hard-copy calendar can still be a boon. Start using a birthday calendar, like this one from Etsy. Borrowed from the Dutch, these calendars are a perfect reminder of important dates like birthdays and anniversaries. Each page of the calendar lists the days in a numbered format but doesn’t list the days of the week, so it can be used year after year. Add to yours every time you learn a birthday, put it in a place you’ll see every day and you’ll never forget an important date again!

life hacks 4

Foolproof your organization and your family might actually put things back where they belong. Image: Myvisuals/Shutterstock

Kitchen, closet & bathroom organizers

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard that our Freshome team loves closet organizes (like this beautiful Luxury Closet Starter Kit from The Container Store), and it won’t be the last. Why are we so hooked? Keeping your closet organized is a snap when the organization is literally built in. And, sure, you could shell out big bucks for a closet renovation. But you could also turn to baskets, bins and other organizers to give yourself the structure you need to keep things tidy.

This principle extends well past the closet, too. Add bins to your pantry, kitchen cabinets and bathroom to keep your house in order. These are especially powerful if you live with people who are, ahem, less concerned about organization than you. If your family members have a tendency to just throw things down, try them with providing a basket or bin. Label your organizers clearly and you’ll be amazed how much easier it is to get your family on board with putting things back where they go.

life hacks 3

Creating a place to stash mail and keys prevents both from getting lost. Image: Lucia Coppola/Shutterstock

A place for collecting mail and keys

Junk builds up. It’s an ongoing problem that every person has to manage. That’s why one of our top Freshome life hacks is putting a system in place for this exact issue. Specifically, add a small basket wherever your mail seems to accumulate and wherever you drop your keys. Just implementing organization for these two things – one that can be hard to keep under control and one that always seems to go missing – can make life simpler. No more missed bills, no more missing keys, just like that!

We love the Water Hyacinth Storage Baskets from The Container Store. They come in four sizes so you can find what you need. Keep your storage matching throughout your house by using the extra small for corraling the aforementioned mail and keys. Then, use the middle sizes for toys and remotes and turn to the large for bulkier items like blankets. Boom! Your home looks that much more organized in a snap.

life hacks 5

What would your ideal relaxation space contain? Image: Christian Cabarrocas/Twenty20

Time and space to daydream, plan and de-stress

One of the best life hacks we can offer is to practice self-care. We know, easier said than done. But carving out space in your day and space in your home where you can relax and just be is critical. Pick a place in your home, any place, and fill it with things you love. Ideally, this will be an area where you can minimize distractions (hint: right next to the kids’ playroom might not be the best location) and easily find moments of calm. Then, add whatever is going to best serve you. That could be some pretty candles, a cozy throw, a yoga mat, a bookshelf – whatever is going to spark your creativity and help you find balance.

Seriously, in order to be your most productive self, you need to allow yourself to recharge. Creating space in your home dedicated to doing exactly that makes it much more likely that you’ll actually make yourself a priority when you’re feeling run down.

life hacks 1

A smart home can make your life easier. Who couldn’t use an assistant? Image: Johnna Lafaith/Twenty20

Some help

No, really. When we asked our Freshome team, which is full of busy people, for life hacks, most of us said one of the things we most need is a little help. Some of us find that help in the form of a meal delivery service (we love Blue Apron) or a housekeeper. Others turn to more digital supports, like the Google Home (available at Target), an automated coffee maker to make the mornings just a little bit easier or a keyless lock, like the Honeywell Electronic Lock from Target. Remember what we said earlier about keeping an eye on keys? Electronic locks can eliminate that issue for you.

Whatever help you need to manage your life and feel less stressed, don’t be afraid to ask for it. It can make all the difference in the world.

What are your favorite life hacks? We would love your tips and tricks to help us all manage our busy schedules.

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Ghost Readings: What Causes Your Thermostat’s False Numbers?

Is your home hot when the thermostat indicates that it should be cold? Or is it chilly when the thermostat shows a warm temperature? If so, your thermostat may be producing ghost readings. This occurs when something interferes with the thermostat’s ability to produce an accurate temperature. In addition to ghost readings, your thermostat may be causing your HVAC system to cycle too rapidly. What causes your thermostat to perform so erratically?

Location, location, location

Thermostat ghost readings

Your thermostat can produce ghost readings. Image: Lucadp/Shutterstock

The location of your thermostat can affect its performance for better or for worse. “We try to warn homeowners whenever possible not to install the thermostat on an exterior wall, especially on one that is facing south or west which will get more sun,” according to Audrey Monell, president of Forrest Anderson Plumbing and AC.  If the thermostat is on an external wall, it will register the temperature on the wall. This will be much warmer, or colder, than the average temperature in the home.

But exterior walls are not the only cause of ghost readings. “The thermostat should be as far away from any source of heat as possible, according to Josh Savage, owner of Hero Plumbing, Heating & Cooling in Minneapolis, MN. “If you have heating pipes in the wall directly behind a thermostat it could also cause a false reading.”

Thermostat - heat source

Place thermostats away from heat sources. Image: Astronaut Images/Getty Images

Other heat sources include kitchen appliances and fireplaces. “We also tell customers to avoid having their thermostat near a light fixture, because the warmth of a light can also change the readings,” warns Monell. “For the most accurate readings, a thermostat should be placed as close to the return air grill as possible.” Other areas too warm for the thermostat include close proximity to your TV or entertainment center.

Obstructed thermostats

Ghost readings can also come from proximity to other items – whether they’re warm or not. For example, the thermostat may not fit your home’s décor, but you shouldn’t try to camouflage or otherwise hide it. If you cover the device, it will not be able to obtain a accurate reading.  Also, don’t put sofas, chairs, and other furniture directly under the thermostat, since this will also affect readings.

In addition, don’t place sofas, rugs or other furniture and furnishings over the air vents. This is another factor that contributes to false readings and causes your HVAC to work harder. Plus, many people don’t think about drapes and curtains relating to thermostats, but they can also block air flow. Consider using magnetic air deflectors to redirect air.

Checking your thermostat

Thermostat - low images

Low batteries can produce incorrect readings. Image: My Images/Micha/Shutterstock

Speaking of the wires, check to see if they are loose or corroded. However, be sure to turn off the power at the circuit breaker pan box before inspecting anything.

Dean Ford at Mr. Electric also recommends checking to ensure that the hole behind the thermostat (where the wires come through) is properly sealed.

If you have a digital thermostat, another possible culprit of ghost readings could be the batteries. And if you have older thermostats with mercury bulbs, the thermostat also has to be level or the readings will be inaccurate. In fact, even an accumulation of dust could cause the thermostat to act up.

“Thermostats can malfunction and if this happens, it’s usually because it’s out of calibration,” according to Lee Downing, franchise owner in Tipton, TN of Aire Serv. “Typically this happens when the thermostat is mounted on an exterior wall or attic that may not be properly insulated.”

Malfunctions are not common, but they do happen, according to Savage. “If you suspect you may have an issue – in particular, if the problems are intermittent – replacing the thermostat can be a great place to start,” he says. “New thermostats can cost less than $200 all the way up to more than $500 depending on the features.”

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostat

Smart thermostats remove the guess work. Image: wmarkusen/Getty Images

If you’re thinking about replacing your thermostat, Ford says digital, programmable thermostats provide better control, and can be set based on your schedule.

“Also, smart thermostats (unlike programmable thermostats) have the ability to create schedules based on user interactions with them,” Dean says. “You can access them remotely from your smartphone or voice-activated home automation system.”

Have you ever gotten ghost readings from a thermostat? Let us know in the comments!

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These Are 5 Easy Home Maintenance Tasks That Will Save You Money

These days, everyone is looking to save money wherever they can. However, if you look around your house, it’s likely that there are home maintenance tasks that you’ve been putting off fixing and, in the meantime, are costing you your hard-earned cash. This post is all about how to tackle those issues once and for all. Read on below to see five easy, money-saving home maintenance tasks. If you take care of each one, it will go a long way towards putting money back in your pocket.

home maintenance tasks

Add weatherstripping to insulate doors and windows. Image: ImageFlow/Shutterstock

Add weatherstripping

Especially in the winter months, it’s easy to tell if your doors and windows are letting in drafts of cold air from the outside. Though a little air may not seem like a huge deal, it’s making extra work for your heating system. Fortunately, weatherstripping provides a relatively easy fix for this issue. In just a few minutes, you should be able to seal your home up tight.

The first step to this process is choosing the right weatherstripping. Believe it or not, there are multiple kinds to choose from and each has its ideal purpose. Felt, for example, is the easiest type to install but has a habit of letting air through. Reinforced vinyl, on the other hand, is better at stopping air flow, but is very visible.  Check out this guide to find the material that best suits your needs.

Luckily, the installation of this product is fairly simple. Most materials come with self-adhesive versions that can be found in your local home improvement store. The key here is making sure that you measure both your doors and windows, as well as the weatherstripping product, at least twice before you cut it in order to ensure an accurate length.


Regularly change your HVAC filters. Image: Jovana Veljkovic/Shutterstock

Change HVAC filters

Chances are, even if you change your HVAC filter every once and a while, you’re still not tending to it often enough. Conventional wisdom states that these filters need to be changed every 90 days in order to keep your system from having to work harder than it should. However, keep in mind, that timeframe shifts to every 60 days if you have a cat or dog at home.

Luckily, changing one of these filters is super easy. Start by turning off your HVAC unit. Then, locate the filter and remove the access panels. Simply take the old filter out and replace it with the new one, paying close attention to any arrows to ensure that the filter goes in right-side up. Then, put the access panel back in its place and you’re free to turn the unit back on.

hot water heater

Flushing your hot water heater now could prevent a big catastrophe later. Image: ArchiVIZ/Shutterstock

Flush your hot water heater

Flushing your hot water heater is a crucial task that should become part of your regular home maintenance routine. Doing so at least once a year helps to ensure the greatest supply of hot water to your home, and also prevents sediment from corroding the water heater’s components. Unfortunately for many, that corrosion leads to breakage that can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

Begin the process by turning off the thermostat to your hot water heater. Follow that up by turning off the gas to it, as well as the hot water supply. (If your hot water heater is electric, you’ll also want to unplug it at this time.) Then, turn on the tap in a sink or bathtub and let it run through this entire process. This will help prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines while you’re draining the hot water tank.

When you’re ready, connect a garden hose to the drainage spigot on your hot water heater. Turn on the spigot and allow any water to drain out into a bucket. When the water runs clear and free of sediment, flush the hot water heater by turning on the cold water spigot and allowing the water to run until it’s free of sediment. Finally, turn off the drainage spigot, disconnect the hose and turn everything back on.


Fixing a leaky faucet can make a big impact on your water bill. Image: Ant Clausen/Shutterstock

Fix leaky faucets

In addition to being unpleasant to hear all the time, that faucet in your house that continually leaks is costing you money. Estimates suggest that a leaky faucet can end up costing you between $60 and $200 per year, depending on the severity of the leak.

To take care of this problem, start by shutting off the water underneath the sink and closing the drain. Then, remove the decorative cap on your faucet’s handle, as well as the handle screw. Pull off the handle and use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packing nut. After unscrewing the stem, remove and replace the seat washer held in place by a brass screw. Finally, pop the stem out of the packing nut and replace the O-ring, which is likely the cause of the leak. After you’re done, reassemble the faucet.


Your gutters should be cleaned at the beginning of each new season. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Clean your gutters

Clogged gutters may not seem like a huge deal at first but, left alone, buildup such as leaves and branches can cause water to pool and leaks to form in the fascia of the house. Over time, this can lead to severe water damage to your home’s structure, which is undeniably costly.

Cleaning out your gutters is a hands-on task. Begin by removing any visible twigs, leaves and debris. Then, take a garden hose and flush away any remaining dirt. If the water doesn’t drain out of your downspouts, there’s likely a clog. At that point, you’ll need to remove the clog with a plumber’s snake.

The post These Are 5 Easy Home Maintenance Tasks That Will Save You Money appeared first on Freshome.com.

High-End Workout Equipment: Technology to Transform your Home Gym

high-end workout equipment

The newest high-end workout equipment, including Mirror, brings exclusive trainers right to your home – digitally. Image: Mirror

New year, new you! Right? At least, that’s usually the goal. But how many of us set resolutions, then head to the gym to use their high-end workout equipment and find it’s packed? In fact, it’s packed with all the other people who set health resolutions just like ours. Come March, sick of dealing with the crowds (or, let’s be honest, the hassle of leaving the house), few remain.

A home gym seems like an ideal solution. And, with a little dedication and self-discipline, it is. You see the space in your home every day and get a gentle nudge to stick to your resolutions. You don’t have to deal with traffic getting to the gym – or traffic in it. Plus, you can focus on your health goals without feeling watched or judged. Easy, right? That is, until you find yourself staring at the weight set you bought, realizing you don’t quite know how to use it.

Silicon Valley is working to bridge the gap. With three innovative (and, admittedly, expensive) offerings driven by the latest tech, you can transform your home gym. Imagine having the best trainer available right at home, whenever you’re ready to work out. Now stop imagining and check out the latest high-end workout equipment.

high-end workout equipment - peloton

Peloton’s Bike connects you to live classes from top cycling trainers. Image: Peloton


Peloton should get credit for kicking off this tech-meets-gym revolution. They’ve taken the stationary bike, long a staple in home gyms, and given it a major upgrade. They promise “a private indoor cycling studio in your home” thanks to their integrated display. You can use that display, which is sort of like a giant iPad, to stream one of their 14 daily live classes or 5,000+ on-demand classes.

Plus, Peloton can help you keep your home gym compact. This piece of high-end workout equipment’s carbon steel frame is just 4′ by 2′. They boast that the bike’s belt drive is nearly silent, which is helpful when you’re listening to your digital instructor. And all this for just $2,245. If you can afford the Peloton, its reviews assure you you’re making a worthy investment.

And, more recently, Peloton launched the Tread for those who prefer running to cycling.

high-end workout equipment - tonal

Tonal promises all of the effectiveness of a full weight set, plus guidance and a sleek profile. Image: Robb Report


What if you’re looking for strength training more than cardio? Tonal, allegedly the world’s most intelligent fitness system, builds on the idea of streaming a trainer in the comfort of your own home. This wall-mounted home gym has adjustable arms that can offer up to 200 pounds of resistance, but still pack flat against the system itself. The sleek design makes this another ideal addition to small-scale home gyms.

Like Peloton, Tonal will connect you with a digital trainer. You set your goals, and the system adjusts your workouts to match. You can choose from one-off, step-by-step workouts, expert-curated programs or live classes that you stream right to your home gym. It tracks your workouts, helping you get healthier and customizing your workouts to you.

But if you thought Peloton was pricey, get ready. Tonal rings in at $2,995.

high-end workout equipment - mirror

You can wall mount Mirror or lean it in its stand. Either way, it integrates seamlessly into your existing home design. Image: Mirror


If you like the sleek design of Tonal but want a sleeker price point, Mirror is worth checking out. It’s similar in its streamlined design but – with no equipment other than the display itself – it’s even less obtrusive. In fact, you could put this piece of high-end workout equipment virtually anywhere in your home and no one would ever know it’s your own home gym. The mirror can be wall-mounted or propped up in a modern stand (shown above) and, when off, functions the same as any other full-length mirror.

When powered on, Mirror can lead you through a wide range of classes from their studio in NYC. Whether you want to do a straightforward cardio or strength workout or want to mix it up with something like boxing, barre or yoga, Mirror can deliver. It also tracks you through a personal fitness profile, giving you real-time tips, measuring your goals and even comparing your workouts against your friends’.

The Mirror comes with a price tag of $1,495.

What do you think of the latest high-end workout equipment? Is it worth the price tag? Do you think you would use it if you had it in your home? Let us know in the comments!

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Shipping to your Door Soon: Alexa-Enabled Amazon Prefab Homes

Amazon is doubling down on the smart home space. They’ve set up the Alexa Fund to provide up to “$200 million in venture capital funding to fuel voice technology innovation.” And almost $7 million of this fund is going to Plant Prefab, a Southern California start up that builds sustainable prefabricated homes. It looks like you’ll be able to click and ship your very own quick and affordable Amazon prefab home soon.

But how does the prefabricated home fit in with the Alexa Fund’s directive of developing voice technology? Future Amazon prefab homes will feature the growing collection of Alexa voice tech and smart home innovation throughout the home’s floor plan.

amazon prefab homes

The C6 Living Home in Van Nuys, California, is one of the prefab home styles that may be available through Amazon soon. All images: Plant Prefab

According to Paul Bernard, the director of the Alexa Fund, “There are now more than 20,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 3,500 different brands,” he stated. “We’re thrilled to support Plant Prefab as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers,” he said of the Amazon prefab homes.

Plant Prefab specializes in building modern, green homes designed for an urban environment. The startup claims that building the home in an offsite factory using new technology and automation can save half the construction time of a tradition build. And time equals money: their prefab houses use better quality materials and finishes for less time and cost.

amazon prefab homes

A prefab home being delivered to the home site for final assembly.

A home can be ordered online from a selection of standard floor plans or a custom design. And according to Plant Prefab, the home delivers “90% complete and installed in a day.”

According to Plant Prefab’s founder Steve Glenn, “In the housing­-crunched major cities like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, along with areas like Silicon Valley, it takes too much time to build a home from groundbreaking to occupancy.”  It looks like future Amazon prefab homes will solve this headache.

Amazon hasn’t announced when you’ll be able to click and ship your dream smart home, but here’s a look at what prefab homes are currently available through Plant Prefab:

Yves Behar 1

Square Feet: 625 square feet
Rooms: 1 bedroom, 1 bath

amazon prefab homes

Designed by iconic industrial designer Yves Behar, the home is minimalist, open and modern.

amazon prefab home

Soaring ceiling and lots of windows create a space that feels larger than 625 square feet.

Ray Kappe 1.1

Square Feet: 3100 square feet
Rooms: 5 bedroom, 3 baths

modern prefab homes

The 2-story modern features quality materials like steel and reclaimed wood.

amazon prefab houses

An open floor plan allows for easy flow throughout the house.


Square Feet: 1096 square feet
Rooms: 2 bedroom, 2 baths

amazon prefab homes for sale

The C6.2 model is compact enough to fit on a small, narrow lot.

modern prefabricated homes

Modern, high-end finishes are part of the prefab home’s design.

Kieran Timberlake KT1.5

Square Feet: 1622 square feet
Rooms: 2 bedroom, 2 baths

contemporary prefab homes

The exterior of the KT1.5 is contemporary and low-maintenance.

amazon prefab homes

All spaces in the prefab home are large, airy and open.

What do you think of these modern prefabricated homes? Would you buy one through Amazon? Let us know in the comments.

The post Shipping to your Door Soon: Alexa-Enabled Amazon Prefab Homes appeared first on Freshome.com.

How to: Clean your Refrigerator

clean your refrigerator 1

If your kitchen is spotless, don’t let your fridge spoil it. Use this guide to clean your refrigerator. Image: JadeNinaSarkhel/Twenty20

The new year always offers a fresh start. Why not take this opportunity to knock out a few to-dos that will help you start the new year strong? This is an ideal opportunity to take on those tasks you always say you’ll get to someday. Tasks like taking the time to clean your refrigerator.

Sure, it’s not fun. Yes, it will take time. And yes, you will probably find a long-forgotten condiment growing something you wish you hadn’t seen. But that’s all the more reason to jump on it! Every time you open your sparkling clean fridge, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment. Plus, you’ll likely end up clearing out some space you can use to help yourself on any New Year’s healthy eating resolutions.

So where to start? Here’s a quick checklist you can use to deep clean your refrigerator.

clean your refrigerator 3

Shutting off power and emptying out the fridge makes your deep clean a lot easier. Image: BondRocketImages/Shutterstock

Step one: disconnect the power

You will need to open your fridge door for quite a while, so there’s no sense wasting energy while you clean. Either unplug your fridge or, if you’re not keen on climbing behind it, turn off power at the fuse box or circuit breaker.

As soon as you disconnect power, open your freezer door so it can begin to defrost. No one likes to have cold hands while they clean!

Step two: transfer food

If you think you’re going to hustle through this project, you can simply take all your food out and put it on the counter. But if you’ve got a larger fridge, know yours is going to need some serious elbow grease or simply don’t want to feel rushed, grab a cooler. Load the highly perishable items like dairy and fresh produce into the cooler with items from your freezer to buy yourself some time.

While you’re at it, take any removable parts – like glass shelves and crisper drawers – out and put them on the counter. Letting them come to room temperature before you start cleaning them can help you avoid cracks.

clean you refrigerator 2

Would you let people take photos of your open fridge? After this clean, you’ll be setting up your own photoshoot. Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Step three: wipe it down

While it might be tempting to grab your Windex and get to scrubbing, don’t. Chemical cleaners shouldn’t come into contact with your food, even indirectly. Instead, choose a food-safe option. You can make a paste of baking soda and water for caked-on grime (like that oddly-colored goop that accumulates under condiments in the door). Use a spray of half vinegar, half water for your general wipedown. A wet towel can be a huge help in grabbing particles from all the tiny nooks and crannies inside your fridge.

Step four: clean the door seals

Have you ever looked inside the flexible seals around the edges of your fridge doors? This is an often-overlooked area, even if you regularly clean your refrigerator, so don’t skip it now! Spray it down with your vinegar solution, then use your wet towel to get inside the folds of the seal.

While you’re at it, check the seal. If your fridge doors aren’t sealing properly, your fridge is working overtime. This shortens the lifespan of your refrigerator and drives up your energy bill, so it’s worth getting fixed.

clean your refrigerator 5

Don’t just wipe down your fridge’s interior. Clean the removable parts and exterior, too. Image: bezikus/Shutterstock

Step five: clean drawers and shelves

While it’s tempting to throw your shelves and drawers into the dishwasher, they could crack in there. Instead, use the same food-safe solutions you used above to get them sparkling clean. Or, if you’ve got a large enough sink, you can wash them the same way you would any other dishes.

Make sure these items are completely dry before you add them back to your fridge. Otherwise, trapped moisture can breed bacteria, undoing all your hard work.

Step six: clean the exterior

You’re almost done! When you clean your refrigerator, don’t forget to wipe down the outside. Disinfect the door handles, then grab a step stool. Wipe down the top of your fridge to keep your kitchen that much more sanitary. Clean fridge doors with the appropriate solution (e.g. glass cleaner for glass fridge doors, stainless cleaner for stainless doors). Because the food stays inside the fridge, the no-chemical rules don’t apply here.

clean your refrigerator 4

Voilà! Once you load your food back in, your sparkling refrigerator can become a source of pride. Image:  asbe/Getty Images

Step seven: reload the fridge

Now comes the fun part. Use this opportunity to organize your fridge and you’ll be significantly more likely to keep it clean. Before you put any item back into the fridge, check the expiration date. This is the perfect time to make sure you haven’t been harboring any long-expired products in the depths of your refrigerator.

What tips and trick do you use when you clean your refrigerator? Did any of these help you out? Let us know in the comments.

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