Don’t Stockpile: What to Buy for Home Quarantine During Coronavirus

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As the number of coronavirus cases increase around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to profoundly reshape daily lives and habits. If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ve likely seen people in the U.S. and around the world “panic buying” in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s critical to remember that being prepared doesn’t equate to stockpiling or hoarding. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to not panic or stockpile supplies. There are healthcare workers and sick people around the world who have a much higher need for supplies like face masks. A shortage could pose an even greater health risk to communities. Instead, it’s best to create a household plan, as recommended by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. With a household plan, you can prepare and anticipate what sort of items you’ll need in case anyone gets sick at home or there’s a disruption of daily activities in your community.

There’s a ton of information on how to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak in your community, and it can be overwhelming. We’ve compiled a list of what to do and buy while you’re quarantined at home. 

Make a plan, scan your home

A COVID-19 outbreak could last for a long time in your community, so a household plan can help protect your health and the health of those you care about, according to the CDC. 

The CDC provides step-by-step guidance on how to establish a successful household plan, and recommends basing the details of your plan on the needs and daily routines of who you live with. Take a look around your home and scan your pantry, medicine cabinet and bathrooms to figure out what you already have, then write down what you’re missing. 

Buy what you need for two weeks

If you’re in home quarantine, you should have at least two weeks’ worth of supplies and minimize trips to stores to avoid contact with others.

Both the CDC and U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommend buying enough household items, medications and food to last two weeks. It’s also a good idea to look into how to get food delivered.

“It’s important to note that food production suppliers and companies are not reporting any shortage of food supplies across the country — so while you shop, it’s not necessary to hoard food or other grocery store items,” Tamika Sims, PhD, director of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, said in a blog post

So, you’re probably wondering: What exactly should I buy during a COVID-19 pandemic?

Prioritize your grocery list

Prioritize non-perishables, frozen foods and canned vegetables on your grocery list the next time you make a trip to the supermarket. If you’d like to buy fresh produce, try to use that up first to minimize any food waste. You also have the option to freeze most fresh produce if you buy too much. 

“Instead of going to the store several times a week, try to get enough groceries for one full week, buy more healthy shelf-stable items to avoid spoilage, and refrigerate foods properly,” Sims said.

Additionally, keep an eye out for foods with long shelf lives such as dried beans, rolled oats, pasta products, shelf stable milk and rice. These types of foods can usually sit in the pantry for several years. 

While you can have a supply of bottled water in the house, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made it clear that “Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual.” 

If you have pets or children in the home, pick up some extra food and supplies all at once to avoid making extra trips throughout the week.

Check toiletries and cleaning supplies

Across the internet, images of empty shelves and shopping carts full of supplies have led more and more people to panic buy. Toilet paper is one of several items that has become the latest coronavirus panic buy, but the reason why isn’t very clear. It’s natural to want to prepare for the worst, but don’t overstock basic toiletries.

Within the two-week limit, make sure you have enough toothpaste, floss, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. It’s also good to have extra laundry detergent and hand soap at home. 

Refill prescriptions and over-the-counter medications

Make sure you’re up to date on any prescription medications and have a supply of necessary over-the-counter medications. In light of COVID-19’s spread, CVS and Walgreens are offering free home delivery of prescription drugs. And some insurers, such as Aetna, Humana, and Blue Cross Blue Shield have temporarily waived early refill limits on 30-day prescriptions. 

The CDC advises patients to check with their pharmacists about the possibility of 30-day emergency refills and to keep a 7- to 10-day supply at home, while the American Red Cross recommends having at least a 30-day supply of any prescription medications at home. 

Things you don’t need to buy 

It’s easy to act out of fear during a frightening global situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, but panic buying and stockpiling doesn’t help the situation. Keep in mind that you can skip the hand sanitizer if you’re self-isolating (as long as you have hand soap), and that you don’t need to wear face masks if you’re healthy. 

“The current recommendations regarding masks are that if you yourself are sick with fever and cough, you can wear a surgical mask to prevent transmission to other people,” Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, said in a blog post. “If you are healthy, there is not thought to be any additional benefit to wearing a mask yourself because the mask is not airtight and does not necessarily prevent breathing in of these viral particles, which are very tiny.”

As one last reminder, here’s a list of things you don’t need to buy right now:

  • Face masks (unless you’re sick)
  • More than a two-week supply of hand sanitizers or hand soap
  • More than a two-week supply of food 
  • Dehydrated meals

The post Don’t Stockpile: What to Buy for Home Quarantine During Coronavirus appeared first on Freshome.com.

How Much Equity Is in Your Home?

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Understanding home equity

When you take the current market value of your home that you receive after an appraisal and subtract it from the amount you currently owe on your mortgage, that’s your home’s equity. Your home equity is how much of the property that you truly own. This is the formula you will use to answer the question, “How much equity is in my home?” Knowing the amount of equity you have in your home plays a vital role in major decisions like taking out a loan for repairs, improvements or to purchase a new home.

How much equity do I have in my house?

To determine the amount of equity you have in your home, you need to have it appraised to get the market value. Once you have the home’s appraised value, you can figure out how much equity you have by subtracting that value from your current mortgage balance. Determining a home’s equity uses a simple formula:

        The appraised value of the home – (minus) the mortgage balance = equity

For example, if your home appraises at $200,000 and your mortgage balance is $120,000, the formula for determining your equity would look like this:

        $200,000 – $120,000 = $80,000In this scenario, there is $80,000 of available equity in the home.

What if my home value increases?

There are several reasons why your home-value increase is beneficial. If you need to borrow money for a renovation or addition to your home, an increase in value gives you more equity to do so. However, there are negatives to a value increase as well. If you’re refinancing and your appraisal comes in high, it can have a significant impact on your interest rate because lenders use the appraisal to determine the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio.

Can I have negative equity?

Negative equity in your home occurs if the value of your home is less than the total balance of your mortgage. Lenders reduce risks by ensuring that you aren’t borrowing more than 80% of your home’s total current value. If the housing market drops and your home’s value decreases, that could result in negative equity. In this scenario, if you want to sell your home, you’d have to pay the difference between what you owe and its selling price.

Understanding home equity with the loan-to-value formula

Financial institutions and other lenders use the loan-to-value ratio (LTV ratio) to assess your lending risk before approving a home equity loan. If the assessment is a high LTV ratio, that means it’s riskier and could cost the borrower more for the loan. For example, if the LTV is at least 80%, that means you’re more likely to secure favorable terms and lower interest rates. The formula for calculating LTV is:

        Current loan balance ÷ Current appraised value = Answer x 100 = LTV

As an example, if your mortgage is $120,000, your LTV ratio calculation would look like this:

        $120,000 ÷ $200,000 = 0.6 x 100 = 60%

Loan-to-value ratio and home equity loans

When you want to apply for a home equity loan, the loan-to-value ratio compares your home’s value to the amount of the home equity loan you’re trying to obtain. That means, if you’re currently carrying a mortgage balance, your loan balance serves as the basis for the LTV ratio.

An LTV ratio is important because it helps lenders determine if you qualify for refinancing. Lenders prefer seeing a low LTV to minimize risk. A high LTV ratio may indicate there aren’t enough assets to ensure your loan will be paid off.

An LTV calculation impacts your ability to get a home equity loan in many ways. For example, if it comes in too high, the loan appears riskier to lenders. If you default on the loan, the lender might have trouble recouping its loss when trying to sell the property. Other ways your LTV can affect you include:

  • Better interest rates: If your LTV comes in low, you might get better interest rates on your home equity loan.
  • Higher interest rates: There’s a potential for higher interest rates on your home equity loan when your LTV is high.
  • Higher monthly payments: Your loan terms could change dramatically due to high interest rates which, in turn, can strain your finances.
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How can I improve my home equity?

It isn’t uncommon for your home value to decrease over time due to changes in the market. However, if your home value remains stable, there are many ways to increase its equity. First, pay down your mortgage’s principal, which will lower your loan-to-value ratio. Next, consider paying more than the required minimum mortgage payment to reduce your LTV ratio. Here are some additional techniques to improve your home equity:

Tips for improving home equity

  • Keep your home well maintained
  • Invest in wise home improvements and upgrades (research the ones that will give you the most value)
  • Enhance your home’s curb appeal

Frequently Asked Questions

How does home equity work? 
As your mortgage balance decreases and your home value increases, you are building equity. In other words, home equity is the portion of your home that you own minus any outstanding debts.

How much equity do you need for a home equity loan? 
Lenders require borrowers to have at least an 80% LTV ratio remaining after they receive a home equity loan approval. That means you must have at least 20% or more equity before going through the qualification process for a home equity loan.

What interest should I expect for a home equity loan? 
Home equity loans have an annual percentage rate that lenders base on your credit history, income, home value, mortgage balance, loan terms and loan amount. If you have a home equity line of credit (HELOC), you’ll typically have a variable interest rate that is tied to the prime rate and is subject to change.

How long does it take to pay off a home equity loan? 
Some home equity loan terms are as short as five years, while others can extend to between 10 and 15 years. The length of the loan also depends on whether or not you make extra payments.

Author Biography:

Jenn Greenleaf is a professional writer from Maine who also works part-time as a bookkeeper for her husband’s residential construction business. She specializes in writing about HVAC, commercial construction and other home-related topics.

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Best High-Speed Internet Providers of 2020

High-speed internet isn’t a necessity for everybody, and sometimes high-speeds just aren’t available in certain areas. Many people can get by with satellite or mobile hotspots for basic web browsing, but for those of you who need it, fiber and cable internet provide more reliable connections, download speeds of 25 Mbps or faster and more capabilities for internet use without interruption. This speed and reliability are must-haves for online gamers, movie or television streamers and for those who are running their business or side-hustle from home.

Whether you’ve just moved and are looking to see what providers are out there, or you’re just fed up with inadequate service, read on to find the best high-speed internet providers out there right now.

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What high-speed internet providers are available in 2020?

Whether internet service providers (ISPs) in your area are familiar names or companies that are newer to the scene, there’s a lot to consider when deciding which one offers the best internet options for you. Here are our top five choices from all of the major providers.

AT&T 

AT&T is a well-known name across the U.S. and is pretty widely available across the country. AT&T offers internet in various capacities to 21 states across the country. AT&T also offers lightning-fast fiber-optic in many areas on the Southwest coast and in the Eastern and Midwest parts of the country. 

Comcast Xfinity
Xfinity puts a new name to an older company. Comcast has been around as a cable provider since the 1960s, and got into the internet game in 1996. Having teamed up with a well-known name like NBC makes it top-of-mind when it comes to home entertainment. It’s got reliable, speedy internet service for most of the country.

CenturyLink

CenturyLink is also on the fiber-optic bandwagon, offering speeds up to 940 Mbps in some areas. Its standard internet coverage extends to 36 states across the U.S. CenturyLink’s real claim to fame is its pricing and contract-free internet deals. Its “Price for Life” offer guarantees that as long as you keep your plan, the monthly charge won’t increase.

Frontier

Available in 29 states across the U.S., Frontier makes waves for its lack of data caps: a real bonus for high-bandwidth internet users and big families. Because additional data charges can quickly bump monthly costs from so-so to soaring, users can rest easy with Frontier. The company currently offers both cable and fiber internet where infrastructure exists.

Charter Spectrum

With gig network speeds up to 940 Mbps and cable internet available in areas where fiber connections are limited, Spectrum offers fast speeds to 46 states making it one of the most available networks around. They have no data caps and provide a free modem and antivirus software.

Let’s dive into the details on these providers…

Best fast internet service

Provider Best For Availability Speed Starting Price
AT&T Reliability 21 states 5 Mbps to 940 Mbps $49.99 per mo.
CenturyLink No contracts 36 states 1.5 Mbps to 940 Mbps  $49.00 per mo.
Frontier Communications No data caps 29 states 1 Mbps to 940 Mbps $29.99 per mo.
Charter Spectrum Availability 46 states 30 Mbps to 940 Mbps $50.00 per mo.
Comcast Xfinity Availability 36 States 25 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps $19.99 per mo.

* Pricing and availability as of 03/10/2020

Comparing the best high-speed internet providers

AT&T

In select regions, AT&T will give an over 99% reliability guarantee on its fiber-optic and cable internet networks. That well-known and trusted performance is what sets AT&T  apart from its competitors. Its included internet security suite and Smart Home Manager app further convince any fence-sitters of the company’s aptitude for pleasing its customers. 

AT&T’s fiber packages are tiered by speed and start at 100 Mbps download for $49.99 per month. The top-level 940 Mbps also comes in at $49.99 per month. but both prices jump to $69.99 after the first year. The lower-tiered services also come with a 1 TB data cap per month, with an additional charge for usage over that amount. 

CenturyLink

High-speed internet starts at $49 per month for 20, 80 and 100 Mbps packages at CenturyLink, all depending on what’s available in your area. Fiber-optic internet at 940 Mbps costs $65 per month where it’s available.  

CenturyLink’s no-contract plans are attention-grabbing since there’s nothing worse than signing on to a long-term contract and finding the service just isn’t working for you. However, as long as you stay on the service you signed up for, CenturyLink will give you the Price for Life treatment — your price will never change. The exception? Price for Life is not available with the fiber-optic internet plan. 

Frontier Communications

Frontier offers a number of packages that vary in speed and price point. With fiber-optic prices starting at $29.99 per month, it’s one of the cheapest solutions for high-speed internet. That price point only gets you 50 Mbps download and upload speeds, though. Possibly the best value is the $39.99 per month package, which bumps speeds up considerably to 500 Mbps. The highest tier, 940 Mbps, comes in at $74.99 per month.

Frontier’s lack of a data cap adds icing on their low-cost cake, since overage fees can add up fast, especially during an HD binge-watching weekend marathon. Starting prices are set for a year and bundles on Frontier’s products are decent, too. Signing up online for the 50 Mbps with basic TV add-on is just $54.98

Xfinity

Another company that’s offering packages with no long-term contract, Xfinity makes a play as one of the most affordable internet service providers in the game. Packages that can reach up to 100 Mbps download speed come in at only $39.99 per month with no fixed term attached, although the price bumps after the first 12 months of service. The full 1,000 Mbps service comes in at $79.99.

TV bundles sweeten the deal, with packages such 1,000 Mbps internet service and over 250 channels for $149.99, although the TV packages come with a required commitment.

Charter Spectrum

As one of the most widely available providers, Spectrum offers fast speeds to many customers in the U.S. Packages start at $49.99 per month with speeds ranging from 30 Mbps to 940 Mbps for cable and fiber connections. Spectrum also provides no data caps or speed throttling (slowing speeds after a certain threshold). Spectrum also offers bundled packages with cable TV, home phone and mobile.

*Prices are accurate as of March 17, 2020. Prices for Xfinity were based on offers available in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Call to learn about the best high-speed internet providers in 2020

Choosing an internet provider is a big decision. If you’re signing up for a contract with a company, you should do your homework to be reasonably sure you’ll get the fastest internet speed and service you want and need. Check availability of these and other providers in your area and read reviews to determine the best option.

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How to Keep Your Home Clean During a Pandemic

How to Keep Your Home Clean During Coronavirus

This spring cleaning season, there’s a lot more than just decluttering at stake — a clean home could be your last line of defense against a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. To help separate fact from fiction, we spoke with Dr. Stephen J. Thomas, Chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at SUNY Upstate Medical University, for expert advice on what, how, and when to clean.

“SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19 is believed to be able to persist on surfaces such as glass, metal, and cloth,” Dr. Thomas says. “Experiments looking at similar viruses demonstrated persistence for hours to days.” That means it’s possible to contract the virus if a surface in your home has been contaminated. Disinfecting and cleaning everyday surfaces is a great place to start your spring cleaning.  

How to kill the coronavirus in your home

Surfaces inside your home would only be compromised if someone with coronavirus has been in the house. But because symptoms can take so long to appear, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Dr. Thomas advised us to clean high-traffic areas: “This would include the bathroom, kitchen and frequent door handles and other surfaces the person would potentially contact. Think of your normal routine in the house and the surfaces you frequently touch and this will give you an idea where you need to disinfect.” If someone in your home does have COVID-19, or at this point any kind of cold, you’ll want to disinfect these surfaces a few times a day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning a surface (reducing the number of germs) and then disinfecting it (killing the remaining germs). The CDC also advises people to use disposable gloves during the process. To kill viruses, it’s best to use products specifically endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use against SARS-CoV-2. There’s a fair chance you already have these in your cupboard, as familiar brands like Lysol and Clorox are on the list. You can also dilute bleach or use alcohol solutions (with 70% alcohol or more). For soft surfaces like carpets or rugs, follow typical instructions for cleaning and wash what you can in warm water.

The 10 most important things to disinfect regularly

  1. Countertops, desks, tables
  2. Doorknobs
  3. Light switches
  4. Handles — cupboards, drawers, appliances
  5. Toilets
  6. Sinks
  7. Bathtub, shower
  8. Remote controls
  9. Towels, sheets, clothing
  10. Phones, tablets, keyboards, etc. 

Deep clean to pass the time

While the nation is encouraging social distancing, it’s easy to go stir crazy. A great way to feel productive and pass the time is by deep cleaning your home. If you spend part of your day on a bigger cleaning project, you’ll also feel better about the evening hours you spend binge-watching a TV show. Now’s the time to do the tasks you normally wouldn’t bother with, or perhaps only do once a year. 

In the kitchen, you can pull everything out of your fridge or freezer and clean the appliance. This is also a great time to do some inventory, check expiration dates, and maybe stock up on things like frozen produce and protein. 

You can also do all those little tasks you’ve been putting off. Like hanging a piece of art, changing the lightbulbs, finishing painting a room or completing that Pinterest craft you bought all the supplies for.

Spring is the perfect time to get started on yard work in preparation for summer. This is also a great way to get some fresh air and mild exercise. Plant your seedlings, spray down and clean lawn furniture, prune the shrubs, aerate your lawn, etc. 

We’d also recommend doing a deep clean of your bathtub, for some much-needed self-care soaks. And vacuuming under furniture, like your bed and couches, can help with dust or allergies, and be a good chance to rearrange your space for more room while you’re quarantined. 

A self-quarantine cleaning checklist

  1. Dust, pretty much everywhere
  2. Deep clean the oven, microwave and sink
  3. Organize your junk drawers
  4. Clean or replace the shower curtain
  5. Polish stainless steel surfaces and wood furniture
  6. Clean air vents
  7. Wash pillows
  8. Clean reusable grocery bags
  9. Clean the windows and mirrors
  10. Clean your makeup and brushes
  11. Clean blinds and window hangings
  12. Get at that grout in the bathrooms and kitchen
  13. Turn and vacuum your mattresses
  14. Clean out trash cans
  15. Deep clean the drains in the kitchen and bathrooms
  16. Clean rugs, mats and carpets
  17. Wash and detail cars
  18. Clean the vacuum cleaner and other cleaning tools

If you can help it, complete the tasks you already have the supplies for, since we should all limit trips to the store as much as possible. And just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t be social: post your cleaning progress photos on social media and tag us at @freshome!

The post How to Keep Your Home Clean During a Pandemic appeared first on Freshome.com.

WOW! Internet Plans

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About WOW! 

WOW! (also known as Wide Open West) offers cable, fiber and DSL internet, phone and television services for customers in nine states providing services to over 7 million people. You can find WOW! internet in metropolitan areas like Montgomery, AL, Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI, and 16+ other markets. There are WOW! Internet package choices with speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) to fit your streaming, gaming and browsing needs.

WOW! Internet: what you need to know

Check out this quick-reference guide for the most important things you’ll want to know about WOW! internet prices, speeds and availability. 

WOW! products Cable, fiber and DSL internet, TV and phone
WOW! internet speeds Up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)
WOW! internet prices Plans starting at $59.99/mo.
WOW! availability 19+ markets in 9 states
Contract required? Contracts are required for promotional pricing

*As of 03/12/2020 

WOW! internet packages

Internet 100

WOW!’s Internet 100 offers speeds up to 100 Mbps which is ideal for singles, small families or households of one to two people. With this plan, you can use a few devices at once, such as a computer and some cell phones, and you can enjoy light streaming and casual web browsing. You’ll get a discount if you sign up for AutoPay, and installation is free if you order the service online. 

Internet 200

Internet 200 offers speeds up to 200 Mbps. This option is a good fit for small- or medium-sized households of two to three people where several devices may be connected at the same time. It’s good for multiple high-definition streams and some casual online gaming.

You’ll also save money each month you’re enrolled in AutoPay. Installation costs are waived if you order your new service online.

Internet 500

Internet 500 goes up to 500 Mbps which works if you have a medium or large household of three to four people who like 4K streaming and live online gaming. It’s also a good option if you have a smart home with internet-enabled devices.

As with other WOW! packages, you can get a discount when you sign up for AutoPay and free installation for ordering online.

Internet 1000

This is WOW’s premier gigabit package, with speed up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps). Internet 1000 is intended for large households of five or more people or homes where there will be lots of HD streaming, online gaming, video conferencing and other extensive internet use.

Order online for free installation and sign up for AutoPay to and save money. With this package, you also get free whole-home WiFi. 

WOW! features

  • Free installation: Installation fees are waived on all packages if you sign up for service online.
  • No data caps: Browse, download and stream to your heart’s content thanks to unlimited data, available on all plans.
  • 30-day money-back guarantee: You can try out WOW!’s internet service for 30 days to see if it works for your needs.
  • AutoPay discount: Save $5 each month when you enroll in automatic payments.
  • Free email addresses: All internet packages come with up to five free email addresses. 

WOW! availability

Some ISPs, including WOW! internet, are only available in certain areas of the country. If you’re relocating or looking to switch providers, check the provider’s availability to be sure they service your area. WOW! is available in these states: 

  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

Pros & Cons of WOW!

 Advantages of WOW!  

  • Installation costs are waived if you order your service online
  • Save $5 every month if you enroll in automatic payments
  • No data caps, no matter which internet package you choose
  • Paperless billing will save you $2 per month
  • Promotional rates require a two-year contract, but if you pay full price for service, you won’t be locked into any contracts

Disadvantages of WOW!

Setting up WOW!

Whether you’re moving into a new home or simply switching providers, you also need to factor in how the service will be installed. WOW! offers free installation on all its internet packages if you order your service online. To get WOW! internet service, you’ll need a modem which you can rent with built-in WiFi from the company for $10 per month, or supply your own compatible unit at no cost. If you’d like to purchase your own to save on the monthly rental cost, review WOW!’s compatibility requirements. Purchasing a modem can cost as little as $46.99 and will pay for itself in less than half a year. WOW! does not offer self-setup, so either way, a technician will need to come to your home to set up service.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is WOW! Internet?
Prices start at $59.99 per month for the Internet 100 plan. The company’s fastest package, Internet 1000, costs $99.99 per month.

Is WOW! internet available where I live? 

WOW! internet service is available across 19 markets in nine states. You can see if service is available for your specific address by clicking any button that says “customize order” or “check availability.”

What does WOW! stand for?
WOW! is an acronym for the company’s full name, Wide Open West.

Does WOW! offer any discounts?
WOW! offers a $5 per month discount when you enroll in automatic payments. You can also get promotional monthly prices when you sign up for a two-year contract. 

Does WOW! have contracts?
They only lock you into a two-year contract when you’re a new subscriber signing up with promotional pricing. If you opt to forgo promotional pricing and pay full price, you won’t be locked into a contract.

Does WOW! offer bundles?
Yes, you can opt for bundles that include TV, phone and internet.

The post WOW! Internet Plans appeared first on Freshome.com.

2020 New Furnace Replacement and Installation

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Furnace Buying Guide

Furnaces play an essential role in keeping your home warm when the weather outside turns cold. But in order to save money on repairs and energy bills, it’s important to replace your furnace at the right time. Today’s furnaces are highly energy-efficient, reliable and quiet. But one size does not fit all. 

This guide will walk you through furnace types, sizes, costs, efficiency, installation complexity and customer reviews – in short, each of the factors you need to consider when buying a new furnace.

What is a furnace?

A furnace is a device used to heat indoor spaces. It works on the principle of forced-air heating. Modern furnaces typically include a burnerheat exchangerblower and thermostat that work together to keep your house comfortable.

The furnace heats air and disperses it within your home through air vents. Once rooms are filled with warm air, any cold air in the room is drawn back into the furnace through the return ducts. This heating cycle continues until the desired temperature is reached, which you can adjust with a thermostat.

How to buy the best furnace

Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing a furnace for your home.

Types of furnaces

There are four major types of furnaces: gas, oil, electric and propane. While the working principle for all furnace types is the same, the type you choose will depend on budget, energy-efficiency requirements and available energy sources.

Gas Furnace: This type of furnace uses natural gas as fuel to heat the air. Natural gas furnaces are highly energy-efficient, with Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings ranging from 89 to 98 percent. Natural gas is readily available across the United States, which is why this type of furnace is common in most American homes.

Oil Furnace: An oil furnace uses heating oil or diesel fuel and is slightly less efficient compared to a gas furnace. Oil-furnace AFUE ratings usually vary between 80 and 90 percent. This furnace type is most commonly found in the northeastern part of the country. In comparison to gas furnaces, oil furnaces are generally cheaper.

Electric Furnace: Electric furnaces heat the air with electricity. Compared to oil and gas, electric furnaces are technically 100% efficient since they convert electrical energy to heat energy. Electricity generation itself requires burning fuel, however, so electricity is costly compared to other fuels, which ultimately means higher monthly utility bills. On the plus side, electric furnaces themselves are cheaper than oil and gas furnaces.

Propane Furnace: If access to natural gas and oil is limited in your area, consider a furnace that runs on propane fuel. Propane furnaces are common in many rural areas where other fuels aren’t as readily available. The cost of a propane furnace is generally higher compared to a gas furnace. While these furnaces offer high efficiencies of up to 98%, the overall fuel costs will likely be higher in comparison to natural gas.

Choose the right size

To ensure optimum comfort and energy savings, it’s critical to determine the right furnace size for your home. Furnaces come with different heating capacities (measured in British Thermal Unit or BTU) for heating different sized spaces. In addition to the size of your home, details like window efficiency, air leakages, number of occupants and insulation should also be taken into account.

Considering all these factors, an HVAC professional will perform the Manual J load calculation to figure out the correct furnace size for your home. This calculation is done by determining how much heat is lost through your home’s windows, walls and insulation during cool months and how much heat is gained during hot months. This is then used to determine the size of the furnace you need. A too-large or too-small furnace will not heat your home efficiently. An incorrectly sized furnace might continuously run to warm the space or stop heating the air too soon, ultimately costing you more money in the long run.

Compare furnace costs

The cost for a new furnace depends on the size, type and brand. It also includes installation fees, which will vary according to the type of furnace and the size of your home.

For a 2,000-square-foot home, a natural gas furnace costs between $2,300 and $3,500. The installation may cost another $1,500. But the exact installation cost will depend on the amount of ductwork necessary and where you need the furnace installed.

For the same size home, an oil furnace ranges between $500 and $2,500 for the unit, plus $1,500 to $2,000 for installation. While an electric furnace cost ranges anywhere between $500 and $2,000 and $1,500 to $2,000 for installation. Propane furnaces generally range from $800 to $2,000, and $2,000 to $3,000 for installing the unit.

Note that these prices are for reference purposes only. Because the actual cost of buying and installing a furnace is so specific to individual households, it is best to consult an HVAC professional in your area to get an accurate quote and ensure you select the ideal furnace size.

Installation

You might be tempted to save money by handling the furnace installation yourself, but installing a furnace is not an easy job. It’s a complex process that can take a few hours or even days. Furnace installation requires proper experience and equipment. It can include removing your old heating system, replacing existing ductwork, sealing the ducts for proper ventilation and programming the thermostat. For full warranty protection, most furnace manufacturers require professional installation. A faulty installation can result in major problems, from inefficient performance and higher energy consumption to fire risk. 

While it’s best to leave furnace installation in the hands of a qualified professional, you can always do some pre-work to expedite the process. Cleaning the pathway to the furnace and clearing the space where the compressor will go make it easier for the technician to work.

Furnace brands

These are the top furnace brands and some of their most popular models.

Bryant

987M Evolution Gas Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 60,000 – 120,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 98.3% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $4,750 (Installed)

986T Evolution Gas Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 40,000 – 120,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 96.7% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $4,750 (Installed)

Carrier

59MN7 Infinity 98 Series Gas Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 60,000 – 120,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 98.5% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $4,500 (Installed)

OVL Performance 80 Series Oil Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 77,000 – 154,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 86.6% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $3,895 (Installed)

Lennox

SLP98V Gas Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 66,000 – 132,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 98.7% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $3,790 (Installed)

SLO185V Oil Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 105,000 – 154,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 87% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $4,990 (Installed)

Rheem

Prestige R98V Series Gas Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 60,000 – 115,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 98.7% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $3,400 (Installed)

Prestige R97V Series Gas Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 60,000 – 115,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 97% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $3,400 (Installed)

Trane

XC95M Gas Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 36,000 – 60,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 97.3% AFUE
  • Starting Price: $3,750 (Installed)

XV80 Oil Furnace

  • Heating Capacity: 87,000 BTU
  • Efficiency Rating: 85% AFUE
  •  Starting Price: $3,970 (Installed)

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Furnace Repair: Common Problems and How to Fix Them

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Even with the right unit and proper installation, there’s always the chance that your furnace will malfunction. While some problems are caused by normal wear and tear, most can be traced to inconsistent maintenance. Furnace issues can wreak havoc in your living space, especially during the colder months when you really need to heat your interior. It’s helpful to know how to troubleshoot common issues so you can decide what to take care of yourself and what to let a professional handle.

Below is an overview of common repair and maintenance problems, how to troubleshoot them and key maintenance tips: 

General furnace maintenance tips

To avoid inconveniences and costly repairs, make sure to regularly maintain your furnace. Do these things to keep it running efficiently:

Change the filter every three months

Changing the filter is one of the simplest but most important maintenance tasks you can perform. The filter protects the blower fan from dust that compromises your indoor air quality. Cleaning and changing the filter every three months will improve indoor air quality and help prolong the life of the furnace.

Check any recommended wire connections and temperature gauges

Connection issues along the line that supplies power to your furnace can compromise the performance of the unit. Loose, faulty or missing wires will cause the thermostat to lose its connection to the unit and interrupt service. Part of maintaining your furnace involves checking the recommended connections as well as temperature and pressure gauges. Take time to inspect these parts for dust and damage, making sure that they are tight and secure.

Turn on unit once every season it is not in use

It’s tough to pick up on any problems if the furnace is off. Power it up at least once each season and monitor the thermostat to ensure it’s working properly. Turning on the unit allows you to detect common problems such as accumulated dust on the filters, burning smells, leaking carbon monoxide and other warning signs. This will allow you to address problems before they become worse.

Schedule yearly maintenance with an HVAC professional

You should have an HVAC professional to inspect your heating system and carry out maintenance work every year. Professional furnace maintenance will involve cleaning the outdoor unit, fan blades, coil and blower. The expert will also check for cracks, wear and tear and signs of future problems. The motor parts will be lubricated and the furnace tuned-up to ensure enhanced comfort and efficiency. 

Regular maintenance goes a long way toward ensuring that all parts are functioning well. It also allows timely repair or replacement of damaged components. Regularly scheduled maintenance both improves the furnace’s efficiency and extends its life. 

Clean the vents and ductwork

Make sure that no objects are blocking the vents to ensure that air will flow freely and circulate in your home. Cleaning the vents and ductwork will keep the system working properly and prevent it from getting damaged.

Common furnace problems

Furnace is not producing heat

There are many reasons why this can happen. The good news is that you can address many of these factors on your own without the need to call for professional help. Start by opening the heat registers and then move on to checking the thermostat settings. Next, check the furnace power, reset the furnace or check the service door cover. You can also inspect the filter to make sure it is clear of dirt and check the standing pilot light to make sure it is lit.

Furnace is not producing enough heat

If you notice a decline in heat output, first make sure the air filter is clean and in good condition. Next, inspect other components of the furnace for any build-up of dirt, dust and debris, an inexpensive fix that can help boost performance. Also, check the vents and ducts for obstruction. Finally, make sure the thermostat is working and positioned properly. Try moving it away from direct sunlight since this may affect temperature readings on the thermostat and cause it to misread the temperature in your home. If this happens, your thermostat will shut off the furnace too early and leave your house feeling cold. You may also need to check your insulation to make sure that warm air does not escape from your space through various openings. 

Odd noises from the furnace or ducts

Squeaking, rumbling, grinding, pinging and rattling noises are all signs of a mechanical issue, clogged burner or airflow reduction. Loud rattling noises could mean that the blower motor needs to be lubricated while squealing could point to a loose or damaged blower belt. A loose blower can result in loud clanking or scraping while dirty burners will produce a loud bang. Lastly, grinding sounds may be a sign that motor bearings need to be repaired.

Since it can be difficult to establish the cause of the odd sounds without experience, get a technician to inspect the unit and fix the issues.

Furnace runs continuously

One of the main reasons a furnace will run constantly is because something is dirty or clogged. Before trying to fix any problem, take time to make sure that the thermostat settings are not at “continuous fan”. If the air filter is good to go, check the furnace blower for clogging and clean it. If this does not work, have a look at the furnace blower motor and lubricate it. If you still cannot figure out why your furnace keeps running, contact an experienced technician.

Furnace is not blowing air

If the furnace is not blowing air, there are several steps you will need to take. First, make sure that the blower is free of debris and confirm your thermostat is set to the correct temperature. Before cleaning the air filter, check the furnace circuit breakers to ensure there is a power supply. 

As always, if you cannot fix a furnace issue on your own, call in an HVAC professional. A competent pro can accurately diagnose the malfunction and recommend tips on how to keep your furnace in peak condition.

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What is Google Fiber?

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In the early 2000s, fiber-optic internet was not unheard ofVerizon had first deployed its Fios service in 2004⁠—but fiber-optic cable lines were expensive to lay and the service was stalling. For the most part, the high-end market was served by cable and the low-end by DSL

Enter Google Fiber. In 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was tasked with providing broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps to at least 100 million Americans by 2020. Tech giant Google stepped up to the challenge. Google Fiber rolled out in test markets across the country starting in 2010 and by 2016, 30% of urban dwellers could access gigabit internet service—more than 100 times faster than the average speed in 2010.

The service stopped expanding in 2016, then returned with much more modest expansion plans in 2017. It is unknown whether they will eventually expand again, but Google Fiber locations that already have service are still well supported today. If available in your area, Google Fiber’s cost is highly competitive with other providers and the service is a highly reliable option for internet, streaming TV and phone. 

Where is Google Fiber available?

Google Fiber availability is currently limited to just 18 cities as of early 2020. The Google Fiber map shows a decided preference for urban areas, which makes sense as it was originally installed in “test cities.” If you live in a Google Fiber city, enter your address on its website to find out if your home is covered.

Google Fiber products

Google Fiber offers two services: gigabit internet (1,000 Mbps or 1 Gbps) and home phone service. Because Google Fiber’s speed is so fast, you also can take advantage of high-bandwidth technologies like HD streaming, online gaming and heavy internet use, though you’ll need to pair your service with the applicable TV and streaming services.

Gigabit internet

Fiber-optic internet, such as Google Fiber, offers speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps for both downloads and uploads which distinguishes it from other types of gigabit internet where upload speeds tend to be far slower, in the range of 35 Mbps. Google Fiber gigabit internet costs $70/mo. as of March 2020. Features include free installation, no contracts and no data caps. 

Streaming TV

Until recently, Google Fiber also offered its own branded TV services. With the increased popularity of streaming TV, however, the company announced on February 4, 2020, that it would no longer offer traditional television services to new customers. Instead, Google recommends YouTube TV or fuboTV.

YouTube TV has more than 70 channels, including up to six accounts and three simultaneous streams. Sports channels and premium channels are available as add-ons for additional fees. Features include no contracts, unlimited cloud DVR storage for up to nine months and local network coverage.

fuboTV has several packages and a variety of premium and sports channel add-ons available for additional fees. Features include cloud DVR storage (amount varies by package), streaming on two or more devices simultaneously and no contracts.

Phone

If you need a home phone, Google Fiber can provide it for just $10/mo. with a Google Fiber internet account. Google Fiber phone works just like a traditional home phone but with extra features like voicemail-to-text transcription and forwarding to your mobile phone.

* Prices as of March 2020

How Google Fiber is improving internet access

Gigabit Internet for Public Housing

Google Fiber is working to bring its high-speed services to all public housing communities in its cities at zero cost for residents and housing authorities. The program launched in 2016 at West Bluff in Kansas City and includes partnerships that allow residents to purchase devices at a discount and learn valuable computer skills.

Community Connections

Since debuting the program in Austin in 2013, Google Fiber has been working to provide free gigabit internet for community organizations in its connected cities. The goal is to give members of the local communities a place to access high-speed internet as needed.

Digital Inclusion Fellowship

The Digital Inclusion Fellowship is designed to pair digital experts with local organizations in Google Fiber cities to help build programs to get more citizens online. Examples include a mobile computing lab and a program to teach parents how to get involved with their children’s schools online.

Community Leaders Program

In partnership with local universities in Google Fiber cities, this initiative is designed to empower college students to help drive solutions that improve connectivity. The focus is on underserved populations, nonprofits and small businesses.

How Google Fiber is providing education to communities

Google Fiber is also committed to improving tech education in the communities it serves. Programs include:

Create Your World

An interactive learning experience for kids, Create Your World explores the connection between coding and topics such as animation and music. Learning to code is part of the experience.

App Camp

In partnership with local universities in Google Fiber cities, this program provides free summer app development camps for high school students. Participants use smartphones on loan from Sprint to develop Android apps.

In the Fiber Space

In the Fiber Space makes Google Fiber space available to community organizations. Priority is given to groups who want to showcase ideas and offer programming related to STEM, community engagement or bridging the digital divide.

StartFEST Utah

StartFEST is a grassroots, five-day festival for startups and local entrepreneurs. It includes a competition for a cash prize.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is Google Fiber? 
Google Fiber’s price starts at $70/mo as of March 2020.

How fast is Google Fiber? 
As of early 2020, Google Fiber speed is 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) for both downloads and uploads. This distinguishes it from other types of gigabit internet in that its upload speeds are equal to download speeds.

Where is Google Fiber available? 
Google Fiber is currently available in 18 cities across the United States. Check the Google Fiber map to see if it’s offered in your city.

How does Google Fiber work? 
Google Fiber uses fiber-optic cable lines to deliver high-speed internet to its customers. Because fiber-optic cables use light to transmit signals, they allow for much faster data transfer than other internet options.

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What Is Home Equity and How Does It Work?

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What is equity?

You’ll often hear the term equity when it comes to homeownership, but you may not even know what that means even if you already own a home. The amount of money you receive when you sell your house, minus any debt associated with it, is equity. When looking at it from an investment point of view, the owner of the asset (probably you in this case) is referred to as a stakeholder. There are two types of equity: book value and market value. Equity calculations occur most often in businesses and homes. 

Calculating the difference between an asset and its liabilities determines the equity’s book value. An equity’s market value is based on the valuation of investors, or its current share price if you’re calculating the market value for a business. For a home, fair market value is typically what people in the consumer marketplace are willing to pay for your house.

Understanding home equity

Say you want to determine how much equity you have in your own home. You can take its current value and subtract the amount you still owe. For example, if your home’s value is currently $130,000 and you still owe $80,000, you have $50,000 of equity. Two factors affect your home’s equity:

  • If appreciation occurs due to home/property improvements or inflation
  • Paying down the principal that you owe on your original mortgage

When you make a down payment during your initial purchase, that helps bring down the amount you owe on the mortgage. Down payments are both a portion of the home’s total selling price, as well as your initial equity stake. Many mortgages, like a VA loan or USDA-backed loan, don’t require a down payment, however, it’s common for homeowners to put down between 3-5%.

The loan interest you have on your mortgage affects how quickly you can build equity. Your loan interest is a percentage of your total balance, which most pay monthly until the end of the mortgage term. Loan collateral is when you take out a loan and, in the case of real estate, the home becomes collateral. This reduces a lender’s risk; if the loan goes into default they can sell the collateral to recoup costs.

The term lien means you have a legal right or claim against a property. The first time a home lien happens is when you obtain the original mortgage. In that scenario, the lien is helpful because the home becomes loan collateral and you can build equity. Keeping up with your mortgage payments helps ensure any other lien doesn’t attach to the loan. So make sure you’re paying it on time to keep any liens away. 

What happens to my equity if my home increases in value?

Let’s take the earlier example of your home being currently worth $130,000. You owe $80,000, so there is $50,000 in equity. Now, assume that the initial cost of your home was $100,000, and you made a 10% down payment at purchase. That percentage is also known as your equity stake. If you don’t incur any additional debt on your home, its equity will continue increasing as you make payments and its value increases.

$100,000 – 10% ($10,000) = $90,000 (original amount of the loan before making payments)

  • Original loan: $90,000
  • Payments to date: $10,000 ($90,000 – $10,000 = $80,000 owed)
  • Value of home: $130,000
  • Equity: $50,000 ($130,000 – $80,000 = $50,000 equity)

Tips on how to build home equity

There are lots of ways to build equity, including one that requires no work at all. When your property value increases due to rising prices in the housing market, you’re building home equity. Here are some additional ways you can build home equity:

  • Lowering your mortgage balance: The more you pay against your mortgage’s principal, the more equity you’ll have. Just make sure there are no pre-payment penalties.
  • Making larger mortgage payments: Each time you pay extra on your mortgage and apply that difference to the loan’s principal, you’re building equity.
  • Change the payment schedule: By making 26 half-payments instead of 12 full payments, you reduce the term of your loan, saving on interest and building equity faster.
  • Refinance the terms: If you opt to refinance your loan to a shorter-term 15-year loan, you’ll have higher payments but you will build equity faster than with a traditional 30-year loan.
  • Make improvements: Some home improvements increase the property’s worth and thereby your equity. But only certain types of improvements will pay off, so research for your area accordingly. And don’t forget curb appeal.
  • Keep it maintained: Keeping up with regular repairs and maintenance can increase your home’s worth when it comes time to sell, which results in higher equity.

Home equity loans

One of the most beneficial aspects of a mortgage is the ability to borrow against your equity. You can do that with a lump-sum loan or home equity line of credit.

How does a home equity loan work?

There are two types of home equity loans: lump-sum loans and the home equity line of credit.

  • Lump-sum home equity loan:lump-sum home equity loan means lenders are allowing you to borrow a lump-sum of money against your existing equity. Because they fund in a lump sum, they’re similar to a personal loan.
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC):HELOC is a loan where the lender qualifies you for a revolving line of credit against a percentage of your home equity. This loan works similarly to a credit card whereby you carry the balance from month-to-month for the amount you’re allowed to borrow against your home’s equity.

Qualifying for a home equity loan

Qualifying for a lump-sum home equity loan means the lender looks at your credit history, income, the home’s current value and your debt-to-income ratio. When you’re trying to qualify for a HELOC, you must have at least 15-20% of your home’s value in equity. That determination occurs following an appraisal. You must also have a debt-to-income ratio that does not exceed roughly 40% (or a bit higher) and a credit score above 620.

Pros and cons of home equity loans

Pros:

  • Easy qualification: If a lender knows they can use your home as collateral they are more likely to qualify you for and approve your application.
  • Lower interest rates: Even if the home equity loan is challenging to get, you may find it has lower interest rates.

Cons:

  • Risk: If you cannot make your loan payments, you risk the home going into foreclosure.
  • Limitations: If you want to sell your home, you must pay off your home equity debt first.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is equity and how do I find out my home equity? 
Equity is the amount of money an asset owner receives when they sell their house, minus any debt associated with it. To find your home equity, your first step is getting an appraisal. Then, take the value of the appraisal and subtract it from the amount you still owe on your mortgage.

Is it a good idea to take equity out of your house? 
If you need to make home improvements, cover costs for college, consolidate debt, obtain emergency expenses or secure long-term investments, then you may want to apply for a home equity loan (assuming, of course, you can afford the increased mortgage payment). 

What credit score do you need to get a home equity loan? 
You have a better chance of qualifying if your credit score is 700 or above.

Which is better to get—a home equity loan or personal loan? 
If you need a substantial amount of funds, it’s more challenging to get a personal loan. A home equity loan allows you to repay over a longer-term as well.

Are there closing costs on a home equity loan? 
Though rates differ from lender to lender, expect to pay between 2-5% of the loan in closing costs. However, it isn’t uncommon for lenders to waive these fees.

Author Biography:

Jenn Greenleaf is a professional writer from Maine who also works part-time as a bookkeeper for her husband’s residential construction business. She specializes in writing about HVAC, commercial construction, and other home-related topics.

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Best video doorbell cameras

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Best video doorbell: Reviews and comparison

Do you have concerns about what’s happening at your doorstep when you’re not home or while you’re sleeping? Video doorbell cameras can provide some peace of mind. We’re rounding up information on the five best video doorbells for your home, including details on what to consider when shopping for and comparing video doorbells.

What makes the best video doorbell?

It’s important to choose the right doorbell camera based on how you like to use smart home technology and for your own home security needs and budget. Here are some of the features we considered  when comparing video doorbell options:

  • Price: Average prices range between $149.99 and $199.99.
  • Customer reviews: Look for reviews covering the product’s ease of installation, quality, night vision, motion detection, etc.
  • Customer support: Ensure customer support is available through live chat, phone and/or email.
  • Advanced features: The best doorbell cameras have advanced features, including infrared night vision, mobile alerts and two-way audio.
  • Warranties/guarantees: Many doorbell cameras feature a limited one-year warranty, but some extend as long as three years.

Our selections for the best video doorbell

Arlo Video Doorbell

Arlo is considered one of the top internet-connected camera brands due to its assortment of products, including indoor/outdoor cameras, indoor-only cameras, mobile cameras and baby cameras. The Arlo company also carries a broad range of accessories, including magnetic wall mounts and security lights.

The Arlo video doorbell captures video better than traditional doorbell cameras with high-dynamic-range video (HDR video) and a 180° viewing angle. Not only will you receive notifications when it detects motion, but each time someone presses your doorbell, you’ll receive a phone call or mobile alert.

Price: $149.99

Average reviews: Arlo’s doorbell camera receives an average of four stars from consumers regarding its motion detection, night vision, ease of installation and technical support. Some consumers have concerns about Arlo’s customer service, wiring requirements and its lack of functionality across multiple platforms.

Features:

  • Max Video Resolution: 1536 x 1536
  • Night vision with high powered Infrared LEDs
  • Single motion sensor
  • Full Duplex two-way audio
  • SIP audio/video call
  • Outdoor UV and weather-resistant
  • Single microphone array

Warranties/guarantees: One-year warranty

August Doorbell Cam Pro

August aims to ensure their customers are more secure through the control and visibility of their front door. The August Doorbell Cam Pro allows homeowners to answer their door no matter their location. Because it continuously monitors doorsteps, it captures every moment leading up to motion alerts. When subscribing to the free subscription for Basic Video Recording, homeowners can replay videos the doorbell camera captures within the last 24 hours.

Price: $199.99

Average reviews: The August Doorbell Cam Pro has mixed reviews, with an average three-star rating. It does receive several five-star ratings from consumers regarding the doorbell camera’s quality and value. Some consumer concerns include the length of time before playback video is available, motion-sensing delays and volume inconsistencies.

Features:

  • Easy installation
  • Use your phone to let guests in
  • Full-color HD night vision
  • Continuous monitoring
  • Free 24-hour recording with a live HD video feed
  • Requires an Android (5.0 or higher) or iOS (9.0 or higher) smartphone

Warranties/guarantees: One-year warranty

Ring Video Doorbell 2

Ring doorbells were some of the earliest to come to market back in 2013 and the company is now owned by Amazon, meaning they will interact well with other Amazon smart home devices. Ring’s goal is to help reduce the amount of crime neighborhoods experience and increase peace of mind in your homeThe Ring Video Doorbell 2 allows you to monitor your home from any location with instant mobile alerts and is compatible with Android, iOS, MAC and Windows 10.

Price: $169.99

Average reviews: The Ring Video Doorbell 2 receives just over four stars from consumers for its material quality, motion detection, picture quality, night vision, WiFi signal and sound quality. Consumers have concerns with the lag time between the doorbell ringing and then establishing a video connection.

Features:

  • Receive mobile alerts instantly
  • 160-degree horizontal, 90-degree vertical HD wide-angle views with adjustable motion sensors
  • Built-in speakers and microphone with two-way audio with noise cancellation
  • Infrared night vision
  • Live view on-demand audio and video
  • Battery-powered or hardwired

Warranties/guarantees: One-year warranty

Nest Hello Video Doorbell

Nest launched its first product, the Learning Thermostat, in 2011. In 2014, Google purchased Nest and, also during that year, Nest purchased a start-up security camera company by the name of Dropcam. In 2017, Nest developed their first video doorbell, the Nest Hello Video Doorbell.

With 24-hour streaming and a three-hour look-back on recording history, the Nest Hello doorbell camera shows everything that’s happening on your doorstep. When subscribing to the Nest Aware service, you can keep an eye on your packages with its package recognition and instant alerts.

Price: $199.00

Average reviews: Consumers rate the Nest Hello doorbell video camera with nearly five stars. Their reviews include this doorbell video camera’s ease of installation, video quality, camera features, set up and app features.

Features:

  • 8x digital zoom and a 1/3-inch color sensor
  • Captures up to 30 frames per second in HDR
  • 160-degree diagonal view
  • Built-in microphone and speaker with noise and echo cancellation
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Infrared night vision

Warranties/guarantees: Two-year limited warranty

SimpliSafe Video Doorbell

SimpliSafe launched in 2006 as one of the first producers of professional-grade home-monitoring systems. In 2019, the company expanded to the U.K. to offer them the same products and level of support. The SimpliSafe Video Doorbell provides video streaming with dual-sensor triggering while ignoring unnecessary motion such as cars passing. 

Price: $169.00

Average reviews: The SimpliSafe video doorbell receives a wide variety of reviews, including five-star ratings for its ease of installation, motion detection, picture quality, night vision and technical support. Some consumers, however, have concerns about connectivity issues and customer service inconsistencies.

Features:

  • Two-way audio
  • Motion alerts
  • Pan and Zoom
  • HDR imaging
  • Infrared night vision
  • 162-degree field of view

Warranties/guarantees: Three-year warranty

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