What’s Tripping Your Circuit Breaker?

You’re cooking, washing clothes or just turning on the blender. All of a sudden, the power goes out in some area of your home. Something is tripping one of your circuit breakers. But what could be causing this?

Should you treat it as a minor inconvenience, or should you be concerned that you might eventually have a house fire? Homeowners with an older house or a fixer-upper home may be particularly susceptible. Freshome asked the electrical experts to explain what’s tripping your circuit breakers and how you can solve this problem.

short circuit

Sometimes, a short circuit also causes sparks and smoke. Image: gcafotografia/Shutterstock

Short Circuit

One cause of a tripped circuit breaker is a short circuit. “A short circuit is common, but not necessarily dangerous,” according to James Dickson, Owner at Mr. Electric of McKinney, TX.

“This is when a hot wire is contacting either a neutral or a ground wire anywhere along the circuit,” Dickson says. “This causes an overload of current to flow through the circuit breaker for a very brief period of time, usually a second or less, creating heat,” he explains. Dickson says the circuit breaker automatically shuts off in cases like these to prevent an electrical fire.

dont repair equipment

Don’t attempt to repair equipment or cords yourself unless you’re a pro. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Ground Fault

Approximately 200 people a year die from ground faults, making this the source for the majority (66%) of residential electrocutions. “A ground fault happens when a neutral wire’s return current does not exactly match the hot wire’s current that was given to an appliance,” Dickson says. “In order to avoid a ground fault trip, the currents must match to within 3-5 milliamps.”

Here’s an example from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of what could happen with a ground fault. A bare wire that is inside of an appliance touches the appliance’s metal case, charging it with electricity. If you happen to touch the appliance while you’re also touching a grounded metal object (like a cool, trendy water faucet), you will get shocked.

arc fault

An arc fault can cause a fire. Image: JR/Stock/Shutterstock

Arc Fault

“Circuit breakers know what standard arc conditions are and can differentiate between series and parallel arcs,” Dickson explains. “When a certain flow of electricity falls outside of these standards, the breaker interprets this as a potential fire hazard and will trip the breaker.” This breaker tripping fault relies on circuit boards and preloaded data to determine the conditions of a circuit, setting it apart from other circuit breaker trips. “The other three (short circuit, ground fault and overloaded circuit) all use mechanical means to control the tripping,” Dickson says.

redistribute electrical loads

Redistribute electrical loads if needed. Image: Rashevskyi Viacheslav/Shutterstock

Overloaded Circuit

Another cause of a tripped circuit breaker is an overloaded circuit. Dickson considers this the most dangerous condition that would trip a circuit breaker. An overloaded circuit occurs “when your electrical circuits are pushed to, or past, their rated limits due to too high of a load,” he says. “Components (switches/receptacles) can start to fail or the insulation on the copper (hopefully not aluminum) wire will start to melt off.” And when this happens, Dickson says the electricity will start to arc between the wire and any combustible source. This situation is dangerous because it increases the chances of starting a fire.

According to Tom Wallace, a Certified Master Inspector at Home Check Inspections in Riverview, FL, an overloaded circuit is the most common reason why circuit breakers trip. “A circuit can become overloaded if too many appliances are being operated at the same time or a single device is using too much power.” Make sure your new bathroom technology isn’t contributing to the problem.

large appliances

Large appliances need dedicated circuits. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Dedicated Circuits

Some fixed appliances need separate, dedicated circuits. They ensure that these appliances can operate without overloading the system. According to the National Electrical Code, these are some of the appliances that need a dedicated circuit:

  • Refrigerators/freezers
  • Ovens
  • Wall ovens/electric ranges
  • Dishwashers
  • Toasters
  • Washers and dryers
  • Space heaters
  • HVAC units and furnaces
  • Blow dryers
  • Garage door openers
don't reset

Don’t continue to just reset tripped circuit breakers. Image: Yentafern/Shutterstock

GFCI/AFCI protection

Circuit breakers can also trip if they are GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) or AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) protected, Wallace says. “GFCI breakers trip when a ground fault is detected in the circuit,” he says. Most new home builds require GFCI protection in wet areas including the bathrooms, kitchen, exterior and garage. “AFCI breakers trip when an arc fault is detected in the circuit,” Wallace says. “These breakers are typically required in bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms.

hazardous situations

Find a solution to hazardous situations. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Avoid Tripping Circuit Breakers

“One way homeowners can avoid tripping circuit breakers is by ensuring that their installer or remodeler is using both GFCI receptacles and an AFCI circuit breaker in their home,” advises Bill Timmons, Marketing Manager of Residential Products at Legrand.

“Many new appliances in kitchens and laundry rooms confuse circuit breakers,” Timmons says. And it’s not easy for older or disabled homeowners to go to the basement to reset tripped breakers, he notes. An AFCI breaker is better than a standard circuit breaker in recognizing and removing an arcing situation before it becomes a fire hazard.

If something continues to trip your circuit breaker, Freshome recommends that you consult a qualified electrician to safely diagnose the problem.

The post What’s Tripping Your Circuit Breaker? appeared first on Freshome.com.

Forget “Sparking Joy”: 8 Decluttering Questions That Actually Work

The wave of Marie Kondo’s popularity has devotees asking themselves if their cheese graters “spark joy” and thanking their college textbooks for their service. Her ruthless brand of decluttering, as depicted on Netflix’s Tidying up with Marie Kondo, centers around only keeping things that bring you joy in your home. When something no longer makes you happy, Kondo encourages homeowners to thank the item and pass it on or throw it out.

Hey, it makes for good TV. This approach is how Kondo gets cluttered spaces into organized havens. But while it works for Netflix, will it work for you? Wanting everything in your home to bring you joy is a noble goal, but it might not be the best approach. After all, some items in your home are simply utilitarian.

If the idea of decluttering with Kondo’s method leaves you feeling emotionally drained, it might be time for a different approach. Joy isn’t the only reason you purchase, use and store stuff in your home. Instead, try asking yourself these questions while decluttering.

Organized closet with baskets

Joy shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when decluttering. Image: Alesia Kan/Shutterstock

Have I used this in the past year?

Some of the stuff in your home is seasonal, but everything should be used at least once a year. Use 12 months as a metric for whether or not something is actually useful. If you forgot you had something and it’s been gathering dust for the last year, it’s probably time to pass it on.

Does this benefit my lifestyle?

This is one of the questions I keep in mind while shopping and decluttering. It ensures I don’t buy something just for the sake of buying it. Asking yourself if an item really, truly benefits your life in some way can help you stop thoughtless purchases and help in the decluttering process. Think objectively: is your life better because you have a certain item? If it isn’t, why are you making space for it?

Well organized office area

Your stuff should blend seamlessly with your lifestyle. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Do I have something else for the job?

It doesn’t matter if something sparks joy or not. If you already have something that does the job, you don’t need to make space in your home for it. From scrapping your double desk calendars to ditching an old food processor, getting rid of spares really frees up space in your home. It also helps you use your stuff more thoughtfully and even come up with different uses for your favorite things.

Would I take it if I moved?

Moving is the great equalizer when it comes to your stuff. When space comes at a premium and moving boxes are limited, you start to ask yourself what you really need at your new place. But you don’t have to wait until moving day to declutter. Ask yourself if you’d keep your stuff if you moved to a new home and you’ll quickly see what’s important and what you should pass on to someone else.

Organized kitchen drawers

Declutter while thinking about why you’re keeping each item. Image: Myvisiuals/Shutterstock

Why am I keeping this?

A friend of my family made a beautiful needlepoint picture for my wedding. It was displayed at the wedding and it’s had a place on my wall for nearly 16 years. The problem? I didn’t really love it and it has never matched my decor. My home is decorated in an industrial style and the picture was definitely more vintage country.

When I thought about it, the only reason I was keeping the picture was out of pure guilt. Besides the fact it didn’t match anything, I had pretty negative feelings every time I saw it. Finally, I decided it was time to give it to someone else. I realized that I wasn’t any less grateful to my friend. I still appreciated the work that went into the gift. But I also realized that someone else could really enjoy it.

Think about why you’re keeping certain items in your home. Is it obligation? Guilt? Or because you truly love something and can’t imagine your home or life without it? It’s a question that bears asking and might have some surprising answers.

Would this be useful to someone else?

It’s easy to get attached to things in our homes. They’re often tokens of memories and experiences, even if they don’t really need to take up shelf space. But if you’re not actively using something, are you robbing someone else of the chance? It can be hard to let stuff go, so try being pragmatic. Would someone else use and love it the way you did? It’s easier to give your stuff a new life when you know it’ll be in good hands.

Organized gray master bedroom

Keep your space organized by donating or passing on unused stuff. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Would I buy this again?

As you’re decluttering, ask yourself, “If I saw this item in a store today, would I pay full price for it?” You’ll quickly see which items you’re keeping because you love them, and which items are just there because you haven’t decluttered yet. Your taste, lifestyle and preferences change over the years. If you wouldn’t get excited if you saw that picture frame, throw pillow or vase at the store, it’s probably time to let it go.

Does it make me happy?

Fine, I’ll admit that Kondo was onto something. While “sparking joy” shouldn’t be the only decluttering criteria, it can help you. It’s all too easy to hold onto things out of a sheer habit. It’s also easy to just make a clean sweep in the spirit of minimalism. Somewhere in the middle, however, is the reality: stuff can make you happy. Whether it brings memories, it’s useful or you just like it, if it makes you happy, it’s worth making the space. Just remember to not ascribe too much of your happiness to your stuff.

Decluttering your home can help you stay organized and tidy, reducing stress. But the very act of decluttering can be super stressful. While Marie Kondo is the leader of the anti-clutter movement, expecting your belongings to spark joy might be putting too much pressure on your favorite umbrella or childhood teddy. Think more objectively about the process and you’ll achieve a home that is decluttered, organized and, yes, even joyful.

The post Forget “Sparking Joy”: 8 Decluttering Questions That Actually Work appeared first on Freshome.com.

BloomsyBox: a Flower Lover’s Dream

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Subscription boxes are officially a thing. There’s a box for whatever interests you. If you’re a makeup lover, Birchbox is just the thing. If you and your hound are besties, you’ve got BarkBox. Basically, if you want a subscription service that suits your tastes, there’s probably a fill-in-the-blank-box out there for you. Think your “thing” might be too hard to ship? Think again. I was thrilled to discover there’s one for people who love flowers: BloomsyBox.

BloomsyBox offers weekly or monthly shipments of fresh flowers delivered right to your doorstep. I was a little skeptical. For starters, flowers fade fast. Am I really going to get wow-worthy blooms out of a cardboard box that’s been on a truck for who knows how long? And then there’s the fragility issue. You really expect me to believe you can send me a full bouquet of flowers and they’re going to arrive in great shape? Well, I got my own BloomsyBox to find out. And — spoiler alert — the answers were yes and yes.

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Get single-variety and mixed bouquets shipped to your house on the schedule that works for you. Image courtesy of BloomsyBox.

How BloomsyBox works

BloomsyBox is a flower-of-the-month (or week, if you’d prefer) club. You decide if you want a bouquet monthly, bi-weekly or weekly and dictate the size of bouquet you’d like to receive. They do the rest.

The flowers

BloomsyBox features both mixed and single-variety bouquets. The latter means that instead of getting a mixed bag of flowers — including some that will die in a few days and you’ll have to carefully pick out of the bouquet — you get a full bouquet of a single type of flower. (I got a single-variety box of lilies.)

BloomsyBox varies their shipments, so you might get tropical flowers one shipment, tulips the next and then a mixed bouquet. Or, if you know you want to stick to roses, BloomsyBox has also partnered with Martha Stewart for rose-only shipments curated by Martha herself.

And each box comes with an informational card so you can take great care of your blooms, extending their lifespan as long as possible.

The sources

I was impressed to learn that BloomsyBox has put some thought into their sourcing. They partner with nearly 50 family-owned farms for their flowers, all of whom are Rainforest Alliance certified. That means your flowers grow without toxic chemicals and the workers get fair conditions.

Another fun fact about BloomsyBox’s sourcing is that they’re able to get their flowers from their source to you in two to four days. They say that’s about half the amount of time it takes for flowers to get to a vase in your home when you get them from a florist or a grocery store. That’s because BloomsyBox doesn’t need any middlemen. They ship the flowers straight from their sources, where they’re arranged, to you.

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Martha Stewart Roses also ship on a monthly schedule, but at a slightly different price point. Image courtesy of BloomsyBox.

Pricing

The monthly BloomsyBox comes in three sizes:

  • Bloomsy S, $40/month
  • Bloomsy M, $50/month
  • Bloomsy L, $55/month

The monthly Martha Stewart Roses also comes in three sizes:

  • Small, $50/month
  • Medium, $55/month
  • Large, $65/month

Just can’t get enough flowers? Fear not! BloomsyBox also offers more regular shipments:

  • Bloomsy Bi-weekly, $50/every two weeks
  • Bloomsy Weekly, $45/week

Oh, and here’s a perk! All BloomsyBoxes ship free.

100% satisfaction guarantee

BloomsyBox says you’ll never have to pay for a bouquet you didn’t like. If you get a flower variety you truly dislike, you’re not out of luck.

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My BloomsyBox sure did bloom! Image provided by Kacie Goff.

My BloomsyBox review

This all seems pretty good, right? If you’re a flower lover, you’re probably always trying to keep fresh flowers in your house. But that extra trip to the florist is a hassle, and grocery store bouquets often leave something to be desired. Could BloomsyBox fill the void?

I got a box to find out. However, I was initially concerned. When my box arrived, one corner was bashed in. It’s been raining a lot in my area, so a lot of my packages have been showing up a little disheveled. This one, in partcular, looked like it had been through the ringer between BloomsyBox and arriving at my door. But, upon opening it, I found the blooms inside unscathed.

I received a large box of lilies in my shipment. Upon arrival, all of them were closed. This wouldn’t have been ideal if I had been planning on hosting a dinner party that night, but I was personally thrilled. I trimmed the ends and put them in a sunny spot and, sure enough, in a few days, I had colorful blooms opening up. And I continued to enjoy my bouquet for nearly two weeks. Now that’s fresh!

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The BloomsyBox was so large I used some of the blooms to add color throughout my apartment. Image provided by Kacie Goff.

The size of my shipment also impressed me. It barely fit in my largest vase! I put out a few of the blooms to make small arrangements for my bathroom and guest room and a lily for my coffee table.

The pros and cons of BloomsyBox

All in all, the freshness, quality and size of my BloomsyBox impressed me. It’s a bit of a splurge, but if you’re already spending money on fresh flowers on a regular basis, it could be an awesome way to cross an errand off your list. Plus you know you’re getting your flowers from a sustainable source. Here are my takeaways:

Pros

  • High-quality flowers
  • Fresh shipments
  • Free shipping in boxes that truly do protect the flowers
  • Quality, sustainable sourcing
  • Variety of size and shipment frequency options

Cons

  • Expensive (when compared to grabbing a bouquet at the grocery store)
  • Few customization options
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Want to try your own BloomsyBox? Use our promo codes below. Image courtesy of BloomsyBox.

Get your own BloomsyBox

All that said, would I recommend BloomsyBox? If you love having fresh flowers in your house, absolutely. It’s a fun way to treat yourself and, because you know the flowers are coming from ethical, sustainable sources, it’s totally guilt-free! And, of course, Freshome has you covered if you want to check BloomsyBox out for yourself. Here are a couple of promo codes you can use:

With spring in full bloom (if you will), it’s the perfect time to bring some life and color into your home. Enjoy your blooms!

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6 Living Room Storage Tricks from Top Interior Design Pros

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If you’ve ever wondered how to make the most of your living room storage, you’re not alone. Nearly every homeowner is on the hunt for ways to keep their most-used room functional while still keeping it aesthetically appealing. In light of that, we decided to ask the experts for their advice. We asked six interior design pros to share their best living room storage tricks.

Here’s what they had to say:

living room storage

An ottoman can be a great option for storing odds and ends. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Invest in a storage ottoman

“Storage ottomans are a great solution for living rooms because they serve a dual purpose. In addition to having a lovely place to rest your feet, they provide a good-sized space to tuck away items you don’t want all over the living room. This could be a good place for blankets or extra pillows, maybe even sheets if you have a pull-out sofa bed. Storage ottomans can tuck away DVDs and games, remote controls and those magazines that pile up in the living room. This functional piece of furniture is the perfect place to stash items before guests arrive.”

—  Erika Bodine, Decorator, Interior Planner and Sales Manager, LuxeDecor

wall hooks

Create your own entryway with a few wall hooks. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

Don’t overlook wall hooks

“Installing a couple of wall hooks is an effortless way to organize hats, coats and purses without cluttering drawers and counters. It’s important to find balance and spacing that works for the item you are hanging, as it will create visual appeal and also naturally function as wall decor.”

— Emilie Baltorinic, Interior Designer, Living Spaces

closed storage

Use closed storage to your advantage. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Hide clutter in closed storage

“Some items, like books, can store really beautifully, while other items, like papers, children’s toys or small electronics, can be an eyesore.  For these more difficult items, consider closed storage like a fabric cube or wicker basket. This strategy still makes all items accessible but makes it easier to also design a functional space with storage in mind!”

— Kayla Hein, Creative Director, Modern Castle

wall storage unit

Go vertical with a wall storage unit. Image: Vadym Andrushchenko/Shutterstock

Think about using a wall storage unit

“Symmetry creates order out of dissimilar items. Storage wall units like the IKEA Kallax create a wall of squares that get items up and off the floor and other horizontal surfaces. They can also be used to create these little feature cubes where you can play with color, theme and texture.”

— Darla DeMorrow, Certified Professional Organizer and Owner, HeartWork Organizing

sofa table

Use a sofa table to add storage that won’t take up much space. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Add a sofa table

“My favorite tip for increasing the storage space [in a living room] is to add a sofa table. In most cases, there is a little bit of space left between the couch and the wall. Take advantage of this space by placing a narrow table behind the couch. Pick a table with complementing color that’s the same length as the sofa. You can use it to store magazines, books, remotes, frames, decor or lamps. You can even install an outlet in the table to create a phone charging station.”

— Eva Bowker, Home Improvement Coordinator, Fantastic Handyman

under stair storage

Store larger items in the space under the stairs. Image: Jo Ann Snove/Shutterstock

Utilize the space under the stairs

“The space under the stairs can be used as a closet space with pull-out shelves or racks. A remodeling contractor can create this extra storage safely while maintaining the structural integrity of the stairs. This storage space can be used for many purposes like shoes, coats or a mini library.”

— Amira Johnson, Interior Designer, Emerald Doors

The post 6 Living Room Storage Tricks from Top Interior Design Pros appeared first on Freshome.com.

These 4 Decluttering Tips Will Help You Through Your Next Spring Cleaning Project

It’s officially time to start spring cleaning. For many of us, that means that decluttering is at the top of the to-do list. With that in mind, we decided to bring you four easy decluttering tips that will help you make the most of your next spring cleaning project. Read them over to get a sense of how you can tackle this task from start to finish.

decluttering tips

Start by breaking down your spring cleaning project into manageable goals. Image: Tiko Aramyan/Shutterstock

Set manageable goals

Believe it or not, the first step to most successful decluttering projects doesn’t have anything to do with sorting through knickknacks. Instead of just diving right in, home organization experts agree that it’s best to write out a set of goals for your project. Create a to-do list of sorts that breaks the decluttering process down into a series of small, manageable steps.

As you write out your to-do list, keep in mind that you can make the steps to this process as general or complex as you need them to be. For example, rather than trying to clean out the whole house in one day, you could decide to tackle the kitchen one day and your living room the next. You can also break down each step into subtasks like “put away laundry” or “pick up stray toys.”

boxes

Sort your clutter into three boxes: keep, donate and throw away. Image: Photo Melon/Shutterstock

Use the “three box method”

Once you know what your goals are for this project, it’s time to start decluttering. It’s best to have a method in mind for how you’re going to sort your clutter before you officially get started. In this case, we recommend the “three box method.” It works like this: you simply sort your belongings into one of the three following boxes.

  • Keep: These are all the items that you still use on a regular basis. You don’t need to worry about putting any of these items away just yet. Just put them in the box for now and leave the organization for later.
  • Donate: This box will hold items that you don’t want or use any longer. However, they’re still in good enough shape to be used by someone else. They can be donated or sold.
  • Throw away: Sometimes an item is just at the end of its lifespan. In that case, it goes in this box to get thrown away.
storage

Sort the items you’re keeping before you buy new storage tools. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Reorganize first, then buy

After you have all your items sorted, it’s time to focus on reorganization. We know that, at this point, it can be tempting to run out and buy lots of those fancy, coordinated storage containers that you see on Instagram. However, we’d advise against going out and spending money until you have a clearer idea of what exactly it is that you need.

To do this, start by focusing on the items in your “keep” box. The goal here is to make sure that every item in the box has a defined place to be kept in the room. Start by putting away the items that already have a set place and leave the rest until the end. Once you’re left with only the odds-and-ends that don’t yet have a home, go shopping for storage solutions. This way, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what tools you need to stay organized.

finish

Finish each task completely before moving on to the next one. Image: LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Complete each task, completely

This is often the hardest step. Before you can move on to the next task on your list of goals, you need to make sure that you’ve finished your current task completely. This means finding a place for all those odds-and-ends, bringing any donations to their proper place and lugging any throw-away items to the trash.

We know that it’s easy to just leave those items for later, but that’s how they end up being forgotten. If you can, it’s best to deal with items right away. Get them out of the way and you can bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.

The post These 4 Decluttering Tips Will Help You Through Your Next Spring Cleaning Project appeared first on Freshome.com.

Caring for Windows: 5 Tips for People in Glass Houses

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They say that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but 13 years in a window-heavy home has taught me even more. The entire front of my home is made up of 12 windows and, while they’re visually interesting, I’ll be honest with you: they can be a major pain to keep clean. But as homes trend toward the more modern, windows and glass are only becoming more popular. Sure, that’s great news for the window-washing company I use, but it also means a lot of homeowner upkeep, too. Caring for windows is more than just a spritz of blue glass cleaner. Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned through life in my own glass house.

Home with large windows in grassy landscape

Windows add plenty of architectural interest to your home. Image: breadmaker/Shutterstock

1. Go commercial

Regular window cleaner is okay for quick shine-ups, but your glass will need more. Homes that feature a lot of glass — especially in place of exterior walls — will accumulate buildup from weather, dust, animals and more. And sometimes, you can’t even really see how dirty your glass is until the sun shines directly through. In any case, it’s best to go for commercial window cleaning solutions. One of the best methods is to simply use soap and water to remove the grime. Then, use a commercial-strength window cleaner (it usually comes in foam, not spray) to shine up.

Modern home with large picture windows

Avoid your hose to make your glass shine. Image: alexandre zveiger/Shutterstock

2. Wash and dry, but skip the hose

When I first moved into my glass house, I figured a quick spray with the hose outside would be enough to get rid of dirt and grime. But my window care contractor told me that I was probably just making it worse. Hose water is usually pretty hard and, what’s more, mineral deposits can be absorbed by the porous surface of the glass. Caring for windows properly meant filling a bucket with water from inside my home, washing and then making sure to dry the glass before finishing. Never wash your windows in direct sunlight, either, since that’s the time windows are most porous.

Modern home with large windows

Make sure your landscape maintenance doesn’t damage your windows. Image: artazum/Shutterstock

3. Check your sprinklers

Automatic sprinklers are super convenient, but they’re really hard on windows. Having a sprinkler system that splashes up against the glass in your home means wave after wave of hard water and scale buildup over time. I definitely fell victim to this issue the first year in my home; the sprinklers had to be reconfigured. Limescale and hard water buildup are notoriously hard to get off of glass, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. Make sure your sprinklers are pointed away from your windows and water areas close to your home by hand instead.

Living room with floor-to-ceiling windows

Yearly maintenance can ensure more energy efficient windows. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

4. Reseal annually

Having a home that is heavy on the glass can be stunning, but it’s not always the most energy efficient feature. Caring for windows can make your home more efficient and help keep energy bills low. Seals around windows and glass can shrink and warp over time, letting out precious heat in the winter and letting it in through the summer months. It’s best to do an annual checkup of your window seals to make sure they’re tight and still pliable. The good news? It’s an easy fix. A tube of caulk can make all the difference in keeping your glass house comfortable all year long.

Large modern home

Call in the professionals a couple of times per year. Image: rawmn/Shutterstock

5. Call in the pros

I do my best to keep our glass home in good shape but I’m not an expert. That’s why I have professional window maintenance come twice yearly to clean windows, clear debris, check seals and otherwise keep my windows in good shape. When your home features a lot of windows, having them look grimy or in disrepair makes a huge difference in the look and feel of the house. It’s usually $150 to $300, but it’s money well spent in keeping my house efficient. While I’m sure we’ll have to replace our windows eventually, it’s a huge cost. Taking care of your windows will extend their life and keep them looking great, so a professional opinion is definitely a worthy investment.

Caring for windows is a major part of homeownership. It’s even more important when glass is one of your home’s major features.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The post Life Hacks: 5 Things Busy People Need to Simplify their Lives appeared first on Freshome.com.

Home Chef Review: Home Cooking Made Simple (No, Really)

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Does Home Chef make it easier to get dinner on the table? Let’s find out. Image courtesy of Home Chef.

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Ah, the joy of cooking. If Julia Child taught us anything, it’s that there is pleasure in putting together a well-crafted, delectable meal. At least, in theory. But anyone who’s ever run out of an ingredient, nicked a finger while dicing or overcooked the shrimp knows that not every meal preparation experience is a delightful one. And with the busyness of daily life, grocery shopping for the necessary ingredients and getting dinner on the table can feel overwhelming. That’s where Home Chef comes in.

Home Chef, like many of the other meal subscription services cropping up today, purports to deliver “home cooking made simple.” Does it? I got a week of meals delivered to my door to put it to the test.

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The ingredients for each Home Chef meal come conveniently packed in their own bag. Image provided by Kacie Goff.

The Home Chef delivery: neatly packaged, nicely done

Remember what we were saying about how life gets busy? That was underscored for me as I boarded a plane to Colorado the day I had scheduled my Home Chef delivery. Not ideal. I was only going to be gone for a few days, but that meant it fell to my husband to make sure everything was put away so that it would keep. And I had to wonder, after already being exposed to who-knows-what during the shipping process, would the produce still be fresh upon my return? What about the shrimp-based meal I so boldly ordered?

I’m happy to report that Home Chef makes every step of the process, including storing food until you’re ready to prepare it, a no-brainer. One of my least favorite things in the world is putting away groceries. Home Chef takes the legwork out of it for you. Each meal comes packed in a convenient zip-top bag. All my trusty partner had to do was load our three bags into the fridge and — bam! — he was done.

And the simplicity of the system is brilliant on both ends. It means it takes seconds to put your Home Chef meals away, and it also means that when you’re ready to cook, you literally just need to grab a bag and go. That is, in my opinion, genius.

Home Chef Pricing

Unlike other meal delivery services (e.g. HelloFresh, Blue Apron), Home Chef doesn’t have set meal plan pricing. Instead, you pay per meal based on the recipe you choose. Their standard meals are priced at $20 for two servings or $40 for four. For premium meals, you’ll pay market price.

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Here’s a look at all the ingredients one of my meal bags contained. Image provided by Kacie Goff.

The Home Chef meals: delicious and delightfully simple to prepare

Okay, moment of honesty here: I don’t love cooking. I don’t hate it, necessarily, but after a full day of work, I’d rather be in the bath with a big glass of wine than standing over the stove. Some people truly find joy in preparing a meal, but I’m not one of those people. I cook out of necessity. And, occasionally, I like the end result enough that I retroactively decide I had a nice time preparing a specific meal.

We received three meals in our Home Chef shipment and I went three for three on actually enjoying the creation of them. Not bad!

It’s also worth noting that I’m a pescatarian so all of my meals will be mostly plant and fish-based. Now, let’s talk details.

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From bag to table in under 30 minutes! Image provided by Kacie Goff.

Meal #1: Avocado & Beet Poke Bowl

First up, I made the Avocado & Beet Poke Bowl. I figured that after a few days of sitting around in my fridge, this mostly produce-based meal might leave a little something to desire. But everything was so cleverly packaged that the whole meal shone. The carrots were crisp, the avocado was perfectly ripe and the edamame and beets were delicious. Home Chef nailed it with the sauce, which was easy to customize for my picky husband. After a stint of quick-but-exhausting travel, this meal felt as nourishing as it was flavorful.

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The recipes are easy to follow and have pictures to guide you. Image courtesy of Kacie Goff.

Meal #2: Baja Shrimp Bowl

I love eating shrimp, but I hate cooking them. The cook time is just so short that I feel like I’m always tiptoeing the line between raw and overdone. But, with the help of my Home Chef recipe, I nailed it in their Baja Shrimp Bowl.

This is a perfect time to talk about these recipes because, while I prepared the shrimp, my husband did the rest of the meal. And he really hates to cook, so I tip my cap to both him and Home Chef. Their recipes have pictures to guide you at every turn (very helpful for amateur cooks) and the steps are broken down so you never feel rushed. Plus, Home Chef makes it super easy by doing a lot of the legwork — like tailing the shrimp or making the sauce — for you.

Oh, and as for the meal itself? It was so good we forgot to take a picture. Oops!

Meal #3: Umami Miso-Mushroom-Cream Gemelli Pasta

Ever since we gave up meat, mushrooms have become a staple in our house. Their earthy, meaty texture can really take a meal to the next level — when they’re used properly. Or they can just be weird brown-grey masses in your dish. I’m very happy to report that the Umami Miso-Mushroom-Cream Gemelli Pasta definitely landed in the realm of the former. This meal felt decadent without leaving us weighed down. And as a lover of umami, earthy flavors, this one definitely hit home with me. Plus, how cute is that little round pat of butter?

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Here’s what you should know about Home Chef before you order your first box. Image courtesy of Home Chef.

Home Chef pros and cons

All in all, I was really thrilled with every meal I got from Home Chef. Here are my key takeaways.

Home Chef pros:

  • Easy and quick to prepare (everything took us 30 minutes or fewer)
  • Good portion size
  • Convenient packaging
  • Creative meals
  • Free shipping on orders over $45
  • Competitively priced (everything I tried was about $10 per serving)

Home Chef cons:

  • Lots of plastic packaging (some is recyclable)
  • Pre-made items (e.g. sauces) could feel limiting to someone who wants to learn to cook from scratch

Would I order another week of Home Chef meals? Absolutely. While $10 a serving might feel comparable to delivery, you’re getting a fresh, flavorful meal and you control the ingredients. Plus, the time it saves in menu planning and grocery shopping offsets some of the cost in my mind because I dislike both of those activities.

Want to try Home Chef for yourself?

If you’re interested in checking out Home Chef, we’ve got you covered. Get 3 plates for free with our code “3platesoff” — just head here and get started.

You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to live a gourmand life. I’d definitely recommend taking Home Chef for a spin.

The post Home Chef Review: Home Cooking Made Simple (No, Really) appeared first on Freshome.com.

What is a Fire-Rated Door and Do You Need One?

In 2017, U.S. fire departments responded to 1,319,500 fires. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a U.S. fire department responded to a fire every 24 seconds. There were 499,000 structure fires, and 72 percent of those structure fires occurred in home structures. Also, of the 3,400 civilian fire deaths in 2017, 77 percent occurred in home structures.

Could fire-rated doors help reduce the loss of life and property in residential settings? Here’s what you need to know about them.

What is a fire-rated door?

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A fire-rated door can provide beauty and safety. 20- 90-minute fire-rated MDF door, style 9244. Image courtesy of Simpson Door Company

A fire-rated door — or fire-resistant door — is specially constructed to slow or prevent the spread of fire and smoke, according to Ken Canziani, Senior Fire Investigator at EFI Global in Sacramento, CA.

“A fire-rated door is a very heavy door made of materials like metal or gypsum,” Canziani explains. “The term ‘fire-rated’ means that the door, when installed properly, is not supposed to combust during a certain time frame in the average fire.” While time ratings vary, he says standard ratings include 20- to 90-minute doors.

Fire-rated doors are more common in commercial buildings than in residential structures. “Fire-rated doors are often installed in public buildings, in office buildings and in places like dormitories,” Canziani says.

Typical residential applications include installation in entryways, garages and multi-family homes.

How can a fire-rated door help during a fire?

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A fire-rated door could buy you some additional time. Image: Monalyn Gracia-Corbis-VCG – Getty

Fire-rated doors can help slow or prevent the spread of fire and smoke, but Canziani warns that they are not designed to be completely fireproof. “These doors are made of combustible materials and will eventually burn through in a fire. However, they will resist the penetration of heat and flames to slow the fire for a specified time period.”

And by containing the fire and smoke, they provide additional time for you to exit the structure.  Most people focus on the element of fire, and they don’t underestimate the significance of reducing smoke inhalation. However, the majority of people who die in residential fires do so as a result of smoke inhalation.

“Fire-rated doors may also help to protect property and personal assets while firefighters work to extinguish the fire,” Canziani adds.

Types of fire-rated doors

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Fire-rated doors should never be propped open. 20-minute fire-rated wood door, style 8212. Image courtesy of Simpson Door Company.

While fire-rated doors are more common in commercial settings, there are many companies that sell residential fire-rated doors.

For example, according to Amira Johnson at Emerald Doors in the UK, the company makes fully finished and unfinished exterior fire doors, in addition to custom-made and bespoke fire doors. Most of the company’s doors have a fire rating of 30 minutes, although some have a fire rating of 60 minutes. Their exterior fire doors are made of plywood or composite core. The company’s interior doors can either have solid panels, clear fire glass or obscure fire glass. Emerald Doors can also make custom fire doors so homeowners can decide which architectural details (raised moldings, etc.) they want in their door.

Fire door options

There’s a fire-rated door to match almost any design style. Image courtesy of Simpson Door Company.

 

Closer to home, Simpson Door Company in McCleary, WA, also makes fire-rated doors. Most of the wood doors have a 20-minute fire rating. However, the MDF (medium density fiberboard) doors are available in 20-minute, 45-minute, 60-minute, and 90-minute fire ratings.

Homeowners can choose from a variety of wood species and styles, to ensure that the fire-rated doors match the rest of the home’s styles.

Do you need a fire-rated door?

Fire door gaps

Gaps around the door will render it ineffective. Image: Michael Blann/Getty Images

A fire rating does not necessarily indicate the amount of time a door will withstand a fire. For example, a fire door rated 60 minutes does not guarantee that the door will withstand fire for 60 minutes. The rating means that in a controlled test environment, a brand-new door held up for 60 minutes. However, in a real-world application, other factors like heat intensity could greatly reduce this estimate.

“Although a fire-rated door is designed to prevent a fire from passing from room to room, let’s be honest. Even with the right door, a severe fire can melt steel,” says Abe Kozlik of the International Fireproof Door Company in Brooklyn, NY.

Also, a fire door won’t do you any good if the door is propped open or the closing mechanism is faulty. In addition, the door has to be properly installed to ensure that there are no gaps around it.

Fire doors can provide peace of mind. However, properly using your existing doors may be all that you need to do in a fire. “In a residential setting, the simple act of closing the door to a room will slow or can prevent the heat and smoke from entering the room and injuring occupants or destroying additional property within,” says Canziani. “If the fire originates within the room, the closed door may aid in slowing the spread of the fire to other parts of the residence, depending on the time the fire burns before being extinguished.”

In fact, Canziani says he’s personally observed residential fires in which closed doors resulted in significantly less fire and smoke damage compared to doors that were left open.

The post What is a Fire-Rated Door and Do You Need One? appeared first on Freshome.com.

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Separating Fact from Fiction

Orkin recently released its list of the cities with the most bed bugs. (The list is based on the cities in which the company performed the most residential and commercial bed bug treatments.) The top 10 cities, in order, are Baltimore, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Columbus OH, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York, San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose and Dallas/Fort Worth.

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding these bugs. Whether you live in one of these cities or not, here’s what you need to know to keep these pests out of your bed.

Myth #1: Bed bugs can fly

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Bed bugs can be anywhere, but can’t fly. Image: Astronaut Image/Getty Images

Fortunately, they cannot fly. “Bed bugs cannot fly because they do not have wings,” according to Sydney Crawley, Ph.D. public health entomologist at  Scotts Miracle-Gro. “Instead, they crawl, traveling one meter per minute on average,” Crawley tells Freshome, adding that they also cannot jump.

Myth #2: They only bite at night

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Bed bugs will adjust to your schedule. Image: LEK_3DPHOTO/Getty Images

Bed bug activity tends to peak at night, but Crawley says they can bite at any time during the day. “This is especially true if the primary host is active during the night and sessile during the day.” In fact, Crawley says these bugs will adapt to the habits of the host. “Motivation to take a blood meal may drive them to bite at any time.”

Myth #3: They are too small to see

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Bed bugs are tiny, but not invisible. Image: Anna Cor/Zumbansen/EyeEm/Getty Images

Bed bugs are indeed visible. “Although bed bug eggs and first instars (newly hatched bed bugs) are very small, they are still large enough to see with the naked eye,” Crawley says. “After the first instar, juvenile bed bugs will molt 4 more times before reaching the adult life stage. First to fifth instars range anywhere from 1.3 mm to 4-5 mm and adults range from approximately 4-7 mm in size.”

Myth #4: They prefer unsanitary conditions

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These pests don’t care if you’re clean and tidy. Image: Gabriela Tulian/Getty Images

It’s possible to have bed bugs even if your home is spotless because these insects don’t discriminate, according to Crawley. “Bed bugs prefer small cracks and crevices which are found in every home,” Crawley says. “Populations of bed bugs will continue to grow in homes where proper elimination strategies are not performed, regardless of the level of cleanliness.” Granted, you still need to clean your house, especially the nine nastiest areas of the home.

 Myth #5: They only inhabit beds frames and couches

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These little bugs also like the inside of your suitcase. Image: LOOK Photography/Getty Images

While they like bed frames and couches, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bed bugs can be found in stuffed animals, suitcases, wheelchairs, purses and on the inside of bedside lamps.

Myth #6: They are usually found in hotels and apartments

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Hospitals are sanitary, but not immune to bed bugs. Image: Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

These may be the two places that get the most media coverage, but they’re not the only place you’ll find these pests. According to the NPMA, the 3 most common places where they are found include single-family homes (91%), apartments/condominiums (89%), and hotels/motels (68%).

But guess where else they show up? Nursing homes (59%), schools and daycare centers (47%), offices (46%), college dorms (45%), hospitals (36%) and public transportation (19 %).

Myth #7: If you don’t see them, you must not have them

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They can leave their mark – sometimes on you. Image: Vlajs/Getty Images

You may not always see the bugs themselves, but you can see what they leave behind, and you can also feel them. For example, they tend to leave fecal spots on your mattress, walls, and upholstery (ranging in color from red to reddish brown).  You may also see empty eggshells. Another sign is the presence of bite marks on your arms, legs and other parts of your body. In addition, if there are a lot of bugs, you may start to detect a sweet smell.

Tips for avoiding bed bugs

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Be vigilant again bed bugs. Image: ben-bryant

“At home, inspect furniture, especially mattresses, box springs and bed frames,” Crawley says. She warns people to be very careful when purchasing secondhand furniture. “Before bringing any used furniture into your home, inspect it thoroughly to ensure that no bed bugs are present.”

When you’re traveling, be advised that these pesky bugs like to travel for free – in your suitcase. Search your hotel room carefully, inspecting the mattress seams, sofas, chairs, and behind the headboard. If you find bed bugs, the NPMA recommends changing rooms to another area since rooms next to, above or below might also be infected.

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Don’t bring them home with you. Image: Nikada/Getty Images

“Search all bags, luggage and clothing thoroughly before you return, and take special care to inspect the seams, as they are a common hiding place for bed bugs,” Crawley says. “When you return home, put clothing and bags in the dryer on high heat for a minimum of two full cycles on high heat to ensure that all potential bed bugs and eggs have been killed.”

Whether you’re at home or traveling, she also recommends a product like the Ortho Home Defense Bed Bug Trap. “These detectors can determine whether there are bed bugs present – within an hour.”

Do you have any additional tips for preventing these bugs from getting into your bed? Let us know in the comments.

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