A Big And Small Energy Saver For Each Room Of Your House

Energy Saving Tips For Your HomeSaving the environment can be an overwhelming task. With everything in the news about how to make your home more energy efficient, it’s easy to become bewildered when thinking about all the improvements you could make. But there’s no need to worry, as you don’t have to make your home into a model for green living all at once.

In fact, if everyone did just a few little things, the earth would see a gigantic benefit, so you can still do your part even if it doesn’t mean retrofitting your entire home. And a few small measures, like taking the ENERGY STAR “Change the World” pledge, can result in you seeing immediate savings.

Some of the world’s leading brands recently teamed up with energy-savings experts to build an energy-neutral house to test earth-friendly practices in Boulder, Colo. Lifestyle experts were then invited to live in The Green House for three days, test its environmentally friendly products and experience the benefits of eco-friendly living.

The main takeaway from The Green House project is that there are a variety of steps you can take, big ones and smaller ones, to make each room in your home more eco-friendly:

Bathroom
Big: Install a low-flow aerating showerhead. Most models allow you to save around 30 percent on water usage without compromising on your shower experience.

Small: Avoid using toxic cleaning products, as chemicals find their way into the atmosphere and waterways. As you run out of old cleansers, replace with nontoxic cleaning products.

Kitchen
Big: Replace your old refrigerator or dishwasher with an energy-efficient model. Look for models that either meet or go beyond ENERGY STAR levels, like a new 4-Door French-door refrigerator that’s 20 percent more efficient than the minimum ENERGY STAR standard. The fridge achieves efficiency through linear compressor technology that alters output based on demand from the refrigerator. This means fewer temperature swings, ultimately using less energy and saving you money.

Small: Plant a garden, as the food out of your garden will be fresher and won’t need to be transported to the store or to your home.

Bedroom
Big: Buy all-natural bedding that is made from earth-friendly materials.

Small: Unplug gadgets like cell phone chargers and unused appliances before going to bed, since they can use energy even when they are plugged in and not in use.

Laundry room
Big: Buy an energy-efficient washer and dryer. Consider a high-efficiency, front-load steam washer machine. It uses more than 50 percent less water per load and is roughly 86 percent more energy-efficient than conventional top-load machines.

Small: Clean your dryer vent after each load, because even a partially clogged vent will hurt your dryer’s efficiency.

Energy center
Big: Invest in a programmable thermostat, which can save you money by automatically managing home temperatures when you plan to be away or while you sleep. Some even can be controlled remotely while you are gone.

Small: Replace incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs.

Garage
Big: If you’re in the market for a new car, buy a gas-sipping hybrid.
Small: Take public transportation. Better yet, where possible, bike or walk on one trip each week where you would usually drive.

Living room
Big: Buy an ENERGY STAR-rated TV that will save you money when it’s both on and off. With very low standby and on-mode power consumption, some new LED HDTVs save only about 7 cents of electricity a day for average viewing of six hours daily.

Small: Unplug your DVD player or other accessories when they are not in use, especially when leaving for an extended time like a vacation.

Whether they are big or small, your energy-saving contributions won’t go unnoticed by Mother Nature or your pocketbook. The professionals at Handyman Matters can help take care of all of your interior projects – no matter how small! Click here to find a location near you or call 866-FIX MY HOME today.

Backyard Decorating Tips

Your backyard can be an important extension of your home, so it’s worth spending time, and perhaps a little money, to make it functional and attractive.

The first step in creating a comfortable and appealing outdoor living space is to clear and tidy the area you have to work with. Stand in your backyard and assess what maintenance needs to be done or what eyesores need to be removed.  It’s time to think of all those gardening verbs:  Trim, mow, edge, fertilize, rake, weed, cut down, haul away, put away, paint and repair.

Make a list of the jobs, and get started – today!  Here are some problem areas for many homeowners, with ideas for ways to make improvements.

Tackle backyard eyesores

Store garbage cans and recycling bins in the side yard or garage.  If the hose must be handy, install a hose reel or a pottery hose house to keep it tidy.  Remove tired or scraggly potted plants, especially ones still in their plastic pots.

Establish a kiddie play area and train your children to keep their outdoor toys there.

Barbecues and their attending equipment aren’t always beautiful to look at.  Why not store them out of sight until they’re needed?

Organize your tools and create a storage system that works.  Up-end them in an old metal garbage can.  Hammer in a row of nails along a fence or the back of the hose, drill holes in your tool handles, loop through a section of rawhide and hang your tools from the nails.

How to Get Motivated

Your list may seem overwhelming, so here are a few ideas for making the work lighter:

Set up a social gathering a month or two away to work towards.  If you’re like me, you’ll want a tidy and attractive yard for your guests.

Commit time to the project. Break your list down into manageable chunks.  Schedule 15-minute to 2-hour blocks of time on your calendar over two months.  Use the odd few moments of free time to complete one small task.

Team up with a friend or neighbor. Spend an hour at his/her house on Saturday and work at your home on Sunday.  Reward yourselves with a picnic in your outdoor dining room.

Design a few outdoor rooms

After taking care of the grunt work, you’ll need to clearly define how you use the space.  Think of your yard as a series of areas or “rooms” with specific functions – areas for conversation, food preparation, eating, potting, storage, playing or sunning – surrounded by or intermingled with foliage or flowerbeds.

Create conversation areas in configurations similar to those in your home.  For example, place a small table in between a pair of chairs.  Position a “coffee table” in front of a bench with two chairs on either end.  Cluster pots to either side of the bench.  Add accessories such as shells, sculpture pieces, tiles or driftwood.

Make sure your outdoor “dining room” is easily accessible to the door closest to your kitchen.  Clean or replace the chair cushions.   Place an improvised centerpiece on the table and leave it there even when the table’s not in use.  Try a blooming potted plant, a cluster of pottery vases, a mound of river rocks, a bird house or birdbath or a bowl filled with croquet balls, beach glass or fish net floats.

Buy or recycle furnishings

Finally, think of items you might add to your outdoor living space to enhance your enjoyment.  Be creative!

Could you purchase sections of reassembled picket fencing and cordon off a small play area on the patio or the lawn for the kids to play in?

How about hanging a bamboo roll-up screen in front of your potting shed to conceal it from view?

Do you have trees that could hold a hammock or hanging chair?

Check any old wood furniture in your garage or attic.  An old dresser works well as a barbecue center or as a potting station.

An old kitchen table and chairs with a fresh coat of paint looks charming.  An old trunk, a few tree stumps covered with a slate slab or a wooden box can serve as a “coffee table.”

For creative finishing touches, rummage through your kitchen cabinets and check for anything waterproof to use as an accessory.

by Kit Davey

12 Steps To “Going Green” In Your Home

go green at homeIt’s easy to talk a good game about going green, but not always as easy to walk that talk.  But here, with the assistance Dan Fritschen, the owner of remodelormove.com and a practiced hand at implementing reasonable ways to be greener at home, is a list of easy-to-implement practices and products for reducing your home’s carbon footprint:

  1. Don’t rebuild or remodel from scratch without considering re-purposing what you already have on hand.  Remember to weigh disposal costs and landfill burden.  In the case of cabinets, for example, re-face, don’t replace.  When possible, use other’s cast-offs.  Check out www.freecycle.org to find everything from free cabinets to windows to light fixtures.
  2. Choose sustainable or recycled materials when updating floors.  Farmed oak, bamboo and cork all offer greener, comparatively affordable flooring choices.  Tiles made of ground-up discarded porcelain sinks and toilets also look better than you’d think.
  3. Use Low-VOC paints. These have fewer volatile organic compounds and are easier on the planet.  Also, you won’t get a paint headache while using them.
  4. Opt for green sheets. Linens made of organic cottons are usually pesticide-free.
  5. Save water with every flush. This is an oldy-but-a-goody, and well worth remembering.  If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, then put a brick in your toilet tank.
  6. Consider motion-sensitive lights or put outdoor lights on timers.  Even better, install solar lights outside.  These soak up the sun’s rays all day and give them back at night.
  7. Put dimmers on light switches. For every ten percent you dim the light, you save the same amount in electricity and you double the life of the bulb.  If you dim by 50 percent, you cut your lighting bill in half and extend the bulb’s life five times.
  8. Switch disposable for reusable. Use cloth instead of paper towels and napkins, and washable plastic containers instead of disposable plastic bags for lunch.
  9. Be a borrower and a lender. If you’re going to need a tool or a piece of equipment only once or temporarily, borrow or rent it.
  10. Look for Energy-Star rated appliances. They save on energy bills and are easier on the environment.
  11. Buy antiques or secondhand furniture. The world has enough stuff.  Let’s fix it up and pass it around.

Conserve Water In Your Home With Minimal Effort


Summer is just around the corner, and water conservation will undoubtedly be brought to the forefront for those who are impacted by seasonal droughts and water usage restrictions in their towns. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at least 36 states anticipate local, regional or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions.

Simply by making small changes around the house and to our daily routines, we can make a significant impact on our water supplies without feeling as though we’re sacrificing our comforts or experience.

A good place to start is with the home bathroom, where the water-saving potential is great. The EPA estimates that Americans use roughly 3.3 billion gallons of water each day just for showering. Handyman Matters believes it’s easy to bring that number down by taking a slightly shorter shower or using a water-saving showerhead.

It seems to be abundant, but water is a relatively scarce resource. Less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use. Here are a few tips that Handyman Matters professionals have put together for you to follow in order to help reduce your water consumption in the bathroom:

  • Install a water-efficient showerhead. By installing a water-efficient showerhead, the average four-person household can potentially save an estimated 11,000 gallons of water per year. Here’s an example:
    • 8-minute shower x 2.5 gallons per minute (standard showerhead) = 20 gallons used per shower.
    • 8-minute shower x 1.5 gpm (water-efficient showerhead) = 12 gallons used per shower.
    • 8-gallon savings x 4 people per day x 365 days yields approximately 11,680 gallons of water savings per four-person household, per year
  • Fix a leaky faucet. According to the EPA, a leaky faucet dripping at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
  • Learn to reuse and recycle. Don’t pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering plants or cleaning.
  • Turn off the water. According to the EPA, a bathroom faucet usually runs at 2 gallons of water per minute. By turning off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving, you can save more than 200 gallons of water per month.
  • Take showers instead of baths. The average bathtub can hold up to 70 gallons of water when full. By taking an 8-minute shower instead of a bath, each person can save approximately 50 gallons of water per day.
  • Switch to a high-efficiency toilet. A high-efficiency toilet uses less than 1.3 gallons per flush, leading to an average of 20 percent less water per flush when compared to the industry standard of 1.6 gallons.

In March 2010, the EPA established its WaterSense specifications for showerheads to promote water efficiency in the shower, and product performance and quality. To earn the WaterSense designation, a showerhead or handshower must flow at a rate of no more than 2.0 gpm, tested at a flowing pressure of 80 psi, and is tested against the following attributes to ensure performance and user satisfaction:

  • A consistent flow rate across a range of pressures
  • Spray force
  • Spray coverage

As the world’s population increases, the conservation of water has moved from being more than just a good idea; now it is an imperative. Handyman Matters professional craftsmen can help you take some of these water conserving tips and apply them to your home. Click here to find a location near you and information on kitchen and bathroom updates and remodels that include water-sensible features and fixtures.

How To Keep Your Yard and Garden Primed Throughout The Growing Season


spring flower gardenEven though spring is upon us, there are still a variety of things you can do to keep your garden and yard primed for the growing season and into the summer. Your house isn’t the only place that needs a good spring cleaning; the exterior of your home could use it as well. Grab a notepad and take a walk through the vicinity, making notes here and there. Not only is this a great way to organize your “attack” on the ground, but it’s an opportunity to get out in the fresh air, get a little exercise, and anticipate the summer days ahead.

Here are some things you can tackle right now:

Shrubs and Trees

Prune off broken or cracked branches damaged in winter. You can tackle damaged twigs with pruners, but those branches that are 2 inches in diameter or larger need to be removed in sections so that the weight doesn’t tear the bark as they fall.

Perennials

Dig up and divide perennials that were getting too large last year. Signs that these had “outgrown” their livings space include reduced flowering, pale, off-color leaves, or smaller, puny stems. Break apart root-clumps using a knife or shovel blade and then replant smaller, healthy sections. If these are spring bloomers (tulips, iris, etc.), wait until they’ve finished flowering. Late summer bloomers can be divided and replanted by April.

Seed Heads

Snip the stalks and dried seed heads from plants left from last autumn. Remove these and dead leaves so that overwintering insects and disease aren’t a problem. Clip the stalks about two inches above the sleeping foliage.

Roses

Rose bushes are a class unto themselves, and they aren’t “one size fits all.”  All need pruning, but know your rose-types. Keep in mind that the timing is crucial, because trimming will stimulate new growth, leaving the plants vulnerable to subsequent frosts. If your rose flowers just once a year, then it’s best to wait until the blooming is done to do your pruning. Clip the branches at a 30- to 45-degree angle, and do so a quarter of an inch above a live bud.

Ornamental Grasses

Use caution when cutting these down. Wear eye protection, long sleeves and gloves. Most ornamental grass leaves are finely toothed and readily able to cut unprotected hands and fingers. A good technique for trimming is to wrap a bungee cords tightly around the grass so that it lifts the leaves up high, resembling a sheaf of wheat. Then prune by lopping the grasses about six inches from the ground. Hand pruners or a small saw will work well for this.

Lawn

Corn gluten can be an effective pre-emergent weed killer and also serves as a nitrogen fertilizer for your grass. Apply this two to four weeks ahead of  the typical weed-emergent dates in your area. Use a core aerator to punch 3-inch deep holes in the lawn to fill in bare spots in the grass and reduce thatch, then use a drop spreader to spread grass seed immeidately after the aerating. Sprinkle your lawn with water every day for several weeks until the seeds sprout.

These are a few handy tips for “pre-preparing” your yard and garden for the spading, tilling and planting that will follow, and will make those steps of the process easier for having paved the way with some organized spring cleaning first. And of course, if yardwork and gardening isn’t exactly your thing, keep in mind your local Handyman Matters location. We’re happy to help out.