8 Tips to Bug-Proof Your Home

Ants

Springtime means budding trees, blooming flowers, soft breezes and, unfortunately, an influx of bugs. Eager to stretch their wings and legs and go in search of a food source, a host of bugs may soon start eyeing your home as a possible new residence. Making sure you bug-proof your house can help keep the bugs outside where they belong. With these eight tips, you can protect your home against unwanted guests.

1. Make Your Surroundings Inhospitable

Like humans, bugs have preferences when it comes to making a new home. In order to discourage them from cohabiting in your space, make your surroundings as inhospitable to them as possible. Spending some time cleaning up both your house and yard provides a first line defense against bugs. Being overly neat and clean around your house and property effectively makes you a rude host to these unwanted visitors.

  • In your yard, dump out any standing water. Stagnant water attracts mosquitoes. In fact, mosquitoes need water to pass through their lifecycle. Within a short time, just a few mosquitoes can lay hundreds of eggs in standing water. These eggs soon hatch into hundreds of new mosquitoes.
  • Mosquitoes aren’t the only insect hoping to take up residence in your yard. Wood piles are cozy and dark, making them ideal homes for a variety of crawling bugs. Be sure to keep piles of wood or debris away from the side of your home.
  • Inside, keep your home clean and tidy. Bugs, like ants, are searching for a food source. It’s easy for crumbs to accumulate on tables, countertops, and on the kitchen floor. A quick wipe-down after meals and frequent sweeping of kitchen and dining room floors can minimize the food trail.
  • It’s just as important to avoid standing water inside as it is outside. A lone mosquito can lay eggs inside your home just as easily as it can in the yard. Cockroaches also need a water supply to survive so drying up potential water sources can discourage them.

2. Watch for Invaders

Cockroach

Ants send scouts to check out a new area before sending in the troops. When you see a lone ant, don’t ignore it. Take care of any initial invaders promptly before they can carry the message back to the rest of the hill. Likewise, keep an eye out for other bugs like cockroaches and crickets that may sneak inside. If you catch them early, it’s much easier to eliminate them from your home before they make it their home too.

3. Guard Your Perimeter

Bugs search for ways into a cozy home. Eliminate the easy entry points. First, seal your doors or install door sweeps to fill in any under-door gaps. Weather stripping isn’t just for winter. Install it for both doors and windows to seal openings. Be sure to check for openings around pipes, vents, garage doors, and windows. Caulk any cracks you find to seal up obvious entry points.

4. Screen Your Windows

When warmer weather comes, many people like to open the windows and let in some fresh air. Make sure that both your windows and doors have good screens so that you’re not letting in more than fresh air. Check existing window screens to be sure they are in good working order. Repair any rips or tears that could let bugs inside. If you have a patio sliding glass door, invest in a sliding screen. Screens keep the fresh air coming in and the flying bugs and other debris out where they belong.

5. Keep it Clean

Food is a beacon to bugs. The pantry is a hotspot for these crawlers, which is why you should be sure to keep dry foods sealed and put away. Plastic or glass storage containers can seal up bug favorites like sugar and cereal. Don’t leave dirty dishes on the counter or in the kitchen sink. Also, avoid leaving overripe fruit out on the counter, which can increase your risk of a sudden infestation of fruit flies.

Be sure to take out the trash promptly as many types of bugs love to burrow into an overflowing trashcan. If you have a lot of food scraps, don’t just toss them in the kitchen trash can. Instead, keep compost and food scraps sealed, and take them out frequently.

Don’t forget about pet food either. Rather than leaving food out all the time, which can quickly become a creepy-crawly smorgasbord, feed your pets more frequently in portions that they can eat in a single setting.

6. Use Safe Chemicals

If, despite all your best efforts at warding your home against insects, you spot a bug or two, don’t despair. You can still get rid of them by using some common household ingredients. Many bugs, like ants, are repelled by strong smells. Reach for the vinegar and spray or wipe down surfaces where you’ve spotted bugs. Ants also do not like cinnamon so sprinkling a line across windowsills or on counters can keep them out.

What about everyone’s favorite home-invading critter, the cockroach? To get rid of pesky roaches, make a cockroach cocktail. Cockroaches love both cocoa and sugar. By mixing either with dichotomous earth or Borax, you can kill any roaches that eat it.

7. Encourage Natural Predators

Cockroach

You can also turn to natural exterminators. By attracting bug predators to your yard, you can help control the bug population. Bats, for example, can eat thousands of mosquitos. They’re also not picky, willing to snack on flies, wasps, and spiders in addition to mosquitoes. To attract bats to your yard, build a bat box and mount it high on a pole.

Bats aren’t the only natural bug predators though. Warblers and swallows also love to eat mosquitos. Put out a birdhouse with some birdseed or nectar to attract them to your yard. To encourage birds to stick around, keep a fresh water source available. Do remember to change it daily or invest in a moving water feature. Birds do not like stagnant water, but mosquitos certainly do.

8. Call in the Pros

When all else fails, you can always call in the exterminators. If your bug situation has gotten out of hand, consulting with a professional can help you get on top of the situation. Exterminators can give you information and options for addressing infestations.

This spring, spend a little time bug-proofing your house. With a few tips and a little preparation, you can discourage bugs from invading your space. By creating a less-than-welcoming environment, you can keep bugs where they belong, outside your home.

8 Easy Ways to Childproof Your Home

Childproofing Your Home

As a new parent, nothing is more important than safeguarding your child. From sleeping arrangements and feeding preferences to nursery setup, there are a million small details that new parents worry about. Childproofing your home so that it’s safe for the baby is chief among them.

Although it may seem like it’ll be months before your child is mobile enough to warrant full-home childproofing, babies go from crawling to walking on their own schedule. It’s a good idea to tackle childproofing long before you think you need it. Here are eight ways to create a safe environment for your child at home.

1. Restrict Access

It’s nearly impossible to childproof your entire home. Some areas, like the kitchen and the bathroom, have items that are essential for every day use, but may also pose potential dangers to small children. Other areas, like stairs, are part of the home’s structure. For these areas, the most effective way to childproof is to restrict access. Here are a few ways to restrict access:

Mom and Baby
  • Use baby gates to block stairs and rooms that are off limits.
  • Buy doorknob covers for rooms you want to keep toddler-free.
  • For kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers that contain soaps and small items, invest in cabinet and drawer safety latches.
  • Don’t overlook the toilet; invest in a safety latch designed specifically for toilets.

2. Rearrange Furniture

When it comes to crawling babies, the urge to pull themselves up on the nearest piece of furniture is unavoidable. With wobbly furniture or top-heavy bookcases, this can be quite dangerous. To eliminate the risk of your child pulling over a piece of furniture, move less child-friendly furniture to areas of the home where your child will not be spending a lot of time. Secure bookcases and shelves securely to the wall.

In addition, beware of climbers. Avoid having low furnishings, such as an ottomans or sturdy baskets, which could be used as stepladders for taller furniture. Also, be sure to keep furniture away from tall windows to prevent potential falls.

3. Blunt Hard Edges

For a child just learning to stand and walk, falls are inevitable. There’s simply no way to avoid it. Although you can’t prevent the falls, you can soften the landing. If you have hardwood floors or tile in your main living area, try adding a cushioned area rug where your baby plays. You’ll also want to pad furniture that has sharp edges. Coffee tables and fireplaces are notorious for breaking a child’s tumble. Corner guards, edge guards and padding can help prevent a small tumble from causing serious injury.

4. Keep Medications Out of Reach

Easy Ways to Childproof Your Home

Both medications and household cleaners could seriously harm children. Move medications and cleaners to upper cabinets and keep them locked or latched at all times. Don’t leave medication out on counters or dressers. Even though those surfaces might seem out of reach, climbing children can surprise you with their climbing skills.

5. Keep Track of Small Objects

Be sure to keep small objects put away at all times. Common household items like beads, coins, paperclips, and rubber bands all pose choking hazards to babies and toddlers. While you may keep a close eye on your child, it’s easy for their curious little hands to reach out and grab something without you noticing. And like all curious babies trying to figure out the world around them, that object is likely to go in their mouth at some point. Getting in the habit of putting small items away immediately after use will eliminate potential choking hazards.

6. Guard Against Burns

Kitchens are one of the most dangerous rooms in the house for exploring children. The stove is often involved in kitchen accidents. If at all possible, consider installing a baby gate at the door of the kitchen to keep children safely out of harm’s way while cooking. If that’s not feasible, there are some steps you can take to prevent accidents. First, use the back, harder to reach, burners on the stove. Be sure to keep all pot and pan handles turned in toward the stove rather than out where small hands can grab them. Don’t set hot objects on low counters or tables with a child nearby.

Bathrooms can also be a dangerous place where toddlers could burn themselves. Children can easily reach sink and tub faucets. Invest in anti-scalding devices to help prevent burns. For added protections, turn your water heater down to 120° rather than the standard 140°.

7. Prevent Shocks

Another hazard comes from electrical outlets. Install outlet protectors or covers throughout your home. They’re one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective childproofing products available. When you do need to remove a cover to plug something in, don’t forget to unplug the appliance and put it away as soon as you finish using it. It’s easy for a small child to pull a cord and topple a heavy hair dryer or hot iron.

8. Provide Distraction

While most childproofing involves tangible changes like altering or removing dangerous objects, you can also use distraction to help safeguard your child. For times when you notice a small object that you forgot to put away, distract your child with a song or a toy while you reach for it.

Baby and Mom

In the kitchen, designating one cabinet or drawer as baby friendly can go a long way toward distracting your child away from other locked cabinets. Try filling the cabinet with big pots or bowls and some large plastic spoons. Although you may not always appreciate the percussion or the mess, it’s a surefire to keep your baby entertained while you cook.

Another time when distraction comes in handy is when you find yourself in a decidedly child-unfriendly environment. No matter how carefully you babyproof your own home, your child will inevitably go to other people’s homes. Whether it’s a crowded store with eye-level candy displays or grandma’s knick-knack filled living room, having a few toys tucked in the diaper bag will allow you to redirect your child’s attention at a moment’s notice.

Bumps and bruises are a normal part of childhood. You can’t prevent every fall or slip, no matter how many childproofing techniques you implement. However, as a new parent, you want to do everything in your power to protect your child from unnecessary injury. By implementing these eight childproofing techniques, you can give your baby a nurturing home safe enough to explore.

6 Ways to Instantly Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal

When it comes to curb appeal, some houses have it and some miss the mark. Especially the people that live in my neighborhood. Whether you are ready to put your house on the market or just looking for ways to liven up your space, investing time and money to improve the first impression your home makes can pay big rewards in the end.

Spanning everything from large projects to minute details, here are six ways to boost the curb appeal of your home.

1. Go Big

When you’re willing to invest some money, there are several big projects that can transform the look of your home. While usually thought of as a way to add living space, additions can vastly improve curb appeal. A new porch or portico entryway can make your house feel more welcoming. Replacing a cracked driveway or an old garage door can also do wonders to improve your home’s appearance.

If you want to invest in a project that has a high return on investment, both roof replacement and new siding fit the bill. Not only will a new roof add to your resale value, it will also make your home look like new. Likewise, installing new vinyl siding can take a home from aged and worn to clean and bright.

2. Put in a Little Elbow Grease

If you don’t have the budget for large home improvement projects, don’t despair. Instead, spend some time and effort to spruce up what you already have. First, repair anything that needs it. Perhaps you’ve been ignoring some rotting wood on a windowsill or putting off fixing a loose board on your porch. Tackling these small repairs can make a big difference in curb appeal.

Beyond repairs, don’t overlook the power of a good clean. If you have vinyl siding, grab a garden hose and wash it off. It’s easy to overlook years of dust and pollen when you see your house everyday, but you’ll be amazed at how much better it looks freshly washed. Don’t stop with your house either. Turn your attention to your driveway and sidewalks as well. A power-wash will make them look like new again.

For the yard, a little elbow grease can also go a long way. Be sure to weed flowerbeds and rake any fallen leaves in the yard. Don’t forget to spread some fresh mulch around trees and in flowerbeds.

3. Revamp Your Landscaping

No single improvement makes as big or as immediate of an impact than landscaping. The plants surrounding your home define its style as much as the house itself. Like a fresh coat of paint, careful landscaping can frame your home’s best qualities as well as camouflage any problem areas.

To get the most out of your landscape, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose a color scheme:
    While you don’t want a monochromatic yard, you also don’t want a haphazard mix of competing color. Choose a color palette with a few complimentary colors and a single contrasting color that is used sparingly.
  • Tear out what’s not working:
    Overgrown bushes and plantings that are the wrong size can undermine the appearance of your home. Don’t be afraid to pull out old bushes, remove unattractive trees, and transplant shrubs and plants to new, more suitable locations.
  • Don’t neglect your lawn:
    A lush, green lawn creates a canvas for the rest of your landscape.
  • Plant a mixture of fast-growing and slow-growing plants
    The fast growing plants will create some immediate visual interest while the slower growing layers are still filling in.
  • Don’t overlook the hardscape:
    Landscaping is more than planting flowers and shrubs. Adding rocks, borders, and walkways are also part of the job. Choose materials that compliment each other as well as the plants surrounding them.
  • Consult the pros:
    Even if you are an avid do-it-yourselfer, some professional advice can make the difference between a pulled-together landscape and an expensive disaster. Your local home and garden stores, hardware stores, and plant nurseries are staffed with knowledgeable professionals who can give you pointers.

4. Replace Your Entry Door

Your entryway is the focal point of your house. Make it attractive and welcoming. If you have the funds, replacing the front door is worthwhile. With so many styles, colors, and finishes to choose from, you can find a door that compliments your house. If you’re not ready to replace your door, a new coat of paint can dress up its appearance. Consider going bold with a red door for some added drama. For an elegant timeless look, try a black door.

5. Dress Your Windows

The humble window is often overlooked as an area for improvement. For old houses with equally old windows, replacing them with new, energy-efficient models is a great way to cut your energy bills. However, if you already have good windows, there are still some things you can do to enhance their appearance.

First, add shutters to frame the windows or, if you already have shutters, paint them a new color. Adding a window box overflowing with flowers adds beauty and charm. Finally, take some time to clean your windows. No amount of window dressing can make up for dirty glass panes.

6. Tackle the Details

Curb appeal isn’t limited to big projects. There are plenty of small details that you can upgrade that can improve the overall look and feel of your home. Here are a few examples of small projects that pack a big punch:

  • Replace your bland house numbers with big, bold black numbers.
  • Paint your mailbox or install a new one.
  • Upgrade the outdated hardware on your front door.
  • Add a new entryway light or spray paint an existing light in black or bronze.
  • Add solar lights to spotlight flowerbeds.
  • Edge your sidewalks with pavers or stone.
  • Put some big potted plants on either side of your entryway.

Don’t let a drab exterior detract from an otherwise cozy home. No matter what your budget, there are plenty of projects, both big and small, that will enhance the appearance of your home. From planting lush landscapes to washing the windows, the time and effort you spend beautifying your space will pay off with immediate results and a serious upgrade to your home’s curb appeal.

Why You NEED to Replace Your Air Filter

Replace Your Air Filter

You don’t want to simply enjoy your HVAC system, you should also make sure that you take good care of your HVAC system in order to get as much use out of it as possible. A big part of extending the life of your unit and maintaining a high degree of comfort in your home is changing out your air filters. Not only that, but changing out the air filters can also help lower your energy bills.

Air Quality

You might not realize just how compromised the air inside of your home can be. Your indoor air quality is oftentimes worse than the air quality outside of your home, which is one reason it’s so important to make sure you have a clean air filter in order to improve air you breathe inside.

Indoor air pollutants can come from pet dander, mold, dust mites, gas-fired appliances and combustion devices. Compromised indoor air may lead to a number of health conditions, such as chest tightness, sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath, asthma attacks and watery or itchy eyes.

It’s also wise to have a HEPA air purifier to help cleanse the air, as well. While changing your air filter helps improve your air quality, there is no better method than using this type of air purifier.

Clean Filters and Clean Air

Not only do air filters keep your indoor air supply clean, they also help protect the interior components of your HVAC system. The transfer of energy inside of your unit can be hampered by a buildup of debris and dirt, which can cause your unit to work harder than it has to. The unnecessary stress can increase the risk of your HVAC unit malfunctioning and can also cause premature wear and tear.

In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, switching a dirty air filter with a clean one can reduce your HVAC unit’s energy consumption by as much as 15 percent.

How to Choose the Right Air Filter

Now that you understand why it is important to change your air filter, it’s a good idea to learn more about selecting the right air filter for your HVAC system. Filters are rated by the size and number of particles that they are able to trap. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) scale is used to rate air filters. The larger the MERV number, the better the filter is at filtering out airborne particles. One thing to take note of is that high efficiency filters are composed of thicker materials, which means that they can potentially hamper the flow of air in your home. It’s a good idea to turn to a professional HVAC company to help you figure out which air filter will work best for your home.

If your main intention is to improve your indoor air quality, then you’ll want to consider using a HEPA filter the next time you need to switch out your air filter.

When You Should Change Your Air Filter

How often you should change your air filter will depend on how often you use your HVAC system. If you use your systems often, then you’ll want to change out your air filter more often, possibly as much as every month. Towards the end of the cooling and heating season you’ll more than likely be able to use your filters for longer. Even though a majority of filters are good for up to three months, it’s still a good idea to visually inspect your filter every month just to make sure that it looks good.

If all else fails, follow the popular method of changing your air filter the same day you pay your monthly electricity bill. Even though your filter may last a little longer than this, this method ensures that you change it out regularly.

Additional Maintenance

Besides changing out your air filter, there are other things that you can do to keep your HVAC unit in good condition and running for as long as possible. Preventative maintenance can extend the life of your HVAC unit and can potentially keep you from having to pay for extensive repairs later on by identifying small problems before they become large problems.

Having a certified HVAC technician perform a tune-up can also improve the life of your heating and cooling system. During the tune-up the technician will most likely make adjustments to the moving parts of the unit, check for breaks and leaks and clean out system components. Optimizing the system can go a long way in making your equipment operate more efficiently and saving you money on energy bills.

Taking out twenty minutes to change out your HVAC system’s air filter can go a long way in improving the performance of your unit, your health and your utility bills as well. If you’ve never changed an air filter before and are unsure about which filter you need, seek out the help of a local HVAC company.

INFOGRAPHIC: How to Keep Your Home Warm During Winter

Will your home stay warm when jack frost comes to visit? Our infographic below will show you how to keep your home warm and cozy all winter long. From no-cost ways you can save money right now, to low-cost home repairs that will save you tons of money in the long run, here’s how you can keep your home warm all winter long.

How to Keep Your Home Warm During Winter

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Winter is coming here. And with this dreaded season comes the hassle of keeping your home at a comfortable temperature without breaking your wallet. From no-cost savings to buying better appliances for your home, let’s take a look at some easy things you can do to keep your home warm during the winter.

10 Ways to Save Money Right Now

  1. Reverse your ceiling fan to a clockwise direction.
  2. If you have a radiator heater, place tin foil behind it to move the warm air outward instead of upward.
  3. Let sunlight in during the day by opening curtains, but close them at night to help keep the cold out.
  4. Move furniture away from vents so heat can circulate throughout the room.
  5. Roll up a towel and place it at the bottom of doors and windows.
  6. Leave your oven open after baking to utilize the heat.
  7. Close doors in rooms you are in to keep them warm, or close doors to unused rooms.
  8. Close vents in unused rooms, so your heat will be utilized where it’s needed.
  9. Turn your thermostat down to 68°F during the day and lower at night when you sleep. To stay warm, use a heater in your room while you sleep
  10. Clean out your gutters to help prevent icicles from forming

9 Ways to Save Money For Under $60

  1. Weatherstrip your windows to help seal gaps and prevent warm air from escaping (and cold air from entering)
  2. Replace your air filters. Not only does this extend the life of your HVAC unit, but also helps reduce your energy costs.
  3. Seal your doors. This helps prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from entering.
  4. Caulk your windows shut. Same benefits as weatherstripping, but a permanent solution.
  5. Install fiberglass insulation to help keep the warmth in and the cold out.
  6. Insulate your window panes to help keep the warmth in and the cold out.
  7. Use an insulation blanket on your hot-water heater to help keep the heat in your unit.
  8. Get a programmable thermostat to help automate your heater and prevent it from running unnecessarily.
  9. Get a chimney balloon to help prevent cold drafts from entering.

8 More Expensive Ways Cut Your Energy Bills

  1. Get a home energy audit. A professional will come inspect your home and tell you ways that you can improve your energy efficiency.
  2. Buy an energy monitor to help measure your energy use and project your monthly bills.
  3. Clean all the air ducts in your home. Not only does this help improve your indoor air quality, but also keeps everything running smoothly.
  4. Buy a heated ceiling fan to assist in heating your room. A personal space heater will also accomplish this with less installation requirements.
  5. Install storm doors; giving you another layer of insulation between the cold outside air and your home.
  6. Buy an electric fireplace to not only help heat your home, but also provide ambiance to your home.
  7. Buy a new furnace. For optimal efficiency, it’s recommended to replace your furnace every fifteen years.
  8. Re-insulate your home. this is easily the most expensive and labor-intensive option to winterizing your home, but you will save lots of money in the long-run.

What are your favorite tips to keeping your home warm during the winter months?

How to Pick the Perfect Electric Tea Kettle

Electric Kettle

With a little homework, you can find the pot that fits your family’s needs.

All electric teakettles are not created equal. They come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, have varying degrees of wattage, and can contain various safety features. Don’t get intimidated though! Picking the right electric tea kettle is hardly a chore, and may just become one of your most used and beloved kitchen appliances.

Here’s how to make sense of all the different features when choosing an electric tea kettle.
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4 Appliances that Increase Your Home Energy Bill

Home Computer

See how these four appliances are siphoning money from your wallet.

When you get your energy bill in the mail, do you ever wonder which one of your appliances is the biggest drain on your wallet? While your furnace and air conditioners are the biggest culprits, you might be surprised by the amount of power some of your smaller, everyday appliances are using.

We’ve previously discussed a few home improvements that will cut your energy bills, but here we’ve outlined a list of the top four most surprising appliances that are jacking up your energy bill. We’ve also included a few quick tips to keep these surprising energy-eaters in check.
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6 Easy Ways to Soundproof Your Home

Install Carpet

Use these DIY tactics for creating a quiet and peaceful home.

If noise from your neighbors drives you to distraction, or you’ve gotten complaints about your own volume level, it’s time to soundproof your condo or apartment. The following do-it-yourself (DIY) soundproofing secrets may block and absorb noise, helping to ensure that you and your wall-sharing neighbors live in peace and harmony.
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Stove Care & Maintenance Tips

Stove Top

Today’s homes are filled with many time-saving gadgets and appliances. Modern homeowners enjoy the convenience of appliances that wash dishes, cook almost instantly, and practically eliminate the need for an open flame in the home. The stove is a popular cooking appliance that has made meal preparation simpler and faster.

In some homes, these hardworking appliances are used every single day, sometimes more than once. This constant wear will inevitably have an effect on how well and how long the stove works. In order to improve the performance and extend the lifespan of your stove, it’s recommended that you follow a regular routine of maintenance and cleaning. The below tips will typically cover both gas ranges and electric ranges, but it is important to refer to your owner’s manual on what to do for your specific unit.
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6 Tips to Eliminating Allergens in Your Bedroom

Bedroom

As the season changes, your allergies are probably kicking into high gear. If you have allergies, for some reason your eyes, throat and nasal passages aren’t fond of the shifting seasons. In fact, they’re irritated. To fight back, you break out the tissues and meds, hoping for fast relief.

While you can’t control the seasons, you can control your indoor environment. Your bedroom is especially important. Considering we spend a third our time sleeping, it’s the most important room to de-allergen. If your room isn’t battle tested for allergens, you could be making those annoying symptoms worse.

To help, we have some tips to keep your bedroom an allergen-free sleep sanctuary.
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