How Effective Is a Ceiling Fan at Cooling Your Home?

Fan

Rather than depend solely on your HVAC system to keep you nice and cool during the summer, you may want to start using your ceiling fans more efficiently. While your ceiling fans can’t cool you off by themselves, they can most certainly help your fixed or portable air conditioner work more efficiently and make you at least feel cool without having to set your temperature to a lower setting. Keep reading to discover just how effective and efficient your ceiling fans are at keeping your home cool.

Ceiling Fan

The Importance of Air Circulation

Ceiling fan cooling allows you to set your thermostat four degrees higher than you normally do and still feel just as cool. If you live in an area with an especially temperate climate, you may be able to stay cool and comfortable with just your ceiling fans, allowing you to save money on energy costs. Make sure there’s a fan in every room in the house you’d like to cool, and only have fans running when someone is in the room.

Ceiling fans work most efficiently in rooms with ceilings that are at least eight feet high. The blades should be anywhere from seven to nine feet from the floor and 10 to 12 inches from the ceiling. You’ll also want to install your fans so the blades are no closer than eight inches from the ceiling and 18 inches from the walls.

To keep rooms as cool as possible, get a larger ceiling fan. Fans with a 36- to 44-inch diameter are powerful enough to cool rooms measuring up to 225-square feet. It’s best that you install at least two fans for expansive rooms that stretch more than 18 feet. You can also run a fan with larger blades slower than you can a fan with smaller blades, which is a good idea if you want to cool a room with lots of loose papers and other objects that might blow around.

How Ceiling Fans Work

The way ceiling fans are able to make you feel cooler is they move air over your skin and brush away heat from the boundary layer of your skin, which is the layer of warm air that encases you body at all times. A ceiling fan can work as much as 20 percent more efficiently if it has an Energy Star rating. While such fans may be a bit more expensive than non-rated fans, they’re well worth it in the long run.

Save on Energy

The amount of money you save on energy by using a ceiling fan depends on your climate, the size of your home, the cost of electricity in your specific area, and your basic heating and cooling costs. Some reports state you can reduce the cooling costs in a single room by as much as roughly eight percent simply by properly utilizing your ceiling fan.

The recommended temperature to keep your A/C running at is 78 degrees. This temperature will save you energy and money on cooling costs. If this is too warm for your comfort, a ceiling fan can certainly help cool you down without significantly spiking your energy bill.

Proper Rotation

If you already use your ceiling fan in the summer and think it doesn’t do you much good, your problem may be that you have the blades turning in the wrong direction. You’ll want the blades spinning counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. When spinning counterclockwise, the blades push air down, and when spinning clockwise they pull air up. To make things easier, stand beneath your fan while it’s operating. If you can feel a breeze, then the blades are spinning in the correct direction.

Shopping for the Right Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans are available in all kinds of colors, sizes, designs and prices. You can also find models with and without lights in addition to those that can be operated with a remote control. You might also prefer a model that allows you to alter to speed of the spinning blades.

Before you head out shopping for a new fan, take the measurements of the rooms you want to cool so you can get a fan that’s the perfect size. Just like choosing the right size air conditioner for your home is essential for maximum efficiency, the same is true of your ceiling fan. While you’re considering your options, bear in mind that a more expensive fan is more likely to operate quieter and not have as many mechanical problems when compared with a less expensive fan. In any case, you’ll want to check the noise ratings and possibly listen to your fan and see it in action before you buy.

Ceiling Fan Installation

While you can easily install a ceiling fan on your own, you may need the help of an experienced and trusted professional if you desire to put the fan in a room that doesn’t already have an overhead light fixture. If you want to install the fan in a room with cathedral ceilings, you’ll want to make sure you use a down rod for mounting.

Before you start the installation process, it’s important that you turn off the correct circuit at the breaker box to keep from accidentally shocking yourself. If you want to leave nothing to chance, you can flip the main breaker and cut the power to everything and every room in your home.

While you’re installing the fan according to the manufacturer’s directions, make sure the blades suspended at least seven feet from the floor. You’ll also want to take note of the fan’s position. Even if a person is six feet tall, there’s still a chance a hand can be clipped or bruised when the individual stretches or reaches up while dressing.

Otto Fan

A Fan for All Seasons

In addition to using your fan to keep cool in the summer, you can also use it to stay warmer in the winter. By changing the setting so the blades spin clockwise, you can pull air up into the ceiling to better circulate warm air and keep from having to use your HVAC system more than absolutely necessary. Some studies have found that using a fan in the winter can lower your heating costs by as much as 20 percent.

Try using ceiling and house fans this summer rather than cranking up the air conditioner. In addition to ceiling fans, there are also window fans you can use to pull hot air from your home and keep things at a more comfortable temperature.

6 Ways to Reduce Yard Work

Yardwork

Everybody loves a manicured yard–fresh with neat green grass and flowerbeds overflowing with blooms. With the growing national focus on water conservation, more people are adding unexpected features to their yards to reduce the amount of growth they need to maintain. For example, some are reducing the size of their lawn by adding ground cover, artificial turf, flower beds or replacing grass with patio space. By adding these features, these people are keeping their yards looking nice while cutting down on the amount of necessary yard work.

No matter how much you simplify your yard, there will always be some yard work to do. However, lessening the amount of time you spend on yard work benefits you and your neighborhood because you will tend to use less water and produce less waste. Employing earth-friendly gardening systems and smart landscaping applications preserves your time and generates limited yard waste while still delivering a great looking yard. Here are six ways that you can reimagine your landscape and enjoy the added perk of reducing yard work.

1. Reduce the Size of Your Lawn

Lawn Mowing

Grass needs an ample supply of fertilizer and water to be vibrant and thick. Add in mowing, trimming and weeding, and maintaining your lush yard becomes quite a lot of work. By decreasing the size of your lawn, you save time, work and money, particularly with the increasing water rates. Some communities even offer homeowners substantial rebates when they trade their lawns for a low-water alternative. Check with your home owner’s associate to see if you would be eligible for a similar rebate.

Shrinking the green area can also solve other problems. You can manage cut-through foot traffic on corner yards by replacing that part of the grass with a border of low-maintenance shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses. If you space plants close together and mulch areas in between to smother weeds, you can dramatically reduce your chores. Other alternatives to traditional lawns include combinations of paved areas or gravel.

2. Bring in Native Plants

Use plants accustomed to the local soil conditions and climate because those plants are likely to survive without an abundance of fertilizer and water. Nurseries are following this trend by making native species readily available to customers. They also recommend perennial shrubs and flowers so that you will have permanent flower beds without replanting each season. Perennials live for a minimum of two years, but most live much longer than that.

You can also work with your local cooperative extension service for more ideas about climate-appropriate species indigenous to your area. Plants that grow spontaneously in your climate have adapted ways to thrive without the need for humans to care for them. Even if you only use native plants for half of the plants in your yard, that still promises less watering and maintenance overall. The Environmental Protection Agency is another excellent source to investigate. The EPA site offers a handy state-by-state plant selector. These sources can direct you to shade-loving ground cover, hardy ornamental grasses that change with the seasons or species that withstand foot traffic.

3. Plant an Edible Garden

Planting and growing vegetables is easy and cost-effective. Home improvement centers carry various assortments of starter plants and packaged seeds of numerous types of vegetables and herbs. Many people see edible gardening as an enjoyable hobby. The local-food movement and the desire to know where food is coming from are also a good reason to plant an edible garden.

It is a good plan to test your soil before you cultivate vegetables at home, particularly if you reside in a municipal area where lead is a concern. You can also resort to gardening in raised containers, planters or pots, which gives you more control over the chemicals that your plants will be exposed to. Another viable option is using wall-mounted, vertical planters for things like strawberries, beans and tomatoes.

When you plant a garden, utilize the no-till method in which the soil is never disturbed. This method protects the subsoil environment for the benefit of growing healthy plants. You can add compost, peat and organic fertilizer directly to the top of the garden beds. Over time, it becomes incorporated through the watering process and the activity of subsoil organisms.

4. Design an Outdoor Room

More and more people are creating versatile outdoor rooms. Individuals are looking past the typical grill and folding chairs by equipping their open-air gathering spaces with fire pits, water-resistant furniture and entertainment. Retailers offer many options for benches and fire pits for these outdoor rooms. In addition, locally sourced stone is popular for patios and more attractive composites are being produced for deck alternatives.

A simple fountain, pond or man-made brook adds a touch of backyard water elements. Listening to the sounds of flowing water while you are grilling or enjoying a glass of wine with friends in your outdoor space is relaxing and peaceful. Rock gardens typically contain drought-tolerant plants–such as succulents and cacti–and do not require much care. The rocks offer an element that never needs watering while adding a beautiful focal point to your outdoor room.

Cacti

5. Xeriscape Your Yard

Xeriscaping is another method of reducing the amount of grass and sensitive plants that you have to take care of. By completely xeriscaping your yard, you can cut down on your water consumption and time you spend on plant care. Use an abundance of drought-tolerant plants and rocks with an emphasis on your outdoor entertainment area to keep your yard inviting without having a lot of greenery.

Xeriscaping is often recommended for people who live in dry areas where it rarely rains. If done well, xeriscaping can add a modern and minimalist element to your yard and boost your curb appeal. If you are concerned that a xeriscape would not allow you to have any color or flowers in your yard, you actually can. Flowers such as geraniums, purple coneflowers, and butterfly weeds can add plenty of color to your xeriscaped yard while requiring very little maintenance.

6. Follow Sustainable Practices

Nearly all homeowners mulch after mowing and simply deposit the clippings on their lawn instead of bagging them. In fact, you can fertilize less by mulching more with these lawn clippings. This adds nutrients back into the soil, which can reduce your yard’s need for fertilization by as much as 30 percent. When you purchase fertilizer, most people look for environmental friendliness of the ingredients and ease of application. Nothing is more environmentally friendly and natural than spreading the clippings back on the source they came from.

Clover seed is an attractive ground cover and an ideal alternative to grass. It is drought-tolerant, economical, environmentally safe and requires little maintenance. In addition, clovers compete with weeds, do not require frequent mowing and are insect-resistant, making these plants a superb substitute for grass.

When you really want to cut down on your yard work, consider sharing the work with neighborhood children or your family members. Watering with your children can be a fun bonding experience, and the neighborhood teens welcome extra income for spending an hour or so every few weeks mowing or raking. Other approaches to reducing yard work involve lessening lawn fertilizer applications to just a few times annually and mowing less frequently. If you mow only when the grass is about six inches tall, then mow again with it is only one-third of its height, you can help the grass develop a stronger root system.

Yard work can be time consuming. By following these tips to reduce the upkeep, you can save so much more than time without sacrificing a beautiful yard.

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.

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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10 Healthy Tips & Benefits of Grilling

Healthy Grilling

Grill, baby, grill. The leaves may be changing color and the mercury may be falling, but it’s still great grilling weather. From burgers to brats, you’ve got a lot of great options to sear and savor. The best part is, grilling isn’t just fun, it can actually be good for you too.

5 Health Benefits of Grilling

There are health benefits to cooking your food on the grill versus on the stove or oven. We’ll go over some of the health benefits and give you some tips to serve up some tasty and healthy meals this fall. Let’s start with the five health benefits.

1. You Eat Less Fat

When you grill, you eat less fat because the excess drips off the grates. Think about cooking a burger on the grill versus in a pan on your stove-top. On the grill, the fat cooks off. In a pan on the cooktop, the fat has nowhere to go, so it pools and is eventually re-absorbed by the meat.
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How to Choose the Right Type of Grill for You

Personal Sized Grill

When I was 23 living in a studio apartment that had a common area for grilling, I got myself a personal hibachi grill. When I was married, living in a condo apartment with a balcony, I got a stand up electric grill (per my lease requirements), and now that I own my own home with ample pool deck for any size grill, my husband chose a large gas grill with all the bells and whistles. There are many types of grills that you can choose from, but they’re all built differently and may not be the best fit for your home.

So, whenever you move to a new place, it’s time to re-evaluate your grill choices. You can do this by asking yourself the following four questions. Based on your answers, you will have a better idea of what type of grill fits your life (and space) perfectly.
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6 Easy Home Improvement Tips to Cut Your Utility Bill

Sealing Window with Caulk

Considering the high cost of energy, it pays to do whatever you can to maximize your home’s use of this precious and expensive commodity. Fortunately, there are small, simple steps you can take to increase energy efficiency that can save you a substantial amount of money.

Try these six simple yet vital energy-saving tips and watch your utility bill start to shrink.

1. Seal Windows & Doors

Test the air-tightness of your home, and you might be astounded at how much energy passes through the cracks and crevices surrounding your windows and doors. Check the seal around your windows and the perimeter of your doors by holding a piece of tissue in front of them. If it moves, even slightly, you have a leak, which will be even more pronounced during windy weather. Rattling windows and doors also indicate air leaks, as does daylight peeking in from around door and window frames. Also check around switch plates and outlets for airflow leaks.

Cut down substantially on energy leakage by sealing off leaks in stationary windows with caulking and using weather sealant around windows and doors that are movable. Also install door sweeps.
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Clean With Steam: Why You Should Clean Filthy Floors With Steam Mops

If you’re only worried about how dirty floors look when your family and friends come tramping through your house in their shoes, think again. You may be exposing them to more health hazards than you think. I would know because I have a husband, three kids, two birds and two dogs living under my roof.

Floor Mop with Steam

According to recent research from the Scott Kelley Biology Lab at San Diego State University, which was published in the scientific journal Genome Biology, we live with an array of bacteria we bring into our homes via our shoes. All of this bacteria may affect our family’s health.

In fact, you track in dirt and more all over your house when you don’t leave your shoes at the door. Your pets bring in even more than things, like dust, dirt, bacteria, viruses, molds, fungi and other allergens.

Germs on your floors matter because they can exacerbate allergies and make you sick. For example:
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12-Volt Coolers: The Key to Successful ‘Staycations’

12 Volt Cooler on the Beach

I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely curtailed my vacation spending, preferring to plan shorter, closer-to-home trips versus one big, long, expensive excursion away from home for a week or more. How about you?

According to a 2014 Ipsos Public Affairs poll of more than 2,000 Americans, 36 percent have not taken a vacation (defined as leisure travel of at least a week at least 100 miles from home) in the last five years. In 2013, when polled about vacation plans, Ipsos found just less than half of Americans (48 percent) said they were confident that they would take a vacation in 2013, down four points from 2012.

12 Volt Cooler

Since the Energy Information Administration predicts gas prices will hover around a national average of $3.61 per gallon through this September, you might be planning a ‘staycation,’ also known as the ‘stay-at-or-near-home vacation’ or taking a ‘daytrip’ (defined as one-day travels within 50 miles of home) to save money.

If so, you might consider a 12-volt (12V) cooler to help ensure your family’s happiness on these outings. While traveling, I’ve found ice just doesn’t cut it in a conventional cooler all day long because wet, soggy food is a given and warm-ish drinks can ruin any family adventure or event.
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The ROI for Switching to a Stackable or Combo Washer Dryer

Washer Dryer Combo in the Kitchen

Ever wonder if it’s worth it to exchange your ol’ side-by-side washer/dryer setup for a stackable or combo unit? Well, my family learned firsthand there was plenty to gain in our rental property when we swapped out our full-sized washer and dryer for a stackable washer/dryer — space!

In fact, we gained an entire kitchen wall. We reconfigured the space and added more kitchen cabinets and counter space to our 1,000-square-foot house. Here’s what we learned during the process.
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