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.

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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Dehumidifier Maintenance Tips: How to Clean, Maintain & Troubleshoot Your Unit

Owning a dehumidifier can be extremely beneficial for a homeowner in a number of ways. The main purpose of the dehumidifier is to remove the excess moisture in the air, thereby reducing the humidity in the room in which it is located. Removing the excess moisture in the air helps to prevent mold and mildew buildup, and it may also help in controlling allergies, asthma, and other health issues that relate to respiration.

Dehumidifier

Additionally, having a dehumidifier in your home also makes a room more comfortable and free from any musty smells that may arise, particularly during seasons that have high humidity.

Given all of the benefits that a dehumidifier is able to bring, it is important to understand how to clean and troubleshoot your unit, as well as these basic dehumidifier maintenance tips that can help in generating a deeper understanding of how you can keep your unit working smoothly for years to come.

Keeping Your Dehumidifier Clean

It should be obvious that it is important to keep any appliance clean in order to ensure its proper and continued function. Dehumidifiers are no different, and the water collection tank, air intake, and exhaust grilles should all be cleaned on a regular basis. The water tank should be emptied frequently, and cleaning only requires the use of a disinfectant or the simple use of soap and warm water. If the tank is left unclean, mold and mildew may develop, dispersing through the dehumidifier and into the air.

In addition to cleaning the water collection tank, both the air intake and exhaust grilles should be vacuumed at least once every season. The buildup of dust and debris can impact how efficiently your dehumidifier is able to run, and blockages may result in damage and deterioration.
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5 Maintenance Tips for Window Air Conditioners

In order to prolong the life of your air conditioner and to ensure its continued and efficient function, it is important for you to take the proper steps to take care of the unit. There are several maintenance tips for window air conditioners that will help you keep your unit functioning properly for many years to come, while also ensuring that it continues to operate at optimal efficiency. Understanding how to maintain your window air conditioner at the beginning and end of each operating season will benefit you and your air conditioning unit in a significant way.

Here are five maintenance tips you should keep in mind for your window air conditioning unit.

1. Cleaning & Replacing the Air Filter

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of air conditioner maintenance relates to the air filter. The filter plays a very important role in your air conditioning unit, and it needs to be either cleaned or replaced on a relatively frequent basis.

If the air system becomes impeded due to an air filter past its prime, significant stress may be placed on the entire system. This causes serious inefficiencies in function that should be easily avoided, especially given the fact that changing out an air filter is very simple. Some units have air filters that can be cleaned and reused, while others must simply be replaced.

Consult the information provided by the manufacturer to determine which type of air filter your unit uses. If it can be cleaned, check the filter once a month to clean all of the debris from the filter. If it must be replaced, it is generally ideal to replace the filter once every two to three months. Of course, the presence of pollen or allergens will influence the frequency with which you should replace or clean your filter.
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Wine Coolers 101

built-in wine cooler

Mention a wine cooler, and my mind wanders to the French countryside, maybe say… Burgundy. A beautiful wine country, just south of Paris, Burgundy grows fine grapes to make exceptional Pinot Noir red wines and Chardonnay white wines. Yes, I have actually visited there once.

A bit of brie, a picnic basket and a beautiful smile….ok, I have to get back to work!

EdgeStar carries a wide variety of wine coolers, both the thermoelectric, or TE coolers, and the more familiar compressor-based ones. It is very important to note that no matter which one you choose certain guidelines must be observed.

The first item of note is which way the door will swing. Factory configurations usually have it set to open from left to right,  and occasionally, customers want the door to swing the other way, from right to left. Happily, the vast majority of the EdgeStar wine cooler line allows the customer to do exactly that.

The next consideration will be placement of the unit. Most customers prefer to place the unit in such a fashion that it appears to have been built in, under a counter, or in a cabinet. The compressor-based units are preferred candidates, because they vent from the front at the bottom of the cooler. With that in mind, I present a bit of advice for the value minded customer that purchases one of our fine EdgeStar thermoelectric coolers to reproduce the exact same look in their kitchen…

The thermoelectric series of wine coolers are an excellent product, but if you build them in, or put them under a counter, they will overheat, and will live a very short life.

This is due to the fact that they generate a LOT of heat from the back of the unit, and although the cooling is fan forced, they absolutely must be installed in a free standing environment. We mean it, folks, no joke.

Leveling is very important when installing one of our wine coolers, especially the compressor-based ones. An unbalanced compressor will be noisy and will fail early. Use a bubble level to make sure the leveling is done correctly, and try to use a level that has a magnetic strip attached, that’s handy for not only horizontal level, but vertical leveling as well.

Regular cleaning of both the intake and exhaust grills on both types of coolers is also very important, I recommend doing a complete cleaning at least once every 6 months. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment for best results.

Last but not least, I recommend using a surge protector on all of our wine coolers, but especially the thermoelectric units. Most kitchens these days have outlets that are GFCI protected (think wine cooler falling in the pool), but not surge protected. Surge protectors can be picked up at most retail electronic stores at reasonable prices. The really good protectors will stop passing power when they are worn out.

That’s all for this week. See you later!

Dave

Simple Tips for a Great Appliance

In this installment, I will be covering some basic tips to help appliance owners maintain their products for a long and trouble-free lifespan. These are simple tips that anyone, including you, can do!

Lets get started…

Unpacking

So, you just took delivery of your new appliance from Living Direct…and you’re so excited! It’s new, shiny, and just what you wanted! There you are, the product is unpacked, and ready to install, so…

STOP!!!

Folks, let’s grab a cup of coffee and sit back with that new owner’s manual. I know, it’s easy to say that you don’t need to, the product is so easy to use, so why do I need to waste time reading the manual?

Because it will help familiarize you with all of the controls, installation, maintenance, and perhaps just as important, it gives you the chance to read through the warranty, so if, in the unlikely event that you have a problem with the unit, you know who to call, what information to have ready when you call, and it gives you an understanding of what to expect when you speak with the service agent.

We really do value you as a customer and we want a good rapport with you.

Installation

Make sure that you follow all of the installation instructions provided with the unit. That is a vital step. Just like building a home, the foundation is the most important part. A good installation sets the stage for a long product life and a happy customer. If you have the right skills to install the product, go for it! If not, you’ll want to contact a qualified appliance tech to help you do it right.

Product Usage

Make sure you are familiar with the product controls, menu functions, and understand just exactly what the unit is designed to do. Again, the manual will come in handy. If you have further questions, contact us. We’ll have a friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful agent waiting for you!

Maintenance

Each and every unit, no matter how often it is used, will eventually need some sort of maintenance. It’s a fact. Air conditioners need regular filter cleaning, have the water accumulation drained from it’s storage tank, and set up correctly for maximum performance. Dishwashers need a good supply of hot water, good quality detergent, and the right voltage to do the job right. Wine coolers need regular cleaning to remove dust and debris from internal parts, and good airflow to keep that wine cool. Power surge protection is highly recommended!

Conclusion

So, as you can see, there are things that you can do to make your purchase a wise investment. I wanted to give you an overview first, and in my next blog post, we’ll start to focus on individual products, and we will get down to the nuts-and-bolts of each. I have lots of tips to help you “keep ‘er humming” day after day for years to come!

Dave’s Tip of the Week: “Safety First! Unplug that unit before doing any maintenance!”

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Appliance Maintenance Tips

                    refrigerators

To ensure that your favorite appliances last a long time and continue to work well, you want to make sure you take very good care of them. From big appliances like refrigerators and washing machines to small appliances like toasters and microwaves, caring for their overall function is a must. Without proper care, your appliances may become ineffective, resulting in a higher electricity bill or unfulfilled purpose, or even potentially start a house fire due to faulty wiring or mechanics.

Cleaning your appliances after you use them is an excellent way to keep hazards at bay. Small appliances such as waffle makers, sandwich presses, blenders and toasters should especially be cleaned after use to help keep crumbs or uncooked batter from burning and possibly catching on fire. Therefore, after cooking food with these appliances you should wipe or wash them down, but also be cautious of electrical cords and features that may be ruined by contact with water.

Inspecting your appliances’ electrical connections is extremely important. Appliances age with use and loose wires can be potentially very dangerous to you and your family. If wires seem taut, split or torn and exposing the actual electrical wires, your appliance may be at risk of sparking and starting a fire or electrical surge causing a power outage in the rest of your home. This can also lead to damaging your appliance completely.

Overheating is also a common deficiency in older appliances. Being aware of the age of your appliances and their normal function is important so that you can recognize when something is wrong, like overheating or strange noises.  This appliance reaction is usually caused due to a backup of dust and dirt blocking the appliance filter. In some vacuums and washer dryers, this is common when the lint filter is filled to capacity with lint or dirt.

Make sure to read the instructions on any new appliance you purchase so you know how to care for them and what to do if they need repair. Some appliances are self-explanatory and easy to use, but keeping the instructions handy will help you if you need to repair the appliance or need warranty information. If something goes wrong with any of your appliances, you’ll find comfort in knowing you are prepared.