Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stay Cool and Save

Summer is just around the corner, and as the temperature rises so does your energy bill. The cost of running air conditioning and fans on top of the cost of running your every day appliances eats away at the money you can spend on enjoying your summer adventures. However, you don’t need to spend the $1, 900 dollars that the Environmental Protection Agency says the average household spends each year. All you need to do is follow these eight easy steps to year round energy efficiency.

1. Upgrade Your Thermostat.
It’s hot outside we all understand that, but if you aren’t home twenty-four seven then why waste your money cooling any empty house. Just invest a little bit of money in a programmable thermostat, which will automatically keep your at different temperatures at specific times. This way you can have your house nice and cool when you get home from work, and not waste money keeping it cool when nobody is home.

2. Be Green.
Planting at least three shady trees around your house can cut $100 to $250 off your annual heating and cooling bill, and it will also improve your yards appearance. However, if you really aren’t the type do go planting you can still save energy by pulling the shades or closing your curtains.

3. Keep Your Air-Conditioning Unit Clean.
You can save money just by keeping your AC unit clean and in prime performance. Another great idea is to give your unit a professional tune up before summer gets into full swing. Even if you don’t have air-conditioning it’s wise to get your air filters checked every month or so to clean or replace them. Dusting off your refrigerator’s condenser coils is yet another great energy saving idea as this will make it run more efficiently.

4. A Better Bulb.
The kind of lamps and light bulbs you use are actually important. Traditional incandescent light bulbs and halogen lamps require far more energy then your typical compact fluorescent light bulb, and CFL bulbs last ten times as long. Halogen lamps are also dangerous fire starters. As CFL bulbs come in a variety of sizes they can fit any lamp, and they also come in a wide variety of colors. Using CFL’s with the Energy Star label don’t buzz or hum like other CFL’s do. This is a switch that can save you tons of money. Replacing just four 100-Watt incandescent bulbs with equivalent 23-Watt CFL bulbs can save you between $120 and $200 over three years.

5. Fans.
Adding a ceiling fan to a room can help balance out the room’s temperature, so you can turn down the AC and still feel cool.

6. Unplug.
Some appliances in your home continue to suck energy even when they have been turned off. The worst of these energy wasters are televisions, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, phones, and microwave ovens, although, just about anything with a clock, remote control or on/off light is wasting energy. One solution to this huge drain on your pocket buck is to plug everything that can actually be turned off into the same power strip and then use that as your on/off switch.

7. Fight Leaks.
Leaky windows and ducts allow your cooled air to escape into the outside, which means that your AC has to work harder to keep rooms the temperature you want them and cost you money. Ducts are often installed with leaks, so if you believe that your ducts are faulty then you should have them check out by a HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) technician. Making sure that your ducts are properly sealed and insulated could save you up to 10% in energy costs.

8. Be a Smart Shopper.
The best way to save money is to invest in energy-efficient appliances. Always look for the Energy Star label when you’re looking to buy an appliance. Even though replacing appliances does require an upfront cost if you are replacing an old model appliance for a new energy efficient one then the appliance will pay for its self by saving you money on your bills.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Protect Yourself From Pesky Mosquitoes

It's May and summer is approaching fast. Even if you haven't noticed them yet every Michigander's favorite insect, the mosquito, is out there and they aren't going away any time soon. So what can you do about it? Well, you could sit inside all summer or you could follow some simple tips on how to avoid being bitten and decrease your chances of catching any nasty mosquito-born diseases.

1. Try to avoid shaded areas where mosquitoes may be resting. Also try not to schedule any outside events around dusk or dawn, as mosquitoes are more likely to be active during these times.

2. Use special "Bug Lights" to illuminate your patios or decks. These lights don't have to be mosquito repellent to be effective. It's enough to just find light bulbs that simply don't attract mosquitoes like every day incandescent lights do.

3. Keeping a large fan running on your deck or patio will cut down on the number of mosquitoes.

4. Wearing protective clothing such as long pants and long sleeved shirts while you're outside will keep you from being bitten.

5. It's always a good idea to use insect repellent when you're outdoors. Particularly, look for those products with DEET, Picaridin, and Oil of Lemon-Eucalyptus, which are proven to be the most effective repellents. However, keep in mind to always follow the instructions on the label when you use a repellent as they can be harmful to YOU if you use them incorrectly.

6. Make sure to fix or replace any window or door screens with holes or tears in them. Also put 16-mesh screening or hardware cloth over any vent outlets on your roof.

7. Keep emergent vegetation to a minimum in any ponds and streams around your home.

8. Mosquitoes will use any standing water as breeding grounds, so try to eliminate these around your house.
- Keep your swimming pool chlorinated and clean.
- Repair leaky outdoor faucets.
- Dispose of any tires.
- Keep your roof gutters clear of debris.
- Change the water in birdbaths, plant pots, and pet water dishes regularly.
- Keep things like boats, small pools, and canoes turned over so water can’t collect inside them. Make sure to avoid allowing water to collect on pool or boat covers.
- Plug tree holes and stumps.
- Keep the shrubbery, weeds, and grass in your yard trimmed.
- Fill in or drain ruts and puddles in your yard.

Even small containers can breed hundreds of mosquitoes, so don’t leave standing water in containers of any size.

9. Keep ponds well stocked with mosquito fish, but first be sure to consult local fish and game personnel to see if you require a permit. It’s also wise to maintain steeply graded pond margins to keep any predators from eating these fish.

And remember, even if you follow these methods of mosquito prevention you may still get mosquitoes from an uninformed neighbors property, so don’t keep these tips to yourself. The more people you tell how to prevent mosquitoes the fewer mosquitoes you will have to worry about.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where Do Ann Arbor Buyers Find Their Homes?

The Internet continually gains ground in bringing together buyers and sellers. Something like 82% or 83% of all buyers search the Internet even before contacting a Realtor. As for finding the house they end up buying, here are the statistics from the 2007 National Association of Realtors study.

The percentage of buyers who found their home through
Their Realtor was 34%
On the Internet 29%
From a Yard Sign 14%
Home Builder or Their Agent 8%
Friend, Relative, or Neighbor 8%
Print Newspaper Advertising 3%
Knew the Sellers 3%
Home Book or Magazine 1%

Those buyers who found the home they wished to buy on the Internet, or from a sign, or otherwise, typically still worked with a Realtor for the benefit of an arm's length transaction, to have a skilled negotiator working on their behalf, and to insure a smooth closing.