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4 May 2017

Conserving water in the summertime

Sometimes it seems like the seasons change so fast. Spring only got into its full swing in mid-April, but it's already the beginning of May. This means summer is just several weeks from now, and considering how busy so many of us are, that time will pass before we know it. It'll be bright and sunny and warm - and we'll be using much more water than we do during all of the other seasons, be it for hygiene, cooling off or periodically watering our lawns and gardens.

As with all resources, the consumption of water can add up faster than you think and make an unpleasantly large dent in your monthly utility bills. But it's possible to avoid - or at the very least mitigate - that frustrating occurrence. Let's look at several areas in which households can cut down on their water use and ways to achieve this goal.

Be mindful of your gardening water
Whether you've got some plots in your yard for your favorite flowers, raise vegetables and herbs or are simply proud of a well-maintained lawn, gardening can be an enjoyable, almost therapeutic hobby. That said, it's also easy to get carried away with how much water goes into this task.

Conserving water in the summertimeLawns need about 1 inch of water per week - don't use too much!

Popular Mechanics noted that soaking your greens with too much water is just as bad as depriving them of H2O. Lawns need only 1 inch of water per week, so to ensure that you use this exact amount - no more, no less - consider buying sprinklers that you can program to spray for a set time and then shut off. The Regional Water Providers Consortium recommends watering for about 30 minutes per week to accumulate an inch. Most perennials do well on 1 to 2 inches per week, while some vegetables or herbs may have specific water needs you should research before planting.

Timing also matters in watering. According to Popular Mechanics, the morning is most optimal, and be sure the water is cool.

Laundry day: A dangerous day for your summer water bill?
Chances are high that you do more laundry during the summer than other seasons, maybe even a lot more. This is especially likely if you've got a few children or adolescents in your household. Whether they're running around playing cops and robbers, giving it their all in summer sports or coming home from their first minimum-wage jobs, one thing is for certain - they'll all be sweaty. Which means more changes of clothes and a shorter span between laundry loads.

To mitigate the water usage that will result, American Water recommends only running the washing machine when it's full and you've got no choice. Don't be tempted to do frequent small loads, and don't let your spouse or older kids do that either, even if they're trying to help. If you've got the spare time, consider hand-washing some articles of clothing, but this won't be an option for everyone.

Bath and shower water needs
It might be tempting to take a long cool bath as a bit of self-care after you've had a long day at work or running errands, especially if you spent a lot of it outside. However, if you want to keep your water and heating bills down, this is a luxury you can't afford, according to American Water.

A shower uses 10 to 25 gallons of water if it's about five minutes long - give or take a few - while a full-tub bath of any length requires at least 70 gallons. Also, if your schedule is busy enough, you won't have time for a bath, but you could probably fit in two short showers at different times of day. This will be better for keeping cool in the long run. 

25 Apr 2017

Bathroom remodeling for the cash-strapped

How you treat your bathroom can, to a certain extent, be representative of your personality. Guests in your home can draw quite a few conclusions from using the restroom, and if the space isn't in the best shape, what they think might not be very good. Who wants to deal with that kind of awkwardness? It's embarrassing. And even if your bathroom is in fine shape but could stand to be better, perhaps now is the perfect time to get started on that task!

As with all home improvement projects and tasks, the expenses can add up quickly and become insurmountable if you aren't careful. However, you don't have to fall into a money pit just to spruce up this vital area of your home. Read on to learn some of the best ways to retool and improve your bathroom while sticking to a reasonable budget. 

Throwing on a fresh coat
Repainting your bathroom is perhaps the least expensive way to liven it up, even if you're simply giving it a once-over with the same color. Even when you consider the cost of high-quality satin-finish paint - which the Money Crashers blog recommends, due to its resistance to bathroom humidity and heat fluctuations that can significantly contribute to mold growth - it'll still involve less money than almost any other significant change you can make to your bathroom. 

Bathroom remodeling for the cash-strappedPainting is a simple, cheap way to start your budget bathroom remodel.

Updating fixtures and making other small changes
You might be surprised by the difference a lot of small changes can make to the aesthetic appeal of your bathroom. Features such as the medicine cabinet and mirror, vanity, drawers, towel racks, light fixtures and faucets will not cost you that much to update, but they can refresh the overall atmosphere of the space. 

HGTV points out that changes as minor as the knobs and handles on a vanity's doors and drawers - or an entirely new vanity - might be all you need. 

Pre-owned items and other discounts 
People buy used or pre-owned cars, electronics, books and clothes all the time? So why not do the same with bathroom furniture and fixture items that could otherwise be extremely costly? This might be exactly what you need to provide the space with a unique vintage vibe.

According to Money Crashers, it's not hard at all to find used toilets, tubs, sinks, lamps, mirrors and much more on sites like Craigslist or eBay. If you have an interest in more quirky additions to your bathroom that make use of recycled materials, go to the craft stores on Etsy, many of which boast the sort of items that will make the room look anything but generic. Also, HGTV cited an example of one crafty remodeler who brought a completely new aesthetic dimension to their bathroom by simply adding a remnant counter and used mirror.

Finally, if you want to make additions to your bathroom that could save you a considerable amount of money on energy bills and be environmentally beneficial, consider purchasing appliances such as water-efficient toilets and electric tankless water heaters.

Tile and grout adjustments
An interesting tile pattern is bound to catch the eyes of a lot of people. However, many of the most distinctive accent tile varieties can cost you a pretty penny. But don't fret, as there are methods by which you can have it both ways. 

For one, consider alternating two or three rows of accent tiles with several cheaper designs. As long as the more affordable tile matches the color of the luxury brand and doesn't jaggedly clash with its design, the floor will look great and you'll have saved some money. Alternatively, Money Crashers recommended tiling just one horizontal portion of the wall and painting around the rest with a matching color.

Regardless of what tile decision you end up making, it's not expensive at all to attend to the grout and caulk surrounding the squares and encircling your tub area. It's also quite beneficial, as unclean grout can be one of the ugliest things in a bathroom. 

23 Mar 2017

The basics of spring home upkeep

At long last - or at least what feels like long last - spring has sprung and wonderfully warm weather is right around the corner. As a homeowner, you're most likely relieved because there'll be no more ice and snow to shovel off your driveway, but the new season does mean you'll have some new necessary tasks to keep your house in tip-top shape. 

Don't be stressed by this, though: You can handle several of these necessary home maintenance chores on your own and without spending too much time and money. Let's get started:

The basics of spring home upkeepWith spring here, it's time to clean any remnants of winter out of your gutters.

Inspect your home's dampness-prone areas
If you have an attic, basement or both, it'll be wise to start here. Both of these areas can accumulate enough dampness to encourage mold growth, particularly if there's little ventilation or none at all. Family Handyman notes that it's easy to clean by scrubbing with water-diluted bleach and then vacuuming the remnants. To reduce your chances of facing this unpleasant issue going forward, consider installing a dehumidifier in your basement and regularly ventilating the attic any way you can.

You'll also want to search for signs of pests that may have infiltrated these areas. BobVila.com recommends looking for vertical cracks in the walls or tunneling marks in the wood, and if you find either, call an exterminator.

Exterior checkups
Your roof, shingles, gutters, certain types of siding and windows sustain the most damage from snow, ice and winds, so you'll want to look closely at all these areas. First, see if there are any cracks, gaps or holes in the roof or siding (if it's wood, stucco or brick). Small window gaps can be resealed with caulk, but any serious damage will require professional attention. 

Gutters, fortunately, are easier to tackle yourself. Houzz states that cleaning out leftover snow, slush and ice from the gutters and downspouts is necessary to keep rainwater flowing down from roofs and away from the foundation, so get this taken care of sooner rather than later. 

Checking on appliances for efficiency
As welcome as spring's weather is, it does mean that the heat of summer isn't that far away. So now is a great time to look at your air conditioner's outside unit and see if winter took a toll on it, according to HGTV. If the coils are damp or otherwise unclean, the system won't run efficiently and keep you cool, so get on the horn to a professional to have the unit serviced. Also, be sure to give window AC units a good once-over. 

Finally, because you'll likely be using more water in late spring and throughout summer - to shower more frequently in response to the heat - now may be a good time to preemptively invest in an electric tankless water heater. It can significantly bolster your energy efficiency so that an uptick in water use won't lead to an unfortunate surge in your utility bills.