Key HVAC Tips For Optimal Efficiency

For many, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system that keeps their house comfortable is out of sight and out of mind until there’s a problem. But there’s no need to wait for an expensive issue to ensure it’s working effectively. Follow these proactive tips that can help you enjoy efficient, uninterrupted performance.

Don’t Neglect Preventive Maintenance Just like with your vehicle, regularly scheduled maintenance on HVAC systems can help prevent problems and extend the life of your unit. To keep everything running smoothly, stay on track with a checklist of monthly and annual tasks. Start by diligently changing air filters at least every three months or more frequently if you have pets or severe allergies.

Keep an Eye on Landscaping Some homeowners may be tempted to camouflage outdoor HVAC equipment with shrubs, grass or flowers to increase a property’s curb appeal. If you’re not thoughtful about landscaping around the unit, you could be compromising its effectiveness. Regularly clear away debris, including leaves and grass clippings, from the top and sides to avoid damage, and maintain a 2-foot clearance around the machinery so airflow isn’t restricted.

Perform Preseason Inspections Before seasons change, give the system a once-over and pay attention to what you see, feel and hear. Excessive noise, minimal airflow and high humidity can all be problematic. A qualified expert can identify issues as well as remove debris from air conditioner coils, show you how to clean the condensate drain and more.

Ultimately, your HVAC system’s ability to perform throughout the year will largely depend on how well you maintain it. With a little time and effort, you can lower summer energy costs and keep your heating and cooling system in top shape.

 


Drone Safety and Liability Insurance

Are you one of the approximately 1.2 million who received a drone as a gift during the 2016 holiday season? Regardless of how much aviation experience you have, these small aircraft come with more risk than the average hobby. For example, did you know that when you operate one, you become liable in the event of personal injury or property damage? Follow the steps below to protect yourself before taking to the skies.

Step 1: Register Your Drone The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires drone owners to register unmanned aircraft systems weighing over 0.55 pounds with the government. Each aircraft must have the registration number displayed directly on the body. Civil noncompliance penalties can lead to fines of up to $27,500, while criminal penalty fees can go as high as $250,000 and three years in prison.

Step 2: Check Your Policy Next, hobbyists are encouraged to check the coverage associated with their homeowners or renters insurance policy. Specifically, review key sections including personal liability, medical coverage and property loss or damage. Also, keep in mind that a home policy won’t cover drones operated for commercial use, nor will a landlord’s insurance protect you if you’re a renter.

Step 3: Review Safety Precautions You can reduce your risk of personal injury or property damage by following common drone safety tips. Operate your drone at or below 400 feet, always keep it in your line of vision and avoid flying near emergencies, sporting events and large groups of people.

To keep drone flying fun and stress-free, make the right moves early on to protect yourself and your new toy.


Home Updates That Deliver on Value

More and more, homeowners are choosing to stay put and renovate rather than buy new. Before you get started on an update to your home, take a look at the projects that may net a higher return on investment and those that remain popular no matter the ROI.

High-Value Home Projects

Exterior: According to the 2017 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine, an indoor renovation in 2016 averaged a 63.5 percent return, while curb appeal projects paid back an average of 74.9 percent. To take advantage of this higher ROI, look into outdoor improvements like swapping out your front door for a steel one or updating your home’s siding.

Insulation: Improving the efficiency of the attic with air sealing and fiberglass insulation continues to sit at the top of the high-value list, boasting an impressive 107.7 percent ROI.

Master suite: As push notifications and email updates blur the line between work and home, there’s a growing emphasis on creating serene, peaceful spaces. A master bedroom addition complete with a walk-in closet and spacious, well-appointed bathroom can bring comfort along with a respectable 64.8 percent return.

Popular Despite a Lower ROI

Would you like to make a few changes regardless of the return? You’re not alone. Homeowners continue to invest in kitchen and bathroom projects even when the ROI is low. But keep this in mind: Overall, replacement projects pull in a larger return (74 percent) than remodeling jobs (63.7 percent). The latter, however, often focus on personalizing the space, which may explain the popularity.

Looking to ride out rising mortgage rates by staying in your current place? Industry insiders predict that will be common, with many homeowners looking to renovation to spice things up.


What To Do Before Hitting the Road

Do warmer temperatures have you daydreaming of a spring or summer road trip? Before you pack up your vehicle, prioritize preventive maintenance tasks and give your car a good detail. In honor of National Car Care Month, here are a few post-winter pointers to tackle before you hit the road.

Tend to Tires
Cold temperatures cause tire pressure to fall, and slick or bumpy roads can do a number on tire alignment. Check your tires regularly and add air when necessary to return them to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. And don’t forget to rotate and align tires to keep their tread from wearing.

Change Windshield Wiper Blades
Be prepared for spring showers by hitting the road with newly replaced wipers. Worn, ineffective blades often squeak, jump and leave streaks that can inhibit a clear view of your surroundings.

Test and Replace Your Car Battery
Both cold winter weather and blazing summer heat can take a toll on car batteries, reducing efficiency and causing corrosion. To ensure your battery has plenty of life left, look for a location that can test it. If the voltage is low, consider replacing it to avoid the inconvenience of the battery dying unexpectedly.

Wash and Wax Your Entire Vehicle
Salt, sand and winter grime can corrode metals and ruin paint. To prevent weather-related damage, give your car a thorough wash on a regular basis, and don’t neglect the undercarriage. Once the vehicle is dirt-free, coat the surface with a layer of wax to protect it from spring and summer storms.

Giving your car attention in the form of regular maintenance and cleanings will help prolong its life and keep you safe on the road this spring.


Getting Small Spaces Clean This Spring

Is a deep clean of your home on your list of things to do? Kitchens and bathrooms usually require the most attention, but it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. Make sure you hit these often neglected spaces for a complete spring-cleaning ritual.

What to Tackle in the Bathroom Even if your bathroom has relatively little storage space, there’s likely a mixture of outdated items like medication, cosmetics and cleaners. And some of those could be dangerous.

  • Start by checking for expired medicine and discontinued prescriptions. If you don’t take them anymore or notice they’ve passed their expiration date, properly dispose of them.
  • While many cleaners may not have a clearly marked expiration, most lose their potency over time. If you’ve had a cleaning product for several years, toss it and replace it with a new, full-strength version.
  • Each cosmetic item has a life span, and keeping it beyond that time frame can lead to bacteria buildup. Eyeshadows and powders can last for two years, for example, while mascara should be replaced every three months.

Continue in the Kitchen When spring-cleaning the kitchen, don’t neglect the pantry or spice cabinet. Some food demands your attention as it spoils, and others like dry goods, frozen foods and spices have a subtle decline. Baking ingredients have strict expiry dates, while spices lose their strength gradually, resulting in a loosely suggested shelf life.

While you’re at it, give your fridge and freezer a once-over. Clear out doors and bins where old condiments and food may be lurking.

Giving some time to these often overlooked areas can lead to a well-rounded spring-clean.


Which Tire Tread Pattern is Best of Your Vehicle

As the only part of the vehicle that comes in contact with the road, your car’s tires contribute to its overall safety. Tires come in a variety of tread patterns, and each one has its optimal application and road conditions. Using the proper tire tread can help you avoid accidents and even improve your car’s fuel efficiency. What are your options? Here’s a breakdown of common tread types and where they excel:

Seasonal Tires

  • All-season:Built to handle different types of road conditions, all-season tires come standard on many cars and SUVs. They offer an adequate performance year-round, but they may not be the safest answer for drivers dealing with snowy conditions.
  • Summer:Summer tires are similar to the all-season variety except they’re not designed for use in snow. Summer tires feature less grooving in the tread to boost high-performance use, making them impractical in winter weather.
  • Winter:Sometimes referred to as snow tires, winter tires have traction-focused patterns designed to grip in freezing precipitation. The downside: Special compounds help rubber stay pliable in cooler temps, which can cause them to wear faster.

Terrain Tires All-terrain and mud terrain tires are engineered to help when you’re driving through rugged conditions. Large rubber blocks with small cuts known as siping and tread along the sidewall allow these tires to gain traction on unpaved roads.

Racing Slicks Though their wide contact area and all-out traction make them ideal as dry-pavement racing slicks, these tires have far less traction in wet conditions. Because there’s no tread to measure, drivers use holes to determine the tire’s tread life and remaining rubber.

Tire tread may not be something you’ve given much thought to in the past, but it’s a topic every driver should be aware of. Before you pick the best tire for your car, determine what kind of tread pattern works best for your environment.


3 TOP COLOR TRENDS TO USE AT HOME

For years, color psychologists have understood that different hues impact our moods in various ways. Are you putting this information to use in your home’s interior? If you’re looking to upgrade your color choices, consider incorporating these 2017 color trends.

Pantone Chooses Kale What’s become a household name due to its superfood status is now one of Pantone’s top color selections for 2017.

How to use it: Kale’s deep, earthy green is a bold shade that may be best added in small doses. Start subtly with a piece of art in the family area or statement pillows in the living room.

Sherwin Williams Goes With Poised Taupe  A trendy neutral that’s a mix of warm and cool, this brownish hue is the perfect alternative to gray. Plus, it’s ideal for adding a dash of cozy to any space.

How to use it: You can dress an entire room in poised taupe wallpaper, use it to add a sense of harmony to your guest room linens or paint built-in cabinetry this new hue for a modern, homey touch.

Benjamin Moore Selects Shadow This purple-adjacent tone, a combination of amethyst and soft lilac gray, is both elegant and versatile with a touch of mystery. It also responds well to a variety of complimentary colors and design themes.

How to use it: For a dramatic effect, let this color create a calming, sophisticated vibe in the bedroom. Or try using it to make a visual focal point, such as in a bookcase, or by mixing the color with pops of pattern.

Whether you choose to put a couple of these color picks into play on a large or small scale, you’re sure to elevate the mood in your home.