Stay safe: Call before you dig

A new deck, fence or tree can make your house look great. But could they cause a safety issue?

Unsafe digging by homeowners and contractors damages gas lines and puts lives in danger. In fact, August is the peak month when people damage gas lines.

Don't take a gamble: call 811.

It’s a free service, it’s easy and it’s the law. Call at least two business days in advance. Columbia Gas and other utilities will mark lines so you can dig safely. Learn more.

Call before you:

  • Plant a tree
  • Install a fence
  • Build a deck
  • Do any digging

Hiring a contractor? Make sure they call 811. Don't take chances with your safety.

Posted on August 5, 2017 .

Black is the new black for stylish lighting

Photo Credit: LBL Lighting

Photo Credit: LBL Lighting

(NewsUSA) - Black is the new black when it comes to lighting.

According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), many of the latest and most versatile light fixtures are trending towards black finishes, often mixed with other colors and metals. The right light enhances any home, and light fixtures that are black can add a new element of sophistication and function, which is why many homeowners are opting for black when choosing interior as well as exterior fixtures.

"Throughout history, the color black has played an important role in architecture and interior design," says Joe Rey-Barreau, AIA, IESNA, associate professor at the University of Kentucky's School of Interior Design.

The neutral nature of black "has been a consistent design element that can blend and merge easily with traditional, transitional and modern styles," says Rey-Barreau, who also serves as education consultant to the ALA.

"Used as the primary color in interior or exterior lighting fixtures, black brings a sophistication that provides a timeless quality and transcends any specific style," he adds.

Replacing all existing light fixtures is not always feasible, but selecting several outdated fixtures to change and upgrade gives any room an instant lift.

Using black fixtures is an easy way to ensure that old and new lighting elements meld together without creating a disjointed appearance. Consider the elements of your existing fixtures, and add a new one that is black or partly black in color, and that reflects elements of the current lighting scheme.

Try a black fixture paired with metallic finishes such as polished brass, nickel or brushed pewter; or consider a two-tone look that combines black with another color to complement the room or outdoor space.

Black fixtures continue to gain popularity in outdoor lighting as well.

"There's a slow shift from brown asphalt roofs to black," says Jeff Dross, corporate director of education and industry trends for Kichler Lighting.

"We're moving from beige siding to dove gray or light gray siding, and the stone is going from a brown to a grayer tone. Because of that shift, the color black actually looks a lot nicer. It looks much more in concert with the rest of the architecture," he says.

A new video from the ALA features more design tips about how to make the most of black lighting fixtures. To view the video, go to LightingDesignVideos.com.

Whether you want to give your interior a facelift, or just try something different, it's a perfect time to take an old, outdated light fixture from drab to fab.

For more information and to find a list of local ALA-member retail showrooms, go to AmericanLightingAssoc.com.

Posted on August 1, 2017 .

Hints for homebuyers

A professional real estate agent can open the door to the home of your dreams.

A professional real estate agent can open the door to the home of your dreams.

Three important things to know

Buying a home is both a gratifying experience and challenging endeavor. This is especially the case this season. 

A healthy U.S. economy and steady job growth are translating to robust demand at a time when housing supply is insufficient in much of the country. 

Although the National Association of Realtors® is still anticipating this to be the best year for home sales in a decade, the journey from home search to closing can be a daunting one. 

To help, here are three insider tips: 

• Be ready: It’s a swift-moving housing market right now. Rising home sales amidst inadequate homebuilding have only exasperated tight supply conditions. Consider this: The inventory for existing homes on the market has declined annually each month for the past two years and homes for sale are typically going under contract in less than a month.

Also, note that inventory is the tightest at lower price ranges. If you’re on the hunt for a home in the affordable price range—around $250,000 to $500,000 in most areas—expect immediate interest from several other buyers. You’ll need to move fast if you see a property you like. 

• Rely on a real estate agent: With demand significantly outpacing supply in many areas, it’s common for buyers to be on the receiving end of a losing offer or two before finding their dream home. 

That’s why, in today’s competitive market, the use of a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®, can be crucial to a successful buying experience. As your trusted partner and negotiator-in-chief, a Realtor® will identify homes in your target area once they hit the market, help you present an attractive offer to the seller’s agent, and negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get your home at a price that works for your budget. 

• Buy only what you can comfortably afford: Buying a home has become a little less affordable compared to a year ago because of the continued rise in prices and higher mortgage rates. 

If listings are limited in your market, affordability will remain a challenge this year as prospective buyers compete against each other and bid prices upward. This is where the negotiation skills of a Realtor®can prove indispensable. Discuss your target price range and stick to it. The satisfaction of winning a bidding war will end quickly if you find yourself living above your means. 

The rewarding experience of buying a home may not be easy, but if you work with a Realtor® and follow these tips, you can be confident knowing that the right home can eventually be yours. 

Learn More

For local market information and to find a Realtor®, go to www.realtor.com/GetRealtor. - NAPSI

Posted on July 18, 2017 .

Pollinators: More than just bees

You can “bee” a big help to pollinators of all kinds when you plant lots of colorful flowers.

You can “bee” a big help to pollinators of all kinds when you plant lots of colorful flowers.

Bees are synonymous with pollination—and for good reason. Their size, shape and physical characteristics—fuzzy bodies that so effectively collect and transport pollen—make them efficient foragers. Additionally, they are conditioned to collect ample pollen to take back to their brood, a behavior that has helped reinforce their reputation as “busy bees.”

It’s important to recognize, however, that other insects and animals contribute to pollination, the important process of collecting and distributing pollen to help plants reproduce and bear food. Research conducted in recent years suggests that the combined activity of non-bee pollinators—such as flies, bats and butterflies—can be just as valuable to pollination as bees.

Meet The Lesser-Known Pollinators

A black-and-yellow-striped insect hovering above a flower is not always a bee. Some flies—such as flower flies, or hoverflies—resemble bees; for this reason, they’re called bee mimics. Several plant species—most notably, the cocoa tree—rely exclusively on fly pollination. Without flies, there would be no cocoa beans to produce the chocolate enjoyed throughout the world.

It might come as a surprise that bats are responsible for pollinating hundreds of different plant species. Since bats are nocturnal, they feast on the nectar of flowers that open at night, including the flowering plants and trees that produce bananas, guavas and mangoes. Bats are also found in the desert, where they pollinate the agave plant.

Butterflies aren’t physically able to carry as much pollen as bees can but their quick and graceful movements help them cover a larger land area, drinking nectar with their long tongues and pollinating plants along the way.

What You Can Do To Help Pollinators Thrive

Providing food and forage is one of the best ways to keep pollinators productive and healthy and the agriculture industry is helping. For example, with Operation Pollinator, global agriculture company Syngenta partners with commercial farms, golf courses and conservation organizations to establish large swaths of wildflower plots for pollinators.

For home gardeners, establishing pollinator plots can be as easy as incorporating native flowers within your yard or garden plantings. Selecting a mixture of plants that will attract pollinators during the growing seasons helps provide a food source for pollinators that are active at various times throughout the year. Choosing flowers that vary in color, size and shape also helps attract a diverse variety of pollinators.

Learn More

For further information on pollinators, visit www.beehealth.org. - NAPSI

Posted on July 18, 2017 .

Tips to flip furniture on a back-to-college budget

College is an exciting time. Whether your child is starting as a freshman or returning for senior year, new friends, new roommates and new places to call “home” await.

Ease the transition and save money in the process by helping decorate their personal spaces using these DIY tricks. Instead of buying new, you can turn used furniture into stunning and sophisticated statement pieces perfect for campus life.

Finders Keepers

You’ve spent enough on books… how will you afford a bookcase or desk to hold them? For a great look without the hefty price tag, seek out items at flea markets, yard sales, thrift stores or simply ask relatives. You have a better chance of finding a one-of-a-kind piece, and you can haggle with the sellers for lower prices.

As you shop, don’t let a “fixer upper” scare you. Wood furniture, even with a few nicks or stains, can easily be refinished or repainted for a “furniture flip” that meets your student’s style needs.

Be Space Savvy

Chances are your college student is sharing a dorm room, apartment or house with at least one other person. Make the most of limited space by incorporating furniture that can pull double-duty. Instead of bulky chairs, grab a bench, which can offer both storage and seating. Nesting tables or stackable chairs are also a smart, space-saving investment.

Be mindful of purchasing oversized pieces that may crowd living areas or won’t fit through tight hallways and stairwells. Students running out of room can use spaces under beds, couches and other furniture for extra storage.

Fix and Flip Furniture

There are many ways to upcycle used or slightly damaged furniture pieces, transforming them from one person’s trash to your child’s personal treasure.

• Drab to Fab Drawers: Beautify drawers by removing dull, old handles or knobs and upgrade to something more contemporary -- or simply add a fresh coat of paint. You can also line the inside with decorative shelf liner for an added visual element and to keep things clean and organized.

• Exciting Exteriors: Adhesive shelf liner also comes in handy for freshening up the exterior surface of old, worn furniture. Embellish the front of a lackluster bedside table or the back of bookshelf cubbies with Duck brand Deco Adhesive Laminate, which comes in many designer styles, such as Rose Gold, Quatrefoil or Marble and is available at a variety of nationwide retailers, including Walmart.

• Paint Perfection: Create dimension and design when painting by using a premium painter’s tape, like FrogTape brand painter’s tape. Treated with patented PaintBlock Technology, FrogTape prevents paint bleed and delivers the sharpest paint lines possible, perfect for adding decorative patterns to boring and bland furniture. Try something bold and geometric on the top of a desk to make studying more enjoyable!

• Playful Pillows: Now, for the final touches. Find a funky, colorful fabric and DIY some throw pillows to create comfier living rooms.

For more inspiration and ideas, visit DuckBrand.com.

Whether students are moving into a dorm for the first time or decorating an off-campus apartment, you can help them create a place they are happy to call “home.” Plus, with all your DIY savings you’ll have a few extra dollars for tuition. - StatePoint

Posted on July 15, 2017 .

Tips to bring your home from bland to bold this summer

Feeling uninspired in your space? Bring the bright, cheerful feeling of summer into your home with these DIY décor tips that won’t break the bank.

Make it Pop with Paint

Add cheery pops of color with paint. An accent wall is an easy, inexpensive way to brighten home design. The first step is to select the right location. Accent walls look best when they don’t have windows or doors, and are highlighting a focal point, such as a fireplace or wall used to anchor furniture.

Next, select color. Accent walls look more organic when they’re darker than the other walls in the room and harmonize with the adjacent wall color. When in doubt, remember that painting your statement wall the same color but two shades darker than the others is always a foolproof look. For best results, tape off trim and adjacent walls with a premium painter’s tape to prevent paint bleed. It’s a small investment that will make a big difference.

Up the Ante with Accents

Embrace summer by restyling tablescapes with natural décor items, like a bouquet of garden roses, fresh fruit or beachy treasures. Position white candles or a large piece of coral inside an indoor fireplace. Swap out pillows for ones with summery floral designs. By adding a few accents, your home will feel fresh and rejuvenated.

Let in More Light

Invite more light into a room by painting dark wood accents and trim white. It may seem like a large undertaking, but with the right tools and some patience, this project can completely transform your home to make it look brighter and feel larger. One of the most important tools you’ll need is a premium painter’s tape, like FrogTape brand painter’s tape, to protect walls and floors. Treated with PaintBlock Technology, FrogTape Multi-Surface and Delicate Surface painting tapes can be used on a variety of surfaces to deliver the sharpest paint lines possible for professional-looking results.

Look for a New View

While a fireplace is a great focal point in winter, consider rearranging furniture in summer to focus on a window or French doors instead, so you can enjoy the sunlit mornings or sunsets. This will give you a good reason to clean underneath everything, and offer you an opportunity to add a colorful rug.

Greet Guests

A bold front door will give guests a warm greeting. Just as a sunny day can boost your mood, a burst of yellow or vibrant blue will make guests feel happy as they enter your home. A fresh paint job on a front door can also increase your home’s curb appeal and provide a protective barrier from the elements.

The paint finish selection is important for the front door, no matter the color. While you can choose any finish, glossy paints are typically preferred for doors and trim, as they stand out, highlight architectural features, and hold up to nicks and scrapes better than other sheens. Make this pop by adding a color contrasting wreath.

With a pinch of creativity and a dash of design inspiration, you can easily freshen up your home for summer. - StatePoint

Posted on July 15, 2017 .

5 ways to give a room a makeover

Does a room in your home need an update? There are a range of projects from large to small that can help you transform any space for maximum utility and better design. Here are five great ideas.

• Update flooring. When updating your home flooring, consider some hot new trends – like turning to salvaged vintage lumber. More homeowners are including this in their remodel plans because it looks great, gives your home a mark of distinction, and is eco-friendly.

Another on-trend, low-maintenance option is cement. This versatile material can be painted or stained to give your room any look you want. Keep it simple or use stencils to give your floor an impressive design.

• Make something old new again. Turn an antique piece of furniture into something new. Paint chair legs a bright color, decoupage a tabletop, or reupholster a loveseat in a favorite fabric. Don’t have an existing piece of furniture? Hit up local yard sales or antique shops in search of the perfect find. For inspiration, visit pinterest.com.

• Modernize a fireplace. An older wood fireplace can be dirty, drafty, high maintenance – and spendy, wasting up to $200 in energy costs annually. Consider updating your hearth with a gas fireplace insert for an upgrade that can give you a return on your investment and beautify your space. Those from Heat & Glo use technology that make it possible to safely install a gas fireplace in any room of the home, and their styles range from traditional to ultramodern. To learn more, visit heatnglo.com.

• Create a statement wall. Sometimes less really is more, particularly when it comes to walls. Consider painting or papering just one wall of your room in a bold, bright color or design. This same wall may also serve as a gallery to feature smaller artwork, photographs, clocks and other keepsakes.

Before you get out the hammer and nails, plan your layout to achieve an appealing balance of colors, size and spacing.

• Overhaul lighting. It’s time to say goodbye to boring, utilitarian lighting and say hello to new fixtures that strike the right tone and create ambiance. This is one of the easiest updates that can create a big impact – whether you are inspired by rustic, quirky or classic designs. You may choose to replace overhead lighting with floor lamps, swap outdated fixtures for on-trend options like chandeliers or lantern-style pendants, or add task lighting in key areas; just be sure to test out your arrangement to ensure it’s sufficiently functional. And while you’re making these changes, remember to use energy efficient bulbs.

Whatever the scope of your project entails, you can give the rooms of your home a fresh look and eye-catching appeal. - StatePoint

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Remodeling your outdoor space? Consider a fireplace

While all homeowners may wish they had unlimited resources to make upgrades, most people need to prioritize a bit due to time and money. For many these days, the goal is extending living and entertaining areas outdoors: 56 percent of homeowners are making updates to improve their yards for entertaining, according to a Houzz Landscaping Trends study.

To that end, the number one design element in outdoor renovations is a fire feature. This could be because outdoor fireplaces extend the season by adding warmth, provide a visual focal point around which to gather, and offer an opportunity to personalize the space. And if you are looking for a great return on investment, this addition can be beneficial when it’s time to sell: an outdoor fireplace can increase a home’s value up to $3,500, according to the Marshall & Swift Residential Cost Handbook. For free resources on selecting the right fireplace for you, visit fireplaces.com/outdoor.

When upgrading your home’s outdoor spaces, consider those additions and renovations that offer greater comfort now, and greater profit later. - StatePoint

Posted on June 11, 2017 .

Technology can give you the upper hand on your next home purchase 

Technology has revolutionized the homebuying process in some surprising ways. 

What Tech Can Do Today

New ways to find and buy a home may be at your fingertips.

New ways to find and buy a home may be at your fingertips.

According to Google Trends, the number of searches for homes for sale has doubled in the past 10 years. Online tools streamline the research process and give buyers the power to explore home price trends, quality of schools and even neighborhood aesthetics. These searches offer virtual tours, house-to-house comparisons and direct contact with local real estate agents. 

The National Association of Realtors reports that while 92 percent of homebuyers still choose to work with an agent, this is no longer the first step in the process. Instead, 95 percent of buyers search the Web first, then find a qualified agent. 

The power of technology in the homebuying arena extends well past online listings, however. For instance, Quicken Loans, the nation’s second-largest retail mortgage lender, takes real estate technology a step further with Rocket Mortgage—the industry’s first fully online, digital mortgage. 

According to the lender, Rocket Mortgage gives consumers unprecedented control of the mortgage process. It empowers them to apply and get approval of their loan in minutes—whether they’re on a computer, a tablet or a phone. From there, the system shares rates and terms each individual qualifies for based on income, credit rating and other factors.

Prospective buyers can now literally walk through a home, then apply and receive a full approval right from the living room in just minutes.

What Tech May Do Tomorrow

This ability to make the homebuying process mobile at nearly every phase cements the effect of both real estate industry innovators and tech geniuses. Coming soon is the assimilation of virtual reality (VR) into this increasingly tech-driven process. 

Already a popular tool in many communities, VR gives agents the power to show homes from all over the globe. Its use extends well beyond homebuying, letting homeowners virtually preview and plan home renovations. 

The Motley Fool expects VR devices to be in the hands of more than 171 million people by 2018. As VR becomes more commonplace, its influence in many industries, especially real estate, is expected to grow.

Whether you’re seriously considering purchasing a house or just keeping track of home values, most of these technologies are free and easily accessible. 

Learn More

For further facts or to try some of this technology for yourself, go to www.quickenloans.com. - NAPSI

Posted on June 11, 2017 .

DIY projects to improve your outdoor living space

Are you taking advantage of your yard and maximizing its potential as a living space? All you need is a bit of time and energy to transform your yard into the perfect place to spend time with family and friends.

“There are so many projects homeowners can do themselves to increase the appeal and usability of their outdoor living space,” says Doug Scott, landscape designer and blogger behind “Redeem Your Ground.”

A new, free six-part how-to video series from Exmark, a leading manufacturer of lawn care equipment, can help. “Done-in-a-Weekend” offers DIY projects that empower almost any homeowner to improve their yards and enjoy the payoff of their work for years to come. To get you started, here are a few ideas from the online series.

Get Cozy

A portable fire pit is a cozy gathering space that’s simple and cost-effective to create. First, select a location and obtain any necessary building or fire permits. It’s best if the fire pit is set at least 10 feet away from your home, fence and other manmade structures. The space should be about 15- to 18-feet in diameter, which allows for five to six feet for the fire pit itself and another five to six feet around the perimeter for seating and mobility. Mark the space then prepare the general area by raking away debris and leveling the ground. Use fire-resistant materials such as mini slate chips, stone or brick to create the floor of the pit. Then, select seating and other accessories to give this space the same cozy feel as any room of your home.

Connect the Dots

Walkways and paths can enhance the beauty and functionality of your yard, tying together outdoor spaces. Gravel and mulch are cost-effective materials that are easy to install. To kick it up a notch, use paving stones, which are more durable and less likely to cause drainage problems. Before starting, call 811 to have all utilities located and marked. Then, measure and mark the locations of your walkways.

Use a sod cutter to remove existing sod and make room for the walkway to be installed. Next, level and prepare the area. After laying the pavers, fill the joints with sand and install a soldier course along the border to tie the walkway together. Finally, compact the entire walkway so it’s level with adjoining surfaces, eliminating trip hazards.

Layer Up

Select and install plants that vary in form, size, color and leaf structure to help you create the dream outdoor space. Seek plant varieties well-suited for your growing conditions. Note, this will change as you move around the yard, as sun exposure varies. Also, when planning, keep in mind that plants will be larger once they mature.

To complete these projects and all standard yard care maintenance, be sure to use high-quality equipment designed to help you work faster, not harder. For more project ideas and videos, visit WeAreExmark.com/diy.

With the right tools and inspiration, you can make more of your outdoor spaces, simply and cost-effectively. - StatePoint

Posted on June 5, 2017 .

Our insect enemies

The next time you move, remember not to pack gypsy moths. these pests can kill more than three hundred different species of trees. That’s why the department of agriculture requires you to get an official certificate of inspection showing you’re moth free. You can hire a state-certified pesticide applicator or do your own check of lawn furniture, grills and outdoor toys for egg masses. Use a putty knife or stiff brush to scrape them into a container of hot, soapy water. Give the moving van driver the certificate. Learn more at moving.org.

Posted on June 4, 2017 .

Top cold weather home efficiency tip

Homeowners can prepare for cold weather by taking simple energy efficiency measures that will reduce energy consumption and heating bills. 

What You Can Do

• Install and set a programmable thermostat. Homeowners can save an estimated 10 percent per year on heating costs by using a programmable thermostat and setting the heat to run only when they’re home.

• Use sunlight to your advantage. During winter months, take advantage of sunlight by opening curtains during the day to allow the sun to naturally heat your home.

• Reduce energy for water heating. Water heating accounts for roughly 14 to 18 percent of most home utility bills. Reduce costs by making sure your water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and wrapping a water heater jacket around it if it’s more than five years old.

• Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.

• Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

• When using the oven, resist the temptation to open the door to check on a dish’s progress. Every time you do, the temperature inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees, forcing it to work even harder (and use more energy) to get back to the proper cooking temperature.

• Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open; it lets warm air go right up the chimney.

• Have a technician inspect and confirm that your appliances are running as efficiently as possible, so you can conserve fuel and save money.

• Hire a professional to maintain your heating system. Arrange for annual maintenance with a qualified technician. This includes checking the airflow over the coil, checking that the combustion process and heat exchanger are operating safely, and ensuring proper airflow to each room.

• Clean the air filters once a month and replace them regularly.

• Consider purchasing a propane generator. When other power sources fail, a propane generator can keep your house operating without interruption. Propane is an approved clean alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act. It’s a nontoxic, American-made fuel that doesn’t contaminate groundwater or soil and a low-carbon alternative fuel that produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than most other energy sources.

• Call your propane provider to discuss contracts, delivery options and payment plans that fit your budget and needs, advise the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council.

“By planning ahead and taking steps to reduce energy consumption, homeowners can help make sure everyone has a comfortable and safe winter,” says Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO.

Learn More

Further tips and other resources can be found at www.PropaneComfort.com. - NAPSI

Posted on June 4, 2017 .

Foaming your home can help you save

The use of energy-efficient and environmentally responsible building materials is an important consideration for homeowners, developers, architects and contractors. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a wise choice for insulating homes and structures as it can help lower energy use and bills. Lower energy use means that less greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, are being produced in the generation of electricity or other fuels that power our buildings.

In California, which ranks among the most expensive states in terms of energy prices, SPF insulation can help homeowners save about $900 annually on their heating and cooling costs. Additionally, these energy savings mean homes insulated with SPF can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the state’s air by 800,000 metric tons, the equivalent of removing 2,700 cars from the roads there each year.

And these savings aren’t limited to California. In Minneapolis, with its cold and long winters, a home with SPF insulation can save the equivalent of 2,400 barrels of oil over a 60-year period. A home in Houston, with its hot and long summers, can save the equivalent of 500 barrels of oil during that same period. And all these savings translate to less greenhouse gases being pumped into the environment.

SPF produces these energy-efficiency benefits through its high R-value, which is the measure of the insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. SPF can also act as an air barrier and sealant for cracks and gaps. This is important, as air leaks in a home can waste up to 40 percent of the energy used to heat and cool it.

Whether your goals are energy efficiency, environmental stewardship or both, SPF offers a versatile product that can meet all your needs. - NAPSI

Posted on June 4, 2017 .

Flip your fridge and save energy

America, it’s time to “Flip Your Fridge”! If your refrigerator is 15 years old or older, replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR®certified model can save you more than $270 over the next five years and reduce your carbon footprint. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if all refrigerators 15 years old or older in the United States were replaced with new ENERGY STAR certified models, Americans would save more than $1 billion in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from more than 1 million vehicles. 

There are an estimated 170 million refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers currently in use in the United States. More than 60 million are over 10 years old, costing consumers $4.4 billion per year in energy.

A new refrigerator that has earned the ENERGY STAR uses less energy than two 60-watt lightbulbs and includes energy-saving features that provide performance benefits, such as:

• Quieter, high-efficiency compressors that create less heat;

• Improved insulation indoors and exterior walls to help food stay cold and muffle noise;

• More precise temperature and defrost mechanisms that help the refrigerator operate more efficiently;

• Innovative drawer designs and improved temperature controls to keep food fresher, longer.

It’s better for you and the environment to replace your old refrigerator rather than hang on to it. Keeping a second refrigerator in your basement or garage could be costing you $110 every year! Make sure to properly recycle your old refrigerator to prevent the release of refrigerants and foams that contribute to climate change.

Now is a great time for savings on a new refrigerator that has the “little blue label”! Certain utilities even offer rebates you can apply to the cost of an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator or toward properly recycling your old refrigerator. 

For information on rebates and other special manufacturer offers, visit www.energystar.gov/flipyourfridge. - NAPSI

Posted on June 3, 2017 .

Know your rights when hiring a moving company

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) wants Ohioans to remember that when hiring a moving company, you have rights guaranteed by law and enforced by the PUCO.

Before deciding to hire a mover, ensure they are properly registered with the PUCO to do business in Ohio (for in-state moves), or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (for interstate moves).

When planning your move, it is important to know a few things about your rights regarding estimates, bill of lading, insurance coverage and claims. 

Estimate: the expected cost, in writing, the company provides to you prior to your move.

  • The estimate should be in writing unless your move will cost $500 or less or is scheduled within five days of request.
  • The moving company has the option of providing you with one of three kinds of estimates: nonbinding, binding and guaranteed-not-to-exceed. The type will be clearly stated on the estimate.
  • Do not assume that something is included in the estimate if it is not in writing.

Bill of lading: similar to a receipt, identifies who owns the household goods on the moving company’s truck.

  • A (or The) Bill of lading will be attached to the estimate while the shipment is in route.
  • You may request an inventory of your household goods when the company is loading them, but the company may charge an additional fee for that service.

Liability coverage: all moving companies are responsible for the value of the goods transported.

  • Companies must have cargo insurance in an amount equal to the declared value of your shipment.
  • Moving companies may offer different types of reimbursement for lost or damaged goods, but must offer full replacement value.
  • Generally, the higher the carrier cargo liability, the higher the cost to you.
  • On your estimate, you will initial to indicate the type of coverage you choose.
  • The moving company may reserve the right to repair any damaged items prior to replacing regardless of the level of coverage selected. This must be stated in your written estimate.
  • If the company does not have a reimbursement option, you are entitled to the full replacement value of any lost or damaged goods.

Claims: a written explanation of any loss or damage to any items during your move, submitted to the moving company.

  • The company must provide you with at least 60 days to file a claim.
  • The company must acknowledge the receipt of your claim, in writing, within 15 days after they receive it.
  • The company, within 30 days of receiving your claim, must pay, decline, or make a firm compromise settlement offer.

More information

If you cannot resolve a dispute with your moving company, contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or file a complaint online.

Posted on June 1, 2017 .

How to clean and prepare outdoor furniture for the season

As temperatures rise, people increasingly venture outdoors to soak up the sun, enjoy the mild breezes and entertain under the open sky. Clean and comfortable furniture can make outdoor entertaining that much more enjoyable.

After months in storage or nestled under protective tarps, outdoor furniture likely needs a good cleaning before it’s put to the test once again. Mildew may have formed, insects may be hiding out within cushions or other crevices and dirt may have accumulated — even if the furniture was cleaned before being stored away. Experts recommend cleaning outdoor furniture between three and four times per year to keep it in optimal condition.

Before cleaning, determine the material your furniture is made of, as some cleaning products may not be safe for all materials. When in doubt, read the care tags on cushions and other products or refer back to the original packaging for cleaning instructions. Always test a cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first.

The following are some additional general furniture cleaning guidelines. 

Wood

Wood comes in many varieties, from hard and softwoods to wicker furniture. Mild oil-based soaps and products geared especially to cleaning wood can be handy. On wicker and painted woods, it may be best to dilute the solutions before use. Hardwood furniture and built-in decking structures may benefit from annual sanding and then reapplication of a protective finish to maintain the look of the wood for long periods of time.

Plastic resin

Commercial cleansers may be too harsh to use on plastic resin furniture. Before risking discoloration or scratching, try some ingredients that are may be lying around the house. For example, use a wet sponge dipped in baking soda as a mild abrasive to clean resin. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse off the powdery residue afterward. 

Automatic dishwasher detergent mixed with a gallon of warm water also may do the trick. The detergent contains a mild bleaching agent that will not cause damage like straight bleach.

Glass

Dish detergent and general home cleaning solutions work well on glass surfaces. Remember to clean all sides, including bottom-facing areas. After cleaning, use vinegar or a glass cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth to produce a streak-free shine.

Outdoor cushions

Outdoor fabrics are derived from different materials. However, this general-purpose recipe, courtesy of the DIY Network, may help clean many outdoor fabrics. Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing detergent, 1 quart warm water and 1 tablespoon borax together. Saturate a sponge and use it to wash the cushions. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then spray it off with a high-force hose. Stand the cushions on their edges to dry outdoors. 

Remember, vinegar can help inhibit mildew growth. Therefore, keep a bottle of diluted vinegar around to spray on plastic mesh and furniture that gets wet from the rain or a pool. Store outdoor furniture away from inclement weather whenever possible to prolong its life.

Posted on May 31, 2017 .

PUCO reminds Ohioans to call 8-1-1 before you dig

April is National Safe Digging Month and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) reminds Ohioans of the importance of digging in a safe, responsible way by calling 8-1-1 before you dig.

The Ohio Utility Protection Service is the communication link between individuals planning to dig and utility companies. The Ohio Oil and Gas Producers Underground Protection Service coordinates with oil and gas production facilities to have underground lines marked. Ohio law requires that anyone planning a digging project call at least 48 hours and up to 10 days (not including weekends or legal holidays) before digging.

By simply calling 8-1-1, you will make your job easier by avoiding potential utility outages, repair costs and serious or even fatal injuries.

When calling before you dig, tell the operator what type of work you will be doing and your affected local utilities companies will be notified about your intent to dig. In a few days, they will send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground lines, pipes and cables, so you will know what is below and can dig safely.

Commercial excavators, utility operators, designers and developers are subject to fines and/or other penalties if underground protection laws are not followed.

To learn more, visit the Ohio Utilities Protection Service’s website at www.oups.org, the Ohio Oil and Gas Producers Underground Protection Service’s website at www.ogpups.org, or call 8-1-1 or (800) 362-2764.

Posted on April 6, 2017 .