Stay Safe & Warm; Prepare For Cold Temperatures & Save On Heat Cost
Gas furnaces and oil burners are the largest source of energy consumption in homes. Typically utilities are the biggest monthly expense, coming in third after monthly mortgage/rent and groceries in regions with extreme temperature shifts. Last year's deep freeze created havoc across the country with families struggling to keep their homes warm. Don't let money go out the window. Minimize heat loss in your home.
Simplest & Most Cost Effective Ways To Reduce Heating Cost
When to adjust your thermostat to save you the most money?You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back 6° to 10° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill. (A savings of as much as 1%-4% for each degree for 8 hours or longer.) A typical house hold is not home during the day on week days. Lowering the temperature during the day can save you money. Night time is also the perfect time to lower your thermostat. As we sleep, our bodies naturally require less heat. Lowering the temperature in your home while you're asleep or when you are away from home can have a significant impact on your overall heating cost. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.
Why is it important to do maintenance on your furnace or boiler at least once a year?All furnaces or boilers efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The Federal Trade Commission requires new furnaces or boilers to display their AFUE so consumers can compare heating efficiencies of various models. In simple terms, AFUE is the ratio heat output compared to energy consumed by the furnace or boiler. An AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10% escapes up the chimney and elsewhere. Over time, the efficiency and reliability can decrease if your heating system is not checked/maintained for proper operation.
- Increases the health and safety of those living in your home; Insuring that gases are properly exhausted outside and NOT in your home. IMPORTANT NOTE: All homes should have an updated and active CO detector located on each floor.
- Decrease the chance of a break down; The coldest months are when heating systems tend to break down. (when they are working the hardest) Most failures can be avoided with proper maintenance.
- Increases the longevity of your system; According to Department of Energy, proper maintenance extends the life of your furnace or boiler and saves you money. The average furnace replacement can range from $3,000 – $10,000 depending on size of home, efficiency and location.
Keeps your energy cost down; According to Energy Star.gov, Keeping your heating system maintained keeps your equipment running at its optimum efficiency.
Quick Tips:Open the curtains on your south-facing windows - Open windows during winter days to allow heat into your home. Close your window coverings when the sun goes down to keep the heat inside. Put on a winter sweater and warm socks - Keep throw blankets on your couch. Adjust the thermostat at night - Consider investing in a warm comforter for your bed and keeping your home/apartment cooler when you sleep. Keep your furnace clean and unblocked - Keeping your furnace and vents properly maintained will reduce energy consumption and help you save. Replace your furnace filter monthly, and replace it when it gets dirty. Get a humidifier to add moisture to the air - The air inside your home can become very dry. Moist air feels warmer and holds heat better, so a humidifier can help you feel comfortable when your thermostat is set at a lower temperature. Insulate all areas where heat might escape - Start with foam weather stripping for your doors and windows. Lower the thermostat - Lower the set point on your water heater. Use draft stoppers - Place a rolled up towel at the bottom of outside doorways to keep out cold air.
A number of decorating projects don’t even require you to pick up a hammer or screwdriver. You can freshen a bedroom with new bedding and a bathroom with new towels, rug and accessories. Adding lamps, changing lamp shades and experimenting with different kinds and wattage of light bulbs will also significantly change the look of a room. Hanging artwork and adding or changing window treatments makes a big difference, although you may have to use a hammer or other tools to make this happen.
One project that doesn’t require tools but can really have a big impact is decluttering and organizing. Projects that make better use of existing space are usually a good use of your time.
You may also find some useful apps, such as one that turns an iPhone into an instant level. You can also find apps that help you design or lay out a room.
Here are 18 cheap, easy do-it-yourself projects that will boost your home’s looks and value:
Paint. You can paint your entire house or you can paint just the trim, interior or exterior. Or, paint an accent wall inside. Can’t afford new kitchen cabinets? Paint the old ones. The key to painting is in the preparation work, including taping around windows and cutting in around the ceiling. Keep that in mind when budgeting the time a project will take. It’s important to use the right paint. If you put latex paint over oil paint, for example, it won’t stay long. Good brushes also make a big difference. Do some research on the proper type of brush before buying a new one – good brushes are expensive, so you want to choose wisely.
Boost your curb appeal. Paint your front door or go all the way and paint all the trim and the garage door as well. Add fresh house numbers and a new mailbox. If you want still more curb appeal, plant new flowers and shrubs. A fresh new doormat can go a long way, too.
Install updated lighting fixtures. Changing one chandelier for another of the same size is surprisingly easy, though some light fixture changes are best left to professionals. An even easier project: Replace all your outlet and switch covers with clean new ones.
Replace your shower head. You can quickly give a mundane bath a spa-like look with a rain shower head. Plus, you’ll cut your water usage with a more efficient model. You’ll need plumber’s tape to wrap the threads before you install the new head.
Do small kitchen updates. Many steps short of a full kitchen renovation can still make a big difference. Consider painting old cabinets or adding new doors. Use the right brush for a smooth, finished look. You can also change or update your countertop.
Refresh your bathroom. A new shower curtain, towels and rugs instantly freshen a bathroom. You can also take other steps short of a gut remodel, such as changing the vanity or refacing the bathtub.
For more home improvement articles:Avoid DIY disasters Why your home renovation won’t look like the TV shows Home improvements that save on your heating bill Plan for needed home repairs How to pay for your home improvements
Digital AssistantsBoth Google Home and Amazon’s Echo smart speaker with Alexa are pretty common these days, and both platforms are adding new features frequently. Not only can you use one of these digital assistants to play music or find out the weather forecast, but you can also have them tell you jokes, cast video to smart TVs, look up recipes and even set timers or access your calendar. Companion apps for smartphones will even let your recipient take their assistant with them when they’re away from the house as well.
Smart ThermostatsHeating and cooling costs are a major expense. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of options out there for smart thermostats that adjust temperatures automatically to help keep costs low. These thermostats can not only make changes based on their programming, but some can even make adjustments on their own when they sense that no one is in the house. Connecting them to smartphone apps would even allow your recipient to control the temperature while away from home so that everything’s just perfect when they get back.
Home Automation AccessoriesDigital assistants and smart thermostats aren’t the only home automation options out there. Smart lighting, smart locks, window sensors, leak sensors and even smart smoke detectors are all available to give your friends or loved-ones new ways to interact with their home. Best of all, most of these devices can be configured to work together to achieve effects like automatically turning on lights when the door is unlocked.
Alternative AppliancesThe modern homeowner deserves so much more than an oven and a microwave can give them. Fortunately, there are a number of options out there that offer up new culinary options while also being extremely giftable. Instant Pot cookers, sous vide cookers and even air fryers offer new options for fixing meals that your gift recipient might never have considered. Many of them are programmable as well and can even be monitored or controlled remotely via dedicated apps.
High-Quality StreamingMore people are “cutting the cord” and moving away from traditional cable television than ever before. In addition to Netflix, consumers looking for quality digital content have options with Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, CBS All Access and more, and the forthcoming HBO Max streaming service will be here next year. This could be a great time to get your recipient ready for all of this content with a Roku or other streaming device capable of handling HD or 4K streams without buffering or losing picture quality in the process. Pair it with a sound bar or other sound solution to really take their entertainment experience up a notch.
Clearing the AirThere are a number of common pollutants that can foul the air we breathe. Help your recipient to breathe a sigh of relief by giving them an ionizing air filter or other air purifier to cut out a lot of these unwanted smells and irritants. This will help to keep the air breathable and odor free, and the units themselves are easy to clean so it won’t add a significant new chore to their routine.
Take It to the Next LevelIf you really want to blow somebody away, don’t just get them a smart device or pieces for home automation… get a professional installer to come and set things up and walk them through how everything works. HomeKeepr can help you find a pro in your area who’ll be more than happy to help with the surprise. Sign up for your free account today to find your pro and plan the perfect holiday gift.
These life hacks will make your daily to-dos (plus a few random projects) so much easier!
Pasta LighterWe’re sure you’re stocking up on sweet smelling candles to make your home extra cozy for the colder months. But, if your candles are burning too low to reach the wick, there’s no reason to go without your favorite scent. Instead of burning your fingers, light a piece of uncooked spaghetti. It’ll reach into those deep candles and burn long enough to light the candles on grandpa’s birthday cake!
Remove Highlighter StainsEver wish you could remove highlighter marks from a book? Lemon juice fades highlighter enough to make it virtually undetectable. Cut a lemon in half and get some juice on a cotton swab. Run the swab over the highlighted text and watch the color fade. Lemon juice from a container also seems to do the trick. Though not quite as well on the pieces we tested, and the older the mark, the more stubborn it is to remove.
Puppy Slow FeederMy puppy was eating his food too fast, resulting in him vomiting it back up. Instead of buying a slow-feed bowl, I drilled holes into a 12 in. length of 2 in. PVC pipe and capped the ends. I fill the tube with puppy food, and he has to roll it around to get the food to fall out of the holes. My puppy gets all the food he needs without the mess that comes from eating too fast. Be sure the holes are large enough for the food to come out! – Charlie May 4 / 49
Identify Your Keys at a Glance“It seems the older I get, the more keys I carry around. Between the car, house, shed and garage, I have a whole pocket full of keys. To make it easier to quickly find my most used keys, I paint both sides of the key head with brightly colored nail polish. I use a different color for each key. The nail polish is extremely durable and you’ll be surprised how much longer it lasts than spray paint.” —Joseph Grayson Check out these other. 5 / 49
Pool Noodle Water HoseIf you need to fill up a bucket that won’t fit under your sink’s faucet, bust out a pool noodle. Set the bucket on the floor, slip the pool noodle over the faucet and run it down to the bucket.
Keep Seeds FreshIf you don’t use up all of your seed packets, store them in an airtight container with silica packets to keep them fresh for next year. The silica packets prevent the seeds from germinating or getting moldy. Plus, check out these 10 seriously useful gardening tips every beginner needs to know. 7 / 49
Fog-Free MirrorsPrevent your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a hot shower with car wax. Apply a small amount of car wax to the mirror, let it dry, then buff with a soft, dry cloth.
Easy Way to Disinfect LegosChildren’s toys are a breeding ground for germs. A dishwasher makes quick work of disinfecting toys that are washable, like Legos. To quickly clean Legos:
- Drop the Legos in a laundry bag to keep them contained.
- Run your dishwasher as usual.
- But, remove the Legos before the drying cycle, letting them air dry completely on a towel.
Renew Your Furniture in MinutesMy son plastered all of the furniture in his room with stickers from skate shops, arenas and gumball machines. Once he moved out, I wanted to use his furniture in the new guest room, without the stickers. I peeled off all the stickers using a putty knife in combination with hair dryer, to soften the adhesive. Some are harder to remove than others, but I had them all off in a couple hours. – Steve Winter
Tape TemplateTake the guesswork out of hanging picture frames, shelves and other items with “keyhole” hangers. To begin:
- Stick a piece of masking tape over the keyholes, and then trace over the keyholes with a pencil, making a template.
- Making sure it’s level, stick the template on the wall where you want the shelf.
- Drill your anchor holes or screws into the template and remove it.
Get Wrinkles Out of Your Laundry with Zero EffortDitch the time-consuming iron or handheld steamer to get wrinkles out of a shirt or slacks. Throw a few ice cubes or a wet washcloth in the dryer with your wrinkled clothes. As the ice melts and the water turns to steam, it will remove the wrinkles. This trick isn’t as effective with heavier clothing but is a miracle for lighter fabrics. The best part is that you don’t have to set the dryer for longer than 10 minutes for it to work.
Plant-in-a-Pot Landscaping DesignEver wish you could reorganize your garden after seeing how the mature plants look? Here’s a clever way to do it. You’ll need a bunch of pots of the same size, so they’ll nest in each other. Put your plants in doubled pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you want a change, lift out the top pot and put in a different one. This method is also really slick for bringing plants indoors over the winter. This method is great for quickly changing out seasonal plants, and allows for easy experimentation with color and placement of plants and flowers.
Dryer Lint Fire StarterTo properly build a fire, you need to have tinder (easy-lighting material), kindling (finger-size sticks) and fuel (logs). We all have a readily available supply of tinder: dryer lint! To make fire starters, I stuff empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint. My dryer lint “logs” light quickly and easily burn long enough to light up the kindling. And I don’t have to resort to lighter fluid!
Zip-Tie Phone StandWhen referencing projects plans or a photo for inspiration while working on a DIY project, most of us use our phones to display images or instructional videos. The only problem with this method is that our phones don’t prop themselves up, making it difficult to see at the images while working. You can make a smartphone stand out of just about anything these days, but it doesn’t get much simpler than looping zip ties around your phone (1 on each side). All you have to do is tighten the zip ties until they are snug to the phone with the zip-tie heads facing down and near the edge of your phone. Now you can watch video instructions or look at project drawings without having to hold it in your hands the whole time.
Secret Cash Stash“Sometimes I don’t want to carry my wallet around. At the beach, for example, when I have to leave my belongings unattended while I go for a swim. But I still need cash on hand for food, drinks, etc. So I turned an empty tube of lip balm into a secret cash stash. You could do the same with an empty stick of sunscreen, too. A long nail works great for digging out any remaining bits of lip balm, and a cotton swab wipes away any waxy residue. Not only is the tube small enough to fit in my pocket, but it’ll also fool any potential thieves. I mean, who would steal someone’s used lip balm?” — Jenny Stanley
DIY Drip WatererHere’s an easy way to turn any hose into a drip-watering hose. Drill 1/8 in. holes every 2 in. and screw a cap the end. Weave the hose around your plants and turn on the spigot. You’ll have to do some testing to figure out the right setting. To make watering even easier, I added a programmable faucet timer to the hose. — Matt Boley
The Ultimate Extra HandCarrying a sheet of plywood by yourself is awkward and hard on your back. The best method I’ve found is to make a loop from an 18-ft. length of rope and wrap it around two corners. Now I can use the rope as a handle. – Ken Porter Now that you can carry plywood across your shop,
How to Double Your Resealable BagsThis might be the coolest way to turn sandwich-size bags into snack-size bags! Here’s how to do it: Heat up an old butter knife with a lighter and slice the bag in half. The hot knife cauterizes the edges of the two new bags. The cauterized edges are as strong as the factory sealed edges! – Julia Trenton
No Air Pump? No Problem! Use a Shop VacuumIf you don’t have an air compressor to inflate your air mattresses or pool toys, you can use your shop vacuum instead. Just pop the top off of a plastic squeeze bottle and fit the top to your vacuum’s hose. You may have to use duct tape. Once the top is secured to the hose, attach the hose to your vacuum’s exhaust port. It’ll blow up your inflatables in no time. To deflate, attach the hose to the vacuum port and suck the air out.
Instant Picture Frame BumpersStop wall frames from slipping out of place and scratching the wall paint by putting small dots of hot glue on the back corners of the frame. The hot glue not only prevents movement, but it also holds the picture away from the wall to prevent scratches and nicks.
Clean Up Paint in CarpetI used to think dropping a loaded paintbrush on the carpet meant replacing the carpet, until a former foreman told me this little tip. Pour some denatured alcohol onto a rag and scrub away the paint. Use a rag that is as close in color to the carpet, as the alcohol can transfer some of the rag’s color to the carpet. – Tom Gerdowsky
Picture Frame Message BoardI’m all for dry-erase message boards, but they’re usually pretty unattractive. So I make message boards using nice picture frames. To make these message boards, grab a picture frame and some paper. Cut the paper to fit the frame and set it in behind the glass. The glass makes an excellent dry erase surface! — Jessie Dawson
Easy Mulch SpreadingGetting mulch up close to flowers and bushes is easier if the mulch is in a small container. So I place buckets and pails in my wheelbarrow and fill them up with mulch. It doesn’t matter much if the mulch misses the bucket and lands in the wheelbarrow. Once you’re done dumping the buckets, dump what’s left in the wheelbarrow in an open area and spread it out. — Eric Swartz
Make Any Rug Extra ComfortableWant to make any rug feel extra plush and luxurious? Add a layer of carpet padding underneath your rug—it’s thicker and cheaper than a typical rug pad. The next time you wash that pile of dishes in the sink, your feet will thank you.
Lampshade Lint RollerFabric lampshades are magnets for dust and pet hair. You can’t just throw them in the washing machine, so what do you do? I’ve found that a lint roller works really well. Be careful though, as lampshades are fragile and can even become brittle. A torn lampshade is worse than a dirty one.
Taller Table HackI have a typical 6-ft. folding table that I use to layout certain projects. But the height of the table is meant for someone sitting in a chair. Constantly bending over when using the table was starting to hurt my back, so I came up with a solution. I used a couple of 2-ft. lengths of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe found at my local home center, and cut four 11-in. stilts for my table. I slipped the pipes onto the legs and it raised the table about 6 in., bringing my work surface to a more comfortable height! The bend in the table legs at about 5 in. from the ground holds the pipes securely in place, so my table is still as sturdy as ever. The stilts can be removed if I ever need to lower the height of the table to use it while sitting in a chair. — Gary Inlow
Remove Gum from CarpetWhen gum freezes, it gets brittle and easily breaks apart. So, if you have gum stuck in your carpet, freeze it to remove it quickly and neatly.
- Place a sandwich bag filled with ice cubes on top of the gum and wait about a half hour.
- When the gum is frozen, break it apart and pull it out of the carpet. No trace left behind.
Simple Lawn EdgingTo edge your lawn, garden, or flowerbed, lay down a 2×6. While holding the board with your foot, drive a flat spade along the board’s edge. Move the board as needed to create a clean, straight line.
DIY Wood Filler“To make a versatile wood filler for free, just grab a paper plate and combine Elmer’s or any other wood glue with sawdust. Like other wood fillers, you can stain or finish it, but the color will likely be a bit different than the surrounding wood. But, it’s sandable, paintable and long-lasting. I haven’t bought any wood filler in over 50 years.” — Dan Gola
Quick Cold DrinksDoes wrapping a wet paper towel around a warm canned or bottled beverage and putting it in the freezer cool it faster than if there were no paper towel around it? Some folks theorize that the can is analogous to your body, and the wet paper towel is analogous to sweat. Since it’s well known that evaporation of sweat pulls heat away from your body, causing a cooling effect, the same should happen with a canned beverage in the freezer, right? There are lots of “expert” opinions about this online supporting both sides of the argument. I’ve had many opportunities to experiment, and to me, it seems to make a difference. Try it out for yourself! — Edward Kral.
Healthy Plant HydrationWater settling at the bottom of pots can lead to root rot. To combat this problem, cut up old sponges and put them in the bottom of the pot. The sponges retain moisture and create necessary air space. They also help prevent water from flushing out the bottom. The sponge acts as a water reserve and keeps soil moist longer.
Your Shoes Will Look NewAll you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (colored toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers). Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary. Important: The ingredients in toothpaste may vary from brand to brand, so make sure to try this method on a small unnoticeable spot on your sneakers before applying it to the rest of the shoe.
Lawn Mower Grass Chute SaverTo avoid a lot of string trimmer work, I like to mow as close as possible to trees and buildings. But the grass chute on my riding mower prevents it. So I drilled a hole in the chute and tied a rope from the chute to a handle on the side of the tractor. Now I can lift up the chute without missing a beat, and cut way down on string trimmer work. — Travis Larson
How to Make Durable Sandpaper“I do a lot of finish-sanding freehand, without a sandpaper block, so I can smooth edges and get into nooks and crannies. But the finer grits are usually bonded to thinner paper and, at least for me, the paper is too thin and ends up tearing long before the grit wears out. So I apply duct tape to the back of the sandpaper. The sandpaper is still flexible enough to sand a tight radius and it’s far more durable. You can use this super-strong sandpaper like a shoeshine rag.” — Chuck Merchant
Use This Simple Hack to Save Your Phone ChargerTo make your otherwise fragile phone charger last for more than a couple of weeks, try out this simple hack! Start by removing the spring from a pen. Next, stretch one end of the spring out a bit so it can fit around the charger cable. You might need to use pliers for this. Now, wind the spring around the cable until it is completely on the charger cable. Next, take appropriately sized heat shrink tubing and slip it over the phone charger and spring. Use a lighter to warm the heat shrink tubing until it conforms around the charger and spring. This simple hack will keep the cord from breaking any further or from even breaking in the first place!
Effectively and Safely Sweep Up GlassEveryone who has ever swept the floor with a standard broom and dustpan knows about that annoying line of dust. It’s the line that just won’t disappear no matter how many times you try and sweep it up. To get rid of this annoying line, simply tape the front of the dustpan to the floor with blue painters tape, so no residue will be left on the floor. It will seal and cover the gap between the floor and your pan. This handy hint also works great for sweeping up more menacing items like glass. The dustpan and tape combo will ensure that all of those little glass shards will be in the pan and not on the floor.
Make Your Own Ice PackIce packs are a great way to keep your lunch cool, but they’re a bit expensive if you’re in the habit of losing them. This DIY ice pack hack is reusable, so it is good for the environment as well. First, purchase an inexpensive pack of sponges or just find some old ones around the house. Grab a big bowl of water and let the sponges completely soak up as much water as they possibly can. After soaking the sponges, put each sponge in a small sandwich bag with a zip close. These bags serve two purposes. First, as the ice melts, the bag contains the water so it doesn’t make a mess in your lunch bag. Second, keeping the water contained allows the melted sponge to reabsorb the water so it is ready to refreeze for the next day. Now, freeze the wet and bagged sponges overnight. In the morning, all you need to do is toss the ice pack into your lunch container.
DIY Car MatsOne simple way to keep your car clean is to cut scraps of old carpet to fit on the floor as mats. We found our carpet scraps for less than $2 at Home Depot. And when the DIY carpet scraps inevitably get all dirty with mushy winter snow or summer sand, you could either give them a wash or toss them out and make more. A word of caution, do not put these DIY car mats on the driver’s side of the car unless grippers are attached on the bottom side to ensure that the mat does not slip forward while driving.
Get Dents Out of WoodDents in wood surfaces can be annoying. But fret not, they can be fixed! Simply soak a washcloth in water and ring it out a bit so it’s not sopping wet. Put the damp washcloth on the affected area. The water will wick through the wood, and that’s fine. Now, with your iron on its highest setting, place it on the damp washcloth over the affected area, and make small movements back and forth and in circles. Press down firmly and continue until your washcloth is dry. It won’t take long to evaporate. At this point, the wood fibers are absorbing the water and should expand back to where they were originally. Continue this process and repeat by adding more water until the dents rise up to be flush with the rest of the material.
Staple Remover HackA staple remover has perfectly sized thin teeth that make them perfect to easily slide between the rings of a key ring. When you clamp them down, it spreads the key rings apart and makes it easy to slide a new key on. This saves you the hassle of trying to pry open the key ring with your nails.
Support a Tension Rod with Water Bottle Caps“My wife sews kids clothes and uses a curtain tension rod to hang them in a closet. She explained to me one day that the pole was frequently slipping and falling down. So, I searched and found an object that could be screwed into the wall and would fit around the ends of the tension rod: water bottle caps. I used drywall screws to secure two water bottle caps into studs in the closet walls, and then I mounted the tension rod inside the bottle caps. The lip on each cap provides just enough support for the tension rod, so it doesn’t fall down anymore.” — Rodney Sheets
Coat Your Snow Shovel with Car WaxShoveling snow can be frustrating enough, but when heavy snow sticks or freezes in clumps on the shovel, it can make the job even more difficult! You can avoid this issue by first coating your shovel with car wax before heading out to clear your driveway and walking paths. This tip works best with metal shovels: Follow the application instructions on the car wax package. Generally, car wax is applied in a thin layer using a damp cloth, allowed to dry, and then buffed off with a dry cloth. This leaves the shovel clean and lubricated, so the snow and ice won’t stick!