Home Safety and Security

It’s true that your home is an investment and an asset, but most importantly, it’s your livelihood, so taking measures to adequately protect it is well worth your time. An unfortunate reality of being a homeowner is that your home can be a target for mischievous and/or criminal acts.

Fortunately, there are tools and systems you can use to mitigate damage from these kinds of attacks and keep your home safe, in both everyday home life and during the selling process. Sometimes the best part of security systems is the peace of mind that comes with knowing your home is protected. Many of our personal items can be replaced thanks to homeowners insurance, but you cannot put a price on feeling safe at home.

Home Safety and Security

Technology

As time goes on, home technology continues to improve and become more closely integrated with the way we think about a home’s basic functions. There are countless products that can help to automate the systems in your home while better protecting it. When considering these tools, educate yourself about the risks the devices may pose if the proper safeguards aren’t in place. For example, some smart speakers and voice-activated assistants may make everyday home life easier but can leave the door open for potential breaches of personal information if the proper security measures aren’t taken.

Smart Home Devices

The concept of a “smart” home has shifted over the years, but what does this term really mean? And what makes a device “smart”? In essence, a smart device is one that uses technology to make home life easier, more efficient, and more convenient, saving you time in the process. Often using automation and/or remote control, these products allow you to customize the systems in your home to best fit your lifestyle and the needs of your household.

Home Security Apps

Home security apps help to manage your home’s security systems all in one, centralized location. This makes it easy to closely monitor your home even when you’re far away. These apps are typically capable of connecting to door and window sensors, cameras, thermostats, and control lights while allowing you to set alarms and various other home protectants. These apps can offer peace of mind that your home is safe, even when you’re not there.

Alarm Systems

If you are considering an alarm, you have an array of options that vary from self-install motion detection kits to full-service home security systems.  If you choose to set up your alarm system yourself, you’ll want to install motion detectors on your doors and windows, especially if they can be easily accessed on the ground floor. These kits will often offer a 24-hour support line whose services may come at an extra fee.

Full-service security systems can include everything from an alarm system and panic buttons to and integration with your smoke detectors and/or fire prevention system. These services can be expensive up front, but usually have a reasonable monthly rate. In some cases, having a home security system installed can reduce your insurance rates.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: BrianAJackson

 

Upgrade Your Locks

After you’ve moved into your home, it’s a good idea to change the locks. This will give you peace of mind that, once the new locks are installed, no one outside of your household will be able to access your home. Also consider getting a high-quality front-door deadbolt. A poorly installed or weak one can make it easier for an intruder to kick in your door. Front door locks come in many forms, from the traditional models with keys to digital options that require passcodes or fingerprints. It’s also a good idea to check all the locks on your windows. Some older models are easy to jimmy open with a little wiggling. For ground floor windows, you may want to consider double locks.

Security Cameras

Nowadays, security cameras are widely available for home installation. When shopping around, compare different products’ capabilities to find the one that best suits your own security needs. Installing security cameras in high-visibility locations with clear sight lines can help to deter intruders. At the very least, they ensure that you’ll have evidence of an intrusion, should one occur. With so many home security products available, you won’t have trouble finding a system that’s easy to set up. Professional systems, however, generally have more robust monitoring services and require professional expertise to install.

Exterior and Interior Home Lighting

Having exterior lights and/or flood lights on timers or motion sensors is a good way to deter nighttime intruders. Add sensor lights to key entry points on your home, including the front door, back door, and/or basement entries. If you have an unused side yard, consider lighting there too. Keeping your home well-lit makes unwanted visitors weary of being seen.

If you will be gone from your home for an extended period of time, consider using timed lighting options in your home to give the appearance that someone is home. You can select timers for bedrooms or living areas and program a radio or TV to provide some white noise while you’re away.

The Importance of Community for Home Safety

Programs like Neighborhood Watch and NextDoor are very successful in some communities, by creating an environment where everyone is looking out for each other. Building close-knit relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in making you feel safe at home. Whether this is through a formalized program, or a shared agreement with your community, developing relationships with your neighbors is a great way to keep your home safe.

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Choosing the Right Fence and Gate for Your Home

Whether you are looking to improve your curb appeal, create more security or privacy, or cordon off a side garden, a fence or gate can be a practical and creative solution. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which material is best for your home. By focusing on your budget and which materials best complement your home, you’ll eventually find your answer. Here are some options to get you started in your search. 

Different Types of Fencing

Consider your priorities before choosing materials. Perhaps your fencing will serve the exclusive purpose of providing a designated area for pets and/or children to play, or you’re more focused on matching the wood grain with that of your home, or maybe you’ve simply always dreamed of having a white picket fence. When compiling your budget, account for materials and labor if paying a professional. If you plan to install on your own, know that a fence installation can be a physically demanding project. If your fencing is going into soft soil, you’ll have an easier time with installation. But for those who will be post-hole digging into rocky dirt or gravel, you can expect a challenge. 

Natural Fences

Consider using a natural fence such as shrubbery, hedges, or trees to create a perimeter around your property. Natural fences create a barrier while bolstering your landscaping design and help to create a flow between your garden beds, yard, and the house itself. In comparison to other fencing solutions, natural fences may be a more affordable option, especially if you can plant them on your own. However, unless you’re buying full-grown shrubbery, natural fencing will take time to grow, whereas other types of hard-material fencing are functional as soon as they are constructed.

White Picket Fence

White picket fences, though traditional and simple in design, are effective. They are easy to maintain while complementing various home styles. Due to their sturdiness, they do well to keep pets in your yard and provide a safe designated area for them to roam. White picket fences reflect light and can make the colors in the shrubbery/plant life surrounding them pop. For the green thumbs that aspire to grow a flourishing garden, a white picket fence may be the perfect solution for magazine-quality grounds. However, with white picket fences, their strength is also their weakness. White is more prone to noticeable stains, meaning you can expect to set aside time for touch up painting at least once a year if you want to keep your fence purely white.

Wood Fences

There are many types of wood to pick from when choosing fencing. Local climate looms large in the decision-making process. It’s important to understand how the wood will hold up throughout the seasons and what kinds of treatments and/or stains are required to keep it from weathering. Wood fences work with many home styles. You’ll often see natural wood-colored fences used to reflect the aesthetic of Craftsman homes, while different paint colors and stains may be used to complement a more modern home style.

Different Types of Gates

Garden Gates

  • Ivy or Flower Archway: Use a simple wooden arch gate to allow flowers, ivy, or grape vines to grow along the gate creating a framed, lush entryway.
  • Vintage Gate: Use an old, wired gate to create a rustic vintage feel that leads to your personal garden.
  • Driftwood: Create your own gate by collecting wood or driftwood. You can then use twine, wire, or rope to create your own design.

 Driveway Gates

  • Security Gates: Using a security gate is one of the easiest ways to make your home safer and more secure.  There are many types of security gates, but steel provides protection without the need for much maintenance.  
  • Side Yard Gates: If you don’t have a driveway gate, consider getting a side yard gate for added security and privacy.
  • Ornate Gates: Ornate gates don’t always create privacy but can create a beautiful entryway while also offering more control over who has access to the property.

For more on home improvement, read our guide to home lighting: How to Find the Right Lighting for Your Home

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Tips For Emergency Preparedness

With homeownership comes the responsibility of having to plan ahead for life’s unknowns. Emergencies come in many forms, depending on your local climate. So whether its more likely that you and your household need to prepare for the potential of a wildfire, a flood, or a winter storm, it’s crucial to have resources on hand to limit the damage to your home and to protect your household.

Tips for Emergency Preparedness

A good place to start when putting together your emergency kit is to compile basic resources you and your household will need to support yourselves outside of your home. Keep all items together in an easily accessible location. The general rule is to have at least one gallon of water per person, per day. This is useful for drinking, food preparation, and general hygiene. The Red Cross suggests keeping a two week’s supply of water at your home and three days worth in the case of evacuation. The following information is based on the American Red Cross’s emergency preparedness website.

What to include in your home emergency kit

  • A two-week supply of non-perishable food that is easy to prepare
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of non-latex gloves
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instruction booklet

To-Go Bag

Keep a to-go bag on hand to ensure that you and your household have easy access to essential items such as medication, toiletries, chargers, cash, and more. 

  • If you or family members have medications, make sure you have at least a seven day supply
  • Multi-purpose tool (Swiss army knife)
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Personal wipes       

Personal documents

  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Extra cell phone chargers
  • Emergency blanket(s)

Car Kit

In the case of an evacuation or car emergency you should have a supply kit that can last up to three days.

  • A three-day supply of water in the case of an evacuation (one gallon per person per day)
  • Three days’ worth of non-perishable food
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Extra phone charger
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map of your area

Pets

If you have pets, you will want to pack additional supplies to ensure their safety in the event of an emergency. It’s a good idea to have a week’s worth of food for each pet, a gallon of water per day, medication on hand, an additional leash, a crate, and any relevant sanitation materials (pet bags, litter, etc.).

Keeping Your Sanity

If you have small children, you may want to include activities for them to stay occupied without the help of electricity. Small games, coloring books and supplies, and other items can be stashed in the emergency kit to keep the family occupied.

For more information on preparing for potential emergencies and disasters, read our blog post about preparing for a fire at home. 

How to Prepare for a Fire at Home

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Springtime Gardening Tips by Region

This time of year, there is much to be done in the garden. Whether you tend to a few veggie plants, have a sprawling urban farm, or tend to a flourishing, flowering sanctuary, spring is a critical time of the year to focus on the health of your garden to keep it fertile heading into summer. Geography and climate play a large role in what a garden needs at different times throughout the year. The following information will help you build out your springtime gardening to-do list depending on where you live. But first, here are a few tips that apply to gardeners of all regions and climates.

Gardening During Spring

Weeding

No matter where you live, weeds can be an issue for your garden. By carving out some time to weed your flower beds and garden in spring, you’ll be ahead of the curve when summer comes around. Use this time to check for any infestations or fungi growing on your plants and flowers.

Watering

Water is the lifeblood of a healthy garden. Keeping your plants and flowers irrigated is paramount, especially so in the spring, since proper watering now will have your garden in top shape as the months get warmer and drier. For plants that require significant watering, place saucers under their pots to catch the excess.

Mulching

Spring is a great time of year to mulch your garden. Mulch helps to keep your soil moisturized when temperatures rise, keeps weeds at bay, and enriches your soil with organic matter.

Clean Your Water Features

Throughout the warmer months of the year, ponds, bird baths, and other water features become a magnet for rapid algae growth. Clean your water filters and remove decaying leaves to keep them clean and algae-free.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: Jurgute

 

Springtime Gardening Tips by Region

Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwesterners can expect to continue to divide perennials while it is still wet out. Once the sun becomes more consistent in late spring, it’s time to transfer any plants you seeded indoors to the outdoors. This time of year brings more sun breaks, which, combined with steady rain, creates rich gardening conditions. Deadhead your rose bushes of any old blooms and begin seeding your annuals.

Northern California

By April, gardeners in Northern California can begin to plant warm-season plants and fertilize perennials. With sunny and dry days dominating the weather pattern, temperatures will begin to rise. Accordingly, it’s important to check your sprinkler and irrigation systems and make repairs/replacements as needed before it gets hot. Check for signs of fungal diseases or evidence of insects throughout the garden before their damage spreads.

Southern California

As the days get hotter in Southern California, gardeners can plant tropical plants and perennials outdoors. This is a great time of year to check whether you have substantial mulch around the base of your plants and trees and add as necessary. If you plan to grow tomato plants, potatoes, or bell peppers, they should be planted by mid-spring.

Southwest

Southwesterners should fertilize their perennials and plant warm-season plants in early spring. When adding mulch, be mindful of your garden’s mulching limit. Adding too much can make it difficult for plants to push up through the ground. Given the fact that this climate typically experiences very few rainy days in mid-Spring and beyond, it’s the right time to plant palm trees and cacti. It’s also the right time of year to give your sprinklers and irrigation system a complete checkup.

Mountain West

There is a bit of waiting game with springtime gardening in the Mountain West, but once the snow has melted, the green thumbs have the green light to get out in the garden. Plant fruit trees and strawberries once it has begun to warm up in April and spread compost around the garden to help reduce weeds and enrich the soil. Once frost is a thing of the past, turn on your irrigation system and check for any leaks. Early May is usually a good time of year to begin planting your vegetable garden.

 

For more tips on working out in the garden, read our guide to sustainable gardening:

10 Tips for Sustainable Gardening

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A Quick Guide to Urban Farming

Urban farming can be a fun way to produce your own nutritious and sustainable food supply for your household while learning about self-sufficiency and gardening. Though urban farming likely won’t replace your household’s entire food intake, it is an environmentally friendly complement that can help lower your reliance upon commercial grocery stores over time.

A Quick Guide to Urban Farming

What is urban farming?

Urban farming or urban agriculture comes in many forms. Whether it’s a backyard or rooftop garden, a community agricultural space, or a small balcony plot, urban farming is the practice of cultivating food by those who live in cities or densely populated areas. Typically using raised garden beds to house produce, urban farming promotes sustainability, health, and a connection to nature. Whether you’re looking to grow a few simple fruits and vegetables or seek to cultivate a flourishing garden, here’s how you can get started.

Plot Out Your Garden

Whether you have a spacious backyard waiting to be tilled into gardening heaven or a smaller, unused section of your flower beds, how much space you’re working with will determine the arrangement of your urban farm. Research the crops you intend to plant and how much space they require, then take measurements in your gardening space before buying materials. Your raised gardening beds should be anywhere from six to thirty-six inches deep. Keeping them less than four feet wide will make it easier to reach across when watering, weeding, and planting.

Planting Your Garden

Once you’ve plotted out your garden space, there are a series of decisions to make about your garden; namely which crops you want to grow, how you’ll pot other plants and flowers, whether you’re going to start from seeds or seedlings, and deciding between manual and automatic watering. If you’re starting from seeds, know that the growing process will take longer, whereas seedlings can help to speed things up. Creating an automatic watering system requires an upfront investment, but you’ll save time, and you won’t have worry about under-watering or dehydrating your garden.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: FatCamera

 

Raising Chickens and Keeping Bees

Keeping animals on your property presents new opportunities for sustenance, but it also introduces new challenges. Two animals urban farmers often choose to raise are chickens and bees, which take up a lot less space that other livestock. Before starting either venture, check your local zoning laws.

If you intend to raise chickens, you’ll need to build a coop first. The size of your chicken coop will depend on whether your chickens are able to forage outside the coop or not. If you have the space to let the chickens out, allow two to three square feet per bird in the coop. If the chickens must stay in the coop, you’ll want to make sure they have plenty of space, so it’s recommended to allow five to ten square feet per bird.

 

A group of chickens in a backyard coop.

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: KseniaShestakova

 

The key features of a chicken coop include roosts, nest boxes, dust baths, lighting, and protection from local predators. Search online or locally for pre-made chicken coops that fit your property’s needs or make it a DIY project. A commercial poultry feed will provide your chickens with the basic nutrients they need, but keep in mind that many foods outside of their normal diet can alter egg flavor and have adverse health effects. So, if you’re thinking about incorporating table scraps into their diet, make sure those foods agree with their systems before doing so.

To keep bees at home, start by reaching out to local beekeeping associations to inquire about purchasing bees and when you can expect your colony to arrive. Once you have a timeline set, you can go about gathering supplies. There are two common hive systems used for keeping bees: a Langstroth hive; which is a system of stacked rectangular boxes with removable frames, and a top-bar hive; which is a series of horizontally connected boxes. Gear up by purchasing protective beekeeping clothing, tools, and feeding supplies. After you introduce your bees to their new hive, continually monitor their behavior and tend to their seasonal needs. Spring is generally the best time of year to start a hive, since it gives bees plenty of time to build up their colony and produce and store honey before winter arrives.

For more information on sustainable gardening practices, read our blog post below:

10 Tips for Sustainable Gardening

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How to Prevent and Deal with Mold

Whether you are buying or selling a home, mold is something to be mindful of. Health concerns and potential damage make mold a red flag for buyers. Even if you’re not planning to sell any time soon, taking care of mold problems now can prevent even larger and more costly issues in the future. Contrary to what some people think, mold is not a geographic problem—it can occur anywhere, no matter where you live. Here is some basic information about mold and how to deal with it.

What is mold?

Molds are microscopic organisms that are found virtually everywhere indoors and outdoors. There are thousands of different kinds of mold. Their natural function is to help break down dead materials such as stumps and leaves so the nutrients can be used by the environment. For molds to grow, they need two things: an organic food source—such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt—and moisture.

Mold Causes Damage

Mother Nature uses mold to decompose plant material. Unfortunately, when present indoors, it can be equally destructive. Mold growth can damage furnishings, such as carpets, couches, and cabinets. If it goes undetected or neglected, it can also cause serious damage to walls and structural elements in your home.

Mold is present everywhere, and most people tolerate exposure with no adverse effects. If allowed to spread, however, it may cause problems. As molds grow, they release thousands of tiny spores that travel through the air. When inhaled in large enough amounts, these spores may increase the risk of adverse health effects in some people, particularly respiratory problems.  A less-common strain of mold called “black mold” can be particularly troublesome to those who are especially sensitive.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: wattanaphob

 

Common Causes of Mold Growth in Homes

No matter your local climate, your home is vulnerable to mold. There are many sources of mold problems, from faulty air conditioners to poorly positioned sprinkler systems. Here are the most common sources of mold inside the home:

  • Flooding
  • Leaky roofs or damaged gutters
  • Heating or cooling system problems
  • Poor drainage next to foundation
  • Plumbing leaks from toilets, refrigerators, and dishwashers
  • Damp basement or crawl space
  • Leaking windows or doors
  • Steam from shower or cooking
  • Indoor exhaust from dryer

Detecting Mold in Your Home

If you can see or smell mold inside your home, it’s time to act. Any area that has sustained past or ongoing water damage should be thoroughly inspected—you may find hidden mold growth in water-damaged walls, floors, or ceilings. Walls and floors that are warping or discolored can also indicate moisture problems, as can condensation on windows or walls.

How to Prevent Mold in Your Home

Since mold is always present, there’s no way to eliminate it completely. You can control indoor mold growth, however, by controlling moisture.

  1. Remove the source of moisture by fixing any leaks or other water problems.
  2. Make sure your bathroom fans and dryers are properly vented to the outside. Always use the exhaust fan when cooking or showering.
  3. Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture levels in the air. Make sure your AC system is well maintained and is the correct size for your home. A faulty AC system can cool the air without removing the water vapor, creating high humidity.
  4. Insulate your home well to prevent indoor condensation.
  5. Have your heating, ventilation, and cooling systems professionally cleaned annually. Air-duct systems can easily become contaminated with mold.
  6. Regularly clean moist areas such as the bathroom with products that treat mildew.
  7. Dry clean your carpets (as opposed to wet cleaning them).
  8. Avoid carpeting bathrooms and basements.
  9. Clean any moldy surfaces as soon as you notice them.

How to Deal with Mold in Your Home

Mold can be a manageable problem. If you have a mold problem that is isolated to a small area—less than a square yard or so—you can try to resolve it yourself. However, if your mold problem is severe or if you have extensive water damage, it’s best to call a professional contractor who specializes in mold removal.

Porous items that are hard to clean, such as carpet and drapes, should be discarded. Moldy sheetrock and ceiling tiles can be removed and replaced. Hard, nonabsorbent surfaces such as glass, plastic and metal should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and allowed to dry completely. For solid items that are semi-porous, such as floors, cabinets, and wood furniture, scrub with an ammonia-free cleaner and hot water to remove the mold. Rinse with water and dry thoroughly. After cleaning, apply a mildewcide to kill mold and spores.

When cleaning mold, remember to wear gloves, a mask, and eye protection, and work in a well-ventilated area. Never mix cleaner containing bleach and ammonia; this can result in the release of a toxic gas. And be sure to throw away any sponges or rags that you use for cleaning. For more information on how maintaining your home can prevent damage, read our blog post on how to handle water damage.

How to Handle Water Damage in Your Home

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How to Find the Right Lighting for Your Home

The right lighting can give your home the quality and mood you’re looking to achieve. Knowing about the different temperatures of light, lighting types, and how to blend lighting elements will help you narrow down your choices and find the best fixtures for your home.

How to Find the Right Lighting for Your Home

Before taking a trip to the hardware or lighting store, it’s worth your time to understand the different types of lighting and how they complement each other to fill the large surface areas of your home while spotlighting the nooks and crannies. Ambient lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting are the three basic lighting types that cover the spectrum of illuminating a home.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient light is what fills a room. Also known as “general light,” this is the primary light source for the spaces in your home. When selecting your ambient lights, know that your choice in color will play a significant role in the atmosphere of that room, since this type of lighting is so widely distributed.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting has a smaller footprint than ambient lighting. It is meant to direct focus and attention to a specific spot. By pulling the eye toward this spot lit area, it allows you to highlight décor and design pieces, such as picture frames and artwork, houseplants, or small sculptures.

Task Lighting

It’s all in the name when it comes to task lighting. This form of lighting exists to help you perform tasks. Whether it’s cooking, working on arts and crafts, tinkering away at a desk, or tending to your indoor garden, having task lighting in place will ensure that you’re able to see while you work. Feel free to experiment with closeup light sources when installing task lighting to provide the maximum attention to detail while you work. Task lighting fixtures can be as simple as a floor lamp or desk lamp.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: TG23

 

Different Temperatures of Light

There are three basic light temperatures: warm, cool, and neutral. Warm light creates a cozy, comfortable feeling, and functions best in rooms where you plan to kick back and relax, such as the bedroom or the living room. Cold light encourages attention to detail, and therefore works well in places like the kitchen and bathroom. Neutral light sits between warm and cold light but functions like cold light in that it can help you focus on the task at hand in the rooms where it’s used. Places like the garage, home office, or bonus/utility rooms are all fitting homes for neutral light. 

 

A very clean garage with bright overhead lights.

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: imaginima

 

Different Lighting Fixtures

After you’ve researched the different types of lighting and decided which temperatures fit best throughout your home, it’s time to pick your fixtures.

Chandeliers

Chandeliers have been around for centuries and they are still popular today. Due to their formal nature, they can set the stage for dining rooms and foyers alike with traditional style. Chandeliers typically give off lots of light, making them perfect for filling larger spaces.

Surface Lights

Surface lights sit flush against the wall where they are installed. These lights are typically used in smaller areas such as hallways.

Pendant Lights

Pendant lights are commonly found in the kitchen or the dining room. Suspended from the ceiling, pendant lights come in a variety of styles, but often appear as a linear series of lights that run the length of a table or slab underneath them. 

Recessed Lights

Recessed lights sits inside the wall and provide a level distribution of illumination. These lights are a popular choice for vaulted ceilings, where you’ll usually see them spaced evenly apart to fill the room with ambient light.

For more information and resources on putting together the home you envision, read our blog post on how to upgrade your dining room:

How to Upgrade Your Dining Room

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5 Ways to Create a Sustainable Kitchen

In many ways, the kitchen is the heart of a home. All the time spent making delicious food, sharing recipes, and enjoying meals with loved ones gives it a central role in home life. A consequence of the time spent in the kitchen is the creation of waste. But by adopting more sustainable practices in the kitchen, you can reduce waste and make your home more eco-friendly. Here are five ways you can create a sustainable kitchen.

5 Ways to Create a Sustainable Kitchen

1. Cut Down on Food Waste

It’s no secret that a certain portion of food always seems to go to waste, but how can you avoid throwing away perfectly edible food items? It starts with being intentional about your grocery shopping. This helps to prevent overbuying and will give you a better chance of cutting down your food waste. Food preservation is key, as well. Invest in high-quality, reusable containers to prevent food from rotting, wilting, or expiring before you intend to cook it.

2. Choose Energy-Efficient Appliances

Kitchen appliances generate a significant amount of power. By using an energy-efficient refrigerator, freezer, and/or dishwasher, you can reduce the overall energy consumption of your household. When deciding on which appliance to purchase, the most sustainable choice you can make is the one you plan on sticking with for a long time. When deciding on a gas versus an electric range, know the pros and cons of each option before making a final decision.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: Pekic

 

3. Reusable Materials

Getting more uses out of the items in your kitchen will help make your household more environmentally conscious. Reusable kitchen towels are an eco-friendly replacement for paper towels when you’re cooking, wiping down your counters, or doing dishes. Using reusable grocery bags is an effective way to transport groceries sustainably. It will also help keep your kitchen organized by avoiding a plastic or paper bag pile-up under your sink. This line of reusable thinking in the kitchen can even extend to design. If you’re looking to give your kitchen a makeover while keeping sustainability in mind, consider incorporating reclaimed wood, sustainably-sourced countertops, or natural materials like bamboo. 

4. Use Natural or Organic Cleaning Products

Creating a sustainable kitchen isn’t just about reducing food waste and choosing reusable materials. By using organic and/or natural cleaning products, you can ensure that your cleaning practices are sustainable as well. Using natural cleaners, like baking soda and vinegar, can also create less waste when you repurpose jars and bottles to create your preferred solution. Buy ingredients in bulk, then re-purpose old spray bottles and use towels instead of paper products to clean. Certain conventional cleaning products with synthetic chemicals can negatively impact the air quality in your home, which can have harmful effects on your health, especially if you have respiratory sensitivities.

5. Be Mindful About Water Usage

Neglecting to monitor your water usage is a slippery slope. Not only will using too much water increase the overall waste output of your home, but it will also increase your water bill. Be mindful about using only the required amount of water for cooking, do your best to avoid leaving the faucet running, and if there is a drip, fix it as quickly as you can. Using too much water can also strain your home’s water systems, putting your pipes at risk of bursting. Tempering your water usage can help to prevent water damage and the high costs that come with it.

Going zero waste doesn’t have to be expensive. Try first to extend the life of the things you already have like plastic bottles and textiles. For more information on how you can adopt sustainable practices at home, read our guide to going low-to-zero waste:

A Guide to Going Low-to-Zero Waste

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Gas Appliances vs. Electric Appliances

Appliances are broken down into two main categories: gas- and electric-powered. You may be more familiar with one or the other based on personal experience, but when it comes time to choose appliances for your home, you’ll likely be weighing a variety of factors including the conversion costs, operation costs, safety, sustainability, and more. The following breakdown of the differences between gas and electric appliances can help inform your decision about what is ultimately best for your home.

What is the difference between gas and electricity?

Homes with natural gas are powered by a series of pipeline connections. The gas lines flowing from the property lead out to and connect with a larger pipeline farther away. Homes can also be powered by propane gas, which is stored in a tank on the property.

Electric power flows from generators to substations and eventually to individual homes, carried by transmission and distribution lines. In short, gas can power a variety of appliances in your home, but it won’t power your lights or electronics, whereas electricity can do both.

What is the difference between gas appliances and electric appliances?

The costs of gas and electric appliances vary region-to-region, both in upfront and operation costs. Having said that, gas is the more efficient heating fuel, and using gas appliances could save you up to 30 percent on your utility bill (consumeraffairs.com). Keep in mind that gas furnaces tend to be noisier but will usually heat up your home quicker, while electric furnaces are quieter but may take more time to warm your home.

So, what do you do if you want to convert your home from one fuel to the other? To switch from electric to gas, you’ll need to route gas lines, purchase the new appliances, and install them. Switching from gas to electric will require installing an electric line and capping the gas line(s). Each of these conversion methods will require an investment, so be sure to budget for these costs before you switch.

Gas and electric have their own unique safety hazards. With gas, you’ll need to take a couple extra steps to protect your home’s air quality. You’ll want to make sure you have a good ventilation system and that your carbon monoxide alarm is functioning properly to alert you of any potential poisoning from the furnace or the appliances themselves. With electric appliances, you won’t run the risk of a gas leak, but if the appliance’s wiring is faulty or neglectfully maintained, it could start a fire.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Source: SolStock

 

Gas vs. Electric Range

The range tends to be the focal point of the gas-versus-electric debate for many homeowners. While some prefer the quick-heating power of an open-flame gas stove, others view an electric stove as safer for their household and therefore better. While some enjoy the even-heating quality of an electric oven, others prefer gas ovens with traditional coil burners. Electric stoves are usually easier to maintain; especially glass tops since you only have to clean one smooth surface.

Gas vs. Electric – Dryer & Fireplace

In general, gas dryers can heat up faster than electric dryers, which means they are more efficient and can save you money on your energy bills. However, gas dryers tend to be more expensive than their electric counterparts.

Electric fireplaces are usually cheaper to install but may not be as effective as gas fireplaces for heating larger spaces. And apart from all the financials, some people simply enjoy the feeling of a natural flame (gas) coming from the hearth, while the electric heating element appeals to others.

At the end of the day, choosing between gas and electric appliances depends on your situation. Saving on energy bills may be your number one priority, or perhaps you can’t stand the idea of not cooking on an open flame. Whatever your choice, it’s helpful to know the pros and cons of each option.

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Tips for Home: Extend the Life of Your Mattress

All furniture has a shelf life, and your mattress is no different. Whether you sleep on a spring or memory foam mattress, the more proactive you can be about maintaining it, the better your chances of experiencing healthy, regular sleep. With a few simple tasks you can extend the life of your mattress and wake up every day feeling refreshed. 

Extend the Life of Your Mattress

1. Clean Your Mattress Regularly

A clean mattress is the key to healthy sleep. Clean your mattress regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Certain home cleaning supplies such as baking soda and essential oils can help to cleanse your mattress’s fabric, but they may be harmful to certain foam types. Vacuum before you clean to rid your mattress of dust and dirt using the attachment designed for cleaning upholstery. If your pets like to snuggle up in bed, you can count on their hair and fur getting trapped in your linens, so you may want to consider vacuuming more frequently to make sure everyone can sleep soundly.

2. Rotate Every Six Months

After laying in the same spot night after night, your mattress will begin to form to your body. Rotating your mattress every three-to-six months will give it a chance to refresh its structure and provide additional support. By simply flipping the foot end of the bed around to where you lay your head, it will feel like you’ve bought a brand-new mattress.

 

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3. Use a Mattress Protector

Mattress protectors help to keep your bed as clean as possible by limiting damage caused by spills while keeping dust mites, sweat, dander, and pet hair/fur off your mattress. Made from organic cotton, organic mattress protectors are typically hypoallergenic and waterproof. They are helpful sleep aids for people with sensitivities to allergens and chemicals.

4. Support Your Mattress

Not properly supporting your mattress is a recipe for unhealthy sleep and a short lifespan for your bed. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if your mattress is meant to be coupled with a box spring, and if not, what kind of underneath support is required, given your mattress’s type and weight. Insufficient support can not only damage your bed but can also lead to physical complications such as soreness and back pain.

5. Handle Your Mattress with Care When Moving

During the moving process, the bed is often the center of attention. Large and clumsy, mattresses can be frustrating to maneuver from your bedroom to a moving vehicle. Fabric can easily be torn when navigating around corners, up and down stairs, through hallways, and sometimes even out of windows. Always work with a partner when moving your mattress or let the professionals handle it if you’re hiring a moving company. If you’re too hasty about getting it moved, you can easily damage it to the point where you’ll need to make a replacement.

 

For more information on the shelf life of various household items and home appliances, read our blog post on The Life Expectancy of Your Home.

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