Lower summer energy costs and get a facelift for your home

During summer, many of us look forward to fun-filled days at the pool or beach, but we definitely don’t look forward to exorbitantly high cooling bills during the heat of the season.

A typical single-family home shells out $2,200 in annual energy costs, according a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. And according to the Laboratory’s website, if a house has central air conditioning, even though the system is only used a few months out of the year, it is most likely the single biggest consumer of electricity, driving annual air conditioning costs that can exceed a shocking $1,000.

However, there are a number of ways you can improve the energy-efficient aspects of your home and save on electricity costs.

Seal the deal

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency in homes is to seal and insulate windows and doors. Often, this means replacing old, leaky, sticky, poorly performing windows and doors. A typical home that replaces its single-paned, clear glass windows with energy-efficient windows can realize up to $494 in annual savings, according to the EPA.
“Windows are a wonderful source of natural light, but if they are old, they can act as giant heat lamps in the summer, allowing the sun’s heat into a home,” says David Harrison, chief marketing office of Champion Windows, one of the nation’s leading home improvement companies. “By installing our Comfort 365 Replacement Windows, homeowners can help shrink their cooling bills. Champion’s Double hung replacement windows exceed ENERGY STAR rating requirements by an average of 42 percent for Solar Heat Gain, which is the measure of the sun’s heat that comes through your window. Champion windows also help keep the cool air in and still let in natural sunlight – without the heat.”
For more energy saving window tips check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s website or Champion Window’s Energy Efficient Replacement Windows.
On the side
Another great way to cut costs is to increase insulation by installing energy-efficient siding. Vinyl siding and energy-efficient underlayment can increase a home’s R-value, a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation. By increasing the R-value, homeowners can save more than 20 percent on their electricity bills, according to energysavers.gov.
“Installing an energy-efficient siding system, including ENERGY STAR rated insulation board, can help insulate your home against the heat, reduce the amount of air flow into your house, making it easier to keep cool air in during the summer,” says Harrison. “At Champion, our customers have told us they were pleasantly surprised to see a decrease in their energy bills after their siding installation.”
Other ways to improve energy efficiency and lower summer electric bills include:
* Increasing insulation in attics
* Making sure you have proper roof ventilation
* Sealing air conditioner ducts
* Keeping your blinds closed when the sun is shining in
* Using a programmable thermostat
By making a few of these changes, you won’t cringe when you open those utility bills, and you might even be able to reap benefits beyond the summer.
“If homes are not properly insulated or sealed, cool air is leaking out and homeowners are throwing money out of the window,” says Harrison. “By making a few energy-efficient changes to your home, you can help keep electric bills in check and even increase the value of your home.”
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Ideas for easy and quick room updates

The relaxed pace of summer allows the perfect opportunity for home improvement updates. You can make your favorite room stand out with some simple ideas that take less than a day to complete from start to finish.

“Home interior experts know small decor tricks that take very little time can have a big effect,” says Elizabeth Sasso Smith from Liberty Hardware. “Homeowners can use these same strategies to make changes easily and quickly inside their own home.”

Wall plates

Perhaps one of the most overlooked ways to quickly and dramatically update a room is to replace the wall plates. Wall plates are the covers that go over the light switches and outlets. Most people default to boring, white plastic that can make a room look generic and cheap. Decorative wall plates can complement any design scheme, and because they can be removed, are a great option for those who rent or others who might want to change them out from time to time with minimal effort.

Wall plates are the fashion accessory that every wall needs to add visual appeal. Liberty Hardware offers wall plate options to fit every decor style. From modern, sleek designs that feature finishes like brushed nickel, to classic and elegant options with finishes like satin nickel and espresso, you can upgrade your room within minutes. Visit
www.LibertyHardware.com or look for options at your local Lowes Home Improvement store.  


If you are looking for a big change with minimal effort, consider a fresh coat of paint. Dark and vivid colors remain popular and provide a focal point for the eye. Shades of green and gray are trending right now, as well as hues of blue in every color of the ocean. Pick up some paint samples from the store and bring home to see how they will look in the natural light of the room.

Interested in trying a bold color, but not sure about how it will look in the entire room? Choosing a single wall to paint is a great way to add color without going all out. For example, if painting a bedroom, choose the wall where you put the head of the bed. If you are painting a living room, choose the wall where the couch or your largest piece of furniture goes.


Cabinet hardware changes are typically made in the kitchen or bath, but knobs and pulls have multiple uses if you think outside the box.

“Consider coordinating the color and theme of your new wall plates into a clever curtain tie-back using a knob or pull,” says Christina Hurley of Liberty Hardware. “A similar finish will add a design flow that creates character and pizzazz throughout the room.”

Some other ideas for coordinating knobs include use on a wall or door to hold a coat, towel or bag. You might even decide to hang pictures using coordinating knobs and metals. Instead of simply nailing the frame to the wall, tie with a beautiful ribbon and hang on a knob that matches your wall plates and other hardware in the room.

Hooks and hook rails

Other eye-catching additions to a room include hooks and hook rails. While they may have once been deemed for industrial or heavy-duty use, new contemporary and traditional designs along with complementary finishes like satin nickel and hazelnut allow hook rails to take a more prominent, decorative position in a room.  

Installation is simple and quick, allowing for a modern appeal and instant coordination with wall plates and other hardware. Find a new place for items that often get tossed on the floor like book bags, belts or purses. A small hook rail placed in a closet or bathroom is perfect for hanging jewelry for easy access or spice up your garage with a decorative hook rail to hold sports equipment or umbrellas.

Remember, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to transform your interior space. With just a few easy updates like wall plates or hook rails you’ll be amazed at how different and beautiful your room will look.

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Easy tips for a manicured lawn

(BPT) – The days are getting longer, the grass is growing and yard work season has begun. Many homeowners strive to have the best lawn in the neighborhood, but the task ahead can often feel daunting and time-consuming.

Although yard work can be overwhelming at times, the steps to a great-looking lawn are easier than you think. To get started, here are a few tips for giving your yard that finished look:

* Keep grass approximately 2 inches in length and only take off 1/3 inch of new growth.

* Alternate the direction you mow each session. If you mow in the same direction every time, the wheels will create a rut in the grass.

* Plant flowers around the yard for a pop of color. Using mulch in flower beds will also add detail to your landscape.

* Use string trimmers around trees, rocks, fences and other obstacles to give your lawn a polished look.

* Use a broom to clean grass clippings and soil from pavement and walkways.

Yard work can feel easier and even enjoyable when using the right lawn care tools for the job. According to Troy-Bilt, a leading manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, one of the quickest ways to give your lawn a manicured look is using a string trimmer. It can handle everything from cutting down weeds to trimming around trees to cleaning up grass under decks. String trimmers are the most versatile tool every homeowner should have in their shed.

“Lawn mowers can maneuver around obstacles and larger plants, but it’s usually hard to get into tight spaces,” says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for Troy-Bilt. “A string trimmer can get into places a lawn mower can’t reach and really give your lawn that polished look.”

Troy-Bilt’s TB675 EC 4-cycle gas string trimmer can help make life in the yard that much easier. There’s no need to mix oil and gas, and it can quickly convert into multiple tools with Troy-Bilt’s TrimmerPlus attachments.

Making your lawn stand out as the beauty of the block will take some work, but the end result will be worth the effort. Visit www.troybilt.com to learn more about lawn care products to help make time in the yard more enjoyable.

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Top five back-to-school organizing tips

Ginny Bean, mother of three and publisher of Ginny’s catalog, suggests families take advantage of this clean slate by establishing some new organizing routines.
Think ahead. Mornings are chaotic in most households with school-aged children. Consider handling as many daytime preparations as possible the night before. Lay out clothes. Pack lunches. Set out the breakfast dishes and cereal. Pack backpacks.
Bean suggests making systems kid-friendly, so young helpers can feel involved, and save mom some time in the process. “Carve out a spot on a lower shelf of the pantry for lunch boxes and lunch-making supplies. Then make children responsible for putting away their empty lunch boxes at the end of the school day, or even packing their own lunch.”
Tackle school paperwork. Make a habit of sorting through children’s backpacks with them the same day they come home. Allot time after school, when you arrive home from work, or after dinner, depending on your family’s schedule. Use a tiered letter sorter or filing system with designated slots for each child’s papers, and an “A.S.A.P.” space for teachers’ notes, permission slips and anything else that requires immediate attention.
For schoolwork and artwork you want to keep, try a two-step approach. First, purge unwanted items as soon as they come in the door. Collect the possible keepers in a storage bin or wheeled cart with color-coded drawers that allow for easy separation by child or project type. Go through stored items at regular intervals, perhaps once a month or once a quarter. Keep in mind, the more you accumulate, the easier it will be to pare down, as the best pieces will stand out from the crowd.
Designate a homework spot. Decide on the best spot in your home to set up homework central. Take into consideration how involved you need to be with homework and your child’s style. Does he focus better with people around or in a private setting? Is he better suited to sit at a desk or curled up in a favorite chair with a laptop cart?
Once you have a place picked out, gather together handy homework tools and supplies into a nearby bin, drawer or cabinet. Stock up on age-appropriate supplies such as pens, pencils, erasers, paper, crayons, markers, a ruler, dictionary, calculator and a pencil sharpener.
Create a communication hub. Include the family calendar, a chalk or bulletin board for posting messages and reminders, a binder for key documents, colored markers, pens and pencils. If you’re a visual person, consider color coding your calendar by assigning each family member a different color.
Remember not to forget. Use wall hooks and baskets or bins near the front door to corral the items you need to remember each day: backpacks, books, lunches, gym shoes, sports equipment and musical instruments.
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Medication-free nausea relief for migraine sufferers

One of the most common and debilitating symptoms of a migraine is nausea. Eighty-percent of migraine suffers in the United States also suffer from nausea. If you’ve suffered from migraine-related nausea, you’ve probably turned to antiemetic drugs for relief. But have you tried acupressure?

A study conducted by leading headache physician Dr. Zoltan Medgyessy, of the Berolina Clinic in Lohne, Germany, revealed that pressure applied to a specific spot on the inner wrist provides effective, quick therapy for reliving migraine-related nausea. An acupressure wristband can deliver this relief.

Medgyessy’s acupressure study, shared at the International Headache Congress in Boston, Mass., included 41 patients. The patients included in the study had experienced an average of 33.1 migraine days during the previous three months with an average nausea level of 6.2 out of 10. The patients were given FDA-approved Sea-Band acupressure wristbands instead of antiemetic drugs during a migraine attack and 83 percent noticed a reduction in their nausea. These patients reported that their nausea after the acupressure therapy had been reduced to 2.9 out of 10 after an average of 28 minutes.

“Acupressure wristbands are drug-free and that is an important advantage in using this therapy for migraine nausea as they have no risks for interaction with migraine drugs or the side effects commonly experienced with antiemetics, such as dizziness or tiredness,” says Medgyessy. “There are still many unknowns about migraine, making findings such as these an important stride toward improving the quality of life for those who suffer from the condition.”

Sea-Band acupressure wristbands are a leading drug-free remedy for nausea caused by migraines, morning sickness, motion sickness, chemotherapy and post-operative nausea. If you suffer from nausea because of any of these conditions, visit www.sea-band.com and see if acupressure wristbands are right for you.- Sea-Band acupressure wristbands are available at all major drug stores and Target.

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Tips for men to look and feel their best all summer long

(BPT) – Let’s face it: summer is the season when everyone wants to look and feel their best. Warm weather and long days mean everyone’s heading outdoors, hanging with friends and enjoying the best of the season. Even the guys are looking great – from relaxing at the beach, to putting down the golf greens, to walking the city sidewalks.

This summer men can look and feel perfect all day long with the following helpful tips. Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy experts Dr. Francesca Fusco, a leading dermatologist who specializes in scalp and hair care, and celebrity stylist Jen Atkin, share some helpful tips for men as they head into the summer season.

Protect the scalp: One area men often forget about protecting is the scalp and any and all outdoor activities call for a generous application of sunscreen. “It is important to think of the scalp as an extension of your face. The skin on your scalp is highly susceptible to UV rays,” says Fusco. When spending time in the sun, especially between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Fusco recommends dispensing sunscreen on a cotton swab and dabbing it along the part and hairline. Prolonged sun exposure can cause damaging burns that lead to a dry and flaky scalp. Fusco says that guys’ best bet is to “apply generously and often. If no sunscreen is around, wear a hat for foolproof protection.”

Lather, rinse, repeat: When out and about in the summer,perspiration is highly likely. “It is important to shampoo after working up a sweat because inadequate scalp and hair hygiene can lead to buildup of oil,” Fusco says. Reach for a shampoo that is packed with nourishing ingredients. “A clean, well-nourished scalp is a thriving scalp,” Fusco says. CLEAR Men Scalp Therapy is enriched with Bio-Nutrium 10, a combination of natural ingredients including ginseng, tea tree and natural mint. It leaves hair feeling great, and has an amazing fragrance so men will be rushing to the shower.

The perfect style: Don’t be afraid to switch up your look to reflect the easy-going nature of summer. One of the easiest ways is to change up your hair cut. “Many guys are nervous to try something new, but changing up your look is simple and can help to boost your confidence,” says Atkin. “Most men go right for the clippers and buzz it all off when the weather gets hot.” Not ready to take it all off? “Another great option is to go for a style with shorter sides but keep length up top. It is easy to maintain and will grow out nicely too.” Complete the transformation with some new clothes to complement the new look.

Stay hydrated: When heading out for an early morning jog or any outdoor workout, don’t forget to grab a bottle of water. Fusco recommends drinking at least two liters a day during the summer to replenish fluids lost by sweating. Your overall health, from your skin to how you perform in your sports game, will also benefit from the extra hydration. Opt for an insulated water bottle to keep water cool while out in the heat.

For more helpful tips and information visit www.facebook.com/clearmen.

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