Category Archives for "Homekeeping"

January 19, 2011

Eco-Conscious? Get an Energy Audit

If you are eco-conscious, that means you are concerned about your impact on the earth. And that extends to your personal energy use. Therefore, as an eco-conscious homeowner, it’s a good idea to have a home energy audit.

What Is an Energy Audit?

Essentially, an energy audit on your home means going over it in detail, noting any areas of energy inefficiency. For example, you would look at your home’s insulation, windows, doors, lighting, and appliances. You’d also check your water heater, pipes, and heating and cooling system for signs of inefficiency and energy waste.

Do It Yourself

You can conduct an energy audit yourself. You will need to take notes, and inform yourself on just what you are looking for. Here are some tips:

  • Insulation is not just pink fluff in the attic. When you audit your insulation, you will need to check your home’s walls, the basement or second story ceiling, and the attic. For example, you may have an attached garage at your house. If the ceiling of the garage is not insulated, cold air will penetrate to the room above it. Check existing insulation for leaks.
  • Lighting is a big source of waste in some homes. Look for any rooms that have high-wattage, incandescent bulbs in them. Also look for ways to let in more natural light.
  • Windows and doors will need to be scrutinized. If you don’t have up-to-date windows and doors, seal leaks with caulk or weather stripping.
  • Your hot water heater can be a source of energy waste. Insulate it with bubble wrap or special material available from your local utility company. Check your hot water pipes and insulate them with foam if they are not already. Replace worn foam.

Hire a Professional

There are certified home energy auditors out there, and you might consider having one come to your home. They will go into detail and will undoubtedly cover things you would miss. He or she will have special equipment for detecting air and heat leaks that you could not detect on your own.

For example, home energy auditors have infrared cameras that can show heat loss too subtle for you to feel, and they have calibrated “blower doors.” These are enormous fans that fit into your doorway, and they draw out so much air that the air pressure decreases inside your home. The higher air pressure outside means that air will rush in through even the tiniest cracks in order to equalize the pressure, thus revealing air leaks.

Your auditor will most likely want to go over your utility bills with you, so gather up the past year’s records. Let the auditor know of any existing problems, such as a room that never seems to get warm or hot water that runs out after only a few minutes of use.

Whether you do it yourself or hire someone, a home energy audit is essential for eco-conscious homeowners.

January 5, 2011

Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Chemical-Laden Fabric Softeners

Conventional, store-bought fabric softeners contain some dubious chemicals. These odd-sounding substances include dimethyl sulphate, pentane, limonene, and benzyl acetate. Various disorders have been linked to these and other chemicals present in fabric softeners, including cancer and kidney and liver damage. Both liquid and dryer sheets have such chemicals. And the heavy scents of fabric softeners can set off chemical allergies and asthma in some individuals.

So what are the alternatives? Using no fabric softener at all can leave clothes stiff and full of static. Thankfully, you don’t have to put up with that. There are natural alternatives to conventional fabric softeners. Here are some suggestions.

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December 1, 2010

How to Stay Organized and Sane This Christmas

When I was a child, I absolutely loved Christmas and looked forward to it with all my heart. But now, as an adult, my enthusiasm has been dampened by the stresses that usually accompany this holiday season.

Like many people throughout the country, you may have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. You love being able to visit with friends and family but you may not enjoy having your home life in an upheaval. There are parties to attend, shopping to get done and a house to decorate. When are you going to find the time for everything?

The following tips will help you learn how to stay organized and sane this holiday season. Let’s get started!

First and foremost, ensure you get enough rest throughout the holidays.

If you’re not sleeping properly, you could become sleep deprived which will add to your stress level. Rather than staying late at holiday parties, it would be better to leave early so you can get your rest.

Make a master list of what you have to do for the holidays.

Once you know everything that needs to be done in a given time you’ll be better prepared to accomplish them. Here are some things you may have on your list:

  • Budget

Set a budget for the things you’ll spend over the holidays for gifts, postage, wrapping materials, food and beverages. Try to purchase things over the course of the months leading to the holidays rather than having to spend everything at once.

  • Food

Are you having a gathering at your home? What will you serve? How many people will attend? What special foods will you prepare? What shopping will you need to do above your normal grocery shopping?

  • Preparation

There are many foods which can be made ahead of time rather than spending an entire day or weekend cooking. Pies, cakes, cookies and casseroles are some items you can prepare days to weeks ahead and freeze. Take them out before you need them to give them time to defrost.

  • Decorations

Purge your current decorations for worn out or broken items. List things which need to be replaced and plan when and where you will get them. Then make plans on when the decorations will actually be put up.

  • Gifts

Decide who you will be giving gifts to and what you will give. If you make a list to refer to each year it won’t be like recreating the wheel over and over again. Once you know what gifts you need to purchase, you can plan to go shopping.

  • Shopping

Go shopping when the stores aren’t as full. Most stores are busy after 5 p.m. or on the weekends. Try going during a weekday if possible. Or you could do all of your shopping online so you don’t have to deal with crowded stores at all.

  • Cleaning

If you’re planning on having company over, you may want to enlist help to get your house cleaned up. Paying someone to do the job can be a viable option if you’re running short on time.

  • Deadlines

Set some deadlines as to when you would like to have things done. Decide when you’ll have all gift buying done, when you’ll wrap things and when you’ll make goodies. The more you have planned out, the more likely you are to actually meet those deadlines and keep your sanity.

No matter how many holiday parties you have to attend and no matter how many gifts you have to buy, you can learn how to stay organized and sane this holiday season. There’s no sense in working yourself to a frenzy or feeling like you have to do everything by yourself. Get help if you need it so you can enjoy your friends, family and festivities as well.

August 28, 2010

Tips on Organizing Your Play Room Efficiently

No one will deny the importance of play in a child?s life. However, just because play is important doesn?t mean their play area has to be a mess. Consider some of these tips on organizing your play room efficiently to finally get the area in order.

Begin sorting like items. This means getting all of the toy cars together and putting all of the doll items ? dolls, clothes, accessories ? in one place. Stack all books in one location. Find boxes or plastic totes to put the different toy items in. This will contain them until you?re ready to deal with them.

Once the items are separated and contained, start going through each container. You will be able to see how many toys your children have. You will also be able to determine which toys your children have outgrown. If they?ve outgrown the toys and don?t have an emotional attachment to them, put them aside to get rid of.

Decide what you will do with each toy. The choices are:

1. Keep it. Then decide where it will be kept or stored.

2. Donate it. Take it to Goodwill, Salvation Army, battered women?s shelter or another organization which accepts gently used toys.

3. Toss is. If it?s broken or not in good shape, get rid of it unless it has sentimental value.

4. Sell it. This option is only if you will have a yard sale quickly.

After you?ve purged your children?s toys, come up with a way to organize them. Get your children?s input. Ask them what would be easiest for them to put things back into when they?re finished playing with the toys. Plastic containers with lids, drawers or something else may be needed. The system doesn?t have to be expensive and is a good investment as long as the children will use it.

Think about what you?ve tried to use for organizing in the past. Perhaps they have a toy box with a lid which they can?t open. Chances are, if your children have problems with it, this may be the reason they?re not using it. Try to repurpose it in another room or get rid of it entirely. This will allow you room to try something different they will use.

Depending upon the age of your children, you may want to paste a picture of each item on the front of the box, bin or tote holding it. This will help them know which pieces go in which container. Lower shelves so your children can reach them, place boxes or bins back on them, and they will be more likely to keep things organized.

Have a specific place for them to be creative. A table and chairs with all arts and crafts supplies nearby may be just what your children need. Put a small bookshelf by the table with small bins with crayons, markers, clay or other craft items. Ask them to put things back when they?re finished with them to ensure the supplies don?t dry out or get ruined by some other means.

Take the time to help your children clean their play area or room after the new organization method is put in place. Show them where each item goes, point out the pictures and how you want the room to look when it is clean. Then let them do the work and you supervise, giving suggestions along the way.

When you?ve used some of these tips on organizing your play room efficiently and the children know what you expect, they should be able to keep their room in shape.

Smart Ways to Reduce Your Home Food Waste

Sometimes it seems like we throw out more food than we eat. While that probably isn’t true, the average household does waste a lot of food.

Here are some ideas for cutting down your home food waste.

Compost

While you are still discarding the leftover food when you compost, you are recycling it into a useful substance that can be used to grow more food (or anything else you like) in the garden. Only compost food that has no other use and can’t be recycled in the kitchen anymore.

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