Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cut home entertainment costs without loss of shows

Americans are watching more TV than ever before, especially with the development of flat screen sets and high-definition TV (HDTV). Americans spend 34 hours a week watching TV, according to Nielsen.

How can you save money on your TV viewing? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I pay more than $100 a month to watch TV?

2. Does every TV in the house need cable or satellite?

3. What programs do I typically watch?

4. Do I want HD quality without extra fees?

5. Would I like to lower or eliminate my monthly fees and still watch up to 90 percent of the most-watched TV shows?

You can get rid of cable or satellite altogether, or reduce the number of boxes you need. One money-saving solution is to embrace new, inexpensive high-tech antenna technology like the FlatWave Amped, which receives signals up to 50 miles away. Hang it on the wall or better yet, in the window. This thin, flexible HD antenna is designed to be placed wherever the signal is the strongest.

"One advantage of this antenna is a patent-pending design that maximizes UHF and VHF signal reception without the need for cumbersome rabbit ears protruding out from a great-looking flatscreen TV," says Grant Whipple of antenna manufacturer Winegard Co." And you can easily move it to get a better picture."

Now, for about $90, anyone can buy one of these advanced antennas that delivers anywhere from a few channels to dozens of free over-the-air channels, depending on where they live.

"The FlatWave Amped is slim and compact, which allows for easy installation in places that would challenge traditional antennas," says Brett Thebeau, who works in the construction industry. "I don't have cable, but I receive about 20 unique channels and know for a fact that some people with traditional antennas don't even know about some channels that are available. My HD reception is near flawless with this antenna."

This technology means free TV from all the major local broadcast networks, such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS, plus additional networks like Qubo, ION, The CW, Universal Sports and many more. It also includes some 24-hour news networks and sports channels, as well as 24-hour music, children's, classic movie, travel and dining networks.

The FlatWave Amped is a great complement to an existing TV system, since it can receive programs satellite or cable packages may not offer, like local TV channels. The FlatWave Amped is made in the U.S.A. and is available online from GetFreeTV.com or through Amazon and Winegard Company, and is available at Costco stores nationwide.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Creating a bathroom that maximizes safety without sacrificing style

For today's generation of aging adults, individuality and independence are values they've lived out for decades. As the years go by, lifestyle changes become a necessity, due to limited mobility and health concerns, but it doesn't necessarily mean giving up personality.

Aging in place, in the comfort of your home, is a priority for countless people. That often means making adjustments to your home, but some alterations can contribute to making your space feel more institutional and less "you." A balance between style and safety is the key - and finding it is easier than you might think.

One of the most hazardous rooms in the home is the bathroom. Its slippery surfaces and tendency to be crowded with products and objects makes it a hazard for slipping, tripping and other mishaps. As you consider making alterations to your home that enhance security and safety, it's the logical place to start.

* Clear away clutter. Bottles and jars and grooming tools frequently crowd counters, closets and the corners of tubs and showers. Make use of hangers, shelves and wall-mounted baskets to keep things neatly tucked away, providing a cleaner environment that's also better looking and less likely to cause trips or spills.

* Bathe in safety. With limited mobility, moving in and out of the tub can be difficult, if not downright dangerous. One renovation solution to that problem is installing a walk-in tub. Walk-in baths and EasyAccess showers configure to your existing space and allow you to maintain the look of your bathroom while enjoying greater ease.

* Choose rugs carefully. Bath mats and rugs are both functional and decorative. They can add a splash of color while also effectively collecting water that might otherwise pool on the floor and lead to slipping. However, rugs that don't stay in place can present a problem of their own and lead you to trip. Opt for mats and rugs that have non-skid backing, but which still look harmonious with the rest of your bathroom decor.

* Bring things up to the right height. Your bathroom routine can be an active one, which can present problems if your health limits your ability to move or bend easily. Having a commode and a sink at a higher level that prevents you from overexertion during your daily routine will add to the comfort and safety of your bathroom. And with options like Premier Care in Bathing's easy-access sink, you can integrate these new fixtures into your room while maintaining your existing decorative theme.

One of the most important parts of maintaining independence throughout aging is being able to uphold your sense of self. Taking a holistic approach to creating a home environment that meets your needs but still expresses who you are enables you to live life as you choose for a long time to come.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Replace or repair? That's the home improvement question

Maintenance and improvement are both essential realities of home ownership. From windows and skylights to gas ranges and front doors, everything in your home will eventually need some work. But how do you know when something simply needs repair, or merits being replaced?

Of course, each situation will be as unique as the home in which it occurs - and as individual as the homeowners themselves. A few good rules of thumb, however, do apply in most cases. When you're considering repair or replacement, ask yourself these questions:

* How old is the malfunctioning item?

* How extensive/pervasive is the problem?

* Will the cost of repair approach the cost of replacement?

* Which course - repair or replace - will yield the maximum energy efficiency?

* How does the cost of repair measure up to the value it will provide? How does replacement stack up using the same measure?

To help you get an idea of how these rules apply, here's what some experts have to say about home elements that frequently raise the repair/replace question:


While many modern skylights are energy-efficient, qualify to use the Energy Star mark and are leak-free, if you have an older, plastic model it's probably a good idea to replace it. Not only are these older plastic bubble-type skylights often faded and unsightly, reducing visibility, they are not UV resistant, are not energy efficient, and are much more likely to leak.

"There are millions of those unattractive, cracked and yellowed plastic skylights still out there," says Ross Vandermark, national product manager of VELUX America, which markets the warranted "No-Leak Skylight." "Replacing them with new energy-efficient, double-pane (insulating) glass models is quick and easy. They don't leak, they look better, they reduce UV rays and provide substantial energy savings."

In fact, based on an estimate of 15 cents per kwh/hr, replacing an old plastic skylight with an Energy Star-qualified VELUX skylight can save a 2,000-square-foot home about $194 a year on cooling costs, a company study shows. Add skylight blinds - which are available in a variety of styles that can be remote-controlled, including blackout to block light, light filtering to diffuse light, or Venetian to adjust light - and the energy savings can be enhanced even more. And blinds in colors and patterns can add a fresh look to your room decor. What's more, depending on the age and condition of even older glass skylights, it's not a bad idea to consider a modern, more energy efficient model. To learn more about replacement skylights, visit www.veluxusa.com.


Recent research shows that skylights and vertical windows can work well together to effectively daylight a home while contributing to heating and cooling energy savings.

Like skylights, windows have vastly improved in energy efficiency over the past few decades. Leaky, inefficient windows can be a major source of heat loss in a home, boosting energy bills and decreasing the comfort level indoors. Window manufacturer Pella points to these signs that old windows need to be replaced:

* They're difficult to open or close.

* You can feel air leaking in or out around them.

* Condensation or fogging occurs on or between glass panes.

* You can see chipping, deterioration or water stains on the window or the wall around it.

* Cleaning is a major chore and you avoid it because of the difficulty.

* It's difficult or impossible to find replacement parts for the old windows.

The Efficient Windows Collaborative (www.efficientwindows.org) site also provides extensive information on selecting both windows and skylights, including fact sheets and computer simulations for typical houses using a variety of windows in a number of U.S. cities.

Heating, ventilation and air cooling

Furnaces and air conditioning units are among the most important parts of your home's infrastructure; they're directly responsible for the comfort level and air quality inside your home. They're also among the more costly items to repair or replace.

So how do you know when it's time to replace part of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system? EnergyStar.gov offers these guidelines:

* If your heat pump or air conditioner is older than 10 years.

* Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.

* Your energy bills are spiking.

* Equipment needs frequent repair.

* Some rooms are too hot while others are too cold.

* The HVAC system is very noisy.

* Your home is very dusty.

Replacing older HVAC systems with newer, Energy Star-qualified ones can significantly impact your heating and cooling costs, according to EnergyStar.gov. An Energy Star-qualified heat pump or AC unit can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, the website says. You can learn more at www.energystar.gov.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Financial tips for new graduates

If you are a new graduate, a college degree is just the first step in the new direction your life will be taking. A new career, potentially a new community to live in and a bit of cash in your pocket to spend - there are a lot of changes happening.

College graduates carry an average of $25,250 in student loan debt, according to The Project on Student Debt, by The Institute for College Access and Success. Compiled with this debt are the potential expenses of job searching, moving, a professional wardrobe and a new car or bus pass. But receiving that first paycheck - and subsequent paychecks - can lead to bad financial management if not properly handled, says John Vaccaro, senior vice president from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

"New graduates should curb their urge to spend freely and think about their future goals to avoid financial setbacks like credit card debt and spending beyond their means," Vaccaro says.
To help prevent new graduates from sinking deeper into the debt hole, and to look ahead to saving for retirement, Vaccaro has some financial planning tips to help grads get the most out of their new paychecks.

* Develop a budget - Almost half of Americans report they're living paycheck to paycheck, according to a CareerBuilder Survey. New graduates should create a budget, including all expenses from rent/house payments, to haircut costs and weekly groceries. Also include space for savings - if possible. Categorize each expense into a necessity category and a discretionary spending category, which will help highlight areas where expenses could be cut - if needed. For example, are payments for cable or satellite TV necessary, or could you survive with free local TV and a less expensive subscription for wireless or mail delivery movie rentals? Setting up a budget can help a new graduate determine if more money from a paycheck can be put into savings.

* Look into work benefits - The first job is a learning experience for many in figuring out benefits and making them work. Recent graduates should take advantage of any employer offered retirement plans like 401(k)s as soon as they qualify. For younger new grads, the combination of time and potential for a retirement account to grow are powerful in planning for retirement down the road. Health, life and disability income insurance are also good benefit options to research. If your company doesn't offer these kinds of benefits, consider obtaining coverage independently.

* Pay off the right debts first - Debt can occur in a lot of different forms for new graduates. Car payments, student loans, mortgages and credit card accumulations are a few of the more common forms of debt. It's a good idea to pay off those debts that have the highest interest rates and are not tax deductible first. Ideally, a person should have enough savings on hand to pay off a short term debt, like credit card purchases, on a monthly basis.

* Rein in spending habits - Look yourself in the mirror and identify your spending habits. If you like to impulse buy, try forcing yourself to delay impulse purchases by 24 hours. Also determine if your spending habits are influenced in any way by emotional factors or peer pressure. Once these habits are identified, it's easier to establish ways to circumvent bad financial decisions.