Sunday fun-day: How to throw the ultimate football party this season

(BPT) – Football season is here and whether you’re a diehard fan or just a fan of all the Sunday parties, chances are you’re going to attend or host a get together centered around the country’s favorite sport sometime soon.

Lifestyle expert Kris Schoels of Young Married Chic has some simple suggestions for making the most of football parties.

Decorations

The aesthetics of a party are half the fun, so give guests something fun to look at when they aren’t engrossed in the game. Pick up plates, cups, napkins and flags with a football theme from a party store. Schoels also recommends making your own football-themed decorations by taking a football-shaped stamp, inking it with your favorite team’s colors and stamping white napkins and plates.

“To really get in the game-day theme, trade out a tablecloth for green turf and paint your own goal lines for a table topper,” Schoels says. “Fill football helmets with chips for a more creative touch and swap out serving trays for chalkboards to label foods and chalk out ‘plays.’”

Drinks

Drinks are a great opportunity to use some color to express team pride, advises Schoels.

“Use a glass drink dispenser to show off a bright red punch for the Kansas City Chiefs; add some blueberry juice to seltzer with a squeeze of lime for flavor to make a blue fizz for the New York Giants, or add a few drops of green food coloring to lemonade to show love for the Green Bay Packers,” she suggests.

If you are planning on having a kid’s table/viewing area, provide mini bottles of sports drink so the kids can get into the game as well.

Put a new twist on stadium foods at home

When it comes to game day food, there are some classic favorites, both at home and at the stadium like nachos, chicken fingers, hot dogs and soft pretzels. For your next party, Schoels recommends putting a new twist on them with an ingredient that everyone loves – melted cheese.

“A ready-to-eat fondue like the ones from Emmi of Switzerland are perfect for dipping soft pretzels, pigs in a blanket, french fries and chicken fingers, and even using as the cheese for nachos – it’s a perfect way to enjoy stadium foods at home,” says Schoels. “Emmi even sells a football helmet-shaped fondue pot at Emmi.com that is sure to get your guests in the zone on Sunday while they enjoy some warm, melted cheese.”

Dessert

Whether satisfying a gridiron sweet tooth or keeping it light, there are creative ways to serve football-inspired desserts.

“Use a tube of white icing to create laces on football-shaped treats, like brownies cut into the pigskin shape, cupcakes with chocolate frosting or chocolate-covered strawberries,” says Schoels. “If opting for a healthier dessert option, try cutting out a watermelon in the shape of a helmet and filling it with fresh-cut fruit.”

Games and activities

Plan some activities for the pre and postgame to make your gathering more than just a viewing party. If the weather is still nice outside, ask your guests to come early for a quick round of touch football. Once the game is underway create areas where kids and/or non-football fans can talk without bothering the viewers. For non-athlete guests, Schoels recommends a tamer game that everyone can enjoy.

“You can make a ‘pin the football in the goal’ game,” she says. “Just tape up a paper goal post cutout to wall; blindfold players and having them try to tack paper football inside the goal area.” Buy small prizes for winners like koozies, gift cards and team memorabilia to make the games more competitive and enjoyable for guests.

Courtesy of BPT

What does my credit score mean?


Are you thinking about applying for a loan, or wondering why your interest rate is what it is? Chances are good that your credit score is going to play a big role in both. What is your credit score? Your credit score is your ability to pay your debts and how big of a risk to a lender you would be. The higher the score, the higher your chances of getting a good loan with a lower interest rate.

How is my Credit Score Calculated?

There are many factors that go into this. Roughly a third of your score is determined by your credit history and whether you pay your bills on time. Other factors that go into your credit score are how many lines of credit your have and how much of your credit you have used up. The more cards you have the better and the less credit your have used up the better.

What are Some Ways I can Check my Credit Score?

The first step to checking your credit score is to get your credit report. How do I get my credit report? You can go to one of the three credit bureaus and request a credit score. You can also go to your bank or credit union and request a copy. Each borrower gets one free copy of their credit report a year.

One thing that can affect your score is the accuracy of your credit report. There could be mistakes on my credit report that could affect my credit score, you might be asking? Yes, not all creditors report accurately on your credit report, so make sure that it is accurate by requesting a copy at least once a year to check for errors that can be holding your score down.

How Else can you Improve Your Credit Score?

Pay your bills on time and make sure that you don’t get in over your head with debt. Repossessions and bankruptcies can damage your score and make it less likely to get a loan in the future.

Your credit score is going to be the way that a lender determines whether or not to give you a loan. If you have a high score you are going to have a better shot at getting a loan for a car or a house. Make sure you are keeping up with your credit report and paying your bills on time.

By: William Hauselberg

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/business_and_finance/article_16035.shtml

A guide to outdoor christmas lights


Any kind of fairy light or colored light can be used at Christmas time to provide a Christmas feel. There are not really any lights, except maybe ones within a Christmas tree casing that can only be used at Christmas time. Outdoor lights can be used throughout the year to light up the outside space and create a party atmosphere. If you are having a Christmas party then a nice idea would be buying some patio heaters, using lights to create the right atmosphere and then serving mulled wine. Nothing is more festive or joyful than this at mid-winter.

There is no real need to take the lights down however. Having fairy lights dotted around your garden, lighting up features and providing a nice atmosphere is suitable for any time of the year. This can provide a lovely backdrop for a summer party even. You can have a lot of fun with the outdoor lights in your house too. There are rope lights available that can light up walkways or be wrapped around the tree trunks. Flares can be used at entrance ways too. How about using a battery operated set of fairy lights to create a starry canopy underneath a tree? This makes a lovely seating area for you and guests to enjoy a long summers evening or a chilly Christmas party!

If the lighting is for entertaining purposes then you may wish to buy some novelty lights. You can buy Christmas novelty lights or lights for many other types of fancy dress night. Chilies for a Mexican party perhaps – the options are only as limited as your imagination! For a party outside, make sure you have good lighting where the main conversation areas are. People don’t like to talk to one another in the dark. Another place you will need good lighting is at a cooking area or BBQ area. Here you will need a good light or two so the chefs (whoever that might be at the party!) can whip up a storm with ease.

You should also ensure all walkways and paths to and from the house are well lit as people who are not familiar with your house may trip or stumble. When you have had a successful outdoor party, you won’t want to take your lights down! The great news is you don’t have to. All fairy lights and outdoor lights can add that Christmas feel and bring the spirit of Christmas into your home. Both outdoors and indoors, Christmas lights can really get you into the mood for this particular time of year. If you have children they will especially love the decoration of the home with lights. You can use lights in the trees outside or draped all over the house. Even the bedrooms can be adorned with fairy lights that twinkle all night long.

For places without plugs you don’t need to worry, you can use battery operated fairy lights. In order to keep the electricity bill to a minimum too you can use LED lights which are much more energy efficient than traditional light bulbs. The advice is, put your fairy lights up around the outside of your home and enjoy them throughout the year. From summer parties to Christmas get-togethers, putting lights up outside can help create the perfect atmosphere.

Outdoor Christmas lights can be used throughout the year in your garden, and it’s well worth it too. From battery lights to pink fairy lights and every novelty light in between you should shop online. Here you will find the best prices and the greatest choice available. With delivery to your door you also save yourself time and energy spent hunting for the perfect lights on your local high street.

by: Kathryn Dawson

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_6622.shtml 

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:

Skylights

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.

Windows

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.

Courtesy of BPT

Tips on how to finance a college education

(BPT) – For many college-bound students, savings, family contributions, scholarships, grants and a part-time job won’t be enough to pay for college. For these students, borrowing may be the only way to make up the difference between available funds and college expenses.

Borrowing to pay for college is commonplace today as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that more than 60 percent of America’s 20 million college students rely on student loans to finance their education. A college student today graduates with an average of $24,301 in student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which also projects that there are approximately 37 million Americans who have outstanding loan accounts.

While many students believe that loans are worth the investment in their future, a growing number of borrowers are defaulting on their student loan debt. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that about 5.4 million student loan borrowers have at least one past-due student loan account.-

Economists and policymakers alike worry about the long-term impact on recent graduates burdened with loan debt – many of whom may face challenges down the road in securing financing to buy a house or start a business.

To help parents and students learn more about college financing, FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information, offers a free, downloadable mini-guide on student loan debt. Here are some additional tips:

Start early. Really early – From the moment your child is born, start putting away a little bit each month toward his or her education. Use a state-run 529 plan or an IRA Coverdell account to save for college education tax-free. Regardless of when you start saving for college, it’s never too late to put money aside to pay for college expenses.

Apply to colleges you can afford – Carefully weigh the costs and benefits of an expensive school to a less costly institution. Students who graduate with little or no debt may have more freedom to take career risks, such as moving to a new city or taking a low-paying internship that offers valuable work experience.

Explore financial aid options – Research and apply for all financial aid opportunities, even if you think you may not qualify. You can apply for federal student loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Compare financial aid packages – As you receive acceptance packages from colleges and universities, pay close attention to the financial aid programs offered by each school to determine which offers the best option to finance your college education.

Research scholarships – Continuously apply for scholarships throughout your college years to defray expenses. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. Professors, for example, are often aware of scholarship opportunities and are an excellent source for references when applying for certain scholarships or aid packages.-

Consider the job prospects for your major – Before declaring a major, research post-college career prospects. What types of jobs are people getting with the major you’re interested in? How much are they making in your part of the country? For example, if you need to take out $50,000 in student loans to obtain a degree that results in a job that typically pays about $35,000 per year, you may want to rethink your major.

Understand your loans – Not all student loans are the same. Some have higher interest rates. Some offer different terms to defer payment while a student is pursuing another degree. Some allow you to start paying the interest immediately, while you’re still in college, to lower the loan’s overall cost. Before considering student loans from a private lender, seek information and apply for federal student loans such as Stafford, Perkins and PLUS loans. Also talk to your college to see if it offers an institutional student loan program. Private loans can come with higher interest rates and more fees, so it’s best to explore your options.

Think twice, parents – Parents who co-sign for a child’s loan are responsible for that debt in the event that their son or daughter can’t pay it. While you may want to help your child achieve his or her dreams, don’t put your retirement years in jeopardy by cosigning on expensive private loans with high interest rates. Instead, help your child start building a positive credit history in his or her teenage years, and teach kids to take financial responsibility for the debt they incur.

To learn more about student loans and student loan debt, visit FindLaw.com.

Courtesy of BPT

How to make your holiday event stand out


How to make your holiday event stand out
When you open your home to family and friends this holiday season, you want to give your guests the best impression possible. But, it’s likely that you might not have everything that you need to accommodate your visitors.

Hosting a large gathering is not something you do every day, so many of the necessary items are not things you’ll have sitting in your kitchen cabinets, garage or basement ready for use. Fortunately, you won’t need to break the bank buying everything you need. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in your home, your local rental store will be able to help.

Here are a few things you can do to make your holiday event one to remember:

* Not enough seating? Consider renting some tables and chairs. It’s better than having to haul the card table up from the basement and offering your guests a cold folding chair.

* Set your table with the latest styles of linens, china and silver. If these aren’t items that you, or another family member, has at their disposal, find them at  your local rental store.

* Don’t forget that elegant lighting and centerpieces will go a long way to creating the perfect look and feel for your special holiday event. Small things like this can make a huge difference in the ambiance of your gathering.

* Add some extra flair to your event and have a champagne fountain or margarita machine on hand. These types of fun rental party items make for a special surprise for your guests.

* The outside of your home is the first impression. Make sure that your outdoor decorations are just as elegant and beautiful as the ones inside.

* If you’re hosting a particularly large group, it may be difficult to keep food hot when it comes time to dine. Renting food preparation items, chafing dishes or other warmers will ensure every one of your guests enjoys a delicious dining experience.

To get a better idea of what types of items you can rent for parties and to locate a store near you, visit www.rentalhq.com. Think it sounds out of your budget to create a perfect event? Not necessarily. Your local rental store has everything you need and can offer service and advice to help eliminate stress. You’ll also save money on items you will be using only once.

Courtesy of BPT

Is a surveillance camera right for you?


Using%20surveillance%20cameras%20for%20your%20home
Many people turn to surveillance cameras as a way to make their home and office more secure. There are so many different types of security measures on offer, however, that it can be hard to know which is the right type of equipment for your needs. This article explores the different security measures and tools available and what the advantages and disadvantages of each of them are.

CCTV cameras can be attached to the outside of the building, can be placed over the door step, can be placed inside or can be entirely hidden from view. There are even dummy cameras available that provide a good deterrent aspect but don’t actually incur any additional cost of filming. All cameras that can be seen work well as a deterrent. A burglar is far less likely to break into a home when there is the chance they will shown doing so on video surveillance footage. CCTV cameras don’t necessarily sound an alarm however if security is breached in some way. In this respect they may be able to film a crime being committed but they won’t necessarily be able to put a stop to it. Having the footage available however does mean there is more chance of getting your things back if they have been stolen.

Burglar alarms are another way that people add security to their homes. These have a large number of problems however. First of all burglaries are usually very quick and the perpetrator can be long gone by the time the police or a security firm have arrived on the scene. Secondly the alarm can in some cases be stopped by simply locating the control panel and breaking it. Cats and other animals can also sometimes trip the alarm when they jump through an open window, which can cause problems for everyone.

The ideal solution is to have both surveillance monitoring of some kind as well as a motion sensor, this way you get the best of all worlds. If this stretches the budget too far however then it is better to simply go with some kind of camera equipment. This provides the best value for money in terms of security. In the past it was just the wealthiest members of society who were able to afford security equipment such as cameras, but these days the prices have come right down and now everyone can benefit. Nanny cameras and hidden indoor cameras are another very popular type of security surveillance. Camouflaged cameras can allow you to see things that you would otherwise not be privy to. Parents like to be able to check their nannies are caring for their children well, employers like to be able to check everything is just as it should be in the workplace.

Another scenario in which hidden cameras are ideal is for the use of gathering evidence. If you are being targeted or victimized, having hard evidence to show the police can mean something can be done. Without the proof however the police may be hesitant to take any real action. There is no doubt that cameras are a valuable and versatile security tool. Surveillance can assist in a number of different ways to keep everyone safe and free from harm. If you are unsure of what type you need the first step is to define what exactly you want the security camera for and then decide how much you are willing to spend.

When you search online you will find a host of companies offering surveillance camera equipment and monitoring devices. Make sure you buy from a reputable company with a good website. There is more choice online than in high street shops so it is best to buy your equipment here. From a wildlife camera to tracking devices, go online to find out what is available and get the best prices.

by: Kathryn Dawson 

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_6339.shtml

Renovation loans give homebuyers an edge in a competitive market


(BPT) – In the past, homebuyers could choose from a bounty of properties on the market. However, things are starkly different. In many locations throughout the United States, inventory of homes for sale is at historic lows, creating a seller’s market where multiple buyers get into bidding wars over move-in-ready homes.

“Move-in-ready homes may be selling like hotcakes, but older homes or damaged properties are often passed over,” says Margaret Kelly, CEO with RE/MAX. “This is a big opportunity for smart buyers who are willing to overlook cosmetic or other imperfections.”

If buyers can look beyond aesthetic characteristics like paint color, hardware and floor coverings, they may discover a diamond in the rough, especially if the home is in the neighborhood where they prefer to live. For example, if they like the overall design of a particular home, but the kitchen is old and the deck needs major repairs, a renovation loan can help them purchase the property while upgrading the kitchen and outdoor space exactly how they want them.

“Many homebuyers are surprised you don’t need a ton of money in the bank to fund improvements,” explains Kelly. “A special type of loan called a renovation loan is ideal for these types of homes because it covers both the cost of the mortgage and repairs.”

Renovation loans can also help buyers who want to purchase in a particular neighborhood where most home prices exceed their budget. Properties that need work are typically listed at a lower cost and often go unsold, creating an opportunity for people willing to make improvements. Buyers can use a renovation loan to get into the neighborhood of their dreams, quickly build equity and customize a home to their personal preferences.

Several variations of renovation loans are available. FHA renovation loans are called 203(k) loans. How much money you want to borrow and the kinds of improvements you plan to make will determine which of the two 203(k) types you need. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have their own specific types of renovation loans.

Requirements for the borrower, the amount you can borrow, and the overall structure of the loan are different for each program. Typically, the loan is based on the estimated home value after improvements, and buyers will need to get bids from licensed contractors to help determine the total loan amount as well as a timeline for the work to be completed.

Because finding a home and getting approval of a renovation loan can be complicated, it’s wise for buyers to work with a real estate specialist who has experience in these types of sales. For example, RE/MAX agents lead the industry in professional designations and many have experience working with buyers who want a renovation loan. Visit www.remax.com to find an agent in your area.

“A renovation loan really does give homebuyers an edge in today’s competitive market,” says Kelly. “It’s definitely something to research and determine whether it’s right for you.”

Courtesy of BPT

​Nutritional tips for packing brain-boosting school lunches


(BPT) – Parents know kids can’t concentrate when they’re hungry. But did you know that what children eat – especially in school lunches – can also affect their ability to focus, learn and behave well in the classroom? Packing your children’s school lunches is a great way to manage their nutritional intake and help feed their ability to learn.

It will take some creativity, however, to ensure you pack lunches that not only meet a child’s nutritional needs, but also his or her taste preferences. Keep these tips in mind as you’re packing your child’s nutritious lunches this school year:

* Brain-building foods: Research supports the ability of certain foods to enhance cognitive function. Foods like fish and nuts, which contain brain-building omega-3 fatty acids, can support focus. So tuna fish salad not only supplies protein, but is also brain food. Not every child is a fan of fish, so look for other kid-friendly options like a handful of nuts. From pistachios and almonds to walnuts and peanuts, a serving of nuts not only contains healthful fats, but also a healthy dose of fiber and vitamin E.

* Fill-them-up foods: “Empty calories” are empty for several reasons, including how quickly they can leave children feeling hungry again after they’ve dined on nutritionally poor calories. Foods that are high in protein and fiber, such as a sandwich of deli meats on whole grain bread, can help kids feel full longer and provide them with nutrient-rich calories.

* Liquid power: Sugary sodas are notorious sources of empty calories. One can of regular soda, sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, packs about 150 calories, adding up to the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of table sugar, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Consider packing lunches with more nutritionally valuable beverages like skim milk or water. Skim milk is low in calories and contains calcium and potassium. Water, of course, contains no calories at all and is the best source of hydration.

* The choice is yours: Making sure kids get the nutrition they need while providing the great taste they love can be a challenge. A classic sandwich can achieve both if you choose ingredients wisely. Hormel® Natural Choice® pre-packaged deli meats provide kids with familiar favorites, such as Honey Deli Ham, Oven Roasted Deli Turkey, Roast Beef and Rotisserie Style Chicken Breast, that are 100 percent natural and free of preservatives and additives. Low in fat and free of trans fats, Hormel Natural Choice meats have no MSG, gluten or artificial ingredients. When paired with other nutritious options like whole grain breads, and a side of fresh fruit with non-fat yogurt as a dip, a sandwich of Hormel Natural Choice deli meats can be the foundation of a nutritious lunch. You’ll be amazed how simple making a better choice can be.

* Kid-friendly presentation: How you present lunch can encourage kids to eat it. When it comes to packed lunches, a great presentation could be as simple as having one or two favorite lunchboxes on hand and allowing your child to choose which one he would like to carry today. Or, it could be as inspired as creatively arranging a sandwich and sliced veggies to mimic a smiling face when he opens his lunchbox at school. Remember, kids love color, so providing a colorful mix of foods can be very appealing to them. It also gives you the opportunity to incorporate the concept of a rainbow of nutrition, and the value of eating foods from all colors in the spectrum.

With the right recipe of creativity, fun and nutritious foods, parents can be confident they’re packing school lunches that will keep kids full and happy throughout the school year.

Courtesy of BPT

The best kind of home improvements: high-impact, low-maintenance

(BPT) – Yes, everyone knows making home improvements are a worthy investment in your greatest material asset. Sure you want every improvement job done well with top-notch end results. But when all is said and done, do you really want to have to put a lot of effort and money into maintaining those improvements? For most people – whether they’ll admit it or not – the answer is “no.”

The best home improvements are the ones that not only enhance your home’s value and livability, but also require little work from you afterward to keep them looking great and functioning well. If you’re looking for high-impact, low-maintenance home improvements, consider these popular projects:

No-leak skylights

When it comes to an improvement that brightens your home, enhances its indoor air quality and boosts energy-efficiency, skylights deliver. Unfortunately, early skylights had a reputation for being leaky – a problem that simply doesn’t occur with modern, no leak, energy-efficient skylights. Pre-engineered flashing kits (the metal shield that surrounds any opening in a wall or roof) work with all types of roofs, from shingles to metal, to ensure a properly installed skylight won’t leak.

Need further low-maintenance points to make the case for adding a skylight? Not only do modern skylights keep water out, they’re energy efficient as well. Energy Star-qualified, no leak solar-powered fresh air skylights, like those from Velux, deliver fresh air through cost-effective passive ventilation. Adding remote-controlled, solar-powered blinds allows you to easily open or close a fresh air skylight and shade it when the sun hits that part of the roof, boosting the skylight’s energy efficiency by 39 percent. Keep the shade open during cold weather to admit warmth and reduce heating costs. A 30 percent federal tax credit on both products and installation costs makes a skylight project even more appealing. Visit www.veluxusa.com for a tax calculator to show your savings for a new installation or replacement skylights and a skylight planner app to show exactly how skylights and blinds will look in any area of your home.

Lighting upgrade

Older light fixtures not only look dated, they often use outdated, inefficient bulbs and are lacking in the energy-efficient emphasis that comes with newer fixtures. Upgrading lighting throughout your home is a great way to ensure you won’t have to think about it again any time soon.

If a total lighting redesign is out of the question, you can still make your existing light fixtures lower maintenance simply by swapping out old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs with newer, electricity-sipping versions. Options like CFLs and LEDs provide all the light of incandescents while using a fraction of the energy. Energy.gov says Energy Star-rated LEDs use at least 75 percent less power than incandescent bulbs, and last 25 times longer. Imagine the time, hassle and money you’ll save not having to replace bulbs constantly – especially in lights that get a lot of use, like porch lights, or that are hard to reach, like the chandelier in your two-story entryway.

Vinyl siding

Wood, fiber cement, stucco, brick – there are nearly as many types of exterior siding as there are colors to paint it. When it comes to low- or no-maintenance siding, vinyl remains the gold standard. In fact, more new homes are built using vinyl siding than any other type of siding product, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute.

While early versions of vinyl siding earned criticism for being less lovely than wood, even those less sophisticated versions had staying power; it’s possible to find homes in use today sporting vinyl siding that was added to the house a while back.

Vinyl siding never needs to be painted, and when properly installed provides exceptional shielding from the elements. New technology has made modern vinyl siding look better and last longer without fading issues associated with older versions of vinyl. It requires basic cleaning, and overall maintenance demands are much less than other types of siding. 

Courtesy of BPT