Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Clean your drains the easy way

Have you ever needed to get under the sink to clean out a clogged or odorous p-trap?  I sure have and frankly it is not a fun job.

I saw this device on the morning show and I will be ordering one for every sink in our house.  CHECK THIS OUT!

To see this in action watch the video below.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

North Texas Home Prices Rise - Plano, Allen, Frisco and McKinney all show increases

Dallas-area home prices rise 2.9% in new report

09:43 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 27, 2010
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas-area home prices continued to post modest gains in the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Also Online

Foreclosures map:

Dallas had a 2.9 percent rise in prices in May from a year earlier in the new report released Tuesday.
While a solid increase, the Dallas-area increase in prices is less than the overall 4.6 percent average price rise recorded in the 20 cities Case-Shiller tracks.
But the national average is skewed by recent big price increases in some California markets that have seen dramatic drops in recent years.
San Francisco home prices rose by more than 18 percent in May from a year earlier. And prices were up 12.4 percent in San Diego and 9.7 percent in the Lo Angeles area.
Seven of the cities Case-Shiller tracks are still showing year-over-year declines. The largest price decreases were in Las Vegas, down 6.5 percent, and Charlotte, N.C., down 2.8 percent.
Case-Shiller analysts remain cautious.
“While May’s report on it’s own looks somewhat positive, a broader look at home price levels over the past year still do not indicate that the housing market is in any form of a sustained recovery,” S&P’s David Blitzer said in the report. “It still looks possible that the housing market might bounce along the bottom for the foreseeable future, before showing any real improvement that will filter through to the rest of the economy.”
May was the seventh consecutive month of year-over-year Dallas-area home price increase in the Case-Shiller index.
Local prices are still about 5 percent below where they were at the peak of the market in June 2007. But prices here have rebound by more than 6 percent from February 2009.
To measure prices, Case-Shiller looks at the actual value of specific single-family homes over time. The index does not include condominiums and townhouses. It only covers pre-owned properties – no new construction.
The latest home price data based on North Texas home sales shows that pre-owned home prices are up about 2 percent from the first six months of 2009.

Percentage change in home prices in May 2010 compared to year earlier in each market.
Atlanta +1.7%
Boston +4.8%
Charlotte -2.8%
Chicago -1.5%
Cleveland +3.7%
Dallas +2.9%
Denver +3.6%
Detroit -2.5%
Las Vegas -6.5%
Los Angeles +9.7%
Miami +1.2%
Minneapolis +11.6%
New York -0.4%
Phoenix +7.2%
Portland -0.7%
San Diego +12.4%
San Francisco +18.3%
Seattle -1.4%
Tampa -1.5%
Washington +7.4%
Composite-20 city +4.6%
SOURCE: Standard & Poor's

Tips on Saving Money in your Plano home

I found this on Lifehacker.  It has some good tips.  You can find a larger view at the quicken blog.

A Top-to-Bottom Guide to Saving 
Money Around Your HouseYou've heard a few of these household tips, here and elsewhere—install a programmable thermostat, switch to fluorescent, stop energy vampires. Visualized and tabulated for yearly savings, though, those small changes seem much more appealing.
Quicken's personal finance blog has a big-view graphic up that illustrates the monthly and yearly savings of all the small changes you can make for yourself, your wallet, and the planet. Take a gander at a larger view here, and click for an even larger image at Quicken's blog:

Budgeting-How Small Cutbacks Lead to Great Savings

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Clean your grill and keep it in top condition

Got this today from Lowes.

There is much debate as to which type of grill cooks better: Charcoal or gas. But one thing they have in common is how easy they are to clean. To maintain a gas or a charcoal grill all you need is a rag, a wire brush and some cooking oil.

Routine Maintenance
Routine brushing of the grates prevents food and bacterial buildup. A brass wire brush is best for clearing and cleaning off surfaces. After each use, wash and soak your brush in hot soapy water. Then hang dry it with the brush upside down on a grill hanger. Drying the brush naturally ensures the bristles will last a long time. After your brush is dry, keep it indoors to reduce weather exposure to the bristles.

After you've brushed down your grill and the grates are at a cool temperature, spray it down with some cooking oil. This prevents your grill from rusting and ensures a long life. If you don't have cooking spray, another option is to pour some oil on your rag and wipe down the cast iron grates.

Cleaning the burners is also important as burners can accumulate grease and food, leading to uneven temperatures along your surface. After the burners have cooled, scrub with a wire brush evenly and clean around the ports to ensure food and grease have not amassed.

Cleaning out grease traps is important because grease is highly flammable and can cause a fire or heat up all surfaces, including the handles.

For charcoal grills, it's important to dump all used charcoal or ash after each use. After dumping out the remains, clean the insides with a wire brush. Ash catchers also need to be cleaned. By keeping the bed of your grill clean, you'll cut down on excess smoke and bad flavors.

Semi-Annual Cleaning
Several times throughout the year, it's smart to dismantle your grill and give it an extensive cleaning. If you have a gas grill, disconnect the propane tank before beginning the process. Then, soak the grates in soapy water and scrub. If the racks are especially dirty, you can use a steel wool pad. After cleaning your grill, turn it on and let it cook for 10 minutes. This will allow any residual cleaning supplies to burn off.

It's also a good idea to check the chassis for rust. Rust easily comes off with a stiff wire brush or a steel wool pad. The joints, connectors and fasteners should also be inspected to ensure they aren't corroding. And re-tightening fasteners, replacing grill appendages (wheels, knobs and handles) and checking hinges is a good idea.

Polishing Your Grill
To polish your grill, sprinkle some baking soda on a sponge and clean off all exterior surfaces. Aluminum foil gently rubbed along your grill can help remove grime and buildup. If you notice any missing paint, grill-safe paint is a good option.

You can conduct your own Energy Audit

I saw this article on homelogic today.  Great information for the energy conscious homeowner.
 by: Jane Hodges

Self-starters don’t necessarily need a pro to assess their home’s energy deficiencies. With a little elbow grease and one of several free do-it-yourself guides to home energy auditing, you can get a good sense of where your home is leaking hot and cool air, and how your choice of appliances and your energy use contributes to energy loss.

What you’ll save on fixes

By following up on problems, you can lower energy bills by 5% to 30% annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. With annual energy bills averaging $2,200, according to Energy Star, investing in fixes or energy-efficient replacement products could save you up to $660 within a year.
And self-audits can cost virtually nothing if you already own a flashlight, ladder, measuring stick, candles, eye protection, work clothes, dust mask, and a screwdriver—or roughly $150 if you’re starting from scratch. As for time commitment, expect to spend two to four hours to investigate home systems, refer to utility bills, and conduct research about local norms for products, such as insulation, say experts.

Types of DIY audits

Since there are a variety of ways to conduct a do-it-yourself audit, you’ll need to know your tolerance for the tasks involved.
Some require you play home inspector, climbing into attics and crawlspaces on fact-finding missions and delving into unfinished portions of your home to look at duct work. Questionnaire-based audits rely the assumption that you can answer such questions as how many gallons of water your toilet tank holds to the R-value (thickness) of insulation in your home.
If you don’t have time to familiarize yourself with your home’s systems or confidence about diagnosing problems, are disabled, are squeamish on ladders and in crawlspaces, or are already planning to invest in a major remodel, you may benefit from hiring a pro.
Even homeowners who complete a self-audit often hire a professional to double-check their diagnoses. A self-audit may reveal drafts but not their exact source, such as ducts or insulation, for instance. Because the costs to address a draft can range from minor to major, investing in a paid audit may be justifiable.

What should you check?

All the home systems and appliances that contribute to energy costs. Here’s the breakdown of a typical home’s energy usage that Energy Star references:
  • Heating (29%)
  • Cooling (17%)
  • Water heating (14%)
  • Appliances (13%)
  • Lighting (12%)
  • Computers and electronics (4%)
  • Other (11%)

Self-audits hone in on details pros may not

While the pros use special equipment to focus on hard-to-research aspects of a home’s building envelope and indoor air circulation, DIY audits can teach you—based on the questions they ask—to identify and address the numerous small ways in which your home wastes energy.
Since lighting, electronics, and appliances collectively account for nearly 30% of the average home’s energy costs, you can make an impact on your bills by replacing old appliances with energy-efficient replacements and simple fixes—plugging appliances into power strips versus wall outlets, making sure refrigerator doors are properly sealed and don’t leak air, and opting for a programmable thermostat.

How to spot common energy leaks

1. Check your home’s exterior envelope—the windows, doors, walls, and roof exposed to outdoor air. Hold a candle or stick of incense near windows, doors, electrical outlets, range hoods, plumbing and ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and ceiling fans in bathrooms. When smoke blows, you’ve got a draft from a source that may need caulking, sealant, weather stripping, or insulation.
2. Check insulation R-value or thickness. Where insulation is exposed (in an attic, unfinished basement, or around ducts, water heaters, and appliances), use a ruler to measure, recommends the DOE. Compare your results against those suggested for your region via an insulation calculator.
Although examining in-wall insulation is difficult, you can remove electrical outlet covers, turn off electricity, and probe inside the wall, the DOE notes in its DIY audit guide. However, only a professional’s thermographic scan can reveal if insulation coverage is consistent within a wall. Insulation can settle or may not be uniformly installed.
3. Look for stains on insulation. These often indicate air leaks from a hole behind the insulation, such as a duct hole or crack in an exterior wall.
4. Inspect exposed ducts. They may not work efficiently if they’re dirty, have small holes, or if they pass through unfinished portions of the home and aren’t insulated. Look for obvious holes and whether intersections of duct pipe are joined correctly. Since ducts are typically made out of thin metal that easily conducts heat, uninsulated or poorly insulated ducts in unconditioned spaces can lose 10% to 30% of the energy used to heat and cool your home, says DOE.

When should a professional make repairs?

The DOE recommends calling a contractor before insulating ducts in basements or crawlspaces, as doing so will make these spaces cooler and could impact other home systems, such as water pipes. Plus, these ducts might release noxious air. DOE also recommends you hire professionals to clean ducts periodically. If you’ve noticed that some rooms get disproportionately hot or cold, bring that to a pro’s attention. It could be duct related.
In addition, some DIY audits—like the City of Seattle’s free online audit guide
A self-audit, like a paid audit, serves as a jumping-off point to help you set priorities for making your home more efficient. Whether or not you choose to make repairs yourself, one thing’s for sure: You’ll come away knowing more about your home’s strengths and weaknesses than you did before.
Jane Hodges has written about real estate for more than half of her 16-year journalism career, for publications including, Seattle Magazine, The Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2007 she won a Bivins Fellowship from the National Association of Real Estate Editors to pursue a book on women and real estate. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, CBS’s BNET, and Fortune. She lives in Seattle in a 1966 raised rancher with an excellent retro granite fireplace. Latest home project: remodeling a basement bathroom.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Change Your Air Filters

Today is the seventh of July.  Make sure to perform your monthly  air filter change.  Check out Lowes for a rebate on Filtrete filters through July 31st.

Lowes Air Filters

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