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Home Care

Eco-friendly ways to keep your home cool

If you’re looking for ways to cool your home during even the hottest days, consider these ideas.

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When it’s hot outside, heat can seep into your home and make it unbearable. However, there are sustainable, eco-friendly solutions to maximize comfort and cooling when the thermometer creeps upward without racking up an outrageous electric bill or large carbon footprint.

While some options for keeping your home cool involve an upfront investment, over time they’ll save money, and the environment, for years to come. If you’re looking for ways to cool your home during even the hottest days, consider these ideas.

Adjust Ceiling Fans
Installing ceiling fans in your home can help keep temperatures moderate and cut down on your cooling bill. For best results, those ceiling fans should be adjusted seasonally. During warm weather months, fans should rotate counterclockwise at a higher speed to push air downward instead of up toward the ceiling, which can lead to a more comfortable temperature in your home.

Upgrade Your Air Conditioner
If your home’s climate control is lacking, it may be time to invest in a new HVAC system – particularly if your current one is more than 15 years old.

Reduce Incoming Sunlight During the Day
Direct sunlight coming into your home through windows, doors or skylights can increase the temperature. To help reduce unwanted heat as the sun rises higher during the day, consider closing your blinds or installing light-colored blinds that reflect rather than absorb the sun’s heat. Other options such as blackout curtains or reflective window panels can have the same effect, helping reduce warmth trapped inside.

If closing all your blinds or covering every window isn’t an option or makes you feel claustrophobic, focus on any south- or west-facing rooms in your home, as these are typically the trickiest to keep cool during the warmest hours of the day – usually from late morning until early evening. Exterior window shades and awnings can also be useful options if you’re looking to reduce the amount of heat that enters your home, but still want to take advantage of the natural light.

Change Your Light Bulbs
Since warmer weather also equates to more sunshine, turning off the incandescent lights in your house when possible can cut down on extra heat and save on your energy bill. Though the soft yellow glow of incandescent light bulbs can create a nice ambiance, it also gives off a lot of heat. Swapping out those old light bulbs for more efficient, LED bulbs can cut down on the amount of heat your light fixtures emit. If you can’t replace them, minimizing their usage – particularly when having a light on in a room is unnecessary – can make a difference.

Strategically Plant Trees and Shrubs
Planting trees or shrubs near sunlight-facing windows can make a big difference when it comes to the temperature inside your home by shielding the sun’s rays. While planting trees strategically around your home is more of a long-term plan, the benefits can also last for many years to come in terms of shade, added curb appeal and overall betterment of the earth.

Start by focusing on west-facing walls, where the sun is typically the strongest. Choosing trees native to your area can decrease maintenance, and those that bloom in spring and drop leaves in the fall offer year-round benefits by providing both shade and heat in accordance with the season. Vines and other tall shrubs are options for quicker results, but they may also require more long-term maintenance.

Reduce Appliance Usage
To help minimize running appliances and equipment that generate a lot of heat, like stoves and ovens, choose to cook outdoors or opt for quicker meals you can prepare using the microwave, which doesn’t heat the house to the same extent. While grilling and eating outside more frequently may require an awning or gazebo to stay cooler, it can beat the alternative of warming up your oven, and ultimately your home, for an extended period of time.

Reducing your usage of other heat-producing appliances such as computers, dishwashers, clothes dryers, curling irons and hair dryers can also help keep interior temperatures comfortable and energy use low. Try using these appliances earlier in the day to minimize the extra load placed on your air conditioner.

Keeping cool during warm weather months doesn’t have to be complicated. Take advantage of these measures to reduce your home’s heat load and energy bill.

Find more tips for cooling your home at mitsubishicomfort.com.

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Home Care

Things to know when shopping for a generator

Consumers want and need reliable power. When the electricity goes out, gen­erators keep your home or business humming with light and power.

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Increasingly, consumers are turning to generators for power in emergency situations, because the world is unpredictable. Year-round weather challenges are now the norm with snow, ice, wind, tornadoes, hurricanes and record-breaking rain and flooding occurring throughout the year and no longer just confined to a season.

“Consumers want and need reliable power. When the electricity goes out, gen­erators keep your home or business humming with light and power,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). 

Kiser added: “Today’s generators offer a variety of features, and there is a product for every need. While shopping for your generator, consider other equipment that could be useful in cleaning up after challenging weather such as a water pump, chain saw or pole pruner. And don’t forget outdoor-rated extension cords and fuel cans.”

Tips from OPEI for safe generator use:

  • Consider what you need. When purchasing a generator, determine how many kilowatts are needed for essential items (charging family cell phones, a refrigerator, etc.) during an emergency.
  • Research generators online before you buy. Talk with the staff at the store or ask questions online. Discuss safety features and ask about manufacturer fueling and care instructions. Generators offer a variety of features. Circuit-breaker-protected outlets will guard against generator overload. A larger fuel tank will provide extra running time. Integrated fuel gauges will help keep tabs on fuel levels and prevent power interruptions. Low tone mufflers make for quieter operation. Fold-down handles and wheels can make it easier to move your generator.
  • Keep an outdoor-rated extension cord on hand. Be sure it is long enough to place the generator a safe distance from your home, and is certified to carry the generator’s power load.
  • Identify where you will put the generator. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Never put a generator in your home, garage, porch or breezeway. Give portable generators plenty of room for ventilation. Determine now how you will secure the generator.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector. Add this safety device to your home and be sure to keep extra batteries on hand for it.
  • Keep generators dry. Before a storm hits, identify how to cover and vent the generator. Buy model-specific tents or generator covers online, at home centers or a hardware store.
  • Have the right fuel on hand before a storm hits. Use an appropriate container designed to hold fuel that seals well.
  • Store fuel in a safe place away from heat sources and out of the reach of children. Label the can with the date of purchase and the ethanol content. Check filled cans regularly and replenish them if needed. Remember fuel more than 30 days old should not be used in any outdoor power equipment and can phase separate.
  • Use the type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10% ethanol in outdoor power equipment.

For safety information and to find out which manufacturers make various outdoor power equipment products, go to www.opei.org.

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Home Care

Infuse living spaces with color

Thoughtful use of color is among the most effective design tools for reveal-worthy style in your home.

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From experiences to surroundings, the past year has brought a renewed focus on feeding the soul. In an era of overstimulation and information overload, many are finding a new appreciation for living life minimally but with maximum experiences.

That mentality is increasingly evident in all aspects of life, especially with home design and decor. After all, spending more time at home means more time to discover what truly evokes happiness.

At the same time, as the focus on physical and mental wellness heightens, design experts see those trends reflected in a more considered approach to design inspired by color therapy, which makes it possible to create beautiful spaces filled with healing color.

With an expertly coordinated color palette, like the Color Collections from HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams, colors work in perfect harmony in any combination. Thoughtful use of color is among the most effective design tools for reveal-worthy style in your home.

Appliances
In the past, appliances were meant to blend into the decor to be less obvious, albeit essential, elements of a kitchen. A more contemporary approach: vibrant appliances that get noticed. You can find major appliances in a wide range of colors, but if you’re not sure about going that big and bold, many smaller countertop appliances, such as stand mixers and toasters, come in a range of colorful options, too.

Architecture
When contemplating where and how to apply color to a space, avoid boxing in your options. Think beyond traditional wall space when planning ways to change the color in a space; be thoughtful with color and highlight architectural details to elevate the interest and charm in your home. Take a 360-degree immersive color approach, painting the same shade from floor to ceiling and all around to create a mood-boosting lift to a room. 

To infuse more color and boldness into your space, consider a timeless and elegant shade of red, like HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ 2021 Color of the Year. This paint color, “Passionate,” is a deeply saturated hue that is daringly rich and invigorates the senses. This bold and empowering red is steeped in history, merging modern design with traditional charm.

Furniture
Whether you’re into project pieces you can transform into something new or simply shopping for furnishings that complement your space, be sure to consider how the furniture fits into the overall color scheme. Selecting furniture that fits with the design brings a more cohesive and stylized feel to the room. For example, a desk and bookshelves in pale natural hues can lend warmth to an office with walls painted a cool dynamic blue.

Cabinets
Painted cabinets are on-trend, and if you’re bored with basic whites and grays, you’re not alone. Designers are going bold in the kitchen and using cabinetry as a showpiece. These color palettes create inspiring spaces that invite you to get busy baking or simply pull up a chair and linger over a cup of coffee.

If you’re concerned about how to bring a color palette together, consider using a collection that has been intentionally curated to mix and match shades for a perfect look no matter which hues you choose. You can easily achieve a new look with an option like the Delightfully Daring Color Collection from HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams. With earthy tones inspired by nature and a dose of vibrancy, the shades are simultaneously energizing and calming. The palette makes it easy to introduce statement colors in unexpected ways so you can feel confident in your selections.

Get inspired to bring healing design elements into your own home at hgtvhomebysherwinwilliams.com.

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Home Care

Spending time on household chores may improve brain health

Engaging in household chores may be beneficial for brain health in older adults. In a recent Baycrest study, older adults who spent more time on household chores showed greater brain size, which is a strong predictor of cognitive health.

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Photo by @deconovo from Unsplash.com

Engaging in household chores may be beneficial for brain health in older adults. In a recent Baycrest study, older adults who spent more time on household chores showed greater brain size, which is a strong predictor of cognitive health.

“Scientists already know that exercise has a positive impact on the brain, but our study is the first to show that the same may be true for household chores,” says Noah Koblinsky, lead author of the study, Exercise Physiologist and Project Coordinator at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI). “Understanding how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”

In this study, published in the journal BMC Geriatrics, the researchers looked at the links between household chores, brain volume and cognition in a group of 66 cognitively healthy older adults living in the community. The participants attended three assessment visits at Baycrest Hospital, including a health evaluation, structural brain imaging and cognitive assessment.

Participants were asked about the time they spent on household chores, such as tidying, dusting, meal preparation and clean up, shopping, heavy housework, yard work, home repairs and caregiving.

The researchers found that older adults who spent more time engaging in such activities had greater brain volume, regardless of how much exercise they did. This was observed in the hippocampus, which plays a major role in memory and learning, and the frontal lobe, which is involved in many aspects of cognition.

Although it is possible that individuals with larger brains are more likely to take up household chores, there could be several explanations for the brain benefits of household physical activity.

First, we know that heart health is closely tied to brain health. It could be that household chores have a similar effect on the heart and blood vessels as low-intensity aerobic exercise.

Second, the planning and organization involved in household chores may promote the formation of new neural connections over time, even as we age.

Third, it could be that the older adults who engaged in more household chores spent less time being sedentary, which has been shown to be associated with negative health outcomes, including poor brain health.

“Besides helping to guide physical activity recommendations for older adults, these findings may also motivate them to be more active, since household chores are a natural and often necessary aspect of many people’s daily lives, and therefore appear more attainable,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at the RRI, Director of the Ben and Hilda Katz Interprofessional Research Program in Geriatric and Dementia Care, and senior author of this study.

This study was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

As a next step, the researchers would like to assess household physical activity more objectively using wearable technology. With additional funding, they could also plan controlled trials with the aim of increasing individuals’ household activity and studying brain changes over time.

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