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Save money on water bills and avoid potential property damage via these top tips

It is vital that homeowners know signs of leaks and how to begin repairing them.

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Photo by Sasikan Ulevik from Unsplash.com

The professionals at Petri Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Drain Cleaning, a family-owned home service company serving Brooklyn and Manhattan for more than a century, are offering tips for recognizing and repairing leaks in homes across the Empire State.

“It is vital that homeowners know signs of leaks and how to begin repairing them,” said Michael Petri, owner of Petri Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Drain Cleaning. “This can cut down on the amount of water wasted per year, and it can also limit homes and appliances from incurring leak-induced damage that could lead to costly repairs.”

Petri said to ensure a home is free of leaks that could inflate water bills and damage property if not recognized, homeowners should follow the advice below:

  1. Check for toilet leaks – Place a couple of drops of food coloring into the tank and wait about 15 minutes. If color shows up in the bowl, then the flapper is probably bad or deteriorated. Most homeowners can replace the flapper themselves but can call a plumber if they are uncomfortable with making the repair.
  2. Clean the gutters – Most homeowners only think to do this once a year, but it should be done more often if the home is located under trees or if a storm has deposited debris. Clogged gutters can cause water to sit on the roof until it becomes too heavy and starts to leak through the home’s ceiling.
  3. Check the roof – Monitor and replace loose or damaged shingles on the roof, as these can be a common cause for leaks from the top of the home. Hidden damage from leaks can spawn mold and cause wood rot in the ceilings and walls of the house.
  4. Push rain runoff away from the foundation – By using downspout extensions, homeowners can keep rainwater flowing away from the home. This keeps rainwater from infiltrating through foundation cracks and getting into the basement.
  5. Inspect the home for leaks – Check the home’s plumbing lines frequently, look for any standing water on the floors or moisture on the walls and address any leaky faucets or toilets as soon as a drip or leak develops. Staying on top of minor drips can prevent them from becoming major leaks.
  6. Check irrigation systems – Homeowners should also perform a routine check of irrigation systems and hoses that may have grown icy or hardened through winter. Leaks can spring up from damages hoses and connectors.

Altogether, Americans waste 180 gallons of water per week or 9,400 gallons of water per year. But with these tips, leaks can be prevented and/or caught quickly.

“Leaks can happen anywhere at any time,” Petri said. “It’s important to stay aware and proactive, but if you see a problem, don’t hesitate to contact a licensed professional. A quick reaction can save thousands of dollars in damage and costs to both your home and, if applicable, your appliances as well.”

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Home Care

7 Smart home solutions to enhance convenience and security

The experts at Masonite, a global industry leader in interior and exterior doors and door systems, share these seven smart home solutions.

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Devices that allow you to stay connected to your home from virtually anywhere are all the rage. If you’re looking to seamlessly integrate innovative solutions into your home for added convenience, security and peace of mind, you’ll need smart tech with the right features.

The experts at Masonite, a global industry leader in interior and exterior doors and door systems, share these seven smart home solutions.

Garage Door
Leave behind that nagging feeling that you forgot to shut the garage door when you’re a block away from home. Smart garage door openers that connect to an app on your phone mean you can always check on the status of your door to ensure it’s closed when it should be. It provides the added benefit of keeping track of who’s coming or going while allowing you to remotely open the door for friends, family, neighbors and others who may need access when you’re away.

Front Door
Take your front door to the next level with a high-performance model incorporated with top tech like the Masonite M-Pwr Smart Door, the first residential front door to fully connect to your home’s electrical system and wireless internet network. Homeowners can create a customized welcome-home experience with the door’s motion-activated LED welcome lights and a smart lock that recognizes your arrival and automatically unlocks. Whether at home or away, homeowners can use the door’s smartphone app to program the lighting, confirm if the door is open or closed with a door state sensor or monitor the entryway with a built-in video doorbell.

Plus, the integrated connection to the home’s power means there’s no need to charge or replace device batteries, providing peace of mind that you’re always connected and protected. Available at The Home Depot, homeowners can select from a range of designs, colors and glass styles all made with the Masonite Performance Door System. The system is designed to protect your home from the elements and provide superior weather resistance, energy efficiency and comfort with premium fiberglass construction, a rot-resistant frame and a 4-Point Performance Seal so there’s no need to sacrifice style for enhanced performance.

Mirror
Hectic mornings may never completely be a thing of the past, but you can smooth out the start to your day with a smart mirror that displays important information like weather, news updates and your schedule. Many interactive displays allow you to check notifications and play music for a sleek, stylish addition to the bathroom that helps you stay on track and on time.

Refrigerator
Smart refrigerators are often inherently newer models, meaning they’re typically more energy efficient to save money on electric bills. With built-in features like cameras and sensors that aid in keeping track of grocery lists, they can help reduce food waste by reminding you to consume perishables before they spoil. Some models even include an interactive display that lets you watch recipe videos so you can test your skills with a virtual assistant.

Oven
Wi-Fi connectivity is the key feature of smart ovens, improving the cooking experience with increased control. By using an app on your smartphone, you can remotely preheat the oven and set timers. You can even cook like a pro with models that allow you to import recipes for automatic temperature control.

Dishwasher
Similar to smart appliances like refrigerators and ovens, smart dishwashers bring added convenience to your day along with improved function and efficiency. Connection to Wi-Fi and remote accessibility via smartphone app allow you to start wash cycles and check cycle status while away, receive notifications when detergent is low and more.

Washer and Dryer
If laundry feels like a chore, you can make it less of a hassle with smart washers and dryers that connect to your home Wi-Fi network. These smart appliances allow you to remotely start and stop washing and drying cycles from your smartphone and can send notifications when cycles are finished. Built-in diagnostics send alerts to your phone when there’s a malfunction or it’s time for required maintenance. Plus, they can help you maximize energy efficiency by automatically starting a cycle during off-peak hours.

Visit Masonite.com to find more innovative solutions.

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Home Care

Ways to build an energy-efficient home

These green ideas range from relatively simple to major undertakings, but they all have one thing in common: energy-efficient living, which in turn results in lower energy bills.

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Whether it’s your primary objective or a secondary benefit, creating an energy-efficient living space is a smart choice for homeowners. Sustainable architecture and materials can help ensure you rely less on limited resources while reducing the cost of operating your home.

These green ideas range from relatively simple to major undertakings, but they all have one thing in common: energy-efficient living, which in turn results in lower energy bills.

Be mindful of electricity use. Monitoring your usage habits is a simple starting point when you want to move toward more energy-efficient living. Using less electricity during peak hours reduces the strain on your energy provider, which can help curb your monthly bill. Check with your utility provider to confirm what times of day they offer lower rates. Other tips include using natural light to your advantage and turning off lights and other electronics when they’re not in use.

Install energy-efficient windows. Even standard double-pane windows lose a great deal of energy in the average home. In the winter, they allow cold to seep in, while in the warmer months blazing sunlight can quickly elevate a room’s temperature. However, energy-efficient windows act as an effective barrier to both cold and heat. They can even protect your belongings from fading and damage caused by ultraviolet light. Newly installed windows also tend to have tighter, unblemished seals, addressing another common culprit of energy loss. If new windows are not in your budget, check your window and door perimeters and consider resealing them to prevent air leakage.

Opt for efficient appliances. Appliances may make modern life substantially easier, but they account for a significant share of a home’s energy usage. However, you can reduce how much they need by choosing an efficient model that uses 10-50% less power than less energy-conscious options. Not only do they help reduce greenhouse emissions and promote sustainable living, but some energy-efficient appliances also have lower maintenance requirements.

Boost insulation levels. Adequate insulation keeps heat in your home when it’s cold outdoors and prevents too much heat from seeping in when temperatures soar. However, over time loose-fill insulation (such as cellulose, fiberglass or mineral wool) can break down. It’s also common for homeowners to discover their homes were constructed with insulation that only met minimum standards at the time they were built, so there’s room for improvement. Consider adding insulation to commonly deficient areas like the attic, garage, basement and exterior walls.

Start with a solid foundation. Building a new home is a big investment, especially considering rising energy requirements and fuel costs. Relying on energy-efficient construction materials, like Nudura’s insulated concrete forms (ICFs), can provide homeowners nearly 60% energy savings compared to traditional building methods using wood. ICF construction results in less waste during the building process and also reduces the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling due to their continuous insulation, thermal mass and high R-value. The result is an airtight structure that enables building mechanical systems to heat, cool and ventilate more efficiently, creating a healthier living environment with a lower carbon footprint.

Learn more about energy-efficient options for your home at nudura.com/eco-friendly.

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Home Care

7 Backyard improvements that make a difference

With more people staying home to work, relax and play, many homeowners have chosen to renovate rather than move to a new home to obtain their dream house and have it work better for their family.

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The housing market always has its ups and downs, and home renovations appear to be hitting some record highs in the last few years. With more people staying home to work, relax and play, many homeowners have chosen to renovate rather than move to a new home to obtain their dream house and have it work better for their family. But what about extending those enhancements outside, into the family backyard?

According to a recent poll commissioned by the TurfMutt Foundation and conducted online by The Harris Poll, more than three-quarters of Americans who have a yard (76 percent) say the family yard space is one of the most important parts of their home. When it comes to design, it makes sense family backyards are being taken as seriously as the interior of the home.

“Backyard improvements can impact your home’s value should you decide to sell someday, but we think it’s also important to make changes that enhance your experience and enjoyment of your yard today,” says Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation, which encourages people to care for and utilize the green space around them, including our own backyards and community parks.

He adds, “Mulligan the TurfMutt and I are loving our newly renovated backyard as we’ve brought some of our indoor living, outdoors. It feels like we’ve added onto the house by just utilizing the outdoor space more effectively.” 

Maybe you’ve already completed the improvement projects inside your home such as adding a fresh coat of paint, putting in new flooring, or updating appliances and furniture. But how are home improvements taken to the backyard so the “outdoor living room” works better for your family and at the same time make your home feel new?

Here are seven suggestions from the TurfMutt Foundation for turning home renovations “inside out”:

1. Replace flooring inside = cleaning up the yard and improving its turfgrass.

Grass is the canvas for your outdoor living room. Improve existing turfgrass by overseeding or aerating, or start fresh with new sod. Clean out flower beds and remove debris from all parts of your yard, and then build the other elements from there. Remember, outdoor power equipment like a lawn mower, hedge trimmer, or leaf blower can help make even big jobs easier. 

2. Repaint inside = planting flowers to attract and support backyard wildlife.

A fresh coat of paint can transform a room, just like planting flowers outside does for a yard. Choose native plants that have evolved to thrive in your microclimate (they are better for the ecosystem and require less input from you). Selecting native perennials over annuals means only having to plant once to enjoy their beauty for years to come. Plus, pollinators and other backyard wildlife will thank you as these types of plants are natural habitat and food for them.

3. Replace household appliances = freshening up your cache of outdoor power equipment. 

Getting the right equipment for your lawn size and type customizes the experience of caring for your yard. Good news is there are lots of options available for all needs and tastes. Robotic mowers that act like a Roomba for the lawn and battery-powered leaf blowers that are lightweight, powerful, and portable are good choices. For larger lawns, zero-turn mowers and even a UTV might be helpful.

4. Swap out furniture inside = creating high-value spaces outside. 

Spending time outside is all about connection with nature and others. Really think about what you need for your lifestyle, and buy outdoor furniture accordingly to create spaces that support your family’s lifestyle. Things like a picnic table for backyard study sessions, an outdoor sectional for connecting with others, a hammock for swinging away stress, or even an outdoor office to strike a better work life balance are all ways you can create high-value outdoor spaces.

5. Kitchen renovation = adding an outdoor kitchen. 

The sky is the limit when adding an outdoor kitchen. You can certainly create full set-up complete with a sink, refrigerator, and built-in grill and cooktop. Or keep it simple with a beverage cart or cooler and spend a little more on a quality grill to cook meals on.

6. Add on to your home = creating a true outdoor living room. 

Go all out and add a deck, hardscaped area or screened in porch if you have the time and budget, or simply make the most of the yard you have. Create a soccer or croquet field on a grassy flat area. Add a fire pit and use string lights in trees to enhance enjoyment in the wintertime. For warm summer days, a pergola covered in colorful vines that attract butterflies might be just the ticket.

7. Add a game room inside = creating activity zones outside. 

Make your backyard the neighborhood gathering hot spot by creating activity zones that are fun for the whole family. Cornhole, soccer, bocce ball, and a giant checkers board game can help parents more easily manage their kids’ screen time. A patio or deck is a great setting for family game nights. Or go all out and add a swimming pool to lock in your backyard as the place-to-be for your kids and their friends. Involve your family in the planning and keep in mind that shrubs and hedges are a great way to distinguish the different activity zones you create in your yard.

For more information, sign up for Mutt Mail, a monthly e-newsletter with backyarding tips and all the news from the TurfMutt Foundation here.

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