Margot Aronson Sells Homes, Realtor®, ABR, ASR, CDPE
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Heating Your Home Safely

February 27, 2015 12:39 am

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S. Unattended equipment is the number one source of these fires, says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy. Carli urges homeowners to monitor all heating equipment carefully, particularly space heaters. Whether portable or stationary, space heaters account for a third of home heating fires each year.



To greatly reduce the risk for heating fires at home, the NFPA suggests homeowners follow these guidelines.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. This includes furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and portable space heaters.
  • If there are children in your home, create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around space heaters and open fires.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • For fuel-burning space heaters, always use the right kind of fuel, as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
  • Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
Improperly used or malfunctioning heating equipment can also result in carbon monoxide, a poisonous, potentially fatal gas, in the home. Homeowners can avoid this by following these tips from the NFPA.
  • Keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away as possible from your home.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside of your home.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after the storm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • Test your carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they’re working properly.
  • If you begin to feel sick or dizzy while your generator is running, you may be breathing in carbon monoxide. Get to fresh air quickly. 
  • Turn portable generators off and let them cool down before refueling; don’t refuel it while it’s running.
  • Make sure fuel, including gasoline and other flammable liquids, is stored in properly labeled safety containers. Place them outside all living areas and away from any fuel-burning appliances such as a gas hot water heater.
  • Always use extreme caution when operating electrical equipment in a damp or wet environment.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Do not try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.
Source: NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Online Shoppers: Are You Reading the Fine Print?

February 27, 2015 12:39 am

Today’s online shoppers aren’t bothering to read the fine print when they shop, often jeopardizing their legal rights if something goes wrong, according to a recent survey from FindLaw.com. More than half of online shoppers (54 percent) say the either quickly skim or ignore any user agreements, terms of service or other legal language they are agreeing to.



The survey found that just 22 percent of online shoppers read and understood every word thoroughly; 24 percent read most agreements and attempted to understand them.



“Most people don’t realize that they are often giving away some of their legal rights when they click ‘Agree,’” says Stephanie Rahlfs, attorney-editor at FindLaw.com. “Many websites require that customers scroll through and review legal language and click a button stating that they agree with the terms before completing their purchase. But that’s largely meaningless if the person doesn’t actually read the agreement.”



Many e-commerce websites have terms and conditions that limit a customer’s ability to sue in the event of a dispute. Customers are instead required to use arbitration. Some attempts to sue websites – either through individual or class-action lawsuits – have been dismissed by the courts because the customers agreed to the website’s conditions.



Despite a $100 billion dollar surge in online shopping since 2011, the numbers from the survey remain largely unchanged from that year.

Source: FindLaw.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Designer Tips for Layering Decor at Home

February 27, 2015 12:39 am

(BPT) – A growing trend among interior designers is layering unique patterns and textures for heightened visual interest. Get inspired to layer elements in your home with these ideas.



Fancy Frames – An empty wall holds endless potential. If the room is small, expand your space with a mirror collage featuring a variety of shapes and varnishes. Is your heart set on colorful patterned wallpaper? Showcase your favorite print in a large frame for a beautiful living room backdrop to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Art fans should collect a variety of frames in different 
finishes and styles to create a living room gallery.

Pillow Patterns – While it's fun to mix and match pillows, certain textures complement each other better than others. For example, linens and wool tend to look better with woven fabrics, while shiny and matte fabrics are best kept separate. Mixing contrasting textures such as silk and corduroy calls for a strong sense of design confidence, but it can be done.



Rugs on Rugs – Start with a flat, neutral rug as your foundation and add a smaller, accent rug on top. Investing in a large rug with a subdued color is wise, but have fun with the accent rug. Whether cowhide or a geometric print, choose a similar color scheme and play with the positioning by placing the top rug at a purposeful angle.



Old, Renewed – When thinking about your space, it's important to remember that design inspiration can be found anywhere. Look for antique candle holders or paperweights. Check out antique shops or thrift stores for hidden treasures. When traveling, visit flea markets and local art fairs. Transform an old object like a rustic slab of wood into a glossy countertop for your kitchen island. No matter where you travel, keep an eye out for timeworn treasures for your home.

Layering textures and patterns, combining modern with rustic - blending home design can result in a truly transformative space that captures your individual style.



Source: Brizio

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Prepare for Storms with an Emergency Communications Plan

February 26, 2015 2:36 am

Having access to technology is always a concern for those faced with a storm or power outage, but an emergency communications plan can help. To assuage any fears about losing important information if your device is lost or damage in a storm, the experts at Verizon Wireless first recommend stocking up on cloud storage to save your contacts on a secure server.

To stay connected, Verizon also suggests that users prepare ahead of time by:
  • Maintaining a list of emergency numbers – police and fire agencies, power and insurance companies, family, friends and co-workers, etc. – and programming them into your wireless devices before an emergency arises.
  • Keeping phone and tablet batteries fully charged well before warnings are issued.
  • Distributing wireless phone numbers to family members and friends.
During a storm or power outage, Verizon advises:
  • Keeping phones, tablets, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location. Simple zip-lock storage bags will shield devices. Alternatively, consider purchasing a waterproof phone, case or other protective accessory.
  • Having additional charged batteries and car charger adapters available for back-up power. Numerous chargers, including solar-powered devices, make it easy to stay powered up.
  • Sending brief text messages rather than voice calls.
  • Limiting non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations.
Source: Verizon Wireless

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Budgeting for Winter Home Maintenance

February 26, 2015 2:36 am

Extreme cold and record-setting snow can take a harsh financial toll on homeowners. Many residents are burdened with extra costs associated with everything from snow and ice removal, shovels, salt and sand to home repairs due to ice dams and leaking roofs.

To combat those financial challenges, American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) urges homeowners to create an emergency winter weather budget to manage expected and unforeseen expenses related to your home and snow and ice removal. Just as important, do your research and find potential contractors and services in advance. Go online and research local companies that conduct snow and ice removal. Get quotes ahead of time before crisis strikes and demand explodes.

In addition, seek advice from professionals on prevention measures such as gutter cleaning, heating cables and roof salt bags. Basic necessities such as shovels, salt, roof rakes and plows can be cheaper in the summer, so consider getting a head start and purchasing them in the offseason. Online searches for used snow removal equipment such as snow plows can also yield major savings.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Design for Productivity in Home Offices

February 26, 2015 2:36 am

(BPT) - It's a common piece of advice from effective home-based workers: start each day as if you were going to work in an office outside your home. (Translation: take a shower and don't work in your pajamas.) The philosophy behind this tidbit is easy to understand.

The same axiom can apply to your home office. Is it tucked in a dark corner of the spare bedroom? Is your desk beside a bed covered in old toys? Is your filing cabinet stuffed in the closet under clothes? If your home office doesn't feel professional and uplifting, how productive and happy can you be spending eight or more hours a day there?

Decorating your home office isn't an art, but following some basic principles of office design can help create an organized, effective and productivity-enhancing space.

Choose a wall color that facilitates focus.

Even if your home office will be in the guest room that you just painted last year, it may be a good idea to repaint. Not only does a fresh coat of paint make a room feel energized and new, repainting gives you the opportunity to put a color on the wall that's office-appropriate.

In an interview by Chris Bailey of the blog "A Life of Productivity," color psychologist and author Angela Wright suggests that your home office color scheme needs to match the type of work you do because different colors create different effects. For example, Wright says, blue might be stimulating if you do a lot of mental work in your home office. Additionally, yellow could encourage creativity, and green might be soothing if your work is particularly stressful and balance is important.

Luxuriate in light.

"You are stuck in your office - albeit at home - all day, working and slaving away, staring at the same wall and some bland office furniture you got at a garage sale," writes Herman Chan in Home Business Magazine. "Spending all those hours in the same spot, it would behoove you to splurge on one luxury piece." Chan suggests an inspiring piece of furniture, but you can also create a luxe effect - with only a modest "splurge" - by decorating with lighting elements such as a skylight.

Add a solar-powered fresh air skylight and an energy-efficient solar-powered blind to your home office and the products, as well as the installation, can be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit as a green home improvement.

If your home office happens to be located in a renovated attic space, roof windows, which are very much like skylights but are in-reach, can offer natural light and fresh air plus access to the roof for debris removal, maintenance or for emergency access.

Organize with attractive storage.

If your idea of home office storage includes the cardboard boxes you used to transport files from the last job you had outside your home, it's time to revisit your organizational plan. A cluttered, disorganized home office can cause you to misplace important documents and can make you feel overwhelmed.

As more people have begun working from home, office furniture manufacturers have branched out from the sterile-looking metal storage units ubiquitous in workplaces across the country. Today, it's easy to find attractive storage options that fit with virtually any home office decor.

If you just can't find a file cabinet that speaks to your soul, why not try some alternative storage options? Move that beautiful sideboard you inherited from grandma - that just never fit anywhere else in your house - into your home office and use it for filing. Not in love with any of the desk options available at your local office store? Hit an antique shop and find an antique desk or even a dining table that you adore. Remember to keep furnishings and storage solutions size-appropriate for the room so your home office doesn't feel crowded.

Working from home offers many advantages, including the opportunity to decorate your home office the way you want. By following some basic steps and incorporating your own personality, you can create a home office where you'll be productive and happy throughout the work day.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Protecting Your Home's Plumbing in Winter

February 25, 2015 2:36 am

In winter, many homeowners are unprepared for plumbing issues associated with cold weather. Failure to prepare early may prove costly when pipes freeze, so winterize your plumbing as soon as possible.

The plumbing experts at Roto-Rooter recommend:
  • Disconnecting outside water hoses. If left connected during freezing temperatures, water in hoses will freeze and expand, causing connecting faucets and pipes to freeze and break.
  • Inspect outside faucets. If dripping or leaking, make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before a freeze.
  • Note that when pipes freeze, water pressure builds, causing cracks whether the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash 250 gallons of water in a single day.
  • If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from the pipes.
  • Cover outside faucets using an inexpensive faucet insulation kit.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around exposed pipes.
  • Your water heater works harder during winter months. Drain corrosion-causing sediment from the tank, which reduces energy efficiency.
  • Set water heater thermostat to 125 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum performance without risk of scalding.
  • Clear any leaves and debris from roof gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage throughout the winter season.
  • Inspect and clean sump pit. Remove any rocks and debris from pit then dump a bucket of water into the sump pit to test the pump. If it turns on and pumps water out then turns itself off, it is operating properly.
  • Make sure your furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees during the winter to prevent pipes from freezing.
Source: Roto-Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Reducing Energy Consumption in Cold Weather

February 25, 2015 2:36 am

Furnaces have been operating overtime in order to combat frigid weather, which likely has led to an increase in heating bills. By taking some simple steps, homeowners can reduce their costs without sacrificing warmth.
  • Open the blinds on the south side of your home during sunny days, but keep the blinds closed on cloudy days and at night.
  • Use a programmable thermostat and set it to 68 degrees Fahrenheit when you're at home and 65 degrees when sleeping or away.
  • Turn off non-essential lights, appliances, electronics and other equipment.
  • Postpone, whenever possible, using electric appliances such as dishwashers, dryers and cooking equipment during on-peak or mid-peak price periods.
  • Check to see that weather stripping around your doors, fireplace dampers and attic hatches are in place and intact.
  • Check your furnace filter and replace immediately if needed.
  • Keep supply and return air vents clear of furniture and appliances so your furnace can work more efficiently.
Source: PowerStream

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Shipping Container Home

February 25, 2015 2:36 am

From micro homes to boat living, homeowners have taken creative steps to downsize their households. One method gaining popularity are shipping container homes, which are fashioned from used containers no longer needed by manufacturers to ship goods. They’re economical and kind to the environment, but they also present drawbacks for the everyday homeowner.

One obvious disadvantage is the lack of space – most shipping containers are 20-40 feet in length, 8 feet wide and just over 8 feet tall. Containers can be cut and extended to accommodate more room, but doing so will add to your overall cost and delay your move-in date considerably.

In addition, contractors willing to help are few and far between. Many shipping containers have floors treated with chemicals by the manufacturer, so flooring would need to be replaced before the home becomes habitable.

However, shipping containers can be a solution for homeowners concerned about the time and expense associated with building a home. One shipping container owner built his home in just one day!

And shipping containers are eco-friendly. To cut costs, manufacturers leave shipping containers at their destination, rather than spending more to ship them back to home. As such, containers are readily available to be recycled for other purposes. An up-cycled container can make use of over 7,500 lbs of steel that would otherwise remain unused.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 New Ways to Make Your Home Look Larger

February 24, 2015 2:27 am

Hanging large mirrors on one wall of the living room has been touted for years as a way to make the room larger. But, said New York designer Jeffrey Blum, mirrors reflect everything in the room, creating the illusion of clutter.

Blum, the owner of SixZero6 Designs, suggests seven less traditional ways homeowners should consider to create the illusion of more space:

Invest in built-ins – Whether you add window-seats or built-in bookshelves, small rooms will benefit. Unlike groupings of furniture which can appear awkward or cluttered, built-ins make small rooms provide vertical interest and architectural detail, making them appear gracious and more substantial.

Open up the doorways – Renovate doorways, making them as wide and tall as possible, preferably to the ceiling. There may be no need to remove an entire wall between rooms when enlarging a door can make a huge difference.

Choose larger floor tile – The larger the tile, plank or pattern on a floor, the larger the room will look. Even the tiniest of powder rooms can benefit from this trick. Another tip? Install tiles on a diagonal.

Make use of the hallway
– Hallways often seem small and closed-in. ‘Open’ them by hanging an eye-catching piece of artwork at the far end. This draws the eye to the longest distance, making the hallway appear less cramped.

Add a wall of windows – Replace the living slider with a wall of windows or French doors. They will brighten the room and draw the eye out to the landscaping, making the room itself seem more expansive.

Use light colors and scaled-down furniture – Rooms painted in light colors, especially cream colors and icy blues, help make a room appear larger. Choose low-profile or slim pieces of furniture, rather than large or overstuffed pieces, to maintain the open look.

Please the senses – Just placing fresh flowers in a room, playing soft music and opening windows or sliders to let the breeze in can go a long way toward making a small room appear airier and me spacious.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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