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Category Archives: Savvy Tips

Yard-Wise: 6 Ways to Improve Your Property’s Exterior Efficiency

From your garden to your pool, there are several areas where you can improve your exterior efficiency. Photo: Landmark Landscapes (2017)

Like many Bay Area homeowners, you’ve probably taken measures to reduce your home’s water and energy usage, such as installing water-saving plumbing fixtures and switching to LED lighting. However, you may have overlooked another part of your property: your yard. From your garden to your pool, there are several areas where you can save water and energy by improving your exterior efficiency. Consider the following measures:

Improve irrigation
If you’re using an outdated sprinkler system to water your lawn and garden, you may be wasting water every day. Traditional sprinkler heads are known for their inefficiency, losing a substantial amount of the water they distribute to wind and sun evaporation. Fortunately, you can easily upgrade your system for a surprisingly low cost. One option is to convert to streamers, which are designed to provide a more direct delivery of water. All you have to do is switch out your old nozzles for streamer nozzles, which cost a little more than $1 apiece. Continue reading “Yard-Wise: 6 Ways to Improve Your Property’s Exterior Efficiency” »

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Seven Summer Scams

If you’re adopting a pet this summer, stay alert for online scams by fraudulent sellers. Photo: American Ratings Corporation, 2017

Along with rising temperatures this summer, we’re going to see a rise in seasonal scams. I’ve been getting warnings from consumer protection agencies about what to watch out for, and I want to pass them on to you. You may have heard of some of these rip-offs before, but be aware that new variations always pop up and can catch even the savviest consumers off guard.

1. Magazine scams
This scam ramps up in the summer with young people going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions. They claim they’re working their way through college and need to make a certain number of sales to earn points for scholarships. That’s not true. Most of the time, the orders are never placed with the publishers, and even if your order is fulfilled, you’ll pay too much for the subscription. Continue reading “Seven Summer Scams” »

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5 Ways to Lower Your Cooling Costs

The simplest way to lower your air conditioning bills is by finding ways to keep your home naturally cooler. Photo: ACME Sunshades Enterprise, Inc. (2017)

A central air conditioner can be priceless on a hot summer day, but the cost of running it certainly isn’t. While having a well-maintained, energy-efficient system will help keep your cooling bills in check, another smart step is finding ways to keep your home naturally cooler, which reduces the need to run your system in the first place. Here are five measures to consider:

1. Install a whole house fan. On summer mornings and evenings, it’s not unusual for the temperature outside the home to be cooler than on the inside. In this instance, running the air conditioner can feel like a waste of energy. If only there was a way to get that cool outdoor air into the home… Continue reading “5 Ways to Lower Your Cooling Costs” »

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The Benefits of a Variable-Speed Air Conditioner

If the cost of running your air conditioner is getting out of hand, consider replacing it with a more efficient, variable-speed unit. Photo: AIS Heating & Air Conditioning (2017)

Imagine if your car only drove at one speed, regardless of whether you were in town or on the freeway, or if your stereo only had a single volume setting that couldn’t be adjusted. Sounds awful, right? Well, when it comes to your air conditioner, you may be dealing with an equivalent situation. In fact, the air conditioners found in many Bay Area homes only have one setting: full blast. Not surprisingly, these relics of cooling technology aren’t exactly the epitome of energy efficiency.

Fortunately, there’s a better option available: the variable-speed air conditioner. Unlike its single-speed predecessors, a variable-speed unit is able to incrementally adjust its power output in conjunction with changing climate conditions—and that’s just the beginning. Here are a few of the benefits a variable-speed air conditioner has to offer: Continue reading “The Benefits of a Variable-Speed Air Conditioner” »

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Savvy Consumer Tip: Preparing for a Road Trip

Headed out on a road trip this summer? Watch this video for some tips on how to prepare your car for a long drive.

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What’s Worth Splurging On?

Savvy consumers always search for ways to save money, but sometimes they’re willing to splurge a little. Photo: Closet Factory, 2017

I’ll be the first to admit that I really like getting good deals and saving money, but like most of you, I also like to splurge on some things. Sometimes I find that saving money can actually mean spending more on a quality product that will last a long time. For example, during a kitchen remodel, I bought a faucet that was on sale and it failed in the first year. The second faucet I purchased was three times more expensive, and so far it has lasted seven years. I’m so happy that I decided to splurge for a quality product. Continue reading “What’s Worth Splurging On?” »

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Keeping Your Cool: 4 DIY Air Conditioning Maintenance Steps

diy-air-conditioning-maintenance

Annual maintenance will help maximize your air conditioner’s performance. Photo: Kelly Plumbing & Heating, Inc. (2017)

Your air conditioner is designed to keep your home cool during the summer, but like any system, it requires ongoing maintenance to sustain peak operating efficiency. While some maintenance steps are best left to an HVAC professional (such as handling refrigerant), there are others you can perform yourself. Here are four DIY air conditioning maintenance steps:

1. Change the air filter. Before turning on your air conditioner for the season, inspect the air filter and replace it as needed. A new air filter will provide cleaner, fresher indoor air in addition to optimizing airflow and general system performance. Continue reading “Keeping Your Cool: 4 DIY Air Conditioning Maintenance Steps” »

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Savvy Consumer Tip: Choosing a Summer Camp

With summer right around the corner, now is a good time to start looking for the right camp for your kids.

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How to Stay Up on Consumer News and Issues

Newsletters, blogs and podcasts are great ways to stay informed about consumer issues. Photo: American Ratings Corporation, 2017

Like most of you, I subscribe to a variety of news feeds, blogs, email newsletters and podcasts, both for entertainment and so I can learn about things I’m interested in. I’m a big fan of Flipboard, my news feed for politics, cooking and music. For local restaurant openings and news, I enjoy reading tablehopper.com, and my favorite podcast right now is “On Being” with Krista Tippett, which I learned about from a colleague at Diamond Certified. When it comes to consumer news and issues, here are a few of the resources I use to stay informed.

Consumerreports.org
This website from the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine requires a subscription for detailed product ratings. However, it also has a lot of free content with general buying advice. Continue reading “How to Stay Up on Consumer News and Issues” »

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Diamond Certified Experts: Tree Care 101

From pruning and irrigation to addressing risk factors, tree care involves several crucial aspects. Photo: World Tree Service, Inc. (2017)

Despite being the largest of all plants, trees are surprisingly easy to overlook. Maybe it’s because their serene, stationary disposition causes them to blend in with their surroundings; maybe we just don’t look up often enough. Either way, like any plant, trees require water, nutrition and ongoing maintenance, so it’s important to take care of the ones on your property. To learn about some tree care basics, we’re joined by six Diamond Certified Expert Contributors in the tree service and landscaping fields.

Tree irrigation and nutrition
The first step in caring for a tree is simple: water it. However, as Chris Chapman of Horticultural Services, LTD explains, tree irrigation is something property owners often get wrong. Continue reading “Diamond Certified Experts: Tree Care 101” »

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