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Category Archives: Home 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If you’re using an outdated sprinkler system to water your lawn and garden, you may be wasting water every day.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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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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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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How to Clean a Window in 3 Steps

To maintain your windows between professional cleanings, you’ll need to know the proper technique. Photo: Smart Window Cleaning (2017)

When it comes to window cleaning, nothing compares to a professional’s touch, but if you ever have to do it yourself, it’s helpful to know the proper technique. First, however, you’ll need the right tools, including a strip washer (sort of like a mop that’s used on windows) and a squeegee. You’ll also need a cleaning solution that repels (rather than attracts) dirt, whether a store-bought product or a homemade mixture of vinegar or ammonia and water.

Once you’ve assembled your tools, follow this simple window cleaning technique as explained by Eric Kennedy, co-owner of Smart Window Cleaning: Continue reading “How to Clean a Window in 3 Steps” »

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Diamond Certified Experts: Swimming Pool Basics

This summer, make the most of your swimming experience by optimizing your pool’s comfort and functionality. Photo: Classic Pools (2017)

When it comes to surviving the summer heat, there’s nothing quite like cooling off in a pool—especially when it’s in your own backyard. Whether you’re thinking about installing a swimming pool or you’re interested in improving your current swimming experience, you can benefit by gaining knowledge about pool building and maintenance. In the following article, we’ll dive into some of the basics with four Diamond Certified Expert Contributors as our guides.

Building a Pool
Aside from your home itself, a new swimming pool is the largest investment you’re likely to make as a homeowner, which is why Marc Hannigan of Royal Pools of Santa Clara, Inc. advocates careful planning. Step one: Find a good contractor. Continue reading “Diamond Certified Experts: Swimming Pool Basics” »

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5 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

If you experience seasonal allergies, a home with clean air can be a sanctuary from the outdoors. Photo: Kerri Landscape Services (2017)

Spring has arrived once again to the Bay Area—the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and, as a result, many local inhabitants are sniffling and sneezing. If you’re one of them, going outdoors during this time of year can be an unpleasant experience. Fortunately, even though you can’t control the outside air, there’s plenty you can do to improve air quality inside of your home. Here are five tips for creating an allergy-free haven:

1. Get a good air filter (and replace it regularly). This is the cornerstone of indoor air quality. For most homes, a mid-grade MERV 9 filter will do nicely, but if you have extreme sensitivities, consider upgrading to a MERV 13 filter: a four-inch pleated model that removes airborne particles down to the level of viruses and bacterium. Of course, air filters don’t last forever, so be sure to replace yours regularly. Most HVAC professionals recommend replacing air filters every three months, but depending on how quickly yours get dirty, you may need to do it more often. Continue reading “5 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality” »

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Savvy Consumer Tip: Dealing with Mold in a Closet

Do you suspect you have mold in your closets? Watch this video to learn what to do.

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The Sump Pump Solution: How I Dealt With Water Damage in My House

My family and I moved into our home at the height of the California drought, and before this winter, we’d never experienced any significant rainfall while living there. After a major storm system passed through in February, we checked the crawlspace and, to our dismay, found several inches of stagnant water beneath the house. The forecast called for more rain. As the water in the crawlspace continued to rise and fall with ongoing storms, we knew we had to do something. But what would be the best solution?

There are several options for preventing water saturation in your home. In this article, I’ll review some of them and share how we came to the decision to install a sump pump.

soil in blue tarp

Installing a sump pump required removing a massive amount of dirt from the crawlspace. Photo: American Ratings Corporation (2017)

Continue reading “The Sump Pump Solution: How I Dealt With Water Damage in My House” »

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Savvy Consumer Tip: Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances

Watch this video to learn a simple way to keep your stainless steel appliances clean.

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