4 Cool Ways to Freshen Up Your Bedroom for Winter

This article appeared in The Detroit Free Press and was provided by Annie Calovich, The Wichita Eagle

If you haven’t updated your bedroom in a while, you may find that some key elements have changed while you’ve been sleeping.

You may have bedroom furniture that’s so old — because high quality furniture lasts a long time, and that’s a good thing — that it’s not being sold in sets anymore, at least not at Ethan Allen. The look is more eclectic, says Katie Small, design center manager at the Wichita, Kan. store.

And no longer do people sleep under heavy down comforters, even as we head into the coldest days of winter. Most people kick the duvet off the bed, says Brenda Cody of Ferguson-Phillips.

January is the ideal time to assess your bedroom and take steps to refresh it, which in turn should refresh you. Redoing the bedroom according to current sensibilities will take into consideration not only decor, but health and perhaps even some elements of feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of harmonizing the elements of the environment. Here are four key ways to re-feather your nest.

Upholstered headboard

If your furniture is still serving you well but you want to “feel fresh and new, the best way you can do that is to change the headboard,” Small says. “You don’t have to match.”

The vast majority of headboards sold these days are upholstered rather than made in plain wood, Cody says. Either way, a headboard adds the first layer of color or texture to what you’re creating visually on the bed. Small says it also adds much-needed height.

Freestanding headboards with a bed skirt are no longer in fashion, Cody says. Instead, beds either have head and footboards, or a headboard with a platform rather than a footboard.

Faux silk makes for easy-care as well as beautiful shams. (Photo: TNS)
Beyond design, if you’re one of those people who don’t have a headboard, you might consider one for another reason.

“As Americans, we’re focused on the mattress and getting a good night’s sleep,” Cody says. “If you don’t have the structure, you don’t have as much support. I think it makes a big difference.”

Having a sturdy headboard is considered good support for your body during sleep, just as a chairback supports you when you’re seated, according to the principles of feng shui.

“The bed is the No. 1 piece of furniture that makes the most impact on your life in terms of where it’s placed, and the headboard for sure,” says Robyn Stevens of Robyn Stevens Feng Shui in Kansas City, Mo. “You want it to be solid wood” — or an upholstered headboard that’s solid — “and when you’re laying down, the headboard needs to be above your head. You know, some of the modern ones are shorter.”

“Our subconscious needs to feel safe when we’re sleeping, and the best way is to make sure the head is protected,” Stevens adds. That also includes putting the bed in the proper place.

“Ideally you want your headboard against a wall. You want it facing the door. You don’t want it in the door, but you want to be able to see the door. … Think about Tony Soprano: Nobody is ever going to sneak up on that guy,” she says.

Storage under the bed is considered bad feng shui, because it hinders the movement of energy around the body. But it doesn’t take feng shui to know that too much stuff around us does not make for a restful feeling.

Cool and easy-care fabric

Many people are discovering that sleeping cool is one of the ingredients for sleeping better. And even while the dictates of design call for dressing the bed in layers — sheets, a light blanket or coverlet, then a duvet or other throw at the bottom of the bed — Cody says that most people sleep under only the sheet and coverlet.

“What we find the majority of the time is even when people have this many layers, they never pull up the duvet. Nobody likes to be hot.”

Ferguson-Phillips no longer sells heavy down comforters. “A lot of our companies are doing much lighter-weight duvets,” Cody says. People also like the lighter down blankets, which also can be placed into duvet covers.

No matter what the weight of the coverings, Cody says, look for lots of texture in them, and in shams and throw pillows that add more icing on the cake. In addition to natural fibers, look for new fabrics that are easier to care for.

“I think most companies now are taking into consideration the feel and the care of the fabric. … We’re even getting synthetic silks and polyester silks that are washable,” she says.

Because of allergy concerns, some people like to regularly wash bedding in hot water and dry it on a hot setting. Such people should stick with cotton, Cody says. As far as fabrics for sheets, high-end cottons are still the choice; microfiber is too hot.

Warming it up

People may like to sleep cool, but they also like to turn down the thermostat to save on energy. That can leave the bedroom too cold for comfort.

One way to warm it up is with an electric fireplace. You can find them in modern lines or traditional looks, in free-standing hearths, hanging on walls and even recessed behind a wall of rock, tile or stone.

“You’re not locked into just having the cabinet appearance,” says Jeannie Herpolsheimer of Warming Trends in Wichita.

Electric fireplaces are like a space heater but with ambiance, she says. Or, in one option that a real fire doesn’t have, if the air is warm enough, you can have the ambiance of the flames without the heat.

The fireplaces come with remotes and some with timers. You can adjust not only the level of heat, but also the height of the flames and the intensity of the embers. A free-standing fireplace takes no installation.

“It’s plug and play. You take it home and plug it in,” Herpolsheimer says. “One thing I like for a bedroom application is a downlight feature that you can use as a nightlight without the flame.”

For a unit that hangs on the wall, like a long vertical cabinet, it’s best to have an electrician put a plug behind the unit to avoid a hanging electrical cord, Herpolsheimer says.

Most units will heat a 14-by-14-foot room. Recessed models can provide more heat. Smaller electric stoves also can be found at some home stores.

Additionally, when you use any type of electrical heater, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid a fire, and be aware of any overload it puts on your electrical system, says Stuart Bevis, battalion chief of fire prevention for the Wichita Fire Department.

Space heaters should not be placed any closer than 3 feet to any combustibles, and they should be plugged into a power strip or electrical outlet, not an extension cord.

Putting color to it

Bedroom looks this year are romantic but also streamlined, Small says. A French provincial look at Ethan Allen, for example, has a Scandinavian sensibility that gives it cleaner, more modern lines. “It’s very light and fresh,” Small says. And while monochromatic looks have been big for a while, new ones are more elevated and gilded.

Caramel is a big bedroom color, Small says. Although, the more traditional blue and white never goes out of style. Gray is still big, a neutral that accentuates a pop of color such as a soft celadon.

Gray and caramel are big colors for the bedroom, as is mixing and matching patters. (Photo: TNS)

And if you want a calming feel as well? Add some pink to your bedroom, one of Pantone’s colors of the year (along with blue). Coral and salmon are considered pinks.

“Pink and tones of coral are the most soothing,” Small says. “It’s amazing how a little bit here and there elevates the calmness of a room.”

Mix patterns and pay attention to scale while building your layers. “The most crucial decor element is layers. It’s like dressing ourselves,” Small says.

And lest you feel like you can’t afford to always keep up with trends, they do transition cleanly from year to year so that you can build in new things, like a rug or bedding, without having to redo everything, Small says.

Carpet vs. Wood Floors

An Article from written by Aaron Crowe5220 Buell living

If you’re wavering between installing new wood floors or new carpeting in your home, it can be worthwhile to consider the cleaning options for each. Of course whichever new flooring you choose will look great when it’s first installed, but even a few weeks of use can require enough sweeping, vacuuming and polishing to make you reconsider your choice.

Here are some factors to consider in cleaning wood floors versus carpet:

5220 Buell kitchen2Resale value

Hardwood floors are more in style recently, and can make a home easier to sell, according to a survey by Lumber Liquidators: Among their respondents, 100 percent of real estate agents preferred hardwood floors over carpet. And according to the National Association of Realtors, buyers are willing to spend $2,080 more on a house with hardwood flooring, USA Today reports.

One of the major benefits of wood floors is that they are easy to clean. Oak is the most common, but bamboo is gaining popularity because it’s eco-friendly, says Brian Pullin, director of customer care at Lumber Liquidators in Toano, Virginia. Bamboo is technically not a hardwood at all, though it has the durability and look of wood. It’s a grass, which means it grows much faster, and can be harvested more sustainably.

Older homes often have oak floors under carpets, which offers a buyer the option to switch from carpet to hardwood fairly easily. But that original flooring may have been be damaged by moisture getting under the carpet, which could necessitate pulling it up and replacing it, Pullin says.

Do you prefer sweeping or vacuuming?

Sweeping is a lot easier than vacuuming, though wood floors will also require polishing, Pullin says. Dry mopping should be done every three to four days, and a cleaning solution meant for wood floors should be used every three to four weeks, he says. Don’t mop with the typical solution of water and vinegar, he says.

“The cleaning is quicker and easier, and it’s more cost effective than if you’re having someone come in and clean your floor,” Pullin says.

Carpet holds dust, germs

Carpets can become reservoirs of dust, hair, skin and other tiny particles, which can Vacuum cleaner in actionlead to eye and respiratory problems, Pullin says. While a wood floor won’t harbor all of those if you sweep it regularly, the trapping effects of carpet can be a benefit, says Kari Davis, sales representative for J+J Flooring Group, a Dalton, Georgia, business that specializes in carpeting.

Carpet holds on to allergens and keeps them out of the air, unlike wood floors where they can be kicked up by someone simply walking across the floor, Davis says. Vacuuming carpet frequently will remove them, she says. Many modern carpets also have antibacterial nano-silver coatings embedded into the threading, Davis says.

Professional carpet cleaning needed

Even if you vacuum your carpet daily, it will still need a professional cleaning that uses hot water extraction once or twice a year, Davis says.

Dirt is more easily tracked onto carpets than it is on wood, Pullin says, and carpet more readily shows walking patterns where traffic is heaviest. This will require a regular scrubbing, he says.

Cleaning up spills

Spilled liquid is a lot easier to deal with on a wood floor than on carpet, though both require quick cleanups to prevent the liquid from being absorbed. A wood floor shouldn’t be steam cleaned because the water will go into the wood, Pullin warns. On the other hand, too much water will make a carpet weaker by weakening the latex backing that holds the carpet down.

A spot cleaner can be used to remove a stain, though any carpet cleaning product should first be tested someplace inconspicuous to make sure it doesn’t affect the carpet’s color, she says.

Good carpet pads are very important because they create moisture barriers that keep stains on top of the carpet; otherwise, liquids can seep into the carpet and then come back up from the pad, Davis says.

Dropping something heavy

If you drop a can of green beans on a wood floor and it really dents the floor, the area can still be easily repaired by a professional, Pullin says. Slight buffing can remove some scratches, he says.

To avoid scratches to wood floors, he recommends using protection pads when moving furniture, or putting furniture on coasters to move. Or, pick up the furniture instead of sliding it.

1929906_origWood floors should last longer

Carpet should last about 10 years, which is the length of a typical warranty, Davis says.

“After that, it’s just going to ugly out,” she says. “It’s just going to look worn and outdated.”

The warranty for wood flooring is a “finish” warranty that generally range from 25 to 30 or more years, Pullin says. The Bellawood warranty is for 100 years and is transferrable to the next homeowner, he says.

Advantages to Buying a Home in the Winter

igloosoldSpring and summer are the high season for home sales, but winter can be a buyer’s market. If you don’t mind a smaller pool of homes for sale or moving around the holidays, winter might be a good time for you to house shop.

Less Competition, More Leverage
Since spring and summer are the most active real estate seasons, many home sellers wait until then to list their homes. That means there are fewer homes for sale in the winter, but the sellers often have strong reasons to sell their homes soon, such as job relocation. These motivated sellers can be a boon to the home buyer.

While there are fewer homes to choose among, the smaller selection can save you a lot of time. Do you really want to traipse through 50 houses? It may be simpler to view the handful of homes for sale in the winter and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Just as there are fewer homes for sale during the winter, there are fewer buyers, too. That means less competition and sellers who are more willing to accommodate potential buyers. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Offer a relatively low (but not insultingly low) bid for the home you’ve selected, or ask for perks such as the living room furniture or the chandelier that you admire. The low number of potential buyers also means you have more time to make your decision. In the spring, you often need to choose a home and act quickly, but in winter you may be able to take your time.

Assessing a Home’s Winter Fitness
Viewing homes in the winter lets you see how it holds up to the weather. Did you feel cold while looking through the house? Is there a functioning heating system and hot water? Are the windows letting in drafts?

Availability of Agents and Others
Another advantage of buying a home in the off-season is the greater availability of industry professionals. Real estate agents will have fewer clients and more time to focus on your home search. Lenders will be more accessible for questions and assistance. Some lenders even waive fees during the off-season to encourage borrowers to use their services. Likewise, movers tend to lower their costs during the winter months.

Gray Gardens or Winter Wonderland?
Home buyers can be turned off by the bleak look of prospective homes in winter. Bare trees and lawns covered in gray snow aren’t the most picturesque. However, you’ll be able to see how well neighbors tend driveways and sidewalks, whether the town plows or salts icy streets, and whether kids come out to play in the snow. Around the holidays, you might even see the neighborhood decorated in its winter finest.

Dini Harris wrote this article for

Selling a home in 2016? Here’s your need-to-know…

winterFB-headerSelling a home can be a stressful experience, and it’s critically important to be aware of prevailing trends in the real-estate market and other financial considerations to keep in mind. If you expect to put your home on the block at some point in 2016, you’ll need to address the following issues and concerns to make sure that you make the best possible deal.

It’s a seller’s market …
Homeowners remember all too well the fallout that the housing bust had on real-estate prices. Even though most investors think of the financial crisis as having hit its peak in 2008 and early 2009, it took three more years for home prices to hit bottom. Yet since early 2012, prices have climbed higher, and the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index is coming within spitting distance of matching its highs from 2006 and 2007.

Where you live is a key factor in determining just how much of a seller’s market you can expect. Hot markets like San Francisco have seen some housing-boom-era practices return to favor, with many reports of bidding wars that result in offers well above the asking price. By contrast, areas where economic prospects are less favorable have never fully recovered from the housing bust. The more lucrative a region’s economic future appears to be, the easier you can expect it to be to sell a home.

… but mortgages could get more expensive
One key factor in how much sellers receive for their homes is how much buyers can afford. Low mortgage rates have helped fuel price increases in recent years, but some now fear that with the Federal Reserve having begun a new cycle of rate increases, a move higher for mortgage rates could make homes less affordable.

So far, the tiny quarter-point boost that the Fed made in mid-December hasn’t pushed mortgage rates appreciably higher. Historically, though, tightening has generally led to increased rates on mortgage loans. Sellers need to be prepared for greater difficulty for prospective buyers trying to get financing.

Tax benefits still favor home sales
The biggest tax break for ordinary taxpayers is still the exclusion on capital gains for the sale of a personal residence. Single taxpayers can exclude up to $250,000 in gains from the sale of a home from tax, and joint filers get a double-sized exclusion of $500,000.

To qualify, you have to meet a couple of tests. First, the property in question has to be your main home. In addition, to get the full exclusion, you have to have lived in the home for at least 24 months in the past five years. You can’t have claimed a home-sale exclusion on tax returns for the previous two years. In some cases, partial exclusions are available, but getting specific tax advice from your accountant or tax professional is essential to make sure you’re aware of all the tax implications of a home sale.

Get help at the right price
Most homeowners use a real-estate agent to help market and sell their homes. Historically, the typical 6% commission on home sales was sacrosanct, but some agents have increasingly been willing to negotiate lower commissions for their services. Flat-fee brokerages have also popped up, offering a fixed cost that sellers can count on that’s often lower than the percentage-based commission would be.

The issue raises a huge debate in the real-estate community, with full-service agents arguing that they fully earn their commissions by bringing in more potential buyers and eventually getting higher sale prices. Yet with some agencies offering incentives to buyers and sellers that reduce net commission costs, sellers should realize that they have leverage in coming up with a deal that works for them.

Selling a home is a monumental event, and it can introduce a number of complicated financial considerations. Being aware of those considerations and making a plan to deal with them will help the selling process go a lot more smoothly.

Article via USA Today

Home Design Trends in 2016

Whether homeowner’s are building a new home, remodeling an existing home or hunting for perfection in existing listings…there’s always a “wish list”!  Gone are the days of golden shag carpet and olive green appliances. Nowadays, homeowners want spaces that compliment their modern lifestyles. It may be through the latest technology, custom workspaces or multi-use rooms. Here are a few trends expected to take the lead in 2016…

Spacious Kitchens

Homeowners want it all…huge, oversized islands, enormous pantries and top of the line appliances.20162

Spa-Like Master Baths

Steam showers, soaking tubs, double sinks and hidden commodes….ahhhh.20161

Pet Amenities

Dog showers, storage space, feeding station… . Adjacent to (or in) the first floor laundry room is a convenient location!20163

Indoor Outdoor Connectivity

Entertaining family and friends is even better with a good flow between “in and out”!  outdoor kitchen 5

16 Interior Design Trends You’ll Definitely See in 2016

The editors at House Beautiful have predicted what everyone will love in the coming year. Here’s a few of my favorites. View the entire article @

Perky Pedestals: Ideal for your sparest corners: The tall, handsome pedestal, primed to exhibit a sculpture, a plant, or even the house cat!



Pretty Pendants: Chandeliers are great, but 2016 is the year of the statement pendant.


Mixed metals: Platinum, gold, copper, steel — as long as they’ve got metallic sheen, they go together. It’s bling like you’ve never seen before.




Company coming?? How to Clean Your House in 15 Minutes or Less!

cleanhouseYour holiday guests are arriving in 15 minutes and your house is not exactly the epitome of cleanliness. Don’t panic! Here are a few tips and strategies for cleaning your house in 15 minutes—or at least giving the appearance of having a spotless domicile.

A lot can get done in a few short minutes if you’re smart with your time and strategic with your cleaning choices. You don’t have time to engage in serious cleaning with your full collection of cleaning equipment and products. This is not necessarily the time to thoroughly clean the microwave or the dishwasher, even though those tasks need to get done at some point.

Think about strategy

Spend 30 seconds thinking about your strategy: You might even grab a notepad and jot down a brief housecleaning checklist. The key is to keep moving so that you do not get bogged down with one particular task. It is better to hit several areas for a brief time than to spend all 15 minutes on one job. Think big picture and cover all the areas that are important.

Focus on specific rooms

When people come over, your time together may be limited to particular spaces. This typically includes the kitchen, 1 bathroom, and a gathering space, such as a den or dining room. Concentrate on these spaces as most guests don’t wander to other rooms or open closets. If you want to prioritize, spend an extra minute or 2 in the bathroom, as a dirty bathroom can be especially obvious to a guest.

Hit the big spaces

If you are going to clean anything, you may want to clean the floors in common spaces. Sweeping up the kitchen and vacuuming the den may only take a couple of minutes, and it can make a big difference in terms of perception and overall appearance. If anything, the tracks left on a freshly vacuumed carpet may give guests the general appearance of more concentrated cleaning. In the event that you do not have time to get out this type of equipment, at least spend a minute looking around common areas and picking up noticeable pieces of trash and junk.

Stash away clutter

A house can accumulate a level of clutter. Focus on “picking up.” Ideally you would put everything in its proper place, but with the clock ticking it may be best to:

Grab a laundry basket and/or unused tote bags and go through the house and collect everything that is not intended for that space.

Stash the laundry basket and bags in a room that will not be used. Stuffing items in a closet or under the bed may also be a possibility, but if your house is already cluttered, chances are, those spaces are already occupied by previous de-cluttering sessions.

Note: Consider grouping all your mail and paper clutter together so that you don’t lose important documents or bills and can sort through them after your guests leave.

Cleaning tipscleanhouse2

Enlist help: When it comes to quickly cleaning the house, it is all hands on deck. Grab the kids and the significant other and put them to work. Younger kids may not know how to clean a house effectively, but they may be able to handle the gathering of clutter.

Employ distractions: It isn’t as if you want to deceive your guests, but there is nothing wrong with creating a little bit of atmosphere. Therefore, lighting a couple of candles may contribute to a cozy atmosphere that takes attention away from the fact that you weren’t able to deep clean the house. If the candles are scented, this may also provide a pleasant smell that hides other odors.

Leave time to get yourself ready: You do only have 15 minutes, but at some point you have to call it good and stop the cleaning process. Leave a couple of minutes to get ready so that you don’t feel rushed. You don’t want to be on your hands and knees, scrubbing the floor when your guests arrive. Do your best, but make sure you enjoy the reason for cleaning the house in the first place. You can do a lot in 15 minutes, but if it isn’t perfect, life will go on.

Equipment and supplies

Vacuum cleaner. A vacuum cleaner may make a large difference when it comes to the overall appearance. You obviously have limited time, but if you are going to drag out a piece of cleaning equipment, go for the vacuum cleaner.

Disposable floor mop and dusting pads. In terms of hard surfaces, it may not be feasible to get out a bucket and mop. The nice thing is that today there are various floor cleaners that are designed for fast cleaning.

Dry dust cloths can be used to dust obvious surfaces. These clothes are designed to pick up more dust than the average rag. Again, watch your time and only dust those areas that may be obvious to anyone in the room.

Disinfectant wipes are intended for multiple surfaces. Grab a couple of these and wipe down the kitchen counter and various bathroom surfaces.

Paper towels will help you to quickly dry wet surfaces and buff surfaces to an impressive shine. A shiny surface in common areas will go a long way to establishing appearances.

Toilet scrubbers with disposable cleaning heads allow you to clean the bowl and toss the scrubbing head without using additional supplies or requiring extra cleanup.

Air freshener can help to quickly brighten up the air in your home.

Tip: Use baby wipes to freshen surfaces and add shine if you’re in a pinch.

cleanhouse3Housecleaning checklist

Before you start, list your priority rooms: Quickly jot down the rooms that will be used and focus your efforts there (usually the kitchen, a bathroom, the dining room, and sitting room). Stick the list and a pen in your pocket and cross them off as you go. Below is a basic checklist to help you get started.

Note: Remember, there is no time for deep cleaning, and you still need to leave yourself some time to get ready. Use your best judgment to sacrifice cleaning where you can.


  • Toss a lemon peel into the garbage disposal and run it.
  • Clear clutter off the kitchen table and counter tops-put papers into bags, items into cupboards.
  • Wipe down counters and the table with disinfectant wipes.


  • Use a toilet scrubber or wand with a disposable cleaning head to scrub the bowl clean of stains and smells.
  • Clean the toilet seat (surface and underside) with a disinfectant wipe and quickly towel it dry.
  • Wipe the mirror clean using a lint-free cloth (or newspaper) and glass cleaner.
  • Wipe down the sink, the sink basin and faucet with disinfectant wipes and paper towels.
  • Close your shower curtain.
  • Tip: If you have extra time, mop or dust the floor to clear it of hair and other debris. Otherwise, throw down a fresh bathroom mat to cover up what you missed.

Dining room

  • Clear accumulated papers and books and junk off of the dining room table.
  • Dust the dining table surface with dust cloths or lay a tablecloth over it.
  • Run a floor duster/mop (with disposable pads) quickly across the floor.

Sitting room

  • Clear clutter into bins or bags and hide out of sight (closets or a closed off room).
  • Vacuum the carpet or dust/mop the floor with a disposable cloth system.

Common areas

  • Walk through your home spraying air freshener in each of the areas where your guests will spend time.
  • Light a scented candle in the foyer or sitting room.
  • How To Clean Your House in 15 Minutes or Less |

    Todd Pheifer is a freelance writer who has done his share of household tasks and home repairs over the years. He is comfortable conducting research and doing work himself, but he also knows that sometimes it is best to leave repairs to the professionals. simplifies the search for reputable independent service providers in your area and lets you book an appointment online or by phone at 1-800-REPAIR-NOW. A service provider could be at your front door ready to help with your repair needs on the day and time that’s most convenient for you. is also an online destination for home-related tips and advice, offering articles on home improvement, maintenance, and DIY projects. is provided by National Electronics Warranty, LLC.

Fireplaces: Pros and Cons of Wood, Gas and Electric

A fireplace can add ambiance to a room and value to a home. Many homebuyers say they would like their residence to have a fireplace. The reality is, most homeowners don’t use their fireplace on a regular basis. Sure we pose for family portraits in front of the fireplace, but it’s really the mantle that gets more daily attention, from displaying decorative vases and candles, hanging Christmas stockings, erecting framed art or mirrors above it. Without an ornate mantle, surround or decorations, frankly a fireplace would be rather boring to look at, and not much of a glorified focal point in the room.

But for those who love the idea of a fireplace, nothing generates debate over a home amenity as much as conversations about wood vs gas vs electric — other than perhaps whether to leave the toilet seat open or closed.

Here’s a look at some pros and cons of wood, gas and electric fireplaces.

natfireWood Fireplaces

Pros: If you love the crackling sound of logs burning, the smell of hickory and the ability to roast marshmallows or hotdogs over indoor open flames, this may be the choice for you. You can curl up with a glass of wine, a good book or a loved one on the rug in front of the flickering glow and feel the warmth on your face.

Cons: Don’t mistake the warmth you’re feeling on your skin from the fire as also warming the room or your home. Wood-burning fireplaces are quite inefficient as a heating source since most of the warm air is flowing up and out the chimney. And it’s not just the warmth of the fire being pulled out of your home, so is the heat from other rooms. As the heated air rises through the chimney, the draft created pulls in other warm air from other parts of the house. That draft helps to suck in oxygen, which a fire needs in order to keep burning.

Note: The burning wood creates air pollution, inside and outside the home. That woodsy smell is actually a health hazard, and it creates Creosote, a byproduct build up that can coat the lining of the chimney and would need to be removed by a professional. (If you don’t regularly bring in a professional to check out your chimney you increase your chances of having a chimney fire.)

Even long after the wood-burning fire goes out, you’re losing warm air because you need to keep the damper open for about another 12 hours in order to keep the dying fire from depleting the oxygen in your home, thus you’re losing even more heat after the fire goes out.

Solution: Use hard woods, such as hickory, ash, oak and hard maple for fuel, as they produce more heat than soft woods, such as pine and spruce. Thus you an offset the heat loss just a tad, but you’re still losing more heat than you’re bringing in. Also use doors to close off the fireplace when in use and when not in use.

gas-fireplace2Gas Fireplaces

Pros: If you don’t want to bother with cleaning up soot, ash and burned-out logs, or having the smell of smoke seep into your sofa or carpet, then a gas fireplace is the answer.

Cons: If you don’t have a natural gas line running into your home you would have to use propane gas. The propane tank would be sizable in size and stored outside the home. You can try to hide with landscaping, or pay to have it buried under ground.




electric-fireplaceElectric Fireplaces

Pros: If you want a glorified room heater that adds better ambiance than a typical space heater, choose an electric fireplace, which are often just plug-and-switch-on. Most are quite portable. Tired of the fireplace on the North wall and want to move it the West wall of the living room, or maybe even move it to the master bath? Well, that is fairly easy to do. Electric fireplaces also tend to have a longer lifespan than gas fireplaces due to less corrosion of parts. Because electric fireplaces do not use a combustible fuel, they do not emit any harmful fumes such as carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide emitted respectively from natural wood-burning and gas-burning fireplaces.

Cons: If the power goes out, so will your electric fireplace. An electric fireplace also will cause an uptick in your energy bills, as electricity tends to be pricier than natural gas.

The flames in electric fireplaces aren’t as realistic-looking as those in gas fireplaces. And because electric fireplaces are not permanent fixtures, they are not likely to add value to your home.

Re-blogged from aol real estate


Energy-Efficient Holiday Decorating Tips

christmas lights

The holidays are almost upon us. There is home decorating to do. As you put the finishing touches on that giant lighting display, be sure to read these energy-efficient holiday decorating tips below:


Buy LED Lights

Those old incandescent holiday lights you have been putting up forever are terribly inefficient, and despite careful storage, often emerge only halfway lit with many being tossed in landfills. Instead, save a bundle by replacing them with ENERGY STAR® qualified LED light strands. In addition to using 70% less energy than traditional bulbs, they’re brighter, eco-friendly, and are safer, as they are much cooler than incandescent lights. In addition, they are easier to install—up to 24 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket. They last ten times longer, have no filaments or glass to break, and costs are similar to the age-old standard. If you prefer white lights with the look of incandescent lights, look for “warm” white on the label.


Savvy shopping will save you money. You can find local rebates and coupons on ENERGY STAR® qualified Decorative Light Strings at many of your local hardware and department stores. In addition, these lights have a three-year warranty, come in a variety of colors, and have indoor and outdoor models.

Limit Hourly Usage

Set timers for lights to automatically turn on when it gets dark and off in the middle of the night, depending on your preferences. You can save a bundle keeping light displays on only 8 hours of the evening (when you can see them). If you are still using traditional incandescent bulbs, this tip is even more important to cut down on energy costs.

Creative and Reflective Decorating

Not everything is about strands of lights. Reflective ornaments and tinsel are just as bright at night, so getting creative with your lighting display can multiply your resources for shine. You could even mirror your next door neighbors’ frighteningly costly display with a string of silver bells on your railing. Don’t forget the ribbons, wreaths, garland, and reflective menorahs, for electricity- free age-old traditions still bring holiday cheer.

Thanks to the US Department of Energy for these great tips!

First Time Home Buyer?? Mistakes to Avoid….

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Dreaming of becoming a homeowner?

Some of the challenges first time buyers must face include:

  • Getting approved for a mortgage.
  • Finding the right agent.
  • Searching for the perfect home.
  • Staying within a budget.


5 common mistakes to avoid for first time home buyers.


1. More to it than mortgage payments.  Property insurance, taxes, homeowners association dues, maintenance, and higher electric and water bills are some of the costs first time home buyers tend to overlook when shopping for a place. Keep in mind that these costs tend to rise every year. Even if you can afford these costs now, ask yourself if you’re able to afford the increased costs down the road.

2. Looking for a home first and a loan later.  Home buying doesn’t begin with home searching. It begins with a mortgage prequalification — unless you’re lucky to have enough money to pay cash for your first house.

Often, first time home buyers fear a lender may tell them they don’t qualify for a mortgage or they qualify for a loan smaller than expected. Don’t just pick a price range out of the sky and start shopping. Know where you stand before you start your home search.

The house buying rule of thumb is get preapproved first and then you find a home….that way you’ll make a financial decision versus an emotional decision.

3. Not getting professional help.   New to the home buying game? You’ll need a reputable real estate agent, a good loan officer or broker, and perhaps a lawyer. Venturing into this process alone, without professional help, is not a good idea. While every rule has its exception, generally, first-time buyers should not try to deal directly with the listing agent.

If you hire an agent without a referral from friends or family, ask the agent to provide references from previous buyers. The same goes for loan officers or mortgage brokers. You are about to make what is possibly the largest single investment of your lifetime, you want to make sure it’s done right.

4. Using up savings on the down payment.  Spending all or most of their savings on the down payment and closing costs is one of the biggest mistakes first time home buyers can make. Home buyers who put 20% or more down don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance (PMI) when getting a conventional mortgage. That’s usually translated into substantial savings on the monthly mortgage payment. But it’s not worth the risk of living without a rainy day fund. First time home buyer’s (and everyone else) should keep some money in their savings in case of an emergency.

5. Getting new loans before the deal is closed.  You have prequalified for a loan… you found the house you wanted…the contract is signed… and the closing is in 30 days. Don’t celebrate by financing another big purchase.

Lenders pull credit reports before the closing to make sure the borrower’s financial situation has not changed since the loan was approved. Any new loans on your credit report can jeopardize the closing. So use caution in obtaining any other new loans (new furniture or a new car, etc.) prior to the actual closing of your new home.


Thanks to for these great tips.