Your Home – Five Effective Tips to Winterize Your Home

When the leaves begin to fall and the first frost settles on the grass, you know that the coldest months of the year are on their way. Winterizing your house in preparation for cold temperatures is highly important for your family’s comfort, as well as for your home’s energy efficiency.

Let’s look at five effective tips to winterize your home. These practices can help to ensure that your house is ready to brave the frigid temperatures and frozen precipitation that winter brings.

1. Clean Out the Gutters

While clearing out the sticks, leaves, yard nuts, and other debris from your gutters is important year-round, giving your gutters a thorough cleaning before the temperatures begin to drop significantly is especially important. Be sure to thoroughly clean your gutters after the majority of leaves and other debris have fallen off trees that are close to your house. Failing to properly clean your gutters before temperatures drop below the freezing point can allow debris and ice to dam up the gutters, potentially causing damage to both drainpipes and the roof.

2. Furnace Maintenance and Inspection

Keeping your home’s furnace in good working order is a key element of preparing your house for the cold temperatures of winter. Hire a certified heating specialist to inspect your furnace before the coldest months begin.

Relying on a furnace that requires maintenance or repair will likely increase your energy costs without providing the amount of heat that will keep your home cozy when it gets cold. Even worse, a furnace that hasn’t been properly maintained can break down, resulting in a preventable home heating emergency. Changing filters on your furnace on a regular basis can help avert these problems down the road.

3. Insulate Pipes

While this element of home winterization may sound intimidating at first, it is actually a simple job and is one of the most effective methods of winterizing your home. Insulating your pipes can help to keep them from freezing, bursting, and causing damage to the plumbing in your home.

Foam pipe insulation tubes are available at most home improvement stores and online. Once you determine the diameter of the pipes that you intend to insulate, simply purchase the foam insulation tubes of the corresponding size, cut them to the correct length, and place them around the pipes. Focus on those pipes that are closest to the exterior of the home, as these are most likely to freeze. You can shut off the water supply to the spigots that run outside your home to help avoid this problem.

4. Seal Exterior Doors and Windows

One of the most common reasons that houses become drafty and cold during the winter months is outside air coming in through openings around doors or windows. Especially in the case of older homes, insulation around door and window frames may be inadequate or warped, allowing heat to escape.

Sealing exterior doors and windows can be accomplished in a number of ways, including the use of storm doors and windows, caulking all gaps around door and window frames, and even sealing windows with clear plastic wrap for the entirety of the season.

5. Reverse the Direction of Ceiling Fans

During the warmer months, ceiling fans can help to make your home energy efficient by circulating cool air upward and throughout the room. Many newer ceiling fan models include a switch that changes the direction of the fan, precisely for the purpose of winterization.

Setting your ceiling fan to spin clockwise will continually push the hottest air in the room back downward, away from the ceiling and toward the parts of the room that people occupy. This simple tip can help you decrease the need for excessive furnace heating, saving you energy costs all winter long!

Finances – Why Now Is a Good Time to Refinance

When considering refinancing your mortgage, there are a range of factors to consider. All things being equal, if refinancing will save you money, build equity, and allow you to pay off your mortgage faster, it’s a good idea.

Whether you will experience these good outcomes by refinancing your mortgage will depend on a number of economic indicators. However, if you are a homeowner who has been considering refinancing for some time, there are a number of indicators that make right now the perfect time. Let’s look at a few significant reasons why the current economic landscape is ideal for attempting to remortgage your home loan.

The Fed Is Cutting Rates

While the Fed’s actions don’t directly control mortgage rates in the way that they control rates in other areas (such as, CD interest and savings accounts), decisions that the Fed makes do clearly influence mortgage rates. Specifically, the Fed influences the rates paid by individuals on fixed-rate home loans when they seek new mortgages or attempt to refinance.

Recently, the Fed has announced that it intends for rates to be low for the foreseeable future. This is good news for homeowners who are hoping to refinance their mortgages.

Interest Rates Are Low Generally

While the coronavirus pandemic has had a range of immeasurable and devastating effects on the lives of everyone, it has also affected the markets in novel ways. For example, general mortgage rates have been at historic lows this year, measuring at less than 3% as of September. Rates will inevitably rise at some point in the future, which means now is a great time to attempt to renegotiate and lock in the current fixed-rate low interest that is available.

Additionally, if you have already paid the majority of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, it is worth noting that 15-year mortgage interest rates are also historically low. Some homeowners will be able to refinance and use the existing low rates in order to shave years off of their current mortgages and save a significant amount of money on interest in the long run.

Fixed-rate Mortgage Interest Is Currently Similar to Adjustable-rate Mortgages

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), unlike fixed-rate loans, maintain a fixed-rate of interest only for the first several years and then their interest begins to fluctuate based on the typical rates in the market from year-to-year. Because of this, they usually offer homeowners lower interest rates for their first few years.

However, like most things in 2020, the markets have been unusual. The current rates on 30-year fixed mortgages are, in many cases, as low as the first few years on current ARMs. This means that the current climate is ideal for those with older mortgages to attempt to refinance based on the presently low rates.

Additionally, if you already have an ARM because you initially planned to live in your home for a relatively short period of time, you may be able to refinance in a way that secures a fixed-rate determined by today’s market.

This article is for information, illustrative and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to show actual results. It is not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular investment action. If you would like to see if you could benefit from refinancing your mortgage, Request Mortgage Review.

Personal Interest – Staying Safe While Celebrating This Holiday Season

When we think of typical holiday gatherings, we picture our friends and loved ones laughing together around the dining room table or otherwise spending quality time in cozy indoor settings during the coldest times of the year. Unfortunately, almost all of our typical behaviors and social practices have become inappropriate in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The usual holiday staples of spending long hours in close quarters, while sharing meals and laughs with our loved ones, involve the exact types of behaviors that can put our families at the most risk for the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Because holiday gatherings often include older family members and those with health issues, it is especially important to take every possible step to keep our families safe and healthy this season.

Regardless of which holiday(s) you celebrate, there are a number of factors to consider when determining how to keep your friends and family safe while celebrating this holiday season.

Celebrate Together Virtually

Because the novel coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets that infected people breathe out through the mouth and nose, sharing unventilated indoor air with others is what causes the vast majority of infections. Therefore, the safest method is to hold a holiday celebration virtually.

Video chat services, like Zoom and Skype, offer families a way to spend time together around the holidays without sharing a physical space.

Virtual celebrations allow families to see, hear, and share quality time with each other without putting anyone at risk. Some fun virtual holiday activities include the following:

– Playing party games together (Charades, 20 Questions, Two Truths and a Lie, etc.)
– Teaching each other delicious cookie or other dessert recipes and making them simultaneously
– Watching movies or shows together (try apps like Netflix Party, MyCircleTV, or Scener)
– Eating a delicious holiday dinner simultaneously, in the way that you would if you were physically together
– Having each person attending share something for which they are thankful

Attending or Hosting an In-person Holiday Gathering

For those families who do decide to hold an in-person holiday gathering, there are a number of best practices to follow in order to lower the risks for family members as much as possible.

– Check Infection Rates in Your Area – Keep a close eye on the COVID-19 positivity rates in your area and the areas of all potential attendees. If positivity rates are high or increasing, put the safety of loved ones first by reducing the size of the gathering or holding the gathering virtually.
– Small Gatherings – Keeping the guest list as small as possible is imperative in order to minimize the risk of spreading infections. When determining the number of people attending, follow the guidance of local public health officials.
– Honest Conversations about Safety Measures – Have open, honest, and candid conversations about the safety measures being practiced by everyone who plans to attend the gathering. In order to minimize the risk for your family, all attendees should self-quarantine for two weeks and receive a negative COVID test before the holiday gathering. If anyone is feeling unwell or has been in contact with anyone feeling unwell, they should not attend.
– Follow Safety Measures When Together – Those attending the gathering should follow all recommended CDC guidelines, such as maintaining 6 feet of distance at all times, wearing masks when not eating, opening windows for ventilation, and washing hands regularly for at least 20 seconds at a time. Also, using disposable plates, flatware, and hand towels will decrease the risk of infection for you and your family.

Thank you and have a great month!

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Paul Stella