Home Heating Help and Hints

(NAPSI)—You can keep your home cozy during the cooler months with these tips from the Eldercare Locator:

1. Find out about financial energy assistance programs. Many communities help older adults with heating costs. Area Agency on Aging (AAAs) nationwide have information about these programs. Call (800) 677-1116 or visit www.eldercare.gov to find the AAA near you.

2. Ask about the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)-the federally funded program that helps eligible low-income people meet home heating needs. Call (866) 674-6327 or see www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/liheap/grantees/states.html.

3. Get information about the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). Most state and local governments get federal funds to help low-income families reduce energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. The services are provided by nonprofit agencies that employ energy professionals. They thoroughly analyze energy systems, make minor repairs and check for hazards. Find WAP at (877) 337-3463 and www.eere.energy.gov/weatherization/state_contacts.cfm.

4. Your gas, water and electricity suppliers may offer a monthly budget plan. They may also have special heating assistance funds, as well as “no cutoff” guidelines for older adults, people with disabilities and ill customers.

5. Cut down on energy use. The EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program offers energy-saving tips at (888) 782-7937 and www.energystar.gov.

In addition, you can:

• Seal air leaks. Weather-strip and insulate to prevent warm air from leaking out of the house. Replace screens with storm windows.

• Use a programmable thermostat to lower the heat by 8° F when you’re asleep or away.

• Have a licensed contractor check your heating equipment to make sure it’s operating at peak performance.

• Change the air filter every three months.

• Always close the fireplace damper when not in use and consider the use of a fireplace “balloon” to make it even tighter. Just remember to remove it before lighting a fire in the fireplace.

• Insulate water pipes to avoid freezing and bursting. Drain and turn off outside water spouts.

Learn More

For further facts, tips or a free brochure go to www.n4a.org/files/WinterWeather.pdf, www.eldercare.gov or www.facebook.com/eldercarelocator.

• The Eldercare Locator is the first step to finding resources for older adults in the U.S. and is a free national service funded by a grant from the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA). It is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a).

Stay Cool Without Overheating Family Budget

Fans of home comfort are welcoming a new campaign that offers energy-saving tips written in straightforward language.

(NAPSI)-If you have begun to get hot under the collar about rising energy costs, you have lots of company. The Energy Department recently predicted a 3.5 percent increase in U.S. electricity rates, just as summer arrives.

The typical U.S. household already spends about $1,446 a year on home energy bills. While there may not be anything that consumers can do about power rates, a new nationwide campaign has been established to help people become smarter users of energy and save money in the process.

The campaign, produced by the Advertising Council and TracyLocke, and sponsored by Energy Outreach Colorado, is distributing information on smart energy usage throughout the United States. A primary source is the campaign Web site at www.energyhog.org. While designed in part for children, the site contains useful tips on energy efficiency improvement projects for adults as well as links to related energy efficiency sites for people of all ages. For example, there’s a link to the U.S. Department of Energy, which offers an online virtual home tour with tips for saving energy and money at home-in a single-family house, a condo or an apartment.

The site contains tips that are written in straightforward language that can be understood by any homeowner or apartment dweller who wants to minimize summer electricity costs while still staying cool. For example:

  • Keep the sun out during the day and let the cooler night air be a source of comfort. So get into the habit of closing the windows and drawing the blinds each morning.
  • Trim vegetation from around the air-conditioning unit. Keep bushes and other plants four to five feet away from your outside condensing unit. This will allow ample airflow around the unit.
  • Adjust the rotation of ceiling fans. Most ceiling fans have reversible motors, so all you have to do is flip a switch to change direction with the season. During the summer, your fan should rotate counterclockwise to circulate the cool air.
  • Use ceiling, box or oscillating fans in conjunction with the air conditioner. Fans create a windchill effect that makes you feel cooler at a warmer thermostat setting. But remember, this cooling effect only works if you are using the air conditioner.
  • Check air filters. Take the time to check them now and replace the ones that are dirty. Use your monthly electric bill as a reminder to check your filters each month.
  • Add reflective film or solar screens to windows. These simple additions can go a long way in reducing heat gain, which will lower energy usage. When added to windows on the eastern and western sides of your home, these materials can reduce your annual cooling costs by up to $11 for each 3-by-6-foot window. For windows with a southern exposure, you can save about half that amount.
  • Set your thermostat on “auto.” Use the “auto” fan setting on your thermostat. Setting it to “on” causes the fan to run even when you are not there. This increases your bill, but doesn’t provide any benefits.
  • Check the level of insulation in the attic. This is especially important if you own a home that is more than 20 years old. More than 80 percent of houses built prior to 1980 lack adequate ceiling insulation. If you like do-it-yourself projects, your local home improvement center can guide you through this. If you’d rather call a professional, look for a local insulation company and make sure it is bonded and insured.

The energy efficiency campaign is supported by the leading energy experts at the U.S. Department of Energy, The Home Depot, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, the National Fuel Funds Network and 20 state energy offices throughout the United States.

For more energy tips that you can use year-round visit, www.energyhog.org.

Simple Solutions To Combat Rising Food Prices

Feeling the heat at the grocery store? Canned vegetables can help make wholesome family meals more affordable.

by Hannah Keeley

(NAPSI)-Food prices are on the rise and, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they are expected to climb even higher. With eggs up 40 percent, milk up 20 percent and chicken up 10 percent, many families are feeling the strain on their budgets at the grocery store.

Taking small steps, such as eating before heading to the grocery store and reading the circular to see what’s on sale, can have a big impact at the checkout counter. Here are some other ways families can make the most of their grocery budget:

• Planning ahead is very important. Before you go to the grocery store, plan out a week’s worth of meals. Check your pantry for any items you already have and make a list so you know exactly what to buy at the store.

• To cut down on cost, choose affordable canned vegetables such as Libby’s, which are just as nutritious and great tasting as pricey fresh varieties. GetBack totheTable.com has delicious easy recipes to help moms incorporate canned vegetables into family dinners.

• Buy in bulk only when it’s a product you know you will use, and check the price per ounce listed on the shelf to make sure you’re getting the most product for your money.

• For moms shopping with children, create a learning experience. Before you set out, show your kids your list and explain that it is exactly what the family needs for the week. Get the kids involved by having them hunt for essentials. Older children can put their math skills to real-world use by weighing items, counting cans and calculating sale prices.

Budget-conscious moms can download my meal planner and find cost-saving tips from Libby’s, as well as convenient, healthy recipes, at www.GetBacktotheTable.com.

Hannah Keeley is a mother of seven and author of “Hannah Keeley’s Total Mom Makeover: The Six-Week Plan to Completely Transform Your Home, Health, Family, and Life.”

Saving Money Without Suffering

tightwadYears ago, my best friend and I shard a subscription to the Tightwad Gazette. We were both in our early twenties, living on one income and trying to raise children without getting into a credit hole. Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced Decision) was a savior for the thrifty. She made us not only feel good about ourselves for spending wisely, but many times made it fun as well.

The newletter was published from 1990 – 1996 and my friend kept every single issue, clipped into a 3-ring binder. We still pull it out now and
then to look over some of the great ideas that were shared there. Luckily, it’s not too late for those who weren’t fortunate enough to be in the “in” crowd
back then. Random House has published all the newsletters into one volume for only 13.99 (way less than we paid for our subscription for all those years).

If you’d like to get your own copy, visit Amazon.com for your copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette

Reduce Costs And Increase Comfort This Winter

(NAPSI)-Winter is approaching and it’s time to prepare your home for the cold temperatures, snow, ice and windy conditions. Once cold air moves in, it doesn’t take long for heating costs to skyrocket, and stocking your home with essential supplies will better prepare you and your family for the winter months ahead. Many factors need to be considered when choosing how to winterize your home, particularly safety and efficiency.

Purchase items that will save energy costs and keep the area in and around your home safe. According to Discovery.com, the average winter temperature in the United States is 35 degrees. Falling temperatures lead to rising heating bills, but by winterizing your home properly, you can reduce winter energy costs. Every home should have a few basic essentials on hand to help keep costs down and increase safety. Have these items handy and take stock of your winter supplies early and often, so you don’t have to fight the crowds and the weather.

  • Snow Shovel. Buy a shovel that is light and sturdy. Keep your walkways and driveways clear of snow. When shoveling, do not overexert yourself and lift heavy snow by bending at the knees so you do not injure your back.
  • Salt. Make sure that you have a bag of salt available throughout the winter to throw down on your walkways and driveways in order to melt snow and prevent icing. Keeping high traffic areas clear lessens the chance of slipping and falling.
  • Window Roll-On Kits. Use window roll-on kits to keep the warm air inside and the cold air out. Duck® brand’s Roll-On Window Insulator Kits are easy to install, and have a pre-taped edge for easy adhesion.
  • Outlet Covers. Place covers on all electrical outlets. One place heat escapes and cold air enters the house is through uninsulated outlets. Place Duck® brand Socket Sealers directly behind the cover plate to easily increase energy savings in your home.
  • Weatherseals. The majority of heat escapes the home through gaps around doors and windows. Seal off these areas with a weatherseal to block these openings and seal heat inside the home. The Duck® brand provides a complete line of self-adhesive rubber weatherseals that come in five different varieties to effectively block any size gap. Make sure the surface is clean before you apply to ensure the seal sticks firmly in place.
  • Water Heater Blanket. Insulate your water heater with a water heater blanket. These blankets can reduce operating costs up to 15 percent. Be sure, however, that you note which blankets are appropriate for your specific water heater model.
  • Automatic Thermostat. Programming the thermostat allows the unit to turn off while you are sleeping or are away from home. This will help reduce energy costs while keeping your family comfortable at home.
  • Doormats. Place doormats inside each entrance to your home, making a space to dry wet shoes and boots. This will keep the floors dry and help to prevent slipping.

Most of these items are affordable and available at your local superstore. A well-thought-out winterization plan will not only ensure you have everything you need for winter, but you will also have more time to enjoy your favorite cold weather pastimes in your warm, cozy home. It is never too early or too late to protect your home, your bills and your family from the severe weather.

To learn more about these and other Duck brand home energy efficiency products, visit the Web site at www.duckproducts.com or call 1-800-321-0253.

There are a number of steps homeowners can take to save energy during the winter.

How to Save Big Without Feeling Deprived

By Adam Eisenson

It’s easy to save money without changing your lifestyle or feeling deprived. But pinching pennies alone won’t put you on the road to financial freedom. The key to economic independence lies in what you do with the nickels and dimes you save. If you invest them in your credit card and other bills, you’ll soon be debt-free. That’s The Banker’s Secret in a nutshell.

For starters, you’ll need a piggy bank. Pop the pennies you pinch and your pocket change into it religiously. When you pay your credit card bill, use those nickels and dimes to save a fortune. Invest as little as $1 a week in your plastic, and save $3,350 in interest.

Shop Smart. You know what to do: Buy generics when possible, use coupons only for items you normally buy, avoid fast, processed and convenience foods.

REALLY stock up when your favorite items are on sale, whether it’s tuna at the supermarket, pantyhose at the drugstore, or water processed, hazelnut de-caf at the gourmet shop. Stocking up is better than putting money in the bank. For example, our favorite apple juice normally costs $1.89 a bottle. At $1.29, we save 32%, and buy all we can store.

“Hondl” — that is, bargain. Whether it’s for a new TV set or to hire a real estate broker … even a lawyer. Business is slow. Many merchants and service providers now have to be more flexible. Pretend you’re shopping in an exotic, faraway market. You lose nothing by asking, “What’s your best price?”

Barter opportunities abound. “I’ll fill Johnny’s cavities, if you’ll paint my family’s portrait.” “I’ll type your term paper, if you’ll cut the grass.” “I’ll watch your kids Saturday night, if you’ll take mine next week.” Nancy and I trade ripe tomatoes for some of Rose’s delicious, canned tomato sauce. Be imaginative.

Start a bidding war. Comparison shop for everything — insurance, cars, contractors, attorneys, plane tickets. You name it. Let the bidders know you’ll be getting at least 3 estimates, and that you’re going to give your business to the one with the best price.

Install a water filter if you regularly buy the bottled kind. You’ll quickly recover the one time charge, and it’ll be free drinking from then on.

Premium gas is not necessarily better for your car than regular, unleaded. If your car will run on regular, you’ll save about 12% with every fill-up. Even a 50/50 blend will save you 6%. Keep your tires properly inflated to save even more on gas — and on tires.

Start a purchasing club with neighbors, and buy it wholesale. Whether you need diapers, daffodils, toilet paper or tennis balls, find out who sells it in bulk, and you’ll pay half. Group buying can also cut the cost of oil, food — pretty much anything that’s sold.

Garage sales, thrift shops, and consignment stores are great sources for furniture, clothing, and tools … often at incredibly low prices.

Farmer’s markets are a fun, inexpensive source for fresh, wholesome foods … in season.

Weigh produce. As we’ve said before, you’d be amazed how often an extra quarter pound of carrots find their way into a one pound bag. Ditto for potatoes, onions, mushrooms, apples, oranges … any pre-packaged fruits or vegetables. Savings of 25% are routine.

Always count your change. Cashiers, waiters and waitresses, even bank tellers, make mistakes. Why should you pay for them?

Use a low interest credit card if you regularly run a balance. Five percent less on the standard $2,000 credit card bill will put $100 a year into your pocket.

Get no-fee cards if you pay your plastic bills in full every month. You’ll save $25 to $40 a year, or more, on each. With Americans carrying an average of 9 cards, that’s between $225 and $360 a year.

Complain vigorously when you get defective products, bad service, or shoddy merchandise. Chances are you’ll get a substantial price reduction. As a bonus, writing “I am outraged letters” can be very therapeutic.

Free is a great price. Nancy and I mulch our garden with tons of wood chips from power company line crews, as well as with leaves and hay from farm neighbors. We get our paper clips free from the bank, which can’t possibly use all the ones depositors bring in. We love libraries, and spend a lot of our free time bird watching, star gazing, and canoeing (in a very pre-owned craft). And we eat all the free mulberries, wild blueberries, and hickory nuts we can pick.

Scavenge. You’d be amazed by the perfectly useable things you can get — again for free — if you keep your eyes out. One recent find here included enough window screens to enclose the greenhouse I had just built for Nancy … creating a screened-in sunroom.

The Pocket Change Investor, the quarterly newsletter from GoodAdvise.com on how to save money, get out of debt, and live better on less, will be available online, only — for free! To get issues sent right to your inbox, send your email address to GoodAdvise.com at newsletter@goodadvicepress.com, putting the word “subscribe” on the subject line.

The Pocket Change Windfall: Each of our 34 back issues offers painless ways to get out of debt and save on the many expenses that confront us all — taxes, credit card bills, mortgages, insurance, food, you name it. You can get all 34 for just $29.95 — that’s less than $1 each. Order Online or call 800-255-0899.

How To Beat The Heat Of High Cooling Costs

When it gets hot outside, Americans love it cool-very cool-inside.

(NAPSI)-A recent national survey found that the average home thermostat setting during daytime hours on the hottest days of the year is 73 degrees. The survey-commissioned by Emerson, a leading provider of energy-efficient HVAC technologies used by major air conditioning manufacturers-found that the average nighttime setting is 72 degrees. This contrasts with energy efficiency experts who suggest setting the thermostats at 78 degrees when people are home.

Keeping cool carries a cost. In southern states like Texas and Florida, air conditioning accounts for as much as two-thirds of the summer electric bill. Even in Minnesota where I live most homes now have central air conditioning to make life a little more enjoyable during our all-too-short but humid summers.

So how can you take the heat out of rising utility bills without sacrificing indoor comfort?

Here are three easy ways to keep your utility bills in check while keeping cool:

1. Don’t touch that dial. Nearly 20 percent of homeowners are manually adjusting their thermostat at home two, three, or more times a day, according to the Emerson survey. In many cases, multiple members of the household are in control of the thermostat.

All those fingers fiddling with thermostat settings costs money. It’s time to install and use a programmable thermostat. You can program these wonderful gadgets to automatically adjust your home’s temperature when you’re sleeping or away-and cut your energy bill anywhere from 10 to 30 percent.

The best thermostats maintain a precise temperature and come with a preset program that’s easy to customize and won’t lose your settings after a power outage.

Tip: If you can’t remember how to set your programmable thermostat, visit the manufacturer’s Web site on the Internet. For example, the operating manuals for Emerson’s White-Rodgers brand of thermostats are posted on their Web site at www.white-rodgers.com.

2. Look for high SEER ratings. More than three-fourths of homeowners with central air conditioning in the Emerson survey didn’t recognize the term “SEER rating.” In fact, some people mistakenly associated it with “cooking intensity,” “weather condition,” or “fortune telling.”

SEER is the acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, the federally mandated rating system for energy efficiency of air conditioners. The current minimum is 10 SEER, but after January 2006 all new systems sold in the United States must be at least 13 SEER.

If you are buying a central air conditioner, select the highest SEER-rated system you can afford. Your HVAC contractor should fully explain the features and efficiency ratings for the air conditioning systems being recommended in your budget range.

Tip: For the best energy efficiency, reliability, and lowest operating sound, make sure your air conditioner uses a scroll compressor. For the ultimate in efficiency and climate control, look for air conditioners containing the new two-stage Copeland Scroll UltraTech&#0153 compressors made by Emerson.

3. Make routine maintenance a priority. More than a third of homeowners say they have not had their central air conditioner inspected or serviced by a professional contractor in the past year and do not expect to this spring or summer.

There are a number of routine maintenance tasks that homeowners can do on their own, such as regularly changing disposable air filters (or cleaning electronic air cleaners) on the indoor blower unit; keeping debris away from the outdoor unit; and hosing off the condenser fins on the outdoor unit.

But just like regular tune-ups for your car, it really pays to have a contractor inspect and service your air conditioning and furnace system annually to make sure it is operating at peak performance.

Tip: Be sure your contractor is licensed, well trained, and experienced. Look for firms whose employees are certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) training program.

By Dean Johnson

Dean Johnson is host of “Hometime,” the do-it-yourself home-improvement television series that’s currently aired by 325 public television stations across the country. For more information on Dean and Hometime, visit www.hometime.com. For more information on climate technology products from Emerson, visit www.gotoemerson.com.

The Hidden Cost Of Store Cards

by: Joseph Kenny

It happens all the time. You go into one of your favourite shops and hear the offer over the public address system: ‘An extra 10% off today if you apply for one of our store cards.’ This seems like a good idea for people who shop regularly in a particular place but there are a number of reasons to be careful about applying for store cards.

When Is A Store Card Not A Store Card?

First of all, the name ‘store card’ is misleading. It makes them sound friendly. But store cards are another form of credit card. Like credit cards, people can use store cards to defer payment for purchases. Like credit cards, store cards charge interest on uncleared balances. And like credit cards, people have to apply for them.

Although it can be tempting to have a store card for each place you shop in, people should avoid this temptation. Every store card application will become part of your credit history. People who make more than three applications within a seven month period are likely to be turned down for some cards. This will adversely affect their credit rating.

Store Card Interest Rates

A key difference between store cards and credit cards is the interest-free period. While credit cards typically have interest-free periods of up to 56 days, many store cards have none. People pay interest on the debt from the day it goes on the card.

What is worse, the interest rates on most store cards are very high. The Competition Commission recently said that British consumers were being overcharged by £100 million a year due to the high interest rates. In fact, the Commission suggested that store cards should carry a ‘wealth warning’.

Interest rates on normal credit cards typically range between 8% and 20%. In contrast, store card interest rates are usually around 30%. This makes a tremendous difference when paying back a debt.

Other Store Card Fees

Store cards also charge high late payment fees, making them very expensive for consumers. And the payment protection insurance offered by many cards may be higher than that charged on regular credit cards.

Not all store cards fall into this category. There are some retail outlets that offer cards with similar rates to regular credit cards. Store cards that are badged by the retail outlet but issued by a bank may also have competitive interest rates.

Getting The Best From Store Cards

With high interest rates and low interest free periods, it is easy for consumers to pay over the odds for store card credit. To avoid this, it’s best to:

  • Read the fine print to see what rate of interest applies to the card. This will be listed under the heading ‘typical APR’
  • Check whether there is an interest free period
  • Pay off the outstanding balance within a month

Another option is to avoid the store card and use another credit card with a better interest rate.

About The Author

Joe Kenny writes for the Card Guide, a UK based credit cards site, visit today for introductory balance transfers and start clearing credit card debt today.

Visit today: http://www.cardguide.co.uk/