Home-improvements-2

Simple Ways To Reduce Heating And Cooling Costs

If you’re tired of paying massive sums of money for heating and cooling costs  you’ve come to the right place. I’ve tried and tested these simple techniques and they really work. As an example last quarter we literally saved a couple of hundred dollars on our usual $500 plus electricity bill. It wasn’t difficult and anyone can do it.

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Shop around for service providers

One way I managed to save was by doing a bit of homework and swapping our utility retailer. Some online companies can do this for you but it’s probably best if you make comparisons yourself. Check daily service charges, peak and off peak times and rates plus fees and charges and any discounts which apply.

Many retailers offer discounts for customers who pay on time. These can be good for people who like to pay fortnightly or weekly to reduce their total bill but if you primarily look for these type of deals you could be missing out. Some companies tariffs are lower than the discounted rate anyway so check the actual figures. I was a bit hesitant to swap initially because I was used to getting the pay on time discount, however when I had a look at the costs it worked out less overall.

Don’t be too concerned if you’re in a contract either. Most gas and electrical contracts are easy to get out of and the cost of swapping is still going to save you in the long run.  Just be aware that the swap won’t go through immediately and it can take several months to take affect. Generally retailers need to wait until the next billing cycle before they hand over supply to another company. It’s just a matter of contacting a new retailer, signing up and they basically do the rest.

Window dressings

Exposed glass can significantly add to heating and cooling costs. In warmer weather glass heats up as the sun beats down upon it. Luckily, a lot of people know to leave their homes shut up in summer to reduce the heat entering their homes. However, many neglect to realise when it’s cold outside they should do the same thing. The warmth generated by heating within a home rapidly escapes though the glass and this adds to the cost of temperature control.

An easy way to reduce the cost is by shutting window dressings to trap the heat within during winter and to repel it in summer. Heavily backed curtains are probably the most effective option. Other dressings like blinds or venetians are better than nothing but are no way near as effective.

Another excellent option is window tinting. This stuff is awesome. It reduces glare, adds privacy, has see through and decorative options, protects the glass from breakage and successfully saves money on temperature control. Adding this layer to glass windows makes it harder for heat to escape in winter and penetrate in summer. Plus it’s not as expensive as you might think. Even people who rent can add this without permanently altering a property.

You can buy it in bulk and apply it to each window in the home, have it installed professionally or just purchase enough for problem windows which receive the most exposure. Some tinting products are very easy to apply and remove. It’s just a matter of cleaning the glass, spray it with a bit of soapy water, position it and cut it to size. Violã! It’s that easy.

Using fans to assist with circulation

Using fans costs a fraction of the price of air-conditioners. I’m talking pocket change instead of folded notes! One really nifty tip is to use a combination of fans and the air-conditioning. Even though you have two appliances running it will save you a small fortune if you set the air-con to a higher or lower temperature than required and use the fan.

For example in summer instead of setting the air-con to 22 set it to 23 and use a fan or two to circulate the air. This cools the air and assists the air-con to reach it’s desired temperature faster. It’s been claimed that for each degree difference you can save 10 percent on running costs. Therefore if you set the air-con to 25 instead of 22 you can save a whopping 30 percent. The same applies to setting temperatures in winter. I did this during summer and we saved about $250 on our regular summer electricity bill and temperature wise we didn’t feel the difference.

Nine fast tips

  • Most of these are tips are common sense and if you watch your heating and cooling usage you will notice the savings. Seriously why spend more on utility bills than you have to? Wouldn’t you rather go on a short holiday every year with the savings? I know I would!
  • Avoid heating and cooling unused spaces
  • Gas is cheaper to run than electricity so if you have an option chose the gas rather than use an electrical appliance
  • Avoid using high wattage appliances like small fan heaters unless you need to
  • In winter if you have a heater which uses wood, try and source wood for free. Network, check online for give-away wood and don’t be afraid of a bit of hard work to collect it. This will save a fortune!
  • Instead of heating bedrooms before bedtime, use an electric blanket. Flick it on half an hour prior and you’ll be toasty warm in seconds
  • If you use ducting shut off ducts to areas not in use. Close the vents or board them up more permanently if they aren’t necessary
  • Dress appropriately. Rather than wearing t-shirts around the home in winter and turn on the heating, wear more clothing. If your watching TV or on the computer use blankets instead of turning on the heat if you can avoid it. The same applies in summer. If you dress for the weather conditions this will save you money
  • If you’re home alone, you really only need to warm or cool yourself not the entire space
  • Instead of using heating or cooling appliances day and night only use them when you really need to. Many of us are very used to flicking on the air-con when really we’d be just as comfortable opening the windows or putting on a jumper. This is not only good for your finances but also saves the environment from all those nasties generated by using temperature control appliances

If anyone has anymore useful tips on saving on heating and cooling costs we’d love to here from you.

Image treedoctors.ca

May 25, 2015

5 Steps To Help You Create The Perfect Garden

If you’ve spent the winter months gazing out of the window dreaming of spring, now’s the time to plan your perfect garden. You should always be realistic, and create a garden that you’ll be able to manage. You don’t want to design an environment that means constant hard work, leaving you little time to unwind and enjoy your little version of Eden.

1. Carry out some research

If you don’t really know much about plants, soil conditions and gardens in general, then the magazine Country Life suggests that you call on the services of an expert to help you design your perfect garden. A professional gardener may stop you making expensive mistakes and will be able to help you create a garden that’s perfect for your gardening needs and skills. For ideas about flowers, and plants to stock your new flowerbeds, then click here for inspiration.

2. Remember to create an area for sitting

Once you’ve planned your garden and know the types of plants that you want to stock, then an article in The Daily Mirror suggests that you also reserve an area for sitting and enjoying your outside space. Once you’ve dug the flowerbeds, turn your attention to designing an outdoors seating area with decking, or paving that you can use in the summer. Make sure that this area benefits from the sun so plan accordingly. You can always erect a pergola over this space, and use jasmine or other climbing plants for beautiful scented shade.

3. What do you use your garden for?

For some people the perfect garden will resemble the splendours of Sissinghurst, or Hever Castle, but if you don’t have an army of gardeners to hand, or you have a young boisterous family, then this effect will be difficult to maintain. If you love flowers but don’t want to go to the trouble of maintaining herbaceous borders, then hanging baskets and decorative pots might be a useful option. The kids can still play on the grass, and you can enjoy your blooms.

4. Create a wildlife habitat

If you want to encourage birds, butterflies and bees to visit your garden, then make sure you include plenty of flowers in your design. Bees love flowers that are rich in pollen, these include forget-me-nots, herb flowers and the blossom from any fruit trees. A wilder, less manicured garden is easy to maintain, and will allow you to enjoy a constant stream of pollinators throughout the spring and summer months. Wild grasses also look great in this type of garden, as do wild herbs, including chamomile.

5. Gardens do change

Once your flowers are in bloom and you are satisfied with the overall effect of your garden, remember that you can always add different plants to your initial plan. Nature is never static, and your garden shouldn’t be either. You could try a mix of formal borders and have a wild area at the rear of your garden. Alternatively, you could just fill your space with shrubs and trees and have some raised beds for vegetables. Perfection is very personal; so try to stamp as much of your individuality on your garden as possible.

February 24, 2015

Spring 2014 Ushers In A Fresh New Season Of Colour

Luxurious copper-based metallics, earthy greys and calming blues and greens will dominate interiors this spring as homeowners cast off the deep and decadent hues of winter to add a lighter touch. That’s the forecast from Dulux experts, who have studied design, colour and finishes from around the globe to develop the season’s predictions.

Dulux colour expert Andrea Lucena-Orr says:

“It’s natural to want to welcome the first blush of spring after a long cold winter and there’s no better way to do that than with a fresh coat of paint.”

Popular colours are likely to include Dulux Sun Sensation – Design Metallic, a luxurious copper-based metallic; the earthy ambiance of neutral Dulux Malay Grey; and the fresh, cooling tones of Dulux Antarctica Lake Quarter.

Dulux also has two serene greens – Dulux Classic Calm, which is easy to blend from inside to outdoor space for spring entertaining, and Dulux Gentle Calm, a mid green suitable for any room. Partner the greens with light and bright Dulux Whisper White to inspire a stylish spring space. The hero colours for spring come from the Dulux Precious Elementals palette, which is influenced by the earth, minerals, natural stones, and geographical formations.

The director and head designer of Zuster, Wilhelmina McCarroll, styled the Precious Elementals and says the 2014 Spring colours of greens and greys are perfectly paired with blonde timbers and a touch of warm metallic. She says:

“Consumers can be adventurous with colour by painting architraves and skirtings in different colours and adding some of this season’s gorgeous warmer metallics, such as copper and gold in a small way.”

For example, using a subtle, soft green like Dulux Gentle Calm in a bathroom creates a sense of luxury and the perception of a larger space. Adding a touch of glamour with Dulux Sun Sensation in metallic brings out key features in the space.

“I don’t think colour will ever go out of fashion. We are currently seeing many colours being mixed and clashed with fantastic results. There are no rules anymore as to what colours should go together, if it works it works!” 

May 25, 2014

Clutter Crazy: How to Declutter (and Save Your Sanity)

Clutter is one of those things that drives me absolutely mental, and I know I’m not alone. Not to say that I live in a show home. I more live in a state of bearable chaos until I snap and have the urge to make everything as pretty as possible.

But one thing I’ve learnt is that making things pretty is so much harder with clutter around. It doesn’t matter if I know I’ve just mopped and dusted and attained hospital-grade cleanliness, if it all ends up with stuff of top of it I’ll have a special type of freak-out. And having had such a freak-out recently while giving my apartment a spring cleaning-style overhaul, I thought I’d share the tips that I learnt the hard way. 

One thing at a time, sweet Jesus 
A quote from my Nan that would’ve saved me a whole heap of stress had I listened. When decluttering it’s tempting to get excited at the prospect of having a show home and attacking every draw, cupboard and hiding place with a furore – which is how I began. After one night at Ikea the boyfriend and I decided to get cracking and as I started stripping out the laundry, he attacked the living room. Next thing I know it’s 10.30pm on a Wednesday night, we’re both knackered and seemingly everything we own has ended up on the floor. This was a stressful situation: there was no space, we had to do acrobatics to get into the kitchen and my dreams of a perfect home were trampled beneath piles of books, DVDs, linen and everything else.

So start small – pick a room, or a cupboard. Empty it, clean it and get rid of what you don’t need, while putting the survivors back in an organised fashion. It’s amazing what a relief such small changes can bring.

Get a system
There’s a phrase to keep in mind when decluttering: ‘If it’s not useful, beautiful or extremely sentimental, don’t keep it’. This is a super handy rule of thumb when you’re staring down at a draw of old nail polish, broken trinkets and random bits of faff that so easily accumulate, I’m convinced they’re breeding.

The same goes with clearing out your wardrobe – if you haven’t worn it in a year, odds are you won’t.

Ditch the guilt
One thing that can often be an obstacle when doing a clear-up is the sense of guilt that you’re wasting money or being reckless. So rather than just filling a wheelie bin with all stuff that’s no longer useful to you, donate it someone who could really benefit from it. Places like Good Sammy’s and the Salvos take everything from books to cookware, bedding and clothes. This way, you’re giving new life to something that may have just sat neglected otherwise. Women’s shelters and charity shops often do drives to support people in need in your community, so by doing a clear-out, you could really help others.

Or if there are a few of you having a clear-up and your bestie would murder you for getting rid of that dress she’s coveted for years, grab some bubbly and have a swap night with friends – odds are you’ll find some steals, so you’ll be updating your wardrobe while cleaning it out – ultimate win-win.

Decluttering and spring cleaning (even in summer, or autumn…you get it) also has benefits far beyond leaving you with a pretty pad. Studies have shown that getting organised in your home can give you increased motivation, a clearer mind and additional energy, all while reducing the stress and anxiety that can come from clutter. So for a happy home, and head, get your gloves on.

Kate Jones blogs about writing and pop culture at Calvicle Capitalism.

Are you a clean freak? A happy hoarder? Or a spring cleaner, like Kate? Tell us in the comments!

January 16, 2014

5 Ways to Stay Safe Doing Home Improvements

As we had into the DIY season, many of us decide to tackle home improvements. But did you know there are a myriad of potential injuries that can arise, from cuts and fractures to poisoning and even blindness?

DIY can be good fun, you just need to take a few precautions first. Health and safety expert, Richard Donarski shares five tips on how to stay safe when doing home improvements.

1. Ask an expert
While all equipment looks the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it does the job. For example, a particular respirator mask may only be compatible with certain chemicals or materials. When unsure, ask the retail staff and provide them with the exact details of what you intend to do. Don’t take a gamble, especially when working with tools or chemicals.

2. Work with a partner
Find a partner who can share a load of the work or observe what you’re doing. A second set of eyes can assess risks that you may have initially missed.

3. If you’re tired, stop
It’s tempting to want to continue on a project well into the night, until it’s near complete. It’s best, however, to allocate yourself time periods where you will work on a project. Ensure that you’re feeling refreshed and have a clear head. If you’re only a fraction of the way through the job but feel distracted or drowsy, then stop. This is the prime time for mistakes to happen. Clear away any hazards such as cables, tools or debris and start again when you feel able.

4. Purchase certified safety equipment only
This equipment will be branded with an appropriate certification mark, the Australian Standard reference, and should include the name of the organisation, the date it was certified and a Certification Licence number. Be aware that not all products that claim to be certified are to an Australian standard. To be safe, look out for the Five Ticks ‘Certified Product’ StandardsMark™ or enter the Certification Licence number online.

5. Be careful when buying second hand
Do you really know what that piece of equipment has been through? For example, a hard hat may look okay, but if it’s been left out in the sun every day, the chances are that its protection is nowhere near the level it should be due to strong UV rays, weakening its shell. Additionally, second hand DIY equipment may come with zero instructions. “They’re not the kind of equipment that you want to be playing a guessing game with,” Richard says.

Do you like doing DIY at home or do you leave it to the specialists?

November 21, 2013

Your room-by-room cleaning checklist

Is your house all cleared out? Then it’s probably time to clean up! Follow this comprehensive cleaning checklist to make sure you leave behind a sparkling house and get back that all-important rental bond from your real estate agent or landlord.

Living areas and bedrooms

  • Remove any nails, picture hooks or screws left in the walls. Fill in any holes and paint over, where necessary.
  • Dust skirting boards and window ledges.
  • Clean the windows inside and out.
  • Give walls a quick wipe down and remove any scuff marks.
  • Polish door knobs and wipe down doors.
  • Organise a professional steam clean or thoroughly vacuum carpets.
  • Mop wooden floor boards.

Top tip: Use a brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner to clean the creases of Roman blinds.

Kitchen

  • Disinfect countertops and surface areas.
  • Empty out cabinets and drawers and wipe clean.
  • Scrub the oven, inside and out. Remove shelving, drip pans and burners and wash clean.
  • Wipe off any grease or dust from the exhaust fan.
  • Empty the dishwasher filter and run a cycle to get rid of all residual food.
  • Turn all the taps off and wipe the sink clean of any soap scum.

Top tip: Keep cleaning supplies in one bucket so you can easily move around the house without backtracking.

Bathroom

  • Rinse and remove soap scum from the bathtub, screen and shower recess.
  • Scrub wall tiles and grouting with bleach.
  • Clean the toilet.
  • Empty vanity drawers and wipe clean.
  • Wipe down the exhaust fan.
  • Wipe off the sink and countertop.
  • Clean the mirror with glass spray and paper towels.
  • Wash or replace the shower curtain.

Top tip: For stubborn rings around the bathtub, use a cream cleaner and light abrasive sponge.

Outside

  • Pull out any weeds and mow the grass.
  • Scrub stains on decking or stairs.
  • Clear out leaves, twigs and other muck from the gutters.
  • Sweep outside porches and paths.
  • Make sure you have cleaned out the shed and garage. Give them a good sweep and remember to return any locks and keys.

Top tip: If you can get your hands on a leaf blower, this is a great tool for clearing leaves out of the garden and effortlessly sweeping dirt from decks and garage floors.

Now that you’re done and dusted, don’t forget to organise your utilities. Keep it quick and simple with EnergyAustralia’s estimate tool.

July 17, 2013