Cars.com is a comprehensive auto resource and has a lot more to offer than you ever thought, right? I was stunned. I will definitely be using the website the next time my vehicle needs anything! Check it out for yourself here.
Debbie’s back with some great tips on how you can increase the value of your home with a simple maintenance plan for your HVAC system.
Set Up a Maintenance Plan
There are millions of things you want to do when you buy a new home. From installing new cabinets, to ripping down the terrible wallpaper put up by the person before you, the list goes on. However, before you can do any of the cosmetic improvements, you should call an HVAC company to check on your heating and cooling systems.
For most of the year, your HVAC system works to keep the home comfortable, but these systems always seem to break unexpectedly and at the worst times. Your state or city might experience a heat wave, or a snowstorm might come through, forcing your home to match the outside temperature. But, the comfort of your home could be at risk if your air conditioning and heating system has completely crashed.
Even if your home inspector said your system is performing well, it’s important to build a working relationship with your local HVAC company to check on hardware, and set up a maintenance plan. These technicians will build a deep understanding of your system model and its current state, creating a plan to keep it running longer. Give your system a thorough maintenance in the Fall to avoid freezing through the winter.
Aging Systems Need More Repair
Like people and cars, the older an HVAC system gets, the more things tend to break. The good news is that not all of these problems are expensive. A hose might pop out, or a drain might get clogged, which shuts down the whole system until it can be cleaned.
Routine maintenance can make sure all of these smaller fixes are made so that you only have to call your HVAC company when something major strikes. This will save you money in the long run, as your regular checkups are cheaper than emergency calls at 3 a.m.
Start Building Your HVAC Maintenance History Today
In the long run, maintaining a relationship with an HVAC technician or company can translate into better service when something breaks. When the same technician is used to check on your components multiple times per year, he or she starts to understand what is starting to wear and what problems you tend to have. For example, your technician might notice a worn hose but leave it because it’s still functioning. When your system breaks, that’s the first place the technician will check for problems.
Building a history of maintenance for your HVAC systems can also help your resale value if you decide to move. Keeping a record of maintenance for all of your major appliances proves to potential homeowners and inspectors that they’re not making a bad choice when they purchase your home. There’s nothing worse than buying a house and having to replace the washer, refrigerator, and plumbing. Highlight the quality of your home with maintenance receipts.
Setting up appointments and meeting with a local HVAC company only takes a few hours each year, but these routine checkups can save you hundreds in repair costs and prevent your system from breaking during the next several years.
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For many people, HVAC care might slip under the radar until something breaks. However, by the time your heating or cooling system stops working, it may leave you uncomfortably hot or cold until your service provider can schedule a time to come fix it. HVAC maintenance is like car maintenance; your HVAC system needs proper care and maintenance to work properly. Preventive maintenance makes a huge difference in a HVAC’s life cycle, leaving you comfortable all year long, so it’s a good idea to add an annual or a semiannual scheduled visit to give your system a checkup.
It’s easy to forget about proper HVAC maintenance when everything is running smoothly. You’re cool in the warm months and warm in the cool months, and everyone is happy. To keep this peace and harmony, learn the signs that something is amiss with your HVAC. If you start to notice unusually high electric bills, an exhaust or other abnormal smell in your home, or soot around heat registers in the house, it might be time to call in your HVAC service company for some preventive maintenance.
A properly functioning HVAC system provides benefits to the residents of the home, including lower utility bills, healthful air quality, longer system life, better efficiency, and fewer emergency repairs. Proper HVAC maintenance can make a difference in many ways. Remember that different seasons require different levels of attention and care, and be sure to take care of your HVAC system properly at each time of year. In the following infographic, published by Aqua, you can view seasonal maintenance suggestions to complete. If it’s time for maintenance on your system, give us a call at (941) 306-3715, and we’ll get it scheduled right away!
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Regular contributor, Megan Wild shares some great tips on how to take back control of your yard , and keep your plants healthy with tips for trimming your shrubs.
Shrubs – 5 Hassle-Free Trimming Tips
Take back control of your yard, and keep your plants healthy.
If you’ve ever gone out to give your shrubs a quick trim, only to find it so hard to keep them even that you end up cutting off way too many branches, you’re probably hesitant to make the same mistake twice. I know how that feels, because that’s how my first trim went. Unfortunately, under-trimming your shrubs can lead to just as many problems as over-trimming them, as you’ll end up with overgrown bushes with lots of deadwood and poor flowering.
Luckily, proper pruning isn’t hard to learn, and you’ll get good results if you take your time. Follow these tips for hassle-free shrub trimming:
Different types of plants flower at different times of the year, and the timing of their life cycles typically determines when you should prune them. Evergreen shrubs can be pruned almost any time of year except the fall, when new growth will be vulnerable to dieback from the winter cold. Flowering shrubs should be cut back at a time when flower buds won’t be removed.
For early bloomers like lilacs, shape them immediately after blooming. Summer bloomers can be cut back in the winter. Hydrangeas are the exception: Shape these in midsummer so you don’t accidentally remove the flower buds.
Start With the Dead Stuff
If you’re nervous about just how much to cut and where to begin, it’s always a good idea to start with the deadwood. Your plant will never miss these, and cutting out broken branches is a good way to prevent disease. Cut below the break to give your plant a clean wound that will easily heal. Your bush won’t miss dead branches, so don’t worry yet about shaping – just get rid of them.
Sometimes, removing dead wood is all you need to make your shrubs look like their old selves, so stand back and look at the plant’s shape before making any more cuts. For a quick shape up, cut only the twigs and branches that are sticking out beyond the natural shape of your bush. Resist the urge to make a lot of cuts at once – it’s best to go slow and take a step back to assess so you don’t end up cutting too much at once.
Avoid Right Angles and Odd Shapes
The best pruning allows the plant to grow in a natural way, so unless you’re Edward Scissorhands or work at Disney World, don’t try to form strange shapes with your shrubs. Right angles should be avoided, and this is true even of box hedges. These plants need sunlight for photosynthesis and good health, so make sure bottom branches are slightly wider than the tops so they also receive sunlight. Flat tops are also a bad idea, as the weight of ice and snow will break the branches.
Do a Little Research
Because each plant has its own natural shape and growing habit, there’s no hard and fast rule about trimming shrubs that works for everything. Though you should consider that trimming shrubs helps increase curb appeal, makes your home a more welcoming place for guests, and can even increase your home’s market value. Your best bet is to do a little internet research about your plant to see what experts recommend.
You can also visit a local nursery or get advice from a neighbor with a green thumb if you need help identifying a bush or learning the basics about garden tools and techniques. Pruning is also good for the health of the plant, so give it a try – it doesn’t have to be scary! Once you know all about your plant, go ahead and give it a trim at least once a year to maintain its shape.
Turning a house into a home has to do with the atmosphere inside the home just as much as it has to do with the skill and thought you put into creating a cozy space. The good news is that it isn’t difficult at all — in fact, it’s fun and even joyful, especially if you’re in a home that you love. You can use your creativity and inventive choices to make your home a homey place, and the fantastic part is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune because there’s so much you can do on your own.
The best way to create a homey space is to put pieces of yourself into it. What that means is that you need to imprint your personality on the home-improvement and decor choices you make. Do you paint? Decorate using pictures and portraits that you’ve painted. Do you love to refurbish old pieces of furniture, accent pieces, picture frames, and other such items? Use those pieces to furnish your spaces. If you’re a photographer, display your own photographs on walls and tables. This also gives you the freedom to decorate different rooms using different themes and color palettes.
In addition to improving your curb appeal, decorating your outdoor spaces takes your homey atmosphere outside, too. After all, there’s no reason to keep all your cute, cozy touches locked away indoors. You can create stunning garden spaces or focus on decorating your front porch. Imagine a porch with rocking chairs and tables, a flower garden in front decorated with lawn gnomes and fairy statues, and a front walkway lined with rocks, lanterns, or decorative bushes.
Making a homey home involves more than simply decorating, however. If you want your home to feel inviting, you also need to keep it bright, clean, and airy — and that means keeping up on some specific aspects of home maintenance. Clean out your ducts, vents, and chimney regularly. Keep your curtains, drapes, and walls in good shape. It’s a good idea to have professionals check over essential areas, such as your roof and your plumbing. Similarly, get an HVAC professional in to check your heating and cooling systems, because lapsing on your inspections can cause problems down the line.
Last but definitely not least, a fresh coat of paint works wonders. Take a look at the walls in your home now. Are the colors welcoming and inviting? Are they aging well? If not, it’s time for an update. Only you know which colors will work best in your home, but it’s a good rule of thumb to focus on a neutral base and introduce pops of color as accents. Don’t forget: you can easily paint ceilings and hardwood floors, as well.
In the end, if your home is full of love, welcoming, and beautifully put together, it’s a homey home. It just takes some elbow grease, a splash of creativity, a few knowledgeable professionals — and gnomes.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, FRAM. All opinions are mine alone. #SummerCarCare #CollectiveBias
DIY Car Care & Basic Road Trip Kit
Keeping You Rolling Down the Road
Car care is something we should always be mindful of, but with summer on the horizon that means busy schedules and road trips. You don’t want to find yourself stranded on the road waiting for a tow truck. Don’t fret, I have put together a DIY Preventative Maintenance Car Care and Basic Road Trip Kit Checklist that will keep you rolling down the road to your favorite destinations.
One of the most important things to know is, where to find information pertaining to your specific car or truck. The Owner’s Manual for your vehicle should be your first resource. If you do not have a manual, download it online from the vehicle manufacturer’s website, or order one on eBay.
Carry your Vehicle Owner’s Manual AND any Maintenance Records or Warranty Paperwork in your vehicle! These do you absolutely no good sitting at home when you are having a problem on the road.
HINT: Keep your records and paperwork in a folder. Cut the important information off filter boxes or other packaging, and tape them to the folder so you always know the Part Numbers for replacement. I keep my folder under the floor mat in the back of my truck.
Check Your Owner’s Manual For:
What Types of Fluids (type, weight, and volume) to use.
Explanation of Filler Cap Symbols.
What Types of Filters (type and size) to use.
The Maintenance Schedule – how often, mileage, or time.
Car Care – Preventative Maintenance:
Cursory Visual Check
Check for Drips or Fluid Leaks on the ground, under the vehicle and the hood.
Check that Windshield Wipers are in good condition – no splits, cracks, or tears.
Check that all Exterior Lights are in working order.
Check that all Interior Lights are in working order.
Replace according to the manual specifications, or more often for dusty or severe usage.
Drive Belt (Fan Belt)
Check for Cracks or Fraying.
If damaged, have the belt replaced.
Tires / Wheels
Check the Air Pressure in each Tire – Don’t forget the AIR in the SPARE!
Check the Tire Tread on ALL tires. (Use a penny, place it in the tread with Lincoln’s head going downward. If the tread doesn’t reach to Lincoln’s head, the tire is worn out).
Check for any Damage (nails, bulges, etc.), in all tires including spare.
Check your Lug Nuts — be sure they are tight, but not overly torqued or rusted / corroded in place to where you cannot get them off.
Check that your Spare Tire Fits your car, especially if you bought the car used, or modified it in any way.
Make sure your Lug Wrench fits the size of your lug nuts (in case you have aftermarket rims on your vehicle).
Check that the jack is complete and in working order.
If you are hauling a trailer, make sure the trailer lights are hooked-up and working properly.
Be sure to check Headlamp Aim / Angle, especially if you are hauling a trailer. You may need to adjust the aim so you don’t blind other drivers.
Clean off any corrosion using a little baking soda and water and scrubbing with an old toothbrush. ( Be sure to wear old clothes, gloves, and eye protection. DO NOT get any battery acid or cleaner on you).
Make sure your battery cables are well connected.
If your battery is over 3-years-old, have a Load Test done on the battery to check the condition before heading out on your road trip. A lot of chain auto stores nationwide will do these test for free. No sense getting stranded.
Download this FREE Printable for your DIY Car Care!
Here’s an example of easy Car Care that you can DIY:
Change your own FRAM Engine Air Filter
Changing your air filter is car maintenance so easy you will kick yourself if you’ve ever paid to have it done. It only takes one tool — a screwdriver that fits the screws on your Air Filter Box! Some vehicles may use clips instead of screws, a flat blade screwdriver will help pop these open. Plus, it only takes 5 minutes or less.
Check the Owner’s Manual for the location of your Air Filter Box / Air Filter
Be sure you have the correct size filter.
Unscrew the lid on the air filter box, and remove lid.
You’re done! How simple is that? Don’t forget to recycle your old air filter. FRAM recommends changing your engine air filter annually or every 12,000 miles, but be sure to follow recommended change intervals as noted in your vehicle owner’s manual.
Clean engine air filters are important for your car or truck. Think of it as the first line of defense for improving air flow and preventing dust and dirt from entering your engine and causing damage. They can also increase acceleration, horsepower, and improve overall engine performance. An easy win in my book!
You can find FRAM Air Filters at Walmart (in stores or online). The Walmart website has a search function to find the proper FRAM air filter for your vehicle — just a few simple questions.
I found it super easy to choose my FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter, order it right there online, and then pick it up at my local store, when I went in for a regular shopping trip.
Basic Road Trip Kit:
Now that you have done your car care, there is another important thing to prepare for the road trip — a Basic Road Trip Kit. It’s better to be prepared than to waste your vacation away on the side of the road, or some place waiting for your transportation to be towed or fixed. I’ve created a FREE Printable Checklist for you to download. It will walk you through putting together your handy-dandy Basic Road Trip Kit.