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6 Tips to Keeping Your Home Cooler

by Randy Dockery

Daily Real Estate News

6 Tips to Keeping Your Home Cooler

Brought to you by RISMedia and sponsored by LOWE'S

By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, August 3, 2010--Wow, it's hot outside! The summer's in full swing with no signs of cooling. And while you may be tempted to crank up the A/C, remember - you won't be nearly as excited to see that electric bill next month.

To save some money -- and, don't forget, energy! -- here are six tips that might just help.

  1. Avoid heat build-up in your home – The best way to keep your home cool is to keep the heat out. This can be done by closing the drapes on windows facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon). You should also try to avoid heat-generating activities, such as cooking, on hot days or during the hottest part of the day. If you are cooking, use your range fan to vent the hot air out of your house. By reducing the amount of heat in your home, you will have to use less energy to cool it.
  2. Use ventilation and circulation to cool your home – Instead of automatically turning on the air conditioner on hot days, try cooling your home with window and ceiling fans. Circulating air can make your home feel cool and comfortable in a much more efficient way than air conditioning. There is also the option of a whole house fan (a large ventilating fan installed in you attic that expels hot air out of your home) which can circulate air throughout your entire home.
  3. Keep air conditioning efficient and to a minimum – When you do have to use air conditioning, there are ways to make it more efficient. First of all, turn up the temperature setting on your air conditioner by a couple of degrees. Most people keep the temperature setting lower than it needs to be, hence using more energy than is needed to keep your home cool. It is recommended that you keep the temperature at about 25° C (77° F). Also, remember to turn off your air conditioner once your home has reached a comfortable temperature. By coupling minimum air conditioning with reducing the amount of heat entering your home, you can keep it cool without using excess energy. It isn’t recommended that you leave your air conditioner on when you leave your house, but if you’re going to do so, turn the temperature setting up a few more degrees while you’re gone to about 28° C (82° F). Also, remember to turn off your air conditioner if you’re going to be away from your home for more than a day. It is also important to make sure your cooling vents aren’t blocked so that the energy being used is going towards actually cooling your home and not being wasted. Furthermore, keep rooms that don't need cooling, such as closets, closed off when you're air conditioning.
  4. Make sure your home isn’t losing cool air – By weather-stripping and caulking around windows, doors and electrical outlets on outer walls, you can prevent losing cool air from your home and prevent hot air from getting in. Improve your home’s insulation on outer walls, again to keep cool air in, and hot air out. You should also consider installing storm doors for the same reasons if your home doesn’t already have them. If you have a fireplace, keep the flue closed. These provide an extra barrier against the escape of cool air. All of these options will make cooling your home more efficient and will save you money on your energy bill.
  5. Select energy-efficient cooling systems – If you’re in the market for a new cooling system, there are many new technologies that are much more efficient than older versions. As with other appliances, you should look for the Energy Star logo and compare the amount of electricity each uses.
  6. Use the coolest parts of your home – On hot days, parts of your house will naturally stay cooler than others. For example, if you have a basement it will remain cool even during the hottest part of the day (this is because the cool air in your home will sink down to your basement). One way you can reduce the amount of energy used to cool your home is to do more in cooler areas of your home. This way, you won't have to use energy to stay cool.

Keep Close Tabs on Your Credit Score

by Randy Dockery

Daily Real Estate News

For Your Clients: Keep Close Tabs on Your Credit Score

Brought to you by RISMedia and sponsored by LOWE'S

By Dan Serra

RISMEDIA, August 3, 2010--(MCT)--With banks tightening their grip on loans, getting one is requiring more work and vigilance on the borrower's part. Even people with excellent credit are jumping through hoops to verify everything and avoiding nicks that could give the appearance of being a risky borrower. There are a few strategies to employ that could improve the chances of not only getting a loan but getting a better rate.

One of the obvious ones, beyond paying bills on time, is to not be overextended on credit. Lenders look at how credit is managed, so someone with $10,000 credit limit but owes $9,000 won't appear as good a borrower as someone who owes only $1,000 of the $10,000 limit. Therefore, it is important to pay down credit before applying for a loan. This can help raise your credit score and get a better rate.

When you do pay down the debt, such as on a credit card, keep the account open to show lenders you have a long credit history and you are responsible by not maxing out every loan you get. Be wary, however, of some creditors who have started reducing credit limits as amounts are paid off. You may need to ask for the limit to be raised, or switch to a new credit card.

Next, verify your credit score every year, or right before you apply for a large loan such as a mortgage, to make sure there is nothing on the report that is inaccurate. While other credit report requests could harm your score, because it indicates you are looking for help often, requesting your own report does no damage to your record. There are three credit bureaus that maintain reports. Request them all through www.annualcreditreport.com. Reports are free once a year. Nearly eight in 10 reports have an error, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups. Be wary of firms that offer free credit reports only after you sign up for another service with a monthly fee.

If you do see a mistake, follow the instructions to dispute the charge. If the mistake was caused by a certain circumstance you feel was not common, also dispute it.

The importance of good credit in our changing economy cannot be overemphasized. Those neglecting their credit are positioning themselves to be shut out of the economy, and at risk of not having a lifeline when times are tough. In addition, those with poor credit also face higher expenses as interest rates, insurance premiums, and rental rates can be higher for those without excellent credit, not to mention employers may shun applicants that do not demonstrate responsible money management.

Make it a point to audit your credit at least once a year and make managing it a priority in your life. Doing so will eliminate chances of financial disasters.

(c) 2010, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Time Management

by Randy Dockery

Daily Real Estate News

 brought to you by RISMEDIA and sponsored by LOWE'S

11 Tips to Help You with Time Management

RISMEDIA, August 3, 2010--Sometimes everything is a priority. From home to work, there's always more to do than time to do it in. So how do you fit it all in? Well, you start by evaluating how you're spending your time. You might find that once you start looking at your day, there are plenty of places where you can garner some much-needed additional time.

Here are 11 tips on achieiving time management:

1) Realize that time management is a myth.
No matter how organized we are, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn't change. All we can actually manage is ourselves and what we do with the time that we have.

2) Find out where you're wasting time.
Many of us are prey to time-wasters that steal time we could be using much more productively. What are your time-bandits? Do you spend too much time 'Net surfing, reading email, or making personal calls? Tracking Daily Activities explains how to track your activities so you can form a accurate picture of what you actually do, the first step to effective time management.

3) Create time management goals.
Remember, the focus of time management is actually changing your behaviors, not changing time. A good place to start is by eliminating your personal time-wasters. For one week, for example, set a goal that you're not going to take personal phone calls while you're working.

4) Implement a time management plan.
Think of this as an extension of time management tip # 3. The objective is to change your behaviors over time to achieve whatever general goal you've set for yourself, such as increasing your productivity or decreasing your stress. So you need to not only set your specific goals, but track them over time to see whether or not you're accomplishing them.

5) Use time management tools.
Whether it's a Day-Timer or a software program, the first step to physically managing your time is to know where it's going now and planning how you're going to spend your time in the future. A software program such as Outlook, for instance, lets you schedule events easily and can be set to remind you of events in advance, making your time management easier.

6) Prioritize ruthlessly.

You should start each day with a time management session prioritizing the tasks for that day and setting your performance benchmark. If you have 20 tasks for a given day, how many of them do you truly need to accomplish? For more on daily planning and prioritizing daily tasks, see Start The Day Right With Daily Planning.

7) Learn to delegate and/or outsource.
No matter how small your business is, there's no need for you to be a one-person show. For effective time management, you need to let other people carry some of the load. Determining Your Personal ROI explains two ways to pinpoint which tasks you'd be better off delegating or outsourcing, while Decide To Delegate provides tips for actually getting on with the job of delegating.

8) Establish routines and stick to them as much as possible.
While crises will arise, you'll be much more productive if you can follow routines most of the time.

9) Get in the habit of setting time limits for tasks.
For instance, reading and answering email can consume your whole day if you let it. Instead, set a limit of one hour a day for this task and stick to it.

10) Be sure your systems are organized.
Are you wasting a lot of time looking for files on your computer? Take the time to organize a file management system. Is your filing system slowing you down? Redo it, so it's organized to the point that you can quickly lay your hands on what you need.

11) Don't waste time waiting.

From client meetings to dentist appointments, it's impossible to avoid waiting for someone or something. But you don't need to just sit there and twiddle your thumbs. Always take something to do with you, such as a report you need to read, a checkbook that needs to be balanced, or just a blank pad of paper that you can use to plan your next marketing campaign. Technology makes it easy to work wherever you are.

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