Diane Minguez
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RE/MAX 440   Diane Minguez
1110 North Broad Street  Lansdale, PA  19446
Office Phone: 215-362-2260    Phone: 267-575-6818  Fax: 267-354-6882  Cell: 267-575-6818
dminguez@remax.net

My Blog

How to Prepare Your Yard and Garden for Winter

September 12, 2013 12:39 am

As temperatures drop and autumn colors arrive, a new season of gardening is upon us. In order to properly prepare your lawn and garden for the colder months ahead, you should be thinking about fall cleanup procedures so that you can enjoy your yard once the warm weather returns.

"Fall is the most important gardening season," says Elizabeth Licata, gardener-in-chief for Troy-Bilt®. "Tasks like cleaning up the garden are really about creating the beginnings of a productive garden for the next season."

By creating a fall to-do list, you can make fall cleanup easy and manageable. Troy-Bilt suggests that you do the following:

Clear away dead debris by getting rid of plants that have stopped blooming or have been killed by the lack of warm weather. Remove dead limbs on trees and trim overgrown areas.

Make sure to fertilize your lawn. As we usher in fall, and the cooler weather and rainfall associated with the season, reduce the height on your mower to two or two-and-a-half inches. Fertilize, reseed and repair bare spots before winter hits and you can maximize your green potential for next spring. Water the lawn one inch per week to saturate fertilizer and stimulate root growth.

Removing leaves often is also a crucial step. If leaves pile up, it can suffocate your grass, therefore killing it. Leaf blowers, especially backpack leaf blowers, can provide comfort and get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Spreading compost
over your yard is a great way to provide nutrients. The natural soil bacteria and microorganisms in the compost will treat the soil and grass, making it healthier and more bountiful for the next season. You can collect waste materials such as grass clippings, leaves and leftover fruits and veggies from your own garden to create your own organic compost.

By following these simple steps, you’re guaranteeing a lush and lavish yard for seasons to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Home Safe Home: Fire Prevention Starts with a Plan

September 11, 2013 12:36 am

(Family Features) The cooler temperatures of fall may be on their way, but cooler weather also brings an increase in home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than half (54 percent) of home structure fire deaths occur in the cooler months of November through March.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) recommends that every household have an escape plan in place, yet, in a recent survey by Omnibus, 44 percent of people reported that they did not have an escape plan for their home.

On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds to escape a fire.

“Every second counts when it comes to escaping a home fire,” said Chief Metcalf, president and chairman of the IAFC. “That’s why families need to have an escape plan in place, and ensure they have working smoke alarms to provide those critical early warning signals in the event of a home fire.

Here are some additional tips from the IAFC and Energizer to help protect your family room by room.

Make a Plan
Draw a floor plan of your home and find two ways out of every room. Sketch the exit routes clearly on the floor plan. If an upstairs window is one of the escape options, make sure you have a fire escape ladder long enough to reach the ground. Make sure every adult knows how to use it. Adults should be responsible for helping younger children. Assign an outside meeting place so if the family escapes from different routes, you can quickly locate each other.

Use the following checklist to eliminate as many fire hazards in your home as possible:

Bedrooms

In a recent study, almost half (44 percent) of families did not know the peak time for home fire fatalities is when most people are asleep (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.). So, in addition to making sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within hearing distance of your bedrooms, take the below steps to fire-proof the bedrooms themselves:

—Do not trap electrical cords against walls. Heat can build up, posing a fire hazard.
—Use only lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Make sure cords are not worn or coming apart. Do not leave electric blankets switched on all night unless they are marked “suitable for all night use.”
—Keep bedding, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
—Never smoke in bed.
—Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. By law, mattresses made since then are required to be safer.
—Have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.

Living Room
—Do not overload electrical outlets.
—Never run electrical cords under carpets.
—Check all electrical cords for fraying or other signs of damage.
—Only light decorative candles when adults are in the room. Use stable candle holders that will not catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave.
—During a power failure, do not use candles or oil lamps for light. Keep battery-operated flashlights and lanterns in easily accessible places. Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power cause one-third of fatal home candle fires.
—Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in each room, including the living room.

Kitchen

Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, according to research by the National Fire Protection Agency.

—Never use extension cords to plug in cooking appliances. They can overload the circuit and start a fire.
—Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
—Keep anything that can catch fire away from the cooktop. This includes potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains.
—Keep the cooktop, burners and oven clean.
—Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire. Wear short, close-fitting clothing or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
—Have a fire extinguisher installed in or near your kitchen, and be sure every adult family member knows how to use it.

Garage

—Store all combustible materials away from regular sources of heat, such as water heaters, space heaters, boilers and furnaces.
—Keep wood finishes, spray paint, paint thinners and other flammable products in a dedicated storage container with a closed door.
—Store all combustible materials in their proper containers and be sure they are clearly marked.
—Keeping the garage tidy can also help keep it safe. Get rid of stacked boxes, newspapers, recycling and trash. They can be instant fuel for a fire.

Source: Energizer

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Winterizing Summer Cottages and Vacation Homes

September 11, 2013 12:36 am

The weather is getting cooler and the leaves are changing color, so many people will be closing their summer homes for the season within the next few weeks. It's important to make sure cottages and vacation homes are properly secured to help protect them during the winter months.

Many vacation homes and cottages are located in areas that experience freezing temperatures in the winter, notes Lisa St. Onge, an assistant vice president with a nationwide insurance company. “This causes the potential for frozen pipes and other headaches for homeowners.”

That’s why it’s important to take the time to make sure your vacation home is properly secured for winter, St. Onge notes. “Preparing your home in advance will save you time and money and make it easier for you to open your home for the summer next year.”

Here are a few tips and reminders:

-Unplug all appliances.
-Drain the water system to prevent pipes from freezing.
-Secure windows and doors, inspect for other openings and remove all food to keep rodents out.
-Adjust the thermostat. In colder climates, thermostats set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit will help to prevent pipes from freezing. In warmer climates, air conditioning should be turned on to prevent humidity damage.
-Clean gutters and downspouts.

“Checking these items off your list as you close up for the season can make a huge difference and prevent little things that may be undiscovered or unrepaired for months from becoming much more serious, very costly problems,” St. Onge says.

Many vacation homeowners don’t return until the following summer, so it’s also important to make sure your home looks lived in. Here are a few tips to make your home look occupied while you’re away for the season:

-Put interior and exterior lights on timers or motion detectors.
-Stop mail and newspaper service.
-Hire someone to clear snow from your driveway.

“Winterizing your home properly—and making sure it looks lived in while you’re away—will make coming back in the spring and summer more enjoyable,” says St. Onge.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Lungs for Your House

September 11, 2013 12:36 am

Stale air, lingering odors and high humidity can happen in the best of homes and sometimes, simply opening a window can bring relief. When it's mild outside and there is a breeze, opening a window can be beneficial. However, in a hot and cold climate this is not always practical or possible. Leaving a window open in mid-winter will add to your space heating costs, cause uncomfortable drafts and the window may freeze open. You also can't filter the dust out of the air nor can you recover any of the heat that flows out an open window. Sometimes leaving a window open is a security or noise concern. Finally, you can't control how much air enters through an open window or where it goes once it's in your house.

Fortunately, there is another way of bringing fresh air into your home that is energy efficient, secure and highly effective - a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). HRVs are suitcase-sized appliances that typically have one fan to bring in outdoor air and another fan to push out the stale air. Heat is transferred from the outgoing air to the incoming air by passing the two air streams through a heat-exchange core, helping to reduce heating costs. As the two air streams are kept separated, only the heat is transferred to the incoming air. In a sense, an HRV can act as the lungs for your home.

In houses with baseboard or radiant heating, the fresh air from the HRV is delivered directly to the bedrooms and the main living areas through a dedicated duct system. At the same time, the HRV draws stale air from the kitchen and bathrooms and sends it outside. In houses with furnaces, it's not uncommon to find HRVs connected to the furnace ductwork system. The furnace then operates continuously to circulate the fresh air around the house, while bathroom fans and kitchen range hoods provide back-up ventilation as needed. HRVs have multi-speed settings to deal with varying ventilation needs. Automatic controls are available as well to modulate the operation of the HRV as needed.

HRVs are built into energy efficient new houses to reduce air leaks and heating and cooling costs, and to keep your home more comfortable. Cutting down on uncontrolled air leakage also helps protect your roof, walls and basement from moisture damage. However, the better sealed a house is, the more it needs controlled, energy efficient, mechanical ventilation to provide the indoor-outdoor air exchange needed to maintain healthy indoor air quality. By eliminating random air leaks in existing houses and adding heat recovery ventilation, you reduce your heating bills while maintaining as good, or better, indoor air quality.

Installation
Although you can buy an HRV at some home improvement stores, it may be preferable to have it designed and installed by a qualified contractor. It is very important to measure and balance the supply and exhaust airflows to ensure the HRV does not cause potentially create dangerous house depressurization or pressurization problems. This should be carried out when the HRV is first installed and should be checked regularly afterwards by a qualified contractor in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Look for units with lower energy usage and high energy efficiency in the heating season, preferably choosing from those with an ENERGY STAR® rating.

Placement Tips
Deciding where to install the HRV is important:

-The outdoor fresh air intake and exhaust outlet hoods must be carefully located away from dryer vents, vents and air intakes serving fuel-fired space or water heating devices, and windows and doors.
-The intake and outlet hoods must be at certain heights above the ground to avoid being covered by snow.
-They cannot be located under decks as they need to be regularly inspected and cleaned.
-They can't be located in garages or in attics because it is unsafe to get your air from these locations. It is also unsafe to exhaust air into there.
-For fire safety reasons, HRVs cannot be connected to range hoods, cooktops or clothes dryers.

For these reasons, furnace or boiler rooms are commonly used.

While there will always be times when opening a window to allow a refreshing breeze to air out your home is desirable, HRVs offer an effective and efficient way to get the ventilation you need.

Source: CMHC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Taking out the Trash: Finding a Home for the Hazardous

September 10, 2013 12:24 am

Trying to figure out how to properly dispose of hazardous waste can oftentimes be frustrating. From construction waste to old paint cans, there always seems to be materials sitting around the house because your local town or city won’t accept them with the weekly collection.
Many cities have hazardous waste disposal days, which is usually a great place to start unloading. Another recommended resource is the website Earth911.com. Earth 911 has a searchable directory of drop-off programs for various materials so you can learn the details before loading up. In addition to this site, Consumer Reports’ Home & Garden Blog suggests the following for disposing your junk:

Lightbulbs. Big-box retailers, such as Home Depot and Ikea, often take used compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) runs a website called Lamp Recycle (found at www.lamprecycle.org) that contains a full list of lightbulb-accepting retailers. If you have a plethora of old lightbulbs, don’t just mix them in with the trash. Recycle them properly.

Appliances. Appliances can often be tricky things to get rid of, but there are plenty of options for properly recycling them. If you’re buying new, most retailers will take your old one away (if this is not offered, you should inquire about this before purchasing). Some states have state-run programs for free pickup and/or cash rewards for old appliances, called the Cash for Appliances program. The federal government also has a program called the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program, which recycles appliances containing ozone-depleting gases. Lastly, some appliances can be tax write-offs if donated to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army.

Unused building materials. ReStore, a project by Habitat for Humanity, accepts extra building materials and then resells them. ReStore sells to the general public at a fraction of the retail price, and proceeds help local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of Habitat homes within their communities. It’s a win-win-win for donors, consumers and communities.

Construction waste. The U.S.-government sponsored Construction Waste Management Database website will direct you to recyclers within your zip code that will get rid of your wasted carpeting, ceiling tiles, flooring and more. If you are working on a large, at-home project, keep track of your waste materials and check the website. You can properly dispose of each item with ease and know-how.

Using the Internet as a resource, homeowners can find out how to dispose of many different types of waste, much of which can surely be recycled somehow. Using the aforementioned websites as tools will help you clear out your garage, and may sometimes even put a little cash in your pocket as well.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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A Film to Make You Cozy

September 10, 2013 12:24 am

As cooler temperatures return, many homeowners complain about living spaces that are too cold or too warm. In response to this concern the International Window Film Association offers advice on how to make interiors cozier and save money.

"Sunlight streaming through windows can have a warming effect, but it can also be overdone," said Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA), a nonprofit group. "The sunny side of a building can become unbearably hot, causing temperature imbalances and health concerns," he added.

"With larger windows to let in more natural light, a popular consumer and commercial trend, there are also problems that arise," said Smith. Examples include glare, fading of furnishings and floors, heat build-up and Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Glass, or new windows do not block UVA, unless they are specially treated and worst of all, UVA rays are widely viewed by medical research authorities as linked to skin cancer. A report in the Clinical Interventions in Aging suggests protecting skin even when indoors.

With window film applied, a home's interior temperature can be made cozier without shutting out natural light. Window film delivers a transparent "solar shield" and can reject up to 80 percent of the sun's heat. In cooler months, some window films reflect room heat and in summer, the home's interior can be cooler and more comfortable. All quality window films will block up to 99 percent of UV rays and reduce the impact of sunlight to cut down on fading and health concerns.

Window film offers a cozy outlook for budget-conscious consumers. For example, a single family home spending $3,000 annually for heating and cooling, will on a broad average basis, potentially see a savings of between $450 to $900 annually after quality window film is professionally installed. Location, weather and energy costs can impact the savings result.

Another bonus of professionally installed window film is its eligibility for tax credits approved by Congress that offer up to 10 percent of the cost of window film installed in 2013, or in 2012 up to a maximum of $500.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Low Maintenance Fence and Deck Tips to Make the Most of Outdoor Living Spaces

September 10, 2013 12:24 am

Would you be proud to show off your backyard, including the fence and deck? Now is a good time to update and upgrade to a low-maintenance vinyl fence and composite deck.

Homeowners can now create the most comfortable, sustainable and low-maintenance outdoor living spaces on the block. To get the most out of an outdoor space this fall, North Texas Fence and Deck provides the following tips:

Make the deck area into an inviting space for entertaining by adding comfortable furniture like a double glider for that old-time porch swing feeling, and a coffee table to place snacks on. Create separate zones for grilling, dining and lounging. Installing a shading feature like an arbor or pergola can keep the area cool and comfortable.

Outdoor lighting goes a long way toward setting a mood and creating a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. Homeowners will improve safety and add visual appeal with solar powered lights installed along steps and walkways. Hang strings of energy efficient LED Christmas lights from the arbor and along the perimeter of the fence.

Most wood fence, deck and railing products require ongoing painting or staining and can rot or warp when exposed to inclement weather. Consider rebuilding your deck with low maintenance composite decking and railing.

Upgrade to a vinyl fence for years of beauty and enjoyment without the splitting and warping and constant painting and staining required of wood. These new building products are virtually maintenance-free and can beautifully withstand the elements, leaving homeowners with more time to enjoy it.

Fire pits are becoming a popular and relatively affordable way to create a central gathering spot in a backyard or patio. For larger spaces, a full-size outdoor fireplace might be an option.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can extend the season for your outdoor space and enjoy your home even more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Reducing Allergens in the Bedroom

September 9, 2013 12:24 am

Although most people equate allergies with hay fever and outdoor triggers such as pollen, indoor allergens are also a major problem. Indoor allergens’ effect on sleep is profound - allergy sufferers may experience insomnia or difficulty breathing during the night; plus, allergies can increase the tendency to snore. For homeowners looking to create a more hypoallergenic bedroom, here are a few suggestions:

Bed basics. Look for mattresses that contain natural materials, such as natural latex or foams made with plant-based sources.

Freshen the pillows. Natural latex or synthetic pillows will naturally resist dust mites but should still be replaced every two years. To maintain healthy pillows in between purchases, freeze them overnight to kill dust mites.

Dress the bed properly. Choose a cotton mattress pad to protect your mattress. Opt for organic cotton or natural fiber sheets, particularly those made with sustainable practices, which may also help with allergies and chemical sensitivities.

Clean the air. Some air purifiers may emit ozone, a pollutant that can aggravate allergies, back into the air. Instead, use houseplants to naturally clean the air. Pick plants that thrive on neglect, like spider plants or ivy, and boost their natural metabolizing properties with a plant purifier.

Pick your paint. Select paint with zero volatile organic compound, or VOC, emissions. Among other symptoms, the U.S. EPA advises that VOCs may cause nose and throat irritations, headaches and allergic skin reactions.

Keep it natural. Avoid fragrant sheet sprays, candles and air fresheners that ‘mask’ odors by coating the inside of your nose with a chemical. Try room sprays made from essential oils instead.

Source: www.simmons.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Colorful Autumn Additions

September 9, 2013 12:24 am

(Family Features)--A nip in the air and the changing color of leaves can only mean one thing -fall is around the corner.

While dusting off your favorite sweaters and corduroys, don't forget to dress up your home décor as well. Here are some tips from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores to bring the cozy charm of autumn into your home:

Pull in nature. This season is all about celebrating nature's bounty, so bring that celebration home. Pumpkins and gourds of every shape and color make inexpensive additions that brighten any tabletop or mantle. Or, place as many of these beloved squashes as you can on
a bale of hay outside the front door for a display the whole neighborhood can enjoy.

Try transitional pieces. Situated right before the busy holiday season, some fall styles can be eased into both decorating schemes. Rich, wine-colored berries and bittersweet arrangements look wonderful for both fall and winter.

Add new color trends. According to color experts, fall 2013 will be a season filled with vibrant purples, bright blues and dazzling greens. These colors blend perfectly with the autumn décor you already own. Watch as plum hues pop when paired with the traditional fall foliage of burnt orange, copper, gold and brown.

Source: Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top Five Natural Food Trends Revealed: Who is Buying and Why

September 9, 2013 12:24 am

New Hope Natural Media and Sterling-Rice Group have released the top five natural products industry food trends in the U.S. market as consumers shift strongly to healthier eating and embrace a renewed focus on health and disease prevention. In 2012, U.S. consumer sales of natural, organic, and functional foods and beverages totaled $94.7 billion of the overall $703 billion food pie. Here are the current five natural food trends:

1. Convenience is King: One-hundred million (or nearly half) of American adults today are single and many of them live alone. Given that so many people are flying solo, we're spending less time in the kitchen. One potentially lucrative (at least in the long term) demographic is the millennials, as they are entering adulthood now and view health, nutrition and branding differently than boomers.

2. Allergen Concerns on the Rise: Six million children have food allergies, according to the Pediatrics Journal. Ninety percent of all food allergy reactions are caused by eight major foods: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Americans are awakening to their allergies, more manufacturers are creating entirely free-from products so consumers can enjoy without worry.

3. Meat Free Mentality: One-third of Americans now report eating vegetarian meals a significant amount of the time, and 48 percent of U.S. shoppers seek good-tasting vegetarian food, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group's 2011 national poll. Even if they are not full-fledged vegetarians or vegans, a growing number of consumers fall into the "flexitarian" bucket—meaning that they are looking to cut at least some meat from their diets and replace it with plant-based foods.

4. Labeling Goes Local: Seventy-five percent of natural food retailers say local is the most influential product claim in grocery right now. People, seeking to connect with where their food is sourced and support nearby businesses are increasingly seeking this claim. Local is expected to continue to gain prominence over the next three to five years, thanks to forces such as the Slow Food and Slow Money movements, which are effectively spreading the word about the social, economic and health benefits of buying close to home.

5. It's Cool to Care: Driven by passionate entrepreneurs who care as much (if not more) about creating positive change in the world as they do about making money, cause marketing is gaining ground. Food and beverage companies must take on a whole new approach to marketing and branding to win over consumers. By 2018, Whole Foods Market announced that all products sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores containing genetically modified ingredients must be labeled.

Source: Penton

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