Replacing Household Products Can Keep You Safe

While people take all manner of precautions to ensure the safety and health of their families, some household products may need more attention and maintenance to keep loved ones and the home environment as safe as possible.  A recent study shows that many Americans are unknowingly at risk of illness, injury or worse due to living with and using products that have not been properly maintained or replaced. 

Most of us have trained ourselves to pay attention to expiration dates on food, but how many of us are thinking about the lifespan of the products we count on and live with every day?  It is easy to take for granted our smoke alarms and our pillows, or even our toothbrushes.  But the truth is, if you neglect replacing these and other products, you could be putting yourself at risk.

The following is a list of time sensitive products that require regular replacement to maintain peak performance:

  • Smoke alarms—These potentially lifesaving devices have lives of their own and expire after about 10 years or 87,000 hours of service.  Nearly a quarter of Americans have either never replaced the smoke alarms in their homes or have not done so in more than six years.  Unprotected, these homes and their occupants are in danger of becoming among the 900 lives lost each year in U.S. home fires due to non-working smoke alarms as reported by the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms—According to the American Medical Association, carbon monoxide intake is the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S.  Still, an alarming 25 percent of American homes are not equipped with any CO alarms and another 23 percent have CO alarms that have never been replaced.  The NFPA recommends installing CO alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.  To ensure peak performance, replace batteries twice a year and check alarms monthly using the “test” function.  When properly maintained, a CO alarm has a life of approximately five years.

 Other products that require regular replacement include:

  • Fire extinguishers—Like their alarm counterparts, fire extinguishers need to be regularly checked to ensure that the pressure is at the recommended level and all parts are operable and not damaged.  If an extinguisher is damaged in any way or needs to be recharged, it is best to replace the unit completely, advises the U.S. Fire Administration.  Disposable models come with expiration dates that inform owners when the unit should be replaced.
  • Furnace filters—Not only do clean furnace filters help save on energy costs, but they also reduce the risk of fire. Just as full dryers screens can cause fires, so can dirty or clogged filters in the furnace. When replacing an old filter, note that many available products are disposable. But there are other products – such as electrostatic filters – that can be washed and reused time and again, generating even more savings if used and cared for property.
  • Kitchen sponges—WebMD cites that kitchen sponges are the number one source of germs in the entire house.  They achieve this rank because of their moist, micro-crevices which make great homes for germs to linger in.  Many experts recommend replacing kitchen sponges once a week, and at the very least twice a month.
  • Toothbrushes—The American Dental Association recommends replacing toothbrushes every three to four months or sooner if bristles begin to fray.  Researchers have found that toothbrushes can hold microorganisms from mouths and the environment that can cause oral and systemic infections.
  • Mascara—According to Consumer Reports, mascara should be replaced every three months because it is likely to begin growing bacteria after that time.  It also should be replaced if it begins to smell, is discolored or is used around the time of an eye infection.

Additionally, consumers are advised to replace pillows, medication, hair brushes and sunscreen on a regular basis.  Check product packaging for expiration dates and replacement guidelines.

The Scary Waste of ‘Vampire Power’

Vampires may be hot right now in the entertainment world, but “vampire power”—the slow, invisible energy drain caused by leaving electric devices plugged in—simply is not hot. 

Every electrical item you leave plugged in, from your home computer to your high-def, flat-screen TV, draws power even while it is turned off.  This “vampire power” drain adds up, costing consumers about $10 billion a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  Reducing vampire power in your home is an easy way to do your part, both helping the environment and reducing your family’s carbon footprint—plus, it could save you 10 percent of your family’s electric bill.

Vampire power—or “standby power”—refers to the power many electric and electronic items draw while in “stand by” mode, when they are plugged in, but not turned on.  Virtually every item you plug in draws some standby power, but major electronic items like PCs and TVs are the biggest power-sucking culprits.

You can reduce vampire power drain with a few simple steps: 

  • Buy ENERGY STAR rated products.  These products are designed to not only use less power when operating but to draw less standby power s well.  Items ranging from dishwashers to laptops carry the rating.  Log on to www.ENERGYSTAR.gov to learn more about the product rating program.
  • Do not leave your laptop, cell phone, or other chargers plugged into the wall outlet.  Even these innocent-seeming cords draw vampire power.
  • Streamline the number of devices you have to plug into the wall.  Like most of us, you probably cannot live without your PC or DVR and need to leave it plugged in.  But do you really need a TV in every room of the house and three game consoles—one for each kid?  Reducing the number of devices in your home will reduce the amount of standby power you use and possibly help you to streamline your life a bit.

To learn more about vampire power, how it impacts the environment and consumers’ wallets as well as additional tips to minimize its effect, visit http://www.epa.gov/.

Your Credit Matters

Your credit matters when it comes to applying for a job or a loan, purchasing insurance or seeking an apartment to live in.  Here are some tips to help manage or improve your credit rating:

  •  Always pay your bills on time.  Late payments on rent, utility bills and credit cards are reported to the credit agencies and will show up on your credit report.
  • Do not overspend.  If you are maxed out on all of your credit cards, maybe it is time to rethink your spending habits.
  • Develop a budget.  Make sure that the budget you create is one that you can realistically follow.  Be sure to include ways to start paying off the debt you have already accumulated.
  • Read the small print on interest rates.  If you carry a balance on your credit cards, make sure you read the details about your interest rate and additional fees so you understand what it costs when you do not pay your balance in full.
  • Review your credit report.  You can legally obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit agencies once a year.  Make sure you check your credit because it is an overview of your financial history.  Report any errors promptly.

Your Home For Sale In Today’s Market

Selling a home in today’s challenging market can be difficult.  Even if your home has outstanding features and you think you have the best property on the block, you need to prepare your home for sale first.  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  •  Call us to find out what your home is worth.
  • Do not over price.  That is the worst mistake that sellers tend to make.  Especially in today’s market, you are competing with distressed properties such as short sales and bank owned REO’s.  Buyers are looking for good deals.  If you overprice your home, it will not sell.  Other real estate professionals will show your home with the purpose of using it as a comparison to homes in the neighborhood that are well priced.  Buyers will not make offers on overpriced homes because they know the sellers are unrealistic.  Today buyers have so many other choices, they will make an offer on a home that is priced to sell.  Your home should be listed at or slightly below the market value.
  • Start preparing your home for sale by cleaning, disposing of clutter and sprucing up the outside as well.  The buyer’s first impressions when they pull up to the curb are very important.
  • You may want to consider hiring a home staging professional or have your real estate professional provide you with suggestions on how to make your home attractive to a large pool of buyers.  Many times all you need to do is paint, de-clutter, rearrange or remove some furniture and add some colorful accessories.
  • Make repairs that pay off.  If you have hardwood floors, refinish them.  Replace worn carpet and paint the walls and ceilings.  Fix any cracked or chipped tiles.  Resurface or repaint kitchen cabinets.  New faucets and sinks make the kitchen look updated.  The buyers will appreciate a fresh, finished look.
  • Roofs should be replaced if necessary.  Buyers tend to shy away from homes that have leaky roofs or need new roofs.  Resurface driveways and mend fences or replace them.  Also plant flowers, trim bushes and hedges, and mow the grass.  Good curb appeal is important.

 

Today’s buyers are looking for homes in move-in condition that have updated plumbing, heating and electrical systems and need little or no maintenance with finished kitchens and bathrooms.  If you plan on selling your home without making any repairs, then you will need to reflect this in a much lower listing price.  Keep in mind that your home will then appeal to a much smaller group of buyers who are only looking for fixer-uppers that they can purchase at bargain prices.

Emotional House-Hunting Mistakes

  1. Falling in love with a house you cannot afford– If you can’t or will not be able to afford that house, you are just hurting yourself.  To avoid the temptation to get in over your head financially, or the disappointment of feeling like you are settling for less than you deserve, it’s best to only look at homes in your price range.
  2. Thinking that a particular house is the only one– Even when you have a long list of must-haves, there are probably several homes out there that can meet your needs.  Another house in the same area might be similar enough to meet your needs but be less expensive.  Likewise, you could find a similar one with more of the upgrades you are looking for at a similar price.
  3. Thinking you are a handyman– Don’t buy a fixer-upper that is more than you can handle in terms of time, money or ability.  Evaluate your abilities, your budget and how soon you need to move before purchasing a property that is not move-in ready.
  4. Offering more than a house is worth– Make sure the purchase price for the home you buy is reasonable for both the house and the location by examining comparable sales and getting your real estate professional’s opinion before making an offer.

Another Great Danville Home for Sale

This FABULOUS home is located in Anderson Ranch, one of the most desirable Danville neighborhoods in one of the area’s best school districts- San Ramon Valley.  Hiking trails in the newly created East Bay Open Space are 2 blocks away, and the 26-mile Iron Horse walking and biking trail is close by.

This stunning home boasts a spacious and bright interior, and a very private amenity-packed back yard for fun-filled day and evening entertainment.  Carefully maintained since new, every question you have about every detail of this house can be readily answered for you by the original owner.  For photos and more information, check out the virtual tour at http://www.circlepix.com/home/F7AGKY.