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4 Benefits of Adding a Fireplace to Your Home

Whether you’re constructing a new home or simply redesigning your current living space, there are many considerations that can truly make a house a home.

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(Family Features) Whether you’re constructing a new home or simply redesigning your current living space, there are many considerations that can truly make a house a home.

Amid budget considerations, design vision boards, specs and blueprints, amenities like a new fireplace can allow homeowners to celebrate the warmth, comfort and ambiance a fireplace or other hearth product can provide. In fact, 7 out of 10 of homeowners have a fireplace and usage has increased during all four seasons since 2020, according to research from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), showcasing that including a fireplace in your construction or renovation plans is a gift to yourself and your family.

“When we’re designing our ideal homes, too often we may only think about what we want others to see and enjoy when they visit,” said Jack Goldman, president and CEO for HPBA. “The reality is visitors account for less than 1% of your in-home time. A fireplace is for you and your family, a personal addition that serves you and your household in more ways than you may realize.”

Consider these four benefits of including a fireplace as part of your next home update:

  1. It can be a sanctuary from the ever-changing world outside. As people continue to spend more time at home, a fireplace can serve as a source of calm and relaxation, helping you and your family escape from the challenges daily life may throw your way.
  2. It’s an artful piece of decor to display year-round. Whether it’s a centerpiece for your living room or family room, or an accent to your bedroom, bathroom or study, a creatively designed fireplace can provide an artful design element for your home, no matter the season.
  3. It’s a safe, reliable heating source. A fireplace is an extra layer of security when weather wreaks havoc and can provide safe, reliable heat and lighting in the event of a power outage.
  4. It can be the heartbeat of your home. Between screen time, remote work schedules and commitments to extracurricular activities, many families experience fragmented home lives. A fireplace, though, can serve as a central gathering spot for you and your loved ones when together.

To learn more about the benefits of fireplaces and find a nationwide directory of specialty retailers and certified installers, visit HPBA.org/House-warming.

Fireplace Safety Tips
Whether it’s the warm glow of the fire, the crackle of the wood or the deep penetrating warmth, woodburning fireplaces have a way of making people feel relaxed and at home. However, there are some precautions that should be taken to ensure safe operation:

  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Keep small children and pets away from the fireplace.
  • Clear an area of at least 3 feet around the fireplace of furniture, books, newspaper and other potentially flammable materials.
  • Inspect gaskets, door seals and the chimney annually.
  • Have the chimney professionally cleaned as necessary to ensure it’s clear of obstructions and creosote.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Utilize fireplace tools to tend the fire.
  • Never burn garbage, rolled newspaper, charcoal, plastic or chemically treated or painted wood.
  • Avoid using gasoline or any liquid accelerant to help start a fire.
  • Do not overload the fireplace to avoid burning wood or embers tumbling out.
  • Never close the damper until embers have completely stopped burning.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

 


SOURCE:
Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Rod: A creative force, blending words, images, and flavors. Blogger, writer, filmmaker, and photographer. Cooking enthusiast with a sci-fi vision. Passionate about his upcoming series and dedicated to TNC Network. Partnered with Rebecca Washington for a shared journey of love and art.

home improvement

5 Steps to Get Your Yard Ready for Spring

Preparing your yard for a healthy growing season

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it’s important to begin preparing your yard for a healthy growing season

(Family Features) As the weather begins to warm and days get longer, it’s important to begin preparing your yard for a healthy growing season. While factors like climate, soil type and grass type can all impact how your yard grows, there are a few steps you can take during the spring months to help your lawn thrive.

From dethatching and aerating to fertilizing and mowing, tackling these simple chores can help ensure your yard looks its best and is prepared to fight off seasonal weeds, disease and drought.

Tune Your Mower
Before it’s time for the first mowing of the season, inspect your mower and perform any routine maintenance necessary. That goes beyond sharpening, or replacing, the blade, and includes changing the oil, spark plugs and filter as well as filling with a fresh tank of gas.

Loosen the Thatch Layer
While it’s important to avoid working on your lawn until after the final freeze to avoid damaging the grass, raking your yard with a spring tine rake to loosen thatch – the layer of leaves, roots and dead grass that builds up between live grass and soil – before the first mow is equally important. Be sure to rake when the soil is dry; if it’s too soft or muddy, you may pull up healthy grass crowns.

Combat Compacted Soil
If your soil has become compacted – likely the effect of heavy foot traffic – and is too dense for water, air and other nutrients to reach the roots of your grass, aerating can help break it up and reduce thatch. A core, or plug, aerator can introduce tiny holes into your soil by removing plugs of grass and soil, which lets nutrients more easily reach the roots. An added bonus, the plugs can decompose on top of your grass, supplying more nutrients.

Fill in Bare Spots
If your lawn is looking sparse, overseeding, which involves spreading grass seed over your existing lawn, can help fill in bare spots. Be sure to choose the right type of seed for your climate and soil type to ensure proper growth. Applying a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer at the same time can provide additional nutrients that are important for promoting healthy growth.

Start Seasonal Mowing
When the ground is dry enough and your grass is long enough to require cutting, begin seasonal mowing. Be sure to use proper techniques, including varying your mowing direction each time to avoid creating patterns or ruts, and avoid cutting grass too low, which can make the lawn more susceptible to weeds and drought stress. In general, never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at a time.

Find more tips to help get your yard ready for warm weather at eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


SOURCE:
eLivingtoday.com

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Consumer Corner

Gone Viral: ‘Miniclover’ is a top trending grass alternative for yards across America

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(Joan Casanova) If you’re looking to renovate your yard, there’s a sustainable, drought-tolerant alternative to high-maintenance, water-guzzling grass that also reduces your environmental footprint.

“Clover lawns” went viral on social media last fall and became the most searched home improvement trend on Google in 2023. If you search #cloverlawns on Tik Tok , viewed more than 150 million times, you’ll be bombarded with photos and videos of fluffy, lush, green, gorgeous lawns grown with Miniclover seeds.

“‘Miniclover’ (Trifolium repens) is about 1/3-1/2 the size of white Dutch clover, only grows 4-6 inches and produces a thick, carpet-like look that blends well with turf,” said Troy Hake, president and owner of Outsidepride.com, offering drought-tolerant grasses, clovers, wildflower seeds and more. “It’s less expensive than grass seed and a natural solution for self-sustaining, low-maintenance lawns that look beautiful and help eliminate the need for fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and weekly mowing. We sold out of it for the past two years, even with a two-fold increase in production. You can’t go wrong with it.”

Wondering why grass gets a bad rap? The truth is climate change is looming and has further altered the natural pattern of droughts, making them more frequent, longer and more severe. Grass lawns, however, are not sustainable; they’re the most maintenance-intense part of yards, requiring regular fertilization, mowing and heavy irrigation to look good. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated at almost 1/3 of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day. Plus, gas-powered lawn and gardening equipment release more than 30 million tons of carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory.

In some regions, there’s continuous, strict regulations on watering lawns or bans on the use of drinking water for irrigating grass. As concerns about climate change and water scarcity intensify, some homeowners are looking for landscaping solutions that minimize water usage and reduce environmental impact. A standout in this regard, Miniclover requires significantly less water than traditional grass to thrive. It’s drought-tolerant and has longer, deeper roots than grass, reaching into the soil for needed moisture, requiring minimal watering, staying greener longer and showing more resiliency during periods of drought or water restrictions.

It takes nitrogen from the air, “fixing” it in the soil and eliminating the need for fertilizer or nitrogen plant food because it does the work for you, keeping grass green and growing while adding natural nitrogen to surrounding soil.

Some homeowners are already tearing up grass and completely replacing it with Miniclover; others are overseeding existing grass, reaping the many benefits of clover while maintaining a lawn-like look without committing to a complete lawn replacement. Both options are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than grass lawns.

With hectic lifestyles the norm, many homeowners want landscaping solutions that require minimal upkeep. While grass lawns require constant mowing, watering and fertilizing, perhaps it’s time to grow something other than traditional turf. Miniclover’s slow growth habits mean less time behind the mower while its dense growth pattern, evenly dispersed via stolons (stems that grow horizontally along the ground), crowds out weeds and controls erosion.

No need for herbicides; they’ll kill it. Grubs won’t eat it and bugs won’t lay eggs in it. It stands up to compacted soil, plus it’s immune to “dog patches.” It fills in bare spots fast and tolerates wet conditions. Mow as little as you like – the more it’s cut, the smaller the leaf size – or simply let it grow close to the ground, like grass . It blooms only once in summer with small, delicate flowers, which provide bees with nectar or, if preferred, mowing prevents blooming. It withstands foot traffic, making it ideal for pathways and play areas and its tolerance for shade makes it suitable for areas with limited sunlight.

For homeowners looking to reclaim weekends and minimize time and effort spent on lawn care, Miniclover seems like a dream. It lives up to its hype, offering the winning combination of environmental sustainability, very low maintenance, drought tolerance, aesthetic appeal and cost efficiency that benefits not only homeowners’ properties, but planet Earth as well.

For more drought-tolerant options, visit Outsidepride.com.

Photos courtesy of Outsidepride.com


SOURCE:
Outsidepride.com

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Consumer Corner

7 Ways to Reduce Home Energy Costs

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(Family Features) When building your budget, utility bills – especially the electric bill – are likely one of your largest monthly expenditures. One of the biggest culprits: home heating and cooling, which account for more than half of the average American household’s annual energy consumption, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration.

In fact, 83% of homeowners are concerned about the impact of energy bills on their household budgets, according to a survey conducted by Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS), with 54% saying it cost “somewhat more” or “much more” to heat their homes this winter compared to last year.

To help dial down your energy costs, consider these tips from the heating and cooling experts at METUS.

Adjust the Temperature
While you’re sleeping or away from home, adjust your thermostat up 5-10 F in the summer or down 5-10 F in the winter, which can help lower annual heating and cooling costs if done consistently. A smart thermostat can monitor your energy use and behaviors then automatically adjust to make your home more energy efficient.

Look for Incentives and Rebates
Qualified homeowners may be eligible to save money on qualified home energy improvement projects. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) offers tax credits and rebates, including a credit of 30% (up to $2,000) for qualifying heat pump installation, an energy-efficient option to replace fossil fuel-burning furnaces. Other incentives under the IRA include offsetting costs of electrical panel upgrades and rebates for homes with energy usage reductions of 20% or more.

Switch to a Heat Pump
Among survey respondents, 54% ranked government incentives like the IRA as one of the top reasons they would consider installing a heat pump to replace a traditional air conditioner. Options like Mitsubishi Electric’s all-climate heat pumps use two units – an exterior heat pump, which replaces your existing air conditioning condenser, and an interior unit installed on your furnace – to deliver cost-effective, eco-efficient, year-round heating and cooling. These smart systems not only improve air conditioning efficiency on hot days, but also determine the best source of heat (gas or electricity) on cold days, so your HVAC system is always running at peak efficiency and comfort.

Have HVAC Systems Serviced Regularly
For best performance and efficiency, regular maintenance of your heating and cooling system is imperative. Keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters are tasks most homeowners can handle on their own but bringing in a professional – usually in the spring and fall – can help ensure your HVAC system and all its components, including electrical and ductwork, are functioning properly.

Improve Your Insulation
Poorly insulated attics, walls, ceilings, floors and crawl spaces can lead to energy waste and increase costs by requiring more energy to heat or cool your home. Because air can escape through these spaces when your HVAC system pushes air through your home, adding insulation can help reduce losses and keep your home more comfortable.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours
Rather than using your oven, stove or clothes dryer from noon-6 p.m., peak time for many electricity providers, consider doing so in the morning or later at night. Using these appliances outside of the peak timeframe, when conventional heating and cooling systems are often running full bore, can help lower energy costs. Some utilities may also offer plans that incentivize limiting energy use during peak hours.

Think Multi-Zone
Consider upgrading to an all-climate, multi-zone heat pump, which can seamlessly connect to multiple indoor units, revolutionizing the way you experience comfort in your home. By eliminating problematic hot and cold spots in your home, this system ensures personalized comfort tailored to individual zones and optimizes energy usage by directing it only to the areas requiring heating or cooling. Replacing an outdated HVAC system with a multi-zone solution can also help achieve cost and energy savings. By efficiently managing temperature in different zones, you can experience improved energy efficiency, resulting in a more sustainable and economical solution for heating and cooling.

Find more solutions for improving your home’s efficiency and increasing energy savings at MitsubishiComfort.com.


SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric

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