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5 Must-Haves for Outdoor Entertaining

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(Family Features) Gatherings and get-togethers may commonly take place inside, but giving your guests extra space takes nothing more than a little creativity and the right outdoor appliances. Open a new door – literally – and head outside to take advantage of unused deck, patio and yard space.

As a natural extension of your home, a few key pieces of lighting, heating and cooking equipment can turn your backyard into an entertaining oasis. Let your personal style shine and elevate your hosting skills with these ideas from the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council.

Lighting
Flame lighting may not be every homeowner’s first consideration, but more hosts are relying on it to add upscale elegance to outdoor gatherings. Custom lanterns, modern chandeliers, pendants and tabletop units offer stylish additions to modern and classic designs alike.

No matter your tastes, propane flame lighting fixtures can be placed in multiple areas for aesthetic and practical purposes. While it’s hard to top the soothing effect of a starry night while calming flames reflect off your windows and add a glow to your patio, flame lighting also can ward off intruders or animals and help prevent tripping in the dark.

Grills and Cooking Equipment
Propane can help you bring your dream kitchen to life outdoors. First establish a budget and identify a builder then build out the features of your high-performing kitchen in the peaceful setting nature offers. Often, the centerpiece of the space are grills, which are available in a variety of sizes and styles. Some offer features like side burners for sauces and rotisseries.

Because they heat up fast and provide precise temperature control, propane-powered outdoor cooking appliances are a popular choice for homeowners who want to spend less time preparing food and more time enjoying it. With instant on-off convenience just like indoor gas ranges, outdoor propane grills, pizza ovens and ovens help home chefs create perfectly cooked meals with no coals, soot or ash to clean up. The appliances can also be built in to a straight, L-shape or U-shape bar to complete your outdoor cooking paradise.

Patio Heaters
If chilly weather brings on the blues in your region, make the most of your outdoor space with a propane-powered patio heater that allows for entertaining nearly year-round. Propane patio heaters can raise the outdoor air temperature up to 25 F while emitting a circle of radiant heat up to 25 feet in diameter. Next time you want to get outside before patio season arrives, start up a propane patio heater to enjoy cozy warmth in a clean, safe, reliable way.

Fireplaces and Fire Pits
Another option for bringing warmth to outdoor entertaining can happen with the push of a button in the form of a propane fireplace or fire pit. These smokeless solutions come without the maintenance of wood-burning fires, meaning you can enjoy the heat and ambiance of flames dancing in the night sky while skipping the fuss of soot, ash and burning logs. Plus, clean-energy propane delivers heat more efficiently with a lower carbon footprint than traditional energy sources like wood, which take a toll on the environment.

Pool Heaters
You can maximize your fun for as much of the year as possible and combat the elements with propane pool and spa heaters. Available for in-ground and above ground pools and spas, propane heaters operate at a higher efficiency than electric systems and maintain heat better in cooler weather while also operating cleanly and taking up minimal space.

To find more outdoor entertaining inspiration, visit Propane.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


SOURCE:
Propane Education & Research Council

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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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