6 Tips to Save Money on Winter Heating Bills

Brace yourselves, winter is coming. As such, it is never too early to start planning ahead for the annual rise in winter heating costs.

A common misconception is that the most effective ways to decrease energy costs is by resorting to expensive, large-scale solutions such as installing new insulation throughout your home. Sure, that will definitely work at keeping you warm, but it will also cost you an arm and a leg to do so. The truth is that there are a number of small things you can do right now to help chip away at the overall amount of energy you use this winter. If done correctly, these small changes will lead to big savings. The key is taking the time to assess your needs and choosing the approach which best matches your goals while limiting your expenses.

Stay warm with these six tips to saving money on your winter heating bills.
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Supplemental Heating: The Easiest Way to Cut Energy Costs in the Fall & Winter

Spot Heating

As the mercury starts to drop, most homeowners will see their energy costs start to go up. In attempt to stay warm, most homeowners will simply crank up the heater, but unfortunately, that’s one of the least efficient ways to stay warm. Instead of heating up your entire house, why not just keep the area you’re hanging out in warm?

This strategy is called Supplemental Heating, and it’s one that more and more homeowners are starting to turn to. Without a doubt, supplementing the heat in your home is the absolute easiest way to lower your energy bills without sacrificing your overall comfort. There’s a number of ways you can utilize this technique to stay warm. But first, let’s learn how it works.

What is Supplemental Heating?

Supplemental heating is a straightforward strategy more homeowners are turning to as energy prices continue to rise. Instead of raising the internal temperature of your home to a consistent level throughout the entire house, only specific areas are heated while the rest of the house remains cool. The logic behind this is simple. If you are not going to be moving throughout the house, from room to room, on a regular basis there is no reason to keep every room the same temperature. A more economical solution is to only heat the spaces you are currently occupying.

There are a number of benefits to adopting a supplemental heating strategy in your home. Let’s take a closer look at the three most common benefits of this strategy.
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3 Things to Keep in Mind When Starting an Indoor Garden

You have decided to start a fall gardening project in your home, and you know what you want to grow. What do you do now? The hardest part to setting up your indoor garden is to figure out what it requires to succeed.

Before you rush out and buy a bunch of gardening equipment for your indoor garden, it’s always wise to proactively troubleshoot a few of the most common problems, in order to ensure the overall long-term success of your garden. From proper lighting and ventilation, to assessing whether you have enough space, let’s take a look at what can do to give your plants what they need to bloom and grow. Follow our beginners guide to setting up a basic indoor garden on a budget.

Size of Your Gardening Space

First, assess the size of your space. Large rooms need a lot of lights with a powerful system for ventilation. Small rooms need fewer lights with less energy devoted to ventilation. Measure the dimensions of your room to give you a better idea of what you will need. A room that measures 18 feet wide, 12 feet long would be considered spacious.

Next, you must think about your budget and how much experience you have growing plants. If you are fairly new to urban or indoor gardening, you may not want to fill the entire room with plants until you have a little more experience. Instead of jumping straight into buying a bunch of gardening equipment, start off with a smaller project and measure your overall success. Once you feel more comfortable, proceed on with more plants. The last thing anybody wants is to spend a bunch of time and money on an indoor garden, only to see your plants die before you can harvest.

Now that you have the size of your gardening space established, section-off part of the room so that you have a space that is at least 8 feet wide and 12 feet long. This is a manageable working space for a novice. Granted, sectioning the room is an additional effort and expense. However, creating a smaller space within the room gives you more complete control of the environment in your garden. Line the sectioned area with reflective sheeting so that you get the most out of your lighting. If you do not feel confident installing a temporary partition on your own, buy an indoor grow tent to drape from the ceiling.
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A Beginner’s Guide to Dehydrating Food

Dehydrating is a fun, cost-effective and easy way to prepare fresh foods for storage or for snacking right away. To ensure the best results, it’s wise to know the bare essentials before you start using your food dehydrator. Armed with this information and a little bit of practice and experimentation, you will be able to dehydrate food like a pro in no time.

What is a Food Dehydrator?

Dehydrated Apple

A food dehydrator is a small kitchen appliance that is used to dry, or dehydrate, your food. Utilizing a built-in fan and low amounts of heat, this small appliance uses a light flow of hot air to reduce the overall amount of water found in fruits, veggies, meats and other foods. Once the water is removed, the food won’t spoil as quickly as it normally would, and is also impervious to many kinds of bacteria that would otherwise grow.

Additionally, food that has been properly dehydrated will continue to retain the vast majority of its original nutritional value. Once you cook your food, you start to lose the overall nutrition potential, which is why many people tout a raw food diet as being one of the healthiest for you. A food dehydrator allows you to retain all of those nutrients and vitamins within your food, but makes it more convenient for you to store and carry around with you.

6 Simple Food Dehydrating Tips

Here are six basic food dehydrating tips that you should keep in mind.

  1. Make sure you have the right temperature
    The temperature and time required to adequately dehydrate will vary depending on the type of dehydrator you buy, as well as the food you want to dehydrate. General time and temperature guidelines will be printed on the dehydrator label or included in the instruction manual along with suggested times needed.
  2. Make sure foods are 95% dehydrated
    In order to be stored properly, foods need to be at least 95 percent dehydrated. If your items feel soft, spongy or sticky, put them back in the dehydrator for additional time. Hard and crunchy or breakable pieces are done. High indoor humidity, air conditioning or breezes may alter the time needed to dehydrate foods. Ideally, find a dry, warm place away from air vents and windows to set up your dehydrator.
  3. Don’t try to dry foods quicker
    Do not worry about over-drying your foods. You can dry them longer if necessary, but it’s not wise to turn the temperature settings up in an attempt to dry the foods quicker. This will seal the outside, leaving moisture within, which will ultimately lead to the food spoiling before you have a chance to eat it.
  4. Preparation is key
    Before you add dehydrate anything, make sure you thoroughly wash all foods with an anti-bacterial vegetable cleaner. Wear gloves when preparing foods to avoid getting skin oils on the food. Steam all low-acid vegetables for 10 minutes prior to dehydrating. After they have been steamed, pat them dry before placing them in the food dehydrator. Spritz bananas and apples with lemon juice to avoid browning.
  5. Become more efficient
    Just like you’re using an oven, it is wise to turn on the dehydrator prior to use to allow it to warm up to the required temperature before adding food. Prepare items that require the same temperature, and dehydrate at the same time. For best results, slice all items to equal thickness and size.

Choosing the Best Food Dehydrator for You

The most important feature of a food dehydrator is the fan. When you’re shopping for a food dehydrator, it’s recommended that you get one with a fan in the back, instead of on the top or the bottom of the unit. A back-mounted fan allows your food to dry evenly throughout the entire dehydrator. Top and bottom fans tend to dry first at the closet levels, and the fan blows scents from foods on one level to meld with foods in another.

To dehydrate foods successfully, an adjustable thermostat, heating element, automatic shut-off timer and suitable capacity are also important features to have available. The adjustable thermostat lets you set the correct temperature according to the food you are dehydrating. Varied temperatures are required according to the individual foods you wish to dehydrate. A heating element keeps the food air at the right temperature to optimally dehydrate, and the automatic shut-off timer allows you to run the dehydrator overnight or during time away from home.

Dehydrator capacity varies from approximately 4 to 10+ square feet of space, either in stackable or slide-out trays. A removable-tray dehydrator with nine trays allows as much as 15 square feet of space. Figure your size requirement according to the amount of food you plan to dehydrate. One-half pound of sliced strawberries, three sliced apples, three sliced bananas or two sliced tomatoes covers approximately one 1.5 square foot tray.

Picking the right size all depends on often you plan to use it, as well as how much food you’d like to dehydrate. If you buy or grow an abundance of fruits and veggies, then perhaps the larger 9-tray food dehydrators are the best fit for you. If you don’t plan on dehydrating a lot of food, then maybe the smaller dehydrators would be a better fit for you.

Storing & Rehydrating Dehydrated Foods

During storage, be sure to protect your dehydrated foods from heat, light and moisture. Any of these in excess may shorten the shelf life of the food. Once your food is dehydrated, allow it to cool to room temperature to avoid condensation inside packaging. For best results, you should consider using a vacuum sealer to package dehydrated foods for storage. If a vacuum sealer is not available, you can use a Ziploc bag, but make sure you force out as much air as you can and seal it tightly.

Once your dehydrated food is bagged, place the items in a dark, cool and dry area. Do not place in the freezer, or you will notice ice crystals start to collect inside. To ensure overall quality, check your inventory weekly for a couple of weeks. When dehydrated adequately and stored in a vacuum seal, foods can last over 20 years.

To rehydrate foods, plan to place 1 cup of food in 1 cup of hot or cool water, depending on your planned use. Once this is completed, allow up to four hours for rehydration. Use as you would normally in your recipe. If you’re using a slow cooker to prepare your food, then just simply add your vegetables to the cooker, add the amount of water your recipe calls for and your veggies will rehydrate themselves.

Why You Should Try It

Dehydrating foods not only saves you money, but it is very simple and incredibly healthy. Dehydrated foods not only retain their vitamin and mineral content, but they also have a shelf life that extends for decades. Following these simple guidelines assures success for beginners who are interested in the process.

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Summer Road Trips: Keeping Your RV Cool

Summer travel in your RV is a fun way to vacation. When taking to the road, stay cool and comfortable to ensure your overall enjoyment from start to finish. While using window air conditioners make for an efficient, quiet and cost-effective solution, there are still other things you can do to beat the heat.

From window air conditioners to tarps, here’s our favorite tricks for keeping your RV cool, giving you the relief you need on a hot summer day.

Know Where The Sun Is

Knowing exactly when the sun is at its hottest and making decisions based on these facts is your first line of defense to beat the heat. The sun rises in the east, so parking your RV to avoid the early morning light is a great way to keep you cool during breakfast. The ideal combination of avoiding direct sunlight and finding adequate shade is a great defense against heat in your RV.

Create Your Own Shade

When adequate shade is at a minimum, you can always create your own shade with a simple addition of a tarp. Available at a very cheap price, tarps can stretch between your RV and the ground to provide much needed shade. Tarps are also easy to clean and store rather easily, making them a great solution for that much-desired shade on a summer day.

Open Your Awnings

In addition to shade, be sure to open up all of your awnings when you park your RV. While the open awnings provide a bit of shade, they also give air circulation and encourage cooler air to pass through your RV. For the best cooling effects, make sure your largest awning is in the direction that avoids the sun. This will ensure that the coolest air makes it way through your RV.

Tips for Buying the Right Window AC

Window Air Conditioner

Unfortunately, you cannot avoid sunlight completely in your RV. Which is precisely why window air conditioners are one of the most effective solutions to keeping your vehicle cool. When shopping for a window AC, know the dimensions of your space to ensure you get the correct amount of cooling action. There are many brands, sizes and BTU differences in window air conditioners. The big box stores carry a wide variety and often run specials throughout the summer months. They are priced competitively so shop around to get the best deal. Aside from the price, it would be wise to consider its noise, ease of installation, weight and settings.

With summer underway, the success of your RV road trip is dependent on how you handle the boiling temperatures outside. With a little bit of research and some good features on your air conditioner, you will be ready to hit the open road in cool comfort.

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Clothing Organization Tips for Urban Living

laundryWhen space is at a premium, efficient organization is the key to an uncluttered home. One common problem area is clothing, which has a tendency to overrun a living space if it isn’t kept in check. Here are some useful tips for keeping your clothing organized in a small urban apartment.

Storage

Store out-of-season garments, hats and footwear in decorative boxes or tubs on a high closet shelf or stacked in a corner. You don’t need access to wool sweaters in July or swimsuits in February, so don’t let non-seasonal items clutter up the space you use every day. Transferring unneeded clothing into storage containers between seasons also helps you sort out the garments you no longer wear and can donate or discard.

For those items you need each and every day, tubs and baskets also help organize your daily essentials. Consider using a handy decorative basket for socks and freeing up your sock drawer for something that actually benefits from being folded neatly and stored flat. Other likely candidates for front-of-the-closet baskets include undergarments, shoes and in-season items such as swimwear in the summer or gloves and hats in the winter. Install hooks in easy to reach places to hold belts, bags and summer hats.

Organization

Of course, it’s not just the clothes taking up space. Organizing all of the equipment that comes with a wardrobe brings its own set of challenges. Choose a small ironing board rather than a full-size model. If you don’t do a lot of ironing, consider using an ironing pad instead of a board. These work on any flat, stable surface and roll up for easy storage. If you prefer to do your laundry at home rather than at a laundromat, a combo washer dryer does all the work and takes up half the space of a standard washer and dryer set. These are available in sizes ranging from compact to extra-large. Combo washer dryers offer all-in-one convenience, washing and drying your clothing in one machine.

Compact equipment, space-efficient appliances and smart storage choices help free up space in small urban homes. Make the most of the space you have by storing non-seasonal clothing items and choosing smaller appliances for regular use. When living space is at a premium, less really is more.

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Make Preparing for a 4th of July BBQ Easy By Following 6 Simple Tips

burgersonthegrillPreparing for any large gathering can be difficult, but launching a 4th of July party can seem impossible.  Fortunately, there are a variety of simple things you can do to make sure your party goes off without a hitch.  The key is staying organized and effectively communicating with everyone involved.  This is closer look at the simple things you can do to make your 4th of July BBQ unforgettable.

1. Start Planning Early

The only way to host a great 4th of July BBQ is getting started early.  You have to take care of food, decorations, activities, and more.  To effectively manage all of this you are going to need some help.  It could be a few family members or reliable friends.  The key isn’t to get a lot of people involved, but rather finding a few reliable people who are willing to carry their weight.

2. Set the Mood

It’s the 4th July, so act like it.  Take advantage of colorful invitations and decorations that reflect the spirit embodied by a truly great 4th of July BBQ.  This is the easiest way to separate your unique 4th of July BBQ from all of the other BBQ’s you will be a part of this year.

3. Know Your Guests

Depending on who is attending your 4th of July BBQ, your responsibilities and the tone of the party can vary greatly.  If you are hosting a family-oriented BBQ, then make sure you have some activities to keep the kids occupied and entertained.  If your BBQ is primarily adults, then roll out the kegerator and plan more adult-oriented activities.

4. Timing

Unless you are planning on hosting a fireworks display at the end of the BBQ, try to hold it in the afternoon.  This gives your guests enough time to relax and enjoy the party without worry about their obligations later in the evening.  Plus, it gives you time to clean up afterwards and still attend a fireworks display so that you can relax at the end of the day.

5.  A BBQ is More Than BBQ

A great 4th of July BBQ can be as much about the sides and desserts as it is about the BBQ.  Embrace traditional BBQ sides like potato salad, pasta salad, and baked beans – even if you put your own twist on them.  Since most of the food is probably going to be hot, try to include a few cold desserts to help people cool down.  Homemade ice cream is a great solution that is easy to manage.  Plus, you can make ice cream on demand, which ensures you aren’t stuck with a bunch of leftovers.

6. The BBQ Is Still a Focal Point

While the side dishes and desserts are important, it is important you don’t undervalue the BBQ.  Even if you are primarily serving traditional staples like hamburgers and hot dogs you should also include a few unique BBQ items as well.  This is an easy way to make your party more memorable.

With a few reliable friends or family members creating a memorable 4th of July BBQ is easy.  The key is to plan ahead and embrace traditional 4th of July fare while adding your own unique twist.

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How to Deep Fry a Turkey – Tips and Tricks

 

The holidays are fast approaching and it’s time to start collecting ideas and recipes for those festive feasts! For a special treat this Thanksgiving, try deep frying your turkey. If you have not fried a turkey before, small birds work best; try to keep your turkey under 15 pounds. Deep frying a turkey not only keeps the bird extremely moist, but you still have the option to season your bird by using a dry rub or injecting marinade. Frying your turkey is much faster than cooking it in the oven and it’s a good option for those with smaller kitchens because it allows you to maximize your oven space for side dishes. tips for deep frying a turkey

Ingredients and equipment:

  • 1 turkey (12 lb)
  • Turkey Fryer
  • 40-60 quart pot with drain basket
  • 3 gallons peanut or vegetable oil
  • Fuel for fryer
  • Thermometer
  • Optional:  An injector to add marinades to your turkey.

Marinade ideas can vary, depending on the flavor profile of your choice:

Port Wine: Port Wine, garlic juice
Honey Beer: apple cider, honey, ale, garlic juice
Italia: Italian herbs, red wine, olive oil
Cajun: Cajun spices, medium ale, Italian salad dressing

Here are some simple steps to fry your turkey:

  1. Since you will be working with a large amount of flammable oil, choose a level spot outdoors to fry your turkey.
  2. In your quart stockpot, heat peanut oil to 400 degrees F.  The pot should have plenty of room left for the turkey otherwise the oil will spill over.
  3. Start with a room temperature turkey (neck and giblets removed), rinse thoroughly and then pat dry with paper towels. If you are going to inject a marinade go ahead and inject it directly into both sides of the breast, the legs and thighs of the turkey. Another option is to coat your turkey with a dry rub (a basic recipe is 1 cup of salt, ¼ cup black pepper, ¼ cup garlic powder).
  4. Put turkey into drain basket and slowly lower into the hot oil until it covers the turkey.
  5. Maintain the peanut oil at a temperature of 350 degrees F and cook for around 45 minutes (cook time is about 3 to 3.5 minutes per pound).
  6. Carefully remove the basket from the oil. Drain turkey. Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh; the internal temperature should be at least 180 degrees F.
  7. Enjoy your deep fried turkey with family and friends

 

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How to Use a Washer Dryer Combo

washer dryer combo

You needed a laundry solution.  You were tired of trekking to a wash room or laundromat (washeteria for my friends in Louisiana).  You did the research and figured a washer dryer combo is what will fit your needs.   Now that you have this beautiful piece of equipment, what do you do with it?  Here are some simple guidelines to follow to help you use your combo most effectively.

Choose Your Load Size

Most units have a 13 to 15 pound capacity, though LG makes a unit with a 22 pound capacity.  13 to 15 pounds is about 3 complete outfits (pants, shirt, socks and undergarments), or about 6 to 8 bath towels.  It is important not to overload the unit, as it will not get your clothes as clean as they can be and it will be harder for the unit to dry the clothes.

Combo Washer Dryer Detergent

Next comes the detergent.  It is imperative that you use a low sudsing, high efficiency detergent, something with that cute little HE symbol on it.

HE Symbol

"Cute Little HE Symbol"

Powder works best, but if you prefer a liquid, go for it.  With these units, about two heaping tablespoons is all you need.  Most units will also have a space for fabric softener.  This is highly recommended because it helps to cut down on wrinkles, and generally makes your load soft afterwards.  There will also be a place to add bleach.  As with the detergent, powder bleach will work best, but you can use liquid just fine.  Be sure not to use too much though!

Water Setup

If you have the unit hooked to separate hot and cold water outlets, then you just choose whichever setting will work for your load.  Now, if you have the unit hooked to just one outlet with a faucet adapter and Y connector, you should use just cold water.  If you want to wash something in hot, set the machine for hot water and the unit will heat the water for you.  Also, cold water helps the unit dry the clothes better than hot water (weird, I know, but trust me on this one).

Final Tips

Now, just load the clothes, put in the detergent, choose your cycle, and you are off and running.  Keep in mind, once the cycle starts, the door will lock and you will be unable to open until the entire cycle is finished.  You can set these units to wash only, dry only or both.  Generally, a full wash and dry cycle takes about 3 hours.

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