Tag: advice

How To Keep An AC Unit Running Strong

Air conditioners are a lifeline come the dog days of summer, when soaring temperatures make a well-cooled home a welcome respite from the outdoors. Maintaining an AC unit ensures it will be there to keep everyone cool when the mercury rises. The following are some steps homeowners can take to keep their AC units in tip-top shape this summer.

Replace The Air Filter On The Unit

Dirt, dust, debris, and pollen can quickly fill the filter on an AC unit. Replacing these filters prior to summer can make the unit operate more efficiently and keep cool air circulating throughout the house all summer. Homeowners can first identify which type of unit they have and then find an online tutorial to see how to replace the filter. Some filters are more expensive than others, but the cost is still low and the energy savings can be substantial.

Schedule Annual Maintenance On The Unit

Routine maintenance performed by a local HVAC technician is another way to ensure an AC unit is running at peak capacity when it’s most needed. Such maintenance is perhaps most effective in spring, as that ensures the unit is running strong from the first heat wave of the summer all the way through Labor Day. HVAC technicians can identify problems and recommend services that homeowners may not recognize they need until it’s already hot out. Annual maintenance appointments also give HVAC professionals a chance to assess a system compared to the previous year, which can help them identify if a unit is nearing its end. That can ensure homeowners are not caught off guard when the unit needs to replaced.

Help The Unit Make It Through The Summer

Whether it’s a typical summer or one marked by a handful of heat waves, AC units can use a little help to get through the season. Closing curtains throughout the house on hot afternoons is a natural way to keep a home cool during a heat wave, and that can cut back on home cooling costs and protect a unit from being overworked. Ceiling fans also can be installed to keep rooms cool and circulate air, which also makes a hot summer a little less taxing on an AC unit.

Use A Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats allow homeowners to set the temperatures inside their homes throughout the day. If no one is home during the afternoon, there’s no reason to have the AC cranking. Program the thermostat so the house is comfortable when people are home, but raise the desired temperature when no one is around. That gives the AC unit a break during the day and can help to dramatically reduce the cost of cooling the home.

AC units will not last forever, but some simple maintenance can improve their life expectancy and keep homes comfortable throughout the summer.

6 Tips For Staying Hydrated This Summer

Summer is marked by hot and humid conditions. After all, the band The Lovin’ Spoonful didn’t sing, “Hot town, summer in the city. Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty” because the summer weather is crisp and cool. Although summer temperatures can make a day at the beach or in the pool ideal, that rising mercury also can contribute to dehydration.

The Mayo Clinic advises that water is critical to every cell, tissue and organ in the human body. The body relies on water to function properly. Water helps to regulate body temperature, flush waste from the body, lubricate and cushion joints, and promote healthy digestion. And that’s just the start. So when temperatures climb and the body begins sweating to cool off, it is vital to replenish lost fluids at a faster rate. The U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine says women should consume 2.7 liters of fluid per day, while men need 3.7 liters. These amounts increase if one is exercising, sweating, has an illness like a fever, or is vomiting.

The following are six ways to stay properly hydrated to avoid adverse reactions during hot summer days.

1. Consume a glass of water when you wake up. Start the day off with some water to give you an energy boost and get your metabolism moving.

2. Coffee and tea count toward fluid intake. Drinking your favorite tea or coffee is an another way to take in fluids. A 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that caffeine doesn’t contribute to dehydration for healthy adults, so having a cup or two should be fine.

3. Certain foods are hydrating as well. Hydrating foods include cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, and peppers. The Mayo Clinic says the average person gets 20 percent of his fluid intake from food.

4. Make water more fun. Add unsweetened flavoring to water if you find plain water too bland. You can squeeze in lemon or lime juice, or float cucumber or apple slices in the water for some flavor.

5. Reach for calorie-free beverages before food. It’s easy to mistake the signs of dehydration for hunger. By drinking a glass of water or another unsweetened beverage prior to every meal, you can stay hydrated and reduce the amount of food you eat. This can be part of a healthy weight loss plan.

6. Occasionally consume electrolyte powders and drinks. Working out in the heat or sweating profusely can unbalance electrolytes in the body. The Cleveland Clinic says electrolytes are substances that help the body regulate chemical reactions and maintain balance between fluids inside and outside of your cells. They include sodium, calcium and potassium. An electrolyte-infused beverage can help replenish these lost substances.

Staying hydrated is essential at all times, but it’s especially important when summer temperatures can make loss of body fluid more significant.

Simple Ways To Get A Better Night’s Sleep

Sleep is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle. The National Institutes of Health says good sleep improves brain performance and mood and helps reduce the risk of many diseases and disorders, including heart disease and obesity. In fact, sleep is as important for good health as diet and exercise.

Too often people do not get enough sleep or poor quality sleep. Sleep needs change as a person ages, with young children and teens requiring between nine and 10 hours per night. Most adults need at least seven hours each night. According to Dr. Kenneth Wright, Jr., a sleep researcher at the University of Colorado, a person can make up for a poor night’s sleep by sleeping in the next day, but habitual loss of sleep cannot be recuperated in a weekend.

Men need to focus on sleep to feel their best. These sleep strategies, courtesy of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH, can promote better sleep.

Be Consistent

The body will adapt to a sleeping schedule when you go to bed and wake in the morning at the same time each day. Try not to vary your schedule between weekdays or weekends, or even when on vacation.

Limit Exposure to Light at Night

The body naturally responds to darkened conditions by stimulating the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Too often people keep lights on at night or look at phones or watch television, which can adversely affect melatonin production and contribute to a poor sleep environment.

Exercise Each Day

Aim for daily exercise, which can make it easier to fall asleep at night. Avoid exercise a few hours before bed, however.

Spend Time Outside Each Day

At least 30 minutes of sunlight and fresh air each day can promote a better night’s sleep.

Watch Your Naps

Naps should be short and taken before mid-afternoon.

Skip Caffeine and Alcohol Later in a Day

Caffeine consumption can impede the ability to fall asleep because it is a stimulant. Although alcohol is a depressant and can make it easy to fall asleep, the sleep that is taking place after consuming alcohol, particularly late at night, will not be quality, restorative sleep.

Keep meals at Night Very Light

Heavy meals that force the body to spend hours digesting can interrupt sleep onset and quality.

Maintain a Dark, Cool and Quiet Bedroom

A dark, cool and quiet bedroom is a positive sleep environment.

If sleeping habits do not improve after making these changes, individuals should speak with a health care provider to determine if there is an underlying condition that is compromising sleep, such as restless leg syndrome or obstructive sleep apnea. Although sleeping pills can offer relief once in a while, they should not be seen as long-term solutions to sleeping disorders. Doctor can be useful allies in helping individuals get better sleep.

Prevent Pets From Fighting

Animal interactions are often portrayed as confrontational. Many people have undoubtedly watched a cartoon mouse outsmart a cat, or laughed as the Road Runner stays a few steps ahead of Wile E. Coyote. Common companion animals also have reputations for confrontation when forced to coexist under one roof.

Reality often differs from such depictions. Potential pet owners can rest assured that many animals of all different breeds and species have the potential to cohabitate peacefully. It’s just a matter of doing your homework and facilitating the process of companionship. Here’s how to get started.

Plan An Initial Meet and Greet

When thinking about welcoming a new pet into the home, particularly one who has not previously bonded with another animal that you are adopting together, you should always bring your current pet along to gauge their interactions. Also, it is wise to get a disposition report from the rescue about whether the available animal has a history of confrontation with other pets. Rescues typically let prospective pet parents know if a pet is good with dogs, cats, small animals, and even children.

Create Safe Spaces

Whether it is two dogs, two cats, or one of each, animals may need time to spend alone, particularly if they have different energy levels or needs. The Animal Humane Society says sanctuary rooms can be set up so pets can separate. Rooms should be secure, with a door and a ceiling. These also are good spots to place new pets as they get used to the smells and sounds of other pets and the people in the home.

Think about placing items that smell like the other pet in the new pet’s area along with treats, so that the new animal comes to associate these items with good things, suggests the American Kennel Club.

Utilize A Gate or Screen

After a few days, new pets can be given a chance to see one another separately through a baby gate or screen door without the risk of fights. When the pets are calm enough to meet without barriers, arrange the meeting in a neutral room, rather than in a sanctuary space.

Offer Equal Measures of Attention

Pets may covet their owners’ attention, and that could lead to jealousy, especially among particularly needy pets. While it’s not always possible to be equal, offer adequate time with both animals, including time where each gets individualized attention.

Sometimes It’s a No-Go

Pets may not be able to get along. For example, a dog with a very high prey drive, such as a breed that has been bred to flush out small animals or birds, may find a parakeet or guinea pig simply too tempting to leave alone. A large snake may not work out in a home that has gerbils or hamsters, as rodents are snakes’ natural food sources. Always take a pet’s breed, disposition and natural inclination into consideration before bringing in a new pet.

Various strategies can be employed to help pets peacefully coexist. Pet owners who may need some additional guidance can work with qualified animal trainers.

Documents to Bring to Your Tax Preparer

In many parts of the country, April marks a return to warm temperatures, landscapes marked by blooming foliage and perhaps even a colorful flower or two. April also signals tax season, a notion that may elicit different reactions than warmer weather and budding plants, particularly among those who do not anticipate receiving a tax refund.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the deadline to file a 2023 tax return is Monday, April 15, 2024. Individuals who file more complicated returns or those who simply don’t have the time to file on their own typically look to tax preparation professionals to ensure their returns are filed correctly and on time. As the tax deadline draws closer, taxpayers who work with tax preparation professionals can make that partnership go more smoothly by ensuring they bring along these necessary documents and details to their appointments.

Social Security Numbers

Individuals who are filing as single or jointly with a spouse will need to list the Social Security numbers of each person on the return. Taxpayers with dependents will need to provide the full names and Social Security numbers of each dependent as well as their own Social Security numbers.


A copy of a form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, also must be included in a tax return. The identification confirms a person’s identity and the name on the ID provided must match the name associated with the Social Security number provided.

Income statements

Tax preparers need a copy of each taxpayer’s W-2 form, which employers must provide by the end of January. Taxpayers with more than one job must provide a W-2 from each employer. Additional income statements, such as forms indicating gambling winnings or retirement account distributions, also must be provided to the tax prep pro. Taxpayers who have such income should contact their tax preparation pro prior to their appointment to determine which additional income form they need to file.

Tax Deduction Documents

Tax deductions save taxpayers money, and taxpayers may be eligible for a range of deductions. For example, homeowners who finance their home purchases with mortgages will receive a 1098 form from their mortgage provider each January. That form is a mortgage interest statement that can help homeowners reduce their tax obligations. Donations, student loan interest payments and college tuition costs are some additional potential deductions. Charities, student loan servicing firms and colleges or universities should provide tax deduction documents by the end of January, and taxpayers can turn these forms over to their tax preparation professional so they earn all eligible deductions.


Some expenses are eligible for tax deductions. Taxpayers can contact their tax preparation professional to determine if any medical bills, business expenses, charitable contributions, or additional expenses are deductible. Receipts may be required, and individuals are urged to hold on to any receipts they might be able to use to earn a tax deduction.

Tax season has arrived, and taxpayers are urged to provide all relevant documents to their tax preparers to ensure their returns are filed correctly and on time.

Turn Your Bedroom Into A Relaxing Retreat

Bedrooms are more than places to lay our heads at the end of the day. Bedrooms serve different functions, and not all are conducive to relaxation.

People who use their bedrooms as a work space may find they’re compromising their well-being by introducing activities into the bedroom. The Sleep Foundation says having an office in the bedroom blurs the lines between work and personal life, which can have serious effects on sleep. Rather, people should be looking to turn their bedrooms into relaxing retreats that offer a respite from the outside world.

Remove Blue-Light Emitting Devices

Computers, tablets, smartphones, and other electronic devices emit blue light, which can compromise natural melatonin production in the body that contributes to sleep. Such devices should not be used at night in the bedroom.

Use A Neutral Color Palette

Neutral color palettes evoke a spa feeling. Walls can be painted white, beige or a light shade of gray. This can help the room feel calming and welcoming.

Declutter The Room

A sense of calm can be achieved simply by removing excess clutter. There is some evidence that the brain is more calm near an empty dresser, desk or clothes hamper. Therefore, removing excessive items from the room is a first step to making a nice retreat.

Add Soft Lighting

Adjust the intensity and the color of the lighting in the bedroom. It should be subtle and warming. Dimmers enable homeowners to adjust lighting as needed.

Install An Electric Fireplace

There is something to be said for the relaxing effects of gazing into the flames of a fire. A crackling (faux-wood) fire is an added layer of indulgence in a bedroom.

Add An Area Rug

Even in rooms with carpeting, an area rug under the bed can further define the perimeter of the bed and add extra plushness underfoot.

Invest In Aromatherapy Diffusers

Certain smells can create a relaxing mood. These may be sandalwood, lavender or jasmine. Utilizing their preferred scents, homeowners can employ reed diffusers in their bedrooms to enjoy the aromas of natural oils.

Used Closed Storage

Open shelves and visible closet interiors may not hide a mess. Exposure to clutter can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Store items that shouldn’t be on display behind closed doors or drawers.

Bring In Luxury Linens

Homeowners should not skimp on comforters, sheets, duvet covers, and pillows for their beds. A cozy bed to dive right into can serve as the centerpiece of a bedroom retreat.

Turning a bedroom into a relaxing space can help individuals sleep better and reduce anxiety.

How To Find The Right Real Estate Agent

Working with a real estate agent can give both buyers and sellers an edge in what continues to be a challenging real estate market. Agents, brokers and Realtors® are professionals who have distinct expertise and knowledge of the process of buying and selling homes. That expertise is evidenced by how many people rely on real estate professionals each year. A 2022 Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends report found 88 percent of homeowners choose to list their homes with a real estate agent when it comes time to sell.

Individuals understand that it can be in their best interests to work with real estate professionals, but they may not know where to look as they seek to work with one. Here are some tips for finding the right match in a real estate professional.

Know The Difference In Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents are required by the state in which they operate to pass a real estate license exam. Real estate brokers take it a step further and undergo additional training, which could bring additional experience to the table. Realtors® are members of the National Association of Realtors® and beholden to its strict code of ethics. These individuals also may have undergone additional training that qualifies them to work with certain types of clients, such as seniors.

Seek Referrals

Friends or family members, or even others in the community, can put people in touch with real estate professionals. When asking for referrals, individuals can inquire about certain professionals and how they handled buying and/or selling a home.

Work With The Right Type Of Agent

Generally speaking, real estate agents either work with buyers or sellers in the transaction. Many will do both, but some specialize in buying or selling. Find a professional who either does both or specializes in your position.

Research An Agent’s Online Presence

Use the internet to see if the agent has a website, a particular philosophy or a specialty. This also may be a place to check online reviews. Don’t be dissuaded by one or two poor reviews. However, if there are many, it may be best to look elsewhere.

Meet and Interview Potential Agents

Individuals should speak with a couple of real estate professionals to see what they offer. This is a good way to determine if there is a connection there, and whether the agent will get the results needed. A well-prepared agent will come with data, including “comps” of properties in the area. Professionals typically have information about the current market trends and a portfolio of the homes they have brokered recently.

Go With Gut Instincts

If it’s between two people of equal qualification, select the person with whom you have a stronger rapport. This person will be guiding you through a sizable financial transaction, so comfort level is important.

Finding the right real estate professional can take some time. But the right professional will guide clients through the often complex and occasionally frustrating process of buying or selling property.

Steps To Secure Your Financial Privacy

Safeguarding personal financial data has never been more important, as an increasingly digital world has made online banking that much more prevalent. Cyber crimes are a significant concern. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no less than 422 million individuals were impacted by cyber crime in 2022, and nearly 33 billion accounts are anticipated to be breached by the end of 2023. Cyber crimes are happening every day, even if the public only hears about the largest data breaches.

Financial institutions as well as retailers and other businesses that require the use of personal financial information are obligated to safeguard customer data. According to the Federal Trade Commission, financial institutions protect the privacy of consumers’ finances under a federal law called the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. That law governs banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and companies providing many other types of products and services. The law dictates how financial institutions can collect and disclose customer’s personal financial information.

Individuals also have key roles to play in protecting themselves. Though even the best precautions cannot completely secure your financial privacy, every little effort is worth it to reduce your risk of being victimized by data theft. These tips from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority can help individuals safeguard their privacy.

· You have the right to opt out of the sharing of some of your personal information with affiliates and non-affiliates of a financial institution. For example, you can opt out of receiving prescreened credit offers by way of credit bureaus selling information about you to lenders or insurance.

· Increase awareness of phishing scams. These often are emails that appear to come from legitimate firms or financial regulators asking for personal information. These entities would never ask for account numbers, passwords, credit card information, or Social Security numbers through email. Verify all communication with the financial institution by contacting that institution directly at the number listed on your account statement or bill.

· Be aware of where you click online. Never click on a questionable link or download a suspicious email attachment.

· Strong passwords can keep accounts more secure. Resist the urge to use the same password across many accounts. Once that password is compromised, the cyber criminal may be able to try it on your other accounts. Consider using a password manager to suggest and save strong and unique passwords for each account.

· Utilize multifactor authentication whenever it is available. MFA adds an extra layer of protection by using a password as well as a unique code or biometric to unlock the account.

· Conduct all financial business on a personal device on a secure network. Delete the cache and history frequently to avoid leaving a digital trace.

These steps can help protect financial security. Individuals need to be diligent in safeguarding their information from cyber criminals.

Symptoms Of Plumbing Problems

The drip of a faucet, the bang of pipes and the visible signs of a leak under the sink are some notable indicators of plumbing problems. Other, potentially serious issues may not be so evident. How can homeowners tell if they have potential plumbing problems? The following are some sights and sounds that indicate it is time to call in a plumber.

Banging or Clanking

Plumbers refer to these noises as water hammer. This is when a rush of water forces through the pipe and bumps into a closed valve, producing a metallic noise. Something is in the pipe that is restricting water flow. Over time, the flow of water meeting an obstacle could loosen pipe joints as the water tries to find an easier workaround.

Pipe Discoloration

If there is any sign of discoloration on pipes, particularly rust, it could be a symptom of a dripping sink or drain line that is slowly leaking. A slow leak can eventually turn into a big mess if left unattended.

Sewer Smells

Pipes need traps and vents. Traps are designed to prevent sewer gas from entering the home, while vents channel sewer odor up to the roof. If there are sewer smells, it could mean a trap has dried out or a vent line is cracked, says Family Handyman.

Low Water Pressure

If you turn on the faucet and the water pressure is poor, it could be the result of a clog or a leak somewhere in the system. Pipes that are improperly sized for a home also can affect pressure.

Sluggish Drains

Clearing drains is perhaps the only plumbing problem that homeowners should address themselves. More often than not, drains that fail to drain quickly have a blockage such as hair or other debris. If attempts to clear the drain do not work, it is best to bring in a professional plumber.

Shaking Sounds

Water can cause occasional noises, but if the sounds are frequent, the pipes are not secured firmly enough. A plumber will need to tighten the mounting straps or even completely replace them.

Plumbing issues are nothing to take lightly, as small problems can quickly escalate and cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Tips To Prepare For Flu Season

Influenza is more common than people may realize. Data from the World Health Organization indicates there are around one billion cases of seasonal influenza each year. Though only a small fraction of those cases result in severe illness, even a mild case of the flu can be unpleasant and disruptive.

The phrase “flu prevention” may be somewhat misleading, as the best people can do is reduce their risk for seasonal influenza. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to do that is to get vaccinated against the flu each year. Each year’s flu shot is different, as researchers design the vaccination based on which strand of influenza they anticipate will be most prevalent in a given year. In addition to getting vaccinated, individuals can consider these tips, courtesy of the CDC, to protect themselves and others from the flu and stop the spread of germs.

  • Steer clear of close contact. Individuals who are sick can steer clear of close contact with other people in order to safeguard them from the flu. On the flip side, people who live or work with individuals who have the flu can avoid close contact as well.
  • Don’t be a hero. The CDC urges anyone who is sick with the flu to stay home until their illness subsides. Avoid going to school, work and running errands so you can help to prevent the virus from spreading.
  • Cover up. The CDC notes that the flu virus spreads primarily through droplets produced when people with influenza cough, sneeze or talk. When around others, cover your mouth and nose, particularly when sneezing or coughing. When you have to sneeze or cough, do so into the cradle of your elbow. Coughing into your hands could help to spread the virus, as germs can transfer from your hand onto surfaces others may touch, like doorknobs and handles.
  • Routinely wash your hands. Make it a habit to wash your hands regularly. When returning home, wash your hands before you do anything else. This is especially important when returning home from places where lots of people tend to congregate, such as grocery stores and restaurants. Lathering hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds can help get rid of germs. If soap and water is not available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The CDC notes that germs spread when people touch contaminated surfaces or objects and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. It’s easy to touch your eyes, nose or mouth without even thinking about it, but make a concerted effort to avoid touching these areas to safeguard yourself and others from the flu.

Seasonal influenza can be a disruptive and potentially deadly force. Various practices can help people protect themselves and others from contracting the flu.