Beat the Blues – Electric Bill Blues That Is!

Electric Bill Blues? Here are some ways to avoid huge bills!

With just a few simple adjustments, you can enjoy big savings on your annual utility spending.

While everyone wants to save on their energy bill — perhaps you don’t have the time for a home energy audit, or time to simply figure this out, or maybe there simply isn’t room in the budget to purchase that energy-saving appliance you want.

All is not lost! Here are some quick and easy ways to reduce your home energy usage right now.

Reduce hot water usage

Don’t worry — you don’t have to take a low-flow shower! But heating up hot water does require energy, so take the simple and painless route:

  • Adjust the water heater’s temperature. Lower your water heater to 120 degrees F (49 degrees C). An added bonus — you’ll lower the risk of scalding accidents.
  • Don’t overuse the dishwasher. Try to run your dishwasher only once a day or when it’s completely full. See if your utility company offers savings for running appliances at off-peak times.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Most modern detergents clean clothes very well with cold water. If you have items that you really need to wash in hot water, save them up and do one hot load every few weeks.

Projected savings: Up to $250 per year, depending on the number of people in your home.

Turn it off

Little things add up! An easy way to save money on your energy bill is turning off the lights, electronics, and other energy users when you’re not using them.

  • Leave a room, switch lights off. Make a habit of turning off everything in the room when you leave it — the TV, lights, your computer, etc. Leaving electronics on is one of the easiest abuses of using excessive energy.
  • Get the kids involved. Make a game out of turning off the lights instead of constantly reminding them to do it. Offer some sort of small, non-monetary reward for remembering to turn off their bedroom and bathroom lights for a week.
  • Install countdown timer light switches. For intermittently used rooms, such as the bathroom or laundry room, install a countdown timer light switch that will turn off the lights after a specified period, so you don’t ever have to worry about it.
  • Install auto light switches. Pantrys, closets and perhaps guest baths are typically kept shut, so installing auto switches that come on with the opening and go off with the closing of those doors can automatically save electricity.

Projected savings: Between $100-$300 per year, depending on the number of people and rooms in your home.

Heating and cooling bill savings

Generally speaking, the furnace and air-conditioner are the big energy hogs in your home. Here are some easy ways to reduce your dependence on them — and save money!

  • Use windows strategically. Install heavy drapes or blinds on windows located in sunny areas of your home. Open the blinds on cold days to take advantage of the sun’s warmth, and close them on warm days to block out the sun.
  • Install ceiling fans. This one takes a bit more effort than the others, but the payoff can be quite large. Run ceiling fans counterclockwise or downward during the summer to force cool air down into the room. Run them clockwise and upward in the winter to better distribute the warm air.
  • Adjust the thermostat. Yes, this sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to save on heating and cooling bills is simply lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer! A programmable thermostat is ideal, but you can save money even with a traditional thermostat. In winter, lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for at least eight hours — when you leave for work, before you go to bed, or both — then raise it when you’re back.  If you have air-conditioning, do this in reverse come summer.

Projected savings: From 10-30 percent on your heating and cooling bills each year.

And some other savings ideas:

CFL bulb

CFL bulbs will provide 10,000 hours of light and use $10.40 of electricity (at 8¢ per kilowatt hour). To get the same output with incandescents, you would have to use seven bulbs, which would cost less up front, but the electricity would cost $48. Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) is one of the quickest, easiest ways to save money—and a place everyone can start. CFLs use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This can save you up to $35 in electric costs over the lifetime of each bulb. Switching to CFLs in the five most frequently used fixtures in your house will save about $60 per year, according to Energy Star.

Choose CFLs with the Energy Star label to get the greatest savings. Energy Star products have to meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and the Department of Energy. When you shop, keep in mind that light fixtures with dimmers require special CFLs; read the label.

Install smarter switches: Save up to $100 a year

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors are the perfect solution for left-on lights. They turn off automatically so you don’t waste electricity. Motion sensors (occupancy sensors) automatically turn lights on and off so you only get (and pay for!) light when you need it (Photo 1). Using motion sensors can save you $100 per year. Some motion sensors need to be manually turned on but turn off automatically. They’re great for bedrooms because they won’t turn on when you move in your sleep.

Some switches are installed in junction boxes; others are wireless. You can also buy light fixtures with built-in motion sensors. You’ll need special motion sensors for electronic ballasts that control CFLs. Special-order them at home centers or buy them on the internet.

Use timers to control bath fans so the fan will run for a preset time to air out the room and then automatically turn off (Photo 2). You can set the length of time you want the fan to run. Be sure the timer you buy is rated for motors, not just lighting (check the label).

Buy Energy Star appliances: Save $35 to $600 a year

Energy Star

Look for the Energy Star label when buying appliances. It tells you that the product meets strict standards for energy efficiency.

When you shop for appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It means the appliance meets certain energy-efficiency guidelines. The average household spends $2,000 each year on energy bills. Energy Star says that appliances bearing its label can cut those bills by 30 percent, for an annual savings of about $600. But you don’t have to replace everything to see a savings. Just replacing an eight-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star model can save $110 a year or more in electricity.

When you shop for appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It means the appliance meets certain energy-efficiency guidelines. The average household spends $2,000 each year on energy bills. Energy Star says that appliances bearing its label can cut those bills by 30 percent, for an annual savings of about $600. But you don’t have to replace everything to see a savings. Just replacing an eight-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star model can save $110 a year or more in electricity.

Roughly half of an average home’s annual energy bill (gas and electric), is spent on heating and cooling. Air conditioners placed in direct sunlight use up to 10 percent more electricity. If yours sits in the sun, plant tall shrubs or shade trees nearby—but don’t enclose the unit or impede the airflow. Place window units on the north side of the house or install an awning over them.

Keep your window or central air conditioner tuned up so it runs at peak efficiency. Every two or three years, call in a pro to check the electrical parts and the refrigerant.

If your central air conditioner is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an Energy Star model can cut your cooling costs by 30 percent and save maintenance costs. The payback for replacing a 12-year-old system is typically about eight years. An air conditioner’s efficiency level is measured by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher the number, the more efficient the unit. A 13 or 14 SEER rating is considered high efficiency.

Kill energy vampires: Save up to $100 a year

Turn off electronics

Electronics guzzle lots of power even when they’re turned off. Stop wasting electricity: Plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip.

Seventy-five percent of the electrical use by home electronics occurs when they’re turned off, according to the Department of Energy. These “energy vampires” suck electricity all day long—costing you an extra $100 each year. So if you’d like to keep that Ben Franklin in your wallet, unplug your electronics or plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip.

Don’t worry about losing the settings on new computers and TVs. They have a memory chip that resets everything when you power back up. If you have an old VCR or other devices that flash when the power goes out, keep it plugged in. Some power strips have a few outlets that always have power even when you flip off the switch. This type of strip has a main outlet for the computer. When you turn off the computer, the strip also shuts down other devices, such as your scanner, printer or modem.

Clean out the lint for dryer efficiency: Save up to $25 a year

Clean out lint

Keep your dryer safe and efficient by cleaning lint out of the ductwork once a year.

A clogged lint screen or dryer duct drastically reduces the efficiency of your dryer, whether it’s gas or electric. Clean the lint screen after each load and clean the exhaust duct once a year. The cleaner shown here has an auger brush that attaches to a drill to clean out the ducts. It’s available at home centers.

Electric dryers use about $85 of electricity annually. A dirty lint screen can cause the dryer to use up to 30 percent more electricity ($25 per year), according to the Consumer Energy Center. Lint buildup is also a common cause of fires.

Dry loads of laundry back-to-back so the dryer doesn’t cool down between loads (a warm dryer uses less energy). And only run the dryer until the clothes are dry. Overdrying damages your clothes and runs up your electric bill. If you’re in the market for a new dryer and already have a gas line in the house, go with a gas dryer. A gas dryer is more efficient.

Change furnace and AC filter: Save up to $60 a year

New filter

Label filters with the month they’ll be used, to help you remember to change them.

Keeping your furnace and AC tuned up has two big benefits: It makes them run efficiently and it prolongs the life span. Doing an annual tune-up will save big bucks in the long run.

Change the filter every month of the heating season (or year-round if the filter is also used for A/C). Be sure you insert the new one so it faces the right way. The filter protects the blower and its motor; a clogged filter makes the motor work harder and use more power.

Save on electric water heating: Save up to $25 a year

Water heater timer

A timer turns on the water heater only when you need it, so you don’t waste electricity heating and reheating water that sits in the tank.

If you only use an electric water heater at certain times of the day, you’re wasting electricity keeping the water hot 24/7. To solve that problem, install an electronic timer switch (Photo 1; sold at home centers). Timers are available for 120- and 240-volt heaters. They can be programmed for daily or weekly schedules so you only heat the water when you need it. A timer can save you $25 per year.

To make your water heater even more efficient, drain the tank and flush out the sediment at the bottom (Photo 2). Otherwise, you could be heating through inches of sediment before heating the water.

If your electric water heater is warm or hot to the touch, it’s losing heat. Wrap it with an insulating blanket (sold at home centers).

Get smart metering: Save up to $140 a year

Time-of-use meter

Time-of-use meters replace the existing meter and attach to the meter box. They enable you to pay less for electricity used at certain times of the day.

Smart metering programs vary among utility companies, but the basic idea is the same: The utility installs a special “smart” meter that tracks how much electricity you’re using. The utility uses that data to make sure its power grid doesn’t get overloaded and cause blackouts. If the grid nears capacity, the utility can shut off major appliances in homes for short periods of time (such as 15 minutes per hour). Not all companies offer smart metering, but some do and many others are considering it.

What’s in it for you? Money! Some programs pay for signing up. Others let you view your home’s usage online in real time so you can better manage your electrical consumption. Others let you choose “real-time” or “time-of-use” pricing that allows you to pay less for electricity that’s used during off-peak hours (for example, on weekdays from early afternoon until 8 p.m.). These plans reward you for using electricity when it’s cheapest. Smart metering makes the most sense if you’re away from home all day—you won’t notice or care if things get turned off (although it’s a good idea for everyone else too!). According to SRP, a power utility company, the plans cut 7 percent off your bill, which is $140 for the average $2,000 yearly energy bill. Check with your local company to find out what smart metering programs are available in your area.

Run your refrigerator for less: Save up to $60 a year

Clean coils

Brush and vacuum the coils at the bottom or the back of the refrigerator. A coil cleaning brush (available at appliance parts stores or home centers) is bendable to fit in tight areas.

Your refrigerator uses more electricity than all your other kitchen appliances combined. To keep its energy costs down, clean the coils twice a year, which improves efficiency by 30 to 50 percent.

Your fridge and freezer run more efficiently when they’re full. Put water containers in the fridge and ice bags in your freezer to keep them filled. Keep the refrigerator setting between 35 and 38 degrees and the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees F.

Refrigerator door seals wear out over time. Test your seal by closing a dollar bill in the door. If it pulls out easily, replace the seal.

If your fridge was made before 2001, it’s using at least 40 percent more electricity than new Energy Star models. If you’re replacing your fridge, buy an Energy Star model and recycle your old one. Don’t hook up the old one in the basement or garage—an inefficient refrigerator costs as much as $280 a year in electricity. Any money you save buying food in bulk and storing it in an inefficient second fridge is lost in electric costs.

Saving energy doesn’t have to be a chore. With some very simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save big!

 

 

Buy, Stage, Sell – or FLIP IT FASTER!

Flipping house is a heck of a lot of work, great fun and very rewarding. The downside is you sometimes have to wait for a return. A couple of mini-tips for flipping are:

  • Buy cheap
  • Think of the end result. A house with good bones is what you are looking for. There might not even be a ceiling or even a roof.
  • Don’t get attached! You are not going to live in it!
  • Do repair and restore based on the best bang for your buck. In other words, don’t over-do but do it nice. Nice does not and probably should not be expensive.
  • Focus on Kitchen and Bathrooms. These two rooms sell your flipper. A honey of a kitchen (even if they never cook) and a updated gorgeous bathroom are what buyers want.
  • Stage it to Sell it!

Remember too much furniture and staging make a home seem smaller! Also some buyers have absolutely zero vision on their own so staging correctly to encompass the “decorating genius”, “the minimalist” as well as “the visionless” is the key! Sound difficult? Follow our tips and ideas below to do it right.

Offer great curb appeal

Pulling up to their potential new home should be a joyful experience for buyers. Whether a first time home buyer or seasoned purchaser, curb appeal is the first and most lasting impression, Give them the great first impression they’re hoping for with curb appeal that conveys a genuinely warm welcome.

Little things can really beef up the exterior. Think of replacing or adding stylish house numbers, updated porch lighting, and placing a cheery welcome mat.  Fresh painted front door in a classy color. Charming outdoor seating topped off by flowers or pillows in bloom may seem extravagant but make all the difference.

When a house looks cared for on the outside, it lets buyers know the inside has been maintained, too.

Create ambiance

Once potential buyers step inside, give them a personal, heart-string connection to the house. Remember to address all five senses:

  • Sight. Use flattering lighting throughout the house to brighten dark corners and create playful shadows. This includes canned lighting, floor and table lamps, hanging pendants, and under-counter spot lights.
  • Smell. Create a very subtle, pleasant scent throughout the house by lighting scented candles or plugging in an aromatherapy diffuser. Citrus, vanilla, and lavender as well as a home-baked kitchen scent are perfect choices. Make sure the smell is subtle, not overbearing.
  • Touch. Incorporate texture through fabrics that entice touching, which promotes a personal connection to a space. T-towel in the kitchen, soft throw over a chair, bath towel placed in bathroom.
  • Sound. Turn on quiet but peppy music, hang wind chimes, or install a water feature to relax anyone touring the house. These little noises also helps relieve the awkwardness.
  • Taste. It never hurts to have some cookies or a candy bowl ready! Also be sure to offer chilled bottled water. Place a note that invites endulgence.

Buyers are motivated and seduced by different senses. By appealing to all five senses, you’re sure to help potential buyers connect to the house.

Enhance floor space

If there’s one thing every buyer is looking for, it’s square footage. Play up every inch of it for them!

To make the house feel spacious, put breathing room around monochromatic furniture, and hang mirrors to reflect windows and room openings. Hang drapes high (or don’t use them at all), place large artwork on the walls, and lay down oversized area rugs. Do not block walls and windows.

Choose furniture on legs to create a sense of lightness, and use decorative knickknacks sparingly to increase surface space. Create a distant focal point, such as a plant at the top of the stairs or a beautiful pendant light at the end of a hallway.

Architecture: Don’t hide -Embrace

Even if your house flip includes some quirky architectural details, it’s best to show them off rather than try to hide them. After all, a house’s personality is part of its charm. And there is a buyer for every single house!

You haven’t flipped it till you’ve actually sold it, so hopefully these staging tips will help you in your endeavors. Selling your house is going to be so FLIPPING FUN!

 

 

 

Willis Texas: Small Town – Big Offerings!

In 1870, as the Houston and Great Northern Railroad began surveying Montgomery County’s first rail line, Galveston merchants Peter J. and Richard S. Willis, landholders in Montgomery County, donated a townsite to the railroad along the proposed route.. By 1872 the rail line had been extended through the town, and most of the businesses and residents of Danville, Montgomery, and Old Waverly had begun moving to the new town. That same year, a post office was established. In 1874 citizens of the burgeoning new community launched a prolonged but unsuccessful struggle to transfer the county seat from rival Montgomery to Willis. A weekly newspaper, the Willis Observer, began publication as early as 1875. By the late 1870s Willis had become a prosperous shipping point for timber and agricultural commodities and a center for the manufacture of lumber products, wagons, and agricultural implements.

In the early 1880s a three-story building was erected to house the Willis Male and Female College which, until its demise in 1901, functioned as a semi-private boarding school for students in elementary grades through college.

By 1884, in addition to its various schools and churches, Willis boasted several steam-powered saw and grist mills, two cotton gins, a brickyard, a saloon and gambling house, a Grange hall, numerous grocery and dry-goods stores, and a population of 600. In 1888 the town’s first Church of Christ was constructed. By 1890 population had climbed to 700, and three hotels and a second weekly newspaper, the Willis Index, were in operation. During the late nineteenth century the Willis area became the leading tobacco growing region in the state; before the lifting of the tariff on Cuban tobacco killed the boom in the early twentieth century, Willis supported as many as seven cigar factories. As tobacco culture declined, a boom in the production of timber and agricultural products kept the town’s economy thriving. Although population fell somewhat to an estimated 500 in 1892, by 1904 it had leaped to an estimated 832 and continued to climb slowly for the next two decades. The Willis State Bank was established in 1911. In 1913 there were 271 pupils enrolled in the Willis Independent School District. By 1914 yet another weekly newspaper, the Willis Star, had appeared, and a telephone exchange was in operation.

The town’s growth came to a temporary halt, however, with the onset of the Great Depression and the resulting slump in local timber production. From an estimated 900 in 1929, population fell to an estimated 750 by 1931. But an oil boom in central Montgomery County that began southeast of Conroe in 1931 soon spread its effects to the Willis area, bringing renewed economic activity and an influx of population. Further stimulus was provided by the completion of U.S. Highway 75 through the town in the early 1930s. Then, during World War II, the lumber industry and agricultural activity revived. By 1933 the town’s population had climbed again to an estimated 900, but it remained at this level for more than three decades, standing at an estimated 891 in 1968. The extension of Interstate Highway 45 through Willis in the early 1960s helped integrate the community into a regional economy and provided a corridor through which both industrial and suburban development could penetrate the area. Finally, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Willis’s growth resumed as construction of Lake Conroe began five miles to the west on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Population jumped to an estimated 1,457 in 1970, then increased slowly for a decade and a half before another growth spurt began in the 1980s. The Willis area was at last benefiting from the spillover effects of the postwar booms of Houston and Conroe, but the economy remained based on lumbering and agriculture. By 1981 1,850 students were enrolled at the four campuses of the Willis Independent School District. From an estimated 1,674 in 1986, Willis’s population climbed to an estimated 2,110 in 1990, and by 1992 the figure had grown to an estimated 2,764. In 2000 the population reached 3,985.

The little city of Willis is now almost an extension of Conroe. It has several great new subdivisions which have grown up around the Lake Conroe area. Willis offers some of the best lake living in Texas!

The Willis school district has an excellent reputation and while keeping abreast of all the latest student interests, it still boasts a small town relationship based student/teacher attitude. The Willis Wildkats, the high school football team was recently awarded the coveted 12th Annual Touch Down Club Of Houston Sportsmanship Award. 

They were chosen were chosen on six criteria: 1) Actions of the team, 2) Action of the coaches, 3) Actions of the support groups at games, such as parents, band and pep squad, 4) Respect for the American flag, 5) A score based on the number of personal fouls incurred during the game 6) A score based on the number of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Voting was done by the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO), Houston football chapter, who are the refs covering the high school games in Greater Houston.
There are some wonderful subdivisions and neighborhoods around the Willis area for those of you wanting to be close to the big city of Houston (or the not quite so big city of Huntsville) while still enjoying the atmosphere of a small town address. You might want to check out one such area offering a country feel called Hidden Springs Ranch. http://hsrpoa.com/images/bg_faqy.jpg
There are still quite a few smaller woodsy type subdivisions if you prefer a different type living as well as many lake front properties. Willis offers lake living at it’s best!

Magnolia Living

Magnolia is a city in southwestern Montgomery County, Texas, United States outside Houston and right next to The Woodlands. The population of the town itself was 1,393 at the 2010 census.

Magnolia schools are operated by the Magnolia Independent School District. While the town itself may be small, the Magnolia School District covers 147 square miles of the surrounding countryside. With more than 65,000 residents, Magnolia schools enrolled more than 8000 students in the 2008/2009 school year. With the second fastest enrollment growth in the state, Magnolia has recently constructed a new high school and several elementary schools to meet demands for space.

The Woodlands, Texas – Absolutely Perfect Community!

The Woodlands: Where the Deer and the Antelope Play; well maybe not the antelope but certainly the deer.

Some Statistics on The Woodlands, Texas

The Woodlands is a master-planned community and census-designated place in the U.S. state of Texas in the Houston area. The Woodlands is 28,000 acres of pure escape. It’s like coming home to  a permanent vacation.
 
Elevation: 160′
Population: 109,679 (2015)
Area code(s): 281/346/713/832/936
Area: 43.9 mi²   (43.3 mi² Land / 384 acres Water)

Business in the Woodlands, Texas

Family Activities in the Woodlands, Texas

Golf in the Woodlands

Gyms in Proximity of the Woodlands

Casual Dining around the Woodlands

Fine Dining in the Woodlands Area

Medical Facilities Within the Woodlands

Dental Offices in the Woodlands

Eye Care Available in the Woodlands

Child Care Facilities to Choose From

Private Educational Opportunities in the Woodlands

 

 

 

Conroe – The Fastest Growing City in the U.S. – And For Good Reason!

Conroe, Texas, a northern Houston suburb, was the fastest-growing of the 15, seeing a 7.8% increase from 2015 to 2016, a growth rate more than 11 times that of the nation.The rest of the top five fastest-growing large cities were Frisco, Texas, a northern Dallas suburb, with a 6.2% increase; McKinney, Texas, another northern Dallas suburb, saw a 5.9% increase; Greenville, S.C., ran up a 5.8% increase; and Georgetown, Texas, a northern Austin suburb, had a 5.5% increase.

 

Montgomery, Texas – A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock and Roll

Montgomery is located at the junction of Texas 105 and FM 149, near the southwestern edge of Sam Houston National Forest in western Montgomery County. The center of town is 15 miles west of Conroe and 50 miles northwest of Houston.

As one of the oldest towns in Texas, Montgomery began as a trading post in 1826 and was charted in 1837. Montgomery was the first county seat of Montgomery County and was the third county formed under the Republic of Texas.

It is also recognized as the birthplace of the Texas Lone Star Flag. And if you are new to Texas, you will soon find out how proud we are of our flag!

We wear it on our clothes, around our neck, it’s on our BBQ utensils, our kitchen towels, our bedspreads, our shower curtains, our vehicles, our jackets, our pants, our shirts and heck, even our underwear. We are proud of that flag… so THANK YOU MONTGOMERY, TEXAS.

If you are looking for a great school with a very active sports department, you have found it in Montgomery. The Montgomery Bears are the pride of the community.

They have a wonderful relatively updated high school, which educates approximately 2450 students. The school was built in 1998 and boasts a 91% graduation rate which is higher than the state average. Due to growth and demand in the area, a second high school has broken ground and is slated to be completed by 2018 and will be known as Lake Creek High School. It will house an additional 1600 students. Superintendent Beau Rees said. “A second high school is a big step in terms of the growth of the community and being able to provide a quality education to our kids.”

Just down the road is Lake Conroe and all the amenities that go with lake living. Every kind of food imaginable is available within just a short jaunt down Highway 105.

Montgomery is an awesome destination for antique shopping, and a date day out.

Properties around Montgomery are from charming cottages, luxery homes to rural farms and ranches. Cowboys abound and mingle with executives and techies. It’s a perfect mix. Conroe is just down the road and boasts all the uptown atmosphere you might seek, while you get to live a quieter country lifestyle.

Some facts on Montgomery, Texas.

Population (2016) 556,203 with a median age of 36.7 yrs.

County size 1077 sq. miles of which 35 is water