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Friday, October 24, 2014

5 Ways Your House Can Kill You - And How to Prevent It

5 Ways Your House Can Kill You - And How to Prevent It
Article From By: Dona DeZube

What do your furnace, your windows, and your gas grill have in common? They're all conspiring to do you harm if you're not careful. Here's how to protect yourself and your family from easily preventable accidents.
Your home may seem safe and cozy, but there may be dangers lurking. Could you be at risk from one of these all-too-common problems?

1. Carbon monoxide poisoning

If your furnace or a gas appliance malfunctions, your house could fill with odorless, colorless, carbon monoxide gas that can be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning kills over 400 people annually.
Prevent it
Install $40 carbon monoxide detectors near the furnace and your bedrooms. Buy one recommended by Consumer Reports or one with an Underwriters Laboratory "UL" mark that also says "Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm" and has an audible alarm.

Get your HVAC and gas appliances serviced every year. Leaking natural gas can cause your house to explode.

Don't run cars in the garage with the garage door shut - more people die from carbon monoxide poisoning from idling cars than from furnaces, the CDC says.

2. Chimney fire

Creosote can be a killer. A by-product of bio fuels, such as firewood, creosote can build up on your chimney walls. This tar-like substance is highly flammable and can catch fire, melting the mortar, cracking tiles, and causing flue liners to collapse.
If the flames reach the exposed wood frame of your house, it could burn down in a matter of minutes. About 170 people a year die from fireplace and chimney fires.
Prevent it
Have your wood fireplace cleaned, and chimney inspected once a year (twice a year if you burn more than three cords of wood annually).

Burn only dry, cured firewood.

3. BBQ gas explosion

You turn on your gas grill with the lid shut, go in the house, find your matches, then come back out and strike a match, blowing up your gas grill, knocking you unconscious, and setting your house aflame.
About 35 people die from propane-related explosions in the average year.
Prevent it
Never turn on the gas to your barbecue grill with the lid shut.

Set your grill up at least 10 feet from the house.

Do a bubble test to look for leaking gas - put liquid soap on the connectors running between the gas tank and the barbecue and look for bubbles indicating a gas leak.

4. Drowning in a backyard pool

Drowning causes almost 2% of all unintentional injury deaths nationally. In states where pools are common, such as Florida, drowning is a leading cause of death for children 1- to 4-years-old.
Prevent it
Inside, install childproof locks, and door and window alarms so you know when someone leaves the house. This is especially important if your house is part of the fencing system that surrounds your pool.

Outside, put isolation fencing around all sides of your pool, install a self-closing, self-latching gate, and use pool and spa covers.

Install a pool alarm ($90-$200).

Learn CPR before you need it.

5. Falling out the window

You open the window in your bedroom to get some fresh air on a hot summer day. Your 10-year-old twins are jumping on the bed and one of them falls against the window screen. The screen pops out and drops down to the front yard of your multi-story condo. That narrow escape could have ended in disaster -- 15 to 20 children under the age of 11 die annually from falls out of windows.

Prevent it
If you have young children, install window guards:

or window stops:

Open your double-hung windows from the top rather than the bottom.

Keep furniture away from windows.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

FSC-Certified Wood and SFI-Certified Wood: What's the Difference?

FSC-Certified Wood and SFI-Certified Wood: What's the Difference?
Article From By: Karin Beuerlein

Shopping for wood counter-tops, cabinets, or doors? FSC and SFI are the two green certifications you need to know.
If sustainability is important to you when you remodel a kitchen or bathroom or build a deck, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. It's the best indicator, here in the U.S., that the wood used to make your cabinets , countertops, deck , and more was harvested sustainably.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification is helpful, too, though less rigorous. It's a good bet when you can't find FSC products.

Both certifications tell you whether a wood product comes from a forest that's managed responsibly.
Responsible forest management
It includes:
Protecting fragile ecosystems

Respecting native cultures and economies

Preventing illegal logging

Restricting clear-cutting (removing all trees in a tract) and pesticide use

Monitoring the "chain of custody," or ensuring that the wood in the product you're looking at really came from the forest that was certified.

Where to find certified wood
Ask your retailer or cabinet maker up front about their certified wood options, and whether any are ready made. You can also use FSC or SFI's online products database to select a retailer that carries certified wood.

Is certified wood more expensive?
The frustrating answer is maybe yes, depending on efficiencies in the supply chain, or maybe no, such as if FSC-certified suppliers, for instance, are competing with wood that's been harvested irresponsibly. FSC recommends you do comparison shopping among local suppliers and online.

Forest Stewardship Council = the gold standard
FSC is widely considered the best forestry certification program, although industry groups tend to consider it too strict-and environmentalists, too lax. The nonprofit was started by environmental groups in 1993.

Most agree FSC is a stronger certification than SFI, although to what extent is debatable, as both have downsides. FSC has very specific criteria for what constitutes responsible forest management, placing a big emphasis on environmental health. FSC certification is tougher than SFI in several categories, including how much clear-cutting is allowed and how much chemical pesticide can be used.

Downside of FSC: Because it's harder to achieve, it's harder to find in the store. But it's worth the extra effort, because consumer demand can help it spread to a broader audience. Just allow yourself some extra time to locate products, says BuildingGreen, a company that educates building professionals on green certifications.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative less rigorous
SFI has its roots in the logging industry, as an outgrowth of the American Forest and Paper Association, from which it still receives funding despite the fact that it's now a separate nonprofit. Because it takes money directly from the industry it polices, and because its certification process isn't as transparent as FSC's, you could reasonably doubt whose interests come first.

Still, SFI has toughened its standards over the years, including prohibiting logging of old-growth forests and limiting chemical pesticides. BuildingGreen deems it an acceptable solution when you can't find FSC products.

Caveat about green certifications for wood products
Forestry certifications aren't the final word on wood. Consider whether the whole package-everything that makes up those cabinets-is really green:



The distance it has to be shipped to reach you

Alternative idea: Salvaging existing wood or buying products with a large amount of recycled content may be just as green a choice.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Monday, August 4, 2014

7 Tips for Saving Energy in the Laundry Room

7 Tips for Saving Energy in the Laundry Room
Article From By: Douglas Trattner
Photo: Flickr CC License: Maegan

Understanding your laundry room appliances is part of a smart plan to help you save energy in your home.
Good laundry room habits, including some occasional minor maintenance, can save energy and shave nearly $300 off your annual utility bills. That's because you can curb the biggest energy culprit: the cost of heating water.

Washing machine
The bulk of a washing machine's operating costs-around 90%, says Energy Star -go to replacing the hot water in the home's hot water tank. Reduce the amount of hot water the appliance uses, and you'll significantly shrink its associated utility bills. By washing fewer loads and doing those loads in cooler water, you can save around $200 per year.

1. Use cold water. Switching from hot wash to cold, according Michael Bluejay, also known as Mr.Electricity, who specializes in electricity savings, can shave up to $215 per year off your electric bill. If you have a high-efficiency washer or gas-fueled water heater, assume savings of about half that figure. Cold washes are generally as effective in getting clothes clean as hot.

2. Only wash full loads. Discounting the energy required to heat the water, it costs around $60 per year in electricity to run the washer, according to the U.S.Department of Energy. Because it takes just as much electricity to wash a small load as it does a full one, you'll save money by only washing full loads. By reducing the number of overall loads by one-quarter, you can save $15 a year.

Clothes dryer
Because it's essentially a "toaster with a fan," says Amanda Korane of The American Council for anEnergy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit focused on advancing energy efficiency, the clothes dryer is a difficult appliance to make green. But that doesn't mean there aren't ways to lessen its impact on your utility bill to the tune of about $80 per year.

3. Spin it faster. Good dryer efficiency starts in the clothes washer. Setting the maximum spin speed in the washer will reduce the amount of time-and energy-it takes to get clothes dry. Many of today's high-speed washer spin cycles can cut dry times by as much as half compared with older models. If an average electric clothes dryer costs about $80 per year to operate, according to the DOE, savings can approach the $40 mark.

4. Clean lint filter and exhaust. Dryers have to work harder and longer to dry clothes when air doesn't freely flow. Cleaning the lint filter before every use and doing the same for the exhaust line once a year will help maintain maximum efficiency. Also, check that the duct hose is free from tight bends and obstructions. These small chores not only will save a few bucks per year, they will reduce the risk of fire.

5. Activate energy-saving features. If the dryer has an automated moisture-sensing device, use it. Setting the timer can cause the dryer to run longer than necessary. But a moisture sensor will automatically shut off the machine when it senses clothes are dry. This feature can save $8 to $12 a year.
6. Dry like with like. Lighter items, such as T-shirts and blouses, dry much quicker than heavy items like towels and blankets. Therefore, when these items are combined in the same load, some of the clothes continue to tumble long after they're dry. This extends the dry time of the bulkier items, in turn wasting a few bucks every month.

7. Skip it. Every load in the dryer costs around $0.35, according to Bluejay. Hanging clothing to dry on a line outside or rack inside costs nothing. Racks run about $25 to $90 at online retailers. So, by giving the dryer a break even occasionally, savings can add up. Not only will the practice reduce utility bills, it will help extend the life of both the clothes and the appliance.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

10 Tips for Saving Energy in the Kitchen

10 Tips for Saving Energy in the Kitchen
Article From By: Douglas Trattner
Photo: Flickr CC License: auxesis

Maintaining your large kitchen appliances is part of a smart home energy efficiency plan.
Spending less money on utility bills doesn't mean you need to rush out and purchase a whole new suite of Energy Star appliances. With occasional light maintenance and good habits, you can greatly improve the energy efficiency of your large kitchen appliances-up to about $120 annually-without sacrificing convenience.

Energy-efficiency experts tell us to focus our efforts on the biggest energy hogs in the house, and that definitely includes the fridge. Because it cycles on and off all day, every day, the refrigerator consumes more electricity than nearly every appliance in the home save for the HVAC systems. The average refrigerator costs about $90 per year to operate, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The good news is that a few simple adjustments can trim roughly $38 to $45 off those utility bills.

1. Adjust the thermostat. By setting the thermostat colder than it needs to be, you might increase your fridge's energy consumption by as much as 25% on average. Adjust the refrigerator so that it stays in the 37-40 degrees F range. For the freezer, shoot for between 0-5 degrees F. You could save up to $22 per year. If your model doesn't display the current temps, invest in two appliance thermometers (one for the fridge, one for the freezer). They cost roughly $3-$20 apiece at online retailers.

2. Clean the coils. As dust accumulates on the condenser coils on the rear or bottom of the fridge, it restricts cool-air flow and forces the unit to work harder and longer than necessary. Every six months, vacuum away the dust that accumulates on the mechanism. Also, check to see that there is at least a 3-inch clearance at the rear of the fridge for proper ventilation. This routine maintenance can trim up to 5% off the unit's operating cost, says energy savings expert Michael Bluejay, saving you about $4.50 a year.

3. Use an ice tray. Automatic ice makers are a nice convenience, to be sure, but it turns out the mechanisms are energy hogs. An automatic ice maker can increase a refrigerator's energy consumption by 14% to 20%, according to EnergyStar. By switching off the ice maker and using trays, you can save about $12 to $18 off your annual electricity bill. Most units require little more than a lift of the sensor arm to switch them off. To reclaim the space remove the entire unit, a simple DIY job on many models.

4. Unplug the "beer fridge." Many homes have an extra fridge that runs year round even though it's used sparingly. Worse, these fridges tend to be older, more inefficient models. By consolidating the contents to the main fridge and unplugging the additional unit, you eliminate the entire operating cost of a fridge. The second-best solution is to make sure the extra fridge remains three-quarters full at all times. The mass helps maintain steady internal temps and lets the fridge recover more quickly after the door is opened and closed, according to the California Energy Commission.

Ovens and ranges
"Green" cooking all comes down to proper time and space management. By using gas and electric stoves more effectively, you can painlessly save a few dollars a year.

5. Cut the power early. As anybody who's ever bumped a burner on an electric stove can attest, those heating elements stay hot long after they've been switched off. Put that residual heat to work by shutting off the burner several minutes before the end of the cook time. The same technique can be applied to the oven. The savings can add up to a couple bucks every month.

6. Match the burner to pan. When a small pan is placed on a big burner you can practically see the money disappearing into thin air. By matching the burner to the pan, electricity won't be squandered heating the kitchen rather than the food. The reverse is true, too. A small burner will take considerably longer to heat a large pan than would an appropriately sized burner. For gas stoves, don't let the flames lick the sides of the pot. Follow these tips and watch the utility bills shrink by a few dollars a month.

7. Do away with preheating. You can save about $2 a month by not preheating your oven (20 cents per hour to operate electric oven; eliminate 20 30-minute preheats a month). Many cooks agree that the practice is wholly unnecessary for all but a few recipes, namely baking breads and cakes. This approach may add a few minutes to the overall cooking time, but it eliminates all that wait time on the front end.

As with washing machines, most of a dishwasher's energy needs go to heating the water. Still, says Lane Burt, an energy policy analyst with The Natural Resources Defense Council, a 10-year-old dishwasher can be made nearly as efficient as a newer model simply by knowing when and how to run it. Follow a few simple tips, and you can reduce your annual utility costs by roughly $35-$54.

8. Manage the load. Most dishwashers use the same amount of water and energy whether they're run full or half-full. You can cut your operating costs by one-third or one-half by running the machine only when it's full. It costs about $54 to run a pre-2000 model dishwasher per year, based on government data. Proper load management can save up to $27 each year.

9. Activate energy-saving features. A dishwasher's heated dry cycle can add 15% to 50% to the appliance's operating cost. Most machines allow the feature to be switched off (or not turned on), which can save $8-$27 per year, assuming an operating cost of $54 annually. If your dishwasher doesn't have that flexibility, simply turn the appliance off after the final rinse and open the door.

10. Use the machine. Many homeowners believe they can save water and energy by hand washing dishes. The truth is that a dishwasher requires less than one-third the water it would take to do those same dishes in the sink. By running the machine (when full), you can cut down the operating time of the hot water heater, your home's largest energy hog. Not only will you save a buck per month, you won't have to do the dishes.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Buy a Refrigerator

How to Buy a Refrigerator
Article From By: Douglas Trattner
Photo: Flickr CC License: dailyinvention
When you buy a new refrigerator, arm yourself with the facts, so you'll be sure to make the right decision for your budget and space needs.
All refrigerators keep food cold. The major differences lie in the configuration, dimensions, and features. What particular model works best for you often comes down to size, budget, style, and energy efficiency. In terms of efficiency, Energy Star-qualified refrigerators are required by the U.S. Department of Energy to use 20% less energy than other models. A qualified fridge can curb your energy bills by $165 over the lifetime of your fridge, says Energy Star, roughly $9 to $12 a year.

Cost range: $450-$2,000 and up
Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, haul away, water line hookup for ice maker
Average life span: 14-17 years
Size: Because there are numerous refrigerator styles, each requiring specific footprints, door clearances, and height and width allowances, the place to start your search is in your kitchen. Take careful measurements of the space, including height, width, depth, and distance to nearby obstructions. "Pay special attention to upper-cabinet height," says Anita Wiechman, a Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler with Omaha's The Interior Design Firm. "Many of today's fridges are taller than they used to be."
Type: Fridges come in three main configurations: side-by-side, top-mounted freezer, and bottom-mounted freezer, which includes the newer French door style-two opposing half doors.

Top-mounted freezer
The most economical fridges are the top-mounted freezer models. These largely basic machines offer the most storage capacity for the money, with models falling in the $500 to $700 range. If you're tall, especially, you may not appreciate bending over every time you need something from the more heavily trafficked fridge.

Energy efficiency: What these models lack in convenience they make up for in energy efficiency. Compared with side-by-side fridges, even those bearing the EnergyStar seal, top-mounted fridges consume about 10%-25% less electricity thanks to their straightforward design. The difference can add up to about $14 per year.

Reliability: As an added bonus, fridges in this class require the fewest repairs. Their basic design, coupled with the fact that few if any are outfitted with troublesome water dispensers give them solid reliability ratings as a class. The most likely component to cause trouble is the automatic ice maker.

Bottom-mount freezer
Bottom-mount freezers, including the popular French door style, are near the top of the fridge price pyramid. Both the single-door and French door configurations offer the convenience of a fully accessible upper fridge compartment above a roomy pull-out drawer freezer. Most bottom-mount freezers start at $1,000 and climb from there. French door models start at around $1,200 and climb even higher.

Energy Efficiency: Like top-mounts, bottom-freezer models are among the most energy efficient in the group. Typical Energy Star models consume 16% less energy than their side-by-side Energy Star counterparts, saving you more than $15 per year, estimating 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Although considered bottom-mounts, French door-style fridges behave more like side-by-sides when it comes to efficiency. Having two doors where there's normally one decreases overall efficiency, raising average annual operating costs by about $10.

Reliability: According to Consumer Reports, bottom-freezer types tend to experience more repair issues than top-freezer models, particularly in units with automatic icemakers.

Because side-by-side fridges feature a pair of tall, slender doors, they require much less door-swing clearance, making them a good choice for tight spaces. These models also offer equally convenient access to portions of both the freezer and the fridge, making them a good compromise between top freezers and bottom freezers. Expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 for most models.
Those narrow doors may save clearance space, but you'll have to sacrifice horizontal shelf space in return, especially in the freezer. The slender compartment means that wide items like pizza boxes and sheet pans likely won't fit.

Energy Efficiency: Side-by-side fridges consume more electricity than both top- and bottom-mount configurations (discounting French). Most Energy Star models cost approximately $60 per year to run compared with roughly $45 for those in the other categories.

Reliability: Because it's difficult to find a side-by-side fridge without a through-the-door water-and-ice dispenser, these models tend to suffer more repairs. These components have a less than stellar track record. Worse, the dispensers can increase the appliance's energy consumption by as much as 20%.

As with most appliances, more features correlate to a higher price. You'll pay a little more for adjustable shelves, conveniently placed compartments, and fully extending bins and baskets. You'll also shell out more for sleek designs and stainless steel. In most cases, you won't have to pay extra for well-lit interiors, easy-access temperature controls, and reasonably quiet operation.

Top-of-the-line models with individually controlled crisper drawers, digital fingertip controls, and whisper-quiet operation will cost you well above $2,000.

Expected maintenance/repairs: The fan and condenser coils on the rear of the machine need to be vacuumed periodically. Door seals should be checked for tightness and replaced when loose, cracked, or torn. Water filters may need replacing. Icemakers are notorious for needing repair. The compressor can blow, requiring replacement.

Where and when to shop: It's best to shop where salespeople truly understand the product, such as an independently operated retail appliance store. Shoppers at big box stores may find themselves dealing with an employee from another department. Also, independent shops may have more latitude to offer free delivery, installation, and haul away.

Because appliances don't adhere to a model year like automobiles, there's no best time to buy them. Always keep a look out for sales, specials, and tax rebates (especially for energy-efficient models). And use sites like BizRate, PriceGrabber,, and Shopzilla to compare prices.

Finally, some appraisers say new appliances are money well spent. In his market, Mike Neimeier, a certified residential appraiser in Cleveland, Ohio, says a homeowner is likely to recoup between 75% to 90% of the cost of new appliances when reselling the home within a couple of years.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A DIY Project That Took 24 Years

A DIY Project That Took 24 Years
Article From By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Photo: Flickr CC License Brock Builders

Our hearts go out to the Canadian home owner who's been ordered to wrap up his renovation project that's been under way for 24 years.
We feel bad for the Winnipeg man who has been working on the same renovations for 24 years, and finally is being told by the city to wrap it up.

To put this in perspective, this guy has been trying finish an exterior remodelingproject since 1988 - back when a gallon of gas cost 91 cents; a movie ticket cost $3.50; and the anti-depressant Prozac first came onto the market.

Frankly, we're surprised the man's family didn't pull the plug on his DIY project long ago. But they may not have thought nearly a quarter century was too long to spend on fix-ups.

That's where we can help. Here are 5 ways to know if your DIY project has gone on way too long.
If you walked your daughter to kindergarten when the project started, and now she's walking her daughter to preschool.

If you climb the ladder and forget what you were supposed to nail up or pull down.

If you've popped the top but now are unable to climb the stairs.

If your wide ties are in style again.

If you're now the grandparent who's going to live in the in-law suite.

What DIY project have you done that took more time than you anticipated?

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
Blogspot - Pinterest - Twitter - Facebook - Google+