Energy Saving Tips for the Winter

Summer is long over and we are quickly nearing some fun festivities like Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., which usually indicate that the winter season is in full effect. And what do these seasons bring besides peppermint mochas and holiday gifts? The answer is short days, dark evenings, and bigger electricity bills. But it always doesn’t have to be this way, because there are things that you can do to decrease your energy consumption at home and save money! So lets get these energy saving tips rolling and see our electricity bills in the fall and winter shrinking.

Seal It Up

A common reason why people complain about insufficient warmth in their homes even though they still are paying huge heating bills is that they are losing heat through cracks around their windows. Using weatherstrip around your windows will reduce heat loss, keeping your home warmer and using less energy to heat it. And using less energy means you pay less on your utility bills!

Lower the Temperature


Although to some this might seem like a weird tip, you may want to think about lowering the temperature on your thermostat to around 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, or even lower if you are comfortable with your home being a bit cooler. This will let you save on energy, since your heating won’t be blasting all the time, but you will still be living in a home that is comfortably warm.

Let the Sun Warm You Up

Sun is an amazing energy source, and all the best solar lights and solar panels are able to produce a ton of electricity and very bright lighting when the sun is out. The same also goes for heating, because natural sunlight is a great heat source, too. So use it; keep your curtains and blinds open during the day and let the sunshine in! On a sunny day, even if it is cold outside, the sun will warm up your house or apartment and you will be able to turn your thermostat down to save energy on heating.

Switch to LED


You maybe have heard people talking about switching their incandescent and CFL bulbs to LED ones, and for good reason. LED bulbs consume up to 10 times less electricity, yet provide the same, if not better, illumination as other types of light bulbs. So exchange all of your light bulbs to LEDs and see your energy consumption drop. On top of that, think about getting LED holiday lights instead of ones with incandescent bulbs. Many people break out the Christmas lights as soon Halloween is over, and LED holiday lights will make sure that your festive home decor won’t cause your electricity bill to skyrocket for two whole months.

Unplug – Not Standby

Did you know that even if you leave electronic on a standby mode, which essentially looks like the devices are turned off, they still continue to consume quite a lot of electricity? In fact, electronics on standby make up as much as 10% of your total household electricity load. So start saving on energy and fully turn off and unplug your electronics whenever you’re not using them.

Cool the Water

Lastly, also make sure that you lower the temperature of your water heater, since water heating racks up around one fifth of all the energy that is consumed within your household. Use the warm (not hot) setting and adjust the temperature to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help reduce your energy bills and reduce the risk of you scalding your hands with hot water when you come inside.

Have any other simple ideas for saving energy during the winter? We would love to hear your tips and tricks!


**Arthur Smith has been working in solar and lighting industries for a long time, and now he shares his experience and knowledge on renewable energy, lighting, and energy efficiency on his blog



Happy Homeowners: The Carter Family


M/I Homes: Is this your first M/I Home and what convinced you to choose M/I Homes over another builder?

Tom & Maureen: Yes, this was our first M/I Homes experience. We worked with a Realtor to help us find our ideal retirement home. After seeing several homes, we preferred the open floorplan of the Newport more than any other we had seen. Also, the New Home Consultant Michael Colo and later, Beth Vogl, were great. They were very nice, helpful, and informative.

M/I: Are you happy with how your home turned out?

T & M: Yes, the home has worked out well for us. There are some items that we will have to go back and do on our own but we are very impressed with our home overall. The space has worked out well; we have our things laid out where we like them. We purchased some new furniture and we were able to put our own touch on it so that it is different from the place we came from and it is very enjoyable.

M/I: What is the name of your floorplan and what features of your home do you especially love?

T&M: The Newport– We loved this ranch plan immediately. It was perfect because we knew we did not want a two-level home. We are able to get around well but wanted a home that was prepared for 15+ years down the road. We loved the open concept of the kitchen flowing to living room. We came from a condominium so space was very important to us. It was also great to have the master bedroom on one side and the three secondary rooms on the opposite side of the home.


M/I: Overall, how was your experience with M/I Homes?  Did you get to pick out your homesite and the floorplan you wanted to build, or had the home already been started?

T&M: Our overall experience was positive, our community had some restraints on interior design choices at the time but the individuals made up for it. Customer service was and continues to be spectacular. Kelly in the Charlotte Design Center was able to make a lot of our interior desires happen and she was very professional, Dax, our Personal Construction Manager had great communication with us, and Beth was the helping hand along the way. We were able to pick a homesite and we chose one that backed up to woods.

M/I: Do you have any fun memories from the buying / building process?

T&M: Our homebuilding experience was probably different from most because we were relocating from Boston. We only came down to Fort Mill twice and that was the Design Center appointment and Closing. Everything else was done remotely. Dax would walk through the house with his iPhone showing us the progress. Once they began construction, we could visit the website and see the progress which was helpful.

M/I: Was there something about your home that made you immediately know you wanted to move in?

T&M: We really liked the Newport floorplan and the community. The floorplan flows from the kitchen, to the great room, out onto the deck giving us maximum space when entertaining. Nobody feels overcrowded and if guests want to step outside, they can do that.

M/I: What do you like about your neighborhood / community?

T&M: We had two sets of friends that moved to the Fort Mill area before us. When we came to visit them, we loved the area and started looking at the quality of homes that you could get for your money and decided this was the community for us. It isn’t a huge community which we liked and we also liked that it was new. It has made it easy to make friends and know everyone in the neighborhood. There is another couple in Sutton Mill that we have become close to and several others who are friendly acquaintances. The people have been very friendly and daily walks with our dog, Savannah, have allowed us to meet many people. We love that the community is diverse and that there are young families, retired families, and everyone in between.

M/I: Anything you would recommend to someone looking for a new home?

T&M: Take in consideration the lifestyle you’re looking for as far as location. It is important to see what surrounds you and if it matches your interests. Also, make sure it fits not only your current needs but your potential needs in the future.

M/I: What is your favorite memory in your new home thus far?

T&M: Getting all the rooms painted was very exciting for us. We painted ourselves and it gave the home a nice personal touch.

M/I: What is your favorite space in your new home?  Do you have any pictures of that space you would like to share?

T&M: There are a lot of them. The deck is lovely. We asked for and got permission to put in a larger deck as part of the construction process. So it is quite large and it looks out onto the woods. It’s really quite nice, especially as the weather gets a little cooler. We sit out and eat breakfast and dinner out there a lot.  It is also good for entertaining, which we do a frequently.


M/I: Any suggestions you would give to someone building a new home with M/I Homes?

T&M: Aside from assessing your individual needs and making sure the location fits your interests, figure out what you want interior-wise and make sure that the homebuilder and community you choose offers it. We dove in head first and fortunately it worked out in our favor. Also, take a look online to figure out what you like because the Design Center consultation can be an overwhelming experience. We narrowed down our options before our appointment to ensure we could pick everything out in a day.

M/I: Any additional items / stories you would like to share about your new home?

T&M: We’ve been very happy in the home. The space has worked out well for us. Now that we’ve got everything laid out, we have our own touch on it so that it is different. We’ve explored the area and there are a lot of good restaurants.


**Tom and Maureen Carter recently retired from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  They are very pleased with their decision on relocating to the Fort Mill area. They spend time hanging out with friends, trying local restaurants, walking their dog Savannah, and Maureen has a passion for designing custom jewelry, which they have dedicated a room in their home to.


6 Reasons to Get a Garage Security System

A typical garage doesn’t come with a complete security system. Although certain home devices already come with basic security features, a full security system is an investment that you have to make for your home.

The garage is usually the place where expensive tools and vehicles are stored. Many homeowners do not give much thought to the security of garages. However, robbers are already targeting this as it also serves as a point of entry to the entire house.


If you are still contemplating taking the dip and making this purchase, here are the top reasons why you should get a full security system that covers your garage:

1. Peace of mind. Nothing beats the peace of mind that you get from having security 24/7 in your home. This provides that blanket of security for your family members even if you are not at home. That feeling of protection creates a safe haven for you and your family. A full security system makes your garage hard to break into, compared to a normal garage.

2. Increase in home value. Getting a full security system for your garage is obviously an investment. However, the extra security that the system provides can increase the value of your home. If you’re planning on selling your home in the future, then this can serve as an extra selling point!

3. Full control anytime, anywhere. Modern home security systems are fully integrated with smartphones. No matter where you are and what time of the day it is, you can have access to your home. This also lets you choose who has access to your garage, and from there, to the rest of your home. You can receive regular updates on the security status of your home and you can control it through your mobile device.

4. Better insurance rates. A safe and secured garage is received as good news by insurance providers. This gives them peace of mind knowing that break-ins are less likely to happen in your home because of the security, which can lead to having lower insurance rates on your home. If you have recently added a full security system, then give your insurance provider a ring and inform them that you have installed a new security system.

5. Secured storage of vehicles and equipment. The garage is where pricey items (like your vehicle, tools, garden equipment, and sporting goods) are stored. Most of the things inside your garage can be easily stolen and sold. So, beefing up your garage’s security should be something you consider. A new security system will help keep your valuables protected whether you’re at the neighbor’s for dinner or you’re out of town.


6. Video monitoring. A full security system includes security cameras. Having video monitoring will help you feel at ease about the safety of your family. No matter what you’re doing, you can constantly check up on the status of your home and your family. You can see what’s happening any time of the day.

** Written by Kristy Jones,the blog author of A Click Away Remotes – Garage Door Opener and Remotes Blog.

Popular Places to Move Near Minneapolis

A city that combines culture, scenery and a thriving local economy doesn’t have to be one of the largest. Minneapolis, a mid-sized metropolis in the Midwest, checks off the basic must-haves and more. Beyond being a top locale for Fortune 500 companies, the larger of the Twin Cities displays endless natural beauty across seven massive lakes, lined with scenic jogging routes and parks, and holds one of the largest park systems in the U.S. The bike sharing system is top-notch, while foodies can satisfy both healthy and hearty cravings for Midwestern grub across the city’s diverse dining scene.

The City of Lakes provides more than a well-rounded lifestyle. It also offers investment opportunities for those who choose to settle down in the area. According to Zillow’s Home Value Index, the median home value in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area is affordable at $221,100. However, home values increased 7.8 percent in the past year, and are forecasted to rise another 3.5 percent through 2017.

Presently low interest rates, market affordability and projected rising values are concrete reasons to search for homes in Minneapolis sooner, rather than later. Consider the following three towns and new home communities near Minneapolis that might be a good fit for your next home purchase.

Cologne, MN

Located approximately 30 miles southwest of the city, Cologne fuses an easy commute with a tight-knit local atmosphere. Known for its small-town and welcoming demeanor, Cologne is home to around 1,500 residents ranging from young families to established retirees. For buyers in the area, the Village at Cologne is a single-family development with home prices ranging from $270,000 to slightly over $390,000 for homes between 1,774- to 3,083-square-feet. Additionally, a new section, Village at Cologne North, has been added that features 1-level villas priced from $260,000. With four outdoor parks, serene ponds, miles of trails and striking landscaping, this community delivers a comfortable lifestyle at an affordable price point.


Village at Cologne – Single Family Home

 Dayton, MN

Another suburb of the Twin Cities, Dayton, is a short 35-minute drive from the downtown area – creating an easy daily drive for Minneapolis workers. In the tranquil River Hills community, first-time homebuyers can easily transition into the ownership routine to homes where snow removal is covered by the association – a welcome relief for new buyers during the harsh winters. Aside from the numerous parks and ponds in the neighborhood, River Hills will soon feature an underpass that connects to the shores of the Mississippi River.

river-hills-community-villaRiver Hills Community – Villa

Hudson, WI

Although technically sitting across the Minnesota border, Hudson is part of the greater metro area and is just 30 minutes east of downtown Minneapolis and 15 minutes from St. Paul. Hudson’s positioning in the St. Croix River Valley provides locals with several outdoor activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, golfing and hiking – even outdoor concerts hosted at the picturesque Lakefront Park. For the chillier winter days, the charming downtown area is sprinkled with retail boutiques, antique shops, restaurants, museums and galleries. Despite Hudson’s immense historic appeal, its population is up almost 50 percent since 2000 and it’s now home to 13,400 residents, making it one of the fastest growing areas in the state. The former Hudson Golf Club is now Carmichael Ridge, a newly-built community containing single-family homes, villas and detached townhouses priced between $280,000 and $400,000. Each residence features sophisticated interiors outfitted with laminate wood floors and stainless steel appliances with customizable touches to make you feel right at home.

carmichael-ridge-sfhCarmichael Ridge – Single Family Home

Whether you settle in the bustling downtown area or a new home community nearby, the Minneapolis metro area is an opportunity to plant your career, family and financial roots for years to come.

** Jennifer Riner writes about rentals, home improvement and design for Zillow.

Is Your Neighborhood Trick-or-Treat Friendly?

Halloween is quickly approaching, so Zillow released its annual Trick-or-Treat Index to help the little ones – and their parents – map out a strategic, sweet and spooky adventure. Using home values, housing density, crime rates and population data, Zillow’s economists determined the leading cities and local neighborhoods for trick-or-treaters.

Aside from being the top candy-collecting environments, the variables which measure trick-or-treating superiority are also measurements of family-friendly neighborhoods for homebuyers. High home values, low crime and a larger children’s population can help determine where to settle in the best interest of the little ones.

Whether you simply want to see if your city made the cut, or if you’re thinking of making a move to a child-friendly community, consider the top 20 locales for Halloween aficionados.

The Best Cities for Trick-or-Treating

This year, the top five cities for trick-or-treating are Philadelphia, San Jose, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. Phoenix, Denver, Portland, Seattle and Columbus rounded out the top 10 list.


Columbus’ best neighborhoods for sweet seekers include Smoky Ridge Estates and Summit View Woods, which are both just a short drive from Verona in Powell, a new home community featuring 16 single-family residences that are each part of the 2016 Parade of Homes event. If you’re in the market to buy, homes in Verona cost around $925,000 for over 5,000-square-feet of living space. Living in the community provides numerous benefits not limited to your child’s sweet tooth, including five acres of reserve space, peaceful landscaping and modern farmhouse style homes.

Further, Summerwood, Somerset and Forest Park East in Columbus are also listed as prime spots for trick-or-treating in the area. Just east of Forest Park East sits Minerva Park, a future new construction community slated for completion this year. Future residents of Minerva Park can opt for pond views or cul-de-sac settings across 250 total home sites. The community also features a pool, walking path and nearby comforts like the Little Turtle Golf Club and Easton Town Center.

Dallas, home to 11 local M/I Homes communities, is the No. 13 best place for trick-or-treaters. Some of the most convenient and safe areas for spine-chilling candy quests at the end of the month include Northeast Dallas, North Dallas, Far North Dallas, M Streets and Oak Lawn.

Also in the Lone Star State, Austin climbed into the top 20 ranks at No. 16 for trick-or-treaters. Similar to Dallas, M/I Homes has 11 communities across the greater metro area. Windsor Road, South Manchaca, Allandale, Rosedale and Crestview scored as the best trick-or-treating neighborhoods in Austin for 2016.

In Chicago, trick-or-treaters have the best opportunity around West DePaul, Ravenswood Manor, Roscoe Village, Sauganash and North Mayfair. Chicago is ranked as the No. 18 best city for Halloween overall, which means homebuyers looking for a long-term investment with the same trick-or-treating assessments can still benefit from 21 new home communities across the greater Chicagoland area.


** Jennifer Riner writes about rentals, home improvement and design for Zillow.


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