5 Ways to Lower Your Air Conditioning & Energy Bills


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According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioning accounts for about six percent of all the electricity manufactured in the U.S. and costs American homeowners a collective $29 billion a year. On an individual level, running your central air conditioning can cost an average of $3.84 a day, which is more than $115 a month. With energy costs rising, it makes sense to take steps to make sure your A/C unit is operating at maximum efficiency. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of extra money to keep your air conditioner humming along. In addition to getting a regular A/C tune-up, you can install a smart thermostat and take steps to keep the inside of your home from warming up too much during the hottest part of the day. With a little extra diligence, you can keep your energy costs low without sacrificing comfort. Here are five ways to ensure your A/C unit is running as efficiently as possible. 

1. Turn Your Thermostat Up

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Perhaps the easiest and cheapest thing you can do to maximize the efficiency of your air conditioner is to simply turn your thermostat up. If you can be comfortable at a higher temperature, you won’t have to spend as much money to cool your home. Even the best A/C units can’t make up for the monetary gain that simply turning up your thermostat can bring. 

If you haven’t already, you should consider updating to a digital or smart thermostat. A digital thermostat can be programmed so that you only run your central air when you’re at home and active. That way, you don’t waste money cooling your home while you aren’t there. 

A smart thermostat allows you to control the temperature of your home remotely, so you can adjust your thermostat if you’re going to be returning home, for example. Some of today’s smart thermostats will even monitor your family’s activity, learn your patterns and program themselves accordingly. 

2. Maintain Your A/C Properly

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Regular A/C maintenance is one of the best things you can do to improve your HVAC efficiency and prevent breakdowns. A yearly HVAC tune-up can keep your system functioning properly and identify issues before they arise so you can avoid unexpected HVAC failures. While you can perform some maintenance tasks, such as changing your HVAC filter on your own, other tasks, such as inspecting and cleaning your home A/C compressor, should be left to the professionals.  

Schedule yearly A/C maintenance early in the spring so you can be ready for hot weather and avoid the rush of last-minute calls from procrastinators or those with HVAC breakdowns. Ensure your maintenance technician knows how to maintain your particular A/C unit and cleans the indoor drain line while working on your unit. American Home Shield members receive access to discounted A/C system tune-ups or one free tune-up annually with a ShieldPlatinum home service plan.  

3. Close Your Curtains 

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Natural light is wonderful, but the rays of sunlight streaming through your windows can raise the interior temperature of your home and force your A/C unit to work harder. You can ease the burden on your unit and lower your cooling costs simply by closing your curtains and blinds, at least during the hottest part of the day. 

Not an option? This might take a few years to make a difference, but you could install a few shrubs and trees to naturally shade your home. Or you could install low-emissivity (or Low-E) windows. These windows have a reflective coating that keeps heat out while letting light in. Whatever type of windows you have, make sure the seals are tight and re-caulk if necessary to keep cool air from escaping (or your money could be going out the window!) 

4. Insulate Your Ductwork 

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If your HVAC’s ductwork runs through a non-air-conditioned space, then all that freshly cooled air could be warming up on its way to your vents. Insulate your ductwork to keep the cool air your HVAC produces cooler as it travels through your home’s ventilation system. 

Got leaky ductwork? Seal up leaks with a UL 181-rated duct-sealing tape. You may also want to have your ductwork inspected during your next HVAC maintenance visit.

5. Use Appliances Wisely 

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Some appliances, like your oven and clothes dryer, can heat up the inside of your house and increase your cooling costs. To minimize the impact of heat-generating appliances on your energy bills, avoid using your oven or clothes dryer during the hottest part of the day. For maximum energy efficiency, use them at night when it will be easiest for your unit to keep your home cool. 

While you’re at it, make sure you don’t have any lamps or other heat-generating appliances near your thermostat. Lamps and appliances that warm up the air around your thermostat can throw off its measurement of indoor air temperatures, making your A/C unit work harder because it thinks the inside of your home is warmer than it actually is. 

Keeping your A/C unit in good working order can maximize its efficiency and keep your energy costs down, so you can focus on staying cool all season long. 

Get more HVAC and air conditioner tips and advice from the experts: 

>  All You Need to Know About HVAC Replacement Costs  

What’s the Difference Between Air Conditioning Insurance vs. A/C Home Warranty Coverage  

What You Need to Know About Recharging Your Home’s A/C Unit  

How Long do HVAC Systems Last?  

Signs It’s Time to Get a New Air Conditioner  

Tips for Buying a New A/C Unit  

HVAC Red Flags to Look Out For  

HVAC Maintenance 101: Changing Your Filter   

Know When It’s Time to Replace Your Air Conditioner  

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

Backyard Tips: Yearly Planting Calendar


Want a beautiful garden that stays healthy and looks great all year? Use this calendar to know what to plant and when.

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Backyard Tips: Yearly Planting Calendar

Spring has only just begun, but it’s never too early to garden. If you live in a warm region, you can garden all year round, but even if you live in a cold, northerly climate, you can get a jumpstart on a lush, healthy garden by planning now. Read on for tips to create the garden of your dreams.

Find Your Hardiness Zones and Frost Dates

Wondering how you can tell when to plant flowers, veggies, fruits, and herbs outdoors? Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find out which plants are most likely to do well in your local climate. As you can see from the map, the warmer the region, the higher the zone number. Hardiness zones are based on the average minimum temperatures in that region. 

Frost dates, or the most likely dates of the first and last frosts of the winter season, are based on hardiness zones. In zones 5a and 5b, for example, the last frost usually happens in the first two weeks of April, while the first frost will most likely occur in the last two weeks of October. You should start planting your garden after the last frost and expect the season to end with the first frost.

Choose the Right Plants

You can use hardiness zones to choose plants that will thrive in your climate. If you live in a zone with minimum temperatures below freezing, choose frost-hardy perennials that will survive cold winter temperatures to come back strong in the spring. If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you should still pay attention to the plant’s hardiness rating. Some plants thrive in a warm climate, but others require periods of cold weather to thrive, and some seeds, like lavender, germinate best if exposed to cold.

Calculate Planting Dates

Calculate your planting dates based on when you hope to put seeds, seedlings, and young plants in the soil. Some vegetables, herbs, and flowers do best when started indoors, and you’ll need to do this about six weeks before your outdoor planting date. 

For many vegetables, flowers, and herbs, you can schedule your planting dates so they’re after the last frost, but keep in mind that different kinds of plants will need different outdoor planting dates, and build out your planting calendar accordingly. For example, peas, carrots, and some lettuces like colder weather and will need to be planted outdoors early in the season, perhaps even before the last frost. Because cool-weather vegetables and greens tend to mature relatively quickly, you may be able to get a bumper crop by sowing them anew in the late summer. 

Other plants, like corn, tomatoes, and cantaloupe like warm weather and should be planted a few weeks after the last frost when the soil has warmed up. Decide what you’re going to plant this spring well in advance and check seed packets, plant labels, or the internet to determine the best time of year to plant each specific variety. Weather isn’t the only consideration — some vegetables, like pumpkins, take a long time to grow, so you should make sure that you plant them while there are still plenty of days left in the planting season for them to mature. 

If you live in a zone with minimum temperatures above freezing, you can enjoy two growing seasons. Plant vegetables and herbs in the spring for a summer crop and again in the fall for a winter crop. Choose tropical flowers, shrubs, and trees for landscaping.

Start Seeds Indoors

Many vegetables, flowers, and fruits can be sown directly into the ground from seed, but others will do best if started indoors and transplanted outside. Start seeds for tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, lettuce, watermelon, swiss chard, and pumpkins indoors six to eight weeks before your planned outdoor planting date. Some plants, especially peppers and tomatoes, are difficult to grow from seed, so you may want to buy seedlings instead. Check seed packets to determine which seeds can be sown directly into the soil and which should be started indoors.

If you want to grow a productive garden this year, you need to develop a planting calendar based on your region’s climate and the plants you hope to cultivate. Do your research to determine which vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers you want to grow in your garden this year. Don’t procrastinate, because before you know it, it’ll be time to start planting.

Spring Cleaning? Here are the Best Closet Organization Systems


We all know what it’s like to be afraid to open our closets for fear of everything falling out. Closets can be one of the hardest parts of a home to keep organized and looking good. Check out the best closet organizers and see which one will work best for your home. 

Closets provide most of the storage space in the modern home, whether it’s for clothes, shoes, and accessories in the bedroom or food and spices in the pantry. A well-organized closet looks good and can save you valuable time. Sometimes we just need a little help to get the closet of our dreams—and keep it that way. 

But what is the best wardrobe closet organizer for your organizing style and household? Closet organizers vary widely in cost, size, and materials, so it really just depends on your budget and preference. Here we’ll cover some of the best closet organization systems for bedroom closets, along with general closet organization ideas. Let’s get organized! 

Best Budget Closet Organizer Systems 

When it comes to simple, affordable closet organization systems, you can’t go wrong with ClosetMaid. ClosetMaid has been making closet systems since 1965. Their systems work great, whether you’re looking for a walk-in closet organizer, a closet organizer with drawers, or something simpler like small closet organizer accessories. The best thing about ClosetMaid storage solutions is that their systems can be modified, expanded, or reconfigured as your needs change.   

The adjustable ClosetMaid 16” Organizer and Drawer Kit, made of laminated wood, is a sturdy storage solution that includes three shelves and support kits, two drawers, and three clothes rods. The ClosetMaid Fixed Mount Closet Organizer, made of vinyl-coated steel, offers less flexibility in terms of modification but is more affordable and comes with a shoe rack. These types of racks are great for organizing shoes in a closet. If you’re sharing a closet or are simply a shoe lover, you could also consider purchasing a few more standalone shoe racks to make sure every pair has its place. 

Rubbermaid also makes affordable closet organizers, and they’re available from popular retailers like Walmart and Amazon. With a range of options, quick installation, and easy reconfiguration, Rubbermaid closet systems will give you the space you need in your bedroom, pantry, laundry room, or other storage areas. 

Best Custom Closet Organization Systems 

As with most things, you can spend as much on a closet organization system as you want—the options are almost endless. Custom closet systems are an excellent option for an oddly shaped or corner closet as well as small closets. 

If you’re looking for a system that’s perfectly tailored to your needs and constructed out of the highest-quality materials, a custom closet organizer from a manufacturer like Closet Factory might be for you. Closet Factory designs custom systems for reach-in and walk-in closets, and each custom closet begins with a complimentary design consultation. Other great custom closet system designers include California Closets, which designs high-end custom closets, and Easy Closet, which will give you a free closet design consultation over the phone. These companies also create storage systems for pantries, home libraries, laundry rooms, and garages. Get more garage storage ideas here

Best Closet System for Kids 

Small closet organizers make sense for smaller clothes, right? But how do you organize a small closet? The Little Seeds Grow with Me Closet System, available at Wayfair, Target, and Amazon, is perfect for kids because it can be adjusted to meet their changing needs as they grow and get more involved in their fashion choices. The Grow with Me Closet System features a shoe rack, three shelves, four cubbies, one drawer, and adjustable garment rods for all your kid’s wardrobe storage needs. Rods are placed at child-friendly heights, so your kids can stay in control of what they wear. 

Best Modular Closet System 

Modular Closets offers mix-and-match systems that maximize flexibility without the high price tag of fully customized closet options. Use their online tool to get a free closet design based on your closet measurements, or shop their pre-configured options. 

Best Systems for Walk-In Closets  

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Walk-in closets are amazing, but they’re not so great if they’re not well-organized. To organize a walk-in closet, it helps to have zones: one or two areas for hanging clothes, drawers for folded clothes, shelves for baskets with small items like scarves or hats, and a shoe rack. If you have a small walk-in closet, there are small closet tips on how to make the most of your space. Here are a few walk-in closet organizers that can help: 

  • The Container Store’s Elfa Décor 10’ His & Hers Closet Wall is one of the best closet organizers for people sharing closet space. This system doesn’t come cheap, but it really has it all: multiple shelves, two drawer systems, four areas for hanging clothes, a shoe rack, and a gliding tie and belt rack. 
  • The Rebrilliant Queenborough 72” Closet System is 72 inches wide and combines adjustable shelves and garment rods into a walk-in closet organization system that will give you a sturdy place to store your whole wardrobe.  
  • Looking for something a bit more affordable? Rebrilliant also offers a free-standing closet organizer starter kit, available on Wayfair, with seven shelves and one garment rod. This organizer is made out of bamboo and can create a lovely focal point for your closet. 

Closet organizer systems can help you turn the chaos of your closet into a neat, orderly space where your clothes, shoes, and accessories are easy to find. You have plenty of other things to worry about; you don’t need to be digging around in your closet, searching for your favorite belt or that one pair of shoes that matches your outfit. Eliminate clutter and hectic, stress-filled mornings with a well-organized closet and spend your energy on more important things like cooking a new recipe, entertaining friends, or just plain relaxing. 

Start on your journey to decluttering the rest of your home by checking out more decor ideas as well as home office organization and garage organization solutions. While you’re at it, be sure to look into an American Home Shield® home warranty to keep your home appliances and systems protected from the unexpected.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

Fall in Love with Your Home This Valentine’s Day


These days, our homes are doing a lot of multi-tasking and heavy lifting for us all: they’ve had to stand in as offices, schools, restaurants, movie theatres, and much more. This Valentine’s Day, why not show your home a little love for being the space that’s always there for you? It can sometimes be easy to take our homes for granted, so here are seven easy ways to give your home a hug.  

1. Create Some Custom Art 

Painting a picture of the front of your home, or taking a photo and turning it into a frameable photograph, are unique ways to create custom art for your house. If you’re not artistically inclined, there are lots of artists who can paint a custom picture of your home for you. Some cities and municipalities even have historical archives with photographs of older houses, and you can often purchase copies of these photos for framing. Similarly, you can also purchase aerial photos of your property for a more modern take on home sweet home.  

2. Illuminate Your Space 

One of the easiest and most overlooked things you can do to literally shed new light on your home is by switching out your light bulbs. The initial cost of switching from traditional incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs can be a bit of an investment, but you’ll save a lot of money and effort in the long run by never having to change a light bulb again. If your space is too dark, make sure you’re using bulbs with the correct brightness, and consider adding more lighting to the room with a table or floor lamps. 

Pro tip: Look for warm white LED bulbs for spaces you want to feel cozy, welcoming, and traditional, like a living room or den. Cool white bulbs contain more blue light and are well-suited for task lighting in kitchens and utility rooms or for when you want a more modern look.  

3. When in Doubt, Paint! 

Just like the right light can update a room, so, too, can the right paint color. Paint is one of the easiest ways to transform a space and it’s relatively easy to change and update if you want to try something new. Many paint companies have online simulators that allow you to see your space in a new color scheme before you commit. And for a really easy change, consider just changing the color of your front door – it will instantly update the look of your house and up its curb appeal.  

4. Focus on One Room at a Time 

It can be easy to get overwhelmed when a listicle might suggest tidying your house to spark more joy, or finally tackle that garage organization project you’ve been putting off. We say life is stressful enough these days without that kind of unnecessary pressure! If you really want to take on an organizational or design project, focus on one room at a time and one room only! A spare room is a great place to start because you can turn it into exactly what you want or need. Think about how you’ll get the most use of the space: guest bedroom, home office, baby room, home gym, or all of the above? Go for it!  

5. Wash the Windows

Like new light bulbs, clean windows can dramatically update the look and feel of a room. Unless you live in a small one-story home, washing windows is usually best left to the professionals. Hiring a pro window washer is relatively affordable and they’ll get the job done thoroughly and quickly. Trust us: if you haven’t cleaned your windows in a while, you’ll be amazed at the transformation!  

6. Let Go of Perfection

Sometimes it’s not what we do that can make a difference, but what we don’t do. Every home has imperfections, foibles, and things that can be repaired or improved. Take a look at the big picture and save yourself some stress by accepting the little imperfections that don’t really matter to you and your family’s overall enjoyment of your home. You’ll feel better and love your house more when you stop focusing on the things that are wrong and start appreciating all that’s right about your home. (And see tip #7 below for what to do to stop worrying about some of the big things that really do matter around the house!) 

7. Protect Your Investment

One of the most meaningful ways you can love your home is by protecting it from unexpected calamities. A good home warranty can help do that. Find out exactly what’s covered, what’s not, and how you can tailor an American Home Shield plan to your home and budget. 

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

Home Maintenance Guide & Calendar


American Home Shield is here to help you protect your budget, which starts with protecting your home. Their comprehensive Home Maintenance Guide and Calendar allow you to keep track of service dates and details, and stay on top of seasonal maintenance tips and tasks.

Download your free Home Maintenance Guide and Calendar by clicking the images below to help improve the condition and longevity of the systems and appliances in your home. The Home Maintenance Guide also offers quick fixes for common systems and appliance issues so you can decide if it’s a DIY project or time to call a qualified repair professional. 

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If there’s one thing homeowners know to expect, it’s the unexpected. American Home Shield helps protect your budget against covered household breakdowns, including components of your air conditioner, heating unit, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as appliances like your oven, refrigerator, and washing machine. You know — the things you count on every single day.

They offer three plans to choose from so you can select the best one for your budget and household, and for more home maintenance and DIY tips, visit their YouTube channel

8 Tips for Outdoor Holiday Decorating


You don’t want to be the only house on the block that doesn’t look great this holiday season. Use these 8 tips to help you with your outdoor holiday decorating.

The holiday season is upon us and the weather is getting colder. Lawn and garden tools have given way to Christmas ornaments, gift wrap and artificial evergreens in most department stores. It’s time to decorate your home for the holidays, indoors and out – and if you’re the kind of person who loves getting in the holiday spirit, why wait? Use these eight tips to show off your festive spirit.

1. Choose a Focal Point

Decorating your home’s exterior, yard, flowerbeds and other outdoor space around a central focal point can help you tie everything together and build a theme for your holiday décor. Many homeowners choose their front porch or even their front door as a focal point, drawing attention to it with a nice wreath, some lights strung around the railing and perhaps an artificial outdoor tree or two.

However, that’s not your only choice. Your focal point could be a large evergreen tree in your front yard, a large statue of Santa in his sled or a nativity scene. Think about choosing a theme for your holiday decorations so everything flows together and you don’t end up buying more decorations than you need.

2. Keep It Simple

You don’t want to go all Clark Griswold with your Christmas lights. Start small, especially if you’ve never decorated the exterior of a home for the holidays before. Spend some time browsing the web for Christmas decorating ideas, and start with a manageable display. For example, just string some lights around the porch instead of lighting up the whole house. You can add to your display later or expand it next year.

3. Buy the Right Lights for Your Needs

If you’ve never purchased Christmas lights for your home before, or if it’s been a while, you may be surprised at the options available to you. There are net lights for bushes, rope lights for illuminating windows, blinking lights, multicolored lights, icicle lights and various kinds of LED lights. Figure out what kind of lights are best for the display you have in mind, as well as which lights will be the cheapest to run.

4. Shop Secondhand

Looking to decorate for less this Christmas season? Who can blame you – Christmas is already expensive enough, and surely there’s a more environmentally sustainable way to get in the holiday spirit. Fortunately, you can score piles of gently used, secondhand Christmas decorations at most thrift stores. Buy used and vintage wreaths, statues, nativity scenes and other items of holiday décor for a fraction of the retail price.

5. Play It Safe

When it comes to outdoor holiday decorating, safety is paramount. Use lights labeled with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal of approval and make sure they’re rated for outdoor use. Not sure about getting up on the ladder to string lights along the gutters and around windows? Hire someone to do it, or skip it altogether.

6. Ditch the Staple Gun

When it’s time to hang Christmas lights, leave the staple gun in your toolbox – that’s how your grandpa hung his lights. Electrical tape is a safe, quick and easy alternative that won’t damage your siding, shingles or fingers. It’s also great for protecting electrical connections from the elements. Use Christmas light clips to safely and easily attach lights to shingles and gutters.

7. Start at the Bottom

When decorating something tall for Christmas, such as a large tree, start at the bottom and work your way up. Use a dowel rod staked into the soil to hold an extension cord for powering your lights, and work with the lights illuminated so you can get a better sense of how the finished product will look. Get help stringing the lights around the trunk of a deciduous tree, or zigzagging them through the branches of an evergreen, adding new strings as needed.

8. Decorate Smart

Save yourself some effort and expense and only decorate parts of the yard that people will see. Have a big tree that passersby will only see one side of? Just decorate that side of the tree. You may want to skip decorating parts of the yard that aren’t visible to the public; however, if you have a back patio or deck that you plan to use throughout the Christmas season, feel free to decorate it with weather-resistant garlands, artificial trees, wreaths, lights or table arrangements.

Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be a chore. With a little creativity and these helpful tips, you’ll soon have an outdoor display that will inspire neighborhood passersby to stop and admire your work. 

12 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Thanksgiving


For many households, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year, both in terms of the number of guests and the amount of prep work needed. Getting your home ready to host Thanksgiving dinner requires more than tidying up, dusting, vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms.

You’ll need to consider what Thanksgiving recipes you need to prepare, make time to shop for ingredients, plan ahead to thaw and roast your turkey and coordinate who’s bringing what side dishes and fixings. You’ll probably have far more dinner guests than you would for your average dinner party, so you’ll need to plan space for everyone to eat. And, if friends or family members are coming in from out of town, you may need to get the spare bedroom and other areas ready for overnight guests.

Use these 12 tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday a success.

1. Plan Your Menu

Sure, you’ll most likely be serving many of the same holiday staples that everyone enjoys on Thanksgiving – turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole. But many families like to mix things up with dishes from their specific cultural backgrounds, vegetarian dishes, dishes for family members with allergies and food sensitivities, trendy dishes and so forth. Plan your Thanksgiving dinner menu several weeks in advance so you have an idea of what you’ll be preparing well before the holiday arrives.

2. Write Your Guest List

You may be hosting the usual suspects, just like every year, or you may even decide to extend an invitation to friends, neighbors or others who don’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Knowing in advance who will be present can help you plan the menu and seating arrangements.

3. Clean Out Your Freezer

You may need some extra freezer space for dishes that can be made ahead of time and frozen for the big day. Go ahead and toss out that old tub of gravy from last year – you’ll soon have a new one to replace it with.

4. Shop Ahead

Assuming you’ve planned your menu well in advance, you can save money on the holiday meal by watching for sales on non-perishable ingredients in the weeks before Thanksgiving. You’ll also be able to stock up on specialty ingredients before they run out.

5. Prepare Make-Ahead Dishes That Can Be Frozen for the Big Day

Shopping ahead and cleaning out your freezer can help take some of the stress out of Thanksgiving Day by giving you the chance to make some of the dishes in advance. Prepared dishes can be popped into your newly cleaned freezer for as long as two months, ready to be pulled out and cooked on Thanksgiving Day.

6. Create a Cooking Schedule

One of the most difficult aspects of cooking any meal is getting everything on the table at the same time. Review your Thanksgiving recipes and create a cooking schedule that breaks down the meal’s culinary challenges day by day and hour by hour. Some dishes, like pies, cakes, and sauces, can be cooked a day or two before Thanksgiving. You’ll need to start prepping other dishes, like the turkey, several days in advance; a large bird needs to be thawed in the refrigerator for about 24 hours per four to five pounds of meat.

7. Figure Out Who’s Bringing What

Delegating some of the cooking to your guests can make hosting Thanksgiving more manageable. Get together with guests to decide who’s bringing what side dishes, desserts and fixings so you can cross those off your list.

8. Taste-Test New Dishes

Are you trying something new this year? Better take the recipe on a test drive before Thanksgiving. Trying out the recipe will let you know whether it’s really any good and will give you valuable insight into how difficult and time-consuming it is to make. You may decide to strike it from the menu after making it once.

9. Plan the Seating Arrangement

If you’re having a fair number of guests this Thanksgiving, seating everyone can be a challenge. Tackle the seating arrangement sooner, rather than later, so everyone has a place to sit.

10. Deep Clean Your Home

It’s a good idea to deep clean your whole home a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, so you can stick to a quick once-over the day before the holiday. If you don’t have time to deep clean your entire house, you should at least deep clean your bathrooms and kitchen.

11. Prepare for Overnight Guests

Are family members or friends coming in from out of town? You’ll need to get guest bedrooms dusted and cleaned up, with fresh bedding on the beds and fresh towels in the bathrooms. Depending on how many guests are staying over, you may need to plan to put some people on couches or air mattresses.

12. Give Your Home a Last Once-Over

The day before Thanksgiving, take the time to give your home a last cleaning before everyone gets there. Dust, sweep or vacuum common areas, tidy up, prepare your kitchen and clean the bathrooms.

Getting your home ready for Thanksgiving is no small chore. But if you follow this step-by-step list, you’ll host a Thanksgiving to remember.

Is it More Environmentally Friendly to Replace Old Appliances?


Home appliances can guzzle energy, especially older models designed in a different era of technology. If you have been wondering if it’s better to repair those old appliances or buy newer, more energy-efficient ones, we’re here to help.

When is it time to upgrade your appliances?

When your appliances start to break down, most people think first of the inconvenience — and reasonably so. As the clock ticks on your rapidly defrosting freezer meats, it’s hard to consider much else. An American Home Shield Warranty is one way to make your life easier. We will assign a qualified local contractor who can diagnose the issue and recommend repair or replacement depending on the age and performance of the appliance. And if we can’t repair the covered appliance, we will replace it for you and handle the removal of the defective item. 

First, take a moment to reflect on the environmental implications of your decision. Are you extending the life of an energy-guzzling appliance that’s driving up your power bill and exacerbating your carbon footprint? What is worse for the planet: contributing to technology waste by throwing appliances away or keeping an inefficient machine running? Unfortunately, it’s not always clear — so let’s take a closer look.

  1. How old is my appliance?

Old appliances are seldom as energy-efficient as their newer counterparts. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, newer appliances are typically built to run using less power. If you’ve got appliances in your home that are more than 10 or 15 years old, they may be both expensive to repair and unnecessarily detrimental to the environment.

  1. Does your appliance still work well?

There’s a distinct difference between an appliance that works and an appliance that works well. An appliance that runs smoothly will require less power to function, meaning less strain on precious resources. Performance and the sounds produced by your appliances can be a good indicator of how well your machine works.

  1. Will an appliance upgrade be worthwhile?

For an upgrade to be worthwhile, you’ll need to weigh up the economic and environmental costs of replacing your appliance. For example, if your 15-year-old fridge needs new coils, a complete replacement may be more practical than spending half the cost of a new one to keep an old, inefficient appliance running.

The environmental benefits of replacing old appliances

Sometimes, replacing appliances is necessary, and other times, it’s simply a matter of upgrading your home appliances to be kinder on the planet. Regardless of the case, replacing old appliances can be environmentally friendly, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. Here are the environmental benefits of upgrading common home appliances.

New vs. old refrigerators

When it comes to upgrading your refrigerator, switching to a new product can have good implications for both the environment and your back pocket.

According to ENERGY STAR, an old refrigerator uses about 33% more energy than a new model with ENERGY STAR certification. You stand to save $144 in average energy costs over five years when upgrading from a 20ft3 refrigerator purchased between 2001 and 2010. 

What’s better is that you’ll also avoid around 411lbs of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere over that same period. ENERGY STAR also estimates that properly recycling your old unit could save the atmosphere from an additional 1,680lbs of carbon pollution.

New vs. old stoves

Few people are as attached to their fridges, washers and microwaves as they are to their gas stoves, but old gas cooktops are far from the most efficient option for cooking. 

According to ENERGY STAR, traditional gas cooktops have an efficiency of approximately 32%, whereas modern induction cooktops are around 85% efficient according to their performance criteria. Induction cooktops use coils to create a magnetic field that generates heat directly within compatible cookware, rather than wasting energy by heating the surrounding air as conventional stoves do. 

New vs. old clothes washers and dryers

While necessary, clothes washers and dryers can be significant energy drains in the home. According to ENERGY STAR, clothes washers have dramatically improved efficiency and functionality in recent years. A new clothes washer uses around 14 gallons of water per load, up to 75% less water than agitator washers did 20 years ago. These newer machines that bear the Energy Star label use 25% less energy.

As far as clothes dryers go, ENERGY STAR anticipates that if all dryers sold were certified energy-efficient, 22 billion pounds of carbon pollution could be prevented annually. That’s as much as the emissions created by two million cars. 

New vs. old dishwashers

Dishwashers use both large amounts of water and electricity, so it’s important to make sure yours is energy-efficient.

ENERGY STAR estimates that by switching to a newer, certified dishwasher, you can save an average of 3,870 gallons of water over its lifetime. ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers are also 12% more energy-efficient than non-certified models. Models that are particularly old,  manufactured before 1994, also cost an additional $35 a year on utility charges and 10 gallons of water each cycle.

Despite this, dishwashers are still usually more efficient than handwashing. A new ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher will use around a quarter of the energy usage of handwashing and save you around 8,000 gallons of water each year. 

New vs. old microwave ovens

Microwaves are an often-replaced household appliance, as their relatively low price tag makes replacement more convenient than repair. Unlike other appliances, they aren’t ENERGY STAR certified, making it a little trickier to pick a new microwave that’s environmentally friendly.

Thanks to new standards implemented in 2016, new microwave ovens have been built to use less power in standby mode. Standards for energy consumption for microwaves in standby mode tightened by about 75% for countertop microwave ovens and in-built microwave ovens, with hopes to prevent 38 million tons of carbon pollution over the next three decades.

Another benefit is the smart technologies of newer microwave models, with sensors to help you avoid overcooking food.

When not to replace an appliance

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While it’s true that new appliances tend to be more energy-efficient than older ones, replacing an old, still-functioning appliance with a more efficient one comes with its own burdens.

After all, your personal environmental footprint extends further than the home. Some things to consider are the resource costs associated with manufacturing and delivering your replacement, as well as the environmental toll of sending your appliance to the dump. 

According to a UN Environmental Program-sponsored report, around 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste was generated in 2020 rather than being recycled. To put this into perspective, that’s approximately 57 billion dollars worth of electronics, including appliances.

While it’s not always easy to track the direct impact of this, it’s safe to say that in some cases, it’s better to stick to the old model — especially if it’s still working well.

How to thoughtfully dispose of old appliances

Once your appliance has reached the point of retiring, it’s time to start thinking about how to dispose of it in the most environmentally friendly way possible. Here are some options to keep your appliance out of the landfill for a bit longer:

  • Sell it: Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are full of people looking to purchase cheap broken appliances and flip them for a profit. 
  • Give it away: If your appliance is still in working condition, check to see if any local non-profits may be interested in giving it a second life.
  • Recycle: Many cities offer recycling programs that will allow you to recycle large appliances. In some cases, you may even receive cash from a scrap metal recycler.

To replace or to repair?

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With the exception of safety concerns, it’s almost always more environmentally and economically friendly to keep appliances until they start to act up. Believe it or not, simply knowing when to repair and when to replace your appliances is a piece of information that will help you on your sustainability journey.

Given the monetary and environmental implications of their initial investment, large appliances such as fridges, washers and ovens should be preserved for as long as reasonably possible. It’s generally recommended that you repair your larger appliances for the first five to 10 years, depending on how often they’re used. If you’ve purchased something of exceptionally high quality, this period can extend to up to 20 years.

Smaller appliances like microwaves are likely only worth repairing if they’re relatively new or under five years old. The exception would be if the repair was quite simple and could be carried out without paying too much out of pocket.

Still unsure?

If you’re still scratching your head trying to decide what to do, let us take care of it for you. With an American Home Shield Warranty Plan, we will assign a qualified contractor to diagnose your appliance-related issues and suggest the best course of action. 

Whether it’s repair or a total replacement, you’ll rest easy knowing that you won’t be left out of pocket or without an appliance.

How to Turn Your Garage Into a Room


We would all love to have a little extra living space in our homes, right? Before you consider moving to a larger house or hiring a contractor to create additional space, think about how you’re currently using your garage. Yes, your garage is great for storing extra stuff, but have you ever thought of converting it into a room? You can convert your garage into an office, extra bedroom, kids’ playroom, or even a man cave. Turning your garage into an apartment is a great idea too. The options are almost endless.

You might be wondering if turning your garage into a living space will add to the value of your home. The short answer is that it usually doesn’t. However, if you need more room, a garage renovation will be cheaper than adding a brand-new addition. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of an addition is $46,480 as of 2021. The cost to convert your garage into a living space is a much more affordable option—anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.

Let’s take a look at some garage conversion ideas and the garage conversion costs that you’ll need to keep in mind as you design and budget for your renovation.

Cheap And Not-So-Cheap Ideas for Converting Your Garage

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Maybe you already know exactly what type of garage conversion you have in mind. Perhaps you’re interested in converting your garage into living space, or maybe you want to convert the whole garage into a mother-in-law unit that you can rent out to generate some extra income. Or maybe you’re tinkering with the idea of turning your garage into a gym, a bedroom, or a home office. Dream big!

Whatever garage conversion ideas you have, remember that some types of garage conversions are less expensive than others. Let’s take a look.

Typically, the cheapest type of garage conversion will just involve blocking up the garage doors and finishing out the walls, floors, and ceiling with insulation, drywall, carpet, or other flooring material. Think of a bonus room, family room, playroom, game room, or man cave. Converting a garage into a bedroom costs less than, say, a full apartment with a bathroom.

What if you want to take your garage renovation up a notch? Any garage remodel that requires installing additional plumbing, data cables, or expensive fixtures will be more costly. A home gym may not be costly in terms of converting the garage itself, but filling it with exercise machines may drive up the price. Likewise, a home movie theater might be nice, but the chairs and projector screen are going to be pricey. Other expensive garage conversion ideas include converting the garage into an apartment for rent, a lounge with a full wet bar, an art studio, a music room, a billiard room, or a library.

Finishing Your Garage

Turning your garage into a living space means you’ll need to make other plans for storage, so consider installing shelving or cabinets to stow items in your new space.

To turn your garage into a room, you’ll also need to consider what goes into making the space livable, such as adding insulation to ensure that it stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If your walls are unfinished, you’ll need to finish them with drywall, paneling, or plywood. If your garage conversion budget is on the smaller side, cheaper materials like shiplap or sheet metal are good alternatives. Flooring can be as simple as applying an epoxy-based concrete paint to your concrete floor, or as complex as building out a well-insulated wooden subfloor and installing carpeting. Other flooring options include tile, vinyl, laminate, and wood.

Flooring, insulation, and even finishing the walls are fairly simple DIY projects, although you may want to hire an electrician to run any additional wiring and install light fixtures, switches, and receptacles, or to change existing ones.

You may be able to use your current HVAC system to heat and cool an attached garage after its conversion. An HVAC technician can tell you whether this is feasible for your system and garage, or if you’ll need additional ductwork and vents. If you can’t expand your current HVAC system to cover your garage turned living space, you may need to use space heaters and window A/C units, or install a wood-burning heater or ductless heating and cooling system.

If your garage doesn’t have any windows, or only has one or two, you may need to add more to let in all that natural light. If you’re removing garage doors, you can add windows to this wall fairly easily. When shopping for new windows, make sure to buy modern, energy-efficient ones to cut the costs of your utility bill.

What to Do With Your Garage Door 

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Perhaps the biggest, and most obvious, concern when turning a garage into a living space is removing the garage door. If you want a garage conversion but you’re interested in keeping the door, there are some DIY garage door fixes, like using a DIY garage door insulation kit to maintain comfort without sacrificing the flexibility of turning your converted space back into a garage someday. You can also buy garage door veneers that go over metal doors, changing the look of the door itself to match the rest of the décor in your conversion. If you’re converting your garage into an apartment, bonus room, or other permanent living space, you may want to hire a contractor to remove the garage doors entirely and build out the exterior wall to fill the space.

Whether you have a two-car garage, a large garage with vaulted ceilings, or a single-car garage, turning your garage into a living space can increase your home’s square footage significantly for a much lower price than building a new addition from scratch.

Not quite ready for a garage renovation? Learn more about garage door opener warranty coverage and garage door replacement costs. You can also take advantage of an American Home Shield home service plan, which covers many of the home systems and appliances you use every day (like your heating unit, A/C, electrical, plumbing, and more). Compare home warranty prices and plans to determine which home service plan is best for your budget and your household.

How to Paint Concrete Floors and Patios


If you have some dreary concrete spaces on your front porch or backyard patio, it’s easy to spiff them up with a coat of paint, stain, or fun stencils. Just follow these steps to liven up concrete stairs, porches, patios, pathways, and much more. You’ll be amazed at how much it can freshen up your outdoor spaces! 

1. Prepare and Clean the Concrete

Prep the concrete by giving the area a thorough sweep or use a leaf blower to remove any surface debris. Then use a pressure washer to remove any stubborn moss or dirt.  

2. Remove Any Grease or Oil

Use a concrete cleaner and degreaser to remove any grease and oil from the concrete surface. For acid staining, use a special concrete clean and etch product to prep the area. Also, coatings of any kind should be removed before applying any other products.  

3. Patch Any Cracks or Uneven Surfaces 

Use special concrete caulk sealant to patch any small cracks. Allow this to dry for at least 24 hours before applying any other products. Once dry, use a scrub brush to remove any extra caulk residue from the concrete prior to applying additional products.   

4. Wait for a Period of Dry Weather

Make sure the concrete is completely dry for at least 24 hours prior to applying any primer, stain, or paint. Try to time the application to a period when you may have 3-4 days of sunny or dry weather to complete the entire project.   

5. Apply Concrete Paint Primer

Before applying concrete paint primer or any paint, you will want to use painter’s tape to protect any surfaces that you don’t want painted. Then you will apply a bonding primer before you apply concrete paint. This will ensure a smooth application and a more durable finish.  

6. Choose the Right Paint or Stain 

Be sure to use masonry paint or concrete stain when painting or staining concrete. Some paint brands offer a stain and sealant in one for optimal convenience. 

Pro tip: Masonry paint is sometimes called elastomeric paint or elastomeric wall coating. 

For application, masonry paint is often thicker than regular paint and can be applied with a high-capacity roller or brush. Be sure to use a thicker roller. If you use one that’s too smooth, it won’t get in all of the nooks of the concrete. No matter how well you cleaned the concrete prior to painting, dirt and debris can still get stuck on your paint roller. To avoid that, you can also use a paint sprayer for this project. You can use this same process with a decorative stencil as well. 

7. Apply a Second Coat 

Wait at least 12 hours for the paint to dry before you apply a second coat. Be sure to add a slip-resistant additive for pathways, steps, and highly trafficked areas. 

8. Allow to Dry and Then Apply Sealant 

If the paint you selected isn’t a stain and sealant in one, you will need to apply a sealant once the paint is dry. Allow the second coat of paint to dry for another 24 hours before applying sealant. The sealant will add durability to your paint or stain and help prevent fading. 

9. Allow to Completely Dry 

Before using the concrete space, allow the area to dry fully for at least 24 hours, but ideally 48 hours to be safe.

This is a DIY process that can take several days, but it’s not really that difficult and is well worth the effort for the payoff of a refreshed outdoor space that will be enjoyed for years to come. 

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations.