RE/MAX 440
Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

Windows for Sustainable Homes

January 7, 2013 2:28 am

Windows are one of the most important features of a home. They contribute to exterior curb appeal, let in light, provide a view and enhance interior ambiance. However, older windows are notorious for losing heat, causing drafts, allowing in noise and having condensation problems throughout the winter. Fortunately, whether you are replacing existing windows or considering window options for a new home, you have the choice of many features that can save on your heating and air-conditioning bills while keeping your home more comfortable.

Frame material and window type are often among the first considerations when choosing new windows. Window frames are typically wood, vinyl or fiberglass and each has a range of benefits. Some hollow core frames contain foam insulation to boost energy performance. The way a window opens also affects its energy performance. Fixed windows - ones that do not open - can have the best energy performance as they have no moving parts that leak air. Casement windows that open and close like doors can be closed and firmly latched providing a relatively airtight seal.

Consider triple pane windows instead of the more conventional double panes. They tend to be more common in colder areas. Buy windows that use insulating spacers between the panes. Spacers provide an insulating air space between the glass panes in multi-pane windows. If your window has a conductive spacer, such as aluminum, the glass near the spacer will not only lose more heat during the winter, it will more likely have condensation problems that can lead to moisture damage on and around the window and mold growth. Fortunately, insulating spacers are readily available that can cut heat losses around the edge of the windows dramatically.

Beyond keeping the heat in during the winter and out during the summer, high performance energy efficient windows can also perform as solar collectors. By allowing solar energy from the sun into the house during the winter, windows can offset a large part of your home heating bill. The location and size of windows also affects the amount of solar gains your home can capture. More windows on the south side and fewer on the north is the general rule but too many south facing windows can overheat rooms - even in winter. If you are building a new home, consult with a designer knowledgeable in passive solar design strategies.

Even the most energy efficient windows can have their performance undermined by poor installation. In the past, it was common to find fiberglass stuffed into the gap between the window and the wall. However, compressed fiberglass is not a good insulator and air can still leak through it. Also, if it gets wet, it has a hard time drying out. Spray-in insulating foams can do a much better job of both insulating and air sealing around windows.

As windows are a long-term investment, it can make sense to buy windows with the highest thermal and solar heat gain performance you can afford. This will help protect you against rising home heating and cooling costs over time. Investing in good frames and hardware can also make sense because when, decades down the line, the window seals fail and fog up, you may be able to simply replace the glass units rather than the whole window assembly.

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Smart Substitutions

January 7, 2013 2:28 am

(Family Features) When you’re hungry and pressed for time, it’s tempting to swing through the drive-thru or order takeout. But while these seemingly convenient choices save you time, they might cost you in calories, fat, sugar and sodium. Here are some easy ways to make smart substitutions throughout the day that are also time-saving.

Breakfast: Eating breakfast starts your day off right and helps you control hunger.
-Save up to 300 calories by substituting a doughnut or danish with a small English muffin and a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter. You’ll also get the added benefit of protein, which gives you energy to start the day.

-Be mindful of what you add to your morning coffee. Your on-the-go 16-ounce latte could contain as much as 330 calories, 13 grams of fat and 40 grams of sugar, and could be costing you. Substitute with a 12-ounce cup of coffee with skim or soy milk, a pinch of cinnamon and a natural sweetener like honey.

Lunch: You can enjoy a satisfying, convenient and smart meal whether you’re at home, work or out to eat.
-If you can, avoid full-calorie pizzeria pizza and look for lower-fat, thin-crust pizza options. The blend of reduced fat cheeses with a zesty tomato sauce on a crispy-thin crust will give you 8 grams of whole grains and has 300 calories – compared to the 440 calories from the standard takeout slice.

-When you have to have that classic all-beef patty, less is more. Keep it simple and balanced with a whole grain bun, ketchup, lettuce and tomato. If you’re more adventurous, try turkey and veggie burgers for fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Snacks: Snacks can be part of a smart diet – you just have to enjoy the right kinds of snacks in moderation.
-If you’re hungry for something sweet, opt for a low-fat Greek yogurt sweetened with honey, which is much lower in calories than a milkshake, and offers probiotics.

-If you’re craving something salty, try a handful of lightly salted almonds, which are packed with protein and will help you feel satisfied so you won’t be tempted by chips or other salty snacks.

Dinner: Being smart about portion sizes as well as your entrée choices lets you stay on track and enjoy your evening meal.

-Divide up your entrée – either share it with your dining partner, or ask for a to-go box and put half of your food in the container as soon as it arrives. Not only do you get a more appropriate portion, but you also stretch your dining dollar into two meals instead of just one.

Source: www.eatyourbest.com.

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New Year's Resolutions That Will Keep Your Home Warm and Happy

January 7, 2013 2:28 am

With the New Year upon us, many people are reminded of their resolutions from the past year. Many resolved to keep up with their home maintenance. How did you do? Was your New Year's resolution to fix those air leaks in the window? If you haven't done it yet, the time is now. The winds of winter are here and that means that it's time to assess your home's insulation situation and save yourself some money while also providing your home with trendy new fashions. If you have never done it before, the first thing you should do to winterize your home is conduct an energy audit.

Hiring a professional energy auditor may seem unnecessary, but turning your home into an energy efficient machine will help you save more money in the long run. The auditor will point out spots of energy waste, poorly insulated areas and air leaks, and other places that are the main causes of higher-than-usual utility bills during the winter months. Once the auditor has pointed out the areas that need home improvement, it's time to go about winterizing those areas to save as much money as possible.

The term "winterize" is used in professional inspection services to refer to houses that are going to be vacant during the winter. However, there are ways to prepare (winterize) your home while living in it, which effectively protects it from the damaging effects of the harsh weather. Consider these tips for helping you make it through the winter in a comfortable and cozy fashion.

Improve insulation.
Poor insulation can cost you money on your utility bill year round, but especially during the winter when your cozy warm air is seeping through different leaks. If your home is not well-insulated, you will end up spending more money on gas and electricity trying to keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer. This makes insulation improvements a top priority on your New Year's to-do-list for home repair and maintenance.
-Insulate all piping exteriorly exposed.
-Insulate your hot water tank with an insulation blanket.

Doors
-Install weatherstripping.
-Use a door sweep for extra insulation.
-Like storm windows, storm doors can help you save money by eliminating air leaks in this area.

Windows
-Find air leaks and seal them with caulking.
-Consider installing storm windows.
-Insulate your windows and save money in the New Year with eco-friendly shades that can also help keep you warm during the winter. The use of custom window coverings can help your home keep the heat in when the winds are blowing.

Roofing
-Replace missing or damaged shingles.
-Clean gutters and downspouts.
-Check flashing around chimneys and other roof protrusions. Air often leaks around these areas.

Outdoor landscape
-Cover furniture and external air conditioners.
-If your deck needs it, seal it before the wet winter ruins it completely.
-Drain gas from lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other outdoor equipment.
-Drain water from fountains.
-Purge sprinkler systems by shutting off water and blowing compressed air through the system.

Preparing your home for winter doesn't have to mean locking yourself up in an igloo for four months! You can prepare your home for winter by redecorating your interior to match the seasonal trends and to add a new level of comfort and coziness to your humble abode.

Source: Budget Blinds

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Freshen Up Your Home, Naturally

January 3, 2013 2:24 am

(Family Features) Homes trap all kinds of smells — last night’s salmon dinner, dirty gym clothes in the laundry basket, the cat’s litter box and more. When it comes to ensuring the home looks, feels and smells clean, 64 percent of homeowners have even gone to extreme measures to rid their homes of pungent odors, such as replacing a rug or carpet (34 percent), purchasing a new trash can (26 percent) or replacing a couch or another piece of furniture (17 percent), according to a recent survey.

But if you’ve become accustomed to the scents of your own home, how can you really know if it’s odor free? Healthy living expert, building biologist and author Lisa Beres shares these simple solutions to naturally create and maintain a fresh home:

Kitchen refrigerator: Remove foul odors and stains from leftovers in the fridge by cleaning the drawers and shelves with a homemade cleaning solution. Simply add a few drops of natural dish soap to a bowl of baking soda and stir until it creates a thick paste. Also, store an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to help eliminate odors before they start. Replace it with a fresh box at least every three months.

Candles and air fresheners: Store-bought air fresheners can contain synthetic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which can irritate eyes, skin and throats, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, create your own air freshener by combining 10 drops of an essential oil — such as lavender or eucalyptus — with two cups of water.

Pests and repellants: Pesky ants and other insects can make their way into your kitchen pantry when they’re on a mission to find food, but dousing them and your kitchen’s surfaces in toxic repellent isn’t a healthy solution for the home or the family. Instead, set a line of coffee grounds, lemon juice, cinnamon or cayenne pepper around doors and windows to create an effective barrier they won’t cross.

Cooking: Help prevent unappealing cooking odors, such as fish, from spreading and lingering throughout the home by upgrading to an odor reduction filter. It helps remove odors and gases from the air passing through the filter and helps keep the home fresh for families and houseguests. Synthetic air fresheners, candles and incense only provide temporary relief from odors by masking them in one particular room but will do nothing to remove the odors from the entire home.

Damp towels: Wet towels from a shower, a trip to the gym or a day at the pool can be a breeding ground for mildew to develop if they sit too long without drying. To rid towels of the mildew smell, first wash them once in hot water with a cup or two of white vinegar. Then wash them again with a natural or eco-friendly laundry detergent. Finally, dry the towels in the dryer on high heat. To avoid mildew and associated smells in the future, hang towels up right away to ensure they dry thoroughly.

Source: www.Filtrete.com

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Achieve Weight Loss Resolutions with Realistic Goals and Sound Nutrition Advice

January 3, 2013 2:24 am

Millions of Americans resolve to lose weight and eat healthfully at the beginning of each year, but resolutions are notoriously broken. Registered dietitians weight in on why resolutions fail and how to best set yourself up for success in 2013.

"It may be tempting to focus on losing weight fast, leading many to turn to dangerous fad diets and crash diets," said registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Angela Ginn. "However, research shows that slow, healthy weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes."

While you should consult a physician before adopting an exercise plan, primary care physicians identify nutrition experts such as registered dietitians as the most qualified providers to care for obese patients, according to a recent study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Forget about fad diets and work with a registered dietitian to get back to the basics with realistic and personal goals for eating smarter and moving more.

Be realistic. Be specific.
"Expecting to hit the gym for 4 hours every day or to stick to a super restrictive fad diet is overwhelming for your body, mind and schedule," Ginn said. "Instead, choose smaller, healthy changes you can stick to over the long term, such as taking a walk during your lunch break or adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate each meal."

One large goal can seem overwhelming, so set yourself up for success with realistic goals, and divide large, vague goals into smaller, more specific goals. For instance, rather than saying "I will eat better," break this into specific goals like "I will eat one more piece of fruit per day," and "I will choose whole grains more often."

Goals should be challenging but also reachable. Consult a registered dietitian to build a plan with goals that work for your unique nutritional needs and fit with your lifestyle. Also, make sure the goals you set are measurable so you can track your progress. For instance, choose goals in terms of "how much?" or "how many?" so you can easily review and track your progress, as well as reward yourself. These smaller goals will help keep you from getting discouraged because you can see results more quickly.

Build a support network.
Enlist family and friends to try new healthy recipes with you or to be your workout buddy. Having a support network can help you focus on positive results rather than temptations, and motivate you to stick with your plan.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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Ten Ways to Save Money and Energy This Winter

January 3, 2013 2:24 am

Winter is finally here! Just in time for the New Year, here are some new ways you can save money and energy this season.

• Keep your thermostat at the lowest comfortable setting. Every degree above 68 can add three percent to the heating bill.
• Keep heating vents and registers clear. Make sure they are not blocked by draperies or furniture. Vents should also be cleaned regularly with a vacuum or broom.
• Caulk, re-caulk or add weatherstripping around windows and doors. This helps keep the cold out and the heat in. If caulking or weather stripping is cracked, remove it and reseal with new materials.
• Let the sun shine in. On sunny days, open drapes or blinds to allow natural solar heat to warm the house.
• Change air filters. Dirty filters can increase heating system operating costs. Change filters every month or so to help the unit run properly.
• Wrap water pipes. This will reduce heat loss from hot water lines and help to prevent pipes from freezing.
• Dress warmly, even indoors. This will allow a lower thermostat setting without sacrificing comfort.
• Make sure fireplace dampers fit tightly, and keep them closed when not using the fireplace. Add a glass fireplace screen, if possible.
• Have your heating system professionally checked to make sure it's running properly. This can prolong the life of the system, as well as reduce operating costs.
• Remove window air conditioning units during winter months.

Source: Georgia Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Keeping Your New Home Environmentally Sound

January 2, 2013 2:22 am

While the focus is often on redecorating and buying new furniture when moving into your new home, there are several steps you should take to ensure your home’s environment is safe and comfortable, in addition to aesthetically pleasing.

According to contractor Danny Lipford and Honeywell Home Environment, the following simple strategies will protect your home and its occupants for years to come…and save you money in the process.
  • Choosing the Right Supplies. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful gases that can be emitted by some paints, solvents, cleaners, adhesives, furniture, and shelving. Try to find products with low or no VOC levels. When using products that contain high levels of VOCs, open windows or, better yet, turn on an air purifier that has a VOC pre-filter to help remove VOCs from the air that passes through the unit.
  • Pay Attention to the Temperature. Set back your thermostat about 10 degrees when you’re away from home for eight hours or more. You could shave as much as 10 percent off your energy bill without sacrificing comfort. Many of today’s thermostats can be programmed to adjust during the day and at night while you’re sleeping. When you are at home, try turning down the thermostat a few degrees and use a portable heater in the rooms you are in the most.
  • Watch Humidity Levels. A too-dry environment is not only bad for your family’s health, but for your home itself. Humidifiers offer solutions during dry winter months or in dry climates to help protect valuable wood furniture from drying out and cracking and prevent wood floors from buckling and separating.
  • Fight Dust. Pollutants like dust and mold that settle in the home can be attributed to poor air circulation. A whole room fan should be used to ventilate the home properly. Look for models that have a wide ventilation range and are also quiet.

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Best Cities for Wedded Bliss

January 2, 2013 2:22 am

A recent survey from Rent.com revealed some interesting facts about newlyweds, polling couples about combining households and their attitudes toward finances and quality of engaged and married life.

According to the survey, 75 percent of all respondents said that their overall quality of life has improved since moving in with their significant other. For the 25 percent of respondents that found living with their significant other to be stressful, the key areas of stress were not having their own space (42 percent), sharing household expenses (33 percent), and splitting up household chores (25 percent).

Finances are often a point of contention with couples, married or not. The good news is that 62 percent of respondents report that their financial situation has gotten better as a result of moving in with their significant other.

In addition to measuring couples’ attitudes, Rent.com also researched cities across the country, looking at cost of living, mean annual income, the unemployment rate, and rental inventory to identify 10 ideal cities for newlyweds. The website considers these locales both fun and affordable:
  • Austin, Tex. – Austin is the perfect home to inspire creative couples. A thriving art scene is a great way to experience unique date nights and meet other couples.
  • Raleigh/Durham, N.C . – Young professionals and new families are drawn to Raleigh for its affordability, friendliness, and favorable climate. Livable residential neighborhoods with the cultural benefits of a larger city make Raleigh/Durham the perfect place to settle down.
  • Dallas, Tex. – If you’re looking for a sports town, Dallas is the perfect new home. From watching professional sports to getting outdoors and playing yourself, active couples will never experience a dull moment in Dallas.
  • Kansas City, Mo. – Living in Kansas City offers a dynamic blend of affordability and high culture, combining both a renaissance of the arts and the warmth of a small town.
  • Houston, Tex. – One of the most culturally-rich cities in the nation, Houston offers everything from world-class museums to local farmers’ markets. Houston is great for both couples and new families, and boasts a thriving culinary scene.
  • Denver, Colo. – From craft beer culture to day trips to the Rocky Mountains, Denver is the city for adventurous newlyweds.
  • Minneapolis, Minn. – As the American Fitness Index’s “Fittest City in America,” Minneapolis is the most bike-friendly city in the nation. From lakes to parks, newlyweds will stay fit and active in Minneapolis.
  • Phoenix, Ariz. – Phoenix offers perpetual sunshine and colorful deserts for hiking and exploring. If outdoor adventures don’t suit your lifestyle, the city is also known to be a haven for foodies and families.
  • Washington, DC – A central location with a wide variety of job opportunities, Washington, DC offers something for everyone – shopping, entertainment, and cultural activities. It’s truly the city of compromise for opposites that attract.
  • Baltimore, Md. – A modern cultural center known for its hospitality, Baltimore offers a vibrant waterfront scene coupled with a laidback attitude. This city is perfect for couples looking for the comfort of a smaller hometown with the benefits of urban living.
Source: Rent.com

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10 Tips for Refinishing Your Hardwood Floors

January 2, 2013 2:22 am

Gleaming hardwood floors have long been a valuable component of any home. They are susceptible to wear and tear, however, so maintaining and refinishing when necessary is a must. The process doesn’t have to be as daunting or costly as it seems, however. Let the following steps be your guide:

Step 1 - Determine if Your Floor Needs Refinishing
Refinishing hardwood floors is often a better choice than simply replacing the flooring, because it costs less and takes less time. In some cases though, a floor might be damaged beyond repair. Consult a professional to determine whether to opt for a hardwood floor refinishing technique or new flooring.

Step 2 - Determine if Some of the Floor Planks Need Replacing
Sometimes 90 percent of the floor might be in good shape and only a few planks are in need of repair. Be sure to replace those boards before beginning the refinishing process. Since most planks will be connected using a groove-tongue joint, it will be slightly difficult to get one out, but it's not impossible.

Step 3 - Filling the Gaps
It's considered good practice to fill in the gaps at the ends of the floor planks before sanding, but you shouldn't waste time with every little crack. They're unavoidable, as wood tends to expand and contract due to humidity. Unless the gap is big enough that you think it might create problems during the hardwood floor refinishing process, feel free to skip it and save some time and energy.

Step 4 - Getting the Right Equipment
Some of the equipment you'll need for refinishing your floor will need to be bought or rented: sand paper (different weights); a drum sander; a palm sander; an edge sander; claw hammer; a vacuum cleaner; a buffer; a scraper; a brush; safety goggles; a dust mask; protection gloves; and knee pads.

Step 5 - Preparation
Since it usually gets quite messy when you refinish hardwood floors, a little preparation goes a long way. Make sure you turn off all vents that might take dust and sand particles across the house and only use ventilation that connects the room to the outside. It's also a good idea to use some wet sheets across entrances to the room you're working on for the same reasons.

Step 6 - Sanding
Sanding is probably the most important part of the process and you need to put all focus into it if you want your floor to look great at the end.

Step 7 - Cleaning
Use a broom and the vacuum to pick up the dust from the floor; never use any moisture to clean the floor. You'll also have to clean the walls and ceiling.

Step 8 - Buffing

Make sure the floor is clean before you start buffing it. You'll want to choose a screen for the buffer at the rental or hardware store that's around 100 grit, then carefully sweep it across the entire floor.

Step 9 - Staining
Staining is one of the last steps you'll have to take, but it's also the step where many make mistakes. Take extra care and time for this part of the process.

Step 10 - Finishing

If you're sloppy with finishing, all your work thus far is for naught. Take your time with this final step to achieve the best results for your floor.

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Keep Children Safe at Home

December 31, 2012 2:18 am

While some safety measures around the house are routine, there are some potential hazards that could be dangerous for young children. According to information provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, since 1990, more than 200 infants and young children have died from accidentally strangling in window cords. With this in mind, here are a few tips provided by the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) reminding parents to practice window cord safety and to make safety a priority in the home:

• Install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children. Replace window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with today's safer products.
• Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
• Make sure cribs are properly assembled and meet current safety standards, and that crib mattresses fit snugly.
• Keep all window pull cords and inner lift cords out of the reach of children. Make sure that tasseled pull cords are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall. Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of inner lift cords.
• Lock cords into position whenever horizontal blinds or shades are lowered, including when they come to rest on a windowsill.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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