Easy Ways to Protect Your Home’s Exterior

exterior(BPT) – When considering home improvements, people often picture costly, time-intensive endeavors. But enhancing and protecting your home this season can be enjoyable – and deliver plenty of bang for your buck. One of the fastest, easiest ways to dramatize your home’s exterior is to install vibrantly colored window headers and matching shutters.

In fact, shutters decorate the sides and back of the home exterior too, not just curbside. With the emergence of outdoor living and gathering in yards, elegant window decor creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Popular craftsman-style Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers are both available from Mid-America Siding Components from The Tapco Group. For functional, professionally installed shutters, select a design from Wood-Composite Premium Atlantic Architectural, Classic, ProSeries, and Storm-Rated Collections. For purely decorative, ultra-low-maintenance, choose Mid-America Exterior Vinyl Shutters, which never fade or crack. These shutters offer endless, enduring possibilities, including custom Board-N-Batten and Panel-Louver combinations to shutters for double-wide, arched and long narrow windows.

Trend-wise, board-and-batten shutters are on the move, while raised-panel shutters are the most sought-after. Black is ever-popular for shutters and headers, and neutral colors are holding their own. But the trend toward richer tones is growing. Lush forest greens, autumn reds and deep blues are gracing more homes, creating attention-grabbing contrasts between shutters and siding. For the main entryway, understated white or cream door surrounds complement richly-toned shutters.

“Shutters and matching window headers are the easiest way to upgrade your home if you don’t want a massive undertaking and want the biggest impact for your investment,” says Trisha Anderson, product manager of Mid-America. “Shutter and header colors change everything by enhancing the tone of your whole home. You’ll gain more satisfaction from rich-colored matching shutters and headers than from virtually any other exterior home improvement.”

Decorative hardware on shutters is another easy, economical way to upgrade exteriors. Yet this fine detail often gets overlooked. Beautifully crafted, historically accurate Atlantic hardware, including elegant pintel and hinge combinations, make functional shutters pop on homes, adding dimension and drawing attention. Artful, refined Mid-America hardware, including charming hinges and spindle-hooks, can make vinyl shutters indistinguishable from functional shutters, boosting curb appeal.

During new construction or exterior remodeling, SturdiMount fiber cement mounting blocks offer a simple, affordable way to enrich architectural beauty and provide water management capabilities that prevent costly damage to fiber cement, stucco and wood siding. “SturdiMount is an innovative solution for mitigating water in fiber cement cladding. It’s an essential detail that protects home investments long-term, enhances aesthetics, is easily installed, and saves contractors time,” says Anderson.

Designed with a robust, built-in flange, SturdiMount offers four distinct profiles, which professionals can install right out-of-the-box for exterior finishing touches that cover every need. The solid, level, crack-proof surface makes it easy to mount decor, such as coach-light fixtures, and necessities, including outlets and vents. For seamless aesthetics, SturdiMount blocks can be maintained in original white or spray-painted to color-match exteriors during whole-house paint jobs.

For more information on beautifying your home with shutters and trim, visit TheTapcoGroup.com or call 800-521-8486.

5 Ways to Protect Your Family From CO Poisoning

19400905_original(BPT) – Most homeowners recognize the importance of protecting their homes from fire. They do this by checking the batteries in their smoke alarms, completely extinguishing fires in their fireplaces and keeping flammable materials away from candles or space heaters. However, while fire safety is front and center, many homeowners overlook the ways they can protect their families from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

And that’s a mistake no homeowner can afford to make.

Census data shows most homes in the U.S. have either fuel-burning appliances or an attached garage, but only approximately half of all homes have a working CO alarm – the only safe way to detect this odorless, colorless and invisible threat. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States; claiming more than 400 lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to accidental CO poisoning annually.

Thankfully, protection can be as simple as applying these five tips.

* Seek professional help. One of the most common causes of CO poisoning is a filthy or inefficient heating system. Poorly maintained chimneys and flues can crack, causing ventilation problems and preventing CO from escaping up the chimney. Likewise, a faulty furnace could also emit CO into the home. Have your chimney or heating system cleaned and serviced by trained technicians annually to eliminate this risk.

* Add or upgrade your carbon monoxide alarm. Your CO alarms is just as important as your home’s smoke alarms, so make sure you have one and that it is working properly. Kidde Worry-Free carbon monoxide alarms have the longest life available in a CO alarm – 10 years – and come in both battery and hardwired power options. Each alarm contains a sealed-in lithium battery that last a decade providing homeowners with peace of mind knowing their alarms are always on. The Worry-Free Combination alarm offers warning of both fire and CO and includes a voice alert to clearly identify the hazard present. It also features a unique smart sensing technology to significantly reduce nuisance alarms.

* Keep the grill and generator outdoors. Using a grill or generator due to a power outage? Put on a jacket and go outside. Never bring the grill indoors or operate it or a generator in a space attached to your home such as a porch, patio or garage. Both can emit high levels of CO, and need plenty of ventilation. Even having the garage door open does not offer enough air flow to reduce CO levels.

* Use your indoor appliances properly. Only use appliances as they are designed by the manufacturer. For instance, never use gas appliances, like your range or oven, to heat in the house. This increases your risk of CO poisoning.

* Know the symptoms. CO symptoms mimic the flu without fever. Since winter is also peak flu season, know the difference. If you or a loved one is feeling confused or dizzy, or if he/she is suffering from headaches, nausea, sleepiness, vomiting or weakness, but has no fever, it may be a case of CO poisoning. Get the victim outside in fresh air and dial 911 immediately.

Carbon monoxide poisons thousands each year, but you can protect yourself and your family by employing the tips above. To learn more about how Kidde alarms can raise your family’s awareness of CO threats, visit www.KnowAboutCO.com.

Enjoy Your Backyard This Summer

Capture(BPT) – In the midst of the winter we love to think of the summer as this idyllic time when we live barefoot under the sky and everything is perfect and beautiful. Then when the summertime comes, we find ourselves complaining about too much sun, being too hot or bugs – and stay inside in the cool AC to avoid them. The good news is you can create a cool, shady and even bug-free spot for yourself, no matter the size of your outdoor space or your wallet.

Natural Tree Shade

Before building a patio or deck canopies, take another look at your yard. Perhaps nature has a solution. If you don’t have a nice tree already, consider planting one. Trees provide natural canopy, especially during the summer when they have the most leaves.

If that is not an option or you want to enjoy shade while your newly planted tree is growing, take a good look at your backyard and think of how and when you want to use the space, which will help you pick the right solution.

Umbrellas

A freestanding umbrella, grouped with a table or a chair, will provide shade for alfresco dining or a morning coffee. Also, a bright umbrella can add a splash of color to your home’s exterior. Most umbrellas can be easily moved, so you can block the hot sun from any direction or stow it away when not in use.

Pergola

For a more traditional and permanent option consider a custom-made pergola. They can provide a real sense of having a room outside that is either open to the sky, air and nature, or fitted with a Somfy automated system of fabric or slats. You can also screen the sides of your pergola for added privacy or insect protection.

Think low maintenance materials such as acrylic trim boards, fiberglass columns and woods such as ipe and redwood. This way you can enjoy your pergola rather than spending time cleaning, scraping and painting it.

Cabana

For a tropical option at a fraction of the cost, go with a cabana that you can pick up at most outdoor furniture stores. Customize your piece with outdoor fabrics in colors or patterns that match the style of your home. Pack it up and store it when the weather turns cold or if you’re expecting a storm.

Retractable Awning

Motorized retractable awnings powered by Somfy are a great adaptable option, which allow you to enjoy the sun or shade, whenever you choose, at a press of a button. Maximize energy savings by having your awning react to the weather or a schedule set by you. Automatic sensors will also protect your awning during high winds or rain by retracting it.

Shade “Sails”

Tension fabric shade sails can be ready-made or custom designed. Select durable material and make sure that the cloth is pitched to allow rainwater to fall off of it. Water that collects in the middle of the cloth sail can stretch the fabric or damage the system. Design it so you can easily take down the fabric canopy and store it for the winter, especially in climates that get ice and snow.

Covered Patio

If you already have a covered patio or are adding one to your home, consider integrated, automated screens to keep the bugs out, and/or to provide additional sun protection. This option gives you a useful space no matter the weather, year round.

Saving Money with Soft Water

Pros of Soft Water(BPT) – For many homeowners the biggest utility bill is electricity. Heating and cooling the home makes up nearly half of electricity costs, but the next biggest source is the water heater. Water heaters can account for up to 25 percent of total household energy use. Taking steps to improve the energy efficiency of a home with better insulation and more efficient furnaces and air conditioners can reduce energy costs significantly, as can making sure water heaters are operating properly.

However, purchasing a high efficiency water heater does little good if the environment in which it operates is not right. The main culprit in reducing the efficiency of water heaters is hard water. Nearly 90 percent of American homes have hard water which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium. These minerals cause scaling, a buildup that clogs waterlines and plumbing forcing appliances to work harder and operate less efficiently. Hard water can reduce the efficiency of water heaters and increase electricity costs by as much as 48 percent according to the Battelle Memorial Institute.

The problem can be particularly severe with electric water heaters. These can accumulate up to 30 pounds of calcium carbonate, a rock-like scale, eventually damaging the heating element which will have to be replaced. The cost of hard water is not higher just because of reduced energy efficiency and higher electric bills; hard water also damages appliances like water heaters, dish washers, shower heads and faucets. These must be repaired and replaced more often as a result.

To determine if you have hard water, look for spots and scale build-up on fixtures. “A less obvious indication is the lack of that luxury feeling of a hot shower you get at a nice hotel,” says Michael Mecca of Performance Water Products. “That feeling is not because of the nice towels and soaps. It’s because nice hotels use soft water not only for their guests’ benefit but also to protect their investments in boilers, piping and fixtures.”

Kitchens benefit from soft water as well because soft water is up to 12 times more effective at cleaning dishes than increasing the amount of detergent used. Researchers also found that for washing machines, the most important factor in removing stains from clothing was water softness. Reduction of water hardness was up to 100 times more effective at stain removal than increasing the detergent dose or washing with hotter water. In fact, soft water can reduce soap use by as much as half.

Many water treatment companies offer free tests to homeowners to measure the degree of hardness in the water and offer appropriate systems that fit. “Hardness in water can vary widely in some parts of the country and pipe size, number of bathrooms, number of people in the house, types of showerheads and intended use all need to be considered for the right system,” says Mecca.

“Wells in particular are susceptible to hard water since municipal water departments often take care of the worst offenders such as iron-manganese-hydrogen sulfide. Even if you get municipal water you likely still have calcium and other hard water deposits and can benefit from a water softener. Systems for well water will cost a little more but it is well worth it,” he adds.

The only way to truly remove the calcium and magnesium from household water systems is with a salt-based water softener. These remove the scaling in the pipes entirely by running the incoming hard water through a resin filter that traps the calcium and magnesium in the water – as well as any iron, manganese or radium ions. It then replaces them with sodium ions.

A salt-based water softener is one home improvement that will not only pay for itself but add value to a home. A properly sized quality water softener appliance can save a homeowner thousands of dollars over its life in reduced soap and detergent costs, electricity, efficiency and extended life for expensive appliances.

Creating an Inviting, Low Maintenance Porch

Capture(BPT) – Your porch should be a warm, welcoming outdoor living space that offers comfort and helps make a house a home. Whether you want to remodel your porch from the ground up, or just give it a refreshing new look and feel, it’s easier than you think to create a perfect porch.

Start with a Kleer deck as enchanting flooring for your remodeled porch, choosing from the rich, nature-inspired color palettes available for the Sierra Series and Coastal Series Decking. Sierra offers deep, solid earth tones with wood grain textures such as Sequoia, plus streaked tropical wood looks, such as Golden Teak. The Coastal Series offers charming Cobblestone and serene Sand Dune hues, which give your porch a relaxing feel reminiscent of a seaside resort.

Framing your porch, like a picture for the world to see, is easy with Kleer Trimboard. Add elegant white or colorfully painted accent trim around the top, bottom and sides of the porch using durable cellular PVC trimboards in a variety of sizes. This trim can even be crafted into ornate gingerbread or curved using heat-bending to make soaring arches. Kleer Mouldings can be readily cut so that you can add eye-catching detail anywhere. Using Kleer Beaded Sheets, you can build a porch ceiling with great warmth and charm. For a picturesque porch, enclose columns in Kleer Post Wraps to protect them from the elements while adding wood’s natural, finished look.

To complete your perfect porch, dress up nearby windows and doors with distinctive touches that complement the look and feel of your outdoor livingporch space. High-impact, budget-friendly ideas include adding Mid-America Siding Components’ richly-colored shutters with matching window headers to enhance your porch’s warmth and curb appeal. The sophisticated Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers pair perfectly with decorative shutters like the classic Open Louver or Old World-style Board-n-Batten.

Another quick, easy upgrade is an inviting door surround in cream, white or another neutral color to enhance porch aesthetics. Adding a door surround is a natural way to create that “welcome home” feeling too.

Designed for easy living, Tapco’s enduring Kleer and Mid-America brand solutions never require painting or wood’s time-intensive upkeep. Whether you want to transform your porch into a cozy gathering spot or grand wrap-around retreat, Tapco’s exterior products can put the perfect low-maintenance outdoor living space within your reach.

Spring: 4 Designer Touches For a Well-Dressed Deck

(BPT) – When spring arrives, will your deck be ready for “primetime?” Or will it still be wearing the shabby remnants of last season’s look? Clunky,spring home improvements view-blocking railings, a rectangular layout and dark stain are so last decade. Before warm weather gets here, consider upgrading your outdoor living space with the trends that every well-dressed deck will be wearing this year.

Cable railing = better views

Whether you’re lucky enough to live on the water or you spend a lot of time keeping your backyard green and blooming, wouldn’t it be great to be able to enjoy the view from your deck? Traditional wooden railings can block your view, and glass can be hard to clean.

More view-seeking homeowners are replacing wooden balusters with Ultra-tec stainless steel cable railings. Do-it-yourself kits from manufacturers like The Cable Connection make it easy to replace old balusters with stainless steel cable, creating a sleek, upscale and view-friendly look. The cable can be used with wood, metal or sleeved posts with a solid core, and you can retrofit any railing with the cable. Whether your deck is made of wood or composite, cable railing works wherever you would install a traditional railing, including the deck perimeter and stairs. Visit www.thecableconnection.com to learn more.

A deck of a different color

Clear sealant for a natural look or subdued rustic hues have long been the colors of choice for decks. This year, expect to see a plethora of fresh colors popping up on decks. While changing the color of a wooden deck from a darker hue to something brighter may be problematic, composite decking manufacturers have branched out into a variety of brighter colors, including whites and light grays. You’ll even see pops of color like greens and blues in designs and inserts set into decking planks.

You can also add color to your deck through plantings. Think outside the planter box – and traditional floral plantings – to mix things up with decorative grasses and leafy foliage that will splash color around your deck throughout the summer.

Mixed media ups interest

Wooden planks, wooden railings, stairs and even furniture – long gone are the days when decks were single-material constructions. Today’s decks are a study in mixed media, incorporating traditional materials like wood, brick and tile with modern elements such as composite planks, cable railings and even ceramic tile.

The amalgam of materials can yield a multitude of patterns, styles and looks. Pair a traditional wood deck with cable railing and stairs that descend to a patio of pavers set in a herringbone pattern. Use heat-resistant ceramic tile to create a decorative and functional cooking area on a composite deck. Varying the materials used in your deck adds visual depth, interest and excitement to your outdoor living space.

On the lighter side

Outdoor lighting isn’t just for the purposes of safety, or to extend the deck’s usability well into the night. Lighting can be a design statement and a powerful decorative element for your deck.

Decorative post caps can add a designer look to railings while also providing ample light for outdoor activities. Inset lights create mood and ensure safe footing on stairs. For a soft, glowing effect, tuck rope lighting beneath upper and lower railings. Don’t forget the beauty of natural light, too; fire pits and chimineas offer up warmth, ambience and gentle light.

With some designer touches, it’s easy to turn your deck from dull to delightful – and ensure your outdoor spaces stay in step with today’s best-dressed decks.

5 Projects to Recreate Your Basement

bsmt(BPT) – Have you ever wished you had more space in your home? Maybe you’d use the space to pursue a hobby, host out-of-town guests or just spread out and get some quiet time to yourself. The space you desire could already be in your home- in your basement. If your cellar is nothing but a series of unfinished areas used for storage, you’re not getting all the benefits you could be from the space.

Making the most of your basement doesn’t have to mean costly contractors and expensive remodeling scenarios. Several easy DIY projects that you can take on alone, with the aid of the right tools, can help you gain that extra space you wish for.

Ready to get started? Give these projects a try:

* Build walls. Adding drywall to your basement has a big impact on the space immediately. Use 2-by-4s to mark where the walls will stand and place studs 16 inches apart. Then nail the panels to the wall where the edges meet the studs and cover the seams with drywall tape. Once the walls are up, mud the seams and areas where nail pops appear. A drywall saw or power saw will help you shape your drywall perfectly, but if you don’t own one, you don’t have to buy one. It’s more cost efficient to simply rent it instead for this one-time project. Your local American Rental Association member rental store will have what you need. Don’t forget to add drywall stands to your rental list.

* A touch of paint. A fresh coat of paint means you won’t have to stare at those drab walls in your new space. You can paint the space by hand, but if you have a large basement and you want to give every room that professional look, rent a paint sprayer instead. The cost is worth the time saved.

* Freshen up your floor. If your basement is completely unfinished, you probably have cold, concrete floors. How you improve them is up to you. Ifbsmt 2 you want the polished, marbled look, consider renting concrete floor finishing equipment for a look that’s sure to amaze. And if the appearance of hardwood is more your style, laminate flooring panels are inexpensive and easy to install. Lastly, if you want the feel of carpet beneath your feet, don’t forget to add the pad first to make those future steps a pleasure.

* Eliminate the stink. Your new basement is coming together, now what can you do about that musty basement smell? A dehumidifier can help. You can purchase one at your local home goods store and when you get it home, try to place it near the washtub sink if your basement has one. This will allow you to drain right into the sink and save you from having to empty the dehumidifier regularly.

* Install a sump pump. Now that you’ve refinished your basement, don’t let water damage ruin all your hard work. A sump pump can protect against flooding issues and installing one is easy. Most new homes have a location marked for a sump pump; it will look like a small well. Follow the water pipes in your home and you can find it. Once you do, purchase a sump pump from your local home goods store and follow the easy instructions to install in less than an hour.

The extra space you have dreamed of has been with you all along. Transform your basement from barren to beautiful and you’ll be creating a space you can enjoy for years to come. To learn more about renting the tools you need for your home improvement projects, visit RentalHQ.com.

How to Stop Pet Stains from Straining Your Family Events

carpet(BPT) – While there is no doubt that pet owners love their furry friends, it’s fair to say that dogs and cats can easily take over the home. Whether you’re dealing with a sick cat or attempting puppy potty training, you can quickly find yourself in a bacteria breeding ground.

Eighty percent of pet owners admit to masking stains instead of remedying them, according to a new survey from Woolite(R) Carpet & Upholstery. This includes flipping cushions, rearranging furniture, covering furniture, entertaining guests and visitors in other parts of the home and dimming the lights.

But you don’t have to hide stains. With a few easy steps, you can provide a clean and healthier home for the entire family:

* Set boundaries: Pets function best when they have consistent access to specific rooms. Rather than changing the “allowed” areas from day to day, determine which rooms are “pet-friendly” and stick to them. Close doors and set up pet gates to make sure boundaries are clear. It’s wise to have at least one pet-free room in case guests are affected by pet allergies.

* Wipe paws: For pets that go outside, it’s handy to have a towel by the door to wipe paws all year round. Not only does this cut down on tracking outside dirt and debris in the home, but it’s also important to reduce the amount of moisture sitting in a dog or cat’s paw.

* Sanitize pet messes: While many household cleaners reduce the visible signs of pet messes (including vomit, feces, urine and blood), they don’t always sanitize the affected area. Woolite(R) Advanced Pet Stain & Odor Remover + Sanitize kills 99.9 percent of Enterobacter aerogenes (ATCC 13408) and Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC 6538) (Staph) on carpets (not for use on Polypropylene/olefin or wood fibers) and soft surfaces, and eliminates tough pet odors for a cleaner, fresher home.

* Brush pets regularly: To reduce the amount of pet hair on your floors and furniture, it’s important to brush pets regularly. Try to make it a daily chore and do it outside if possible.

* Use specific linens: Assign linens for cleaning up pet messes and then only use them for that purpose. The same goes for towels and linens that are used in pet kennels or to shield furniture from pet hair.

* Clean with frequency: While it seems like common sense, it’s easy to push off cleaning tasks that don’t seem urgent. Include the entire family by assigning pet cleanup duties to everyone. One person can even take the pet for a walk or distract him while the others are completing chores. Items that should be cleaned on a weekly or biweekly basis include food dishes, pet beds and toys.

* Don’t neglect the yard: Make a habit of picking up after your dog on a daily basis and guests won’t have to tip toe around your yard. Dog owners who dread yard pickup can pay for a service that will do so on a weekly basis.

Owning a pet doesn’t mean the clean state of a home needs to be sacrificed. By keeping up with these tips, you will be able to spend more quality time playing with your pet.

Turn Kitchen Time into Quality Time: Three Upgrades

kitchen(BPT) – The average American spends an hour a day in the kitchen preparing food and cleaning up afterward, according to the American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add in the time it takes to put groceries away, load and unload dishwashers, organize cabinets and pantries or just hang out, and you spend a whole lot of time in your kitchen.

But do you really enjoy that time? Whether cooking is your favorite activity or you would rather clean the bathroom, the livability and usability of your kitchen can directly affect how you feel about the time you spend there.

If you’re considering a kitchen renovation – among the most popular and profitable of all home improvements – keep in mind the value of upgrades that will enhance the efficiency, practicality and beauty of the space. This type of improvement will not only pay off at the time of resale, but can improve the time you spend in your kitchen.

Here are three key kitchen upgrades that can elevate the appeal and usability of your kitchen:

Improved Natural Lighting and Ventilation

The positive effects of natural lighting on mood are well documented. If your kitchen is small and dark, it can feel dingy and tired, no matter how new your appliances or shiny your granite countertops. Consider adding natural light sources such as skylights and roof windows. Not only can these natural light sources improve the feel of your kitchen, they can decrease the need for artificial lighting.

What’s more, if you opt for an Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh air skylight, like those made by Velux, you can improve your kitchen’sbath ventilation as well. These skylights create a chimney effect that passively vents fumes, odor, humidity and cooking smoke from the kitchen without the need for a noisy, less efficient exhaust fan. Adding energy efficient solar blinds can allow you to control the amount of sunlight that enters your kitchen, closing the blinds to keep the room cooler in summer and opening them to admit more warming light in winter. Operated by remote control, solar skylights and blinds, as well as the installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. Visit www.veluxusa.com to learn more.

Upgraded Fixtures

Sinks and faucets are functional essentials for a kitchen, but they can – and should – also make a design statement. Replacing a basic, dated faucet and swapping out an older sink can have a significant impact on the overall look and utility of a kitchen – for a fraction of the cost of grander renovations.

It’s possible to find new sinks that fit virtually any design taste. Stainless steel provides a sleek, modern look while delivering outstanding durability. Apron sinks, which come in a variety of materials, blend well with a rustic design theme. Undermount and integrated sinks eliminate unsightly edges on countertops. You can also find a variety of basin styles in virtually every material, from single to double basins and prep sinks.

Whatever sink you choose, be sure to accent it with a high-tech faucet. Pull-down faucets make cleaning and filling pots a breeze, while touch-free faucets allow you to turn the flow of water off and on without ever touching the faucet itself – thereby avoiding the spread of germs. A vast array of colors, styles and handle types ensure you can find an upscale faucet that improves usability and looks great in your kitchen.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

Appliances are a kitchen element well worth a little extra investment. Considering how much the average American family uses their refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and stove, improving the usability and efficiency of these appliances can both elevate your enjoyment of the kitchen and save you some money in the long run.

In the typical American home, appliances represent 13 percent of the household’s total energy consumption, according to the Department of Energy. Replacing older appliances with newer, more energy-efficient models can reduce your energy costs. For example, replacing an older refrigerator with an Energy Star certified appliance could reduce your energy costs as much as $300 over the lifetime of the refrigerator, according to the Department of Energy.

What’s more, newer appliances offer many of the high-tech features that make life in the kitchen easier, from touchscreen interfaces and temperature controls on dishwashers to Wi-Fi enabled refrigerators. For more kitchen ideas visit www.houzz.com.

Simple Steps Can Keep You and Your Family Healthy

20811762(BPT) – Pay attention to the news headlines and you may be wondering if you and your loved ones are safe from unseen perils like germs, bacteria and viruses – even in your home. There are things you can do to protect your health but it’s also good to know where germs linger. Some of their hangouts may surprise you.

According to WebMD, there are likely more germs in your kitchen sink than in your toilet. You’re probably using a bowl cleaner to disinfect your toilets, but is the kitchen sink getting equal treatment?

Your salt and pepper shakers dispense salt and pepper, but they also dispense cold viruses and other nastiness. A University of Virginia study tested the salt and pepper shakers of 30 adults who were showing signs of a cold, and every one of those shakers tested positive for the cold virus.

Now add your TV remote (also the dirtiest thing in your hotel room), your toothbrush, your computer keyboard and mouse, and your bathtub, and you have a good list of the dirtiest places in your home. And your floors? According to University of Arizona researcher Charles P. Gerba, PhD, they can have up to 4,000 times more germs than a toilet seat.

So, what can you do to reduce your risk of exposure to germs? Here are a few ideas to help reduce the risks and keep everyone healthy.

* Wash your hands. Your hands come into contact with each of the surfaces mentioned above and they can move viruses and bacteria to your nose, eyes and mouth. This means it’s important to keep them clean. It may seem like a long time to be washing them, but the 20-second rule is for real. Hand sanitizers are useful but not a substitute for good hand washing.

* Sanitize commonly used items. Remember the germs on that salt and pepper shaker? Wiping them off is very beneficial, as is more frequent cleaning of the kitchen sink. And for a deeper clean, consider using products that use UV-C light to kill germs, bacteria and viruses on surfaces. Verilux offers several sanitization tools that use UV-C light to kill up to 99.9 percent of these undesirables – quickly and easily – without chemicals. The 21-inch CleanWave Sanitizing Wand, for example, can be passed an inch above the area you wish to sanitize, be it the keyboard, the remote or those salt and pepper shakers.

“UV-C is a type of ultra-violet light with a shorter wavelength than visible light,” says Verilux President Nicholas Harmon. “The light penetrates a microorganism’s cell membrane and damages its DNA. This prevents growth and kills the organism. These products are the ideal chemical-free cleaning solutions for people who are concerned about their environment, particularly in light of recent headlines.”

* Cough smart. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is just a good habit. But doing so with your hands is a bad health habit. Next time you feel the urge to cough or sneeze, use the bend of your elbow instead. This will keep germs from transferring to your hands.

* Keep the carpets clean. Millions of allergens and germs camp in the carpets and floors of your home. Evict them with the CleanWave Bagless Vacuum and its portable version, the CleanWave Portable Vacuum. These devices use UV-C light to kill germs, viruses and bacteria, as well as microscopic pests like dust mites and flea eggs. You can use the portable vacuum to kill bed bugs before they hatch on mattresses.

* Avoid close contact. You don’t want to be anti-social but a little separation this time of year can be beneficial to your health. Avoid sharing items such as water bottles, glasses or food with others, and don’t be afraid to sit a seat apart whenever you can. You’ll be healthier in the long run for doing so.

Germs and allergens are part of everyday life, but that doesn’t mean they should be able to dominate yours. Keeping your home clean and practicing good health habits can reduce your risk of getting ill and keep you and your family healthy and happy. To learn more about the products available from Verilux, visit www.Verilux.com.