Phantom LoadsMost common household appliances are equipped with an on/off switch. Many people don’t realize, however, that these appliances may still be consuming electricity even when they are switched off.

These so-called “phantom loads” can consume a significant amount of electricity. If you are interested in reducing your energy costs, it is important to know about these phantom loads and energy saving.

Devices that create phantom loads can sometimes be recognized because of clocks or lights that continue to operate after the appliance is turned off. VCRs, stereo systems, microwave ovens and stoves are often equipped with timers that run 24 hours a day.

Any device that can be operated with a remote-control is also consuming power around the clock. It has to stay in a ready state in order to be switched on by the remote control. The ready state consumes less electricity than when the device is “on”, but over a 24-hour period the energy consumption can be substantial.

Other phantom loads include DC converters or “wall warts” that are used with many small appliances like modems, cordless phones, and recharging devices.

You may be saying to yourself that the amount of power that these things use is insignificant. In actual fact, phantom loads account for 6% of the total amount of energy used in the United States. This is the equivalent of the power produced by nine nuclear power plants.

How do you reduce phantom power? The easiest way is to plug these devices into switchable six way outlets. When you turn off the TV or the stereo, also turn off the power supply to the outlet.

Using switchable outlets is especially important for DC converters. These devices run at 60 to 80% efficiency which means that even when they are being used, they only provide six cents to eight cents of electricity for every ten cents that you spend.

If this seems like a lot of trouble, consider the fact that you will be saving an average of 6% on your electricity bills. If your average annual bill is $1500, which means you can save $90 a year by eliminating phantom loads.

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Amish Dining FurnitureThe most vital and yet the most ignored piece of furniture in your home is perhaps the dining room furniture. People tend to overlook the fact that your dining room furniture is responsible for creating correct ambience for the eating ritual of your family.

Not only your family, your guest can also feel uncomfortable dining at your place with unsuitable piece of furniture in the dining room. If the guests are evading having lunch in your house or the appetite of some family member is on the wane, perhaps it is time to get your dining room furniture in order.

The most important piece of furniture is the dining table itself. Your dining table should not only emit positive vibes for the hunger pangs, it should also reflect some sense of class associated with your social status.

And needless to say, the chairs accompanying the table must be comfortable for at least half an hour of continuous dining session. The proportionate height of the table and chairs must be comfortable enough for a normal built person to enjoy the food without any unease.

The type of furniture used for your dining room also plays a pivotal role in enhancing the overall appeal of your dining room. Sturdy Amish made furniture in the form of elegant dining tables and chairs could be your ideal choice.

The Amish dining furniture is a specimen of the skilled craftsmanship of Amish artisans. The durability of Amish furniture is its hallmark and an intrinsic feature required for dining room furniture. It lends comfort and style to your dining room.

The texture and content of the Amish dining room furniture makes it popular in this segment. Additionally, the variety available with wholesale Amish furniture dealers will make your job of selecting the appropriate furniture for your dining room a lot easier. Dining tables come in all hues and shapes – simple, fluted, trestle, square, double pedestal, single pedestal etc.

The dining table is not the be all and end all as far as dining room furniture is concerned. In fact, dining room is never complete without the accompanying and equally charming furniture articles. The barstools, cabinets, sideboards and buffets are also important pieces of dining room furniture that cannot be ignored.

The architecture of the dining room as well as the furniture used in it should help in curbing the flow of pollutants in the room. Pollutants make for unpleasant and unhealthy dining experience. It should also be borne in mind that the finishing of dining room furniture articles is such that it is completely bereft of any toxic elements used in its touching-up.

Due to the immense importance attached to dining room furniture, it is available at all kinds of prices. Depending on the quality, prices vary. It’s always better to make a thorough market research before finally settling for the furniture of your choice.

Internet, yellow pages, friendly contacts etc. all come in handy when you are researching the market for the best buy. Certain other factors, like warranty, maintenance, repairs, home delivery etc, should also weigh in your market research prominently.

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When you think about building your new home consider your needs and your lifestyle. If you are newlyweds your choices will be different from a couple who is ready to retire and is looking for a smaller home. The lot may affect the type of house and its placement.

If your lifestyle is such that you plan to entertain frequently, you might want to consider including a formal dining and living area that is separated from the family’s living area. If you just plan on having a couple of friends over for a dinner and conversation, then you might want to eliminate the formal dining area and create a simple dining area that can be used by your family and your guests.

Is your lot large enough to allow you to build your house and still be able to expand in the future? Will you need an extra room for guests or extra living space for aging parents or future additions to your family? It is imperative that you keep all of these possible concerns as you choose your lot and your house plan.

When choosing a house plan you will want to keep your privacy needs in mind. If you work from home, you will want privacy, space away from the main activity of the home so that you can work effectively.

You could have a workroom or a hobby room where you and your family can gather together. The placement of your windows could also affect your privacy. You certainly don’t want your neighbors to be able to peer in at you. Window treatments and privacy hedges or fences if appropriate will alleviate some those concerns.

Now that you have an idea of what your house might look like, it’s time to think about the lot. I am sure you have a really good idea of what you want your new home to look like but if it doesn’t fit on the lot you will have a serious problem. It is recommended that you purchase your lot before you look at plans for your home.

Some other things that you will need to consider are whether or not there is bedrock under the soil. Bedrock and clays will make excavation for the foundation difficult.

Pay attention to the weather and your house. Will your windows be placed for maximum exposure to morning and evening sun? The sun and wind can affect heating and/or air conditioning costs depending in which direction the slope is facing. Check the surrounding rivers and streams as related to your lot. If they overflow, how will it affect your property?

If you live in the flood plains be sure to find out if you can get flood insurance. If not, you may want to reconsider the place where you will build your home. Check the site for ditches or drainage issues.

Soil drainage can be another serious problem as it can cause water seepage into the foundation. This can cause structural issues such as cracks and holes in the foundation.

The type of soil could also affect the foundation. Some clay soils, shrink when dry and expand when wet. This could cause cracks and make it difficult to maintain a dry basement.

Finally, check your zoning laws to be sure the type of house you want to build is within their specifications. If expansion is permissible and how much you will actually be able to do. The zoning commission also governs the placement of your home on the site. You want to keep well within their regulations.

Look at lots on which to build your new home. Check out the landscaping. Does the soil allow for proper drainage? Will you be able to plant privacy hedges or put up a privacy fence? How and where does the sun hit the lot?

If you want maximum light exposure you may want to place your house to get that. The type of house you want to build could affect where on the lot your house will sit. The size of the lot will affect the type of house that you will be put on it.

Also check out the neighborhood where you want to build your home, does the style you have chosen mesh with others in the area. Will the house fit on the lot? Will the soil support the foundation? Get organized.

Keep any and all information about your plans, your lot, and anything regarding your home in one place. Always check with the zoning board regarding your plans. You have many decisions to make. Good luck!

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Well designed and installed landscaping ads considerable value to your home (14 – 17 percent), allowing you a return on your investment of 100 to 200 percent. Choosing the right contractor can determine the success or failure of this important investment. The following guidelines should be used when evaluating choices for your landscape installation.

Determine the scope of the project, and which services you’ll expect from the contractor – install plant material, build decks and patio, install retaining walls, install irrigation systems and night lighting are some of the services provided by landscape contractors. You may wish to work on some of these projects yourself…is your contractor agreeable to this?

Thoroughly investigate the company – how long has it been in business? What levels of expertise and education do the employees have? Ask for recent references and check these out, visit the jobs. Many states require licensing…inquire about this and other types of certification.

Insurance is a big concern….the nature of much of landscaping work requires comprehensive insurance – both liability and worker’s compensation – ask for proof of insurance. Is the company affiliated with local or national trade organizations? This *may* indicate a high level of professionalism and quality.

What about the little guy, just starting out? So many understanding people gave a scruffy looking young man in an old pickup a chance! So you can sometimes find a conscientious young person to provide services at reasonable cost.

The main thing is to check references, discuss the project thoroughly and insist on a written contract. If a prospect is enthusiastic and seems to really love the work, you may be on the right path.

Also ask about guarantees…will the landscaper or nursery stand behind a guarantee on plant material? What about hardscape items…if the retaining wall caves in, will it be replaced at no cost? How long is the guarantee in place? A recent trend, especially on larger commercial jobs, is to require the landscaping company to maintain the project for the first year. This way, any serious installation mistakes can be dealt with in a timely manner.

If the installation company will be providing some or all of the maintenance, ask for the maintenance schedule. Basic lawn maintenance should include weekly mowing, seasonal fertilization, weed control if desired and aeration or dethatching services. Ask which chemicals, if any, will be used on your property, and require the contractor to provide the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for each.

Landscaping is a relatively large investment and involves a lot of hard work. If you will be contracting some or all of your landscape installation, take the time to evaluate all the possibilities. If you find someone with excellent references and good looking projects who is enthusiastic about the work, you have a good prospect.

Remember to…plan twice – plant once

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