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5 ways to trim home energy bills

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(Family Features) After the mortgage, utility costs, including electricity, likely make up one of the most significant portions of monthly budgets for the typical American household. In fact, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average residential electric bill in the United States is $143.

However, reducing your family’s energy costs is possible by following some smart, practical, cost-cutting tips from the heating and cooling experts at Mitsubishi Electric. Consider these ways to help dial down your energy bills.

Service HVAC Systems Regularly
To ensure the best performance and efficiency possible, find a licensed contractor to keep your heating and cooling system well-maintained and serviced throughout the year. There are some tasks many homeowners can handle on their own, like keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters. Some filters are removable and washable, saving you money. However, bringing in a professional 1-2 times a year for maintenance and to ensure proper function of ductwork and electrical components is also essential.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours
Rather than using stoves, ovens and clothing dryers in the afternoon hours, consider doing so early in the morning or late in the evening. Peak time for many electricity providers is noon-6 p.m., meaning using these appliances outside of this timeframe when conventional heating and cooling systems are likely running full throttle can help lower energy costs.

Upgrade Your System
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) incentivizes homeowners that opt for energy-efficient air-conditioning and heating options to replace fossil-fuel-fired furnaces. This includes upgrading your existing HVAC system to a qualified heat pump. For example, Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps provide more energy-efficient cooling and heating that equals cost and energy savings as well as a reduced carbon footprint for homeowners.

Installing a smart electrical panel alongside an all-electric heat pump enables homeowners to monitor and control energy consumption on-site or remotely using a smartphone for better overall efficiency and utility cost savings.

Harness the Sun’s Energy with Solar Panels
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in 90 minutes could power the world’s total energy usage for a full year. Investing in solar panels can help decrease energy bills and increase your home’s sustainability. Additionally, some utility providers and government entities, including the IRA, offer incentives to help reduce installation costs.

Avoid Heating or Cooling Unused Spaces
One mistake many homeowners make is forgetting to adjust their temperature settings when leaving the house. Whether you’re headed out for the weekend or just headed to work for the day, running your system in an empty house can result in unnecessarily high utility bills.

Multi-zone, all-electric heat pumps like those from Mitsubishi Electric allow homeowners to set the comfort level and adjust the temperature in each room, reducing the energy waste of cooling unoccupied rooms. With a smartphone app, you can even adjust the settings remotely.

Find more ways to increase energy savings while making your home more sustainable by visiting MitsubishiComfort.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric

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Why wild bird lovers should choose top-of-the-crop natural feed

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(Joan Casanova) Have you ever wondered what’s in your favorite packaged foods, grabbed a box from your pantry, read the ingredients and realized you still didn’t know what you’re eating? The ingredients in some processed foods can read like a chemist’s shopping list. Now imagine if backyard birds could read. What would they say about the ingredients in the food you feed them?

A growing number of Americans are choosing natural foods for their pets; nearly one-third say they prefer natural products, according to PetFoodIndustry.com. People who feed wild birds also want to know they’re feeding the most natural and nutritious options. It’s hard to be confident when reading the mystifying ingredient list on feed bags makes you feel like a bird brain.

With an abundance of options, ranging from commercial bird feeds to small-batch varieties, understanding the differences can help bird lovers make informed choices to meet wild birds’ nutritional needs while considering factors like sustainability and quality.

The wild bird experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products, Co. offer these tips to ensure you’re feeding your feathered friends a healthy, natural diet.

While commercial bird feeds aim to provide basic nutrition for birds, the quality and nutritional content can vary. Some mixes contain a high proportion of less desirable seeds and fillers, offering limited nutritional value.

Small batch bird feeds prioritize nutritional content, using premium ingredients rich in essential nutrients, fats and proteins. This can provide birds with a more balanced diet, promoting overall health and vitality.

Avoid commercial bird feeds that are full of cheap fillers, such as red milo, millet, cracked corn, oats and wheat. Fillers lack nutritional value and birds will kick them right out of the feeder.

Instead, select small batch, natural feed comprised of top-of-the-crop seeds which contain no chemicals or mineral oil like Cole’s and bypass seed coated with them. Some commercial bird feeds are coated with mineral oil and mixed with crushed rock to add “vitamins.” Current regulations allow manufacturers to list nutritional components of mineral oil (iron, zinc) and crushed rock (vitamin A, calcium carbonate) separately, which can make the ingredients look more impressive. Mineral oil makes birdseed shiny and helps hide dirt and dust, and crushed rock adds weight to the product.

Take note of ingredients you can’t read; often it’s an indication the ingredient is synthetic or lab engineered. Ingredients like menadione sodium bisulfite complex and thiamine mononitrate aren’t found in natural foods; they’re man-made versions of vitamins. The rule of thumb for buying all-natural is “If you can’t read it, don’t feed it.”  

Focus on serving feed with an ingredient list you can read and understand. For instance, Cole’s Sunflower Meats contains nothing but shelled sunflower seeds and White Millet contains 100% white millet. Super simple, right?

Study birds visiting your feeders and research feed they prefer or buy feed from a reputable company that’s done that work for you. For example, Cole’s offers select natural seed choices developed and based on research about what birds actually eat. Feed is specifically formulated to attract certain species of birds as well as the largest number of birds. No cheap filler seeds are used and seed is cleaned to ensure quality – no sticks and dirt. When you know and serve what backyard birds prefer, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Supplement seed with natural foods you have at home. For example, woodpeckers love raw peanuts, mockingbirds love fruit and chickadees savor suet. Soak raisins and currants in water overnight then serve or purchase blends with a dried fruit and nut mixture, like Nutberry suet. To attract orioles, skewer halved oranges on a spike near feeders.

Buy feed from companies specializing in wild bird food. Some offer bird feed as a side product of pet products or grass seed producers. Conversely, Cole’s exclusively produces and sells products for feeding backyard birds. Seeds are packaged like human food in “Harvest Fresh Lock” packaging so seeds don’t lose nutritional content or dry out and spoil.

To learn more about all-natural feed options with ingredients even birds could understand, visit coleswildbird.com.

Photos courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Products


SOURCE:
Cole’s Wild Bird Seed

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Handy ways to jump start productivity in your workspace

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(Family Features) Designing a project workspace can take your creativity to new heights. Whether you’re into woodworking, metalworking, building models or repairing bikes or tools like chainsaws, having the right space allows you to focus on creating and enjoying each project to the fullest.

Completing a job to your satisfaction requires the right tools, equipment and resources to get the job done. Set up a workspace that lets you explore your passion with these tips from the DIY pros at Work IQ Tools:

Identify your needs. Every project comes with a unique set of tools and requirements for success. Make a list so you can ensure you account for every detail.

  • Determine if a large, flat workspace is required or floor space is better suited.
  • Balance comfort and craftsmanship by choosing a stable chair or rolling chair or decide if working on your feet is more practical.
  • Decide exactly how much space you realistically need.
  • Assess your access to adequate power sources.
  • If you’re using paints and varnish or other odorous substances, ensure there’s proper ventilation.

Invest in the right equipment. Having the right tools allows you to work faster, easier and smarter. Incorporating a solution like the IQ Vise System is like having a built-in problem solver with smart features that improve functionality and capability. The vise features a ball and socket design that allows articulation and 360-degree rotation at any angle for optimal work positioning while complementing task-specific jaws are crafted to create the perfect grip for an extensive range of shapes and materials.

Plan for storage. Keeping all your parts and pieces neatly organized means they remain in good condition until you need them, and you can find what you’re looking for easily. When you’re planning your storage needs, think about the space you need at every stage, including how you’ll protect a project that is in progress when you step away from your workspace.

Light it up. A well-lit workspace gives you the visibility you need to complete each project to your satisfaction. Overhead lights rarely do the trick for hands-on work, so plan to add task lamps to your work area. Look for models with features that match your hobby needs, such as dimming capabilities and goose necks that allow you to position the lights just right.

Remember safety. Different projects require distinct protective gear, but virtually all DIYers can benefit from some basic safety precautions. At the least, keep a first aid kit handy for nicks and cuts, but also consider safety glasses, gloves, ear protection and other gear that can help protect you while you work.

Find more useful tools to create a functional project workspace at workiqtools.com.

Workshop Assistants to Get the Job Done

No matter your craft or hobby, you can find plenty of tools and accessories that make it easier to navigate the intricate details of each project you tackle. Consider these IQ Connect plug-and-play workshop accessories that provide hands-free assistance where and when needed on the IQ Vise and around your work area via three additional mounting options.

Work Light: Task lighting helps illuminate dark or shadowed areas so you can see the tiniest details. A hands-free, 180-lumen work light that mounts in a magnetic holder, bench mount or clamp mount can add extra versatility. Rechargeable and featuring multiple light settings, it’s always ready and adaptable to your needs.

Magnifying Glass: Many hobby projects require intricately detailed work that’s difficult to see with the naked eye, whether it’s a minute piece of your project or the fine print on a tool. Look for a magnifying glass that’s at least 5 inches in diameter with at least two levels of magnification and an adjustable frame so you can get the angle just right.

Cell Phone Holder: A smartphone is often a hobbyist’s most valuable tool since you can use it to look up information, scan for design inspiration, record your process or add entertainment to your work session. An adjustable hands-free holder lets you get the positioning just right while giving you the freedom to tackle the tasks at hand.



SOURCE:
WorkIQ

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Turn your tax refund into a new ride

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Make a major purchase more manageable

(Family Features) With tax refunds starting to flow in, many people are considering ways to invest their money.

If you’re looking to purchase a vehicle, putting your tax refund toward a down payment on a used car can be a smart financial decision for several reasons – from reduced interest rates on your loan and shortened loan terms to lower monthly payments – and the timing is right to take advantage of improving market conditions. Consider this information to help make an informed buying decision.

Lower Your Monthly Payment
The more you can invest in the down payment of a vehicle, the lower your monthly cost will typically be and the less interest you will typically pay over the length of the loan. This can lead to smaller, more manageable monthly payments.

A significant down payment can also help offset higher-than-average interest payments and could lead to a shorter term, meaning less total accrued interest. An auto loan calculator can show you how a down payment can affect interest charges.

More Affordable Vehicle Options
Used car prices have been trending downward month-over-month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index. These decreases in used car prices are helping offset higher than normal interest rates. The average sales price for a pre-owned vehicle through Enterprise Car Sales, for example, is approximately $21,000 right now, compared to average new car prices, which are hovering around $44,000.

Vehicle inventory is improving along with an increase in consumer demand for cars, which makes now an attractive time to buy. Many used car sellers feature inventory that is readily available so you can select from options you know are in stock, including different makes and models with a wide range of different features that can offer more affordable options.

“We have a large inventory of vehicles across the country currently priced under $20,000,” said Mike Bystrom, vice president of Enterprise Car Sales. “There are several considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a vehicle, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Consumers should weigh their options, but the one thing they shouldn’t compromise on is receiving great customer service.”

Protect Your Purchase
Ensuring your purchase is protected is also a smart financial decision. Take advantage of dealers that offer additional benefits to help protect your purchase and provide peace of mind that your tax refund has been well spent.

Look for a used vehicle that has passed an inspection by an ASE-certified technician and comes with a limited powertrain warranty, as well as extra coverage options such as roadside assistance and a return policy up to a certain amount of days or mileage.

With a little research and careful planning, you can find a reliable used car that meets your needs and puts your tax refund to good use. Visit enterprisecarsales.com for more information.


SOURCE:
Enterprise Car Sales

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