Caulking is one of the easiest fall home-improvement chores. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started.

A note: Caulk around the windows’ molding and stay away from the movable parts that allow you to open and close the windows.

  1. Caulk on a day when your windows are completely dry inside and out and on a day that is not extremely hot or cold.
  2. Choose a good caulk: Some can be painted; different kinds are compatible with masonry, vinyl or wood; some are formulated for use in humid climates. Also, different caulks are for indoor or outdoor use. Read the label before purchasing.
  3. Collect the caulk, a caulk gun with a trigger, a putty knife, a sponge or rags, and a wire brush.
  4. Use the putty knife to scrape the old caulk off of the windows. If it won’t budge, buy a caulk softener.
  5. Clean the windows with a damp sponge or rag and then dry them. Wait until they are completely dry to apply fresh caulk.
  6. Fill the caulk gun with caulk and point it to the corner of the window farthest from you. Press the trigger and work your way backward. Get caulk in all of the joints.
  7. Smooth out the caulk by applying water to your fingers and working it into the cracks.
  8. Let the caulk dry, which can take several hours.
  9. Read the instructions that come with the caulk and the caulk gun; they’re more detailed and full of tips for success.

Even if it’s not cold outside yet, it’s time to get ready for the day when the temperature falls.

Here are five fall jobs that will prepare your home for cold weather:

  1. Caulk windows and doors, even if you did it last fall. Cracks in old caulk can let cold air in and warm air out.
  2. Reverse the direction of ceiling fan blades so they circulate clockwise.
  3. Get your chimney inspected and cleaned if you plan to burn wood this season. Buildup of creosote can cause a chimney fire.
  4. Call an HVAC tech to inspect your central heating system, perform maintenance and do any needed repairs so you don’t lose heat once it gets cold.
  5. Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors before heating season begins.


When it comes to creating a captivating and functional outdoor space, electric outdoor lighting can work wonders. Whether you want to enhance ambiance, improve safety or extend your time spent outdoors, electric outdoor lighting offers a myriad of benefits. Let’s explore the advantages of illuminating your outdoor areas with electricity.

Enhanced Ambiance and Aesthetics. One of the primary benefits of electric outdoor lighting is its ability to transform your outdoor space into a captivating and inviting environment. With a variety of lighting options available, such as string lights, spotlights, and pathway lights, you can create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Highlighting architectural features, trees or garden elements adds depth and visual interest to your outdoor areas, making them more visually appealing for both you and your guests.

Increased Safety and Security. Outdoor lighting plays a crucial role in enhancing safety and security around your property. Illuminated pathways, stairs and entrances help prevent accidents and tripping hazards, ensuring that you and your guests can navigate the outdoor space safely, even after sunset. Well-lit exteriors also act as a deterrent for potential intruders, as a well-lit property is less likely to be targeted. Motion-sensor lights add an extra layer of security by instantly illuminating when they detect movement and alerting you to any potential threats.

Extended Outdoor Living Time. With electric outdoor lighting, you can extend your time spent in outdoor areas long after the sun sets. Whether you’re hosting a backyard gathering or simply enjoying a quiet evening outdoors, properly lit spaces allow you to fully appreciate and utilize your outdoor living areas. Electric lighting provides ample illumination for activities like dining, socializing or reading, making your outdoor spaces functional and enjoyable well into the evening hours. This is especially important as days begin to get shorter.

Electric outdoor lighting offers numerous benefits, from creating a visually appealing ambiance to enhancing safety and security. Illuminate your outdoor spaces with electric lighting and enjoy the multitude of advantages it brings to your outdoor lifestyle.

Did you know that the energy used to cool and heat your home contributes to the biggest chunk of your monthly bills? By following some simple steps, you can reduce your energy consumption and save money while also doing your part for the environment. Let’s explore how regular maintenance, upgrades, insulation, air sealing and thermostat settings can help you achieve these goals.

  1. Regular Equipment Maintenance. Keeping your cooling and heating systems well-maintained is crucial for their efficient operation. Regularly clean or replace air filters to ensure proper airflow because clogged filters can make your system work harder and consume more energy. Schedule professional maintenance checks to identify and fix any issues promptly. This will keep your equipment running smoothly and reduce energy waste.
  2. Upgrades and Efficiency. Consider upgrading your cooling and heating equipment to more energy-efficient models. Look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates they meet high efficiency standards. These newer systems are designed to use less energy while providing optimal performance. Although the upfront cost may be higher, the long-term savings on your energy bills will be worth it.
  3. Insulation and Air Sealing. Insulating your home properly is like wrapping it in a cozy blanket. Adding insulation in your walls, attic, and floors helps to keep the desired temperature stable, reducing the workload on your cooling and heating systems. Additionally, sealing air leaks around windows, doors, and ducts prevents drafts and minimizes energy losses. Check for gaps and cracks and use weatherstripping or caulk to seal them. This will enhance the overall efficiency of your home and save energy.
  4. Thermostat Setting. Adjusting your thermostat settings can significantly impact your energy consumption. During the summer, set your thermostat a few degrees higher when you’re away or asleep. In winter, lower the temperature slightly in the same situations. Installing a programmable thermostat can help automate these adjustments, ensuring optimal comfort and energy savings.

By implementing these energy-saving measures, you can make a substantial difference in your monthly bills and contribute to a greener planet. Regular maintenance, equipment upgrades, insulation, air sealing, and smart thermostat usage are all simple steps that can save you up to 30% on your energy bills while helping the environment. Start making these changes today and enjoy the benefits for years to come.

Running indoor fans on hot summer days can help your family stay cool and your energy bills remain manageable.

A few tips:

  • Running a fan is cheaper than running the air conditioner. If August presents you with a comfortable, breezy day, turn the a/c off and run floor fans instead.
  • If you have ceiling fans, run them while the a/c is on. Fans don’t cool a room, per se. Instead, they move air around to create a breeze that feels cool on the skin of anyone in the room. For summer, the fan will push air downward if you switch the blades to move counter-clockwise. You might even be able to turn the thermostat up a few degrees while ceiling fans are running.
  • Turn off all fans if you’re not in the same room as the fans. The fan isn’t cooling the room; it’s cooling the people in it. So if a room is empty, a running fan is a waste of electricity.
  • If your fans are mounted in windows, don’t use them on days when the outdoor air is hotter than the indoor air. Window fans—and your window-mounted air conditioner’s fan setting—pull outdoor air into the house.

Photo by Sidekix Media on Unsplash

  1. Keep heat and sunlight out of indoor rooms during the day by closing windows and window coverings.
  2. Open those same windows overnight to let cool, nighttime air into your house.
  3. If some windows are naturally shaded by trees or shadows, open them during the day. Opening more than one can create a cross-breeze that will quickly cool off the house.
  4. Switch the direction of ceiling fan blades. In the summer, blades should spin counterclockwise to push cool air down into the room. Turn the fans off when nobody is in the room.
  5. Add an energy-efficient portable dehumidifier to a room that tends to be too warm. Humidity can make a hot room feel even hotter. Removing the humidity makes the room feel cooler.
  6. Use the microwave or outdoor grill to cook dinner. Heat-producing indoor appliances like the stove, dishwasher and clothes dryer lose a lot of heat to the air in the room. Wait until after dark when it’s cooler outdoors to turn on appliances.

If the air inside your house is dusty, it might mean your air conditioning ducts have sprung leaks.  

If you’re changing your air conditioner filter regularly, it will trap dust and pollutants that get into the indoor air so they never make their way into the duct system—or back into the air.  

But if the ducts have tiny holes or cracks or joints that aren’t well-sealed, dust can bypass the filter and sneak directly into the ducts. Once dust gets in there, the duct system will blow it all over the house. 

Dust in the ducts and in the air can raise the temperature in your home and force your air conditioning system to operate inefficiently and struggle to keep your home cool during the summer. 

It’s well worth it to have the ducts of your air conditioning system sealed at the joints. 

Not only will it prevent dust from flying around your house, it could reduce your air conditioning bills this summer. The average house loses about 20 percent of its conditioned air through ducts that are improperly installed or are leaking at the joints. 

A house with “clean” air also is less likely to trigger dust and pollen allergies to family members while they’re indoors. 

It won’t be too long until you can open the windows and start enjoying fresh air and warm weather. Is your house ready?

Here are five items to add to your springtime to-do list that might help your home feel more comfortable and cared for before it gets hot:

  1. Call a qualified service technician to inspect and maintain your air conditioning system. Paying $100 or so now could prevent a huge expense this summer if your system breaks down on a hot day and you have to have it repaired or replaced in a hurry. Maintenance goes a long way toward preventing emergencies and can prolong the life of your equipment.
  2. While you’re outdoors planting and pruning, trim all of the bushes and pull all of the weeds near your air conditioner’s outside condenser unit. Remove any fallen tree limbs that landed on it, brush off leaves that have collected on or around it, and pick up trash that found its way there as it sat unused all winter. Anything that touches the unit and prevents air from circulating around it will make it perform inefficiently.
  3. While you’ve got your shovel and spade out, consider planting some shade trees on the sunny side of your house. As they grow, they will filter the sunrays that can beat so fiercely on your windows in the summer and make your air conditioner work harder.
  4. Speaking of windows, if your house still has single-pane versions, this is a good time to replace them with double-pane models. Single-pane windows are energy inefficient and can drive your air conditioning bills through the roof. You could save several hundred dollars on cooling and heating bills every year if you replace your drafty, old windows.
  5. Clean your windows, inside and out. Newer models are simple to clean because you can tilt them toward the inside of the house so you can reach both sides. Clean windows let more sunlight into your house, which means you won’t have to turn on as many lights.

Condensation, “fog” or frost on your home’s windows is a sure sign that they’re too inefficient to keep cold air out in the winter and in during the summer.

Moisture in the air condenses when it touches a cold surface, causing the glass to “sweat” like a cold glass of iced tea on a hot day. Condensation can form on the glass and even pool on the window sill. And like any excess moisture, it can eventually lead to mold and mildew. It also can damage your windows over time.

One solution: Replace drafty, single-pane windows with double-pane versions that are more energy efficient. If that’s not an option right now, install storm windows to add an extra layer of glass, and try taming the humidity inside your home. Here’s how:

  1. Install ventilating fans in every bathroom, and turn them on before every shower. Let the fan run until the “fog” clears out of the bathroom, but no longer. Overuse of exhaust fans can send your home’s comfy, air-conditioned or heated air right out of the house.
  2. Use the hood fan over your stove when you cook. Cooking sends moisture into the air—along with lingering odors. The fan will rid your home of those smells and humidity. Again, run the fan just long enough to clear the air.
  3. Vent your clothes dryer to the outside. Check the duct for leaks, especially at the point where it’s attached to the dryer, and for obstructions that can prevent hot dryer air from escaping to the outdoors.
  4. If you run humidifiers inside the home, don’t overdo it. It’s possible to add too much moisture to indoor air.

Many of your once-a-year spring cleaning chores can save energy all year round. Some examples:

  • Clean windows inside and out. The cleaner the panes are, the more sunlight can shine through them, making it less necessary to turn on lights and run space heaters in the spring.
  • Replace the air filters in your HVAC system. If they’re full of dust, dirt and pet hair, air will have a hard time passing through them. Poor airflow makes your air conditioner work harder to do its job.
  • Clear fallen branches and leaves and other debris that might have fallen on the outdoor unit of your air conditioning system over the winter. For the unit to work properly, air needs to circulate around it.
  • Climb a ladder and dust ceiling fan blades. When the fan starts running, it can knock accumulated dust into your room, which is bad for air quality and can wind up in in your air conditioning vents or filters.
  • Snake your dryer vent or hire a pro to do it for you.
  • Pull your refrigerator slightly out from the wall and vacuum behind it. If your fridge has exposed coils, vacuum those, too.

Hot summer days aren’t too far off. Why not start thinking about planting some shade trees in your yard to keep your family cool?

Here are five benefits of shade trees around the house.

  1. Planting shade trees strategically around your house can shield your home from hot sunrays in the summer. The less heat and light that comes through your windows, the cooler your home will be, and that means you could rely less on air conditioning. That can lead to lower electric bills.
  2. A hedge of trees and plants adds privacy to a backyard patio. But trees don’t only prevent others from seeing in; they can block an unsightly view and even diffuse noise from nearby streets and parks.
  3. Beautiful trees can boost your property values—by up to 15%, according to some nurseries. That makes planting a good investment.
  4. Trees that flower or those with leaves that change colors before they fall during autumn can add beauty to your landscape.
  5. Trees are good for the environment. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which slows the buildup of the gas in the atmosphere.

It seems that if you close the door to an unused room, you can avoid paying to heat it, right?

The opposite is true. When you close off an interior room, or if you close the air vents in that room, your heating system has to work harder and can even break down as a result.

The reason: Your home’s HVAC system is designed to keep the whole house comfortable by distributing heat evenly throughout. If you close off a room or a duct, you reduce the airflow to that room and force your system to work harder to heat it up.

That can cause a pressure imbalance, which can damage your ducts or your heating system.

Here’s a better idea: Save money and energy by using caulk to seal air leaks around windows and holes in walls where cables enter the house. Add insulation to the attic. Install curtains that are thermally insulated. Replace your outdated thermostat with a programmable one that will lower the temperature at bedtime and when everyone leaves the house in the morning.

If Thanksgiving or Christmas will be celebrated at your house this year, your family members aren’t the only ones who will be stuffed. So will your refrigerator. 

Is it up to the task? 

In fact, if your fridge is more than a decade old, it might not be. Today’s models—those bearing the Energy Star label, at least—use at last 15 percent less energy than current federal standards require, and 40 percent less than models in the early 2000s, according to the Department of Energy.  

Yet more than 60 million households have refrigerators that are more than 10 years old, DOE says. By replacing it with a new, energy-efficient model, you could save up to $300 in electricity charges over its lifetime. 

When shopping for a new refrigerator or freezer, read the EnergyGuide label. It tells you how many kilowatt-hours of electricity the unit will consume over a year of operation. The smaller the number, the better. Look for refrigerators that have a freezer on the bottom or the top, as side-by-side designs consume more energy. Chest freezers are typically better insulated than upright models.  

Whether you’re buying a new fridge this year or not, follow these tips for more efficient use around the holidays: 

  • Brush or vacuum your refrigerator’s coils regularly to improve efficiency by as much as 30 percent. 
  • Keeping your refrigerator full shouldn’t be hard this time of year and doing so will help your unit retain cold better. If you have trouble keeping it stocked, fill the extra space with bottles or containers of water.
  • If your milk is frosty in the morning, reduce the refrigerator’s temperature. Refrigerators should be set between 36 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezers should stay between 0 degrees and 5 degrees.
  • Put a dollar bill in the door’s seal to see if it is airtight. If the dollar slips out easily, so will cold air.  

Preparing a Thanksgiving feast means you’ll be using more energy than usual.  Here’s how to keep it under control: 

  • Lower the heat a couple of degrees before company arrives. You’ll be using the stove and oven all day, so the house will be warmer than usual anyway. Plus, people generate heat, so a cooler house will feel more comfortable. 
  • Keep an eye on the refrigerator and freezer so you’ll know the doors at snugly closed. Doors that aren’t tightly sealed will send cold air into the kitchen. 
  • Wait until the leftovers cool off a bit before placing them in the refrigerator. The appliance has to work harder to cool hot food than to keep cool food cold. 
  • Place lids on pots and pans as you use them for cooking. The lids keep heat in, so food cooks quicker. 
  • Heat up whatever you can in the microwave instead of on the stovetop or oven. Microwaves use about half the energy as your oven. 
  • Fill your oven with as many different dishes as you can fit and cook them all at once. As long as the recipes don’t call for temperatures that vary by more than 25 degrees, everything should cook or bake evenly. 

Summertime seems to be getting hotter every year. This season, prepare your home in advance so relying more and more on your air conditioning won’t show up as much on your electric bill.

Here are five ways to give you’re A/C a break this summer:

  1. Call an HVAC technician. A professional can examine your system and let you know what needs repairing or replacing, which can prevent a mid-summer breakdown.
  2. Change or clean air filters. When filters do their job properly, they trap dirt, pet hair and anything else that’s floating in the air from recirculating into your home when the air conditioner is blowing. But dirty filters can prevent air from flowing, too, which makes the A/C have to work extra hard to cool your house. The solution: Change or clean your filters once a month during the summer.
  3. Run ceiling fans. When the A/C is running at the same time as a ceiling fan, the room where the fan is located will feel cool enough that you can raise the thermostat by about 4 degrees. A fan doesn’t cool the air, but it creates a breeze that makes anyone in the room feel cooler.
  4. Install a dehumidifier. Another great partner for the A/C is an energy-efficient dehumidifier. Lowering the humidity in your home helps the air conditioner work more efficiently because it doesn’t have to waste energy removing moisture from the air and can concentrate on simply cooling it.
  5. Don’t create heat. On days when it’s warm enough to turn on the air conditioner, turn off your oven, clothes dryer, lamps and other appliances that create heat. Wait until after dark, when the day cools off a bit, before running heat-producing machines.

The U.S. Department of Energy and most electric utilities recommend that you set your thermostat at 78 degrees during the summer.

Before you leave for work, crank it up to 85 degrees and before you turn in for the night, nudge it up to 82, the DOE recommends.

If that sounds a bit toasty for summertime, consider inching your thermostat up 1 degree at a time rather than all at once if you usually keep yours set at 72 in the summer—as most Americans do.

And consider replacing a manual thermostat with a programmable model so the settings will change automatically.

A springtime tune-up can prevent your air conditioning system from going on the fritz later, when the weather is so hot that you won’t want to be without the a/c for even a few hours.  

It typically around $100 to have a professional inspection of your system, and it’s well worth the money. 

Some contractors offer an annual preventive maintenance agreement, which will cost a few hundred dollars a year and typically includes a fall and spring inspection of your HVAC system and discounts on repairs and equipment. A better deal most often is to pay as you go for individual inspections. 

Either way, your cooling system will get attention from a qualified, licensed service technician who is trained to spot problems that most homeowners overlook. The tech might even alert you if a small repair now will prevent your family from sweltering this summer during an a/c breakdown. 

As soon as Christmas was over, stores and businesses started decorating with hearts in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

But American Heart Month isn’t just about romance. It’s about keeping your heart healthy by eating nutritious food and regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Even if your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and exercise regularly is already a distant memory, February is a great time to kick-start your healthy heart routine.

The electric appliances you might already have in your kitchen can help.

For example, a multicooker like the Instant Pot can steam and air-fry meat and vegetables without oil. A slow cooker can prepare chicken and beef dishes without added fats, too, if you let them simmer in broth, juice or another liquid and let the meal stew all day.

An electric indoor grill draws the fat from meat into a drip pan below the grate instead of using it to cook the dish. And a blender with blades sharp enough to shred ice makes it simple to whip up smoothies for breakfast and snacks so you and your family get plenty fruits and veggies, even in the morning.

This February, redefine “romance” to include helping your partner get and stay healthy. Recommit to those New Year’s resolutions and celebrate Heart Month by protecting yours and those of your loved ones.

Staying home more often than usual means you’re probably using your appliances nonstop. And that means you need to clean them more often.

Don’t overlook the appliances that aren’t in the kitchen.

It seems like your clothes washer would be a self-cleaning machine because it’s used for cleaning. But the more you use it, the more it needs a good scrubbing to get rid of built-up detergent and ward off mold.

Here are a few pre-spring cleaning tips for the laundry room:

Top-loading washers: Built-up detergent and fabric softeners can clog the machine if you don’t remove it regularly. To do that, remove the dispensers for those liquids and scrub them with soap, water and a non-scratch sponge. Then, fill the washer with hot water and add a cup of bleach. Let it sit for an hour before running a full wash cycle—with an empty tub. Then, fill it again, and this time add a cup of white vinegar and run a full wash cycle again. Finally, run a wash cycle with nothing but hot water.

For your first load of laundry after you clean the tub, wash whites only in case any residual bleach is still in the washer.

Front-loading washers: Get rid of mold and grime that get trapped in the door seal. Use a toothbrush and a solution of eight or nine cups of water and one cup of bleach to scrub the seal. Then, clean the tub the same way you would sanitize a top-loader, above.

Don’t forget about your dishwasher, too. Many people do not realize that newer dishwashers have filters that should be cleaned manually. Be sure to remove and clean the filter monthly of food particles and grease buildup that cause bad smells in your dishwasher. Clean debris away from the filter, then twist filter to remove (or consult your manufacturer’s guide). Scrub the filter with a soft brush or cloth under hot water until clean; then replace filter.

January and February typically are the coldest months of the year. That doesn’t mean you have to be cold for two months, especially inside your own home.

Dressing in layers, wearing socks with your slippers and staying active are no-cost, no-tech ways to stay cozy indoors even when all you can see for miles is snow and ice. Other tips for staying warm are:

  • Block drafts. If your windows are old or made from a single pane of glass, it’s time to upgrade. Energy-efficient glass—and windows with double panes—will go a long way toward keeping cold air from blowing into your house. They also could reduce the amount of money you spend on winter energy bills.
  • Seal leaks. Also great draft-blockers, weather stripping and caulk can plug holes around windows and doors, and wherever the inside of an outdoor wall is penetrated by a cable or phone line.
  • Make the bed. An electric blanket—one with an automatic shut-off and the seal of approval from a safety organization like UL—can keep you cozy at bedtime even when you turn the whole-house thermostat down to save energy overnight.
  • Make 2022 the year you finally switch to a programmable thermostat that will turn the heat up when the home is occupied and everyone is awake, and down at bedtime and when the family leaves for the day. (Note: If you have a heat pump, purchase a programmable thermostat with adaptive recovery technology to slowly warm the house and avoid the more costly auxiliary heat.)