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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
Fax: 267-354-6800
email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Home Solutions Gone Green

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

The green movement is here. At a time when homeowners everywhere are trying to find ways to conserve energy and save money, a little knowledge can go a long way. The following tips can reduce your carbon footprint and your electricity bills.

Refrigeration - Refrigerators are a huge energy consumer in the home. Some energy saving tips to remember:

• Refrigerators with the freezer on top use 10-15 percent less energy than side by side models.
• If your refrigerator is in the sunlight or next to your stove or dishwasher, it has to work harder to maintain cool temperatures.

An energy efficient refrigerator can save your family over $100 per year on the utility bill and if you combine an efficient new refrigerator with these tips you can save even more.

Washers and Dryers - Clothing washers and dryers can take a toll on your household utility bill. To save yourself some money, upgrade to an energy efficient mode and use these tips:

• Try not to overload your washer, but certainly don't under load it either. If you can start doing all of your laundry in three loads instead of four you will reap the rewards on your energy bill.
• Use cold water whenever possible and always use the energy-saving features.

An energy efficient washer can save your family up to $135 per year when combined with these tips.

Home electronics - This category often goes overlooked as a source of energy consumption by many homeowners. Many think that by switching some of their household products to "off," like a light switch, the item is no longer using energy. This is a common misconception. Devices like a Playstation or Blu-Ray player can still use power when the device is turned off.

To help reduce the energy use of your home electronics, use a power strip so you can turn them all completely off from one central location.

• Use the power management features on your computers and your televisions.
Upgrading your TV to an ENERGY STAR qualified television and following these simple steps can help you conserve over 40 percent less energy.

Water Heating - Water heating is one of the largest energy consumers in the home because it is necessary for numerous household activities. If you are in the market for a new water heater, you may be able to substantially reduce your energy consumption through water conservation.
• If your electric water heater was installed before 2004, install an insulating jacket to save 25-40 percent of standby heat loss.
• Lower the water heater temperature. For every 12 degrees you lower your water heater you can save an average of 3-5 percent on water heating costs.

Dishwashing - Models that use less water also use less energy because 60 percent of the energy used by a dishwasher goes towards heating the water.

• Choose a dishwasher with a "light wash" or "energy-saving" wash cycle. It uses less water and operates for a shorter period of time.
• Look for dishwashers that have an energy-saving cycle that allow dishes to be air-dried with circulation fans, rather than heat-dried with energy-wasting heating coils.

Window Coverings - Energy efficient window treatments are one easy way to conserve energy and reduce your utility bills. To be effective, window treatments must trap air between the shade or blind and the window glass. Window treatments are often overlooked during energy conservation conversations because they rarely consume any energy at all (motorized coverings being the exception). The correct combination of window coverings can drastically reduce the amount of heat lost during the cold winter months and can keep your home cooler during the hot summer months. With so many different options to choose from in terms of types of coverings, you can have your window coverings just the way you like. Pleated window blinds and cellular shades are just two of the many options in types of coverings, but you can also choose material, color, texture, and style. Some factors that contribute to energy gained and lost through window treatments:

Source: Budget Blinds


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Barter Your Way to a Better Life

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Many people don’t realize just how talented they are. If you can paint a house, fix leaky faucets, sew designer clothes or bake great pies, you have talents other people would love to have—and you may be able to trade your talent for the goods and services you need.

“Bartering has been a mainstay in American life for many generations,” says Nevada roofer Steve Rittenhouse, who recently traded a roof installation for dental services including braces for his daughter.” It’s a matter of making contact with those who are open to trading, and that’s pretty easy in today’s electronic age.”

Rittenhouse, who has traded his roofing service for a freezer full of beef, new carpeting, and golf club privileges, among other things, offers five ways to get started making bartering pay off for you:

• Put a price on your goods or service – Whether you want to offer professional services or trade a vintage car, assess the hourly value or the item value as closely as you can. When it comes time to trade, you will want to be sure you are exchanging equal value.
• Decide what you want – Once you know the value of what you want to swap, research the cost of the goods or services you would like to receive in return, such as lawn service for babysitting or antique furniture for a piano.
• Start with Craigslist – Look for the ‘barter’ section under ‘for sale.’ In addition to answering offers by others, you can post your proposed barter for free. You can also take out free ads in local neighborhood papers, such as Pennysaver.
• Let your friends know – Word of mouth can be invaluable, and your friends and family are well aware of your talents. Let them know what you are willing to swap for, and ask them to approach possible swappers on your behalf.
• Target flyers – Post flyers advertising for barter partners in libraries and community centers. If you are seeking professional services, leave your flyers at targeted business centers or office buildings. If you want to trade household goods or services, try grocery store or clubhouse bulletin boards.
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Hiring Helper: Finding a Housecleaning Service

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Between work, errands, spending time with your family and squeezing in that yoga class or tennis match to keep fit and sane, cleaning your home may seem like a daunting task. This is why many American’s hire housecleaners, who create a clean, tidy, less stressful environment for them to come home to. But how do you go about finding the right house cleaning service or individual? Take a look at the following tips.

• Meet the housecleaner in person. Before you hire a housecleaner, make sure you feel comfortable having that person in your home. Check references on past work.
• Ask about prices, fees, cancellations. Find out in advance how much a full service will cost, not just the hourly rate. Some companies charge per hour, others per visit or based on square footage. Ask, if you have to cancel, is there a fee? Can you hire for a one-time service, or is a contract required?
• Service guarantee. What if you're not happy with the service? Is there a guarantee?
• Find out how far in advance to make your appointment. Some cleaning services operate anywhere from as little as a day to as long as several weeks in advance.
Decide how you want the service to enter your home. Establish beforehand if the service will use a key, garage code or if a family member or neighbor will let them in.
• Ask about insurance. Does the company maintain proper liability insurance? Is it bonded? Does the company do background checks on employees?
Consider cleaning agents. Will the company bring its own supplies? Talk about what cleaning agents they use and eco-friendly options available.
• What's important to you? Talk to the company about what you expect; what you like/dislike. Make any concerns or expectations you have clear upfront. 

Source: Angie's List
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Yoga: Avoid Beginner’s Mistakes while Attaining a Well of Happiness

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Yoga has become a popular option for alternative health management. Research has shown the practice can significantly reduce mental and physical stress, improve mood, and slow the aging process. 

But some yogis believe many of the estimated 20 million U.S. students are missing the best part of the discipline—the inner happiness attainable through a healthy mind-body connection. They also worry about injuries that result when beginners tackle poses and exercises without proper guidance.
“There are several disciplines of yoga, and with its rich history, the beginner can easily get lost —or worse—injured,” says Mary Jo Ricketson, an experienced yoga practitioner and healthcare specialist, and author of Moving Meditation (www.thegoodwithin.com). A registered nurse, she also holds a master’s degree in education from Northwestern University. 

“What I detail in my book is a comprehensive approach for both mind and body. This reciprocal relationship maximizes health benefits, and has exponentially positive consequences beyond the individual.” 

People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years, she says. In the West, the practice has integrated with our culture leading to variations including “extreme” yoga. Ricketson warns this sort of exercise can alienate beginners, who may not be ready to “jump in the deep end first.” Without the proper training and guidance, she adds, beginners risk injuring their neck, lower back, knees and shoulders. 

The most important step is getting started, Ricketson says. Here are seven things beginners—and anyone practicing yoga—should know to maximize their benefits: 

1. Cardiovascular (aerobic) training: As with meditation, focused breathing is a cornerstone of mind-body training. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and aerobic movement increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, including the brain. Cardiovascular training is the single most important aspect of the physical training because it keeps the heart open and strong. 

2. Core and strength training: This includes the students’ abdomen and buttocks, and the lower back region, which extends to the base of the skull. Here is where strength, stability and balance originate. 

3. Flexibility training (yoga postures): Stretching simply feels good, and it reminds students to not only be more flexible in one’s body, but also one’s mind. This step allows us to move (and live) with greater ease. 

4. Adequate rest: Sleep is a necessary part of life, and sufficient rest is needed for energy and equilibrium. 

5. Life-giving nutrition: Making the right choices in food allows yoga students to achieve an optimal, balanced state. This includes nutritional foods consumed in moderation. 

6. Family/community: From Epicurus to modern science, study and observation show that we find greater happiness with access to friends and family. 

7. Written goals and a plan of action: Goals and stated intention act as a road map to achieving balanced well-being. 

Ricketson says the above steps are just the beginning. She says tapping in to the mind-body connection also helps memory loss, attention deficit disorders, public violence—including in schools—as well as an unknown amount of needless human suffering. 

“We all have within us a potential to experience optimal well-being in mind and body,” she says. “This potential, the Good Within, can be realized through the work of mind-body training. Our training is a moving meditation – a daily practice of exercises that awaken all that is Good Within.” 

Mary Jo Ricketson has studied human health and well-being for decades, earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a master’s in education.
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Word of the Day

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Convey. To transfer property from one person to another.
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Question of the Day

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Q: What are the best home improvement projects to maximize ROI, or Return on Investment?

A: Experts agree that any remodeling project that brings your home up to the level of your neighbors’ is a worthy investment. However, some improvements offer a greater return than others. It depends on the type of work you have done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual “Cost vs. Value Report.” The most recent report, based on the top 16 home improvements for a mid-range home, says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from vinyl siding replacement (with 87.2 percent of the cost recouped), wood window replacement (85.3 percent), minor kitchen remodeling (85.2 percent), bathroom remodeling (84.9 percent), and vinyl window replacement (83.7 percent).
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10 Tips for Ditching Belly Fat

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Just in time to make a difference before swimsuit season kicks in, Reader’s Digest has released a new book, “The Digest Diet,” with some interesting if little-known healthful diet tips that may help you to drop a few pounds.

Among them are 10 suggestions for reducing unwanted belly fat:

1. Eat fat to lose fat – Healthful fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocado, are known to stimulate weight loss. They also help you feel full. Use olive oil in dressings and other foods, and reach for a handful of nuts or a celery stick with a bit of peanut butter if you get the afternoon hungries.
2. The right chocolate – Cocoa has natural antioxidants. Eaten in moderation, and without much sugar, it can aid in weight loss. Try adding unsweetened cocoa to fruit shakes, coffee, and other foods.
3. The dairy myth – It is a misperception that dairy foods sabotage diets. Yogurt and non-fat milk or cheeses actually encourage weight loss.
4. Exercise alone is not enough – Too much hard exercising can make you hungry enough to eat more than you should. Exercise in moderation while reducing caloric intake.
5. Keep busy – Little movements, even fidgeting, burns a few calories. Light chores like ironing, dishwashing or light aerobics can burn up to 350 calories a day.
6. Beat junk food cravings – prolonged desk work can play havoc with your glucose levels and make you crave carbs and/or sugar. Resist by keeping better snacks handy, like Greek yogurt, a handful of almonds, or carrot sticks with a teaspoon of peanut butter.
7. A little vino – Studies show that a glass of red wine a day is not only good for your health, but may also help release fat cells.
8. Hey, honey – As you cut back on sugar, consider using a little honey in your coffee and/or cereal. It may help to boost blood sugar control and boost certain immunities.
9. Don’t skimp on sleep – Studies show people who get at least eight hours of sleep a night have an easier time losing weight than those who sleep six hours or less.
10. Breathe better air – Research suggests certain toxins, chemicals and compounds we breathe may be contributing to the nation’s fat creep. Try a HEPA air filter in your home to breathe healthier air.
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AAA Travel Lists Top Summer Vacation Destinations

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Still planning your summer vacation? A recent AAA travel agent survey showed that, despite rising fuel costs, many vacation loyalists are still traveling this summer. Additionally, AAA Travel's lists of top summer vacation destinations include choices popular with American families for generations within the United States and around the world. While many Americans head to their computers when planning a summer getaway, planning a vacation can be overwhelming.

"Many Americans consider travel a mainstay to our way of life and are loyal vacationers," says Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services. "While some Americans may modify their travel due to rising fuel costs, those who can are still choosing to travel and they are traversing the world."

The following are AAA’s top summer vacation spots:

Land Vacation Destinations:
Orlando, Fla.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Rome, Italy
London, England
Anaheim, Calif.

Leading the way in popularity for summer travel are vacations to the Orlando area, consistently holding the valedictorian spot in the top destination class year after year.

Cruise Vacation Destinations:
Caribbean
Alaska
Bahamas
Europe
Bermuda

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) forecasts that more than 17 million vacationers will cruise the world's waterways in 2012, one million more than last year. AAA Travel sales data shows significant increases in cruise bookings for the summer family vacation season and throughout 2012 and into 2013.

Exotic Vacation Destinations:
China
Peru
The Galapagos
The Amazon
India

Source: www.AAA.com.
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Word of the Day

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Conventional loan. Real estate loan that is not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA.
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Question of the Day

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Q: What can I do to minimize chaos, danger and stress once a home improvement project has begun?

A: Plan ahead. Since your home will become a worksite once the remodeling begins, inconveniences will arise that can be minimized with a little planning. Begin by having a frank discussion with the contractor to set guidelines and develop a clear understanding upfront about the various project stages and the processes involved. Talk, for example, about where building materials will be stored, how to best protect your belongings from dust and debris, areas of your home that will be off limits to workers and whether you will need to vacate the home for any reason over the duration of the work. If a kitchen or bath will be out of commission, plan accordingly. It’s okay to move the refrigerator, microwave and toaster oven to the basement or another designated area where you can prepare meals to avoid eating out. Equally important are the rules that dictate how workers can conduct themselves in your home. Will they be able to use your bathroom and the telephone? Will they be prohibited from smoking, playing their radios or using profanity? Finally, remember to preserve a safe haven in your home where you can flee the chaos and dust and attempt to maintain your sanity.

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