At Kodiak Heating & Air Conditioning Ltd, we’d like to thank Lennox® for offering these tips on relaxing and staying healthy and comfortable all year round.
Refresh your home, inside and out
Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in many families. This year, instead of tackling just a few untidy areas, consider sprucing up your entire house. You’ll not only enjoy a fresher and more attractive interior, but you can also boost the value of your home. Here are some items you can add to your checklist:
1. Clear out clutter—and dust
Clutter can quickly build up, especially when space is limited. Left unchecked, clutter can lead to allergy-aggravating dust problems. For help clearing your home and your air, you might turn to a trusted friend who can walk through your house and give you an honest, yet tactful, assessment. Then, purge. Save a few treasures, but box the rest up and donate it all to charity, or to the nearest dumpster.
2. Spruce up the front yard
On a nice spring day, step outside and survey your front lawn. A complete overhaul probably isn’t necessary, but a few simple changes might make a world of difference to your curb appeal. Paint your front door a vibrant color. Trim your hedges and add some pops of bright flowering plants in containers. Add a new mailbox, power-wash your driveway, and don’t forget to install large, reflective house numbers for convenience and safety. You’ll be amazed how a few simple upgrades transform the look of your home from drab to fab.
3. Inspect your plumbing
Leaky faucet? Fix it. Slow drip? Tighten and dry it up. Plumbing issues can be an “out of sight, out of mind” problem that surfaces at the worst times. Head off any lurking issues with an inspection of your plumbing. Update those faucets and washers, clean those pipes, and monitor for holes, drips or rust. Have a trusted plumber visit and do a full assessment. A small investment now can save a flood—literally—of problems later.
4. Schedule an HVAC tune-up
In the spring, as you prepare to move from heat to air conditioning, have your HVAC system inspected by a trained professional. Your local Lennox dealer can inspect the supply and return ducts, replace filters, and make sure your system is operating at peak efficiency.
5. Clean and refresh floors
Sweeping and vacuuming may be enough to shape up floors. If you have hardwood under the carpet, you may want to pull up a section of the carpet to check the wood and subfloor conditions. Re-staining the floors takes patience, but the result can be stunning. Another option is to cover the old flooring with new, easy-to-install wood laminate. No special talents are needed—just a click, snap and tap of the hammer. Or, install new tile to freshen up a room. In an afternoon, you can transform a blah room into a WOW room.
6. Repaint walls
An easy way to brighten a home is to pull out the paint cans. A fresh coat of paint—in cool, neutral shades of white, yellow or sand—adds a fresh look and instant value. Plan a room or two per weekend, and in a month or so, you’ll have a welcoming new interior.
Big Ticket–Best Buys!
Is your tax return burning a hole in your pocket? Not quite sure how to spend it? If you have a hankering for that HD flat screen…or that hot new car…take a breath and don’t blow that stash of cash just yet. Call it a science or marketing secret, but there are proven ways to get the best bang for your buck on big-ticket items throughout the year. You just need to know when to hit the stores.
Furniture – Manufacturers ship new designs and furniture sets to stores in January, so deals can be found on existing stock in retail stores.
Exercise equipment – Remember that New Year’s resolution? Retailers do, and that’s why they radically drop prices on exercise equipment in January.
Linens and bedding – The first “White Sale” hit store ads in 1878, and the tradition stuck. Shop in winter for comforters, sheets, mattresses and all those fluffy linens that make life more comfortable. For the best deals on furniture, exercise equipment, linens, electronics and more, try searching dealnews.com.
Cell phones – Cell phone prices and plans vary throughout the year, but shop Valentine’s Day for two-for-one deals for you and your sweetie.
Televisions – Black Friday may be king, but a second time to shop for TVs comes around and just after Super Bowl Sunday. No matter who wins the Super Bowl, you come out the big winner with great TV deals.
Golf clubs – New models are released for the summer, so your local golf shop starts shipping the old clubs out the door in March.
Luggage – It’s between vacation seasons, so grab deals on bags in March, and get ready to hit the beach in the summer.
Houses – Spring is the best time of year to buy a house, but beware that competition will be fierce. You may have to do a little extra hunting for the home of your dreams.
Digital cameras – Manufacturers usually introduce their latest models of digital cameras in January at the Consumer Electronics Show. By the time spring rolls around, retailers start discounting older models to make room for the newer ones. So you might consider buying last year’s model for less.
Refrigerators – While most appliances go on sale in the fall, May is the time for refrigerators. New models hit stores in June, so shop now for cool deals.
Mattresses – Tradition rules with mattress sales, which have been staples of holiday shopping for decades. Best bets are Memorial Day, 4th of July and Presidents’ Day, according to the International Sleep Products Association. Don’t forget, mattresses are one of the last “haggle” items in stores, so see if you can shave an extra $100 or so off your big purchase.
Tools – Dads love tools, and retailers know when Father’s Day is on the calendar. This makes June an ideal time to fill Dad’s toolbox.
Computers – New editions are often on the horizon in June, so discounts are prevalent on the remaining computers on retail shelves. It’s also a great time to take advantage of back-to-school offerings on computers and related equipment.
Home décor – It’s wedding season, which means savings on wedding gifts for friends and family. If you’re ready for a change in your own home, you can gift yourself with a few new items.
Laptops – Shop for laptops during back-to-school sales, when you can save 20%-35%. Big discounts can also hit whenever Microsoft releases a new Windows operating system. For great deals on technology and even several non-technology items like cars, clothing, travel and home furnishings, check out TechBargains.com.
Appliances – New models come out in October, which means big bargains on the previous year’s models.
Cars – Brand-new models of cars are introduced in late summer and early fall, so dealers are anxious to empty their lots. Savings can be anywhere from $500-$3,000 for “older” cars. To find great deals, car comparisons, buying advice, ratings, car values and leasing information, try Edmunds.com.
Holiday airfare – Shop early – a month or more out, if you can – for that holiday visit to grandma’s house. A tip: It’s typically cheaper to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, and airfares change at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and once each Saturday and Sunday.
Gas grills – At this time of year, your thoughts may be turning to winter, but it gives you a perfect window of opportunity to buy gas grills, as managers clear out store displays. Pricegrabber.com offers deals on home improvement, clothing, furniture, appliances, home goods and more.
Air conditioners – You may be shivering through the first nights of winter, but the best time to buy an air conditioner is late fall and early winter. Think COOL!
Televisions and other electronics – ‘Tis the season. Eat your turkey and head out to the Black Friday sales for outstanding bargains, even if you have to shop at 2:00 a.m. Hitting up the stores on Black Friday? Try mobile apps like TheFind and RedLaser, which allow you to use mobile phone cameras to scan bar codes to compare products and prices.
Pools – Purchase that pool of your dreams during the holidays, and look forward to a splash-filled summer.
Cars – At the end of the year, lots need to empty. Drive home a 2013 model to get the most mileage from your dollars. And don’t forget: Many great deals can be snagged over long holiday weekends. Watch your newspaper and store and company websites for the deal of the day. A little advance homework can save you hundreds of dollars that you can use to buy more fun items!
7 tips to soothe dry winter skin
Winter’s harsh elements can wreak havoc on skin, causing it to dry, itch and flake. Our seven skin-saving tips can help to provide soothing relief in no time:
1. Protect your skin with oil supplements.
Adding fish and flaxseed oil to your diet—two natural oils high in essential fatty acids—will not only help to keep your skin hydrated, but protect it from the damaging effects of the environment.
It may sound counter intuitive, but exfoliation is actually great for dry skin. The reason? Thick, callused or dead skin covers the healthy skin beneath and soaks up all the moisture. Choose a gentle exfoliating product and avoid products containing alcohol, which is drying.
3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Once the exfoliation process is complete, apply an oil-based moisturizer. Thick, heavy creams offer plenty of staying power and keep water from evaporating from your skin. However, choose a lotion free of perfume and harsh chemicals, or it could add to the drying effect. Petroleum jelly, perfect for people with sensitive skin, is safe, inexpensive and free of harsh chemicals and irritants.
4. Block the rays.
Sunblock is one of your best defenses against dry skin, wrinkles and roughness. Covering up year-round using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or greater can keep sun damage at bay, locking in moisture and warding off wrinkles to boot. Prevent dry, chapped lips in the winter with an SPF 15 lip balm, then add a scarf or hat.
5. Wash off in warm water.
Steamy showers are a shoo-in when temperatures dip; but while hot water can make you feel warm in a jiffy, it strips your body of its natural oil barrier and lets out moisture in the process. Try using warm water instead, and limit showers to no more than 10 minutes.
6. Increase indoor humidity.
Dry indoor air—common during the winter months when lower outdoor temperatures bring lower humidity levels—can take its toll on skin. A humidifier can help to create a healthier home and lesson skin irritation, in addition to relieving problems associated with dry air, like sore throats and respiratory problems. Lennox’ Healthy Climate® Steam Humidifier heats water to produce steam, dispersing moistened air evenly throughout your home to make the air more comfortable. Plus, since humidified air feels warmer than dry air at the same temperature, you may be able to lower your thermostat and utility bills simultaneously.
7. Visit your dermatologist.
If you have taken several of these steps to ward off dry winter skin—with little or no results—it’s time to see a dermatologist. There could be an underlying cause that requires more medical attention. The good news? Several prescription creams are available that can restore your skin’s
5 ways to fight cabin fever this winter
Feeling a little cooped up inside your home? You might have cabin fever! Lucky for you, we’ve got a few methods to fight off the winter doldrums in the event you find yourself hopelessly home bound:
1. Get outside.
It’s that simple: Take a walk, build a snowman, go for a run or sit on the porch. Exposure to sunlight (as little as 15 minutes a day) will boost your levels of Vitamin D and protect against seasonal mood changes.
2. Boost your mood with food.
Cabin fever can lead to winter doldrums. Keep your spirits high by eating foods that contain high levels of the amino acid Tryptophan, which our bodies convert to serotonin—a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Examples include:
• Cottage cheese
• Sunflower seeds
3. Cheer up your environment.
Add bright colors throughout your home in the form of curtains, pillows, throws and soft furnishings—or even a brightly colored, soft sheet for your bed. Use a scent diffuser to make your home smell of lavender, peppermint or jasmine—essential oils considered to be uplifting. Try growing an indoor plant; it can also help to relieve tension, anxiety and depression while getting rid of stale indoor air in the process.
4. Battle the boredom.
Stave off the boredom often associated with cabin fever by engaging in a time-consuming activity. Pick up an old hobby or choose a new craft to learn, play a board game with the kids, read a book, organize the basement or cook a three-course meal. The hours will pass quickly, and you may find yourself relaxing in the process.
The feeling of isolation can be a major contributor to cabin fever. Host a tea party, lunch or dinner with family or friends. Catching up, talking and laughing with company may be the best remedy for what ails you.
Sometimes, the steps you take to fight off cabin fever may not be enough to shake those winter doldrums. In this event, contact a health professional to discuss additional courses of treatment.
5 sleep tips for relaxation
Out with the old…in with the new! If getting a good night’s rest is on your list of resolutions this year, you’re in luck! Courtney Strimel, a writer and blogger who specializes in sleep, relaxation and personal well being, offers tips to help you wake up each day feeling refreshed and renewed.
1. Clear the clutter
Do away with extra nonessential bedroom items, said Strimel. “One of the worst things you can do is make the entire bedroom your closet. Add shelving in the closet, buy some under-bed storage boxes, or get creative with storage ideas throughout the house—but give everything a place and keep it there!” The reason? A cluttered bedroom can interfere with the quality of your sleep, making it harder for your brain to shut down. After all, it’s hard to fall asleep with a stack of books on the dresser or a pile of laundry wilting away in the corner.
2. Remove all light sources
When it’s time for “lights out,” relaxing in a completely dark room can help you ease into a good night’s rest. That’s because exposure to light can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep. Strimel recommends darkening windows, using blackout curtains or “layers” of blinds, sheers and drapes that can prevent extra light from infiltrating the room. Banish televisions, computers, cell phones and other electronics from the bedroom; light from these devices also interferes with your body’s ability to fall asleep, resulting in more frequent waking.
3. Invest in the right mattress and pillows
One of the biggest causes of interrupted sleep is discomfort from your bed and/or pillow. An uncomfortable mattress can prevent your body from experiencing deep, restorative sleep—and over time, it can contribute to chronic back, shoulder or neck pain. Similarly, a pillow that does not provide proper support for your head and neck can also affect proper alignment. Plus, “besides the fact that bedding—mattresses, toppers, pillows—wear out and become less supportive, they also become too allergen-riddled to save,” said Strimel. Flipping a mattress can offer a temporary solution; however, if your mattress is more than seven years old, it’s time to replace it. The approximate shelf life of pillows is one year.
4. Create a relaxing colour scheme
Several studies show that wall colours or even the colour of bedding can influence the quality of your sleep. Soft, relaxing shades can help to calm your nervous system and promote rest. “Choose a linen colour—a sage green, or a sea blue,” said Strimel. “While red and charcoal colors look striking in home decor ads, these dense colors are not conducive to a good night’s sleep.”
5. Do away with dust bunnies
Dust and dust mites (tiny microscopic creatures that live inside bedding) can aggravate allergies and even cause asthma attacks. The easiest solution? Routine cleaning. “Make sure your sheets are washed at least every week. Dust your furniture and sweep or vacuum,” said Strimel. “For even better allergen control, vacuum the mattress periodically, as well.” After vacuuming, sprinkle a box of baking soda over the mattress and work it in with a clean broom. Place a clean mattress cover over the baking soda until it’s time to wash again.
Get smart about home energy efficiency
Did you know as much as half the energy consumed in your home goes to heating and cooling? If you haven’t replaced your HVAC system with a high-efficiency, ENERGY STAR® qualified model, you’re probably spending significantly more on home utility bills—up to 20% more if your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 10 years old, and up to 15% more if your furnace is more than 15 years old. Here are a few more steps you can take to increase energy efficiency and savings in your home:
Close the envelope
Insulating and sealing the exterior of your home, often referred to as the “envelope,” can help keep air from leaking into the home from the outside, or vice versa, helping you to save up to $200 per year on home heating and cooling costs.
Seal the ducts
Duct sealing can save up to $120 per year in coastal areas, and as much as $190 if you’re inland.
Install a programmable thermostat
An ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat can save you up to $100 per year in coastal areas and over $150 inland. Lennox’ icomfort Wi-Fi Touchscreen Thermostat lets you set your home’s temperature to save energy from anywhere in the world, using a smartphone, tablet or laptop. It also offers a live weather forecast and automatic updates for added convenience.
Add a power strip to areas with high-traffic devices
Using a power strip in home offices or entertainment areas can help you save up to $100 annually on your utility bill.
Replace old windows
Installing new, ENERGY STAR windows in place of old windows can save you between $150-500 in annual energy costs.
Install a new shower head
A new 2.5 gallon-per-minute shower head can help you tuck away an extra $145 a year in electricity costs, in addition to saving you 5 gallons of water per shower.
Add a ventilation fan
Installing a ventilation fan to control moisture, mold and mildew growth in the bathroom can save you up to 60% more energy than standard models when using an ENERGY STAR qualified model.
Replace incandescent light bulbs
Substituting CFL bulbs for just 5 of your highest-use fixtures can save up to $70 per year on home utility bills.
Replace old appliances with new, high-efficiency models
For the greatest savings, choose ENERGY STAR approved models: They’re up to 40% more efficient than standard models. Here’s a breakdown of how much you’ll save by replacing your home appliances with an ENERGY STAR approved model:
• Dishwasher—Save up to $40 per year on utility bills when replacing a 1994 or older model.
• Refrigerator—Save 20% per year on home energy costs. Unplugging an extra refrigerator in the
basement or garage can equate to an additional $300-700 per year.
• Washing machine—See approximately 30% in energy savings per year compared to standard
washers. Full-sized washers save 10-20 gallons of water per load.
• Clothes dryer—Save more than $135 a year if your dryer is over 10 years old.
• Water heater—Save up to $80 per year on gas bills; larger families will see even more savings.
Great holiday gift-wrapping tips
The shopping is done and everyone on the list is covered. Now, it’s time for the wrapping! Assembling pretty packages can be a daunting task, so we’ve gathered a few tips to help make the process a little smoother:
Use a box wherever possible
If you can, try to find a box for all your gifts. They’re the easiest shape to wrap, providing uniformity for simple measuring and cutting. If an item is large, like a skateboard, for example, piece together two boxes and tape the length together at the centre. Wrapping multiple gifts in boxes also makes them easier to stack and store.
Get creative with bulky or unusually shaped items
If you can’t find a box to suit your item and you have, say, a bowling ball or other unusually shaped item, wrap it in cellophane and secure with a rubber band at the top; top with a bow and fan the plastic at the top. Other items, like bikes or pets, are best hidden away until it’s time to unveil them.
Invest in quality paper
Getting a great deal on pretty patterned paper is a good idea in theory; however, watch out for thin paper, which can crumple and tear during the wrapping process. For best results, choose a medium-weight gift wrap in a sheet large enough to cover the item, with a few extra inches to spare. Brown craft paper works great, too, while allowing personalization from stamping, stenciling or colouring.
Measure your paper
Too much paper can result in sloppy wrapping; the more paper you have to fold, the messier it looks. Lack of excess paper makes the wrapping easier to handle and produces neatly folded ends, which give your gifts an elegant look. A ribbon, wrapped around your gift, makes the perfect measuring tape for your paper. Add a one-inch overlap, then lay the ribbon on the paper and cut. To further simplify the process, choose paper with grid lines underneath for even cutting. A ribbon, wrapped around your gift, makes the perfect measuring tape for your paper.
Choose the right materials
Choose scissors with sharp blades that can cut through the paper in one sweeping movement; transparent tape with a matte finish blends perfectly into the paper. Finally, when selecting ribbon, choose a variety of colours and styles to add pizzazz to your packages -- with enough length to wrap around your gift, and enough left over at the width to make a bow at the top. Pine cones, evergreen and other natural elements also add great style to wrapped gifts.
Wrap on a flat surface
When all your materials are gathered, find a flat work area -- like a large table top-with plenty of space to unroll your wrapping paper. This will help to eliminate crumpling, tearing and messy folding. Remove all price tags, check each item for defects, cracks and chips, and ensure all items are packed properly before you begin wrapping. If you are adding a gift receipt to your present, tape it to the lid of the box, or present it in an envelope to the recipient if you are giving a larger item.
Let the wrapping begin!
Here’s one pro tip you don’t want to miss: While wrapping, if you’re planning to add tags and cards later, label them with sticky notes so you do not mix up your gifts.
Add the finishing touches
If you are attaching a card, secure the envelope to the package with tape. Gift tags are presented best threaded onto the bow during the wrapping process; use a hole punch if necessary. If you do not have gift tags available, write the recipient’s name directly onto the package in a contrasting colour or metallic marker.
Holiday entertaining on a budget
Invitations are out, and guests are on the way. And while the busy holiday season leaves little time for planning, there’s still plenty to do to prepare your home for entertaining. How can you get it all done in time? We asked stylists April Brown and Rick Sims of advertising agency Power Creative for tips to create an inviting atmosphere for hosting holiday gatherings—at a cost that won’t break the budget. They weighed in, with ideas that bring in elements of nature and recycling to create a whimsical and nostalgic environment where everyone can feel at home:
Decorate with found, organic objects
Evergreens offer an abundance of berries, pine cones and branches perfect for creating wreaths, centrepieces and other natural décor. Twigs, for example, can be spray-painted white or silver for added holiday flair; pinecones look lovely stacked in a clear vase with evergreen branches. For a cohesive look, carry the natural theme throughout the house; place clippings of pine, holly or other evergreen plants in every room, whether on the wall or in a small vase or bowl.
Add a little aromatherapy
Scented pinecones and cinnamon brooms—available at most craft stores—offer a comforting scent of cinnamon and spice. Magnolia and holly plants add to the holiday aroma. Finally, a special cider or Wassail (a traditional English mulled cider) simmered on the stove, creates the finishing touch. Scented candles are also in-style and add earthy ambiance in addition to a relaxing scent.
Start with a linen cloth and a beautiful centerpiece (think candles, pine branches and berries). From there, add extra touches of whimsy and nostalgia (handed-down china, for example) to make your holiday setting feel special. Heirloom linens can also offer a special feeling of comfort. Not only will your table stand out, but unique pieces can also serve as a great conversation starter and provoke fond memories, helping guests to relax right away. Bring natural elements to place settings with rosemary clippings wrapped around napkins; secure with twine. Add name cards for extra personalization.
Prepare food in advance and serve up a theme to pull it all together
Chopping, prepping and freezing food beforehand will help your party go off without a hitch. Choosing a theme for the meal can also help with planning menu courses and can pay homage to the heritage of family and friends. For example, Brown prepares traditional Italian meals for her family—like the Feast of Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian Christmas celebration consisting of seven different seafood dishes. For dessert, she makes pizzelle (flat and crispy Italian cookies that resemble snowflakes) and “clothespin” cookies (rolled dough cookies filled with Italian creme). A theme helps pull the meal together and gives guests something to look forward to.
Set the scene with porch pots
The concrete planters on your porch? They’re not just for summer and fall: Flipping porch pots year-round, using plants that are in season, sets a cheerful and seasonal tone as guests enter your home. Magnolia and evergreen are ideal choices for winter. Bring everything together with a natural wreath for the door.
When the party’s over, reuse and recycle
Simple brown craft paper is wonderful for wrapping gifts. After everything is opened, shred the paper and use it to mulch around plants, or substitute for bubble wrap when mailing delicate packages. Similarly, extra ornaments (and even beloved broken ones) can be placed in a bowl for a table centerpiece. Finally, if you have decorated a live evergreen for the holidays, recycle it in the backyard; let the pine needles provide mulch for your garden or plants, and tie pine cones with birdseed to the bare tree for a makeshift animal feeder.
7 Tips to Prevent the Flu
Aaaaaaaaaa-Choooooooo! The dreaded flu season is upon us. Fortunately, the old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We’re gathered a few tips to help you protect your family from the flu this winter: Wash your hands, surfaces and even cleaning supplies. Often. Just 15-20 seconds of hand washing with soap and warm water—or alcohol-based rub—can help protect you from germs. Since human influenza viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, kitchen and bath fixtures should also be scrubbed down regularly. Sterilize cellulose sponges in the dishwasher.
1. Down your vitamin C.
Good sources include citrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, nuts and kiwi. Supplements can also help shorten the duration of the virus following its onset.
2. Drink plenty of fluids.
Proper hydration is essential to a strong immune system and overall health. Water and herbal or flavored teas are the best choice. Avoid alcohol, which may decrease your resistance to viruses.
3. Practice good health daily.
Exercise, manage stress, eat healthy food and get plenty of rest.
4. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough.
But be sure to use a tissue; touching your eyes, nose and mouth can help germs spread.
5. Don’t smoke.
Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor for influenza, due to structural changes that can occur in the respiratory tract and a decreased immune response.
6. Clear the air.
Use an air cleaner or filtration system to capture bacteria and other small particles. A humidifier can also help your family breathe a little easier while reducing the incidence of sore throats and respiratory problems.
7. Play “keep away.”
Avoid crowds wherever possible. Put about 6 feet of distance between yourself and others as much as possible to avoid contracting the virus. Similarly, if you happen to come down with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks to avoid spreading the illness.
Last, but not least—schedule a flu shot! The vaccine, available by shot or nasal spray, is recommended for everyone six months of age or older. It protects against infection and illness caused by the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the coming season. While the vaccine can prevent the flu altogether, it also helps lesson the severity of the illness in the event onset occurs.