Why Hire a Landscape Architect?

If you’re thinking about renovating your yard, give serious thought to hiring a landscape architect. An architect will have the expertise help guide you to a great plan of action, and help you get you the most out of your money. Below are some of the benefits of hiring a professional to overhaul your landscape.

Leave the Planning to the Architect

Landscape architects are trained to think about landscapes as systems. They will ensure that any problem areas in your yard are identified and will design a plan that addresses both the big picture and smaller details. They will deal with the particulars so that you can sit back, relax and enjoy your space.

Increase the Value of Your Home

Hiring a landscape architect can add as much at fifteen percent to its value over comparable homes in your neighborhood. A landscape architect can also create ways to extend your outdoor living space. They will help you create a space that is both inviting and environmentally pleasing.  Looking for lighting for outdoor spaces and garden areas? A landscape architect can develop a plan for placement of lighting, including uplighting of specimen trees, timers, solar lighting and determine the best types of light fixtures for specific spots.

Trees, Trees and More Trees

If you need a little more greenery in your life, landscape architects know where to place trees, and what types, to lower energy bills so that your space is not only greener, but more environmentally friendly. Tree placement can reduce heating and cooling costs, and a landscape architect knows exactly where they need to be placed to make it happen.  

Shrubs and Flowers

Landscape architects are trained and knowledgeable about the many different varieties of shrubs and plantings.  Do  you love azaleas? The landscape architect will know which variety will survive and thrive in your yard.  Are you looking for year-round color? No problem, your architect will be able to provide you with numerous options, no matter where you live.  A landscape architect will have access to nurseries and suppliers that don't deal with the general public, so you'll be able to have dozens of choices instead of the usual handful you'd find on your own.

Permeable Paving and Irrigation

Since outdoor design is all that landscape architects focus on, they can create some amazing systems for you when designing your yard. If your yard is prone to flooding during rainstorm, they can make a permeable walkway so that flooding will no longer be an issue. In addition, they can also formulate systems to collect that rainwater and use it later to irrigate your lawn.  They can devise a plan for optimal irrigation, including scheduling numerous zones for optimal timing and amount of watering.

Fencing, Patios and More

Landscape architects can also design patios, decks, pool decking, firepits, pergolas and more.  If you can dream it, they can create it.  Whether it's a way to keep Fido or the kids in the yard with fencing, or a spot to grill and gather with friends, you'll be in good hands with a professional at the helm.  So if you want to enjoy your yard to its fullest, and increase your home's value at the same time, be sure to work with a landscape architect!

 

 

THE REAL COSTS OF HOME OWNERSHIP

You've worked hard, skipped the expensive machiatos, taken "staycations" and saved money for years.  You're finally ready to make that leap and buy your first home or "move up" to a larger home.  Are you really ready for it?  You may have been pre-approved for a mortgage, but do you really want to go to your maximum amount when you buy a home?  There are so many other costs that you need to factor into your decision. So what are some of the real costs associated with owning a home?  Let's take a look.

Mortgage and Property Taxes:

According to the National Association of REALTORS® the average cost of a home in Essex County in 2017* was nearly $421,000 with an average monthly mortgage of $1,701. This does not include property taxes or PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) if you put down less than 20% of your home's purchase price.  Those taxes can vary greatly, of course, depending upon the city or town you live in and the assessed value of your home. 

 

Cost You May Not Have Thought About

HOA and Master Association Fees

If you opt to purchase a condo or a home in a community association, you'll need to add the monthly, quarterly or annual fees to your monthly cash layout. These fees rarely decrease, so be sure to factor in a cushion in case your fees go up or a special assessment is levied. 

Hired Help

Are you working full or part time, stressed out by caring for children or other family members, overwhelmed by cleaning and cooking and laundry?  Any or all of these - plus other factors - may make you decide to hire help to keep you from burning out and to keep your biggest investment in good condition.

The latest surverys show that people spend an average of $295 a month on housecleaning services; $240 on (summer) landscaping and $108 on snow removal.  Want to have a pool?  Factor in another $125 per month per season.  A home security system averages $130 per month for "live" monitoring.  And if you live in some areas (NH is big on this) you will need to pay for trash and recycling collection at an average monthly cost of $55.  In all, the average homeowner general maintenance cost is over $3,000 per year.  And here in the Merrimack Valley, costs can be even higher.  Ouch!

Emergency Fund

How will you come up with the money you'll need if something unexpected happens, particularly a larger item like needing a new HVAC system or roof?  Even just a new washer and dryer can run well over $1,500.  Sure, you may be able to put these costs on your credit card, but will you be able to pay the bill without added finance charges?

Experts suggest a couple scenarios for creating an emergency fund.  Some advocate a more conservative approach, making sure to have 6 months' worth of expenses in a savings account.  A more general rule of thumb is to have 10% of your home's purchase price set aside for emergencies.  So that $421,000 home you bought means you should have $4,210 set aside.  You can add this money up front when you buy your home if you have cash left after your purchase, or set aside an extra $100 a month that's earmarked for that emergency account.  Keep in mind that you may not use the fund every year, but you want to continue saving in case something major happens.  If you don't have money set aside, you might want to rethink that decision to hire the pool guy or cut the housecleaning down to every other week.

Other Savings Goals

It's never to early to start saving for your retirement, kids' education or a special vacation.  To avoid dipping into your maintenance account or over spending on your credit cards, put aside some money from every pay check toward those goals. Financial planners suggest taking 10% out of your pay every week and immediately put it into a high-yield savings and investment account.  By taking that 10% up front, you won't really miss it.  At least, that's what the experts say!

The Final Word

How much you want to spend is a personal decision, of course, but these associated costs may be reason to think twice about spending to the top of your mortgage limit.  You want to be able to enjoy your new home, not work overtime to just make ends meet!  Contact me to help you find your dream home at a price you'll be happy paying!

 

*Let me know if you're interested in statistics for other counties in MA or NH

Home Maintenance Tips for When the Snow Melts

The snow isn't over yet, but it's never too early to plan for home maintenance, especially if you're thinking of selling your home this spring.  Here are 5 home maintenance tasks to tackle when the snow has finally melted so you can get your home ready for spring and warmer weather.  

 
1. Evaluate Your Shingles and Roof
 
Your shingles and roof can become damaged during the winter months. Inspect your shingles and roof so you can avoid leaks and floods as well as decide whether or not it’s time to replace your roof covering entirely. Check in your attic to see if there is evidence of any leaks in the roof or around the chimney.
 
2. Clean Out Your Gutters
 
Clogged gutters will lead to leaks and floods. Clear out last year’s leaves from your gutters and fix any loose or leaky ones. This way, when the very last of the snow finally melts, the water can drain off your roof and away from your house.
 
3. Check Your Chimney
 
Damaged parts, dirty flues and unswept areas can lead to poor air quality in your home. Have a professional chimney sweep clean out your chimney and confirm any underlying structural issues, so you can be positive you’re breathing fresh, uncontaminated air.  If you don't have a chimney cap, this is a good time to add one to help keep small animals and debris out of your chimney and fireplace.
 
4. Look Foundation Cracks
 
Cracks or movement in the concrete under and around your house can lead to water draining toward your house. Address problematic cracks and either fill them in yourself with a concrete crack filler or hire a professional to do a more thorough job.  You don't want water creeping into your house or its foundation. You can help water drain away from the foundation with gutter extensions and add soil to create a proper slope away from the house to drain in the yard.
 
5. Assess Your Windows  
 
Damage to the weather stripping around your windows not only leads to winter drafts, but also leads to cool air leaking out during the warmer spring and summer months. Look for condensation and check each window’s weather seal, so you can be sure that no hot air gets in while you’re running your air conditioner. If a window's glass looks foggy but you've cleaned the glass, the seal is likely broken.  You can sometimes replace just the glass itself.  There are also companies that will repair the seal with a defogging procedure.  Otherwise you may want to consider replacing the entire window.
 
If you're contemplating selling your home this sping, there are other things to do both inside and outside the house in order to present your home in the best possible light when listing.  Feel free to contact me for advice, including staging and contractor recommendations.  'm here to help! 

Tips for Storing & Protecting Holiday Decorations

As another holiday season heads toward its inevitable end, it's time to think about how to store and protect your holiday decorations for next year.  And if you added to the collection this year, you may be short on storage space!  Below are some tips to keep in mind as you think about that dreaded chore of taking those decorations down and putting them away for another year.

Label The Lights

If it took you forever this year to figure out which string of lights goes where, you can make your life easier by labeling each string of lights with masking tape.  Coil each string of lights and wrap it with the tape to help keep it from tangling.  Wrapping the lights around a piece of cardboard is even better - you can re-use those gift boxes by cutting them into forms for the lights.  Use a permanent marker to indicate on the tape the location the lights are used in, so that you don’t end up having to figure it out by trial and error next year. Put all the lights in a box and label the outside of the box as well.  

Be Kind to the Packaging

Often it's easier and faster to rip open the box a new ornament comes in than to figure out how to get it out without ruining the box. Who designs these packages, anyway, especially the ones with mulltiple plastic tabs, tape and twisties? Keeping the packaging intact is definitely a better idea in the long run. To be sure your ornaments stay in one piece for next year, you can store them in their original box where there is likely padding and a custom space for them to sit until next holiday season.  Don't have all the original packages?  Check out the sales at the dollar stores, pharmacies and home improvement stores where you can get ruggedized corrugated cardboard or plastic containers with dividers to keep ornaments separated and protected in their own space.  

Food Ornaments (Non-Edible, Of Course)

There's nothing worse than pulling out that macaroni ornament your child made last year, only to find it crushed or eaten by critters.  You can protect that special gingerbreadman cookie, Rice Krispie wreath or macaroni tree pretty easily.  Just put any food-based decorations in re-sealable plastic sandwich bags before putting them into their designated compartment in the storage container you bought at Home Depot.

Label, Label, Label

This sounds like an easy and logical task, but many people forget to do it when hurrying (and often hating) to take down and store holiday decorations. Just use a permanent marker to make a quick list of the contents in the box before you put it in the basement or attic. Then next year you won't have to waste time and end up frustrated when searching for a must-have decoration! 

Take an Inventory

If you never know what decorating items you need to repurchase, there is an easy solution. When you’re putting decorations away for the year, make a list of all decorations you have on hand and concurrently create a list of things you need to replace. This is a good time to take advantage of sales, as stores want to unload their stock. 

Keep Candles in Shape

Almost everyone loves candles, especially at the holidays.  Whether you purchase them yourself, or receive the as gifts, you need to protect them from getting smashed, cracked or melting into lumpy messes.  If you want to keep your candles looking great for next holiday season, put tapers into paper towel tubes to protect them.  For larger candles, try using square tissue boxes (the candle will be held in place by the opening in the box).  It's best not to store candles in the attic, where summer's heat can melt them.

With your holiday decorations safely stored, you can now focus on your New Year's resolutions!

 

Should You Hang Your TV Over the Fireplace?

To hang or not to hang the TV over the fireplace, that is the burning question!  There have been plenty of arguments about whether or not to hang the TVs over the fireplace, and at this time of year you may be facing that dilemma yourself.  A fireplace is typically the focal point of the room.  So it makes sense to want your TV in the same spot. Hanging the TV also means leaving floor space open for other pieces of furniture or just to keep the space feeling more open.  Here's a quick look at the pros and cons of booting that mirror or painting and elevating your TV to the place of honor over the fireplace.
 
Pros
 
Space Saving

One of the biggest pros to hanging your TV over the fireplace is the space you save. The rest of your walls can now be used to hang photos and artwork. Since both the fireplace and the TV are focal points in your living room, putting them together will create one center for the room.  It will make it easier to arrange your furniture, since you won't have to decide whether the TV or the fireplace is the focal point. 
 
Aesthetics

The look of a TV mounted above a fireplace is aesthetically pleasing to many people and makes the room look cleaner, more modern and less fussy. The simplicity of having your TV matched with your fireplace will help create cohesiveness and won’t make the TV a distraction or take away from the fireplace. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the fireplace and the TV, helping to make the room appear larger.  If you really don't want the look of the TV above the fireplace, there are new models that will allow you to use the screen as a painting or print (or even your favorite photograph) when you aren't watching the television.
 
Cons
 
Height Issues

When you place your TV over your fireplace, it will sit higher than you're used to, and that can make it uncomfortable to watch your favorite shows and movies. Make sure to measure everything before mounting your TV so you won’t regret your decision later on. If you don’t feel as though you will be comfortable with the height of the TV above the fireplace, then think about another place where the TV will work for your floorplan and furniture layout.  If your home isn't already wired for hanging a TV over the fireplace, be sure to hire a professional to come in to run the wiring so it won't show, and to mount the TV to the wall.
 
Heat Damage

The heat that comes from the fireplace can damage your TV. You will need to figure out the exact temperature in the spot where you plan to mount the TV and be sure you insulate your chimney correctly. Calcium silicate plates will help you avoid this problem. But without proper protection, you can melt the entire bottom of the TV.  Be sure to plan ahead to avoid a meltdown!

So...

Now that you know about the pros and cons of hanging your TV over your fireplace, will you choose to hang it or place it somewhere else in the room?  The choice is yours!

Tips for Winterproofing Your Vacation Home

Do you have a summer home? Here are some tips for preparing it for being vacant all winter.  And many of these tips apply to a winter retreat that you don't visit during the warmer months!

Outside:

  • If you have any broken stairs or handrails, get them fixed before the season starts. It’s much easier for people to get seriously hurt if they can’t grab a handrail as they fall.
  • Seal any holes in outside walls and caulk or cover spigots and outdoor water pipes to protect them from bursting in cold temperatures. Sealing holes will also keep out any unwanted birds or animals who are seeking refuge during the winter.
  • Check skylights to be sure they are properly sealed to make sure the no rain, snow or ice gets inside your home.  In addition to causing damage to the structure and furnishings, any moisture left untreated can lead to mold growth.
  • Clean gutters! Make sure you've gotten rid of leaves and other debris so you don’t get a buildup of ice and snow.  Ice dam can cause serious damage. Consider installing gutter guards to prevent more debris from entering and building up.
  • Bring in any decorations or furniture that you keep outside. It can be damaged by the weather or animals, or be taken by a thief.
  • Throw away any broken items and donate to charity anything you didn't use over the season.

Inside:

  • Warm temperatures are key to preventing water damage.  Talk to and HVAC person regarding the optimal temperature for your home while you’re away.  You can usually set the thermostat lower in a well-insulated, newer home than in an older, less insulated home.
  • Install an emergency pressure release valve in the plumbing system. 
  • Leaving appliances and electronics plugged in is a waste of electricity, so unplug them. Prop the refrigerator door open so you won't come back to a modly, smelly mess.
  • If you don't plan to spend any time in the home during the winter, you may want to consider "winterizing" it. Turn off any nonessential utilities to save yourself money and avoid any chances of water leaks. If you’re in a cold climate, drain your water lines to prevent your pipes from freezing. Drain the water heater. Close the water lines to toilets, the washing machine, sinks and the dishwasher.
  • Put fresh batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, the thermostat, the security system and other vital home devices.
  • Connect your thermostat and one exterior door lock to a home automation system. Set the system to automatically send you a text if the temperature inside your home falls below a certain point. You'll know you need to call a furnace repair company and you'll also be able to unlock the door for the service person without having to be there
  • Close window treatments and storm shutters. Don't forget to activate your alarm system!
  •  

    If you're property is in a homeowner's association, be sure the association has your correct contact information, so it can reach you in an emergency.
  • Toss Trash And Take Home Perishables.  Disposing of trash will help keep rodents and other pests away. Same thing with any perishable food. You don’t want to come back to your home after a few months to find something growing in your fridge or pantry.  In many vacation areas, food banks or religious organizations hold change-over day collection drives where you can drop off your unused food on your way out of town.
  • Inventory Home Supplies.  Make a list of anything you need to replace before the start of the next season, like pots and pans or bed linens. You can shop for those at your leisure and bring the items with you when you reopen the house.

It shouldn't really take you very long to do these things, and you'll be thankful for the time well spent since you won't have to worry about your vacation home during the off season!

 

Fall Cleaning Tips

Well, we are officially well into Fall and for many people, that means Fall Cleaning time!  Here are some tips on fall cleaning and preparation projects.

 

Clean and Reverse Fans. Ceiling fans are increasingly popular here in the northeast, and they can be used year round to keep your home more comfortable.  Your ceiling fans have been hard at work all summer so they may have gathered more dust than you realize. With the fans off, clean the sides, tops and bottoms of the blades. You can get a special fan cleaning tool or use a Swiffer or regular dust cloth (be careful on the ladder!) to clean the blades and motor case.  Reverse your fans so the blades send air upward to disrupt the warm air that collects near the ceiling and disperse it downward. This is particularly effective in rooms with high or vaulted ceilings and rooms with stoves or fireplaces.

Clean Window Treatments. We often forget that window treatments ae also dust collectors! Don't ruin your investment by not cleaning them. Use a cordless hand-held vacuum to remove dust from heavier, permanently mounted hanging window treatments such as valances and swags. If you have lighter and removable hanging curtains, take them down and wash them in the gentle cycle or take them to the dry cleaner. While they're down, clean your windows and sills thoroughly.  Of course, you might want to clean your windows at the same time - or hire someone to do that unpopular task!

Vacuum and Clean Furniture. Vacuum your upholstered furniture, and spot-clean the big stains as needed. (Always test an inconspicuous area of your couch before applying any cleaning agent to a main area.)  If you have removable cusion covers, wash or dry clean them as indicated by the manufacturer.  You can also hire a professional upholstery cleaning commpany to ome and steam or otherwise clean the furniture.  It's amazing how different your furniture will look and feel after being cleaned.  You (and your pets) may not recognize it!

Clean Carpeting and Area Rugs. While shoes may track in dirt and salt during the winter, it's a good idea to clean rugs and carpeting now. Get rid of summer dirt and sand by beating smaller rugs - or washing if they're small and can withstand the machine - and steam cleaning the others.  You can rent a steam cleaner or call in a professional. And once your rugs are all clean, maybe people will take their dirty shoes off before they step on them! 

Seal the Air Leaks. Check your windows (you've got the curtains down, now's a perfect time) and doors for damaged weather stripping and cracked caulking, and make repairs as needed.  If you haven't had MassSave come to your house, this is a great time to do it and get some free products and labor! 

Check Your Snowblower! Take a few inutes to fire up the snow blower to be sure it's in working order before that first snow storm hits! If you store a car or motorcycle for the winter months, be sure you have a trickle charger to save your battery from draining while the vehicle is just sitting.  

Stock up on plastic covers and tote bins! Don't just stash your lawn furniture under the deck - or leave it out to suffer from the elements.  You can purchase covers to fit your furniture and lawn equipment, but you can also save money by buying heavy plastic by the contractor roll or getting tarps and cutting to fit.  Toss the cushions and pillows into large plastic bins; try the local dollar stores and the big-box home improvement stores for sales.  Plus, it will make you feel good to have everything stored away in good order. 

Make a Trip to th Dry Cleaner or Your Favorite Charity. Now is a good time to "swap out" your clothing and bedding.  Make good use of your washer and dryer or take things to the dry cleaner (or use a pick up service like Zoots or Anton's).  Clean your spring and summer items and store them away (think about those plastic bins again), or bring them to your favorite charitable organization or drop box.  Then get those sweaters and mittens and hats out. It won't be long now before you'll need them!

Things to Address Before an Older Relative Moves Into Your Home

It is becoming increasingly common in the US, as people live longer, for aging parents to move in with their baby boomer-aged children.  It's important to have  your home properly prepared before they move in so everyone can be assured of their safety.  But where do you start?  Start with these basic projects.

Bathroom:

- Have a carpenter install safety rails in the tub and add a grab bar.  You can give the grab bar double duty by also using it as a towel rack. This will allow your loved one to avoid using the actual towel rack or toilet paper holder as a means of steadying herself as she moves around the bathroom. Since these racks aren't made to be weight bearing, they can give way under pressure, rip out of the wall and cause drywall damage.  Not to mention the resulting bruises and breaks that can happen to your parent when this happens.

- Add a rubber bathmat or peel and stick non-slip strips to the bathtub or shower to prevents slips while bathing

- Consider purchasing a shower chair to make bathing easier. It's often difficult for the elderly to stand in the shower or lower themselves into the tub, even with safety rails in place. Be sure it's a sturdy chair made for use in the shower, not just a plastic chair you use for barbecues!

Furniture:

- Remove throw and area rugs. The edges of the rugs can be trip hazards, as can any bumps or wrinkles in the rugs. This goes not only for living, dining and bedrooms, but also for bathrooms and kitchen. A trip on a rug in the kitchen or bathroom is especially dangerous as there can be water that would further impact a fall - and tile floors that are harder when hit than when falling on carpet or wood floors.

- Rearrange furniture so your parent doesn’t have to walk around any pieces as he goes through the rooms in your home. More direct routes mean less chance of falling or bumping into something.  

- Coil or tape any cords or wires to the wall, or have additional outlets installed so there aren't any wires to trip over. 

Lighting:

- Increase lighting in stairways, hallways and at your home’s entrances, including the doorway from the garage into your house. It is important to be able to see the edge of each stair tread.  There are some great new lighting products that are specifically made for bedroom, bathroom and hallway lighting at night, including lights that are motion activated when someone gets out of bed or a chair.

Exterior:

Add a second railing to stairways, so you have railings on both sides. This is important for any interior stairways as well! Be sure the railing isn't too wide or flat to grab; to be effective your parent must be able to wrap his hand around the railing. 

- Check the condition of your sidewalks and other exterior hardscaping. Are there uneven places, loose pavers, wobbly bricks or flagstones or anything else that could trip up someone who doesn’t lift his feet high when walking?  Even out any pathways and patios to make walking on them easier.

Everyone's needs are different, of course.  When thinking about making modifications to your home, give some thought to long term needs and goals, and how you can make life easier and happier for everyone, both now and in the future.  

How to Create a Photo Inventory of Your Possessions

The Importance of an Inventory  
 
It's always a good idea to have an inventory of your possessions, but the need has been highlighted by the damage caused by the recent hurricanes.  Creating a photo inventory is a great way to document your possessions so you know what you lost if you ever have to file an insurance claim. 
  
 
Photographing Items
  
Be systematic. Start with the top floor and work your way downward to the basement (if you have one). Start in one corner or quadrant of a space and then move clockwise, standing in different parts of the room so you can take several photos.  Once you're finished with a room, tackle the individual items in it.  As you work, preview the images to ensure you got the whole item, good exposure and sharpness. You'll need to really be able to see the items if you have to file a claim.
 
Take multiple photos of objects to capture the backside, inside, details, brand or model name, serial numbers, etc. If you have receipts for items, take a photo of them to keep in the file as well. Don't forget to check in cabinets, closets, drawers and attic for items that aren't in plain sight!
 
When photographing rare or valuable items such as antiques, paintings, silverware, jewelry or fine china be sure to:
  • Create a background by placing a white bed sheet over a table and then placing the object on it
  • Fill the camera's viewfinder or LCD display with your subject
  • Shoot at your camera's closest focusing distance 
  • Use the macro setting if you camera has it
  • Be sure there are no shadows on the object or the photo
  • For decorative items, such as china, take a close-up of the pattern or trademark
 
Exterior Photos
 
While the exterior of your home may not seem like a "possession" it is important to be able to show the before and after condition of your home and yard if you need to file a claim. Take pictures of your home's exterior, including your roof, siding and porches. Next, add photos of landscaping and hardscaping features like decks, patios, fences, gazebos, sheds, barns and expensive or exotic plants. Note the size and materials used to build each exterior feature. When the time comes to file that claim, you want to be sure any repairs, replacements or rebuilds are done with like-kind/quality materials.
 
 
 
 
Save A Backup
 
Create a file naming system so you can group items by room.  As you work, print out a running copy of your inventory list.  It will take some additional time, but add a thumbnail size photo beside each item name.  Once you're finished, save a master copy of your written list on a flash drive and put it and a full set of photos in a location other than your home. A bank safe deposit box or a relative's home that's not nearby are good options. 
In  addition to creating an electronic file and backing it up in the cloud, you might want to make a hardcopy as well. If you are forced to evacuate you can bring the hardcopy with you.
 
Finally, don't forget to periodically update your photos and files as you add or delete items.  It would be bad enough to lose that precious painting you just purchased - you don't want to lose out on the insurance money, too!
 
 

Is It Better to Set the A/C Fan to Auto or On? And Other Energy Saving Tips.

Staying cool can be difficult during uncomfortable summer spikes in temperature and days-long heatwaves. Does keeping the A/C fan set to ON all the time save more energy than keeping the A/C fan set to AUTO?  That's a question that is debated in many households!

The on/auto fan switch on your A/C thermostat will affect the price you pay to cool your home. That’s because the A/C fan circulates the cool or warm air throughout your home. Switching the fan to “on” will make the A/C fan run continuously – all day long. If you choose the “auto” setting, this will allow the fan to shut off with the rest of the cooling system as soon as your desired indoor temperature is reached.

Fan “on” costs more

Unless you have a variable speed motor, that small fan in your furnace can cost a lot to run 24/7. Let’s assume your air conditioner normally cycles off 30 percent of the time. In this example, turning the fan switch to “on” will make the fan run over 200 extra hours a month. For a typical size central air conditioner, that could cost you about $8 more each month. Some people prefer the feel or sound of the fan running all the time. If that’s you, at least now you know how much that choice will cost you. Keep in mind, a fan that runs all the time may wear out sooner.  So that $8 a month can turn into a lot more in the long run.

Another reason to keep it on “auto”

The primary advantage of the “auto” setting is that it uses less energy because it keeps the fan running the least amount of time. Setting your A/C fan to “auto” also helps provide better dehumidification. Have you noticed how moisture from the air condenses on the outside of a cold drink on a humid day? Your A/C unit captures moisture the same way, helping your home feel more comfortable. When the fan cycles off using the “auto” mode, moisture has a chance to drip from the cold cooling coils into the condensation pan and then drain outside. However, when the fan runs all the time in the “on” setting, less moisture has a chance to drip and drain outside.

Tips for Keeping Cool

According to fan manufacturer Lasko, an average homeowner spends nearly $2,000 annually on energy bills, with 25 percent of that consumed by air conditioning. By simply turning the A/C thermostat up, and adding fans to any space, you can still stay comfortably cool while saving money.  

You can keep cool air moving by strategically placing a fan with a head that tilts fully back—like an 18-inch pedestal or “tornado” model—to create ongoing airflow throughout multiple rooms.  Also consider ceiling fans to keep air circulating in your home.

Turning the thermostat up by a few degrees and add one or more fans for up to 10 percent home energy savings without sacrificing comfort. Consider a portable, lightweight fan that can go from room to the room with ease.  Can't bear the thought of raising the temp in your house? Try inching it up just one or two degrees a day. And if you're away from home for hours every day, consider a programmable thermostat or one that you can control from your phone or computer. That way you can lower the temperature on your way home without wasting energy to cool the house while you're away.

If you work out at home, save more with a small fan in your workout area to keep your body temp in check. An oscillating high-velocity fan is a perfect workout partner.  You can even get one with a remote, so you don't have to interrupt your workout routine to adjust the fan speed!

Finally, check with your utility provider. Some offer a discount or rebate if you use less energy, especially during peak hours.