TIP OF THE WEEK

When the weather is hot, keeping the house cool leads to added energy costs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the highest energy consumption of the year is recorded in July, followed by August.

Summer is not over yet, but there are plenty of simple tips to reduce your dependence on traditional energy sources and cut costs.

Here’s a simple fix from Michael Oristaglio, director of Yale University’s Energy Studies Multidisciplinary Academic Program: Adjust the set point on the thermostat by just a few degrees. For example, bumping up the temperature to 74 from 72 degrees can make a large difference in home energy bills without other changes in the house such as better installation, Oristaglio said.

Also, consider energy rates rather than just energy bills, said Daniel Matisoff, assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. Most people are on a flat-rate plan. They pay a fixed cost per kilowatt-hour, and simply pay attention to the sticker price on the electricity rate and their total bill from the past month, Matisoff said.

Look at the bigger picture and find out what other options utility companies offer, such as night and weekend plans.

“If you’re able to stagger the use of major appliances, some rate plans bill based on the total peak demand, rather than total use. There are lots of different rate options out there, and smart consumers should consider switching plans,” Matisoff said.

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GARDENING

Properly site hydrangeas for best blooms

By late July home gardeners should be enjoying big, blooming hydrangeas. So what’s happening if yours are looking a little less than fantastic, with dead stems or live stems with no flowers?

For the best blooms hydrangeas need a half-day of sun, ideally in the morning, according to the National Garden Bureau.

Flowering hydrangeas are possible even if they only get afternoon sun, as long as a gardener keeps an eye on the plant’s moisture level. Be sure moisture in the soil is high enough so that plant can rehydrate when needed.

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HOME BUYING

The final home walk-through

The final walk-through is one of the most critical steps to buying a home. While it isn’t a home inspection, a final walk-though helps to assure a buyer the home is in the agreed-upon condition to purchase, according to Bankrate.com, which offers the following tips for a successful walk-through:

• Typically, the buyer and buyer’s agent attend a walk-though without the seller or seller’s agent.

• Schedule the final walk-though within 24 hours of the closing date.

• Reschedule a walk-though if there is severe weather or a bad storm, which could cause damage.

• Take your time inspecting the home.

• If you find issues or problems, communicate and work toward a resolution that may include putting off closing for a few days or asking for a credit at closing for repairs.

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HOME RENOVATION

Give kitchen cabinet a life

If your cabinets looking a little shabby, give them a new lease on life with the following tips from HomeAdvisor.com.

A new coat of paint is an easy and affordable upgrade. For something equally as economical, consider changing out cabinet door panels, which are the large pieces in the center of cabinet doors.

Installing new hardware changes the look of cabinets, and all you need is a screwdriver.

Change the focus by adding under-cabinet lighting. Choose from task and accent lighting to easy-to-install peel-and-stick LED varieties.

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