Cheryl A. Snyder
Phone:  610-346-7908Office:  215-538-4400
Email:  csnyder@remax440.comCell:  215-801-0583Fax:  267-354-6905
Cheryl A. Snyder
Cheryl A. Snyder

Cheryl's Blog

How to Save Big on Energy Costs

March 2, 2017 2:21 am

Those of us juggling mortgage payments, monthly phone and cable bills, and electric bills know the financial strain of homeownership. And while you may not be able to reduce that mortgage payment right now, you can certainly curtail your energy costs with a few tweaks.

"Swapping out light bulbs, turning on ceiling fans, and replacing air filters are a few easy ways to save energy," says Eric Corbett, president and owner of Larry & Sons. "Even the smallest problems with your furnace or inconsistencies in heating effectiveness throughout your home can cause your energy bill to skyrocket during winter."

Corbett offers the following tips on how to save energy and lower utility bills during winter:

- Seal the doors and windows. Homes are built to protect you from the elements. However, over time the seals around doors and windows can become weak. You may find that the seals between your doors and window frames are not as tight as they once were when the home was brand new. Weakened seals allow cold air to enter and warm air to exit. Therefore, heating your home isn't working if your seals are weak.

- Run your fans. Turning on the indoor fans will help to move air around the room. This evens out the temperature in a room instead of the hot air accumulating near the ceiling. It also helps to eliminate any cold spots in corners of the home.

- Swap old bulbs for LED lights. Swapping out old incandescent lights for LED lighting can save you extra money over time. In addition to being more energy efficient, LED lights last up to 50 times longer than incandescent lights and up to five times longer than fluorescent ones. This saves you time and money replacing burnt out bulbs.

- Turn down your thermostat and water heater if you're leaving home. If you are traveling, turn down the thermostat and water heater before leaving your home. Don't completely shut them off, just turn them down to save energy. If you shut your thermostat and water heater off, pipes can freeze without sufficient warmth.

- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature for various times of the day so that your furnace turns on to warm your house before you wake up, or it shuts off to save energy when everyone is asleep.

- Call a professional. Your HVAC is a complex system. If it's malfunctioning and runs without repair, it could potentially lead to greater damage and a more expensive repair. Invest in routine low-cost maintenance and tune-ups to save money in the long run.

- Clean your furnace filter. The simplest thing to do is to replace your air filter often. An HVAC unit drives air through a filter into the ductwork to the rest of the house. This keeps your air clean and filtered for impurities. As the filter removes impurities and dust from the air, it blocks airflow causing the furnace to work harder, which draws more energy.

Source: www.larryandsons.com.

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Contact Lens Safety Tips

March 1, 2017 2:18 am

(Family Feature)--With nearly 41 million adults in the U.S. wearing contact lenses as a safe and popular form of vision correction, there is a growing trend among Americans to alter the appearance or color of the eyes by using decorative contact lenses. However, if these lenses are bought illegally and without a prescription from your eye doctor, they could lead to serious health issues and potentially damage your eyesight permanently.

“Many consumers consider these lenses a fashion or costume accessory when, in reality, decorative lenses are also classified as medical devices and still pose the same potential safety and health issues as corrective contact lenses and require a prescription,” says Andrea P. Thau, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association (AOA).

The AOA recommends contact lens wearers take proper steps to protect their eyes and maintain a consistent hygiene routine, including:

- See a doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination and proper fitting and prescription for decorative contacts lenses, even if you don’t require lenses to correct your vision.

- Never buy lenses from retail outlets or online sites that don’t require a prescription.

- Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your eye doctor.

- Wash and dry hands before handling contact lenses.

- Carefully and regularly use cleaning solution to rub the lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking overnight in multi-purpose disinfectant solution.

- Use fresh solution to clean and store contact lenses – never reuse old solution.

- Only use products recommended by your eye doctor to clean and disinfect lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops do not disinfect lenses.

- Store lenses in the proper storage case and replace your case every three months. In addition, cases should be rubbed with clean fingers, rinsed with solution, dried with a tissue and stored upside-down when not in use.

- Remove contact lenses before exposing them to water.

- See your optometrist immediately if you experience redness, pain, irritation or blurred vision while wearing your lenses.

Source: aoa.org.

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Money Matters: Finances and Your Relationship

March 1, 2017 2:18 am

Communication is important in every aspect of your romantic relationship, but when it comes to finances, being open and honest—even when uncomfortable—is a necessity.

"Money discussions are tough to have, often bringing up core issues about our own relationship to money, as well as anxieties about the future," says Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®. "While it can be a hot button issue for many, not being open with your partner about money can often lead to more issues down the line."

In her latest contribution to LetsMakeAPlan.org, Schlesinger offers tips for how to start a conversation with your partner about your finances.

Set up time to talk: Trying to have a meaningful conversation about money amid a heated argument is fruitless. Instead, set aside a specific time and place to talk about the dreaded topic. You can reduce emotions by setting specific objectives and basic ground rules: No judgments – just open dialogue. 

Share information: During your conversation, you should share information including any outstanding debt, investments, bank and retirement accounts, and any bonds you may have. If you've never created a balance sheet or estate plan, now is the perfect time to do so!  Create a master list of assets and note who owns each, or whether it's jointly owned. Also include any account usernames and passwords, broker names and contact information, and other account info to share with your partner.

Get on the same page: Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to financial priorities – retirement, college planning and cash flow management. Do you want to keep separate bank accounts and both contribute to a joint account? There is no "right" answer, but agreeing on a path forward will help avoid confusion in the future.

Divide and conquer: After you have the conversation, divide financial responsibilities that work for each partner's strength. If one likes to use apps to track spending, they should monitor the day-to-day bills. If the other is more inclined to manage the long-term investments, they should manage those accounts. Make sure you understand the game plan together and allocate tasks appropriately.

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

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How to Check Your Roof for Damage

March 1, 2017 2:18 am

Whether your roof is aged or just weathered a severe storm, staying on top of possible damage is key to extending the life of your home’s top half.

Highland Commercial Roofing offers these tips to help detect and prevent water damage:

Inspect your roof for damage after a severe storm.

Remove any loose objects and debris. A clean roof eliminates leaves and other items. from accumulations on the roof and clogging drains and gutters.

Check gutters and downspouts for debris that will inhibit proper drainage.

Bubbles on the roof may be a sign of trapped moisture under the cover.

Worn, cracking seams can allow water to enter below the cover.

Standing water or prolonged ponding of water can lead to premature aging and deterioration.

Check skylights for securement and cracking around the edges.

Source: www.highlandroof.com

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Developing Children’s Character at Home

February 28, 2017 2:18 am

(Family Features)--We all want our kids to become good, honest, well rounded adults. Take an active approach to helping children develop a solid foundation in good character with these tips:

Help children recognize their feelings. Help little ones recognize and understand their feelings by giving them vocabulary words to express themselves.

Lead by example. Children learn a lot by watching the interactions of adults. Model social-emotional skills by listening to others, apologizing when you hurt someone’s feelings, being respectful of others, etc. 

Help children identify other perspectives. Point out differences in other people’s thoughts and feelings. When reading with children, ask what they think the characters are feeling or narrate the emotions and exaggerate facial expressions for young children. 

Talk about your own decisions in terms of right and wrong. As children’s abilities and understanding grows, discuss your values and take advantage of everyday situations to describe and demonstrate good citizenship and desirable behavior.Let kindness and respect rule the day. Set household guidelines grounded in showing kindness and respect, and help children learn to follow them. When they break the rules, calmly explain how or why their behavior was unkind and how they could have better handled the situation.

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Can Pesky Household Chores Be Healthy?

February 28, 2017 2:18 am

Can household chores be more than a series of to-dos? What if they could be both fun and healthy? I went looking for some data recently to learn exactly which chores burn the most calories, which ones people prefer to do, and what tasks we avoid (hello, cleaning the bathroom!).

Calorielab.com provides a deep breakdown of dozens of calorie-burning household chores. It turns out that as you transition from winter to spring, carrying of boxes up and down stairs as you're swapping seasonal stuff from the attic or basement can burn between 300 and 500 calories or more per hour, depending on how vigorous your pace.

- Make good use of a mop, vacuum or carpet sweeper for 15 minutes, and boom - you're down around 40 calories. Keep it up for an hour and burn off around 170.

Calorielab.com says even 15 minutes of light cleaning - dusting, straightening up, changing linen, or carrying out trash - is good for a 26 calorie burn. Step outside to scrub your car, wash windows, or clean the garage; an hour's work can burn 136 calories.

There are also a ton of simple but necessary chores that really stack up over time. Housekeeping.org sourced this zippy to-do list from all over the web:

- Use a nut to take scratches out of a wooden table in five minutes by rubbing the meat of a walnut over them.

- Use Alka Seltzer to clean a toilet - plop plop two tablets in, wait a few minutes and then brush the bowl clean.

- Dump a cut up a lemon, some salt and a few ice cubes and running them through your garbage disposal to freshen and disinfect.

- Disinfect light switch covers and door knobs - this task is especially important during cold and flu season and only takes a few minutes.

- Put a handful of wet paper towels or sponge into the microwave, turn it on for a couple minutes, then wipe out the microwave with the wet paper towels and you’re done

- Implement a 5-minute pick-up game with a timer - grab a laundry basket and walk around adding anything that doesn’t belong in each room. Once you’re done, put everything back in its rightful place before the timer dings.

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How to Use That Fire Extinguisher

February 28, 2017 2:18 am

Hopefully, most of us will never have to deal with a fire in our home. But for safety’s sake, it’s important to understand how to use that fire extinguisher collecting dust. A new poll from PEMCO Insurance shows about a quarter of residents in Washington and Oregon do not have a fire extinguisher in their home, and only about half of all residents feel very confident using one.

"Fire extinguishers are an important part of overall fire safety and prevention plans – just as critical as having a home fire-escape plan and working smoke alarms," says PEMCO Spokesperson Derek Wing. "If a small fire breaks out in your home, using a fire extinguisher within six seconds can prevent it from quickly growing out of control."

To use a fire extinguisher, PEMCO urges all residents to remember the acronym PASS, which stands for "pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep." First, make sure the fire extinguisher is upright, then:

Pull the pin from the handle.

Aim the nozzle low, while keeping the extinguisher upright.

Squeeze the handle to release the fire-fighting chemicals. When you can see the fire is being put out, move in toward the fire, keeping your aim at the base of the flame.

Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out.

Experts also recommend you follow these tips to maximize your fire extinguisher's effectiveness:

Choose the right fire extinguisher. A dry chemical ABC, size 2-A: 10-B: C is often considered the best all-around home fire extinguisher, and can fight most common household fires.

Hang fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage, but never near the stove. If a fire breaks out there, you'll need to grab the extinguisher from elsewhere in your home.

Replace or refill your fire extinguisher once it's been discharged, even if you used only a little.

Be extremely cautious. If the flames are bigger than you are, it's too big to put out with a fire extinguisher. Get out and call the fire department if the fire doesn't diminish immediately when you hit it with the spray.

"Even the most basic understanding of fire extinguishers and how to use them can make a big difference in keeping your home and your family safe," Wing adds. "If you don't feel comfortable operating your fire extinguisher, or are looking for more detailed information, don't hesitate to contact your local fire department."

Source: PEMCO Insurance

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Northern Style: Winter Lawn Care Tips From The Pros

February 27, 2017 2:18 am

Recently, I started examining a few winter lawn best practices for many homeowners throughout the south.

Now I will shift focus to let those in the more northerly climates can help their lawns flourish with a few winter maintenance tips.

Central Sod Farms, Inc. (plantsod.com) authorities identify Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, along with Annual and Perennial Ryegrass among the most popular of northern region cool season turf grasses - a term applied to grass that grows well in the middle to northern half of the United States.

Cool season grasses usually have two growing seasons; spring and fall. Some species go through a winter dormancy lasting between one and four months depending on location and severity of the winter. This turf tolerates cold weather very well.

But Borst Landscape & Design professionals in New Jersey (Borstlandscape.com) say harsh winter weather can damage even the heartiest northern lawns by pushing a lot of debris from storms and wind onto your property. They recommend clearing away fallen branches, twigs and other debris that blows onto your lawn asap.

The Borst website says debris left on a lawn during cold weather, especially in snowfall, can create large dead spots. So when spring comes, those areas will show thinner grass and less growth than the rest of your lawn.
Loveyourlandscape.org advises homeowners who are using salt and melting agents for snow and ice, that those spreads can damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots.

They say get rid of extra salt that may have swept onto grassy edging by flushing out the soil with plenty of water.

The experts at plantsod.com also watch out for the occasional ice storms that coats blades of grass with ice. Walking on lawns covered in ice will damage encased blades of grass and you will see brown "footprints" for several months until warmer weather returns.

Northwesterners can take a tip or two from Seattle's swansonsnursery.com - where they suggest taking time during mid-winter to sharpen mower blades and tune-up your mower, and check lawn for standing puddles of water.

February and March are the perfect months to correct drainage where necessary or replant  areas with more suitable ground covers. Do not mow at this time, however, because birds pecking at the turf help remove soil grubs such as crane fly.

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Home Security Systems: What to Know before Buying

February 27, 2017 2:18 am

Everyone wants to protect their home, their property, and most of all, their families. In fact, market research suggests the home security business is growing at a rate of about 9 percent a year. But home security systems are not all alike.

Some systems can not only warn you of intruders, but can also notify authorities, monitor smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and/or include video surveillance. Mot security alarm installers can provide services that include equipment plus installation and monitoring service.

If you are thinking about buying a home security system, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you:

- Get references from friends, neighbors or relatives.

- Check out companies online and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

- Verify that the contractor’s license is in good standing via the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.

- Get written estimates from several companies.

- Read the fine print regarding costs, installation timeline, warranty, and an explanation of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract.

- Ask lots of questions:
  • Who will perform the installation and monitor the system? Some companies subcontract this work to a third party.
  • What is the contract period for monitoring? One year? More? Are there penalties for early termination? What happens if you move before the contract term is up?
  • How much does the monitoring cost? How often will you be billed?
  • Does the company call you before notifying the police?
  • How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
  • What happens if the alarm company can't reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
  • What happens if the power goes out? Is there a back-up battery system?
  • What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Is it from the manufacturer or their installer?
  • Who is responsible for repairs or upgrades to the system?
- Does the company offer interactive services like smoke and fire detection, remote control, video surveillance, email notifications and special apps for smart phones?

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Health and Safety Go Hand-in-Hand

February 27, 2017 2:18 am

(Family Features)--Most people recognize the importance of a healthy lifestyle when it comes to physical and emotional well-being, but you may not realize that some health-related activities can pose a safety risk if you don’t take proper precautions. Making safe habits part of your healthy lifestyle can help ensure you’re able to enjoy the results of your efforts.

Warm up your workout. Exercise and physical activity are essential to a healthy lifestyle, but failing to approach your workouts with the proper warmup and know-how can really backfire. According to the experts at WebMD, a warmup is important because it gets blood circulating and eases muscles into more vigorous activity, getting them loose, warm and ready for the challenge.

Know that technique matters. Another potential safety pitfall when it comes to working out is improperly using weight machines or employing improper technique for activities like yoga or core training. Failing to execute your exercises correctly can not only produce sub-par results, you may actually end up hurting yourself by causing a sprain or other injury. Even if you tend to be a loner when it comes to working out, enlist the expertise of a trainer or coach who can show you the ropes before you set out solo.

Exercise caution outdoors. A few hours spent in the great outdoors can leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated; fresh air is good for your body and your spirit. However, spending too much time soaking up the sun can have a detrimental impact on your health – overexposure to UV rays is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer. Exposure to the elements, such as strong winds or harsh cold, can also take a toll on your body. The American Melanoma Foundation recommends lathering up with a sunscreen that has a Skin Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 any time you’ll be outdoors for more than 20 minutes. Even winter conditions pose a threat to bare skin, as snow can actually reflect UV radiation.

Be wary of expiration dates. Most people at least periodically use prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines as part of their commitment to staying healthy. However, for people who rarely use medicines, their cabinets may be filled with potentially dangerous, expired medications. According to the FDA, both prescriptions and over-the-counter meds can lose their effectiveness over time and even become unsafe. Especially concerning are the medicines that can change chemical composition or become a breeding ground for bacteria over an extended period of time. That’s why it’s important to properly discard medicines after their expiration dates have passed.

Make reasonable eating choices. With countless diet options available, it may seem impossible to know which is most likely to help you achieve your desired results. When evaluating eating plans, be careful to avoid diets that are excessively restrictive, as these can have a serious impact on bodily organs that rely on nutrients to function. Also be wary of diets that recommend cutting entire food groups; a balanced diet with moderate portion sizes is the best approach for delivering your body the nutrition it needs for top performance.

Source: elivingtoday.com.

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