RE/MAX 440
Howard C Schaeffer
howardschaeffer@remax.net
Howard C Schaeffer
4789 Route 309
Center Valley  PA 18034
PH: 610-791-4400
O: 610-791-4400
C: 610-554-7759
F: 267-354-6233 
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Five Tips for Air Conditioner Maintenance

July 31, 2014 2:09 am

The season’s warm weather means homeowners will be increasingly reliant on air conditioning to make the long, hot days more tolerable. Keep in mind these five maintenance tips to keep air conditioners running smoothly through the summer months.

Combat moisture - Air conditioning systems should not have moisture within the refrigeration system. Most systems have moisture indicators located on the high or low-pressure lines. Once the system is running and the compressor has started, a color indicator on the pressure line will show if moisture is present. If moisture is in the refrigeration system, a trained air conditioning technician will have to vacuum the line and make any necessary repairs.

Clean air conditioning condenser coils - At a minimum, air conditioning condenser coils should be cleaned at least twice a year. It is best to clean the condenser coils before starting the system for the season and again when the weather starts to get hot for prolonged periods of time. Typically the second cleaning will be done in July or early August. If the system is located near trees, it may require additional cleanings to keep debris from entering the system and blocking the coils.

Maintain the evaporator coil - The evaporator coil is an important part of an air conditioning system. Air conditioning evaporator coils are used to transfer heat. The heat transfer surfaces should be kept clean so airflow is not obstructed. Homeowners should ensure filters are present, clean and changed out regularly.

Inspect for leaks - Air conditioning units should be checked for any leaks that may have occurred when it is not in operation. Air conditioning systems should also be checked during operation and after the system has been shut down. Preventative maintenance can keep repairs and costs down. Checking for leaks will prevent air conditioning systems from sustaining more damage, and it is also good for the environment.

Understand normal air conditioning operation - The best way homeowners can tell if something is wrong is by understanding how the air-conditioning system should sound and appear. If the system is vibrating loudly, making abnormal sounds or not performing the way it was, you will want to have it checked by a licensed technician.

Source: Aire Serv

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How to Evaluate Long-Term Care Insurance Costs

July 31, 2014 2:09 am

Why would a 60-year-old New York couple pay $3,250 yearly for long-term care insurance when virtually identical coverage costs $1,800, some 57 percent less?

According to a policy cost comparison recently conducted by the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, it is because prices vary depending on state, marital status, and pre-existing medical conditions. The addition of new policies on a regular basis also creates challenges for insurance agents, financial advisors and policy holders.

Comparison shopping on your own is virtually impossible for consumers, experts advise. Health sweet spots exist in all three categories, but plans must be evaluated individually to ensure the policy holder saves the most money.

When deciding who will evaluate and cover you or a loved one’s long-term care, consider these questions:

How long has the insurance agent been selling long term care insurance?
"A minimum of three years is suggested, though five or more is going to be better," Jesse Slome, executive director of AALTCI, notes.

How many policies have they sold?
"A long term care insurance specialist will have helped at least 100 individuals get coverage, though many will have helped 500 plus," he adds.

Is the financial advisor or insurance agent appointed with multiple insurance companies?
"‘Appointed’ is insurance industry jargon that means they can actually sell that company's policy. At the end of the day, an agent is only going to recommend and tell you about policies they can actually sell," he shares.

Source: American Association for Long Term Care Insurance

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Three-Quarters of American Homeowners Have Used a Real Estate Agent

July 31, 2014 2:09 am

According to the results of a housing survey recently released by BMO Harris Bank, three-quarters of homeowners have used a real estate agent.

"While a notable number of Americans feel they could buy or sell a home without a real estate agent, our survey tells us that when the time came, the majority of homeowners did seek the added professional help and enlisted an agent," said Kevin Christopher, Head of Mortgage Sales.

Word-of-mouth is the top way that home buyers select an agent (41 percent), followed by:

• Past experience (22 percent)
• Reference from bank (9 percent)
• Advertising or a flyer (9 percent)
• Came to the door (2 percent)

The survey also asked Americans about where they felt real estate agents had the most value-add. The top three benefits for having an agent when buying are:

• Handling paperwork (67 percent)
• Having someone who understands market value (59 percent)
• Access to market information (53 percent)

The top three benefits when selling are:

• Handling paperwork (64 percent)
• Advertising the home to bring in offers (58 percent)
• Having someone to price the home appropriately (57 percent)

Source: BMO Harris Bank

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Cleaning Your Hardscapes

July 30, 2014 1:57 am

In our last report, I began examining the value and enhancement homeowners can bring to their hardscapes - driveways, patios, pool decks, walkways and many other applications - through proper protection and sealing.

But before you seal, homeowners must be sure their hardscapes are properly cleaned and prepped. The folks at Illinois based Surebond, a manufacturer of joint stabilizers, sealers, cleaners and adhesives for most hardscape installations, offer the following advice before you clean:

ALWAYS TEST FIRST - Choose an inconspicuous spot to test before carrying out a full cleaning.

ACT QUICKLY - Attacking a stain as soon as possible reduces the likelihood of it setting into the surface.

WORK UP THE SLOPE - Starting at the bottom of a sloped pavement allows cleaning fluids to drain down.

Now it's time to get down to business:
  • For fresh stains with un-absorbed oil on the surface, Surebond recommends you put down kitty litter or sawdust to soak up the stain. Then clean up after a few days.
  • Older oil stains can be complicated to remove completely but boiling water can help lift the stain. Blot area with absorbent cloth and repeat as needed.
  • For food, grease from your grill, or beverages, apply liquid dish detergent at full strength and allow it to penetrate for 20 to 30 minutes. Then scrub and rinse with hot water.
  • For stubborn stains, use a professional cleaner and stain remover, and for gum, scrape off any excess and scrub with naptha or mineral spirits. Then, rinse area thoroughly with hot water.
  • If you spill fresh paint, blot immediately with a rag or towel; do not wipe as this may spread paint. Soak the area and scrub with hot water and a stiff brush.
  • For dried paint, Surebond says to scrape any excess paint off of the surface. Apply a commercial paint remover and do not rub the loosened paint into the surface.
  • For mortar, let material harden and carefully remove spots with a trowel, putty knife or chisel.
  • Finally, there is efflorescence - the whitening that occurs naturally as water evaporates bringing salts to the surface. To remove efflorescence as well as other mineral deposits like rust and hard water stains, use a professional efflorescence and rust remover and follow all instructions on cleaner label.

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Five Tips to Remove Outdoor Stains

July 30, 2014 1:57 am

Engaging in outdoor activities is a great way for families to stay active and spend quality time together, but between tree-climbing, nature hikes, and backyard barbecues, outdoor adventures can lead to piles of dirty, dingy and stained clothing.

Unwanted stains from dripping ice cream cones to grass and dirt can easily ruin clothing, especially white or light-colored apparel. Maintaining bright, spotless clothing doesn't have to be complicated. Use these tips to combat stains:
  • Act quickly: If possible, begin treating the stain immediately. For stains on the go, try applying club soda with a clean white cloth napkin. If none is available, just try and keep the spot wet with an ice cube until you can get home and wash.
  • Don't let laundry sit: As a general rule of thumb, the longer the stain sits, the harder it will be to remove. Ensure stained clothing makes its way to the laundry room, rather than sitting in your child's bedroom or hamper for several days.
  • Soak clothes: Remove tough stains with little effort by pre-soaking colorfast clothing overnight in a solution of stain remover and warm water.
  • Evaluate clothes before drying: The dry cycle can permanently set stains, so scan clothes to make sure the items are completely stain-free before putting them in the dryer. If any spots remain, pre-treat and run it through the wash cycle again.
  • Keep your washer and dryer clean: Make sure to periodically clean your appliances to get rid of any built-up residue to keep your clothes as clean as possible. Run an empty wash cycle with hot water and two cups of white vinegar to thoroughly clean the washer. Then, vacuum the lint trap and vent on the dryer to keep it running in tip-top shape.
Source: OxiClean

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How to Hang a Hammock

July 30, 2014 1:57 am

Whether you’re spending your summer curled up with a favorite book, listening to music or just enjoying the view, hammocks are the perfect spot for outdoor lounging. They require almost no maintenance once they’re hung up, but hanging one is no easy task. String your hammock up quickly by following these steps:

1. Weigh your options before purchasing. There are two common types of hammocks: traditional, which are designed to hang loosely, and ones with spreader bars, which keep the hammock taut. Spreader bar hammocks keep the hammock open, so no one gets wrapped up in the material.

2. Select your support. Choose two, sturdy trees that show no signs of rot. Maple, oak or beech varieties work best. Traditional hammocks must be hung 6 to 8 feet above the ground, to accommodate the material dipping. Spreader bar hammocks can be hung 4 to 5 feet from the ground.

3. Measure the distance. Whether you have a traditional or spreader bar hammock, try to use trees that are distanced enough so that your hammock is stretched out completely. In most cases, trees are not placed ideally and homeowners will have to extend the hammock with a chain. Make sure the chain isn’t more than 18 inches on either side to avoid tearing.

4. Hang it up. Secure the hammock with tree-fastening straps, which sometimes come with the hammock. If you’re buying separately, look for straps that have a loop and a metal ring. Attach the straps with S-hooks to the hammock, and enjoy your new backyard retreat.

Source: Zillow Blog

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Wood or Composite: Which Deck Material Is Right for You?

July 29, 2014 1:45 am

(BPT) - Adding a deck or replacing an old one is a popular project in warmer months – one that provides outdoor entertaining space and enhances home value. If you’re considering a deck project this season, will you choose to build with wood or composite?

Decks built from either material have a high return on investment at the time of resale. Both can provide your family with a great space in which to enjoy warm weather. Before you decide which material is right for your deck, learn the truth behind these common myths.

Myth: Wood is “greener” than composite decking.

Truth: In many ways, composite decking is more eco-friendly than wood. When you consider the life cycle of both products, composite products emerge as materials with minimal environmental impact. Your final, finished deck requires no harsh chemical treatments to make it resist rot and stain, and it will last for decades. That durability means less energy consumption, fewer resources needed to replace it and less discarded material in landfills.

Myth: Composite decking is too expensive.

Truth: While the initial outlay for materials may be the same as exotic woods or more than pressure treated wood, the durability, longevity and low-maintenance requirements of composite mean it will actually cost less over its lifetime than wood. Composite eliminates the cost of re-staining a deck every year, and its rot-resistant qualities greatly curtail repair costs.

Myth: Wood is a better material for do-it-yourself decks.

Truth: If your DIY skills are up to working with wood, you can definitely build your own deck using composite materials. In fact, composite products are easier to work with than wood in many ways. Unlike wood, composite planks won’t splinter or fracture. Finally, when your deck is done, you can start enjoying it right away, without the need to stain or seal the deck before you can use it.

Myth: Composite fades, looks fake and does not have the same beauty as wood.

Truth: Wood is undeniably beautiful, but many composite decking options now mimic the natural grain and beauty of wood. Whether your taste runs to classic or contemporary, you’ll find composite selections that deliver the look of traditional wood grains and even exotic hardwoods. Advances in composite technology have yielded products that so closely resemble wood, you may not be able to tell the difference until you step on one barefoot – you’ll find the composite smooth and splinter-free!

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EMV Credit Cards to Secure Shopping in 2015

July 29, 2014 1:45 am

Following several high-profile security breaches in recent years, consumers have more reason than ever to be concerned about their privacy when using debit and credit cards. Fortunately, an effort is underway to implement new technology across the United States that will better protect shoppers and their private information.

The Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) card is widely used overseas and can be found in the United States. You may have an EMV card in your wallet without knowing it. In fact, according to EMVCo, 45 percent of the total payment cards in circulation globally include EMV chip technology. New guidelines being rolled out in the United States will hold banks or retailers that have not implemented this new security liable for fraud, so by late 2015, consumers can expect to see these changes closer to home.

What is EMV?
The Smart Card Alliance describes EMV as a set of specifications for smart card payments and acceptance devices that provide strong transaction security features and capabilities not possible with traditional magnetic stripe cards. The EMV chip in the payment card is an embedded microprocessor that keeps your money and financial information from falling into the wrong hands.

What makes EMV more secure?
EMV offers greater security than the traditional magnetic stripe debit or credit cards. An important distinction is that data is stored on a chip rather than the familiar magnetic stripe, making it nearly impossible to counterfeit an EMV card. EMV boosts security through a smart card chip, a unique code and advanced cryptography.

How will EMV change my shopping experience?
Instead of swiping your card, now you'll "dip" your card into the payment terminal, holding it in place to allow the transfer of data. Shoppers should expect that this process will take slightly longer than the traditional quick swipe of a magnetic card. EMV technology also enables contactless payments, so shoppers may instead "tap" their contactless EMV cards, which are just as secure and speed up the check-out experience.

Card issuers (your bank or credit company) will determine whether you are required to enter a pin or sign to verify your purchase.

Initially, cards will include both EMV and magnetic stripe technology, so you can be assured your card will work whether the retailer has adopted the new system or not.

Source: Gemalto

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Four Renovations That Can Affect Your Home Insurance

July 29, 2014 1:45 am

Expensive home upgrades undoubtedly have an effect on a home’s resale value. They may also impact a home’s insurance value, no matter how costly the renovation. It is important to let your insurer know prior to making improvements, so that unforeseen circumstances, such as a fire or robbery, are covered during the renovation. Not sure which upgrades are worth the policy adjustment? These four upgrades commonly result in altered home insurance policies.

A home-based business – If your main source of income comes from a home-based business, what will happen to it if your home is compromised? Most homeowner policies only cover up to $2,500 in equipment compensation, so it may be wise to add an endorsement or rider to your existing policy.

A new roof – Because roofs fall victim to most weather-related damages, they offer the greatest discount on your premium. When you install a new roof, your premium may decrease 10 to 20 percent, depending on your insurance company. To ensure the discount is applied to your policy, be prepared to present documentation from your contractor stating that the new roof is up to code.

A new pool – Pools create numerous opportunities for lawsuits, so from an insurer’s perspective, they are one of the riskiest upgrades to make. Because of this, insurers may require up to $500,000 in liability coverage and security measures such as locks and fences. Your homeowner’s insurance will need an additional adjustment to cover the value of the pool, as well.

An addition – Your insurance company must be notified any time you increase the living space in your home, to compensate for the added value. Specific additions, such as a finished basement, may need water coverage to protect from flooding or landlord coverage if the space will be rented.

Source: Bankrate

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3 Tips for Staying Hydrated This Summer

July 28, 2014 1:33 am

(Family Features) As warmer temperatures heat up the summer nationwide, being prepared for the season's outdoor activities means more than sunscreen protection and appropriate dress. Health experts state that keeping yourself hydrated by drinking enough water and other beverages when temperatures rise is critical to safely enjoying the fun of the season.

"While we typically put time and thought into what we'll serve at family barbeques or which foods to bring to the beach or park, we sometimes overlook the need to hydrate throughout the day, particularly on hot summer days," says registered dietitian Lisa Katic.

If you feel thirsty or worn down, it's a sign you're likely already past the need to re-hydrate," Katic suggests. She offers three hydration-related tips to remember when packing the cooler for summer outings or enjoying warm weather days:

1. Bring enough water.

Remembering to drink water before, during and after activities is important, but especially when doing outdoor or intense activities in the summer months. Experts with the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association note that water intake improves overall mental and physical health, and improves heart function while reducing both actual and perceived exertion. The Institute of Medicine recommends a total fluid intake of 11 eight-ounce cups (91 ounces total) a day for women and 15 cups for men (125 ounces total), including fluid from all foods and beverages. Katic recommends keeping an extra supply of bottled water in your car, garage, pool and other easily accessible places. Remember, if water isn't your favorite beverage choice, there are plenty of other beverages to choose from, all of which can help keep you hydrated.

2. Diet beverages help with hydration.
Katic says there are too many myths about diet beverages, such as sodas and teas. For example, you may have heard that they can make you hungrier or dehydrate you. This simply isn't the case based on the body of science. In fact, a recent clinical trial published in the June issue of the journal "Obesity" found that dieters who drank diet beverages as part of an overall weight loss program were able to not only lose weight successfully, but also reported feeling less hungry.

3. Don't forget foods can hydrate too.
Summer snack favorites such as watermelon, strawberries and cantaloupe are fruits with a high water content of 90 to 91 percent, while veggies like lettuce, tomatoes and celery are even higher, containing as much as 95 percent water.

Beyond the heat of summer, Katic says it's also a good idea to make hydration a part of your everyday life year round. "Staying hydrated also has been shown to reduce the risk of other health problems, such as heart disease, hypertension, exercise asthma and hyperglycemia."

Source: EatRight.org

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