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How to make your pool more energy efficient

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Swimming pools require a ton of energy to heat and operate. Here’s how to make it less costly for you and the environment.

• Use a solar cover. It’ll capture the sun’s heat during the day and help maintain the water’s temperature at night. To maximize the benefits, keep your pool covered for at least 16 hours a day. A solar cover also allows you to conserve water (and the pool chemicals in it) by reducing evaporation.

• Install an efficient pump. Water needs to circulate through the pump faster for cleaning than it does for filtration. A variable or two-speed system automatically adjusts the flow rate based on its operation. An in-ground pool will use up to 65 percent less energy if an Energy Star certified pump is installed.

• Opt for a heat pump. This type of pump draws considerably less electricity because it mostly relies on ambient summer air to heat the pool’s water. For increased energy savings, lower the programmed temperature by a few degrees.

Even without investing in this equipment, you can reduce the amount of energy it takes to maintain your pool. Set up a timer on the pump so it’ll turn it off periodically. This allows the pump to use less power without compromising water quality.

Hot tubs
Ideally, hot tubs should be sheltered from the elements, particularly the wind. Choose a sturdy, well-insulated cover and make sure to close it after you use the hot tub. If you know you won’t be using it for a while, set it to sleep mode. Shut it off completely for the winter.

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How to encourage kids to keep learning

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It’s normal for children to be a little rusty when they head back to school. If you’d like to help them get ready beforehand, here are some ideas.

• Get them to read. This can include novels, comic books, magazines, and nonfiction books.

• Do math on the fly. Encourage kids to add, subtract, multiply, and solve other equations throughout the day. They can do this while you prepare dinner, go for a walk or wait in line at the grocery store.

• Create a vacation album. Put together a collection of pictures taken during the summer and get your child to write short descriptions under each one.

• Practice another language. Watch movies or television shows in their second language.

There are many ways to encourage children to keep learning, and even a small amount of time engaged in educational activities can motivate them.

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Beautify your balcony or deck

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If you’d like to give your balcony or deck a makeover, here are some simple upgrades that will spruce up even the smallest of spaces.

Furniture
Purchase outdoor furniture with clean lines, neutral tones, and natural fabrics. Add visual interest with bright-colored cushions and blankets. If you have space, hanging chairs, hammocks and swings are great options.

Lighting

Use electric candles, paper lanterns or string lights to help set the right mood. Opt for multi-colored ones to create a festive vibe or white ones if you want something a little more romantic. Alternatively, install solar LED lights that will brighten up your whole balcony.

Accessories
If you have space, install shelves to display your choice of outdoor decorations. You can also add a touch of color with an outdoor rug. An umbrella or curtains can be included to provide you with shelter from the sun.

Plants
If your balcony/deck has a roof or overhang, use it to display hanging plants. If not, let vines twist around the railings. For a rustic look, consider growing herbs and flowers in wooden crates.

It won’t take much to transform your balcony into an outdoor haven. With a little effort, you can create a beautiful space to enjoy all summer.

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What to expect from your child’s kindergarten orientation

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The start of kindergarten is a big event in a child’s life. To make the transition easier, many schools organize an orientation or visit the school before the year starts. Here’s what you can expect.

For kids
New students typically visit their classrooms and teachers. They’ll get a tour of the school, meet their future classmates, and participate in activities like crafts or storytime. This positive first experience will set them up for success.

For parents

While the little ones have fun, parents will get to meet with the principal and school administrators to receive information about the following:

• Schedules
• Bus service
• Daycare service
• Supply lists

The kindergarten orientation ensures all students get off to a good start. If you have specific questions or concerns about your child, it’s best to schedule a private meeting. Most schools hold orientation in the spring. You’ll be informed of the date when you register your child.

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How to organize a home renovation project

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Are you ready to take on a major home renovation but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to organize your tasks and ensure everything goes smoothly.

Make a list
Renovations should be done in a logical order to avoid wasting time and money. For example, you shouldn’t paint the walls before you open them up to install insulation. To ensure you have a clear idea of what’s involved and don’t miss a step, make an extensive list of all the tasks that need to be done.

Establish a schedule

Once you know what your project entails, you can determine a logical sequence in which to complete tasks. In general, you should start with any necessary demolition and tackle large structural projects first. This may include repairs to the foundation, support beams, and subfloor. After you’ve addressed all plumbing, electrical, and insulation concerns, you can hang the drywall and proceed to the finishing touches.

Depending on the scale of your renovation, you can more or less follow these 10 steps:

1. Demolish, starting with the upper floors
2. Make structural repairs
3. Install electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC ducts
4. Clean and upgrade the exterior
5. Add or replace insulation
6. Replace the windows
7. Close up the walls, ceilings, and floors
8. Paint the ceilings and walls
9. Install the flooring
10. Clean up and furnish

If you plan to live in the house while it’s being renovated, remember to update only one bathroom at a time. This way you’ll ensure you always have one that can be used.

Evaluate constraints
If you can’t afford to complete all of your renovations right away, determine the cost of each project, and identify your top priorities. You can either do one room at a time or start with small tasks throughout the house while you save up the money.

Additionally, be sure to schedule your timeline around seasonal weather that could affect your renovation projects. For example, it’s best to avoid upgrading the exterior during winter or painting the interior in the summer.

For optimal results, consider hiring a contractor who can ensure the work gets done to code.

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7 signs your home’s insulation needs to be replaced

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Insulation is essential for keeping your home warm in the winter, cool in the summer and dry all year long. Here are seven signs it’s time to replace yours.

1. Sounds travel
The insulation in your walls, floors, and ceilings should muffle all but the loudest noises in your home. If you can hear ambient sounds like the clicking of a keyboard or the dripping of a tap from another room, the insulation isn’t doing its job.

2. High energy bills

Inadequate insulation forces you to turn up the heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. A higher-than-usual energy bill is often the first sign that you need to replace your insulation.

3. Uneven temperatures
The temperature in your home should be consistent from room to room. If you have areas that are cooler or warmer than others, it’s an indication that there’s a problem with the insulation.

4. Cold surfaces
Walls, floors, and ceilings shouldn’t be cold to the touch. If yours are, it’s a sign that there isn’t enough insulation.

5. Condensation and mold
If you have mold on your ceiling, condensation on your windows, or damp walls and floors, it’s a sign that there’s too much humidity in your home. This may be due to poor insulation.

6. Pest infestations
Animals and insects can get into your home through gaps in your insulation. Additionally, they’re often attracted by mold and damage caused by water infiltration.

7. Freezing and ice
It isn’t normal for pipes to freeze or for icicles to hang from the edge of your roof. Both are signs that your insulation isn’t doing its job.

While it may seem like a big undertaking, replacing your insulation is a surefire way to make your home more comfortable and lower your energy bills.

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4 apps that will make school easier for your child

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School will be back in session soon. If you’re worried that your children won’t be able to keep up with their schoolwork, here are four apps that can help get them into the swing of things.

1. Khan Academy Kids
This app has fun characters and engaging books, videos, and games that teach reading, writing, math, and problem-solving skills.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free.

2. Pili Pop
Your children can have fun learning French or Spanish using this engaging app. Kids will learn their second or third language alongside the Pilis, curious aliens visiting Earth.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free trial.

3. Math Heroes vs. Dragons
Your kids can capture dragons by solving math problems involving addition, multiplication, division, and fractions.

Available for iOS devices. Purchase required.

4. Quizlet
This flashcard app can help kids study almost any subject. Students can create their own flashcards or use ones generated by others.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free, with in-app purchases.

With these apps, your kids are sure to be ready for the school year ahead.

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