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Three alternatives to wood-burning fireplaces

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Looking for a fireplace that’s more environmentally friendly and energy efficient than a wood-burning one? Here are three options worth looking into.

1. Gas fireplace
Convert your old wood-burning fireplace using a gas insert. It’ll provide the ambience and warmth of a wood-burning fireplace with the flick of a switch. If you’re already connected to a natural gas line in your area, a technician will connect it to your fireplace. If natural gas isn’t an option, propane is another possibility.

2. Electric fireplace

You can put an electric fireplace in any room in your house that has an electric outlet. These fireplaces can heat rooms that are up to 400 square feet.

3. Pellet stove
Pellet stoves use pellets, a renewable fuel source, to distribute heat. They’re easier to use than wood-burning units — just fill the storage hopper with pellets and set your thermostat to the perfect temperature. In order to maintain the selected temperature, a sensor will send a signal to a mechanism that drops new pellets into the fire when needed.

So which option should you go with? Get help deciding by talking to a professional. He or she can advise you as to which type of fireplace or stove is right for your home.

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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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4 tips to safely use a baby carrier

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A baby carrier keeps your hands free and your child close. From specialized backpacks to fabric wraps, these practical devices are great for babies as they provide comfort, aid with digestion, facilitate sleep, and promote proper muscle and joint development. However, it’s important to take precautions. Here are four baby-carrier safety tips you should follow.

1. Look for wear and tear
Check for ripped seams, damaged buckles, and torn straps before each use. If you opt for a sling-style carrier, make sure the knots are tied tight or the fabric is securely fastened in the rings.

2. Properly position your baby

A baby carrier should be snug enough to provide ample back support. While there are ergonomic carriers that allow your baby to face forward, these should be avoided until your little one has full control of their head and neck. To reduce the risk of hip dysplasia, make sure the carrier supports your baby’s thighs while keeping their legs bent and their knees slightly higher than their hips.

3. Check your baby often
To eliminate the risk of suffocation, your child’s face should be visible at all times. Make sure their mouth isn’t pressed into the carrier or your body. Additionally, their chin shouldn’t be tucked into their chest, and their legs shouldn’t be bunched against their stomach. Any of these positions can restrict your baby’s breathing.

4. Limit your activities
If you’re babywearing, avoid slippery areas and activities that could lead to a fall such as cycling, skating, and running. You should also avoid using your baby carrier while cooking or drinking hot beverages because it puts your child at risk of getting burned or injured.

Before you purchase a baby carrier, test out various models to ensure you choose the right one for you and your infant.

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Out of quarantine: What we need first

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If you have just been in isolation for months (or someone you care for has), some basic human needs will have to be renewed upon social opening.

– Touch. The deprivation is real. It often doesn’t require a full-on massage, but all people need the connection of touch. Light, caring touches on the back and shoulders mean a lot. Hugging and holding communicate love, trust, and well-being. Often the people who touched us the most are gone.

– Shared laughter. Think of the funniest stories you remember about childhood, vacations, silly moments, even frustrations and disappointments — what can you laugh about now that didn’t seem so funny then. Laughing together is part of being known to each other and being known is one of the best parts of being human.

– Eating together. We certainly don’t have to go to a restaurant to enjoy a shared meal! A light dinner with family and friends is a simple pleasure that boosts spirits and forges connections.

– Foot care. Two or three months alone in the house can take a toll on feet. Get to a podiatrist or a pedicure place for toenail cutting and moisturizing. A lot of time spent in bed can result in pressure sores on the heels. Check for sores, especially if you or your patient are diabetic.

– Haircare. Nearly everyone joked about needing a haircut during quarantine and lockdown, but with things opening up, it’s time to get out and fix up for both pleasure and health.

– Enjoying nature. Getting out. Just getting out of the house, especially if it means being able to sit in a park, see flowers and plants, breathe in the trees around you. These things renew the spirit and connect people with the earth.

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How to choose living room furniture

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Whether you want to spruce up your living room or completely remodel it, choosing new furniture can be a challenge. Here are some tips that can help.

Identify your needs
Consider how your space will be used. If you watch a lot of TV or enjoy frequent movie nights, opt for a comfortable couch with enough space for the whole family. For avid gamers, an entertainment unit with shelves to store consoles and controllers is a practical purchase. A coffee table that can be adjusted to various heights is a great solution if you tend to eat your meals in the living room.

Additionally, a sofa bed is a versatile choice if you need your living room to double as an occasional guest room. You should also determine how much storage you’ll need to ensure the space is functional and free of clutter.

Assess the space
Measure the dimensions of your living room before you go shopping to make sure you choose pieces that fit. If you want to maximize the space’s potential, sketch out a few different floor plans. Keep in mind the location of windows, doorways, baseboard heaters, and floor vents when you design the layout. You should also take note of whether direct sunlight will create glare on the TV screen or potentially fade furniture fabric.

Establish a budget
Evaluate your financial situation and inquire about financing options for big-ticket items. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, decide on a budget, and stick to it. Keep in mind, however, that while quality pieces are more expensive, they’ll also last a lot longer. It may be worth shelling out a bit more for furniture if it’s well-made.

Settle on a style
When buying new furniture for your living room, it’s best to choose pieces with colors and textures that complement one another. Additionally, deciding on a design style will help guide your choices and allow you to successfully pair wood, metal, and glass pieces. From the whimsy of Bohemian chic to the crisp simplicity of Scandinavian, there’s a wide range of styles to select from. Choose the one you love and pick your items accordingly.

Test each piece
Before you purchase a sofa or chair, try out the floor model to make sure it’s comfortable. If you find a few items you like in the same store, ask if they can be placed side by side so you can see how they look together. You should also bring along paint chips, swatches, and photos to help you find furniture that matches what you already have.

To simplify your search for living room furniture and help you create a cohesive space, consider hiring a professional interior designer.

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4 tips for a successful Fourth of July barbecue

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The Fourth of July is an ideal occasion to host a backyard barbecue. Here are four tips to ensure the day is a success.

1. Start planning early
Hosting a barbecue isn’t complicated, but waiting until the last minute to get organized can be stressful. A to-do list will ensure you don’t forget to pick up ice for the drink cooler or top up on fuel for the grill. If guests are bringing side dishes, preemptive planning can help you avoid ending up with four macaroni salads.

2. Get creative with colors

A simple way to incorporate patriotism into your decor is to use red and blue plates on a white tablecloth. Create simple centerpieces with mason jars, battery-powered headlights, and miniature American flags. For the rest of your yard, think flowers, balloons, and streamers. If you want to entertain the kids, buy some red, white and blue water balloons.

3. Keep the menu simple
Set out chips and dip for guests to snack on before you fire up the barbecue. Complement the traditional meat options with grilled asparagus, corn on the cob, or vegetable skewers. Remember, simple doesn’t have to mean boring. You can make the meal interactive with a build-your-own burger, nacho, or sundae bar.

4. Remember to relax
Independence Day is about spending time with loved ones and creating memories. Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks by assigning someone to the grill or asking guests to contribute a salad or dessert. Once everyone has a plate full of food, be sure to raise a glass to family and country.

Ideally, your barbecue should start in the early afternoon so you and your guests can make the most of a sunny day and still have time to go watch a fireworks display in the evening.

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3 considerations when choosing a floating floor

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Floating floors have become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to their durability and improved quality. Most of all, people appreciate how easy they are to install. Since the planks attach to each other instead of the subfloor, they’re also easy to replace. Here are three things to consider when choosing a floating floor.

1. The material
The most popular type of floating floor is laminate, which is an affordable option that can withstand a lot of abuse. How¬ever, you can also find planks made of vinyl, engineered wood, and other materials like cork.

The material you choose will depend on your budget, where you’re planning to install it, and the amount of traffic you expect in the area.

2. The quality
Well-made floating floors lock together easily and seamlessly, while some lower-end materials may not connect properly.

If you opt for laminate that mimics the look of wood, make sure there’s enough variety in the pattern for it to appear natural.

3. The thickness
Thicker floating floorboards aren’t necessarily a higher quality product. However, they’re easier to install, more resistant to damage, and the best choice if your subfloor isn’t perfectly flat.

Before you install your floating floor, you’ll need to lay down a sheet of foam underlay. A must for any floating floor, this layer acts as a moisture barrier, helps correct minor imperfections in the subfloor, and adds a bit of cushioning under the planks. Be sure to remove any baseboards or trim from the wall prior to installation, and pull up the old flooring if necessary.

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