Now that we are spending more time in our homes, it only makes sense that our energy bill is steadily increasing. This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Luckily there are some easy ways to increase your family’s energy efficiency while being kind to Mother Earth.

Here are a few easy ways you can start with today

1. Change your appliances.

While this may seem like an increase in costs, changing your appliances to eco-friendly models will actually lower your electric bill as soon as they are installed. This goes for dishwashers, ovens, refrigerators, furnaces, washers and dryers—chances are if it is a major appliance, there is an eco-friendly version available. To justify the cost, it is a good idea to compare electricity costs before and after installation, as you are bound to see a large change. Make sure to check how much the electric rate that your electric supplier is charging in your zip code so that you can make a relevant comparison. You can also use online tools to compare carious eco-friendly models of the appliance in question to that you can be sure that you’re getting the right dryer for your needs from the supplier of your choice.

2. Seal your home.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

There are many cracks and crevices in your home, so it is important to do regular checks of your home and ensure that everything is sealed properly. Check around your foundation, fireplace, door frames, window frames and near your dryer, furnace and air conditioner vent for any cracks or gaps. Sealing these and adding additional insulation will allow your home to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and can save you as much as 10% in energy costs annually. It is also a smart idea to replace your windows about every 10 years or so to ensure the best seal possible and so that you know you have the best energy efficient window panes available.

3. Install a programmable thermostat.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

Take a minute to look at your thermostat and see how it is programmed. Most thermostats run 24 hours a day and seven days a week when this is not, in fact, necessary. A programmable thermostat can help you heat and cool your home according to your family’s habits and schedule. For example, if you know that your family will not be home every morning between 8 am and 10 am, you can program the machine to turn off automatically and save on heating and cooling costs. Or, when you are asleep, you may not need your furnace to run at full speed, so even turning it down a few degrees can add up to a lot of savings over time.

4. Make little changes.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

Being environmentally friendly doesn’t have to mean making large changes. Simple fixes around the house, such as using a wool dryer ball when doing a load of laundry can save you both time and money. Not only are reusable wool dryer balls eco-friendly by replacing the waste of single-use dryer sheets, but they can also actually speed up the drying process, which saves energy! On average, using a dryer ball can reduce the drying process by about 7% each load. So why wouldn’t you toss a few balls in? It’s pretty amazing that a simple wool ball can soak up enough moisture to lower your drying time, even when you’re running a load of laundry that’s all towels, but it really works. You’ll even notice less wrinkles in your clothes, so it’s really an all-around win.

5. Don’t open your appliances when cooking.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

Not only does opening your appliances when they’re in use cause your meal to take longer cooking, doing so can actually increase their energy production. In fact, every time you peek into your oven to check on your food, the internal temperature can drop up to 25 degrees, making your oven use much more energy to reheat to the original level again. The same goes for a crockpot and microwave, so keep them closed!

6.Unplug everything

Reduce Your Energy Bill

You may have certain electronics plugged in all the time out of habit. But doing so can cause you to run up unnecessary electric bill expenses. Go around your home and unplug everything, and remember to only plug them in when they’re in use. This way you can save energy because you may have electronics plugged in that you never use.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to living a more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious life. Both Mother Nature and your wallet will thank you.

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The Most Hotly Contested Web Design Concepts of 2016

If there’s one topic that gets people fired up it’s web design. To succeed online, a smartly designed website is crucial. Something that brings in visitors and keeps them on your page, absorbing content.

Unfortunately, what constitutes a great site isn’t always agreed upon, and there’s constant debate of best practices, what’s hot, what’s not, and what is the cancer that is killing the industry. The argument still rages on, and recently it’s moved on to these commonly used web design elements:

The Carousel

“We’re not at the park, so why are we going around and around? Because people keep designing their sites with these blasted carousels” is just one of the commonly heard gripes about this supposedly interesting design choice.

Unfortunately, we have to keep clicking left or right to get another little morsel of information that the designers have deemed us worthy to handle. Are they afraid we can’t read full paragraphs? This one isn’t just a matter being annoyed personal preference, however, Carousel designs actually harm your websites performance.

They kill local SEO efforts by starving your site of actual content, the slow your site down with huge image files and JavaScript, and they are so confoundingly bad that nobody clicks through them all the way. The naysayers might have a point on this one, Carousels are way more trouble than they are worth.

Parallax Scrolling

You’ve seen this technique on graphics heavy sites in which the foreground and background scroll at different speeds. It creates a feeling of depth, helps tell a story through visuals, and looks pretty cool when properly implemented.

Unfortunately, it comes with some (resolvable) issues that may make it a waste of time. Like the Carousel, use of Parallax Scrolling is damaging to SEO. Since there’s usually just one page and a bunch of images, there’s no text content for search engines to crawl through and rank.

The abundance of images reduces performance (and completely kills performance on mobile devices). Most damaging of all though, is that the technique can just make it confusing to absorb any useful information, which will cut your number of repeat visitors down tremendously.

Think about it, would you stick around on a website where your only navigation option was to scroll downwards through hard-to read image/text combos? Of course, there are examples of Parallax Scrolling done right, so the argument is there that it’s all about how you choose to use it.

The Hamburger Menu

That three lined symbol in the corner on most websites that you click to access navigation options is commonly known as the hamburger menu.

While it does look cool, and you can see why one might be tempted to clean up their navigation by having it sleekly displayed in a drop-down menu, many say it kills a websites discoverability.

When your navigation options are out of sight, they are also out of mind, the thinking goes. There’s also the argument that it’s less efficient, since you’re forced to go to a separate menu just to see your options, but that’s more a matter of personal taste, it would seem.

We may never get definitive answers on whether these trends are good or bad, but it seems pretty clear that if you are going to try to incorporate any of these ideas into your design, you have to do it with care.

We’ve given you an overview of the tons of free web design options out there for building a pretty good site. When you have to move up to the big leagues though, it’d be prudent to hire some big league talent.

Professional web developers like Big Drop (out of New York), or Brown Box Branding (Dallas TX) offer great designs coupled with high level marketing strategies proven to keep the visitors coming back to your site for more.

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