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ISSUE #1223
FEATURE REPORT

How To Reduce Crime In Your Neighborhood
While we don't like to talk about it - or even think about it - crime is on the increase in North America, and throughout the world. The number of burglars, muggers, auto thieves, robbers, purse snatchers, etc., is growing at an alarming rate.
Now you, as a resident, working with neighbors can help reduce the crime rate.




Also This Month...
Don't Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord
It doesn't matter how long you've been renting, or how insurmountable your financial situation may seem. The truth is, there are some little known facts that can help you get over the hump, and transfer your status from renter to homeowner. With this information, you will begin to see how you really can.


 
 

Automatic and Programmable Thermostats
The best thermostat for you will depend on your life style and comfort level in varying house temperatures. While automatic and programmable thermostats save energy, a manual unit can be equally effective if you diligently regulate its settings.



Quick Links
How To Reduce Crime In Your Neighborhood
Don't Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord
Automatic and Programmable Thermostats
 

 

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How To Reduce Crime In Your Neighborhood

While we don't like to talk about it - or even think about it - crime is on the increase in North America, and throughout the world. The number of burglars, muggers, auto thieves, robbers, purse snatchers, etc., is growing at an alarming rate. Now you, as a resident, working with neighbors can help reduce the crime rate.

How? By organizing and/or joining a neighborhood program in which you and your neighbors get together to learn how to protect yourselves, your family, your home and your property. Working together, you can get the criminals off your block and out of your area.

There's safety in numbers and power through working with a group. You'll get to know your neighbors better, and working with them you can reduce crime, develop a more united community, provide an avenue of communications between police and citizens, establish on-going crime prevention techniques in your neighborhood, and renew citizen interest in community activity.

"Citizens Safety Projects" are set up to help you do this. It is a joint effort between private citizens and local police. Such programs have been started all over. Maybe one already exists in your community.

These organizations don't require frequent meetings (once a month or so). They don't ask anyone to take personal risks to prevent crime. They leave the responsibility for catching criminals where it belongs - with the police. This is NOT a "vigilante" group.

These groups gather citizens together to learn crime prevention from local authorities. You cooperate with your neighbors to report suspicious activities in the neighborhood, to keep an eye on homes when the resident is away, and to keep everyone in the area mindful of the standard precautions for property and self that should always be taken. Criminals avoid neighborhoods where such groups exist.

Through cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, some of the things you will learn - and all free - are:

  1. What to do in an emergency.
  2. How to best identify a suspicious person.
  3. How to identify a vehicle being used in a suspected criminal activity.
  4. Signs to watch out for before entering a house or apartment that may be in the process of being burglarized.
  5. What to do in case of injury.
  6. What to do about suspicious people loitering on your street.
  7. How to identify stolen merchandise.
  8. How to recognize auto theft in progress.
  9. How to protect your house or apartment.
  10. How to recognize a burglary in progress.
  11. How to protect yourself and family - and much more.

It's easy to get your group started. All you have to do is contact your neighbors and arrange a date, place and time for the first meeting. Hold the meetings at your home or that of a neighbor. Try to plan a time that is convenient to most of your neighbors - preferably in the evening.

Then call your local police department. They will be happy to give your group informal lectures, free literature - and in many instances, window stickers and ID cards. Remember, police officers can't be everywhere. Your cooperation with them is for the benefit of you, your family, your neighbors and your neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

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Don't Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord


"If you're like most renters, you feel trapped within the walls of a house or apartment that doesn't feel like yours."


It's a dream we all have - to own our own home and stop paying rent. But if you're like most renters, you feel trapped within the walls of a house or apartment that doesn't feel like yours. How could it when you're not even permitted to bang in a nail or two without a hassle. You feel like you're stuck in the renter's rut with no way of rising up out of it and owning your own home.

Don't Feel Trapped Anymore

It doesn't matter how long you've been renting, or how insurmountable your financial situation may seem. The truth is, there are some little known facts that can help you get over the hump, and transfer your status from renter to homeowner. With this information, you will begin to see how you really can:

  • save for a down payment
  • stop lining your landlord's pockets, and
  • stop wasting thousands of dollars on rent.
6 Little Known Facts That Can Help You Buy Your First Home

The problem that most renters face isn't your ability to meet a monthly payment. Goodness knows that you must meet this monthly obligation every 30 days already. The problem is accumulating enough capital to make a down payment on something more permanent.

But saving for this lump sum doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think. Consider the following 6 important points:

1. You can buy a home with much less down than you think

There are some local or federal government programs (such as 1st time buyer programs) to help people get into the housing market. You can qualify as a first time buyer even if your spouse has owned a home before as long as your name was not registered. Ensure your real estate agent is informed and knowledgeable in this important area and can offer programs to help you with your options.

2. You may be able to get your lender to help you with your down payment and closing costs

Even if you do not have enough cash for a downpayment, if you are debt-free, and own an asset free and clear (such as a car for example), your lending institution may be able to lend you the downpayment for your home by securing it against this asset.

3. You may be able to find a seller to help you buy and finance your home

Some sellers may be willing to hold a second mortgage for you as a 'seller take-back'. In this case, the seller becomes your lending institution. Instead of paying this seller a lump-sum full amount for his or her home, you would pay monthly mortgage installments.

4. You may be able to create a cash down payment without actually going into debt

By borrowing money for certain investments to a specified level, you may be able to generate a significant tax refund for yourself that you can use as a downpayment. While the money borrowed for these investments is technically a loan, the monthly amount paid can be small, and the money invested in both home and investment will be yours in the end.

5. You can buy a home even if you have problems with your credit rating

If you can come up with more than the minimum down-payment, or can secure the loan with other equity, many lending institutions will consider you for a mortgage. Alternatively, a seller take-back mortgage could also help you in this situation.

6. You can, and should, get pre-approved for a home loan before you go looking for a home

Pre-approval is easy, and can give you complete peace-of-mind when shopping for your home. Mortgage experts can obtain written pre-approval for you at no cost and no obligation, and it can all be done quite easily over-the-phone. More than just a verbal approval from your lending institution, a written preapproval is as good as money in the bank. It entails a completed credit application, and a certificate which guarantees you a mortgage to the specified level when you find the home you're looking for. Consider dealing only with a professional who specializes in mortgages. Enlisting their services can make the difference between obtaining a mortgage, and being stuck in the renter's rut forever. Typically there is no cost or obligation to enquire.

There are many important issues you should be aware of that affect you as a renter. Why on earth would you continue to lose thousands by throwing it away on rent when with your agent you could take a few minutes to discuss your specific needs so that you can stop renting and start owning.

This conversation costs you nothing. And, of course, you shouldn't have to feel obligated to buy a home at the time you review this. But by taking the time to explore your options, and learn about the ways you can afford to buy a home, think how prepared and relaxed you'll be when you are ready to make this important step.

 

 

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Automatic and Programmable Thermostats

In our modern, high tech society, we don't think much about some of the electronic gadgets in our homes. Take, for example, the ever present thermostat--a staple of North American households for decades. It usually takes the shape of an unassuming box on the wall, but that modest device controls the comfort of your family on the coldest day in January and the hottest day in July.

What Is a Thermostat?

It is a temperature sensitive switch that controls a space conditioning unit or system, such as a furnace, air conditioner, or both. When the indoor temperature drops below or rises above the thermostat setting, the switch moves to the "on" position, and your furnace or air conditioner runs to warm or cool the house air to the setting you selected for your family's comfort. A thermostat, in its simplest form, must be manually adjusted to change the indoor air temperature.

General Thermostat Operation

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F (20°C) when you're at home and awake, and lowering it when you're asleep or away. This strategy is effective and inexpensive if you are willing to adjust the thermostat by hand and wake up in a chilly house. In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning, too, by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lowering the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling.

A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. This misconception has been dispelled by years of research and numerous studies. The fuel required to reheat a building to a comfortable temperature is roughly equal to the fuel saved as the building drops to the lower temperature. You save fuel between the time that the temperature stabilizes at the lower level and the next time heat is needed. So, the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save.

Another misconception is that the higher you raise a thermostat, the more heat the furnace will put out, or that the house will warm up faster if the thermostat is raised higher. Furnaces put out the same amount of heat no matter how high the thermostat is set--the variable is how long it must stay on to reach the set temperature.

In the winter, significant savings can be obtained by manually or automatically reducing your thermostat's temperature setting for as little as four hours per day. These savings can be attributed to a building's heat loss in the winter, which depends greatly on the difference between the inside and outside temperatures. For example, if you set the temperature back on your thermostat for an entire night, your energy savings will be substantial. By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save about 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill--a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. In the summer, you can achieve similar savings by keeping the indoor temperature a bit higher when you're away than you do when you're at home.

But there is a certain amount of inconvenience that results from manually controlling the temperature on your thermostat. This includes waking up in a cooler than normal house in the winter and possibly forgetting to adjust the thermostat (during any season) when you leave the house or go to bed.

Thermostats with Automatic Temperature Adjustment

To maximize your energy savings without sacrificing comfort, you can install an automatic setback or programmable thermostat. They adjust the temperature setting for you. While you might forget to turn down the heat before you leave for work in the morning, a programmable thermostat won't! By maintaining the highest or lowest required temperatures for four or five hours a day instead of 24 hours, a programmable thermostat can pay for itself in energy saved within four years.

Programmable thermostats have features with which you may be unfamiliar. The newest generation of residential thermostat technologies is based on microprocessors and thermostat sensors. Most of these programmable thermostats perform one or more of the following energy control functions:

  • They store and repeat multiple daily settings, which you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.
  • They store six or more temperature settings a day.
  • They adjust heating or air conditioning turn on times as the outside temperature changes.
A Note for Heat Pump Owners

When a heat pump is in its heating mode, setting back a conventional heat pump thermostat can cause the unit to operate inefficiently, thereby cancelling out any savings achieved by lowering the temperature setting. Maintaining a moderate setting is the most cost effective practice. Recently, however, some companies have begun selling specially designed setback thermostats for heat pumps, which make setting back the thermostat cost effective. In its cooling mode, the heat pump operates like an air conditioner; therefore, manually turning up the thermostat will save you money.

Types of Automatic and Programmable Thermostats

There are five basic types of automatic and programmable thermostats:

  • electromechanical
  • digital
  • hybrid
  • occupancy
  • light sensing

Most range in price from $30 to $100, except for occupancy and light sensing thermostats, which cost around $200.

Electromechanical (EM) thermostats, usually the easiest devices to operate, typically have manual controls such as movable tabs to set a rotary timer and sliding levers for night and day temperature settings. These thermostats work with most conventional heating and cooling systems, except heat pumps. EM controls have limited flexibility and can store only the same settings for each day, although at least one manufacturer has a model with separate settings for each day of the week. EM thermostats are best suited for people with regular schedules.

Digital thermostats are identified by their LED or LCD digital readout and data entry pads or buttons. They offer the widest range of features and flexibility, and digital thermostats can be used with most heating and cooling systems. They provide precise temperature control, and they permit custom scheduling. Programming some models can be fairly complicated; make sure you are comfortable with the functions and operation of the thermostat you choose. Remember-- you won't save energy if you don't set the controls or you set them incorrectly. Hybrid systems combine the technology of digital controls with manual slides and knobs to simplify use and maintain flexibility. Hybrid models are available for most systems, including heat pumps.

Occupancy thermostats maintain the setback temperature until someone presses a button to call for heating or cooling. They do not rely on the time of day. The ensuing preset "comfort period" lasts from 30 minutes to 12 hours, depending on how you've set the thermostat. Then, the temperature returns to the setback level. These units offer the ultimate in simplicity, but lack flexibility. Occupancy thermostats are best suited for spaces that remain unoccupied for long periods of time.

Light sensing heat thermostats rely on the lighting level preset by the owner to activate heating systems. When lighting is reduced, a photocell inside the thermostat senses unoccupied conditions and allows space temperatures to fall 10° below the occupied temperature setting. When lighting levels increase to normal, temperatures automatically adjust to comfort conditions. These units do not require batteries or programming and reset themselves after power failures. Light sensing thermostats are designed primarily for stores and offices where occupancy determines lighting requirements, and therefore heating requirements.

Choosing a Programmable Thermostat

Because programmable thermostats are a relatively new technology, you should learn as much as you can before selecting a unit. When shopping for a thermostat, bring information with you about your current unit, including the brand and model number. Also, ask these questions before buying a thermostat:

  1. Does the unit's clock draw its power from the heating system's low voltage electrical control circuit instead of a battery? If so, is the clock disrupted when the furnace cycles on and off? Battery operated backup thermostats are preferred by many homeowners. Is the thermostat compatible with the electrical wiring found in your current unit?
  2. Are you able to install it yourself, or should you hire an electrician or a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor?
  3. How precise is the thermostat?
  4. Are the programming instructions easy to understand and remember? Some thermostats have the instructions printed on the cover or inside the housing box. Otherwise, will you have to consult the instruction booklet every time you want to change the setback times?

Most automatic and programmable thermostats completely replace existing units. These are preferred by many homeowners. However, some devices can be placed over existing thermostats and are mechanically controlled to permit automatic setbacks. These units are usually powered by batteries, which eliminates the need for electrical wiring. They tend to be easy to program, and because they run on batteries, the clocks do not lose time during power outages.

Before you buy a programmable thermostat, chart your weekly habits including wake up and departure times, return home times, and bedtimes, and the temperatures that are comfortable during those times. This will help you decide what type of thermostat will best serve your needs.

Other Considerations

The location of your thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency. Read the manufacturer's installation instructions to prevent "ghost readings" or unnecessary furnace or air conditioner cycling. Place thermostats away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights, and windows. Also make sure your thermostat is conveniently located for programming.

Some modern heating and cooling systems require special controls. Heat pumps are the most common and usually require special setback thermostats. These thermostats typically use special algorithms to minimize the use of backup electric resistance heat systems. Electric resistance systems, such as electric baseboard heating, also require thermostats capable of directly controlling 120 volt or 240 volt line voltage circuits. Only a few companies manufacture line voltage setback thermostats.

A Simpler Way to Control Your Environment

The best thermostat for you will depend on your life style and comfort level in varying house temperatures. While automatic and programmable thermostats save energy, a manual unit can be equally effective if you diligently regulate its setting--and if you don't mind a chilly house on winter mornings. If you decide to choose an automatic thermostat, you can set it to raise the temperature before you wake up and spare you some discomfort. It will also perform consistently and dependably to keep your house at comfortable temperatures during the summer heat, as well.

 

 

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