An underutilized retirement strategy

(BPT) – Across the nation, thousands of seniors have used a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly called a reverse mortgage loan, as a savvy way to access the equity in their homes as part of their retirement strategy.

Those who are interested in a reverse mortgage loan should know that there are six main phases to the process: 1) educating and qualifying, 2) counseling, 3) approval, 4) funding, 5) using and 6) settling.

1. Educating and qualifying

The HECM process begins by contacting an FHA-approved lender who will review the borrower’s situation, educate them on the HECM program, and determine if they would likely qualify for a reverse mortgage loan.

“Once the lender has determined that the borrower is eligible, they work closely with them to shape the loan so it fits their needs,” says Paul Fiore, Chief Sales Officer for American Advisors Group, the leading reverse mortgage lender in the nation. “At AAG, this is a highly personalized process designed to give the borrower the best outcome for their financial situation.”

2. Counseling

Once qualified, borrowers are referred to reverse mortgage counseling, an important consumer safeguard mandated by the government. During counseling, a HUD-approved HECM counselor reviews the borrower’s needs and circumstances. They consider how the funds might best be distributed, the financial and tax implications, and whether a HECM is right for them. If so, an application is submitted to the lender.

3. Approval

Next, the property will be appraised, and after that the approval process will begin. Before closing on the loan, borrowers will choose between several loan disbursement options, from taking it all out in a lump sum, receiving fixed monthly payments, opening a line of credit or any combination.

4. Funding

After the closing papers are signed, the homeowner has three business days to change their mind and cancel the loan (except if the loan is being used to purchase a new home). After the rescission period has passed, the funds are ready to be paid out through the payment option selected, subject to an initial disbursement limit that is determined by HUD.

5. Using your loan

The loan servicer will generally disburse funds via direct deposit or mail on the first business day of the month, following the funding of the loan. The borrower can live in the home as long as they like without making monthly mortgage payments, as long as they continue to pay property taxes and insurance on the home, maintain it in good condition and comply with any other loan terms.

6. Settling your loan

If the last surviving borrower sells or transfers the property, passes away, or does not use the property as a principal residence for more than 12 months, the loan has reached a “maturity event,” meaning that the loan comes due and no further funds can be disbursed. Borrowers also have the option of paying off their loan in full at any time without penalty.

Following a maturity event, an appraisal will be ordered by the loan servicer to determine the property’s current market value. The heirs can sell the property to repay the loan, or purchase the property for 95 percent of its appraised value. Since HECMs are non-recourse loans, the proceeds from the sale of the home are the only asset that can be taken to pay the loan’s balance, even if the loan amount exceeds the value of the home.

A home equity conversion mortgage can be shaped to fit an individual’s needs. With new consumer safeguards in place, many seniors are discovering that it is an important part of their retirement strategy.

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4 tips for protecting your home this season and beyond

(BPT) – Winter is in full swing and extremely cold temperatures continue to grip much of the U.S.; which mean hats, gloves and high home maintenance bills could be in your future. According to recent data from the Insurance Information Institute, in 2016 severe winter weather cost homeowners more than $1.7 billion in property damages. While the seasonal shift can be a challenge for homeowners, taking these four steps today could ease home maintenance burdens this season and all year-round.

1. Take a look at your windows

Old windows — especially those with multiple panes of glass— are notorious for air leakage, allowing heat to escape the home while letting in cold air. If your home still feels drafty after you’ve turned the heat on, it may be time to upgrade to more energy-efficient windows.

Mark Montgomery, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Windows, www.plygem.com, recommends that homeowners pay attention to insulating values and glass packages when selecting new windows for their home. “Manufacturers have made significant technology advancements over the years. Thermal performance of windows can now achieve performance well beyond building code and Energy Star levels, significantly increasing energy efficiency. Along those same lines, low-E glass coatings allow us to customize windows to specific regional climate conditions. So, if a home has old windows, replacing them with new energy efficient ones can make a significant difference in comfort, while also saving energy.”

One window example is the Premium Replacement Series from Ply Gem, which can be configured to meet Energy Star requirements in all climate zones, and is available through a network of building product distributors.

2. Seal up any leaks

Air leakage through holes, gaps, or cracks in the home’s structure is one of the biggest causes of home heating and cooling loss. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that reducing drafts could save homeowners from 10 to 20 percent on their annual energy costs. To help control air leakage through gaps and cracks larger than two inches, such as where the wall sets on the subfloor or where pipes and wires go through wall plates, homeowners should use caulk or foam sealant materials. For smaller cracks, typically found around windows and doors, weather stripping can help manage leaks. Steps taken to seal your home and save heat in the winter will also help improve indoor air conditioning flow during summer months.

3. Think about adding insulation

In addition to sealing up any small leaks, it’s important to evaluate your home’s air tightness on a few fronts. For instance, consider adding materials such as fiberglass, cellulose or natural fibers to interior walls for enhanced insulation. On the exterior, look at areas like your home’s cladding and consider upgrading to an insulated vinyl siding system. In addition to boosting curb appeal and minimizing ongoing maintenance, insulated vinyl siding, such as Mastic’s Structure Home Insulation System, efficiently reduces air leakage by providing continuous insulation along the entire exterior and covering wall studs that are left exposed by traditional wall coverage.

4. Keep your gutters clean

As temperatures drop, check your gutters to ensure they are completely devoid of leaves and debris so that water can flow freely. If needed, have professional gutter protection installed, such as a gutter protection system that includes a continuous hanger, to reduce the possibilities of ice damming. If melting ice is unable to drain due to buildup, it could seep into the walls and ceilings of your home. Having an effective gutter system installed is a simple solution that can prevent the hassles of gutter cleaning and damage throughout the year.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to better protect your home from Mother Nature’s ways this winter and throughout the remainder of the year.

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5 ways travel will change in 2018

(BPT) – As international travel gains popularity each year, new destinations are added to bucket lists and new travel gadgets and accessories appear on the market. The way we travel has changed in the past few decades, but that age-old itch to explore and discover new places and experiences remains the same. So how and why are people traveling now? The results of Visa’s recently released Global Travel Intentions (GTI) Survey reveal some interesting travel trends — and tips — to keep in mind for 2018.

Simplifying payments abroad — For as long as anyone can remember, a standard part of traveling to a foreign country involved exchanging currency. Carrying cash involves time, planning, anxiety about losing money and often, wondering what to do with leftover cash once you return home. In fact, loss or theft of cash is the number one money concern for travelers while on trips. And 72 percent of people say working to get their hands on foreign currency prior to departure is a waste of time. With more than 46 million merchants accepting Visa around the world, a Visa card is the most important travel accessory you can carry.

TIP: Use your Visa card and pay in local currency for a competitive exchange rate. A whopping 87 percent of travelers have leftover cash after a trip. However, only 29 percent convert it back to currency that can be used at home. Avoid wasting money by sticking to your Visa card and only pulling out cash when needed.

People travel because of culture — Of all the places to go in the world, why is it some people choose one place over another? According to Visa’s GTI survey, 41 percent of people cite “rich culture” and “friendly locals” as reasons to pick a destination. Although famous monuments, great museums and spectacular palaces continue to draw in visitors, the people who live in a traveler’s destination are hugely important.

TIP: Hang with the locals. Check out fun events such as festivals and concerts to make sure you’re not missing the best events in the city you’re visiting. And don’t forget local flavors of the country’s national dishes.

Ideal vacations look a little different to everyone — What do you want to get out of travel? Is it to meet new friends, see something in person you saw on television, or fulfill a longtime dream? When vacationing, 63 percent of travelers are motivated by a combination of reward and achievement. That means to them, an ideal vacation has some combination of relaxation and experiencing new cultures or exotic locations.

TIP: Block out time on your trip to relax and reflect on the experience. It can be easy to plan activities and sights to see, but it’s important to rest in between.

People are feeling optimistic about travel — Though they may be excited to get out of their comfort zone, some people have reservations about the safety of traveling to far-off locations, or worry about affording such a trip. However, according to the GTI Survey, people are not letting these factors keep them at home. Globally, only 17 percent of people cited security as a top concern and only 19 percent chose a destination because it fit their budget. What that says is that people are willing and eager to visit their dream destinations.

TIP: Budget your trip accordingly. A better understanding of what you can spend can help keep your mind at ease during travel. According to the GTI Survey, global travelers spend an average of $1,793 per trip. However, if you are following Tip #1, keeping cash transactions to a minimum will help in the budgeting process. While on vacation, look for Visa or PLUS logos at point-of-sale terminals or ATMs to ensure international payment cards are accepted.

Technology is the new travel companion — The traveler’s well-folded map and dog-eared guidebook might be a thing of the past. As more travelers adopt digital technology, virtually everything they need to navigate fits right in the palm of their hand. What’s more, 88 percent of travelers have online access while abroad and almost half, 44 percent, use ride-sharing apps to get around once they are on the ground.

TIP: Research apps or technology that might be helpful on your travels. Downloading your bank or credit card apps can help track your money while traveling. As technology continues to revolutionize our daily lives, so it will continue changing how we travel.

Staying on top of trends can allow travelers to plan accordingly. By budgeting, planning, avoiding cash and finding out the best ways to track spending, travelers can get the most from their dream travels — and their wallets.

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Would direct sales work for you?

(BPT) – The Federal Reserve Board discovered in a survey of working Americans that nearly half of U.S. adults don’t have enough cash on hand to pay for a $400 emergency. If that’s a concern for you, you might be thinking about joining the 44 million Americans who have found ways to make money in addition to their main source of income. Common options include waiting tables, working retail, becoming a rideshare driver and direct selling.

Direct selling, also called direct-to-consumer sales, has been around for over 160 years, and companies like Avon, Tupperware, WorldVentures and Amway have been offering new business opportunities to independent sales representatives since they opened. The direct-sales business is still booming, with a record 20.5 million people involved in the U.S. alone in 2016. The estimated direct retail sales of $35.54 billion in 2016 was the second-highest in direct-selling history.

Is working in direct sales right for you? Benefits of working in the industry can include:

* Flexibility — You determine your schedule, and you choose to work as many — or as few — hours as you want. If you have a knack for direct selling, you could ultimately make it your main source of income.

* Personal growth and development — Take advantage of the tools and training offered by your direct selling company to help you build your business.

* Companionship — Connect with fellow sales representatives and prospective customers, which can lead to lasting relationships.

Passion for travel and financial freedom prompted Wayne Nugent, founder of WorldVentures, to launch his direct sales business in 2005. “We’ve been changing the way people take vacations for more than a decade, all while helping our independent representatives discover their potential and experience more in life,” says Nugent.

The direct seller of travel and leisure club memberships, is just one of many opportunities waiting for you. Whether you decide to go into direct sales, housesitting or part-time bartending, the possibilities for supplemental income are limited only by your imagination.

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Do the math: Homebuying now may save a lot

(BPT) – It is a common misconception that a 20 percent down payment is required to buy a home. Advice to wait and save a large down payment is often based on the theory that the cost of mortgage insurance (MI), which is required when you buy with a smaller down payment, should be avoided. This may not be the best advice and is, in fact, not in line with market trends, considering 60 percent of homebuyers buy with a down payment of 6 percent or less, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Yes, you can qualify for a conventional mortgage with a down payment as small as 3 percent of the purchase price. It is also true that you can reduce your monthly mortgage payment by paying for discount points at closing, but that can be 5 or 10 percent of the purchase price — not 20. And because every buyer’s situation is unique, it’s important to do the math. In today’s market, it could take a family earning the national median income up to 20 years to save 20 percent, according to calculations by U.S. Mortgage Insurers using a methodology developed by the Center for Responsible Lending; a lot can change during that time, in the family’s personal finances and in overall mortgage market trends.

How can buying now save you money later?

Consider you want to purchase a $235,000 home. A 5 percent down payment is $11,750 versus $47,000 in cash for 20 percent down. With a 740 credit score at today’s MI rates, your monthly MI payment would be about $110, which is added to your monthly mortgage payment until MI cancels. MI typically cancels after five years; therefore, you will only have this added cost for a short period of time versus waiting an average of 20 years to save for 20 percent.

With home price appreciation, today’s $235,000 home will likely cost more in the years ahead and this will also have an impact on the necessary down payment and length of time required to save for it. There are other variables in the equation too, such as interest rates. As federal rates rise, so too can the costs associated with financing a mortgage. The savings a borrower might calculate today could be altogether negated by waiting even a few more years. Another factor is that rents are on the rise across the nation, leading to a reduced capacity for many would-be homebuyers to save for larger down payments.

If you decide to buy today with a low down payment mortgage option, it is true that MI is an added cost on top of mortgage principal and interest, but keep in mind that it is temporary and goes away. Again, it typically lasts about five years. Private MI can be cancelled once a homeowner builds approximately 20 percent equity in the home through payments or appreciation and automatically terminates for most borrowers once he or she reaches 22 percent equity. And when MI is cancelled, the monthly bill goes down. Importantly, the insurance premiums on an FHA mortgage — the 100 percent taxpayer-backed government version of mortgage insurance — cannot be cancelled for the vast majority of borrowers with FHA mortgages.

So, do the math and let the numbers guide you. There are many online mortgage calculators that can help. Check out lowdownpaymentfacts.org to learn more.

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3 things you might not know about boat shows

(BPT) – Winter may be frigid for many, but it’s an ideal time to plan for warmer days ahead and make dreams of owning a boat a reality. Boat shows across the country offer some of the hottest deals around, with special pricing and incentives on new boat models and marine accessories — a major draw for the 142 million Americans who take to the water each year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. For those ready to plan their summer adventures on the water, boat shows are the best place to start.

Whether you fish or sail, enjoy cruising, riding personal watercraft or wakesurfing, boat shows provide the opportunity to browse and board hundreds, sometimes thousands, of boats while taking advantage of boat show specials. Boat shows also provide an avenue to enjoy a taste of the boating lifestyle during the off-season, plus they offer educational opportunities and alternative ways to get on the water for novices looking to get their feet wet.

Whether you want to fulfill that New Year’s resolution of spending more time on the water with family and friends, or are simply in the mood to escape the winter doldrums, Discover Boating, the national awareness program to help get people on the water, offers three tips to get started in boating at a 2018 boat show:

* Escape cabin fever for the year’s best deals. Unlike auto shows, boat shows are the place to buy. Hundreds of new models are available to buy right on the show floor at some of the best prices of the year, with many exhibitors offering special show pricing and other incentives. Boat shows make it easy for you to shop all the region’s dealers in one location. Plus, it’s the perfect time to order a new boat to ensure it arrives ready to launch in the spring.

* Test the waters. You can learn the ropes of boating and take advantage of onsite training, which is usually offered at little to no cost. Educational opportunities at boat shows include everything from knot-tying and DIY boat maintenance seminars, to sailing simulators and boating lessons. You can often find fun activities to entertain the family and get everyone into the outdoors, from practicing how to reel in a fish to learning to dock and more.

* Look for the seal of approval. When shopping for a boat at a show, online or at a dealership, always check to make sure it is certified by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. An “NMMA Certified” seal means a boat has met strict industry standards for safety, construction and federal regulations, enhancing an improved and safer boater experience. Look for the NMMA Certified sticker near the helm of a boat.

Visit DiscoverBoating.com to find a boat show near you, a list of certified dealers and manufacturers, and tips to get started in boating.

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Equipment warranties 101: What you should know

(BPT) – From smartphones to mattresses, almost everything you buy comes with some kind of warranty. How can you ensure you get the most benefit from a warranty, especially for a major investment that’s also critical to the comfort of your home, like a new furnace?

“Warranties are meant to assure a homeowner that the furnace they’re purchasing will do what it’s supposed to, is free of defects and meets applicable government regulations or standards,” says Chip Wade, HGTV expert. “However, warranties are often very specific about the circumstances under which the manufacturer will repair or replace the furnace if it doesn’t work properly. It’s important to carefully read your furnace’s warranty to ensure you understand exactly how it works.”

Warranty terms

Because written warranties are legally binding documents, you may come across unfamiliar terms as you’re reading yours, including:

Product warranty — This is the guarantee that comes from the company that manufactures the furnace. Contractors and installers may offer extended warranties that apply to their work, including the labor required to install the furnace. YORK(R) is one of the only manufacturers that manages their own extended warranties. Other manufacturers often work with outside firms that can make claiming difficult.

Warranty term — The length of time the coverage is offered is called the warranty term. These can vary significantly; however, YORK(R) heating and cooling offers a lifetime heat exchanger warranty on its YORK(R) Affinity(TM) gas furnaces. In addition, YORK(R) offers the Complete Assurance(TM) Warranty Pledge with this furnace. If the heat exchanger fails within 10 years of installation, YORK(R) provides optional furnace replacement in lieu of heat exchanger equipment.

Parts warranty — Most furnace warranties will cover replacement of specific parts if they malfunction within the warranty time frame and the problem is a result of a manufacturer’s defect. Most warranties have different coverage periods for different parts.

Non-transferable — When you have a new home comfort system installed, if the furnace warranty is non-transferable, the coverage will not transfer to the new owners if you sell the house before the end of the warranty term.

Protect your warranty

“No homeowner ever wants to hear their warranty has been voided by something they did or something they were supposed to do but didn’t,” Wade says. “That’s why it’s so important to read your detailed furnace warranty very carefully, so you know what the manufacturer and installer require in order to honor the warranty.”

Actions that help ensure a valid warranty:

* Register the product purchase with the manufacturer. Most manufacturers require homeowners to register their furnace with the manufacturer within a specified window of time after the purchase and installation. A majority of YORK(R) contractors will register the warranty on behalf of the homeowner. For those that do not, homeowners are required to register within 90 days of installation. Visit www.york.com/warranty to learn more about the company’s warranties.

* Work with a qualified YORK(R) contractor who can properly install the product. If a part doesn’t work because it wasn’t installed properly, the manufacturer will likely say the installer, and not the manufacturer, is liable for fixing the problem.

* Use branded parts or parts the manufacturer has certified for the furnace. Otherwise, you may void the manufacturer’s warranty, even for parts that would normally be covered.

* Follow manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. In order for your furnace to operate as it should, it will need to be professionally serviced every year. Keep service records for reference, in case there is ever an issue that arises.

“A new furnace is a big investment, and it’s one that’s essential to preserve the comfort of your home,” Wade says. “A good manufacturer’s warranty can help you be sure you’re getting a quality product that’s backed by a company that will stand by its work.”

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How you can improve your FICO Score

(BPT) – Anyone who has tried to borrow money to purchase a car, buy a home or open a revolving line of credit may be familiar with the term FICO Score. Most lenders use this scoring model, which essentially determines a person’s creditworthiness.

“The FICO Score may seem like a big, daunting mystery, especially since your score can have a huge impact on your ability to borrow money at a competitive rate,” said Jim Johnston, of Colorado-based Bellco Credit Union. “The truth is, however, you do have power over your credit score, and there are things you can do to improve it over time.”

How FICO Score is calculated

FICO was named for the data analytics company Fair Isaac Co., which created the first credit-scoring system. In general, a credit score breaks down as follows:

* 35 percent is your payment history — Do you pay bills on time?

* 30 percent is the amounts you owe (on loans, credit cards, etc.) — Owing money on different credit accounts is not necessarily bad, especially if you’re paying your bills on time every month. FICO considers how many of your accounts have balances, if you’re using your entire credit line, and how much of any installment loan you still owe.

* 15 percent is the length of your credit history — Having a long credit history is good, but even if you’re young and barely have any credit history (such as credit cards and a car loan), you can still have a high FICO score.

* 10 percent is your credit mix — What is your mix of credit, meaning credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, mortgage loans, etc.? A good mix of credit, especially with a history of on-time payments, is helpful to your score.

* 10 percent is any new credit — If you’ve opened numerous credit accounts in a short period, this can have a negative impact. Although closing a credit account still shows up on your credit history, it has no impact on your score.

Tips to improve your score

Repairing your credit takes time, so it’s important to be patient. Below are three things you can do.

1. Check your credit report — The first thing you should do is get a free copy of your credit report and make sure there are no errors. If you find an error, you have the right to dispute it with the credit bureau.

2. Get organized — Don’t make any more late payments on your credit cards. The best way to do this is to get organized. Set up auto payments through your bank or credit union, or set reminders to make payments before they are due.

3. Pay down your debt — While this is no easy task, it will make a difference. Use your credit report to make a list of all your credit cards and the balances you owe. Pick the credit cards with the highest interest rates, and tackle those balances first. Most importantly, don’t add to your debt by continuing to use your credit cards.

Your FICO Score does not take into account annual income, length of employment, or other sources of financial support such as alimony or child support. However, these are things that your bank or credit union can consider when you’re borrowing money, so it’s not all about the FICO Score.

Knowledge is power. Understand what your FICO Score is, how a good or bad score can impact your life, and if a low FICO Score is holding you back. There’s no better time than now to begin to make positive changes to improve your score.

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Rent vs. own: Which is right for you?

(BPT) – If you’re thinking of buying your first home, you’ve probably wrestled with the decision to rent or own your home — and for good reason.

Owning a home is a big commitment. With it comes a lot of responsibility and a long-term financial relationship.

But which is right for you? To answer that, let’s lean into the facts.

The improving housing market

Good news! Since the depths of the recession, the housing market has made a heroic comeback. That can be attributed to a number of factors, including a drop in unemployment and a stronger economy.

But as the housing market has recovered, it has experienced some growing pains. With a sharp increase in demand, housing supplies are being strained. This means, among other things, that prices are going up.

For families and individuals still recovering financially, finding affordable housing options can be difficult. This applies to home sales and rentals.

Making the decision

With rental and sales markets heading toward record highs, the decision falls back to what is best for you. Specifically, what is financially feasible.

Let’s look at the basic numbers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median gross rent paid from 2012 to 2016 was $949 monthly. Compare that with the median selected monthly owner costs with a mortgage, which was $1,491 over the same time period.

Then there are utilities. The median monthly electricity cost for renters in 2015 was $82, with owners paying $117. For piped gas, the median amount renters pay monthly is $42, while owners pay $58.

For renters, it is wise to carry renter’s insurance. Some landlords will also charge maintenance and other fees. Utility costs will also vary depending on the quality of the structure and materials used as well as size of the rental space.

Homeowners will pay property taxes, insurance and an estimated $500 annually for routine maintenance, according to the Census Bureau.

The benefits of homeownership

At a glance, it may seem that renting is the lower cost option. But there are certain benefits to homeownership that may offset the additional regular costs. According to the Tax Policy Center, the primary benefit to owning a home is imputed rental income. Simply put, making a monthly payment on a home that you own is like paying rent to yourself.

While that money is not taxed, it comes with another benefit — potential tax deductions. When you file your federal taxes, you may be able to deduct a portion of the mortgage interest you pay. Talk to a tax professional for more information on the expenses you can deduct and the limits for those deductions.

Beyond the numbers

Homeownership provides a variety of benefits beyond the numbers. For many people, a home is the largest investment they will ever make. The upgrades, work and care put into the home that you own can add value to your investment. It also adds a sense of pride knowing that it is yours.

“Having a place to call your own, a place to return to at the end of the day, makes life better,” said Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. President Eric Hamilton. “You can see it from the moment they make the decision — that sense of pride. It’s a life-changing event and a memory that will last a lifetime.”

Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, (http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, Licensed by the NH Banking Department, MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking.

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Tips to save money and energy this winter

(BPT) – Winter is a time of year when expenses can soar, especially your utility bills. Thankfully, Chip Wade, HGTV expert, has some advice on how you can save energy, and ultimately money, this year:

* Lighting: LED bulbs are 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs.

* Prevent heat loss: Find and seal air leaks in your home. “Areas around windows and doors are often culprits for allowing heat to escape,” says Wade. Use caulking or weatherstripping to seal these leaks and keep the heat inside your home.

* Water heating: Did you know you can control the temperature of your water heater? Most households only require water heater thermostats to be set at 120 F, which is lower than what the temperature is typically set at. By lowering your water heating temperature, you’re not only reducing energy, but also preventing water from becoming dangerously hot.

* Adjust the temperature: Hosting a gathering? Consider turning the thermostat down. “More people in your home means an increase in your home’s temperature,” says Wade. “To accommodate for this, I turn my thermostat five to ten degrees lower than normal before guests arrive, so that they are comfortable.” Also, if you’re traveling, it’s good to keep in mind that programmable thermostats like the YORK Affinity Hx Touch-screen Thermostat can take care of temperature adjustments for you while you’re away. YORK’s free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone, no matter where you travel.

* Maintain your heating system: Be sure to schedule regular service appointments with your local technician to keep your heating and cooling system running properly. Also, set a calendar reminder to replace your air filters once a month to maintain proper airflow.

* Choose a high-efficiency furnace: Save energy heating your home by choosing a high-efficiency furnace. “Always consider a furnace’s annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating,” says Wade. “The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace and the greater the amount of heat it delivers for your money. Look for models with AFUE of 90 percent or higher.”

For more ways to save energy and money, visit www.YORK.com.

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