Keep Old Man Winter at Bay

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – When the air turns crisp and the trees start to shed their leaves, you know winter is not too far around the corner. Before the temperatures start to drop, you may want to address commonly overlooked home winterization projects to ensure that you and your family stay warm and comfortable this season.
One of the most overlooked — yet most essential — items in your home is the furnace, and there are some simple steps you can take to avoid being left in the cold. According to Lori Boyce, manager of heating and indoor air quality products for Carrier’s Residential Systems, it is important to perform a visual inspection of the furnace before it begins its heating cycle. Boyce recommends homeowners begin by inspecting the furnace exterior and area around the unit. The surrounding area should be kept clear of clutter or debris.
Next, Boyce recommends checking to see if the air filter needs to be changed. It is recommended that you replace your filter quarterly or semi-annually. “A clean filter is important to keep your furnace operating efficiently,” says Boyce. “A local Carrier dealer can provide you with a high-quality replacement filter, or you can clean reusable filters at home using cold water.”
Set your thermostat to heat in order to confirm that the furnace cycles from start-up through shut-down normally. Check to make sure air is blowing from the small grates in each room.
If a furnace fails to start up during a system check, make sure the thermostat is set to “heat” and that the furnace door is properly in place. There is a safety switch on many furnace doors that “pops out” when the door is removed. If this is the case, properly close or position the door, and repeat the system check. If the furnace still fails to start-up, call your local heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional.
Even if you regularly check to make sure your HVAC equipment is operating efficiently, it is a good idea to schedule seasonal check-ups with an HVAC professional.
“A properly working furnace is essential for most people during colder months, but there are other steps homeowners should take to maximize the heat in their homes,” added Boyce. “Installing storm windows, adding extra insulation in the attic or walls, and replacing weather stripping on windows and doors are all dependable ways to keep your family comfortable during the winter season.”
For more seasonal tips throughout the year, visit www.carrier.com.

Prepare Your Furnace for Old Man Winter

When the air turns crisp and the trees start to shed their leaves, you know winter is not too far around the corner. Before the temperatures start to drop, you may want to address commonly overlooked home winterization projects to ensure that you and your family stay warm and comfortable this season.

One of the most overlooked—yet most essential—items in your home is the furnace, and there are some simple steps you can take to avoid being left in the cold. According to Lori Boyce, manager of heating and indoor air-quality products for Carrier’s Residential Systems, it is important to perform a visual inspection of the furnace before it begins its heating cycle. Boyce recommends homeowners begin by inspecting the furnace exterior and area around the unit. The surrounding area should be kept clear of clutter or debris.

Three Caring Tips to Keep Your Aging Cat From Becoming a Sourpuss

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Cats’ health needs change as they get older, but unlike aging humans, they can’t vocalize complaints about aching bones and stiff joints. It is important for cat owners to exercise extra vigilance when it comes to caring for an aging cat.
Follow these tips to help your feline friend age gracefully:
* Stay current on vital vaccinations. As a cat grows older, it is essential to keep Cat Flu and Feline Infectious Enteritis in check. Though sometimes tempting to overlook, an older cat has a less efficient immune system and is thus more susceptible to disease. Most older cats will only require booster shots. However, if no vaccinations are on record for a cat, or if you are unsure, you can begin vaccinations at any age.
Vaccinations can be found for Cat Flu, Enteritis, FeLV, Chlamydia, FIP and Rabies in most areas. Consult your veterinarian for specific details.
* Don’t hold your breath on oral health care. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 70 percent of cats have some form of oral disease by age three — by age 10, it’s safe to presume that cats’ mouths can be rife with infection.
At-home oral care programs are ideal to help address the daily oral hygiene needs of cats. According to most veterinarians, brushing cats’ teeth on a regular basis is the best action to take to promote good oral health. For cats that are a little more temperamental about pet owners or vets touching their teeth, a simple and effective solution can be found using a new type of probiotics, called Teddy’s Pride Oral Care, that have been designed specifically for the oral care needs of cats and dogs (www.MyTeddysPride.com). These probiotics can be used in addition to brushing or as a stand-alone oral care routine.
* Eliminate pesky parasites. Fleas are the most common skin parasite of cats, leaving many cats with an itchy reaction. To prevent flea bites, use a flea spray or flea powder specifically formulated for cats. Internal parasites, like tapeworms and roundworms, distress older cats, particularly those which go outdoors. Most vets recommend that cats be treated for worms every three to six months — indoor-only cats may have a longer lapses between treatments. Always check with your vet for the best possible treatment program.

Deciphering Your Car’s “Check Engine” Light

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Many drivers don’t know what the “check engine” or “service engine soon” warning light on the instrument panel really means. Understanding the purpose of this light, and knowing what actions to take when it comes on, can help you nip problems in the bud — and possibly prevent major damage.

An illuminated “check engine” light is telling you the engine control computer has detected a problem that is causing the vehicle to produce excessive exhaust emissions. Sometimes the light will be accompanied by noticeable performance problems, such as an engine miss or hesitation, but other times the vehicle will appear to operate normally. Common failures that can trigger a “check engine” light include:

* Failed engine-control components such as an oxygen, coolant temperature, MAP (manifold absolute pressure) or airflow sensor.

* Engine misfires from faulty sparkplugs, sparkplug wires, ignition components, fuel injectors or other fuel system parts.

* Emission-control failures such as loose or cracked vacuum hoses, a loose or missing gas cap or a defective EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve.

How you should react to a “check engine” light depends on how the light behaves. If the light comes on for a little while and then goes out, you may have had a momentary problem in the system. The light goes out when the problem stops, but the computer could have stored a diagnostic trouble code in its memory. If the light does not recur, it can be ignored. However, if the light comes and goes intermittently, take the vehicle in for a checkup.

If the light comes on and stays on, the car has an ongoing problem. While that problem may not be severe, it will negatively impact your car’s performance, gas mileage and exhaust emissions. Take your vehicle to a repair shop as soon as possible for further diagnosis.

If the “check engine” light begins to flash on and off, a severe problem is causing the catalytic converter to overheat. This can destroy the converter and possibly even start a fire. If your repair shop is nearby, drive there immediately. If the shop is some distance away, shut off the car and call for assistance. Always have the cause of a flashing “check engine” light investigated right away to prevent damage to important components that can greatly increase the cost of repairs.

AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities can diagnose “check engine” light problems and provide a full range of vehicle maintenance and repair services. Approved Auto Repair shops meet AAA’s high standards for customer care and technical proficiency. To locate a shop near you, look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair logo or visit www.AAA.com/repair.

Prepaid Cards Come Out on Top for Savings

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Economic woes have changed people’s mindsets about spending. Now, many Americans are relying on prepaid cards to control their spending and budgeting.

Branded prepaid cards (cards with an American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa logo) require pre-loaded funds, so they can’t be overdrawn. The cards can be used anywhere the logos are accepted.

A direct comparison study published in October by G. Michael Flores of Bretton Woods, Inc., a management advisory firm specializing in financial institutions, shows that those with checking accounts pay more for similar services than users of branded prepaid cards.

Flores’ research found that bank customers pay from $200 to just over $350 annually for a basic checking account. Users of prepaid cards with direct-deposit pay $110 to $210 annually.

Consumers who rely on check cashing services and money orders to meet their monthly obligations can also cut costs by using prepaid cards. Many prepaid programs allow automatic payroll depositing, so money is available on the card on payday.

“While prepaid cards should not be considered a replacement for checking accounts in all circumstances, we see that consumers are finding a number of ways to use the cards to promote fiscal responsibility and smart budgeting,” said Kirsten Trusko, President and Executive Director of the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association (www.nbpca.com).

“Families purchase prepaid cards and load spending allotments for the month, professionals have their paychecks directly deposited onto them to avoid the wait time of cashing a check or ATM fees, and under-banked consumers use prepaid cards to avoid the costs and hassles of check cashing services,” added Trusko.

The NBCPA offers the following tips for saving and budgeting with prepaid cards:

* Directly deposit paychecks onto the card for immediate access to funds.

* Load only the amount your family can spend each month.

* Use prepaid cards instead of checking accounts to make automatic bill payments and carefully monitor spending online.

* Give prepaid cards to teenagers to teach them the responsibility of using a card. Let them load cards with their own money.

* Make digital payments without the risk of credit card overdraft.

* Find easy access to digital payments, even as credit card qualifications become more stringent.