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Cost-Efficient Thermostat Temperatures to Save You Money This Summer!

Cost-efficient thermostat temperatures are so important to save you money this summer on your electricity bill! During this time of year with temperatures reaching the high 90s in most areas, thermostat adjustments to keep your home cool and your bill low are necessary. Cooling your home with your air conditioning unit depending on the size, could sky rocket your bill into the high hundreds! Though it is tempting to adjust your thermostat really low during the summer in an effort to cool your home faster, this could actually be counter productive because your unit is working harder and burning more energy. Consistent set temperatures maintain energy output levels and reduces your out-of-pocket cost.

Before you receive your next bill and its causes you to break into a sweat, let me share a couple of cost-efficient thermostat temperature tips below!

  1. If you plan to be away from your home for an extended amount of time during the day (4 hours or more) keep the temperature set at a higher number. Once you arrive back home, adjust the temperature to 78 degrees. Based on your comfort level your thermostat should stay at this temperature throughout the warmer months.
  2.  Use your windows at night, turning off the A/C unit completely which allows the breeze to keep you cool while you are sleep. Also, utilize ceiling fans while you are in the room and then turn them off once you leave. It is unnecessary to leave ceiling fans on when you are no longer in the room as the fans do not keep the room itself cooler but cools the people who are in it.

According to Energy.gov for every degree higher you set your thermostat over 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer you could save six-eight percent off your energy bill per degree! These savings can be used to entertain your family and friends grilling in your backyard! Or a fun-filled water day at the local pool or water park! Making these small adjustments could add up significantly over time. Comment on this post and let me know if these tips would work for you! Also check out all of our available homes today!

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9 Tools Every First Time Homebuyer Should Have

You’ve purchased your first home and are getting settled, you get to start decorating and making it your own. Something you’ll quickly find you need are tools. There are a ton of tools out there, but here are the nine tools every first time homebuyer should have.

  1. Cordless Drill – This power tool will become your best friend. With its many uses you’ll find yourself using it for all your home projects. Cordless drills start around $40.
  2. Screwdriver Set – If you’re trying to tighten something or putting together new furniture, you’ll find yourself needing both flathead and a Phillips head screwdrivers in varying sizes. A 6-in-1 reversible screwdriver set start as low as $5.
  3. Combination Wrench Set – As you begin putting things together in your new home, you will find that you need to tighten and/or loosen nuts and bolts, so you’ll find yourself in need of wrenches. A set of combination wrenches can be found for around $14.
  4. Tape Measure – Whether you’re hanging pictures, measuring furniture or working on a project, a tape measure is a necessary tool for your toolbox. Don’t forget the old saying “measure twice, cut once.” A 30-foot tape measure starts at $14.
  5. Hammer – Whether you’re trying to hammer something into place or remove a nail from a wall, no toolbox is complete without a hammer. They range in cost, but start at about $5.
  6. Stud Finder – This is going to be an indispensable tool when you start hanging things on the walls or trying to do any in-wall projects. Stud finders start at about $15 each.
  7. Putty Knife – This tool will come in handy if you need to fill in holes on your walls. Putty knives on average are $4-$5 each.
  8. Level – Nothing is worse than a crocked picture or shelf and that’s when a level comes in handy. A two-foot level starts around $7.
  9. Ladder – While it won’t fit in your toolbox, this is an essential tool for your new home. Whether you’re cleaning out gutters, painting walls or hanging Christmas lights, you’ll find that you need a ladder. Type II fiberglass ladders start at $55.

McKee Homes, North Carolina’s #1 Choice for New Homes

McKee Homes has highly skilled team members dedicated to creating the best home building and buying experience possible in Eastern North Carolina. Areas we are building in include: Fayetteville, Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen, Raleigh and Wilmington NC. Some of our new home resources we can provide you include: New Home Financing, Buyer Incentives and more.

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7 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Summer

Summer is finally here with longer days and warmer weather. It’s time to get out the barbecue grill and spend some fun evenings and weekends with family and friends out on the deck or patio. Here are 7 tips to get your home ready for summer so you and your family and friends can kick back and enjoy the summer.

  1. Have HVAC system serviced and cleaned
    You definitely want to stay cool this summer so make sure your HVAC unit is working at peak efficiency. It’s a good idea to have your HVAC system cleaned and inspected each year and summer is a great time to get this done. Your AC condenser is outside your house and can get really dirty and gummed up with leaves and other debris especially during the winter months. Make sure to clean any debris on and around the condenser and have it inspected by a pro to keep it running efficiently through the summer months. If you decide to clean the condenser unit thoroughly yourself, make sure to turn the power to the unit off first and be very careful not to damage the condenser fins which are fragile and easily bent or crushed.
  2. Clean the gutters
    The gutters on your home are probably full of leaves, pine needles and other gunk from the winter season. Now that it’s warm, find a sturdy ladder and clean out the gutters and down pipes, or better yet, hire someone to do it for you.
  3. Inspect and repair roofing and siding
    Summer is also a good time to inspect the roofing, siding, windows and exterior doors of your home to find any damage that may have occurred during winter or spring storms. Remove and replace caulking as necessary on siding windows and doors and repair or replace any damaged roofing.  If you aren’t comfortable doing this type of work you can always hire someone to do it for you.
  4. Clean deck and patio
    You’ll probably want to spend a lot of time outside this summer with family and friends so make sure your deck, patio and porch are ready for entertaining. Pressure-wash concrete patios and wood decks to get rid of all the grime that may have accumulated from the winter months. Summer is a great time to reseal or repaint your deck and porch so it looks like new again. Don’t forget to inspect and clean your outdoor furniture and wash cushions so you are ready for summer entertaining.
  5. Clean and repair driveway and walkways
    Rent or buy a power-washer or hire someone to clean these areas. It’s amazing how a good cleaning can make the exterior of your home look like new again. Summer is the perfect time to repair cracks and joints in concrete walkways, stairs and driveways. Check with your local home improvement store to find the best products for your needs or hire a professional to do any needed repairs.
  6. Weed and mulch flower beds
    Weeds can take over flower beds and planted areas around the home in the spring and summer months so make sure to keep on top of weed removal before it gets out of control. This will help your flowers and shrubs grow healthier and look better. Add some fresh mulch to protect the plants and make your landscaping look great again.
  7. Fertilize and reseed lawn
    Depending on the type of grass you have in your lawn, summer may be the perfect time to reseed and fill in bald patches in your lawn. Make sure to remove leaves and twigs and de-thatch dead grass with a rake before reseeding your lawn. Check with a landscape supplier or home improvement store to make sure you get the right seed for your lawn and don’t forget to fertilize and keep it watered while the new seed is germinating and growing.
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7 Important New Home Winter Maintenance Tips

Written by John Rives

It’s that time of year again where most of us are starting to think of Halloween costumes for the kids and young-at-heart adults, Thanksgiving with family and friends, and the holiday season. The days are shorter, the air is cooler and it’s time to break out the jackets, sweaters and cool-weather cloths.

It’s also time to do some home maintenance to get your house ready for the upcoming cold weather of late autumn and winter. Use these 7 important new home winter maintenance tips to help save money on heating and keep your home and yard in good shape through the cold winter months.

Even if you have a new home, you still need to prepare for winter.

  1. Test your heater before it gets cold to make sure it is working properly
  2. Replace the HVAC air filter
  3. Check smoke alarms
  4. Reverse the direction of ceiling fans to blow down
  5. Clean gutters and roof
  6. Drain irrigation lines
  7. Drain gas from mowers and trimmers

1) Don’t wait until its cold outside to try out your heater for the fist time. Even newer units can sometimes fail or need service. It will be much faster to get any needed service if you schedule the service while the weather is still mild instead of after the first really cold day when HVAC service companies are backed up with service calls.

2) Replace the HVAC filter/s in your home. Dirty filters make it hard for your HVAC system to move air through your heating ducts. Clean filters make for cleaner air inside your home and will help protect your HVAC system for years to come. Watch our short video about how to replace an HVAC air filter.

3) Test your smoke alarms using the TEST button on the face of the alarm. You might want to wear ear plugs while doing this as the high pitched noise from the alarm can be quite loud. If you see a red light blinking on the face of the alarm instead of a green light, you probably need to replace the battery backup in the alarm. That way even if the power goes out, the alarm will still work and be able to alert you to any smoke in your home.

4) Most ceiling fans have a switch that will reverse the rotational direction of the fan blades. You want your ceiling fans to blow air down (usually clockwise) in the winter as the warm air will rise to the ceiling and blowing it back down into the rooms with ceiling fans will help keep your home warmer and might even save money by allowing you to use your heater less.

5) With all the rain, sleet and snow of winter it’s important to make sure you clean all the pine needles and/or leaves from your roof so they don’t end up clogging your gutters and downspouts. It’s a good idea to clean out the gutters as well to make sure they can handle the water from rain and snow melt in the winter. It’s also a good idea to add extensions to the downspout outlet to keep water away from the foundation of your home and make sure your yard drainage is working so you don’t end up with standing water in your yard. Read our article on why you may have standing water in your yard to get tips on how to avoid this problem.

6) Don’t forget to drain your irrigation system before it freezes and you end up with broken lines. It’s easy to forget about the water in the irrigation system once it gets cool outside and you are no longer using it. You may want to call a professional to do this to make sure it is done correctly. It doesn’t cost that much and it will be well worth it to know the next time you need your lawn sprinklers, they will be ready to go. Make sure to turn off all exterior faucets and disconnect any hoses. It’s a good time to roll up and put away any hoses still in the yard and keep them in good shape for next year.

7) It’s not a good idea to leave gas in mowers, trimmers, or anything with a small gas engine for extended periods as the gas can eventually decompose and leave a varnish inside the carburetor and plastic tubing. The easiest way to remove all the gas from small engines is to drain the gas tank and then run the engine until it runs out of gas. Check your manual for other cold-weather storage tips.

How To Reset a GFI Outlet

Bob and Sue’s Home Maintenance Tips

Part 1: How to reset a GFI Outlet
By Bob and Sue Russo

What is a GFI/GFCI outlet?

GFCI Outlet All new home built today are required by law to have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI, more commonly referred to as GFI outlets). In 1975, the NEC [1] required GFI Outlet installation in bathrooms, but it wasn’t until 2005 that that this Federal Organization instructed that GFIs should be installed in Laundry Rooms. Based on what we’d read, it seems that it was up to individual states to determine if they would comply with this regulation. If you are moving into your new home from an older apartment or home you may not be accustom to seeing or using these GFI outlets.

A GFI Outlet is a potentially life-saving feature in your home. The following example illustrates the importance of a GFI. If you were to plug in a small appliance with an electrical problem, the GFI outlet would trip almost immediately. You may be thinking, “okay, no big deal”, but if you attempted to plug in the same electrical appliance (without a GFI) while touching your water faucet, the electrical current would travel through your body and into the water faucet, which could result in burns, electrical shock or death.

One GFI outlet can protect multiple outlets in your home, therefore all your outlets may not look like the one pictured above.  Let’s think about a series of outlets like a row of lined up dominoes.  When you knock the first domino down, the subsequent dominoes will also fall. In this analogy, the last domino to fall is the GFI outlet. Let’s say that the electrician installed a GFI in the outlet that you plug your toaster into. He then connected the GFI outlet to the next outlet he installed, which is a non-GFI outlet. This happens to be the outlet you plug your coffee pot into. Both appliances are GFI protected because they are both linked to the original GFI outlet. So if your coffee pot has a short, the GFI Outlet that your toaster is plugged into will trip.

In the example in the video, we figured out that we had a defective appliance, because Bob knew that the coffee pot sparked when he plugged it in. So our plan was to reset the GFI Outlet, return the Coffee Pot to the store, get a new one and be back in business. A GFI outlet can also be tripped by an electrical storm, any odd electrical surge or even excessive moisture.

How to Reset GFCI Outlet

To locate the outlet with the tripped GFI, look for the one with a small button popped out. Remember, when a GFI trips, it will trip any and all outlets connected to that GFI. Most kitchen and bathrooms in new homes have multiple (visible) GFI outlets, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the GFI that’s tripped in one of these rooms. Once you have located the outlet with the tripped GFI, simply push the button back into place.

In rooms other than your bathroom or kitchen or even outside your home, it’ may be difficult to find the tripped GFI. This happened to us in our garage and we had to call an electrician to come help us. He came and helped us move an antique wardrobe in a garage, thus locating the GFI. We all had a good laugh and fortunately, we got away with just buying the electrician lunch. Calling an electrician to reset a GFI could really be costly and unnecessary, so we strongly recommend taking the time to locate the outlet with the GFI!

In our situation it was easy to tell what tripped our GFI. But, if you are unsure why yours has tripped, we recommend you follow the steps listed below.

  1. Unplug everything on that circuit. (the things that aren’t working )
  2. Try resetting the GFI again. If the GFI resets, one of the items plugged in along the circuit may be bad.
  3. Try plugging the items back in one at a time until the GFI trips again. Whatever item trips the GFI is most likely defective. Don’t use this item again until it’s rewired.
  4. If you are able to reset the GFI and none of the items tripped it again, that’s okay too. Remember we said a storm or some other temporary electrical anomaly can also trip the GFI.
  5. If the GFI does not reset, you may have also tripped a circuit breaker. A GFI Outlet will not reset if it is incorrectly wired or doesn’t have power running to it.

Now we are going to look and the circuit breaker panel!

All of the wires in your home are run from a circuit breaker panel. This panel might be located in your garage or laundry room.   Prior to drywall installation, the electrician fed the wires from your circuit breaker box through your walls, which will eventually lead to your outlets.

After you reset the circuit breaker panel, reset the GFI and you should be in business!
We love helping first time homeowners and we want you to be safe! A GFI will not trip repeatedly unless you have a more serious electrical problem or a defective GFI. In the very unlikely scenario that the circuit breaker panel or the same GFI repeatedly trips it’s time to call a certified electrician.

Enjoy your new McKee Home! Bob and Sue


[1] 1 The NEC is published by the National Fire Portection Association (NFPA 70). It is the most widely adopted building code for requirements for electrical system installations in the U.S. It may be adopted into law by states, counties or local jurisdictions for enforcement by inspection authorities and is currently revised every three years.

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How To Replace an HVAC Air Filter

Bob and Sue’s Home Maintenance Tips

Part 1: How to replace an HVAC air filter
By Bob and Sue Russo

The “return air intake” in your home sucks the air from inside your home back into your HVAC unit, which keeps your house toasty in the winter and cool in the summer. If the air filter is clogged, your HVAC unit needs to work harder to keep you toasty or cool and your utility bill will take a hit. Note:  You may also hear the term “return air intake” referred to as the “cold air return”. Old-time, northern transplants may use the second term, because they are more accustom to using furnaces. If you have a new home in North Carolina you have an HVAC system. This article with video will show you how to replace an HVAC air filter in just a few minutes.

We just heard a story tonight about a young couple that called their HVAC repairman because their house wasn’t staying a comfortable temperature, only to find out that they needed to change their air filter. They were charged $100 for this service. You can do this yourself for just a few bucks.

The return air intake has a filter that (according to most manufacturers) should be changed monthly but you can purchase filters that are rated to change once a month or every three months.  The return air intake filter reduces dust particles in your home, so if you can write your name in the dust on your coffee table, you’re probably overdue.  Another dead giveaway, is if your return air intake looks like the photo on the right below. YIKES!

HVAC air filter cover

You might want to put this job on your calendar just like you would a doctor or dentist appointment. We change ours about every three months because we buy three-month filters.

If you have a large or multi-level home, you most likely have more than one return air intake.  The same information will apply to all of them.

(PLEASE NOTE In some older homes, the air filter is located directly in the HVAC Unit or furnace. Please refer to your owner’s manual for your HVAC Unit or furnace if you do not have a filtered return air intake as shown above.)

To change the HVAC air filter, please follow the steps below.

  1. Locate your return air intake and open the door by releasing the clips usually located at the top of the frame.The disposable air filter rests just inside the frame.
  2. Make note of what size filter you have. Ours is 20 x 25 inches. You will need to do this for every return air intake in the house. They may not all be the same size.  Leave the filter in place, close the door and latch…we’re ready to go shopping.
  3. Go shopping! You can buy air filters at Target, Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes etc. We like to buy several and have them on hand. We personally prefer to use the mid-priced filters, but you can buy washable filters for a little more money.

HVAC air filters

We just got back from shopping and realized how confusing this would be for first time home owners. Here’s the net of it. Any of these filters that are the right size, in our case 20 x 25 inches will work. The bottom shelf of this display shows the least expensive filters. These filters need to be changed on a monthly basis. The middle and top shelf filters are three-month filters. The only difference between the middle shelf filters and the top shelf filters is price and how much gunk they actually filter out of the air in your home. We have tried the higher priced filters, but in our experience they clogged up faster and seemed to diminish the air intake slightly. (We are not professional HVAC repair people, so if this point troubles you, you can always refer to your HVAC manual to see what they suggest.)  There is one more option that we have never tried; washable filters. The mid-range filters that we buy cost about $4.00. The washable filters cost about $10.00. With the washable filters, instead of changing the filter, you remove them, separate the screening from the frame and hose the screening off until it runs clear and then reinsert the same filter. This idea sounds like it would be good for the environment, but we looked these up on several HVAC sites and they were not recommended. They indicated that your filter traps bacteria and fungus as well as dust. Rinsing these off does not remove the bacteria and fungus. If you really want to go green there were some suggestions to get around this, for example buy two sets of filters for every return air intake in your home and alternate the washed filter out every other change.  Since we lack the experience with washable filters we would suggest that you follow the recommendations in your HVAC owner’s manual. If they tell you not to use them…don’t use them.   

We should also note that most HVAC Manufacturers don’t recommend HEPA filters because of the dense filtration material used in HEPA filters. Your HVAC units may not be sized to handle the pressure dropped caused by a HEPA filter. The more your filter filters, the harder your HVAC system needs to work. This could cause wear on your HVAC unit and/or your house may not stay so toasty or cool.  Your best bet is to go with the least expensive standard three-month filter. 

  1. Okay now comes the easy part….Installation! Open the door on the cold air return and remove the old filter. Place the new filter in so that the arrows for “air flow” are pointed into the opening. Guide the filter back into the frame and close the door and latch. That’s it!

Change HVAC air filter

Enjoy your beautiful new McKee Home! Bob and Sue