7 Projects to Help Your Home Weather the Winter Safely and Efficiently

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If chilly temperatures make you want to snuggle under a blanket in front of a roaring fire, just think about your poor water pipes that can’t escape the cold. You can’t wrap your home in a warm, protective blanket when winter arrives, but a few winterization steps can help ensure your home weathers the winter safely and efficiently.

“Winterizing is definitely an important way to protect a home from the ravages of snow, ice and harsh temperatures, but it’s also an opportunity to boost a home’s energy efficiency,” says Chris Williams, merchandising director at Lowe’s. “Some of the easiest and most effective winterization projects can also contribute to energy savings throughout the year.”

Here are seven projects to improve energy efficiency and prepare your home for winter:

Inside

• Protect pipes – Any plumbing pipes that run through uninsulated areas such as a crawl space or attic are at risk for freezing if temperatures plummet. Seal any cracks or openings where pipes exit the home, and fit unprotected pipes with pipe sleeves. Insulating pipes can reduce heat loss that makes your water heater work harder and use more energy, and raise the water temperature 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

• Add weather stripping to doors and windows – If your home is drafty, adding weather stripping to seal air leaks can reduce heating bills as much as 20 percent, the DOE says. Identify places where air leaks occur in your home, and choose the right weather stripping for each area.

• Caulk around windows and doors – Air can also leak through minute cracks around windows and doors. Sealing such cracks with caulk further reduces the air leaks that make your furnace work harder and your home feel drafty.

• Add insulation – Insulation can make your home stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and help your heating and cooling systems work more efficiently. How much insulation your home needs depends on factors such as where you live, how old the home is and how well it was insulated to begin with. If you’re unsure how much insulation your home needs, check out the Energy Star insulation guide.

Outside

• Protect outdoor plumbing – Whether you have an outdoor shower or a simple hose connection, it’s important to protect outdoor plumbing from freezing. Water freezing in outdoor pipes can cause severe damage and costly water leaks. Turn off water flow to outdoor pipes and flush the water from the system. Remove and store garden hoses for the winter. If you spot any cracks or problems, take care of them right away. Finally, add insulation, such as a hose bib cover to outdoor faucets.

• Prepare the lawn for winter – A healthy lawn requires less watering and work in spring than one that’s been ravaged by winter’s rigors. Keep grass mowed until it stops growing, and rake leaves and grass clippings to maximize sun exposure for grass. Mulch around plants and trees to protect them against harsh weather and freezing temperatures.

• Clean windows – Sunlight is a natural, cost-effective way to help keep your home warmer during winter. Opening drapes and blinds can maximize the amount of sun that enters a room and help warm it. However, dirty windows can reduce the amount of sunlight that gets through the glass. Plus, clean windows will help make your home feel brighter and lighter during the darkest days of winter.

For more energy-saving winterization ideas, visit www.lowes.com.

Forecast for the Week: Regional manufacturing and housing data dominate the week

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Manufacturing and housing data dominate the week.

• Regional manufacturing data from the Empire State Index will be released on Monday, followed by the Philadelphia Fed Index on Thursday.
• Look for housing numbers on Wednesday with the release of Building Permits and Housing Starts.
• The Fed’s Beige Book will also be delivered on Wednesday.
• As usual, weekly Initial Jobless Claims will be released on Thursday.
Existing Home Sales close out the week on Friday.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. In contrast, strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based.

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving. When Bond prices are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.

To go one step further, a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes are on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.

As you can see in the chart below, Mortgage Bond prices got a boost in the second half of the week. Home loan rates remain near historic lows.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Oct 13, 2017)

Last Week in Review: Retail Sales were in positive territory in September while consumer and wholesale inflation ticked up

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Folks were spending in September, according to the most recent Retail Sales report issued by the Commerce Department. This was welcome news, as consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Sales were up 1.6 percent from August, just below expectations, and up 4.4 percent from September 2016. Increases in gas, auto and building material sales led the way due to hurricane-related boosts. When stripping out autos, sales rose a solid 1 percent in September from August.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer inflation via the Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped 0.5 percent in September from August, though this was softer than expected. However, the more closely watched Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy, was up just a meager 0.1 percent in September. This left year-over-year Core CPI at 1.7 percent for the fifth month in a row, meaning it still remains below the Fed’s inflation target of 2.0 percent.

Wholesale inflation also ticked up in September as energy prices rose following Hurricane Harvey. The Producer Price Index (PPI) rose 0.4 percent from August, in line with estimates, while annual PPI jumped 2.6 percent, the biggest gain since February 2012. Core PPI, which strips out volatile food and energy, rose 0.2 percent as expected from August to September, while the annual Core PPI was up 2.1 percent.

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes from August revealed the Fed said the economy is strong enough to withstand an increase to the Fed Funds Rate later this year. This is the rate banks lend to one another overnight. However, the Fed will be closely watching inflation readings and other key economic reports in the coming weeks and months, and it remains to be seen if any data will impact this decision.

At this time, home loan rates remain historically attractive.

If you or someone you know has questions about home financing or home loan rates please contact us. We’d be happy to help.

DIY Home Security Systems: The Smart, Affordable Way to Secure Your Home

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With the holiday season approaching, you may be thinking about giving your family the gift of home security – especially if you know you’ll be traveling over the holidays. Yet high monthly fees and lengthy security company contracts could make you think twice about installing a professionally monitored home security system. In fact, a survey by Strategy Analytics found many Americans are interested in home security, but dislike the high costs associated with major security system providers.

However, a growing number of homeowners are turning to do-it-yourself smart home security systems to address their security concerns. Installing your own home security system can be well worth the investment; while the average system may cost hundreds of dollars to get started, monthly fees are low, and when a home security system is present, 60 percent of attempted burglaries fail, according to StatisticBrain.

Crime doesn’t take a holiday

During the holidays, burglars know many families travel to visit distant loved ones. Plus, homes filled with gifts can be a treasure trove for thieves. DIY home security systems make it cost-effective to keep your smart home safe and secure during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Here are ways these systems make it easy for everyone to protect their homes:

• Affordability and flexibility – Professional monitoring of a smart home security system from traditional players and well-known brands can cost nearly $50 a month – and then lock you in for four to even five years or longer. When you’re already spending on holiday shopping and celebrations, the extra cost of monitoring can seem daunting. DIY systems typically offer the same components, such as security cameras, motion sensors and smart locks, but without the costs of professional installation and the long-term contracts. Plus, you can still get affordable 24/7 monitoring; Iris by Lowe’s Professional Monitoring is just $14.95 per month.

• Customize for your needs – DIY home security systems typically offer starter packages that contain the basic components you need to set up a simple system in your home, such as a smart hub and some sensors. Once installed, the smart system is scalable, and you can add products or solutions that meet your specific needs whenever you like by just shopping at your favorite retailer – no need to call up a security company to come out to your house for an expensive visit. For example, Iris offers a catalog of more than 150 devices that pair with its smart hub, including security cameras, motion sensors, locks, light bulbs, light switches, thermostats, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, leak sensors and more. So whether you want to secure and monitor a door or window shielded from sight, or you want to turn lights on and off automatically to make your home look occupied while you’re out, a smart home security system can do that for you.

• Mobile monitoring – Being able to monitor your home security system from your smartphone gives added peace of mind, and many DIY systems also provide apps that allow you to remotely control and monitor home systems. Whether you’re out shopping and realize you forgot to arm the system, or visiting out-of-state relatives, you can manage your smart home security system as if you were at home.

• Smart home compatible – If you’re already using smart technologies like a Google Home or an Amazon Echo smart speaker, these components may work with and even enhance your DIY home security system. What’s more, systems like Iris allow you to create a fully integrated smart home experience. For example, you can use the smart system’s mobile app to turn on lights and the home security alarm when you’re away from home and control it by your voice when you are home.

To learn more about home automation and DIY security systems, visit www.irisbylowes.com.

Forecast for the Week: Did wholesale and consumer inflation remain subdued?

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Wholesale and consumer inflation and Retail Sales will capture attention at week’s end. Bond markets are closed Monday in observance of Columbus Day.

• The light economic calendar begins on Thursday with the Producer Price Index and weekly Initial Jobless Claims.
• On Friday, Retail Sales, the Consumer Price Index and the Consumer Sentiment Index will be released.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. In contrast, strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based.

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving. When Bond prices are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.

To go one step further, a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes are on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.

As you can see in the chart below, Mortgage Bond prices stumbled recently as Stocks rallied. Home loan rates remain attractive and near historic lows.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Oct 06, 2017)