How automotive technology lightens the burden on drivers’ budgets
Now more than ever, car buyers are focused on fuel efficiency. At the same time, they have demonstrated no desire to sacrifice performance, safety and style.
To satisfy car buyers’ tastes, automakers have been busily developing ways to squeeze more miles out of a gallon of gas. In addition to better engine design, an often overlooked transformation has led to increased fuel efficiency: more and more, automakers are replacing heavier materials with lighter-weight plastics.
Generally known as “lightweighting,” reducing a car’s weight minimizes the load on the engine, so it needs less fuel. Replacing traditional materials with plastics has contributed significantly to lightweighting, so much so that experts estimate plastics make up 50 percent of today’s automobiles by volume - but only 10 percent by weight. This progression toward plastics occurred over many decades, as cars also became generally more reliable, safer and better designed.
So if roughly half of today’s car is made with plastics - where is all this stuff? This trend is probably most readily apparent inside the car. Other than windows and perhaps leather seats, nearly everything a driver or passenger sees and touches is made with plastics: the ceiling, visors, dashboard, instrument panel, door panels, carpeting, seat fabrics and cushions, seat belts, air bags … the list goes on. It may be less obvious on the exterior, but today’s bumpers, quarter panels, headlights, taillights, grills, spoilers, running boards, and some other parts are generally made with plastics - or are rapidly headed in that direction. And take a look under the hood: a plethora of hoses and housings are made with plastics.
Flexibility, transparency, strength, lower weight - a wide range of properties led the automakers’ shift toward plastics. And the development of advanced plastics with special properties - such as shatter-, heat-, and corrosion-resistance - is leading to even greater inroads in vehicles. For example, polycarbonate plastic is emerging as an alternative to glass. Nearly unbreakable, this plastic has long been used in race cars because it’s less likely to shatter in a crash, and it also reduces the weight of the car to help improve speed. Some carmakers today use polycarbonate for sunroofs and other windows to shave off unneeded pounds.
Lightweighting, and the resulting increase in fuel efficiency, contributes not only to the car owner’s bottom line but also to a lighter environmental footprint. Better gas mileage saves money at the pump, and cutting fuel consumption can reduce a car’s CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the impacts associated with energy production itself. Lightweighting contributes significantly to the efficiency of hybrid and electric vehicles, too.
Some automakers are taking further steps toward sustainability by using recycled plastics in their vehicles. For example, one major automaker is recycling an estimated 2 million plastic bottles into fabric for car upholstery. Car designers also have begun using plastics sourced partially from plants, such as the plastic foam in some seat cushions.
With federal regulations requiring an increase in fuel economy to nearly 55 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2025, automakers must continue to seek ways to do more with less. More technological advancements, more safety features, more fuel efficiency. And less weight. To meet these goals, many experts predict even wider-scale adoption of plastics in future models - including plastic composites in the chassis and engine - leading to ultra-lightweight cars with better gas mileage and lower emissions than ever before. That’s good news for the car owner’s wallet and the environment.
For more on the use of plastics in automobiles, visit www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com
Courtesy of BPT
Free up more time by revamping your laundry room routine
Today, time is an incredible luxury - one that we too rarely have. Between family responsibilities, work commitments and everyday stresses, it can often be hard to accomplish everything on the to-do list, let alone carve out time for oneself. A mainstay on the to-do list has always been laundry, and with the average household doing 7.5 loads per week, the time spent washing, drying and folding really adds up.
In fact, a significant number of women are making sacrifices to make time for laundry. Many women find themselves neglecting exercise, family time and their social calendars, among other everyday tasks, because of the time they spend on laundry, according to results of a national survey conducted for LG Electronics. And, with the onset of summer, the work only multiplies - from guest bedding and towels to sports uniforms and everyday clothing.
The good news is that there is freedom from the task that more than 77 percent of women describe as tedious and time consuming. With some simple tips from LG Head Home Economist Mike Wisner, you can make your laundry a faster and more efficient process. Pretty soon, all you’ll need to worry about is what to do with all your free time.
* Keep your laundry room organized. While it’s easy to let things pile up, keeping the room tidy and organized helps you save time by making sure that you know where all of the tools you need are located. Wisner advises keeping dryer goods separate from the items you need for the washing machine, and store ironing necessities in their own container. Check products periodically and re-stock before you run out - having to run to the store for dryer sheets or even detergent at the last minute is something you want to avoid.
* Have the whole family do their part. Collecting clothes is a time-consuming task in itself, especially when unsorted clothes are left on the floor to pile up. Instead, encourage everyone in the family to put dirty clothes into hampers, which makes it easier to gather items that need to be washed. “Another simple step is to provide everyone with two hampers - one for whites and one for colors - a time efficient way to sort,” Wisner suggests.
* Opt for a large-capacity washer. Getting more items into the washer equates to getting more done - and faster. But overloading an outdated, standard model can leave you with clothes that aren’t fully clean. Today’s washers are better equipped for the job, and the new mega-capacity front-loader from LG is great for handling huge laundry tasks. “It can accommodate a king-size bedding set, including a comforter, and its TurboWash technology - which combines the “spin” and “rinse” cycles - saves 20 minutes per load, even on larger loads,” he says.
* Re-examine how you dry. “While a high-capacity dryer will help, there are also other ways to cut back on drying times,” Wisner says. Re-usable dryer balls can cut down on the time you need to keep items in the dryer and help to eliminate static. For items that aren’t dryer safe, keep a collapsible drying rack or retractable laundry line in your laundry room, so that you don’t need to take them outside or to a different part of the house. Turning on a dehumidifier as hanging items dry can speed up the process, too. And don’t forget to clean the lint from your machine following every load.
* Look at some of the newest innovations on the market and learn more about the ones you have. There are constant improvements to the stain-fighting and detergent categories: today’s stain sticks help to eliminate messy foods before they set while easy-dose laundry packets, like Tide Pods, make it easy to use the right amount of detergent per load. “Also make sure you study the operating guide for your existing machine. Find out how often you should check hoses and filters and, most importantly, learn more about the benefits of using different cycles, speeds and temperatures,” notes Wisner. Make sure your washer is ENERGY STAR qualified, as this can save tons in energy and electricity bills.
"Get back a bit of your life," says Wisner, "with these simple solutions to reduce time spent in the laundry room." For more ideas and tips, visit www.lg.com/us/washers.
Courtesy of BPT
Growing career field provides vital support to businesses
Communication is the backbone of all businesses - regardless of size or industry. In the modern business environment, the ability to transmit and store information is vital to productivity - and thus, success. But no communication system runs itself - it’s the people behind the scenes who ensure that a business thrives. This means huge career potential for individuals who can design, implement, secure and manage communication networks and keep them running smoothly.
This widespread demand is one of the reasons CNN.com listed database administrators and systems administrators among its “Best Jobs in America for Fast Growth.” Candidates for these positions are expected to have an educational background in network and communications management or similar subjects.
Bachelor’s degree programs in network and communications management prepare students for maintaining network security and system efficiency, as well as designing computer communications systems.
Students of the Network and Communications Management bachelor’s degree program at DeVry University, for example, learn skills in Ethernet-enabled voice-operated IP systems, security firewalls and next-generation network administration. Courses review wireless communications, advanced topics in networking and network security, preparing students with working knowledge to solve any business communications issues.
Such a degree could open doors to a variety of roles within an organization’s information technology department.
Professionals in this field are responsible for maintaining system efficiency. They certify that all components of an organization’s computer system work together properly. Additional responsibilities include troubleshooting user problems and providing recommendations for future system upgrades.
Storing, organizing, analyzing, using and presenting data all fall under the responsibility umbrella of database administrators. These professionals determine user needs and implement the necessary modifications for specific computer databases. Database administrators also oversee security measures when this information is shared via the Internet.
Candidates for employment in this field should demonstrate analytical skills, technical understanding of networked data, voice and images, and how to strategically apply this knowledge to any business network.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Handbook reports that overall employment of computer network, systems and database administrators is projected to increase by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, making it a clear bright spot in the job market.
As companies continue to grow and embrace the latest technological advances to enhance their products and profitability, the dependency for individuals with the expertise to ensure smooth, secure and efficient network communication will continue to remain relevant.
Courtesy of BPT
Most Americans don’t have life insurance, but wish they did
If you know you need life insurance, but still don’t have individual coverage, you’re not alone. According to the Life Insurance and Market Research Association, most Americans say life insurance is important, yet only one-third of them are covered by an individual policy. That’s the lowest level in 50 years.
"Most Americans know life insurance protects their loved ones against financial hardship in the event of an unexpected death," says Brian Murphy, who heads up The Hartford’s life insurance business. "But 40 percent of consumers get so discouraged by how long it takes to buy a permanent policy that they simply give up without getting the coverage they know they need."
Applicants who want to buy life insurance are sometimes faced with perplexing forms and an approval process that can take more than a month to complete.
Murphy says there are new ways of buying life insurance that take the pain out of the process. He also has some suggestions for how to improve on the old way of doing things.
"When today’s consumers are used to buying products online and receiving them at home within 48 hours," Murphy says, "they have little patience for waiting a month or more to receive a new life insurance policy."
Fortunately, consumers can help streamline the application process. Murphy offers four tips for speeding things up:
* Do your homework first. Find out about your options before you fill out a single application. You should know how much insurance you need, what type of policy you want and the terms and premium you can live with before you submit an application to any insurer.
* Check your credit report before you apply. Many insurers take your credit score and habits into account when determining your life insurance premium. Knowing your score in advance can help ensure there are no surprises when you get your approved policy and the bill for your first premium.
* Be thorough and honest on the application. Virtually every insurer will ask health-related questions, and many will also require a health exam. Being less than truthful about weight, lifestyle habits and health conditions can cause your application to be delayed or even rejected.
* Allow sufficient time when scheduling your health exam so that neither you nor the examiner feels rushed or pressured. Ask what the exam will entail and if there are any requirements, like fasting or drinking lots of liquids. When making the appointment, also ask if you will need any additional tests - such as an EKG or X-rays - and find out if you can arrange for those to be done quickly.
* Consider taking a new approach. Consumers aren’t the only ones who recognize the importance of accelerating the application process; insurers do, too. The Hartford, for example, recently introduced a new patent-pending application process it calls Issue First. With Issue First, applicants answer eight questions and sign and file their application forms electronically. Issue First trims the time it takes eligible clients to receive a policy down from 48 days (an industry average) to as little as 48 hours.
"By creating a new way of assessing a person’s risk factors and accelerating the process, consumers can now get life insurance coverage in a fraction of the time it used to take," Murphy says. "And that means far more people are getting the coverage they really need to protect their families and loved ones."
In a pilot conducted by the company, clients who opted for the Issue First process ended up buying a life insurance policy 95 percent of the time, compared to a 65 percent closure rate for clients who took the traditional application route.
Courtesy of BPT
Moving in the military? How to make the process easier
(BPT) - Moving can cause stress for family members, especially military families that are required to move frequently and potentially without a lot of warning. Sometimes these moves are within a base, while other times they can be to a new base on the other side of the country.
Permanent Change of Station (PCS) and Personally Procured Moves (PPM) come with military assistance to help soldiers and their families make the transition. Families can also take advantage of the do-it-yourself (DITY) option offered by the military, which could make the overall transition much smoother.
No matter how quickly the move happens, or what kind of moving assistance your family requests, here are some moving tips from Penske Truck Rental to help keep everything in order.
* Planning - PCS notifications can come without a lot of warning, or families may know about a potential move far in advance. For both instances, getting a plan in place is a good start. Gather important information into one folder, containing phone numbers, contact names, dates, receipts and checklists in this folder so you can easily track everything about your move. For some planning tools that focus specifically on military moves, visit the U.S. Department of Defense website.
* Moving - Many families choose the DITY option because it gives them more control over the move, and they can also potentially make some money in the process. The military provides an allotted cost for moving, and if you can come under that cost through your own planning, the military will pay you the difference. For example, Penske Truck Rental offers active military personnel a 10 percent discount when they reserve a truck online, and an additional 10 percent off when they show an active military ID while picking up the truck. Penske will price-match any competitive offers on one-way truck rentals as well. Visit www.DITYmove.com to learn more.
* Weights - Military rules require soldiers to certify the weight of the rental vehicle when empty and after it’s fully loaded. Weight limit reimbursements are set depending on a soldier’s rank and dependents, but the traditional weights are estimated at 1,000 pounds per room, excluding bathrooms and storage areas. Then add in the estimated weight of large appliances, garage items and items in storage. Compare this number to what is allowed and determine if you can reduce the load in any way to avoid paying overweight costs. To help with weight certifications, Penske offers a Certified Public Scale locator tool online to help DITY movers in finding weigh stations.
* Contact info - File a change of address form at your local post office so mail can be forwarded, and also make certain your new information is updated with your specific branch of the military.
* Explore - Get to know your new neighborhood, both on and off base. If you have children, explore the schools and the after-school activities available. Learn a bit about the city’s history and gather information on the services the city offers so that on moving day, your water and electricity will be available when it’s needed.
When in the military, a move is practically inevitable, but the process can be much less stressful on both emotions and finances with a little organization and planning from the get-go.
Courtesy of BPT
A few tips when fitting wooden flooring
Laminate and wooden flooring looks great in almost any room. If you are considering fitting the wooden flooring yourself then there are a few tips that may help you to fit it easier and may add a more professional finish to it. With some hard work, patience and the right flooring tools it may not be as difficult to achieve a good finish as you imagine.
Before laying the laminate or wooden flooring ensure that your under floor is in good condition and is as flat and bounce-free as possible. Uneven areas should try to be repaired. The flatter the surface the better the wooden flooring will look. Ideally you will want the new wooden flooring to run length-ways along your room as this looks better than width-ways, however if your existing floorboards also run length-ways it is a bad idea to fit them directly together as this can lead to joint separation and unevenness. If this is the case then fit plywood over the entire floor surface so that you have a flat surface to then work on.
Once your existing floor is ready, lay an insulating membrane across the entire flooring area. This keeps heat in the room and dampens noise when the wooden flooring is walked upon and is highly recommended. Once this has been laid you are ready to lay your new wooden flooring panels. The easiest way is to work from farthest wall from the door inwards as this is the most seen part of the room. If possible remove skirting boards and door architraves so that you can work from the wall. If this isn’t possible then beading can be fixed to these areas afterwards to give a tidy finish.
When laying the flooring panels always stagger joints by using random length flooring pieces as this will add to the strength of the flooring and the aesthetics. Ensure that all pieces are firmly locked together before re-applying skirting and architraves or adding beading. Flooring can contract and retract based on the heat of the room and moisture levels so do not fix skirting or beading to the floor. Fix skirting to the wall and fix beading to the skirting.
by: Xander Palmer
Renting: A financially smart option for small business
Starting a business is a huge endeavor for entrepreneurs, especially when larger expense items are on the required equipment list. During a business’s first few years of operation, renting equipment, rather than purchasing it outright, can allow the company to save money and invest toward becoming established.
Entrepreneurs started more than 550,000 small businesses in 2009, the most recent year with data available, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Most of those businesses were financed through owner investment and bank credit, to the tune of about $80,000 a year, the SBA reports. That dollar figure doesn’t stretch far when larger cost items like vehicles and office space are part of the picture. This is where renting equipment comes in handy. Some business items frequently rented include:
* Office space - Location is an important factor of doing business, but so is the cost of doing business in that location. Running a business out of your home is always the least-expensive option, and renting an office space or warehouse space - depending on the business - is usually the next best option for saving money. Renting also gives you flexibility to move if the rent goes up, or another space in a better location becomes available. However, because of low interest rates available for loans right now, it is a good idea to compare annual rent payments with potential mortgage payments, just to make certain that you’re finding the best work environment for the best price.
* Vehicles - Many small businesses, from bakeries to flower shops, occasionally need larger vehicles for delivering products or transporting their equipment. Instead of purchasing a cargo van or refrigerator truck, contact Penske Truck Rental about commercial truck rentals for individual dates or on a repeated basis as the best solution for your business needs. Get the commercial truck you need when you need it, either with a guaranteed reservation or Penske’s Rental Express program just for business that includes 24/7 roadside assistance. It’s a great way to save money not only on the purchase of larger vehicles, but also the maintenance and upkeep.
* Phone and computer systems - With the speed at which technology is constantly updating, it’s a good idea to review renting phone and computer equipment, rather than purchasing it. This works well for companies that have the potential to grow quickly - needing additional equipment - as well as companies where phones and computers are needed, but aren’t an integral part of the business. The good news about renting is that as the latest updates happen with technology, you can easily update your equipment as well.
* Office furniture - If your business is a one-man shop run out of your home, it’s probably a better idea to use the furniture you have on hand. But for entrepreneurs venturing into business with a small number of employees and office space, renting furniture is a great way to provide your workers with office furniture like desks, chairs, filing cabinets and even shelving units needed to go about business.
Careful management of budgets and expenditures helps small start-up businesses succeed. If you’re considering becoming an entrepreneur and starting up your own company, look into the option of renting equipment to save money that could be better used in other areas of the business like client acquisition, supplies or marketing.
Courtesy of BPT
Feeling thirsty? You may want to talk to your doctor about that.
Back pain, headaches and difficulty sleeping are common symptoms many people discuss with their doctors during routine checkups. Yet one symptom many patients overlook is dryness, especially dry mouth. If you think dry mouth isn’t serious enough to mention to your doctor, think again.
Are you drinking lots of liquids and yet your mouth still feels dry? Do you have difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing? If so, you could be experiencing dry mouth. While dry mouth may seem manageable on your own, it could be more serious than you think. In many instances, poor oral health can be an indication of a more serious medical condition, like Sjogren’s syndrome, which affects millions of people.
Sjogren’s is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks and destroys the moisture-producing glands in the body. Often, the condition leaves patients with chronic dry mouth as they experience a decrease in saliva. Many patients also frequently experience a dry or a gritty, sandy feeling in their eyes. Both dry mouth and dry eyes are the hallmark symptoms of Sjogren’s. Other symptoms may also include joint pain, fatigue, a change in taste or smell, or tooth decay.
“Now is a great time to make an appointment to talk to your doctors about dryness,” says Steven Taylor, CEO of the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. “Every doctor will tell you that no symptom is insignificant, so speak up and Defy the Dry by visiting DefytheDry.com for more information about dry mouth and Sjogren’s. You can even download dryness screeners to help you assess your dryness symptoms.”
Need more motivation to speak up about dry mouth? The average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis of Sjogren’s is almost seven years. One reason for the delay may be that patients wait months (and even years) before discussing their symptoms with their doctors. Additionally, patients may not connect their symptoms, like cavities or cracked lips, with dry mouth and many of them may not describe their dry-mouth symptoms thoroughly when they finally do speak to their physicians. If this sounds like you, visit DefytheDry.com to download the Sjogren’s symptoms checklist and bring it to your next doctor appointment to help guide you and your physician through a productive and accurate conversation about your symptoms.
“By increasing the conversation around dryness symptoms and Sjogren’s syndrome between doctors and patients, we hope to decrease time to diagnosis by 50 percent in the next five years,” adds Taylor.
While there is no cure for Sjogren’s, treatment options are available to help manage symptoms. For more information on Sjogren’s and its symptoms, visit DefytheDry.com.
Courtesy of BPT
Driveway Gates: An ideal way to finish off your drive
When it comes to your home, you want it to be as unique as you are, and first impressions are very important. It makes sense to start with the part of your house that everyone will see first – your gates and railing. Wrought iron driveway gates are an ideal way to finish off your drive and give your home that wow factor.
Driveway gates and fences will enhance the beauty, privacy and security of your home. A driveway gate extends your home security to the boundaries of your property, and in a time where people are increasingly worried about their security, adding an iron gate at the driveway entrance has become popular. Having a secure fence and gate can be a great comfort, particularly if your house lies in an area of heavy traffic. In addition to the security benefits, adding a gate also contains animals, clearly marks property lines and makes a huge aesthetic improvement to your home.
When you choose an iron driveway gate for your home, you can be confident in the knowledge that they are known for their strength and endurance. This makes them less likely to break or bend. With today’s power coating options, wrought iron gates can become just as rust resistant as aluminum. Iron gates can be matched with existing fences, pedestrian gates and access control systems.
It can be very frustrating to finish a long commute only to have to get out of the car, open a gate, drive through it, get out of the car again and close the gate. With this in mind another trendy feature for your iron driveway gates is to install an automatic gate opener. Electric gates provide indispensable convenience, allowing a gate to be opened without ever having to leave your car and therefore eliminating all those cumbersome steps.
When purchasing electric gates you need to consider a few options. The most obvious is deciding whether you want your driveway gate to open by sliding or swinging outwards. Swing gates are more aesthetically pleasing but you must take into account the opening radius depending on the length of the gate. Sliding gates will eliminate this issue as they retract rather than swing out.
You will also need to consider how much power is required to open and close your driveway gate. The amount of power is dependent on the size of your gate, how it opens and how many times it will need to be opened each day.
Finally, how will your gate be accessed, and by how many users? Electric gates are operated by a controller which sends a signal to the opening mechanism.
There are several options for your controller:
•Keypads with intercoms
•Key card operated controllers
•Controllers operated by remotes or telephones
Each of these features will affect the price and your final decision should be based on your budget and personal preference. Once you have taken all these points into consideration you can narrow down your options and choose the best Driveway Gates for your specific needs.
by: Mehboob Talukdar
Is your showerhead making you sick? Water softeners provide health and economic benefits
Hand sanitizer, flu shots and regular exercise are just some of the ways Americans build their immunity to protect themselves from harmful bacteria and illness. But many may be missing a simple step for preventing health problems.
There’s nothing like a nice hot shower to remove dirt and grime. But shower heads are moist, warm, and dark, and those that spray hard water are especially ripe for bacterial growth.
In fact, newly published research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicated that shower heads that sprayed hard water had a prevalence of bacteria linked to pulmonary, or lung-related, disease. The study reported the results of shower heads analyzed across nine U.S. cities.
Just as Americans take other preventative measures to protect themselves from airborne illnesses, there’s a simple way to ensure your shower head doesn’t make you sick.
Water softeners dissolve the minerals, like calcium, magnesium and iron that are normally found in hard water. Left untreated, these minerals leave a residue build-up in the shower head, which plays host to bacteria.
"Water softeners break down the minerals in the water and the accumulated minerals are flushed down the drain," says Jerry Poe, technical director at North American Salt Company, the producer of Nature’s Own and Sure Soft brands of water conditioning products. "Using a good water softener is an easy way to protect your family from harmful bacteria and certain potential pulmonary problems."
But the advantages of water softeners go beyond health benefits. They’re also good for homeowners watching their pocketbooks.
The Water Quality Association, in partnership with the Battelle Institute - an independent research and development organization - examined the economic impact of water softeners. The group wanted to understand the effects water softeners had on the efficiency and lifespan of water heaters.
Battelle Institute researchers tested gas, electric and tankless water heaters. The results made a strong case for soft water and water softeners.
The gas and electric water heaters maintained their predicted 15-year lifespan when scientists used soft water. But with hard water, the heaters showed up to a 25 percent decrease in efficiency over the lifetime of the appliance.
Tankless heaters using soft water also maintained their original efficiency rating over a 15-year span. But, when the tankless appliances heated hard water, substantial mineral build-up prevented them from functioning after less than two years of equivalent water use.
And, when it came to cost, researchers at the Battelle Institute found soft water delivered savings of almost 60 percent, compared with water heaters using hard water.
Shower head performance also was examined by researchers. Those spraying hard water saw a 75 percent decrease in flow rate in less than 18 months due to hard water mineral deposits. Soft water showerheads maintained their consistent flow and stream over time.
"You wouldn’t think the simple act of taking a shower could play such an important role in your family’s health," says Poe. "But if your home has hard water, using a softener can help protect your family from dangerous bacteria and potential health problems, and it can save you money and prolong your appliances’ lifespans at the same time."
Courtesy of BPT