When you’re a homeowner, the threat of low temperatures, snow and ice come with many concerns, one of the most feared being burst pipes. Not only does a burst pipe result in water spilling into your basement or home, if your house is on the market, the water damage can be detrimental when it comes to selling your home.
Pipes that are exposed to the weather—and unprotected—are vulnerable to bursting in a light freeze because of the wind chill. Luckily, there are some simple steps that a homeowner can take to protect pipes from freezing and bursting when the mercury drops.
One of the simplest solutions for exterior hoses or pipes that are vulnerable to freezing is to allow a small trickle of water to drip out when the temperatures get really cold. Open any faucets in the house for the same effect. Not only will this keep water constantly flowing, it will also keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the small amount of water is nothing compared to the cost associated with repairing a broken pipe.
It’s also a good idea to disconnect any outside hoses from the faucets and turn them off, especially if you’re not going to be using them.
You can even purchase and install foam insulation around your water pipes and tape the joints where two pieces of foam meet to keep your pipes warmer. In addition, you can install electric heating tape or cable around vulnerable, exposed pipes. These items are fairly inexpensive and can be purchased at any hardware store.
If you’re planning on being out of town during a particularly cold time of year, have your neighbors check in on your pipes the same way you would have someone check on your pets. The last thing you want is to come home to a flood in your house because a pipe burst and no one was there to see it. If you must, turn off your water before leaving so you can ensure no leaks will occur.
Understand that these measures aren’t 100 percent effective and every homeowner (including every member of the family) should know the location of their water shut-off switch in case a pipe does burst, as closing it will keep the water from gushing in until you can get it fixed.
In case you hadn’t noticed, germs are everywhere! But while some germs are completely benign, even beneficial to your health, others can cause serious illness, hospitalization, and even death. But before you douse yourself with hand-sanitizer, check out these places where the sneakiest of germs hide, then follow the tips for better health and (almost) germ-free living.
What’s in Your Wallet… Purse… Gym Bag… A study performed by candy manufacturer Mentos discovered 33 percent of women have never cleaned their handbags—but that wasn’t the worst part. Swab testing of random bags revealed traces of deadly E.coli, Coliforms, Pseudomonas, and even fecal Streptococcus floating around purses, laptop totes, and gym bags. Aside from not eating gum from the bottom of your bag, make sure you clean the inside regularly with a steaming hot cloth and dishwashing gloves.
Oh, Baby! You wouldn’t think to look at them, but those cute high-chairs for babies can also be a breeding ground for bacteria; small wonder with all that food being thrown around! Weekly cleaning of the highchair with a mild disinfectant or anti-bacterial soap is usually sufficient to keep it clean and safe.
Who’s Washing the Washers? A study published in the journal Medical Mycology revealed 60 percent of dishwashers are a field day for fungi like Exophiala, Rhodotorula, and Candida parapsilosis due to the warm, moist environment inside the machines. The fungi may colonize in the lungs, causing infection, especially those with deficient immune systems such as diabetes and cystic fibrosis sufferers. Monthly cleaning is recommended: first wash down the inside with a mix of ¼ cup white vinegar and 2 cups water, paying close attention to the door seal; then run two empty cycles, one with a bowl of vinegar placed in the top rack and one with 1 cup baking soda sprinkled on the floor of the dishwasher.
Germs with Teeth. Season two of the Discovery Channel show “Myth Busters” attempted to disprove that the germs in your toilet can end up on your toothbrush. Unfortunately, it’s completely true. According to the findings, each time a toilet is flushed it sends an aerosol spray of bacteria-laden water into the air, which lands on everything nearby. If you want your bristles clean, the best bet is to keep your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet or drawer, and close the lid before you flush.
With cooler temperatures, home owners will want to keep a home inviting and cozy, especially if they’re trying to sell it.
But just cranking up the heat can prove costly — particularly this year. Heating costs are on the rise, and more than 90 percent of homes will likely face higher heating expenses during this year’s cold season, according to the Energy Department. For example, households using natural gas will likely see bills 13 percent higher this year than last, paying on average $679 for heat this season.
1. Add area rugs: Hardwood and tile floors can make your home feel cold in the winter. Add some area rugs to provide a warmer barrier between your feet and the floor. Non-skid utility rugs or rubber mats can make kitchen floors more comfortable and safe, according to the ebook.
2. Set ceiling fans to run clockwise: Yes, a ceiling fan can be used in the winter months too and can even help heat your home. The majority of ceiling fans have two settings: Counterclockwise cools rooms in the summer and clockwise can force warm air downward in the winter. Look for a small switch on the ceiling fan to change its direction clockwise for the cooler months.
3. Rearrange furniture: Check the arrangement of the furniture in the home to make sure it’s cozy. Often times, home owners spread out furniture to fill an entire room. Instead, group pieces together to get a warmer feel. Move furniture away from the windows and doors and closer to the fireplace, if there is one in the home.
4. Add moisture to the air: Humid air feels warmer than dry air. Therefore, a humidifier may make a difference. Cool mist and warm mist humidifiers can both be effective in making rooms feel warmer. “A cool mist humidifier is safer — and usually less expensive — because it doesn’t expel hot water or steam vapor that could hurt children or pets,” according to the book.
5. Let the sun shine inside: Use the sun to heat your home by adjusting the home’s curtains to let the sun in. Open south-facing curtains on sunny days. Also, be sure to close curtains at night to provide an extra barrier against wintery winds that are trying to squeeze inside the home.
Your old fridge has quite an appetite for energy and PECO can help you.
PECO will pay you $35 to recycle your old, energy-guzzling refrigerator.
If you have an older, working refrigerator or freezer in your garage or basement, it may be costing you more money than you think. Did you know that it could use three times more electricity than a newer model, consuming nearly $150 in energy each year?
With this in mind, it doesn’t make sense to hold on to it, especially when PECO will:
• Pay you $35 per appliance for your refrigerator or freezer.
• Have it hauled away for free.
• Dispose of it responsibly—dismantling it and recycling its parts in an environmentally friendly way.
PECO and JACO Environmental have teamed up to offer this unique program designed to save energy and help the environment. You must receive electric service from PECO and your refrigerator or freezer must be:
• Between 10 and 30 cubic feet in size.
*size is usually indicated on the side of the refrigerator or freezer door.
• Empty and working at the time of pick-up.
• Accessible with a clear and safe path of removal. The removal team will not risk injury, remove personal effects or modify your home (e.g. remove doors or railings) to remove the unit(s).
Program funding is limited. Participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted.
Termites. They’re hungry. And to them, your house is food. Is there anything you can do to stop them? Can you make your home less appetizing? More than 100 termite experts say these are the top 10 mistakes homeowners make when it comes to termites:
Number 10: Repairing utilities on the property; disrupting the termite soil treatment. If your lawn gets dug up for plumbing, gas or electrical work, chances are good you’ve compromised your termite treatment if your home has been treated with a liquid termiticide.
Number 9: Piling excessive mulch around the home. Termites love mulch. Too much up against your home holds soil moisture and can be an easy food source for hungry termites.
“The mulch typically used around homes is often a soft wood-like pine, which is a great food source for termites,” says Jonathan Schoppe of Dial Pest Control in Roseland, N.J. “I’ve personally seen termites foraging in and around the mulch just one inch deep. If the mulch is piled very high up on the foundation of a structure, it makes a natural bridge the termites can use to enter the structure.”
Number 8: Digging around the home’s foundation; disrupting a termite treatment. Liquid termite treatments around your foundation are effective only if left undisturbed. So if you dig around your house to plant a new rosebush, you might have opened a hole for termites to crawl through. If your home is protected by a baiting product such as the Sentricon® System, digging around your foundation isn’t a concern as long as the stations stay in place.
Number 7: Leaving old tree stumps in the yard. Dead trees are desirable to termites â”€ almost as desirable as your house. Stumps in your yard can serve as a launch pad for an attack on your home.
Number 6: Stacking firewood near the home. If you put firewood up against your house, you might as well also leave out a welcome mat for the termites. They can burrow into the woodpile and then right into your house.
Number 5: Using Do-it-Yourself (DIY) products to try to control termites themselves. Termite control is not like fixing a leaky faucet. Fail to do it right and you and your home will most likely pay the price. This is one time you should leave it to the professionals.
Number 4: Having untreated wooden materials next to the home. Yes, that new fence will keep Fido in your yard, but that untreated wood up against your house also may let termites in. It is best to use treated wood or vinyl fencing, or at least leave a gap between the fence and your home.
Number 3: Constructing additions to the home without expanding termite protection. If you’ve added a sunroom, expanded your kitchen or poured a new patio, that addition needs to be protected from termites, too. Don’t offer up that beautiful new addition as a termite’s next meal.
Number 2: Not fixing earth-to-ground structural contact. If a portion of your porch is touching soil, you’re asking for termites. Soil + wood contact = termites.
And the No. 1 mistake homeowners make when it comes to termites is: Not getting a professional termite inspection. Termites are not easy to detect, and failing to do so can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Trained professional termite inspectors know termite behavior â”€ where they like to hide, what their damage looks like, what they leave behind as evidence. You don’t. Leave this one up to the professionals.
(MCT)—For years, traditional gas-powered tank water heaters have been one of the biggest energy hogs in the home. With tank heaters, you have to pay to heat water you aren’t even using. Not so with a tankless water heater.
“It’s truly an on-demand hot water heater,” says Kyle Whelpley, operations manager for J.F. Denney Plumbing and Heating Inc. in Leavenworth, Kan. “It does nothing until you turn on your hot water. So, when you’re at work, it simply hangs on the wall and doesn’t cost you one penny, compared to a 40- or 50-gallon tank, where, when you’re at work you’re paying for it. Here in the Midwest, a 50-gallon natural gas water heater’s yearly cost is about $360. A (comparably-sized gas tankless) is about $190.”
Tankless water heaters are a fraction of the size of tank systems—roughly the size of a circuit breaker box—and mount to a wall instead of taking up valuable space in the basement or garage. “Some people really like the fact they have their space back, once they get a tankless installed,” says Rob Evans of Mr. Rooter of Columbus, Ga.
The most popular benefit of a tankless water heater, though, is an almost endless supply of hot water it provides by heating the water via an internal heat exchanger. “A tankless water heater is designed so that, if you wanted to, you could take a shower from 8 a.m. until midnight at 115 degrees and it won’t move one degree,” Whelpley says. “It’s truly endless hot water.”
Though gas tankless water heaters cost about twice as much as their conventional predecessors — ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 on average — they are easily repairable compared to a tank unit that usually needs to be replaced when it fails. Tankless heaters last 20 years on average and are more energy efficient, making them more environmentally friendly than the traditional models. Qualifying tankless water heaters are eligible for a $300 federal tax credit. Some utility providers also offer rebates for qualifying purchases.
“A tank water heater lasts about nine years on average,” Evans says. “A tankless generally lasts twice that long. So, even though the initial upfront costs can be quite a bit, over the long haul it’s cheaper because you don’t have to replace the water heater nine years down the road.”
Electric tankless heaters are available as well, but use a lot of power and typically require the electrical service to be upgraded. Electric heaters are best for limited use, such as a small apartment or a point-of-use application like a dedicated sink where you need plenty of hot water.
Tankless water heaters require minimal maintenance, other than periodic flushing to descale them of mineral buildup. A plumber can do that service, typically for around $100 to $150. A handy homeowner can clean the system with vinegar if he or she follows the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for descaling. It’s also recommended homeowners have a water softener to reduce scale buildup.
“You can tell a difference on ones that have water softeners and ones that don’t have water softeners,” Whelpley says. “When you heat up the water that quickly, you bring the calcium out even quicker.”
Tankless water heaters do require venting and should be placed close to gas lines to operate at their highest efficiency. A licensed plumber who has a good history of working with tankless heaters can help ensure it’s installed correctly and is properly sized to accommodate your family’s needs.
“The biggest thing is to make sure you get somebody that knows tankless and deals with tankless day in and day out,” Whelpley says. “The biggest thing I see is people go to (a big box hardware store) and see a tankless and say, ‘I’ll take that,’ but they don’t know that you have to size it for the house. How many shower heads do you have? How many Jacuzzi tubs do you have? If you go buy one off the shelf that’s a 5-gallon a minute when you really need a 9-gallon a minute and you have one person taking a shower in the master bathroom and another person goes to take a shower in the guest bathroom, you won’t have (enough water pressure).”
ReBLOG- By Ed Michelson, HomeVestors of America Inc.
Saving money on energy costs is always a good investment. With winter fast approaching, it is that time of year when families must determine how much they want to spend on energy costs. There are, however, some simple tricks to cut costs while turning up the heat.
1. Turn off unused electronics: Everyone has heard our Mom or Dad tell us to turn off something when we are done with it. This still holds true today. When you leave a room, turn off the light. When you go to bed, close your laptop. If you go on vacation, it might be a good idea to disconnect the garage door opener.
2. Use power strips: Simply having appliances plugged in drains energy, so when possible, plug as many electronics into power strips as you can. When those items are not in use, easily switch them off by using the switch on the power strip.
3. Unplug chargers: Many houses have multiple devices that require charging. From laptops to tablets to smartphones, chances are that on any given day one could have a few items charging at once. When the device is fully charged, unplug it. Even though it is charged it still uses energy from the outlet.
4. Invest in a power monitor: Having a power monitor is a good idea for any home. It tells you how much energy you are using, and which household items are draining the most power. By knowing where large amounts of your bill are going, you can adjust your usage accordingly.
5. Use appliance programs: A lot of new household items have self-regulation options. Take advantage of them. This can range from power management options on a computer to programming setting for heat or air conditioning. Many appliances have some form of power-saving settings, and it is beneficial to utilize them.
6. Be smart in choosing light bulbs: Light bulbs have changed a lot the past few years. LED bulbs and compact fluorescents are much easier on power than older bulbs. They are also inexpensive, so there are multiple benefits to updating your light bulb inventory.
7. Use cold water in washing machines: A cold wash will keep clothes just as clean and uses less energy than hot water. Another fun fact: Hot water can make colors run and helps stains set, crises avoided!
I know we have cheated Mr. Winter up to now, but you know it will be pay back very soon. Below find 10 things you can do right now to cut down on your heating and power costs when winter does return. And you won’t break the bank or much of a sweat.
1. Lock the windows. Even when a window is closed, a little space remains between the sashes where air can leak in. Simply locking the window pulls the sashes tightly together.
2. Unplug. Many appliances, electronics and other electrical devices — even cell phone chargers—draw power even when they’re turned off. Unplugging them when they’re not in use eliminates this vampire power drain. Granted, that’s not always easy or even possible to do. But where it’s practical, you can plug more than one device—say, your TV and DVD player —into an accessible power strip. With the flip of just the strip’s power switch, you cut the power to everything plugged into it.
3. Wash in cold. If you’re used to washing with warm water, you can probably switch to cold without noticing a difference. And no matter what temperature you wash your clothes in, you can always rinse in cold. You’ll save on the energy that would have gone into heating the water. There’s a bonus: Cold water saves wear on your clothes, so they’ll last longer. Or at least they’ll be in better shape to donate to charity when you just have to replace them when this season’s new fashions. I wouldn’t suggest abandoning hot-water washes altogether, though. I’d still use hot for towels, bedding, underwear and laundry with oily stains. Want to save even more? Skip the dryer and hang the clothes to dry.
4. Dim the lights. A dimmer works by reducing the power flowing to a lamp or light fixture. If you don’t need full brightness, turn the lights down a little. Maybe I should do that with the lights over my bathroom mirror. One note: Not all compact fluorescent bulbs work with dimmers. If you use CFLs, check the package to make sure you’re buying the dimmable kind. Oh, and take Dad’s advice: Turn off any lights you don’t need.
5. Turn off the computer.
When you’re done surfing the Net and updating your Facebook status for the day, shut down your computer. Better still, activate its system standby or hibernating feature to save power when the computer is on during the day. Of course, you don’t want to turn off the computer if you’ve scheduled automatic maintenance checks that happen at night.
6. Rearrange the furniture.
A forced-air system works best when air can flow freely from registers and into cold-air returns. Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking these vents. The same thing applies to radiators. If you block them with furniture, you block their heat.
7. Change the furnace filter.
The filter’s primary purpose is to trap dust and other gunk before it gets to the furnace. Dirty filters impede air flow, causing the furnace blower to work longer. Dirty parts also wear out faster. By keeping them clean, you’ll cut down on furnace repair costs and reduce the chance of a furnace failure — which, of course, always happens on the coldest day of the year. Change the filter monthly, or clean it if it’s a reusable type.
8. Turn down the tank.
For most homes, a setting of 120 degrees is plenty hot for a water heater. The only exception is if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater. Check the user manual to find out whether you need hotter water. When the water isn’t as hot, mineral buildup and corrosion slow. That helps your water heater run better and last longer.
9. Let the sun shine in.
The sun is a powerful heating source, even in winter. Opening window coverings on sunny days lets you take advantage of that free heat, reducing the amount your furnace needs to produce. Close those coverings at night to help keep the heat inside.
10. Avoid the range.
As much as possible, skip using the stove or oven and opt instead for smaller cooking appliances—slow cookers, microwave ovens, toaster ovens and the like. They use less energy than that big appliance.
Come to think of it, saving energy sounds like a great excuse for eating out. There go the savings.