Driveway Sealing in Cold Climates

Driveway Sealing in Cold ClimatesEnvironment plays a huge role in terms of what maintenance is required around your home. Driveway maintenance and repair is no exception. Driveway sealing in cold climates is much different than in warmer climates simply due to the freezing / thaw cycle. Anytime you have a crack in your driveway, there is an opportunity for water to penetrate. If that water freezes, it forces the cracks wider and the asphalt to further deteriorate.  Warm climates do not have these same issues and you can get away with not sealing your driveway.

Driveway Sealing in Cold Climates

We strongly recommend that all cracks should be filled with the appropriate products for crack sealing to prevent further damage.  At the very least you will prevent further damage.

Some people prefer to also place a sealant over the entire asphalt driveway. There are several advantages. First you fill all of the miniature cracks and holes which prevents them from becoming larger. This is a long term maintenance advantage.

Secondly, your driveway just looks better. Esthetics are important and a great looking driveway improves your curb appeal and home value.  Our own driveway is 28 years old. We have sealed it and filled cracks several times over the years. It looks great to the point that our neighbors are amazed.

They have spent thousands of dollars to replace their own black top driveways instead of doing some basic maintenance every couple of years.

Spalling Concrete Causes

Spalling Concrete RepairMost consumers have seen spalling concrete and wonder what are the spalling concrete causes? We find our sidewalks in front of our homes, or perhaps our garage floors looking like the one in the picture. One section of sidewalk might be fine, while the very next section is badly spalled. The fundamental cause is usually contractors who do not finish the concrete properly. They add water to the surface to keep it moist until they have a chance to finish it or they start finishing the surface before the bleed water has a chance to be absorbed. Both of these actions weaken the surface of the concrete making it susceptible to environmental conditions.

Spalling Concrete Causes

Consumers who live in areas that are exposed to constant freeze – thaw conditions may experience more severe spalling conditions in their concrete sidewalks and garage floors or driveways. Once the surface is weakened, water can get between the cracks and when it freezes will cause the surface of the concrete to lift up and particles will be dislodged.

In most cases it is only the surface that lifts up. The underlying concrete will not be impacted and will remain strong. The surface does not look great and can even devalue your home when it comes time to sell it.

In our next post “Spalling Concrete Repair”, we will quickly explain how consumers can do their own repairs and make their garage floor, sidewalk or driveway look like new again.

Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC Unit

Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC UnitWe contacted our Real Estate Agent about whether we should purchase or lease furnace and AC unit. His answer follows and is quite enlightening. Basically you are going to pay for it one way or the other and it is up to you just how you want to do it. Some alternatives are more economic than others. After reading his answer decide for yourself based on your own situation.

Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC Unit

In terms of the real estate sales side of things, it is presumed that the furnace and A/C are bought and paid for by the seller.  If they are rented then the buy out is the key # required. At time of transfer of the deed it is expected that the seller will pay for it.  I think that you need to examine that and look at different scenarios. What if I had to sell the house in 3 years, 5 years 7 years or 10 years, what is the cost to ‘pay off’ the contract.
You are suggesting that you will remain in the house for the next 10 – 15 years. Life changes on a dime and maybe you will be facing family or personal instances where you must sell.  So somehow you have to factor that into your decision making.

Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC Unit – Buyers Agent

As a buyer’s agent when showing homes, we take into account the furnace and A/C are 10 years or more. I emphasize to the buyers that they are going to have to budget for a new furnace and A/C  in the short term.  So if your contract is 10 years AND you actually expect to be living there for that time then maybe a rental plan would work to your favor.  (is the equipment free and clear and paid for after the rental contract?)
Bottom line is that everything boils down to price.  Your home would be priced accordingly – to market conditions. Also conditions of the home along  with the features and chattels etc. so, you are going to end up ‘paying’ either now or later.
Many of the homeowners on our street used the same guy someone had found.  He is a one man band so to speak, and he sells, installs and services the Goodman brand.  When we bought, it had a 10 year guarantee which has paid off for us. We had the burner unit replaced in the furnace at about year 9.  It works for us and him because he gives us all a great price on annual cleaning etc. and does everybody the same day for cash.  So that’s another bonus for him.
It’s a tough question to deal with – as the homeowner you are looking at a good chunk of change to make it happen. Just be sure that on the rental lease scenario, you are well aware of the buy out costs.  Also transfer costs / obligations conditions etc.
Hope this helps and hasn’t muddied the waters!

Rent or Buy Your Furnace and Air Conditioner

Rent or Buy Your Furnace and Air ConditionerOur furnace just quit working and our air conditioning unit is 27 years old! Amazing life cycle and it still works. The furnace is only 14 years old and we are trying to figure out if we should rent or buy your furnace and air conditioner or just repair it. Most people would just say replace it.

After all the AC unit does not owe you anything and it will likely quit sometime soon anyway. We could perhaps just repair the furnace and hope for the best. However we wondered what the economics would be considering repairing the furnace or replacing both the furnace and the AC unit. Also a third scenario has been proposed and that would be to rent both units. The price would include all cleaning and servicing for as long as we paid the monthly payment. My initial reaction was to always purchase however when you do the math, there is a surprising answer.

Rent or Buy Your Furnace and Air Conditioner

We assumed a 15 year study life, a cost of $9500 to purchase the units, a cost of $25 a month to provide service and warranty once the manufacturers warranty was finished. We also assumed a cost of $700 for repairs which would last for one year. The rent scenario assumes $50 a month for the furnace and $45 a month for the AC unit including all servicing and warranties.

Using these numbers it makes sense to rent if you are planning on 12 years or less to rent. It makes sense to purchase if you feel that the units will last longer than 11 years which they should. However I need to find $9500 to pay for the installation and I still need to pay $25 a month for insurance.

I can finance the cost of the furnace etc.  I could use some of my savings to pay for these units and forego any income I might get from the current investments. I am fortunate to collect 3% on my investments at the present time. This is a real cost to me which I would save if I were to rent the furnace and the AC unit.

This income when factored in changes the breakeven period from 11 years to 20 years. This is probably more than the life cycle of these new units and longer than I plan to live in the house.

I still need to confirm all of the estimates with actual quotations. However I am definitely leaning towards renting and not making a purchase at this point.

Buy or Rent Air Conditioner

Buy or Rent Air ConditionerWould you buy or rent air conditioner equipment? The answer might surprise you and it really depends on the assumptions you make regarding the costs involved. The first step is to obtain several quotes for replacing your air conditioner through a purchase plan and also renting it if this program is available. Most people can do a straight line comparison of the total cost of the unit installed vs. paying monthly rental fees. There will be a break even amount at some point in the future, which could be around 10 years depending on the assumptions and the actual costs. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of insurance for service and maintenance if you purchase your own AC unit.  If you plan to be in the home longer than this breakeven number of years, you may want to consider a further refinement of the numbers to do a proper comparison.

Buy or Rent Air Conditioner

For example, if your cost will be $5000 and you have the $5000 available, how much interest are you collecting on that $5000 today. If it is just sitting in a bank account collecting very little interest, then this next step will not be of much interest to you.

On the other hand if it is invested in something such as a stock paying 3 or 4% dividends, then you really have to factor in the lost income associated with cashing in the stock to pay for the new AC unit. Four percent will pay $200 a year for as long as you own the stock and possibly more from gains in the value of the stock as well as dividend increases.

This income will help to offset the rental cost of the air conditioning a considerable amount and move the breakeven number further out to where it might be interesting to rent instead of purchasing your air conditioning unit. Take a look at the previous post about rent vs. buying a furnace and air conditioning for a more direct example.

Smart Home Component Design Strategies

Smart Home Component Design StrategiesThe smart home industry is still in the early stages of development. There is not a smart home component design strategies plan in place. Many companies are developing components that will fit into a larger system however right now they are just components. They will be upgraded many times, there will be new devices added and gradually standards will be developed so that you can connect one companies devices to another companies devices and systems. But right now, it really is a confusing mess out there and also expensive.

Smart Home Component Design Strategies

What should a consumer do in a situation like this one especially if you are the early adopter type of person? The answer is to develop your own strategy around a smart home. Focus on the things that you really want to automate and those that provide security functionality. These devices and components are not cheap so you will also need to factor in your budget for this project.

Next spend some time reviewing those companies that have a complete system that meets your requirements. There is no sense trying to mix and match at this time from several companies if you want them to all interact with each other. Finally assess the companies that are in it for the long haul, have a development strategy of their own and provide support to their customers.

If you do all of this you may have a chance of installing a smart home system that meets your needs, that interacts with a central controller and is evolvable as devices and systems develop further.

Lost Starbucks Gift Card

Lost Starbucks Gift CardLost gift cards cost us all money, however at least with a lost Starbucks gift card there is a way of protecting yourself from losing the balance on the card. Whether it is only $10 or a &100, no one wants to lose any money. All you have to do is register your card online and use your Starbucks card each time you pay for a coffee or purchase other food items at this store. There are other reasons why you should register these cards.

Recover your Cash – Lost Starbucks Gift Card

If you do lose your card and it is registered, all you need to do is call Starbucks and they will give you a new card and load the previous balance on to your new card. The balance will be clearly shown on your online account.

Other benefits of using one of these gift cards or loyalty cards is that they reward you for being a loyal customer with free refills, free coffees or food items after a specified amount of purchases and they provide you with free food items from time to time as well.

Starbucks has also recently changed its loyalty program. It is not as generous as it was in the past, however you just have to spend more to get the same amount of benefits. It appears to be still worthwhile, however you may want to review other loyalty

Register Starbucks Gift Cards

Register Starbucks Gift CardsStarbucks recently updated its loyalty system and we thought it might  be timely to write about why it is still important to register Starbucks gift cards. The loyalty program is not as generous as it used to be but that is really the subject of another post. To say the least, we are not happy about the changes they are making. All one can do is to spend less money at Starbucks to register your displeasure. In the mean time if you are given a Starbucks gift card for a birthday, Christmas or some other special occasion, it s a good idea to register it for a couple of reasons.

Register Starbucks Gift Cards

Once you register the card and begin to use it, every customer will begin to collect stars towards a future free drink or pastry. As we said it is not that generous any more, but it is something.

Secondly, there will now be an online track record of all of your expenses, how much you spent at the last location and how much is still left on your card. If for some reason you lose the card or it gets stolen, call Starbucks immediately and they will be able to shut down the card and transfer the balance to another card. You will not have lost all of your money.

Third, if you are unsure about how you are spending your money, you can always check your account online to confirm how much and where you are spending your money.

How to Remove Red Wine Stains from Carpets

how to Remove Red Wine Stains from CarpetsThis is everyone’s nightmare, red wine spilled on a white carpet. Everyone wants to know how to remove red wine stains from carpets and in their minds it is urgent. There is no question you need to move quickly to get rid of the red wine stain, but it is important to clean it up properly and not leave a long term red stain on your carpet. So what do you do to get rid of that red wine on the while carpet? Turns out is fairly easy as long as you act quickly and get to work on the stain. Using while paper towels is the first step. Blot as much of the liquid as you can being careful not to rub the wine in further.

How to Remove Red Wine Stains from Carpets

Step 1: As we mentioned the first step is to blot as much of the liquid up using paper towels being careful to not rub it in further.

Step 2: Pour some cold water over the stain and continue blotting up the liquid. The water will dilute the wine and remove some of the color. Continue blotting as long as you are getting some of the liquid on the paper towels.

Step 3: (Note –  not verified by the writer, try on a test area) Mix baking soda and water in a three to one mixture. Apply it to the affected area and let it dry. Vacuum the next day and it should remove all of the stain.

Step 4: If you do not like the idea of step 3, go to a hardware store and purchase a stain remover that works with red wine. The spot will stay wet for several hours after steps 1 and 2 so you will have time to go to the store and pick up the product.

If it is more serious or you’re not satisfied you may have to turn to a professional to have the stain removed.

How to Remove Coffee Stains from a Carpet

Remove Coffee Stains from a CarpetWe recently spilled an entire cup of coffee with cream in it on our carpet just like it shows in this picture, but only larger. It was an accident that could have been prevented, but it is too late for assessing blame. We now have to focus on how to remove it. We talked to some friends, did a quick online search and also bought some stain remover from a hardware store. Whether we needed to do all of this is unclear, but the steps we followed based on the input we got, did the job and we want to share it with out readers.

Remove Coffee Stains from a Carpet – Follow These Steps

Whatever you do, do  not wait. Get started now and follow these steps before the coffee seeps into the carpet and starts to dry on the fibers.

Step 1: Grab paper towels and begin blotting up as much of the liquid as you can. Do not rub the carpet. This could push the liquid further into the carpet and into the fibers.

Step 2: Dish towels will also work, just don’t rub the carpet. Soak up the liquid as much as you can.

Step 3: Take one cup of water and soak the area with water. Next use more paper towels and again soak up as much of the liquid as you can. The water will help to dilute the remaining coffee stains and  help to remove more of the stain.

Step 4: Mix two cups of warm water and a quarter cup of lemon juice.

Step 5: Apply the solution using a sponge. Cover the entire area and gently sponge up the stain.

Step 6: After use paper towels to soak up the water and more of the stain. The lemon juice acts as a mild acid to remove the coffee from the fibers. Do not use more than a quarter cup to avoid any long term change to the carpet.

Step 7: Rinse the area with cold water and using paper towels to soak up any liquid and dry it as much as you can.

Step 8: This step may not be required. We followed this step after we had completed the previous steps. we purchase a stain remover for carpets that specifically mentioned coffee. Follow the steps outlined on the bottle and remove any final indications of coffee stain.

This worked for us and you would never know that we had spilled coffee on our carpet.


Repairing Mold Damage from Leaking Water Pipes

Mold Damage from Leaking Water PipesMost consumers will never have to deal with mold damage from leaking water pipes. We hear of major floods and homes being totally destroyed by flood water or the subsequent mold that covers everything. These situations require professional intervention and major repairs. There are millions of other leaks such as the one shown in this picture that occur everyday and can develop into significant mold sources as well as causing significant damage to the home. If there are enough mold spores in the air, even your family can become sick and require medical attention. Any time you suspect mold developing, deal with it immediately and do not allow it to become a major expensive problem.

Mold Damage from Leaking Water Pipes

Sources of water and subsequently mold:

  • Slow leaking water pipes
  • A small leak in the roof
  • Windows are another source
  • Damp, dark and warm are the best places

Your health can be compromised if you do not deal with this problem, not to mention the damage and the cost of the repairs. the first step is to always repair the leak and eliminate the source of the water causing the mold. In other words – Fix the leak

Next you need to begin repairs and renovations. Start by removing all damaged wood, removing all drywall. If the mold is extensive, you will need to take special precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and breathing apparatus. You may want to hire professionals if it is a large job. Also ensure that the mold spores cannot spread to the rest of the home where they can cause health issues and the further spread of the mold.

Hire professionals if you are not comfortable!

Smart House

Smart HouseWe have all seen the advertisements from cable companies, phone companies and security companies about enhanced alarm systems and systems that allow us to control our homes remotely. There are a variety of applications that do everything from manage the alarm system, take videos of intruders to locking doors, adjusting the temperature and turning lights on and off remotely. The question that this writer has is whether it is all worth the cost and whether the home insurance company will provide discounts to help defray the cost of installation and ongoing monthly fees? First of all what are the applications that might interest the average consumer?

Ten Smart House applications

One of the better known applications of domotics or smart house features is the presence of movement detectors and alarms to prevent theft. Today, technology has become more diversified providing many more solutions. Here are a few examples:

  1. Remote control of all of the following from your smart phone app
  2. Opens and closes locks.
  3. Automatically adjusts the heating or cooling system when a window is open.
  4. Programs the heating and air conditioning systems based on the temperature outdoors.
  5. Remote control of the heating / cooling system.
  6. Automatically turns off the light when no-one is in a room.
  7. Video recording activated when a door opens, emailed to consumer.
  8. Detects water leaks and automatically turns the water valve off.
  9. Turns the tap on when a hand is placed under it and off when it is removed.
  10. Activates an automatic blocking system if the sewer backs up.
  11. Detects smoke and heat in case of fire and alerts the fire department.
  12. Detects if water pipes are at risk of freezing up. turns on the heating system, raise the interior temperature and notifies the consumer.
  13. Alarm system can be set to present or absent mode (present mode: all lights turn on if there is abnormal movement in the home; absent mode: no light will turn on).


All of these smart home functions are real possibilities and will improve as time goes on, however are they really needed and will they meet the return on investment criteria.
Bottom line, probably not, unless you attach peace of mind to the equation and consider it high value as well. There just not enough real value to offset the cost of adding all of these features at this time until they come down in price and the home insurance quotes reflect a credit for home alarms and smart home automation.

Surprising Secrets of Successful Home Staging

Surprising Secrets of Successful Home Staging“Staging” is about setting up and decorating each room of your home so that it looks as attractive as possible to potential buyers. Studies show that a property is more likely to sell quickly and for a better price if it is effectively staged.

Even if you haven’t heard of staging before, you probably already know the basics, such as eliminating clutter and making sure everything is clean and “guest ready.” It is an emotional time when you are selling a home. Many consumers resist the removal of treasured nick nacks, but it has to be done to make your home more saleable. Besides your moving so might as well start now.

However, there are some home staging “secrets” by staging professionals that you may not know.

Surprising Secrets of Successful Home Staging

Here are a few examples:

Increase horizontal surface space. Make sure desks, counter tops, coffee tables, end tables, etc. are as free of items as possible. Give the impression that there’s lots of room available on horizontal surfaces.

Flowers. Fresh flowers or flowering plants placed in a couple of rooms, such as the kitchen and living room, can have a dramatic impact on how inviting that room looks. Just don’t overdo it.

Don’t be daring when you paint. You may love the idea of a bright yellow and green combination in the family room, but not everyone will share your daring sense of style. If you paint, stick to neutral colors.

Less is more. Be brutally honest about the amount of furniture you have in each room – including wall hangings. Is there a desk, side table or other piece you can put away in storage? Think about ways to make each room more spacious. Space is king!

Ultimately, the best staging advice is to use your common sense. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer as you walk through your home. Ask yourself, “What changes will make this room even more attractive?”


Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle Test

Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle TestLifestyle is a very important criterion when shopping for a new home. After all, a home and its surrounding neighborhood are the places where much of your lifestyle is going to be experienced. There are many important factors which could influence your decision on one home or another. Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle Test? We have listed a few that many people consider, however there are probably many more that could be included on the list. So when considering a new home, think about the lifestyle to which the property is going to lend itself.

Does the Property You are Buying Meet the Lifestyle Test

Ask yourself:

  • How much entertaining do we do?
  • How important is it to have good schools located nearby?
  • How long will the commute to work be?
  • How big of a backyard do we require?
  • Do we need a rec room?
  • How easy will it be to get to golfing, dance lessons, baseball practices, movies and other activities my family and I enjoy?
  • Is there adequate shopping nearby?
  • How important is it to be in a quiet area?
  • Do we want a local park nearby for jogging, playing with the kids, and walking the dog?

This list is just an example. Ideally, you’ll create your own list of questions to ask yourself when considering a particular home.

How to Make a Fruit Fly Trap for the Home

How to Make a Fruit Fly Trap for the HomeThe picture on the left shows how to make a fruit fly trap for the home. It is pretty simple really. All you need is a glass jar some over ripe fruit, some tape and a piece of paper. Put the fruit in the bottom of the jar. Coil the paper into a cone and place it in the jar as shown with the narrow end down. Seal the gap around the jar with tape and you have your first fruit fly trap. These work pretty well, but what do you do with the fruit flies when they are all in the jar. I guess you take them outside and let them go, or perhaps drown them with water. Don’t forget to dispose of the fruit in the garbage and seal the bag. There will probably be eggs on the surface of the fruit which will hatch within 8 days and then you have a whole new set of fruit flies buzzing around and bothering you.  There are other types of traps to consider.

How to Make a Fruit Fly Trap for the Home

Another approach is to place some cider vinegar in a bowl. Add a drop of dish soap to the vinegar. This breaks the surface tension of the liquid which causes the flies to sink to the bottom and drown. Not only do you catch them, you also kill them preventing any further egg laying by the adults. This is one of the best ways to get rid of fruit flies.

Aside from trapping fruit flies, the best way to get rid of them is to get rid of potential food sources. Wipe cupboards, counter tops etc of fruit flies, you w to make sure there are no crumbs left over. Throw out all overripe fruit and seal the garbage bag. If you have a lot of fruit fly’s you may have to build several traps to capture all of them.

How to get Rid of Fruit Flies in the Kitchen

How to get Rid of Fruit Flies in the KitchenEver wonder where fruit flies come from and how did they get into your home and how to get rid of fruit flies in the kitchen? These are the tiny flies that most people find very irritating. They seem to come from nowhere getting into your eyes, ears and nose. In the majority of cases, these fruit flies or their eggs have come home on the fruit that you have purchased at the local grocery store. Anytime there is any fruit that is beginning to ferment, you can be sure that there will be fruit flies around laying eggs on the surface of the skin of the fruit. If you have fruit in the backyard such as apples, pears or plums for example, any that are beginning to ferment will also attract fruit flies which will end up in your home. Aside from the obvious of disposing of any fruit that is beginning to go bad, how do you get rid of them?

How to get Rid of Fruit Flies in the Kitchen

The answer is quite simple really as shown in the picture above. All you need to do is place a piece of fruit in the bottom of a glass or jar. This will attract the fruit flies that are in the surrounding area. The next thing to do is to prevent them from getting out of the glass.

The next step is really simple. Just take a piece of paper, curl it into a funnel and place it in the glass with the narrow inside the glass, just as shown in the picture. The fruit flies can get inside the glass through the narrow hole because they are attracted to the fruit. They become confused and cannot find the narrow opening to get out. They will eventually die inside the glass. This is the best way re how to get rid of fruit flies in the kitchen or anywhere else around your home.

Money Saving Habits that Cost You

Money Saving Habits that Cost YouThis web site has an objective of identifying ways to save money and helping consumers to make the hard earned dollars stretch further. But sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we are actually spending money to save money. We develop money saving habits that cost you more than you save. It is important to really look at how much you will save before you spend money on something or take an action. For example, driving halfway across town to save a few dollars with a coupon you have really just does not make sense.

Money Saving Habits that Cost You

One of our favorites is buying something just because it is on sale when we really do not need the item. It is clearly nice to have, but we would save a lot more if we just did not make the purchase in the first place.

Opening a store credit card to save 10 or 20% sounds great at the time, particularly if it is a large expense. If you cannot pay for the item when the credit card comes in and pay 19% or even up to 29% on some cards, you are going to lose your savings and then some very soon.

Buying extended warranties is another item we think you should avoid. Instead use a credit card that doubles the warranty on your items purchased with it. You will save a great deal this way.

Buy in bulk when you can use all of the merchandise or groceries before they spoil, other wise you are just wasting money and losing any savings you might have received initially.

Savings accounts are a great way to set aside money for emergencies, however you are losing money if you’re not collecting interest on your savings. Look for other opportunities that pay more and still protect your money.

Buying cheap, often saves money initially. Cheap items wear out more quickly and replacing them just adds to your cost.

Free shipping is great and convenient. Compare final price on everything before you make the purchase decision. Shipping is always built into the price one way or another.

If you have other ideas about Money Saving Habits that Cost You, please leave your comments and we will add them to this post.

8 Steps to Reducing Your Electricity Bill

8 Steps to Reducing Your Electricity BillElectricity rates are on the increase across the board in almost every state and province. With winter coming on we thought it was time to identify 8 Steps to Reducing Your Electricity Bill to help consumers control their costs for electricity and heating fuel. Anytime you can reduce your overall costs, leaving money for other important activities, you are ahead of the game. The important thing is to have an energy saving attitude in your family so that everyone contributes to reducing your overall energy costs. what follows is a partial list of things you can do now to keep your costs down.

8 Steps to Reducing Your Electricity Bill

Phantom Power – is power used by devices that are turned off, but are still drawing power to allow them to turn on instantly. Computers, TV’s and many other devices of this sort are drawing power 24 hours a day. Unplug them rather than just turning them off if you do not plan to use them.

LED Bulbs – At least convert to fluorescent bulbs if you have not already done so. LEDs will save even more money and are coming down in price as well. They last longer and save that increasingly costly electrical energy.

Programmable Thermostat – allows you to control when you heat your home or use air conditioning. Adjust the temperature lower when sleeping and away from the home in the winter. Adjust the temperature up when not home or at peak periods in the summer.

Dishwashers – if you have to run a dishwasher, especially the self drying kind, try to run them at night during off peak hours to reduce your energy costs.

Laundry – the same applies to running washing machines and dryers. Also use cold water to reduce your costs even further. Less hot water means less heating related energy use.

Clothing Lines – something our parents used to do. Hanging the clothes out to dry saves energy too, however if you live in a polluted environment, use the dryer in non peak energy hours.

Microwave – using a microwave or a toaster oven is far more efficient than using an electric oven.

Windows and Doors – apply caulking, weather stripping even plastic window covers to increase the insulation value and keep your home warmer to reduce energy use.

Turn Lights off – When you are not in the room, turn off lights, TV’s , radios etc to reduce your electrical costs.

Emergency Preparedness for Winter

Emergency Preparedness for WinterWhether it is bitter cold weather, huge snow storms or winter rain storms, winter can bring a variety of weather to us that tests our ability to survive. By thinking about emergency preparedness for winter and taking the steps necessary to protect ourselves, we can all lessen the impact on our lives. In our last post about getting ready for winter we listed a number of areas for consumers to consider when getting ready for winter. In this post, Emergency Preparedness for Winter, we are going to focus on the emergency side of the question. Emergencies are when you have no power, no water and no way to get to safety. What do you do now to make your life easier in these situations?

Emergency Preparedness for Winter

Water -without electricity the water supply may not work. Cooking, cleaning, washing etc not to mention water for drinking will be in jeopardy. Make sure you have enough water stored up to supply your needs for several days unless you feel there is a chance that the outage will last longer.

Food -The same applies to storing food that will not deteriorate without refrigeration. Dried foods, although not that exciting are easy to store and will keep you from going hungry. You also do not need electricity either to prepare it.

Electricity – an electric generator is a handy thing to have if your power goes out often and stays out. Gas driven and hookups are required to ensure that you have enough electricity to run the basics can make the difference between an uncomfortable difficult period and one that is just ok. Make sure that the generator is always situated outside and that you have sufficient gasoline to run your generator for a few days.

Lights – candles, flashlights, batteries or at least wind up flashlights are a necessity. Your generator may provide enough power for a few lights, but you probably want to run the fridge on it to keep your food fresh. Have sufficient candles and dry matches for longer periods of darkness with no electrical power.

Heat – If you do not have a wood burning fireplace, you need to develop a plan to heat your home if the power will be off for a long period of time. No electricity means your furnace does not work and your electric hating does not work. Using propane heaters indoors can kill you so do not do that either. Running a gas generator outdoors and connecting it to the furnace and the fridge are probably the two main priorities. Make sure it generates sufficient power to handle both.

Evacuation – if there is a chance that you will need to evacuate, have an emergency pack ready, make sure the car is full of gas and know your escape route. Don’t wait until it is too late to get out. Leave early to avoid road congestion or blockages.

The above are the basic necessities to consider to get ready for any emergency. You need to asses what the worst thing is that will occur and then prepare for that situation. Since this particular post is focused on winter conditions, you may have to adapt it somewhat if you are concerned about flooding or high winds for example at other times of the year.

Get Ready for Winter

Get Ready for WinterIt is not too late, there is still time to get ready for winter and avoid sudden emergencies on the coldest day of the winter. We put together a short list of items that home owners may want to consider in the fall to get their home ready for winter. Feel free to leave comments about these items or others that we should consider adding to the list. These are the bare bones basic items that every home owner should think about, even apartment dwellers will find this useful, particularly if you are susceptible to power outages from storms in your area.

Get Ready for Winter

Your Furnace – on the coldest day of the year your furnace or boiler is going to stop working and you find yourself worrying about freezing pipes etc. The repairmen are all overwork because thousands of people have the same problem. Have your furnace checked now and also cleaned to  increase your odds of having s failure free winter.

Snow Blower Engines – Start it now, make sure you have fresh clean gasoline in it and change the oil to get it ready for winter. Don’t wait to that first snow fall to find out that it won’t start or needs major repairs. It is so much easier to deal with these issues when it is still warm outside.

Emergency Power – A gas powered generator may be the one item that provides you with peace of mind in a power failure situation. If your electrical supply system is prone to failures you may just want to invest in a gas powered generator with the proper hookups to power your emergency devices.

Emergency Supplies – this includes everything from non perishable food, to flashlights and jugs of water to help deal with no power for an extended period of time. Flashlights are good to have, as are candles and matches, just make sure candle flames are protected and reduce the risk of fire.

Freezing Pipes – if the power does go off and you have to leave, make sure you know how to turn the main water supply off and drain the pipes. You can reduce a great deal of water damage by taking this simple step.

Evacuation – if this is a real possibility where you live, then make sure that your vehicles are never on empty. Always have at least three quarters of a tank of gas in your vehicle to enable a fast get away and not having to get in a long line of cars and trucks to buy gas.

Remember that it is all about preparedness and self survival. The first responders cannot get to everyone immediately. It may take days for them to make it to your home!

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