Turn Down the Temp, But Don't Let Your Pipes Freeze!
You often hear about how you should turn down the thermostat to save energy, and there are a slew of helpful ideas on the subject. You can turn the thermostat down when you're out, when you're sleeping, and you can save about 1% on your energy bill per degree you turn your thermostat down! This is all very exciting.
But before you go crazy with turning down the thermostat really low, I'd like to point out some things you might want to keep in mind.
Frozen pipes are a big deal. If the water in your pipes starts freezing, you run the risk of that pipe exploding—and goodness knows that's not what most people are hoping to do when they're trying to save energy in the dead of winter. Unfortunately, I can't just say "keep your thermostat over X degrees to avoid pipe freezing." It depends on where you live, where your pipes are, and how well insulated those pipes are.
There are relatively few places in the United States where you'd never have to worry about frozen pipes. According to Weather.com, southern states generally start having issues with frozen pipes when the temperature reaches about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (the distinction is made because houses in the south are less likely to build pipes inside or in the "warm" parts of your home.)
So, unless you live in a place where it never gets below freezing (you lucky souls, you), you'll need to know some things about your house or apartment: Some water pipes will be in the "warm" parts of your house.
This is why you don't want the temperature inside your house to drop too low, because bathroom and kitchen pipes are generally not insulated, and they rely on whatever system you're using to heat the rest of your house to keep warm.
And if you rent, you might want to see if the owners require their tenants to keep their thermostat above a certain level—my apartment requires all tenants to keep their thermostats above 65, for example, and asks us to consider leaving the taps dripping.
But while these are all good reasons to be careful with the temperature you keep your thermostat at, don't forget the rest of your pipes—some of your water pipes may be in "cold" parts of your house, like crawl spaces or attics, where they don't get any of your home's ambient heat and may, in fact, be subjected to air directly from the outside.
What you'll need to do is based on the region you live in, so you may want to look up your state or city's Web site and see if they have recommendations on how to prepare your house for the winter, because you may want to insulate those pipes.
In the end, I suppose it's still a judgment call, but just remember: Your pipes are vulnerable, frozen pipes are a pain, and you should always consider how your house is built before you make any drastic decisions on how to heat your home in the winter.
Thanksgiving Fire Safety- Everything You Need to Know
For most, the kitchen is the heart of the home, especially during the holidays. From testing family recipes to decorating cakes and cookies, everyone enjoys being part of the preparations.
So keeping fire safety top of mind in the kitchen during this joyous but hectic time is important, especially when there’s a lot of activity and people at home. As you start preparing your holiday schedule and organizing that large family feast, remember, by following a few simple safety tips you can enjoy time with your loved ones and keep yourself and your family safer from fire.
Thanksgiving by the numbers
- Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. and Christmas Eve.
- In 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,760 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, the peak day for such fires.
- Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths.
- Cooking equipment was involved in almost half of all reported home fires and home fire injuries, and it is the second leading cause of home fire deaths.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
- Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
- Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
- Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
- Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
- Keep knives out of the reach of children.
- Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
- Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
- Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle.
- Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.
October Is National Fire Prevention Month
Home Safety Checklist
There is one smoke alarm on every level of the home and inside and outside each sleeping area.
Smoke alarms are tested and cleaned monthly.
Smoke alarm batteries are changed as needed.
Smoke alarms are less than 10 years old.
Cooking area is free from items that can catch fire.
Kitchen stove hood is clean and vented to the outside.
Pots are not left unattended on the stove.
Electrical & Appliance Safety
Electrical cords do not run under rugs.
Electrical cords are not frayed or cracked.
Circuit-protected, multi-prong adapters are used for additional outlets.
Large and small appliances are plugged directly into wall outlets.
Clothes dryer lint filter and venting system are clean.
Candles are in sturdy fire-proof containers that won’t be tipped over.
All candles are extinguished before going to bed or leaving the room.
Children and pets are never left unattended with candles.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide alarms are located on each level of the home.
Carbon monoxide alarms are less than 7 years old.
Family members who smoke only buy fire-safe cigarettes and smoke outside.
Matches and lighters are secured out of children’s sight.
Ashtrays are large, deep and kept away from items that can catch fire.
Ashtrays are emptied into a container that will not burn.
Chimney and furnace are cleaned and inspected yearly.
Furniture and other items that can catch fire are at least 3 feet from fireplaces, wall heaters, baseboards, and space heaters.
Fireplace and barbecue ashes are placed outdoors in a covered metal container at least 3 feet from anything that can catch fire.
Extension cords are never used with space heaters.
Heaters are approved by a national testing laboratory and have tip-over shut-off function.
Home Escape Plan
Have two ways out of each room.
Know to crawl low to the floor when escaping to avoid toxic smoke.
Know that once you’re out, stay out.
Know where to meet after the escape.
Meeting place should be near the front of your home, so firefighters know you are out.
Practice your fire escape plan.
16 Pumpkin Facts That'll Make You Say "Oh My Gourd"
- The word "pumpkin" showed up for the first time in the fairy tale Cinderella.
A French explorer in 1584 first called them "gros melons," which was translated into English as "pompions," according to history. It wasn't until the 17th century that they were first referred to as pumpkins.
- The original jack-o'-lanterns were made withturnips and potatoes by the Irish.
In England, they used large beets and lit them with embers to ward off evil spirits. Irish immigrants brought their customs to America, but found that pumpkins were much easier to carve.
- Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Which makes quite a bit of sense considering, oh you know, Antarctica is a 24/7 icy tundra.
- Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin are produced each year in the United States.
The top pumpkin producing states are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
- Morton, Illinois, calls itself the "Pumpkin Capital of the World"
According to the University of Illinois, 95% of the pumpkins grown in the U.S. are harvested in Illinois soil. Morton is allegedly responsible for 80% of the world's canned pumpkin production.
- 80% of the U.S.'s pumpkin crop is available during October.
Out of the total 1.5 billion pounds, over 800 million pumpkins are ripe for the picking in a single month of the year.
- The world's heaviest pumpkin weighed over 2,600 pounds.
It was grown in Germany and presented in October 2016.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 3,699 pounds.
Pumpkin pie originated in the colonies, just not as we know it today. Colonists would cut the tops of pumpkins off, remove the seeds, fill the pumpkins with milk, spices, and honey, then bake them in hot ashes.
- Pumpkin-flavored sales totaled over $414 million in 2017.
But people are starting to opt for fresh pumpkin instead, according to Nielsen Retail Measurement Services. Some pumpkin-flavored products have seen consistent growth over recent years, including cereal, coffee, and even dog food.
- Each pumpkin has about 500 seeds.
They take between 90 and 120 days to grow, which is why it's recommended to plant them between May and July. High in iron, they can be roasted to eat. The flowers that grow on pumpkin vines are also edible.
- Delaware used to host an annual "Punkin Chunkin" championship.
Teams competed in a pumpkin launching competition, where pumpkins were shot almost 5,000 feet from an air cannon. The event was canceled in 2017 after there was a tragic accident the year before.
- There are more than 45 different varieties of pumpkin.
They range in color like red, yellow, and green, and have names like Hooligan, Cotton Candy, and Orange Smoothie.
- Pumpkins are technically
More specifically, they are a winter squash in the family Cucurbitacae, which includes cucumbers and melons. But because they're savory, many people just call them vegetables anyway.
- Every single part of a pumpkin is edible.
Yep, you can eat the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds, and even the stem!
- Pumpkins are 90% water, which makes them a low-calorie food.
One cup of canned pumpkin has less than 100 calories and only half a gram of fat. In comparison, the same serving size of sweet potato has triple the calories. They also have more fiber than kale, more potassium than bananas, and are full of heart-healthy magnesium and iron.
- Surprisingly, pumpkin pie isn't America's favorite.
According to a survey by the American Pie Council, it's apple that takes the cake (um, pie?) — 19% of Americans say it's their pie of choice. Pumpkin is in second place with a respectable 13%.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR OUR FURRY FRIENDS
Emergencies come in many forms, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe, so the best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared. Here are simple steps you can follow now to make sure you’re ready before the next disaster strikes:
Step 1: Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers. To get a free emergency pet alert sticker for your home, please fill out our online order form and allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.
Step 2: Arrange a Safe Haven
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. They may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Note that not all shelters accept pets, so it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time:
- Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
- Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
- Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
- Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
Step 3: Choose "Designated Caregivers”
This step will take considerable time and thought. When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. He or she should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own—you may even swap responsibilities, depending upon who has accessibility.
When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. When selecting this “foster parent,” consider people who have met your pet and have successful cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.
Step 4: Prepare Emergency Supplies and Traveling Kits
If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To minimize evacuation time, take these simple steps:
- Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to also write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
- The ASPCA recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted under the skin in the animal’s shoulder area, and can be read by a scanner at most animal shelters.
- Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home in a crisis.
- Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is, and that it clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your “Evac-Pack” include:
- Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include)
- 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
- Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
- Litter or paper toweling
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
- Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
- Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
- Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
- Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless)
- At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
- A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
- Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
- Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoop-able litter
- Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner
You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of the family. Items to include: Batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.
Step 5: Keep the ASPCA On-Hand at All Times
Help protect pets by spreading the word about disaster preparedness. Download, print and share FEMA’s brochure today.
The free ASPCA mobile app shows pet parents exactly what to do in case of a natural disaster. It also allows pet owners to store vital medical records and provides information on making life-saving decisions during natural disasters.
How A/C Can Prevent Mold Growth in Humid Climates
HOW A/C CAN PREVENT MOLD GROWTH IN HUMID CLIMATES
The temperature in your home can affect you and your family’s comfort level tremendously, especially if you live in states with hot, humid summers like Massachusetts where we’ve been experiencing heat and humidity for most of July and August. However, living in such climates could have other consequences for your home and family, as humidity can contribute to mold growth. Fortunately, your air conditioner can prevent the growth of this fungus, while also keeping you cool.
HOW TEMPERATURES AND HUMIDITY CONTRIBUTE TO MOLD GROWTH
Mold needs certain conditions to grow, and unfortunately for those who live in hot and humid places like Massachusetts in the summer, the heat plus the humidity create a moist environment where mold and dust mites thrive. While the various types of mold have different optimum conditions for growth many kinds of mold will grow well when conditions are between 60F and 80F - the same temperature range we’re often comfortable in. Combine these temperatures with excessive moisture and you could have a mold problem in your home.
HOW AIR CONDITIONING CAN PREVENT MOLD GROWTH
Your air conditioner can control the temperature and humidity in your home, which can prevent mold growth. During the hot, humid summer months, set your air conditioner to between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The relative humidity in your house should not exceed 50 percent. While most modern air conditioners dehumidify as they cool, they do not independently control both temperature and humidity, so you may want to purchase a stand-alone dehumidifier for when conditions are especially humid.
Other tips for using your air conditioner to prevent mold include setting your air conditioners fan mode to auto because setting it to “on” can cause moisture produced during the air conditioning process to be blown back into your home.
Air Conditioner Maintenance
With the past two weeks of high heat and high humidity in the Northeast, air conditioners have been working overtime. Let’s take a look at keeping them in tip top condition!
An air conditioner's filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to function effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning performance while energy use steadily increases.
Air Conditioner Filters
The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters. Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system's efficiency significantly. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil's heat-absorbing capacity. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5% to 15%.
For central air conditioners, filters are generally located somewhere along the return duct's length. Common filter locations are in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioner itself. Room air conditioners have a filter mounted in the grill that faces into the room.
Some types of filters are reusable; others must be replaced. They are available in a variety of types and efficiencies. Clean or replace your air conditioning system's filter or filters every month or two during the cooling season. Filters may need more frequent attention if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dusty conditions, or you have fur-bearing pets in the house.
Air Conditioner Coils
The air conditioner's evaporator coil and condenser coil collect dirt over their months and years of service. A clean filter prevents the evaporator coil from soiling quickly. In time, however, the evaporator coil will still collect dirt. This dirt reduces airflow and insulates the coil, reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this problem, check your evaporator coil every year and clean it as necessary.
Outdoor condenser coils can also become very dirty if the outdoor environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. You can easily see the condenser coil and notice if dirt is collecting on its fins.
You should minimize dirt and debris near the condenser unit. Your dryer vents, falling leaves, and lawn mower are all potential sources of dirt and debris. Cleaning the area around the coil, removing any debris, and trimming foliage back at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) allow for adequate airflow around the condenser.
The aluminum fins on evaporator and condenser coils are easily bent and can block airflow through the coil. Air conditioning wholesalers sell a tool called a "fin comb" that will comb these fins back into nearly original condition.
Occasionally pass a stiff wire through the unit's drain channels. Clogged drain channels prevent a unit from reducing humidity, and the resulting excess moisture may discolor walls or carpet.
Window Seals for Room Air Conditioners
At the start of each cooling season, inspect the seal between the air conditioner and the window frame to ensure it makes contact with the unit's metal case. Moisture can damage this seal, allowing cool air to escape from your house.
Preparing for Winter
In the winter, either cover your room air conditioner or remove and store it. Covering the outdoor unit of a central air conditioner will protect the unit from winter weather and debris.
Grease Fire Safety Tips
Do NOT pour water on the fire!!!
The best way to avoid a grease fire is to not have one. While you are cooking, keep an eye on the oil as it’s heating. The oil won’t immediately catch fire once it starts smoking, but smoke is a danger sign that it’s well on its way to getting there.
If the worst happens and your oil does catch on fire, use the following tips:
- If the fire is still small enough and contained in one pot, it is safe to put it out yourself. If it is already spreading to other parts of the kitchen, evacuate.
- Turn off the source of the heat on the stove. Do not try to move the pot because you don’t want to accidentally spill or splash the burning oil.
- Do NOT pour water on the fire! Since oil and water do not mix, pouring water can cause the oil to splash and spread the fire even worse. In fact, the vaporizing water can also carry grease particles in it, which can also spread the fire.
- Remove all oxygen from the flame. You can cover with another pot or pan. Do not cover it with a glass lid because the glass lid may shatter.
- If you can’t cover it, dump lots of baking soda on it.
- Use a chemical fire extinguisher on the grease fire. There are different kinds of extinguishers. Not all can be used on a grease fire, but the ABC dry chemical extinguisher is best.
Hopefully you’ll never be in a situation where you have to actually use this advice, but if you are remember to smother the fire with a pot or baking soda and never use water!
Call us at SERVPRO of Medford/Everett for fire, smoke or soot damage.
10 Tips for Safe Summer Barbecues!
Every year, 7,000 Americans are injured while using backyard barbecue grills. It's usually a case of good products used incorrectly.
Here are the top 10 most common mistakes and key safety tips.
- Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your house.Farther is even better. This includes portions attached to your house like carports, garages and porches. Grills should not be used underneath wooden overhangs either, as the fire could flare up into the structure above. This applies to both charcoal and gas grills.
- Clean your grill regularly.If you allow grease and fat to build up on your grill, they provide more fuel for a fire. Grease is a major source of flare ups.
- Check for gas leaks.You can make sure no gas is leaking from your gas grill by making a solution of half liquid dish soap and half water and rubbing it on the hoses and connections. Then, turn the gas on (with the grill lid open.) If the soap forms large bubbles, that's a sign that the hoses have tiny holes or that the connections are not tight enough.
- Keep decorations away from your grill. Decorations like hanging baskets, pillows and umbrellas look pretty AND provide fuel for a fire. To make matters worse, today's decor is mostly made of artificial fibers that burn fast and hot, making this tip even more important.
- Keep a spray bottle of water handy.That way, if you have a minor flare-up you can spray it with the water to instantly calm it. The bonus of this tip is that water won't harm your food, so dinner won't be ruined!
- Keep a fire extinguisher within a couple steps of your grill.And KNOW HOW TO USE IT. If you are unsure how to use the extinguisher, don't waste time fiddling with it before calling 911. Firefighters say many fire deaths occur when people try to fight a fire themselves instead of calling for expert help and letting the fire department do its job.
- Turn on the gas while your grill lid is closed. NEVER do this. It causes gas to build up inside your grill, and when you do light it and open it, a fireball can explode in your face.
- Leave a grill unattended.Fires double in size every minute. Plan ahead so that all of your other food prep chores are done and you can focus on grilling.
- Overload your grill with food.This applies especially fatty meats. The basic reason for this tip is that if too much fat drips on the flames at once, it can cause a large flare-up that could light nearby things on fire.
- Use a grill indoors. People often think it will be safe to use a grill, especially a small one, indoors. NOT TRUE. In addition to the fire hazard, grills release carbon monoxide,the deadly colorless, odorless gas. That gas needs to vent in fresh air or it can kill you, your family and pets.
Can Mold be Completely Removed?
Mold Found in Basement
Some restoration businesses advertise “mold removal” and even guarantee to remove all mold, which is a fallacy. Microscopic mold spores naturally occur almost everywhere, both outdoors and indoors. This makes it impossible to remove all mold from a home or business. Therefore, mold remediation reduces the mold spore count back to its natural or baseline level.
Consider the following mold facts:
- Mold is present almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors.
- Mold spores are microscopic and float along in the air and may enter your home through windows, doors, or AC/heating systems or even hitch a ride indoors on your clothing or a pet.
- Mold spores thrive on moisture. Mold spores can quickly grow into colonies when exposed to water. These colonies may produce allergens and irritants.
- Before mold remediation can begin, any sources of water or moisture must be addressed. Otherwise, the mold may return.
- Mold often produces a strong, musty odor and can lead you to possible mold problem areas.
- Even higher-than-normal indoor humidity can support mold growth. Keep indoor humidity below 45 percent.
If your home or business has a mold problem, we can inspect and assess your property and use our specialized training, equipment, and expertise to remediate your mold infestation.
If You See Signs of Mold, Call Us Today
SERVPRO of Medford/Everett 800-394-4466