According to OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), more people are killed by falling trees every year (100+) than are killed by sharks (about 4-7 per year).
Falling trees kill or injure more people than lightning. Although the numbers of tree fall fatalities are relatively low compared with other fatalities, the numbers for property damage from falling trees is much higher, ranging in the hundreds of thousands. According to the National Storm Damage Center, falling trees are the main causes of roof damage, costing more than $1 billion in property damage each year. So, chances are if you are a homeowner with lots of trees in your yard, you may encounter tree damage of some kind in your lifetime and in that situation, you will need to know what to do if a tree falls on your home:
If you’re in the house when a tree falls, leave the house and the property as soon as possible. Beware of downed electrical lines, and if you have gas lines, do not use your cell phone to call for help until you are away from the house. Use the safest route possible to get away from the house.
Call 911 or emergency services. They will send fire or appropriate responders to ensure the house is safe. If anyone has been injured or killed, let the dispatcher know this when you call. Remain at the scene unless you are injured. Seek medical care or wait for an ambulance if you have been injured.
Call your insurance company as soon as possible so they can agree to cover any emergency costs, removal or other details covered in your homeowner’s policy. If your tree has fallen on your neighbor’s property, your neighbor will need to make a claim on their insurance policy, but your insurance company should be aware of the damage as well.
Contact a roofing contractor, tree surgeon, tree removal company, builder or any other home professional to examine any damage, to remove the tree and secure the home so there is no additional damage to your property or possessions. Even if the tree misses the house, tree roots can extend under a property, causing damage to the foundation. So, have your builder or contractor check inside the house for cracks in the drywall, or the outside for cracks in the brickwork. Lowes’ experts say, “Don’t attempt to deal with the tree removal or roof repair yourself. Even if the fallen branches or tree seems small, you never know the extent of the storm damage or if the framework or structural integrity if your home has been compromised.”
If you are unable to live in the house during repairs, make sure any damaged areas are secured to prevent looting and theft. Put valuables in temporary storage, and board up broken windows, holes in the wall etc.
Once the tree has been dealt with, what steps can you take to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
Make sure your trees are healthy
Other than raking leaves, building treehouses, or picking up fallen branches, twigs and debris, most homeowners don’t think about their trees very often. Even fewer know the signs of an unhealthy, dying, or dead branch or tree. Here a few signs from RTEC Treecare, one of the companies that take care of the trees at the mall in Washington, DC to pay attention to:
Large branches attached with tight, V-shaped forks. These branches are prone to failure and may need to be lightened or removed.
Cracks in the trunk of the tree or in major limbs
Fungi growing from the base of your tree or under its canopy. This could be a sign of root decay.
Branches that are pointing/hanging downwards these damaged branches can easily fall during storms.
Partially attached limbs hung up in the high branches that could fall.
Large cavities in the tree trunk.
Wires in contact with tree branches.
Other things you can do to ensure you and your family are safe from tree falls:
Have an arborist inspect your trees every year, or whenever there’s been an injury or damage to a tree – such as a lightning strike, hit by a motor vehicle, or a pest infestation.
Do preventative pruning, and ask your neighbors to do the same. Preventative pruning reduces wind resistance and removes dead branches. This reduces the risk of the tree or the tree’s limbs snapping under the force of wind gusts.
Make sure your trees are mulched correctly if you mulch them. Mulch protects the root system of the tree and allows water and nutrients to drain down through the soil to the roots. This keeps the root system healthy which helps the tree stay strong during storms. Unhealthy root systems can lead to trees uprooting and snapping in heavy winds.
Wrap your young trees to prevent sunscald. Sunscald is winter damage that is commonly seen on young trees, newly planted trees, and thin-barked trees (cherry, crabapple, honey locust, linden, maple, mountain ash, plum). Sunscald causes the tree bark to dry and crack.
Legal issues regarding who pays for damages or home repairs etc. to your house from a falling tree in your yard, or from a neighbor’s yard, vary greatly from state-to-state, county to county and insurer to insurer. It’s best to talk to your insurance agent before anything happens to determine if you are covered in the event of a tree fall.
Smoke detectors and fire alarms may be some of the most important items in your home when it comes to your family’s safety. These early warning devices may help alert your family to fire and dangerous smoke while there is still time to evacuate, but they need to be periodically tested to help ensure proper function.
Why Do It?
Electronic devices are not infallible. Batteries die, and other parts of the smoke detector can wear out over time. Testing them regularly and replacing batteries (or the entire device) is one way to help ensure your family stays safe should there be a fire in your home.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), smoke detectors should be tested at least once a month and batteries should be replaced at least twice a year. A good way to help remember to do this is to change your batteries when you change your clocks for daylight saving time — when you spring forward or fall back. Make sure to review your smoke detector’s user manual — you may need to check more often if any of the following apply:
The detector often gives false alarms.
The alarm emits short beeps regularly without anyone touching it.
Frequent kitchen smoke has caused it to activate often, which may wear it out faster.
There are two main types of smoke detectors, according to the USFA:
Battery-powered: This type can be susceptible to defective or worn-out batteries. Monthly testing is critical. Never put old batteries into your smoke detectors and fire alarms.
Hardwired: These detectors are powered by your home electrical system, but they usually have back-up batteries so the device can remain operational in a power outage. Hardwired smoke detectors still require monthly testing to help ensure that both batteries and parts are functioning properly.
How to Test It
You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper method of testing your smoke detector and fire alarm. But, in general, most battery-powered and hardwired smoke detectors can be tested in the following way:
Step 1. Alert family members that you will be testing the alarm. Smoke detectors have a high-pitched alarm that may frighten small children, so you’ll want to let everyone know you plan to test the alarms to help avoid frightening anyone.
Step 2. Station a family member at the furthest point away from the alarm in your home. This can be critical to help make sure the alarm can be heard everywhere in your home. You may want to install extra detectors in areas where the alarm’s sound is low, muffled or weak.
Step 3. Press and hold the test button on the smoke detector. It can take a few seconds to begin, but a loud, ear-piercing siren should emanate from the smoke detector while the button is pressed. If the sound is weak or nonexistent, replace your batteries. If it has been more than six months since you last replaced the batteries (whether your detector is battery-powered or hardwired), change them now regardless of the test result, and test the new batteries one final time to help ensure proper functioning. You should also look at your smoke detector to make sure there’s no dust or other substance blocking its grates, which may prevent it from working even if the batteries are new.
Remember, smoke detectors have a normal life span of 10 years, according to the USFA. Even if you’ve performed regular maintenance, and your device is still functional, you should replace a smoke detector after the 10-year period or earlier, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
Installing smoke detectors can be a great way to help keep your family safe, but assuming they are working may lead to a dangerous situation. Taking a few minutes to check them regularly can help ensure they’re working properly.
Got a leaky toilet? Believe it or not, it’s a common problem. Continue reading to find out the likeliest causes and the easiest ways to remedy the situation.
First, some of the washers between the bowl and tank may have failed. Shut off the supply valve, empty the tank with a flush, then remove the nuts, bolts, and washers from the underside of the tank. Lift the tank, position it on its side, and see if the washers need replacing.
Another culprit may be faulty fasteners securing the fill valve and ballcock to the bottom of the tank. Before you replace those parts, however, first try simply tightening the nuts and bolts holding them in place—that often solves the problem.
On the other hand, if the leak seems to be coming from the base of the tank, chances are the wax ring that seals the toilet to the floor has failed. Replacing the wax ring is a much bigger job, since it involves removing the entire toilet from its base. If you decide to replace the wax ring yourself—preferably with a friend to help with the lifting—take the extra step of also replacing any bolts that show signs of corrosion. And, once you have the toilet back in place, don’t forget to add a bead of caulk around the base.
It’s not a shock when mold shows up behind drywall after a flood or covers baseboards in damp basements. But mold can surprise you and hide in unexpected places, making it harder to detect and wipe out.
To get rid of mold, think like a fungus and search out these six moist places where mold likes to grow.
Why mold grows there: Brick crevices collect water, dirt, and other organic debris. Rusted chimney caps and faulty flashing lets in rain and snow, encouraging mold to grow.
How to wipe it out: First, replace rusted caps and fix flashing. Then, call a chimney sweep to give your chimney a thorough cleaning. A $200-$300 annual visit from a chimney sweep not only removes mold, but also keeps your chimney free of dangerous creosote and helps it operate at peak efficiency.
2. Refrigerator Drip Pans
Why mold grows there: It’s a rarely noticed place under your fridge that collects moisture and food spills, a perfect environment for mold to grow.
How to wipe it out: Cleaning drips pans should be part of your annual deep cleaning ritual. Spray the pan with a hydrogen peroxide solution (1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide in 1 cup water). Wipe clean with a rag soaked in white vinegar. Also, clean the floor beneath the pan.
3. Front-Loading Washing Machines
Why mold grows there: The gasket around the door on front-loading washing machines often stays wet because the door is usually closed when not in use. Add some lint to the moisture, and mold happily munches and multiplies.
How to wipe it out: Wipe the gasket and glass dry before you shut the door. If you spot mold, run a hot water wash with some chlorine bleach (no clothes), which will kill the fungi.
4. Window Sashes and Seals
Why mold grows there: Condensation provides the moisture mold loves; dirt and dust supply food.
How to wipe it out: After heavy rains, open windows and wipe moisture from the bottoms of sashes and window sills. If seals between panes are failing, you’ll have to repair or replace window sashes to prevent condensation. Regularly clean windows to deprive mold of food.
Why mold grows there: When you stack dishes that are a little wet and a little cruddy, mold has the perfect environment to grow — especially if you don’t use those dishes every day.
How to wipe it out: Run moldy dishes through the dishwasher, and wipe cabinets with a vinegar-soaked rag. Completely dry dishes before you store them.
6. Air Conditioners
Why mold grows there: Air conditioning units trap dust and pollen (a good meal for mold) and grab moisture from the air. If you don’t run your AC unit at least every 24 hours in warm weather, humidity in your house climbs and mold may grow in AC ducts and drain pans, and on coils.
How to wipe it out: If mold grows in your central air conditioning unit, you’ll have to hire a mold remediation pro to clean out the system ($400-$1,000). If mold shows up in a window AC unit, remove the front plate, clean the blower with a HEPA filter vacuum, and flush out the coils and clean the drain pan with a 1:1 solution of bleach and water.
Of course, prevention is the best remedy. Run your AC for at least 10 minutes every day to keep air circulating when it’s hot and humid outside, and keep the humidity in your home below 55%.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on energy bills – with nearly half of that going towards heating and cooling.
And as the temperature begins to fall, the cost to heat our homes starts to rise.
Now’s the time to make sure your home is well-insulated. A properly insulated home will keep the warmth inside, reducing your heating costs and improving comfort.
Use the five tips for insulating your home below to save on energy bills and keep you and your family nice and cozy this winter.
1. Seal Gaps Around Doors
Doors that aren’t correctly fitted to the frame form gaps. One of the simplest ways to insulate your home is to seal the gaps, typically found at the bottom of the door. These can easily be fixed by:
Using weather strips: Weather strips are an easy, inexpensive way to stop air leaks.
Installing draft stoppers: Also known as a door snake or door pillow, draft stoppers sit beneath the bottom of your door and can be made out of socks.
2. Cover or Repair Windows
Another tip for insulating your home is to cover or repair windows that are letting cold air in. For a quick fix, tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames and seal tightly. For a more long-term solution, replace old windows with new ones. Older homes that have single-pane windows lack proper insulation, causing your energy bills to skyrocket. To save money and keep those drafts from coming in, consider replacing with double or triple-pane windows.
3. Use Your Curtains
Curtains provide us with a sense of privacy, but they’re also good for insulating homes, especially if you have drafty windows. When the sun is out, open your curtains to let heat and light in. When it’s dark, close your curtains for an extra layer of insulation.
4. Insulate Your Attic
Proper insulation is not only key to finishing your attic, but increasing your energy savings as well. And when it comes to heat, about 25 percent is lost through the roof. You can reduce this by insulating the ceiling and walls. Loose-fill or batt insulation is typically installed in attics, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, loose-fill insulation is best because it provides better coverage when properly installed.
5. Close Your Fireplace Damper
Fireplaces are a great source of heat, until they’re not. Unless a fire is burning, make sure you close your fire damper. An open damper is like leaving a window open, and if you’re damper is open, you’re letting heat escape. If you have installed gas logs in your fireplace, however, leave the damper open. Gas fireplaces release large amounts of carbon monoxide and therefore must always have an open damper. If your pilot light is not lit, close the damper to ensure you’re not losing any heat, but be sure to open it back up when your gas fireplace is in use.
Brrr! Why does the furnace quit on the coldest day of the year and always on a weekend?
We feel your pain! So, to help, here are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the problem before you have to call for an emergency repair.
Top 3 Reasons a Furnace Blows Cold Air
#1 – Your Thermostat Is in the ON Position
Your thermostat has an ON and AUTO switch that runs your blower. If the switch is in the ON position, then the blower keeps running, even when the furnace is not heating. As soon as the furnace cycles back on the air will warm up again. All you have to do is switch the thermostat to the AUTO position. Then, the blower only comes on when the furnace heats.
#2 – The Pilot Light Is Out
A gas furnace has a small pilot light that stays on all the time. When the furnace cycles on, then the pilot light provides the flame that lights the gas and warms the air. If the pilot light goes out, then there is nothing to light the gas that fires the furnace. Lighting a pilot light is not hard but there are a few safety measures you need to follow.
Never try to light a pilot light if you smell gas in the room. Call your gas company’s emergency line and they will send someone to inspect your furnace lines.
If you don’t smell gas, then find the pilot light assembly. Most furnaces have a sticker with instructions on how to light the pilot light. If yours does not, then try to locate the gas valve. Switch it to the PILOT setting. Hold a lighted match to the pilot opening. If there is a reset button on the control panel, hold the button until the pilot light burns. Once it is going, set the valve to the ON position. If the pilot light won’t stay lit, then you may have a faulty thermocouple or a dirty port. You can try cleaning the port with a piece of wire. If the thermocouple is bad, you will need to call a professional to make the repair.
Some furnaces have an electric starter instead of a pilot light. If you cannot find a pilot light, then an electric heating element is probably what ignites your furnace. When an element malfunctions, you will need to call an HVAC professional.
#3 – The Furnace Has Overheated
If you can’t get your furnace to blow any air, hot or cold, it’s possible it has overheated. Safeguards are in place that shut off the burners when the unit gets too hot. More often than not, the problem is a dirty air filter. Furnace filters should be checked frequently for dirt and debris. If you have pets you may find that you have to change out your filter as often as once a month. Once the air flow is no longer restricted and the unit cools down, the furnace should start blowing warm air.
How? The gutter heaters keep the water above freezing in both the gutters and the downspouts – allowing it to flow freely away from your house.
Keep in mind, this is actually a bandaid for the true source of the problem. (See #3 below.)
TIP: Heating cables and gutter heating systems should come with thermostatic controls so you can just flip a switch to turn them on when necessary, preventing overheating and excessive electricity use.
#3 – Improve your attic insulation and venting.
Heat from inside your home causes snow to melt on the roof. The subsequent runoff may refreeze in your gutters — eventually building up and causing destructive ice dams.
Most houses have ice and water membranes installed underneath the shingles of the roof during the construction phase. However, even if yours is an older home, you may benefit significantly from an upgrade to the roofing system.
We’re fortunate to be living in an era dominated by technology and innovation. Smart technology, transportation efficiencies and useful apps are everywhere, making it easier for all of us to live more efficiently. So, with all of this amazing innovation, I often wonder why so many people still aren’t living greener.
If all of us made just one eco-friendly change, we would significantly impact the Earth, our communities and our energy bills. In case some of you are willing to make small changes but don’t know what to do to be energy-efficient, here are 16 things you can do to be greener at home. I’ve included low-cost and big-ticket changes you can make.
Lower Your Thermostat
Adopt the habit of lowering the temperature on your thermostat while away from home. Dropping the temp by just three to five degrees will reduce your monthly utility bill and use less energy. According to Energy.gov, lowering your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees during the work day will save 5% to 15% every year.
Start a Compost Pile
You don’t need a ton of space in your backyard to start a compost pile. Compost is the result of organic waste that’s kept in a pile or container that decomposes over time. Your fruit and vegetable waste not only becomes valuable fertilizer for your lawn or garden, but it reduces the amount of trash you produce on a daily basis.
Install Low-Flow Showerheads
Installing low-flow showerheads improves your home’s water efficiency. Low-flow showerheads have a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute), while most conventional showerheads use 5 gallons per minute. Mother Earth will thank you!
Seal All Windows
Go the extra mile by sealing the air leaks in and around the windows in your home. If your windows are drafty, consider adding weatherstripping around the frames. Add a bead of silicone caulk over any cracks in your drywall or apply a sheet of shrink film to your windows. Sealing gaps and cracks is an easy and inexpensive way to lower energy costs.
Limit Space Heater Use
Although electric and gas space heaters keep your feet nice and toasty in cooler weather, they aren’t the most efficient way to heat your home. Many space heaters use 1,500 watts of energy to run and are considered to be a costly way to drain your energy bill. Be sure the model of your space heater is energy-efficient; consider layering clothing or investing in blankets instead of cranking up your thermostat.
Turn Off Unnecessary Water
According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average homeowner can save about $170 a year with small changes to their water usage. Be conscious of running water while brushing your teeth or shaving. Also, bathing typically uses 75 gallons of water compared to a shower that uses about 17.2 gallons on average. You also should avoid running half-loads of laundry in your washer. A full load means more clothes get washed at once, which in turn conserves water (and money).
Replace Incandescent Bulbs
In 2014, manufacturers stopped producing 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent lightbulbs (100-watt and 75-watt bulbs were already phased out). But we’re not doomed to live in the dark. Halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs offer longer lasting light and are more energy-efficient than your old incandescent bulbs. Since the average home uses 40 bulbs, switching over to greener bulbs is a great way to save on your electrical bill.
Unplug Unused Chargers
Cell phone and battery chargers that are plugged in but not in use are often referred to as energy vampires. According to Energy.gov, the average charger consumes 0.26 watts of energy when not in use and 2.24 watts when connected to your phone. Alone, one charger won’t make much impact, but collectively energy vampires can be responsible for 10% of your energy bill. So, unplug your chargers when not in use.
Don’t Wash with Hot Water
Avoid running your washer with hot water and opt for cold or warm water when possible. According to Treehugger.com, 90% of the energy used by your washer is used to heat the water, and the other 10% is used to run the machine. This means using cooler water for every load can potentially save a significant amount of energy.
Add Insulation to Your Attic
Adding insulation to your attic can help seal air leaks and improve your home’s heating and cooling costs. The amount of insulation needed to cover your attic depends on your home’s size and the climate in your region, but according to HomeAdvisor.com, the average cost to blow in additional insulation into your attic is $1,356.
Install Solar Panels
Although solar panels aren’t exactly cheap, they’re becoming a popular way to heat hot water and generate electricity for homes. Solar panels have many benefits! They help you save money on energy bills in the long run, promote lower fossil fuel usage and may help you qualify for annual tax incentives. Typically, they are installed on your roof and cut your electricity costs by generating energy independently of your utility company. Consider the do’s and don’ts of home solar panel systems.
Install a Storm Door
Even if you have an energy-efficient front or side door, adding a storm door gives you an extra layer of protection from the weather year-round. Storm doors typically have low-emissivity glass or a protective coating that can help reduce energy loss by up to 50%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Most storm doors last between 25 and 50 years and can cost as little as $75.
Perform an Energy Audit
Consider hiring a professional energy auditor to your home and evaluate the inefficiencies and wasted energy in your home. A certified and trained auditor will inspect in and around your home to pinpoint savings opportunities and identify areas that need improvements. Auditors typically charge by the square footage of your house or by the hour.
Buy Energy Star Products
Energy Star products, such as refrigerators, televisions, stoves, washers and air conditioners, meet energy-efficient specifications set by the EPA. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10-50% less energy than standard appliances and help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. If you plan to replace an appliance soon, consider getting an Energy Star-certified product.
Tune Up Your HVAC System
An annual tune-up on your heating and cooling system will ensure that your furnace and A/C are running at peak efficiency, which will save you money every month. A home heating and cooling check-up improves efficiency by ensuring connections are tightened, parts are properly lubricated and coils are cleaned. Tuning up your HVAC system can also help you avoid replacing your furnace, which can cost between $2,000 and $8,000.
Replace Your Desktop Computer
Most tech experts estimate that you should replace your computer every four years. When the time comes for your desktop computer, consider replacing it with a laptop. According to SmallBusinessChron.com, laptops use up to 80% less electricity and run on less energy. Laptop computers typically peak at a maximum energy draw of only 60 watts, whereas most desktops peak around 175 watts. Laptops don’t come with a cheap price tag, but they are greener.
Seriously, everyone should be able to find at least one or two things on this list to do to green-ify their home. Below, share other ways to create an energy-efficient home.
Not all freezing pipes burst, explains Paul Abrams, spokesman for Roto-Rooter. But when one does, it’s because water expands when it freezes, adding considerable pressure on unyielding plumbing pipes. That pressure can cause a tiny leak at a joint or crack on a length of pipe, unleashing the full flow of water inside your home.
A water line coated in frost (or bulging like a well-fed python) is a good sign that it’s frozen, but not all plumbing pipes are visible.
“If your faucets won’t flow and your toilets won’t refill following a flush, that’s a good sign your pipes are frozen,” says Abrams.
How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe
Before doing anything, shut off the water supply to that section of plumbing (or the entire house if that’s the only option) because the real trouble begins after the thaw. That’s because the frozen water may be acting as a plug, preventing water from spilling out of the cracks in your pipes. When that plug is thawed, water gushes out. It’s a good idea to be ready with a mop, bucket, and towels in case there’s a plumbing leak.
“It’s not the frozen pipes that really get plumbers’ phones ringing,” adds Abrams. “It’s the thawing pipes that leak and spew water after a hard freeze.”
Use a space heater, heat lamp, or hair dryer to thaw the frozen length of pipe. Wrapping freezing pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length) is also an effective way to quickly thaw a trouble spot.
Don’t thaw pipes using a propane torch, which presents a fire risk.
What to Do if a Pipe Bursts
If you walk in to discover Old Faithful in your basement, the first thing you should do is shut off the main water supply to minimize flooding. Next, call your plumber.
Immediately dry out by removing as much water as possible using mops, sponges, towels, and a wet/dry vacuum. To minimize mold, mildew, and other moisture-related problems, run a dehumidifier in the space until it’s very dry.
For big messes, call your insurance agent. The good news is that most homeowners insurance covers burst pipes and the resulting water damage.
A Few Words About That Main Water Shut-Off Valve
“Everybody should know where it is,” says Abrams. “The sooner you can shut off the water, the less it will cost you down the road.”
Not only should home owners know where the valve is located, they should have it inspected the next time a plumber is on site. If your home has an older gate-style valve, it might be worth the money ($200 to $400) to have it replaced with a more reliable ball valve.
Gate valves are prone to sticking when you need them the most, so it’s a good idea to exercise them once a year by rotating them back and forth.