Winterizing Your Home

Winterizing Your Home

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  • Block the leaks. Check the most common areas that leak, such as recessed lighting, window frames, doorframes, attic hatch, plumbing and electrical bypasses in the attic, and electrical outlets. Use weather-stripping, door sweeps, foam, and caulk to seal up the leaks.
  • Insulate. You should have a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If you don’t know how to tell, look at your ceiling joists. If you can see them, you need more insulation. Also look into insulating your walls and floors above crawl spaces.
  • Check the furnace. Turn the furnace on now to make sure it is working before the cold weather hits. It is a good idea to have the furnace cleaned and tuned annually. While this maintenance is being performed by heating technician, make sure of the following: the thermostat and pilot light are working properly; the fuel pipe entering your furnace doesn’t have a leak; check the heating exchanger for cracks, as a crack can bring carbon monoxide into the home; and finally, make sure to change the filter in forced hot-air systems. The filter should be changed monthly during the heating season. Homeowners can change the furnace filter themselves.
  • Check the ducts on forced hot air system and baseboards on hot water systems. Ducts aren’t always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement, and in crawl spaces. Ducts should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean the abundant dust, animal hair, and other things that gather in that will impede the flow of hot air through the house. Clean hot-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure furniture, carpeting and drapes do not block them.
  • Thermostat settings. Reduce the thermostat setting when everyone is asleep or away from the home. Consider installing a programmable thermostat.
  • Don’t forget the windows. Storm windows are very helpful, especially if you have old, single-pane glass windows. Replacing windows can be very pricey and the experts say to do a few at a time. However, in the meantime, buy a kit you can get at your local hardware store. It is a special kind of plastic sheeting that is affixed to the window’s interior with a hair dryer.The heat from the hairdryer shrinks the sheeting to the window. It is pretty inexpensive, can be quite effective, and is easy to remove in the spring.
  • Remember the chimney. Chimneys need to be swept, however, it does not need to be done every year. Just make sure it has been at least inspected before you start using it for the year. To keep cold air out, fireplace owners should keep the damper closed when it isn’t in use. Fireplace owners should also keep the glass doors shut when it is not in use.
  • Reverse your fan. By reversing the direction of the fan after summer, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate. To do this, when you look up at the fan, make sure it is turning clockwise.
  • Wrap the pipes. Before the temperature hits freezing, make certain that the water to your hose is shut off inside your house and that the excess is drained. Next, go looking for pipes in the crawlspaces, basements, and garages that aren’t insulated. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation.
  • Clean your gutters. In the fall, once the leaves have fallen, make sure to clean out the gutters on your house, as clogged gutters can cause water to back up and freeze, causing ice jams. Such ice jams will cause water to seep into your home. When washing out the gutters, also look for leaks and misaligned pipes.
  • Insulate your water heater. Check the manufacturer’s label before insulating your water heater. Use caution when insulating gas fired water heaters. Also, set the water heater temperature to about 120° Fahrenheit at most; higher temperature water can scald, and cooling it wastes not only the heat in the water; it also wastes the cold water needed to dilute the hot water.
  • Check the alarms. Check the operation of all of your smoke detectors. Also, check to make sure you fire extinguisher is still where it should be and up to date. Finally, make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector. Every home should have at least one.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “How to Winterize Your Home.” For more information, please visit www.nh.gov.

How to Prepare My House for Extreme Cold Weather

How to Prepare My House for Extreme Cold Weather

hvac-fb-shutterstock_160580267The time to prepare your home for extreme cold weather is before it arrives. Inadequate insulation and air leaks can cause cold drafts and increase your heating costs significantly. A few inexpensive DIY fixes around doors and windows will save money and heating fuel. And if a severe winter storm should precede extreme cold, your home if not your whole communities can be without power and communication services, sometimes for days at a time. In such cases, keeping the cold out and staying warm becomes a matter of survival, making your time and money spent preparing well worth it.

Wrap It Up

  • Make sure your outer walls and attic have proper insulation. Loose fill or batt insulation is usually used in attics. Loose fill insulation provides better coverage and is typically less expensive. In exterior walls, blown-in insulation installed with the dense pack technique provides significant air sealing and can be installed in an existing home without a lot of disruption to finished areas. Batt or blanket insulation is a less expensive option you can install yourself, but it won’t provide the air seal of dense-pack blown-in insulation.

Check for Leaks

  • Gaps around doors and windows can be a major source of heat loss during winter, accounting for up to one-third of your total heating cost. Check for leaks to identify problem areas. On a windy day, turn off all air conditioning or heating and close all windows and doors. Turn on bath fans and stove vents and light an incense stick. Pass the stick along the edges of doors and windows. Notice where the smoke is either sucked toward or blown away from the door or window. This indicates an air leak.

Fill in Gaps

  • Load a tube of caulk into a caulk gun and, holding the gun at a 45 degree angle, fill in gaps around doors and windows. Weatherstripping also helps stop air leaks and comes in a variety of forms, such as foam tape, V-strips, felt, tubular rubber and door sweeps — plastic or metal pieces fitted with strips of nylon, vinyl or sponge brush that fill the gap between the floor and the bottom of the door. The type you should use will depend on the window or door type you are treating. Weatherstripping can be self-adhesive or installed with nails or screws.

Additional Cold Barriers

  • Storm windows provide an additional barrier against cold drafts. If storm windows are cost-prohibitive, you can staple heavy plastic around the outside of the window frame, although this will likely limit your view out the window. Remove exterior garden hoses and install faucet covers on outside faucets. Wrap exposed water pipes and those in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or heating tape. During extreme cold weather, allow faucets to drip lukewarm water to avoid pipe freeze.

Other Areas

  • Use weather stripping around the cover of fold-down attic stairs to prevent cold drafts from entering through an unfinished attic. A fireplace surround with glass doors can reduce heat loss by as much as 90 percent. Caulk around pipe holes leading in and out of walls, and use foam insulation kits on electrical outlets and light switch plates to reduce drafts from entering living areas. Cover the screens on screened-in porches with heavy plastic. Clean gutters around roof lines to avoid moisture buildup on roofs. Trim any nearby branches that could snap under the weight of snow and ice or high winds and fall on your home.
The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “How to Prepare My House for Extreme Cold Weather.” For more information please visit www.ehow.com.

Winter Energy Saving Tips

Winter Energy Saving Tips – More Ways to Save on Your Winter Utility Bill

This is an excerpt from the article “Winter Energy Saving Tips”. For more information please visit www.pnm.com.

More ways to save on your winter utility bill

  • Get your furnace inspected and tuned up by a heating professional.
  • Have your home properly insulated and weatherized.
  • Measure your attic insulation. If you have less than 7 inches of insulation or if it is less than R-38 (the current requirement for new homes), consider upgrading your insulation with spray-foam or batt insulation.
    • Look for places where air may be leaking through the insulation – you will be able to tell because there will be dirty spots or holes in the existing insulation. Seal the holes by stapling a piece of plastic sheeting over them and caulking around the edges of the plastic.
    • Additional insulation can be blown into walls, and there are even options for insulating flat roofs, crawl spaces and floors.
  • Replace any broken window panes and repair any large holes in attics, crawlspaces, or basements.
  • Seal exposed ductwork. Ductwork sealing can help your system run more efficiently, and also ensures that heated or cooled air gets to where you want it to go. Instead of duct tape, use mastic (available at hardware stores) to seal ductwork. Mastic provides a better seal and lasts longer.
  • Replace older or loose fireplace dampers. Have a sheet-metal insert installed, which will prevent some heat loss and help reflect heat from the fireplace back into the room.
  • Consider converting your traditional fireplace to a more efficient pellet or wood-burning stove. Determine your payback time before investing.

Cyber Monday don’t let cyber grinch steal your passwords

On Cyber Monday, Don’t Let a Cyber Grinch Steal Your Holiday Spirit…Or Your Passwords

As bargain hunters take to the Web this Cyber Monday in search of holiday deals, the Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign reminds online shoppers to be wary of the cybersecurity risks of theft, fraud and abuse. While many businesses offer great deals during the holiday season, cyber criminals may try to take advantage of unsuspecting online shoppers.

Follow these simple steps to protect yourself and your personal information online – and remember: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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  • Pay close attention to website URLs. Pay attention to the URLs of websites you visit. Malicious websites sometimes use a variation in common spelling or a different domain (for example, .com instead of .net) to deceive unsuspecting computer users.
  • Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with https:// orshttp:// , which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. http:// is not secure.
  • Use a credit card – There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, and you may not have the same level of protection when using your debit card.
  • Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
  • Check privacy policies – Before providing personal or financial information, check the website’s privacy policy.
  • As always, keep your operating system, browser, anti-virus and other critical software up to date. Security updates and patches are available for free from major companies.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. For more basic tips to stay safe while shopping online, visitwww.dhs.gov/files/cybersecurity.shtm.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “On Cyber Monday, Don’t Let a Cyber Grinch Steal Your Holiday Spirit…Or Your Passwords.” For more information, please visit www.dhs.gov.

Severe winter weather can cause many problems

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Severe winter weather can cause many problems. Winter weather can arrive in many forms:

snow, ice, rain, blizzards, and high winds. Many times it is a combination of any of these.

Properly preparing for winter weather can reduce the possibility of a loss to your building or

your business.

The following points should be checked prior to and/or during severe winter weather to prevent

winter losses:

Building Structure and Equipment

_Arrangements made for snow removal from driveways, sidewalks and walkways

_Snow removal equipment in good condition

_All openings weather tight, insulation adequate, roof drains open

_Idle equipment (air tanks, lines, etc.) drained, lubricated as needed

_Excessive snow loads removed from roofs to prevent collapse

_Building temperatures monitored frequently especially at night or on particularly cold weather

_Make sure any equipment containing water, or has water in it or running through it, is properly drained

_Accumulations of ice, snow cleared from hydrants, driveways, sprinkler control valves, hose cabinets

and other essential equipment to allow effective fire suppression

Protective Systems

_All areas with wet pipe sprinklers, dry pipe valve enclosures and pump houses adequately heated

_Anti-freeze solutions in systems checked for proper concentration

_Fire department connection and fire hose properly drained

_All areas of the building heated sufficiently to prevent sprinkler system from freezing

Heating Equipment

_Insulation on piping adequate and in good condition to prevent freezing

_All heating equipment in good repair and properly maintained

_Chimneys, smoke pipes, and flues in good condition and cleaned

_Adequate clearance to combustible building materials, stock, etc

Fire Extinguishers

_All units properly charged and serviced

_Fire extinguishers protected from the cold

_Extinguishers clear and unobstructed

Snow Removal By Sub-Contractors

_Obtain certificates of insurance, check for adequate insurance limits

_If possible, name company as an additional insured under the subs’ insurance policy

_Determine exactly the services they will provide

_Decide on when they will respond (certain amount of snowfall, predetermined time)

_Determine best placement of snow by the sub-contractor

Emergency Preparedness Program

_Employees notified of emergency closing (phone tree, radio)

_Plan in place to maintain necessary business and building functions

_Essential personnel designated to remain in building

Remember to always inspect your building, equipment, and grounds after a storm. Look for

damage and initiate repairs as soon as possible to prevent any further damage. Evaluate your

winter storm procedures to see if they were successful, and accomplished everything anticipated.

If not, make the necessary changes. We can’t do anything about the weather, but we

can take steps to prepare for it.

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If Caught In A Winter Storm

13Jan / 2015

If Caught In A Winter Storm

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-icon-winter-girlOutside

Find shelter:

  • Try to stay dry.
  • Cover all exposed body parts.|

No shelter:

  • Build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind.
  • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
  • Place rocks around the fi re to absorb and reflect heat. Melt snow for drinking water: • Eating snow will lower your body temperature.

In a Vehicle

Stay in vehicle:

  • You will become quickly disoriented in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
  • Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.

Be visible to rescuers:

  • Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine.
  • Tie a colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.
  • After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.

Exercise:

  • From time to time, move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

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Stay inside:

  • When using alternate heat from a fi replace, wood stove, space heater, etc., use fire safeguards and properly ventilate.

No heat:

  • Close off unneeded rooms.
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
  • Cover windows at night.
  • Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chill.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Winter Storms: Deceptive Killers.” For more information, please visit www.nws.noaa.gov.

Be Prepared: Winter Storms Are Deceptive Killers!

Be Prepared: Winter Storms Are Deceptive Killers!

rain-snow-fb-window-pain-fbAt home and work primary concerns are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.

At Home:

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Flashlight and extra batteries.

Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information. These may be your only links to the outside.

Extra food and water. Have high energy food, such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.

Extra medicine and baby items.

First-aid supplies.

Heating fuel. Refuel before you are empty. Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm.

Emergency heat source: fireplace, wood stove, space heater.

  • Use properly to prevent a fire.
  • Ventilate properly.

Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm.

  • Test smoke alarms once a month to ensure they work properly. Make sure pets have plenty of food, water and shelter.

In Vehicles

safe_winter_driving-shutterstock_91827941Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm!

Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.

Carry a Winter Survival Kit:

  • Mobile phone, charger, batteries
  • Blankets/sleeping bags
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Knife
  • High-calorie, non-perishable food
  • Extra clothing to keep dry
  • Large empty can to use as emergency toilet. Tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
  • Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
  • Sack of sand or cat litter for traction
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Tool kit
  • Tow rope
  • Battery booster cables
  • Water container
  • Compass and road maps. Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Avoid traveling alone. Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Winter Storms: Deceptive Killers.” For more information, please visit www.nws.noaa.gov.

Protect Your Workplace: Learn All About Suspicious Packages

12Jan / 2015

Protect Your Workplace: Learn All About Suspicious Packages

suspicious-package-fb-shutterstock_127934030Do you know the warning signs of a potentially dangerous letter or package? And what to do if you come across one?

You can find out in just a few minutes, thanks to a newly revised“Suspicious Mail or Packages” poster developed through the joint efforts of four federal agencies—the Department of Homeland Security; the U.S. Postal Service and its Postal Inspection Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the FBI.

Why the update? Before, three of our agencies were using similar but slightly different posters. To get all of the agencies on the same page—figuratively and literally—the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service spearheaded a campaign to have the single, identical poster we’re now making available to the public.

So what’s our collected advice?

First, be suspicious if you come across mail/packages with:

  • Protruding wires or strange odors;
  • Excessive tape or string;
  • Oily spots, discolorations, or crystallization on the wrapper;
  • Excessive postage;
  • Addressing mistakes and issues, including misspelled words, badly typed or written addresses, wrong titles with names, no return addresses, etc.

Second, if you do see one or more of these tell-tale signs, you should:

  • Stop…don’t handle the item;
  • Isolate it immediately;
  • Don’t open, smell, or taste it;
  • Activate your emergency plan and notify a supervisor.

Please take the time to read the poster for all the details. A few minutes of your time now might just save you or a co-worker from future harm. You can also pick up a free hard copy at your local post office.

For more workplace security posters, see the “Protect Your Workplace” campaign materials posted on the Department of Homeland Security website.

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Protect Your Workplace: Learn All About Suspicious Packages.” For more information, please visit www.fbi.gov

Traveling This Thanksgiving? Stay Safe On The Road

Traveling This Thanksgiving? Stay Safe On The Road

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Many people will travel to visit loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday and the American Red Cross has travel tips holiday travelers can follow to arrive safely at their destination.

ON THE ROAD Most holiday travelers get to where they are going by car. To arrive safely, the Red Cross recommends these safety steps for travelers who will drive to visit their loved ones this Thanksgiving:

  • Make sure the vehicle is in good working order.
  • Start out with a full tank of gas, check the tire air pressure and make sure the windshield fluid is full.
  • Buckle up, slow down, don’t drive impaired. Designate a driver who won’t drink.
  • Be well rested and alert.
  • Use caution in work zones.
  • Give one’s full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Observe speed limits – driving too fast or too slow can increase the chance of being in a collision.
  • Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If the driver is tired, stop and get some rest.
  • Be respectful of other motorists and follow the rules of the road.
  • Don’t follow another vehicle too closely.
  • Clean the vehicle’s headlights, taillights, signal lights and windows.
  • Turn the headlights on as dusk approaches, or if using windshield wipers due to inclement weather.
  • Don’t overdrive the headlights.
  • If car trouble develops, pull off the road as far as possible.

It’s also recommended to keep an emergency preparedness kit in the vehicle. Useful items include water, snacks, a flashlight, first aid kit, extra cash and blankets.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “Travel Safely During Thanksgiving Holiday.” For more information, please visit www.redcross.org.

Product Safety Tips for Turkey Fryers

Product Safety Tips for Turkey Fryers

Turkey fryers

UL considers turkey fryers to be dangerous to use presenting numerous safety hazards to consumers. “We’re worried by the increasing reports of fires related with turkey fryer use,” says John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager of UL. “Based on our test findings, the fryers used to produce those great-tasting birds are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, UL has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL Mark.”

Turkey fryer hazards

  • Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil from the cooking pot.
  • If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
  • Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too may result in an extensive fire.
  • With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • The lid and handles on the sides of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

turkey_fryer_shutterstock_757893Important safety information

If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, please use the following tips.

  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
  • The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Product Safety Tips.” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.