Fall is Here!
Source: Esurance blog
Preparing Your Home for Winter: 8 Fall Maintenance Hacks for Cold-Weather Comfort
We all look forward to fall’s festivities. But taking the time to prepare your home for winter (before it arrives) can help ensure you’re cozying up by the fireside — worry-free — once cold weather rolls around. Find out how with these 8 simple hacks.
Ahhh, fall is finally here! The leaves are changing, there’s a crisp coolness in the air, and our favorite pumpkin-flavored treats line store shelves once more. Decorating and meal-prepping might be the first things on your mind when it comes to preparing your home for the colder months — but the National Weather Service is predicting strong winter storms that could affect homeowners across the country this year.
Here are 8 important fall maintenance tips that can make all the difference once winter’s first freeze hits.
- Clear out your gutters
All those colorful leaves falling from the trees sure are pretty — but they also pile up quickly in your home’s gutters.
Excess debris can lead to clogs (or ice dams in wintery conditions), which can prevent gutters from draining properly. In turn, there’s a chance water could seep into your home since it has nowhere else to escape to, causing a multitude of issues like damage to your valuables, mold growth, and even structural rot.
Before winter hits, clear your house’s gutters of leaves and any other debris that might’ve accumulated during the summer months. It also helps to run water through the gutters afterward to check for any leaks or misalignments that could damage your home.
- Inspect for air leaks
things like damaged weather stripping and small cracks in your home’s structure allow warm air to escape, causing your heater to go into overdrive to keep your place warm.
The solution to your chilly house and high utility bills is simple: before it gets wintery outside, inspect your home’s windows, doorways, and any other places where air might be able to enter or exit.
You can use caulking to stop leaks in the stationary components of your home (like a crack in your doorframe) and weather stripping to insulate the moving components (like windows and doors).
- Have your heating system checked
Home just doesn’t feel like home if a malfunctioning heater is leaving you with the chills. And in parts of the country with freezing temps, it can be a much more serious situation.
That’s why it’s wise to have a licensed contractor come out to inspect your heater at least once a year, especially before the weather outside becomes frightful.
- Prepare your pipes
Get to know where the pipelines in your house are located and make sure to inspect them every autumn (at least).
Simply patch any small leaks with heat tape to help reduce weaknesses that might cause the pipe to burst in freezing weather. And you can further protect any exposed outdoor pipes by insulating them with foam or rubber pipe wraps, which can be found at your local hardware store.
For larger leaks or pipeline problems, it’s always a good idea to play it safe and call the pros.
- Drain any outside faucets and irrigation systems
Speaking of bursting pipes, it’s important to pay attention to the water systems immediately outside your place too. Undrained water in outdoor faucets and irrigation systems can expand when frozen and cause a pipe to burst.
Draining faucets is simple enough: just pack away your garden hoses in the garage for the winter and let out any remaining water — easy as that!
Irrigation systems, on the other hand, often vary in the way they should be maintained. It’s best to call a professional who has experience with underground water systems, just to cover all your bases.
- Have your roof inspected
For your safety, a full-blown roof inspection should be done professionally. The cost to hire an inspector can be as low as a little over $200 and can prevent seriously hefty repair expenses down the line if a winter storm wreaks havoc on your roof and you don’t have sufficient insurance coverage to cover repair costs.
Reinforcing your roof now can help you avoid a whole host of hazards, like air and water leaks, water damage, mold, and more — all of which could put a damper on your seasonal festivities (and your wallet).
- Restock cold-weather home essentials
Key items like rock salt or kitty litter, snow shovels, space heaters, extra batteries, and heated blankets can help make your home both more functional and comfortable during wintertime. Stock up on these helpful winter wares ahead of time to help avoid any extra hassle or stress come holiday season.
- Peek at your homeowner’s insurance
Believe it or not, your homeowners policy could come to the rescue for a whole host of cold-weather mishaps.
Whether a hailstorm leaves holes in your roof, a vandal breaks into your home and destroys valuables while you’re out holiday shopping, or the weight of snow and ice results in structural damage to your house, homeowner’s insurance could help pay to repair or replace your losses.
How to Save on Heating Costs
Any season is a good season to save energy costs. With winter approaching, however, it’s even more critical as prices for home heating fuel are as volatile as ever.
The strategies below will help you save energy, save money, and stay comfortable during the cool fall and cold winter months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.
If you haven't already, conduct an energy audit to find out where you can save the most, and consider making a larger investment for long-term energy savings.
Also check out no-cost and low-cost tips to save energy during the spring and summer.
Take Advantage of Heat from the Sun
- Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
- Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
- Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
- Find out about other window treatments and coverings that can improve energy efficiency.
- When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
- When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills. A smart or programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature.
- If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.
- Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
- Find out how to detect air leaks.
- Learn more about air sealing new and existing homes.
- Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.
- Find out how to select and apply the appropriate caulk and weatherstripping.Maintain Your Heating Systems
- Wood- and Pellet-Burning Heaters: Clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently. Find other maintenance recommendations for wood- and pellet-burning appliances.
- Reduce Heat Loss from the Fireplace
- Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
- When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly--approximately 1 inch--and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F.
- If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
- If you do use the fireplace, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
- Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
- Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.
- Lower Your Water Heating Costs
- Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands. Find other strategies for energy-efficient water heating.
- Lower Your Holiday Lighting Costs
- Use light-emitting diode -- or "LED" -- holiday light strings to reduce the cost of decorating your home for the winter holidays. Learn about the advantages and potential cost savings of LED holiday light strings. Find manufacturers and brands of ENERGY STAR® certified decorative light strings.
- Source: https://energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips
Time To Fall Back!
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ENDS
Daylight Saving Time Ends is on the first Sunday in November at 2:00 AM.
Daylight saving time (DST) or summer time is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months so that people get up earlier in the morning and experience more daylight in the evening. Typically, users of DST adjust clocks forward one hour near the start of spring and change them backward in the autumn.
The practice has received both advocacy and criticism. Putting clocks forward benefits retail business, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but can cause problems for evening entertainment and other activities tied to the sun (such as farming) or darkness (such as fireworks shows). Although some early proponents of DST aimed to reduce evening use of incandescent lighting (formerly a primary use of electricity, modern heating and cooling), usage patterns differ greatly, and research about how DST currently affects energy use is limited or contradictory.
Problems sometimes caused by DST clock shifts include: they complicate timekeeping, and can disrupt meetings, travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment, and sleep patterns. Software can often adjust computer clocks automatically, but this can be limited and error-prone, particularly when various jurisdictions change the dates and timings of DST changes.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Make sure to turn back your clocks. Use #DaylightSavingTimeEnds or #FallBack to post on social media.
The New Zealander George Vernon Hudson proposed the modern idea of daylight saving in 1895. Germany and Austria-Hungary organized the first implementation, starting on 30 April 1916. Many countries have used it at various times since then, particularly since the energy crisis of the 1970s.
How are Hurricanes Named
Some of the most notorious villains in American history are known by only one name. From Betsy and Camille to Katrina, Ike and Sandy, their legacies are so etched into our collective memory that it only takes a few syllables to recall the terrible days these hurricanes made landfall.
But where do hurricane names come from? Why do we give human names to violent, mindless masses of water and wind? And how do we all agree which name to use? The practice dates back to the 1950s, although people have been naming tropical cyclones for centuries.
Before the 1940s, only the worst storms were given names, usually based on the place or time of year they made landfall: There was the Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893, the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the Miami Hurricane of 1926 and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, to name a few. Scientists and forecasters often assigned unofficial numbers to tropical cyclones — Tropical Storm One, Hurricane Two, etc. — but the practice of using more memorable and relatable names didn't begin until 1950.
That was the first year when Atlantic tropical cyclones received official names, although they still weren't human ones. These initial names were taken from the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet, so the 1950 season featured such bizarrely named storms as Hurricane Dog, Hurricane Easy, Hurricane Jig, Hurricane Item and Hurricane Love. There was also a Tropical Storm How in early October.
This tradition continued for two years, but it had a glaring flaw: The same list of names was recycled every year, so the 1950-'52 seasons each featured a Hurricane Able through at least Hurricane Fox. That became confusing, so in 1953 the U.S. National Hurricane Center began using female human names, which proved far more successful. Not only did it make storm identification easier, but it helped authorities and news outlets spread warnings — and helped the public pay attention to them.
"[N]ames are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms," the World Meteorological Organization explains on its website. "Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness."
The first hurricane names were often inspired by forecasters' wives, but in 1979 men's names were added to the mix. The WMO now oversees the master list of names, which alternates between male and female; six lists are rotated annually in the Atlantic, so the 2015 names will be used again in 2021. But when a cyclone is bad enough, its name can be retired to honor victims and survivors. Seventy-eight Atlantic hurricane names have been retired since 1954, including 29 since 2000. Among the most infamous retired hurricane names are Audrey (1957), Betsy (1965), Camille (1969), Hugo (1989), Andrew (1992), Ivan (2004), Katrina (2005), Ike (2008), Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012).
Here are the names for the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30:
The season for tropical cyclones in the Pacific Ocean is generally the same, although it officially begins May 15 in the Eastern Pacific. Naming Pacific cyclones is often more complex than in the Atlantic, with different lists for the Eastern, Central and Western Pacific, as well as for Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the North Indian Ocean and the Southwest Indian Ocean. See the NHC's list of Pacific storm names and the WMO's guide to tropical cyclone naming for more info.
What To Do After a Flood
AFTER A FLOOD
- Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede. If you are evacuated, monitor radio or television news reports and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so
- Monitor local radio or TV or contact your local emergency management agency for special information about where to go to get assistance for housing, clothing, and food. Programs are available to help you cope with the stress of the disaster.
- Use extreme care in areas of downed power lines or natural gas leaks. Wear adequate footwear to avoid cuts from broken glass or nails protruding from the boards
- If driving, be alert for hazards on the roadway
- Check for injured victims. Render first aid if necessary. Do not attempt to move severely injured victims unless absolutely necessary. Wait for emergency medical assistance to arrive.
- When you are allowed to return, remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance
- Stay alert in areas where flood water have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of the a vehicle. NEVER cross a flooded road or bridge in your vehicle
- Stay out of buildings that remain in the flood waters.
- Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. When entering buildings, use extreme caution. If your home was damaged, check the utilities.
- Look for fire hazards
- Do not let children play in or near flood waters, flooded creeks or flood retention ponds. Swift water currents could sweep them away. Avoid coming into contact with the flood waters. The water may be contained with oil, gasoline or raw sewage. Do not wade through the flooded stream to protect or retrieve belongings.
- Consider your family's health and safety. Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with flood waters. Listen for new reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
- Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters, including canned goods.
- Pump out flooded basements gradually, about one-third of the water per day, to avoid structural damage.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits an leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewer systems pose a health hazard.
- do not make unnecessary telephone calls.
- Take photos or video of the damage to your home and property, and report it to the local emergency management agency.
- if unaffected by the flood, stay out of the area until local officials allow entry. Your presence may hamper emergency operations.
What To Do During A Flood
Lake County Had severe flooding causing a sink hole!
During a Flood
- Monitor the radio, television or Internet for the latest weather information and evacuation instructions.
- If advised to evacuate, do so quickly
- Evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters become too deep for ordinary vehicles
- Follow recommended evacuation routes. Short cuts may be blocked
- Move valuable household possessions to an upper floor or another location if flooding is imminent and time permits.
- If instructed to do so by local authorities, turn off utilities at their source.
- Many people have lost their lives by attempting to drive over flooded roadways. The sped and depth of the water is not always obvious. There may be hidden portion of the roadway washed out under the water. Two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.
- You should have your emergency kit available in case you lose power
What to do before a flood
BEFORE A FLOOD
- Fourteen people died as a result of driving across flooded roads in 2015, 11 of whom perished during the major flood in late December. This was the highest annual number of flood fatalities since records have been kept.
- Prolonged flooding from creeks and rivers and flash flooding from rain swollen roads and waterways are dangers that too many people ignore, sometimes with fatal consequences. Many flood-related rescues, injuries and fatalities have been the result of people in vehicles attempting to drive across flooded roads.
- The most dangerous type of flooding is a flash flood. Flash floods can sweep away everything in their path.
- Most flash floods are caused by slow-moving thunderstorms and occur most frequently at night. The peak time for flash flooding in Illinois is at night.
- Flooding was a factor in 48 deaths across Illinois since 1995. This is more than the number of people killed by tornadoes during the same period. Most of these flood fatalities involved people in vehicles trying to cross flooded roads.
Before a Flood
- Know the terms used to describe flood threats:
Flood Watch: This means flooding or flash flooding is possible. Be extremely cautious when driving, especially at night. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or commercial television for additional information.
Flood Warning: This means flooding is occurring or will occur soon and is expected to occur for several days or weeks. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Flash Flood Warning: This means a flash flood is occurring or is imminent. Many smartphones automatically receive flash flood warnings to alert you about flash flooding nearby, even if you are traveling. Flash flooding occurs very quickly, so take action immediately. NEVER drive across a flooded road, especially if the road is closed by barricades.
- Purchase a weather alert radio with a battery backup, a tone-alert feature and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology that automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued for your county. Know the name of the county you live in and the counties you travel through.
- It is critical that someone at home, work or wherever people gather monitors weather
conditions, regardless of the time of day. Monitor watches, warnings and advisories in your area using a weather alert radio, cell phone app, local TV, local radio or the Internet. If it is safe to do so, contact family members and friends when you become aware of a flooding situation that may threaten them.
- Check the weather forecast before leaving for extended outdoor periods and postpone plans if flooding is imminent or occurring.
- Make sure family members and friends know how to stay safe.
- Maintain an emergency supply kit. This kit will help your family cope during extended power outages. See page 10 for information on assembling your kit.
- Keep all of your important records and documents in a safe deposit box or another safe place away from the premises.
- Insure your property and possessions. Make an inventory of your possessions using paper
lists, photographs and/or videotapes of your belongings. Give a copy to your insurance company. Update your inventory and review your coverage with your insurance company periodically.
- Consider purchasing flood insurance. Flood losses are not covered under homeowners
insurance policies. Flood insurance is available in most communities through the National
Flood Insurance Program. There is usually a period before it takes effect, so don’t delay.
Flood insurance is available whether the building is in or out of the identified flood-prone
area. Call your insurance company for more information.
- Know how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves. Know where
gas pilots are located and how the heating system works.
- Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing
up in sewer drains. As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs or basins.
- consider measures for flood proofing your home. Call your local building department or
emergency management agency for information.
Dryer Fire Safety Tips
Clothes dryer fire safety outreach materials
Facts about home clothes dryer fires
- 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.
- The leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is failure to clean them (34 percent).
- More home clothes dryer fires occur in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.
Clothes dryer fire safety messages
It is important for community residents to know the steps they can take to stay safe from fire. Put these fire safety messages into your own words when talking to people about clothes dryer fire safety.
Clothes dryer do’s
- Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
- Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
- Read manufacturers' instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.
- Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
- Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
- Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.
- Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
- Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
- Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
- Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
- Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
- Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
- Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
- If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
Clothes dryer don’ts
- Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
- Don’t overload the dryer.
- Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
- Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
- Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers' instructions state “dry away from heat.”
- Don’t dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers' instructions allow).
- Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
- Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.
Emergency Safety Kit
EMERGENCY SAFETY KIT
A disaster of any kind may interfere with normal supplies of food, water, heat and other day-to-day necessities. It is important to keep a stock of emergency supplies on hand that will be sufficient to meet your family’s needs for at least a three-day period.
It is important to update your kit regularly. You should replace the water supply and any food that may have reached its use-by or expiration date. An easy way to remember is to use Daylight Savings Time, so that when you change your clocks, you also update your kits.
An emergency supply kit should include the following:
- A battery-powered radio, weather alert radio and flashlights, with extra batteries
- Bottled drinking water: one gallon per day per person with at least a three-day supply for each person in your household
- At least a three-day supply of canned or sealed foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking
- First-aid kit and manual
- Non-electric can opener and utility knife
- Mess kits or other basic eating and cooking utensils
- Paper towels, toilet paper, soap and detergent
- Household laundry bleach (unscented)
- A blanket or sleeping bag for each member of the family
- One change of clothing and footwear per person
- Fire extinguisher
- Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
- Signal flare, matches and whistle
- Cell phone and car charger
- An extra set of car keys, credit card and cash
- A list of family physicians
- Medications or special foods needed by family members, such as insulin, heart medication, dietetic food and baby food. Do not store these items in your kit for a long period of time but add at the last minute.
- If needed, formula, diapers and bottles
- Denture needs, extra eye glasses and contact lens supplies
- You can store additional water by filling bathtubs and sinks with water if an emergency is declared. Clean water is also available in toilet tanks, presuming chemicals and other cleaning agents are not used in the water tank.
If you have pets, include the following items in your kit:
- Identification collar and rabies tag
- Pet carrier or cage
- Newspaper, litter and trash bags for waste
- Two-week supply of food and water
- Veterinary records (necessary if your pet has to go to a shelter)
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. Other sources include contaminated air, water and soil. Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations or work in auto repair shops also might be exposed to lead.
There is treatment for lead poisoning, but taking some simple precautions can help protect you and your family from lead exposure before harm is done.
Lead-based paints for homes, children's toys and household furniture have been banned in the United States since 1978. But lead-based paint is still on walls and woodwork in many older homes and apartments. Most lead poisoning in children results from eating chips of deteriorating lead-based paint.
Water pipes and imported canned goods:
Lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes soldered with lead can release lead particles into tap water. Lead solder in food cans, banned in the United States, is still used in some countries.
Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults might include:
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
- Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women
For more information regarding lead poisoning please go to