Show Notes: Holiday Helpers – On the House

Show Notes: Holiday Helpers

By on December 3, 2017
Fixing Christmas Lights

Getting ready to select your Christmas tree? Real or artificial? Things you may want to consider when making that choice. Did you know your tree may have bugs in it? How about some help to make tree lighting more energy efficient? We have all that and more………

Thank you to our guest; Mike Rivkin with Antiques Gallery of Palm Springs

for more information visit


Real Vs. Artificial Tree

 Christmas tree types (facts & comparison) – which should you buy?

 Did you know that the first artificial Christmas trees were actually made in the early 1930’s by a company called Addis Brush? They were in the business of making toilet scrubbers and brushes. So, the first fake trees were really nothing more than gigantic, green toilet bowl scrubbers. Imagine that! It’s pretty funny to think about now.

Since their invention, artificial trees have continued to gain widespread popularity. In 2007 alone, almost 18 million were sold here in the U.S. That should hardly be surprising especially in tough economic times. It’s commonly believed that buying an artificial Christmas tree saves money. You invest the money once, and use the tree year after year. Plus, you help the environment by saving a tree from being cut down.

So really, buying an artificial tree over a real one is a no brainer, right?

Well, not really. There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides of the “real” versus “fake” debate when it comes to Christmas trees. Let’s look at the various pros and cons so you can make the best decision for you and your family this holiday season.

1. One of the biggest advantages of using artificial trees is the cost savings. As I mentioned earlier, once you invest the money you’re done. You can use the tree year after year.

  1. Artificial trees are convenient. All you need to do is drag it out of your attic, basement or garage once a year and you’re good to go. It’s always that “perfect shape”, and you don’t have to worry about haggling with the Christmas tree lot salesman to get a good deal. The trees don’t need any watering and won’t scatter mounds of messy needles all over the floor.

The bad news is that there are a lot of disadvantages to using artificial Christmas trees, many of which you probably didn’t know about.

  1. Artificial trees are made from PVC plastic. Researchers believe that millions of artificial trees, especially older models, could be harboring lead, which can easily spread inside the home. Furthermore, PVC plastics release dioxins over time. These dioxins are extremely toxic to both humans and animals. When they’re released into the air or water, they’re stored in our fatty tissue and can cause cancer, neurological damage, and many other serious health issues.
  2. PVC is a petroleum-based, non-biodegradable plastic. Once you throw your artificial tree away, it’s going to be in the landfill forever. And because the plastic fibers are fused and glued to the metal frame, artificial trees can’t be recycled.
  3. Over 85% of all the artificial trees sold in the U.S. come from China. This not only adds to the carbon footprint, but it means we’re buying (yet again) more products from China instead of something that’s produced here in the U.S.
  4. Fake trees are a fire hazard. The Farmington Hills, MI fire department conducted a burn test to see which was more dangerous in a fire: an artificial tree or a real tree. Take a look at what happened. 

Since their invention, artificial trees have continued to gain widespread popularity. In 2007 alone, almost 18 million were sold here in the U.S. That should hardly be surprising especially in tough economic times. It’s commonly believed that buying an artificial Christmas tree saves money. You invest the money once, and use the tree year after year. Plus, you help the environment by saving a tree from being cut down.

So really, buying an artificial tree over a real one is a no brainer, right?

Well, not really. There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides of the “real” versus “fake” debate when it comes to Christmas trees. Let’s look at the various pros and cons so you can make the best decision for you and your family this holiday season.

Real Trees

1. According to the USDA, almost all of the real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. are grown by U.S. farmers. On average, 25-30 million real trees are sold each year. This helps employ over 100,000 workers right here at home in all 50 states where Christmas trees are grown.

  1. Right now, there are over 350 million Christmas trees growing here in the U.S. These trees help keep our air clean and also provide sheltered habitat for wildlife. And for every tree cut down, 1-3 trees are planted in its place in the Spring.
  2. Real trees make your home smell really, really good. There’s nothing better than walking into your home and smelling the fresh scent of balsam fir! If you’reentertaining guests at your house for the holidays, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.
  3. There are more than 4,000 Christmas Tree recycling programs around the U.S. Real trees can be easily recycled, unlike artificial trees.
  4. Going out to find your own tree is fun and helps toreduce and relieve holiday stress. Each tree is unique in its own way, and discovering your “perfect tree” is a great way to make memories with friends and family.

1. The biggest disadvantage to buying a real tree is, again, the cost. Most trees run $20-$70, and many top $200 or more. To make matters worse, this is an yearly expense since you need to buy a new tree every year.

  1. Real trees are high maintenance. They must be watered continuously, and will drop needles on the floor.


 6 Ho-Ho-Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle In December

 So down a big glass of eggnog, and take a swing through this short, painless checklist of tasks to tackle in December. We promise they’re so simple, you might just be done before you can sing the chorus to “Jingle Bells.”Protect your pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. The risk of frozen pipes is actually highest in southern climes, where colder temps are less common and pipes are less likely to have the insulation needed to protect them from bursting. (Temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit pose the greatest threat to pipes in unheated areas.)

Protect your pipes

You can guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents, and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. You should also keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight. And make sure you’ve drained all your exterior hoses—if you’re following our monthly maintenance checklists, you did this back in October. Nicely done!

In the event of an emergency, you should know where your main water shut-off is located; it’s usually in the crawlspace or basement, where your water supply enters your house, or inside a water meter box outside your home.

DIY:  If your pipes have indeed frozen, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe’s Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point; if none of the faucets work, the culprit is probably the main supply line.

Check all areas where supply lines enter your home, and feel the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it using a hand-held hair dryer. Another option: Wrap the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

 Give your oven some lovin’

Improperly sealed ovens can result in a loss of more than 20% of the machine’s heat, leading to longer cooking times, lost energy, and (most importantly) delayed gingerbread cookie gratification.

DIY: Check the seal around the oven door for breaks or cracks, and replace the seal for optimal oven performance. If you choose to tackle this yourself, be sure you disconnect power to the oven before digging in, and consult your manufacturer’s instructions to find the correct replacement part.

 Check your insulation

Improve the efficiency of your pad by checking your attic’s insulation—and save up to $600 a year in energy costs.

DIY: Examine the insulation in your attic to see whether it’s flattened or sagging.

“If the insulation is level with the attic floor joists, you should be in pretty good shape,” says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of “But if it’s below the joists, you’ll need to add more to make sure you keep the warm air in and the cold air out.”

 Suss out—and prevent—potential fire hazards

“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, you giant box of tinder.”  

It turns out that the gorgeous Douglas fir you’ve so painstakingly decorated could pose a huge fire risk. In fact, Christmas trees account for more than $13 million in property damage per year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association (yes, that’s a thing). Throw in Hanukkah candles, unswept chimneys, ancient space heaters, and faulty strings of lights, and you’ve got a recipe for holiday disaster.

DIY: If you can’t live without a live tree, be sure to keep it well-watered (seriously, do this every day). Keep it at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, turn your tree lights off at night, and toss damaged lights. (Extra credit: To save energy, use LED lights for your holiday decor. They use 80% to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours—as opposed to 3,000.)

Similar rules apply for space heaters: Keep them away from drapes or furniture, which could catch fire from direct contact and radiant heat; plug them into their own outlets (without extension cords); and never leave one running overnight.

Of course, other common sense precautions apply: Blow out all of those candy cane–scented candles before bed (or just use battery-operated ones), never use paper or flammable liquid to start a fire, and use a screen to keep embers where they belong.

 Prevent ice damming

Ice what-ing, you ask? It turns out, an ice dam—a ridge of frozen water that forms at the edge of your roof—is even more fearsome than the average run-of-the-mill icicle. Left untreated, ice dams can prevent water from running off your roof, resulting in leaks and damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.

DIY: Ice dams will begin to form if snow (and ice, obviously) builds up on your roof. So the easiest way to prevent a problem is to clear your roof of that white slush—pick up a snow rake, grab a ladder, and get to work. While you’re up there, trim any branches hanging over your roof: Under the weight of snow or during a windstorm, these can break and cause damage to your shingles. Finally, keep gutters clear of leaves and other debris so melting snow can flow freely.

 Get secure

The holidays are prime time for burglaries and break-ins (those daily Amazon Prime deliveries are just too tempting for package thieves). That’s why you should be extra-vigilant, especially as the days get shorter—and you head out of town or dance off to holiday parties.

DIY: Illuminate the area around your house, lock doors and windows, and trim bushes to deter intruders. You might also look into installing security cameras around your door.

“The six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are prime for packages being delivered to your home for the holidays,” says Emily Long of “That means burglars are more likely to swipe your packages if they are left outside.”

A security camera you can monitor with your smartphone allows you to have eyes on your home anytime, from anywhere.



Make Old Wood Windows Temporarily Energy Efficient

Poorly maintained and loose-fitting wood windows are like having a hole through the side of your house. If, however, they fit tightly, are well-maintained with weather stripping, and have properly fitting storm windows, they’re just as energy efficient as basic insulated glass windows. Really, nothing beats a modern double-pane or triple-pane window for energy efficiency—especially one equipped with an optical film that prevents excess heat buildup in the summer or heat loss in the winter. The best ones will cost you as much as $1,000 per window and require no maintenance other than cleaning. And even that is easy: Simply unlock the tilt-clean latch, tilt the window in, and clean both surfaces.


Energy Efficient Holiday Lighting Tips

 How to Decorate Your Home with Holiday Lights While Staying Energy Efficient

Everyone loves lighting up their homes for the holidays. Whether it’s inside your home along the fireplace, or on your front lawn decorating your trees and bushes, many love decking out their homes with all kinds of holiday lighting. However, what most people don’t love is the surge in their electricity bill after all the holiday cheer and lights are gone. When it comes to holiday lighting, the trick is to do it so that it’s both tasteful and energy efficient.

So we’ve gathered some tips to help you save on your electricity bill while still being in the holiday spirit!

Use LED Lights

It’s well known that incandescent lights use far more electricity than LED lights. That’s because incandescent light bulbs use more energy producing heat than it does light. This happens because the electricity heats up the bulb’s tungsten wire until it begins to glow and produce light. LEDs on the other hand, use solid state chips that use electroluminescence to convert about 90% of its electricity into light. There’s very little heat involved in this process so LEDs are coated in clear epoxy instead of glass. Because there’s so little heat, LEDs can last years.

How do LEDs compare with incandescent light?  

A regular 50 bulb incandescent mini light set costs $10.95 and will eat 20.4 watts. No more than 10 sets can be strung together (not to exceed 210 watts) so that gives you 500 lights using 210 watts/hour

A similar set of 50 LED minilights costs $9.99 and will use just 4.8 watts. You can also connect 43 sets together for a total of 206 watts. That gives you 2,150 lights using just 206 watts/hour.

Not only do LED lights give you more lights for less electricity, they also cost about $1 less now! Recycle those old incandescent light sets right away and get some new LED holiday lighting sets.

Set Timers For Your Lights

Now that you’ve set up a fantastic holiday LED lighting display, you’re probably not going to want to leave it on all night long. Particularly because in most neighborhoods, there’s not too many folks out and about at 2:30 ooh-ing and aaawwwing at the lighting displays. Also because you don’t want to pay for electricity that no one is using or admiring (kind of like leaving the lights on when you leave a room). Assuming your power needs are simple, you’ll want to connect the light strings to some sort of timer (15 amps is the most commonly sized rating). The types of timers range from simple, old fashioned mechanical to smart home integrated timers that you can set up and control with your smart device.


Bugs In Your Christmas Tree?

 Purchasing a real Christmas tree may be a big decision for many people, but fears of introducing unwanted and potentially harmful pests into the home via the tree are unwarranted.

Every Christmas tree can harbor insects, mites, or spiders. Some of these may remain on the tree into winter and could become active after being exposed to the warm temperatures inside the home. Although many will stay on the tree, a few may be attracted to sources of light, including windows. But, because they are associated with field-grown conifers, none of these accidental introductions are a threat to your home, its contents, or occupants.

Preventing introduction of these “pests” into your home is the best, and easiest, plan. Mechanical tree shakers, available at some retail lots, are useful in removing some insects from the trees. Vigorously shaking the tree before bringing it into your home will serve the same purpose, and will also remove any loose needles. Bird nests, although considered decorative by some people, may contain bird parasites such as mites and lice. They should be removed by hand if not dislodged by shaking. Any egg masses on the trees, including those of praying mantids and Gypsy moth, should also be removed.

Control of these temporary invaders should be limited to non-chemical means. Aerosol insect sprays are flammable and should NOT, under any circumstances, be sprayed on the Christmas tree. Insects occurring on the tree should be left there until the tree is removed. Any that collect on ceilings, walls, or windows can be eliminated with a vacuum cleaner. It is important to remember that these “critters” are normally found outdoors, on live trees. Warm temperatures, low humidity and lack of appropriate food conditions typical of most homes will usually kill these invaders in a short time.  


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