Show Notes: Holiday Home Safe and Sound – On the House

Show Notes: Holiday Home Safe and Sound

By on November 28, 2015
Tips on Hanging Christmas Lights

The holiday countdown has begun. James and Morris will get you in tune with  home safety, winter weather preparation, and cleaning tips.


If you read our Family Handyman article about Snap Power and would like to purchase them for your home:

BTW, These would make the perfect stocking stuffer!


Caring For Your New Holiday Poinsettia

When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home

Light – Place it near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable to a north facing window. Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.

Heat – To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window ca injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. If you’ve ever see a gangly poinsettia in bloom, with only a couple of sad looking leaves hanging on, it was probably exposed to temperatures that were too cool or extreme shifts in temperature. 

Water – Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water. Wilting is another common cause of leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived and salvaged, but it will take another season to improve its appearance.

Humidity – Lack of humidity during dry seasons, in particular winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem.

If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly every day.


Holiday Cleaning Tip

Extra Sparkle In Your Stainless Steel Sink?

Baking soda makes a great stainless steel sink cleaner because it’s abrasive enough to scrub away light hard water deposits and stuck-on grease and food, but not so abrasive as to scratch shiny stainless steel fixtures like faucets. You can then rinse the sink with vinegar, which will bubble and fizz. Vinegar naturally disinfects while helping remove hard water stains from your stainless steel sink.

Club soda will do the sparkle trick as well. After placing the stopper in your sink, pour some club soda in and rub with a soft cloth. As always, dry with a soft cloth to prevent water spots and surface rust.

Use flour power to polish your sink by applying dry flour when the look you’re after is a gleaming finish. Rub the flour in with a soft cloth, and then rinse and dry.


Holiday or Anytime Home Security

Beyond being issuing an open invitation to intruders by leaving things unlocked, some homeowners often make things even more inviting by providing shrubbery to conceal actions and the cover of darkness to work within. These homeowners should be listed as accomplices to the crimes that befall their homes since they do everything possible to assist in the crime.

In contrast, a few simple guidelines can make your home as tight as the proverbial bug in a rug, affording you greater safety and while you are home and when you’re away:

  • Check all windows and door locks, upgrading where possible. Then use these simple protections — always
  • Add a heavy-duty security storm door to outside doors and toughen up sliding patio doors with pin-locks and crossbars to deter forced opening.
  • Trim back any shrubbery and bushes near windows and doors that might provide cover for a burglar’s work-in-process.
  • Add outdoor security lighting with a motion detector on/off control.
  • Add metal security bars over windows and doors in high-risk areas, such as basement windows. Make sure that these bars have quick-release safety latches for those inside.
  • Never hide a house key in an obvious location. Even amateurs know most favorites, like under mats, in flower pots, and inside fake rocks.
  • Close drapes and shades when you’re out to prevent looky-loo’s.
  • Always watch for unusual activity and new faces near your home.

Even first time burglars-in-training know it’s better to hit an empty house than to break in and possibly contend with a gun-toting, professional wrestler-sized, teamster-tough, angered homeowner.

Even greenhorn thieves know to look for tell-tale signs that the owners are away. They know the difference between your spending an evening at Jane’s versus having left the country for a three-week African safari. What do they look for? First and foremost is a home that is dark, quiet, and appears to be unoccupied at the moment.

The best way to fool them? Make it look like you’re home! Use the following tips to scare off potential invaders:

  • Use timers in different rooms to turn lights on and off.
  • Have others turn the TV or radio on and off at normal hours as well.
  • Leave a car parked in the driveway. It says: Somebody’s home.
  • Have a friend or neighbor pick up mail and newspapers until you return. As an alternative, stop all mail and newspaper deliveries until you return.
  • Never, ever change the message on your answering machine to proudly announce something like “The Wilson’s are off to Hawaii. See ya’ll in three weeks! Aloha!” You may as well be there to help crooks load their truck with your belongings.
  • Arrange to have the lawn mowed. In winter, keep snow on front porches, sidewalks, and driveways shoveled.

In addition, consider the following before leaving on an extended trip:

  • Hide all valuables in unlikely places, like the freezer or empty boxes and cans in kitchen cabinets.
  • Make sure a neighbor has your itinerary and phone numbers to contact you in the event of an emergency.


Water Heater Cool Down

The furnace isn’t the only place to save by turning down the temperature. Many water heaters are set to 140 degrees, which can actually be dangerous and cause scalding. Simply lowering the temperature 20 degrees can save you $36 to $61 annually***. This will also slow mineral buildup and corrosion in the water heater and pipes, saving significant money in the long run by preserving the life of your unit.


Humidifier, Dehumidifier — Which Do You Need?

Too dry in winter, too damp in summer … does this describe the air in your house? The ideal relative humidity inside the home is 30-60 percent, depending on the season. You can measure it with a device called a hydrometer. In winter, use of your heating system is likely to bring the humidity down to 30-40 percent, while in summer, it may rise as high as 60 percent. When relative humidity sinks below 30, a humidifier (which adds moisture to the air) will make your family more comfortable, while a dehumidifier (which extracts moisture) will do the trick if it’s over 50. You may well need both a humidifier and a dehumidifier on hand, using one or the other according to the time of year.

Relative Humidity and Human Health

Human health is often affected by extremes of relative humidity in the atmosphere, causing symptoms which may be alleviated by mechanical means to adjust the humidity level up or down.

If the air in your home lacks enough moisture, dry skin or other forms of dermatitis (chapped lips, peeling or itchy skin, eczema, and other rashes) might be the first sign that you need a humidifier. For symptoms such as congestion, dry sinuses, nosebleeds, sore throat, or persistent cough, your physician may well recommend humidifying the patient’s room to lubricate irritated breathing passages.

Overly moist air can exacerbate asthma and allergy symptoms. In the summer, your air conditioning system should sufficiently dehumidify the air, but you could need a dehumidifier in spring and fall when you’re not operating your HVAC.

Relative Humidity and Your Home

When your home is too dry, natural materials such as wood or leather are especially affected. Use a humidifier to bring the relative humidity up to 40 percent and prevent cracking of leather furniture or musical instruments, as well as loosening of windowpanes in wooden frames.

An excess of moisture fosters mold and mildew development, especially in small, poorly vented, or underground spaces, such as bathrooms, showers, finished basements or cellars, laundry rooms, and the area under the sink. The first indications of dampness may be wet stains, window condensation, musty smell, or rotting wood. Use a dehumidifier to alleviate the problem, but you must also find the source, repair it, and apply anti-mold paint. In mild climates like Florida’s, dehumidifiers are also useful for limiting the growth of silverfish, cockroaches, and dust mites.–Which_Do_You_Need.html#UxzTRizIBzL1sVbf.99



November and December are traditionally among the busiest of months for travel, primarily due to holiday gatherings in far away places. In addition, retirees find themselves seeking a warmer climate to ease their aching bones. In either case, whether leaving your home for a long Thanksgiving weekend or for an extended season of sunshine, there are steps that you can take that will minimize the risk of damage to hour home when your not there.

All those little hoses and lines — in the kitchen, bathroom, or utility room — that bring water to your sinks, toilet, and washing machine are also potential floods in the rooms they serve. They create a messy problem if they break while you’re at home. They spell disaster if you’re out for the day and a catastrophe if you’re gone for weeks — or months!

Turn off the water supply valves to each water-fueled fixture in the home. This provides iron-clad flood insurance (at least for these items) for as long as you intend to be away — up to and including a year long around the world cruise.

Check the rubber hoses leading to your washing machine periodically and especially before leaving on a trip. If they feel brittle, it’s time for replacement. Never thought about it, you say? We guarantee you will — one day, when they burst, and they surely will, sooner or later. Even when you’re home, one should always keep these hoses fresh to prevent problems. You can reduce risk even further by upgrading hoses with an outer covering of braided stainless steel.

The same thinking goes for the small water leads to your kitchen and bathroom sinks and toilets. Over a period of time, these small lines (often only lightweight metals) can corrode due to natural electrolysis and may develop pin-hole sized leaks that can wet down a room in minutes. If this happens at your house, want to bet when that will be? We’re guessing that it’s while you’re away in Hawaii for a few weeks. Obviously, these water leads need frequent inspection to spot potential problems — and like their washing machine cousins, they too can be easily and inexpensively replaced or upgraded (again with stainless steel braid covered lines) for greater peace of mind.

  • If it uses water, turn off the supply.
  • If it uses electricity, unplug it.
  • If it uses energy, turn it down, turn it up or turn it off.
  • If it burns fuel, remove the ignition source.
  • Turn down the furnace — or turn up the air conditioner thermostat.
  • Lower the water heater temperature setting.
  • Turn off all washing machine water hoses and sink/toilet water leads.
  • Unplug all electronics and appliances. Resetting clocks is easier than replacement or a possible malfunction that results in a fire.

Think a burst pipe can cause chaos? Try having your home broken into while you are away. According to law enforcement statistics, over 50 percent of all break-ins are simply crimes of opportunity. These are situations where intruders are virtually invited in by unlocked windows and doors.


Are You Ready foe Winter Weather?

Get ready for the cold temps, mud, ice and snow with a few friendly suggestions that keep everything you need at hand.

Make sure your snow blower works. If you live in an area where you can expect a lot of snow over winter, your best bet is to make sure your snow blower starts and works properly before the first snow. My neighbor was outside shoveling because he meant to fix and test his snow blower all fall, but before he knew it inches of snow were falling!

Keep your shovel, salt and de-icer close at hand Keeping your most useful winter tools within easy reach makes the burden of moving snow and salting walks much more bearable. Consider wall tool hooks for your shovels, and keep salt, ice melt and scoops nearby. That brings everything off your garage floor, keeping your space neat and organized.

Move freezable fluids indoors

It’s best not to let supplies such as glue, liquid weed killer, paints, stains, finishes and spray cans of any sort freeze, so you’ll want to move them inside if you know it’s going to get cold in your area during the winter months. I’ve heard of some people storing their supplies in a closed cabinet with a lightbulb on inside of it all winter, covering it with a blanket to keep everything warm – but why waste the energy? Just move it all to your basement.

Don’t track the outside in

For attached garages, consider creating a small mud space so you don’t track mud, salt and snow into your home and onto your floors. A landing pad is a great spot to let your boots dry, and can also put up hooks next to it to hang coats and scarves.


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