Summer has officially begun, and there are so many ways to enjoy it! Even if you’re staying close to home, you can still create magical memories with your loved ones. Life can seem to slow down during the summer, but that doesn’t mean you should let down your guard when it comes to staying safe. Here are 5 summer safety tips to keep in mind this season.
Summer is the season for breaking out the grill! Even though it’s a versatile cooking appliance, it’s definitely not a toy. In fact, July sees the highest number of grill fires. If you have a charcoal or gas grill, always use it outdoors. Toxic fumes can’t dissipate when cooking indoors or in a garage and can start a fire. Always place your grill on a flat, fire-proof surface that’s at least 10 feet away from your home. Depending on your setup, even grilling on a deck might not always be a wise idea. If you choose to do so, avoid grilling on upper-floor decks or ones made of flammable material. Remember: it’s important to always place your grill in an area where fumes can escape.
Be wary of low hanging tree branches when you set up your station, as they could catch on fire. If you have a lot of food to cook, you might be tempted to fit as much of it on at once as possible. It’s important not to overcrowd the grill, because too much grease and sauce dripping on the coals can spark into a burst of flame. You might not think cleaning is an important part of grilling, but it can help you cook more safely. Before you cook any food, give it a good scrub to remove grease and food particles from the surface. Washing the grill after each use will help you prevent a flare up and make for tastier food. It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case things go up in flames.
A day at the pool is the perfect opportunity to create new summer memories! While you’re having fun splashing around, be mindful of your surroundings so you can remember pool days for all the right reasons. Some residential pools may not be deep enough to dive into safely; anything less than 8 feet deep is unsafe. In general, you should never dive into water where you cannot clearly see the bottom or know how deep it is. Showing off a back-flip is not worth a life-threatening injury, so save your Olympic-esque moves for an Olympic-sized pool.
Your mother knew what she was talking about when she warned you about running by the pool. Pool patios are usually made of concrete or stone tiles and can be slippery when wet, so it’s better to stick to walking when getting in and out of the water. If you have your own pool, make sure to clean and maintain it regularly so the water is sanitary for swimming.
Gathering around a roaring fire isn’t just for the colder months —many homeowners enjoy connecting with their families around a fire pit during the summertime. Fire pits are typically fueled by either gas or wood; the former is a good choice if you don’t want the hassle of needing wood. Regardless of the type, your fire pit should be situated on a flat, non-flammable surface at least 10-20 feet away from your home. Be aware of vegetation above and around the fire zone, as smoke or flying sparks could ignite something. If it hasn’t rained in a little while, it’s not a bad idea to water the surrounding area to avoid catching dry grass or trees on fire.
You should never leave a fire unattended. This goes double if you have children or pets around, as their curiosity or clumsiness can turn into chaos very fast. For wood burning fire pits, you’ll need to take special precautions. You might think using lighter fluid or gasoline is an easy way to get your fire going, but avoid using a fire accelerant to jump-start the flames. Instead, use a barbecue lighter to ignite small pieces of wood and carefully stoke the flames, gradually adding larger pieces of wood. Use untreated hardwoods like oak and maple in your fire when possible. Softwoods such as cedar and pine will also work, though they won’t burn as long and can be more prone to “spitting”. When you’re done enjoying the fire, extinguish it properly before returning inside.
Trampolines aren’t just for summer, but don’t be surprised if they get more use during the warmer months. After all, what better time is there to get outside for some fun exercise? Jumping on a trampoline is exhilarating for both children and adults, but safety should always come first when it comes to these bouncy contraptions. Your trampoline should be positioned on a flat, open, and grassy area to minimize injury. Avoid surfaces like concrete, as jumps will not be absorbed as well and can result in painful landings if there is a misstep.
It can be difficult to control your movements while airborne, so having a net around your trampoline is a sensible idea. Remember to always keep an eye on your trampoline’s tarp and coils. If there are frays, punctures, holes, or worn areas on the mat, it’s best to replace it. If you see the metal components of the trampoline (such as the coils and frame) rusting or not holding their shape, you should replace those, too. Just as a trampoline can make you feel limitless, it’s crucial to understand its limits. A sturdy trampoline and net can only do so much, so always be conscious of how you’re interacting with it.
On a hot summer day, an air conditioner feels like a godsend. It’s tempting to want to have your AC run continuously or on the highest setting, but doing so puts more wear on your appliance and could increase the likelihood of it overheating. The harder your air conditioning is working, the faster it will wear out. Besides being selective about how you use your AC, changing the filters in your home can reduce the risk of it failing. When the filters are dirty, it causes the machine to work harder pumping in air. Additionally, the air being circulated in your home will have more contaminants. You may need to change your filter more often if you have pets that shed or live in an area with high air pollution levels.
Wherever your air conditioner is on your property, keep the perimeter around it clear of any combustible items. Another potential danger of using your AC stems from when the wiring is damaged. If you unknowingly operate it when the wires are in disrepair, it could spark a fire. To make sure that everything is working correctly, have an HVAC professional check your system at least once a year, especially before the start of summer or winter. Like many components of your home, regular maintenance will help prolong the life and safety of your house.
Like air conditioners, your fridge can get overworked and overheated. Refrigerators tend to use more energy in the summer, so it’s beneficial to help reduce its stress whenever possible. Try to minimize the time you spend with the door open; slight increases in temperature in your fridge will cause it to use more energy to get back to a cooler climate. Take a minute or two every few months to make sure the seal and gaskets are in place. If you notice air leaks around the door, get them repaired quickly to protect your food and your refrigerator’s health.
When you’re busy savoring your summer, remember that staying safe and being a responsible homeowner is equally important as having fun. Operating these units properly and maintaining them will help you ensure that your summer will be memorable in the best way possible.
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As the days get shorter and the temperatures go down, the threat of winter storms and rising gas and electric bills become real. In order to make sure that your home is protected during a storm and is efficiently using energy, take some time to prepare for the winter months ahead. Here are a few easy ways to maximize your comfort and budget as the mercury falls.
One of the most important winterizing tasks you can do is to have an HVAC professional come in to inspect your furnace and clean your ducts. This is an excellent way to prevent having a furnace emergency in the middle of the winter.
Make sure to change your furnace filters once every three months as well, in order to maintain good airflow and air quality in your home.
If you have hot water radiators in your home, be sure to bleed them before turning on your furnace. You can do this by turning on the water valve and then turning it back off when the water starts to flow.
Programmable thermostats are an excellent way to control your home’s energy use when you’re not there. If you haven’t already made the switch, think about doing it this year—your money will come back to you in energy bill savings.
Although it doesn’t have to be cleaned every year, it’s a good idea to call a Chimney sweep to clean and inspect your chimney. Make sure that you have your chimney top capped or screened to make sure that animals and debris can’t get in.
Ensure that your fireplace damper is in good working condition and is closed when the fireplace is not in use to prevent heat loss.
Buy or chop plenty of firewood and be sure to store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
Make sure to clean your gutters of leaves and debris that have accumulated during the autumn season. Also check that your downspouts are clear so water can easily flow away from your house.
Adding extra insulation to your attic will keep the roof warm and prevent ice dams.
Be sure to replace any worn shingles or tiles on your roof as well.
Rake away debris and edible vegetation from your home. Inspect the foundation for any crevices, cracks, and exposed entry points. Seal any cracks that you might find. This will keep out wildlife and rodents as well as retain warm air inside your home. If you have a window well in your basement, protect it with a plastic shield to keep water out.
To effectively inspect your windows, moisten your hand with water and run it along the edges of the interior side of all windows and door trim, and at the top of baseboards along exterior walls. Caulk any areas where you feel air coming in.
Remove any window-mounted air conditioning units. If you have a permanent wall-mounted air conditioning unit, purchase a cover for it and make sure it is sealed with weatherstripping.
Replace all screen windows with storm windows to add an extra insulation layer. When not open, make sure to keep your windows locked—this creates a seal between the panels. If any glass windows are cracked, have them replaced.
If you know you’re not going to be opening your windows for a while, cover them with window film. This is an inexpensive way to increase insulation and decrease the potential for drafts.
Use weatherstripping around doors and install doorsweeps if needed. A good way to check your door’s insulation potential is to close a dollar bill in the door—if it easily slides out, adding weatherstripping will provide a tighter seal.
Seal the entrance to your attic to prevent heat from getting in—if you have a door, attach a doorsweep to the bottom of it. If your attic has a hatch entrance, line the perimeter of it with weatherstripping.
Check the thermostat on your water heater—if it is set to above 120°F, turn it down. Insolate the water lines around the hot water heater if they are warm to the touch.
Drain and turn off all hoses, sprinklers, and outdoor irrigation systems. Also, drain any hoses and pipes coming from your air conditioning unit. Vacuum any pools of water that are in the drain pool.
Trim any tree branches that are close to your home or electrical wires. Seal concrete driveways, brick patios, and wood decks to prevent cold weather damage. Clean and store summer gardening tools and move any potted plants indoors.
Also make sure to drain gas from your lawnmower before storing and make sure your snow shovel and/or snowblower is in good working order.
Reversing the direction of ceiling fans will force warm air down and ensure proper circulation. The blades should be rotating clockwise in the winter and counterclockwise in the summer.
By completing these simple tasks you will ensure that your home is ready for whatever the cold, winter months may bring. Now is also a great time to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. When you’re done, be sure to cozy up in a big sweater and enjoy a warm beverage in the comfort of your dry, energy efficient home.