Smart Vacation Planning for Your Home
Vacation coming up? While you may monitor a security camera setup remotely, here’s some good advice to give you added peace of mind about your home while you’re away.
- Make your home appear occupied. Schedule lights throughout the house to turn off and on at various times after dark using simple plug-in timers or a smartphone-controlled app.
- Use extra caution when communicating about your vacation dates on Facebook and other social media. Information spreads quickly, and you don’t want it to get into the wrong hands.
- Tell your close friends and trusted neighbors of your travel plans and let them know when you’re expecting to return. Make sure you can be reached in an emergency if necessary.
- Have the post office hold your mail and suspend any newspaper and package deliveries, or ask a neighbor to collect them for you each day.
- Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway on occasion so it looks like there’s someone at home.
- Arrange to have someone mow the lawn in your absence if you’ll be gone for more than a week.
- Close the window coverings in ground-level rooms so that would-be thieves aren’t tempted by valuables and other items visible from outside.
- If possible, load your vacation gear into the car in the garage so that you’re not announcing to passersby that you’re on your way out of town.
- Lock the garage, gates, and storage structures. Don’t forget to lock any side doors and doors leading into the house from the garage.
Now go ahead enjoy your time away!
Keeping Your Cool
5 easy ways to help keep your home cool this summer.
- Close window coverings on south- and west-facing sides of the house until dusk.
- Change ceiling fans to the summer rotation setting (counter-clockwise) to make the room feel cooler.
- Give the stove a rest and use the microwave and outdoor grill instead.
- Use a programmable or smart thermostat to raise the AC temperature when you’re not home.
- Take well-deserved breaks with homemade lemonade on ice!
The Thrill of the Grill
Before firing up the grill, consider these safety tips for trouble-free cooking!
- Never use a grill under a porch, overhang, carport, deck, or in a garage. Make sure the grill rests on a stable surface and can’t be tipped over. If the grill has locking casters, make sure they are engaged.
- Never use a propane or charcoal grill indoors.
- Periodically check hoses and connections on gas grills throughout the grilling season. Replace any cracked or brittle hoses before using the grill. Propane tanks should never be stored in a garage or other structure at any time.
- Start charcoal fires using a chimney starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid. Not only is a chimney starter safer, but your meal will taste better. If fluid is used, never add it to the coals once the fire has been lit.
- To help prevent grease fires, remove accumulated grease and residue from inside the lid of the grill at least every 5-6 uses. Use baking soda to extinguish a grease fire still contained within the grill unit.
- Always keep young children and pets away from the grill during and after cooking. With charcoal grills in particular, the exterior can remain hot long for a long time.
Repairs and Upgrades: How Much Will They Cost?
During the process of buying or selling a home, your clients often learn about recommended or required repairs and upgrades. This can happen as a result of the home inspection as well as your expert knowledge of your market and comparable homes. Of course, the first thing homeowners want to know is, “How much will that cost?”
Pillar to Post is pleased to offer our popular Residential Construction and Remodeling Estimates cost guide, which provides estimated cost ranges for repair and/ or replacement of the major systems and components in a home. It also includes general guidelines for the life expectancies of those systems.
Request complimentary copies of the cost guide from your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector or download it at pillartopost.com/costguide.
Get in the Swim
Get the most out of your backyard pool with these practical tips for protecting pool users.
While it’s fun to take a refreshing dip, swim a few laps, or just watch the kids splash around, drownings and pool-related injuries occur each year, affecting thousands of families.
Here are some “musts” for enjoying a safe swim:
- Anyone using the pool should know how to swim. An experienced swimmer should always be present if anyone is still learning to swim.
- The pool should be enclosed with fencing a minimum of 4’ high. Gates should self-close and self-latch, with the latch inaccessible to small children. Homeowners should check local requirements for pool enclosures, as they may be stricter and/or provide additional specifications. If you have recently added or renovated a pool, an inspection may be required to approve the pool for use.
- An adult must always be present when children are in or around the pool. For younger children, the adult should be at the poolside. It is not enough to simply look out a window or door to check on them.
- Diving should be limited to in-ground pools. If there is a diving board, it must have sufficiently deep water beneath it. Always dive hands first, and jump feet first.
- To avoid possible injury, keep children away from pool filters and drains. Make sure pool surrounds and decking are free of toys and other objects that could be stepped on. And walk, don’t run, near the pool to avoid slips and falls.
- Keep rescue equipment nearby and easily accessible. For added peace of mind, consider having family members learn CPR skills.
GFCI / AFCI Explained
GFCI and AFCI are specialized electrical safety devices with very different purposes. Let’s take a look at how each is used in the home as well as how they work.
A GFCI, or ground fault circuit interrupter, is a device designed to protect people from electrical shock in the home. GFCI receptacles should be installed in any area with potential risk for electrical shock and a direct path to the ground, especially areas with plumbing. These are generally installed in bathrooms, along kitchen counters, in garages, unfinished basements, outdoor outlets and near swimming pools and spas. A GFCI monitors the electrical current leaving from and returning to the receptacle. If there is a mismatch in the currents, the GFCI will shut off the receptacle immediately to protect people from serious electrical shock.
An arc fault circuit interrupter, or AFCI, is designed to prevent electrical fires. This relatively new type of circuit breaker detects arcing in an electrical circuit, shutting down the affected circuit before it can cause a fire. Arcing is possible if an electrical cable is punctured or cut by something as simple as hammering a nail into a wall. Other potential causes of arcing include frayed extension cords, loose electrical connections, and old and/or cracked insulation on electrical wires and cables.
An AFCI breaker fits into the electrical panel in place of a standard circuit breaker. AFCI breakers are much larger than standard breakers and have a test button. They may not be available for older electrical panels, so retrofitting with AFCI breakers is not always possible. In addition, old wiring may have been subjected to years of poorly executed modifications, which AFCIs may or may not compensate for. It’s always best to have a qualified electrician assess the panel and electrical components before making the decision to install AFCI breakers.