Preventing Pipes from Freezing

Preventing your pipes from freezing when the temperatures dip below freezing is one of the most useful tips for dealing with winter. Frozen and busted pipes can cause expensive repairs and a mess of a flood to clean up. It can be especially difficult here in Texas, because we often don’t even think about the freezing weather until it’s too late. Sometimes, we just aren’t prepared enough for all that winter brings, because it is usually so short and/or sporadic.

Be prepared. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and use the following tips for indoor and outdoor pipes to prevent freezing.

Preventing Pipes from Freezing

Salt

Pour about .5 cup of salt in your drains before bed.

Drip

Leaving the faucets on and dripping is one of the most common and most effective ways to prevent freezing. As long as the temps are below freezing, if you have a pipe that is likely to freeze, keep the water dripping.

Heat the Space

An electric space heater can be especially helpful if you have cold rooms where the pipes are on an exterior wall. Basements, laundry rooms, and some bathrooms do well with an addition of a space heater. *Bonus, the room is now nice and cozy when you need it.

Insulate

Foam insulation tubes definitely come in handy, as well as the foam faucet covers. Stock up when it’s NOT cold, because the stores are always out when you need them. If you forgot, newspaper, plastic wrap, or trash bags can be taped on as well.

Heat the Pipes

If you have a particularly stubborn pipe, you can keep it heated by applying heat tape or heat cords. You’ll need to be able to plug those in, so pick up an extension cord if needed. This type of precaution is usually not necessary here, as it rarely gets that cold. But if you do have pipes that have frozen multiple times, this may be worth the investment.

Medication Expiration Dates and What They Mean

Medication Expiration Dates and What They Mean

We’ve talked previously about food expiration dates. In general dates aren’t a hard-fast deadline of when to consume your food. But medication expiration dates aren’t the same and aren’t subjected to the same guidelines. When you take medication, whether an aspirin for a headache or an antibiotic for an infection, you want to know it’s safe and effective.

Here’s the low down on medication expiration dates…

The date on the medication bottle does mean a lot. Food labels aren’t closely regulated. However, medication expiration dates are based on scientific studies on the potency of the medication. External conditions such as temperature and humidity are varied and controlled for, to see when and at what circumstances the drug is compromised.

The short version is….

In general, the expiration date is based on the average time it takes for the medication to be degraded 10%. So, basically, it’s not as useful as it once was, and it’s time to throw it out.

After that,

If the medication expiration dates are based on potency of the product, not on spoilage like food products, taking a medication after its date is unlikely to cause you to get sick. The medicine just won’t work.

And that can be a big deal, depending on what you need medicine for. You may be able to tough out sore muscles or a headache, but if you think you’re going to take last year’s antibiotics, you could be setting yourself up for serious trouble.

First, you should have completed that prescription of antibiotics, as prescribed. But, if you didn’t, and now it’s some time later, you could be at risk for antibiotic resistance. In simple terms, you’re only killing off the weak bacteria leaving the strong ones to reproduce and “outsmart” the medication. Antibiotic resistance is a huge concern, with over 20,000 people in the US dying yearly, per the CDC.

Quick Tips

  • Don’t take medication past the expiration date.
  • Throw away an unused prescription medications so you do not accidentally take them past the expiration dates.
  • Follow the directions on the bottle in regards to storage.
  • If there are no directions, it is generally safe to assume that room temperature, dry, dark places will be optimal for storage.
  • Liquid drugs (like cough syrups) are more easily contaminated, so take precaution with use.
  • If your medication changes color or consistence, it is generally time to dispose of that medication.

February Pre-Spring Cleaning

February Pre-Spring Cleaning.

We’re getting to the coldest time of the year. And granted, we’re in Texas, and that doesn’t mean a whole lot, there are still some days when we’d rather just not go outside.

We’re also at this in between stage. Hopefully, by this point, the holiday decor is put away. (If not, please make a plan to get that done in a timely manner. No one wants Christmas lights still hanging in March.) So, the holidays are over, and we’re not quite to the adrenaline rush that comes with Spring Cleaning.

But, there are a few things that should be done once or twice a year, and this is the perfect time to do it! So, take Texas’ one day of winter that will happen sometime in the next three weeks, and check off some important, but often overlooked chores. We’ll call this the February Pre-Spring Cleaning to do list.

If You’re Nesting, then GO FOR IT!

Embrace the cleaning bug when you catch it. Comforters, pillows, bed skirts… they can all take their turn in the laundry. If you feel like cleaning, put down the Facebook distractions, crank up the music, and GET IT DONE.

Poofy Pillows

Send your pillows for a spin in the dryer for a few minutes to puff them back up. Also, replace the cheap ones if need be, or throw them in the washing machine if dirty. Most pillows can be safely washed and dried.

Tackle that Linen Closet

Some things, like those emergency sheets you only use when the kids get sick, could use a trip to the laundry. After a year in the closet, they’ll collect dust. Also, make sure your towels are rotated, and take the time to refold everything.

Flip the Mattresses

Such an easy task. Such an easy task to forget.

Read a Book (and Clean a Book)

Seriously though, check those bookshelves. Grab a few to read, donate some you’ll never read again, and dust everything off. Books are great. Dusty books are not so great.

Filters!

Replace the air conditioning or heating filters. Check filters in air purifiers as well.

Do the Heavy Things

When’s the last time you moved the washer and dryer and vacuumed behind them? The fridge? Under that drawer under your oven? If you don’t remember, please make sure to add them to your list. Any debris behind the dryer can be a fire hazard. Droppings behind the fridge or other kitchen appliances could attract rodents. Grab a friend (one with strong muscles) and clean behind the heavy things.

Did we miss anything in our February Pre-Spring Cleaning list?

Did we miss anything? What chores are a must for your February pre-spring cleaning list? Let us know and join the conversation on our Facebook page!

 

 

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

‘Tis the season for Christmas Tree safety.

Don’t let the cost of the holidays go up too much- with unexpected property damage costs. Christmas trees alone, not even counting all the other decorations, result in 13 million dollars a year in property damage. Over 200 tree related fires occur in homes each year, causing expense, damage, injury, and even death.

Tree related damage is uncommon. However, it there is a tree related fire, the damage is often serious and costly.

Whether you choose a live or artificial tree to deck the halls, keep in mind a few safety tips.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

Real Tree Safety

 

  1. If you choose a real tree, get a good one. This is not the time to pick the cheapest thing on the lot. A fresh tree means a wetter tree, which is less of a fire hazard. Needles should be flexible, not breaking when you bend them.
  2. Don’t forget to water! Your tree stand should always have water in it. You want to make sure the stand is study and durable and won’t topple if faced with kids or pets.
  3. Practice good cord safety. Only three strands of lights should be used per extension cord. Also, cords should run along walls and not covered with rugs or carpets.
  4. Keep cool. Your tree needs to stay away from any heat sources that would cause it to overheat, dry out, or become flammable. That means, candles, fireplaces, and even entertainment systems.
  5. Dispose of trees properly. Don’t put your old natural tree in the garage or prop it up by the side of the house waiting for trash day. The dryer it gets, the more of a fire hazard it becomes. Dispose of it quickly and properly.

 

For Both  Real and Artificial

  1. Check the lights. Choose low energy lights that are certified safe for real trees. For real and artificial trees both, check for cord damage prior to decorating the tree. Do not use frayed cords!
  2. Turn off the lights. Christmas lights, tree lights, outside lights, appliances… really, any accessory plugged in should be unplugged each night and when you leave the house.
  3. Keep a fire extinguisher near. This is a good piece of advice year round in any situation. Get a fire extinguisher and make sure everyone in the home knows where it’s located and how to use it.

 

 

Guide to Holiday Organization

Your one stop guide to holiday organization. The holiday season is in full swing. Thanksgiving is over, and the Christmas and Holiday parties have begun. You many be looking at office parties, family parties, and friends events in the next few weeks. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s definitely can feel like a whole season instead of just three or four holidays. If you haven’t taken some time to get organized, do it now! A few hours of planning and holiday organization will actually save you so much time and energy this month.

Our Tips for Holiday Organization

Start with a To-Do List

Obviously, a list is the first thing you need. Whether you use an app, a notebook, or a white board, get the big things on the list and on the calendar. Write down the major parties, gatherings, and other important tasks and dates so you can begin scheduling around those.

Set Deadlines

Once you have the major things on the calendar, it’s easier to backwards engineer your schedule. Pick a day to mail holiday cards, and from there, you’ll know when you need to have family portraits made and when to place the printing order.

Don’t Start Big Projects

Unless you have a lot of down time because of vacation hours, this is not the time to start any major projects. Any home renovations or extra work projects should be postponed if not necessary. Unless you are extremely scheduled, adding to the routine will only make things unnecessarily stressful.

Take Stock Before You Shop

Remember the 7 rolls of wrapping paper you bought on clearance last year after Christmas? Before you go shopping, take stock of what you have and what you need. Check the lights and the decor to see if everything works. If you’ve been buying presents throughout the year, take inventory before you shop for more.

Purge the Kids’ Rooms

If you have children, this is a MUST before you go anywhere where they’ll get more gifts. Go through toys and clothes. If they’ve outgrown it, never play with/ wear it, or don’t want it any more, then donate the usable stuff and trash the rest. Make room now, or the new gifts will get lost in the mess.

This Goes for You Too

After you purge the kids’ rooms, do some general de-cluttering yourself. If you’re buying replacement decor, planning on getting new clothes, or getting new kitchen gadgets, don’t leave the old stuff in a box collecting dust. Donate the things you don’t need and trash the stuff that’s broken.

Hire a Housekeeper

 We’re still booking! But, seriously, with all the running around, sometimes the basics get overlooked. Have someone come in to do a basic clean so you can run your errands. Or do a one time deep clean, and make sure those baseboards are dust free!

Schedule an “Un-decorating” Day

There are two types of people: the “get it all put away as soon as Christmas is over” people, and then “I’ll do it tomorrow and suddenly it’s February and my tree is still up” kind of people. If you’re in the second group, we won’t tell. But, it is a good idea to set aside a day, put it on the calendar, and have the whole family pitch in to get things put away neatly so you’re prepared for next year.

 

Fire Prevention in the Home

It won’t be long until we’re hanging Christmas lights and lighting our fire places. Some may have fire pits in the back yard. There is a lot more cooking and a lot more activity. Winter really is the most wonderful time of the year!

But all the activity also brings with it an additional need for fire safety and precaution in the home. Make sure you and your family take extra time this season to discuss fire prevention in your home.

Tips for Fire Safety

  • Make sure you have fire alarms on each level of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
  • During the holiday season, check all light strands for frayed or damaged wire. Do not use any appliances or hang any lights with damaged cords.
  • Test your alarms and change batteries at least twice a year. A good reminder is to switch the batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
  • Talk with your family about safety and escape plans. Teach children how to find the main exits and what to do if those exits are blocked.
  • If there is a fire, remember to get out, stay out, and never return back into a burning building.

Cooking Fire Information

  • Cooking fires are the number one cause of residential fires.
  • Never leave food unattended, especially food that is frying or boiling.
  • If you are simmering or baking food, set a timer so that you do not forget to regularly check on it.
  • Clean surfaces regularly to avoid buildup of grease.
  • Consider purchasing a kitchen friendly fire extinguisher. If there is an accident, the last thing you want to do is to panic about forgetting what is safe to put on electrical fires.
  • Check the kitchen (stove, appliances, oven) each night before bed to ensure everything is turned off or unplugged.

Tips for Children in the Home

  • Keep matches, lighters, and other flammables away from children. (Take an extra moment especially during the holiday season when fireplace matches and candles are more prevalent.)
  • Teach your children to recognize the sound of the smoke alarm and how to immediately respond.
  • Take your children to visit the fire station and to meet firefighters. In case of an emergency, you don’t want them to be scared of those trying to help.

It only takes a few moments to plan and be prepared in case of an emergency. Please take those extra few moments each day to significantly reduce the chances of residential fires.

These tips and more can be found on the Red Cross website.