Frozen Pipes, Learn how to prevent water pipes from freezing, and how to thaw them if they do freeze.

Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.
How to Protect Pipes From Freezing
Before the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.


Is a DIY security system right for you?

Keeping your family and home safe with a security system can give you added comfort and confidence. The market for home security has expanded to include DIY systems that are often cheaper and can be customized to fit your needs. With all the options, it can be hard to know what to buy, but with some basic knowledge about different systems, the decision can be made easier.

Deciding if a DIY Security System is Right for You

The biggest decision to make when looking at a home security system is whether you will purchase a DIY system to install yourself or if you will purchase a system through a professional company. Each option has pros and cons that you should consider before deciding.


The Pros and Cons of a DIY System
Pros Cons
Save money on installation and equipment Incorrect installation is a possibility
Customize system to fit your needs Add-ons can be expensive
No strangers in your house You are responsible for repairs
Some systems are portable Limited technical and installation support
No contracts or monthly fees required Wireless hacking concerns
Integration with other smart home systems


Choosing a System

If a DIY system is for you, the next step is deciding what you want to include in your system. The three main devices for DIY home security systems are video doorbells, security cameras and complete security systems.

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells increase your home’s security by allowing you to see who is at the door before you answer and to keep an eye on your home when you are away. Some important features to look for in a video doorbell include:

  • Night vision camera –See who is at your door after the sun goes down and decide if it is safe to open your door.
  • High definition camera –Identify accurately who is at your door.
  • Two-way audio –Talk with someone without opening the door even when you are not at home.
  • On demand monitoring – Ability to log into a smartphone app that connects to your doorbell and pull up video feed at any time.
Security Cameras

Security cameras help you keep watch over your home, loved ones and valuables. There are hundreds on the market and it can be daunting to figure out which one is best for you.

The first thing to consider is whether you will be using the camera inside, outside or both. Inside cameras can be used as baby monitors, to keep an eye on pets and to help identify a burglar. You might choose outside cameras as well, to keep track of your car or make sure people aren’t damaging your home or landscaping. Above all else, outside cameras need to be weatherproof. Additional features to consider when looking for a security camera:

  • Video quality – The higher the video quality, the more expensive the camera. Consider what you will be using the camera for and whether you need a sharper image.
  • Audio – Many indoor cameras have two-way audio so you can speak to people or pets. Audio is less common on outdoor cameras, but there are a few with the capability.

Make sure that storage capacity is sufficient for the amount of time you need – systems vary from hours to days to weeks.

Complete Security Systems

Complete security systems allow you to protect your entire home from every angle. When comparing security systems, you might want to consider:

  • Door, window and motion sensors – All of these can alert you if a door or window is opened, or if an intruder is inside your home.
  • Audible Alarm – An alarm that sounds when a sensor is tripped can deter a burglar from entering your home.
  • Optional professional monitoring – Many systems have the option to be monitored by professionals. A few give you the option of month-by-month monitoring, for occasional use. You can pay for a month’s monitoring without having to sign a longer contract if you are on vacation.

Added security will put your mind at ease, knowing that your family and home are safe. Now that you know what to consider, you can confidently choose which system is right for you.



High anxiety — demystifying wine shopping

Even if we love wine, why is it that wine shopping can cause such anxiety? I guess it comes down to an overwhelming selection and a difficulty in distinguishing among the choices. Without devoting your life to learning about all of the wines of the world — which actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea to me — how do you navigate the embarrassment of riches in a quality wine store?

But let me back up here. The first step is to make sure you’re in a quality store, even if you have to travel a bit to get there. But how can you tell? There are a number of ways.

First, recommendations from friends are probably best. If you have wine-knowledgeable friends, ask them where they shop. If that is not an option, look for a store with an aesthetic you like. You’re looking for a store owner with taste, and I believe that carries over into the atmosphere of the store.

Next, consider what kind of vibe the store gives. Are there floor-stacks of bottles with cute labels, which often means mass-produced brands designed by marketing departments? Or do the wines look like they came from a real winery, where tradition and hands-on winemaking still carry sway? Are the shelves well stocked and maintained? In other words, does it look like someone knows about wine … and cares?

Finally, talk to the people. Do they offer suggestions based solely on price, critic’s scores or nothing but the most general statements (not good)? Or do they seem familiar with the bottles in the store, discussing what each wine is like and why you might select it (good)? And do they ask questions of you – your preferences, styles and price ranges, etc.? Are they engaging, friendly and respectful? In sum, do they make the shopping experience relaxed and enjoyable? If not, then I would suggest looking for a more congenial store.

Now that you’ve found a tasteful store run by cordial and cooperative people with a selection of what appear to be honest wines, what do you do? Accept the first bottle they put in your hands and run? No!!! You’ve gotten this far, so don’t panic!

The best hope for finding a wine you like is to buy one similar to what you have liked previously. That’s where our friend, the smartphone, can help. Few people can remember the names of all the wines they have drunk and enjoyed, so snap photos of your favorite bottles and show them to the store employees.

They will — or should — immediately gain an idea of your taste and be able to recommend accordingly. In the process they may even describe elements of what you have enjoyed previously and are now purchasing, so on top of everything else, you will begin to develop a vocabulary that might help make future purchases even easier.

So why are you still reading this? Let’s get shopping!


Top 12 Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

The holiday season is here! No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or all three, we’re excited to share in the holiday spirit. It’s easy to get caught up in the festivities, and while you’re busy decorating the house, safety may be one of the last things on your mind.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 15,000 injuries related to holiday decorations in 2012. Mishaps send about 250 people to the ER daily, with falls, cuts and back strains topping the list of injuries. To ensure you have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season with your friends and family, here are 12 tips to keep in mind as you deck out your home:

1. Keep live trees away from heat sources. Place your tree away from fireplaces and heaters, and keep a fire extinguisher near your tree. Live trees are highly flammable, due to needles and sap.

2. Hydrate your tree. A dried-out tree can catch fire faster than one that has been properly watered. Check the water level every other day to ensure proper hydration. Starting with a green tree is one way to keep it from drying out so quickly.

3. Fake it! If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “fire resistant.” Fire-resistant trees are less susceptible to catching fire.

4. Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. Paper can catch fire very quickly and can cause flash fires. Instead, recycle (or better yet, reuse!) your wrapping paper.

5. Work as a team. When stringing lights and decorations above your normal reach, make sure you use a proper ladder with someone supporting the base.

6. Double-check your lights for safety. Replace any lights with frayed wires, broken sockets, and loose connections. The CPSC issued new guidelines for seasonal light safety in 2015, setting a minimum wire size, and standards for strain relief and over-current protection.

7. Power down before you turn in. Turn off all lights when you go to bed and before leaving the house to avoid a short that could start an electrical fire.

8. Prevent electrical cord damage. Don’t mount lights in a way that might damage the cords, and avoid using nails or tacks. Use hooks or insulated staples instead.

9. Secure candles. Keep candles on a sturdy base to prevent tipping. Never leave a lit candle unattended.

10. Use unbreakable ornaments. If you have fragile ornament, place them out of reach from pets and kids.

11. Skip the fake food. Avoid decorations that look like candy or food if you have young children — or pets — in the house.

12. Beware of poisonous plants. While festive, poinsettias are poisonous when eaten, so keep them out of reach of kids and pets.

Happy holidays!