Timely tips to save energy and money — and to keep you safe
We’ve gathered a wide array of tips and tricks to help you make this the summer of savings and safety!
How you can head off home accidents
- Have an electrician install light switches at each entrance to a dark area.
- Replace worn fuses with new ones of the same size. Replacing a correct-size fuse with a larger one can start a fire.
- Never remove guards from your power tools. Sharp edges and moving parts invite injuries.
- Install a night light in the bathroom or just outside. Think about replacing your regular light switches with “glow switches” that are easy to see in the dark.
What to do if the power goes out during a storm
- Disconnect sensitive appliances, such as TVs, computers and microwave ovens so they won’t be damaged by a power surge when the electricity comes back on.
- Turn on a single light switch. That way, you’ll know when your power has been restored.
- If your home floods during the storm, check with an electrician before turning any electric lights or appliances on.
- When the power returns, gradually reconnect appliances to avoid overloading circuits.
- If you’ve worn out batteries and consumed your stored drinking water and canned foods during the outage, be sure to replace them quickly in case of another incident.
How to safely transport appliances during a move
- Tie cords and wires of your appliances tightly before packing so they don’t snag other objects or snap off.
- Pack electric appliances separately, using clothing or packing “peanuts” to cushion them in their boxes.
- Seal your boxes securely, and mark them: “This end up” and “Fragile.”
- Pack your remote controls in the same box as the TV or DVD player they operate. That way, you’ll be able to find them as soon as you get to your new home.
- If you need to buy a new refrigerator, dishwasher or other major appliance for your new home, measure the space you have for it before going shopping.
- Lock up empty freezers if you’re leaving them behind for the new owners of your old house. An empty freezer can be a death trap for kids playing hide and seek.
- If you have to move your refrigerator or freezer, pay special attention to the coils on the back; if you damage them, you’ll probably have to replace the appliance.
How to ensure your old refrigerator is running as efficiently as possible
- If you’re not yet ready to buy a newer, more energy-efficient fridge, here are some things you should do.
- Clean your refrigerator’s condenser coils at least every other month.
- Make sure the door is closed and sealed. Check door seals periodically and replace them when they are worn or leaking.
- Keep your thermostat between 37 and 42 F. If you’re going to be out of town for an extended period of time, set the thermostat a few degrees higher.
- Keep your refrigerator as full as possible.
- Leave space between items on the shelves for proper air circulation.
- Keep at least three inches of space around the unit for air to circulate freely.
How to reduce your home-cooling costs in the summer
- Turn off the air conditioner and open windows when it’s cool outside during the evening. Before the temperature climbs too high, close the windows to trap the cool air in the house.
- Air-dry your dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s dry cycle.
- Install white or light-colored blinds on all windows. Close the blinds when the sun shines to keep the heat from pouring through your windows.
- Keep lamps away from your air-conditioning thermostat. The heat they generate will fool the unit into thinking the house is hotter than it is, and will cause it to work harder and run longer.
- Easy-to-apply reflective window films block heat without blocking the view.
- Turn off electronics, like your computer monitor, when not in use.
- Cook in a microwave oven instead of a conventional range or on a stovetop.
How to prepare your home for winter while the weather’s still nice
- Call a heating professional to service your furnace or heat pump and clean and change all filters and vents. This will make your heating system function efficiently, and it could save you from making a mid-winter emergency call.
- Clean electric baseboard heaters to protect against fires and to prevent that burning dust smell.
- Replace damaged or pulled-away shingles on your roof and check the seals on skylights to prevent leaks during storms.
- Drain pipes under the house and those that lead to garden hoses so they won’t freeze and burst when the mercury drops. Insulate indoor water pipes in unheated spaces.
- Inspect insulation to make sure it’s not blocking ducts or vents. Blown-in insulation can settle over time and may need replacing.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and replace them if necessary. Most models are designed to last only about five years.
- Stock up on batteries for flashlights and radios.
How to keep your garage safe
- Keep raccoons, chipmunks, mice and rodents out of the garage by keeping garbage and uneaten food away from it. Such pests can nest in air intakes and vents, and chomp on wiring.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the garage.
- Clean up spills. They could be flammable or dangerous to children or pets.
- Discard old batteries by taking them to a recycling center.
- Keep power tools, extension cords and adapters unplugged and stored out of reach of children.
- Ventilate your garage with fans or ceiling vents.
- Check with your insurance agent to make sure the contents of your garage are covered in case of fire or other damage.
How to prevent clothes dryer fires
- Never leave the house while your dryer is running — a malfunction can occur at any time, often with serious consequences. If the dryer does malfunction, immediately turn it off and disconnect the power cord. Call a qualified repair professional to make the needed repair.
- Dryers should be plugged into outlets equipped to handle the electrical load. Overloaded elecricial outlets can result in tripped circuit breakers and blown fuses.
- Make sure your dryer is vented to an outside wall and check to see that its exhaust vent is unobstructed and its outdoor vent flap opens frequently. If air is not being directed through the duct, there may be a blockage. In order to remove the blockage from the exhaust path, you may have to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer. Be sure to reconnect the vent and duct before restarting the dryer.
- Keep the area in which your dryer is located free from clutter. Make sure there are no combustible materials such as boxes or clothing near the dryer. Use caution when drying clothing saturated in hazardous chemicals by washing them thoroughly. Then, use the lowest heat setting and do not allow contaminated clothing to sit in the dryer or basket with other clothes.
- Remove the lint filter and thoroughly clean it after each use and reinstall it. Never operate the dryer without the filter. Doing so can cause lint, threads, fibers and dust to get entrapped in its internal mechanical parts where they can combust or cause other problems.
- Protect children and pets by keeping the dryer door in the closed position. A curious toddler or small pet seeking warmth could crawl inside and become injured or trapped.
How to safely use your hot tub
- Never use a hot tub during a thunderstorm.
- Keep electrical devices far from the hot tub. This includes radios and TVs. Advise wet bathers not to handle them. Use battery-powered electronics when possible.
- For indoor hot tubs, install a ventilation fan to prevent the buildup of heat and moisture in the room. Check the tub’s water level before using it. A spa without enough water could damage the heater and pumps.
- Consult local building codes to ensure you locate your hot tub a safe distance away from electrical outlets. A licensed electrician should handle all electrical connections in the hot tub and check the condition of underwater lights. Faulty lighting systems can electrocute bathers.
- The National Electrical Code requires hot tubs be located within 15 feet of a manual cutoff switch.
- According to the National Spa and Pool Institute, a 15-minute soak at 104 F is the maximum safe limit for an adult, but children should not soak for more than 10 minutes in water that is hotter than 95 F. Exposure beyond these limits can raise body temperatures beyond safe limits.
How to stay cool when it’s hot outside
- Siestas are not just for the tropics! Slow down during the worst heat of the day. Stay indoors, and save strenuous outdoor activity for the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler.
- Hang out in air-conditioned public places.
- Wear light-colored, lightweight clothing. Darker colors absorb heat, while lighter ones reflect it away from the body.
- Drink a gallon of water a day — more if you exercise. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink when it’s hot. And skip the alcohol. A cold beer may taste refreshing and wet, but it will dehydrate your body.
- Go swimming or run barefoot through a backyard sprinkler. Wetting your skin with cold water is a quick way to cool off.
How to avoid food poisoning if you’re picnicking
- Separate fresh foods like lettuce, tomatoes and condiments from boxed and canned foods. Keep them in a cooler and serve them when you are ready to eat.
- Refrigerate cold food until the last minute. Pack your picnic basket just before you walk out the door.
- Keep hot foods hotter than 140 F and cold foods colder than 40 F or else bacteria can contaminate food. Under the right conditions, bacteria can double every 10 to 30 minutes.
- Defrost meat for grilling in the refrigerator — never on the counter.
- Refrigerate or freeze prepared foods, leftovers or perishables within two hours after preparation or after one hour if the temperature is higher than 90 F.
How to keep children safe around a pool
- Fences and walls should be at least 4 feet high and installed completely around the pool. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of a small child’s reach.
- If your house forms one side of the barrier to the pool, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce a sound when a door is unexpectedly opened.
- A power safety cover — a motor-powered barrier that can be placed over the water area — can be used when the pool is not in use.
- Keep rescue equipment by the pool. Knowing CPR can be a lifesaver.
- For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.