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Our Treat: Halloween Safety Tips & Tricks

Halloween is all about hair-raising thrills, but when it comes to potential electrical, fire, and other hazards, we want you to feel completely calm and safe. Jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and witches don’t seem so scary when one thinks about all the real-world dangers associated with Halloween, such as fires, burns, falls, vehicle accidents, and other injuries.

A report from the National Fire Protection Association says that Halloween is the fifth highest day of the year for home fires sparked by candles. Additionally, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 18% of emergency room visits around Halloween were related to lacerations on the finger and hand, most likely the result of pumpkin-carving.

Because we hate emergency room visits as much as the next person, we want to make sure that you are prepared to have the fun without the fire (or any other accident) this Halloween:

  • Most fire related accidents around Halloween are the result of jack-o-lanterns and other candles igniting nearby objects. Make sure you keep a good 3 feet radius around any open flame and keep them away from your home’s entryway as many kids will be wearing flowing costumes that could ignite easily. Keep candles away from any high foot traffic area. Consider switching out your regular candles for “flameless” ones. You can put them in the window or your jack-o-lanterns without fear of fire. 
  • If you are using hay bales and cornstalks as decoration this year, keep them far away from any flames.
  • Supervise children around candles.
  • Buy flame-resistant costumes that can be seen in the dark. If your costume is very dark, attach reflector strips or lights to it.
  • Light bulbs generate a lot of heat. Don’t drape fabric over a light bulb…even if it does seem like a brilliant idea. The filtered light might look really cool, but it isn’t worth the risk. Given a certain amount of time, it will catch on fire! Teach your kids this since the idea to cover our lights with fabric usually comes to us in childhood.
  • Teach your kids the tried-and-true “stop, drop and roll” technique. 
  • Have a fire escape plan for your family. If you don’t have one, refer to this guide from the NFPA for help. http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Safety%20information/For%20consumers/Escape/escape_plan.pdf
  • Check your extension cords and surge protectors before you use them. If there are loose wire, do not simply bandage them with electrical tape; you should find a replacement. Do not run extension cords or wires underneath rugs or anywhere where there is foot traffic. The wiring could become frayed or damaged, causing a potential shock to anybody walking over. (Do not use extension cords for extended periods of time. Have a trusted electrician outlets if you need more.)
  • If you have small children, it is highly advised that you place covers over the outlets. Kids are curious, and it is easy for small hands to make their way into the tiny slits in an outlet.
  • When you are away from home or going to sleep, it is important to unplug all unnecessary appliances and electrical devices and extinguish any open flames. This also includes any decorations you may have up, such as your blowup spider or ghouls. Doing so can prevent your home from experiencing electrical wiring problems. 
  • Make sure your light fixtures are using bulbs with the appropriate wattage. There is normally a sticker on the fixture that says what the maximum wattage is. 
  • Consider having an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter installed by a professional to prevent fires started by electrical arcs (when electricity jumps a gap in the circuit).
  • Also consider installing GFCIs (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupt) and RCDs (Residual-Current Device) in order to prevent a person from being shocked. All outdoor outlets should be protected by GFCIs and some outlets are even required to be GFCI-protected.
  • During your annual maintenance service, check all AFCIs and GFCIs.
  • Never use water to put out an electrical fire! Make sure you have the appropriate fire extinguishers located in the kitchen, basement/garage, and laundry room. Remember the acronym PASS - Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. How to put out an electrical fire without a fire extinguisher: http://www.ehow.com/list_6016625_tips-putting-out-fires-extinguisher.html
  • Last but not least, have everyone in your family be aware of how to manually shut off the electricity from your breaker/fuse box.

Here is a fun infographic, courtesy of Allstate:

Is your home safe for the holidays? Let us know what you do to keep your home safe from danger, electrical and otherwise.

For more information on Halloween safety: http://www.halloween-safety.com/

Visit our website and check out our Facebook or Twitter page for more expert advice for an energy-efficient home. Milestone Electric, Air, and Security is here to help. ♪♫ We’ll Fix It In A Flash! ♪♫ 

Filed under Halloween halloween safety Milestone Electric milestone air milestone electric and air electrical safety halloween safety tips safety tips home safety Holiday Safety Tips

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Top Causes of Home Fires

You don’t want to wait until your house is on fire to google “how to stop a fire.” It will already be too late. Thousands of home fires are caused each year by careless mistakes.

 

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Thank you OHI Construction for the wonderful infographic.

 

To save yourself an indescribable pain and priceless loss, here is a list of the top causes of home fires and what you can do to prevent them from happening to you:

 

1.     Electrical - The most important thing you can do to prevent electrical fires is to have your home routinely inspected by a qualified electrician and always have electrical work done by a professional.

Many fires and electrical deaths are caused by factors that could have been avoided with regular maintenance.

- Vernon T. Houchin, Retired Captain of the St. Louis Fire Department 

  • Do not overload your outlets.
  • Only plug one heating source (straightener, space heater, grill, toaster, microwave, etc.) into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • For large appliances, plug directly into the wall; do not use extension cord or surge protector
  • Consider having an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter installed by a professional to prevent fires started by electrical arcs (when electricity jumps a gap in the circuit).
  • Also consider installing GFCIs (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupt) and RCDs (Residual-Current Device) in order to prevent a person from being shocked. All outdoor outlets should be protected by GFCIs and some outlets are even required to be GFCI-protected.
  • During your annual maintenance service, check all AFCIs and GFCIs.
  • Keep cords tucked away and away from walk areas; do not have cords running under rugs.
  • Do not use extension cords for extended periods of time. Have an trusted electrician outlets if you need more.
  • Make sure your light fixtures are using bulbs with the appropriate wattage. There is normally a sticker on the fixture that says what the maximum wattage is. 

 

2.     Heating - Winter is prime time for home fires, with heating equipment being one of the leading causes.
  • Things like fireplaces, space heaters, and furnaces should have a lot of breathing room - at least 3 feet away from anything that could burn, like paper, drapes, and upholstery. 
  • Teach kids that these areas are “no play” zones.
  • Do not use the oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional to install any stationary heating equipment.
  • Have chimneys and heating equipment inspected every year by a professional.
  • Fuel-burning heat sources should have proper ventilation to the outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Have CO detectors installed outside of every sleeping area in the home and the garage.
    • Milestone Electric & Air offers a Family Protection Plan, which includes an annual visit to your home to:
    • Check Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Tighten All Connections, Complete a 33 Point Visual inspection, Check Landscape Lighting, Replace Light Bulbs, And as a courtesy, we’ll dust your ceiling fans (We’ve got the ladder anyway!)
  • Have smoke detectors installed on the ceiling or high on a wall outside of all sleeping areas. Make sure they are interconnected, so that if one goes off, they all go off.

 

3.     Cooking - the number one cause of all home fires and injuries.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Never leave your kitchen unattended. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
  • If you have to leave for any reason, turn your stove off. 
  • Make sure you are not wearing loose clothing when cooking. 
  • Do not have any clutter around the stove — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging
  • Keep your eyes on your children and prevent them from playing around you while you are dealing with the heat in the kitchen. 
  • Teach your kids to never come within 3 feet of the stove by putting a “No Play” mat on the floor. Consider cooking on your back burners so that your pot and pan handles are not dangling over the edge where they can be knocked into or pulled down.
  • If there is a fire, call 9-1-1 immediately and leave the kitchen. Close the door behind you to contain the fire. Never put out a grease fire with water. Keep a lid nearby to smother the fire. Cover the pan and turn off the heat. Flour can also be used to smother a grease fire. If there is an oven fire close the door, turn off the heat, and call 9-1-1.

 

4.     Candles - they are great for decoration and smell delightful, but it is an open flame, easily igniting anything close by that can burn
  • Never leave children unattended in a room with a candle. Keep lighters and matches in a place unreachable by children.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  • Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Keep candles away from the bed area.
  • Make sure candles are stable and won’t fall over. Keep them away from edges or other places where they can jostled.
  • Consider switching to flameless scented candles. They are safe and smell great too!

 

Last but not least, create and practice a fire escape plan. Here is a good checklist for your family to go over: http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/escape-planning/basic-fire-escape-planning

 

Milestone Electric & Air cares about your safety. Visit our website and check out our Facebook or Twitter page for more expert advice for a safe and efficient home. 

 

Call us at 214-348-5100    ♪♫ We’ll Fix It In A Flash! ♪♫

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Home Hibernation: Inspect and Repair Your Insulation

Good whole-house air sealing is a great way to cut heating and cooling bills and increase your comfort year round. In fact, sealing leaking ductwork and other areas of your home can lead to a 20% increase in your HVAC efficiency. While it is a good idea to maximize your home’s energy efficiency, you must be careful not to over-insulate your home. An air tight home is prone to indoor air pollution, harmful indoor gases, and other volatile organic compounds. While it may seem that the air inside your home is cleaner than the air outside, microbial pollutants like pet dander, mold, and pollen can build up in your home, creating a toxic environment "up to 10 times more polluted than the air outside"  

 

If you do have an air tight home, you will need mechanical ventilation systems which include supply, exhaust, balanced, and energy recovery.

 

For a thorough explanation and comparison of these different ventilation systems, including pros and cons, visit energy.gov. The simplest way to ventilate, however, is to simply open your doors and windows for just a few minutes each day.

 

When insulating your home, you want to carefully inspect your entire home, from top to bottom. Here is a great diagram we found on energy.gov that highlights some of the typical areas in your home that can benefit from some caulking and weatherstripping:

 

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Examples of where to insulate. 1. In unfinished attic spaces, insulate between and over the floor joists to seal off living spaces below. (1A) attic access door 2. In finished attic rooms with or without dormer, insulate (2A) between the studs of “knee” walls, (2B) between the studs and rafters of exterior walls and roof, (2C) and ceilings with cold spaces above. (2D) Extend insulation into joist space to reduce air flows. 3. All exterior walls, including (3A) walls between living spaces and unheated garages, shed roofs, or storage areas; (3B) foundation walls above ground level; (3C) foundation walls in heated basements, full wall either interior or exterior. 4. Floors above cold spaces, such as vented crawl spaces and unheated garages. Also insulate (4A) any portion of the floor in a room that is cantilevered beyond the exterior wall below; (4B) slab floors built directly on the ground; (4C) as an alternative to floor insulation, foundation walls of unvented crawl spaces. (4D) Extend insulation into joist space to reduce air flows. 5. Band joists. 6. Replacement or storm windows and caulk and seal around all windows and doors. Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

 

Walk around the inside and outside of your home with a smoke stick or lit incense and hold it up to areas you suspect may have a leak. If the smoke is sucked in or blown, that is where you have a draft. Once you have detected the areas that have gaps and leaks, use caulk, weatherstripping, and/or expandable foam to fill in the troubled areas. For gaps greater than a quarter inch, use expandable foam. For sealing gaps under a quarter inch, use caulk (weather-proof caulk for the outside).

 

For leaking ductwork, use aluminum tape or mastic sealing to seal any visible cracks or gaps.

 

IMPORTANT: After caulking, weatherstripping, and insulating your home, make sure that you call you trusted HVAC professional to stop by and make sure that the ventilation balance of your indoor air quality has not been upset to the point of causing a safety or health hazard for you and your family. You do not want a home that is too tight because it could prevent your home from venting safely and properly.

 

Visit our website and check out our Facebook or Twitter page for more expert advice for an energy-efficient home. Milestone Electric, Air, and Security is here to help. ♪♫ We’ll Fix It In A Flash! ♪♫

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How to Locate and Leverage Your Electrical Panel

If you’re a new homeowner or even if you’re not, you’ll want to know where your circuit breaker (or fuse box) is. That way, when the power goes out, you can be the hero and come to the rescue.

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If you wait until the power goes out to look, you’ll look less like a hero and more like a zero when you are fiddling around in the dark for a flashlight, stumbling over things in your desperate search to find the electrical panel.

Before you go and blow a fuse (pun intended), you’ll want to know exactly where your electrical panel is. But before we get our Sherlock hat and pipe out, let’s discuss the difference between a circuit breaker and a fuse box:

Circuit breakers and fuse boxes are forms of electricity overload protection. Circuit breakers are more common, especially in new homes. They are easy to reset – just find the tripped breaker, turn it off and then switch it back on. Fuse boxes are usually found in older homes. When overloaded, a filament melts and you must replace it when blown. Thankfully, fuses are cheap and can be found in nearly any hardware store.

 WHERE IS MY ELECTRICAL PANEL?

Your panel is going to be located in a fairly unused area of your home, but not so out of reach that you have to go looking in crawl spaces and getting dirty to find it. Most likely, it will be in a closet, laundry room, basement, or garage. It is usually a gray box, but it may have been painted over to blend better with the wall. If you have looked high and low with no success, your box may be outside your home, which is more common in newer homes. Take a walk around the exterior of your house.

If all else fails, call your electric company. If they have served you before, they should have a record of where your box is located. 

LEVERAGE YOUR PANEL!

You may have more than one electrical panel. If you do, make sure to test the switches so you know which box controls which part of the house. After figuring out which box controls which area, find out where all the individual switches lead to, and label each switch (kitchen, upstairs bedroom, laundry room, etc.) so that you know for the future. Old school pen and tape will do the trick. It will save you a lot of time, trust us. Also, it is a good idea to have a flashlight and some extra fuses in a convenient place right next to your panel.

If your electrical panel is in area that gets leaks or flooding, call your electric company to talk to a professional about possible safety concerns and fixes.

If you have any questions or need help finding your electrical panel, call Milestone Electric  (214) 348-5100. Visit our website and Facebook page for more information and advice. “We’ll fix it in a flash!”

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Fall Home Checklist Part 2: Outsider Edition

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Image Source: shutterstock

This fall, make sure you are taking all the necessary steps to keep your home, and especially your heating system, working properly this winter. Here is Part 2 (outdoor checklist) of our Fall Home Checklist to help you prepare your home for the cold weather ahead.

 

Outside:

 

  1. Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts. Gutters are an often neglected part of our homes, but they are an essential for protecting our houses from water damage. If you ignore your gutters, water can spill over your gutters causing foundation damage, peeling paint, rotting wood, moldy basements and attics, and roof leaks. Late summer and early fall are great times to inspect your gutters before the leaves begin to fall. No doubt you will have to clear your gutters again after the leaves start falling, but if you do a thorough gutter inspection now, it will make your work in the late fall a lot easier. 
  2. Inspect your roof for damaged shingles. Damaged/Missing shingles can be a warning sign for a more serious problem. You can inspect your roof yourself and even replace shingles by yourself, but if you have leaks or water coming into your house, you should have a professional roofer assess the situation. You can save a lot of money on more serious roof repairs by having a roofing professional inspect your roof for leaks and damaged areas.
  3. Drain and winterize any outdoor faucets and irrigation systems. Inspect all outdoor water faucets for damage. If they have a shut-off valve, close it off and turn on the faucet to drain any excess water in the faucets. For irrigation pipes, shut off the water supply and manually open all of the drain valves. For more information about how to drain and winterize faucets and irrigation systems, click hereTo help winterize your outdoor plumbing, hire a local plumber to ensure the job is done right.
  4. Using weather-stripping and caulk, seal any or cracks you find. Inspect your home for proper sealing. If you can see daylight coming through any window or door seals, try weather-stripping and caulking the cracks.
  5. Prepare all yard equipment for storage, including lawn mowers, leaf blowers and chain-saws. Be sure to drain the fuel from gas powered tools. Drain the fuel out of all your gas-powered yard equipment. If you let the gas sit in your equipment, it will gunk up in the bottom of your tank, causing clogs in your ports and fuel lines. Repair shops make a good living off of “bad gas” problems with yard equipment. Be smarter than the rest and run out your tank of gas  to avoid “bad gas.”
  6. Stow away all patio furniture. This is pretty self-explanatory. Protect your patio and yard furniture by storing them away during the fall and winter. Make sure they are completely dry before wrapping them up and storing them.
  7. Sweep the chimneys. This is a very important but often neglected fall task. Creosote, dust, and soot has been building up in your chimney for a while now and it is time to “Chim Chim Cher-ee” your chimney. You can do this yourself, but it is recommended that you get a professional to clean your chimney so the job is done right. Neglecting this task puts your home at a much higher risk for chimney fires.
  8. Trim plants and protect your outdoor unit. Summer was a great time for your plants to grow. Ensure that they are not growing too close to your outdoor HVAC unit by inspecting the area around your unit for any branches, vines, and weeds that may be encroaching. If you find any rust on your unit try to clean off as much as you can. You can apply a sealant or metal paint to the metal areas to protect it from the harsh winter. Continue to monitor the condition of your outdoor unit during the fall for leaves, branches, and other material that may be damaging your system. You want to make sure that there is good airflow around the unit. 
  9. Replace all of your air filters. Your HVAC system has been hard at work this summer getting you cool air. If you haven’t replaced your air filters this summer, they are most likely in need of one. You don’t want to forget about this one because if you do, airflow will be dramatically reduced, causing your system to work harder and possibly break down.
  10. Get professional maintenance.  Regular HVAC maintenance is essential for keeping your system safe, efficient, and long-lasting. Call your local HVAC technician today!

Make sure you have a trained HVAC professional deal with all of your furnace and boiler maintenance. Remember to change your filters and check your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.

Milestone Electric & Air is here to help. Enroll in our Yes, MAM maintenance plan to help reduce energy costs and keep your HVAC system running at peak performance. Call us anytime!  972-267-2405 or 817-267-2405. We’ll Fix It In A Flash!

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