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Top tasks for your fall home maintenance checklist

Gutter cleaning should be part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Courtesy: HomeAdvisor

Gutter cleaning should be part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Courtesy: HomeAdvisor

(StatePoint)  Keeping your home in shape may not top your daily to-do list, but completing certain small seasonal tasks can save you money, time and the need to complete larger, more expensive projects in the future.

“Investing a small amount for preventative fall home maintenance can save thousands in the long run,” Leah Ingram, personal finance expert, says.

Don’t know where to start? The following checklist from HomeAdvisor can help homeowners prepare their homes for the cooler months:

• Clean gutters: During the year, debris such as leaves and twigs can pile in your gutter. Cleaning them once a year prevents problems such as water damage, roof damage and flooding.

•Service your furnace: A well-maintained furnace can help save on heating costs and prevent the need for repairs. Before temperatures drop, schedule your furnace to be serviced.

• Install weather stripping: As fuel and electricity costs continue to rise, keeping your home warm without wasting money and energy is important. Weather stripping your doors and windows can make a big impact.

• Winterize sprinklers: Removing all the water that’s in the lines, pipes, fittings, valves, sprinklers and pumps will prevent your equipment from freezing, expanding and potentially breaking. Hire a professional to attach an air compressor to the system to blow out the water from the lines, pipes and other parts. The service is inexpensive and a professional will know the proper amount of volume and pressure to use to ensure no water is left in the system.

• Clean your chimney: Chimney maintenance is not optional. Deadly fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and expensive chimney repairs are serious consequences associated with neglected chimney maintenance. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends all fireplaces, chimneys, flues and venting systems be inspected at least once a year by a pro.

• Flush your water heater: Generally speaking, water heaters are fairly reliable, so they usually aren’t top of mind. But flushing your water heater periodically can prevent leaks and promote efficiency.

“Hiring a professional for fall maintenance tasks like these is a great idea,” Ingram says. “Use a resource such as Cost Guide to research the average price of a project in your zip code before hiring a pro.”

To use Cost Guide and find a professional, visit www.HomeAdvisor.com.


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Make Your Home with Me

By Ronnie McBrayer

Lately, one of Jesus’ more cryptic phrases has been making laps inside my head. These words were spoken on the last night Jesus was with his disciples: “Abide in me, and I will abide in you.” Jesus was welcoming his disciples to remain connected with him and to rely upon him. “Stay put. Don’t abandon your relationship with me,” Jesus was saying. Eugene Peterson translates Jesus words like this, “Make your home in me.”

That’s not so cryptic, as we understand home quite well. Home is where each day begins and where it ends. Home is where we eat, rest, relax, take shelter, play, and love. Home is where we go when there is no other place, and where we always return. Home is that glorious place where we walk around in our socks and underwear, scratch our backsides without worrying about who is looking, and lounge around on the weekend without showering or shaving if we so choose. Home is where we can drop all our burdens, barriers and coping mechanisms.

Home is sweet, it is where the heart is, and it is our castle. It is where we bring the bacon and where we wait for the cows to arrive. Home is like no other place in the world, and no matter where or how far we travel, home is where we always call, well, home. It is where we feel safe, secure, and ultimately, where we can be ourselves. Jesus said, “Make your home”—relax and be yourself—“with me.”

I believe that a large portion of our personal suffering stems from the fact that we often go looking for “home” in all the wrong places. The wrong career, the wrong person or relationship, the wrong ambitions: We are searching for that comfortable place where we can prop our shoeless feet on the coffee table and be accepted as the real, natural people that we are.

When that no-strings-attached acceptance is not forthcoming, we begin to work, worry, toil and sweat, manipulate and be manipulated, all in an attempt to get others to take us as we are. We end up being strangers to ourselves, living within the artificial structures we have created, but it sure isn’t home sweet home. It’s miserable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can give ourselves over to Christ, in total dependence, and find rest for our homesick souls.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.



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At home:
Keep handy a battery-powered flashlight,  portable radio, extra food (canned or dried food is best), can opener, and bottled water (at least 3 gallons per person).
Make sure each member of the household has a warm coat, gloves, hat and water-resistant boots.  Ensure extra blankets and heavy clothes are available.
Keep on hand items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
Keep on hand items for your pets.  Animals feel the effects of wind chill.  Be sure to have suitable shelter with food and water.
Be aware of potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards if you plan to use an emergency heating source such as a fireplace, wood stove or space heater.
Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow.  Sweating could lead to chill and hypothermia, an abnormally low body temperature. Cold weather also puts extra strain on the heart, so the elderly and those with heart conditions should be especially cautious when out in the cold.
Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks.
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight warm clothing in layers, with a waterproof outer layer.  Wear a wool hat and mittens.
Keep your clothes dry.  Change wet socks and clothing quickly to prevent loss of body heat.
Understand the hazards of wind chill.  As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person’s body more rapidly which could lead to severe hypothermia.
Automotive preparedness:
Be sure the vehicle is winterized by late fall.  This includes having the proper mix of antifreeze and water in the cooling system, topping off the windshield washing solution, and checking the tire treads.  Have a mechanic check the belts, hoses, tires, battery, and coolant.
Keep the fuel tank near full, as low fuel levels can cause condensation to form, degrading fuel quality and possibly causing the fuel line to freeze.  Additionally, gas stations may be closed during a severe winter storm, so it is wise to fill up if storm warnings are being broadcasted.
Your car should always be equipped with emergency supplies.  Keep the following items stored in a portable container:
•    A small battery powered radio (AM is sufficient) and extra batteries
•    Flashlight with extra batteries
•    Cellular phone
•    Windshield scraper
•    Jumper cables
•    Fire extinguisher
•    Maps
•    Shovel
•    Blanket and extra clothes
•    Flares
•    Bottled water and nonperishable, high energy foods (granola bars, canned nuts, raisins, hard candy, trail mix, peanut butter and crackers)
•    First aid kit
•    Tire repair kit and pump
•    Tow chain or rope
•    Phone book and phone list
•    De-icer and extra antifreeze
•     “Call Police” or other “Help” sign

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At home:
•    To save heat close off unneeded rooms, cover windows at night and stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
•    Maintain adequate food and water intake. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
If travel is necessary:
•    Use caution when driving in winter conditions.  The highest rate of traffic crashes due to winter weather is in the month of November when the snow first starts to fall over Michigan.
•    Inform someone of your destination and travel time.  Bring a cell phone in case you must call for help.
If traveling and the power goes out:
•    Use extreme caution when driving.  If traffic signals are out, treat each signal as a stop sign—come to a complete stop at every intersection and look for oncoming traffic before proceeding.
•    Do not call 9-1-1 to ask about the power outage.  Listen to news radio stations for updates and contact your electrical company.
If stranded in a vehicle:
•    Do not leave your vehicle.
•    Do not park under an overpass or bridge as this can trap deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
•    Attach a bright cloth to your antenna to attract attention.
•    Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat. Open the window slightly for fresh air and make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
•    Attract attention by turning on the dome light and emergency flashers when running the engine.
•    To keep blood circulating and to stay warm, exercise by moving arms, legs, fingers and toes.
If stranded outside:
•    Try to stay dry and cover all exposed parts of the body.
•    Prepare a windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind.  Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
Do not eat snow because it will lower your body temperature.  Melt it first.

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Houseplants — good for home and health

(ARA) – Bright blooms, the smell of fresh cut grass, and a warm breeze may be missing this time of year, but there are ways you can brighten up the indoors and bring some summer gardening back into your life.

Houseplants create a fantastic distraction for passing the winter doldrums as we eagerly await summer. In addition, they also provide valuable health benefits during our harsh cold months. Most houseplants add oxygen and humidity back into the air and some can even rid an area of toxins expelled through materials used to build, decorate and furnish a house.

Indoor plants are ideal to keeping the summer spirit alive, adding a splash of color or texture in your home and providing wonderful health benefits for you and your family. By following just a few simple steps, you can host healthy and beautiful houseplants in your living space.

Location, location, location

After plants are arranged appropriately in their containers, you’ll need to find a suitable location for them. The first step in keeping a plant healthy is to situate it away from any drafty areas or heat sources. For instance, do not place a fern by a front or back door, or on top of a heating vent. Heat sources such as fireplaces will also cause plants to dry out.

Keeping hydrated

Many of us overwater our plants. Using a product that regulates overwatering and infuses soil with oxygen, like Safer Brand Oxygen Plus Plant Food, will allow you to avoid the woes of overwatering, which result in wilting, dulling and death of the houseplant.

Catching rays

Placing houseplants indoors where the sun will hit them only about four to six hours a day is sufficient. Sunlight results in denser, greener foliage and overall healthier plants.

Moving time

Like us, plants would much rather be outdoors than stuck inside during warm and sunny days. Houseplants can be moved outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. This timing is dependent on where you live and the time of the year. Moving houseplants outdoors is easy and will add a great decor element to your entryway, porch or back deck. Before moving plants outdoors, add about 2 inches of potting soil to their containers, as this amount has probably decomposed in the container during the winter months. Once outside, you should soak your plants from top to bottom.

In the initial stages of a houseplant’s conversion outdoors, it is important to gradually introduce them to nature. Placing plants in direct sunlight for the length of a day will put them in shock, so it is best to acclimate them over a one to two week period. Introducing them to the outside under shade of a tall tree will ease them into this transition.

The outdoors offers a houseplant many elements that allow them to thrive, but also exposes them to residents of nature they may not have encountered before. Using an organic insect killer, like Safer Brand Houseplant Insect Killer, will keep your plant from being eaten in the outdoors. When you notice that leaves or petals have been snacked on, or you actually see a bug on the plant, you can spray the entire plant to ensure the bugs will be killed organically and your plant will not be harmed.

Not only do potted plants add design elements to interior and exterior living spaces, but they are also beneficial to your health. So go ahead, indulge in a houseplant or two. A little green can really do the body good.

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