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Surviving Thunderstorms Outside

10/21/2019 (Permalink)

Minimize your risk. If you absolutely cannot reach shelter during a lightning storm, do everything you can to reduce your risk of being struck by lightning.

  • Move to a lower elevation. Lightning is much more likely to strike objects at higher elevations. Do what you can do get as low as possible.
  • Avoid large open spaces where you are taller than anything else around you, like a golf course or soccer field.
  • Stay away from isolated objects such as trees and light posts.
  • Get away from unprotected vehicles, such as golf carts, and unprotected structures, such as picnic shelters. Avoid long metal structures, i.e. bleachers.

Get out of the water. If you are fishing or swimming, get out of the water immediately, and move away from the body of water. Being near water is extremely dangerous during a lightning storm.

Spread out. If you are caught in a lightning storm with a group of people, maintain a distance of at least 50–100 feet (15.2–30.5 m) between each person. This will reduce the risk of lightning traveling from one person to another.

  • Take a headcount after every close strike. This will ensure that anyone struck will get emergency attention quickly.

Remove your backpack. If you are hiking with a metal frame backpack, remove it as soon as you detect lightning. Make sure to leave it at least 100 feet (30.5 m) from wherever you are taking shelter.

Assume the “lightning crouch”. Squat down with your feet together, your head tucked to your chest or between your knees, and your hands covering your ears or flat against your knees. Do not lie flat on the ground, as this gives the lightning a larger target.

  • This is a difficult position to hold, and it definitely doesn't guarantee your safety. However, by making it easier for a lightning strike to flow over your body rather than through vital organs, you may be able to sustain a smaller injury from it.
  • Cover your ears and close your eyes to protect against nearby thunder and bright lightning flashes.

Be alert for an imminent lightning strike. If lightning is about to strike you or strike near you, your hair may stand on end, or you may feel a tingling in your skin. Light metal objects may vibrate, and you may hear a crackling sound or "kee kee" sound. If you detect any of these signals, assume the lightning crouch immediately.

Wear rubber boots. They are made of a material which is a bad electrical conductor.

Taking Precautions

10/14/2019 (Permalink)

Plan ahead. The best way to avoid injury from a lightning storm is to avoid it completely. Make your plans with dangerous weather in mind. Listen to the local weather forecast, and pay special attention to thunderstorm advisories.

  • Research the local climate: in some areas you can almost guarantee a thunderstorm on summer afternoons. Schedule your activities to avoid many high-risk situations. Those hot, muggy days are just the thing that a thunderstorm needs to get going.

Watch the skies. When you’re out and about, watch the sky for signs of approaching thunderstorms, such as rain, darkening skies, or towering cumulonimbus clouds. If you can anticipate lightning before the first strike, you can avoid being caught in a bad situation.

  • Note that lightning can, however, strike even in the absence of these indicators.

Calculate the distance to the lightning. If conditions permit good visibility, and it’s not practical to seek shelter whenever you notice a strike, use the 30 second rule: if the time between a lightning flash and the resulting thunder is 30 seconds or less (aka 6 miles (9.7 km) or less), get to shelter immediately.

Plan your response. If you are in an area that you expect will see lightning storms, know where safe shelters are. Communicate your plans to your group so that everyone knows what to do in an emergency.

Prepare an emergency kit. Be ready with first aid and other disaster essentials. You may lose power during a thunderstorm, so have alternative light sources available.

Install a lightning rod. If you live in a lightning-prone area, installing a lightning rod can help protect your family and your property.

  • Have your lightning rod professionally installed. An incorrectly installed rod can increase the chance of a lightning strike.

How to Protect Yourself in a Thunderstorm

10/7/2019 (Permalink)

Find shelter immediately. If you find yourself caught in a lightning storm, the key to minimizing danger is to get inside a protective structure. While most people seek shelter if lightning appears to be near, people commonly wait too long to seek shelter. If you can detect lightning, it may be close enough to strike you. Don’t wait for it to strike right next to you (or on top of you) to get to safety. Never stand under a tall or short tree, and avoid being close to power lines as they're both excellent conductors of electricity and could potentially cause death, if not serious injury. Find shelter near or under a stony shelter such as a cavern.

  • Substantial, frequently inhabited buildings (those grounded with plumbing, electrical systems, and, if possible, lightning rods) are best.
  • If you can’t find a substantial structure, get in a car with a metal roof and sides. If the car is struck, the metal body will conduct the electricity around you, not through you. Make sure all windows are rolled up and doors are closed. Be careful not to lean against any metal -- if you do, the lightning will be conducted into your body if it strikes the car. Do not use the radio.
  • Avoid small structures, such as stand-alone public restrooms. Open covering and rain shelters are also not suitable. These structures will attract lightning and provide no protection, making them more dangerous to be around.
  • Standing under a tree is a very bad choice. Lightning strikes tall objects, and if the tree you are standing under is struck, you may be struck as well or injured by the tree.
  • Bring in your pets. Doghouses and other pet shelters are not suitable protection against lightning strikes. A pet leashed to a fence has a much higher risk of getting struck by lightning.

Stay away from windows. Keep windows closed, and try to stay within inner rooms of the structure. Windows provide a direct path for the lightning to travel.

Don’t touch anything metal or electrical. Using a landline phone is the main cause of lightning-related injuries in the US. Lightning can travel into the home from through any material that conducts electricity. This includes landlines, electrical wiring, and plumbing.

  • Do not touch any electrical outlets during a storm. Do not unplug any devices during a lightning storm, as the strike could be transferred to you.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls. Most concrete has a wire mesh which can conduct electricity.
  • Stay out of the bathtub or shower, and avoid indoor swimming pools.
  • In a car, try to avoid touching any part of the metal frame or the car's glass.

Stay inside. Stay inside at least 30 minutes after the last strike. Don’t go out just because the rain is starting to let up. There is still a significant risk of lightning strikes from a departing storm.

Treating Lightning Strike Victims

10/7/2019 (Permalink)

Call emergency services. Because lightning strikes can cause cardiac arrest, aggressive resuscitation may be necessary. If you cannot dial 9-1-1, designate someone else to.

Make sure it is safe to help. Do not put yourself in danger trying to help a lightning strike victim. Either wait until the immediate danger has passed, or move the victim to a safer location.

  • Despite the common myth, lightning can strike the same place twice.

Start CPR. People struck by lightning do not retain an electrical charge, so you can immediately touch them and begin treatment. Do not remove the burned clothes unless absolutely necessary.

Treat the victim for shock. Lay the victim down on his or her back with the head resting slightly lower than the torso. Elevate and support the legs.

Common Drainage Problems in Your Yard

9/30/2019 (Permalink)

The 4 most common yard drainage problems

When you think of drainage problems, most homeowners immediately think of drains inside the house. However, just like inside drains, yard drain issues can affect your quality of life just as well. Many of these issues are easily avoidable just by doing a routine visual inspection, or periodic maintenance.

1. Clogged Yard Drains and Area Drains

Many things can clog yard drains. Because many yard drains are located near a grass area,  the usual suspects are leaves, twigs, grass cuttings, and trash. It’s always a good idea to periodically check your yard and area drains. You can see a small portion of yard drain from above the grating. It should be easy to see if an accumulation of debris or sediment is obstructing the water flow. This cure can be as simple as opening the grate when necessary and removing these items lying in the base of the drain. This is an easy fix; you can use a garden scoop, or simply put on a rubber glove and use your hand.

A clogged area drain can allow water to enter a basement

It is not advisable to flush them with a garden hose, as these items then tend to clog the pipe itself. If there is a long-standing problem that has made its way into the pipe, a sewer cleaning or water jet may be needed. In some cases pushing a pressurized garden hose in and out of the pipe can flush out the debris.

2. Dirt and Debris in Yard Drain

During the Fall season, a heavy load of dirt and debris can easily enter the yard drain. As the leaves begin to dry and fall from the trees, many of them get stuck under the grate. Carrying out yard maintenance and regular cleaning or mowing can help prevent clogging. Before heavy Spring rains occur, always make sure your yard drain gratings are cleaned of any sediment or leaves. This simple step can save you from a flooded area, or property damage. This is particularly true of area drains that are located just outside of an entry door.

While leaves are common culprits, tree roots present the more serious threat. Tree roots often look for the nearest source of water. Since area and yard drain lines are shallow, it is not unusual for roots to penetrate yard drainage lines. Yard drains provide the moisture that the roots need, and roots are strong enough to penetrate through old pipes, causing breaks and blockages.

3. Low Lying Areas with Poor Drainage

Sloping is another factor. The flooded areas in your lawn, or finished areas, are possibly caused by improper sloping or grading of your yard itself. If this is the case, check how the grading is structured in your property. This can be done using a line level, which is simply a line of rope with a level hanging off of it. A more sophisticated device is a lazer level.

Pooling water can create health issues

Affected areas usually have a poor drainage design, or no drainage system at all. Even when your own yard water usage does not cause the flood, your neighbor’s sprinkler systems can be the problem due to grading issues. But most frequently it is due to rainwater. In some rare cases dislodged sanitary home drain lines can seep waste water to outside the house itself. Needless to say, this poses the most severe health danger.

4. Stagnant Water

Pools of standing water in your yard is clear sign of drainage problem. If this is the case, there can be multiple underlying issues. As an example, existing hardpan (soil with a high clay content has very poor drainage qualities) in your property and poor grading. A hardpan calls for site-wide inspection and possibly a new drainage plan. The solution may involve excavation in wide areas of the lawn. In areas with high rainfall, pools of standing water make your yard not only aesthetically unpleasing but also a breeding ground for insects, hence health problems. Stagnant water creates the perfect environment for the following insects to breed and thrive: Mosquito, Fly maggots, Dragonfly nymphs, and Water scorpions. Some insects are more than just nuisance. They are known to be carriers of dangerous diseases.

Can My Home Be Reassessed While I Have a Mortgage?

9/23/2019 (Permalink)

How to Negotiate the Assessment Value

Tax assessments on real estate provide revenue for local public services, such as education. Your municipality or county tax authority, usually an assessor or treasurer, bills you annually based on your property's current recorded value. The tax authority may reassess the value now and then or when major changes to the property or its title occur, regardless of whether a mortgage lien exists on the home.

Reassessment Basics

A change in ownership, such as the sale of your home, triggers a tax reassessment. The tax authority bills the new owner based on the value at the time of sale, which is usually higher than its value under previous ownership. The assessor compares the property to recent sales and assessments conducted in the area in order to arrive at a value. Reassessment also follows construction or additions to a home, which increases the property's value. Taking out a building permit lets the assessor know you plan to add a structure or add to the home's existing structure. Structural repairs generally do not trigger reassessment.

Tax assessments on real estate provide revenue for local public services, such as education. Your municipality or county tax authority, usually an assessor or treasurer, bills you annually based on your property's current recorded value. The tax authority may reassess the value now and then or when major changes to the property or its title occur, regardless of whether a mortgage lien exists on the home.

Mortgage Appraisals

Mortgage lenders rely on a certain protocol to determine property values which is different from that used by tax assessors. Your mortgage lender requires an appraisal report by a licensed professional to ensure the home is sufficient collateral for the loan. It appraises the home when you obtain a mortgage to buy or refinance; therefore, your mortgage lender's last appraised value may vary greatly from the assessor's. While you have a mortgage, your tax authority may reassess your home's value every so often, usually no more than once every two to three years, according to Kiplinger.

Tax assessments on real estate provide revenue for local public services, such as education. Your municipality or county tax authority, usually an assessor or treasurer, bills you annually based on your property's current recorded value. The tax authority may reassess the value now and then or when major changes to the property or its title occur, regardless of whether a mortgage lien exists on the home. 

Reassessment Mortgage Effects

A tax reassessment affects your total housing costs, as an increased assessment raises your annual tax bill. When you pay taxes monthly through an escrow impound account handled by your lender, your monthly payments also go up. An escrow account allows your lender to collect one-twelfth of your tax bill along with your mortgage payment. The tax assessor sends the lender a copy of your bill annually or semi-annually, depending on your locality's tax-billing schedule. The bill reflects any changes due to reassessment.

Tax assessments on real estate provide revenue for local public services, such as education. Your municipality or county tax authority, usually an assessor or treasurer, bills you annually based on your property's current recorded value. The tax authority may reassess the value now and then or when major changes to the property or its title occur, regardless of whether a mortgage lien exists on the home.

Assessment Appeal

Up to 60 percent of properties may be overvalued by the assessor, according to Kiplinger. Because assessments do not move with market fluctuations, you may have to prove that your home's value is actually lower than the tax assessor's value to get a break on your bill. Errors in the assessor's records and a decline in property values since the last assessment are common reasons for assessment appeals. The process typically involves writing a letter and providing a professional appraisal or gathering valid comparable properties which you send to the assessor.

Fall Yard Cleanup & Maintenance Checklist

9/16/2019 (Permalink)

Autumn means football games and visits to the local pumpkin patch. It also means it’s time to get your yard ready for winter. The right preparation now will save you time and energy when spring rolls around, and will keep you and your family safe in the yard year-round. Make sure you get the most out of your yard next year by following our checklist of fall cleanup musts.

1. Clean out debris.

Fallen leaves and weeds are the perfect place for pests to settle in for the winter. Clear out flower beds to keep the critters at bay. Pay special attention to rose beds, as their foliage can foster disease over the winter.

2. Till the vegetable garden.

After the final harvest, pull out old vegetable plants, remove debris, and completely till the whole plot. If you compost, now is the time to add a layer of compost to help nurture your soil for planting next spring.

3. Trim Rogue Branches.

Trim up any large or out-of-place tree branches that may cause trouble during the winter. You don’t want any branches breaking and falling during the snowfall to come.

4. Clean out the gutters.

Not all fall cleanup is in the yard. This is the perfect time to clear leaves and other debris from rain gutters. Check for proper drainage, clear out any blockages with a small garden trowel, and rinse with a hose.

5. Dry everything out.

Drain all water from hoses, fountains, and drip irrigation systems, and store them in a dry place. Water left standing over the winter may damage your equipment.

6. Aerate.

Break up soil to keep water from pooling and guarantee that nutrients will reach the roots over the winter. A garden fork will do the job for small yards, but larger yards may require a walk-behind aerator, which should be available to rent for a reasonable price.

7. Feed the lawn.

Send your yard into winter with the nutrients it needs to survive the long, cold sleep. Add a fall lawn fertilizer with high phosphorous content to encourage root growth and enjoy a lush, green lawn come spring.

8. Rake and mulch.

Don’t let fallen leaves get the best of you; if left unattended they can suffocate the grass. Rake them up, shred them, and use them as mulch for young trees, shrubs, and flower beds. You might even be able to skip the raking part if you use a lawn mower to mulch the leaves in your yard.

9. Prune trees and shrubs.

Trim any dead branches and cut back overgrown trees and bushes. If you have blooming perennials like clematis or roses, now is the time to prune them and train the branches.

10. Give it one last mow.

Set your mower to a low setting and give the lawn a close buzz before winter sets in. This helps the soil dry out more quickly in the spring, which leads to a lusher lawn.

11. Divide and cut back perennials.

If your perennials really took off this year, go ahead and spread the love. Divide plants and add them to other beds where they will also do well. This saves money and time in the spring. Fall-blooming perennials like chrysanthemums shouldn’t be divided now — wait and divide them in the spring.

12. Protect cold-sensitive plants.

Keep sensitive perennials, shrubs, and roses in top shape through the cold days of winter. Add mulch to the base and wrap plants in cloth barriers to prevent damage from freezing. Depending on the hardiness of the plant and your climate, you can use a single sheet or blanket or wrap them in a combination of cloth and plastic.

13. Plant bulbs, shrubs, and fall annuals.

Some plants do best when planted in the fall. If you want to add new shrubs or spring bulbs like hyacinth, now is the time to get them in the ground. Fall annuals like pansies are also a great addition to keep some color in your yard as other plants go to sleep.

14. Protect the deck.

Prevent the growth of mold and mildew by giving the deck a good power wash. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can rent one from a garden store. Once the deck is clean and dry, add a weatherproofing stain to protect the wood from moisture damage over the winter.

15. Clean tools and store them.

Don’t throw your gardening tools in the shed and forget about them until spring. Take time to give them a good cleaning and add a light coat of oil to prevent rust during the cold season.

If you follow this checklist you’re bound to have a wonderfully winterized yard that will be ready to wow you with lush, green bounty once the warm weather returns.

Financial Benefits of Solar Power

9/8/2019 (Permalink)

Solar power gives you the ability to enjoy a better way of living

The benefits of solar energy include more than just savings on your electrical expenses – home and business owners can take advantage of state and federal incentives to pay off a system quicker, and start making money earlier.

In short, the financial benefits of solar power range from immediate reductions in the out-of-pocket costs, to long-term programs designed to provide steady income for decades.

1. Electricity Savings:

With a solar power system, you avoid frequent rate hikes associated with fossil fuels. An average residential system in New Jersey will produce approximately 8,400 kWh every year.

At an average utility rate of $0.16 per kWh, you’ll save $1,344 in the first year if you purchase the system. And that doesn’t count the income that could be generated by SREC’s on top of that!

If you opt to have solar installed for no money out of pocket rather than purchasing, you still get to sign up for a lower, more predictable and locked in rate for your electricity.

2. Incentives:

Incentives are unique as the individual states that implement them. Facets of incentives depend on whether the system is for commercial or residential purposes. States with incentives typically have rebate-based incentives, production-based incentives or a combination of the two, all of which make the benefits of solar energy more accessible for the average citizen. The federal government also offers tax credits and grants for renewable energy systems.

3. Increased Property Value:

An often overlooked financial benefit of solar power is the value it adds to a home.

DIY Bathroom Cleaners for Every Surface

9/3/2019 (Permalink)

DIY BATHROOM CLEANER INGREDIENTS·

A heavy-duty cleaning or gardening spray bottle·

1 Cup White Vinegar (Heated)·

1 Tablespoon Dawn Blue Liquid Dish Soap

HOMEMADE BATHROOM CLEANER DIRECTIONS

Step 1: Heat the vinegar on the stove top until hot (NOT boiling) or use your microwave for 60 seconds or less (avoiding a boil). Pour the hot vinegar into the spray bottle.

Step 2: Add the tablespoon of Dawn dish soap or its equivalent to the spray bottle. (Tip: To avoid a vinegar-y smell, use lavender-, citrus-, or tropical-scented dish soap. Regardless, the smell will be rather strong, so consider opening a window or running a fan.)

Step 3: Shake gently.

Step 4: Spray the mixture immediately and liberally onto the intended surface. Because of the heated vinegar, this cleaning solution needs to be used right after preparation, otherwise it will eventually clog the sprayer due to a residue developed by the soap and the acidity of the vinegar as it cools. Only make the amount you need. Discard the rest and thoroughly rinse your sprayer with hot water afterward. (If the surface is grimy from extended periods of dirt or soap scum, then let the concoction sit for 10 to 30 minutes before taking the fifth step.)

Step 5: Use a wet sponge to wipe the grime. Prepare yourself for the shock of how easily it washes away.

How to Detect Leaks in Your In-ground Sprinkler System

8/27/2019 (Permalink)

Since much of your home's automatic sprinkler system components are located underground with gallons of water regularly cursing through, how do you know if a leak occurs? In addition to wasting water, in-ground sprinkler system leaks can damage your lawn and garden if they aren’t caught and repaired quickly. Depending on your sprinkler system design, you likely have valves and water lines that run throughout your lawn and landscape that are prone to leaking issues.  Unless you installed a DIY sprinkler system, you may not know precisely where those lines and valves are located.

Spot Leaks in Your In-ground Sprinkler System 

-Look at the differences in water pressure and if the system is spraying low water pressure when it is on

-Mold and mildew on the lawn or grass and plant damage caused by fungus

-Areas that are much greener above the water lines or around the sprinkler heads of your system 

-Water bubbling up when the system is running or a depressed, sunken area in your lawn

-Small holes in your yard

-A sprinkler system line that sprays dirty water

-Signs of animal damage or digging that could cause a leak

Fix a Leak in Your Sprinkler System 

Many leaks can be fixed without professional intervention, saving you a tons on sprinkler system costs.

Step 1: Look for sprinkler heads that don’t spray properly or have low water flow

First, you must locate the leak. If you think the leak is in a water line, look for sprinkler heads in a zone that aren't working or that have very low pressure. You’ll likely find the leak or water line issue somewhere between a working sprinkler head and several non-working ones, especially if that area stays wet and soggy. 

Step 2: Dig Until you Find the Issue 

After you’ve found the leak, carefully dig until you find the component that’s causing the issue (contact your utility company before you start digging). In some cases, you may just need to tighten a clamp or joint, or maybe replace a damaged or torn seal or valve. In some cases, you may need to replace an entire section of pipe.

Step 3: Minimize Leak Issues with Proper Maintenance 

To minimize leak issues, make sure to operate and maintain your in-ground sprinkler system properly. 

Observe all the zones in operation at least weekly during watering months to watch for heads that aren’t spraying correctly and to make sure that the heads are positioned to supply adequate water to all areas of your lawn and garden. Take care when operating lawn mowers and other equipment around sprinkler heads, and keep vehicles off the grass.  Check your control panel regularly to make sure the settings are correct and pay attention to the water pressure when the system is operating.  Keeping a close eye on your automatic irrigation system will help you nip small problems in the bud before they become big ones.