Summer Vacation Home Safety and Sanity Checklist

A summer vacation to the beach, the mountains, or a faraway destination can be a welcome break from the stress and routine of daily life, but being away from home for a prolonged time can put your property at risk. Modern homes are highly complex structures with plenty of potential disasters lurking in plain sight. It’s bad enough when those disasters happen while you’re at home, but they can be catastrophic when you’re away for days or even weeks.

To keep your home safe, secure, and free from both minor and major headaches while you’re soaking up the sun with your family and friends, check out Blindster’s summer vacation home safety and sanity checklist:

 

  • Don’t let your home “go dark” while you’re away.

    Don’t let your home go dark while you’re away.

    A home that has been unoccupied for days is enticing to would-be thieves and burglars. In addition to a home security system, other ways you can protect your property and your belongings is by making it look like nothing is out of the ordinary in your family’s daily routine. That means taking steps like stopping the newspaper and mail, parking vehicles in the driveway or garage, putting lights on timers, and making sure your lawn gets mowed regularly.

  • Use the “coin in a cup” trick to check for food-spoiling power outages.

    Use the coin in a cup trick to check for food-spoiling power outages.

    Whether it’s due to lightning storms or power surges, losing electricity in the summer for minutes or hours can be common in some neighborhoods. Unfortunately, you won’t know exactly how long your power was out if you come home to clocks blinking 12:00. One easy trick to find out is to freeze a cup full of water and place a coin or other small object on top of the ice. If you return home and notice the power went out, check where the coin is located inside the cup. If it’s frozen towards the bottom of the cup, it means your power may have been out long enough for food inside your refrigerator to spoil.

  • Avoid water and central air disasters before you leave.

    Avoid water and central air disasters before you leave.

    Make sure your thermostat is set to a reasonable temperature before you leave. Obviously, there’s no benefit to making sure your furniture enjoys a cool 70-degree temperature, but you also shouldn’t turn your central air off or leave the temperature set too high. To avoid the risk of major leaks, turn off the water supply to your dishwasher, washing machines, and sinks—especially ones that are prone to leaks and drips. You can also set your water heater to vacation mode to save energy and reduce the risk of unit failure while you’re away.

  • Take out all trash and empty your refrigerator of perishable food.

    Take out all trash and empty your refrigerator of perishable food.

    There’s nothing worse than coming home from a relaxing vacation and being greeted with the smell of spoiled food as soon as you step foot inside your front door. Be sure to empty all trash cans and to throw away any perishable food from your cupboard, pantry, and refrigerator before you leave home. You should also clean pet water and food dishes, litter boxes, and other items they need.

  • Call your family, neighbors, and credit card company.

    Call your family neighbors and credit card company.

    Before you leave, make sure some of your family or friends know about your trip—especially if you need someone to stop by and feed your pets, water your plants, or just keep an eye on your home. You also may want to tell a trusted neighbor that you’ll be gone, as they’ll be in a great position to let you know if anything looks amiss at the homestead. Finally, make sure your credit and debit card companies know that you’ll be traveling. Many card companies have fraud protection that will lock access to cards and accounts when suspicious activity is detected—including usage in cities far from home.

 

Fall Lawn Care Tips

Football is back on TV, supermarkets are selling Halloween costumes and decorations, and coffee shops are touting the return of pumpkin spice. Yes, there’s no denying that summer is winding down and fall is nearly here. While the return of cooler weather can be a boon for outdoor activities and reducing your energy bills, it also gives you a chance to prepare your lawn for the spring.

If you were unsatisfied with the appearance of your lawn this summer, you can probably trace it back to the things you did (or didn’t do) last fall. Don’t make the same mistake twice. With a few weeks to go before fall officially arrives, you have plenty of time to take all the steps necessary to have a healthy lawn this fall, winter, and into next spring and summer.

To get your lawn as well prepared as possible for the next 9 months, check out Blindster’s tips below:

Aerate the soil

Aerate the soil

Most grasses are highly responsive to oxygen, water, and fertilizer during the fall, but it won’t do much good if those nutrients can’t reach the roots. A self-propelled aerator can be rented from many hardware stores and rental outlets, and it offers a quick way to aerate even the largest lawns. However, for huge jobs and lawns that are several acres in size, you may be better off hiring a landscaping service unless you want to dedicate several weekends to this project.

Fertilize your lawn

Fertilize your lawn

Just as aerating should be done in the fall, so too should fertilizing. In fact, many lawn care experts say that once-a-year fertilizing done in the fall is sufficient for most lawns and will lead to optimal growth. But don’t be too eager to begin fertilizing as soon as the calendar hits late September. Wait until the season is in full swing and temperatures have started to drop before you break out the fertilizer. Using a walk-behind drop spreader, make sure you hit every inch of your lawn to avoid patchy growth or brown spots in the spring.

Address bare spots

Address bare spots

If the high temperatures and dry weather that’s common during summer did a number on your lawn, fall is the perfect time to repair the damage. Check your grass for any bare or brown spots and use a lawn repair mixture—which will contain grass seed, mulch, and fertilizer—and prepare the soil by loosening it with a rake or aerator. Then, spread the mixture over any areas of your lawn that need extra attention and water it right away. Continue to water those areas at least three to four times per week for the next month for the best results.

Start raking right away

Start raking right away

For optimal lawn growth and health, your grass and roots need constant exposure to oxygen and sunlight. Being buried under a big pile of leaves certainly isn’t conducive to a healthy lawn, so be sure to stay on top of raking once the leaves begin to fall. Waiting too long not only deprives your grass of the nutrients it needs, but it can also expose it to disease. Morning dew and rainfall can accumulate on dead leaves, causing an even heavier weight on your grass and increasing its risk of developing funguses that can harm its growth.

Get serious about weeds

Get serious about weeds

Weeds can be a year-long problem for homeowners, but they’re at their most vulnerable during the fall. Like all plants, weeds go into survival mode during the fall when temperatures drop and days become shorter. That means they can hog even more of the nutrients that your grass needs. Manually pull weeds or use a safe and environmentally friendly herbicide to get rid of them before spring and you’ll have less of a headache to deal with when your lawn is in full bloom.

Back-to-School Safety Tips

School is already back in session throughout many parts of the country, and classes will resume in other states over the next few weeks. As summer ends, it’s important to remember that changing schedules and daily routines can also lead to some safety concerns if you and your children aren’t prepared.

Staying safe involves every aspect of you and your children’s day. From the time you wake up and leave the house, to when your kids are at school, to the time you pick them up, following common sense safety guidelines will help every member of your family have a happy, healthy, and safe school year.

To help your family avoid serious accidents or injuries this year, do your best to follow these tips:

Refresh yourself and your children on bus safety

Refresh yourself and your children on bus safety.

School districts throughout the country are focusing heavily on bus safety in recent years. You can protect yourself and other children by making sure you always come to a complete stop near buses when they’re loading and unloading students. It’s also important to make sure your children know how to safely enter and exit their bus, including when it’s safe to cross the street. Finally, teach your children how to behave on a school bus, including being quiet, keeping aisles clear, and learning how to operate emergency exits.

Make sure your family avoids distractions

Make sure your family avoids distractions.

Distracted driving is an epidemic, but it’s becoming clear that distracted walking can also put people in significant danger. Set a good example for your children by never driving while texting. If you have children who are of driving age, be sure to emphasize how dangerous texting and driving can be. Finally, set limits on cell phone usage for your children when they’re walking to or from school, especially if they use headphones. Being distracted while walking near traffic can lead to serious accidents.

Be cautious when driving through school zones

Be cautious when driving through school zones.

School zones are designed to help children get to and from the classroom safely, and that’s why they have significantly reduced speed limits, crossing guards, and flashing lights. When you drive through a school zone, make sure you follow all traffic laws in that area. That includes obeying the speed limit and any commands the crossing guard on duty gives. Remember that the crossing guard decides who gets the right of way—not stop signs or traffic lights. You should also avoid passing other vehicles in school zones, as children may be walking in an area of the road that you can’t see.

Create a safe environment at home for your children

Create a safe environment at home for your children.

If your children are older, you may feel comfortable allowing them to stay by themselves for a few hours before you or your spouse get off work. Make sure they’re well-protected and that they have everything they need in an emergency, including emergency phone numbers, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, and knowledge of your home’s security system or garage entry codes. To further protect your children’s privacy when they’re at home, make sure your windows are covered with thick shades or blinds.

Establish schedules for after school events, such as sports and extracurriculars.

School years can get hectic for families. Between parents having to work long hours and kids having to balance the demands of school, sports, and extracurricular activities, the days, weeks, and months of a given year can seem like a blur. But when kids must stay late for sporting activities, clubs, and other events, they can’t always rely on a bus to get home. That’s why it’s vital to make sure everyone in your family is on the same page when it comes to each child’s schedule and how they’re supposed to get home.

Protect your children with the right clothing

Protect your children with the right clothing.

Giving your kids proper clothing is important, especially as seasons and weather change. If your children walk to school, make sure they have brightly colored clothing and jackets that make them stand out to drivers. They also should have rain boots if they need to walk when it’s raining. Give them flashlights to place in their backpacks in case they need to walk home when the sun begins to set, especially during the winter. In addition to lighting their path, the flashlights will also make it easier for drivers to see them.

6 Tips for Better Home Security and Peace of Mind

As a homeowner, your top priority is making sure your family and your belongings are safe from harm or theft. And while many homeowners simply install automated home security systems and count on these advanced monitoring alarms to keep them and their loved ones safe, it’s important to take extra precautions to get true peace of mind.

To reduce your risk of being a victim, check out Blindster’s top home security tips:

 

Hide, bury, or protect exterior wiring and power lines

1. Hide, bury, or protect exterior wiring and power lines.

Would-be burglars can be savvy, and if they know a home is equipped with a security system, their first order of business may be cutting the power lines to the home or to the alarms. Whether you’re planning on installing a security system or you already have one, make sure the power supply and wiring are either out of sight, buried, or encased in a protective barrier.

Change your locks when you purchase a new home

2. Change your locks when you purchase a new home.

Your first order of business when buying a new home should be changing the locks and getting new keys made for every member of your family. Make sure that all exterior entrances are equipped with new locks. In addition, you also may want to change the locks every few years, especially if you’ve ever needed to give spare keys to housekeepers, handymen, painters, and contractors.

3. Don’t leave spare keys in obvious places.

Almost everyone has been in a situation where they need to drop off a key for a family member or friend, and almost everyone goes to the tried and true “hiding spot” of under the mat, inside the mailbox, or in a planter next to the front door. Unfortunately, burglars are equally familiar with those hiding spots, and many homes have been stripped of their valuables by people who simply helped themselves to a spare key and walked right in. Get more creative if you need to leave a spare key, and never leave it out for more than one day if possible.

4. Use a random garage door entry code.

Many garage doors can be opened with just a four-digit passcode. While that’s enough digits to make it difficult for someone to guess the code, it’s short enough to make entry a breeze if the code uses obvious numbers, including a significant birth year, your home’s street address, or part of your phone number. You also shouldn’t use weak passwords like 0000, 1111, or 1234.

5. Keep family trips quiet on social media until you get back.

It can be hard to resist sharing your family’s travels while you’re on a grand adventure, but live streaming your kids jumping into a pool in Mexico is like putting a big spotlight on your empty home for would-be burglars and thieves. Sharing every detail of your trip on Facebook and Instagram is okay after the trip is over, that is.

Equip your windows with blinds and shades

6. Equip your windows with blinds and shades.

Burglars are much less likely to break into homes if they don’t know what (or who) is inside. Installing blinds and shades on your windows doesn’t just keep the sunlight out of your eyes and protect your family’s privacy—it also helps you avoid becoming a victim of a burglary. For the ultimate home protection and privacy, consider installing routeless blinds or blackout shades.

Tips for Keeping Your AC Running in Top Condition This Summer

It’s been a brutal summer throughout many parts of the country, with temperatures soaring and humidity rising. Thankfully, central air units and air conditioners help keep the worst of the summer climate at bay, but these modern marvels tend to break down when we need them the most—i.e., on the hottest days of summer. Central air/AC repairs and replacements can be expensive, but you can avoid them by taking a few preventative measures.

Check out Blindster’s tips below to stay cool all summer long without feeling the heat on your wallet or bank account:

Clean or replace the filter frequently.

Experts say that cleaning or replacing a dirty AC filter can improve the unit’s performance and efficiency by anywhere from five percent to 10 percent. Check your air conditioner’s manual to find out how often you should replace or clean its filter for optimum performance and unit lifespan. Dirty filters cause units to work harder to cool buildings and homes, prematurely aging them and causing components to break down faster.

Move objects that interfere with air flow.

Move objects that interfere with air flow.

A new or clean filter won’t improve your unit’s efficiency if its airflow is blocked or obstructed. Make sure your unit has plenty of space on all sides. Never store anything on or next to your unit, and be sure to trim trees, bushes, and hedges if they begin to encroach on the air near the unit.

Clean the inside of the unit and remove debris.

Clean the inside of the unit and remove debris.

The inside of central air units is protected by grates, mesh, and vent covers, but debris and foreign objects can still end up inside. Keep an eye out for things like sticks, leaves, branches, dirt, and other items that can end up in or around the interior fins. For even greater performance, wipe down the fan blades with a damp cloth and vacuum the fins using a soft-bristle brush attachment.

Replace fuses at the beginning of each season.

Replace fuses at the beginning of each season.

Fuses are in the disconnect boxes of most central air units. They are one of the key components that are prone to failure, especially when units are forced to run constantly during hot weather. However, they are prone to stress during cooler months as well, making them more likely to break down in the late spring or early summer. To avoid the risk of injury or malfunctions, consult a professional when it’s time to replace your unit’s fuses.

Lighten your central air unit’s load by protecting your windows.

Lighten your central air unit’s load by protecting your windows.

Windows are one of the biggest sources of heat entering homes, especially in the summer. Sunlight passes through the glass and instantly warms the surrounding area. The warm air then circulates throughout the home, causing the AC to work harder to keep the home cool. Protecting your windows and the interior of your home outdoor awnings, trees, thick blinds and shades, and blackout curtains can reduce your monthly electric bill and prolong the lifespan of your air conditioner.