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The Buzz on Your Home’s Electrical System

by Jacklyn Renz

We often don’t realize the dependency we have on our electricity until lightning strikes and the power is out. Everything from our entertainment, to our cooking, to our hygiene depends on our home’s electricity to be working smoothly and without fault. But let’s face it: most of us don’t know the red wire from the blue wire, nor can we wrap our heads around the intricacies of the system. Here is a quick list of outward signs that there could be an inward problem in your system along with some tips on how to hire help.

You Hear a Buzz

Electricity should be quiet and never announce itself. If you hear any sort of buzzing in an outlet then it is cause for concern. Rather than the electricity smoothly making its trip from wire to plug, it is making a jump over a frayed wire or a loose prong or outlet.

Use the Right Outlet

Not all outlets are created equal. Kitchens and bathrooms require a special outlet called a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The untrained eye can recognize this by the two buttons in the center of the outlet. These prevent electrical shock in locations where water is present. If you don’t have them, get them.

Hot Outlet

Often times a heat producing appliance may become hot to the touch during use, which is normal. However, if the outlet becomes uncomfortably hot to the touch too, turn off the appliance, unplug it, and check to see if the outlet remains heated. Still hot? It could be a sign of incorrect wiring or a bad fuse.

Weird Odors

If you smell a funny odor coming from your outlet, stop using it and get an electrician to check on it. This scenario is even worse if the smell is coming from the fuse box. Drop everything and call an electrician out right away. This sign is a top warning tip off that something could be wrong.

Seeing a Spark

When it comes to electricity, seeing sparks fly is never a good thing. If it’s happening between an outlet and appliance, it may be the latter. To save your wallet, have the appliance checked out first by an appliance repair person, especially if it’s under warranty. However, if you see sparks at your fuse box, contact an electrician for an emergency call.

How to Hire an Electrician

The art of electricity is a specialized field, suitable only for the knowledgeable and well-qualified. Firstly, call an electrician that specializes in existing systems. and who knows how to artfully add to or take away from the existing system in your home. Ask to see an electrician’s state license and his or her proof of insurance. Be sure that both of the documents are up to date. Another good qualifier is the neatness of the electrician’s work. If it’s a big overhaul that your electrician is doing and you notice things such as crooked outlets, then think again before having the person do more work. The neatness of a wiring job often coincides with how safe the job was done.

Our home is laced with an intricate network of wires that we never see but heavily depend on. Now that you know the buzz on your system, stay on top of the sparks and head off the heat with qualified help.

sources: safebee.com, thisoldhouse.com

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Doing Away with Pesky Pests

by Jacklyn Renz

Whether they creep, crawl, or fly, we can all agree that insects of all kinds are not welcome in our homes. The best and first step to heading off a bug issue is to stop it before it starts. After all, a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure. So where do we start when it comes to keeping these especially elusive and quick things out of our territory? Read on for some advice on avoidance.

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Keep Clean and Carry Vinegar

Take away the food source for these pests, and most likely they will head for greener pastures. Keep your kitchen floor and countertops free of crumbs. Using a vinegar spray daily on kitchen surfaces will erase those alluring food odors. As for your kitchen’s drain, keep it clear of debris with a baking soda and vinegar soak, followed by some boiling water to wash away the goop. With tile or laminate, a vinegar spray can also be used for spot mopping the floors.

The E.O. Bandwagon

Essential oils have risen in popularity over the past few years, and rightfully so. Just a few drops of a pure oil can have a powerful impact on your pest problem. Spiders, ants, and cockroaches are repelled by peppermint and spearmint oils. Tea tree oil can also help repel ants. In addition to peppermint, lavender, cedarwood, and lemongrass oils can help if your pets have pests such as fleas or ticks.

Look to the Earth

One of our favorite methods of bug control is diatomaceous earth. This substance is actually not “earth” at all, but fossils of marine phytoplankton. Opt for a food-grade product and you can literally eat this without it hurting you! Diatomaceous earth destroys any insect with an exoskeleton by sticking to their body as they march through it. From then on out, two things happen: the insect slowly gets cut up while simultaneously being dried out from loss of moisture in its body. The especially neat thing about this product is that a bug cannot build up a tolerance to it because the attack is physical, not chemical.

Eliminate Moisture

Like all living things, bugs need water. Keep moisture control in the bathroom, kitchen, and around the outside of the home one of your top priorities. Be sure that there is no standing water in your sinks or tubs. Check under sinks for leaking pipes. If there is a water collection issue happening on the outside of the home, consider installing french drains or getting the grade of the home adjusted by a professional.

From the Outside to the Inside

In addition to controlling moisture and standing water on the outside of the home, keep your vegetation in check. Trim back plants so they are not touching the foundation of the house. Be aware that bird baths, children’s toys, or gardening supplies can often become pools of stagnant water.  Woodpiles and ashes are favorites spots for scorpions, so keep the fire pit cleaned out and the wood far from the house.

Bring in Reinforcements

If insects are committing a full force invasion, you will need reinforcements. Pest control companies are in no short supply. Ask around for price comparisons and quality of work. Some companies even offer organic or natural solutions instead of the standard chemical onslaught. Once the bugs are knocked out by the pros, stay steady with the above mentioned tips to keep your home comfortable and bug-free for good.

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The Not-So-Hard Truth on Repairing Concrete Driveway Cracks

shutterstock_163788452by Jacklyn Renz

One of the most seemingly invincible pieces of your property is your concrete driveway. After all, concrete is hard, durable, and can stand all types of weather, right? Almost right. Like all other things in your home, your concrete driveway needs a little TLC every once in a while, too. One of your first areas of defense to keep your driveway beautiful amidst your curb appeal is repairing any cracks as they happen.

According to the Concrete Network, concrete is a mixture of water, aggregate (rock, sand, or gravel) and cement. Even the most well-poured concrete driveway is subject to cracking from soil settling, tree roots, or overweight loads. As the concrete continues to expand and contract throughout the hot and cold seasons, these cracks have potential to grow and splinter off. Repairing the cracks right away will save you more work in the long run.

Begin by identifying all cracks that need to be repaired. Sidewalk chalk is a great option for marking the places that will be filled. Next comes the cleaning of the offending fissure. You may use a hard tool to scrape out larger pieces of debris. Brush out any old concrete crumbles and remove any plants that may have taken up residence. A pressure washer or hose may be used to spray out any leftovers. Be sure to clean the crack well to ensure that the new material used to fill the crack will properly bond with the existing driveway.

Next, prepare your filling. The options for what to fill it with vary, and many of the options depend on the size of the crack and the local area’s weather. Tougher weather conditions call for a sealant, caulking, or concretes that can stand the harshness. For smaller cracks, there are sealants and caulking that are easy-to-use, don’t require mixing, and boast quick curing times. Other options include the tried and true remedy of dry concrete mix. If the crack is large enough, it is recommended to obtain a concrete mix that contains gravel.

Finally, fill the crack. If using a sealant in a bottle resembling a caulking tube, then load your caulk gun and fill away. For the traditional concrete mix, pour the concrete evenly into the space using a tool such as a trowel, and make sure its compressed firmly. Then, use the trowel to scrape away any excess filling and smooth down the area. Now the wait begins. The concrete must be given ample time to cure, overnight at the very least, before anything is driven over the repair. To help maintain the repair and the rest of your concrete driveway, go ahead and apply a high quality water sealer to protect your hard work.

What may seem like a difficult project is rather simple when broken down. Simply use the above steps as a guideline, follow your chosen concrete filler’s instructions to a tee, and in less than 48 hours your once cracked driveway will be restored to its solid former self.

sources: doityourself.com, bhg.com, concretenetwork.com

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