How to Stay Warm during a Power Outage

Mother Nature can be a bit testy when it comes to the weather in Florida. One minute, it might be 70 degrees and sunny; the next, it could be storming and 45 degrees. If there’s a power outage during a cold snap, this can certainly cause problems. Here, you’ll learn some tips and tricks on how to stay warm during a power outage.

Stay in One Room

Though it might get a little cramped and crowded, it’s much easier for you to try and keep a single room warm than your entire home. In fact, with a little preparation, you can stay relatively toasty.

  • Put rugs, towels, and blankets on the floors. A few extra layers of insulation between you and the cold floor will help you stay more comfortable.
  • Plug up any air leaks in the room. This might involve hanging up shower curtains over the windows and even placing a rolled towel at the bottom of the entry door to the room.
  • Consider pitching a tent. A tent creates an even more confined space that will trap more heat. This is a great idea for sleeping, especially.

Dress Appropriately

When you can’t use your heating system, learning how to stay warm during a power outage can be quite the trick. Fortunately, by simply dressing yourself appropriately, you can stay quite comfortable. Wear layers if you can, and above all else, keep your head, hands, and feet as warm as possible. Double up on the socks and mittens, and wear a nice, warm hat. This will help trap more of your body heat and keep you warmer for a longer time. Blankets are also excellent ways to retain body heat, so be sure to pile them on.

Use Fuel-Fired Heaters (Carefully)

Each year, thousands of people are injured or even killed due to the use of heaters fired by LP gas or kerosene. Not only is there an open flame, which can start a fire, but the fumes can be dangerous – as can the resulting carbon monoxide gas. If you must use a fuel-fired heater, be sure you’ve ventilated the room properly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember, too, that not all heaters are appropriately rated for indoor use, so check your owner’s manual and follow the instructions to the letter.

Use a Generator

Learning how to stay warm during a power outage might seem tricky, but having a generator set aside for just such an occurrence is always a great idea. These generators are usually fueled by gasoline, and they allow you to utilize one or more appliances designed to keep you warm. For example, a generator could very well save the day if you move into a single room by allowing you to power a space heater. Just remember that burning gasoline creates carbon monoxide, too, so you absolutely must be sure to ventilate the generator appropriately.

Learning how to stay warm during a power outage isn’t difficult. By simply using your heaters and generators carefully, dressing for the weather, and staying in one room, it is possible to keep your family safe and warm during a power outage.

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Getting Ready for Christmas: Preparing Your Home for Comfort

Now that Thanksgiving is over, and your family is likely polishing off the last of the turkey sandwiches, it’s time to start thinking about the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or another winter holiday, chances are good you’ll have some guests, and chances are good you’ll want to keep them comfortable. Here are some tips for getting ready for Christmas and keeping your guests happy.

Call Your Local HVAC Service Team

Toward the end of December, the nights can start getting a bit chilly. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to make sure your HVAC system has been properly cleaned and maintained. Annual maintenance is actually best in the winter months since HVAC companies aren’t as busy, and if you’re in the market to have your ducts cleaned (meaning it’s been longer than a few years since your last duct cleaning), it’s the perfect time for that, as well.

Consider the Cooking Environment

If you’ll have guests over while you’re cooking your Christmas dinner, make sure you’ve planned ahead for the extra heat, humidity, and odor. You can check that your range hood is clean and operational, and you might even consider installing an exhaust fan in a kitchen window for the day. Though your air conditioner can certainly help with the humidity, it’s probably not ideal for a late December evening. Instead, think about a room dehumidifier you can keep in your kitchen. This will keep things far more comfortable without having to rely so heavily on your HVAC system in the first place.

Getting Ready for Christmas by Deep Cleaning

It’s always a good idea to give your home a good, deep cleaning just prior to the arrival of guests, and this is even more important if you have pets or indoor floral arrangements. Many, many people have severe allergies, and even if you try to keep your pets away from the guest rooms or take your flowers outside, the dander and pollen will linger. A deep cleaning will keep everyone more comfortable. If you don’t feel like getting ready for Christmas by deep cleaning your home, a cleaning service is often quite affordable this time of year, especially if you have holiday coupons.

Trimming the Tree

Trimming the tree is a vital part of getting ready for Christmas (and getting in the holiday spirit), but it’s important that you take the time to consider the type and size of your tree beforehand. Make sure it’s not too tall; if there is at least six inches between the tree topper (not the highest branch) and the ceiling, you’re all set. Consider its circumference, too, and the amount of room it will take up in your home. Though an artificial tree doesn’t smell as nice, you won’t spend the next few weeks cleaning up pine needles, either. Make the choice that works best for you and your guests.

Getting ready for Christmas might seem overwhelming, but planning ahead can keep you from exhausting yourself before the festivities even begin. Keep things like guest comfort and your own wishes in mind, and you’re sure to have a wonderful Christmas this year.

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Choosing the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

For many families, Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without the bird. Choosing, preparing, and serving the perfect turkey can be a challenge, even for the most seasoned chef. Fortunately, it all starts with the shopping. Here are some tips for choosing the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Size

The first thing you’ll want to think about is the size of your turkey, and this will vary from family to family. The number one rule of thumb here is to figure about a pound and a half per person. No, people aren’t likely to eat a pound of turkey in a sitting, but bear in mind that some parts of the bird are inedible. What’s more, some folks will want seconds, and you’ll probably want leftovers for your soups, salads, and casseroles, as well. The perfect Thanksgiving turkey size varies based on the number of people you’re serving.

Fresh or Frozen?

Is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey fresh or frozen? Well, it depends on who you ask. Most people across the country cook a turkey they bought frozen, but there are some who swear by only a fresh bird. Frozen turkeys are widely available, but you may have to special-order a fresh one. If you go with frozen, make sure you pull it out of the freezer and put it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator at least two days before you plan to cook it.

Kosher or Pre-Basted?

A kosher turkey is one that has been soaked in a salt brine, which intensifies its flavor – but in the best possible way. Choosing a turkey that has already been brined may save you time, but be very careful about adding salt to any recipe – including your stuffing recipe. A kosher bird is already quite salty, and there’s likely enough there to completely salt your stuffing, too. A pre-based turkey, on the other hand, is one with broth and/or flavorings just under the skin. Though it may not do much to add moisture to your turkey per the experts, it can certainly add some additional flavor. Many people believe a kosher turkey is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey simply because it eliminates a step.

Organic or Free Range?

If you’re concerned about things like hormones, antibiotics, or the way the animals were treated, then you will likely want to consider organic or free-range turkeys. These usually come in all the same forms as a regular turkey – kosher, pre-basted, fresh, and frozen. An organic turkey is grain-fed and free from antibiotics and hormones, and it must have access to the outdoors, but it may or may not be considered free-range. On the other hand, a free-range turkey is one that was never kept in tight quarters with other turkeys. It was allowed access to the outdoors and a yard at all times. A free-range turkey may not necessarily be organic, and an organic turkey doesn’t have to be free range. You can find birds that are both, however.

Now that you understand the variety of turkeys you’ll find in your local supermarkets, it should be easier for you to decide which bird you want to buy. As always, check the quality with a quick visual once-over, and make sure the turkeys are being stored appropriately, too. The perfect Thanksgiving turkey is out there just waiting for you to take it home, stuff it with your favorites, and roast it to perfection.

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A Comprehensive Winter HVAC Maintenance Checklist

Fall is in full swing across the country, and leaves are beginning to change. In hot, humid, and sunny Florida, it’s still almost 80 degrees each day. Although downright cold days are few and far between, cold nights can and sometimes do occur. That’s why your winter HVAC maintenance checklist is so very important and you should complete it before fall ends.

DIY Winter HVAC Maintenance Checklist Items

  • Check Your Air Filter – This is one of the items on your winter HVAC maintenance checklist you can handle on your own. Your air filter should be changed every three months at a minimum, but more often if recommended by the manufacturer or if you notice it is visibly dirty. A clean, free-flowing filter is vital to your HVAC system’s performance, and this is true whether you’re using your air conditioner on an 85-degree day or your furnace when it drops to 42 degrees at night.
  • Determine the Accuracy of Your Thermostat – Next, another step of the winter HVAC maintenance checklist you can check off is determining the accuracy of your thermostat. To do it, just make sure all the buttons and settings work as they should, then set your thermostat to a comfortable level. Place a room thermometer (the more accurate, the better) very near to the thermostat, then wait about an hour. Make sure the two readings are within two degrees of one another, but be sure you give those two degrees as leeway.

Lubricate Moving Parts and Motors

Your HVAC service technician will handle this part of the winter HVAC maintenance checklist for you. Both your air conditioner and your furnace rely on several moving parts – namely the blower motor – to move cooled or heated air throughout your home. These parts get a lot of use, so it’s vital to keep them in good working order. Your HVAC tech will check their operation and then lubricate them according to manufacturer specifications.

Check Power Supplies and Fuel Connections

Your technician will also check to ensure that your power supplies are operating correctly and that all your fuel connections – whether gas or oil – are safe and proper. This will keep you and your family safe throughout the cold nights, and it will allow you to sleep easier.

Determine Coolant Levels and Gas Pressure

Even in the dead of winter, there may be days when you need to run the air conditioner to reduce the humidity in your home. During your winter maintenance call, your HVAC technician will check not only the gas pressure going to your unit (if it is a gas-fired furnace), but he or she will also check your refrigerant levels. Too little or too much refrigerant can impact the efficiency of your system as well as your overall comfort.

Check Flue Safety and Damper Positions

Finally, HVAC techs might also check the proper operation of your furnace flue, which allows for combustion gases to escape. If your flue is not operating properly, carbon monoxide and other gases can build up, making you and your family sick – or worse. Dampers are also vital to your comfort as these help direct airflow through the flue and through your duct system.

The winter HVAC maintenance checklist includes other items that your HVAC technician will do on-site, but these represent the most important. It’s all about your comfort, your safety, and the efficiency of your system, so be sure to schedule your winter maintenance today.

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How to Change a Thermostat Step by Step

Though most HVAC system related repairs require professional attention, there are some things you can do on your own. Of these things, changing a thermostat is one of the simplest and easiest. Here, you’ll learn how to change a thermostat step by step, and you’ll learn when you should call a professional for help.

When to Do It Yourself

Most of the time, learning how to change a thermostat is relatively easy, especially if your thermostat is accessible and you’re upgrading to a relatively simple model. However, you are the only one who can decide whether you have the skills and knowledge to carry out this task. If you are unsure of how to change a thermostat after reading the guide found here, or if it seems like an inconvenience, you can feel free to call a professional to install your new thermostat for you.

Step #1 – Ensuring Your Safety

Before you start taking your current thermostat off the wall, it is vital that you take a few very simple safety precautions. Shut off the power to your HVAC system completely, then turn the breaker for the system to the “off” position or remove the fuse. This will prevent electrical shocks or damage to your system as you remove the old thermostat and install the new one.

Step #2 – Remove the Old Thermostat

The next step involves taking the old thermostat off the wall, and this can vary a bit depending on the type of thermostat you have. In most cases, you can simply remove the front panel of the thermostat and locate two or more screws behind that panel. These screws hold your thermostat to the wall. Before removing it, take note of the various connections by writing down the names of the terminals and the colors of the wires attached to them. This will make the replacement process much simpler. Then, remove the wires from the terminals and unscrew the thermostat from the wall. You may need to use a utility knife to carefully cut through paint layers before the unit will come loose.

Step #3 – Attach the New Thermostat to the Wall

The mounting screw placement for thermostats are usually universal, which means you likely won’t need to drill new holes to suit the new model. All you need to do is line up the housing of the new thermostat with the existing screw holes, then secure it to the wall with the provided screws. Once the housing is attached, place the wires on the corresponding terminals using the guide you wrote for yourself while removing the other thermostat. Finally, with all the wires attached to their proper terminals, place the front cover on the thermostat.

Step #4 – Set Your Switches and/or Program Your New Thermostat

You may need to set the switches on your thermostat to suit your HVAC system. For example, if it is cooling season, set the function switch to “Cool” and the fan switch to “Auto”. Next, turn the power to the system back on by flipping the breaker to the “On” position or reinstalling the fuse and pressing the unit’s power button, if one is present. After ensuring your thermostat is functioning properly, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for programming if your thermostat has this option and you so desire.

Learning how to change a thermostat isn’t difficult, but for those who have little to no experience, it can be time-consuming and quite daunting. You can always contact a professional if you have doubts or if you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing your thermostat was installed by someone knowledgeable and experienced.

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