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How to Stay Safe in a Power Outage

January 13, 2017 12:54 am

There's often no time to prep for a power outage. Whether from winter storms, electric heat during summer, or a simple issue with your power provider, power outages can hit when your least expecting it, and drag on for days. Below are several tips for staying safe in an unexpected outage.

Don't drive. If your outage happens in the winter, it's important to stay off the road. With no traffic lights and treacherous weather, driving can be extremely dangerous.

Pay attention to proper generation. If you're without electricity and want to use a portable generator, make sure you use it in a well-ventilated area. Do not connect a generator to your home's electrical panel or fuse boxes. It may cause electricity to feed back into the power lines, which can endanger linemen and damage electric service facilities.

Cook with caution. If using Sterno or charcoal to cook food, always to do so outside in a well-ventilated area. Cooking indoors with Sterno or charcoal will produce deadly carbon-monoxide fumes.

Be weary of debris. Remember, following a storm, debris can cover power lines that have fallen and even standing near lines that are down can be dangerous.

Back up your batteries. If you know a storm is coming, take time to make sure cell phones and back-up batteries are charged  so that you can stay connected.

Stock away supplies. Make sure you have a supply of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods, medicines, etc. Also, ensure a portable, battery-operated radio, TV or NOAA radio is on hand.

Know your needs. Families who have special medical needs or elderly members should closely monitor weather forecasts and make plans for potential alternate arrangements should an extended outage occur.

Look for down lines. Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees or limbs in contact with lines. Please report downed power lines to Duke Energy and your local police department. If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.

Source: North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives; Duke Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Brushing Your Teeth Wrong?

January 13, 2017 12:54 am

Brushing our teeth is something we hopefully all do twice a day. However, it is highly possible you've been brushing your pearly white the wrong way. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers the following tips provide easy ways to fix common brushing blunders.

Keeping your toothbrush for too long: The average life of a toothbrush is three to four months. Make a resolution to change your toothbrush with every season this year. Frayed and broken bristles are signs it's time to let go.  

Not brushing long enough: Teeth should be brushed for a full two minutes, twice per day. The average time most people spend brushing is 45 seconds. If you're racing through cleaning, try setting a timer. Or distract yourself by humming your favorite tune.

Brushing too hard: Be gentle with your teeth. You may think brushing harder will remove more leftover food and the bacteria that loves to eat it, but a gentle brushing is all that's needed. Too much pressure may wear down the hard outer shell on your teeth and damage gums.

Brushing right after eating: Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing – especially if you have had something acidic like lemons, grapefruit or soda.  

Storing your brush improperly: Keep your toothbrush upright and let it air dry in the open. Don't keep your toothbrush in a closed container, where germs have more opportunity to grow, and if your toothbrush is in a holder next to another, keep them as separate as possible.

Using a brush with hard bristles: Soft bristles are the way to go. You don't want to use medium or hard bristles because these may wear down the outer shell of your teeth and may cause sensitivity when eating or drinking cold food and beverages.

Improper brushing technique: Get your best brush with these steps:

- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.

Source: ADA, MouthHealthy.org.

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Are Your Passwords Protecting You?

January 12, 2017 12:48 am

As more and more of life takes place online, we’re sharing an increasing amount of private information on the Internet... and getting a lot more comfortable about doing so. Therein lies the problem; as we become more lax, criminals become more adept at hacking information, such as credit card and bank accounts, and social security numbers.

Your first line of defense for protecting yourself on the Internet? A stalwart password. Here are some guidelines for creating and maintaining super-strong passwords.

- Never share your password with anyone. You may think it innocent enough to give your password to a close friend or family member, but once it’s out of your hands its safety is out of your control. You never know when it can accidentally land in the hands of the wrong person.

- Create complicated passwords, but one’s you can remember.  Combine facts only you know, such as your childhood phone number, the name of your first crush or your confirmation name. Then take the first letter and/or digit of such facts and create a password that’s a mystery to others but one you’ll never forget.

- Use a mix of lower and upper case numbers, letters and symbols, choosing numbers and symbols that double for a letter, such as the @ sign for A, $ for S, and the number 1 for I. Mix these numbers and symbols to abbreviate a familiar phrase.

- Consider double authentication, like fingerprints or images.

- If it’s in the dictionary, don’t use it. There’s actually software that criminals can use to guess words used in dictionaries for passwords.

- Mix it up. While it’s tempting to only have to remember one password, don’t. Use different passwords for different sites—that way if one gets hacked, it won’t take down your entire online world.

Source: connectsafely.org

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Home Issues That May Secretly Cost You Hundreds

January 12, 2017 12:48 am

It's no secret that being a homeowner is a financial commitment. However, there may be places in your home that are secretly upping your expenses. Read on for a rundown of those secret money leaks, courtesy of Gentec Services.

Air leaks. One of the biggest energy drains on a home is air leakage, which means the conditioned air in your home exits through cracks and leaks and is replaced by unconditioned air from the outside. While windows are the top culprit, air can come in anywhere your heating and cooling system runs or any place that the exterior structure of the home has been joined together. Leaks can be sealed with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam insulation.

Insulation. Pay special attention to the attic, basement or crawlspace, and all exterior walls. Since heating and cooling are responsible for upwards of 40 percent of all energy expenditures in the average home, keeping your house well insulated can significantly lower energy costs.

Power strips. Electronics can drain electricity even when they're turned off. Putting them on a power strip is an excellent way to stop the draw when electronics are in a standby mode, while at the same time protecting them from power surges. You probably have 30 or more electronic devices in your home, so the drain can be substantial. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that some homes carry phantom loads that raise the monthly electric bill by as much as 10 percent.

Water fixtures. If your toilet was installed in 1992 or earlier, it probably uses between four and five gallons of water per flush. Older ones could use up to nine gallons. Buying low flow toilets can cut this water use in half. Updating shower heads and faucets means even more savings.

Your heating and cooling system. Things like soot build-up on gas furnace burners or dust and debris on air conditioner condenser coils can hurt the efficiency of your system. Getting the system cleaned and professionally maintained could mean a 10 percent efficiency improvement.

Light fixtures. The major trend has been toward compact fluorescent bulbs, but these aren't the best choice because they contain mercury, and they also lose lifespan when they are constantly turned off and on. LEDs, although more expensive up front, last much longer and use half the energy of compact fluorescents.

Source: www.gentecservices.com

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How to Sleep Better, Tonight

January 12, 2017 12:48 am

A great night's sleep is a sacred thing for most adults. Sleep helps regulate your hormones, keeps you energized, primes your brain for proper functioning, and more. A recent AARP consumer survey found that 99 percent of adults age 50-plus believe that sleep is important for their brain health, but over four in 10 (43 percent) say they don't get enough sleep. More than half (54 percent) of adults report they wake up too early in the morning and can't get back to sleep.

Below are several tips for sleeping better:

- Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week.

- Restrict fluids and food three hours before going to bed to help avoid disrupting your sleep to use the bathroom.

- Avoid using OTC medications for sleep because they can have negative side-effects, including disrupted sleep quality and impaired cognitive functioning.

- Dietary supplements such as melatonin may have benefits for some people, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Be particularly cautious of melatonin use with dementia patients.

- Avoid long naps; if you must nap, limit to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

Source: AARP

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5 Ways to Brighten Your Winter Skin

January 11, 2017 12:48 am

Dry, cold air does more than just drive us indoors. It also dries out our skin. Adjust your winter skincare routine to keep yourself soft all season long.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. When you find yourself turning the heat on at home, it's probably time to switch to a more hydrating moisturizer. Cold temps mean dry skin and it's no fun feeling like your skin is flaking.

Reach for the SPF. Most of us use SPF in the summer, but the harsh winter sun can actually do double damage on your skin by reflecting off snow. Use a daily hydrating moisturizer with SPF.

Eat water-rich foods. Good skincare isn't just about hydrating from the outside; you must also hydrate internally by eating water-rich foods that stay in your body longer and can give do more for your skin than simply drinking water. Try vegetables like green pepper, cauliflower and spinach, which are hydrating choices.

Your mouth matters. Your lips are skin, too. In fact, they're most susceptible to drying out in the winter months. Take care of them with a gentle lip exfoliation to get rid of excess dry skin using a small amount of sugar scrub, followed by a hydrating lip treatment.

Stay positive. If you minimize your stress level and keep a positive attitude it will make all the difference for your skin. Neuropeptides, which are released when you're angry or upset, can accelerate the aging process. Find reasons to feel good and hold onto the hope that spring will be on its way before you know it.

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Plan Ahead For Power Outages

January 11, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--Ahead of the frigid winter weather blowing into cities and neighborhoods, families can take steps to prevent frozen pipes, spoiled food and the uncomfortable situations that arise when temperatures drop and a home’s power goes out.

Families that may endure a power outage this winter should remember these helpful tips to stay safe and comfortable.

Before the storm:
- Stock-up on batteries and flashlights.
- Evaluate the family’s non-perishable food supply and restock if necessary.
- Review how to manually open the electric garage door.
- Conduct a practice run to help ensure your family knows how to properly locate and operate any equipment required during the power outage.

During/after the storm:
- Never use a gas stove, oven or grill to heat a home.
- During the first few hours of the outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed. Snow can be used as ice to keep items cold in a cooler.
- Choose mittens over gloves and wear layered loose clothing to stay warm.
- Always operate a portable generator outside of a home.

Alternate energy source
- A loss of electricity poses one of the greatest potential dangers and inconveniences when a winter storm strikes.

“Having a backup power solution ready ahead of a utility power outage prevents most of the headaches that go with living without power. With backup power, families won’t necessarily need to worry about perishable foods going bad, for example,” said Dan Roche, director of marketing for portable power and cleaning systems at Briggs & Stratton. “This gives families the security they desire to comfortably ride out long winter months.”

The most popular backup power solutions are portable generators and permanently-installed standby generator systems. Both types of backup power can keep a home’s lights, furnace and necessary appliances working in the event of a weather-related power outage or other emergency. Understanding the differences and capabilities between the two options can make selecting the best generator for a family’s needs much easier.

Portable generators are generally low maintenance, compact and easily maneuverable on the property. These units are typically powered by gasoline and can work well as a quick solution during a power outage to provide reliable electricity to a few essential items and appliances such as a refrigerator, basic light circuits and portable electric heaters at the same time.

While portable generators can provide users with flexibility and comfort, they need to be used appropriately at all times in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never run a portable generator inside a home or in a garage. Visit TakeYourGeneratorOutside.com to learn more about portable generator safety.

Families who want a backup power source that offers uninterrupted power should opt for a home standby generator system. Home standby generators are permanently installed, so they need to be done by a professional. These generators are connected to a house’s existing propane or natural gas line. When utility power to a house is interrupted, the home generator automatically turns on within seconds. Home standby generators can power more of a home’s high-wattage appliances, like the furnace, electric water heater, stove and clothes dryer simultaneously, so your family doesn’t experience any interruptions during unexpected power outages.

Source: briggsandstratton.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Protect Your Family in 2017

January 11, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--Protecting your family and loved ones is one of your most important responsibilities. Many people think about protection in terms of physical acts, such as practicing safe driving, but there are many more aspects of your lifestyle and home that affect your loved ones’ safety.

Protect your family’s financial health

Although it can be painful to consider, your untimely death may leave your family reeling – not only emotionally, but financially, too. Life insurance can help cover funeral costs, child care or act as income replacement. It can also help pay off any loans you’ve accrued, such as a home mortgage, car payment, credit card debt or student loans.

If you don’t have life insurance, it’s never too soon to explore your coverage options. You may be able to save on premiums and get more coverage for your dollar by completing a health exam as part of your application, which helps build a more accurate assessment of your health.

If you do have coverage, it’s a good idea to regularly review your coverage to ensure it still meets your needs. Also check your beneficiaries to ensure your policies are updated with your current information, especially if your family has grown.

Ensure your family is breathing safe air

One threat you may not be aware of is radon, a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment but can create significant health consequences in anyone exposed to unsafe levels.

Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can go undetected in homes until it is too late. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in America, and claims the lives of nearly 21,000 Americans each year. 

Know your own health status

It is difficult to protect loved ones if you are not healthy yourself. Make sure you receive proper preventive care, such as regular health screenings and check-ups that are recommended for your gender and age.

Many employers and health plans offer health screenings. If you have applied for life insurance, many policies provide the laboratory results from your application that you can share with your physician. Find a checklist of important preventive screenings at CDC.gov/Prevention.

Protect the home of your loved ones

There are over 2 million burglaries annually in the United States, according to FBI statistics. Home security systems can help put your mind at ease, and having a security system can also decrease the premiums you pay for monthly homeowner’s insurance. Studies have shown that homes with a security system see a 39 percent decrease in financial loss compared to homes with no security system.

Safeguard your family from fire hazards

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with either no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms. Batteries wear out and may be taken out to cease persistent beeping then never replaced. Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level of your home.

In addition to regularly checking alarms and batteries, it’s a good idea to make a family escape plan in the event of a fire.

Source: MyExamOne.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Ways to Be More Energy Efficient at Home

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

We all want to save money while helping the environment, and one simple way to do that is to scrutinize your energy usage at home. Here are 10 easy, low-cost tips for making your house operate more efficiently.

1. Insulate the water heater. Older natural gas storage water heaters can lose a lot of heat through their walls. Wrapping a heater in an insulating jacket can prevent excess heat loss and energy waste, but should be left to a professional installer so as not to accidentally cover the top, bottom, thermostat or burner compartment.

2. Seal leaks with weatherstripping. Air sealing, specifically weatherstripping, eliminates drafts to save energy while improving air quality and comfort. Weatherstripping reduces air leakage by creating a tight seal between movable components such as doors and windows. Before application, detect air leaks and assess the ventilation. Find air leaks through a blower door test from a qualified technician, or by inspecting inside and outside the home.

3. Insulate water pipes. Insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss and keep the water from cooling off before it reaches the tap. Adding insulation also will prevent cold water pipes from freezing.

4. Replace or clean the furnace filter. Change the heating system's furnace air filter on a regular basis to keep air flowing without overworking equipment. This also keeps out dust and dirt that can lead to expensive repairs or early system failure. A clean furnace filter can lower natural gas consumption by up to 2 percent.

5. Use less hot water. Reducing hot water use is an easy, affordable way to see significant savings on energy and water bills. Run the automatic dishwasher only when full, and wash and rinse full loads of laundry in cold water. Install low-flow showerheads, and don't forget to check for and repair plumbing leaks.

6. Use ceiling fans. Save on heating costs by using an ENERGY STAR® certified ceiling fan, which helps warm air circulate better and allows for setting the furnace temperature lower.

7. Install a programmable or smart thermostat. Programmable and smart thermostats can lower heating expenses and fit any lifestyle. Set the thermostat at 68 F, and then program it to decrease the temperature 8 degrees when no one is home and overnight. Smart thermostats are similar to programmable thermostats, but they also perform more advanced functions. A smart thermostat allows you to monitor and control the temperature in your home remotely from your smartphone or other web-enabled device.

8. Look for ENERGY STAR. If purchasing a new appliance, make it an ENERGY STAR rated appliance. For instance, an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator uses less energy than a regular 75-watt light bulb.

9. Lower the water heater thermostat. Set your water heater thermostat to 120 F to save energy and money. For most homeowners, storage water heaters set above 120 F are simply using more energy without providing any additional benefits. One set to even 140 F can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat loss, and more than $400 in demand loss. Be sure to turn down the water heater when going on vacation to avoid energy waste.

10. Be smart with the fireplace. Open-hearth fireplaces draw heated air from inside the home, sending it up the chimney. When using the fireplace, install a snug-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a nearby window. Doing so reduces the amount of heated interior air drawn into the fireplace and improves efficiency by up to 20 percent.Source: Peoples Gas

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How-to Avoid Overdraft Fees

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

The only thing worse than a low bank balance is landing an overdraft fee as a result of you're low balance. These tips, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, can help assure you never get another overdraft fee again.

Sign up for automatic funds transfer: Instruct your bank or credit union to automatically transfer money from your savings or other accounts to your checking account to cover any shortages. Note: you may have to pay a fee for this service.

Sign up for low-balance notices: Sign up for text or email notices from your bank or credit union if your checking account balance drops below a certain amount.

Make sure funds are available: Make sure deposits into your checking account are actually available for your use before you spend that money. Note: review your bank or credit union's "funds availability" policy.

Take advantage of technology: Frequently check your account balances online, by phone, or nearby ATM machine.

Check all transactions on your statements: Carefully review your monthly account statements, looking for fraudulent transactions as well as taking into account any checks written and deposits made that may not appear until next month's statement.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities

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