September 21, 2018

Houseplants — Good For Home And Health

Bright blooms, the smell of fresh cut grass, and a warm breeze may be missing this time of year, but there are ways you can brighten up the indoors and bring some summer gardening back into your life.

Houseplants create a fantastic distraction for passing the winter doldrums as we eagerly await summer. In addition, they also provide valuable health benefits during our harsh cold months. Most houseplants add oxygen and humidity back into the air and some can even rid an area of toxins expelled through materials used to build, decorate and furnish a house.

Indoor plants are ideal to keeping the summer spirit alive, adding a splash of color or texture in your home and providing wonderful health benefits for you and your family. By following just a few simple steps, you can host healthy and beautiful houseplants in your living space.

Location, location, location
After plants are arranged appropriately in their containers, you’ll need to find a suitable location for them. The first step in keeping a plant healthy is to situate it away from any drafty areas or heat sources. For instance, do not place a fern by a front or back door, or on top of a heating vent. Heat sources such as fireplaces will also cause plants to dry out.

Keeping hydrated
Many of us overwater our plants. Using a product that regulates over watering and infuses soil with oxygen, like Safer Brand Oxygen Plus Plant Food, will allow you to avoid the woes of over watering, which result in wilting, dulling and death of the houseplant.

Catching rays
Placing houseplants indoors where the sun will hit them only about four to six hours a day is sufficient. Sunlight results in denser, greener foliage and overall healthier plants.

Moving time
Like us, plants would much rather be outdoors than stuck inside during warm and sunny days. Houseplants can be moved outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. This timing is dependent on where you live and the time of the year. Moving houseplants outdoors is easy and will add a great decor element to your entryway, porch or back deck. Before moving plants outdoors, add about 2 inches of potting soil to their containers, as this amount has probably decomposed in the container during the winter months. Once outside, you should soak your plants from top to bottom.

In the initial stages of a houseplant’s conversion outdoors, it is important to gradually introduce them to nature. Placing plants in direct sunlight for the length of a day will put them in shock, so it is best to acclimate them over a one to two week period. Introducing them to the outside under shade of a tall tree will ease them into this transition.

The outdoors offers a houseplant many elements that allow them to thrive, but also exposes them to residents of nature they may not have encountered before. Using an organic insect killer, like Safer Brand Houseplant Insect Killer, will keep your plant from being eaten in the outdoors. When you notice that leaves or petals have been snacked on, or you actually see a bug on the plant, you can spray the entire plant to ensure the bugs will be killed organically and your plant will not be harmed.

Not only do potted plants add design elements to interior and exterior living spaces, but they are also beneficial to your health. So go ahead, indulge in a houseplant or two. A little green can really do the body good.

How To Make Dining Out Fresh, Healthy And Affordable For Families

There are times when pulling together a meal at home isn’t in the cards; and finding time to cook a meal and gather everyone around the table is just too hard. The easiest time-saving solution is going out to eat, but that too can seem daunting when looking  for a family meal that has both good nutrition and comes at a reasonable cost. Not to fear, menus and prices are changing.

Greater emphasis has been placed on eating fresh, and, when possible, local foods in recent years. And, as the demand for healthier menu options has grown across a wider audience, more restaurants at a variety of price points have responded by offering foods made with fresh ingredients, at prices that won’t hurt the family budget.

This trend also means that consumers have to be savvy about where – and what – they’re eating. What’s presented as healthy isn’t always the best choice. The best defense here is a good offense. Becoming informed about the dishes you’re likely to pick and the restaurants you frequently visit will allow you to make the right choices.

There are a few key things to look for when taking the family out for a meal:

* Fresh ingredients. These can be particularly hard to come by in a restaurant setting, so it’s good to find restaurants that have a mission to serve fresh foods. Some restaurants, like Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, make the effort to ensure that the food they offer on their salad bar and the ingredients in their freshly prepared foods come straight from the farm to the restaurant kitchen, with as little transit time as possible in between. That means that the food not only tastes better, it’s also in optimal condition for healthy eating.

* A wide variety of options. Families have to cater to a lot of very different taste preferences, which can make dining out a challenge. And we all know it can be a challenge to get kids to choose healthy foods over junk food. By going out together to a restaurant that has a buffet format coupled with freshly-made wholesome foods, you’ll be able to let everyone pick out what’s to their taste with the peace of mind that they’re eating well.

* Know nutrition. Make it a point to talk to your family about healthy ingredients and how they make a difference in their lives. It’s also useful to explain calories – how many go into a healthy diet, what’s too little and what’s too much – and give kids examples of how many calories are in a variety of prepared foods. Some restaurant websites, like that of Souplantation, make it easy to find out exactly what the nutritional values are in each item they serve. Having a realistic view of what goes into the food you eat plays a big role in making healthy choices when eating out.

By knowing what to look for, it’s easier to make smart choices at restaurants that are wallet-friendly, disproving the myth that it costs a lot to eat the healthiest foods. And when you find a place that meets the requirements of healthy, affordable and fresh, spread the word to friends. Whether you go out on a multi-family lunch date or give restaurant gift cards, you’ll be sharing smart ways to stay healthy with your family and friends.

Understanding Omega-3s Shouldn’t Give You Heartburn: Myths And Truths

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Did you know that including omega-3s in your daily diet is an easy way to support heart health? In fact, the American Heart Association has recommended the consumption of polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, for good heart health.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen some exciting – and promising – developments in the research surrounding omega-3s and their effects on health,” says Dr. Harry Oken, board certified in internal medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. “In fact, researchers at Harvard’s Global Health Initiative and the Harvard School of Public Health recently reported that one of the most common preventable causes of premature mortality among Americans is omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, possibly accounting for as many as 96,000 deaths annually.”

“Including enough omega-3s in your daily diet is an easy lifestyle change to support healthier hearts – but in my work with patients, I find that there are a lot of misperceptions around these important nutrients. Clearing up these myths is the first step toward ensuring that my patients get the omega-3s they need,” he says.

Myth No. 1: All fat is bad.
It is often said that Americans consume too much fat, but in the U.S. and other parts of the world, many people don’t eat enough good fat. Consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are important for cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, fewer than half of Americans know that the “better” fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) can help reduce their risk of heart disease, according to a survey conducted for the American Heart Association.

Myth No. 2: All omega-3s are the same.
No doubt you’ve heard a lot about the benefits of omega-3s. But did you know that not all omega-3s are created equal? There are three main omega-3s – DHA, EPA and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and each has distinct health benefits. DHA supports optimal brain and eye development and function and supports heart health. EPA also supports heart health. ALA is used as a source of energy. “When it comes to heart health, DHA and EPA are the omegas you need,” says Oken.

Myth No. 3: My body can make all the nutrients it needs for a strong heart, including omega-3s.
The human body does not produce significant amounts of DHA or EPA on its own – it must get these important nutrients from the foods you eat. The main dietary source of DHA and EPA is cold-water fish. Unfortunately, the typical American diet includes far less DHA and EPA than optimal – for example, the average U.S. diet contains less than 100mg DHA per day. This is well below what experts have recommended healthy adults consume, which is 220mg DHA per day. Individuals with documented cardiovascular disease might need to consider daily intakes as high as 1 gram of DHA and EPA per day, according to the American Heart Association.

Myth No. 4: Fish is the only source of heart healthy omega-3s.
Fish and fish oil are not the only sources of DHA and EPA. While most people believe that fish produce their own DHA and EPA, it’s actually the algae in their food chain that makes them a rich source of these omega-3s.

For those who do not consume significant amounts of fish on a regular basis due to dietary preferences, allergies, a vegetarian lifestyle or worries about potential ocean-borne pollutants, there are DHA/EPA supplements on the market that are made from algae. One example is Ovega-3, which is made from sustainable algae that is completely vegan and free of ocean-borne contaminants and provides 500mg of DHA and EPA. An added bonus of this supplement is that you won’t have that fishy aftertaste. Visit www.ovega.com for more information.

Myth No. 5: Flaxseed provides me all the omega-3s I need for my heart.
This is a very common misconception. But in fact, flaxseed oil is a source of ALA. ALA has no known independent benefits on brain, eye or heart development and function, as DHA and EPA do. And, although the human body can convert ALA to DHA and EPA, the process is inefficient and variable.

Does Your Pet Need A Spring Cleaning?

How to make sure your pet shampoo and other products are safe!

Now that spring is here, your dog will be outside a lot more, and will probably need baths more frequently. But have you ever considered what is in the soaps and shampoos and other products you buy for your pet?

For dog owners, there are no two ways about it – pets are part of the family. You want your four-legged companion to be as happy and healthy as any other member of your family. Many of the things you buy for your human loved ones – like food, medicine and beauty products – are regulated by agencies that make sure those products are safe. You might assume that there are similar restrictions on pet products, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that accurate ingredient lists be put on human items like shampoos and soaps.  The agency strictly regulates supplements intended for human consumption. Though laws regulate what advertising claims can be made on pet supplies for dogs, the FDA does not regulate shampoos used on pets unless the shampoo is classified as a drug, e.g., anti-dandruff. This means that many manufacturers are misleading the public as to what is in their shampoos. Even when some manufacturers claim drug facts, many forgo the costly product registration process and unfortunately are too low a priority to get noticed by the FDA.

Given the trend toward organic products, some vendors make claims about their products being all natural when they are not – often with impunity. Worse yet is the fact that they might not honestly list the ingredients in the product, which could be harmful for your dog. A short ingredient list is a red flag that you might not be buying an honest product.

“Without a thorough and honest ingredient list, it can be hard to recognize that some pet shampoos are actually products made for humans, just re-labeled,” says Lorenzo Borghese, who founded Royal Treatment pet products out of concern for the skin problems his own dog was experiencing. He notes that while that might not sound too bad, human soaps are bad for dogs’ skin. “Human skin is acidic, while dogs’ is alkaline, and a product intended for human consumption has an improper pH which can cause the skin to burn or become irritated.”

Adding to the problem, foaming agents like sodium laureth sulfate, often found in human shampoos, strip oils off the skin. Human skin is porous, so it can naturally replenish those oils, but dogs’ non-porous skin can’t, leaving them with extremely dry skin. That is often a big part of why veterinarians only recommend washing your dog every four to eight weeks.

For those looking for a natural dog shampoo, the problem of incomplete labels is frustrating, and even more so when trying to help a pet with skin and coat problems. Borghese’s Royal Treatment line of shampoos and conditioners was formulated with ingredients that are ideal for animals’ sensitive skin, all of which are listed on the label. Because the products are sold on television they have to meet rigorous standards and have complete and verified ingredient lists.

The same problematic lack of regulation that affects topical pet care products also makes it difficult for pet owners to know whether pet health supplements are safe and effective.

The low cost of overseas production often means that manufacturers will outsource the work of producing pet supplements. That also means that there is sometimes a lack of oversight and quality control – pet supplements might not contain the ingredients in the amount claimed on the bottle. For pet owners who want to take care of health issues like joint stiffness or a poor coat, it’s almost impossible to verify whether the supplement they’re giving their pet has the ingredients it claims in the active quantity listed on the label.

Working with renowned veterinarian Dr. L. Phillips Brown, Borghese also launched a line of supplements for dogs with the same principles of providing verifiable ingredients that are ideal for pets. “The ingredients in these supplements are standardized,” Brown says. “They are made in the United States, and what’s on the label is in the product.” Batch testing helps to verify that ingredients are present in the correct amounts that are necessary for the supplements to be effective.

Knowing precisely what you’re giving your dog is important. It can be difficult to take the guess work out of shopping for pet supplements and care products, but the most important thing to demand is information about the exact ingredients in everything from food to shampoo to supplements. Armed with that knowledge, you can give your pet a healthy, happy life. For more information on pet-safe products, go to www.royalpetclub.com.

An Easy Way To Save 15 Percent On Utility Bills

home inspector atlantaSaving money around the house continues to be a major pursuit for homeowners nationwide. And with a focus on going green, savvy homeowners are looking for ways to cut energy use to reduce utility bills and their home’s carbon footprint.

There are dozens of ways to curb energy use around the home. Sealing drafts by applying caulk and weather-stripping around windows and doors, and applying foam sealer around drafty outlets and piping leading outside can save up to 5 percent on heating costs alone. Most important, installing the proper amount of attic insulation with the proper airflow is generally the best way to save on home energy use.

If you are among the millions of Americans who enjoy do-it-yourself home improvement projects, installing a radiant barrier in the attic space above your home is one of the most effective energy-saving projects to consider.

While radiant barriers are not a new concept, new products on the market are making it easier for homeowners to install them and realize reductions in their energy bills each month. Overall, a radiant barrier can save an average homeowner up to 15 percent on utility bills.

The benefits of installing a radiant barrier have long been known by professionals in the construction, roofing, heating and cooling and energy industries, says Rick Jordan of EcoRite Products, a major radiant barrier manufacturer. Only recently have products been manufactured specifically for the DIY installer market.

Jordan explains that a radiant barrier is a product that is installed in the attic – between the rafters on the underside of a roof – to reduce the radiant heat gain that permeates a home when the sun is beating down on it. Radiant barrier, a particularly effective product for summer months, also reduces heat loss from a roof during the winter, reducing the workload on your furnace and lowering your heating bill.

Early, less-effective versions of radiant barriers included spray-on metallic paint, reflective chips or products known simply as “attic foil.” Installation was cumbersome, often requiring special tools, adhesives or multiple installers, and the low flash point on the older type of foil created added dangers in the event of a house fire.

It’s important to choose a radiant barrier that is Energy Star-approved and made of metalized film, not perforated aluminum foil. Today’s radiant barriers are far more sophisticated, yet some are so simple to install that no tools are required.

Enerflex Radiant Barrier is an example of new radiant barrier technology. The product is available nationwide through a network of lumber and building materials dealers, as well as through major retailers. The product is Energy Star-approved and was named one of the “Best New Products of 2010” by Professional Remodeler, a leading trade magazine.

Enerflex Radiant Barrier comes in rolls or panels, pre-cut for 16-inch and 24-inch widths for installation ease. The radiant barrier panels literally flex or “snap” into place between the rafters, with no tools needed. This makes it possible for installation to be a simple, one-person, do-it-yourself job that can be completed in a matter of hours.

“Studies on installed radiant barrier products show that attic temperatures are typically reduced by a full 30 percent during the summer months, which can translate to 30 degrees on a hot summer day,” says B.J. Damstra of Universal Forest Products, one of the nation’s largest building products manufacturers.

“In really hot climates, homeowners are finding additional uses for radiant barriers. In Texas and Arizona, for example, homeowners keep garages cool by installing the product on the inside of garage doors and walls. Outbuildings on farms or ranches, or outdoor workshops can also be kept cooler in the summer when the product is installed between rafters under the roof,” Damstra says.

Jordan of EcoRite Products says adding a radiant barrier in the cooler months makes installation safe and more comfortable for the installer.

Radiant barriers are a safe, proven tool for reducing energy bills and reducing the strain on a home’s HVAC system. And when you can spend a few hours over a weekend and complete a project that saves money month after month, it’s hard to ignore the benefits.

Visit www.enerflexfoil.com for more information on radiant barriers or to find a retailer in your area.

Get Smart About Your Living Environment: Five Trends That Will Make Your Home Truly Your Own!

atlanta home inspectorIf you’re looking to purchase or remodel a home, you likely are building a long list of “must-haves,” “must-dos” and “must-includes” for your new space. There’s no question the housing market is in a different place than it was as recently as five years ago. Of course, a tough economy has been the prevailing factor, but other things – an aging population and a tough job market – are influencing how people are living today and possibly into the future. If you’re like most home seekers and remodelers, you may find that your requirements fall in line with these five growing trends:

Bigger isn’t always better: As interest grows in living more efficiently, people are building smaller homes. In fact, new homes are now 7 percent smaller than they were the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Just my style: Homeowners are aiming to make their home fit their personal visions of the best investment on the dollar, and 20 percent of new homes are currently custom-built, according to the American Institute of Architects. This trend to customize is in part made possible by the parallel trend to build a smaller home. Smaller spaces free up dollars to put toward the products that fill it. Color, decor and products that help make a home feel one-of-a-kind versus one-of-many are becoming king.

Multigenerational: Homeowners also are seeking spaces that accommodate residents of all ages. One-third of baby boomers report they have adult children still living at home or likely moving back home at some point, and 8 percent of Americans report their parents already live with them or will in the future, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With more people living under one roof – some possibly in diminishing health – you may be among the homeowners seeking products that will help ensure a healthier, cleaner environment. This may range from a programmable thermostat to help you bring comfortable temps to all ages, to an air filter to help keep germs and airborne particles at bay.

In for the long haul: As life expectancy increases, Americans are building homes that will allow them to “age in place.” Smart technology and system installations that will address future sight, hearing and dexterity-related limitations are becoming increasingly popular as a result.

Energy-efficient: As homeowner concerns about energy costs continue to mount, so too does their attention to home design and products that will help lower their energy bills and decrease their carbon footprint. As a result, homeowners are showing increased attention to factors such as insulation and window quality.

In the end, there are many products and services on the market to help meet these homeowner needs, but there’s one you may have not considered, tucked away in your basement. It’s your home heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system, and it actually plays a role in meeting each of these growing homeowner trends.

* If it’s a smaller home you seek, HVAC manufacturers such as Trane continue to rollout product solutions that offer you the size you need to fit your space.

* Heating and cooling alone accounts for half of the energy used in a home, according the Alliance to Save Energy, so it’s important to install a HVAC system that will deliver optimal performance. A product such as the Trane XC95m furnace is among the most energy efficient on the market, and is equipped with technology that allows it to communicate with all other components of a heating and cooling system.

* If smart technology and a customized home experience are what you need, consider remote home energy management systems. With a solution like Schlage LINK, a remote access solution that provides home control from a cell phone or any computer with Internet access, you can adjust your home’s thermostat, even when you are not there.

* Your heating and cooling system can also help keep your home a clean and healthy environment for all ages. Many manufacturers offer whole-house air filtration systems, and some of these systems can filter up to 99.98 percent of particles and allergens from your home’s air.

If any of these home trends apply to the “must have” list for your new or remodeled home, your heating and cooling system might be a good place to begin in your planning. Visit www.trane.com to get started. With the right HVAC system, you’ll be on your way to creating your picture-perfect home environment, however small, unique, diverse, long-lasting or energy-efficient you need it to be.

Save Green With Green Laundry Practices

home inspector atlantaThere’s no question that the majority of Americans want to make green purchases and do their part to help preserve the environment. But even as the economy starts to turn around, more than two thirds of U.S. consumers say price is the biggest obstacle preventing them from buying green goods or services this year.

With hundreds of green products coming out every day it’s tough to tell what actually works, what’s good for the environment and how to go green without spending all the green in your wallet. Plus, if you’re like many cash- and time-strapped Americans, going green may seem like a costly and time-consuming addition to your everyday life.

Fortunately, several easy adjustments to your weekly routine can help you do your part to preserve the environment and your paycheck. Take an everyday chore like doing the laundry. Spending more than $2,500 annually on water, electricity, cleaning and laundry supplies combined, the average U.S. household does more than 400 loads of laundry per year.

Such costs can be taxing on the environment and your bottom line, but here are a few simple changes you can make to help you save green by going green.

Cool it: The notion that you can only thoroughly clean fabrics in hot water is a myth. Approximately 90 percent of the energy used to power your washing machine comes from heating the water. Wash your laundry in cold or warm water. This will not only help to save money on your utility bill, but will also minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

Hang ’em up: Don’t dry your clothes excessively – doing so is bad for the environment and your fabrics. Try drying laundry the old fashioned way – by hanging it on a clothes line or drying rack. If you are in the market for a new dryer, get one with an electronic sensor that senses when the clothes are dry and automatically shuts off afterward.

Ditch the dryer sheets: They’re an unnecessary expense. Plus many of the most popular brands contain ethanol, chloroform and other chemicals on the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous waste list. These chemicals are released into the air after they’re heated in your dryer. If you really need to eliminate static cling, try adding a quarter cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle. It’s cheaper and just as effective.

Find a fiber-friendly fabric softener: Over 95 percent of liquid fabric softeners are oil-based which means they work by coating fibers in oil. Over time this oily residue builds up and decreases the lifespan of fabrics. The average American family spends $2,147 on clothing each year, half of which is spent replacing clothes. Use a fabric softener that’s not oil-based like Purex Complete Crystals Softener, which is 92 percent natural and will not turn your clothes yellow or gray.

Fill ‘er up: Depending on when your washer was made you could be spending up to $195 each year on electricity alone just to do the wash. Always try to run a full load of laundry in your washer or dryer. Running a partial load uses the same amount of energy as a full load, but accomplishes less. Running full loads will help you use less energy which is better for the environment and your bank account.

There are many ways to protect the environment and it doesn’t stop with your cleaning routine. Adopt some of these tips and the environment, your body and your wallet, will thank you in the long run.

A Guide To Seafood For Every Taste And Any Budget

home inspector atlantaSome diners are often intimidated to try seafood or may think it’s too expensive to enjoy regularly. But with the wide assortment of types and dishes available today, there is an option out there for every taste and any budget. It’s easy to find fresh, delicious, affordable seafood meals the whole family will enjoy.

Seafood expert and Red Lobster Executive Chef Michael LaDuke offers tips for navigating your way to a perfect seafood meal.

* Start simple. When eating seafood for the first time, or introducing seafood to kids, start with something simple. Try shrimp as a topping on a salad or your favorite pizza. Shrimp is great seafood for beginners because it is widely available and very reasonably priced.

* Try it grilled. Seafood is often prepared oven broiled or sauteed, but why not try your next piece of fresh fish, such as salmon, grilled over an open flame? “Wood-fire grilling sears in the natural juices of fresh fish while adding subtle flavor,” says LaDuke. “Not to mention, grilling is a healthful way to prepare protein-rich seafood.”

* Find comfort in familiar flavors. Broadening your seafood horizons is easy when you start with a sauce or topping you already know and love. A well-known seasoning, like Parmesan cheese, or a common crusted topping, like pecans, can be paired with your favorite fresh fish and add a new dimension to your meal. A good fish for seafood beginners is tilapia, because of its mild taste and light texture. Chef LaDuke recommends Red Lobster’s new Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia, an affordable selection, that features a creamy blend of cheese and breadcrumbs that is then baked until crispy and golden. This dish is one of several new menu items offered at Red Lobster for less than $20.

* Create your own combination. Next time you’re dining at a seafood restaurant, order a combination plate, which allows you to savor multiple flavors and try different preparations at the same time. This lets you discover the type of seafood you enjoy the most. “Red Lobster serves several dishes that pair seafood varieties and preparations together – like our Maple-Glazed Salmon and Shrimp or Wood-Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Scallops,” notes Chef LaDuke. “It’s a delicious way to try something new.”

* Discover daily specials. A special or standalone menu is a great place to find new or unique dishes to try. “Ask a seafood expert about daily specials and promotions,” says LaDuke. “This is often where the chef can get a little more creative with tastes.” It also allows you to rely on the advice of a trusted resource to find new seafood varieties like rainbow trout, mahi-mahi or halibut.

* Get great seafood at a great value. Quality seafood doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny. Instead, try premium seafood like lobster in a more approachable dish like soup or a sandwich. Lobster Bisque and New England Lobster Rolls are both new menu items offered at Red Lobster, illustrating that top-quality seafood dishes can be affordable.

As you decide what your next seafood meal will be, consider Chef LaDuke’s advice and know that even with so many options to choose from, there are a host of great tasting dishes for every taste and any budget. For more information about selecting fresh, delicious, affordable seafood dishes and to learn more from Chef LaDuke, visit www.RedLobster.com.

Make Fire Safety Plans Part Of Your Spring Routine

atlanta home inspectorCleaning, dusting, freshening and organizing – these steps are all typical activities for a spring cleaning routine. But while you’re organizing your house or home office this season, make sure you’ve added organizing and streamlining your family safety and fire plans to your to-do list.

While you can never plan for a fire, if one does break out, it not only puts you and your family in danger, but also compromises the safety of your community fire fighters and first responders. The spring season is the perfect time to review your fire escape plans as you simultaneously tackle your traditional spring cleaning to-do list. By reviewing these fire safety tips from Duracell and taking precautions, you can help keep both your family and local first responders safe.

* Check your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they work. If your alarms are 10 years old or older, it’s time to replace them, because alarms can become desensitized over time. If possible, purchase interconnected alarms. If one alarm goes off, all the alarms connected in your house will go off, helping to alert everyone in all locations of a possible fire. Also check the locations of your smoke alarms. Have at least one on every level of your home, and one inside or near sleeping areas. Also replace the batteries inside your alarms once a year with batteries you trust, like Duracell.

* Develop a fire escape plan for every room in the house. Make sure all family members know of at least two exits for every room in the house, and where an outside meeting place will be – away from the house. If you have a second story, have portable escape ladders stored in each of the rooms so family members can escape safely. Practice a fire escape drill twice a year.

* Changing weather temperatures can cause windows and doors to stick, so make sure every member of your family is able to unlock and open these escape opportunities – especially as the seasons change. If you have security bars on doors or windows, have a “quick release” latch so it’s easier to get outside in an emergency. Also keep stairways and doorways open – not blocked with clutter that could slow down your escape.

* Practice safety with candle flames, space heaters and cigarettes. Blow out all candles if you plan to leave the room or go to sleep. And keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that could burn. Turn them off before leaving the room or going to sleep. And make sure all cigarettes are completely extinguished and wetted down with water before being put into the trash.

* Be educated about your community first responders: Did you know that of more than 1 million active firefighters in the U.S., about 73 percent serve on a volunteer basis?

More than 23,000 volunteer fire departments in the United States operate on tight budgets to help keep your community and your homes safe in case of, and when, fires strike. Many volunteer firefighters report they spend up to $500 of their own money each year in purchasing supplies and equipment for their department, according to a U.S. Fire Service Needs Assessment Survey.

You can support your community volunteer fire department by simply doing what you already do, purchase batteries for your household. Through the Duracell Power Those Who Protect Us battery donation program, with every purchase of specially marked CopperTop batteries, a battery donation will be made to volunteer fire departments across the country to help power the devices and life-saving equipment volunteer firefighters use. Through this program in partnership with the National Volunteer Fire Council you can direct the donation to your community by visiting Duracell.com/protect or Facebook.com/Duracell.

Grilling Tips To Keep Home Fires Burning Safely

atlanta home inspectorGrilling season will arrive before you know it. Before firing up the grill  for spring festivities or tailgating, however, weekend warriors should  observe a few simple precautions to ensure that backyard barbecue bashes don’t go up in flames.

Casual cookouts can turn dangerous – and sometimes deadly – if safety is ignored, according to leading home insurer MetLife Auto & Home. “Every year, we see dozens of fire-related claims reported throughout the year because of simple carelessness,” says Mike Convery, vice president and chief claim officer at MetLife Auto & Home. “Keeping safety basics top-of-mind can help prevent losses from occurring and help you avoid needless hassle and property damage – and in some situations, injury to you or your loved ones.”

Follow these easy pointers to make grilling safer:

* Keep barbecue grills on a level surface away from the house, garage and, most importantly, children and pets. When grilling on your patio, make sure that all furniture and accessories are far from the grill. On balconies, it is always safer to move festivities to available lawn space. Never grill inside the home or garage, even if it is raining.

* For gas grills, always store gas cylinders outside and away from your house, and be sure the valves are turned off when not in use. Check the tubes regularly for cracking, brittleness, and leaks in the connections. To determine if there is a leak, simply pour soapy water over the line with the gas valve turned open. If gas is escaping, bubbles will appear. Should you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don’t use the grill until the leak is repaired.

* Your grill generates high temperatures, so keep it covered whenever possible. Keep lighted cigarettes, matches and open flames away from the grill, and move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and grease. Use a can to catch excess grease.

* Make certain your grill is kept at least 2 to 3 feet away from wood or vinyl siding. Placing the grill too close to your home, especially one with vinyl siding, can result in melting or burning, or even a fire. Also, keep in mind that while vinyl siding and composite decking have a higher “burn point” than wood, it’s also easier for these materials to melt and discolor, which can result in a costly claim for property damage.

* For charcoal grills, use only starter fluids designed for your grill and never use gasoline. Limit the amount of fluid used. If the fire is too low, use dry kindling and add more charcoal, if necessary. To avoid a flash fire – a fire that spreads rapidly through the vapors of an ignitable liquid – never add more liquid fuel to a lighted grill.

* When using bamboo or wood skewers, soak them in cool water prior to use so they won’t ignite on the grill.

* Keep a fire extinguisher accessible and never leave a grill unattended once it has been lit. If an extinguisher isn’t available, consider keeping a bucket of sand or a garden hose nearby.

* Never allow burned coals to smolder in any container on a wooden deck and make sure to soak your coals before disposing of them by wrapping them in heavy-duty aluminum foil and putting them in a non-combustible container away from the house.

“These precautions should be used for all outdoor cooking devices, including propane turkey fryers and outdoor fire pits,” Convery says.”Above all, remember that whatever you’re cooking with outdoors will remain hot for hours and that wooden surfaces, such as decks, can present fire hazards, so never place cooking devices directly upon them. We have received serious home insurance fire damage claims, some involving loss of life, that started because cooks forgot that the party isn’t over until the last flame has been extinguished.”

For a comprehensive look at fire safety protection, MetLife Auto & Home offers a free brochure on “Fire Safety,” featuring useful information about fire-related subjects, including how to plan an escape route, seasonal safety tips and safety information related to heating your home. A coloring and activity book is also available for children, titled “Learn About Fire Safety with the PEANUTS Gang,” that helps children learn critical emergency information, the steps to fire safety and how to develop escape routes to use in the event of a fire. The brochure and coloring book are available free from (800) 608-0190.