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According to the U.S. Geological Survey, more than 43 million people – or 15 million homes – rely upon private household wells for drinking water, but is well water safe to drink?

“There can be serious water quality problems with well water,” says Eric Yeggy, Technical Affairs Director for the Water Quality Association. “I wouldn’t rely on chance when it’s relatively easy to find out if your well water is safe to drink.”

Eric has spent more than 20 years in the environmental testing industry analyzing drinking water, ground water, and soil, and recently stopped by the vipHome Podcast with well water safety tips!

Common contaminants of well water

Well water is essentially water pulled up from the ground (or groundwater) that is untreated. Common contaminants in well water include arsenic and nitrate as well as radiological contaminants like radium, barium, strontium. Groundwater can also be impacted by industrial activity.

“Even well-intentioned human activities sometimes have unintended consequences,” says Eric.

Recently, PFAS contamination has been in the news (and Eric explained PFAS chemicals to us on an earlier episode of the vipHome Podcast)! PFAS are per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances that are commonly used in firefighting foams, and one of the ways they are released into the environment is through events that were staged to train firefighters.

a firefighter spraying foam during a training exercise - well water safety tips
PFAS chemicals can get into your water from common occurrences.

“Once they are released in the environment, they’re very persistent and can find their way into aquifers,” says Eric.

Other contaminants can enter aquifers, such as pesticides and herbicides, from agricultural activities. Nitrate or nitrate from fertilizers or from livestock manure can also reach dangerous levels in aquifers, especially for small infants. Fecal matter, too, can threaten the safety of water well.

“The presence of fecal coliform or E. coli is an indication that fecal matter is somehow making it into your well water,” says Eric. “You might be exposed to pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or even cysts like cryptosporidium.”

Warning signs of a contaminated or polluted well

Trust your senses. Discoloration, bad taste, or odor are all indications that something might be wrong with your private well water.

“It’s worthwhile to do some testing if you are noticing any of that,” says Eric.

White scale buildup (or mineral buildup) on your faucets and shower doors indicates hard water, which is not dangerous to humans but can damage your appliances.

Red iron stains in a sink - well water safety tips
Does your sink look like this?

Iron can cause a reddish staining, and manganese can cause a black staining. Manganese is not dangerous at lower levels but can cause serious health effects at higher levels, including problems with memory, attention, and motor skills. Children can also develop learning and behavior problems from manganese exposure.

Unfortunately, “…many things that could potentially impact your health or the health of your family are completely tasteless and odorless, like arsenic,” says Eric. “It’s a naturally occurring element that is common in the geology and is often picked up by the groundwater.”

How to test your well water

“If you are a do-it-yourselfer, the first thing I would recommend is to contact your state or your county public health department,” says Eric.

Oftentimes, county public health departments have programs that will help with well water testing and recommend what to test for based on the history of the other groundwater testing in your area.

“There’s also private laboratories that do this kind of testing,” says Eric. “The Water Quality Association can help you find certified drinking water laboratories and water treatment specialists in your state.”

Testing is essential for water well safety. Learn more tap water testing tips from Eric and the WQA now!

Frequency of well water inspection and testing

a person wearing a glove and holding a vial of water that may contain PFAS chemicals under a tap
Test before and after a well issue.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends testing your well water once a year. If you’ve found issues with nitrates, pesticides, and fecal coliform in the past from surface runoff, then you may want to retest frequently to make sure you’ve fixed those problems.

“You should also retest after flooding,” says Eric. “If your well head has been underwater, there’s a good chance that your well may have been contaminated.”

How to treat a polluted or contaminated well

a well with its cap to the side - well water safety tips
A broken well cap can lead to contamination.

Oftentimes, contamination occurs due to a poorly sealed well or a broken well cap. If your test results find your well polluted or contaminated, you should consult your local public health department or a certified well inspector or specialist. These professionals may recommend you:

Generally, well specialists use a chemical to disinfect the well, followed by flushing to remove that chemical from the house. After your well is disinfected, there are certified products you can use to remove bacteria, virus, and cyst. You can also install a barrier to prevent these contaminants from returning.

Inside your house, you can install a reverse osmosis system under your kitchen sink to remove arsenic and nitrate from your tap water.

“It will come with a separate faucet that you only use for drinking water or cooking water,” says Eric. “You can also get whole-house systems for these contaminants that will treat all the water coming into your home.”

Certain radiological contaminants are easy to remove from your water supply with a water softener.

a homeowner pouring salt into a water softener - well water safety tips
A water soften can help to remove contaminants.

“You will also get the benefits of softened water, including protection of your appliances, cleaner clothes, less energy usage, preventing the buildup of hard water scale, etc.” says Eric.

Of course, there are also PFAS, pesticides, herbicides, and volatile organic solvents or other industrial chemicals that can show up from leaking underground storage tanks.

“First, find what’s in your water first by testing, and then you can shop around to look for products that are certified to remove those contaminants,” recommends Eric.

Well water is safe to drink after disinfection…right?

After the professional disinfects your well, they need to flush that chemical out of the well and through your plumbing.

a homeowner drinking water which may contain PFAS chemicals at a kitchen table
Be careful for taking your first sip.

“Keep in mind that regardless of who you have complete that disinfection step, make sure that they are using a chemical that has been certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN 60. It’s commonly referred to as Standard 60.”

This standard helps to ensure the safety of chemicals used with drinking water.

“You don’t want somebody dumping household bleach or pool and spa chemicals down your well,” says Eric. “Those chemicals contain other things besides just chlorine.”

Laundry bleach has additives that help with scent, odor, and cleaning, which occur naturally from the manufacturing process. These chemicals aren’t dangerous when they are used as intended.

“Typically, these chemicals have a strong chlorine odor,” says Eric, “so you can tell when they’ve flushed it out. The odor will go away.”

Important well water maintenance tips

Resources from the EPA, the Water Systems Council, and privatewellclass.org provide maintenance tips to help you tackle well water safety.

“If I had a private well, the first thing I would do is contact my county or state public health department to see what programs they offer for well owners,” says Eric.

Many of these agencies have field staff who are qualified to inspect your well and give you personalized recommendations.

a well with its cap off with an inspector next to it - well water safety tips
Inspection is key with well safety.

“Those personalized recommendations are going to be much more valuable than just general tips and guidelines,” says Eric.

To prevent well water contamination, the EPA recommends homeowners take the following general steps:

The Water Systems Council also recommends that homeowners take the following steps to inspect their well:

A well’s serviceable life is usually more than 20 years. Always make sure to use a licensed well contractor to install a new system and close the old well properly and safely.

Get more water safety tips in Water Treatment for Dummies, a digital free booklet available on the WQA website.

WQA and vipHomeLink have a content alliance

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Even in the safest neighborhoods, you can still find a broken window. So how can you keep your home as safe as can be and gain peace of mind? Our experts put together this super quick guide with seven home security tips to help safeguard your family and largest financial asset from burglars and other threats! 

Tip #1 – Make your home smart (and safer)

Not everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, especially burglars. That’s why one of the easiest deterrents of break-ins and burglaries is installing smart home tech. Simple additions such as a video doorbell, motion-detection lights and cameras, and door and window sensors can notify you of uninvited visitors. 

You should also consider installing smart locks on your exterior doors. Unsure if you locked your door? You can check the app! Some models allow you to lock your door from afar, just in case you forgot to do so on your way out.  

Tip #2 – Consider installing a security system 

a homeowner looking at cameras inside his home - home security tips
Upgrade your security measures.

Whether you have the latest PlayStation, a large screen TV, or Wayne Gretzky’s hockey stick, one of the best ways to protect your home (and stuff!) is with a home security system. Experts say that a home with a security system is 300% less likely to be burglarized than one without a security system, and most models not only have central monitoring but also additional safety features. Many come with smoke and carbon monoxide monitoring, water sensing, and even panic buttons.  

Before you decide on a security system, check different companies, packages, and inclusions. Then choose the best one to protect your home and family. 

Tip #3 – Secure your exterior doors 

Not all doors are created with safety in mind, and with 56% of break-ins happening at your exterior doors, you need to make sure yours are secure. Are your exterior doors at least 1¾” thick and made of heavy, solid wood or metal? Do they have quality deadbolt locks? (Chain locks are great for additional protection but are not a substitute for deadbolts.)

Be wary of doors with glass panes. If the glass is too close to the lock, burglars can break it to reach inside and unlock your door.

Do your exterior doors have 3-inch or longer screws? Long screws not only connect the door to the door frame but also the frame of home. While that may not stop a burglar from getting in, it will make it harder for a burglar to get inside your home. The added time may help a neighbor to notice and call the authorities.

Speaking of Mrs. Kravitz – 

Tip #4 – Get to know your neighbors  

a good neighbor waving from her fence - home security tips
Get to know your neighbors!

This may shock you, but one of the best home security tips is having great neighbors. Sure, everyone loves being able to share a cup of sugar (people still do that, right?), but since most break-ins happen between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., you want someone nearby who may notice that’s not your car or truck in the driveway. 

When you’re on vacation, they can keep a look-out on your home. While we don’t suggest you leave them a key anymore, you can leave them an access code to your home’s smart lock, just in case they smell gas.

Tip #5 – Make your landscaping work for you 

Did you know that your landscaping can actually work against you? You know to cut your grass or have the landscapers over while you’re on vacation, but large bushes or trees near your home can give unwanted visitors places to hide. Overgrown vegetation is a favorite spot for burglars, too. 

Plant smaller shrubs near your home and trim and clear any excess brush from hedges, trees, and flower beds. You may also want to consider planting thorny bushes under windows to discourage access to your home, but if you ever lock yourself out and need to climb in a window, you might find yourself in a prickly situation. 

Tip #6 – Shine some light on your property

outdoor light shining at night - home security tips
Don’t forget to use LED lightbulbs!

Unfortunately, even with trimmed shrubs, shadows will form on your property at night. Exterior lights can help to illuminate dark areas and limit the number of shadows where any unwanted guests can hide. You should also consider installing motion detection lights, which can catch a burglar off guard. The sudden light may send them running from your property or at least alert you, so you can call the authorities. 

Tip #7 – Take routine safety precautions

Getting the most sophisticated alarm system won’t matter if you don’t arm it. If you forget to charge your video doorbell, then you won’t know who comes to your door. That’s why you need to make sure not to overlook simple home security tips, such as: 

Of course, don’t forget to create and update your home inventory frequently. 

Create your home inventory

​Not quite a home security tip but rather a “make your life easier” tip in the unfortunate event of a home robbery or home fire – consider creating a home inventory. This is a list of the valuable and important contents of your home and the specific details about each one, including the price, receipt of purchase, and a picture of large items. If a home break-in or home fire occurs, you can give your home inventory to your insurance company, who should reimburse you for your losses as per your homeowners insurance policy.  

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The day you have been waiting all year for has finally arrived – Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day! (No? Just us?) If you weren’t aware, this special holiday is November 15th, but you really shouldn’t wait until a special day to give your refrigerator a good scrubbing.

(Not to scare you, but a dirty refrigerator can actually lead to Listeria growth.) 

Clean your refrigerator the proper way and get it squeaky clean with this quick and easy guide! 

First, how often should a refrigerator be cleaned?

It really depends on how often you dirty your refrigerator, but experts recommend cleaning your refrigerator three to four times a year. We recommend you do it at the start of every season. 

Of course, you should always wipe up spills immediately. As we mentioned earlier, Listeria bacteria can grow in the refrigerator, sometimes from leaking thawing meats. “Cross-contamination” can occur easily if your unsuspecting produce comes in contact with dangerous meat juice. (Ew!) 

Clean your refrigerator in six easy steps 

a woman throwing out an orange while cleaning her refrigerator
When in doubt…

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests the following steps to get your refrigerator squeaky clean: 

  1. Dispose of any spoiled or questionable food. (When deciding what to throw out, consult the USDA’s Food Facts page.)
  2. Place remaining food in a cooler and unplug the refrigerator. 
  3. Remove crispers, ice trays, shelves, and drawers. Wash them with hot water and detergent. (Dish soap will do.) Follow up with a sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach to 1 gallon of water. 
  4. Wash the inside of the refrigerator and freezer, including the door and gasket, with hot or warm water and baking soda. Rinse with the same sanitizing solution. 
  5. Replace the drawers, shelves, crispers, and ice tray, and leave the refrigerator door open for 15 minutes.
  6. Wipe down the front and sides of the refrigerator. 
  7. Plug your unit back in and restock the food. 

What about refrigerator coil cleaning?

refrigerator coils with dust on them
Prolong the life of your refrigerator by cleaning the coils!

Great question! If you are not a pet parent (and why aren’t you?), then you may only have to clean out your refrigerator condenser coils once every six months. If you have fur babies, then you may need to clean your coils along with the rest of your refrigerator – three to four times a year.

It’s super easy! 

  1. Unplug your refrigerator. 
  2. Pull out the toe-grill and use the coil brush and vacuum to pull the dust out the front. 
  3. Shimmy the refrigerator away from the wall. (Be careful, and if you need backup, call in your family!)
  4. Locate your condenser coils in the back of the unit. Using a coil brush and a vacuum, remove the dust and vacuum the area.
  5. If dust is persistent, use a toothbrush and a can of air. 
  6. Vacuum up any remaining dust. 
  7. Push your refrigerator back into its cubby and plug it in.  

Why do you need to do this? Dusty and dirty coils can cause the unit’s compressor to work overtime and shorten the lifespan of the unit. It can also increase the temperature of your refrigerator (which is not good for your Greek yogurt) and can create a fire hazard.

Are you wondering, “Does cleaning refrigerator coils save energy?” The answer is yes! By cleaning your refrigerator coils, you’re helping your refrigerator to run efficiently, which saves energy (and saves you money on energy costs)!   

Do refrigerator water lines need to be cleaned?

a woman getting water from her refrigerator
Enjoy fresh, clean water!

Yes! Your refrigerator water lines can grow mold and algae, and mineral deposits from hard water can clog them. That’s why it’s important to clean your refrigerator water lines at least twice a year. This, too, is a relatively simple process. 

  1. Unplug your refrigerator and turn off the water valve leading to your refrigerator. 
  2. Prepare to catch water from the water line with a bucket nearby. 
  3. Disconnect the water line from the refrigerator. (You may need a screwdriver to do this.) 
  4. Empty the water from the reservoir and any ice in the ice maker.
  5. Pour a distilled vinegar mixture (1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of clean water) into the line. Let it sit for 10 minutes. 
  6. Pour clean water down the line to flush out the vinegar. 
  7. Clean the water dispenser with rubbing alcohol and use a cotton swab to get into hard-to-reach places. 
  8. Reconnect the line and plug back in the refrigerator. Turn back on the water valve. 
  9. If you have an ice maker, turn it on and let it run for three cycles. This should clear the vinegar.
  10. Wash your ice trays or bins in hot, soapy water once done. 

Changing your fridge’s water filters 

a homeowner changing a water filter in a refrigator
Change out your water filter every six months!

When giving your refrigerator a deep clean, you may also need to change the unit’s water filter. Different units use different types of filters, including a twist-on water filter, a push-in water filter, or a filter attached to the water line. Before attempting to change your water filter, always consult the owner’s manual. 

For push-in filters, either press a button or push the filter casing to reveal the filter. Take out the filter, remove the cap, and place the cap on the new filter. Place the new filter in the casing and push the filter in until it locks. 

For twist-on water filters, turn the filter counterclockwise. Once it’s straight, pull the filter out. (This may require a firm tug.) Then remove the old filter and replace it with a new one. Push the new filter straight into the housing and turn until the filter locks into place. 

For all other filters, consider hiring a professional to change it. While it is doable to change these filters, many times the homeowner will need to disconnect the water supply lines from the water valve before changing the filter, which may require pliers. Consult your owner’s manual, and if this is outside of your DIY capabilities, speak to a professional.  

Need to troubleshoot your ice maker? Check out Why Does My Ice Maker Keep Freezing Up

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Are you excited for your new home? More importantly, are you packed? Moving from one place to another and taking all your worldly possessions with you is an incredibly difficult. We all know not everything will make it from your current home to your new one (that ugly vase just happened to fall off the truck), but to help your keepsakes make the precarious journey, our experts put together these super simple and totally necessary packing tips and tricks!

Tip #1 – Make sure to leave enough time to pack. 

…you already haven’t, have you? If that’s the case, skip to tip #1.5.

For the three people still reading, time is super important to help lighten the load. There are some things you definitely want to take with you, but then there are old clothes, furniture, maybe even appliances that you’ll want to donate or toss. Take this time to go through your things and decide what’s going to the new house, what’s going in the garbage, and what’s going to be donated.

Tip #1.5 – If you don’t have time and you can budget it, consider temporary storage where you can later look through your things and decide what to keep, sell, and donate.

Tip #2 – Plan.

a couple surrounded by moving boxes, looking a tablet
Do you know your budget?

You’ll need to make a budget. Moving is expensive and not just because you’ve made the most expensive purchase you may ever make in your life. Between the boxes, bubble wrap, tape, plastic bags, markers for labels, actual labels, etc. – the cost can get quite high, and that’s not even mentioning renting a truck. Depending on where you’re going, you may need to hire professional movers, which can bust some budgets.

Don’t forget to create a checklist of what you need to do before moving day, on moving day, and after moving day. You may want to keep this digitally, like in the notes section of your phone, as you’ll continuously update it until you’re in your new space.

Tip #3 – Use sturdy boxes.

Soft or not properly taped boxes can lead to damaged items, including essentials such as plates, cups, computer screens, and even your not-so-favorite vase. Make sure to use boxes that won’t break and don’t overload boxes, too. Even the sturdiest box will still break when filled with rocks (or an entire rock collection).

Also, don’t be afraid to place smaller boxes, filled with items such as jewelry, in larger boxes to keep your possessions organized.

Tip #4 – Label, label, and oh yes, label some more.

a woman labeling a box - packing tips
Labels are a homeowner’s best friend.

A box without a label is a box for the attic, and you may not see those contents until you move again. That’s why it’s extremely important to label a box with exactly what’s in it – T-shirts, sandals, ugly vase, potato peeler, dishes, earrings, etc.

Also, never write “miscellaneous” on a label. You will not remember what is in that box, and if you place something important in a miscellaneous box, you risk losing it to the attic.

Finally, consider taking a picture of the boxes once they are packed, so you can refresh your memory if you need to locate a certain ugly vase.

Tip #5 – Use your towels and linens to protect fragile items.

The last time Content Writer Susie and her family moved, they used paper towels and bubble wrap to protect fragile or sharp items. While you’ll undoubtedly need those supplies, you can also use your towels, sheets, and even T-shirts to protect your sharp or fragile items. Just make sure to secure sharp items, so they can’t harm anyone in transit (or after).

Tip #6 – Pack purposefully.

boxes with open tops in a living room - packing tips
Pack smart.

No matter what you do, just make sure you’re completely packed before moving day!

Tip #7 – In the week leading up to the Big Day –

Set aside some time to eat all the perishable food that can’t come with you. If you have other food items, either donate them to a local foodbank or enjoy!

Also, take care of the last few furniture pieces, especially if they need to be dissembled. Make sure to take pictures before you take them apart to use as a guide. Use plastic bags to hold all the screws and hardware and attach them to the item!

Also, don’t forget to clean your appliances. You should do this whether you’re taking them with you or leaving them behind.

Tip #8 – Load your truck carefully.

a couple moving a couch - packing tips
Lift with your knees, not your back!

Heavy items on the bottom, fragile and light items on the top. Be wary of what could shift in transit, and of course, if that ugly vase somehow fell on the way to your new house, well… accidents do happen.

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Our phones are smart. Our cars are becoming smarter. It was only a matter of time before our homes followed suit. Of course, smart homes are more than just “cool.” Their security measures can help safeguard your largest asset and your most precious loved ones. 

If you’re not sure how to make your home “smart,” our experts put together this quick go-to guide to get you started!

What you need to consider before starting your smart home journey

One of the first tips to a successful smart home tech journey is deciding if you’re going to DIY the installation or go all in with PSE (“pay someone else” to do it). If you’re not tech- or home-savvy, you may want to consider getting a home security system installed. Many security companies have a team who will install the smart home tech devices for you.

If you’re going the DIY route, then follow these simple tips:

Tip #1 – Create a plan for your smart home journey.

While you no longer have to stick to one company (Google, Amazon, Yale, GE Lighting, etc.), some smart home devices are not compatible with others. This may change as of this year with Matter, a new connectivity standard. Matter may be able to connect individual smart home tech products from more than 50 companies, but only time will tell if its implementation works. Until then, check to see if the devices you want in your home are compatible with each other.

Tip #2 – Set up a second router.

a router on a table in a home
Protect your devices with a second router.

If you’re going to be using Wi-Fi for your devices, then consider setting up a different router from your current home one. This should help to keep your devices running quicker and also keep your devices safe(r). If your home router or your smart home router is hacked, the devices on the opposite router won’t be compromised.

Tip #3 – Or skip the Wi-Fi.

If you don’t trust your Wi-Fi, then consider connecting your smart home devices to a Z-wave mesh network. This type of network uses low power and a different frequency than Wi-Fi, so it won’t interfere with your non-smart home devices. It also uses the same encryption as online banking and is used by nine out of 10 of the leading security companies. With this network, you shouldn’t get your smart thermostat hacked and upped to 90°F.

Tip #4 – Contact your insurance company.

Since some smart home devices double as security devices, many insurance companies offer discounts for homeowners who install them. Just make sure that if you get a discount, you use your smart home devices. If you forget to charge your Ring doorbell and someone happens to break in that night, your theft claim can be denied.

Tip #5 – Explore the possibilities.

a homeowner changing the hue of their smart home device - lights
Even your lights can be smart!

Between smart light bulbs that can turn different shades to refrigerators that can tell if you’re out of milk, the possibilities are (almost) endless when it comes to smart home technology. Make sure you take advantage of all smart home technology has to offer, including the ability to change the thermostat without ever getting out of bed. Welcome to the future!

Starter smart home tech

So where, exactly, do you begin your smart home journey? Here are a few products that are easy to install that can improve the safety and comfort of your home!

Step #1 – Start outside with a video doorbell

Indoors safety starts by protecting the exterior of your home, and a video doorbell is a first easy step into the world of smart home safety. A video doorbell allows you to see and speak with a visitor on your doorstep, even when you’re not home. If a “porch pirate” or burglar walks up to your front door, you’ll have them on camera.

Step #2 – Protect your home’s exterior

a homeowner testing their app and smart camera connection
I spy with my smart home camera eye…

A natural next step is to install motion-activated cameras and lights around your property. These protect your property by illuminating dark areas and potentially catching would-be burglars off guard. They are also a plus if your trash bins usually get ransacked by racoons or bears, though sometimes the sudden light will not scare off those creatures of the night.

Step #3 – Head indoor with cameras

If you’re looking for safety or to see your children come home from school, then indoor cameras may be next on your list. Just make sure to do your due diligence. Some cameras – even pet cameras – have been hacked, so you may want to consider getting cameras that record locally and don’t use a cloud service.

Step #4 – Warm up to the idea of smart thermostats

a homeowner turning down her thermostat
Turn up your comfort!

While programmable thermostats have been touted for some time as being energy efficient, smart thermostats take your energy-saving efforts up a notch. Forgot to turn down your thermostat before leaving home? You can do it from an app on your phone! If you keep your thermostat low during the day to save energy, then you can turn it up when you’re on your way home and turn it down again when you’re getting into bed – all from an app.

Step #5 – Go all in with the sensors

Whether you have the latest PlayStation, a large screen TV, or Wayne Gretzky’s hockey stick, one of the best ways to protect your home (and stuff!) is with a home security system. Experts say that a home with a security system is 300% less likely to be burglarized than a home without one, and most models not only have central monitoring but also additional safety features. Many come with smoke and carbon monoxide monitoring, water sensing, and even panic buttons. 

Before you decide on your security system, check the different packages and inclusions, so you can choose the system and plan that best protects your home and family.

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHomeLink home management app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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The ground thunders. Your world shakes, and your home can crumble around you. What can you do to stay safe during an earthquake?

Preparation is key. That’s why we reached out to Mike Mahoney, Senior Geophysicist, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, and Pataya Scott, PhD, Civil Engineer, Earthquake and Wind Programs Branch, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Both offered us important preparedness tips to help lower your risk of injury and home damage during a severe earthquake.

Are you in the danger zone?

While most earthquakes in the U.S. occur in California, a large part of the country is at risk.

“According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about half the states in our country can experience a damaging earthquake,” says Mike, who has been with FEMA for more than 38 years and was deployed after the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles.

What causes earthquakes? Most earthquakes center around fault lines or the boundaries between two plates. The famous San Andreas Fault in California is the boundary between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate, and is responsible for the severe 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the 2014 South Napa earthquake. However, the North American plate has triggered severe earthquakes outside of California as well.

“Probably the most famous ones were the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes,” says Mike. “We had three magnitude 8.0-plus earthquakes in that area, which is on the border between Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri.”

There are other faults throughout the country, including the Wasatch Fault in Salt Lake City, the Seattle Fault, and Piedmont Fault System outside of Charleston, South Carolina. There’s even a fault up in Boston.

map of the U.S. earthquake haazard
Source: FEMA P-530, Earthquake Safety at Home

Are you in an area where a strong earthquake can occur? Check the map above to find out!

What to do before an earthquake occurs

“You can never be too prepared,” says Mike, “and we do put out some publications to help in that regard.”

FEMA’s Earthquake Safety at Home, Earthquake Safety Checklist, and Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt all offer earthquake preparedness tips with step-by-step guidance to home safety and risk mitigation.  

“[The Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt] shows a graphic of a house and several different items that could fall over and cause damage or injury during an earthquake,” explains Mike. “We highlight those things and on the back of that chart, describes how to actually do them.”

There are a number of steps you can take to prepare your home for an earthquake; however, Mike always recommends starting with your hot water heater.

a damaged hot water heater after an earthquake
Source: FEMA P-530, Earthquake Safety at Home

“Water heaters are very tall, very narrow, very heavy, and almost always fall over in an earthquake,” says Mike. “When they do, they can rupture the water line and cause flooding in your basement. If they’re natural gas fired, they can rupture the natural gas line and create a fire hazard.”

Damaged exhaust flues for gas-fired heaters can also allow carbon monoxide to build up in the home, which can be deadly.

how to bracket a hot water heater so it won't be damaged in an earthquake
Source: FEMA P-530, Earthquake Safety at Home

The best way to prevent your hot water heater from becoming a hazard is to wrap metal straps around the body and top, and attach it to the wall studs with lag bolts. This can be easily and rather inexpensively done with the help of premanufactured seismic strapping kits, which you can find at your local hardware store. Gas and water appliances also require flexible connections to prevent leaks and fires during an earthquake, but a licensed plumber is recommended for this task.

Also, check to make your home is bolted to the foundation. Mike remembers the Northridge earthquake, where he saw “older homes that weren’t properly bolted literally slide off their foundations.” If your home isn’t bolted to its foundation or you can’t tell, speak with contractor who can help to properly anchor your home to its foundation.    

Other parts of your home also need to be anchored, such as elevated decks, porches, trellises, and carports, as these can collapse and cause injury. Chimneys, too, can be a safety hazard during moderate or large earthquakes.  

a broken chimney on the ground
Is your chimney up to modern bracing requirements?

“I’ve seen chimneys where they collapse into the house and cause injury,” says Mike. “That was one of the most severe injuries in the Napa earthquake about eight years ago.”

If your chimney does not meet modern earthquake bracing requirements or you don’t know if it does, consult an experienced contractor to help safeguard your home from damage and your family from injury.

Quick earthquake preparedness tips

Make sure to complete these additional earthquake preparedness tips to safeguard your family and help to reduce the risk of damage to your home:

a diagram of a home with earthquake preparedness tips
Source: FEMA 528, Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt

FEMA’s Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt also provides more information regarding these safety measures, including what you need to know before turning off your gas valve.

What to do during an earthquake

There are two common reactions to an earthquake – freezing and trying to run out of a building. The latter is one of the worst things you can do.

“Things will fall off the building as the earthquake’s happening,” says Mike. “People have been killed by that.”

That’s why you need to “Drop, Cover, and Hold.”

how to drop, cover, and hold on during an earthquake
Source: Earthquake Country Alliance and Southern California Earthquake Center, shakeout.org

“Drop to the ground and cover your head in case something falls on it,” says Mike. “If you can get under a desk or table to protect yourself, then do that.”

These few actions can help to protect your head from falling objects. Just make sure to stay there until the shaking stops.

What to do after an earthquake

Once the shaking stops, FEMA recommends vacating the building in case it’s been damaged and could possibly collapse. Once you’re out, look at the building. If it appears to still be on its foundation and not damaged or leaning, then it may be safe to re-enter. However, don’t unless you know it’s safe.

You should also be wary of nearby structures, which may have been damaged by the intense shaking.

“Don’t just look at your immediate surroundings,” says Pataya, who has been with FEMA for more than four years. “Look at the whole area just to see if you’re safe. Even if your building performed well, a building next to you might be about to fall over onto your building.”

Once you are back inside, make sure to check your utilities and their connections.

a broken gas connector line after an earthquake
Install flexible connections.

“Do you smell gas? If so, shut off the gas supply,” says Mike. “The electricity’s probably going to be off already anyway, but if you detect damage, then shut the electric off as well. Then just take care of yourself. Be safe.”

How long do earthquakes last?

“Generally, they’re seconds,” says Mike, “but they can, in some cases, especially with what we call subduction earthquakes that happen off the Pacific Northwest – those can go for minutes.”

Protect yourself until you feel that the shaking has stopped and be mindful of aftershocks, which are usually not as severe as the main shock.  

“But they can still be severe enough to cause additional damage and injury,” warns Mike.

Make sure to not put yourself in a position where if an aftershock happens, you’re going to get injured.

Beware of secondary hazards – fire, landslides, electrocution

a fire in the middle of a road following the Northridge earthquake
Source: U.S. Geological Survey, usgs.gov

One of the most frequent hazards after an earthquake is fire. Natural gas lines can break and cause significant fires. Small fires may also occur inside your home. 

“The first responders and the fire department are going to be overstretched immediately,” says Mike. “If you have a small fire, it might be up to you to put it out because the fire department may not be able to respond right away.”

Landslides are another common occurrence, especially in wet environments.

“With climate change causing rain in some areas, that can actually increase the probability of a landslide happening,” says Mike.

Electrocution, too, is always a concern, so avoid down wires or broken appliances.  

How to survive a disaster financially

Earthquake preparedness also includes preparing financially, so naturally, you may be wondering, “Do I need earthquake insurance?”

Since your home is one of your largest investments, you need to protect it. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you should consider getting this specific type of home insurance policy.

“Generally everything’s covered, as long as it’s attributable to the earthquake,” says Mike. “It’s not part of your normal homeowner’s policy and has to be a separate policy, much like flood.”

a house on a hill with parts of it tumbling off the side
Source: U.S. Geological Survey, usgs.gov

This includes dwelling coverage and additional living expenses. It may even give you the money you need to rebuild your home.

Earthquake insurance doesn’t cover fire damage, which is usually part of a standard homeowners insurance policy; floods, even those caused by an earthquake; vehicle damage, which requires comprehensive auto insurance; and sinkhole damage.

Unfortunately, many homeowners forgo this insurance. According to FEMA, only 10% of California’s residents, 11.3% of Washington residents, and only 12.7% residents in Missouri have this insurance. These low numbers are attributed to skyrocketing premium as 60% of Missouri residents had earthquake insurance in 2000.

“Earthquake insurance can sometimes have a pretty high deductible,” says Mike.

In the event of a federal disaster declaration, homeowners may be able to receive “disaster loans,” which are low interest loans. The maximum disaster loan amount is $250,000, and average FEMA individual assistance payout is $5,000.

“That could be part of your plan as well,” says Mike. “You cover that deductible with a low interest loan and then the insurance covers the rest of it.”

There are different options, so you need to see which policies and coverages work best for your family.

Prepare and be patient  

“After a large earthquake, first responders are going to be inundated, and you’re going to be on your own for days,” says Mike. “We say three days, but if it’s a large earthquake, it’s going to be longer than that.”

That’s why you need to take earthquake preparedness steps now because you’re not going to be able to do normal activities, such as running to the store for groceries. You may not even have power or communication.

a family in a living room discussing their emergency plans
Prepare your family and home for an earthquake.

“Have a plan and have an earthquake kit that’s ready,” says Mike. “Make sure it has water, food, medicine, whatever you need to survive.”

Adds Pataya, “I often hear people in California say they have tennis shoes in their cars, just in case.”

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Rising utility bills, rolling summer blackouts, and the drastic effects of climate change have led many to wonder, “What can I do to help lower my energy consumption at home?” You may be surprised to learn a home energy assessment can provide the answer.

A home energy assessment, AKA home energy audit or home efficiency assessment, is a comprehensive evaluation of the energy use of a home and provides recommendations to improve the home’s comfort, health, and safety.

“The assessment really helps you understand how your home is working and where its deficiencies are, as well as opportunities to save energy and money, says Steve Dunn, technology manager, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.

We spoke with Steve and his colleague Scott Minos, who leads the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver Program. He shared what you need to know about a home energy assessment, why now is a great time to get one, and quick efficiency tips to help you jump-start your energy saving efforts at home.   

When to schedule your home energy assessment

Home energy assessments are informative for homeowners of both existing homes and new construction, including ENERGY STAR certified new homes and apartments, which are independently inspected by a third-party energy rater to verify their energy performance

“For a new home, it provides you a baseline such as a Home Energy Score,” Scott said. “In existing homes, the assessments can be useful, particularly for older homes.”

“If you’re noticing rooms that are either too warm or too cold, high-energy bills, or indoor air quality issues such as high levels of dust in the home, those are all good indications that there are some issues that need to be addressed,” says Steve, who led national efforts to advance state clean energy and climate change policies and initiatives for the Environmental Protection Agency before joining DOE.

A home energy assessment can help to identify and prioritize functions that are costing you more money or creating safety issues.

The home functions as a system, so there’s interaction between components,” says Steve. “When systems are updated or replaced or the home envelope is sealed and insulated, that could cause changes to things like moisture movement and indoor air quality.”

While a home energy assessment is not an annual need, homeowners may want to consider one if there’s a major improvement or change that could impact the performance of the home’s systems. Even homes built just a few years ago may not have the latest technology or meet the latest energy efficiency guidelines.

How to prepare for an energy assessment

utility bills, a pen, and a calculator
Have your utility bills handy!

Prior to your appointment, homeowners should complete the following tasks:

Depending on the complexity of the home and the number of systems installed, a home energy assessment typically takes one to three hours. A larger home or a home with multiple systems will take more time.

What to expect during a home energy assessment

“The assessment starts with an interview with the homeowner, and that’ll include a discussion to identify any specific issues in the home, such as comfort or drafts, and as well as the living patterns,” says Steve.

The assessor will then review the energy bills and the fuel consumption of the home before moving onto a visual inspection. This part will include the home’s exterior, interior, insulation levels, the condition of mechanical systems, drainage and ventilation, as well as any ceiling fans and kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans, and any whole house ventilation systems that may exist.

Potential diagnostic tests

a blower in a door during a home energy audit
Your home will be put to the test!

The assessor may also conduct a number of diagnostic tests, including:

Energy assessments can also identify potentially any safety issues in the home, such as carbon monoxide from combustion appliances, electrical hazards, and minor or major natural gas leaks in the home.

Get energy-saving tips from your accessor

a homeowner turning down her thermostat
Adjust your habits.

A home energy assessor not only analyzes your home systems and their functions, but also learns about the homeowners’ behaviors related to energy usage.

“The assessor will want to observe how the owners use the home, how they wash their clothes or whether they close blinds or use other window coverings, things of that nature,” says Scott. “They might have different kinds of input and advice based on just behavior.”

Some behavior-based recommendations may include washing clothes in cold water as opposed to hot or even warm water; adding window coverings to a certain part of the home; setting the thermostat at a certain degree, etc.

“This way, homeowners can understand their own energy conservation efforts and how their behavior can result in savings,” says Scott.

As a final step in a home energy audit, the assessor will use modeling software, including the DOE’s Home Energy Score tool or a third-party commercial energy software, to develop a prioritized list of recommendations for improvements. This will include any recommendations related to health, safety, and comfort, and prioritize the improvements based on the cost benefit to the homeowner.

Home energy audit cost and options

Home energy assessments generally range between $200 to $600, depending upon the specific tests completed. However, the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy has a system that provides a home energy audit for less.

“The DOE Home Energy Score tool is on the lower end of that range,” says Steve. “It provides recommendations and typically takes less than an hour.”

EERE also recommends homeowners contact their utility companies. Some offer free home energy audits or energy assessments at a discounted rate for their customers. The recent Inflation Reduction Act provides up to $150 in tax credits for your home energy assessment. (More on that in a moment!)

Another option for homeowners is a virtual energy assessment. This type of audit is conducted remotely and in some cases with a smartphone or other device. (vipHomeLink offers a Virtual Home Checkup, which provides energy-saving tips!) In this case, the homeowner will walk around the home and highlight certain systems and areas for the assessor. 

“That’s obviously not as detailed as an on-site assessment,” says Steve, “but it can help identify if there are opportunities for making energy improvements that might be supported by doing further on-site testing diagnostics.”

Take advantage of rebates and tax credits

Homeowners should look into rebates that may be available through their utility companies and the government for installations. Low-income households may qualify for assistance through the weatherization assistance program, income-qualified programs offered by their local utility, or from state and local housing agencies.

a homeowner applying weather stripping to a window
Keep your home warm and cozy.

“Some utility companies offer what’s called a direct install where they will install improvements at no cost to the homeowner,” says Steve. “This might include things like weather stripping around windows and doors, possibly installing a smart thermostat.”

The Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law both included rebates and other types of incentives. Additional tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements will be available in early 2023.

“There was an existing tax credit that had a lifetime limit of $500 for home energy efficiency improvements,” explains Steve. “That’s now becoming a $1,200 annual tax credit with $150 allotted for home energy audits.”

Some homeowners can receive a 30% tax credit on eligible home improvements, including exterior doors that meet ENERGY STAR requirements; exterior windows and skylights that meet ENERGY STAR’s most efficient certification requirements; and other qualified energy equipment, such as central air conditioners, electrical panels, certain water heaters and furnaces.  

a heat pump next to a home
Homeowners can receive tax credits for installing heat pumps!

Homeowners who install heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, biomass stoves and/or boilers, can receive up to $2,000 in tax credits, which are separate from the $1,200 annual credit.

To take advantage of rebates and tax credits, homeowners can:

Top tips to jump-start your energy-efficiency efforts at home

EERE stresses the importance of a professional home energy audit, but there are some things homeowners can do to increase the energy efficiency and safety of the home. Scott shared with us quick ways to jump-start your energy-saving efforts!

Start with lighting

a homeowner changing a light bulb
Hello, LEDs!

“The first and a very easy thing to do is look at your lighting,” says Scott. “Lighting accounts for about 10% of the average home’s electric bills.”

Homeowners should make sure to use ENERGY STAR Certified LED bulbs, which use up to 90% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Also, select ENERGY STAR Certified light fixtures, especially for outdoor fixtures with features such as automatic daylight shut-off and motion sensors. Also, make sure the home’s lighting is up to the modern electrical code and local standards.

Check insulation levels

If you have easy access to your attic, see if you have adequate levels of insulation and if the home is well insulated and sealed. (If you’re not sure about your home’s specific type or insulation levels, check out Energy Saver’s page on insulation!)

You should also check for air leaks around the usual suspects – windows, doors, and your roof.

“There’s some low-tech ways to definitely check for air leaks,” says Scott. “This can even help reduce your energy bill by 10 to even 20%.”

EERE recommends completing simple tests using a dollar bill, an incense stick, and a flashlight – not all at the same time, of course. Learn the three simple tests to detecting drafts on the Energy Saver website!

Monitor plug loads

Two cellphones charge a counter
Unplug your chargers.

Plugged-in items use 30 to 40% of the total energy consumption in the home. Even when they’re not in use, they still consume energy.

“Using power strips or other smart home devices can have a big impact on the energy bill,” says Steve.

Smart home devices and smart strips can help to resolve these standby modes,” and if homeowners forget to turn off a device, they can do so from an app on their phone.

Homeowners may also want to invest in whole home energy monitoring systems.

“The whole home energy monitors are designed to connect to the electrical panel and can help identify appliances that may be operating inefficiently or help to find where the most intensive energy uses are occurring,” says Steve.

Complete proper appliance maintenance

Check your appliances and make sure they’re running well. Also, complete home maintenance tasks, such as cleaning your refrigerator coils, vacuuming your dryer exhaust vent, and changing your HVAC filters regularly. (The vipHomeLink home management app can remind you to do these energy- and money-saving tasks!)

This also includes completing your annual or bi-annual heating and cooling system maintenance as well as hot water heater maintenance.

“Both extend the life of the equipment and ensure its operating efficiently,” says Scott.

As we know here at vipHomeLink, the importance of home maintenance cannot be understated.

“Doing regular maintenance is always important as it makes sure that the house is working well,” says Steve. “This is really about home performance, and before it can perform well, it needs to be maintained.”

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It’s fall, which means it’s officially Halloween season! Between sipping pumpkin spice lattes and going leaf peeping, you may also like to transform your house into a spooky spectacle. Of course, safety should also be top of mind when it comes to decorating and celebrating any holiday, so we reached out to our friends at Franklin Mutual Insurance (FMI) for top tips to help you enjoy a safe Halloween at home!

Tip #1 – Make your property and yard safe for trick or treaters

“The first thing that comes to mind for a safe Halloween is property and yard safety,” says Chelsea VanderGroef, Vice President, Marketing, for FMI. “You need to make sure your home is safe for guests.”

While you may want to make your home a scary sight, remember to follow these Halloween safety tips when decorating:

Unleveled walkways and driveways can create hazardous situations. If you have unsafe areas, call a professional to address these issues before someone gets hurt. Also, cordon off any unsafe areas of your yard and if need be, send guests to another doorway that’s safer, such as a side door. You may also want to consider sitting at the edge of your property to hand out candy.

Tip #2 – Decorate safely

electric tea candle a table - safe halloween
Save your jack-o-lantern and home with safe lighting options.

When decorating, always err on the side of caution for a safe Halloween.

“Avoid the urge to use real flames,” says Chelsea. “Real candles can create hazardous situations in jack-o-lanterns and windows, and near curtains, costumes or flammable decorations. Instead, opt for electrical candles or glow sticks.”

Also, don’t overload outlets or extension cords as this, too, can start a fire. Of course, avoid stringing too many lights together. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions, but the general rule of the thumb is to connect no more than three strings together. 

“While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to note that if you’re using an extension cord or decorations outdoors, make sure everything’s rated for outdoor use,” says Chelsea. “Also, avoid a shock by plugging any electrical decorations into a GFCI outlet.”

Tip #3 – Don’t petrify your pets

a dog in a witches hat for a safe Halloween
Safeguard your pets and trick-or-treaters!

“Pets, especially dogs, can be scared by children in costumes and the constant ringing of doorbells,” says Emily Notaro, Marketing & Communications Specialist at FMI. “Make sure to secure them before answering the door.”

Homeowners should place pets in a locked area, where they can’t escape while you’re giving out candy. Also, if doorbells frighten your fur-babies, then turn on soothing music or place your pet in a thundershirt, if that helps.

(“My bichon frise loved the ‘I Want It That Way!’ by the Backstreet Boys.” – vipHomeLink Content Writer Susie)

Tip #4 – Keep your friends close and your smart devices on

a homeowner pressing a video doorbell
Protect your home with smart tech!

Of course, what would Halloween be without Goosey Night, also known as Mischief Night, Cabbage Night, and other favorite terms? Today, many homeowners have at least one smart home security device, and on this night – and on Halloween night – it’s important to use them.

“If you have a security system, make sure to turn it on,” urges Emily. “Also, check that any smart home security devices, such as video doorbells and cameras, are functioning properly.”

Adds Chelsea, “It may seem simple, but make sure to turn on your lights and lock your doors.”

Tip #5 – Eat (and buy) store packaged candy 

trick or treaters on porch - safe Halloween
Always check your candy!

One of the most important safety tips for Halloween is – mind your candy.

“Buy and eat only the store packaged candy,” reminds Emily. “Forgo any candy apples or other homemade treats given out by strangers.”

Also, keep your candy on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet to keep your pets from finding your delicious treats.

With guests on your property, should you be worried about your liability?

Most of the common perils, including theft and liability (trips, slips, and falls) are generally covered by the typical homeowners’ insurance policy. Of course, homeowners should review their liability limits at least once a year.

“It’s always a good idea to talk to your insurance agent and see if any holiday activities pose more risk than you have coverage,” reminds Chelsea.

Happy Halloween!

Join the neighborhood!

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHomeLink home management app can help. In less than four minutes, you can be introduced to a new way to home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Join the neighborhood today, and we hope you enjoy a happy and safe Halloween!

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist – Heating Tips

You’re burning daylight. With the usual suspects—Jack Frost, snow, and higher utility bills—arriving sooner rather than later, you need to prepare your home for those long, cold winter nights. We have a list of affordable home heating systems maintenance that is so quick and easy, you might be able to complete it during that extra hour you… Continue reading Fall Home Maintenance Checklist – Heating Tips

September 28 is National Good Neighbor Day, but how many of us can say we’re good neighbors? Does your dog bark at 11 p.m. when your neighbors are trying to sleep (or is that just Pippa next door to Content Writer Susie)? Do you hold loud parties every week or leave your grass clipping on your neighbor’s driveway? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may not be your street’s favorite neighbor. Build relationships with your neighbors by learning how to be a good one – or at least, how not to be “that” neighbor. Here are five awesome ways! 

Be kind – Keep your noise off everyone’s mind

Did you know that in some communities, you’re not allowed to mow your lawn before 7 a.m.? Even then, you might annoy your neighbors if every Saturday, you’re up early to cut your grass. The best thing you can do is know the rules and abide by them. 

Exhibit A: The State of New Jersey has a noise ordinance with a limit of 65 decibels during the daytime and from 10 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., a limit of 50 decibels. To give you some perspective, a household refrigerator is 55 decibels. A vacuum cleaner is 75, and a power mower is generally between 60 and 90 decibels. (How does anyone cut their grass in New Jersey?!) 

While we all need to do everyday household chores, just don’t be “that” neighbor – the one who parties every week with booming music, has loud solar appliances, or cuts their front yard at the crack of dawn. (Of course, everyone loves good curb appeal.)

Yes, there is such of thing as light trespass 

outdoor light shining at night
Do you “light” trespass on your neighbors?

Does your next-door neighbor have a motion-detection light that flashes on at all hours of night and right into your bedroom? No? Just Content Writer Susie? 

This is a classic case of “light trespass,” which occurs when exterior light illuminates a nearby property and may be unwanted. (“It’s unwanted. Trust me.” – Susie) This can cause issues with your neighbors and depending upon your municipality, might even be against the law. 

You may also want to check if your town has the ominous sounding “dark sky ordinance.” This just means your lights cannot add to the light pollution in your area by shining toward the night sky. Instead, you’ll need to buy a “dark sky” exterior lighting fixture or bulb, which will direct light toward the ground. (Your neighbors will also thank you for purchasing these!)

Dirty garbage cans and other areas attract unwanted guests 

a homeowner wearing gloves to wash a garbage can - good neighor day
Even your trash cans need a shower.

Most municipalities require you to wash your trash cans, but if you’ve been slacking or you place your trash cans just a little too close to your neighbor’s home, you may be inviting unwanted guests. Mice, racoons, and other critters may think of your home as a smorgasbord and return night after night for the dinner you serve them. Even worse, you might be encouraging these critters to take up residence in your home or your neighbor’s.

(We can neither confirm nor deny that Content Writer Susie may need to clean out her trash cans.)  

The best thing you can do in this scenario is to get your trash in order. Clean out your trash cans and other food debris in a timely fashion. Do not leave trash bags overnight outside of a bin. Also, keep your trash cans away from any doors or openings in your home and keep them away from your neighbors’ home, too. 

If bears or racoons routinely get into your trash, then purchase critter-proof trash cans or straps that will keep your critter diner closed. 

Quick note: Trash cans in many towns must adhere to certain size requirements, so when buying critter-proof cans, make sure to adhere to those rules.) 

Keep your friends close and the fire department far away 

a man peaking into oven that's on fire - kitchen safety tips
Maybe buy your next set of cookies.

If you own a home in the town where you grew up, then you may have gone to school with the fire chief and like to say hi every so often. However, your neighbors probably don’t feel the same way. And I’m sure Fire Chief Jason wants to eat his dinner in peace. That’s why it’s important not to bring the fire department or other emergency responders to your home every five minutes. 

Quick note: We are not advocating that you do not call the emergency responders when you need them. You should always do that. We’re saying there are ways to prevent the fire department from coming to your house every five minutes, which include completing routine home maintenance tasks, such as: 

If you miss seeing Fire Chief Jason every so often, you can stop by the firehouse with a pumpkin spice latte and some cookies.

If a tree falls on your neighbor’s property and it came from your yard, you’re going to hear about it  

a palm tree fell onto a home - good neighbor day
Take care of any hazards.

Some neighbors live so close to one another that tree branches hang in each other’s yard and fences are constructed on property lines. When it comes to these situations, take care of any potential issues or hazards. 

If your tree looks like it might fall, take it down. If your fence is missing a few planks, replace them. If you’re having a loud party, maybe invite your neighbors, so they’re not mad at the noise. 

Your neighbor also has rights. In some towns, they can cut branches in their yard up to their property line. (If the tree dies from their maintenance, they have to pay for it.) They can also call the town and file a complaint if your fence falls on their property. 

The point is – don’t be “that” neighbor when it comes to your property and the potential dangers you can create. We all live here together. 

Homeownership simplified with vipHomeLink
Download the app now!

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHomeLink app can help. In less than four minutes, you can be introduced to a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Download the app today!


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