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Preventing holiday break-ins by increasing your home security during the holidays should be part of your plan during a busy and wonderfully hectic season of shopping and gift-giving, decorating and celebrating with friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s an equally busy time of year for home burglars.
Nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the U.S. from November through December each year, according to the FBI. The National Crime Prevention Council recommends that homeowners improve home security to protect their homes from break-ins during the holidays. To ensure that an intruder doesn’t dampen your holiday season, follow these recommended home security precautions.#1 Don’t tempt fate
Holidays may be festive with home decorations and visiting friends and family, but don’t let all of that activity compromise your home’s security. Take a reserved approach when displaying expensive decorations and gifts. Give your fine china and elaborately wrapped presents a low profile, and resist the temptation to show them off to the entire neighborhood. If you can see these valuables from the street, there’s a good chance they could end up on a burglar’s wish list this year.#2 No bragging, please
Don’t advertise expensive gifts to burglars by leaving empty gift boxes from your new computer, flat-screen TV or DVD player on the curb. Instead, break down the boxes and place them in large garbage bags to conceal the items that Santa has delivered. Better yet, take boxes directly to a recycling center after gifts have been opened.#3 Keeping up appearances
It’s no secret that piles of unchecked holiday mail and newspapers can tip off burglars to an empty house and lead to holiday break-ins, but did you ever think about hiring someone to shovel snow from your driveway while you’re away? If you’re traveling throughout the holidays, it’s a good idea to ask a neighbor to help keep up your home’s appearances so it doesn’t have that vacant look about it. Even a small favor such as asking your neighbor to occasionally park their car in your driveway can improve your home security.#4 Durable doors and deadbolts
Ensure that your holiday guests are the only ones welcomed through the front door this season by making the following entryway improvements.Invest in a good-quality deadbolt. Doors with handle locks can be broken into with only a plastic credit card. Deadbolts, on the other hand, offer double the locking security and require hammer force to break in. Equip each of your entry doors with a deadbolt, not just the high-traffic ones. Your home is only as secure as its most vulnerable entry point. Make sure you buy a deadbolt with keyed access on the outside and a thumb-latch on the inside. Locks that require keys to be used from the inside of the home can be dangerous if residents need to make a quick exit in the event of an emergency, like a fire. For even more security, along with convenience, consider adding a new smart deadbolt lock. Remember that no matter which lock you choose, it’s only as strong as the door in which it’s installed. The weakest part of a door is usually the area around the lock, and wooden doors are especially vulnerable to break-ins. Decorative door reinforcement plates are available for about $10, and can make this area more secure. Better yet, consider replacing your front entryway with a fiberglass door, which mimics the look of wood but is far stronger and more energy efficient. Look for a fiberglass door with multi-point locks that use bank-vault-style pins to prevent the door from being kicked in. By virtue of their less-sophisticated locks and typical location at the rear of a house, a sliding patio door can be the most vulnerable entryway in a home if it’s not properly reinforced. Consider equipping you doors with a specially made patio bar (about $25) that keeps the door from sliding back in its tracks even if the lock is broken into. A patio bar can even secure older patio doors, which are susceptible to being lifted right out of their tracks and off of your house! Newer sliding doors cannot be lifted out of their tracks, and homeowners may consider the quick-fix alternative of snugly fitting a two-by-four piece of wood in the tracks between the back of the door and the wall. Lastly, keep an eye out for unexpected visitors by installing a peephole in your front door. A wide-angle (200-degree) peephole offers a better view of your entire entryway when guests come knocking at your front door. #5 Window warnings
Nowhere else is your home more fragile or susceptible to a forced holiday break-in than at your windows. How you secure your windows is up to you, but it’s important to keep in mind that occupants must be able to open them easily in the event of a fire. Therefore, the security device you choose should not lock you in the building, but only keep burglars out.Various sash locks are common on most windows, but you can reinforce them on wooden windows by drilling a hole from the front to back where the top and bottom windows overlap, and installing a long nail into the hole. Do this on both sides of the window and take care not to drill too closely to the glass, or too far through the rear window. The nails will stop the windows from sliding open, but you can easily remove them if you need to open the window quickly in an emergency. Avoid investing in sash locks that require a key to operate. Like a double-keyed deadbolt, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find these seldom-used keys in an emergency. Security bars installed over windows can prevent intruder access even if the window is unlocked or the glass is broken open. These bars are recommended for small, ground-level house windows situated in low-traffic areas that make a convenient and inconspicuous entrance for intruders. However, security bars must be fitted with quick-release mechanisms to allow them to open if someone in the building needs to get out quickly. In 1995, several members of a Florida family were burned alive when they became trapped inside their home because of window security bars. Fire officials later described the home as a burning cage and cautioned area homeowners to use these bars only when necessary and only if they are fitted with quick-release mechanisms. #6 Show them the light
The most secure house isn’t just the one with the strongest locks. You can protect your home for the holidays just by making it a more discouraging target for holiday break-ins.Illuminate the exterior of your home on all sides to eliminate any safe hiding places for potential intruders. One of the most effective ways to do this is to install motion-detector spotlights, which have built-in sensors that automatically turn the lights on when movement is detected in the area. Nothing is more surprising to a thief than to have spotlights fire up in his face before he gets within 50 feet of the house! Create the illusion of activity inside your home by installing timer switches on lights in main living areas. Use at least one timer per floor, usually in the living room and bedroom. Set the timer to keep the light on from about 9 pm until 1 or 2 in the morning. Not only will illuminated indoor lights imply that occupants are actually inside the home, they will increase the chance that a potential intruder is spotted if they try to break into the home. #7 Trim trees and bushes
Keep your home landscaping from providing useful cover for intruders attempting holiday break-ins. Tall trees or high brush give burglars dark, shadowy hiding spots to conduct their business without interruption. Keep your front yard’s bushes and hedges cut low, especially around windows and entryways where burglars may perch before breaking and entering.#8 Smart home security systems
Affordable, customized home alarm systems are more widely available and arguably more effective today than they’ve ever been thanks to increased competition and advancements in technology. Besides home security, newer systems can also protect your home from fire and carbon monoxide, and some even include sensors that trip when the heat goes off to prevent freeze damage that could burst pipes. Most home security systems connect your telephone to the company’s central monitoring station. If the alarm goes off, the station can alert police or fire officials of a potential holiday break-in or other issue.
From Source Article: moneypit.com
Water pipes that silently serve your home day in and day out can become raging geysers when windy, sub-zero temperatures find their way into the wall and floor cavities shared by your home’s plumbing system. As water is cooled, it expands. Unfortunately, the pipes carry it – do not. As a result, these plumbing pipes literally explode, ripping wide-open and allowing an endless supply of water to drench every element of your home in its path. Making matters worse, pipe bursts usually happen overnight turning sweet dreams into frozen pipe nightmares, or worse, they can even burst when you’re away from home!
Repair costs can range from hundreds to fix the pipe, up to tens of thousands to repair the ensuing water damage. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can protect yourself from the ensuing cold-water drenching and damage. Here’s where to begin.Open cabinet doors
On very cold nights open the doors to any under kitchen or bath sink cabinets that are located on outside walls, allowing those area to warm from the home’s heating system. This can prevent the inside of the cabinet from becoming a freezer that can lead to frozen water lines.Turn off outside faucets
This first tip may seem like a no-brainer but it’s surprising how often its overlooked until a burst reminds a forgetful homeowner! Most outside faucets have a shut-off valve called the hose bib, usually located inside the home, crawlspace or basement within a foot or two of the faucets location. Turn the valve off, then open the exterior faucet and leave it open all winter long. That way if the valve leaks slowly as some do, any water that accumulates will drain out. By the way, if you are locating these valves for the first time, make sure to add a tag to them so they can be easily found in the future.
Likewise, be sure to drain any in-ground sprinkler systems. This is best done by a sprinkler company with a high powered air compressor strong enough to purge all of the water out of the lines.
Insulate all exposed water pipes
Insulate all water and heating lines located in unheated crawl spaces, attics, and basements. You can use insulating foam tubes, fiberglass tubes and/or fiberglass pipe wrap. Be sure that pipe elbows are carefully wrapped as well, since these tend to be the hardest parts to get covered. If you notice that the same pipe freezes all the time, then you might want to consider having that pipe re-run through a warmer section of the house.
We took this approach to stop a persistent frozen plumbing pipe problem in the kitchen of our 1886 home. The sink supply lines ran up an exterior wall and through a crawl space that were both very difficult to reach. The solution was to abandon those pipes and re-run new supply lines made of PEX, a virtually leak-proof plastic pipe that is also very flexible, and hence much easier to instal through enclosed walls and tight spaces.TIP: Which will burst first? Hot water pipe or cold water pipe?
While you’d think cold water pipes would freeze and burst before hot water pipes, the answer is just the opposite. Here’s why: as hot water passes through the water heater, air bubble entrained in the water are released. When water freezes, these air bubbles create a bit of a cushion effect and can take displaces some of the pressure caused by the expanding water. With hot water, there are no air bubbles and hence no cushion. As a result, all that expanding ice presses outward and rips the pipe open faster than if it were a cold water pipe!Seal drafts in walls, floors and around pipe openings
Super-cold wind-driven air causes many frozen pipe problems as those drafts can freeze uninsulated pipes in a matter of a few hours. Finding and identifying those drafts in areas like exterior walls, crawlspaces and basements, can prevent frozen pipes. Consider using expanding foam sealant like to seal odd shaped spaces, and add batt insulation to the box joists along the interior perimeter of your crawlspace or basement.
If your home is on a crawlspace, close or cover foundation vents. Cut blocks of foam-board insulation to fit the vent openings, and slide them into the vents. Don’t forget to open the vents again in spring; necessary to prevent excessive moisture from forming
Also, it’s worth noting that drain and vent lines can also freeze. On very cold nights, run some hot water down drains that may be located on outside walls of your home.
Keep heat on, even if you’re not home
Keep all your heating zones above 55 degrees all winter long to prevent frozen pipes. Shutting off or lowering unused heating zones can cause water and heating lines to freeze in walls and ceilings of the unused areas, as well as frozen pipes. On super-cold nights, raise the temperature a few degrees higher than normal.
Also, even if you are winterizing your vacation home, keeping some heat on prevents condensation and mold from forming, as well as slows the swelling of doors and other wood parts of the house. You are better off spending a little extra on energy to prevent the pipes from freezing than paying even more for repairs!How to thaw a frozen pipe
If you are caught off guard by a frozen pipe, you may have some time to thaw it before it breaks. Plumbing pipe heat cables, commonly referred to as “heat tape”, works well as a DIY solution for this, but only if it is used safely. Heating tape is an electric appliance in the form of a long strip. You attach it to the plumbing pipe, plug it in and the strip gets hot, and hopefully warms and thaws the pipe. Just remember to turn off the water line first, in case a break formed but the water was too frozen to leak.
Plumbing pipe heating cables are pretty effective in most cases, however, I want to caution that there’s one common and potentially dangerous use I’ve seen countless time in my experience as a former professional home inspector. That is to place heat tape under the pipe insulation. This is a huge fire threat as the amount of heat generated by the tape appliance is not designed to be contained by insulation. I have seen heat tape actually burn when it was applied like this by an unwitting homeowner. This is a severe fire danger, so make sure you carefully follow the heat tape manufacturers instructions.
Aside from covering the tape with insulation, another common mistake is overlapping the tape, or essentially wrapping it around itself. The tape should always be attached parallel to the pipe, with the thermostat touching the pipe, and secured every few inches with electrical tape.
Also, if you decide to go with heat tape, buy a new one from a reputable source. The safety standards continue to improve and many old heat tape products are simply out of date and unsafe.
If the freeze is beyond what can be accomplished by heat tape, a plumbers are equipped with pipe thawing machine that can handle bigger jobs.How to monitor for a major pipe leak, even when you are not home
Smart home technology has made it easier to monitor many things in our home and water usage including that which would signal a major pipe break is certainly among its capability. The Streamlabs Smart Home Water Monitor is a new level of protection from water damage, including a major pipe burst. The smart home device helps you detect leaks in real time, learn about your usage and water habits, and find ways to use water more efficiently—all in an easy-to-use app. The installation requires no plumbing work – it’s simple to install and connects directly to your home Wi-Fi, and can alert you at the first sign of major water usage, like a frozen and busted pipe!Frozen pipes and insurance
Homeowners insurance policies usually cover leaks not caused by deferred maintenance and neglect. Check your policy or contact your insurance professional to determine coverage for a “sudden dispersals of water,” which is insurance speak for a busted pipe!Leave the water trickling
Finally, if you haven’t taken any of these steps and are worried about one very cold spell, it OK to leave water trickling in a faucet or two and that MAY stop the pipe from freezing and bursting. Sure, it’ll waste water but its a small price to pay for a quick preventative step.
Bottom line, just a few simple steps can keep your water flowing like it should all winter long. Frost-proofing your exterior water faucets and water pipes in your home now can help prevent major damage should a pipe freeze and break in cold weather.
It’s one big mess we guarantee you want to avoid!
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