Category: Health + Safety

Woman hiker spraying insect repellent against tick on her legs and boots

DIY Home Pest Control Tips from Orkin Pest Control

Ticks, bedbugs and squirrels – oh, my! And those are just three of the pests that look for a way inside your home. To find out how to protect your abode, we reached out to Glen Ramsey, Senior Technical Services Manager and board-certified entomologist for Orkin Pest Control.

Glen earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in entomology and works behind the scenes at Orkin with pest identification and problem solving of unique home situations.

Watch the latest episode of the vipHome Podcast now and read on to learn DIY home pest control tips.

Why pests invade your home

“We’re trying to prevent harm,” says Glen, who has worked in pest management for more than 13 years. “There’s obvious harm that some pests can do to people, but there’s also harm to homes.”

As the weather cools, homes face two major category of pests – 1) rodents that try and migrate inside, so they can survive the winter months and breed at the same time and 2) occasional invaders that don’t typically feed or breed in homes, but try to escape cold weather or high heat.

So, how do homeowners begin to combat these pests?

“The first thing to do is walk around your house,” says Glen. “Look for things that don’t look right such as scratch marks, bent gutters, and popped shingles. Those types of things are indicative of another problem.”

Make note of these areas and then seal cracks and crevices, install screens on windows and make sure they are tight. Also, caulk around plumbing lines, air-conditioning, HVAC lines, and where your cable line enters your home.

When it comes to your trees, you should cut away any branches that are overhanging or touching the home. This prevents pests from being able to jump or just walk right onto the house.

“If your bushes are 12 to 18 inches away from the foundation of your home and you cutaway on the backside, you can’t tell,” says Glen. “It still looks beautiful, but it keeps ants from being able to walk from the bush onto the house.”

The same goes for overhanging trees, which allow squirrels and cockroaches to drop onto your roof and enter your home.

Home remedies to get rid of ticks

red tick on blade of grass

Make your yard undesirable to ticks.

“There is definite evidence of new ticks being introduced into the United States, and people are being exposed to more and more tick-borne diseases,” says Glen, who lives down the street from a CDC tick specialist. “It’s extremely important for homeowners to wear repellents when they go outside.”

The CDC website has many useful resources for homeowners, but one of the most important tips is simply to cut the grass.

“Tall grass is notorious for ticks,” says Glen. “Ticks do what’s called ‘questing.’ They’ll stick out their front legs while their back legs hold onto the top of the grass stick. As you walk by, they’ll grab your pant leg or your dog, and go with you. It’s important that you keep grass cut short, so they can’t do that.”

Another suggestion is creating ecotones in the yard. If you have a wooden area and your grass leads up to it, consider adding a gravel barrier in between.

“That harsher break between the wooded area and the grass is a huge deterrent to ticks,” says Glen. “It also keeps your lawn better protected from anything that might be coming through the woods.”

Deer will transport ticks, so avoid planting vegetation that will attract deer and other animals, as well.

How to get rid of ladybugs in your house

ladybug on a leaf

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…

Ladybugs are very beneficial, especially in your garden. They eat aphids, which are pests of plants. However, you want to stop a ladybug infestation from happening inside your home.

“Those lady bugs can die in the attic, in the wall voids, in places where you can’t get to them easily,” explains Glen. “Those bug carcasses, for lack of better term, can attract other pests.”

You also shouldn’t smash ladybugs on your wall or your curtains, as they produce an orange stain.

“It’s a chemical that they exude to try and ward off predators, but it will stain wallpaper, paint, and fabrics,” says Glen. “By sucking them up with the vacuum cleaner, it doesn’t let them stain the surface.”

Most bugs you can suck up in the vacuum cleaner, Glen adds. It’s the ones with a pungent odor, like stink bugs, you should capture and release outside.

How to get rid of bed bugs in your home

bed bugs on a mattress

Hire a professional immediately for beg bug issues.

“Bed bugs really need to be managed professionally,” says Glen. “I never recommend a homeowner try and control bed bugs themselves.”

Glen has seen homeowners try to curb a bed bug infestation themselves. The situation only grew out of hand.

“It was to the point that when you walked in, there were bed bugs on the ceiling and dropping on your head as you walked through the room,” says Glen. “They could sense the carbon dioxide that you’re breathing out, and they were trying to find a food source.”

Let professionals know as soon as possible, so they can get rid of the bed bugs. The longer it goes, the more expensive it’s going to be, and the harder it’s going to be. As soon as you see bugs as small as apple seeds upon your bed or in the usual infested areas, call a professional.

And homeowners should not be embarrassed by bedbugs.

“People pick them up from travel, from going to camp and coming back. Hotel rooms and airports might have them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not that your home is dirty.”

Beware of scorpions

scorpion in a red shoe

Do not grab a scorpion by its tail.

If you live in the southwest United States, you may need to protect your home from scorpions. They are notorious for getting into rock piles, gravel and woodpiles, so getting rid of those around your home is key. Unfortunately, gravel around your house is recommended to keep insects out since they don’t like to cross that barrier.

“Scorpions like it, though, and they’ll hide and nest in them,” says Glen.

Seal your home with chalking or weather stripping and use door sweeps.

“Scorpions can smash really flat and get in,” says Glen. “Make sure that your door sweep touches the doorframe and when the door is closed, you can’t see light around it.”

In the unfortunate event that a scorpion does enter your home, you shouldn’t try to grab its tail.

Notes Glen, “Trained professionals do that; other people don’t. They can sting you.”

The best course of action is to scoop the scorpion into the dustpan and throw it out the front door.

When to seek assistance for your home

raised bed garden in the backyard of a blue house

Take a proactive approach to your pest control.

Homeowners should use integrated pest management (IPM) that monitors all year long.

“IPM is an ongoing repetitive process where you assess the situation, implement control measures and then monitor the situation for any new activity,” says Glen.

It’s a proactive way to handle pests. Orkin generally sees homeowners bimonthly, monthly or quarterly basis.

“If you’re in a really cold climate, you may not need it as often, so the technicians may come quarterly,” says Glen. “But it is important that somebody is looking year-round because there’s different pests that will come in the fall, then the spring, then the summer and finally the winter.”

Most companies, including Orkin, do free inspections. They provide a comprehensive overview and may uncover something a homeowner missed.

“Maybe it’s the squirrel in your wall, or we may make a recommendation that we could really help with mosquito control.”

Orkin also realizes that some homeowners may not have the funds to fix certain areas of their homes at this time.

“We’ve seen the struggles that people have had during this time with continuing service, and we’re working with them to keep themselves pest free,” says Glen.

Take a proactive approach to your pest problems with the help of Orkin Pest Control

Keep your home safe and secure

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.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.

Download the app today!

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Is My Tap Water Safe to Drink? Check Out Your Consumer Confidence Report

Here in the U.S., we have some of the safest drinking water in the world, but unfortunately, not everything that comes out of your tap is safe to ingest. How can you tell if your home has safe drinking water?

The annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), or the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, can help. We recently spoke with Bryanna Poczatek, Technical Affairs Manager for the Water Quality Association (WQA). Bryanna walked us through what the CCR says and how it can help you make decisions about your drinking water.

What is the Consumer Confidence Report?

The CCR is a report that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires public water systems to make available to their consumers each year.

“The report provides important information about the quality of drinking water in the area and can help customers make informed decisions about their water,” says Bryanna, who has been with the WQA for five years.

The CCR includes the following information:

  • The water source (groundwater, aquifer, wells, etc.).
  • Details from the recent water quality testing for the system.
  • Regulated contaminants and their concentrations, if any.
  • Comparison of regulated contaminants to EPA drinking water standards.
  • The source of any contaminant.
  • Any violations of standards, including any potential health impacts.

“When you get your report, the first thing that I would recommend is to see if there are any violations of the drinking water standards,” says Bryanna.

Most reports have a column that reads, “average level detected” (or similarly), which you should compare to the “maximum contaminant level (MCL).” The MCL is the maximum level of a contaminant allowed in the water of a public water system.

“If you compare those two levels, you can see how much is in your water compared to what is allowed in the regulation,” says Bryanna.

You’ll also see the maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG), which is a non-enforceable public health goal.

“This is not a level that the public water systems are required to meet, but it’s essentially the level at which no expected health impacts would occur,” says Bryanna.

For some contaminants, the level is set at zero. You may ask, “How close to the MCLG is my water quality?” Knowing what levels of contaminants are in the water can help consumers determine whether they should take additional actions to improve the quality of their home’s drinking water.

What if all contaminants are below EPA limits?

Three water quality taking water samples from a river

Does your water pass the test?

“That means the water is meeting all federal and state drinking water regulations (MCLs),” says Bryanna.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the water meets that non-enforceable public health goal, the MCLG. The water also could contain unregulated contaminants that public water systems are not required to test or treat.

“In the U.S. we have some of the best drinking water quality in the world,” says Bryanna, “so it’s going to be pretty good quality. But there are steps you can take to improve that water quality even further.”

What is the most dangerous contaminant that could be in your tap water?

Certain populations are more at risk for certain contaminants, so the most dangerous contaminant can be different for different people.

“Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning because they’re absorbing a lot more lead than adults are,” says Bryanna. “Nitrate is another contaminant that is especially dangerous to infants. It can cause blue baby syndrome or low oxygen levels in the blood.”

Some contaminants have acute impacts from which you could experience health effects within a few hours or days. Others can have a chronic impact, and you may not know for months or years.

“Bacteria and viruses can cause issues very suddenly,” says Bryanna, “while exposure to very low levels of certain chemicals like arsenic you might not know for years.”

The danger depends upon the person and the concentration, among other factors.

Warning signs of water quality issues

a woman scowling into her glass of water - Consumer Confidence Report

Some contaminants are not easily noticed.

Cloudy or discolored water, specific orders, or taste issues are easy-to-spot indicators of an issue with your water, but there are many contaminants and other concerns that you would never be able to notice without testing.

To improve water quality, the WQA recommends homeowners take advantage of the following resources:

“If you know what contaminant or what issues you’re dealing with in your water, you can search on our websites for water treatment products that have been tested and verified that they remove contaminants and other concerns from your water,” says Bryanna. 

Did you receive your CCR?

Private wells are not regulated by the EPA, so any homeowner with a well will not receive a CCR. However, you are encouraged to get your water tested regularly by a water quality professional.

Renters in apartment buildings, houses, and condos – anyone who does not pay their city water bill directly – may not receive a CCR.

“Renters will likely have to contact either their building manager or a landlord and request a copy of the reports,” says Bryanna. “They can also check to see if it is available online.”

A renter could search for the water provider online or check the EPA’s search tool, which can help locate a local CCR.

What happens if there’s an issue with your water now?

The EPA’s Public Notification Rule requires that public water systems notify all their customers if the safety for the drinking water has been compromised.

“You’re definitely going to know if there’s an issue,” says Bryanna, “but how soon and how you find out is going to change.”

How and when homeowners are notified depends upon the severity of the issue. Homeowners could be notified anywhere from 24 hours to up to a year.

“It could be over TV or news, email, mail,” says Bryanna. “If it’s one of those more long-term issues, such as a late water sample test, you might not know anything until you get next year’s Consumer Confidence Report.”

Updates to the EPA CCR

The EPA is in the process of revising the Consumer Confidence Report requirements and is seeking to finalize the new requirements in early 2024. The new report should be easier to read and understand, so consumers can know what steps to take to make sure their drinking water is safe.

“The Consumer Confidence Report you receive in the future could look different than it does now,” says Bryanna. “Hopefully it changes for the better and will help everyone better understand their water quality.”

Enjoy a new way to manage your home

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.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.

Download the app today!

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The Hurricane Preparedness Checklist Every Homeowner Needs

Hurricane season is back! That means you can expect power outages, storm surges, and other perilous problems, now through November 30. An unprepared homeowner can be left with thousands of dollars in damage from a strong hurricane, so here at vipHome.app, we want to help you ready your home.

Stay safe and prevent storm damage to your home with our 2023 hurricane preparedness checklist! Also, get additional tips in our hurricane preparedness podcast with FEMA!

Item #1 – Stay informed

Sign up for local alerts with apps such as Nixle or the FEMA app. These apps will alert you to any warnings in your area. Also, consider buying a solar charger for your cell phone, just in the case the power goes out, and invest in a battery-operated radio. This way, you can still have an ear to official announcements if the nearby cell tower loses power.

Download the vipHome.app, which now sends critical weather alerts right to your phone! 

“Homeownership is simpler and safer when you are prepared,” says Founder Alfred Bentley, “and that is what our weather notifications do.”

The app also sends preparedness tips, so you can ready your home for whatever Mother Nature sends your way. Sign up today! 

Item #2 – Know the difference in hurricane alerts

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you understand the severity of the storm headed your way. This will help you make an informed decision concerning your safety. The National Weather Service will give you one of these alerts:

Hurricane watch: A hurricane or tropical storm (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) is possible in the next 48 hours. Monitor alerts, check supplies, and gather anything you might need in case of a power outage.

Hurricane warning: Experts expect a hurricane or tropical storm to hit the area in the next 36 hours. Listen for calls for evacuation and heed those warnings.

There are similar watches and warnings for tropical storms as well as storm surges, so be prepared to respond accordingly.

Item #3 – Plan for all options

a packed duffle next to a chair - hurricane preparedness tips

Ready a light bag in case of evacuation.

“Better safe than sorry,” is a favorite phrase for these emergency situations. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered, “What is the important part of hurricane prep?” – this is it. Make plans with your family for all situations – if you’re staying for the duration of the storm or you need to leave.

Follow these emergency preparedness steps:

  • Ready an emergency kit for your home (more on that below).
  • Prepare for a power outage.
  • Keep your gas tank full.
  • Create an evacuation plan and know the approved evacuation routes.
  • Designate an out-of-state emergency contact. This will be the person everyone contacts if you’re not together during the storm.
  • Select a place where you all can go in case you need to evacuate and ensure that everyone knows how to get there. This can be a nearby shelter, set up by FEMA.
  • Put together a “bug-out” bag that you can grab if you need to evacuate. It should be light and portable.
  • If you have pets, make sure to include them in your plans, with pet-friendly hotels or a family member’s house as a safe place.

Item #4 – Secure emergency supplies

A hurricane preparedness checklist is not complete without gathering emergency supplies. Whether riding out the storm (if evacuation isn’t mandatory) or leaving the area, have the following essential items:

  • Cell phones.
  • Solar chargers.
  • Batteries.
  • Medicines (know how to store them safely, especially if they need refrigeration).
  • Flashlights.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Money.
  • Important documents (passports, birth certificates, etc.).
  • Non-perishable food and water (enough for at least three days, a gallon of water per person per day).
  • Toiletries and personal hygiene supplies.
  • Protective gear.
  • Blankets.
  • Waterproof boots.
  • Warm clothes.
  • Irreplaceable items (your child’s favorite stuffed animals or wedding photo – only essential items).

Consider buying an emergency kit that includes many of the items above.

#Item 5 – Prepare your home

flood and high winds in a tropical neighborhood - hurricane preparedness tips

High winds and flooding can damage your home.

Preventing costly home damage begins by taking the necessary precautions before the hurricane arrives. To stop your patio umbrella from making a new hole in your neighbor’s sliding glass door, complete the following hurricane preparedness checklist:

  • Check for loose shutters or screens. Tighten them as needed.
  • Trim back wayward trees.
  • Secure loose wires and cables.
  • Remove debris from downspouts and gutters.
  • Inspect your roof, and repair loose shingles.
  • Use caulk to seal off doors and windows.
  • Test sump pumps and clear exterior drains of debris.
  • Test generators and make sure you have fuel available.
  • Store lightweight items such as toys and patio furniture. Secure any objects remaining outside as they can become projectiles in high winds.
  • If you live in a flood area, consider placing sandbags around your home’s perimeter. (Also, make sure you have the necessary homeowners insurance. If you’re not sure, contact your agent.)
  • Protect windows and doors by covering them with plywood or hurricane shutters. Leave one or two smaller windows exposed for light and air circulation.

Be prepared all year round

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.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.

Download the app today!

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Aging in Place: Quick Tips to Make Your Home Safer and More Comfortable

By Laurie Smith, vipHome.App Brand Ambassador

Home has a deep meaning for many of us. It’s where we have raised our families, shared memories, survived struggles and celebrated joys. It’s a place that is safe, despite the sometimes chaotic world around us. That’s why aging in the comfort of home is a relevant topic.

Sometimes aging in a current home isn’t possible, perhaps it’s too large and maintenance is overwhelming. If so, downsizing and creating a new home to age in can be an exciting prospect. Whether you are staying in your home of 40 years or creating a new one, the idea of aging in place, as opposed to a retirement facility, has become increasingly attractive.

Evaluate the safety of the home

a woman kneeling on the floor in front of a washer/dryer - aging in place

Is your laundry room on the first floor?

If you are considering aging in place or have a relative or parent doing so, first consider a home safety assessment. This may simply be a walk-through with a notepad to evaluate challenges to solve.

  • How are the traffic patterns in the home? Are there clear paths through rooms, or is there obstructive furniture or potential to trip on an area rug?
  • Is a garage floor slick, and are there predicted areas where puddles form when it rains?
  • Are rooms well lit, and are there dimmers in place? Is there plenty of reading lamp light?
  • Is the mattress a good height as well as a favorite chair seat for up and down ease?
  • What does shelf and cabinet accessibility look like?
  • Are the counters a good height in the kitchen and bath, approximately 37” is optimal, with effective task lighting?
  • Where is the phone placement in the house and where should important numbers be kept?
  • Are floor surfaces safe or too slick, increasing the potential of falling?
  • Perhaps the home needs decluttering and organization?
  • Is the water turn off valve in a convenient and accessible location?

This is the perfect opportunity for aging parents or loved ones to simplify. If they are downsizing to a smaller home, have them choose the special pieces of furniture and art to go with them and then give remaining pieces away.

One of the first things to address is any risk of a fall.

Sadly, more than 36 million falls are reported amongst older adults each year, and many in the home can be prevented with certain measures in place. For instance, taping the perimeter of area rugs to the floor is a great way to reduce the chances of catching a toe under the edge without sacrificing style. Stairways and thresholds, both interior and exterior, are another likely location for accidents, so make sure there are secure handrails accessible.

While it is ideal to have a bedroom and washer/dryer on the ground level, that isn’t always possible. Low-pile carpeted stair treads and nosing or non-slip backing stair tread rugs are a good option. There are clear non-slip stair tread tapes available to place on hardwoods or stone without compromising the aesthetic appearance.

Naturally, the kitchen, bathroom and garage are other locations to address, as they contain hard surfaces and the potential for spills or moisture.

Focus on the bathroom.

a bar with a towel on it - aging in placeShowers and bathtubs can be treated with anti-slip tile treatment products for porcelain, ceramic and stone. Walk-in showers are preferable over tubs especially if they include a shower seat, handrail and a handheld shower nozzle. As an added measure, adjust the hot water heaters not to exceed 120°F, so if hot water is turned on without running cold, there is no potential for scalding or burning. Make sure the flooring tile has texture and exchange all cotton bath mats for ones with rubber backing to prevent sliding. Raising a toilet seat or discreetly placing a decorative grab bar disguised as a towel bar is a great option.

Focus on the kitchen.

Non-slip floors in a kitchen are also desirable. There are very attractive vinyls on the market that look like hardwood, but changing flooring is not always possible. Again, consider tile treatment products or water-based urethane sealers that create anti-slip coating on wood floors. Kitchen runners taped to the floor or non-slip rubber mats at the stove and sink will help. If cabinetry runs all the way to the ceiling, look for options to store most used items in lower cabinetry that may be retrofitted to include pull-out shelves and dish storage drawers for added ease. Eliminating the need to get on a stool or ladder is key.

Also, consider garage floor runners that can be cut in incremental lengths as a low cost solution for traction.

Efficiency is important when aging in place.

Make sure task lighting is replaced with LED bulbs. Not only will they be energy efficient, but these bulbs last for years, preventing yet another need to get up on a ladder.

Home management apps, especially vipHomeLink are extremely helpful for home maintenance reminders, like changing air filters, checking smoke alarm batteries, and cleaning the home’s gutters, just to name a few.

Additional technologies like smart phone watches, Alexa in various rooms, or medical alert buttons are something to be considered, especially for those living alone. A smart home security system may be another wise investment. Many systems allow controlling over door locks and lighting, which is an excellent feature, especially at night. Some have voice-activated assistance that enables the resident to call for help. Home security brings peace of mind as well as doorbell cameras that connect to devices, allowing one to see who is at the door before getting up to open it.

Implementing these basic changes is a great foundation for enabling you or your loved ones to age in place comfortably and safely.

Stay on top of home maintenance

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.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.

Download the app today!

Learn More

a homeowner testing their app and smart camera connection

Top 7 Home Security Tips to Keep Your Living Space as Safe as Houses

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. 

DIY Home Security with Cove

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 

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: 

  • Don’t open the door for anyone you don’t know as this allows a potential burglar to see inside your home. 
  • Absolutely never leave a spare key around your home. (Instead, install that previously mentioned smart lock.)
  • Check locks on windows, and always lock them at night.
  • If you leave windows open in warmer months, lift them no more than four inches and always close and lock them when leaving the house.
  • Rethink key holders and garage door openers placed right inside the door where they can be visible to thieves. Either place them out of sight or store them inside a drawer. 
  • If your home has a sliding door, you can reinforce it with a metal bar, or place a wooden or metal dowel in the tracks.
  • Frequently check outdoor fixtures and replace bulbs when needed. 
  • ​If you already have an existing security system, be sure to check that it is functioning properly. This can be a quick visual check on a monthly basis. Time it with your monthly smoke alarm test.
  • Check that your alarm system yard signs are clearly displayed to deter potential burglars. Even if you don’t have a monitored system, you may still benefit from having the signs clearly posted on your property.

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.  

Enjoy a new way to manage your home

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.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.

Get it today!

Learn More


Well, Well, Well – What Do You Need to Know about Well Water Safety?

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.

Firefighter squirting foam out of the hose

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.

iron stains around the drain

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

Person wearing glove holding a test tube under a faucet

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

well cover open on the lawn

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:

  • Disinfect the well to remove germs or microbes.
  • Add filters or other on-site treatment processes.
  • Identify a new water source.
  • Or even dig a new deeper well.

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.

man adding salt pellets into a water softener

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.

“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.

well cover next an open well

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:

  • Keep hazardous chemicals out of septic systems and away from your well.
  • Pump and inspect septic systems as recommended by your local health department.
  • Install a sanitary seal and slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff.
  • Hire a certified well driller for any new well construction or modification.

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

  • Inspect the wellhead several times of year to make sure it’s in good condition with no cracks or other issues that can lead to contamination.
  • Have their well pump, storage tank, pipes and valves, and water flow inspected by a licensed well contractor every five years.
  • Have the well inspected immediately if you have no record of the last well inspection.

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 logoKeep your home safe and secure

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Think you’re living with a ghost? Learn how to tell if your house is haunted and what that means for the value of your home.

3 Things You Absolutely Must Do If Your House Is Haunted & The One Thing You Shouldn’t

See something in the corner of your eye from time to time? Things flying through the air? Think you’re living in a haunted home? We’ll help you find out and deal with the ghostly presence making your home their life-after-death nest. 

So you have a ghost presence in your house. Congratulations! First, that means your house is way cooler than your next door neighbor’s, and second, you should have some awesome ghost stories for your Halloween party. But really — what do you do with a ghost “living” inside your house? We have a few suggestions.

#1 – Make sure you actually have a ghost

a ghost presses itself against a door into an office
Are you living in a haunted home?

Are you 100 percent sure your house has paranormal activity? While a Realtor.com 2018 study found that 2 in every 5 people believe they have lived in a haunted house, your ghostly happenings could be signaling that you need to complete some necessary DIY projects – if you are haunt-free, that is.

Lights turning on and off?

Don’t assume it’s due to a ghost. It could easily be loose or insecure wiring in a fixture, which is a leading cause of house fires. Check the fixture that’s blinking (only after shutting off the circuit breaker), and also inspect the breaker box for worn connectors and the main electrical panel for loose service conductors. When in doubt, consult a licensed electrician. You can also find additional electrical safety tips in the vipHome.app.

Getting paranormal scents in your home?

These range from stenches like rotten eggs, sulfur, and mildew to pleasant aromas like perfume or fruit. If your paranormal smells are more rotten than pleasant, look around for evidence of tiny intruders, such as droppings, gnawed holes, oily rub marks, and food crumbs. A rotten smell can be an indication of the unfortunate demise of a mouse or squirrel in your wall, stairwell railing, pipe, etc. If you suspect you have a small creature in your home, contact a pest control specialist. If you’re routinely smelling a mildew scent, try using a dehumidifier.

Cold spots in your home?

They could be a ghost — or perhaps your furnace’s burner isn’t lit. It could also mean your unit’s air filter is blocked. Complete a quick inspection yourself, or hire a professional. This is also a great idea if you haven’t completed your annual winter home maintenance, which can help you save money on your energy bill.

Hear strange noises?

Say hi! The ghosts might be trying to communicate with you. It could also mean that your HVAC unit may need servicing, so you may want to call your service professional.

#2 – Record your ghost sightings

Not all ghosts can be tracked on video cameras — with the exception of Disneyland, it seems — so you might have better luck keeping a running record. Determine if there’s any regularity to your ghost sightings or if anything you do specifically conjures your ghost. This information can help you find who your ghost was in their previous life and why they decided to make your home their haunting ground. Use vipHome.app’s HomeLog to document your findings for quick reference during the next step (or for a ghost hunter).

 #3 – Research your home

a scary Victorian home that is rundown
Ask about your home.

Do you know anything about the house other than it has four bedrooms, two baths, and one amazing kitchen? Your home’s earlier years may hold clues to your ghostly companion. If you learn of your ghost before closing on your house, ask your real estate agent. Though not legally obligated in most states to disclose if someone passed away peacefully in a home, Realtor.com says real estate agents are required by law to tell the truth or they can face legal repercussions.

Some states, such as California, require real estate agents to disclose if someone died on the property, regardless of circumstances, within three years. Violent deaths, such as murder or suicide, are categorized as events and must be disclosed before closing in most (but not all) states.

If you’re already in your home, decide if this is something you want to know. If so, learn how to uncover the history of your home, or visit the local library for the town’s history. That might help you find out more about your ghost and also come in handy if you intend to sell your haunted home in the future.

The one thing you should absolutely not do – Get rid of your ghost

a person stands in her nightgown near an open window at night, highlighted in a blue light - haunted home
Forget calling a psychic medium to connect with the spirit world.

According to Realtor.com, just under half of all homeowners (44 percent) suspected or were fully aware they were moving into a haunted house. Another third said they would buy a haunted house if it had a lower price, a bigger kitchen, or was located in a better neighborhood. (Of course, this means you’ll have expectations to fulfill as the neighborhood’s resident haunted house.) Another 18 percent said they didn’t even need perks to buy a haunted house.

Then again, 49 percent of home buyers said, “Nothing can make me buy [a haunted home],” but maybe they just haven’t gotten a look at that kitchen yet. (It has a breakfast nook!)

How to keep your home ghost-free

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Save Your Water: 5 FAQ about PFAS Chemicals in Your Drinking Water

If you’ve been doom-scrolling recently, you may have heard of PFAS. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a warning regarding these “forever” chemicals as they pose serious health risks, even at extremely low levels.

What does that mean for your family and your drinking water?

We reached out to Eric Yeggy, Technical Affairs Director for the Water Quality Association. Eric spent more than 20 years in the environmental testing industry analyzing drinking water, ground water, and soil, and shared with us information you need to know about PFAS chemicals and your drinking water.

What are PFAS chemicals?

PFAS, pronounced PEA-fass, are a class of chemicals known as per and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are manmade chemicals, meaning they don’t occur naturally, and they are very resilient in the environment.

“No one really knows how many of these chemicals are in use,” says Eric. “The estimates I have heard range from anywhere from 4,000 to upwards of 10,000 different PFAS chemicals in use.”

PFAS are commonly found in the following items:

  • Non-stick coatings.
  • Firefighting foams.
  • Food packaging.
  • Clothing.
  • Carpets.
  • And many others!

Companies voluntarily phased the most common PFAS chemicals – PFOS and PFOA – from the United States market in 2015. That’s why your nonstick frying pans may now read “PFOS-free” or “PFOA-free.”

Studies have linked PFOA and PFOS to serious health effects, such as reproductive problems; damage to the liver, the kidneys, the thyroid, and the immune system; elevated cholesterol; cancers; and developmental issues with babies, including low birth weight.

“Unfortunately, we know the least about the PFAS chemicals the industry switched to around 2015,” says Eric. “They might be less dangerous. They might be more dangerous. We just don’t know yet.”

Why are PFAS called forever chemicals?

eggs sunnyside up in a non-stick pan, which may have PFAS chemicals

PFAS are found in everyday items.

“Once you’re exposed, they remain in your body,” says Eric. “Nothing in nature can destroy them once they enter the environment.”

A long carbon chain saturated with fluorine atoms make up PFAS chemicals and at the end is a functional group.

“That carbon–fluorine bond is one of the strongest bonds in chemistry,” says Eric. “It’s very difficult to destroy.”

Do you need to worry about PFAS in your drinking water?

There’s no way to know how many people have PFAS in their drinking water since there hasn’t been extensive testing. However, the Environmental Working Group estimates that as many as 200 million Americans may have drinking water contaminated with PFAS.

Explains Eric, “PFAS have been found in water supplies in every state, and I suspect we’ve only started to scratch the surface.”

Certain laboratories may be able to test upwards of 50 different PFAS chemicals, but as mentioned earlier, there are thousands of these chemicals in use.

“Until we know what they all are, which is information that is currently tightly guarded as ‘trade secrets,’ the laboratories will not be able to develop test methods to look for them,” says Eric.

PFAS bioaccumulate in the food chain and in our bodies, and as mentioned earlier, once these chemicals enter our bodies, they remain there. Scientists have conducted blood studies to see the reach of PFAS chemicals and uncovered disturbing results.

“We know that every American has been exposed to PFAS,” says Eric. “These chemicals are in our blood. You and I have been bioaccumulating PFAS in our bodies since birth.”

How can you tell if you have PFAS in your drinking water?

a homeowner drinking water which may contain PFAS chemicals at a kitchen table

Is your drinking water safe?

There’s no way to know if water has PFAS without testing as there is no funny smell or color change, and usually, the concentration of PFAS is very small.

“We’re talking about levels that are parts per trillion,” says Eric. “Typically, in the drinking water world, we are looking for contaminants that are in the parts per million range or the parts per billion range, so we’re talking about very small amounts that are dangerous.”

In-home test kits do not capture PFAS, and not all certified drinking water laboratories may be able to test for PFAS.

“It’s a difficult test,” says Eric. “Of those that are capable of and certified for PFAS testing, they may each have a different list of PFAS chemicals that they’re testing for.”

If you’re receiving water from the municipal supply, it’s always a good idea to check the annual water quality report for many different reasons. While the Safe Drinking Water Act does not regulate PFAS chemicals, your municipality may be testing for a select few of them. Homeowners on private wells should contact their county and state public health departments.

“Any of these agencies might have helpful information about PFAS contamination in your area,” says Eric.

How can you remove PFAS from drinking water?

Thankfully, third parties, including the WQA and NFS, have tested and certified in-home drinking water treatment systems that remove PFAS, including water filters.

Bottled water may also be a short-term solution.

“A lot of people say that bottled water is just simply tap water that’s repackaged, but in reality, bottled water, even if they are using a source that is tap water, has been put through an entire treatment train,” Eric says.

Unlike other pollutants, boiling water will not help to rid water of PFAS.

“Boiling the water is for microbial contaminants,” says Eric, “so it will not help with PFAS at all.”

Want to learn more about your drinking water? The WQA offers the free booklet Water Treatment for Dummies, which answers questions about home water treatments, products, and professionals in easy-to-understand terms!

Enjoy a new way to manage your home

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.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.

Download the app today!

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Carbon Monoxide Levels at Home – 9 FAQ to Protect Your Family from CO

What you can’t see, can’t hurt you – doesn’t apply to carbon monoxide (CO). Sometimes called the “invisible killer,” CO gas cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled, but it can be deadly.

To help you prevent a deadly build of CO in your home, we tackled nine FAQ about detecting and preventing CO with the help of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)!

What causes carbon monoxide in a home?

exhaust coming out of a muffler

Never run vehicles inside a garage.

CO is created when fossil fuels such as kerosene, gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane, methane, or wood don’t burn completely. CO poisoning can result from gas-, gasoline-, and diesel-fueled vehicles idling inside garages or from malfunctioning or improperly vented water heaters, clothes dryers, furnaces and other heating appliances, and portable generators.

Remember, people die when they are exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

How can you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

carbon monoxide detector

Install and test carbon monoxide detectors.

By maintaining your home and following these safe homeowning practices, you can help to prevent a dangerous buildup of CO in your home.

  • Have gas appliances, fuel-burning heating equipment, and chimneys inspected per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Before using the fireplace, open the damper for proper ventilation. When finished, leave the damper open until the fire is completely extinguished to prevent smoke and gases generated by embers from entering the home.
  • Never use an oven or stovetop to heat your home.
  • Purchase heating and cooking equipment that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Vent the exhaust from fuel-burning equipment to the outside. Keep the venting clear and unblocked.
  • Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor in a garage, even if the garage doors are open.
  • If your vehicle has an automatic engine starter, check to make sure your vehicle is off if it is in the garage.
  • Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
  • Always use barbecue grills outside, away from all doors, windows, vents, and other building openings. Never use grills inside the home or the garage, even if the doors are open.
  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas at least 20 feet from all doors, windows, and vent openings. Measure the 20-foot distance from the generator to the building. Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
  • Place generators so that exhaust fumes cannot enter the home through windows, doors, or other openings in the building. The exhaust must be directed away from the building.

Can you smell carbon monoxide?

closeup of cell phone calling 911

Get out and call 911.

Unfortunately, no, it’s an odorless, invisible gas. That’s why if your carbon monoxide detector ever goes off, you should get out of your home and call 911 or the emergency number for your community. Your alarm may be the only reason you know there is a CO buildup in your home.

Can opening a window stop carbon monoxide poisoning?

Opening a window can introduce fresh air into a home, but it will not stop carbon monoxide buildup or prevent sickness or death.

What do you do if your CO alarm sounds?

Immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors. Make sure everyone is accounted for.  Call 9-1-1 or the fire department from outside. Remain there until emergency responders deem it safe to reenter the home. 

What is the best precaution against carbon monoxide poisoning?

While completing necessary home maintenance is one of the best precautions against CO poisoning, installing, maintaining, and testing your carbon monoxide alarms is the best way to make sure you’re alerted in the event of a CO buildup.

Where should carbon monoxide alarms be placed?

carbon monoxide detector

Consider interconnected alarms.

Install and maintain CO alarms outside each separate sleeping area, on every level of the home, and in other locations as required by local codes requirements. Before installing, make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.

For the best protection, have CO alarms that are interconnected throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.

No matter what type of alarms you get, choose alarms that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory.

When traveling or staying away from home, bring a travel carbon monoxide (CO) alarm.

Do smoke alarms detect carbon monoxide?

No. Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms and vice versa. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and the sound of CO alarms.

How long do carbon monoxide detectors last?

The sensors in CO alarms have a limited life, so replace the CO alarm according to manufacturer’s instructions or when the end-of-life signal sounds. Remember to test your CO alarms at least once a month and replace them if they fail to respond. (Press the test button on the front or side of the alarm.)

To keep CO alarms working, follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the internet.

What does carbon monoxide poisoning feel like?

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning generally include headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, blurred vision, drowsiness, and loss of consciousness. Many of these symptoms are also common with colds, viruses, and stomach bugs, so without a working CO alarm, there’s no way to know if what you’re experiencing is CO poisoning. That’s why it’s imperative you install, maintain, and test your alarms.

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How Not to Get a Red Card: Top Residential Garbage Pickup Tips & Tricks

Have you ever been “red tagged”? In Content Writer Susie’s town, that means your garbage can is either:

  • Bigger than 32 gallons (volume).
  • Weighs more than 60 pounds.
  • Includes items that are not permitted for garbage and/or recycling pickup.

(It can also mean the sanitation department head has held a grudge since 10th grade.)

Depending upon where you live, you may have your trash bins provided by the town, or you may have to buy a set at your local home improvement store. In any case, there will be restrictions you need to adhere to in order to experience the joys of curbside garbage pickup.

In honor of National Clean Up Day, we put together important recycling and garbage collection information you should know before you kick your stuff to the curb.

Know the rules of your residential garbage pickup service

garbage truck using a mechanical arm to pick up trash can

Don’t skip collection day!

Every town or county’s department of waste management (DPW) will have a different set of rules. You should receive a flyer explaining your town’s waste management program annually.

(It usually arrives around the first of the year.) If you just moved into your town or you misplaced your flyer, then you should be able to find a copy on your town’s or county’s website.

(We recommend you hang your flyer on your refrigerator for easy reference.)

The flyer should also tell you the town’s waste management schedule. Most towns offer garbage services twice a week (Collection Day!) and recycling services once a week. (If you can help it, don’t be on the Monday/Thursday pickup schedule. You’ll have lots of holidays where you don’t get residential garbage pickup.)

Double-check your recycling days. Some towns alternate weeks for commingled recycling (cans, bottles, etc.) and paper (boxes, newspapers, etc.) Other towns pick up both every week, so make sure you know (and follow) the law. You don’t want to come home and find soggy boxes still on your curb on collection day.

Rural Homeowner Tip: Some rural areas may not get curbside garbage pickup by their town or municipality, so you may need to hire a residential waste management company to do so.

Alternatively, you may be able to take your trash to the county dump and dispose of it there for a nominal fee. It’s usually super easy – just watch the potholes.

What can be thrown to the curb for residential garbage pickup

Most towns will collect a majority of your garbage items save hazardous materials such as certain paints, automotive fluids, and lithium batteries. Construction materials, like sheetrock, windows, shingles, etc., are also usually banned from curbside pickup. For those items, you should call your town’s DPW for instructions and additional information.

Depending upon your state, you may be able to throw out alkaline batteries in your trash, so check before doing so.

Appliances, too, are usually OK for residential garbage pickup, but you may need to make special arrangements with the DPW. Appliances may also have to be dismantled – such as a refrigerator may need to have its door taken off and placed front down, so no people or animals can climb inside.

Many times, yard waste, such as grass, tree clippings, and leaves, may also be picked up, but they must be placed in paper bags. Always check with your town’s restrictions as noncompliance can lead to fines and summonses. (Not cool!)

To recycle or not to recycle – that is the question!

little girl separating putting aluminum cans into a yellow recycling can

Know what can go.

To recycle

The following household products generally can be recycled:

  • Mixed paper, office paper, envelopes.
  • Corrugated cardboard.
  • Glass food and beverage jars.
  • Aluminum and metal beverage containers.
  • Pet food cans.
  • Milk jugs and plastic beverage cartons.
  • Plastic with #1, #2, and #5 only (no lids).
  • Telephone books and soft cover books.
  • Empty helium tanks. (Everyone has one of these hanging around their home, right?)

Many times, these items must be prepared in some way. For example, most plastic food containers must be cleaned and rinsed before being placed in the can. Most services require corrugated cardboard (your Amazon and Wal-Mart boxes) to be flattened or cut into bundles, so check before dragging your recycling to the curb.

Some towns also don’t allow shredded paper but may offer days where they’ll collect paper for confidential shredding.

Not to recycle

a stack of pizza boxes in front of a house

Used pizza boxes cannot be recycled.

You may be surprised to find that some common household items cannot be recycled. These include:

  • Plastic bags.
  • Pizza boxes (due to the oil on the box).
  • Light bulbs.
  • Aluminum foil and baking pans.
  • Drinking glasses, dishes, and broken window glass.
  • Ceramics and pottery.
  • Aerosol cans and clothes hangers.
  • Motor oil and antifreeze containers.
  • Tissue paper, napkins, paper plates, and paper towels.
  • Styrofoam.
  • Plastics with #3 and #7 symbols.

When in doubt, throw it out (unless it’s hazardous).

What to do if you can’t dispose of your stuff curbside (bummer)

How do you dispose of household hazardous waste? It’s time to check your town flyer/website (again). Some towns allow you to drop certain items, like car batteries, tree stumps, and other miscellaneous stuff, at the DPW yard or collection facility.

Also, counties usually hold certain days or events where they’ll collect hazardous materials, oil, and other liquids, so check your town’s website for proper disposal instructions and notices!

What do you do if you miss trash day?

A row of trashcans and recycling bins on the side of a blue house

Who forgot to take out the trash? Demerit!

There are a few options if you miss trash pickup:

  1. Put your trash out to the curb on your next trash day.
  2. Take your trash to your local DPW or county dump.
  3. Call or email the local DPW and ask them to pick up your trash if they’re able.

(It is illegal in some areas to place trash in a neighbor’s can without permission, so it’s always good to ask.)

Of course, some of these options may not be feasible for you. If your town is like Content Writer Susie’s, you may have limits to the amount of trash you can put out per day for residential garbage pickup, so make sure you don’t go over that amount. If the DPW refuses to pick up your trash again, then consider talking to a neighbor and seeing if they have any room in their trash cans. After all, one person’s garbage can be another person’s garbage, too.

Stay on top of home maintenance

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app 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.

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