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The 10 Most Compelling Reasons to Install a Monitored Home Security System

Every homeowner has the desire to safeguard their family and property. New homeowners seem to be particularly concerned about security, especially those that are unfamiliar with the area to which they have recently moved. Even if the neighborhood is an upgrade from their prior location, no community is totally immune to crime or vandalism.

Because buying a home is such a major expenditure, some new homeowners are tempted to put off certain projects, like installing a security system, until a later time. If the urgency to implement security measures has begun to inch downward on your list of priorities, just remember that by the time you finish reading this article about 12 more homes will have been broken into somewhere in the US.

Below are ten compelling reasons to install a monitored security system in your home…

1) Protects your home and family around-the-clock

A professionally-monitored security system provides continuous protection for your family, home and possessions. The 24/7 monitoring helps guard against burglaries, home invasions, and other devastating crimes. You can also use the system to request immediate assistance in the event of a medical emergency. Unlike an unmonitored system or a self-monitored system, a monitored system has someone available around the clock to assist with any urgent situation that may arise.

2) Provides peace of mind

Adding a monitored security system to your home provides a strong layer of defense, and knowing you are taking the proper steps to protect your household and belongings provides a tremendous sense of well-being. In fact, peace of mind is one of the greatest benefits a monitored security system brings to you and your family. If a break-in, home invasion, or other emergency should ever occur, you are only seconds away from getting the help you need.

3) Acts as a strong visual deterrent

If a home is secure, you also want it to look secure. One of the most effective visual deterrents is the use of warning notices. Almost all security system providers offer yard signs as well as decals for windows and doors. These should be placed so they can be seen from all approaches to the home, not just the front. By alerting potential thieves and intruders that your home is equipped with a monitored security system, chances are they will decide to target an unprotected home instead. Also, if your security system includes exterior surveillance cameras, those will also provide a strong visual deterrent to a break-in attempt.

4) Audible alarm to scare off would-be intruders

Home security systems use a variety of sensors to detect unlawful access through a door or window. If entry is attempted, the system can emit a loud alarm as well as initiate a call to the authorities. In most cases, potential intruders will flee from the blaring sound of an alarm to avoid being identified and apprehended. In addition to deterring intruders from gaining access to your home, the alarm also alerts the entire household of an attempted break-in.

5) Summons police, fire department, or ambulance on your behalf

A monitored security system will initiate contact to emergency personnel on your behalf.  If an alarm gets triggered on a monitored security system, an alert signal will be transmitted instantly to your service provider’s central monitoring station. Your service provider will then dispatch the appropriate authorities to your residence. Some providers may attempt to contact you to confirm details before dispatching first responders to your home, but as soon as the emergency is confirmed, or if you don’t respond, first responders will be immediately dispatched.

6) Includes a panic button for medical and other emergencies

Most monitored security systems offer a panic button, which allows you and your family to summon immediate help from within your home. In addition to alerting the authorities to any unlawful activity, a panic button can be used to call for help in the event of a fire, a fall, medical issue or any other emergency that requires immediate assistance. Pressing the button will alert your service provider of an urgent situation so they can notify the authorities. Also known as a duress alarm, a panic button works as fast or faster than calling 911, which is particularly helpful if you are unable to speak or get to a phone. Panic buttons are available as a portable remote to carry on your person or they can be mounted anywhere in the home.

7) Upgrade features can monitor for smoke, CO levels, and more

A home security system helps protect against intruders and break-ins, but many systems offer upgrade features that can provide monitoring for fire and smoke, carbon monoxide, water leaks, and other harmful occurrences.  As soon as the system recognizes a problem, the service provider will be instantly notified in order to get help on the way. Early detection of these potential dangers not only helps warn you and your family members, it can also limit damage to the home.

8) Potential for discounted insurance premiums

Insurance companies recognize that security systems provide a safer environment for your household. Hence, most insurance companies will discount the premiums of the homeowner policy for homes equipped with a professionally-monitored security system. The amount of the discount varies according to the level of protection installed at the home. Check with your insurance provider for available discounts.

9) Optional cameras provide remote surveillance

In addition to sensors that detect motion, glass breaking, or the opening of doors and windows, many systems offer the option of surveillance cameras. Cameras allow you to remotely view areas of your home when you’re not there, through a smartphone or other device. You can watch real-time video, day or night, to ensure your household is safe. Plus, if your system has the ability to store video, footage can be recorded and viewed at a later time. This feature can provide valuable evidence in the event a crime, vandalism, or similar offense should ever occur.

10) Much more affordable than you might think

Fortunately for homeowners, there is a home security system available to fit just about every budget. The installation fee is usually low and many providers provide the equipment free or at minimal cost if you sign up for monthly monitoring. The monthly monitoring is reasonable too, especially when compared to the cost of not having a system…the threat of physical harm, the emotional toll of being a crime victim, or the monetary and sentimental value of stolen belongings. Plus, as mentioned under item #8 above, a monitored security system will likely qualify you to receive a discount on your homeowners insurance.

To get the most value from a home security system, investing in professional 24/7 monitoring is the best option. After all, you don’t want to be left on your own in the event of a dangerous situation or medical emergency.

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Five Recommendations for Getting More Value from a Professional Home Inspection

The majority of home buyers elect to have at least one type of inspection performed on the property they are considering for purchase. General home inspections are the most common, but other inspections are also available to meet the buyer’s specific needs and circumstances. Certain inspections may even be required by the loan provider, insurance company, or the home’s jurisdiction before a sale can be completed.

Inspections provide information needed to make good decisions, so they are an extremely important component of the home buying process. Below are five ways the buyer can get more value from an inspection…

1) Select a reputable Inspector

Real estate agents often recommend certain inspection providers, but you are under no obligation to use any of the ones being referred. As the potential buyer of the home (and the purchaser of the inspection) you have the right to use an inspector of your choosing. To avoid a conflict of interest, select one that only performs inspections…not one that also offers home repair services. Also, be diligent about checking reviews or references to ensure you pick an inspector that has an established reputation and the proper experience. The inspector should also be licensed (if your state requires it), bonded, and insured. Another plus is if they are certified through a respected organization such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). Before selecting an inspector, you might even ask to see an example of the written report they typically provide after an inspection. This will help you gauge the inspector’s thoroughness and professionalism.

2) Be present for the Inspection

It is in your best interest to attend any inspections you arrange to have done. However, bear in mind that a good inspection is not a quick process. How long does a home inspection take? Well, depending on the type of inspection and the size of the property, it will likely take several hours to complete…so be sure to plan accordingly. By accompanying the inspector, you will gain valuable insight about the condition of the home and its subsystems. In addition, you will be able to see firsthand exactly what the inspector sees and can be given an immediate explanation of the findings. You will also be able to learn more about the property, such as where the shut-off valves are located for the water and gas, as well as the location of the circuit panel. This knowledge will come in handy should you decide to purchase the home.

3) Ask a lot of questions, but try to ask most of them at the end

It is important to have all of your questions answered, but you also don’t want to distract the inspector from doing a thorough job. For this reason, it is better to ask the majority of your questions at the conclusion of the inspection. With this in mind, it might be a good idea to carry a clipboard or notepad with you during the inspection so you can jot down questions as they arise. If you don’t understand any of the inspector’s answers, be sure to ask follow-up questions. Buying a home is likely one of the biggest purchases of your life, so it is important to comprehend all the issues and how they might affect you going forward.

4) Respect the Inspector’s role

The inspector’s job is to report on the current condition of the home, or in some cases a particular subsystem of the home. The inspector is not there to offer an appraisal of the property nor to fix anything that may be defective. Another thing to keep in mind is that the inspector is there to provide facts and observations. The inspector should not be expected to provide opinions on whether or not the home is worth the asking price or if you should buy the home. It is the buyer’s decision on whether to proceed with the purchase.

5) Read the report carefully

After the inspection is complete, the inspector will compile a comprehensive written report. It may take a few days to complete the report, which will contain an objective and detailed evaluation of the home’s current condition. In addition to general facts about the property, the report will outline any existing problems or potential problems that were observed during the visual inspection. In addition to these written explanations, the report should include photos of the home and any defects that may have been found. The report is a custom document prepared just for you, so it should not be casually skimmed over. The information it contains could affect the outcome of your home transaction, so review it thoroughly.

Professional inspections help you learn as much as you can about the home you are considering for purchase. If an inspection identifies areas of concern, it doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t go through with the home purchase. An inspection just helps you know in advance what to expect, so you can make confident decisions about how to proceed.

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9 Lawn Mowing Tips to Help You Cut Grass like a Pro

Basic lawn care knowledge will serve any homeowner well, but it is especially valuable to first-time homeowners. Knowing the proper way to mow a lawn will not only increase the curb appeal of your home, it also contributes to the health of the grass itself. Below are nine tips to help improve the effectiveness of your lawn mowing efforts…

1) Use a sharp blade

One of the most fundamental lawn cutting tips is to start each mowing season with a sharpened blade. A sharp blade helps the engine work more efficiently and produces a nice clean cut on the first pass. Conversely, a blade that is dull or nicked will actually rip the grass blades rather than cutting them, which makes the ends look torn and ragged. You might not notice this right away but in a few days you will see the tips of the grass blades start to brown. This not only makes the yard look less appealing, the damage causes undo stress to the grass.

2) Pick up rocks, sticks, and other debris before mowing

Prior to starting the mower, take a quick walk through the yard and pick up any rocks, sticks, dog bones, toys or anything else that may be lying on the grass. If struck by a spinning mower blade, these items could be propelled at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Needless to say, flying projectiles can cause serious injury or property damage. Running over debris can also dull the cutting edge of the mower blade. Obstacles in the yard that cannot be removed, such as exposed tree roots or low-lying stumps, should be clearly marked so you can avoid them with the mower. Striking a root or stump while mowing can cause irreparable damage to the blade and engine.

3) Fill up the gas tank before you start

Filling the gas tank prior to mowing the yard is a good practice. It prevents you from running out of gas midway through the job, which can be quite aggravating. More importantly, you will be fueling the tank while the engine is cool. Refueling a hot engine has the potential to ignite any gas that may drip or spill. Also, do not attempt to remove the gas cap or refuel the mower while the engine is running. The vibration of a running mower can cause gas to slosh out of the tank.

4) Mowing frequency should match the season

Should you mow once a week? More often? Less often? There is actually no set schedule regarding how often you should mow a residential lawn. Grass grows at different rates depending on the time of year. The generally accepted answer is to cut the lawn often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the grass blade is removed during a mowing. This might translate to every five days during the growing season and every twelve days during the more dormant periods. Basically, if the lawn needs mowing, mow it. If it doesn’t need mowing, save your energy until next time.

5) Try to mow later in the day

The best time to cut grass is in the late afternoon or evening. Any morning dew will be long gone by then so the grass should be nice and dry for safe cutting. Also, the sun will be less intense and won’t stress out the newly cut grass (it will also be somewhat cooler for you). Plus, nightfall won’t be too far away, which will give the grass many hours to recover before the sun comes out again the next day.

6) Mow to the proper height

Cutting the grass lower or higher than recommended can have a negative effect on the health and appearance of your lawn. The ideal cutting height largely depends on the variety of grass you have. Warm season varieties – such as Zoysia or Bermuda – grow better when the weather is warm. As a general rule, warm season grasses are usually cut on the low side. Cool season grass varieties – such as Fescue or Bluegrass – grow better when the weather is cooler. Cool season varieties are usually cut on the taller side. If you are unsure, take a sample plug of your grass to a local garden center and they can help you determine the variety and recommended mowing height.

7) Mulch instead of bagging 

There are several benefits to mulching the grass instead of bagging it. A mulching mower saves a lot of time and energy, particularly if you have a larger area to mow. You won’t have to keep stopping to detach and empty the bag, or haul the clippings to the compost bin or to the curb for disposal. Also, leaving the clippings on the lawn releases essential nutrients and moisture back into the soil, which is beneficial to the grass. Despite what you may think, the grass clippings decompose fairly quickly and do not contribute to the lawn’s thatch layer. By the way, the mulching process works best when the grass is dry and not excessively overgrown.

8) Avoid mowing when the lawn is wet

It is best to avoid mowing a wet lawn. Of course, you never want to use an electric mower with an extension cord on wet grass. But even when using a gasoline-powered mower, there are some concerns. You could slip on the wet grass and be injured in a fall or by the mower, especially if the lawn has a slope. Also, the grass will not cut as cleanly as it would if dry. In addition, wet grass clippings have a tendency to clump, which can clog your mower and even cause it to stall. Another drawback is the chlorophyll in the wet grass will stain your shoes, the hems of your pants, or anything else it may contact. If you really have no other choice but to mow a wet lawn, always use caution and go slowly.

9) Be extra careful when mowing on a slope 

If your yard has a slope, you will have to take extra precautions when mowing it. If you are using a walk-behind mower, you should mow the slope from side-to-side rather than up and down. If you mow up and down the slope, the mower could roll backward as you attempt to go up or speed away from you as you go down. Mowing the slope side-to-side will provide more control over the mower. The opposite is true for riding lawnmowers. Instead of traveling side-to-side, a riding mower should travel up and down the slope. Because a riding mower has a higher center of gravity, mowing a slope from side-to-side could cause the riding mower to topple over sideways, potentially causing serious injury to the driver. Regardless of what type of mower you are using, avoid using the bag attachment or other add-ons when mowing on an incline as any weight imbalance could affect the stability of the mower. If the slope is just too steep to mow safely, consider replanting it with a low maintenance ground cover instead of grass. Or if the sloped area is small, you could forgo the mower altogether and try cutting it with a string trimmer.

Whether you are new to lawn maintenance, or are a veteran mower seeking verification that you’ve been doing things right, following the grass cutting tips in the above list will ensure you stay on the right track toward a healthy and well-groomed lawn.

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Here’s 7 Reasons Why Doorbell Cameras Are So Popular

Doorbell cameras have become an increasingly popular choice for residential security. You have likely seen news stories about burglary attempts, home invasions, package theft and other crimes against homeowners. Much of the security footage that accompanies these news reports has been captured by doorbell cameras.

Doorbell cameras are relatively small, unobtrusive cameras mounted near the entrance of a home. As the name implies, these units function as a security camera as well as the doorbell.

Home security doorbells are available as hardwired or battery-powered models. Also, most include a motion sensor, two-way communication, and the ability to view real-time video on a smartphone or other device.

Safeguarding one’s home and family is a top priority of most people. With that in mind, below are seven reasons to consider installing a doorbell camera as part of your home protection system…

1) Less obtrusive than traditional security cameras

Traditional exterior security cameras, like the dome or bullet styles, protrude from their mounting surface and are instantly noticeable. As such, they provide a strong visual deterrent. However, many homeowners would prefer not to have these bulky and conspicuous cameras positioned around their front porch or entryway. For those that share this concern, a doorbell camera is a good choice because it is much smaller in scale and mounts flush. Many models resemble a typical doorbell. Thus, doorbell cameras can provide security without disturbing the aesthetics of the home.

2) Offers the convenience of two-way communication

Most doorbell camera systems offer two-way audio. For example, if someone rings your doorbell, you can communicate through a speaker without having to physically go to the door. Even if you aren’t home at the time, you can remotely access the speaker through a smartphone or tablet. This feature gives the impression you are at home. By keeping visitors unaware that you are not actually present, it discourages unauthorized entry and other misdeeds.

3) Produces high-quality video

Video quality largely depends on the resolution of a particular system, but most of the doorbell cameras on the market today are capable of providing high-quality video surveillance. Real-time video can be viewed via smartphone or tablet, wherever you happen to be. Doorbell cameras can detect motion and will send you an alert when activity occurs. This allows you to react accordingly, whether that means communicating via the two-way speaker or contacting the authorities. In addition to watching real-time video remotely, some systems have a feature that allows video to be recorded and stored for future review. Depending on the system, the video could be stored locally or in the cloud.  Should a crime occur, video evidence can aid the police as well as support any insurance claims.

4) Includes night vision capabilities  

Unless you know who is on the other side, it is usually a wise practice not to open the door. This is especially true after dark. Plus, many crimes and acts of vandalism are perpetrated at night. Most doorbell cameras will switch to infrared night vision mode as darkness approaches, still allowing you to monitor who is at the door. Even though daytime images will be in color, most doorbell cameras will generate monochrome images in low-light conditions.

5) Allows you to screen every visitor to your home

Doorbell cameras allow you to screen everyone who comes to your door, in real time. Because the built-in motion detector provides instant alerts whenever someone approaches, you can respond quickly and appropriately. This way you won’t miss friends, family members, service providers, delivery drivers or other expected visitors. If the person turns out to be an uninvited visitor, such as a solicitor or other stranger, you can save the time and effort of going to the door by either ignoring them or conversing through the camera’s speaker.

6) Helps monitor deliveries and combat package theft

Since a doorbell camera can be set to alert you when someone approaches the front of the house, you will know when a delivery driver drops off a parcel. On a related note, a doorbell camera can also help combat opportunistic “porch pirates” who steal unattended packages off porches and front steps. Some of these thieves even follow delivery trucks through neighborhoods to see where packages are placed. Being alerted to an approaching box bandit will allow you to confront them over the speaker system and/or quickly call the police. Valuable evidence can also be gathered if your system is configured to store video. The recorded incident will prove helpful as you attempt to identify the perpetrator and recover any stolen property.

7) Provides a visual deterrent 

According to FBI statistics, over a third of unlawful entries are made through the front door. While the average person might not notice that the front doorbell is also a sophisticated camera, those with nefarious intent will likely be on the lookout for such a device and will be able to recognize it as a camera. Not wanting to be seen on video, thieves and vandals would rather leave the property and target an unprotected home instead. By the way, the doorbell camera’s field of vision is an important factor in capturing activity outside the door. For best results, install a doorbell camera that has a wide viewing angle so it can observe the areas on either side of the door in addition to straight ahead.

One of the primary responsibilities of home ownership is protecting your family and property. A home security system is one of the most prevalent ways to guard against criminal activity and malicious mischief. Doorbell cameras are a popular addition to a home security system.

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Follow These 3 Simple Rules for Using a Household Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher may help you fight a small household fire, but once a fire has started there will be no time to read any instructions. That’s why it is so important to know how to use a fire extinguisher before a fire occurs. If you haven’t already done so, familiarize yourself with your extinguisher now.

Below are some general rules for using a household fire extinguisher…

1) Make sure you have the correct type of fire extinguisher for what is burning

For example, extinguishers rated for Class A fires can be used on common combustibles such as paper, wood, cloth, rubber, and most plastics.

Class B extinguishers can be used on fires fueled by flammable liquids, such as grease, oil, gasoline, kerosene, and paint. Never use water on this type of fire as it can cause the fire to spread!

Class C extinguishers can be used on live electrical fires, such as those involving powered appliances and machinery, fuse panels, circuit breakers, electrical outlets or wiring. Never use water on an electrical fire as it can lead to a severe shock!

Fire extinguishers are commonly rated for multiple classes of fires. For example, most household extinguishers are rated ABC and can be used on Class A, B and C fires.

It is essential to know which type of fire extinguisher you have. Using a fire extinguisher to fight a class of fire for which it is not rated can be extremely dangerous, so do not attempt to fight a fire if you do not know what is burning or you do not have an extinguisher that is rated for the type of material that is burning.

2) Make sure you take the necessary precautions

A fire extinguisher is only designed to help you combat early-stage fires that are small and contained. If the fire is large and/or spreading, do not attempt to use the extinguisher – evacuate immediately and call the fire department. Also, if the room is filling with smoke or fumes, or you have difficulty breathing, it is safer to evacuate than it is to stay and fight the fire.

If you are confident you can fight the fire with the extinguisher, position yourself so that your back is to an unobstructed exit. This will provide you with a quick way out if the fire gets out of control. Also, if possible, have someone standing by to call for help if something should go wrong while you’re attempting to extinguish the fire.

3) Make sure you know how to use the fire extinguisher

It is imperative that the occupants of a home know the correct use of fire extinguishers. There will likely be a pin to pull or a latch to release in order to operate the extinguisher. Familiarize yourself with its operation now, so you’ll be prepared in the event of a fire.

What is the proper way to use a fire extinguisher? After you have pulled the pin or released the latch, stand several feet away and aim the nozzle at the base of the flames. Squeeze the lever of the fire extinguisher and spray at the fire’s base using a back and forth sweeping motion. Move closer as the fire starts to diminish.

PASS is a helpful acronym to remember. It stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep.

After the fire appears to be extinguished, stop the spray by releasing the handle. Continue to keep watch over the area to make sure the fire is completely out. Repeat the process if the fire reignites. Also, remember to replace or recharge your extinguisher.

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