RE/MAX 440
Peter Patkos
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-327-7491
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Fax: 267-354-6879 
peterpatkos@remax440.com
Peter Patkos

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Winterize Your Home to Avoid Unnecessary Insurance Claims

December 20, 2013 4:36 am

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, one of the worst winters in years is ahead for most of the United States with below average temperatures and abnormally high snowfall. Homeowners should consider the below tips to begin to prepare their homes for the cold months ahead and to avoid unnecessary claims.

1. Avoid ice dams.
Ice dams can form at the lower edge of your sloped roof when interior heat causes the snow to melt and refreeze. Once an ice dam forms, it blocks water from draining off the roof forcing the water inside, which can cause serious damage to your home's interior.

"Ensure the attic is properly ventilated and nicely insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic," said Paul Hurd, assistant vice president, National Property Product at Grange Insurance. "Homeowners should also seal air leaks in the ceiling so that warm air doesn't leak into the attic. In this case, cooler is better. Doing so will not only prevent ice dams from forming, it will limit cold air drafts and reduce energy bills."

2. Prevent bursting pipes.
Another potential cause of water damage is bursting pipes, which can happen when water freezes in a home's pipes. Secure insulation sleeves over any exposed pipes, seal cracks and holes near water pipes, and allow slow trickles of water to flow through faucets that are connected to pipes in unheated areas. If your home will be empty during the winter months, it is best to drain your water lines.

3. Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of ice and snow.
While your homeowner policy should have liability coverage, you can avoid claims by making sure your sidewalks and driveways are clear of ice and snow to prevent injuries. Try to shovel several times, even while it's still storming, so that snow doesn't get a chance to build up and bond to surfaces. Plus, it's much easier to shovel two inches of snow than five. Get down to the pavement beneath so that sunlight can warm it up and prevent ice from forming. In addition, use sandbox sand to add traction to slippery surfaces and prevent falls.

4. Properly shutdown a vacant home.
For homeowners who close up a summer vacation home or leave for an extended period of time each winter, it is important to prepare before vacating. Homeowners leaving town should give a trusted neighbor a key so they can check the house periodically to account for any unforeseen damage and discourage burglars.

It is important that homeowners turn down their heat, but do not shut it off completely. They should also shut off water, clean out the gutters and arrange for snow removal services to clear sidewalks and driveways while the home is vacated.

5. Inspect heating systems and alternative heating sources.

Homeowners should inspect any heating systems, chimneys or other supplemental heating devices this fall. Although fireplaces, space heaters and wood stoves are popular heating sources, they require proper maintenance and caution to ensure safe operation.

"It is imperative to never leave wood stoves, space heaters or fireplaces unattended to prevent house fires," said Hurd "In the event of a house fire, call the fire department immediately. Once your family is in a safe place and accounted for, contact your independent agent to report the damage. He or she will help you file a proper claim."

6. Consider policy add-ons for further protection against harsh winter weather.
As weather pattern changes continue to impact insurance claims, homeowners should consider additional policy options to make premiums more affordable.

For example, homeowners should consider coverage add-ons for valuables damaged by water during a sewer, drainage or sump-pump back-up.

"Back-up of sewers and drains coverage provides coverage for losses caused by water which backs up through sewers or drains, or water that enters into and overflows from within a sump pump or sump pump well," Hurd said. "This coverage will provide peace of mind when winter storms approach this season."

Source: www.grangeinsurance.com

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3 Tips for Beautiful Wood Doors

December 19, 2013 4:36 am

(BPT) - Your home's front door is more than a portal for family and friends - it makes a statement about your own personal style. Home designers often list the entry door as one of the most cost effective ways to dress up the front of your home for "wow" curb appeal.

This Old House magazine notes that since the front door is the first and last thing we touch when entering and leaving our homes, "it's easy to understand why many of us still like our doors to be made of wood - nothing else matches the material's warmth and satisfying heft."

"People choose wood entry doors first and foremost for their beauty; it's a fine piece of furniture on the front of your home," says Brad Loveless of Simpson Door Company.

For homeowners who enjoy the beauty of wood entry doors, options are now available to stand up to the harshest climates - from the wind-driven rains of Nantucket Island to the desert Southwest. Following are three ways to have the wood door you want and to ensure it will look great for years, no matter what the climate throws at it.

Bring your dreams to life
With doors available in hundreds of wood species, and numerous designs and glass options, it can be hard to envision how a particular door will look on your home. Short of hiring an architect to make a sketch, most people have had to rely on their imaginations. Recently, easy-to-use, free online tools have become available to simplify the door selection process. For example, Simpson's "Test Drive a Door" enables people to upload a photo of their home and view different door options on it. This allows a homeowner to be sure before they buy.

Go for performance
People are used to looking for high performance when shopping for new cars or computers, but might not realize the same approach can apply to doors. Manufacturers have developed high-performance wood doors with superior weather resistance that last in the most demanding exposures, including coastal homes with no porch or roof overhang to protect the door.

One high-performance option to consider is choosing wood species that perform best in moist conditions, as this varies among wood types. Species that have been shown in laboratory testing to have natural moisture resistance include Douglas Fir, Black Locust, Nootka Cypress and Sapele Mahogany, among others.

Another performance option some manufacturers offer in their wood doors is water-resistant composite blocks within the bottom of the door, where water can infiltrate. Doors also are available with full exterior cladding to protect them from rain and sun, while retaining the beauty of wood inside the home.

A strong finish
With any door, whether made of wood, steel or fiberglass, it is crucial to finish it for long-lasting protection from the elements. Doors are sold either factory finished or unfinished. If unfinished, the door must be finished by the door dealer, a contractor or the homeowner.

Manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions for best results from finishing, and those steps typically must be followed to ensure warranty requirements. Chief among these are to finish all six sides - front, back and all edges. As no wood surface should be left unfinished, finish should also be applied to the cut-outs for the handle and lock set, as well as any other openings, such as for mail slots or pet doors.

If the door is exposed to sun, it is generally better to use lighter color paints or stains as those absorb less heat from damaging UV rays.

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Winterize Home Plumbing and Avoid Costly Problems

December 19, 2013 4:36 am

When the first big winter storm hits, many people focus on prepping the outside of the home — shoveling snow, spreading salt, putting the winter tires on the car. Now that the first snow has melted, it's the perfect time to take preventative steps indoors. Freezing temperatures that last for days at a time can cause a variety of plumbing problems. When pipes freeze, water in the pipes turns to ice and expands. The pressure causes cracks, whether the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash 250 gallons of water in a single day. Even in the south, where cold weather is a rarity, there are simple steps to take to prevent pipes from freezing and damaging structures when temperatures drop.

• Disconnect outside water hoses. If left connected during freezing temperatures, water in hoses will freeze and expand causing connecting faucets and pipes to freeze and break.
• Inspect outside faucets. If dripping or leaking, make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before a freeze.
• If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from the pipes.
• Cover outside faucets using an inexpensive faucet insulation kit.
• Insulate pipes in unheated areas. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around exposed pipes.
• If your washing machine is in your unheated garage, turn off water supply lines leading to the washer and disconnect the hoses if temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.
• Allow a trickle of hot and cold water to drip overnight in sinks and bathtubs with supply pipes that run along outside walls and leave sink cabinet doors open to allow warm air from the room to circulate around uninsulated pipes.
• Keep furnace set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Source: Roto-Rooter

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Top Five Safety Gift Picks for 2013

December 19, 2013 4:36 am

As time runs out for buying this year's presents, remember a gift that could save a life is always in style. That is exactly what you can do by purchasing electrical safety devices. To help you in your last-minute shopping, Safe Electricity has picked their top five gift ideas to help keep your holiday season merry, bright, and safe!

"The holidays are a time to let people know how much you care about them," says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. "A practical gift that helps keep loved ones safe continues to say 'I care about you' long after the holidays."

Safe Electricity's top five safety gift picks for 2013 are:

• Appliance Timer with a Safety Turn-off: Is there someone on your list who is repeatedly forgetting to turn off a curling iron or other small appliance? An appliance timer with a safety turn-off can be found for around $8 and provides an added layer of protection when a small appliance, such as an iron or space heater, accidentally gets left on. It has an auto shut-off timer that helps protect homes from fire or burn hazards.

• Portable/Extension Cord GFCI: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) detect and prevent shocks. You may have noticed them in many bathrooms, kitchens, and other places where water and electricity may meet. They are the outlets with red and black buttons. If you know someone who works outside often, a portable GFCI is a perfect gift. A portable GFCI offers protection from shock regardless of the electronic or tool that's plugged into it, helping keep your loved ones safe wherever they work. A GFCI extension cord starts at around $25.

• Tamper Resistant Outlets or Outlet Plugs: Young children may put fingers or other small objects in outlets without understanding the dangers of electricity. It is up to you to understand the dangers of electricity and prevent accidents. Tamper Resistant Outlets (TROs) provide a permanent solution. TROs have shutters that stay closed unless a plug with two prongs is plugged in. If you do not have a thorough understanding of electricity, TROs should be installed by a professional. Another option is simple outlet plugs. A TRO costs less than $2. Packs of multiple outlet plugs start at around $3.

• Non-contact Voltage Tester: This gift is for the do-it-yourselfer. This is an inexpensive tool that detects the presence of voltage without touching a bare wire. The tester uses non-contact voltage detection technology to identify voltage in cables, cords, wires, circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, switches, and outlets. Prices start around $12.

• Power Strips and Smart Strips: Many people will get new electronics for the holidays. Help your friends power electronics safely with a new power strip. Choose a power strip that comes with a circuit breaker that will trip if the power strip becomes overloaded. Overloaded power strips are dangerous and can cause shocks and fires. Power strip prices start at around $7. Smart power strips are another option that add energy savings. Electronics that are turned off sometimes still draw power. So a control unit, such as a television or computer, is plugged into one outlet. The smart strip detects when the control unit is off and shuts off power to peripherals, like DVD players and printers. Smart strips can be found for as low as $22.

During the busy holidays Safe Electricity encourages you to take time to keep all of your celebrations safe. For more information, visit http://SafeElectricity.org.

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Four Quick Steps to a Guest-Friendly Home

December 18, 2013 4:36 am

Having extra bodies in your home overnight can be stressful at any time, but house guests for the holidays – when you are already deep into shopping and preparing – can seem like more than you want to take on.

The home and style editors from Better Homes and Gardens offer four do-ahead suggestions that should help to make your guests feel welcomed and comfortable and calm your last-minute jitters about hosting:

Clear the clutter – Keep an eye out for any knick-knacks or furniture you can store in the garage or closet in order to provide extra space for your guests’ luggage and belongings.

Prep the sleeping space – Whether it is a guest bedroom or a pull-out sofa in the den, place a basket nearby with extra linens, a few magazines or books, and a small alarm clock. If your guests will be spending some time on their own, include a map and/or guidebook for the local area. Try to make sure there is adequate reading light, and – somewhere on a small table or dresser top, place a small plant or a vase of fresh flowers with a welcome note propped up against it.

Prep the bathroom – Clean the guest bathroom, or a shared one, thoroughly, and consider replacing a tired-looking shower curtain or towels. Find a spot for a basket containing spare towels and personal items, such as lotion, shampoo, and toothbrush, or other items that might have been forgotten. Plug in a nightlight to help light the way from the sleeping area.

Prep the kitchen – Before your guests arrive, ask them about any food or snack preferences or other items they would like to have on hand. On a tray near the coffeepot, or on a counter, place a selection of coffee, tea and cocoa along with sugar and creamer so your guests don’t need to rummage through the cupboards. You may want to include some cookies or fruit for impromptu snacking anytime the mood strikes.

 

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31 Percent of Holiday Shoppers Have Yet To Buy a Single Gift

December 18, 2013 4:36 am

Despite the shorter-than-usual holiday shopping season, 31 percent of Americans who plan on giving gifts haven't even started shopping as of early December, according to a new Consumer Reports poll. Of those who have started shopping, 49 percent were less than half way done.

The Consumer Reports poll also revealed that with regard to their holiday preparations, 64 percent of shoppers felt they have things under control and will be ready. However, 36 percent were feeling at least somewhat stressed – including 6 percent who were so overwhelmed that they're unsure if they'll be ready in time, and 3 percent who said they almost certainly won't be ready for the holidays.

"Even though this year there's less days on the calendar to get their holiday shopping done, there are still quite a bit of procrastinators out there," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. "The 11 percent who told us they've completely finished shopping already have certainly saved themselves the stress of frantically searching for last-minute gifts."

The Consumer Reports poll also revealed which methods of sending holiday greetings are least likely to be well-received. When asked to rate the tastefulness of various ways people may send holiday greetings, 67 percent of Americans said group text messages were in poor taste, 65 percent said the same about all-purpose greetings posted on social media or the like, while 57 percent said  group emails were in poor taste. 

When asked which holiday gift recipient is the hardest to shop for, 30 percent said it was their spouse/partner/significant other, one quarter cited a parent, while 12 percent said it was the kids.

As for whom Americans will be spending the most money on for holiday gifts, the Consumer Reports revealed the following top responses:

Children (39 percent)
Spouse/Partner/Significant Other (29 percent)
Parent (11 percent)
Sibling (5 percent)
Friend ( 3 percent)

Most shoppers seemed to be doing a good job of controlling their holiday gift spending, according to the Consumer Reports poll. But 36 percent indeed were concerned about overspending – including 6 percent who were very concerned.

Other holiday tidbits from the poll included:

-82 percent would rather receive practical gifts vs. luxury gifts (18 percent)
-60 percent would rather receive cash vs. gift cards (40 percent)
-56 percent would rather host out-of-town guests vs. being a guest at someone else's home (44 percent)
-56 percent would rather have a fake Christmas tree vs. a real one (44 percent)

Source: Consumer Reports

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How to Prepare Holiday Meals Safely

December 18, 2013 4:36 am

For many families, preparing a grand meal is a tradition they look forward to during the holidays, but it's no fun if someone gets food poisoning. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people in the United States get sick each year from eating contaminated foods.

You can avoid foodborne illness by following these tips:

1. When buying food:

-Choose fresh items and check the expiration date for everything you buy.
-Foods that need to be refrigerated, such as meat, eggs and milk, should be the last things you buy at the store.
-Place meats (chicken, fish, pork and beef) in a separate bag. The liquids that spill out of these items can contaminate fruits, vegetables and other food in the refrigerator.
-If you'll be driving for more than an hour after you go to the supermarket, take a cooler to store the items that need refrigeration.

2. When handling food:

-Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling any food.
-Wash fruits and vegetables with a brush to remove any dirt or soil residue.
-Do not wash meats before cooking. This could cause bacteria to contaminate your sink and other kitchen surfaces.
-Defrost meats in the refrigerator or microwave. Defrosting them at room temperature can cause bacteria to multiply.
-Wash the knife and cutting board that were used to prepare meat before using them on other food items to avoid contamination.

3. When cooking food:

-Cook meats after defrosting them. Don't leave them out of the refrigerator for too long.
-Make sure the meats are cooked well inside and out. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.
-Don't put freshly cooked items next to raw foods.
-When cooking meat, do so all at once. Avoid partially cooking meat and refrigerating it with the intention of completing the cooking process later.

4. When storing food:

-Once you've cooked your food, make sure to store it promptly in the refrigerator.
-Remember to eat leftovers like meats, eggs and pastas within the expiration date, which can generally vary between one and five days.
-Check the food storage guide for extra precautions.

Get additional health tips and other relevant information at USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov.

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Consumers to Increase Their Holiday Shopping at Convenience Stores

December 13, 2013 4:27 am

Harried consumers seeking to complete their holiday shopping say that they will rely more on convenience stores this year for quick snacks, stocking stuffers, party items and cash from ATMs, according to a consumer survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

One in three consumers say that they plan to buy snacks and other food items from convenience stores more often (32 percent) and that they plan to buy coffee and other beverages from convenience stores more often (31 percent) while shopping this holiday season.

Younger consumers, those 18 to 34, are most likely to grab a quick snack or beverage at convenience stores, with a majority expecting to buy snacks (52 percent) or drinks (51 percent) more often at convenience stores while shopping this holiday season.

In addition to purchasing quick snacks and drinks as part of their holiday shopping excursions, consumers say that they will be increasingly using convenience stores to purchase holiday gifts or related items. More than one in five consumers say that when it comes to making purchases at convenience stores, they will be buying more gift cards more often (23 percent), small presents or stocking stuffers more often (21 percent), and more small items like tape and batteries more often (22 percent). Younger consumers are most likely to purchase these items at convenience stores: more than one in three of those 18 to 34 say that they will be buying gifts cards (38 percent), small presents (38 percent) and small items like tape and batteries (37 percent) at convenience stores more often this holiday season.

"Lottery tickets are always a popular stocking stuffer or office gift, and with the current Mega Millions jackpot now at $400 million we are definitely seeing an increase in sales for what could potentially be an amazing holiday gift," said Lenard.

Convenience stores also will be a popular destination for those planning holiday parties. One in five consumers (21 percent) say that they will be shopping more often at convenience stores to pick up items like wine, beer and snacks that they need for parties that they are attending or hosting. More than one in three consumers age 18 to 34 say that they will be buying more items from convenience stores for parties this holiday season, with 39 percent stocking up for parties that they are hosting and 37 percent buying items for parties that they are attending.

Source: National Association of Convenience Stores

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Hotel Amenities Travelers Can and Can't Do Without

December 13, 2013 4:27 am

TripAdvisor® has announced the results of the TripBarometer Truth in Travel Survey, which reveals the hotel amenities and services U.S. travelers find most and least important.

Free Wi-Fi, parking and breakfast are in high demand, but travelers are not as interested in the mini-bar or spa.

Most Important Hotel Amenities for U.S. Travelers
1. Free In-Room Wi-Fi (89 percent)
2. Free Parking (89 percent)
3. Free Breakfast (84 percent)
4. Free Personal Care Items (72 percent)
5. Free Lobby Wi-Fi (71 percent)

Least Important Hotel Amenities for U.S. Travelers
1. Mini Bar (21 percent)
2. Spa/Beauty Treatments (23 percent)
3. Business Center (34 percent)
4. Laundry Service (39 percent)
5. Free Pool-Side Wi-Fi (42 percent)

"Accept my credit cards" (59 percent) and "hire staff who speak my language" (34 percent) are the top things U.S. travelers wish their hotels would do, as compared to 12 percent who wish hotels would "include typical food from my country in the menu."

Meanwhile, there are some good signs hotels are answering the call. As a result of increasing numbers of guests from various destinations around the world, hoteliers have already put in place a number of measures to address the needs of international visitors. Fifty-two percent of global hotel respondents have made efforts to honor the credit cards that their guests prefer to use, as compared to 44 percent of U.S. hotels.

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Appliance Safety in the Home: How to Prevent Tip-overs

December 13, 2013 4:27 am

In light of recent tragedies nationwide involving tipped over appliances, The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently completed a review of various tip-over hazards that can occur in the home.

Families must be aware of leaving children unattended in the kitchen, even if the stove is turned off. Many accidents occur when children attempt to climb on top of a stove door causing the appliance to topple over. With senior citizens, the same can happen when they are leaning on it for support. If the stove is on at the time of the incident, the heat will only make injuries worse and risk of death greater.

The CPSC recommends the following to prevent related tragedies in the future:

-Manufacturers should create better stability in their designs. Models should be able to support 100 pounds on an open oven door. Although this may require some major redesigns, the added safety bonus will benefit everyone.
-Manufacturers should design door hinges that lock in the open position, should an oven start to tip forward.
-Install anti-tip devices that prevent an appliance from working unless they are properly installed.
-Appliances should be programmed to automatically shut off the heat should they begin to tip.

Consumers should be aware that these types of incidents can occur in their home. To prevent this from happening to you or your loved ones, be sure to secure your stove with tip restraints provided by your manufacturer. New appliances made after 1991 should have shipped with them included, but may or may not be pre-installed. The CPSC reports that it is not aware of a single injury or death cause by an appliance with tip restraints properly installed.

For more information, visit http://www.cpsc.gov.

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