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The Weekly Roundup 4.10 Edition

by Cassie April 10, 2015

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Caregiver, Homebuilder Offer Tips for Senior In-Home Safety

As people age, their homes may no longer meet their needs. Jason Eid, President of Eid-Co Homes, builds custom homes for senior adults who face the physical and sometimes mental challenges that come with age. Recognizing that a new home may not be affordable to every senior, he offers these simple home safety tips which can be implemented today:

  • Get a personal alarm, that with the press of a button, seniors can call for help if they’ve fallen and can’t get up
  • Add more lights and sensors to the home
  • Add a stair lift or move the bedroom downstairs
  • Program appliances to turn off automatically
  • Install grab bars and non-slip mats to shower and bath areas

For the original article in Inforum, click here

 

Amazon Dash + Poppy loT Coffee Maker + Wink Home Automation = Wow

The phrase, “Do you want a refill?” has practically become obsolete thanks to new products like Amazon Dash, Poppy lot Coffee Maker, and Wink Home Automation. These smart technologies can sense when supplies are getting low and will either automatically refill or alert you to refill. Although the great debate wages on about technology becoming too smart, one thing is certain, technology has never been more convenient.

For the original article in CEPro, click here

 

Privacy VS. Security: How the Debate Changes

The question, “Where do we draw the line between our right to privacy and our desire to be protected?” is often debated. With Government collecting metadata on our phone calls and Google tracking our web activity, we are, in a sense, lacking privacy. Some argue that measures of security trump privacy rights, while others defend the right to protect personal information. In today’s world, the clear answer to what should be monitored and what shouldn’t, is still undefined. Only the future knows for sure.

For the original article in Seattle Times, click here

 

loT Is In the House: Decoding the Tech Behind Smart Homes

Home automation is expected to reach over $16.4 billion in growth by the year 2019. This explosion in popularity is due to the convergence of four technologies:

  1. Wi-Fi – wireless connectivity that connects smart devices to a home network, essential in the smart home.
  2. Bluetooth Smart – products function with very little power; batteries can last for months, or even years, on a single charge.
  3. Wireless charging – allows users to charge multiple electronic devices without the use of a cable.
  4. A strong and fast broadband – as technology becomes more advanced, so must the broadband to support it.

For the original article in FirstPost, click here

 

 

See Something Suspicious? Then Say Something About It!

by Amy January 22, 2015

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Here’s a neat story of how neighbors helping neighbors resulted in the arrest of a suspected criminal by the Lower Merion Pennsylvania Police Department.

Police were contacted by a man who noticed suspicious activity on his neighbor’s property. When police arrived a few minutes later, they encountered a 19 year old man from Philadelphia.

The man claimed to be a roofer and told police there was a job he had to work on the street. He said he was simply looking for the home where he was to work. The guy even had a ladder sticking out of his car to make it seem like he was a roofer.

However, police found something else in the guy’s car that aroused their suspicions. The guy had a bike and other tools in the trunk of his car.

The police talked to the neighbor who reported the activity and the neighbor confirmed that this was indeed the man he had seen. The police then contacted the homeowner who identified the ladder, bicycle and tools as being his property that had been in his garage.

Police then arrested the man and found marijuana in his car. The man was charged with burglary, criminal trespassing, theft, possession of a controlled substance, receiving stolen property, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession with intent to deliver.

We love this story as originally reported  by Mainline Media News because it illustrates the importance of neighbors helping neighbors. If you see something suspicious, then you should definitely report it to the authorities. After all, that’s what you’d want your neighbor to do to help you.

My Alarm Center urges you to become an active participant in a neighborhood watch program.  They are great, easy, and effective ways to improve the safety for you, your home and those of your neighbors.

New Trends in Technology for 2016

by Cassie January 12, 2015

New year, new tech – right? Every year, the world’s technology grows by leaps and bounds, and every year we’re excited to see what the next 12 months will bring. Here’s a few of the most exciting predictions for 2016:

Technology Trends for 2016

Productivity Robots

Yep, robots. (The Jetson-age is almost here!) More and more, automated software (aka “bots”) are working behind-the-scenes to boost productivity, keep track of our lives, help us interact with others, and make it easy to live and work better. But what 2016 promises is something a little bit more: the ability to program bots to your needs and preferences. To categorize your world, the way you want it categorized. (Think an advanced version of IFTTT.) 

Drone Discussion (and Legislation)

Drones have gotten into hot water this year – who can forget the two drones that got in the way of some California wildfire firefighters? – so we can expect to discuss this new tech, and how to regulate it in 2016. Just last month, the FAA began requiring registration for all drones (and any other type of remote-controlled aircraft over 0.5 lbs.) in the U.S. (Don’t worry – you have until February 16th to register.) So in 2016, in addition to current laws that prevent drones from flying near airports, will we also see no-fly circumstances? (Like during a wildfire emergency, ahem.)

Meshing All Your Devices

We’ve all seen the device mesh trend coming – and most of us have already experienced it, on some level – but we expect to see a lot more meshing in 2016. The basic premise: most of our devices, even those connected to the cloud, operate in isolation from other devices. (Devices being not only your laptop, tablet and smartphone, but also your smart watch, activity tracker, and etc. etc.) In 2016, the device mesh will evolve to connect all these devices so they work together, seamlessly (or at least, without your having to hack your way to interconnection).

Haptic Advances

You may not know the word, but you’re familiar with the tech: haptic feedback is the sensation we derive from technology. (Think, putting your phone on vibrate or responding to your watch’s buzz alarm.) But in 2016, we can expect haptics to expand beyond simple reminders to actual touch: for example, to let you feel a sweater’s texture before you purchase online or haptic insoles in orthopedic shoes.

 Virtual Reality: A Real Reality

Virtual reality is real, and it has some pretty exciting applications in today’s world. VR is poised to bring people closer together – think virtually realistic web meetings! – or VR war zone reporting. What’s more, VR may be applied in mental health settings, for example to treat depression, chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD and other conditions. Experts predict it will also be employed as pain treatment (and therefore lower our dependence on pain medication).

Itty Bitty Sensors

Today’s sensors are just getting smaller and smaller. This tiny form factor, combined with smarter technology, means that the sensors of 2016 will be more powerful – capable of tracking temperature, light, movement, biometrics and other factors, all with one tiny piece of tech. We’re excited to see applications in the home security and smart home sectors!

Happy Holidays from My Alarm Center

by Amy December 25, 2014

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One of the great pleasures of the Holiday Season is the chance to say “thank you” for your contributions to our success.

We pass along our warmest thoughts and best wishes for a fantastic Holiday Season and a very Happy New Year.

Relish every moment, savior every triumph and appreciate every failure. Dream big. Play big. Work hard. Laugh out loud.

This Holiday Season, My Alarm Center urges you to celebrate all of life’s possibilities.

May 2015 be your best year ever!

How to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing (or What to Do In Case Your Pipes Burst)

by Cassie December 11, 2014

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One of the worst home disasters that can happen in the winter are freezing or bursting pipes.

Low winter temperatures can cause your water pipes to freeze or burst.

So how can you protect your home before, during and after a pipe freezes?

First, take actions to prevent pipes from freezing. These actions include:

  • Disconnecting all gardening hoses from faucets.
  • Installing covers on outside faucets.
  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Insulating all outside walls and unheated areas of your home and garage.
  • Weather seal all windows to prevent drafts.
  • Cover or close open air vents. Freezing temperatures with wind drafts can cause pipes to freeze more frequently.
  • Keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher and, in extreme cold, open cabinet doors below sinks to allow warm air to circulate.
  • Wrap pipes near exterior walls with insulation or heating tape.
  • If you are going to be away from your home for an extended period, shut off the water supply valve to your washing machine.

Your first sign that pipes are starting to freeze is reduced water flow from a faucet. Check for water flow before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning. Allowing a faucet to drip slightly can help prevent freezing.

If a pipe freezes, you can thaw it out using a good hair dryer or by soaking towels in very hot water and then wrapping them around the cold sections of the pipe. When thawing out a pipe, turn on the faucet. This will allow the melted water to drip out. Start thawing the part of the pipe that is closest to the faucet.

Let’s hope that you never have a pipe burst. If you do, shut off the water at the main valve. Close the valve on the top of your water heater. Then, begin the clean-up, call your insurance agent and call your plumber.

As with any home situation, use your best judgment to determine what’s right for you.

With a My Alarm Center alarm system, you’ll be notified if there’s ever a leak in your home. Learn more about flood protection.

Our Best Tips to Prepare Your Home for Winter

by Amy November 13, 2014

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Fall is already upon us and Old Man Winter is coming in next.  Now is the perfect time to take advantage of cool autumn days to get the outside of your home and property ready for the winter season.  We recently published an article on winterizing your home from the inside and now we would like to share with you ways to do the same for the outside of your home.

  • Clean out your gutters – plenty of leaves and old branches find their way to the ground this time of year and some of that debris is going to land in your gutters.  Be sure that all gutters are clear of leaves, dirt and debris that can impede the flow of melting snow.  While you have access to your gutters, take a close look at your roof as well to determine if any leaks or damage needs repair before the first snowfall.
  • Drains away from the house – As the snow and ice melts and refreezes throughout the winter you are going to want to ensure that any excess water is taken away from the foundation of your house.  This is an important factor all year long, but in the winter months, any water that makes its way towards your foundation can then refreeze, expand and cause significant damage.  Make sure drains lead water at least 6 feet away from your foundation and check your dirt grade.  Low areas should be filled in with more dirt to try and ramp the water away from your home.
  • Turn off the outside water – First find the indoor water shut off for all of your outside water lines.  If you cannot find the shut off valve you may need to have a plumber point this out to you.  Next go outside and turn on all of the hose spigots to let the water drain out completely.  Don’t forget to drain all hoses as well.  As for irrigation systems, the best way to drain them is with the use of an air compressor.  You can attach the compressor to the main irrigation line and blow all excess water out of the lines so they do not freeze and burst.  This may require hiring an irrigation specialist, but will certainly beat the price of digging up and replacing burst lines come spring time.  Bird baths and anything else that might freeze up and break needs to be drained and prepped for the freeze as well.
  • Seal the chimney – About every 4 to 5 years you should reseal your chimney to prevent damage caused by leaks.  If you are comfortable on a tall ladder then you can apply a clear acrylic water sealant to the outside of the chimney whether it is brick, block or cement.  Applying the sealant is pretty much just like painting a wall.  Thompson’s Water Seal Multi-Surface Waterproofer is a good choice and comes highly recommended by professionals.  If you are not comfortable with heights while working on a ladder then you may want to hire a pro.
  • Seal the chimney – You also want to make sure your chimney is clear of anything. Birds routinely nest in chimneys which is something that can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide build up. Even after you’ve cleaned your chimney, you should get a device for carbon monoxide gas detection. It could save your life.
  • Inspect your decks and walkways – look for splintering and other signs of wear in your wooden decks.  It might be time for another layer of sealant to help it get through the winter season without further damage.  As for paved surfaces on your property it is a good idea to look for cracks, loose pavers or missing mortar.  Fixing a loose paver is pretty straight-forward.  With a little bit of paver sand you can lift the loose paver, add a little paver sand and then use a rubber mallet to help reseat the paver in a secure position.  For missing mortar and cracks you can either mix some mortar up then use a trowel to replace it or get yourself some Quikrete caulk to seal up the problem.  If water is able to get into these cracks, freeze and expand, you are probably going to have an even bigger repair job come spring.
  • Assume ice will be everywhere – Keep plenty of sidewalk salt on hand for the upcoming season.  Icy walkways are the number one reason for injury outside of the home during winter.  Check all of the handrails on any outside stairs to make sure they are safe and secure.  You should also do an inspection of outdoor lighting around your home so that you can easily see any ice on the walkways to minimize the chance of a slip and fall happening.
  • Remove dead branches – Trimming your tree for any dead branches will stop them from becoming iced over or blown off by the wind.  Pay special attention to any branches that are too close to your home or power wires.  An iced over branch can be very harmful to your home, power wires and anyone that may get in their way.  Even small branches can become very heavy and deadly when covered in ice.
  • Aerate, seed, fertilize, mulch – To help your landscaping look its best come spring time you should first aerate your lawn while the temperatures are still warm. Aerating now allows more water to get to the grass roots where it is still needed until the freeze hits.   If seeding is necessary then you should add that now as well.  This will give the seeds a little head start to root themselves before the spring thaw.  Next you should apply fertilizer to your lawn during November to give the grass plenty of nourishment to survive the winter.  You should also add fertilizer to your shrubs in November as well.  For our last landscaping tip you can help to create a good looking yard for the winter by pulling up any dead plants and flowers.  Clear out any sticks and leaves as well.  Use a rake to aerate the soil in your flowerbeds and then mulch all of the stuff you just cleared away.  Not only will it make your flower beds look nice, but it will also help prevent insects from nesting under any debris.
  • Prep the patio furniture – A simple solution of soap and water can clean off summer dirt and debris from almost any patio furniture.  Once clean you need to decide whether the furniture can be stored outdoors or needs to come inside.  Cushions can be machine washed and should be stored indoors completely dry to avoid any mildew and mold.  For the furniture itself, most hardwoods will fair just fine in the outdoor winter weather.  Softer woods, thin aluminum and plastic furniture should more than likely be brought in to help protect it.  Any furniture that is left outdoors should be covered with a breathable Gore-Tex type of fabric.  This fabric allows moisture to escape from underneath the cover while preventing any outdoor moisture from penetrating.  Be sure the covers are pulled tight to eliminate any pooling of water that can then freeze.
  • Get the garage ready – Whether you keep your tools and shovels in a garage or shed you should organize them now so you are not scrambling to dig things out at the first sign of snow.  You won’t need your gardening tools for a while so give them a quick clean and store them toward the back of your storage area.  Keep items like snow shovels, ice breakers, the snow blower and rock salt with easy access.   This is also a good time to inventory any liquids in your garage or shed that might freeze.  Probably a good idea to find a temporary place to store them inside.

Tending to these outdoor tasks and giving your home a good once-over before the year’s first frost is going to make your winter a little more enjoyable.  By being proactive with these responsibilities you are going to really extend the lifespan of everything outside of your home and you won’t be out in the cold winter air trying to catch up or make repairs.

Ten Tips to Winterize Your Home

by Cassie October 28, 2014

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Smart thermostats show that temperatures are already starting to drop across the U.S. and predictions say we may have an early winter this year.  So while there is still mild weather available it is probably a good idea to get your home ready now for the winter season that is coming quickly.

Winterizing your home now will start to bring you savings on your utilities and give you peace of mind knowing you are ready for whatever mother nature throws at us this year.

Here are some great tips to get you ready for the 2014 – 2015 winter season.

1. Fire Up the Furnace – It is a good idea to turn on your furnace and ensure that it is working properly before the cold weather hits.  It is common for a strange odor to emit from the furnace when you first fire it up from its summer rest.  If the odor persists you may need to call a professional to have it cleaned and tuned.  You should also change the furnace filter.  Fiberglass filters need to be thrown out and completely replaced once they are dirty.  Electronic or electrostatic filters can be washed and reused.  It is a good idea to check these filters monthly during the winter months.  Regular inspections will keep your furnace running clean and efficiently.  Furnace tune-ups from a professional can also help to keep your equipment in tip-top shape.  It usually costs around $125, but can really extend the life of your furnace and keep your utility costs at a minimum. Remember to have a fire alarm or smoke detector near your furnace as well.

2. Make Sure Your Ducts Are in Order – Ductwork in a home with central heating that is not connected properly or is poorly insulated can lose up to 60% of its hot air before reaching the vents.  Not only will it not properly warm your house, but it will drain you of your cold hard cash.  Ducts aren’t always easy to access, but check the best you can and fix any gaps or leaks with a metal backed tape to ensure it does the job.  It’s also a good idea to clean out any dust or debris every year to help avoid any breathing problems over the winter when you cannot open the windows to enjoy the fresh outside air.

3. Work With Your Windows – Early October is the perfect time to remove your screens and put up the storm windows.  If you have single pane windows, storm windows add an excellent second level of protection against the winter elements.  If you do not have storm windows and are going to brave the winter with single pane glass you may want to consider getting a window insulator kit.  For around $4 a window you can get this plastic sheeting that can be shrink-wrapped to your existing windows with a hair dryer.  It might be a little unsightly, but it is extremely inexpensive  and effective.  Consider saving up for dual pane windows to be installed.  They do require a big budget, but are worth it in the end.  Maybe only swap out one or two at a time to spread out the expense.

4. Prep Your Pipes – Any pipe that is exposed to the elements is vulnerable to bursting when the temperature drops below freezing.  Save yourself the mess and expense of a burst pipe by checking all of them in the basement, garage or crawl spaces to make sure they are properly insulated.  Pre-molded rubberized sleeves and fiberglass insulation is relatively inexpensive and available at any hardware store. It is easy to install.  Don’t forget to remove the hose from the hose bib, turn off the water supply to the hose from inside the house and completely drain any water left in the outside pipes.  One last water source to check might be a window mounted A/C unit.  Be sure to drain any hoses, remove any excess water and turn off the water valve if your unit has one.

5. Double Up the Insulation – This tip might initially cost some money, but you are sure to get it back year after year with on your heating bill.  No matter what part of the country you live in, American homes require at least one foot of insulation in the attic.  An easy way to tell is to peek in your attic and look for the ceiling joists.  A ceiling joist is at most ten or eleven inches so if you can see it, you need more insulation.

6. Turn Down Your Water Heater – This tip is not just for winter, it can save you money all year long.  When water heaters are installed a common temperature setting is 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  For most American homes this is simply too high.  Reduce your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and watch your water heating costs drop by at least 6% to 10%.  It is a small adjustment that will hardly go noticed unless you miss scalding water.  For even better performance through the winter months invest in an insulating blanket for your water heater.

7. Fill in the Cracks and Don’t Dodge the Drafts – This is probably more important than most people realize.  Even the small cracks count towards energy loss.  According to a study done by Earthworks Group, the average American home has enough leaks to equal a nine square foot hole in a wall!  One easy way to find them is to use an incense stick on a windy day and walk around your home looking for drafts around windows, doors and electrical outlets.  Caulking, weather-stripping, door sweeps and electrical outlet gaskets can usually be enough to conquer any indoor drafts.   For leaks originating from the outside of your home you will most likely need a caulk that is manufactured for use outdoors.  Masonry sealer is what you will need for cracks in a brick exterior so that it can stand up to the freeze and the thaw each year.

8. Clean out the gutters – After all the leaves have fallen be sure that you remove all of them from your gutters along with any other debris.  Anything left behind has a good chance of freezing over and creating an ice dam in your gutter.  Water then has the opportunity to back up and soak into your house causing bigger leaks and damage.  Be sure the water can easily flow and try to get the downspout to carry the water at least 10 feet from your house.  While you are outside you may also want to inspect any other areas of your home’s foundation to see if there are any vulnerable places that ice, snow and water can collect.

9. Inspect Your Fireplace – You may want to call in the help of a professional chimney sweep if your fireplace needs a good cleaning.  It may not need a cleaning, but at a minimum you want to make sure that nothing is caught inside like a lost toy or any animals before lighting the first fire of the season.  Another crucial step in winterizing your fireplace is to ensure that the damper fully closes to keep out the cold air and that it fully opens to let out the smoke should you build a fire.  We also have a great article on maintaining wood stoves should your home have one. You should have a smoke detector or fire alarm near your fireplace as well.

10 Reverse Your Ceiling Fans – Our last tip is usually the one that is most overlooked.  Most homeowners only consider their ceiling fans when they want to cool down, but with one flip of a switch you can reverse the motion of the blades.  When the fan blades are spinning clockwise the fan blades are now pushing the warm air that pools up at the ceiling back down into the room.  Recirculating the warm air trapped up by the ceiling can make your room feel much more comfortable and can actually help to reduce your heating bill by up to 10%!

There are other things you can do to keep your energy costs to a minimum and keep your home ready for whatever winter weather passes through.  Remember to set your smart thermostat to a lower temperature when leaving the house or invest in a programmable one.  Also simply wearing an extra layer of clothes can really make a difference as well.  One last piece of advice is to keep plenty of rock salt handy to keep your sidewalks and driveways free of ice.  It isn’t exactly going to help winterize your home, but it will certainly protect your family, friends and neighbors from taking any unnecessary spills.

How Your Small Business Security Camera System Can Grow Your Profits

by Amy June 24, 2014

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Did you know with a surveillance system for your business you can protect your business AND grow your profits at the same time?

 

Researchers from Washington University, Brigham Young, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a comprehensive study of the impact of surveillance technologies (like security camera surveillance systems installed) on employee theft and productivity.

After studying the impacts of alarm company surveillance technologies at 392 restaurants in 30 states, the researchers observed that:

  • Sales increased $2,982 per week per location! Researchers attribute the sales increase to workers that stopped unethical behavior and an increased focus on driving sales, especially incremental sales like desserts and appetizers.

 

  • Theft declined an average of $108 per week, per store.

 

This research strongly suggests that security camera surveillance systems, especially with monitoring services, boost sales and cut employee theft.

 

And here’s another bit of good news…it’s not expensive to get professional installation a good business security camera surveillance system and they often pay for themselves in a matter of months!

 

Contact your local My Alarm Center business security company representative for more information about protecting your business. Call us toll-free at 855-334-6562.

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