South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Thermostat Recall Due to Fire Hazard

White-Rodgers, a major thermostat provider, hasrecalled over 1 million thermostats in the United States and Canada due to a fire hazard caused by alkaline batteries leaking onto the thermostat’s circuit board. 
Which Thermostats are Subject to Recall? The digital thermostats are white with blue lighted screens and will have one of the following names printed on the front:
The thermostats have a battery door on the top, left-hand corner. There are three or four buttons to the right and three or four more buttons below the thermostat screen. 
Recalled thermostats do not show a battery icon on the left side of the blue lighted screen.
Only thermostats without a battery icon
are subject to recall.
What Should You Do?If you own one of these brands, check your thermostat for the battery icon on the left-hand side of the blue lighted screen. If the battery icon is not shown, contact White-Rodgers to receive a free repair or a replacement thermostat.

Consumer Contact:

Call White-Rodgers toll-free at (888) 624-1901 from
7 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday—or visit their website at and click on the White-Rodgers 1F8x-04xx Thermostat Recall link found at the lower, left-hand corner of the homepage for more information.

Click here to access the full report from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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Ensure Your Fireplace Is Up To Snuff

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Home safety, Homeowner Tips by southorangecounty on December 6, 2013

Ensure Your Fireplace Is Up To SnuffWhen it’s cold outside, there’s nothing quite as cozy as curling up on the sofa with a good book in front of a roaring fire. A fireplace evokes the idea of a warm and pleasant atmosphere.

However, if it isn’t properly maintained, your living room could be filled with a cloud of soot, or worse, fire. A fireplace not only creates a snug setting, but most are actually functional and can help heat your home.

Harness their heat and generate the ambiance of a softly lit living space by following the tips below to ensure yours is properly maintained and working efficiently before the first cold spell hits.

Clean It Regularly

Have your chimney cleaned out twice a year. The recommended number varies depending on how often you use your hearth. However, you should have it cleaned every fall to ensure it’s properly vented so that smoke has a way to escape.

Also, you’ll want to make sure that no animals have made their home there over the summer.

Close The Damper

Make sure you close the damper when you’re not using the fireplace. You don’t want to make your furnace work overtime because warm air is sneaking up and out the chimney.

Install A Chimney Cap

If your home doesn’t have a chimney cap, then have one installed. These help to prevent leaves, animals and other debris from falling down the chimney. Caps also help keep downdrafts from gusting into your living area.

Burn Firewood Only

A fireplace isn’t the spot to burn your broken chair or ex-girlfriends photos. Painted wood, plastic and other treated wood surfaces can release chemicals into the air of your home. Worse, they can coat the interior walls of your fireplace, so you continue breathe them in for the next couple of fires.

Mount Smoke Alarms

If you don’t already have them, mount smoke alarms near your hearth and in every bedroom. Consider installing combined carbon monoxide and smoke detectors if you have a home with a gas-burning fireplace.

Don’t use your fireplace without taking the right precautions. Get it cleaned, and if it’s your first use, then be sure to get it inspected beforehand. Make the hearth in your home the heart of your home by following the tips above to ensure it’s up to snuff this fall.

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Watch Out for These Hidden Household Hazards

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Home safety, Homeowner Tips, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on November 18, 2013

Watch Out for These Hidden Household Hazards


Are hidden hazards lurking in your home? Do a safety check to ensure your home is a safe one:

Surface Scum – Keep food preparation surfaces clean and disinfected. Beware of hidden germs on sponges and other porous surfaces. Disinfect sponges on a regular basis by running them through the dishwasher.

Toxic Mold – Check for signs of moisture and mold growth in bathrooms, on basement walls, and around windows and doors.

Unstable Furniture – Ensure all top-heavy furniture pieces and appliances are securely fastened using anchors or brackets, asthese items can easily tip over.

Pest Problems – Watch for evidence of disease-carrying pests, like rats or mice, who may have ventured inside looking for food or a cozy place to sleep. Prevent them from coming inside whenever possible.

Mirrors and Pictures – Avoid hanging mirrors and heavy pictures over couches, exits and beds.

Electrical Hazards – Check for faulty wiring or overloaded circuits. Never place extension cords or wires under rugs, behind soft furnishings or within reach of children or pets.

Funky Foods – Practice safe food handling techniques to avoid becoming sick from a food-borne illness.

Potential Poisons – Keep prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and natural remedies (even vitamins) out of the reach of children.

Flammable Furnishings – Never store rags near electrical equipment or flammable liquids, and keep portable heaters well away from furniture and drapery.

Tripping Trouble – Watch out for potential tripping hazards inside and outside the home.

Recalled Products – Review consumer product recall lists on a regular basis, especially if you have young children.

Gas Appliances – Always secure gas appliances and use flexible connectors to ensure toppling or shifting doesn’t lead to a dangerous gas leak.

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What Does The Future Hold For The Security System In Your Home?

Posted in Around The Home, Home improvement, Home safety, Home Security, Real Estate Trends by southorangecounty on June 7, 2013

What Does The Future Hold For Home Security SystemsImagine walking into your home and turning off the alarm, locking your doors, opening the windows and starting your coffee maker, all with a few taps of your finger on your smart phone?

What if you had a home security camera that you could monitor from anywhere and a motion sensor that would send you an email when your kids come home from school? What if you could open your blinds or unlock your home for a visitor, even from halfway around the world?

The technology that powers our home security systems is getting more and more sophisticated and in the future, our homes will be more responsive than we could ever imagine.

Rather than a simple line of defense that keeps out burglars, it will be a completely integrated and custom designed automated system that responds intelligently to your needs.

Here are a few of the upcoming technology innovations:

Smart Home Technology

At the moment, prototypes are being developed for integrated home security systems that have individual Internet protocols that can address everything from a fridge to a window to a door.  Even your home appliances, like your refrigerator, air conditioning systems and lighting systems may be able to be managed remotely through a smart phone.

This connectivity essentially gives everything in your house an Internet address, so that you can control them and monitor them digitally. Once the system is linked up it can be controlled remotely by Blackberry, Apple or Android.

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year showcased a number of smart phone apps and devices designed to control everything within your home so that you can master the household with the click of a button.

The Future Is Still On Its Way

Although the technology is being developed, there is still a long way to go until we all live in automated houses like on The Jetsons. One underlying and yet unsolved issue is the security systems inability to function in a power outage or with bandwidth and connectivity challenges.

There are also many different conflicting operating systems, setups, standards and approaches that will need to be worked out before the dream of a fully automated South Orange County home can become a reality.

Even so, the technological advances being made in home security and management systems are impressive and exciting to learn more about.

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What Women Want In Homes This Mother’s Day

Posted in Home Buyer Tips, Home How To, Home improvement, Home safety, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on May 9, 2013

Home-Ideas-Mothers-Day-2013Whether you’re looking to buy a new house this month or do a little remodeling, take advantage of the opportunity to give the mom in your life a present she’ll appreciate every day.

Below are a few ideas for housing priorities and renovation projects that typically rate high on women’s wish lists for their homes.

Open Living Areas

The open floor plan is usually a big plus for any mother. They want to be able to cook dinner in the kitchen while monitoring their children’s schoolwork at the dining table.

So look for a house that affords this visual luxury or consider the generous gift of getting dirty and knocking down some walls.

Large Closets

What woman doesn’t need more room for her clothes, shoes and purses? If you’re looking at houses, keep in mind how much closet space will work for your wife or mother.

If it’s not enough, see if there’s another area you could convert to create a custom closet. Another great gift would be to upgrade your mom’s closet with a new shelving and organizing storage system.

And great storage doesn’t stop in the bedroom. Most women like to keep the family’s things organized and put away, so think about upgrading some of the other cupboards and closets in the home as well.

Low-Maintenance Living

Some women are expert gardeners or love home-improvement projects; however, many just want to leave those tasks to someone else.

Many moms love easy-to-wipe-down granite counters and hardwood floors.  These can be beautiful and functional home upgrades all at the same time.

And especially if you’re shopping real estate for an elderly mother, consider looking at South Orange County homes that are nicely planned, have easy-to-care-for landscaping and maintenance-free siding or brick.

Easy-to-Use Security System

While security is important to everyone, it ranks high on most women’s list of priorities. As a Mother’s Day gift, research providers and have a security system installed.

Whether your mother is living alone or your wife is worried about the family’s safety, this practical present will give everyone peace of mind.

Make a big gesture this Mother’s Day by giving the woman in your life that renovation project she’s been pining over.

And, if looking at buying a new place to live, keep in mind what’s important to Mom.

Finally, if you’d like more tips on Mother’s Day home shopping or upgrades, call your favorite real estate professional for the best advice. In South Orange County, California, your most experienced choice is Bob Phillips, with more than 36 years of helping families find a home that a Mom can truly appreciate.

Here’s to wishing the women in your life a Happy Mother’s Day!

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4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

Posted in Around The Home, Home How To, Home improvement, Home safety, Real estate by southorangecounty on January 24, 2013

4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

By: John Riha     Published: November 25, 2011

Here are some tips to get you started on incorporating universal design features in your home.

One of the basic principles of universal design, also called ageless design, is that it makes homes more practical and safer for everyone — not just the elderly or people with limited mobility.

These days, universal design features are an every day fact of life for many households, with architects and other professional designers adding universal design ideas as a matter of course.

You don’t have to be a pro designer to incorporate this smart thinking into your own home. If you’re remodeling or simply adding a few upgrades, be sure to keep universal design features in mind. There are lots of resources that’ll give you some great starting points.

As we remodeled our 1972 ranch-style house (we’re on the multi-year, budget-as-you-go plan), my wife and I incorporated several low-cost, easy-to-do UD features. A few of our favorites:

1. Switch out doorknobs for lever-style handles. Doorknobs require lots of dexterity and torque to open; with levers you simply press and go.

Makes sense for folks with arthritis, of course, but think about an emergency situation when everyone, including small kids, needs to exit fast: A lever handle is a safe, foolproof way to open a door.

A big plus: Levers are good-looking and can contribute to the value of your home. A standard interior passage door lever in a satin nickel finish costs about $20; you’ll pay $25 to $30 for a lockable lever set for your bath or bedroom. Replacing door hardware is an easy DIY job.

2. Replace toggle light switches with rocker-style switches. Rocker switches feature a big on/off plate that you can operate with a finger, a knuckle, or even your elbow when you’re laden with bags of groceries.

Rocker style light switch

Rocker switches are sleek and good-looking, too. Ever notice how conventional toggle switches get dirt and grime embedded in them after a couple of years? No more! You’ll pay $2 for a single-pole rocker switch, up to $10 for multiple switch sets.

3. Anti-scald devices for your bathroom prevent water from reaching unsafe temps. An anti-scald shower head ($15) reduces water flow to a trickle if the water gets too hot. An anti-scald faucet device ($40) replaces your faucet aerator and also reduces hot water flow.

Anti-scald valves — also known as pressure-balancing valves — prevent changes in water pressure from creating sudden bursts of hot or cold water. An anti-scald valve ($100) installs on plumbing pipes inside your walls. If you don’t have DIY skills, you’ll pay a plumber $100 to $200 for installation.

4. Motion sensor light controls add light when you need it. They come in a variety of styles and simple technologies. I like the plug-in sensors ($10 to $15). You simply stick them into existing receptacles, then plug your table or floor lamps into them. When the sensor detects motion, it turns on the light.

They’re great for 2 a.m. snacking, or if your young kids are at that age when they migrate into your bed in the middle of the night. The lights turn off after about 10 minutes if no more motion is detected.

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VIDEO : How To Know Which Home Repairs Can Be Delayed And Which Should Be Fixed Right Away

Posted in Home improvement, Home safety, Real estate by southorangecounty on June 12, 2009

When finances are tight, homeowners are often forced to choose between making home repairs right away, and putting them off until finances improve.

Some repairs, though, become more expensive if not tackled on the double.  The hard part is knowing which fixes those are.

In this 5-minute piece from The Today Show on NBC, a Consumer Reports editor talks about important, must-make-them-now home repairs, including:

  • Re-sloping soil for runaway rainwater
  • Replacing curled and cracked roofing shingles
  • Sealing damaged vinyl siding
  • Replacing soft wood
  • Treating mold issues — both major and minor

Maintaining a home preserves its long-term integrity and can help support resale value, too.  Not every minor fix must made today, but left unchecked, some minor fixes can turn into major ones — and that’s when costs can pile up.

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Home Safety : An Easier, Better, Cheaper Fire Extinguisher

Posted in Disaster preparedness, Home safety, Real estate by southorangecounty on April 20, 2009

Handheld, aerosol fire extinguishing spraySure, you’ve got a fire extinguisher at home, but if you ever had a fire, would you know what to do with it?

Like any tool, reading the directions can only get you so far.  If you’ve never “pulled the pin” and discharged a fire extinguisher before, fighting an actual fire can be a frightening intiation.

For non-firefighters, there’s an alternative. It’s an aerosol spray from the First Alert company called the Tundra Fire Extinguishing Spray and it’s billed as an intuitive fire safety product.

According to a First Alert product fact sheet, aside from its ease-of-use, the Tundra product boasts several advantages over traditional fire extinguishers:

  1. Tundra sprays for 32 seconds — double a traditional fire extinguisher
  2. Tundra spray covers 3 times more surface area than a traditional extinguisher
  3. Tundra cleans up with a damp sponge

The Tundra Fire Extinguishing Spray is recommended for cooking fires, electrical fires and household fires involving wood, paper and fabrics.  You can buy it at most hardware stores or for cheap at

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How To Prepare Your Household For A Natural Disaster

Posted in Disaster preparedness, Home improvement, Home safety by southorangecounty on April 13, 2009

In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security launched, a government website aimed at family, business and community disaster readiness.

Now, when the website talks about disaster readiness, it’s referring to more than just physical attacks on the county — it’s talking about natural disasters, too.  This includes hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and floods and these weather-related events impact the different parts of country each year.

The website is loaded with tips, notes and checklists, including the 3-minute “It Takes Just Three Steps To Get Ready For An Emergency” video featured above. 

If you’ve never watched it, take the time to watch it today.  Then, test your home’s disaster readiness, take this 10-question quiz.  There’s no “passing grade”, per se, but with your own answers, you’ll see where there’s room for improvement.

Disasters can’t be predicted and most of us will face them at least once in our lives.  When disaster strikes, therefore, make sure you prepared for it in advance.  Protecting your household is a matter of just 3 simple steps.

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The 9-Step Spring Cleaning Checklist

Posted in Home improvement, Home safety, Real estate by southorangecounty on March 23, 2009

Spring cleaning can be easier if you have a helping handWith the official start of Spring last week comes the official start of Spring Cleaning Season nationwide.

In some homes, Spring Cleaning is an annual ritual, tackled within one sweat-filled, rubber-gloved weekend.  In other homes, it’s a less serious endeavor. 

Either way, it helps to have a game plan.

Courtesy of Martha Stewart’s website, the Spring Cleaning Organizer is a 9-step checklist covering all of the basics. 

  • Clean shades and windows
  • Sort through wardrobes
  • Clean and rotate mattresses and cushions

Most of the checklist items can be retired with household cleansers and vacuums.  A few, however, require heavy-duty appliances that you may not have at-home.  For example, cleaning carpets and rugs is best-handled with a steam cleaner; and, washing windows may be too dangerous, depending on your home.

If you don’t want to rent cleaning equipment from your local hardware store just for Spring Cleaning, consider hiring an Angie’s List contractor to do the job for you.  It will cost more money than doing it yourself, but the job will get done right (and your home will be clean).

The Spring Cleaning checklist also reminds homeowners to check the batteries of in-home safety devices like smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and flashlights.

(Image courtesy: Junk Bee Gone)

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