Homeowner's first-aid kit

Some people recommend pouring on baking soda to smother a grease fire, but you should use that method only if it's your only recourse. It takes longer for baking soda to stop a fire, and it requires you to come into close contact with the flames.

If a fire gets beyond your control, get everyone out of the house immediately and call 911 once you're outside.

No matter how small the fire, you should always call the fire department, even if you've managed to put out the flames.

Change your filters

Changing the filter in your furnace doesn't qualify as an emergency, but it could prevent one.

A dirty filter slows air flow, wastes energy by making your heating and cooling system work harder and lets dirt into the system, which wears out parts and could hasten a breakdown. If Murphy's Law holds true, that breakdown will happen on a bitterly cold day - and that's an emergency.

Most homeowners know they should change their filter regularly during heating season, but few realize they should keep right on doing it throughout the summer if they use a central air conditioner. The same filter works for both the heating and cooling systems.

Check it monthly and replace it when it looks dirty - or clean it, if it's a reusable filter. You should change or clean the filter at least every three months.

If you have a humidifier, be sure to check that filter, too. Mold can build up on it and circulate throughout the house.

Do that in summer, when you're not using the furnace and humidifier. Remove the humidifier filter and let it dry. If it's clean, put it back in place. If not, replace it.


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