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Tackle Fall Maintenance Now

Labor Day has come and gone, so it won’t be long before the leaves start falling and cooler weather arrives. Early autumn is also the time to set aside time for tackling maintenance tasks that will improve the performance, safety and efficiency of your natural gas appliances.

Tackle fall maintenance to improve the performance,
safety and efficiency of your natural gas appliances.

Walton Gas has prepared this to-do list to help natural gas customers prepare their homes for chilly weather. Ready. Set. Tackle!

  • Schedule a FURNACE checkup.

Make an appointment to have your furnace serviced by a qualified technician. Without this yearly cleaning and inspection, a system can wear itself out quickly, pump deadly carbon monoxide into your home, or simply stop working. Energystar.com says a typical checkup should include inspecting thermostat settings, controls, gas line connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and the heat exchanger.

  • Change the FILTER.

Inspecting, cleaning or changing the air filter is also the easiest task you can complete to help your furnace operating at peak efficiency. Change your air filter before turning the heater on, and remember to check it once a month through the winter. Remember: While some filters are advertised to last several months, people with pets or old houses with a lot of dust should change filters monthly.

  • Flush the WATER HEATER.

It’s an easy, do-it-yourself project to flush your water heater’s tank each fall. This prevents the build-up of mineral sediment deposits that can rust through its steel shell. This Old House offers good step-by-step instructions for routine water heater maintenance. 

  • Clean the FIREPLACE.

Although gas fireplaces are known for efficient clean burning fuel, they do need to be regularly maintained just like any other type of heating appliance. There are a variety of components including the burner, logs and grate, that can become damaged, clogged or worn from normal use. Also, soot can build up on the surfaces inside the firebox, on the doors and on the burner, which will reduce the fireplace’s efficiency. Have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned and inspected prior to using it. If you make an appointment now, you’ll get ahead of the busy fall season and possibly score an early-bird discount.

  • Upgrade the THERMOSTAT.

Consider upgrading to a smart thermostat for improved energy efficiency and comfort. This type of thermostat offers lots of new features that out-perform traditional thermostats. See this month’s Walton Gas blog for more information.  

  • Check DETECTORS.

While it doesn’t save you energy, checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can save your life. It’s smart to test the devices and replace the batteries every six months, making this a chore for fall and spring. Learn about carbon monoxide.

  • Winterize the GRILL.

If you close the grill for winter, first give it a thorough cleaning to remove grease and food scraps so there won’t be any unpleasant surprises next spring. After shutting off the gas, remove and clean the burners and other metal parts with cooking oil to prevent rust. Then wrap the unit in a plastic bag to keep out spiders and insects that might try to nest in it. Put a protective cover over the entire grill after you’ve finishing cleaning it.

  • Adjust CEILING FANS.

Adjust ceiling fans to turn clockwise. This will create an upward draft that redistributes warm air from the ceiling to the lower portions of the room.

  • Clean VENTS.

Atlanta Gas Light advises natural gas consumers to keep natural gas vents unobstructed and free of debris. Be aware that some direct-vent and high-efficiency appliances have direct side wall outdoor vents and air intakes that could become obstructed in the event of an unusually heavy snowfall or ice storm.

  • Inspect CLOTHES DRYER ducts.

Clean the dryer’s exhaust duct and space under and behind the appliance. Inspect the duct to ensure it hasn't become crushed, kinked or otherwise restricted. Remove lint and dust that may have accumulated inside the dryer in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation. Periodically have a qualified professional clear the interior of the exhaust duct.

  • Seal WINDOWS and DOORS.

Keep your natural gas heat inside where it belongs by checking windows and doors for gaps and drafts. Caulk or install self-adhesive rubber foam weatherstripping as needed. Remember: Caulking and weatherstripping wear out over time, so replace as needed. Check out this handy tutorial on do-it-yourself weatherstripping installation

  • Note RECALLS.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) occasionally announces safety recall programs for certain natural gas appliances and equipment. Information about product recalls that may affect your appliances is available at the CPSC website or by calling the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772. TDD/TTY 1-800-638-8270.

MORE

See the Home Maintenance Checklist prepared especially for Georgia homeowners by University of Georgia Extension.

Program Your Thermostat to Slash Heating Costs

For the typical home, heating and cooling costs are one of the largest expenditures. To make matters worse — and the energy bill higher — we often heat and cool our homes when it isn’t needed. Installing a programmable thermostat is an easy way for Walton Gas customers to reduce your heating bill this winter.

Here are three very good reasons why it’s a practical idea to replace your manual thermostat with a new programmable one:

1. Energy savings. By maintaining comfortable temperatures for only a few hours a day, a programmable thermostat helps you use less natural gas for home heating. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you can save 10 percent on your heating bill by rolling back your thermostat 10-15 percent for just eight hours each day — the amount of time many families are away from home for work and school.

2. Comfort and convenience. Rather than constantly resetting the temperature manually, you can preset your thermostat to adjust the temperature at different times of the day. For instance, you can set your thermostat to lower the heat while you’re away at work and automatically raise it before you come home.

3. Increases life of heating system. By programming your use, you can reduce the time the system is run, which can cut down on system stress and repairs.

Choose a thermostat for your lifestyle

Programmable thermostats have been around for several years. However, older versions were often too difficult to program, which negated the energy-saving feature. Now, consumers have a variety of programmable thermostat choices that are easy to install and easy to operate. Even better: Prices are dropping on the most popular models.

Programmable thermostats generally fall into two categories: “smart” connected ones or non-connected programmable models. Both have benefits, depending on your lifestyle and budget.

Smart thermostats

  • Generally save the most on heating and cooling bills.
  • Intelligently adjust your home’s temperature by “learning” your behaviors and routines.
  • Select models turn down when you’re away, suggest energy-efficient settings and provide monthly energy reports.
  • Can be monitored, set and managed over Wi-Fi from a computer, smartphone or tablet.
  • May use multiple sensors to monitor temperatures and balance heating throughout the home.
  • Prices start around $80 for a seven-day programmable thermostat with built-in Wi-Fi. Models with all the bells and whistles average $200 each. Sensors are typically sold separately.
  • Not all support all types of HVAC systems, so check compatibility specifications carefully before buying.
  • Professional installation may be required.

Programmable thermostats

  • A cost-efficient option for homeowners who tend to follow a regular schedule.
  • Makes the most efficient use of your system by adjusting temperatures automatically based on preset preferences.
  • Basic models start at about $20.
  • Most models can be easily wired into an existing heating system.
  • A separate thermostat is required for gas furnace and electric cooling systems.

LEARN MORE

Install a Programmable Thermostat

7 Things You Should Know About Natural Gas Standby Generators

During the hot, dry days of August, few of us are thinking about hurricanes or ice storms. But now is exactly when you should consider what you’ll do in the event of a power outage that could occur when storms blow in to Georgia.

Natural gas from Walton Gas is a reliable source of energy for your home no matter the weather. If your home is equipped with a natural gas stove, water heater or gas logs, you’ll be able to cook, have a hot bath and keep warm — even if the power is out.

But what about home appliances or medical equipment needing electricity to operate?

Severe storms can occasionally result in prolonged power outages here in Georgia. Minutes, not to mention hours or days, without power can be crucial to some. If that’s your story, it’s time to think about installing a natural gas standby generator to ensure on-demand, dependable energy when it’s needed.           

Here are seven things you should know about a standby generator.

1. No power? No problem!

A stationary standby generator sits in a location beside your home and is permanently connected to your Walton Gas line. It is also connected directly to your home's electrical panel and can provide uninterrupted backup for days in the event of an electricity outage.

2. Power is restored in seconds.

Within seconds of an electrical outage, a standby generator equipped with an automatic transfer switch automatically starts and restores power. First, the transfer switch disconnects you from your utility. Then the generator turns on automatically and generates electricity that goes through the electrical panel to feed the home, just like the electricity that comes to your home from the electrical grid. When your electric service is restored, the generator automatically shuts down and reconnects your house to the grid. Note: Some manufacturers offer a manual start-up generator for a lower cost.

3. You don’t have to refuel.

You’ll never have to worry about having enough fuel on hand with a generator fueled by the same underground pipelines that bring natural gas to your home.

4. Installation is not a DIY project.

You’ll need to hire a qualified installer to help you assess both your load needs and the logistics of installing a standby generator at your home. To find a qualified contractor, check out this list recommended by Atlanta Gas Light. 

5. Know what you need to power.

The size of your generator should be determined by your needs in an emergency, temporary situation. To get an idea of how much electrical capacity you'll need, use this online size selector calculator. However, be sure to consult a professional for an accurate load analysis before making a generator purchase.

6. Expect to pay $4,000 and up for a whole-house generator.

For the average 2,500-square-foot home, a quality standby generator equipped with an automatic transfer switch starts at around $4,000. Installation is additional. Keep in mind that investing in a natural gas, whole-house generator can add significant value to a home.

7. A portable generator may fit your needs.

If a standby generator is too costly for your budget, a portable natural gas model might suit your needs. Portable models can’t generate enough power to operate many major appliances in the home, however they can provide enough emergency power to charge cell phones and run the refrigerator — which may be all you need in a pinch. Prices (without a transfer switch) start as low as $1,500. Note: A portable generator requires a natural gas outlet (quick disconnect) for its fuel supply and should have a transfer switch for safety and ease of operation. Purchase of these items should also be added to the price of the generator. Learn more about transfer switch options at Global Power Products of Lawrenceville. 

Before you buy, compare the benefits of standby and portable generators.This article by Consumer Reports provides details. 

A generator is an important investment for protecting your home and family during power outages. If a generator is in your future, schedule installation now before storm season arrives.

Enjoy an Endless Summer with a Patio Heater

It’s hot as blazes outside now, but chilly temperatures will become the norm all too soon. Don’t let cooler weather prevent you from spending time in your outdoor living space. Instead, enjoy an endless summer by installing an outdoor natural gas heater now.

Natural gas heaters are powerful, energy efficient and useful for residential outdoor areas like the patio or deck. Installing one now — before cool, crisp air arrives — will keep you and your guests comfortable long after the neighbors have gone inside.

Walton Gas has done the research to help you decide if a natural gas outdoor heater is a good investment for your lifestyle. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Provides exceptional warmth. Because of the combustion of natural gas, natural gas heaters have a greater heat output than other fuel options. The average natural gas patio heater radiates heat downward to warm a 12- to 20-foot area. They are most effective when the outdoor temperatures are between 40 and 60 degrees.
  • Good for the environment. Natural gas burns clean.
  • Never runs out of fuel. Because it’s connected to your Walton Gas line, fuel is always available.
  • Easy placement. Patio heaters must be placed in a ventilated space. Wall, ceiling and post mounts, as well as portable models, are available.
  • Choose from two ignitions. Manual ignitions have a push button that creates a spark to light the gas and use a knob to control the flow of gas to the heaters. Automatic ignitions require electricity to ignite the heater. They can be controlled with an on/off switch or hand-held remote. Both ignition types have built-in safety systems to shut off the gas flow if the flame goes out and can’t be relit.
  • Fits your style. Many outdoor heaters feature sleek exteriors and can blend in with outdoor décor. These features are excellent for outdoor bar decks, patios and pool decks.
  • Requires special plumbing and installation. If a gas line isn’t already available, you’ll need to hire a licensed professional to install a line for you.
  • Shop wisely. Look for patio heaters that are UL approved and CSA certified. These approvals ensure each heater has undergone rigorous testing to verify that they are a reliable and safe heating appliance.

How much?

A 45,000 BTU heater, which will heat an area of about 300 square feet, can be purchased in the Atlanta area starting at about $325, according to Homewyse.com

Prices can go much higher, depending on a unit’s style, size and heating efficiency.

Natural gas to fuel the average outdoor heater is about 50 cents per hour.

Ready to keep the party going? Summer is an ideal time to get a great deal and arrange installation of a natural gas heater for comfortable outdoor entertainment this fall and winter. Providing heat when and where it’s needed allows more time to enjoy the patio and deck, making a heater an investment that can easily pay for itself the first season you use it.

MORE

Locate a qualified professional for installation or contact Atlanta Gas Light at (800) 599-3770.

Backyard Burger Basics

Think all burgers are created equal? They’re not, say grilling experts. You need the right ingredients, preparation and grilling techniques to make burgers that can truly be declared “best.”

Fire up your natural gas grill
to celebrate National Grilling Month.

In honor of National Grilling Month, Walton Gas has combed the internet for tips from butchers and leading outdoor cooking authorities to prepare this backyard burger basics guide.  

1. INGREDIENTS

DO: Work with a butcher.

The best burgers begin with the right meat and the right grind. To get exactly what you want, step up to the butcher counter at your favorite store and ask for help, advises Walter Apfelbaum, executive butcher at Detroit steakhouse Prime + Proper

DO: Choose the right meat.

Basic ground beef doesn’t make the best burger, but neither do the priciest cuts. The best bet: ground chuck, advises grill master Kelsey Heidkamp in a video for Weber.com

Its deep beefy flavor with ample, but not excessive, fat makes ground chuck the best meat for burgers. Ground chuck, which comes from the shoulder, falls right in the sweet spot of 15 to 20 percent fat.

Other — even more expensive — cuts of meat have insufficient fat content. Round and sirloin, for instance, are too lean to make good burgers.

DON’T: Skimp on the fat.

In our weight conscious world, it’s tempting to want to lower the fat content of your burger. But burgers need fat, reminds Apfelbaum. 

“You’re going to want a higher percentage of fat if you’re grilling, because you lose a lot of the fat on a grill when it drips through the grates. More fat will help create a juicier burger and a better crust,” he explains.

DO: Mix meats.

If you’re using a lean meat, like ground turkey or chicken, consider combining it with ground pork or bacon, recommends thespruceeats.com. Not only will the additional fat balance out the leanness, it will contribute a lovely porky flavor. 

2. PREPARATION

DO: Form patties with care.

Ground beef is not Play-Doh, remind the editors at cookscountry.com. The more you handle it, the denser and more rubbery it will become when cooked. After you’ve seasoned the meat, divide it into individual portions and, with lightly cupped hands, gently shape into patties that are 1-inch thick.  

Also, fight the temptation to load the meat with seasonings and flavoring ingredients, adds thespruceeats.com. Too many additions, particularly if the pieces are large, will weaken the patty, causing it to fall apart on the grill when you try to turn it. Best bet: Use 1 teaspoon of table salt for 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, the amount you will need to make four burgers.

DO: Prep the grill.

Burgers 101 outlines these steps to get your natural gas grill burger ready: 

  • Heat up your grill and clean it with a sturdy grill brush to remove any debris left from the last cookout.
  • Then, grab a wad of paper towels with a pair of long-handled tongs and dip them in a bowl of vegetable oil. When the towels have absorbed the oil, run them over the cleaned grill grate. The oil will burn off at first.
  • Continue to dip the towels into oil and slick down the grate; it will become "nonstick."
  • When the grate turns black and glossy, your grill is ready for the burgers.

DON’T: Start with a flat patty.

Burgers tend to puff up in the middle as they cook, making the tops rounded and awkward for piling on toppings. A good trick for avoiding this problem is pressing a little indentation into the top of each raw patty with your thumb or the back of a spoon, advises Heidkamp.

3. METHOD

DO: Grill over high heat.

“You want to make sure to grill your burgers over substantial heat to form that nice crust (flavor/texture) that we all love,” recommends Matt Moore, host of the Art of Manliness podcast. Cook your burgers between 450 and 500 degrees to achieve immediate searing, which locks in juices.

DO: Flip only once.

Flip the burgers just once — after they’ve developed deep brown grill marks — and don’t be tempted to press on them, advises cookscountry.com. Pressing down on the burgers as they cook squeezes out the flavorful juices, which end up in your grill (causing flare ups) instead of in your burgers.

DO: Close the grill if there’s a flare up.

Cutting off the oxygen should quell the flames, adds Moore. 

DON’T: Guess about doneness.

For consistently delicious burgers cooked to just the right degree of doneness, Use an instant-read thermometer to take the temperature in the center of each burger, instructs Burgers 101.

Medium rare: 125 to 130 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Medium: 135 to 140 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Medium-well: 145 to 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Well-done: 160 degrees and up, 5 minutes and up per side.

Note: Keep in mind that eating burgers rare or even medium does carry certain health risks.

DO: Allow your burgers to rest.

Let your cooked burgers rest for a few minutes before serving, suggests Moore. This will ensure that the juices redistribute into the meat.

If you follow these easy tips for making the best burger ever on your natural gas grill, they will make you the star of the summer grilling season. Happy National Grilling Month from Walton Gas!

Up Your Grilling Game With These Tips and Hacks

July is National Grilling Month. Why not invite family and friends over for a cookout to celebrate?

While the idea of a barbecue sounds fun, you might feel that your grilling skills aren’t up to the task. To help, Walton Gas offers this handy cheat sheet filled with cooking tricks to elevate your grilling game.

So, turn on your natural gas grill and get those tongs ready. Let’s cook!

1. Apply rub in advance.

If you're using a seasoning rub, apply it to meat about an hour before grilling, suggests Johnny Trigg, two-time grand champion of the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational barbecue competition. Trigg recommends using equal parts salt, pepper, granulated garlic and grilled onion for a flavorful rub.

2. Allow steaks to reach room temperature.

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay says steaks should be removed from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you plan to grill them. Grilling steaks at room temperature will allow for an even cook.

3. Start with the right gear.

Have these tools on hand for easy — and safe — grilling: tongs for the meat; two spatulas, one for raw meat and one for cooked meat; a meat thermometer to check doneness for cuts that are harder to gauge and a brush for applying sauces.

4. Make a brick press.

Achieve an even cook on cuts like butterflied chicken breasts with this easy trick from seriouseats.com: Wrap a brick in foil. Place it over direct heat for 5-10 minutes to warm. Then, place the wrapped brick on top of meat to flatten it and ensure even contact with the grilling grate.

5. Add ice or butter for juicy burgers.

Avoid a dried-out, hard-to-swallow hamburger by adding an ice cube or pat of butter to the center of the ground meat patty. Cover it with more meat. As the ice or butter melts, it'll keep the interior moist.

6. Spiral cut hotdogs.

To evenly cook a hotdog, skewer it and roll as make a spiral cut. Not only does the cut look cool, you’ll have more crevices to hold condiments, advises firstwefeast.com.

7. Pre-cook meat.

If you’re pressed for time, pre-cook meat most of the way through by microwaving or boiling it. Then, throw it on the grill to finish cooking and impart the look and flavor of a fully grilled cut.

8. Add flavor with juice.

For ribs, chicken or pork, add in some sweet flavor by periodically spraying it with 100 percent apple juice, suggests pit master Johnny Trigg. In addition to flavor, it improves color and tenderness.

9. Avoid stuck fish with citrus slices.

To prevent fish from sticking on the grill, Martha Stewart suggests placing some citrus slices directly on top of your grill and laying the fish on top of the slices. This will prevent sticking as well as infuse your fish with extra flavor.

10. Use a skillet.

If you own a cast-iron skillet, don’t leave it inside when you grill. It is perfect for distributing heat, and is great for foods that tend to fall apart like fish.

11. Flip meat only once.

Flipping repeatedly causes a lot of natural juices to fall off the meat, explains grill master Nicole Davenport. Cook one side fully then flip it over and let the other side do its thing.

12. Get perfect grill marks.

To get those professional-looking, diamond-shaped grill marks, barbequelovers.com says to think of the grill as a clock and angle your meat towards 10 o'clock. Cook the meat about halfway through, then flip it and angle it towards 2 o'clock.

13. Use two skewers.

To prevent little pieces of meat and veggies from rotating around a skewer, stab them with two skewers. Your food won’t rotate, so it will flip easily and cook more evenly. Plus, it’s easier to eat, advises thechefwithredshoes.com.

14. Know when to add sauce.

Don’t add sweet barbecue sauce until your meat is almost fully cooked. If a sweet sauce is cooked too long, it will burn. If it’s a non-sugary marinade, you can baste meat as often as you like.

15. Remove meat right before it’s done.

Meat continues cooking after you take it off the grill because there's a lot of heat trapped inside it. Remove meat from the grill about a minute or two before it’s done to get the desired cook. If you wait until the food looks done, it’s likely to be overcooked and tough.

16. Let meat rest.

For extra flavor and moisture, let meat rest for 10 minutes under a loose foil tent to help keep it warm and moist —so it can soak up its juices evenly.

17. Label buns.

To easily know remember how everyone wants their burger cooked, label buns with ketchup before you begin grilling.

Use these grilling hacks compiled by your friends at Walton Gas to prepare flavorful fare quickly. You’ll spend less time hovering over your grill and more time visiting with family, friends or neighbors. Your guests will think you’re a grilling pro!

10 Ways to Secure Your Home While on Vacation

Summer is here and it’s time for that long-awaited vacation is on the horizon. It’s also prime time for home burglaries. Every 15 seconds, a home is burglarized in the U.S. — mostly in July and August when many families go on vacation.

So, how do you keep your house safe and sound while you’re away? Walton Gas has compiled the following tips to help you secure your house. Some require a little investment and planning, but taking these steps now could ensure a happy homecoming.

Multiple studies show burglars tend to
avoid homes with security systems.

1. Get a professionally monitored home security system.

Multiple studies show burglars tend to avoid homes with security systems. Locally owned and operated EMC Security offers affordable, professional security system monitoring with no contract required. Starting at $16.95 a month, EMC Security costs nearly half as much as most home security systems. Monitoring is available for landline, broadband and cellular. Also offered as add-ons are home automation features such as lighting, climate, door-lock control and video monitoring. Through a mobile app, users can control these features and view video streams remotely at their convenience. This small investment is well worth your peace of mind while on vacation — or even when away at work.

Already have a security provider? Remember to always alert your security monitoring provider when you will be away for an extended period.

2. Light up.

A dark house — inside and out — announces you aren’t home and provides opportunity for burglars. Keep things illuminated inside by installing smart plugs that can turn any electronic device into one that can be controlled remotely or put on a schedule to create the illusion that someone’s home. Outside, install security lights in burglary-prone areas such as the back door or sides of the house. Most security light models are either motion activated or come on only at night, so you don’t have to worry about them wasting a lot of energy.

Keeping spare keys stashed outside
your house is never a great idea.

3. Add a smart lock.

Keeping spare keys stashed outside your house is never a great idea. Your hiding spots aren’t as clever as you think. Instead, install a smart door lock that lets you unlock your door remotely from your smartphone and grant temporary access with expiring codes. If you have a neighbor checking in on the house or a pet sitter coming to take care of the dogs, you can keep track of exactly who goes in and out of your house and terminate access once you’re home again.

4. Use a video doorbell.

A video doorbell offers a first line of defense for homeowners, allowing you to see and speak with whoever is outside — even if you are on a beach or a continent away. Look for a doorbell model that records and stores video of visitors that approach your door while you're away or unable to answer.

5. Schedule the HVAC.

Cooling an empty house is a waste of energy and money. With a programmable thermostat, you can minimize air conditioning while you’re away and schedule it to return to a cooler temperature just before you arrive home. If you invest in a smart thermostat, you can check in on your home’s temperature from afar and make adjustments if needed.

Property damage from water leaks is the
second most common home insurance claim.

6. Install leak sensors.

Most professional security monitoring services include fire protection, but don’t forget to protect your home from costly flood damage, too. Property damage from water leaks is the second most common home insurance claim, with each claim averaging $8,000. Ask your security service if water leak sensors are an add-on option, or self-install a monitor that will send an alert to your mobile device if a leak occurs.

7. Plan ahead.

Nothing says “I’m not home” like tall grass and a stack of newspapers in the driveway. Arrange to have someone mow the lawn. And don’t forget to do a thorough shrubbery trimming around the house exterior to eliminate convenient hiding places for burglars. Stop mail and newspaper deliveries, or have them regularly picked up by a neighbor. You can sign up online to have the USPS hold your mail at your local post office for free for 30 days.

8. Unplug electronics.

Unplugging nonessential electronics — TVs, computers, coffee makers, fans, lamps —can reduce the risk of fire and save energy. Unplugging devices protects them against electrical surges, which can short out expensive equipment or cause fires. Electrical fires account for 13 percent of total residential fires in the United States.

9. Lock up.

Yes, you’re eager to go, but before you head out the door take the time to perform a final security check. Make sure all doors (including garage doors) and windows are shut and locked. Close curtains or blinds to obscure a would-be thief’s view of televisions or other valuables displayed in rooms. Lock hand-held electronics, small valuables and money in a safe or hide them well. Check to be certain the security system is armed, timers are set and smart devices are correctly programmed.

Resist the temptation to broadcast your travel plans.

10. Don’t announce you are away.

Sure, you’d love to brag to everyone that you’re on vacation, but don’t. Resist the temptation to broadcast your travel plans on your voicemail, email autoreply or social media. Warn those traveling with you not to post photos (until after you return) or communicate your travel itinerary on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Give Your Home Exterior the ‘Gas Light Glow’

If you’re already using natural gas to warm your water, keep the house heated or prepare food, it’s time to think outside the windows. Homeowners are increasingly investing in natural gas outdoor lights to add charm and value to the exterior of their home. Beyond aesthetics, low-maintenance gas lights also add a layer of protection when the sun goes down.

The soft, amber glow of gas lights is ideal for enhancing a front entrance, walkways, driveway or outdoor entertainment areas.

 

Add elegance

The soft, amber glow of gas lights is ideal for enhancing a front entrance, walkways, driveway or outdoor entertainment areas. They also cast an attractive glow to highlight and enhance landscaping.

Gas lights don’t cause harsh shadows like electric flood lighting does. The typical natural gas outdoor light gives off an illumination equal to a 60-watt light bulb. Want more light? Some models produce as much light as a 100-watt light bulb.

Natural gas lights come in a variety of styles, materials and options to fit preferences ranging from traditional to contemporary. A traditional gas lamppost or carriage lamp is a perfect addition to an elegant front entrance. Smaller gas lights can be used to illuminate a sidewalk or pathway. For a deck or patio, tiki torch styles are a good choice.

Functional benefits

In addition to adding charm and character to your Georgia home and outdoor living space, the functionality of natural gas outdoor lights can’t be beat! Among the benefits:

  • -Reliable. Because they operate without the assistance of electricity, gas lights continue to operate during an electrical outage — increasing the safety and security of your home. Models that include the automatic reignite feature will relight if the flame is blown out.
  • -Don’t attract bugs. Nothing can ruin an outdoor event like a swarm of mosquitos. Gas-powered lights give off an amber glow that isn’t attractive to insects.
  • -Low maintenance. There are no light bulbs to change. Plus, gas lights constructed of heavy cast aluminum and tempered glass will likely last for years with little to no maintenance.
  • -Easy on and off. Gas lights can be turned on and off from inside your home with a standard light switch or with timers.
  • -Energy efficient. Some models feature daylight-sensitive electric dimmer switches. These switches regulate the flow of natural gas during daylight hours and turn it up after dark — saving on fuel.

Installation

Natural gas outdoor lights should be installed by a qualified professional. To locate one near you, see the list of recommended installers at Atlanta Gas Light or call (800) 599-3770.

Where Does Natural Gas Come From?

Have a curious kid or two at your house? Take advantage of warmer weather and spring plant growth to conduct a kid-friendly science experiment that explains how the natural gas used in your home is formed.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel. We call it a “nonrenewable” fuel because it takes millions of years to form deep in the earth before it can be used harvested and processed for use in our homes.

Fossil fuels consist mainly of dead plants and tiny sea creatures that died over 300 to 400 million years ago (even before the dinosaurs) and settled on the bottom of the oceans, which covered most of the earth. Layers of these dead sea plants, microorganisms, sand, mud and other debris built up over time. The enormous pressure and heat from the earth turned the organic matter into natural gas.

Natural gas is actually a mixture of many gases, including propane, butane, carbon dioxide, ethane, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen sulfide, but it is primarily made up of methane gas. Try this experiment to learn how gas is a product of decomposing organic materials.

Materials:

Two plastic soda bottles (2 liter size)
Sand
Soil
2 large balloons (equal in size)
Plant pieces (lettuce or collected from outdoors)

Procedure:

1. Cover the top of one empty bottle with a balloon. This container will be the “control” of the experiment.
2. Fill second bottle 1/3 with lettuce or plants torn into small pieces. Drop sand and soil on top of plant pieces to create a thin layer. Cover bottle top with balloon.
3. Place both bottles in a warm, sunny location for a week or more.
4. Observe as the bottle with organic matter fills the balloon with methane gas.

Get Your Grill Ready for Barbecue Season

Do your Memorial Day plans include a cookout? Before you fire up your natural gas grill, be sure it’s up to the task.

If your gas grill hasn’t been cleaned since last fall, chances are those fire-roasted treats you’re envisioning won’t be nearly as good as you imagine. Accumulated residue can make food stick to the grates, contribute to flare-ups and even lead to grease fires.

Don't get caught with your tongs down! Before the season heats up, give your barbecue a spring cleaning and tune up. A little time and elbow grease is all it takes to get your grill running and looking like new after the long winter.

To help, Walton Gas shares these grill cleaning tips provided by Home Depot:

1. Pre-heat the grill for 15 minutes on high heat then turn it off.
2. Turn the gas off at the gas line. Important: For safety’s sake, DO NOT skip this step. 
3. Clean the hot grill grates using a stiff wire brush dipped in water. Do not lean over the grill while cleaning, as this should create plenty of steam. Hint: For tough grease spots, add dish soap to the water or use a product designated for grill cleaning. 
4. Once the surface has cooled, wipe the grate with a damp cloth to remove remaining residue.
5. Remove burners from the gas supply line and remove blockages to each burner’s gas ports using a dry wire brush. Clean the ports by brushing side-to-side instead of up-and-down, as the vertical motion may push debris into the ports. A toothpick, pipe cleaner or paper clip can also be used to de-clog any build-up in your gas ports.
6. Clean the burner valve with soapy water and run water through the inside of the valve. 
7. Clean the inside of the grill using a wire brush and warm soapy water and rinse with water. Towel dry the burners and reinstall. 
8. When washing the outside of a stainless steel grill, use a specially formulated stainless steel barbecue grill cleaner and micro fiber cloth. Ceramic, porcelain and painted steel surfaces can be cleaned using soap and water.
9. After cleaning and reassembly is complete, turn on gas at the gas line.

Although washing your grill can be a messy chore, it is an important one. Maintaining the cleanliness of your gas grill can extend its life for several years.

Grillmasters: Share your hacks

Know a shortcut for cleaning a hot grill? Have a tip for making a better burger? Have a go-to barbecue tool? What’s your secret for grilling up the best meats and vegetables? Walton Gas customers are invited to share your know-how at waltongas.com/submission. Then, be on the lookout for a list of favorite hacks shared by customers, which will be published in June just ahead of National Grilling Month (July).