Could Surfside Happen to You? What Concerned Condo Owners Should Do Now

In the wake of the shocking collapse of a high-rise condo building in Surfside, Florida, on June 24, condo owners nationwide are probably asking themselves: How safe am I? Is my condo board doing all it should be doing to ensure the structural integrity of my building?

Ninety-eight people died in that collapse, so these are valid concerns — especially considering the age of many structures today. In the Miami region alone, two out of every three condominium buildings are more that 30 years old — the age at which most condominium buildings can no longer delay making critical repairs — according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Nationwide, more than half of all condominium buildings have stood for at least three decades. By one expert’s estimate reported in the July 23, 2021, issue of The Week, about one-third of condominium associations have 30% or less of the money needed to prepare for big-ticket projects.

Most associations are managed by volunteers who need to rely on professional managers and other experts to not only manage the property, but also to make sure there is no deferred maintenance or unaddressed structural/safety issues.

My Condo’s $1 Million Problem

These are issues I’ve confronted head-on, as an attorney who has served as president of my condo association’s board of managers. I have lived in The Towers, a 10-story concrete condominium building in Fargo, North Dakota, since the building was constructed in the late 1970s. The building had 64 concrete balconies weighing 6,000 pounds each. Once the undersides of the balconies were painted, it was just a matter of time before moisture would invade rebar supporting them. As rebar rusts, it expands, cracking the surrounding concrete and degrading its ability to support the surrounding concrete.

Although The Towers performed structural audits approximately every five years after it was 10 years old, and the concrete balconies were being repaired on a scheduled basis, it became apparent that the balconies would all need to be replaced … at a total cost of approximately $1 million. At the time, The Towers’ reserve fund was less than one-fifth of this sum, and as it turned out, there was no available insurance coverage, and on the opinion of counsel, there were no possible third-party recoveries against architects, contractors or others.

A well-run condominium association relies on periodic structural audits, makes sure that recommendations contained in the structural audits are followed, and tries its best to maintain a reserve fund sufficient to cover reasonably expected problems that might become apparent from structural audits, or otherwise. But, as H. Ross Perot loved to say, “Nobody ever got killed by a runaway truck two blocks away.” In other words, no matter the structural audits you obtain, or the efforts you undertake to have a sufficient reserve fund, you will not be able to anticipate everything.

We solved our balcony problem in 2017 and 2018 by replacing all 64 concrete balconies, using concrete and rebar saws and a crane, with modern metal balconies weighing only about 250 pounds each.  We paid for the work from special assessments of $17,500 each levied against all 64 units with balconies. 

The new balconies in Fargo, N.D., weigh only 250 pounds.The new balconies in Fargo, N.D., weigh only 250 pounds.

We collected every assessment in full, and along the way only had to file a few notices of assessment lien and did not have to start foreclosing any liens.  After all work was done and approved, we were able to refund about $1,600 of each assessment, all while maintaining the basic reserve fund we had in place before the balcony problem arose.           

5 Steps for Concerned Condo Owners to Take Now

In light of all this, what should owners of high-rise condominium units do right now to make sure their buildings are safe and their investments secure?

Step 1: Request a Paper Trail

Immediately ask your board of managers and the management company it may have hired, for copies of any and all structural audits concerning all buildings. Make sure that the structural audits have been done on a periodic, regular basis, such as every five years, and review all of the structural audits to make sure that structural/safety issues have been addressed. Make sure the board of managers is committed to continuing to obtain periodic structural audits and addressing all structural/safety issues raised by the audits.

Step 2: Demand the Proper Audits

 If the board of managers has not been ordering structural audits, insist that the board of managers perform an immediate structural audit for review by all condominium owners. Make sure that once you obtain the structural audit, you familiarize yourself with all structural/safety issues raised by the audit, and make sure the board of managers is addressing all such structural/safety issues.

Step 3: Look into Insurance

Ask your condominium association to review all existing insurance to make sure there are no gaps in insurance coverage and coverages are complete and adequate. Have your own insurance agent review your insurance covering your individual condominium unit.

Step 4: Show Me the Money

 Ask your board of managers to review its reserve fund policy, and consider ordering a reserve fund audit to make sure the reserve fund and contributions to the reserve fund will maintain a reserve sufficient to handle all reasonably expected maintenance issues, especially those related to structural/safety items.

Step 5: Do a Formal Review

 Review documents other than structural audits and insurance policies to make sure condominium owners have a means to control management of their units and common areas. This might mean having an attorney review the condominium declaration and bylaws to make sure there are regularly scheduled meetings of the board of managers where owners can have their input, and making sure that owners have access to all of the association’s critical records, such as structural audits, budgets, reserve fund summaries, insurance policies, and any structural/safety related complaints by government officials, other condominium owners, or others.

The Bottom Line

Condominium ownership carries many blessings and produces efficiencies not present with other types of homeownership. However, every type of homeownership requires due diligence and effort to make sure there is no deferred maintenance that might lead to a catastrophe.

High-rise building collapses have been exceedingly rare in the United States. However, with many aging high-rise condominium developments, problems will become more and more apparent and more common. We can expect that all levels of government will be stricter about requiring periodic structural audits, sufficient reserve fund balances, and other measures designed to prevent a recurrence of a collapse as just occurred at Surfside, Florida.                                        

Of Counsel, Serkland Law Firm

Roger Minch has been an attorney at Serkland Law Firm since 1978. He focuses on alternative dispute resolution, bankruptcy, creditors’ rights and condominium board of managers representation.  Minch first appeared in Best Lawyers in America in 1993, and has continued to be selected by his peers for inclusion for 30 years, including the 2022 edition.  Minch is a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy.  He has lived in the same Fargo, N.D., condominium since 1978 and served as president of its board of managers for many terms.


The 10 “Real” Richest Counties in the U.S.

The richest counties in the U.S. are found about where one would expect. The metro areas of Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco’s Bay Area naturally dominate the top spots.

But as is usually the case with such things, the richest counties in the U.S. also tend to be the most expensive counties. So although residents of the richest counties might enjoy the highest incomes, they also often bear the highest costs of living.

In the real world, purchasing power and the number of digits on a paycheck are not necessarily the same thing. That’s especially true in some of the richest counties in America, where sky-high costs of living can reduce real incomes by tens of thousands of dollars.

And so we decided to find the “real” richest counties in America. Thanks to data from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), we were able to locate the counties with the highest median incomes, and then adjust those incomes to account for the counties’ costs of living. 

This cost-of-living adjustment gives a much more pragmatic picture of the richest counties in the U.S. It shows where the highest incomes go the farthest – not just who’s winning the paycheck race. 

That’s the key point here: The real richest counties in America are not automatically the highest income or most expensive counties. Keeping costs in check is a critical component of financial health for folks of all income levels. 

That’s why many of America’s real richest counties are found in some surprising places.

So have a look at the 10 real richest counties in the U.S. Many of these names made the list because they enjoy high incomes without the heavy cost pressures such incomes usually create. Counties are listed by cost-adjusted median household income, from lowest to highest.

Data courtesy of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

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10. Williamson County, Tenn.

Williamson County, Tenn.Williamson County, Tenn.
  • Population: 238,412
  • Median household income: $112,962 (U.S.: $65,712)
  • Cost of living: 14.3% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $98,841

Nashville is known for its relatively low cost of living, but that doesn’t extend to affluent Williamson County, which sits in the southwestern part of the city’s sprawling metro area.

Indeed, greater Nashville, which includes Davidson, Murfreesboro and Franklin, Tenn., enjoys a cost of living 3.4% below the U.S. average, according to C2ER. That’s hardly the case in Williamson County, though. True, median household income is more than double the state level of $56,071, but it falls to not quite $99,000 after adjusting for costs. 

That’s still good for 10th place on our list of the real richest counties in the U.S., and residents are pretty fortunate in how far their paychecks go compared to other wealthy counties.

As is usually the case, housing is a main driver of living costs. In Williamson, the median home value stands at $488,600. That’s roughly double the U.S. median of $240,500. 

Educational levels are likewise elevated. Nearly 62% of Williamson County residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, vs. 33% for the U.S. The area’s economic health shows up in other statistics, such as its poverty rate of 4.5%, vs. 12.3% for the nation as a whole.

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9. Fort Bend County, Texas

Fort Bend County, TexasFort Bend County, Texas
  • Population: 811,688
  • Median household income: $97,743 
  • Cost of living: 1.8% below U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $99,515

Fort Bend is the only name on our list of richest counties in America where the cost of living is lower than the U.S. average. And the resulting adjustment actually raises the area’s median household income by more than $2,000.

That’s great news for folks who live in this sprawling suburb of Houston, which happens to boast some of the cheapest apartment rents among America’s biggest cities. 

Fort Bend sits in the southeastern part of the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area, and has seen decades of rapid population growth. Jobs in healthcare, energy and hospitality have helped drive the expansion, led by companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), Coca-Cola’s (KO) Minute Maid subsidiary and Fluor (FLR).

Housing costs remain comparatively affordable despite high incomes. The median home value of $285,600 is about a fifth higher than the U.S. median, but unadjusted median household income is almost 50% greater. More broadly, the metro area’s housing costs are about 15% lower than the U.S. average. 

Higher incomes and lower costs also help keep poverty in check. The county’s poverty rate of 6.3% is about half the U.S. rate, and even farther below the Texas rate of 13.6%. More than 46% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, vs. 31% for Texas as a whole. 

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8. Los Alamos County, N.M.

Los Alamos, NMLos Alamos, NM
  • Population: 18,625
  • Median household income: $121,324  
  • Cost of living: 21.6% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $99,813

Los Alamos County sounds like an unlikely place to find a lot of millionaires, but when it comes to concentration of millionaires, it has some of the most per household of any small city in the U.S.

The tiny town about 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe is home to a government nuclear weapons laboratory and a number of chemists, engineers and physicists. It’s a compact area with a small population but a large percentage of highly educated and highly trained engineers and scientists.

Indeed, incomes are so high on a relative basis that even after accounting for its steep cost of living, Los Alamos remains one of the richest counties in the U.S.

Given the presence of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and allied institutions, it’s no surprise that the county is well-educated. More than 97% of residents have a high school degree or better, vs. the state rate of 85.6%. Fully 67.4% have at least a bachelor’s degree, vs. 27.3% for New Mexico as a whole. 

The county’s poverty rate is likewise favorable. At 4.4%, it’s a fraction of the 19.1% state rate. 

Another feather in Los Alamos’ cap? U.S. News & World Report ranks it as the healthiest community in the nation.

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7. Prince William County, Va.

Prince William County, Va.Prince William County, Va.
  • Population: 470,335
  • Median household income: $107,132 
  • Cost of living: 5.3% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $101,720 

The District of Columbia and suburbs such as Prince William County (and some neighbors, as we’ll see below) are magnets for the highly educated seeking high-powered jobs.

This agglomeration of the ambitious makes the metro area a mecca for millionaires. Indeed, the city and its suburbs have the fourth-highest concentration of millionaire households in the U.S. 

PWC, which sits southeast of D.C. and encircles the independent cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, offers an enviable balance of high income and not-too-high living costs. 

Median household income is 63% greater than the U.S. median, but PWC’s cost of living is just 5.3% above the national average.

That said, PWC is not cheap – and certainly not when it comes to housing. Its median home value of $405,800 towers over the state of Virginia’s $288,800.

Zoom out, and C2ER notes that the D.C. metro area’s total housing costs – including rents, mortgages, property taxes and related items – run 172% above the U.S. average.

As a more distant suburb, longish commutes are a way of life for many PWC residents. They spend an average of 41 minutes a day driving to work, vs. 27.6 minutes for the typical American.

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6. Delaware County, Ohio

Delaware County, OhioDelaware County, Ohio
  • Population: 209,177
  • Median household income: $106,908 
  • Cost of living: 4.9% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $101,897 

Delaware County, a suburb of state capital Columbus, usually makes the list of the richest counties in America. And although higher incomes usually come with loftier living costs, Delaware manages to keep the latter mostly in check.

Although the cost of living is 4.9% higher than the U.S. average, median household income is roughly twice the national level. Indeed, Delaware’s median household income is almost double the state median of $58,642. 

After adjusting for costs, Delaware vaults to sixth place on the list of richest counties in the U.S., up from 22nd place when expenses are left out of the equation.

True, median home value of $339,400 is about double the state median, but housing is a relative bargain when compared to many of the other richest U.S. counties. Total housing costs in the Columbus metro area run 17% below the U.S. average. 

In addition to all that Greater Columbus has to offer, Delaware County counts plenty of attractions of its own. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the annual Little Brown Jug harness race and the Ross Art Museum are just a sample of its activities.

The metro area’s major employers include Ohio State University, OhioHealth and JPMorgan Chase (JPM). More than 52% of county residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, vs. 29.3% at the state level. 

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5. Douglas County, Colo.

Douglas County, Colo.Douglas County, Colo.
  • Population: 351,154
  • Median household income: $119,730 
  • Cost of living: 17.3% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $102,110

There’s no question incomes are high in Douglas County, which sits midway between Denver and Colorado Springs. Indeed, median household income is nearly double that of the U.S.

But expenses are also high. Indeed, at 17.3% above the national average, the cost of living has the effect of cutting median household income by $17,620.

Housing, as usual, is the main culprit. Median home value is a whopping $523,200 – more than double the U.S. level, and about a third higher than Colorado’s median. Douglas lies within the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area, where housing costs run about 40% higher than what the typical American pays.

The county is highly educated with especially low levels of poverty. More than 58% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, vs. 42.7% for Colorado. The poverty rate of 2.5% is far below the state rate of 9.4%. 

Top employers include Charles Schwab (SCHW), EchoStar (SATS) and HCA Healthcare (HCA). But the great outdoors is central to the Douglas County experience. Three state parks – Castlewood Canyon, Chatfield and Roxborough State Park – lie within its borders. 

Apparently, high incomes and outdoor activities make for a salubrious existence. U.S. News & World Report ranks Douglas as the nation’s second healthiest community after Los Alamos.

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4. Fairfax County, Va.

Fairfax County, Va.Fairfax County, Va.
  • Population: 1,147,532
  • Median household income: $124,831  
  • Cost of living: 21.1% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $103,100 

Fairfax County, which includes the independent cities of Fairfax City and Falls Church, remains one of the real richest counties in the U.S. even after accounting for its high costs. 

But those expenses sure do take a bite.

Like fellow D.C. suburb Prince William County, Fairfax is part of the Washington, D.C. metro area, home to one of the highest concentrations of millionaire households in America.

However, at 21.1% above the national average, Fairfax’s living costs are much higher than PWC’s. Indeed, adjustments cut $21,731 from median household income, pushing Fairfax to fourth place from second in the rich county rankings.

Again, housing is a culprit. Median home value of $586,200 is about twice the state level. The metro area’s total housing costs – including rents, mortgages and more – run 173% above the national average.

The ambitious and well-paid residents of Fairfax County are highly educated, of course. Equally unsurprisingly, many are foreign born. More than 62% have at least a bachelor’s degree, while more than 31% were born overseas. Those figures compare to 39.6% and 12.7%, respectively, at the state level.

Higher income and educational levels contribute to below-average poverty: 6% in Fairfax County vs. the state’s 9.9% rate. And they help in other ways too: Falls Church takes third place in the U.S. News & World Report healthiest communities rankings.

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3. Forsyth County, Ga.

Forsyth County, Ga.Forsyth County, Ga.
  • Population: 244,252
  • Median household income: $107,218 
  • Cost of living: 3.9% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $103,161

Rapidly growing Forsyth County benefits from being both a suburb and an exurb of Atlanta (metro pop: 6 million). Situated halfway between the big city and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Forsyth enjoys lots of well-paid employment opportunities without the crazy cost pressures such jobs often create.

The result? A cost of living that’s only 3.9% above the national average, allowing residents to keep more of their six-digit median household incomes.

Forsyth’s growth has come with a corresponding increase in new housing. That’s helped keep median home value to $363,700. Although nearly double the state median, it’s a bargain vs. many of the other richest counties in the U.S.

Major employers include Northside Hospital, Tyson Foods (TSN) and Scientific Games (SGMS). Fully 56% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the state level of 32.5%. 

The county’s exurban characteristics allow residents to enjoy peace and quiet while still participating in the bustle of metro Atlanta. In addition to 37,000-acre Lake Lanier – where folks enjoy fishing, boating and water skiing – the county operates dozens of recreational facilities, including Sawnee Mountain Preserve and Fowler Park.

Atlanta metro’s famous sprawl does exact a toll, however. Forsyth County commuters spend an average of 32.1 minutes getting to work, vs. 29.3 minutes for all Georgians, and the U.S. average of 27.6 minutes.

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2. Stafford County, Va.

Stafford County, Va.Stafford County, Va.
  • Population: 152,882
  • Median household income: $111,108  
  • Cost of living: 4.8% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $106,048 

Stafford County, another D.C. suburb, is about a 40-minute drive from the metro area’s center, and that extra distance helps keep costs in check. Expenses run just 4.8% above the U.S. average, despite Stafford being part of a metro area chock full of millionaires and other top-income counties.

Indeed, the county’s favorable income-to-cost balance vaults it up the rich-county ranks. By unadjusted median household income, Stafford ranks as only the 16th wealthiest county. But after accounting for living costs, Stafford jumps to second place among the richest counties in the U.S.

Happily for homebuyers, new construction has kept up enough that the median home value of $366,500 is only 25% higher than the state median.

The county’s rapid growth – both demographically and economically – has been fueled in part by a host of federal government employers. Marine Corps Base Quantico, the FBI Academy, FBI National Laboratory and Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters all call Stafford home. 

Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.B) Geico insurance subsidiary is the largest private-sector employer. 

That said, plenty of Stafford residents travel across Greater D.C. to get to work. Stafford’s less-central location means folks spend an average of 39.8 minutes getting to work. Overall, Virginia’s average travel-to-work time is a more manageable 29.1 minutes. 

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1. Loudoun County, Va.

Loudoun County, Va.Loudoun County, Va.
  • Population: 413,538
  • Median household income: $142,299  
  • Cost of living: 12.3% above U.S. average
  • Adjusted median household income: $126,674

Incomes are so high in Loudoun that even after adjusting for a cost of living 12.3% above the national average, it remains the richest county in the U.S. by a wide margin.

With an unadjusted median household income of more than $142,000, this northeastern suburb of D.C. tops its closest competitor (Stafford County at $111,108) by more than $31,100. 

Factor in costs – which lop off nearly $16,000 in income – and Loudon still beats Stafford by nearly $21,000. 

Loudon also happens to take fourth place in the U.S. News & World Report healthiest community rankings.

The origins of Loudon’s wealth begin in the early 1960s with the construction of Washington Dulles International Airport. Businesses followed, leading to rapid growth and eventually a boom in high-tech, well-paid jobs. Major employers include Northrop Grumman (NOC) and Raytheon Technologies (RTX). The county also hosts scores of massive data centers that power’s (AMZN) cloud services business. 

Naturally, Loudon is a contributor to the metro area’s sky-high housing costs. The median home value of $556,600 is nearly twice the state median. 

Given Loudon’s demand for workers with advanced degrees in often highly specialized industries, it follows that residents are highly educated and frequently foreign born.

More than 62% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, vs. 39.6% at the state level. A quarter of the county’s population was born overseas – double the Virginia rate – and more than a third speak a language other than English at home.


How to Organize a Refrigerator: 15 Secret Tips Everyone Should Know

Your refrigerator is arguably one of the most important items in your kitchen. The fridge keeps your food cold, preserving it for future use and maintaining a fresh taste. We use it so often that it’s bound to get a little messy. And while you should always do routine cleaning, it’s still important to keep it as clean and organized as possible between cleanings.

Whether you’ve got a commercial-sized fridge or a mini one, here’s how to organize a refrigerator so it stays clean for longer and you can easily find whatever you need whenever you need it.

1. Separate your fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables in a refrigerator.

Fruits and vegetables in a refrigerator.

There’s a reason your refrigerator has separate drawers for fruits and vegetables. While many of us disregard them and throw whatever we want in the different drawers, using them properly helps to keep your fruits and vegetables fresh for longer.

Fruit does better in low humidity and will last longer when there’s less moisture, so its drawer will keep things dry. On the other hand, vegetables thrive in humidity, so its drawer allows more moisture.

2. Wait to cut your produce

Cutting your fruits and vegetables before storing them makes them go bad faster. And, once they’ve been cut, you need to put them into a separate container, so they’ll take up more room in the refrigerator.

Wait to cut your fruits and vegetables until you’re ready to eat or use them. Doing so will also help save space and keep items good for longer.

3. Fill your fridge

Your fridge runs most efficiently and keeps food the freshest when it’s between 60 percent and 70 percent full. If it’s too full, your refrigerator has to work extra hard to keep things cold and not all of the food will receive proper airflow, so it will go bad faster. And if it’s too empty, it has only air to keep cool, and air doesn’t retain the cold as well as actual food and drink items.

If your refrigerator has too much inside, it’s time to clean it out. And if you need to fill it up, you can add a few jugs of water to help retain the cool temperature.

4. Put non-perishables in the door

The door is the warmest part of your fridge, so it’s best to keep non-perishables on the shelves in the door. Things like condiments, butter and margarine, cheeses and eggs won’t go bad quickly, so they’re perfect for the door.

Avoid putting things like milk and meats in the door, since they’ll rot quickly if it’s too warm.

5. Place perishables near the front

Not sure how to organize a refrigerator best for perishable items? While you don’t want perishables in the door where it’s warmest, you don’t want to tuck them in the back. Keep your meats, fish and milk near the front where you see them frequently — reminding you to use them before they go bad.

6. Store meats and seafood on the bottom

Meats and seafood in a refrigerator.

Meats and seafood in a refrigerator.

Items like meat, fish and crustaceans have fluid in them that, when uncooked, can contaminate other foods. To reduce the risk of these liquids dripping down onto other things in the fridge, store your meats and seafood on the bottom shelf. You should also keep them in containers with high edges so fluids won’t spill if the items get bumped on accident.

7. Line your shelves

To make cleaning quick and easy, line your shelves. You can either buy plastic or silicone shelf liners or use plastic wrap. If something spills or your refrigerator simply needs cleaning, you only need to remove the liner and replace it — no scrubbing required!

8. Remove odors with activated carbon

Many people use baking soda to soak up unfavorable scents in the fridge, but activated carbon actually works better for getting rid of odors. Typically used for pet containers, activated carbon is found at pet stores.

You’ll use it in basically the same way as baking soda. Set the container inside the refrigerator where it can absorb the scent.

9. Organize condiments

Condiments in a refrigerator.

Condiments in a refrigerator.

Figuring out how to organize a refrigerator condiment shelf can become a mess very quickly. Keeping bottles upright without them falling over makes it hard to keep track of which bottles are full and which are almost empty. To help them stand up and stay in place, place an egg carton in the bottom and put the top ends of condiment bottles in each indentation.

This also makes it nice when you use the condiments because you don’t need to shake the bottles to get to what’s inside — it’s already at the top!

10. Add a Lazy Susan

If you’re constantly reaching over food to get to the back of the shelf in the fridge, try using a Lazy Susan. This will make it easier to reach things and keep food from being forgotten in the back.

11. Leverage magnets

Magnets aren’t limited to the outside of the fridge! Use small magnetic containers for inside the fridge, where you can store small items you want to keep fresh, like pomegranate seeds and other seeds or nuts.

This will allow you to put them on the sides of the refrigerator, leaving shelf space for other food items. There are also magnetic bottle holders that will store your metal-top bottles on the ceiling of the fridge, so you don’t need to reach between things to grab yourself a cold beverage.

12. Hang resealable bags

Storing things in resealable bags is practical, but storing them is a different story. They’re hard to stack and are easily forgotten if other containers are in front of them.

To keep them in easy reach, you can buy a Ziploc bag holder that will hold your bags in an organized fashion or you can use binder clips to keep them together and clip them to the edge of a shelf.

13. Refrigerate only what needs it

There are some food items that we refrigerate, but don’t actually need to keep chilled. Putting only items that need refrigerating in the refrigerator will leave more room for the items that do need it.

If you’ve got potatoes, tomatoes, onions or watermelon (to name a few), you only need to refrigerate them after they’ve been cut open. So keep that whole watermelon off the shelf and store it on the counter!

14. Label with a marker

Labels can help you organize a refrigerator and help you find items more easily. Use a dry erase, wet erase or chalk marker to write labels on shelves or even the walls, then wipe them away when it’s time to change!

15. Wrap cheese in wax paper

Cheese wrapped in wax paper.

Cheese wrapped in wax paper.

Blocks of cheese often come in plastic and it’s tempting to store them in a resealable bag once you’ve opened the original packaging. However, cheese keeps for longer and tastes better when it’s wrapped in wax paper.

Plus, plastic bags can look messy, especially if they’re much larger than the cheese they’re holding, and wrapping it in wax makes it look cleaner in the fridge.

Refrigerator organization helps keep things clean

The key to keeping your refrigerator clean is keeping it organized! Like with an organized pantry, your food will stay fresh for longer, you won’t forget about the items you put in your fridge and you’ll be able to quickly find everything you need.

Use the refrigerator organization tips above to organize your own fridge and keep it clean and tidy!




10 Tips for Washing Your Car at Your Apartment Community

Don’t let random passersby deface your ride with “Wash Me” scrawled in windshield dirt. Instead, avoid the old “drive of shame” and give it a good old-fashioned scrub down with an apartment car wash.

Even if your apartment doesn’t have a car wash station on its list of amenities, that doesn’t mean you can’t still DIY this wet and wild chore. It just takes a few supplies and a little bit of strategy to get the job done.

A dirty car with someone writing

A dirty car with someone writing

How do I wash my car if I live in an apartment?

Sure, you could drive somewhere for a car wash, but where’s the fun in that? Hand-washing a car is a great workout and an even better way to cool down in the summer months. Just follow these easy tips for an apartment car wash and you’ll soon have the ultimate clean car. Bonus points if you detail the inside, too!

1. Use a spigot and hose

The water’s going to have to come from somewhere, right? Even if you know where the spigot is already, it’s probably smart to check with management to make sure you can use it. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even spot you a hose for the job! If not, pick up an expandable hose at the local hardware store. Those are easier to store than the old-school variety.

2. Go waterless

A waterless car wash product is a solid option for cars that aren’t filthy to start off with. So, if you’ve just gone muddin’, skip ahead. These products are not for you. Waterless car wash is available in concentrated form (so you have to dilute it), or ready-to-use. Some even have built-in wax! To use, simply spray the product on and wipe it off with a soft towel. When the towel section gets dirty, use a different part.

3. Use a no-rinse product

Split the difference between waterless and a full wash by using a no-rinse product, like Optimum No Rinse. This three-in-one product functions as a rinseless wash, as well as a detailer and a lubricant. Just add the recommended amount to one or two gallons of water, then apply with a wash mitt or microfiber towel.

Car wheels being washed.

Car wheels being washed.

4. Be wheel wise

The wheels are not the same as the rest of the vehicle, so don’t treat them like they are. Clean them first because they’re the dirtiest parts of the car.

Spray with a good hose to dislodge dirt from crevices. Use a tire-specific cleaner and a towel/mitt to scrub it down. Don’t use that towel on the rest of the car because it’s likely pretty gross.

5. Go with waterless wipes

The waterless car wash product community is booming. There are waterless wipes already primed with cleaners available for purchase. Pick up a pack each for general washing, tire and trim and wax, if you want to go full-out.

Man washing his car.

Man washing his car.

6. Pick up a pump sprayer

Here’s another idea on the waterless front. If you want to avoid the hassle of a spigot and hose (or don’t have access to one), purchase a small pump sprayer. Such a device helps evenly apply a coat of waterless cleaner. Then, you just clean as normal with a mitt or microfiber towel. It can also rinse the car off with plain water (fill it up inside first), but the water pressure isn’t as good as the average hose.

7. Use a duster

If you can’t do a full wash apartment car wash at your complex or just don’t have time, use a California Duster to quickly get rid of dirt and dust and bring back the shine. This tool will buy you more time between washes, and is usable during full washes, as well.

8. Wipe aways bugs with dryer sheets

Sometimes dried up, dead bugs just don’t want to come off. Without the power of a professional car wash it is extra challenging. Before you start washing, use old dryer sheets to wipe bugs off. Then wash as normal.

Toothpaste on car.

Toothpaste on car.

9. Apply toothpaste (no, seriously!)

No need to buy a pricey product to put the finishing touches on your headlights. Squirt some toothpaste on a rag and polish up those headlights until they shine.

10. Create your own all-natural cleaner

For the final, streak-free rinse, opt for a green cleaner. Wash the car as normal. Then rinse the soap residue with a hose. Mix three parts vinegar to one part water in a spray bottle and spray the car. Then wipe down with a newspaper for a shiny, squeaky clean finish.

Hand washing a car.

Hand washing a car.

General apartment car wash tips

Specific techniques aside, there are some general things to consider when doing an apartment car wash. Minding these suggestions make the whole process easier, not to mention more effective and enjoyable.

  • Do a quick once over: Before setting up for the apartment car wash, make sure your car isn’t leaking any fluids or oils. That won’t go over well with management.
  • Steer clear of storm drains. It’s bad for the environment, local wildlife and drinking water if soap from the car wash gets into the storm drain. Do your best to find a spot far away from storm drains to prevent any issues, or use an eco-friendly cleaner that is non-toxic and doesn’t have chlorine, fragrance, phosphates or petroleum-based ingredients.
  • Seek out the shade: It seems counterintuitive, but the sun causes streaks. So for the best finish possible, find a spot in the shade to do your apartment car wash.
  • Get your towels: Grab a few towels or wash mitts to get the job done. Make sure to have one each (at least) for the tires, body wash and for drying.
  • Conserve water: Don’t just leave the hose on indiscriminately. Doing so wastes about 10 gallons per minute! While you’re doing the wash — turn it off whenever you’re not rinsing or filling the bucket. Make it easier on yourself by attaching a nozzle that will automatically shut off the water when not in use.
  • Clean up after the clean-up: Other than waiting for water to dry, no one at your apartment should see any residue from your apartment car wash. Resist the easier, but less responsible urge to dump dirty water in the street. Instead, carry the bucket inside and dispose of it in a sink or toilet.

Other than these tips, use your common sense. If all goes well the first-time management is more likely to let you keep doing car washes from the comfort of your apartment parking lot.

Lather, rinse, repeat

Each and every time you wash your car by hand you’ll come up with ways to make an apartment car wash more efficient and easier. Eventually, you’ll be a well-oiled machine for…well, your well-oiled machine.




How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths Forever | ApartmentSearch

Woman looking inside an open pantry

These days, it seems like every time you reach into the pantry for a bag of chips, you have to swat through a cloud of moths to get it. Pantry moths are no joke, and yet, they’re also pretty common. Tons of people encounter these pests every year but don’t know how to get rid of them for good. Fortunately, our team at ApartmentSearch has compiled some tried-and-true steps to help you knock out this insect infestation once and for all.

What are pantry moths?

A pantry moth is a small, gray or brownish bug that can appear in a kitchen pantry, cabinet, or cupboard. This tiny creature is likely from the Plodia interpunctella species and is also known as the Indianmeal moth, the flour moth, and the grain moth. These pesky creatures are one of several insects known for feeding on stored grains and other dry foods. And their modest size — only about half an inch in length and wingspan — can make them very easy to overlook.

However, if adult moths are present, there’s a good chance your pantry has also become home to eggs, pupae (caterpillars), and pupal shells. And since a single female moth can lay anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs, you probably have a bigger infestation on your hands than you realized. Talk about an unappetizing situation, right?

Where do pantry moths come from?

Pantry moths are found nearly everywhere in the United States and most often feed on grain products, cereals, pasta, and pet food. These insects typically gain entry to your home through dry goods that were contaminated at some point during the production process (i.e., at a food processing facility or packaging plant). While frustrating and unfortunate, this also means pantry moths are in no way an indication of poor hygiene or housekeeping efforts.

4 steps for how to get rid of pantry moths

Although they’re an undisputed nuisance, pantry moths are relatively harmless compared to other potential pests. With that said, there’s no doubt you’ll want to get rid of pantry bugs as soon as they appear. If you’re currently dealing with a moth problem in your own home, read on for our best tips and tricks to get your kitchen bug-free and back to business as usual.

1. Inspect the situation

The first step in getting rid of pantry pests is to inspect all the food in your cabinets and look for signs of infestation. Carefully check your food packaging, and keep an eye out for larvae or webs near your pasta, cereal, and baking mixes, as well as your nuts and sweets (which moths love). You might also find tiny larvae tucked along the edge of canned foods or spice jars, or hanging around your cat or dog’s food, too.

Toss out any grain or nut products that have been compromised — but be sure to take them to your outdoor trash so the problem doesn’t spread inside your home. If you feel comfortable keeping the affected cans, they can be wiped down with undiluted vinegar to kill the larvae.

2. Do a proper deep clean

After you’ve done a full inspection and thrown away your infested dry goods, it’s time to do a proper deep clean of your kitchen. This means pulling out all your shelf liners and replacing them if they can’t be thoroughly washed. Use your vacuum to clean out tight spaces like cupboard corners, shelf brackets, and hardware components (hinges, knobs, handles, etc.).

In addition, you’re wise to vacuum the walls, floors, doors, and baseboards of your cabinets to help cover all your bases. Do your best to remove the vacuum bag or dump the dust compartment in the outside trash (since you don’t want any larvae to grow in there). Lastly, wipe down each shelf with hot, soapy water or vinegar, and mop the floor with the same solution.

3. Switch up your storage

If space permits, you may want to switch up your kitchen storage and keep all your grain and nuts products permanently in the freezer or refrigerator. Since pantry months require a warm environment to breed and thrive, this strategy tends to be pretty effective. But if cold storage isn’t an option, you can also store your new groceries away from other pantry items. This might be a temporary move, too, just until you’re sure the problem has been eliminated.

What’s more, you can transfer your dry goods to mason jars or similarly tight-sealing containers. In doing so, even if you accidentally bring home something that’s been contaminated, the larvae can’t escape once they hatch (so you’ll reduce the amount you have to throw away).

4. Practice pest prevention

The last step toward ridding your home of pantry moths *forever* is to practice pest prevention.

To avoid infestations in the future, mix up your storage methods. You’ll also want to commit to deep cleaning a few times a year so things don’t get out of hand — and to catch any issues early on before they have a chance to hatch into something bigger.

Another great natural option is to fill some sachets with lavender, cedar, or mint, and hide them in your pantry. These scents are known to repel moths and will make your cabinets smell lovely at the same time! But be sure to replace them every few months so they stay effective.

Look for a bug-free home with ApartmentSearch

If you’ve followed our steps for how to get rid of pantry moths and nothing seems to be helping (not even your landlord), it may be time to look for somewhere else to live. Thankfully, ApartmentSearch can help you find a new home — that fits your budget — in no time at all.

Start exploring all the amazing listings from ApartmentSearch today, and get ready to enjoy a more comfortable and pest-free pad ASAP!


14 Must-Have Items for Your Home Emergency Kit

Emergency preparedness used to be a seasonal thing, and it tended to be focused on specific areas: the hurricane season along the East Coast, for example. Recent years have proven to be a wakeup call that this thinking is flawed. Extreme weather events like 2020’s winter storm in Texas showed disasters can happen virtually anytime, anywhere.

When disaster strikes, it can mean power outages that last hours, days, or even weeks. Taps can run dry. Heat and air conditioning can shut down. Some health-related equipment like CPAP machines are useless without electricity. You and your family need to be prepared to survive on your own if disaster strikes.

Putting together a home emergency kit to cover a wide range of disaster scenarios is no longer something only “preppers” or those who live in traditional high-risk areas do; it’s something everyone needs to do. Think you’re prepared? It’s still a smart idea to have a look through your existing stash to make sure you have all the bases covered and everything is in good working order. In addition, technology has continued to advance, and there are new options now that may be far superior to what you already have.

We’ll leave basics like food, bottled water, medications, and cash to you. Our list covers everything else — the gear that should be in every home emergency kit.

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Photo of face maskPhoto of face mask

We’ve recommended masks as part of a home emergency kit for years, long before they were a pandemic must. The fine dust and smoke that accompany many natural disasters, including brush fires and earthquakes, was the main concern. Our go-to was typically a package of disposable N95 or N100 masks like 3M’s 8293 particulate respirator with Cool Flow™ Valve.

As the gold standard for coronavirus protection, these became scarce during COVID-19 (and those who’d already stockpiled were vindicated). However, N95 masks are readily available once again. If you don’t have N95 or N100 masks in your home emergency kit, or if they have expired (3M says most of its masks have a five-year shelf life), now is the time to add a box.

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Water Filter

Photo of person using waterl filterPhoto of person using waterl filter

Clean, safe water is crucial to human survival, but natural disasters may damage public water or your well supply.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends all homes have enough fresh water on hand to supply one gallon of water per person for three days. And no, soda doesn’t count. Most homes have an emergency water source (whether you realize it or not — remember, you could use the toilet tanks and hot water heater), but to be truly prepared, being able to produce your own clean drinking water can be critical.

A portable water filter (LifeStraw gets excellent ratings from outdoor enthusiasts) is cheap insurance that takes up little space. Stick the LifeStraw personal water filter into any water source, including rain barrels, pools, lakes and rivers. Drink like you would with any straw. The water may not be cool and lemon-flavored, but it will be safe to drink.

LifeStraw’s filtration removes 99.999999% of bacteria (including E. coli), 99.999% of parasites, and 99.999% of micro plastics — because that’s another thing we have to worry about now. It costs $19.95, weighs 2 ounces, has unlimited shelf life, and is rated to treat 1,000 gallons of water.

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First Aid Kit

Photo of first aid kitPhoto of first aid kit

A first aid kit is an absolute must-have for any home. You can put together your own, but there are also many companies and organizations that sell complete kits with almost everything you need. The American Red Cross knows a few things about first aid and their kits are a great starting point.

The Red Cross Deluxe Family First Aid Kit contains 115 items and covers off most common injuries. At $35, it’s priced right and won’t take up much space. However, to make it more appropriate to the COVID-19 era, consider adding a thermometer (a high temperature is often an early warning sign of infection). In addition, a pulse oximeter can give an early warning that someone should seek medical attention due to low blood oxygen levels. They’re available for $50 or less at pharmacies.

To make your first aid kit more disaster-ready, add emergency blankets — these are made of a reflective foil material that folds up in a fist-size pouch and work remarkably well to keep you warm. These are so cheap, light and compact that we recommend buying them in bulk and stashing them in your vehicles, boats, wherever. They can be helpful in staving off shock.

Finally, if anyone in your household takes medication, make sure you have enough to ride out an emergency.

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Photo of bottle of bleachPhoto of bottle of bleach

Chlorine bleach is an inexpensive product with many uses in emergencies. It can be used to purify water, and also to sanitize surfaces after exposure to COVID-19 and other bacteria and viruses. In a pinch, a very-dilute bleach solution can be used to wash your hands. If your home area has suffered flooding and excessive rainfall, a few drops of bleach added to standing water — for example a rain barrel or bird bath — kills mosquito larvae, without harming birds.

One hitch: Bleach has a shelf life. Make sure to rotate out the jug every year to ensure effectiveness. Just use the older bottle for your laundry.

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Hand Sanitizer

Photo of hand sanitizerPhoto of hand sanitizer

Like masks, hand sanitizer got plenty of attention during the coronavirus pandemic. But it remains a key item for any emergency kit.

Of course it’s still key for avoiding transmissible diseases, but hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) is also useful if soap and water are not available, and your hands have been in untreated water in a flood or you’ve been handling raw meat.

If your local stores are sold out of hand sanitizer, you can make your own using common ingredients including isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel (here’s a recipe for DIY hand sanitizer).

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Waterproof Utility Gloves

Photo of Ergodyne glovesPhoto of Ergodyne gloves

Thin, disposable nitrile gloves are usually included as part of a first aid kit. If not, they’re handy to have, take up little space, and are very inexpensive. But you also want something more substantial, like a pair of utility gloves.

A good example are these ProFlex gloves from Ergodyne. They are flexible, insulated, waterproof, and reinforced against cuts and abrasions.

During any natural disaster, utility gloves like these provide invaluable protection if you need to clean up rubble or broken glass (remember that even if you weren’t hurt in any initial event, injuries incurred during recovery might be harder to get treated). They keep your hands dry while offering improved grip if you’re working in pools of water. They can also help to keep your hands warm.

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Bottle-Top Propane Stove

Photo of Coleman propane stovePhoto of Coleman propane stove

Yes, you can live by survival rations (energy bars and the like) alone, but you won’t want to, at least for a prolonged period of time. When you can’t count on having electrical power, the cheapest, most compact — and most effective — way to cook is with a bottle-top propane stove. These simply screw onto the top of a standard standard 16.4 ounce propane cylinder, providing a single gas burner. Even if you have a grill, this is by far the fastest and easiest way to boil water — for coffee, instant foods, even purification. And make sure to keep a 3-pack of cylinders handy.

This version from Coleman goes for under $40, delivers up to 10,000 BTUs of heat, and includes a base that slips over the bottom of the propane bottle to make the stove steadier. Speaking of propane: The tank that lasts a season when used only on weekends will quickly go empty if that grill becomes your temporary kitchen. So make certain you always have a spare propane tank on hand for that as well.

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Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting

Photo of duct tapePhoto of duct tape

Duct tape and plastic sheeting are invaluable emergency kit items with dozens of uses. The Department of Homeland Security recommends plastic sheeting with a thickness of 4 to 6 mil (0.004 – 0.006 in) or greater — it’s sold in rolls at hardware stores. Duct tape is available from a variety of producers including Duck Brand, and in a range of interesting patterns. Why not add some color to your recovery efforts?

The combination can be used for everything from securing broken windows to fashioning an emergency shelter, patching a leaking roof, or wrapping up garbage for safe disposal. Plastic sheeting and tape can also be used to protect sensitive electronics or valuable documents from water damage or exposure to dust, or even to make containers for water collection or food storage.

If you are in a situation where air may be contaminated, duct tape and plastic sheeting can be used to seal your windows and doors.

Duct tape is also useful to have for all sorts of other emergency repairs. It may not look pretty, but you can mend torn clothing, or a hole in a shoe or glove. It can be used for temporary car repairs such as patching a leaking hose. It can even be used to reinforce a sprained ankle or keep a bandage in place.

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Waterproof E-Reader

Photo of Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-readerPhoto of Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-reader

A waterproof e-reader has had a place on our home emergency kit list for a while now. You don’t necessarily need to have an e-reader physically stashed in your kit, but you should have one in the house, fully charged and loaded up with emergency content.

Why an e-reader? These things are literally a library in the palm of your hand. Make sure you pick a waterproof model with a built-in light. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is $129.99 and makes a great choice.

Add some emergency-specific content. A first aid guide, survival guides, home repair guides, how-to manuals, recipe books, and road maps. You won’t be scrambling to find books — they’re all in one place — and you don’t need to worry about them getting wet, or torn. Plus, you won’t be relying on internet connectivity, whether through your cable provider or cellular network, either of which could be compromised or overloaded. An e-reader is highly portable, the battery will last for weeks on a charge, and the Kindle Paperwhite has its own light for reading in the dark.

Besides the practical applications, having a library of books on hand comes in handy to fend off boredom. So load up the e-reader with some of your favorite titles. Pair it with Bluetooth headphones to listen to audio books. Remember, if the internet is down, so is Netflix.

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Photo of Leatherman multitoolPhoto of Leatherman multitool

Sure, most people have a tool kit at home, sometimes fairly elaborate ones. But it’s still a good idea to have a multitool stored right in your home emergency kit. That way, critical tools you might need are exactly where you expect them to be, and they’re in a compact form factor that can be slipped in a pocket if you need to go out exploring — or get access to your regular tools.

Multitools can quickly escalate in cost as you add options, but for emergency use you probably don’t need 30 gadgets in the palm of your hand. The Sidekick is a Leatherman bestseller. And it’s a good balance between affordability and capability. It usually runs around $60, and features 14 built-in tools including spring-action pliers, a saw, two knives, screwdrivers, a bottle opener and a can opener.

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Emergency Radio (and Flashlight)

Photo of emergency radioPhoto of emergency radio

Light is a must-have during a power blackout, and radio remains a reliable method of catching up on news and alerts during disasters if cell networks and land lines go down.

A wind-up emergency radio like the ER310 from Midland Radio covers both needs. It picks up AM and FM radio stations, as well as NOAA weather radio (with NOAA extreme weather alerts). The 1400 lux flashlight uses Cree LEDs and lets you adust brightness to conserve battery life.

Powering everything is a 2600 mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery that’s good for up to 32 hours of use. While you can quickly recharge it through a USB port, you don’t need power, because the unit includes built-in solar panels and a hand crank. You can also tap that battery in an emergency, and top up the battery on your smartphone using the ER310’s USB port.

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Explosive Gas Detector

Photo of gas detectorPhoto of gas detector

We trust your home is already equipped with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. However, you might want to supplement that safety equipment with an explosive gas detector.

Much of the damage done to homes during earthquakes is caused by fires from ruptured natural gas and propane lines. A standard CO detector won’t catch the build up of these flammable gases, and your smoke detector won’t sound the alarm until the building is actually on fire.

The Kidde Nighthawk KN-COEG-3 includes both CO and explosive gas detection — sounding an 85-decibel alarm so your family can get out of the building in time. It plugs into an AC outlet, and a 9V battery keeps it running during a power outage.

A built-in display shows the current CO levels in the area, and displays GAS if natural gas (methane) or propane are detected.

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Tough Smartphone Case

Photo of phone casePhoto of phone case

Face it, you’d be lost without your smartphone at the best of times. During a natural disaster, it’s probably your single most valuable tool. Communications, news and updates, contact with friends and family, social media, entertainment, a mini flashlight, your GPS, music, a camera — all in a single device. Before the situation gets risky, make sure that phone will be safe.

Most people choose a minimalist case for their smartphone, and some go caseless for a sleeker look. That’s fine for everyday use, but during a disaster, there’s too much riding on your phone for that. Pick up a sturdy case for your phone and stash it in your emergency kit. There are plenty of options to choose from, and they don’t need to be massive, bulky affairs.

For example, Gear 4’s $49.99 Battersea case (available for popular iPhone, Galaxy and Pixel Phone models) is reasonably slim and still supports wireless charging, but offers 16-foot drop protection and an extra-grippy case surface.

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Backup Power

photo of power stationphoto of power station

Blackouts that last for hours at a time are common. All it takes is a thunderstorm, an accident that takes out a utility pole, or construction. These short-term power losses have always been annoying, but with more people adopting a hybrid work or learning schedule, they are disruptive as well.

This is an area where technology has advanced considerably over the past several years. In particular, lithium-ion battery and power management technology has improved. A modest portable power station like Goal Zero’s $299.95 Yeti 200X packs 187Wh of power in a 5lb package. It’s equipped with USB ports for charging devices, but also a 120V AC outlet. Because it’s battery-powered, it’s safe to use indoors. If the power goes out this unit can charge a laptop four times or even power a complete desktop PC for several hours. It can keep a CPAP machine running for up to eight hours.

A short-term power backup solution like this also has long term advantages if your needs are modest. For example, the Yeti 200X can fully charge an average smartphone 16 times.

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Power Backup: Long Term

photo of power station with solar panelsphoto of power station with solar panels

Long-term power backup solutions are where things get interesting. We are seeing more long-lasting power outages than ever. The winter storm that hit Texas in February 2020 resulted in blackouts that lasted several days for some people, plus rolling blackouts that intermittently disrupted power for weeks after.

The classic safeguard for blackouts that could last a day or more is a gas or diesel-powered generator. These are great to have if you live in a single-family home and are able to keep fuel on hand. During the Texas storm, the capabilities of EVs were in the spotlight. Ford dealers loaned out F150 hybrid pickup trucks, with their onboard generators capable of powering home appliances.

Another option is a high-performance battery power station. These can be used indoors, and they are available to everyone, including apartment dwellers. The Jackery 1500 is a prime example of what’s now available. It’s portable, its AC outlets can handle 1800W (3600W peak) so it can even be used to power high-demand devices like heaters, AC units, and microwave ovens. Pair it with a four-pack of solar panels, and the Explorer 1500 can fully charge using solar power in just four hours. It’s not cheap ($2,699 with the solar panels), but this power backup solution could get you through days or weeks of power interruption with pushbutton ease, no pollution, no fuel, no maintenance, and no noise.