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A Safe Christmas is a Happy Christmas

Christmas, also referred to as the most wonderful time of the year. With all of the lights and endless Christmas Trees, it’s hard not to get swept away by the ambiance of it all – especially when it comes to decorating your own home. Before you get right down to it, make sure you know how and what to do to keep you and your family safe this Christmas season.

Christmas Tree

When picking out a real tree, pick out a tree that is not dry, the tree should be as fresh as possible. Now there is no need to go Clark Griswold and drag the family into the woods to chop down a tree. To ensure the tree is fresh, pick one where the needles do not easily fall off the tree. Once you get it home cut 1 to 2 inches off the bottom of the base of the trunk before placing it in water. Make sure the base is always filled with water to avoid it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. When selecting an artificial tree, look for the label that indicates it is fire resistant. When selecting the location for your tree in your home, ensure that it is at least 3 feet away from all heating sources.

Electrical tips

Check all extension cords and power strips before using them. If they appear to be cracked or frayed in anyway replace them. When it comes to extension cords, make sure they are long enough and keep them away from high traffic areas in your home. Be sure to unplug all decorations and lights both inside and outside while you are sleeping and not at home. This will prevent an electrical fire and keep your electric bill low.


Before using Christmas lights, inspect the cords and lights for any damages. Upgrade or use as many LED lights as possible, not only are they more energy efficient, they operate at a much cooler temperature as well. When stringing lights throughout your home, it’s easy to overload outlets, before you get going, count the outlets in your home and then decorate accordingly.

Outdoor decorations

Many people tend to overlook the obvious when decorating outside their home such as inspecting the ladder before using it, you don’t want to be 10 feet up in the air only to find out there is a rung loose. When it comes to the actual decorations, only use lights and extension cords that are made specifically for outdoor purposes. All outdoor extension cords should be protected from snow and water.

How to Lower Your Energy Bill During the Holidays

Lights, lights and more Christmas lights! We Americans tend to do Christmas the best, with entire neighborhoods decorated and lit up to perfection we can turn our plain homes into a Winter Wonderland. Although it may be extremely beautiful, decorating for Christmas will put a serious dent in your wallet when it comes to your electric bill. On average, when your Christmas lights are lit, you’ll spend $0.75 more per hour – that’s a major increase! To help lower your electric bill this month, follow these helpful tips so you can spend more money on charitable donations or special gifts for your loved ones.

Timer for lights – It’s easy to forget to turn off the Christmas lights outside your home when going to bed, out of sight out of mind. Unfortunately, leaving your Christmas lights on all through the night will jack up your electric bill. Install a timer for your lights so they come on at 5 p.m. and automatically turn off at 10 or 11 p.m.

Inside lights – Don’t forget to turn off your Christmas lights inside your home when you go to bed and leave home. Not only is this a safety tip, but it will also have an impact on your electric bill for the season as well. Now that it is so dark in the mornings, many people turn on the Christmas lights in their home as they are getting ready for work and forget to turn them off.

Candles – Opt for either real candles or battery-operated candles. Electric candles that plug into the wall just add to the endless other decorations that are now plugged into outlets helping to increase your electric bill for the month.

Inflatable decorations – Although a giant inflatable Frosty the Snowman may make your home look like the North Pole, but it will hike up your electric bill like nothing else. Stick to solid figures that light up rather than investing in an inflatable decoration that will put a major dent in your wallet you don’t need during the holidays.

Lower the thermostat – Regardless if you use electric or gas to heat your home, take advantage of lowering the thermostat. This is the easiest thing you can do to lower your energy bill during one of the most expensive months of the year. Lower the thermostat to 62 when you’re not at home or go to bed, that’s over 16 hours that your thermostat will be turned down and will have a major impact on lowering your energy bill this season!

Switch to LED lights – If you haven’t already, upgrade your Christmas lights to LED lights. They are way more energy efficient and will save you a bundle over Christmas. However, this is an expensive switch, so you may want to wait until after Christmas when decorations go on sale to invest in making the switch, then you’ll be prepared to save next Christmas.

Real Vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

Planning for the holidays is so much fun – the lights, gifts and Christmas music in the air really puts you in the Christmas spirit. Whether this is your first Christmas on your own, first with a new baby, or you’re a Christmas decorating veteran, choosing between an artificial Christmas tree or a real Christmas tree can be quite a pickle. Although everyone loves the fullness and fresh pine scent of a real Christmas tree, there are several reasons why choosing an artificial tree is not only more cost effective and more convenient, but safer as well.


Having a real tree in your home is a severe and serious fire hazard. It is extremely important to keep the tree properly watered at all times. This makes going away for the weekend difficult, you don’t want a dry tree sitting in your home all weekend, should your electricity cause a spark your tree would go up in flames like a light, taking your home and all your belongings with it. With an artificial tree, there is no need to ensure it has plenty of water and you can leave home as long as you want without having a care in the world.

Cost effective

A beautiful, full big blue spruce can set you back over $100 dollars. You can get a large pre-lit artificial tree for $150 that will last you the next 5 years! You can’t buy a real tree until 2 weeks before Christmas while you can enjoy an artificial tree as long as you want without worrying about it going dry. When you’re ready to take it down, you simply stow it away for next year, instead of literally throwing away your money in the trash.


Convenience these days is worth a pretty penny. With as hectic as life can be, who has time to actually go to a tree lot, pick out a tree and bring it home. But then you have to string the lights and constantly sweep the floor of pine needles. An artificial tree can be set up in no time and there is no need to sweep the floor daily to keep pine needles out of your socks.


Image credit: alntv

Insider Scoop on Xmas Activities in Pittsburgh

Spending an evening in Downtown Pittsburgh while the city is lit up for Christmas makes for one of the most spectacular experiences the city has to offer. With the endless Christmas trees around the city, Pittsburgh comes alive and turns into an instant Christmas Wonderland. A night that should be filled with magic in the air, can quickly become very stressful if you don’t have a game plan.
To enjoy the night to its fullest, make sure you know where things are, the hours of operation and have an inside scoop on where to park.

Since you’re heading to downtown Pittsburgh on the weekend, you want to consider parking beforehand. It is much cheaper to park in some of the lots on the Northside of the city and take the T downtown. If you don’t mind the walk, park in the Mexican War Streets for free and walk 10 minutes to the T. Your decision may depend on the weather, but if you’re worried about outrageous parking prices, you can park completely free as long as you don’t mind the walk.

Christmas Trees in the city
There will be a lot to see and do, but if you have a little Kevin MCallister in you, you need to check out some of the biggest and most beautiful trees in downtown Pittsburgh.

  • PPG Plaza Tree Lighting
  • One Oxford Centre Christmas Tree
  • Point State Park Christmas Tree
  • Highmark Unity Tree

Holiday Activities
Santa – If you’re binging your children down to meet Santa, make sure you know when he’s going to be there and at home relaxing with Mrs. Clause. Santa will be at the Holiday Market on Friday night from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays he’ll be there from noon to 8 p.m. Although a picture with Santa is free, it is encouraged to make a $5 donation that will go to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Wintergarden – If you can’t get enough of Santa, you’ll definitely want to head to the ‘Spirits of Giving from Around the World’ exhibit in PPG Place. The exhibit features life-size statues of what Santa Clause looks like from around the world along with a helpful description of cultural traditions and beliefs. There will also be an amazing display of gingerbread houses, from replicas of Heinz Field to a traditional Gingerbread house, you’ll see it all inside the Wintergarden. The Wintergarden is completely free and is open Friday and Saturday night until 10 p.m.

Ice Skating – There’s nothing like a little rockin’ around the Christmas Tree on ice skates at PPG Place! From now until January 1st you can enjoy the seasonal hours full of ice skating. The rink is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the lights and a little ice skating this Christmas season! There is usually a line after 7pm so be sure to get there early to avoid a long line, tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for children. For a complete schedule click here.

Christmas Market – The Christmas Market in Market Square is open Friday and Saturday night until 9:30 p.m., this is a great opportunity to scout out some gift ideas for your family. Every Friday and Saturday night there will be live entertainment, so you can do some shopping with plenty of live music in the background, be sure to sing along to your favorite Christmas songs!

DIY – How to Replace Your Flapper and Chain

toilet flapper and chain diagram

If you have ever removed the lid from the tank of your toilet, odds are, you’ve noticed a flap connected to a chain. This is called the “flapper.” The flapper and the chain that is connected to it is part of the flushing process. When you flush the handle, the chain is pulled by a lever and lifts the flapper. When the flapper is lifted, it empties the water in the tank and refills the water in the toilet.

The chain sits in the water 24/7, except for the few moments when the water in the tank is drained. This means, the chain is eventually going to rust, break and then need to be replaced. If your toilet won’t flush – check the chain, because it might be broken. Other signs the flapper and chain need to be replaced is if the water in the toilet bowl is discolored or there are black flakes in the water. This is a sign that the flapper is deteriorating and needs to be replaced. Another sign your flapper and chain needs to be replaced is if the toilet is constantly running or the system keeps turning on and off.

The flapper and chain are a unit – if one needs to be replaced, so should the other. Even if it appears to be intact, they should both be replaced at the same time.

Before you even take the lid off the tank, turn off the water – the shut off valve is located behind the tank of the toilet. Next, you want to flush the water out of your toilet so the tank is empty. Remove the chain clip from the lever and unclip the flapper at each end.

There are many different sizes and types of flappers, it is important that you get the correct size flapper because this will influence how much water is used per flush. If your flapper has a timer ball connected to it or a meter timer connected at the bottom, be sure to get one exactly like it. To make sure you get the same size flapper, take the flapper with you to your local hardware store.

Once you have the correct flapper, replace the flapper first and connect the chain clip to the lever. Test the lever to make sure the chain is adjusted tight enough to lift the flapper. Just like that, you have successfully replaced the flapper and chain. Turn the toilet water valve back on, ensure the tank is successfully filling back up with water – once it is completely full, flush the toilet to see that it is all working properly.

Should you have any problems or replacing the flapper and chain did not fix the problem, call Gillece to have a licensed and insured plumber solve the issue for you.


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When to DIY and When to Call a Pro

licensed plumber

Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether to fix a plumbing problem yourself or call a professional. Knowing the difference has the potential to save money and potential unnecessary damages.

DIY Safe

Running toilet – There are many common reasons for a toilet that is constantly running and many of the solutions are a simple DIY project. From simply replacing the flapper and chain to adjusting the fill valve in the tank, a running toilet is often an easy DIY project.

Replacing hardware – Replacing the flapper, flush handle, faucets and shower heads around your home, these are easy DIY projects. Most products come with easy to follow instructions that don’t require calling a plumbing professional for further assistance.

Clogs – There are endless tools, products and natural remedies that will unclog a toilet or a sink drain – be sure to give them all a try before calling a professional for further assistance.

Replacing fixtures – Installing a new sink, toilet or shower can be a tricky project that borders on the line between calling a professional or doing it yourself. In most cases, you should be able to make it a DIY project, but if you hesitate in shutting off the main water valve or re-connecting water lines, call a professional to make sure it’s done properly.


Snaking internal and external drains – If you have a clog inside your home or outside your home that requires some serious snaking, call a professional. Snaking a drain can be tricky and it is easy to cause some serious damage to your drains – it’s best to leave snaking to a licensed and insured plumber.

Sump pump repairs – Repairing and replacing a sump pump requires specific tools, knowledge and experience. It’s best not to try making repairs or replacing a sump pump on your own.

Sprinkler system – Whether installing, repairing or replacing your sprinkler system, this is a job best left up to a professional. The plumbing lines required underground are tricky and you could risk damaging the line or your main water line if you don’t know what you’re doing.

What is Dye Testing and Why is it So Important?

gillece plumbing logo

If you are a homeowner in the Greater Pittsburgh area, you’ve most likely heard of a plumbing dye testing. If you’re looking to sell your home and you aren’t familiar with a plumbing dye test, you soon will be as it is a required plumbing procedure to sell your home. In other words, you cannot sell a home in the city of Pittsburgh without having a plumbing dye test conducted.

In Pittsburgh, there are two types of sewers, a combined sewer and a sanitary sewer. A combined sewer means both waste water from your inside drains and runoff rainwater from your outside drains end up in the combined sewer. A sanitary sewer designed to only receive waste water from your inside drains – they are not designed for rainwater runoff and as a result will easily overflow which can cause a hazardous situation.

A plumbing dye test is performed by a licensed and certified plumber, this is by no means a DIY home project. The test is designed to find out if your yard drain empties water into the sanitary drain. The plumber will place a temporary dye tablet down an outside drain, such as the downspout. The tablet is then flushed down the drain.

If the water in the sanitary sewer remains clear then you’ve passed the dye test and you’ll receive certification stating the line is properly connected to the combined sewer. Should the water in the sanitary sewer be the dyed color you used, then you’ve failed the test.

A failed dyed test means you cannot sell your home. Before you can sell your home, you need to have the outside drainage line re-located so it is properly connected to the combined sewer. This may be an unforeseen expense, but there is no other way to sell a house in Pittsburgh without an Evidence of Compliance Certificate.

Should your outside water lines fail a dye test, call Gillece and receive a hassle free estimate and procedure, you’ll have your home sold in no time.