What is Shortening in Baking?

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Cubes of shortening

What is Shortening?

While technically shortening is any fat that is solid at room temperature, “shortening” typically refers specifically to hydrogenated vegetable oils. Shortening gets its name from the effect it has on gluten production; the fats shorten gluten strands, making baked goods tender and flaky.

How Shortening is Made

Vegetable shortening is made via a hydrogenation process. An extra hydrogen atom is added to vegetable oils which creates a solid fat.

cupcakes with pink frosting

Why Shortening is Great for Baking

Because shortening is 100% fat (butter is only 80% fat) it typically produces the most tender and crumbly results. Shortening can be melted or softened and creamed into a dough or batter (think cake or cookies). It can also be kept solid and cut into mixtures like pie crust for flaky results. It has a higher melting point than butter and doesn’t require refrigeration; this is great news for cake decorators who want frosting to hold up in warmer temperatures.

butter on dish with knife

Shortening Substitutes

Vegetable shortening can be replaced by just about any other solid fat. Each option, however, will slightly affect the taste and texture of baked goods. Butter adds delicious flavor to pastries and other baked goods. However,  if mixtures become too warm the water in butter can toughen the gluten in your batter or dough. Lard is another great substitution option but may add unwanted flavor.

Shortening and Temperature

When baking pastries, it’s typically best to keep shortening at room temperature (68-72°F).  For home bakers, this often means finding ways to keep shortening cool; ovens can heat up a kitchen significantly during the baking process. For commercial bakers who use large, unheated storage rooms or who need to soften large amounts of shortening, a heating option might be required.

Powerblanket Hot Boxes

Powerblanket Hot Boxes can be a great addition to your commercial baking equipment. Whether you need to keep shortening from getting too cold in storage or soften a large quantity, hot boxes allow you to uniformly heat your bulk materials. They are installed quickly and effortlessly and are easy to remove and store. Call us today at 888.316.6324 for more info.

Checklist for Winterizing Your RV

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or brand-new RV adventurer, you likely take time to make sure your mobile vacation home is in tip-top shape.  During winter months, this means properly winterizing your RV (including winterizing RV water lines) to prevent thousands of dollars in damages. Even if you’re opting out of season-long storage and taking your RV on cold-weather adventures, it’s important to keep your RV properly protected against freezing temperatures while it’s not hooked up. The following RV winterizing checklist will keep your RV stored safely or running smoothly through the winter so it will be ready for fun summer adventures!

Before you begin winterizing your RV, make sure you have the following items:

  • If you haven’t already installed one, a water heater by-pass kit.
  • A holding tank cleaning wand.
  • A water pump converter kit.

RV Antifreeze

  • Non-toxic RV antifreeze. The amount will vary depending on the length of your plumbing lines, but 2-3 gallons will typically get the job done.
  • Wrench to remove drain plugs.

The following steps should apply to most RV makes and models; however, consult your user manual before winterizing to familiarize yourself with any specific requirements your RV has.

Click here for a printable version of this checklist!

Step 1: Draining Your RV

  • Remove and bypass any inline water filters.
  • Drain fresh water, black and gray holding tanks.
  • Flush black and gray holding tanks with built in flushing system or use a cleaning wand. Lubricate termination valves with WD 40.
  • Drain water heater by removing the drain plug and opening the pressure relief valve. NEVER drain water heater when it’s hot or pressurized.
  • Open all hot and cold faucets (don’t forget outside shower and toilet valve!)
  • Open low point drain lines (there will be one for both  hot and cold water lines.) You can use a water pump to help move water out– turn it off as soon as the system is drained.
  • Close all faucets and recap all drains.

RV in Snow

Step 2: Winterizing RV Water Lines with Antifreeze

  • Bypass the water heater. (If a bypass kit is not installed, the water heater will fill up with antifreeze before it goes through the water lines; this wastes 6 gallons of antifreeze!)
  • Install a water pump converter kit or disconnect the inlet side of the water pump (the line coming from the fresh water holding tank) . Connect tubing from the water pump inlet into a  1 gallon container of antifreeze.
  • Turn on the water pump and allow system to pressurize. Starting with the closest faucet, gradually open hot and then cold valves until antifreeze trickles out. Replace the antifreeze jug as required. Repeat this step on all faucets from the closest to the farthest away (including the outside shower, if applicable).
  • Flush the toilet until antifreeze appears in the bowl.
  • Turn off the water pump and open a faucet to depressurize.
  • Pour a cupful of antifreeze down each drain and a couple of cups in the toilet bowl and flush into the holding tank.

Step 3: Preparing for Storage

  • Make sure any electric heating elements are turned off. This will protect the heater if the unit is plugged in while being stored.
  • Double check that all faucets are closed.
  • If your unit contains a washing machine and/or ice maker, consult your user manual for winterizing specifics.

RV on road in front of snowy mountain

Winter RVing

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to be familiar with proper winterization steps, even if you plan on using your RV through the winter. Longtime RVers recommend traveling with water lines winterized when temperatures will be below freezing and using jugs of water for cooking, drinking, and showering. If temperatures won’t be too extreme, you can bypass full-on winterizing and add about a quart of RV antifreeze to black and grey holding tanks.

Winter RVing with Propane

propane tank cylinder heated blankets

If your RV relies on propane tanks for heat, winter weather poses a special challenge. Cold temperatures will affect your tank pressure and cause you to go through propane fairly quickly. This means you should either camp close to a propane refill station or bring extra tanks with you. Alternatively, you can utilize a safe tank heating option such as PBL30 from Powerblanket. This saves significant time and resources by keeping your propane tank functioning at optimal pressure and minimizing refills.

 

Using Propane for Cabins

Snowy cabin in the woods

Propane for Cabins

For remote cabin dwellers, finding a dependable energy source can be tricky. Electric service can be unreliable and generators lack the necessary power to keep lights, heaters, ovens, etc. running at the same time.

 

Enter propane.

 

Using propane for cabins or remote homes is safe (for you and the environment)and convenient! While some folks choose to use propane as an energy backup, others have successfully used it to live 100% off the grid.

 

Safe

Some people may be wary about using propane due to safety concerns. However, as with any other power source, it’s perfectly safe so long as it’s used properly. For propane, this means propane tank storage should be outside and using propane appliances that ventilate to outside the cabin/home. Furthermore, it’s recommended that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in living spaces that use propane for power or heat.

Tea Kettle on gas stove

Convenient

A single propane tank can effectively power everything you need for comfortable living at the cabin. It can power any home appliance or other accessories as long as the appliance is designed for propane. Propane-powered appliances include ovens, stovetops, refrigerators, freezers, clothes dryers, central heating, water heaters, outdoor grills, room heaters,  generators, and more.

How Long Does a Propane Tank Last?

propane graphic
Figuring out how long a propane tank will last is pretty simple; you just need to know how many pounds or gallons of gas are in your full tank and the BTU/hr requirement of your appliance(s).

 

For example, 20 pounds of propane could keep a stovetop burner with a BTU of 7000/hr going on full blast for 62 hours. (20 x 21,810 BTUs=436,200 BTUs, 436,200 BTUs ÷ 7000 BTUs/hr= 62.3 hr)

 

It’s recommended that you use a commercial propane tank (100 lb or more) if you plan on heating and/or using multiple appliances powered by propane over an extended amount of time. Larger propane tanks will run more smoothly during temperature changes and will minimize propane tank refills, making things much easier for you.

 

Does propane have a freezing point?

If you’re planning on using propane as an energy source during cold winter months, this question may have crossed your mind.

 

Propane can freeze… at -306.4°F.

 

So, it’s not really something you need to worry about. You do, however, need to worry about propane’s boiling point, -43.6°F. Under this temperature, propane will stop evaporating, which means your propane tank will completely stop working. Even when cold temperatures aren’t quite that extreme, propane tanks might struggle to keep up (this is especially true with smaller tanks). Cold weather will affect the pressure of propane tanks, causing you to go through propane quickly or for your tank to become faulty. When it’s cold outside, it’s smart to keep the snow from accumulating on top of exposed propane tanks and allowing the sun to help warm them.

Propane Tank Heaters

When using propane for cabins, tank heaters are a reliable option for keeping your propane tank operating smoothly. Powerblanket offers top of the line, maintenance free gas cylinder heaters that will keep your tank running efficiently, even when ambient temperatures are less than ideal.

Powerblanket propane tank heater

If you’re looking for an effective solution to warming your cabin’s propane tanks, we recommend you check out the PBL 420, PBL 500, or PBL1k 1000. These products from the Powerblanket Lite line feature a less expensive price tag without losing much performance. Call us today at 888.316.6324 for more info. We’d love to help answer any questions you have and help you find the perfect heating solution!

Tips for Winter RVing

Winter RV Guide by Powerblanket

Winter RVing

When it comes to RV adventures, traveling during the winter time means a slightly different approach to RV maintenance. If you want to adventure smoothly and comfortably, it’s important to familiarize yourself with cold-weather traveling tips. We asked some of our favorite RV bloggers and have gathered some great tips for winter-weather journeys!

Winter RVing Must-Haves

Before embarking on your winter RV trip, make sure you have the right supplies! Robert and Jessica from “Exploring the Local Life” suggest the following:

  • A dehumidifier– Winter-time humidity can cause some serious mold problems in your RV. Utilizing a dehumidifier can keep the mold at bay and your RV air fresh and clean.
  • Tank heater– Frozen water tanks are no fun to deal with. No one wants to spend hours defrosting with a blow dryer. Use tank heaters to prevent this hassle and keep your tanks running smoothly.
  • Skirting– skirting keeps the important pipes and lines of your RV insulated during cold temperatures.
  • Heat tape and insulation– You can use this to insulate pipes. This is an important step to take to prevent leaks or burst pipes.
  • Heated hose- when temperatures get cold enough, there’s no keeping your hose from freezing. Investing in a heated hose is a necessity for hooking up to water during the winter.
  • Snow shovel- Keep the walkways around your mobile vacation sanctuary safe with a quality snow shovel.
  • Portable heater– heaters included in your RV are often not super effective. A lot of the heat escapes outside through the venting system. Using a small portable heater will use your resources much more effectively and keep you nice and warm.
  • Ice scraper- keep windows and other surfaces ice-free with a quality ice scraper.
  • Winter wiper fluid- This is an important supply to have on hand for safe wintertime driving.
  • Warm boots and clothes- this one may go without saying, but dressing warmly is an important part of staying safe and healthy during your cold weather travels.

Prepping your RV for Winter Travel

RV on snowy road with snow falling

RV travel can happen year-round as long as you properly prepare your vehicle. Jason and Nikki Wynn from “Gone with the Wynns” follow these steps when preparing their RV for cold-weather adventures.

  • Insulate hatch vents- Your hatch vent is an often overlooked place where cold air can leak in.
  • Insulate windows at night– When you don’t need/want to let sunlight in, you can insulate your RV windows to trap in extra heat.
  • Have tire chains ready- In some areas, it’s a legal requirement to have tire chains available on board when traveling with an RV during the winter. Either way, having some handy will give you extra peace of mind during your winter travels.
  • Insulate pipes– As mentioned earlier, this will help prevent costly leaks and bursts. No one wants to deal with a faulty water system during an RV trip.
  • Add skirting- Again, as mentioned earlier, this will keep pipes and lines safe and working smoothly.
  • Use winterized diesel or diesel additive– Using this will help keep your engine running smoothly, no matter how cold it gets.
  • Keep a window cracked to prevent condensation– besides using a dehumidifier, you can also crack a window to keep humidity out and mold from growing in your RV.

Budget-Friendly Winter RVing

Jason and Nikki also provide an option for low-budget winter RVing. Instead of insulating and heating all your water lines, you can completely winterize your RV (shut off the water, flush with antifreeze) and travel with jugs of water to use for drinking and cooking. When it comes to using the restroom or showering, you can use campsite bathrooms.

Tips for Staying Extra Warm

wall heater with glowing filament inside

Mark and Emily Fagan from “Roads Less Traveled” give the following ideas for keeping extra warm on cold days:

  • Exercise- Doing a few jumping jacks, push-ups, or sit-ups in your RV will get your blood pumping and help warm you up during cold weather.
  • Use your oven– Turning on your oven and baking will add some extra heat to your RV. This means you’ll get to enjoy some delicious baked goods as well as warmer temperatures!
  • Face doors and large windows towards the sun– Making a conscious effort to position your RV in a way that will let in the most sunlight is a small thing you can do that will make a big difference in your RV’s temperature.
  • Shrink wrap your screen door- You can buy window-wrapping kits to use on your screen door This will allow you to let in quite a bit of sunlight without the cold outdoor temperatures.

Warm Weather Winter-time Locations

Heath and Alyssa Padgett from “Heath and Alyssa” aren’t huge fans of RVing in cold weather. They recommend the following locations for wintertime camping if you want to avoid winter weather.

  • Slab City, California
  • Santa Cruz, California
  • Palm Springs, California
  • Quartzsite, Arizona
  • Fredericksburg, Texas
  • Florida Keys, Florida

Propane Tanks and Cold Weather

propane tank cylinders wrapped in powerblanket electric blanket heaters

Because propane tanks are a popular fuel source among RV-ers, it’s important to consider how you’ll keep propane running smoothly when temperatures are cold. As temperatures go down, so does the pressure in your propane tank. This means you’ll have to fill your tank more frequently to keep the pressure up (read more about propane tank pressure and temperature here) Ron and Tabetha Berry from “Extreme RVing” recommend using Powerblanket Propane Tank Heaters to keep pressure up and to save significant money on tank refills.

When spending some time in Massachusetts during the dead of winter, the Berrys noticed that while they were using only one 30lb tank of propane each week with propane tank heaters, other campers were going through 100lb tanks in the same time period.

Additionally, Ron and Tabetha recommend using a dehumidifier when using propane tank in more humid environments. This is because propane creates a “wet” heat that will increase moisture in your RV.

What do you think of these winter RVing tips? Do you have any of your own to add? Let us know in the comments!

Check out our contributors’ blogs for more great RV tips:

http://www.exploringthelocallife.com

https://www.gonewiththewynns.com

https://roadslesstraveled.us

https://heathandalyssa.com

http://www.extremerving.com/

Tips for Pouring Concrete in Winter

When it comes to pouring concrete in winter, weather can pose significant challenges. Concrete sets best at 50-60°F; pouring concrete in winter means the ambient temperature will likely fall well below this range. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to effectively tackle cold weather concrete curing.

snow covered street

Concrete Pouring Temperature Limits

As mentioned above, concrete prefers a mild temperature between around 50 and 60°F to set. Below this, the exothermic reactions that cause wet cement to transform into strong concrete will slow significantly. This could mean long delays in work while you wait for concrete to set and strengthen before continuing with a project. Additionally, If concrete reaches freezing temperatures during the setting process, the water in the cement mix will freeze and expand. This will cause concrete to become weak, brittle and even flaky when it sets.

 

Successfully Pouring Concrete in Winter

Construction site

Fortunately, strategies can be implemented to increase the temperature of cement mixtures. Here are some tricks you can use to keep the cement flowing all winter long:

  • Use heaters or heated blankets to thaw surfaces where concrete will be poured. Pouring concrete on frozen ground will quickly cool concrete well below ideal temperatures. Using a heater to prep surfaces will prevent too-quick cooling or freezing and help keep the necessary reactions going.
  • Mix cement using hot water to help increase the temperature of the concrete.
  • Store materials in a warm location.
  • Use quick-set cement; during cold weather. It may set more slowly than the instructions indicate, but will still harden more quickly than traditional cement mix.
  • Mix in additives that accelerate set time.
  • Use extra cement (typically 100 lb/ cubic yard) to make the reaction hotter and cause concrete to hydrate more rapidly.
  • Utilize squeegees or a vacuum to remove bleed water that has a difficult time evaporating during colder weather.

Cold Weather Concrete Curing

After the concrete has been poured, it needs to be kept at the correct temperature to cure. Most importantly, it needs to be kept from freezing. Ideal temperatures (50-60°F) should be maintained for about 48 hours for the concrete to reach optimal strength as it sets. This can be tricky during the winter; even if temperatures are optimal during the day, they can plummet at nighttime. Maintaining warmer temperature will require some sort of external heat source. One option is a heated enclosure. These are effective but can be time-consuming to install. If you choose to use an enclosure, be aware that excess carbon dioxide from the heater can cause bubbling in the surface of concrete. This can typically be avoided with proper ventilation.

Concrete Blankets

Another option for temperature maintenance during cold weather concrete setting is concrete blankets. Concrete blankets can be used to thaw ground before pouring concrete and again after finishing to keep concrete from freezing. They are easy to install and transport and require only an outlet to use. This means no time wasted setting up complex heating mechanisms. If you’re interested in minimizing downtime involved pouring concrete in winter, these blankets are an excellent heating option to look into.

Chemical Storage: How to Store Chemicals Safely

If you work with chemicals, you’re probably well aware of the hazards associated with their use. You’re likely familiar with how to safely work with chemicals, but how should chemicals be stored? Chemical storage is an important part of safe chemical handling. Knowing how to store chemicals safely will help protect the environment and employees who work in areas where chemicals are contained and used.

Warehouse full of tote and drum containers

Safe Chemical Storage Begins With Building Safety

Ensuring your building is properly equipped against potential dangers can help prevent serious damage. The following are some guidelines to help protect against fires, fumes, and other risk associated with chemical storage:

  • Buildings should be constructed and furnished with non-combustible materials.
  • Ensure your building is constructed where there isn’t a high risk of flooding.
  • Allow only authorized personnel into chemical storage facilities.
  • Install and regularly check fire and smoke detectors.
  • Ensure your building has enough exits and clear escape routes in case of a fire or other disaster.
  • It should be easy for any emergency responders to access the building in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure the building is properly ventilated to prevent the build up of hazardous fumes.
  • Provide proper lighting in your building so all chemical labels can be clearly read.
  • Have adequate air conditioning and/or heating to prevent any temperature extremes that could damage containers or product and lead to leaks or fires. Correct storage temperatures for each chemical can be found on the SDS (safety data sheet) provided by the manufacturer.
  • Make sure your building provides enough space for safe chemical storage. There should be an area designated where chemicals can be stored and/or transferred from one container to another. This area should be separate and a safe distance from any other work areas.

Labeling Storage Containers

It’s crucial that personnel who handle or work near chemicals be familiar with the risks they pose. All chemical containers should clearly indicate any hazards with appropriate safety signs.

OSHA Hazard pictograms

 https://www.osha.gov/Publications/HazComm_QuickCard_Pictogram.html

 

Protecting Against Leaks and Spills

Knowing how to prevent leaks and spills and how to properly deal with them can prevent more serious accidents from occurring.

  • Have proper absorbents on hand in case of spills or leaks.
  • Place drip pans under drum faucets and any leaks.
  • Make sure shelves are securely installed and do not exceed the maximum load on any storage racks or shelves.
  • Have larger containers available to contain damaged or leaking chemical packaging. Make sure your secondary storage has equal or greater structural integrity than the package being stored. Damaged packages should them be shipped for repackaging or disposal.

 

Chemical Temperature Control

Optimum temperature illustration for storing chemicals

As mentioned above, storing at proper temperatures is an important part of chemical safety. Correct temperatures will help prevent fires and container damage and leaks. Additionally, proper temperatures help chemicals perform correctly. Chemical Heating Systems provide temperature control for chemical storage without creating hot spots. They can be used in a wide range of environments and are UL/CSA certified. If you’re looking to increase the safety and efficiency of your chemical storage, Powerblanket products might be just what you need!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Melt Snow Without Salt: Snow Melt Alternatives

Man in yellow coat pouring salt on snowy road

Harsh salts damage concrete and the environment. Fortunately, there are several all-natural snow melt alternatives you can use this winter.

Every winter, especially after a few good snow storms, we tend to ask ourselves those life changing questions: How do I melt the snow without shoveling? How do I melt the snow without salt? Are there any realistic alternatives to shoveling and that annoying salt? Well, here are your answers. While snow and ice melting salt is an easy way to eliminate dangerously slippery surfaces, it poses notable risks. First, snow melt can be significantly detrimental to concrete. The harsh salts break chemical bonds that keep concrete strong. This means damaged concrete surfaces that will require costly repair and replacement much earlier. Next, snow and ice melting salts can be dangerous to pets or young children. When ingested, the salts can cause painful stomach distress. Additionally, snow melt can dry out and crack your pets’ paws, putting them at risk for infection. Lastly, snow melt can cause serious damage to your yard and landscaping and the environment. As snow melts, the runoff containing harsh salts can kill grass and other plants. The salts are also likely to run off into your local water system, which can compromise water quality. 

Snow Melt Alternatives

man in warm clothes shoveling snow next to building

Shovel!

A relatively simple way to eliminate ice is to shovel snow before it has a chance to ice over. Don’t let snow accumulate more than a couple of inches before shoveling and shovel while the snow is still light and fresh.

Enviro-blend ice melter

Organic, Salt-Free De-Icer

This option is a more expensive alternative to traditional snow melt. However, it offers all the same convenience without the damaging risks.

Greenway Biotech Urea for Melting Snow

Urea

Urea is a natural substance traditionally used as fertilizer. It’s safer for pets and less corrosive than salt. However, it’s important to note that the high concentration of nitrogen in urea can damage plants and cause algae overgrowth in local ponds and lakes.

 

Dr. Earth Alfalfa Meal alternative for melting snow

Alfalfa Meal

Like Urea, Alfalfa meal is commonly used as fertilizer. It contains nitrogen, but not enough to risk harm to plants or your local water system. Alfalfa meal has a dry, grainy texture that can provide traction while it goes to work melting snow and ice.

beet juice alternative for melting snow

Beet Juice

Beet juice works by lowering the melting point of ice and snow. Because it’s a liquid, it requires no cleanup. It’s 100% natural and poses absolutely no risk to concrete, pets, or the environment. Additionally, Beet juice is one of few ice melting options that works even in sub-zero temperatures.  

play sand as alternative for melting snow

Sand

Sand is an inexpensive and safe option that provides excellent traction. It also absorbs heat from the sun which will help slowly melt icy surfaces.

 

electric snow melting mat summerstep mat

Snow Melting Mats

How do you melt snow without shoveling? Snow melting mats are perhaps the most effective and easiest to use snow melt alternative. They eliminate the need for labor-intensive shoveling and provide peace of mind all winter long. All you have to do is plug them in! Summerstep Snow Melting Mats come in both residential and commercial options and can be linked together to fit any size or shape of steps or walkways.

 

How to Shovel Snow: Tips and Techniques

Little Boy in Warm Clothes Shoveling SnowIf you’ve spent even a few minutes behind a snow shovel, you know how exhausting and labor intensive removing snow can be. According to Harvard Medical School’s “Calories Burned…” chart, shoveling snow burns approximately 223 calories every 30 minutes (for a person weighing 155 lbs). That’s a serious workout! However, while shoveling snow can be an effective way to engage in healthy exercise, it can also lead to serious injury if it’s not approached carefully.  Between 1990 and 2006, approximately 195,000 people in the U.S. were treated in a hospital emergency room because of injuries acquired during snow shoveling. To help prevent any injuries, serious or minor, we’ve compiled the following “how-to” guide with plenty of shoveling tips and techniques:

Before Shoveling Snow:

  • Consider health risks. If you suffer from a heart condition, a bad back, or are out of shape, shoveling snow can be dangerous. Consider alternatives such as borrowing a snow blower or hiring a neighborhood teenager to shovel for you.
  • Wear proper footwear. You should wear shoes that will keep your feet warm and dry and with adequate traction that will help prevent any slips or falls.
  • Dress in layers. After a few minutes of shoveling, you’ll likely work up quite the sweat! Dress in layers that don’t restrict movement and will keep you warm, but can easily be removed as needed.
  • Stretch. Warming up your muscles, especially arms, legs, and back, will reduce the risk of injury.
  • Make sure you have a good shovel. An ergonomically designed snow shovel can greatly reduce strain on arms, legs, and back as you work. (Check out this list we compiled of top rated snow shovels)

Getting to Work!

  • Shovel early. Don’t let snow ice over before shoveling. This creates dangerous, slippery surfaces and significantly more work. Salt can be used to help break up ice, but causes damage to driveways and walkways.  
  • Shovel frequently. Don’t let snow accumulate more than a couple of inches before shoveling. It’s safer and much more effective to shovel small amounts more frequently through the day rather than a large amount all at once.
  • Clear deep snow a bit at a time. If you do find yourself facing deep snow, clear away just a couple of inches at a time. This will prevent overexertion and bodily strain.
  • Push. It’s far more effective to spend more time pushing than lifting. Use your shovel to push snow to the edge of your driveway or walkway then lift to designated snow pile.
  • Mind your posture. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees (not back!) when lifting.
  • Take breaks and drink water. As mentioned earlier, shoveling snow is hard physical labor! Never hesitate to take breaks as needed and drink plenty of water to replenish fluids.

Summerstep Snow Melting Mats

Summerstep Snow Melting Mat on Snow Covered Porch

An effective alternative to shoveling doorways and walkways is the Summerstep Snow Melting Mat. These Heated mats are designed to be left outside all winter long, can be custom made to fit any location, and will melt approximately 2 inches of snow per hour while operating. It eliminates time-consuming shoveling and de-icing and prevents slips that could cause serious injury and even a lawsuit. To save time and hassle, and for added peace of mind, consider making Summerstep heated mats a part of your winter safety precautions.

Why Does Honey Crystallize?

Honey comb

It may seem intuitive to assume that crystallized honey is spoiled or poor quality, but this isn’t the case at all. Crystallization happens naturally over time to pure, raw honey and actually helps preserve the nutrients and quality. Additionally, you may find that crystallized honey is easier to spread and richer in flavor.

The Chemistry of Honey Crystals

The “why” behind the crystallization of honey is simple chemistry. Usually, honey contains at least 70% carbohydrates and less than 20% water. This is more sugar than can naturally remain dissolved and over time, crystals begin to form. Some honey crystals are fine and smooth while others are large and gritty. This is largely due to the proportion of the two main types of sugars found in honey, fructose and glucose. While fructose tends to remain dissolved, glucose has a much lower solubility. The higher proportion of glucose honey contains, the more quickly it will crystalize. More rapidly crystallized honey contains finer, smoother crystals. In fact, creamed honey is honey that has been crystallized so rapidly, that the minuscule crystals create a smooth, creamy texture.

Can you de-crystallize honey?

liquid honey

Yes! Honey can easily be de-crystallized in small batches through simple heating. Remember, however, that in order to preserve the natural nutrients found in honey, overly hot temperatures should be avoided.

 

You can easily de-crystallize honey on a stovetop using the following steps:

 

  1. Make sure your honey is in a glass jar or jars (not plastic). Fill a pot with water that comes to ½ to ⅔ up the sides of the jars.
  2. Place honey jars (sans lids) in pot and bring water to a hot but not boiling temperature.
  3. Gently stir honey every few minutes to help break up crystals. Be careful not to splash any hot water into honey jars.
  4. Remove jars from heat when honey is once again smooth and runny.
  5. Tightly seal jars and store in a cool, dry place.

 

How to Keep Honey From Crystallizing

de-crystalizing honey

Remember, crystallized honey happens naturally over time. Some steps, however, can be taken to minimize or delay crystallization.

  • Maintain steady heat (104°-140°F) during honey bottling.
  • Provide a quick, mild heat treatment (140°-160°F) to dissolve any crystals and expel air bubbles that could initiate crystallization.
  • Store honey in proper containers. Air-tight, water safe stainless steel drums are recommended.
  • Store honey in a cool (50°-70°F), dry location. Storage temperatures above 70°F will compromise the quality and nutrients of the honey over time. Refrigerated storage will quickly crystallize honey and should be avoided.

 

Honey Heating Blankets

Powerblanket Bee Blanket

An effective solution to minimizing crystallization during the honey manufacturing process is utilizing a heating blanket.  The Powerblanket Bee Blanket is ideal because it keeps honey at hive temperatures and prevents loss of nutrients or burning from overheating. If you’re in the business of honey, consider adding a Bee Blanket or other method of temperature control to your manufacturing process. While crystallization can’t necessarily be avoided, a Bee Blanket can help keep your honey at the ideal, smooth viscosity.

Concrete Curing Time

concrete pouring down the chute

Waiting for the curing of concrete can easily test patience, especially when you’re ready to move on to the next step of a project. However, it’s important to remember that quality is the end goal, not quickness. Rushing ahead and not allowing enough time for concrete to properly cure before allowing foot traffic or heavy machinery to travel across your newly placed cement can seriously compromise the integrity of a concrete slab.

 

Cement Curing Factors

Several factors influence concrete slab cure time, including:

  • Mixture proportions- Increasing cement to water ratio will decrease setting time but may compromise long-term strength.
  • Type of mix used- Some fast curing concrete mixes and add-ins  are available
  • Specified strength
  • Size and shape of slab
  • Ambient weather/temperature- Higher temperatures decrease initial concrete setting time, but may decrease long-term strength.

 

Typical Concrete Setting Time

Typically, concrete is recognized to have reached full strength 28 days after placement; however, this does not mean you need to wait 28 days to walk, or even continue construction on newly placed concrete. After placement, concrete increases in strength very quickly for 3-7 days, then gradually for the next 3 weeks. This means that concrete hardening time is typically 24-48 hours, at which point it’s safe for normal foot traffic. After one week, concrete is typically cured enough to handle continued construction including heavy machinery.

concrete curing time

The “70 in 7” Rule

When in doubt, remember the “70 in 7” rule: Most concrete mixes will have reached 70% of specified compressive strength after 7 days. At this point, it’s ready for exposure to normal traffic.

concrete curing blanket on ground

Concrete Curing Blankets

Unfortunately, cold weather during winter months can seriously slow down concrete cure time and significantly hold up construction projects. The best temperature to cure concrete is above 5o°F, which can be difficult to replicate if the air is below freezing.

Luckily, solutions, such as concrete curing blankets that maintain optimum temperatures during cure time, are available. Concrete Blankets are an effective option that cure concrete 2.8 times faster than a typical insulated blanket and properly maintain moisture throughout the hydrating process. Concrete Blankets are easily transported and installed and maintain ACI compliance for cold-weather concreting. If you’re looking for a solution to maintaining optimum concrete cure time during cold winter, using a Concrete Blanket is the best method for drying and curing concrete.

Best Snow Shovels

With so many snow removal products on the market, it can be difficult to decide which will best get the job done. In preparation for upcoming winter weather, we’ve compiled a list of the best available snow shovels based on ease of use, durability, and effectiveness. We hope this will help you decide which option will best meet your needs!

GARANT POLY SNOW SLED EPSS24U

1. Garant: Poly Snow Sled, EPSS24U
$57.99, ebay

The Garant Poly snow sled features an easy-to-push, light-weight design and deep sides that allow for the easy removal of large amounts of snow. Once full, loads of snow can be easily transported by tilting up the shovel and pushing to the desired destination. Users praise this shovel for it’s easy to use design that significantly reduces strain on arms, shoulders, and back.

The Snowplow Poly Snow Pusher

2. The Snowplow Poly Snow Pusher, 48″
$64.99, acme tools

Above all, users love the Snowplow Poly Snow Pusher for its high-quality, durable construction. This shovel will hold up against even the heaviest, wettest snowfall– no bending or breaking! While not ideal for lifting snow, It’s perfect for pushing snow to the edges of driveways and other large surfaces without leaving damage. Because this shovel is so wide, it may quickly become heavy as it’s filled with snow.

Aerocart Snow Plow

3. Aerocart Snow Plow
$38.81, the home depot

Like the first two shovels listed, the Aerocart Snow Plow is designed for “pushing” snow rather than shoveling and lifting. Like other shovels, the push design saves shoulders and backs from excessive strain. This snow plow features an easy to assemble design. Because the sides of this shovel are open (no “wall” on the edge) snow begins to fall out once it becomes full, making it best for use during lighter snow falls.

Ames True Temper 1603400 Mountain Mover Snow Shovel

4. Ames True Temper 1603400 Mountain Mover Snow Shovels, Combo-Ergonomic, 18 Inch Blade
$31.67, plumbersstock.com

This smaller shovel is designed for shoveling and lifting snow and features an ergonomically curved handle designed to reduce back strain. The Ames True Temper Mountain Mover is lightweight, yet sturdy. The blade of the shovel is reinforced with a sturdy strip rather than metal; this prevents damage a metal strip may inflict on cars and other sensitive surfaces.

Ames True Temper 20" Polypropylene Combo Shovel with VersaGrip

5. Ames True Temper 20″ Polypropylene Combo Shovel W/ VersaGrip
$22.75, Global Industrial

The Ames True Temper Polypropylene Combo Shovel is not designed to be lightweight, but is perfect for breaking through ice or packed snow. The edge features a sturdy metal blade. The handle is slightly bent which reduces how far you have to bend over to lift snow.

Snow Shovel Alternative summerstep snow melting mats

Snow Shovel Alternative

An alternative to a snow shovel is the Summerstep Snow Melting Mat. Summerstep heated mats are designed to be left outside all winter long, can be custom made to fit any location, and will melt approximately 2 inches of snow per hour while operating. It eliminates time-consuming shoveling and de-icing and prevents slips that could cause serious injury and even a lawsuit. To save time and hassle, and for added peace of mind, consider making Summerstep heated mats a part of your winter safety precautions.

Stats of Winter-Related Injuries

Cold winter months and the accompanying icy or snowy weather is an especially important time to consider workplace safety precautions. The increased risk of injury due to cold temperatures, ice or snow is indisputable.  According to the CDC, winter weather kills more than twice as many Americans than summer heat. Keeping yourself aware of the increased risk cold weather brings will help as you plan to prevent winter-related injuries and keep yourself and employees safe.

Winter-Related Injuries Involving Vehicles

If you or others are regularly behind the wheel during winter months, consider the increased risk of driving in snowy or icy conditions demonstrated by the following  statistics:

Other Winter-Related Injuries

Furthermore, consider the risk of slips, falls and other injuries that occur during work done in cold, snowy, or icy weather:

  • 1 million Americans are injured due to slip and fall injuries annually. The risk of slip and fall injuries increases dramatically during winter months.
  • Slips and falls are not the main cause of fatal workplace injuries, however, they represent the primary cause of lost days from work.
  • In 2014, there were 42,480 workplace injuries or illnesses from ice, sleet, or snow that required at least one day off of work as a result.
  • From the above injuries, 34,860, or 82 percent, were due to slips or falls on level ground.
  • Between 1990 and 2006, approximately 195,000 people in the U.S. were treated in a hospital emergency room because of injuries acquired during snow shoveling.
  • Approximately 1,301 Americans die from hypothermia annually.

 

If you or your employees are at risk for acquiring winter-related injuries, it’s important to properly plan against them. An effective solution to keeping steps, doorways and walkways safe and ice-free is the Summerstep Snow Melting Mat.   Summerstep heated mats are designed to be left outside all winter long, can be custom made to fit any location, and will melt approximately 2 inches of snow per hour while operating. It eliminates time-consuming shoveling and de-icing and prevents slips that could cause serious injury. To save time and hassle, and for added peace of mind, consider making Summerstep heated mats a part of your winter safety precautions.

The Evolution of Beekeeping

Bees on honeycomb

Ancient Beekeeping

The first evidence of honey collection comes from Spain, at least 15,000 years ago. These honey collectors were not beekeepers, but would collect honey from wild hives. It wasn’t until 10,000 years later, in ancient Egypt, that organized beekeeping was first recorded. It is speculated that beekeepers transported their hives up and down the Nile to follow warm weather and blooming flowers. In ancient Egypt, honey was a luxury that was often included with treasures at burial sites. Unearthed graves have revealed this ancient honey, perfectly preserved.

The popularity of beekeeping spread from Egypt to Greece and Rome. The Roman poet, Virgil, even wrote guides to beekeeping. While the joys of honey were widely enjoyed by humans, ancient beekeeping was deadly to bees involved. Before honey could be harvested, entire colonies were killed. This was because the only way to access the golden nectar was to break the hive open; rather than face a swarm of angry bees, beekeepers would suffocate colonies by holding a piece of burning sulfur to the small opening to the hive.

Hive Developments

In 1770, the book “A Treatise on the Management of Bees”, was written by Englishman Thomas Wildman.  In his book, Wildman provided plans for a beehive that prevented the killing of bees. This hive style is fairly similar to what is popular today. It included a skep with an open top and a woven, removable lid. Wildman also developed hanging frames that provided structure for the bees to deposit honey rather than building a freeform structure. The design further prevented harm to bees by incorporating stacked skeps. This development provided a new space for bees to migrate to after filling one skep. This allowed beekeepers to harvest honey from a filled skep without overly disturbing bees.

In 1851, Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, “the Father of American Beekeeping”, improved upon Thomas Wildman’s design. Langstroth made the crucially innovative discovery that providing only one centimeter of “bee space” between the hanging frames would prevent bees from building small bridges of comb and propolis between the structures. This adjustment in space allowed beekeepers to remove frames without ripping any bee-made forms, which kept bees happier and helped beekeepers better monitor their hives for progress and disease. Additional adjustments Langstroth made to hives included replacing woven skeps with wooden boxes.

In 1863, the Frenchman Charles Dadant discovered that using larger boxes could significantly increase honey production. He noticed that after mating, queen bees were reluctant to move up stacked skeps to lay eggs; they preferred to lay eggs in a single box. By providing a larger box, queen bees would lay more eggs, which meant more workers bees. Dadant’s hive design featured a deeper box that gave the queen plenty of room to lay maximum eggs.

Using Bees for Pollination

It wasn’t until 1750 that the role of bees as pollinators was first recorded. At the turn of the 20th century, American beekeepers began using hives as pollinators, rather than solely as honey producers. In 1930s Denmark, the practice of renting out hives to farmers for aid in pollination began. This practice is widely used today, most notably in California, where 50% of US bees are transported each year ensure almond trees are adequately pollinated.

Beekeeping Today

Beekeeping today most popularly involves Dadant-style hives. However, developments and innovations are providing exciting new options. For example, the Flow Hive, developed by Stuart and Cedar Anderson, allows beekeepers to quickly and efficiently harvest honey from a tap attached to the hive without disturbing bees and without the risk of getting stung. Another example of new technology that simplifies beekeeping is the Powerblanket Beeblanket. After it has been harvested, the Beeblanket keeps honey at hive temperatures so that it won’t lose nutrients or burn. The Beeblanket works on both poly and steel buckets/pails and keeps honey at the proper viscosity without creating crystallization due to overheating. If you are looking for options to simplify or innovate your beekeeping, consider adding these products to beekeeping routine.

Winter Safety Tips

Winter work injuries

In preparation for the winter months, it’s important to consider what measures you will take to exercise proper safety precautions in both your home and commercial or industrial workplace.  During 2014, the United States Department of Labor recorded 42,480 workplace injuries and illnesses involving ice, sleet, or snow that required at least one day away from work to recuperate. Of these reported incidents, 82% resulted from slips or falls on level ground (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Planning and preparing can save you significant money in the long run and prevent serious injuries. We suggest you consider the following winter safety tips as you plan how you will best maintain a safe environment at your home or workplace during cold, snowy, or icy weather.

Home Safety

Before winter months hit, it’s important to check that your home is prepared. Damage from frozen pipes or faulty heating systems can be expensive and even deadly.

  • Check that your home is properly insulated (walls and attic), that you have adequate storm windows, and that windows and doors are caulked.
  • Have your heating systems professionally checked and serviced. It’s important that they are clean, working properly and ventilate to the outside.
  • Make sure you are equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and are familiar with the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Remove tree branches that could become heavy with ice or snow and fall on your home.
  • If possible, shut off outside water valves.
  • To protect exposed pipes, allow a small trickle of water run from connected faucets.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow air to circulate around pipes.
  • Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature day and night and leave it set to no lower than 55°F while away from home for an extended time. The extra cost of heating your home is minuscule in comparison to the expensive cost of damages from frozen or burst pipes.
  • If your home has a fireplace, use a glass or metal screen to prevent sparks or even rollings logs from making their way to flammable carpet or furniture.
  • When using a space heater, follow the three-foot rule- keep any surrounding items at least three feet away from your heater.
  • Before going to bed, make sure any space heaters are turned off and fire embers are fully extinguished.

Workplace Safety

It’s never a good idea to cut corners when it comes to safety during snowy or icy winter months. This is especially true when you have a responsibility for the safety of your employees and patrons. Taking extra time to plan and create a safe work environment will prevent injury and keep your workday running smoothly.

  • If you work at a commercial retail property, it’s important to keep in mind that the last months of the year will likely be some of your busiest. During these periods of larger crowds, it’s more important than ever to keep walkways clear of pallets, boxes, or other items. Remember: safety first!
  • Take extra time to keep floors clean and dry. Any snow that gets tracked into your workplace can quickly create a dangerously slippery surface.
  • Use “wet floor” signs where necessary.
  • Provide adequate lighting in your workplace that will help illuminate any wet or slippery surfaces.
  • Encourage employees to wear slip-resistant footwear.
  • If you are working on a project outdoors, review your work site safety every day. Surfaces can become dangerously slippery overnight.
  • Schedule outside work in shorter increments and break up large projects into smaller tasks.
  • Establish a warm area for employees to take breaks from outside work.
  • Keep track of weather forecasts. The last thing you want is for your employees to be stuck working outside in a terrible snow storm or severely cold temperatures.
  • Ensure that employees wear appropriate clothing for outside work such as a wind resistant coat or jacket, a hat, scarf, mittens, and waterproof boots.
  • Make sure that employees stay dry. Wet clothing loses its ability to insulate and quickly transmits cold temperatures to the body.
  • Be familiar with and watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and get immediate medical attention for any symptoms.
  • Sprinkle icy surfaces with sand to provide traction or salt to melt the ice.

 

Avoid Slip and Fall Accidents

An effective solution to keeping steps, doorways and walkways safe and ice-free is the Summerstep Snow Melting Mat. Summerstep heated mats are designed to be left outside all winter long, can be custom made to fit any location, and will melt approximately 2 inches of snow per hour while operating. It eliminates time-consuming shoveling and de-icing and prevents slips that could cause serious injury and even a lawsuit. To save time and hassle, and for added peace of mind, consider making Summerstep heated mats a part of your winter safety precautions.

Get the Summerstep Winter Safety Guide