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Holiday Safety

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2018 at 11:15 am

The holidays are supposed to be fun and we want them to be safe.

I’ve compiled a holiday safety checklist to get you started and keep you and your family safe. I know most of the list is common sense, but look it over and at least use it as a reminder.

Christmas Trees:

  • Always buy a fresh cut, healthy tree. You can check by looking and feeling. The tree must be green, the bark moist and green, and the needles should bend and not break when you bend them.
  • Run your hand down a branch. If the tree is fresh, some needles will fall off but only a few.
  • Tug on a few needles; they should be difficult to pull off from the branches.
  • Bend a few branches; if they snap off or crack, the tree is too dry and won’t last.
  • When you get the tree home, cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk at an angle so the tree can absorb more water.
  • Set the tree in a sturdy tree stand. Make sure the base or legs are sturdy to keep the tree stable so that it will not tip over, which can pose a danger to children and small pets.
  • The stand should be able to hold a lot of water and the water should be checked and maintained. A six-foot tree requires approximately one-gallon of water every other day.
  • Do not place the tree next to, or close to fireplaces, heaters, radiators, heat registers or candles.
  • Never place the tree in front of a doorway or in the path of any exit source in case of an emergency.
  • If you use, or are planning on buying an artificial tree, make sure it is fire resistant. Don’t take the salesman word for it, check the label.
  • Install a smoke/fire detector as well as an ABC fire extinguisher in the room with the tree.
  • Ribbons and tinsel are a big temptation for small children, cats and dogs. It can wreak havoc in the pet’s intestines or stomach. Small children also love the shiny tinsel and bows on presents and need to be supervised or the tree needs to be barricaded with some type of gate or fencing for safety measures.

Holiday plants:

  • Poinsettias are a common household Christmas plant, but toxic to little ones and pets. The sap from the leaves may cause vomiting and skin irritation. Avoid placing it where pets and children may reach it.
  • Christmas Mistletoe is also a favorite to hang where people can kiss under it. Hanging it high up is best as the berries from this plant are highly toxic for children and pets. Remove the berries for the best safety precautions.

Lights:

  • Only use UL listed labeled lights and cords.
  • Never use electrical lights on a metal tree.
  • Before using any and all holiday lights, inspect all connections and cords. Look for cracked, brittle or frayed wiring or cords.
  • Do not coil or tie extension cords when in use. They could overheat.
  • Inspect all lights for broken or damaged sockets.
  • Make sure the bulbs work and are not loose of missing.
  • Never use indoor extension cords, outdoors.
  • Never lay cords under carpets or across walks or steps.
  • Outdoor light sets should be marked “waterproof”.
  • Never shorten or splice light sets.
  • Make sure all outside lights are plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (G.F.C.I.) outlet.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. If you are trying to use dozens of light sets, plug them into different outlets on different circuits.
  • Turn off, or better yet, unplug all tree lights and decorations when going to bed or leaving the house.

Fireplace:

  • Have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned and inspected to remove creosote.
  • Never use a fireplace without a screen to protect against sparks and ashes.
  • Never use gasoline or barbeque starter fluid to start a fire in a fireplace.
  • Keep all combustibles including, gifts, paper, furniture and holiday stockings away the fireplace and mantle when using a fire.
  • Install a smoke and carbon monoxide detector in a room with a fireplace.
  • Burn only clean, dry firewood.

Candles:

  • Never put lit candles in windows.
  • Never put candles within reach of small children.
  • Do not leave a room with candles burning.
  • Do not use candles in children’s rooms or on Christmas trees.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

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Preparing Your Home From Heat Loss

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2018 at 11:40 am

If your chimney flue has not been cleaned recently and you use the fireplace weekly, have it cleaned to prevent a chimney fire. Also, examine the firebox for loose or crumbling bricks. Make any necessary repairs using fire clay, which is a heat resistant mortar. Take a look at your chimney from the outside. If ivy or tree limbs are near the top, cut them back. If you have loose or missing bricks, have them repaired or replaced before you use your fireplace.

Most fireplaces built since 1990 have dampers just above the firebox that close off the flue to limit heat loss when it’s not in use. Make sure the damper is not damaged by age or stuck open (or shut) because of fallen debris. Call in a chimney sweep for major problems. They should be able to make a “clean sweep” of anything wrong.

If your house has a crawlspace make sure you’ve closed all the vents. Also, if you have little or no insulation in the crawl, add R30 insulation to the perimeter walls, a vapor barrier (generally 4-6 mil plastic) should be covering the dirt ground of the crawlspace. And finally, insulate all plumbing pipes with insulation or pipe wrap.

Does your house have a whole-house fan in the hall ceiling? Install a plastic vapor barrier on top of it and then cover it with insulation to prevent heat loss. The heat loss through those louvers is considerable. One problem I find when inspecting houses is some families don’t seal the whole-house fan, which causes rotting and mold in the attic to the roof sub-structure. That is not good.

If you total up all the areas around the average house that need caulking and weatherstripping, you’re looking at an equivalent of a three-foot gaping hole in the wall. Weatherstripping consists of those slim strips of rubber, plastic, metal and foam that seal the moving edges of doors, windows and other areas. To stop air leaks, weather stripping has to make a good seal between the door or window and its frame.

Storm windows not only protect the main window from water, winter, rain and snow, they slow heat loss by creating a dead-air space, however, only if they are tight enough to limit air movement. Make sure storms fit snugly all around the window frame, leaving only small weep holes along the bottom edge to allow condensation, rain and moisture vapor to escape. Loose storms are not only ineffective, they promote frost on the indoor window surface.

Pipes, vents, hatches, recessed lights, and cracks that penetrate the upper floor ceilings are easy avenues for heat loss. Even more important, they allow moisture vapor to migrate to the attic, where cooler temperatures cause it to condense into water that saturates insulation and freezes into frost. Close off large penetrations with plywood or wallboard, then seal all joints and cracks with caulk.

If you think you have “bats in the belfry” what do you have up there? You’d better make sure you have good attic ventilation. In an insulated attic, the rafters and roof boards are cold. Any warm, moist air reaching them through the insulation immediately condenses into moisture. The moisture gets trapped and eventually rots the wood. So whenever you add attic insulation, make sure you have good attic ventilation. To see how much insulation and ventilation you need, go to my website at www.technihouse.com and click on “Insulation: Packing It In”.

If a winter storm strikes, close off those rooms that are not absolutely essential. Listen to TV and radio for weather developments. Letting faucets drip a little may prevent freezing damage. If a power failure occurs, turn off most light switches, your furnace switch, and unplug the freezer and refrigerator. The surge of returning electrical power can damage the motors of appliances.

Ask your friends and family to join my blog too!

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Help make AC Run More Efficient / Service Entrance Conductor / Plumbing Soil Stack

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2018 at 11:06 am

Q:

What can I do to help make my air conditioning unit run more efficient?

A:

When it’s air conditioner time, it’s also time to do a little summer maintenance to allow your air conditioning unit to operate at its most efficient level, with the least amount of trouble. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Cut shrubbery away from the compressor, allowing about one foot of clearance.
  • Verify that electrical current at the compressor is off by removing the cartridge fuse or turning off the service safety switch.
  • Use a garden hose, spray off all lint and debris on the fins or louvers on the compressor intake side. This is best done by hosing the unit from the opposite end of the intake or, if possible, inside out.
  • After the unit has been cleaned, replace the cartridge fuse or safety switch to the “on” position.
  • Indoors, change the furnace filter (a dirty filter restricts air flow) and oil the furnace motor, if it requires periodic oiling.
  • Turn off, drain and clean the humidifier because leaving it filled with water will reduce the efficiency of the air conditioner. Besides cooling, air conditioners also dehumidify the air. If you don’t drain the humidifier, the reservoir of water will add humidity and reduce efficiency.
  • If your system has a condensate pump, clean it and make sure it is operating properly by pouring water into the condensate pump pan until it operates. If you have a condensate drain tube leading to a floor drain or sump, secure it properly to eliminate moisture leaking on the basement floor. Before securing it, remove the tube or hose and blow through it to verify that it is unobstructed.

You’re no fool, if you stay cool and don’t skip school. (Just felt like throwing that in.)

Q:

Should I be afraid that the electrical wiring coming into my house is frayed?

A:

Very, very frequently I find that the service entrance conductor is frayed and bare wires are exposed in homes that I’m inspecting. The service entrance conductor is the cable on the exterior that brings power to your house. It originates at the pole belonging to the utility company. The energy company is responsible for this service drop (the cable from the pole to the house.)

Shocking, as it may seem, it is your responsibility to repair or replace the frayed electrical service conductor, while the utility company maintains the meter and the service drop from the pole to the service head.

Often, a lightly frayed cable can be taped with electrical tape. If it is too badly worn, it must be replaced. In either case a licensed electrician should do this job. You’re dealing with 220-volts, which can add more than just a permanent perm to your hair. We’re talking about electrocution, so hire an electrician.

Q:

What is a plumbing soil stack?

A:

What do blood pressure, taxes and a plumbing stack all have in common? They all go through the roof, but only the last one is suppose to. It’s called a soil stack or stack vent.

It takes methane gas and sewer gas from the plumbing system and safely vents it up and through the roof where it is diluted into the atmosphere.

Periodically, it can become plugged or the upper floor plumbing fixtures become obstructed at a main. In those instances, run an auger or long snake down from the vent till the obstruction is removed. Then flush it clear using a garden hose with the water turned on.

The boot or collar often dries out and cracks. Leaks can develop and rot the roof boards and ceiling below. You can tar around this pipe, but the tar also dries out. For fewer than ten dollars you can buy a stack sleeve that easily slides down the vent hugging it, while eliminating further leaks.

 

 

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