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Holiday Safety

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Holiday Safety For The Entire Family

With the holidays fast approaching we sometimes tend to forget those curious, furry, four-legged family members of ours, well except for when buying them a present.

If you are an animal lover like I am, then you know the holiday season is a time to remember our furry friends too.

Those specialty plants we get as gifts or buy ourselves to make our homes look festive for the holiday season can be beautiful, but can also be toxic for our pets. And if you are a pet owner, then you know just how curious dogs and cats can be, especially when introduced to new things being brought into your home.

Mistletoe and Holly are considered to be moderately to severely toxic plants for dogs and cats as well as lilies and daffodils that are extremely harmful, and in some cases fatal if ingested.

Many people have always associated the Poinsettia plant to be extremely toxic, but this is not entirely true. The sap of Poinsettias is considered to be mildly toxic or irritating, and will probably cause nausea or vomiting, but not death. It is always better to err on the side of caution and just keep pets away from this plant.

Let’s not forget the Christmas tree. These are a candy land for our pets. With the dangling ornaments that they can knock off and break cutting their mouths or even ingesting the broken shards. Let’s not forget the tinsel that can also be ingested and get twisted in their intestines. The tree needles contain fir tree oils, which can be mildly toxic to your pets too.

Even more potentially toxic is the water, which nourishes our fresh-cut trees. The standing water can harbor bacteria, molds, or other agents (such as fertilizers) that can cause your pet to become extremely sick with only a few sips.

Always keep in mind that more than one toxic substance can be involved therefore seeking an Animal Poison Control Center consultation and pursuing treatment with a veterinarian are vitally important.

It is also very important to remember that all of the cautions I have just mentioned pertain to small children as well. These plants are toxic to them also.

Holiday safety should always be in the forefront of your mind. I’ve compiled a holiday safety checklist to get you started and keep you and your family safe each and every holiday season. I know most of the list is common sense, but look it over and at least use it as a reminder.

  • Always buy a fresh-cut healthy tree. Check that the needles do not fall off when tugged on or do not break easily if bent in half.
  • When you bring the tree home, cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk at an angle so the tree will absorb more water.
  • Make sure your Christmas tree is secure and not able to fall over if accidently tugged on by a child or pet.
  • Keep your tree well watered so it does not dry out and become a fire hazard.
  • Never place your tree too close to a fireplace or heat vent. This will also cause it to dry out and cause a possible fire.
  • Never place your tree in front of a doorway or any exit source in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms have fresh batteries.
  • Use UL listed lighting made for indoor use when decorating your tree.
  • Make sure to inspect for any broken, loose, missing or damaged sockets of the light set.
  • Never shorten or splice any light set.
  • Never put lit candles in windows, too close to Christmas trees or within the reach of small children.
  • Keep all toxic plants (Poinsettias, Mistletoe, Holly) out of reach from small children and pets.

Since the holiday season is the time of joy and giving, I’d like to make one important suggestion; by giving even a small donation to The Leader Dogs For The Blind (www.leaderdog.org), Michigan Humane Society (www.michiganhumane.org) or Detroit Dog Rescue (www.detroitdogrescue.com) (just to name a few) will help these organizations and the animals they help save, have a better life and a brighter future and will make your heart and holiday a little warmer too!

From my home to yours ~ Have a safe and happy holiday!

Santa & Animals

 

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Fireplace logs ~ Static Electricity in the Home ~ Maintaining an Older Furnace

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Q:

I love my fireplace but would like to know which is better to burn in it, real wood or fake logs?

A:

According to the “Old House Journal”, there was a time when the only answer would have been wood, but they tell us that there’s been a flood of new fireplace fuels for sale in stores and lumberyards. Pre-packaged are among the most common. Made of compressed sawdust soaked in paraffin, these so-called logs are easy to start and generally burn for about three hours. Surprisingly, they give off a tremendous amount of heat. The trouble is that they produce little or no embers and nearly all the heat rises straight up the chimney. As a result of this significant drawback, they recommend package logs, for apartment dwellers or homeowners that only use their fireplaces occasionally or in situations where gathering and storing wood is too burdensome.

According to the “Old House Journal” the price of fake logs compares favorably with the cost of real wood. But because so little of the heat produced actually ends up in the room, fake logs should not be considered as an alternative heat source of energy for heat.

Q:

I have a lot of static electricity in my house and it’s driving me crazy. Is there something I can do to get rid of it?

A:

A shocking problem for you could be the static electricity in your house. Static electricity in the house is usually more of a problem in the winter, when the relative humidity is very low than in the summer when the humidity is high.

You know the expression, “It’s not the heat it’s the humidity”? Well, static electricity is the buildup of an electrical charge brought about by rubbing two dissimilar non-conducting materials together. Moist air is a better conductor than dry air and, as such, helps dissipate the charge before it becomes noticeable.

So it’s a good idea to add a humidifier to your forced air heating system if you have none. Also if you do have a humidifier it may need cleaning and maintaining. Another problem I find with many units is that they are just too small for the square footage that they are trying to humidify. You may need to add a second unit or replace the one you have with a better one or larger model.

Studies have shown that in order to prevent static shock in rooms with carpets of wool, nylon and some other synthetic fibers, the relative humidity should be higher than 30 or 35 percent. Some manufacturers have introduced conducting fibers in the carpet to minimize the problem. One such example is Monsanto’s Ultron line. In the meantime there are products available from grocery stores such as Static Guard that can be sprayed on clothing and furniture that eliminates static cling.

Q:

I have a very old furnace. It still works but I want to know how to keep it maintained properly. Do you have any suggestions?

A:

If you have a very old furnace, it’s important to have it cleaned and inspected annually, because when the heat exchanger cracks or corrodes through, it will leak carbon monoxide into the house. Some people frown on that. In the meantime, you can get more efficiency and save some money if you follow these simple tips:

  1. Check and replace the filters monthly. A dirty filter restricts airflow.
  2. Check the fan belt. If it’s too loose the motor will still turn but it will pull less air through the system.
  3. If the motor requires oiling, keep it oiled.
  4. Add air for combustion from the outside. An excellent product is Equaliz-Air, available by calling them directly 734-462-1033 or visit their website www.equaliz-air.com.
  5. Install a humidifier or make sure the one you have is clean and operating properly. Adding humidity to dry air makes you feel warmer and more comfortable.
  6. Close dampers in duct work to unused rooms.
  7. Close registers in those unused rooms.
  8. Remove obstructions from in front of registers.
  9. Clean out floor registers or better yet have the entire duct system cleaned.
  10. Finally, turn back or dial-down the thermostat when leaving the house or at night.

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Getting Your House Ready For Colder Weather

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2017 at 10:48 am

You are probably thinking, “Where did the time go?” Summer is almost over and the colder weather is just around the corner. You should also start thinking about getting your house ready for the cold weather.

The golf and boating season is short enough as it is. So you don’t want to waste a lot of valuable “thinking time” on what you think needs to be done, I’ve compiled a “short list” to help you along.

I’ve arranged the checklist in segments. Don’t worry, while it seems like a long “to do” list, many steps may not apply to your situation. Other items any not need doing and already are in good condition.

Doing the items required for your situation will actually save you money and add to your comfort.

Finally, before you start the list, don’t worry. I have low expectations of you. I’ve been inspecting houses in our community for over 35 years, so I’ve seen what happens when people forego maintenance and repairs. I’m married. My wife doesn’t listen to me, why should you? But here’s your fall checklist regardless.

Exterior:

Roof and Gutters:

  • Using binoculars, check for damaged, loose, missing shingles and repair if needed.
  • Using those same binoculars, examine the metal flashing around the base of the chimney. If you see gaps, caulk or tar them.
  • Cut back the tree limbs of branches within two to three feet of the roof. The weight of snow and ice on them will drag them down onto the roof, damaging the shingles.
  • Remove ivy from near the top of the chimney and from all wood siding and trim.
  • Clean the gutters.
  • Secure loose gutters.
  • Repair leaking gutter seams.
  • Install soffit vents under overhangs to reduce winter ice dam problems as well as mold in the attic. Go in the attic and pull the insulation away from the vents.
  • Add roof vents. For the most part you’ll need one free, clear foot of attic ventilation for every 150 square feet of attic space. If you have a real good and secure vapor barrier under your existing insulation, you’ll only need 1/300 ration of ventilation.
  • Inspect the chimney, Tuck-point or replace loose, missing bricks.
  • Install a chimney top screening to keep birds, squirrels and raccoons from getting into the house.

Attic:

  • Check for leaks and deterioration.
  • Inspect screens on all vents. Make sure they are not damaged, missing or torn.
  • Add insulation; for Michigan and this part of the country you should have R-60 insulation.
  • Each type and manufacturer of insulation has its own R-value. R-value means the insulation’s resistance to heat and cold. For example: Loose fill fiberglass can have an R-value between 2.9 up to 3.7 per inch. Blanket of roll fiberglass used to be between 3.1 up to 3.7. But, for example, Owen-Corning came out with a fiberglass insulation of R-4, which is used for cathedral ceilings. Most older blown-in fiberglass and cellulose (R-value between 3.1 to 3.7) insulations settle or compact with time. As it settles, it loses some of its R-value.

Exterior Walls:

  • Check for peeling paint and touch-up as needed.
  • Repair or secure any loose vinyl or aluminum siding before it falls off and becomes bent and damaged.
  • Inspect storm windows. Repair or replace as needed.
  • Remove screens and install storm windows.
  • Clean all storm windows. Better to do it while it’s nice outside, rather than when it’s cold and blustery.
  • Replace all broken, cracked windowpanes.
  • Replace glazing compound around glass, where needed. That’s the putty that seals the windowpane in the sash.
  • Install glass block or storm windows on basement windows. Remember that one thin pane of glass is the only thing separating the inside of your house from a 70 to 80 degree temperature difference in the winter.
  • If you have a crawl space, close the vents.
  • Caulk around windows, trim, hose bibs and utility entrances. Caulk wherever two different materials meet.
  • Replace damaged and missing weather-stripping as well as thresholds around all doors to eliminate drafts.

Exterior Miscellaneous:

  • Replace all burned out porch, post or flood light bulbs. Keep in mind it gets dark earlier and they’ll be on longer. Before you put in the new bulbs, wipe some petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the base of the bulb. The petroleum jelly prevents the bulb from corroding in the socket and breaking off when it’s time to replace that bulb.
  • Replace exterior incandescent bulbs with CFL’s, which uses 70-percent less energy.
  • Clean all cracks in the driveway, walks, patios and porches. Fill the cracks with crack filler to prevent moisture from getting into them, freezing and damaging the concrete or asphalt.
  • Inspect and clean out the clothes dryer vent.
  • Make sure the ground around the house slopes away from the house.
  • Turn off and drain hose bibs.
  • Turn off and professionally winterize sprinkler systems.
  • If you have window air conditioner units, remove them. If it is not possible to remove them, at least cover and insulate the units.
  • Keep any firewood off the ground and away from the house.
  • Certain flowers such as roses and tulips need winter protection. Some flowers need to be removed or trimmed.
  • Clean and store yard, patio and pool furniture.
  • If you have a swimming pool, have it professionally winterized to prevent damage.

Miscellaneous Equipment:

  • Now is a good time to pull out that snow blower and check the oil, replace the gasoline (if needed) and clean or replace the spark plug. Check the grease in the gearbox on the auger of the blower. Sand and paint any rusting metal parts. Start the blower’s engine to make sure it starts. If it doesn’t, now is a great time to take it in for service before the season rush.
  • Spray all shovels, snow blower blades and yard tools with silicone spray.
  • Inspect all shovels and rakes. Sand and paint all rusting metal sections. Tighten loose handles or grips. Pound out and straighten bent corners.
  • Winterize and store lawn mowers.

Fireplace:

  • With caution, look up inside your fireplace and check for loose bricks, debris, animals, etc. Remove whatever you see.
  • If your fireplace chimney has not been cleaned, and you used your fireplace weekly during last season, have it cleaned to prevent a chimney fire.
  • Examine the firebox for loose, crumbling bricks or mortar. Make any necessary repairs using fire clay, which is heat resistant mortar.
  • Install glass fireplace doors to conserve energy and money.
  • Install screens on tops of chimney to prevent birds and animals from getting into your house.

Interior:

Electrical:

  • Learn the location of main electrical disconnects, fuses or circuit breakers.
  • Buy spare fuses.
  • Circuit breakers should be tripped or flipped every six months to clean the contacts so they don’t oxidize and become useless. Plan on doing that when you reset the clocks every year.
  • All ground fault circuit interrupters (G.F.C.I.); as well ARC fault circuit interrupters (A.C.F.I.) should be tested monthly to insure proper function.
  • Label each circuit.
  • Visually inspect each lamp, extension, appliance cords and plugs in the house. Immediately replace any that are frayed or broken.
  • Install smoke and fire detectors in the basement and sleeping areas of the house.

Heating System:

  • Remove all combustibles from anywhere near the furnace or water heater.
  • If furnace or boiler motor has oil cups, oil the motor. Usually 20-weight oil is best unless otherwise stated.
  • Have ductwork vacuumed out and sanitized commercially.
  • If your furnace is older and has a fan belt, depress the fan belt in the middle. If it depresses more than an inch, it should be adjusted.
  • If the fan belt is cracked or worn, replace it.
  • Replace the air filters or wash electronic air filters.
  • Lightly blow off dust on the thermostat.
  • Have your furnace heat exchanger inspected by a licensed heating contractor. The heat exchanger is the interior part of the furnace that separates carbon monoxide from the air you breathe. You may need to get a second opinion if they say it’s cracked since it usually means you’ll have to replace the furnace.
  • If you have a humidifier, make sure it is clean and operating. Turn the water to the humidifier on and open the by-pass damper if you have one.

Garage:

  • Caulking, latex paint, some liquids, etc. will become useless if they freeze. Save them by storing those types of products indoors or in a heated garage.
  • To help keep your garage a little warmer as well as keep out rodents, make sure the overhead door is properly weather-stripped along the bottom, top and sides.
  • Tune-up the overhead garage door by tightening all loose nuts, bolts, hinges and tracks.
  • Lubricate the tracks, rollers and hinges with light oil.
  • Inspect springs and cables for wear.
  • Verify the automatic safety reverse works to avoid injury or damage.

Planning Ahead:

Planning ahead will save you money, inconvenience and possibly your life. Not only should you plan for the normal seasonal conditions but also those unforeseen.

Keep emergency supplies on hand including:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Extra blankets.
  • Candles and/or lanterns.
  • Canned food with hand operated can opener.
  • Kerosene heater with fresh kerosene.
  • Extra firewood if you have a fireplace.
  • Portable radio with fresh batteries.

 

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