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Seven Tips for Keeping a Healthy Home (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development)

September 14, 2017 / Posted by in Uncategorized

Keep it Dry:   Prevent water from entering your home through leaks in roofing systems, rain water from entering the home due to poor drainage, and check your interior plumbing for any leaking.

Keep it Clean:   Control the source of dust and contaminates, creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective wet-cleaning methods.

Keep it Safe:   Store poisons out of the reach of children and properly label.  Secure loose rugs and keep children’s play area free from hard or sharp surfaces.  Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers on hand.

Keep it Well-Ventilated:   Ventilate bathrooms and kitchen and use whole house ventilation for supplying fresh air to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the home.

Keep it Pest-free:   All pests look for food, water, and shelter.  Seal cracks and openings throughout the home; store food in pest-resistant containers.  If needed, use sticky-traps and baits in closed containers, along with least toxic pesticides such as boric acid powder.

Keep it Contaminant-free:   Reduce lead-related hazards in pre-1978 homes by fixing deteriorated paint, and keeping floors and window areas clean using a wet-cleaning approach.  Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces, and foundation cracks.  Install a radon removal system if levels above the EPS action-level are detected.

Keep it Well-Maintained:   Inspect, clean, and repair your home routinely.  Take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large repairs and problems

Indoor Air Quality Part 1

August 24, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that people spend 90% of their time indoors, but that indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Indoor air pollution can threaten the health — and the lives — of everyone in your family.

The single most effective way to keep the air in your home healthy is to keep things out of your home that cause air pollution, including cigarette smoke, excess moisture and chemicals.

The second most important strategy is to ventilate to pull dangerous pollutants out of the house. Run the exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen. Open your windows. Make sure you have a good exhaust system in place for appliances and stoves.

Some indoor air pollutants can kill. Among the most dangerous are these three:

  • Carbon monoxide: 400 die and thousands are sickened annually.
  • Secondhand smoke: 7,500-15,000 children are hospitalized or sickened with respiratory tract infections, and older adults with cardiovascular or lung illness are at higher risk of health problems.
  • Radon gas: It’s silent. It’s odorless. It’s found in many American homes, and it is the second biggest cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoke.

Each year, second hand smoke sends 7,500-15,000 children aged 18 months or younger to the hospital. Hundreds of thousands of children will develop respiratory tract infections from second hand smoke this year. Older adults and people with lung and cardiovascular diseases are also at higher risks of respiratory problems from cigarette smoke exposure.

Never let anyone smoke inside your home. The Surgeon General states that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Ask smokers to take it outside to protect the health of you and your family.

Carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of over 400 people each year and thousands of others become ill or seek medical attention after exposure to the odorless gas. Sometimes the early symptoms resemble the flu, but look for these differences: if more than one family member has symptoms — even your pets — and you feel better away from home, you may have a carbon monoxide problem. Carbon monoxide levels can rise very quickly in unventilated areas without anyone noticing the colorless, odorless, toxic gas.

Protect yourself by installing a carbon monoxide detector near your sleeping rooms. Also have all fuel burning appliances inspected by a qualified technician once a year to keep the deadly gas away from your home.

Carbon monoxide exposure can cause weakness, nausea, disorientation, unconsciousness and even death. Each year, hundreds of people become ill and die after carbon monoxide poisoning at home. Some 15,000 must go to the emergency room after exposure to the toxic gas.

Burning gas or other fuels indoors can produce dangerous levels of indoor air pollution and deadly carbon monoxide. Protect your health by turning off carbon-monoxide emitting motors in garages and sheds. Fumes from cars or lawnmowers left running in enclosed spaces, like attached garages, can endanger the health of you and your family. Malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances that emit carbon monoxide can cause life-threatening problems. Use only gas stoves and heaters indoors that vent directly to the outside air. Never use charcoal grills indoors. Never let anyone smoke indoors—cigarette smoke is another major source of carbon monoxide.

Paints release trace amounts of gases for months after application — even though they appear to be fully dried and the smell is gone. These gases are called VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, and can include highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

Use “low-VOC” paints, varnishes, waxes and other chemicals.  If painting indoors, open windows and use exhaust fans to remove gases. Do not store open paint containers indoors.

Rain and high humidity can bring moisture indoors, creating dampness, mold and mildew — big problems for healthy indoor air. Dampness alone — not just mold — is associated with higher risk of wheezing, coughing and asthma symptoms.

Check your roof, foundation and basement or crawlspace once a year to catch leaks or moisture problems and route water away from your home’s foundation. Fix problems as quickly as possible to prevent unhealthy dampness from entering your home.

Asthma is the leading serious chronic illness of children in the U.S. Help keep asthma triggers away from your house by fixing leaks and drips as soon as they start. Standing water and high humidity encourage the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew — some of the most common triggers that can worsen asthma. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner when needed, and clean both regularly.

Pet allergies can come from an animal’s saliva, urine, feces and dead skin cells, so no pet is “hypoallergenic.” If someone in your family has pet allergies, keep your pet outdoors. Moving your pet from indoors to out can help reduce exposure to these allergens. However, cat allergens can stay in place for 20 weeks or more.

If you must keep your pet indoors, keep it away from sleeping rooms. Clean floors and upholstered furniture frequently (two or more times a week) to reduce exposure to pet allergens indoors. Unfortunately, two often-recommended actions do not seem to work: neither washing pets nor using indoor air cleaning devices helps.

Dust allergies are actually allergies to dust mites — microscopic pests that need moisture to survive. Scientists have also concluded that breathing dust mite allergens can cause asthma in children. Dust mites feed on human skin and live in bedding, pillows, mattresses, stuffed toys, upholstery and carpets.

To fight dust mites in your home:

  • Keep humidity levels below 50% indoors. Use a dehumidifier if necessary.
  • Intensive vacuuming and steam cleaning of upholstered furniture may help.
  • Remove carpets.
  • Using dust-mite-resistant covers and washing your bedding in very hot water may help as part of a comprehensive approach, but don’t rely on those steps by themselves.

Uses for car wax, who knew?

July 21, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

Repel Dirt & Dust

Polishing your dustpan causes dirt and dust to slide right off.  Do the same for ceiling fan blades and air vents.

Fog-Free Mirrors

Prevent your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a hot shower by applying a small amount of car wax, letting it dry, and buffing with a soft dry cloth.

Shine Your Bathtub and Shower

Shower doors, shower walls, and bathtubs are notoriously difficult to get clean, and even harder to keep that way.  There’s no getting around cleaning them, but polishing them with car wax will make them shiny and help to repel mineral deposits and grime, so your cleanings will be easier and less frequent.   When the water stops beading up it’s time to reapply.  Do not apply was to the floor of the bathtub, it will be too slippery

Shiny, Spot-Free Fixtures

Rubbing car wax onto your bathroom and kitchen metal fixtures will help keep them shiny and help prevent water spots.

Tile Backsplash

If you wax the backsplash tiles behind your stove and sink, grease will wipe right off

 Lubricate and Protect Your Tools

Apply a coat of car wax to your tools to stop them from rusting.  Rubbing a little paste on the hinge of scissors will help to keep them from jamming so they’ll cut cleaner and function better.

Keep Snow From Sticking

When it’s time to clear the driveway and sidewalks after a snowstorm, apply two coats of car wax to your shovel before you begin.  This will stop snow from sticking to it.  If you use a snow blower, wax the inside of the chute.

 Prevent Metal Corrosion

Mailboxes, doorknockers, and outdoor light fixtures are all subject to tarnishing and/or corrosion

 Clean Window Frames

After cleaning the frames of your aluminum windows, polish them with car wax.  This will keep them cleaner much longer.

 Cure For Sticky Drawers, Windows, and Closet Doors

Rub a small dab of car wax onto the tracks of sliding closet doors, drawers, and windows to help them open and close more smoothly.

 Patio Furniture Protection

Apply to metal, plastic, or molded furniture to protect and add shine.

 Shine Table Tops

Car wax is good for shining your plastic and Formica tabletops.

 Gas Grills

Apply to the outside of the grill to make it easier to clean.  Be sure not to do in the hot sun.  This will protect from fingerprints, rust, and the elements.

Tips for keeping your home cool

June 20, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

Be sure your weather-stripping and caulk around all entrance doors and windows is in good condition.

Attics must be ventilated properly.  Determine whether your attic ventilation is adequate.  Reduce air conditioning needs by installing an attic fan.

Set the cooling thermostat as high as comfortable.  The higher the setting, the more energy you will save.  Install an automatic setback or programmable thermostat that starts your air conditioner shortly before you get home.

Draw blinds, shades, or drapes to block the sunlight during the hottest part of the day, espe­cially on the south and west side.

You could save up to 25 percent by upgrading your air conditioner.  Make sure your central air conditioning system is the right size for the area you want to cool.

If you have central air conditioning, clean leaves and debris from around the unit.  Install your air conditioner in the shade.  Clean/replace the filter regularly.

A ceiling fan cools fast and costs less than air conditioning.

Operate your stove, oven, dishwasher and clothes dryer in the morning or evening when it’s cooler outside.  Instead of using your oven, consider cooking in a frying pan, grill, crockpot, or toaster oven.  I have a small counter top oven that I really like.  Because it is smaller, it heats faster and cooks faster.  You do have to adjust your recipes baking times.  It beats heating the large oven, especially to cook a meal for two.

Exterior Painting

May 19, 2017 / Posted by in Uncategorized

Yearly maintenance will keep the exterior of your home looking good and protected.

  • Check for blistering, blemishes, or peeling paint.
  • Inspect your caulk. Cracked or dried out caulk should be repaired right away.
  • These areas may cause moisture to enter and then you will have even more problems: soft or rotten wood, mold, or mildew.
  • Pressure wash to reveal the bad spots in paint, caulk and wood. Cleaning the exterior will also get rid of grim, mold and mildew.
  • Keep plants, shrubs, and trees away from your home. They can cause excessive moisture  and damage your siding.

When painting, the temperature must be over 50 degrees, even at night.  Here in northern Michigan, clients often get excited that their project will be finished soon, as it is getting warmer out.  Winter is gone, and Spring is here.  Even if the daytime temps are over 50, it is the nighttime temps that cause a problem.  It must be warm even at night for painting.  It is nothing to have 65 during the day, but 25-30 at night.  So have patience, your paint job will last longer when done properly.

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