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Knowing When To Change Your HVAC Filter

Regular maintenance is a key to keeping your home functioning the way it should so that’s its occupants stay safe and secure.  Your HVAC system is one of those areas that needs a regular check and it is recommended that you have it serviced by a professional once a year.  The HVAC filter, however, should be changed more frequently, if not, this could affect the homes indoor air quality.  But, how frequently should it be changed?  
Much depends on the amount of use the system gets.  As a general guide, the HVAC filter should be replaced every 3 months.  In some homes, it is a good idea to replace it even more often than that.  Large family households and homes with pets are more likely to produce extra dirt and dust so changing the filter as often as once a month would be beneficial.  You might also want to consider changing it that often in homes where a family member suffers with allergies or if there are people smoking indoors. 
The area surrounding the home also plays a part in determining how frequently to change the filter.  If you are surrounded by agriculture, if there is construction going on in the vicinity or even if wildfires have been in the area, these are all reasons to change the filter more often.
In some cases, you will need to change the filter immediately.  You should do this if it is damaged in any way or becomes damp or wet.  Wet or damaged filters could allow harmful toxins such as mold spores to enter and circulate around the home. 
Its clear from this short overview that in order to maintain a healthy indoor air quality, HVAC filter should be changed regularly.

Landscape Design And Home Energy Savings

Extremes of outside temperature can play havoc with heating and cooling costs so looking for new ways to save on these costs is something many homeowners may think about.  As the title of this blog may suggest, can the sensible design of the properties landscape help with those energy savings? Yes, it can.  The strategic positioning of trees and shrubs etc. can allow shade to fall on a home, protecting it from the hot summer sun which has been known to lower indoor temps by as much as 9 degrees.  This method is known as landscape shading. 
For landscape shading to be successful it must be planned very carefully.  Trees must be placed in just the right position for them to be able to provide shade at the time its most needed.  Thought should also go into the kind of trees you will use.  If you are looking for a lot of shade then you will need to select a denser tree.  Another thing that is important to consider is whether you want the home to benefit from the suns heat during the winter months.  If this is the case, then a deciduous tree will be the best option as it will provide full shade in the summer but lose its leaves in winter, allowing the sun to reach the home.
Some points to consider.  Remember that it will take some time for trees to reach their full height so you may not see immediate results and energy savings.  If you want a quicker result, vines are a good choice as they can be wrapped around a trellis or fence and provide good shade.  Shrubs are another good option, particularly if you want to shade a pathway or driveway. 
So, the homes landscaping can be used to save on indoor energy costs but first its good to consider what the planting of extra trees will mean for moisture levels etc. on your property.

Crawlspaces…Think About The Dangers Before You Enter

The crawlspace is something that you may have need to enter from time to time. Before you do, however, it’s important to prepare yourself for whatever hidden dangers may be lurking down there, after all, it is a dark, generally damp space that lies undisturbed for prolonged periods of time. So, what should you be prepared to encounter?

One of the first things you may think of is animals and insects. An under-home crawlspace can provide the ideal environment for rodents, insects and other vermin, some of which may be poisonous or become dangerous if they feel cornered or threatened in some way. It’s very important that you enter the space very cautiously because in such a tight space it would be difficult to make a hasty retreat.

One hazard you will likely find in the under-home crawlspace is mold or fungi. Sewage or standing water could be another problem. All of these have known health risks.

Another major concern would be if you suspect the home has some kind of structural damage. In such a situation it is not advisable to enter a crawlspace. It is better to have first have the home inspected so that you know what type of problems you are dealing with.

Now that we have mentioned some of the dangers with entering a crawlspace its important to make sure that, if you really need to be in such a space, you wear the proper protective clothing and equipment needed to keep you safe down there. You should also make sure someone is aware that you are going down there and is available to raise an alarm if the need arises.

Your Complete Home Inspection

We know what a difficult challenge it can be to find the right people working for you. You might find this is especially the case if you are relocating to a new area. Buying a home in a different location than you are familiar with can often feel overwhelming, so finding someone trustworthy and honest to help you with all aspects of this process is very important.

We are one of the most trusted home inspection companies in the area and we are here to help you with all your home inspection needs. Why is it so important to choose the right home inspector you may ask? Because a home inspection can determine whether the home you are looking to buy is a wise investment or a money pit. A less than trustworthy home inspector may not perform as thorough a home inspection as necessary and could miss major problems with the property which could end up costing you thousands.

We are InterNACHI certified home inspection company. This is the standard of professionalism and honesty in a home inspector. This means you can feel confident that you will receive as thorough of a home inspection as is possible and that our report will be detailed and honest so that you can make the best choice of home. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding the home inspection. We are here to help the home inspection process go as smoothly and as stress free as possible for you.

Chimney Maintenance

Sooner or later every area of the home will need some kind of maintenance and the chimney is no exception. This is an important part of the home to check because if left to fall into disrepair, a chimney will not only be very expensive to fix but can also become a major safety hazard.

There are different reasons why a chimney can become damaged. Large objects like trees or scaffolding etc. may fall on it, different types of extreme weather conditions can cause deterioration or even earthquakes can damage a chimney. Whatever the reason is, however, a damaged chimney can become a safety hazard especially if it is in danger of collapse. This would not just affect the outside of the home, but a chimney will often fall in on itself, making this especially dangerous for anyone inside the home.

So, how can you tell if the chimney needs repairing? There are some simple things you can do like stand back from the home and look at the entire chimney, does it look like its leaning or listing? Are there any signs that it is starting to come away from the rest of the home? Take a look at the footings of the chimney, what kind or condition are they in? Do you observe any deterioration? Another thing you can try is to take a screwdriver and scrape some of the mortar on the chimney, does it crumble easily? These are all signs that the chimney is in disrepair.

Some areas of the chimney are not so easy to check so, what can you do to find out the condition of those areas? One way is by having the chimney inspected. A home inspector can point out any areas of concern they observe and advise you about what to do next.

Preventing Accident And Injury On The Staircase

Sometimes accidents within the home are unavoidable, but the risk of accident and injury can be greatly reduced by proper home maintenance. Take the staircase, for example, this is one area of the house where many accidents occur, so how can some of these be prevented?

To start with, the home staircase, as well as the surrounding area, should meet all building standards and codes. One example of this is the space between banisters. These must not be placed too far apart that a young child could squeeze their head through them and be injured. Each step must also be of the same height to prevent a tripping hazard. Depending on the age of your home, a building contractor should have built the home according to these standards, but some older homes may not be up to date.

Even if it is built up to code the home’s staircase can still be a dangerous area. Wooden stairs, if they have been over polished, can be lethal. Loose carpeting is another hazard on stairs and could cause someone to slip. A loose or wobbly handrail can make a person lose balance and fall. If you notice any of these issues, be sure to fix them immediately.

Good lighting is also very important around a staircase, especially if there is someone with poor eyesight in the home. Make sure that each step is well lit and clearly visible.

It is not just stairs inside the home that should be checked. Outside stairs need to be in good condition with no damaged or crumbling concrete and they should have the appropriate amount of grade.

Childproofing Windows

All parents desire a safe and secure home for their children. When there are small children at home a parent will often go to great lengths to childproof the house. Let’s look at one area where childproofing is important; windows.

When children are small, falling is one of the biggest hazards they face and while most of the time the child bounces back up again, if they were to fall from a height, the situation would be very different. There is a variety of low cost, simple ways to prevent a child from falling from a window but one of the first things you should do is think about where to position your furniture. Never place furniture items underneath a window where a child could easily climb.

Installing window latches will become very important as a child grows and can reach a window without climbing. These latches should permit an adult to open the window easily while at the same time prevent a child from doing so.

Another child safety option is window guards, these generally have bars stopping a child from accessing the window and, although they should meet proper safety standards, make sure the bars are spaced no more than 4 inches apart so that there is no risk of a child getting their head or another body part stuck. Window stops are another option designed to only permit the window to be opened to a certain width. As in the case of window guards, window stops should not open more than 4 inches.

Window screens should not be considered as a protection against falling from the window and are not designed as a safety feature. If you have screens on your windows you will still need to take additional safety precautions. If you would like more advice on safety in your home, please feel free to contact us for more advice.

Dryer Safety

Many appliances in the home, if not properly taken care of, can present a danger in the home. One such appliance is a tumble dryer. Sad to say, many homes have been destroyed as a result of a fire that started in the dryer. So, what can cause a tumble dryer fire and how can we help to prevent one?

How does a dryer work? Hot air is blown through a rotating drum of wet clothing gently drying the clothes. As water evaporates from the clothing, it forms water vapor. Naturally, this water vapor needs to escape out of the dryer and will do this through an attached vent, this is usually made of bendable plastic or metal duct designed to be flexible enough to fit behind the machine and vent out of the building. It is not just water vapor that comes from drying clothes, lint also comes off the clothing and must exit the dryer through the vent.

When does a dryer become a fire hazard? If the vent is not attached to the dryer it runs the risk of overheating. This is because water vapor will not be able to escape and lint, which is highly flammable, will start to accumulate in the machine. These factors can result in the dryer bursting into flames.

It’s important to make sure that the vent is always attached to the machine and is reaching to the outside. Because washers and dryer are generally stored in tight spaces, take some time to do a check of the back of the dryer to check the vent is in good shape and has not become crushed or developed kinks in it that could impede airflow. Another vital step is to empty the lint collector after each use.

Wood or Carpet – Whats Best For You?

So what do you think is best for your living room.. carpet flooring or wood flooring? Well in this article, we’ll throw some pros and cons out there to help you decide which would be best for your coziest spot in the house.

First, you want to see if carpet would be a good choice because of the look of it in your living room, the appeal of it. Then you must consider the beautiful designs, probably thousands, that they are able to craft on. It feels warm and fuzzy under your feet and is quite pleasing to the eye if you can make it work with your living room. However, carpet is infamous for holding moisture underneath it. And so begins the vicious cycle of mildew and eventually, mold. On the other hand, if you’re able to check it routinely, you can definitely make carpet work for your home.

Then we have the option of wood flooring. So many things can be done with wood flooring. Engineered flooring, classic farm look floorboards, sanding down, staining it, etc. In the summertime, wooden flooring is amazing. However, once again you have to watch out for the moisture. Given enough, moisture can actually make the floor shrink the tiniest bit, and as water collects, the shrinkage will become more visible. Also, wood flooring is very susceptible to scratches or dings against other objects.

So on one hand, you have carpet that is extremely pleasant to the touch, and awesome in the winter time. On the other, you have wood flooring, excellent in the summertime, but cold during the winter. So the choice could be based on where you live, whether it be spring year round or winter year round.

How To Reduce The Noise Outside Your House

Do you live in the part of the city where you are constantly hearing trains, cars, planes go past your house, and it keeps you up all night because of all the noise that they are making? Have no fear, sleepless nights are no more!

There are some simple things that you can do in order to reduce the amount of noise that is able to pass through your house. If you have hardwood floors, tables, beds, consider putting in softer pieces of furniture. Sound will bounce off of softer furniture a lot more than hardwood furniture would. So think about maybe putting in carpet, soft couches, maybe even the special made foam that you can put up against your bedroom walls that will absolutely keep all the noise out.

In conclusion, if you find that it is with your neighbors who are being quite noisy at night, one thing that you can do is get your local counties noise ordinance list, describing what noises should and shouldn’t be occurring at different parts in the day. If the neighbors are noisy at night, don’t be afraid to call the police.

Protect Yourself When Composting

In our last article, we saw that while composting can be a very good thing to do, caution must be taken at the same time to avoid the health-related hazards that can come with it. There are many precautions we can take to ensure that we stay safe when it comes to composting.

Always protect yourself by wearing suitable clothing. Good protective footwear is essential if you want to keep yourself protected. You want to avoid coming in contact with the compost as much as possible. Never keep this footwear on when entering the home.

As someone who handles compost regularly knows, that tilling is something that must be done regularly in order to help the compost break down. It’s important that you avoid the possibility of inhaling spores, so make sure to wear a breathing mask when tilling. Its also not a good idea to do this when its windy out.

Did you know that compost can be quite combustible if stored wrongly? Store your compost in a container that allows for decent air-flow.

Washing your hands after handling compost is one of the most important things to do to stay healthy. This is often overlooked though, especially if you move on to doing something else in the garden.

These are just a few of the simple ways to protect yourself while doing something you love.

Compost’s hidden dangers

We all know composting to be a very good thing. It is one of the ways we can be responsible for the environment. Composting can also be beneficial for the soil. What then, are the negatives if any to composting? Lets consider a few things we need to keep in mind with regard to composting.

Unfortunately, there are a number of ailments associated with composting. When we think of what composting actually is, we can understand why. It is full of decaying food and plants, and with that comes certain dangerous pathogens.

What are some of these dangerous pathogens?

There are a number of fungal diseases that can be caused by compost. Farmers lung is one, this can display symptoms like that of pneumonia. It is caused by being exposed to certain fungal and bacterial pathogens. Another is Aspergillosis, this can also be caused by inhaling spores from rotting plants. Histoplasmosis, is again caused by a fungus, this time though, it comes from bat and bird feces.

Other diseases caused from exposure to rotting compost are Tetanus, Legionnaires Disease and Paronychia, an infection around the finger and toenails.

As you can see, while we are doing our part to protect the environment, we also want to be aware that there are dangers. In our next article, we will discuss ways to keep safe while composting.

Protect Your Home From Burglars

We all need to protect our homes from burglars, especially this time of year, when a lot of people go on vacation, so how about a few tips and pointers on how to do so.

Did you know?

What if you’re going to be away?

Try to make it look like someone’s home. Timer activated lights, TV or radio are a good idea. Make sure the yard is kept neat while you are away, also try keeping a car in the driveway.

Aluminum Wiring

If you are thinking of buying an older home, you might want to consider that it could possibly be wired with aluminum wiring. Is this something you should be concerned about?

Here are a few factors to consider;

As you can see from this very brief overview, aluminum wiring can be quite dangerous especially as it poses a much greater fire risk than copper wiring

Please contact us for more information and also advice on what to do if you have aluminum wiring is in your home.

Do You Have A Retirement Plan For Your Home?

If you are approaching retirement, it’s a good idea to start putting a plan together for when you may not be quite as active as you are now.   We know this is not an enjoyable prospect, and isn’t something to worry about too much, but planning ahead for a time like this is a sensible option.  What kind of things should you plan for?

Of course, living a lifestyle that is as healthy and active as possible is vital to feeling young, but we have some additional suggestions for you to keep in mind when planning for retirement. 

Discussing your future plans with family members is a crucial step.  If they are aware of your desires and plans, then should the need arise for them to make decisions for you, they will know exactly what you want.  Something that might be good for them to know is if you intend to keep living in the house you are in now or whether you would be happy to move to a home that is easier for your needs

This might be an appropriate time to think about having a separate savings account for future home maintenance.  We know all too well how much maintenance a house needs.  Go through your finances and retirement plans and make sure they are all in order.

How does your budget now?  Might this be the correct time to start some of the homes larger projects that you have been thinking need doing?   Have you been considering renovating certain areas of the home?  Now would also be a good time to have the home inspected to see if there are any areas, like the roof or heating system, that may well need replacing or fixing in the future.  By preparing for this ahead of time, you will avoid any unwelcome surprise expenses at a time when it may be harder for you to do something about it.

Please feel free to contact us if you would like to schedule an inspection, or have questions.  We will be happy to help you.

Safety With Asbestos

Do you and your family live in an older style house? If you do, there is the possibility that you still have asbestos in parts of your house, such as the walls, window trim, etc. How can you protect yourself and your family from it? Also, what can you do to get rid of it? While we are not asbestos specialists by any means, here are some general suggestions given by many organizations.

The easiest way to fix your problem if you do have asbestos in your house is to do nothing at all with it as long as it’s not creating problems for your household. The cost it would take in order to remove and replace every piece of material that has asbestos in it would just be too big of a cost. However, if the asbestos in your house is causing you trouble, then the next phase in your process of removing it would be to call a professional to come take samples of the materials that may have asbestos in them. There is no real way to look at a piece of wood and tell if there is asbestos or not in it.

Also, if you plan to have the asbestos removed, even in a minor way, call a professional who knows what he is doing. If you do it and a problem arises when one hadn’t before you had started to remove the asbestos, then serious consequences could result from a lack of waiting for the professional to come and check everything out. Keeping these things in mind will help you to remember how to be safe in either contemplating or repairing the asbestos-related problems in your home.

What is Defensible Space?

What really is defensible space? Well, it can be defined as an area, or zone, around your house that will better protect you from naturally occurring fires, falling trees, or things that could potentially damage your house. The easiest way to think of this would be to split the area into 3 zones.

Zone 1 would be an immediate 15 feet in any direction from the outside of your house, having no flammable plants or even firewood, which should be located a reasonable distance away. Zone 2 would be an extension from zone 1, a total of 75 to 125 feet from the house.

Keeping flammable debris like dead leaves, branches, or pine needles must be kept in check. If there are trees or shrubs, it may be good to have them spread out, so as to slow a fire down in case one did occur. Zone 3 would extend beyond zone 2 and to the property limit.

More vegetation can be left in this area, but should still be kept in check. Maintaining your zones around your house can help to keep your house and family safe in the long run.

What To Know Before Installing a Ceiling Fan

Most homes here have air conditioning to provide a comfortable temperature when it’s so hot outside (or so cold this time of year), but you may decide that a ceiling fan is an adequate solution to have proper airflow and a comfortable living environment, especially when the temperature cools a little. Before adding this attractive and helpful addition to a home, here are some tips for installation.

If you are installing a ceiling fan for your home, only use a residential one, which typically has 4 or more blades. Generally, a ceiling fan should be 8 or 9 feet from floor to ceiling, and no part of the fan should be less than 7 feet away from the floor. These measurements add various advantages. One advantage is that ensuring proper clearance avoids accidental contact with the fan. Also, when the fan has the right distance from the floor, the downward air movement is maximized and the air flow is right where you want it. What if your ceiling is much higher than the average home? Simply drop the fan to the desired height, which can easily be done by an experienced installer.

These details may seem like a lot to remember but if are willing to take the time to install a ceiling fan correctly and safely, you can enjoy the benefits of this simple solution to an air flow problem.

Low-E Windows

If you have considered installing new windows in your home you may have come across one type of window that is on the market called “low-E windows”. A first look at these windows may seem like buying or installing them is a “no-brainer”, but the advantages aren’t the only thing to consider while looking at low-E windows.

The term ‘low-E’ comes from the type of glass used in the windows which is low-emissivity glass. This type of window uses an almost invisible metal added to the pane, and the energy savings achieved can be up to 50% when compared to that of the average window. Sounds great right? Certainly an attractive aspect to new windows, but what are the disadvantages to these windows?

Low-E glass works very well, but sometimes the effectiveness of the glass reflecting the rays from the sun actually has been reported to be a hazard in some instances. Due to the reflection of the sun from these windows, the heat emitting from them can become so intense that it can burn or damage a neighboring house or structure that is up to 20 feet away. Vinyl siding has been reported to melt from its heat. Four house fires have been blamed on the reflection of low-E windows. A hotel in Las Vegas reported the reflection from these windows has burned the guests swimming in the nearby pool.

For an inspection of your windows or anything else in your house don’t hesitate to contact us.

Relocate Responsibly

Moving is one of the most stressful things to deal with. There is so much we need to do, and more often than not, even when we think we have planned it well when it comes to moving day we just end up shoving everything we can into boxes or throwing a ton of things in the garbage. At a time like this, being conscious of the environment may well take a back seat. How, then can we prepare to move and at the same time be conscious of the impact we might be having on the environment?

There are a lot of steps we can take long before we relocate. We may find that by putting some of these steps into practice even if we are not moving, our lives can feel a bit more organized.

This is a very obvious statement, but the less we have, the less we will have to move. Periodically go through items you no longer use. This is a good time to decide what to do with them because you have the time to think carefully about it. On a stressful moving day, items like this might just end up in the trash.

Try to recycle your unwanted items. Organize things you no longer need into piles for recycling or even a yard sale. By doing this far ahead of time, you will minimize the stress later on.

Dispose of potential hazards in a responsible way, for example, chemicals, paint cans, unwanted electronics, light bulbs, batteries etc. should all be properly disposed of and not just thrown in the garbage. There are a lot of places nowadays where these types of unwanted things can be taken to. You might want to call your local environmental agency who can tell you the best thing to do.

So, while moving can be a terribly stressful experience, simplifying ahead of time can help alleviate some of the stress.