Moving Safety Tips

When preparing for a move, take care to protect your family, including pets, from start to finish.

When preparing for a move, take care to protect your family, including pets, from start to finish. Remember to secure or remove the following:

  • Poisons — Cleansers, insect sprays and pesticides, medications, chocolate, certain plants and antifreeze.
  • Drain and safely dispose of fuels from equipment before moving. If you must move liquids, pack them in waterproof containers and label them well.
  • Burn hazards — Watch plugged-in appliances like irons, boiling liquids and open flames. Remember, everything is in a new place. Take your time.
  • Electrical hazards — Worn lamp cords or unsafe electrical wiring.
  • Strangulation or choking hazards — Children’s toys, Holiday light bulbs, sewing tools.
  • Unstable boxes — Top-heavy filing cabinets, unstable lamps and towers of boxes can tumble down quickly and hurt overexcited friends, family or pets.

The best advice is to take it slow. You probably didn’t pack in a day, so why try to unpack in a day? A campout in new bedrooms might be fun, and it will give kids a chance to figure out how they want to decorate.

When organizing your new home, safety for the whole family is paramount. This is a new place for everyone and care should be taken.

In preparation for accidents, try to make sure emergency numbers are on hand from the beginning. Call local officials prior to the move and make note of numbers and locations of emergency facilities for both people and pets.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is a byproduct of combustion. If allowed into the home, it can cause injury or death. To help protect your family, consider installing carbon monoxide detectors with audible alarms near sleeping areas.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced as a byproduct of combustion. Gas-burning appliances and heating equipment that are properly vented outside are not a problem. However, if CO is allowed to come back into the home or other sealed space, it can quickly cause illness or death. A blocked chimney or other exhaust system is one potential area of concern.

To help protect your family from CO poisoning, it is a good idea to have appliances and heating systems checked annually. Installing at least one CO detector with an audible alarm near sleeping areas is a second line of defense. If your home has multiple levels, consider installing one on each level.

When shopping for a CO detector with an audible alarm, look for packaging that includes a UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) certification with the words “UL Mark with Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm”. Features of some detectors include a manual reset/silence button, which allows you to reset the detector. If CO levels remain high, the alarm sounds again in a few minutes. Most CO detectors plug into the wall. These must have continuous power to work. Some have a certain amount of battery backup power. Others have a memory allowing them to tracking low level exposure to CO as well as short-term high-level exposure.

CO detectors trigger an alarm based on the accumulation of CO over time. They can be installed at any height, but should be installed indoors away from heating elements, high humidity areas or places where chemicals like deodorant sprays or finger nail polish remover are used.

Test and clean all CO detectors regularly according to the manufactures directions to keep them operating properly.

For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning and how you can keep your family safe, visit the following websites:
Underwriters Laboratories

Radon Testing

Here are the U.S. EPA recommendations for radon testing during a real estate transaction.

Radon levels vary across the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that all homes be tested for radon regardless of geographic location because of the link between radon and lung cancer. The EPA also recommends the following:

  • If you are buying a home or selling your home, have it tested for radon. You may purchase your own testing kit or hire a professional tester.
  • For a new home, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested.
  • Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
  • Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases, may be reduced.

Take steps to prevent device interference when conducting a radon test. For more information about radon testing and buying or selling your home, visit the EPA’s Radon and Real Estate page.

Home Alert: Top 11 Common HVAC Issues Found During a Home Inspection

The following is a list of 6 common forced air furnace problems and 5 common problems in a combined heating/cooling HVAC unit:

A home inspection provides you with information regarding the condition and functionality of different systems inside and outside the home. The heating or heating/cooling system is part of the inspection. One of the most common heating systems in the United States is the forced-air furnace. In a forced-air furnace, oil or gas is used to heat a piece of metal. A fan pushes the warmed air into a series of ducts, which carry it throughout the house. The cold-air return feeds air back into the system. The following is a list of six common forced-air furnace problems and five common problems in a combined heating/cooling HVAC unit:

Forced-air Furnace:

  1. Electrical issues. Electrical service to the home may not be adequate for the heating/cooling system. This could mean a blown fuse or tripped breaker during heavy use. An electrical kill switch should be located near the heating unit so the power can be cut off in case of an emergency.
  2. Dirty/clogged filter. Filters were originally designed to keep mechanical elements free from dirt and dust. Today, filters are designed to help clean the air while the equipment is running. If the filter is not changed or cleaned regularly, it can block sufficient air flow and cause problems with heating and cooling functions.
  3. Cracks/breaks in ductwork. Improperly installed air ducts, or cracked or broken connections between ducts, can cause the heated or cooled air to vent into attics or walls instead of into the intended rooms.
  4. Blocked/closed registers. Furniture, boxes or drapery may be blocking the register in certain rooms. This disrupts the flow of heat.
  5. Old/unmaintained system. Heating and cooling systems operating longer than their design life can cause health or safety issues. Gas-fired appliances, including furnaces, must have a properly operating exhaust system to vent the byproducts of combustion, including carbon monoxide, a potentially harmful gas, outside. Cracked heat exchangers and other problems could cause these gases to leak into the home.
  6. Poorly installed flue pipes. The flue moves the exhaust gas, created during combustion, from the heating unit to the outside, or to a chimney that vents outside. This flue, or vent pipe, must be kept away from all flammable materials, be properly supported and slope up on its way to the outdoor vent or chimney.

Air Conditioner

  1. Dirty/clogged condenser coils. Restricting air flow to the outdoor condenser unit can lead to poor heat transfer. All foliage or obstructions should be cut back at least 1 foot around the outdoor condenser unit. The fin surface of the evaporator coil can be cleaned using a brush or vacuum.
  2. Uneven condenser unit pad. The outside unit should be within 10 degrees of level. If it is not level, it can reduce the effectiveness of lubrication in the tubing or increase stress on refrigerant lines.
  3. Leaks. The indoor portion of an air conditioner can be installed in a basement, closet or attic. A drain hose is used to remove the condensation that collects during the cooling process. If the drain hose becomes clogged, then water will eventually back up and spill over onto the floor.
  4. Unable to inspect due to weather. Temperatures must be warm enough to turn on the air conditioning unit. Turning on the unit when temperatures are too low can cause extensive damage. If the inspector is unable to check the functionality of the air conditioner, then it should be noted in the written report.
  5. Missing insulation. Two pipes carry refrigerant between the evaporator and condenser coils. The larger one, carrying the cool gas, should be insulated. This prevents the line from sweating indoors, causing water damage, and improves efficiency by keeping the line cool.

Because of the health and safety issues involved, it is important to maintain your heating/cooling systems. Have your furnace and air conditioner inspected by a licensed technician at least once a year.

Home Alert: Common Water Problems in Homes

A list of seven ways water causes problems in our homes.

Excess moisture inside our homes, whether caused by a leak in the roof or excess humidity in a bathroom, can lead to extensive damage if left unchecked. That’s precisely why looking for leaks or other evidence of moisture intrusion is a large part of any professional home or commercial property inspection.

Following is a list of seven ways water causes problems in homes:

  1. Rain penetration – This is perhaps the most obvious water problem. Proper roof flashing, weatherproofing on windows and doors, and a drainage system that includes well-maintained gutters and drainpipes can prevent rain from entering walls and ceilings.
  2. Structural decay – Once water enters the walls or ceiling, it can seep into wood, causing shrinkage, swelling, cracking and rot. This can also cause bowing in walls and floors or cracking in the drywall.
  3. Mold growth – Mold spores are part of indoor and outdoor air everywhere. The spores can attach to damp places on wood, paper, food or carpet and begin to grow. Controlling indoor moisture is the way to control mold growth. By cleaning up wet spots within the first 24 to 48 hours, and keeping an eye on indoor humidity and condensation, you can reduce the chances of mold growth.
  4. High indoor humidity – Humidity relates to the amount of water air can hold at certain temperatures. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. So, when warm air cools, the water in the air can change from a gas form into liquid. This condensation can lead to mold and mildew growth. Inside the home, water is added to the air via clothes washing, bathing, cooking and house plants among other things.
  5. Condensation – Condensation occurs when water is released from the air. Attics and windows are common places for condensation problems to occur. When warm indoor air is cooled quickly, condensation is the result. In the attic, this can lead to wood decay and eventual structural damage. Insulation, proper ventilation and vapor barriers can help keep condensation from occurring inside the home.
  6. Underground pressure/seepage – The slope or grading of a lot and placement of structures is important to controlling moisture intrusion. The ground should slope away from the foundation of a home. Proper compaction and ground preparation also helps prevent foundation damage. However, soil types and foundation construction play a role. If water seeps into the home via the foundation, several steps can be taken to correct the problem.
  7. Ice dams – This is a common problem on roofs. Warm air in the attic can melt snow high up on the roof if ventilation doesn’t keep the air moving. This snow melt runs down and refreezes when it comes in contact with cooler parts of the roof. The resulting ice block can cause later snowmelt to overrun drainage measures and back up into the walls or ceiling. Adding insulation can help prevent this problem.

A professional inspector will look for these types of water intrusion problems throughout the inspection, carefully noting any areas of concern. A home inspection is a visual examination. Many inspectors also use a moisture meter in areas of significant concern to determine whether an issue is present. For more information from your NPI or GPI inspector, click here.

 

Wood-Destroying Insects – Termites

In many states, a termite inspection is required as part of the loan approval process.

Wood-destroying insects, like termites, carpenter ants or wood-boring beetles, bore into or eat wood and cellulose products including wooden beams or floors in buildings. These insects’ territory covers a large part of the United States. If left untreated, wood-destroying insects can damage the integrity of a structure. If found, they are readily treated using a number of options.

A termite inspection allows both buyer and seller to know whether termites are present. Inspections should be done by a certified inspector who has been trained in the biology and habits of termites and other wood-destroying insects. The inspector will look for the presence of termites or evidence of their presence.

To help prevent wood-destroying insects from entering your home or business, eliminate soil contact with the building’s wood structure. To prevent moisture and insect damage, wood and soil should never come into contact. This includes fences, deck supports and porches. Wood siding should stop at least six inches above the soil. Bushes and trees should be trimmed back from the house, and wooden fences should never be nailed to the house.

Building an Efficient Fire

Having the right appliance and the proper safety components, such as smoke detectors, is important. So is having the right kind of wood to burn.

Fireplace safety begins with a properly installed chimney or ventilation system. This helps move the byproducts of combustion out of the home. Properly placed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also a must in any home with wood-burning appliances.

What some people fail to consider is that building an efficient, productive fire has as much to do with the wood as with the appliance that houses it. To build an efficient fire:

  • Use only seasoned wood. Seasoned wood is wood, hard or soft, that has been cut and allowed to dry for six to nine months.
  • Seasoned wood should be cut and stacked off of the ground, preferably in a spot that receives good sunlight and air movement. Cutting the wood allows air to blow across both ends, evaporating moisture inside. Cover the top of the wood to prevent rewetting from precipitation. The wood pile should also be located away from the house and other structures to prevent the infestation of wood-destroying insects.
  • Using dry, seasoned wood also reduces the buildup of creosote, a byproduct of wood burning that collects on the inside of the chimney and can ignite, causing dangerous chimney fires. When creosote reaches ¼ inch of thickness on the walls of the chimney flue, you should have it cleaned by a trained professional. Inspect the chimney frequently to check for creosote buildup.
  • Start fires using clean newspapers and dry kindling, never garbage, plastics or treated wood.
  • Let the fire burn down to coals, and then rake the coals toward the air inlet, creating a mount. Do not spread the coals flat.
  • Regularly remove ashes from the woodstove into a metal container with a cover. Store ashes outdoors on a nonflammable surface until completely cooled.

Information for this article came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.com.

 

Tips for Protecting Your Home While You Are Gone

Millions of people take vacations each year. What do they do to protect the homes they leave behind?

Each year, millions of people plan vacations, taking care to protect valuables and money as they travel. Millions also travel to vacation homes or seasonal properties. But how many remember to protect those properties when they’re gone?

For example, a 1/8-inch crack in a water pipe can cause thousands of dollars of damage left to leak for a week. A windstorm can mean broken windows and unprotected keepsakes. An open window can be an invitation to burglars.

It pays to follow a few simple steps to protect your home from natural disasters and thieves when the home is empty. For instance:

  • Adjust the thermostat, but don’t turn it off. In colder climates, set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees to keep pipes from freezing. In warmer climates, set the thermostat to 85 degrees to prevent heat and humidity from damaging furniture.
  • Consider draining pipes if you plan to leave for an extended period. Seek the advice of a professional plumber.
  • If you choose to leave the water on, turn off the supply to individual fixtures.
  • Unplug all electrical appliances. This includes the garage door opener, computer, television and stereo equipment.
  • Never leave diswashers, clotheswashers or dryers running.
  • Make sure bushes near the home are trimmed to below the window sill to prevent hiding places. Have obviously dead or damaged tree limbs cut back to limit wind damage danger.
  • Set automatic timers on lights, televisions and stereos to make it look like someone is home.
  • Consider asking a neighbor to park in the driveway overnight to discourage burglars. Ask neighbors to mow, take in the garbage and shovel snow if possible.
  • Close and lock all windows, doors, skylights and vents.
  • Stop mail service and newspaper deliveries.
  • Request vacation checks from the local police department.
  • Leave emergency contact information with a friend or neighbor.
  • If you must leave a key behind, try a lock box. Avoid common hiding places near the door.
  • Install motion detection lights.

Home Alert: Most Common Residential Electrical Safety Hazards

A common electrical system includes the service drop, service panel, fuses or breakers, and a series of wires leading to every outlet in the home. The age of a home, installation practices, and wear and tear all can cause safety issues when it comes to electricity. A home inspector can help identify these problems to protect people living in the home. This article lists 10 of the most common electrical issues found during a home inspection.

One of the main goals of a home inspection is to uncover safety issues. The home inspector is trained to assess the condition and function of hundreds of components inside and outside the home, including the electrical system. A common electrical system includes the service drop, service panel, fuses or breakers and a series of wires leading to every outlet in the home. The following is a list of 10 common electrical problems reported during an NPI/GPI inspection:

  1. Ungrounded outlets – Grounding provides an emergency exit for electricity when it flows somewhere it shouldn’t. Two-pronged outlets found in some older houses include a live wire and a neutral wire but no ground. Inspectors commonly find two-pronged outlets have been replaced with the three-pronged outlets common today without a change to the wiring. This creates a false sense of security for homeowners. If installed properly, two-pronged outlets are acceptable when used with double-insulated appliances.
  2. Lack of GFCI protection – Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which help detect electrical leaks and shut off power to the protected circuit, are now required in new construction in high-moisture areas like the kitchen, garages or bathrooms. They are recommended for use in these areas in any home. These outlets are designed to help prevent shocks and include test and reset buttons that should be checked monthly.
  3. Faulty wiring in electrical panels – Electrical work should be completed by a licensed electrician, but many do-it-yourselfers will make their own modifications to the electrical panel, causing unsafe conditions. Double-tapping, splicing errors or the use of unsafe wiring materials or installation practices alls can cause a dangerous fire hazard.
  4. Outdated electrical wiring – Older electrical wiring, such as a knob and tube wiring installed from 1920 to 1950, is still found in some areas. The age of this wiring, possible deterioration and its capability to support current electrical loads is important to examine. Although the copper wires will support a normal workload, it is important to know if there is evidence of overfusing or overworking these wires. Overheating is possible if the wires are buried in insulation. Some insurance companies refuse to insure homes with knob and tube wiring or require an increase in premiums.
  5. Exposed wires – Individual electrical wires should be insulated. A protective sheathing wraps around insulated wires and creating the cable. The sheathing or insulation can be damaged by age, overheating or rodents, leading to shocks, sparking and possible fires.
  6. Overloaded electrical panel – As families grow, or amenities like a pool, spa or workshop are added, improper load may be placed on the electrical panel. Replacing, or upgrading the panel can cost several thousand dollars. In new construction, the minimum allowable panel size is 100 amps. Many older homes have 60-amp panels that can be easily overloaded.
  7. Oversized or undersized fuses or breakers – Fuses or breakers are used to prevent overheating at the service panel. They must be sized correctly to function correctly. Oversized breakers will not shut off electricity when overheating occurs. Undersized breakers will shut off power when the system is still safe.
  8. Moisture damage – Water is a good conductor of electricity. Electrical panels may be located anywhere in the house but should be kept free of water at all times. Outdoor electrical panels should be specially designed to prevent water intrusion and rust.
  9. Permanent use of extension cords – Extension cords are not meant to supply power permanently. They should not be fastened in place or concealed in walls, floors or ceilings.
  10. Poor location for a service panel – The area around the service panel and access to the main shutoff should be kept free of obstructions. Benches, boxes or other storage items in front of the panel may prevent someone from being able to access the shutoff in an emergency. The recommended clear-space area around an electrical panel is 36 inches out from the wall, 30 inches side to side around the panel and 6-8 feet up and down.