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How to Remove Static from Your Home

It’s that time of year again. . .you can’t walk across a room without feeling an irritating little zap. Today, we have a few easy solutions for how to remove static from your home and your person.

What is static electricity?

Static electricity occurs when electric charges build up on an object’s surface. To understand what causes static, we have to get a little technical. Materials are typically considered neutral because they have an even number of positive and negative charges. When two materials come into contact, electrons can move from one surface to another, causing an imbalance of positive and negative charges—an excess charge on one surface and a negative charge on the other. The imbalance of electric charges will remain on the surface of the object or material until it finds a way to be neutralized, usually through contact with another object.

Why is static worse in winter?

Static grows significantly worse in winter because the air is drier. In the summer, when humidity tends to be higher, the moisture in the air helps dissipate electrons and keeps static electricity at bay. With almost no humidity in the brisk winter air, static electricity has a chance to build up on a variety of surfaces. And the fuzzy knitted sweaters we tend to pile on when it gets cold definitely don’t help! Add dry skin and hair to the equation and it’s no surprise that we become static magnets.

How to Remove Static from Your Home

To keep static electricity to a minimum in your home, you need to put moisture back in the air:

Boil a pot of water on the stove. You might think of this method as a short-term DIY humidifier. Boiling a pot of water on the stove for a couple hours a day a few days a week can help combat static in the air. Just be sure to keep an eye on it and don’t over-rely on this method since it can lead to damage to both your pot and stove.

Use a humidifier. Humidifiers can run for several hours a day, making them a great solution for winter static. If you have a newer furnace, you may even have a humidifier built right into your HVAC system!

Treat carpets. Commercial-grade liquid anti-static treatments are available for carpets in a wide price range for your home’s needs. Be sure to spray them in high-traffic areas where static is most likely to generate, hitting entryways, hallways and common routes through your home.

Rub upholstery with dryer sheets. Besides leaving your clothes smelling extra fresh, a primary purpose of dryer sheets is to add a little moisture to them while they tumble dry, reducing static electricity. It makes sense that they would do the same for any furniture that’s particularly susceptible to static.

Get houseplants. Leafy plants help add moisture to the air and improve overall air quality. Plus, they’re lovely to look at, especially when the weather gets bleak.

How to Remove Static from Your Body

Getting rid of the static in your home will drastically improve things, but here are a few more ways to really safeguard yourself against annoying shocks:

Reduce friction. The key to keeping annoying static shocks away from your person is to cause as little friction as possible. This mostly means you’ll need to be mindful of what you wear, especially on your feet. A key source of friction is carpet. When we shuffle along the carpet, in, say, a pair of thick, fluffy socks, friction tends to build up. It’ll come as no surprise that the best way to avoid friction, and therefore, static electricity buildup from carpet, is to go barefoot.

Wear natural fiber clothes.
Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are the worst offenders when it comes to static electricity. It’s not because they create more static electricity. It’s actually because they tend to retain more static electricity. Natural fibers, on the other hand, tend to absorb more humidity from the air. We recommend sticking with cozy cotton.

Moisturize skin regularly.
Static charges occur on dry skin for the same reasons they occur in the air—lack of moisture. Since static loves dry skin, the best way to avoid shocks is to add moisture. It’s a good idea to apply a body lotion right after a shower when your skin is still damp. The moisture will improve overall absorption and create a longer-lasting effect.

Use a leave-in conditioner. If your hair is starting to look like a science experiment from all the static, the name of the game is still moisture. Wetting your brush is a quick fix, but once you step outside, all that moisture will get zapped and you’ll be back to square one. Instead, try a leave-in conditioner to lock in long-term hydration. Available in super convenient sprays you can spritz on damp or dry hair, a few quick passes over your head before styling can help keep static at bay all day.

Call NPI for Your Home Inspection Needs

For your home or commercial property inspection needs, call National Property Inspections. Our inspectors have the knowledge to keep you and your home safe and healthy.

June 2017: Air Conditioner Maintenance

Ask The Inspector

Air Conditioner Issues

Q: The second story of my house is much warmer in the summer months than the lower level. Why is this, and what can I do to reduce the temperature difference between the upstairs and downstairs?

Ask The Inspector

A. Cooling the upstairs of a home can be difficult — especially if the HVAC air handler system is in the basement, or if no basement is present, on the first floor. Typically, hot air rises and cold air falls, so in some aspects the air handler has to work harder to pump cold air up through the ductwork systems in order to keep the upstairs of a two-story house as comfortable as the downstairs.

There certainly are alternatives available to help keep air temperatures in balance. One simple solution is to close off some of the dampers (registers) on the first floor, which will force more air upstairs and create a stronger flow of air on the second story. The first floor may not be as cool as before, but this could produce a more balanced temperature difference between the two floors.

The other alternative would be to install a secondary cooling system in the attic, if there is room, resulting in more comfortable air. The downside of this would be more of an expense for installing and maintaining two systems. Also, one system could be installed in the attic and you could install a zoning system in the ductwork. A zoned system is controlled by electronic motors on dampers within the ductwork system, which can be controlled to distribute more air to certain parts of the house depending on your comfort needs.

Be Advised

The Effects of Humidity

People generally talk about comfort in terms of temperature, but it’s more than that. In regulating indoor temperature, humidity is a key factor. Humidity is the amount of water vapor suspended in air at a given temperature. Relative humidity, a term often used by meteorologists, measures the water vapor the air is holding, compared to how much it could hold. The measure is expressed as a percentage.

Be Advised

Relative humidity is important because the human body cools itself by sweating. The faster the moisture on the skin evaporates into the surrounding air, the “cooler” and more comfortable temperatures can seem. The higher the humidity in the air, the more saturated it is with water vapor. That reduces speed at which sweat evaporates off the skin, making temperatures more uncomfortable.

Of course, air that is too dry isn’t good either. Generally, a range between 30-50 percent relative humidity is preferable. This prevents skin from drying and static-electric build-up while still allowing for evaporation of water off the skin. When comfort is considered, humidity levels are an important factor when selecting or modifying any heating or cooling system.

Snapshots From The Field

Can you guess what is wrong in this photo?
Snapshots From The Field

  1. Nearly everything
  2. Extension cord shouldn’t be used to run an HVAC unit
  3. A replacement fan shouldn’t be attached like this
  4. All of the above

Correct Answer 4. All of the above. In this situation, it is time to call the HVAC technician.

Noteworthy News

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans circulate air. They do not ventilate a room or lower the temperature. They simply create a draft. That draft, or air movement over the skin, provides a wind chill effect on our bodies, making the room seem cooler. This can allow a person to set the cooling temperature on the air conditioner higher, reducing energy bills and possibly prolonging the life of the cooling equipment.

Noteworthy News

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, using a ceiling fan with an air conditioning system will allow most people to raise the thermostat temperature setting about 4 degrees without a reduction in comfort. Raising the temperature is what creates the savings, not installing and running the fan. For more energy savings, turn fans off when exiting a room. Furniture can’t “feel” the wind chill effect.

Here are a few things to consider when installing new ceiling fans:

  • Ceiling fans should be installed in rooms that are at least 8 feet high
  • Larger ceiling fans move more air than smaller fans
  • Small and medium-sized fans will provide cooling in a 4- to 6-foot diameter area
  • Larger fans are effective up to 10 feet

For best efficiency, consider the type of lights in the ceiling fans when purchasing. The fan itself may only be used part of the year; many times, lights are used every day. A single bulb can be more efficient than many bulbs and fluorescent lights are far more efficient than incandescent.

Maintenance Matters

Air Conditioner Maintenance

A broken air conditioning system can mean some pretty miserable summer days. Taking steps to prevent wear and tear helps avoid some of the problems and the cost of an emergency fix. For instance:

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

  • Check heating and cooling filters monthly. Clean or replace as necessary. More frequent replacement or cleaning will help reduce pollen and other allergens in the air.
  • Use heat-producing appliances like stoves, clothes dryers and dishwashers in the evening when temperatures are cooler.
  • Remove obvious obstructions, including the cover, branches and other foliage from outside condenser units. Condenser units require free air flow to function efficiently.
  • Make sure all access panels are secure with all screws in place.
  • Indoors, remove obstructions, including curtains and furniture from over vents.
  • Schedule an annual maintenance check on all air conditioning equipment. Check with the local Better Business Bureau for companies with clean service records.
  • Install programmable thermostats. Even raising the temperature a few degrees when people aren’t home can save big bucks over time on energy bills.

Be sure to keep track of service calls and what repairs were made. Remember if you feel uncomfortable with any of these items, it is important to have a professional do an annual air conditioner checkup for you. These simple checks and a single service call will help the cooling system run well all summer and possibly extend the life of the unit.

Did You Know?

The average central air conditioner unit lasts 7 to 15 years. You can extend its life and get the most out of it by having it serviced every year and by following a few simple maintenance checks.

Monthly Trivia Question

Humidity is measured with a:

  1. barometer
  2. thermometer
  3. hygrometer

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

July 2016: Bathroom Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Q. What areas and elements of the bathroom will my inspector check? Will he check all of the bathrooms in the house?

Ask The Inspector

A. Signs of moisture damage and the proper function of components are the key elements a property inspector will assess in any bathroom. The high moisture content in bathrooms means they’re a prime area for leaks or moisture damage. Your home inspector will check the sink, toilet, and shower or tub for signs of leaks or other damage. This includes examining wall and ceiling coverings, such as tile, for signs of cracks, missing seals or damaged grout.

Your inspector will also examine the water temperature and pressure by turning on faucets, tubs and showers, and sinks. He/she will also assess the size and type of piping coming into the house, which will give a better idea of how the water flows and drains.

When installed and used correctly, a bathroom fan helps remove excess moisture and prevent damage to surfaces. Your inspector will check the fan for proper operation and installation. Bathroom fans should be vented outdoors and not simply up into the attic where the warm, moist air can cause additional problems.

Be Advised

Keep Your Automatic Garage Door Operating Safely

Automatic garage doors are the largest moving objects in homes. Often operated by electric openers, garage doors can be a serious safety hazard for children. Proper installation and operation, as well as regular maintenance and testing, are imperative to keeping your garage door operating correctly.

Be Advised

Today, all garage door opener systems are equipped with an external entrapment protection system, which is an electric eye or sensor that automatically reverses the door’s downward movement when an obstruction is sensed. Although this safety feature has greatly reduced the number of injuries and deaths caused by garage doors, it hasn’t eliminated them.

Most can be traced back to malfunction of springs, issues with reverse mechanisms and sensor installation problems. Sensors should be mounted no more than 4 to 6 inches above the floor, which should prevent entrapment if someone has fallen under the door.

You should check the operation and function of your garage door monthly. The door should not stick or bind when opened or closed. Make sure to visually check springs, rollers, pulleys, cables and tracks, and add lubrication as necessary. The force and limit settings should meet manufacturer’s instructions. In the event that they don’t, the door should be disconnected from the automatic opener until the problem is resolved. For more information about how to test and check your garage door opener each month, visit the International Door Association (IDA) website.

The IAD recommends that parents teach their children that a garage door opener is not a toy. Don’t let your child stand or walk under a moving door, and don’t let them play “beat the door” by running under a closing garage door. Instead, teach children to stay well away from the automatic door as it opens and shuts, and keep garage remotes locked in the car.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

Photo A shows the inside of a garage. The home owner is a car enthusiast and has installed a car lift inside his standard-sized garage so he can work on his vehicles. In order to raise a vehicle on the lift, the home owner cut out the roof framing — see Photo B. Is there anything wrong with how the home owner has done this?

  1. The home owner did this correctly; if you remove the rafters and braces, the roof will still serve its intended purpose.
  2. Special framing should have been installed in order to accommodate the amount of clearance needed to support the roof framing system.
  3. As long as the car lift is in the up position, it will support the roof.
  4. There’s a minor problem, but a handyman can fix it.

Correct answer: 2. By removing the rafters and braces, the home owner took out the roof support for the garage. It will only be a matter of time before the roof collapses from the weight of snow loads.

Noteworthy News

The Tiny Living Trend

For the past couple of years, tiny living has seen a big boom. There are tiny houses, micro-unit apartments and even micro condos. But could you really downsize enough to live in a 300-square-foot space?

Noteworthy News

Plenty of people are doing it. Some are embracing tiny living to pay off debt faster and easier, while others want to spend less money on living expenses and more money, well, living. Still others are living the tiny life to save for retirement or reduce their ecological footprint.

Over the past year, the real estate market has expanded to meet the demands of first-time home buyers and renters for more affordable housing. Micro-unit apartments and condos are showing up across the United States. These units are typically 400 square feet or smaller.

If you’re ready to take on tiny living, you can purchase a tiny house or an RV for around $30,000. However, if you’re more into posh living, you may be interested in a micro apartment or a micro condo. Typically 250 to 400 square feet, these units feature murphy beds and modular furniture, and they’re becoming popular in urban areas. The cost to buy a micro condo varies; a new micro-condo development planned for downtown Houston, Texas, offers units starting at $120,000. Carmel Place, New York City’s first micro-apartment building, offers units for as low as $950 a month, although current available units average $2,700 per month.

Maintenance Matters

Be Safe in Your Summer Home Projects

Summer is a popular time for home remodeling and repair projects. Although you may achieve beautiful results, the process of home repair or an unexpected emergency fix can be stressful. The following tips will help you prepare for future projects:

Maintenance Matters

  • Keep a notebook of repairs. List the date the work was completed, the cost and company you used. This can be an asset when it comes to building buyers’ confidence if you decide to move, and it’s a quick resource when you need the next repair.
  • Mark electrical, water and gas shutoffs. If you plan to do the work yourself, make sure the appropriate utilities are turned off before you begin to work.
  • Take precautions before digging. Call the Diggers Hotline at 8-1-1 if you plan to do any digging. Area utility representatives will come out to mark the locations of underground utility lines so you can avoid hitting electrical lines, gas lines, telephone lines and cable service. One call can help prevent injury and costly property damage.
  • Keep a house savings fund. A good rule of thumb is to save 1 to 3 percent of the market value of your home each year for future maintenance.

Did You Know?

The Effects of Humidity

Although people generally talk about comfort in terms of temperature, it’s more than that. In regulating indoor temperature, humidity — the amount of water vapor suspended in air at a given temperature — is a key factor. Relative humidity, a term often used by meteorologists, measures the water vapor the air is holding compared to how much it could hold. The measure is expressed as a percentage.

Relative humidity is important because the human body cools itself by sweating. The faster the moisture on the skin evaporates into the surrounding air, the “cooler” and more comfortable temperatures can seem. The higher the humidity in the air, the more saturated it is with water vapor, which reduces the speed at which sweat evaporates off the skin and makes temperatures more uncomfortable.

Of course, air that is too dry isn’t good, either. Generally, a range between 30 and 50 percent relative humidity is preferable. This prevents static-electric buildup and the skin from drying while still allowing for evaporation of water off the skin. When comfort is considered, humidity levels are important when selecting or modifying any heating or cooling system.

From Our Blog

Should You Be Concerned About Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that is slowly released during the natural decay or breakdown of uranium in the earth, and it moves freely though any soil, rock and water. Because it is the heaviest gas in nature, radon can easily accumulate in high levels in the basement or poorly ventilated areas of a house or building.

Click here to read the rest of the blog post.

Monthly Trivia Question

What are three of the most common toxins in homes?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.