Tips to improve your indoor air quality

Chicago Home Inspections

Clean Home

 

(BPT) – You pride yourself on keeping a clean home. The laundry is washed, the dishes are dry and the den where the children built their pillow fort has been restored to sanity. You’ve been vigilant about cleaning up the messes you can see, but what about the messes you can’t? What are you doing to improve the air quality in your home?

You may not think about the air quality in your home because the problem isn’t visible, but that doesn’t stop dust, dander or chemicals from polluting your air. Everyday living generates up to 40 pounds of dust in a six-room house every year, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association.

Taking steps to clean the air in your home will do more than just improve air quality; it will also save you money. Twenty-five to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted because contaminants in the heating and cooling system cause it to work inefficiently, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you’re interested in improving the air quality in your home and saving money while you do it, here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction.

Hire a professional to clean your most important asset

Your heating and cooling system is the lungs of your home. The system literally takes air in and breathes air out. Because of this, keeping your HVAC system and your ducts clean is the most important thing you can do to improve your home’s air quality. “If your ducts look dirty, they probably are,” is NADCA’s advice to consumers.

Have your system serviced by a certified technician. This will not only improve the quality of the air in your home, it will allow your heating and cooling system to run more efficiently, saving you money on energy bills.

Make sure to hire a NADCA-certified technician. All members have certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) on staff and they are required to further their education by attending seminars and to adhere to the NADCA code of ethics.

Encourage ventilation

Today’s newer homes are built air tight, making ventilation difficult. The simplest way to encourage ventilation is to simply open windows. In the bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan to stop steam from collecting dirt and keeping it in the bathroom. In the kitchen, place any appliance that creates steam or oily vapor under the stove hood. Finally, make sure vents on the outside of your home are not blocked by leaves or snow as season dictates.

Prevent mold

Mold can be one of the most harmful contaminators of air quality. You’ll find mold in areas where moisture and poor ventilation come together. Vacuum rear grills on appliances like your fridge and freezer to improve ventilation and empty and clean any drip trays to eliminate mold. If you have a leaky pipe in your home make sure it is addressed. Take a tour outside and trim any bushes or shrubs that have grown too close as that proximity can lead to mold and algae.

Replace filters and screens

In the warmer months, clean the area around your air conditioner and repair any vermin screens on your chimney flues that may be damaged. During the cooler months, remove screens from any window that may trap condensation and make sure to change your furnace filter monthly.

Keeping the air in your home clean is just as important as washing the dishes or cleaning the clothes. The first step is to have your heating and cooling systems serviced by a NADCA technician. Once that is complete, follow these tips to maintain your air quality. To learn more about NADCA and how you can benefit from an HVAC cleaning, visit nadca.com/en/faq.

 

Winterize your home in a weekend

Chicago Home Inspector

 

 

 

Preparing for Jack Frost’s arrival can send a shiver down any homeowner’s spine. A long to-do list for getting your home ready can feel overwhelming, leaving you wondering where you’ll find the time and resources. But, with some optimism, easy tips and access to a few rental tools, you can winterize your home in just one weekend, leaving plenty of time to enjoy autumn’s splendor.

Prepare your lawn and landscaping:

Cold temperatures cause grass and other plants in your landscape to go dormant. Spend a few hours preparing your lawn for beautiful greenery next year.

Start by aerating. Renting an aerator is a cost-effective and efficient way to reduce thatch and provide extra space in the soil for water and oxygen to reach the roots. Find a local American Rental Association (BPT) member store near you by visiting RentalHQ.com. After aerating, spread a quality winter fertilizer to give your grass the nutrients it needs to grow strong. If you live in an area with harsh winters, remember to cover roses and delicate perennials so that they are protected.

Winterize your deck:

The harsh winter elements can take a major toll on decking, so it’s important to protect it. With a little time and effort, your deck will make it through winter unscathed and ready for outdoor fun in spring.

To keep the structure’s integrity intact and wood looking beautiful, clean and seal your deck before winter arrives. Start by renting a pressure washer at your local ARA member rental store. The trained rental associate will give you guidance on safe and efficient operation of the pressure washer. After you clean your deck, let it dry completely and then apply paint or sealant.

Trim your trees:

Weak trees and dead branches can break and fall during winter, possibly damaging your home, your car, a utility line, or worse. Be a responsible homeowner and cut weak or dead branches in the fall so you don’t have to worry.

A chainsaw is the easiest way to deal with dead branches and will take much less time than hand sawing. You can rent a chainsaw to cut the wood into small logs or pieces for disposing of properly. Chippers can also be rented for grinding up the wood and using it for mulch in the spring.

Seal windows and doors:

When temperatures drop, the small leaks in windows and doors become apparent. Avoid a chilly house and high energy bills by caulking your windows and weather stripping doors.

Weather stripping is cheap and easy. Apply the adhesive strip between the door and frame for a tight seal that limits the amount of air that enters or exits when the door is closed. Caulking windows is a simple process as well when you have a caulk gun. If you need a tall ladder to reach second story windows, consider renting it since you’ll likely use it infrequently. While you have the ladder, clean your gutters of leaves and other debris that can cause backups and ice dams.

All you need is one weekend to prepare your home and yard for the cold weather ahead. Plus you’ll get to enjoy the crisp autumn air while you get these quick and easy chores done.

Protecting your home against winter’s ‘silent killer’

Inspections Chicago IL.It’s colorless, odorless and the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning in the United States. And, it worsens in the winter.Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is responsible for an average of 450 deaths and 20,000 emergency room visits each year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. With more than two-fifths of all CO poisonings occurring between December and February, homeowners are at increased risk once temperatures begin to drop.

During the winter months, many families turn to heating sources they might not use at other times of the year says Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert, the most trusted name in home safety. While these heating sources may be effective at providing warmth, they also can pose great risks if not used properly. To help protect loved ones from the dangers of CO poisoning, it is important for homeowners to take proper precautions when dealing with any kind of fuel-burning heat source.

First Alert recommends the following tips and tools for keeping your home and loved ones warm – and safe – this winter and all year long:

Protect against CO poisoning

Run kitchen vents or exhaust fans any time the stove is in use. The kitchen stove is among the most frequent sources of CO poisoning in the home. To help eliminate danger of overexposure, never use the oven to heat a home. Always run exhaust fans when cooking, especially during the holidays when stoves are left on for longer periods of time. Also, open a nearby window periodically when cooking to allow fresh air to circulate.

Never use generators indoors. In the case of a power outage, portable electricity generators must be used outside only with power brought into the structure with a cord. Never use them inside the home, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. And be careful to follow operating instructions closely. Also refrain from using charcoal grills, camp stoves or other similar devices indoors.

Have fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly. Arrange for a professional inspection of all fireplaces and fuel-burning appliances – such as furnaces, stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters and space heaters – annually to detect any CO leaks.

Be mindful of the garage. Warming the car in the morning before work is common during the winter months, but running vehicles inside an attached garage, even if the door is open, is hazardous, as CO can leak into the home.

Install/test CO alarms. Carbon monoxide alarms are the only way to detect this poisonous gas in a home. For maximum protection, alarms should be installed on every level of the home and near each sleeping area. Test alarm function monthly and change batteries every six months. In addition, alarms should be replaced every five to seven years to ensure proper function. If the installation date is unknown, replace immediately.

For more information on carbon monoxide safety, visit www.firstalert.com.

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Five tips for creating a stadium-style lawn in your own backyard

Chicago Home Inspection, Home Inspector Chicago With summer on the horizon, families will be heading to backyards across the country for picnics, sports games and to simply soak up the sun. A lush green lawn is the perfect setting for these activities and will be the envy of the neighborhood. How does one achieve that well-manicured, stadium-style lawn?
Many homeowners think a professional-looking lawn requires a stringent water and fertilizer regimen. While both water and fertilizer play their part, neither is the stand-alone key to a perfect lawn. The following five tips offer homeowners simple solutions to achieving a great yard.

* Know your region. Grass seed is not one size fits all. Select the right grass seed or sod based on where you live. It’s also important to consider how you plan to use your lawn. Do you have children and pets that will be playing on it regularly, or will the purpose be primarily curb appeal? To determine the right grass, talk to your local garden center or contact the turf grass specialist at your state agriculture school.

* Only feed as needed. According to Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers, many homeowners over water their lawns, which does more harm than good. A simple trick to determine whether your lawn needs watering is to stick a screwdriver into the grass. If it enters the dirt easily, your lawn has plenty of water already. If you have trouble getting the screwdriver into the ground, it is time to give the grass a drink. It is also recommended to fertilize your lawn at least once a year. However, putting your lawn on a quarterly schedule will help achieve optimal health.

* Break out the ruler. The maintenance crews for professional sports fields are meticulous about the height of their grass because it ensures a uniform look. Grass Seed USA recommends maintaining a lawn height of about 2 inches. It’s important not to cut more than one-third of the grass height at a time to minimize damage, so aim to mow when your lawn is about 3 inches in height.

* Arm yourself with the right tools. The proper equipment can take a lawn from looking well-manicured to professional. When selecting a mower, don’t jump straight to those that pick up the grass clippings. Allowing the clippings to decompose in the lawn will add to the overall health of your yard, and when you mow often, the shavings are small and less noticeable. Adding an edger to your arsenal is another great trick for cleaning up the lines and defining your yard.

* Replenish as necessary. Grass is a natural carpet that cleans and repairs itself. It’s equipped to withstand a number of elements yet is impacted over time. If you’ve noticed that your lawn is sparse in areas, or not as full and lush as you’d like, it may be time to add more seed. The best time to plant new seed is in the fall when the temperatures are more temperate. But reseeding may be done throughout the year. The important thing is to avoid drastic temperature changes and water regularly, yet moderately, to give the seed time to absorb moisture and build roots.

Growing and maintaining a lush green lawn doesn’t have to come with a backache. Basic planning and these five quick tips will have you well on your way to a backyard prime for the summer season.

Adding Or Upgrading A Deck Can Transform Your Backyard Into An Oasis

 

Home Inspector Chicago IL; Home Inspection Chicago IL

 

 

A home is a place of comfort and relaxation. Many homeowners are now taking to the outdoors and making this space an extension of the dream home they’ve always wanted.

One way to transform a house into a dream home is by utilizing the outdoor space with the addition of a new deck or improvements to an existing deck. A deck creates the perfect backyard oasis to escape the stresses of a busy lifestyle, to enjoy the outdoors, grill out, have a party or simply relax. With a deck, a couple can celebrate with friends, children can play outside and parents can retire in comfort.

Many alternative decking choices are available for homeowners seeking high-quality materials with low-maintenance features. Choosing to go with alternative decking materials helps homeowners save money and have more time to spend outdoors enjoying time together. While composite products will need occasional cleaning, they don’t need the sanding, staining, sealing or painting that wood decks require.

There are many choices for deck designs, materials and colors that can make choosing a dream deck a little overwhelming. But deck design tools like those found at TimberTech can help ease the deck design process without having to leave the house.

For example, TimberTech’s product selector can help homeowners determine which alternative decking material works best for their lifestyle. Families with children, pets or even special needs equipment like wheelchairs will be interested in the products offered by TimberTech that can easily withstand high traffic volumes without showing scratches or wear. These products will maintain their good looks and durability in the years to come with minimum cleaning and maintenance.

Online design tools help homeowners envision the perfect colors that match the house and find environmentally friendly decking and railing products. Some homeowners are interested in a clean appearance by using hidden fasteners or railing systems with no exposed hardware, while others pursue a more economical approach to picking the perfect decking. Railing systems provide additional safety and style while lighting options help homeowners illuminate their space for extended time on the deck once the sun has set.

The beauty of composite decking – in addition to the multitude of color and material options – is that it’s fully customizable to whatever style or look is wanted for the deck. Homeowners can opt for a deck and railing design all in one color to perfectly blend in with the house, or can go the contrasting route to make the deck a unique design feature to beautify the backyard.

Decks can be both practical and stylish, which is why many homeowners looking to enhance the look and the value of their home and increase their living space consider replanking an existing wooden deck or adding a new deck. Composite decking products provide many different style options and allow homeowners to enjoy their deck without annual sanding, staining, sealing or painting. To get started on planning a new deck or upgrading your current deck, visit www.timbertech.com.

How to Clean your Dryer Vent

Home Inspector Chicago IL; Home Inspector Fox Valley ILHow to Clean your Dryer Vent

 Unlike your washing machine, your dryer will need some ongoing regular maintenance to keep it working properly and safely. Let’s talk about how a dryer works first. You put wet clothes in and it spins them around with hot air and the exhaust vent sends the damp air outside. The hot moist air should end up outside, not in the crawl space or garage.

When your clothes are being tumbled around they tend to lose bits of fabric or tiny fibers, this is usually caught in the lint trap. Always keep the dryer lint trap clean, it will be located inside the dryer door or on top of the dryer for ease of access. The best way I have discovered is as simple as using the dryer sheet to clean the filter trap. The dryer sheet picks up all the lint, keeps your hands clean and lint free and then you just toss them out.

If you allow lint to build up inside the exhaust pipe it can overheat creating a potential fire hazard especially if you have a gas dryer, and your new energy star dryer can lose its energy efficiency.

Here are some tips to clean out the exhaust pipe.

  • First unplug the dryer (we don’t want anyone to get electrocuted).
  • Pull the dryer out away from the wall so you can get behind it to work.
  • Take a screw driver to loosen the screw on clamp (this is what holds the pipe on the dryer)
  • Reach into the hole where you took the pipe loose from and pull out any lint or debris (a vacuum works well)
  • Now reach into the pipe as far as you can and pull out any lint (again the vacuum works well for this). Most build up will be within the first twelve to sixteen inches
  • After all the lint has been removed put the pipe back on the dryer and replace the clamp. Tighten the screw back down snug. We don’t want it to blow off when the dryer is put back in use.
  • Now go to the outside and remove the vent cover and clean this end out.
  • Look inside to see if you missed anything.
  • Plug the dryer up and run on fluff for ten minutes. This will blow out any loose particles left in the pipe so don’t stand in front of it.
  • Check the outside for good clean air flow; you are ready to put the vent cover back on.

Good luck and remember to be safe.

About the author: Mr. Home Inspector, Inc. of the Fox Valley IL. area has been providing home inspection services since 2003. With over 4,000 satisfied clients and growing every day we continue to help bring quality information to our site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Garage Door Technology Makes Your Life Safer; Secure

Home Inspector Chicago, Home Inspector Fox Valley, IL

 

As the American home has continued to evolve with the speed of new technology, so has the garage. In order to keep up with the everyday busy lives of homeowners and the need for these homeowners to spread out and utilize all the space within their homes, garages have become a new frontier for functioning space within the home.

The majority of homeowners use the garage as the main entrance way into their homes, making the garage door and its opener imperative to the security of the home, protecting the people and property behind it.

Before, garage doors only opened and closed to let your car in and out of the garage, and you had to be there to do it. But garage doors and openers have improved dramatically in the last decade to do more. If you’re interested in upgrading your home’s security and curb appeal, don’t forget to check out some of the newest high-tech features:

* Control from anywhere around the world: Garage door openers are high tech now, and the LiftMaster openers with MyQ Technology allow you to control your garage door – as well as other household items – from inside your house, while at the office or even from halfway across the world by using your computer or smartphone. This technology lets you monitor if the garage door is opened or closed and allows you the freedom to operate it from a remote location, perhaps to grant access to a family member or allow a delivery.

* Electronic eyes – New garage door openers come with safety sensors that prevent the door from closing if something were to be underneath. If an object breaks the beam of infrared light spanning the width of the door, the garage door won’t close – and if something were to cross the sensor as the door is closing, it would cause the door to reverse direction and open up again. This can help protect small children and pets from being struck by the closing door.

* Timers for closing – You’ve probably forgotten to close your garage door after pulling out of the driveway at least once in your life, leaving your home and property wide open to anyone passing by. New garage door openers allow you to customize the settings on your garage door opener to ensure that the door will close after one minute, five minutes or even 10 minutes of being open.

* Power out? Not a problem – The harsh winter weather can leave many homes without power for extended periods of time. LiftMaster openers are equipped with battery backup, which is very useful during a power failure in severe weather conditions, providing your family with reliable, uninterrupted access to your home and automobiles in the garage.

* Shed light on safety – Exterior lights also have seen technology upgrades, and when placed next to your garage, can deter unwanted visitors. Save money with solar powered lights, or lights that are motion-activated to brightly shine when something approaches the garage. In addition to discouraging unwanted visitors, lights also give your family members a safer environment when arriving home after dark.

Using new technology in and around your garage helps you maintain security and safety and can improve your life in so many different ways. Learn more about how the LiftMaster garage door openers with MyQ Technology can benefit your home and your family at www.LiftMaster.com.

Bed Bug Battles: How To Keep The Pests Out Of Your Home

Home Inspection ChicagoThe conflict between humans and insect pests has raged for centuries, but few battles boast the sheer make-your-skin-crawl ick factor as the war between people and bed bugs. And the battle, once played out largely in hotels with high international traffic, has moved to the home front.

 

Nine out of 10 pest management professionals have treated single-family homes, apartments and condos for bed bug infestations in the past year, according to the 2011 Bugs Without Borders Survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky. Infestations are occurring in homes, hotels, hospitals, day care centers, college dorms, schools, movie theaters, department stores and even public transportation in every state.

Don’t think you’re safe from the little blood-suckers just because you travel little or stay at only the best hotels, professionals say. Bed bug infestations have little to do with cleanliness or quality. Bed bugs are notoriously hardy and just a few of the hitch-hiking pests – which you can pick up virtually anywhere these days – are all it takes to ultimately establish an infestation in your home or apartment.

“NPMA advises consumers against the ‘this can’t happen to me’ attitude, because bed bugs are equal opportunity pests,” Missy Henriksen, NPMA vice president of public affairs, said in a report of the survey results.

Bed bugs (formally Cimex lectularius) draw their name from their tendency to hide in mattresses and box springs. When the lights go off, the bugs come out, and bite and drink from any unsuspecting human who happens to be unlucky enough to be occupying the bed with them. While they’re not yet known to transmit disease, bed bugs can leave you with itchy welts – not to mention severe mental distress.

The good news is that home and apartment owners are not without defenses in the battle against bed bugs. While the tenacious bugs have resiliency on their side, humans have modern technology and awareness in their favor.

Products like ActiveGuard Mattress Liners, produced by Allergy Technologies LLC, can help you take a proactive position in the fight against bed bugs. The mattress cover slips over the mattress and/or box spring like a fitted sheet, and uses proprietary technology to kill bed bugs and dust mites upon contact. The product not only kills new bed bug infestations, it continues to provide protection beyond the typical bed bug life cycle. ActiveGuard can be used as part of a comprehensive bed bug control program or as a pro-active standalone tool for prevention against bed bugs establishing in bedding.

You can also take steps to help reduce your risk of bringing bed bugs home with you. NPMA offers some advice:

For travelers:
* Upon check-in at your hotel, examine bed linens for tell-tale blood spots.
* Conduct a visual inspection using a small flashlight.  Pay special attention to the mattress, box spring, headboard and other areas within the vicinity of the bed
* Store suitcases in plastic trash bags during hotel stays.

At home:
* Vacuum suitcases immediately after you return from a vacation.
* Thoroughly inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home, especially mattresses and box springs. In fact, you may want to have items inspected by a pest control professional who is more versed in what to look for.
* Regularly inspect pet bedding for signs of infestation.

When shopping:
* Before trying on an item, inspect it for blood spots left by feeding bed bugs. Look at inside seams for any signs of sticky white eggs, fecal droppings, shed skins (casts) and live bugs.
* In the dressing room, hang your clothes on hooks rather than laying them across cushioned seats or on the carpeted floor.
* On the ride home, keep new purchases tied and sealed in the store bag, and shake articles outside before bringing them into the house. Launder clothes immediately in hot water or steam/dry clean delicate items; 30 minutes at the hottest possible setting will kill bed bugs and their eggs.

If bed bugs manage to move in despite your precautions, it’s not likely you’ll be able to get rid of them yourself. Just 25 percent of consumers try to treat bed bugs themselves before calling a pro, down from 38 percent a year ago, according to the NPMA survey. To learn more, visit www.allthingsbedbugs.org.

Save Money With These Energy Efficiency Tips

Home Inspector Chicago;Chicago Home Inspection Saving money is on everyone’s mind this winter season. Between the holiday expenses, colder temperatures and tight budgets, finding ways to reduce costs can be a bit of a challenge. If you’re looking for ways to save, look at your home, and see if you can improve on your energy efficiency – thereby keeping a few extra dollars in your pocket.

 

 

* Program the temperature. You already know that the lower you set the thermometer in winter, the less your furnace will work. Having the temperature set in the low 60s when out and about makes perfect sense. But when you are home, setting the temps a bit higher will help keep you comfortable. Instead of continuously running back and forth to the thermostat to constantly keep readjusting the temperature, install a programmable thermostat and preset the times you want the temps lower or higher.

* Clean your heating and cooling system. To help your furnace operate better, hire a qualified company to clean the ducts, blower, cooling coils and heat exchanger. To find someone certified contact NADCA – the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association. NADCA recommends homeowners clean their heating and cooling systems annually, because dust and pollen build up on your ducts, and then recirculate through your home. This buildup of dirt prevents your furnace from efficiently running, making it work harder and run longer to maintain the temperature you set.

“A clean heating and cooling system helps to increase the airflow through your furnace, which in turn helps to make your home more comfortable,” says Matt Mongiello, president of NADCA. “And when you combine a clean system with controlled temperatures, you’ll notice the savings on your utility bills.”

* Wash clothes in cold water. Every household processes about 400 loads of laundry per year, according to the California Energy Commission , making your washer one of the biggest water consuming products in your house. To help save on energy, wash your clothes only in cold water so you don’t have to spend money using the water heater. And make sure you only process full loads to help conserve the number of loads you run and water you use. Additional energy savings can be found by line drying your clothes, or running them through the dryer for half the time, and then air drying them the rest of the time. Across most of the country, humidity levels tend to be lower during the winter months, which helps to speed up the clothes drying process.

* Unplug appliances. The amount of electricity consumed in your home often can easily be reduced by just unplugging and turning off items. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, 5 percent of residential energy use in the U.S. is used when appliances are in the off position. Consider unplugging smaller appliances such as your microwave, cellphone charger, coffee maker and desktop computer which can continue to consume energy, even when you’re not using them. If the appliance has a clock, or electrical display of some sort, electricity is needed to keep those items illuminated. If it’s a hassle to unplug these items after each and every use, consider putting them on a power strip, so you can quickly and easily flip the switch on and off when you need to use the appliances.

Tightening down on your energy usage can help you save a couple of dollars here and there, and also keep you more comfortable in your home. So sit back and relax in your home and enjoy the winter season.