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.

What’s In Store At Your Supermarket: Top 10 Food Trends For 2012

Home Inspector Chicago IL; Home Inspection Check List; IL Licensed Home InspectorLast year’s high grocery prices had many Americans looking for ways to save at the supermarket. The upswing in prices over the past 12 months may have you wondering what will happen this year at your local grocery store.

In partnership with ConAgra Foods, industry expert, and “Supermarket Guru,” Phil Lempert, predicts an interesting year ahead.

“We will continue to see higher prices, but we will also see all the different ways Americans love their food – in supermarkets, on television, at restaurants and now even on their mobile phones,” Lempert says. “We are on the verge of what may be one of the most exciting and game-changing years in the food world.”

Lempert advises consumers to watch for 10 major trends in their supermarkets this year:

1. Higher food prices – Last year’s trend will continue, so consumers will place even more emphasis on ways to save money. In addition to already-popular methods like coupons and frequent shopper cards, you may want to consider using your mobile device to menu plan while you shop. Websites like ConAgra’s ReadySetEat.com give you recipe ideas and can also help you find out which ingredients are on sale in your store.

2. The group experience will grow – Food blogs set a foundation for group experiences, food trucks tweet their locations, and flash food raves assemble underground at midnight. More Americans are choosing to eat and shop together in new ways. Mobile app marketers will offer “social rewards” for groups that shop together – think of it as the virtual version of warehouse clubs.

3. The baby boomer influence will grow – Last year, the first of the 76 million-strong boomer generation turned 65. Their influence on the supermarket will show up this year in increased healthful food options, wider aisles and lower shelves.

4. Increased emphasis on “farm to fork” – More Americans are interested in knowing where the food comes from. In 2012, you’ll see more blogs and social media featuring farmers, as well as advertising and TV programs starring farmers as food experts. Hunt’s tomatoes, for example, are grown in Oakdale, California and harvested at the peak of ripeness then flash-steamed to maintain the natural tomato goodness.

5. The end of the checkout lane – Tech-savvy options are gaining popularity, with consumers enjoying self-checkouts, comparing prices at nearby retailers, and taking advantage of the convenience of cellphone scanners, in-store interactive media devices, QR codes, RFID and mobile coupons.

6. Ethnic on the road – Food trucks are replacing gourmet and specialty stores as the channel to experiment and discover new food experiences – especially when it comes to ethnic foods. More often than not, these ethnic food trucks are operated by natives of the countries from which the actual cuisines being offered originated, and they have the ability and knowledge to share the heritage and romance of the food.

7. It’s a man’s (grocery shopping) world – Dads aren’t just winning the bread; these days, they’re also bringing it home from the grocery store. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that 41 percent of men are now preparing food for their families, as compared to half that percentage in 2003. Look for them to do more grocery shopping, too, Lempert predicts.

8. Extreme home cooking – More people will continue to eat at home to save money. Following the lead of extreme couponers, groups of everyday cooks pride themselves on making the most food for the least amount of money.

9. How sweet it isn’t – Reduced sugar products and revised Nutrition Facts panels will be the biggest health claim in 2012. With the negative health effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup gaining so much attention, look for a continued emphasis on reducing sugar in our diets. Food producers like ConAgra are responding by eliminating high fructose corn syrup from such staples as Peter Pan peanut butter and Hunt’s Ketchup products.

10. Listen to your food – You judge the readiness of some foods (like microwave popcorn or grilled burgers), by the sounds they make. Multisensory perception will be one of the new “food sciences” in 2012, as psychologists and food scientists join forces to design, create and influence the sounds of our foods to convey freshness, taste and even health attributes.

For more information about Phil Lempert’s 2012 predictions, visit SupermarketGuru.com, and for simple meal ideas made in 30 minutes or less, visit ReadySetEat.com.

Make New Year’s Resolutions Close To Home

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As each year comes to a close, people begin to make resolutions – typically, vowing to start something new in the year ahead, such as lose weight, get a new job, start volunteering and so on. Making resolutions is easy; the hard part is keeping them. However, there are a few things you can do at home that might actually help you achieve some of your New Year’s goals. Start 2012 on the right foot with this list of easy home updates and tips to help conquer your New Year’s resolutions.

Develop better eating habits
* Research shows that people tend to eat less when surrounded by the color blue. Repaint your kitchen or dining room in a blue hue to help naturally suppress your appetite. And, painting is a great way to tone your arms if you also resolve to get in shape. Once the paint dries, clean out your pantry and replace any high-calorie or fatty foods with healthier options.

Help the environment
* Growing concern for the environment prompts many people to resolve to be more green. Your refrigerator runs all day, every day, which accounts for a large percentage of your home’s energy usage. Keeping your refrigerator’s thermostat set between 38 and 42 degrees will help save energy and keep your food from spoiling.

Give to others or volunteer
* Clean out your closets and collect any gently used items you and your family no longer use or need. There are a number of national and local organizations that accept clothing donations; some will even pick up the items directly from your home. Beyond clothing, consider giving previously used toys, games, books or materials for crafts to the local hospital or day care center.

Spend more time with family and friends
* After a long day at work or school, not to mention all of life’s other activities and events, the last thing you want to do is spend your downtime cleaning your home. Look for household products and tools that keep cleaning time to a minimum. The AccuClean(TM) whole-home air filtration system from American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning attaches to your furnace or air handler to reduce dust accumulation in the home by more than 50 percent, which means you’ll spend less time cleaning and have more time for your family and friends.

Learn something new
* One of the most common resolutions centers around conquering a fear or trying something new. Take a look at your home and challenge yourself to tackle home improvement projects on your own. Finish an unfinished basement, build an outdoor play space for the kids or renovate a bathroom. Not only will you conquer any do-it-yourself fears, but any revamp of your home will only add to its value and resale potential.

Keeping New Year’s resolutions can certainly be a challenge, so it’s important to set yourself up for success. First, set specific and realistic goals; and don’t be scared to break bigger goals into a series of smaller steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Most important, have a strategy for setbacks – we all slip up from time to time, but the key is to get back on track. It’s been said that four out of five people who make New Year’s resolutions eventually break them.

Prove the statistics wrong and make this the year you keep your resolutions.