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.

Is your family as safe as it could be from a household fire?

Did you ever wonder what would happen to your family if a fire started in the house? Would everyone be able to get out in time? Would they know what to do and where to go as soon as they smelled smoke?

The reality is that when a fire strikes, every minute counts. That’s why the United States Fire Administration recommends that everyone have a comprehensive fire protection plan that includes smoke alarms, residential sprinkler systems and a well-planned home fire escape plan.

“Given the proven effectiveness of today’s fire sprinkler technologies, it’s little wonder that residential fire sprinkler systems have grown significantly in popularity and, in some states, are mandated when a house is built or remodeled,” says Matthew Kuwatch, global business director for BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems. “Unlike smoke detectors, which simply alert you when a fire has started, fire sprinkler systems provide a proven means for delaying the spread of a household fire or even extinguishing it, thus giving residents the extra time they often need to exit safely.”

Such precautions, in addition to increased educational efforts, are paying off in the form of fewer fire-related deaths in the United States. The fire death rate in the United States has declined by 66 percent since 1979, according to a July 2011 report issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That’s good news, but not good enough when you consider that the United States still has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were roughly 480,000 structure fires in the United States in 2009 that resulted in nearly 2,700 civilian deaths, nearly 15,000 related injuries and $10.8 billion in property damage.

The best time to start protecting your family is when you’re building a new home or remodeling an existing one, as residential fire sprinkler piping runs behind the walls and between the floors, exposing only the sprinkler heads through the ceiling or wall. Just as important as planning your home fire escape plan is researching the right fire sprinkler system, as not all of them perform the same. Piping materials and overall design of the system can be very different with some offering significant cost and performance advantages.

As a result of corrosion problems and escalating material costs, metallic systems are no longer being installed as frequently but are being replaced with newer, high-performance, more cost-effective technologies. BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems, for example, which are made from a revolutionary, high-temperature specialty material that has been effectively used in life safety applications for nearly 30 years, have become the most specified non-metallic fire sprinkler system in the world. Lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and easy to install, they offer significant cost savings over steel systems in the form of reduced material and labor costs. They also provide a superior safety performance over other plastic systems because they do not support combustion and will not continue to burn after the ignition source has been extinguished.

From a design standpoint, a fire sprinkler system can operate independently as a stand-alone system or in combination with the plumbing system (often referred to as a multipurpose system). Due to reliability concerns, however, these combination systems are not approved for use in many regions of the country.

Regardless of the piping material or system design, fire sprinkler systems are a wise investment. Not only do they increase the survival odds if a fire should strike, but they can also result in reduced insurance premiums because of their ability to limit property damage. Unlike the myths and movies that portray multiple sprinkler heads going off simultaneously to discharge a large amount of water, the reality is that automatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated to spray water only in the immediate area of the fire. In many cases, only one sprinkler head operates to extinguish a fire. The amount of water discharged from a sprinkler head is roughly 1/8 the amount of water typically disbursed if the local fire department is called in.

To learn more how you can make your family as safe as it should be from a household fire, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition at www.homefiresprinkler.org or www.blazemaster.com.

Identity theft protection tips for mobile device users

If you use complex passwords for your online accounts, have a firewall on your PC’s Internet connection and only shop at secure websites, you may think you’re doing a good job protecting yourself from identity theft. Those precautions are a good start, but don’t overlook another important opportunity for identity thieves – your mobile devices.

Millions of Americans access the Internet and social media every day with handheld devices, from smart phones to tablets. Yet more than half of us (54 percent) don’t use a password to lock those devices, according to a recent StrategyOne survey commissioned by Experian’s ProtectMyID.

“This survey shows us that while awareness of identity theft risks may be growing, there’s still room for improvement when it comes to what consumers are actually doing to protect themselves from identity theft,” says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of Experian Consumer Direct, which owns ProtectMyID.

Other risky online habits revealed by the survey included:

* Sharing passwords among different online accounts. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they used the same password for at least two accounts.

* Failing to log out (50 percent) when they’re finished using social networking accounts like Facebook or Twitter.

* Providing birth dates, educational background and e-mail addresses on social media profiles such as Facebook and Twitter (50 percent).

“Fortunately, consumers can do a lot to reduce their risk of identity theft,” Chaplin says. “Online resources like the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) can help educate Americans on preventative steps, how identity thieves operate and what current scams to watch for.”

To help consumers D.E.F.E.N.D themselves against Cyber thieves, Experian’s ProtectMyID and identity theft expert, Chuck Whitlock offer the following tips:

Defy curiosity. Never open an attachment or click on a link unless it’s something you’ve specifically requested from someone you know. Just because an e-mail is from a friend or co-worker doesn’t make it free of malware. Click the “x” on all pop-up ads to avoid infection, and never download free software unless it’s from a trusted site.

Educate yourself about technology. Become tech savvy: Know what security software you need to keep your computer-and yourself-safe online. Don’t let down your guard by letting your protection lapse. Always keep your antivirus and spyware protection updated.

Fix your passwords. Using the same password for more than one account or a password that’s easy to guess opens the door to identity thieves. Change passwords regularly, never disclose them to others and vary them among different accounts.

Embrace your paranoia. Yes, there are people out there who are out to get you. Don’t forget it.

Negate putting personal information online. You wouldn’t provide your personal identifiers to just anyone on the street who asks for them, so don’t do it online. Become as proactive in protecting your personal, private information online as you are in other areas of your life. Don’t even think of doing anything of a personal nature on a public computer. And remember that posting personal data on social networking sites makes you a target for identity thieves.

Deploy safety precautions. Online fraudsters are constantly changing their tactics, making it hard to stay abreast of every new scheme. Frequently monitor your accounts and financial statements, and check your credit reports at least once a year. Consider using ProtectMyID.com, an identity theft protection program which has services that can provide additional peace of mind.

Damage to your credit is one of the significant harms caused by identity thieves. By stealing your personal information, these criminals can try to open and use new credit accounts in your name. Products like ProtectMyID can help you detect, protect against and resolve instances of identity theft. Multiple layers of defense, like Surveillance Alerts, scan the Internet daily for potentially fraudulent use of members’ personal information. The product also gives members access to a dedicated resolution agent. Log on to www.protectmyid.com to learn more.

Four easy DIY ‘cheats’ that will look like you spent a bundle

Did you ever watch a home improvement show team transform a drab room into something spectacular using a shoestring budget and less time than it takes you to clean out your closet? Ever wonder how they did it? Here’s the secret: they cheat. And you can too.

You would probably never consider taking shortcuts in other aspects of your life, from car maintenance to paying your taxes. But when it comes to do-it-yourself home improvement and decorating projects, there’s no shame in “cheating” – and a lot to be gained by doing it. Decorator touches like crown moulding that requires no mitering and no-sew window treatments can give your home an instant visual upgrade for a fraction of the cost of having those jobs done professionally.

Here are four DIY “cheats” that will save you time and money – and yield professional results that look like you spent a bundle:

1. Crown moulding

Few design touches do more to dress up a room than adding crown moulding. But traditionally, crown moulding has been a job best left to professionals or DIYers with a lot more time and ambition than most. Adding crown molding the old-fashioned way requires expertise – like knowing how to properly cut and finish each piece – and tools that most homeowners simply don’t have.

Fortunately, there’s an easy alternative: Moulding Mates is a crown moulding installation system that requires no specialized tools or skills. You don’t even need to miter cut corners. Simply pre-finish the polyurethane moulding (which is available in a wide range of styles), attach the patented Quick Clips to the wall where you want to place the moulding, and pop the moulding lengths into place on the clips. Corner pieces and connector blocks cover ends and seams, eliminating the need to miter ends and patch or touch up the long pieces. You can easily install the entire system using a screw drill and a saw. You can learn more and browse products at www.focalpointproducts.com.

2. Carpet tiles

New carpeting is a much-desired upgrade. As anyone who’s ever bought carpet can tell you, the cost of installation can be prohibitive, yet properly installing wall-to-wall carpet requires specialized skills and tools that most DIYers don’t have. Carpet tiles can be a great alternative.

Installing carpet tiles is well within the abilities of most homeowners. Because they’re a smaller, more manageable size, carpet tiles are easier to install than a large piece of carpet. They require fewer cuts and no stretching. They also deliver enhanced design capabilities; it’s easy to create a unique pattern using different colored tiles.

3. Mirror framing systems

A frame around a bathroom mirror can give the entire room a more luxurious, upscale feel. Yet, like traditional crown moulding, conventional framing requires knowledge of mitering. Fortunately, a simple online search will yield plenty of easier options, including framing systems that provide a custom look with pre-cut (and mitered) frame pieces.

The systems require no more expertise to install than being able to follow measuring directions and apply adhesive to a mirror. Available in a wide array of designs and colors, these systems make it possible to frame a mirror to match virtually any design theme.

4. No-sew window treatments

Custom window treatments look great but can cost a bundle. Sewing them yourself requires more expertise than you likely gleaned in your high school home-ec class, and you would need a decent (read: expensive) sewing machine to do the job right. Creating no-sew curtains requires nothing more than a tape measure, some scissors, iron-on adhesive, an iron and several yards of the fabric of your choice. Simply measure the windows to find your desired fabric length, cut the fabric into appropriately sized panels, and use the adhesive and iron to finish the edges, no sewing required.

When it comes to do-it-yourself home improvement and decorating, don’t be a hero. A little “cheating” can save you time and money, and make creating your dream home fast, easy and rewarding.