- Never use anything but the proper fuse to protect a circuit.
- Find and correct overloaded circuits.
- Never place extension cords under rugs.
- Outlets near water should be GFCI-type outlets.
- Don’t allow trees near power lines to be climbed.
- Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power lines.
Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
- Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
- Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.
- Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
Use caution with holiday decorations and, whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant and non-combustible materials.
Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees.
Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. If you have any questions about electrical safety, ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next scheduled inspection. Do not overload extension cords.
Don’t mount lights in any way that can damage the cord’s wire insulation. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples–don’t use nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
Use only non-combustible and flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel and artificial icicles of plastic and non-leaded metals.
Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp and breakable, and keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children.
Avoid trimmings that resemble candy and food that may tempt a young child to put them in his mouth.
Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays, and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).
Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.
When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “fire-resistant.”
When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches, and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break.
When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.
Make sure the base is steady so the tree won’t tip over easily.
Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
Use care with “fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten.
Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Toys and Ornaments
Purchase appropriate toys for the appropriate age. Some toys designed for older children might be dangerous for younger children.
Electric toys should be UL/FM approved.
Toys with sharp points, sharp edges, strings, cords, and parts small enough to be swallowed should not be given to small children.
Place older ornaments and decorations that might be painted with lead paint out of the reach of small children and pets.
Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out of reach, or avoid having them.
Keep decorations at least 6 inches above the child’s reach.
Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause anything from mild distress to death.
Keep any ribbons on gifts and tree ornaments shorter than 7 inches. A child could wrap a longer strand of ribbon around their neck and choke.
Avoid mittens with strings for children. The string can get tangled around the child’s neck and cause them to choke. It is easier to replace a mitten than a child.
Watch children and pets around space heaters or the fireplace. Do not leave a child or pet unattended.
Store scissors and any sharp objects that you use to wrap presents out of your child’s reach.
Inspect wrapped gifts for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men, and mistletoe berries, all of which are choking hazards.
Use your home burglar alarm system.
If you plan to travel for the holidays, don’t discuss your plans with strangers.
Have a trusted friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your home.
A SAFE & JOYOUS HOLIDAY SEASON!
An ice dam is ice built up near the edge of your roof preventing water from running off of your roof.
The best prevention of ice dams starts with ensuring proper insulation and ventilation of the attic space. But it is December and the snow is here and most people will not have the time to make a repair like this during the holidays and the cold weather. It takes time and needs to be fixed to prevent water damage in the future from ice dams.
For now you can make a habit of clearing the edge of your roof with a snow rake.
What harm does an ice dam cause?
Ice dams hold back water causing water to enter the home by seeping under the shingles. This can lead to many issues such as:
- rotted roof decking, exterior and interior walls, and framing;
- respiratory illnesses (allergies, asthma, etc.) caused by mold growth;
- reduced effectiveness of insulation. Wet insulation doesn’t work well, and chronically wet insulation will not decompress even when it dries. Without working insulation, even more heat will escape to the roof where more snow will melt, causing more ice dams which, in turn, will lead to leaks; and
- peeling paint. Water from the leak will infiltrate wall cavities and cause paint to peel and blister. This may happen long after the ice dam has melted and thus not appear directly related to the ice dam.
How do I prevent ice dams?
- Keep the entire roof cold. This can be accomplished by implementing the following measures:
- Install a metal roof. Ice formations may occur on metal roofs, but the design of the roof will not allow the melting water to penetrate the roof’s surface. Also, snow and ice are more likely to slide off of a smooth, metal surface than asphalt shingles.
- Seal all air leaks in the attic floor, such as those surrounding wire and plumbing penetrations, attic hatches, and ceiling light fixtures leading to the attic from the living space below.
- Increase the thickness of insulation on the attic floor, ductwork, and chimneys that pass through the attic.
- Move or elevate exhaust systems that terminate just above the roof, where they are likely to melt snow.
- A minimum of 3″ air space is recommended between the top of insulation and roof sheathing in sloped ceilings.
- Remove snow from the roof. This can be accomplished safely using a roof rake from the ground. Be careful not to harm roofing materials or to dislodge icicles.
This week we are staying on the topic of radon since we are indoors more with the cold weather season. Midwesterners spend most of the winter inside in the warmth of their home (even the hard-core winter lovers). General indoor air quality is not as clean as the outdoors, malady holding in the dust, germs and even Radon!
Our homes obtain a large amount of air through the ground. Even a concrete slab is porous enough to pull air though and allow Radon and other particles into your home. Imagine your home as a giant vacuum.
As funny as this depiction is… it is very true. As we heat our homes it sucks air out of the ground. This air contains Radon and other gases from the soil. This is why even if a test shows lower than a 4.0PC/L reading some homeowners still mitigate to lower the Radon levels even further and get the additional benefits we have heard about from a mitigation system.
Benefits of a mitigation system can include:
- Lower Radon levels (50%-99% typical reduction)
- Cleaner smelling basements
- Lower levels of moisture in damp basements
- Higher resale value
- Cleaner indoor air
This is a video that really can hit home for some. It is a public service announcement from the EPA stressing the importance of testing your home for Radon.
Graphic courtesy of The EPA
Video courtesy of SOSRADON
Are there any symptoms that people might look at to suggest they have high radon levels in there house?
No symptoms can be detected. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non smokers. Radon is odorless and invisible.
What are clues that might indicate you need to have testing done sooner than later.
The only way to tell Radon level is to test.
Is this a soil condition that causes high levels?
There are areas of the world that have higher levels of radon due to the makeup of the earth below but all rock contains trace amounts of uranium that breaks down and causes Radon Gas.
What is Radon remediation?
Subfloor depressurization has been the most effective way of lowering Radon levels. Subfloor depressurization basically means venting the air from below your house. Your home is a big vacuum powered by the stack effect this is how Radon and a large amount of air you breath enters your home.
Do you report your tests results to the government?
No. The report is sent to our client and can be shared with who they wish to see it. In a real estate transaction it is disclosed to the home buyer.
Why should I pay a professional to perform the test when I can go buy a test kit for $20 from the store?
When you hire Acer Home Inspections you receive more than just the test results from our Continuous Radon Monitor.
- A graph and data table of hourly results
- Average Radon levels of the test
- A 3 ring binder to keep all of your Radon information in one place
- A test conducted to EPA standards
- Advice on what to do after your test
When using store bought kits EPA Standards require the use of 2 test kits for 72 hours plus shipping and processing. The results are then averaged to give the homeowners radon level. Acer Home Inspections can conduct the test in 48 hours and issue results with a detailed graph and table of radon levels within 24 hours of data collection.
Minnesota has a great booklet about Radon available in PDF form. Radon Booklet click here
Minnesota has a new law on the books about reporting any known radon tests being disclosed to a buyer of a home. This law starts January 1st 2014. Many of the news stations report Do It Yourself kits for cheap alternatives to hiring a professional. While the kits can be accurate there are protocols that I have been trained in to have the results hold up in the court of law.
The EPA has protocols that must be followed and documented in case there is any discrepancy in the future. Why is this important? When a home is sold the seller must disclose if Radon testing has been done. If Radon has been tested the information from the test must be disclosed along with any information about any mitigation completed on the home. Homes under 4.0 pc/l is below the EPA’s acceptable level of Radon for performing mitigation.
At Acer Home Inspections we use continuous radon monitors and EPA protocols to complete a Radon Test that will stand up if there are any questions. We are also a 3rd party that has no interest in the results and only care about the accuracy. We do not offer mitigation but there are many qualified companies that do.