With winter coming on to cool much of North America, it’s worthwhile to address a potential hazard that arises with increased use of fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces and water heaters: carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil, and propane in devices including furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. These items are designed to vent the CO to the outside, but harmful interior levels of CO can result from incomplete combustion of fuel, improper installation, or blockages, leaks or cracks in the venting systems. Very high levels of CO can lead to incapacitation or death, with victims sometimes never having been aware they were being poisoned.
Homeowners can take action against potential carbon monoxide poisoning by taking the following steps:
Never use a gas stove or oven to heat the home, even temporarily.
Have all fuel-burning appliances professionally inspected annually, preferably before the start of the cold weather season when heaters and furnaces are first used.
These appliances include gas stoves and ovens, furnaces and heaters, water heaters and gas clothes dryers.
All such devices should be properly installed and vented to the outside.
If repairs are necessary, have them performed by a qualified technician.
Always use the proper fuel specified for the device.
Have flues and chimneys for gas fireplaces inspected regularly for cracks, leaks, and blockages that may allow a buildup of CO to occur.
Do not start a vehicle in a closed garage or idle the engine in the garage even when the garage door is open.
Gasoline-powered generators and charcoal grills must never be used indoors.
Purchase a CO detector (either battery operated, hard wired or plug-in) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper location and installation.
Installation of working CO detectors in residential properties is now required by law in most states.
Learn what to do if the CO alarm activates. If anyone in the home experiences symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, or confusion, everyone should leave immediately and seek medical attention. If no symptoms are felt, open doors and windows immediately and shut off all fuel-burning devices that may be potential sources of CO.
Enjoy the comfort and safety of home this winter and all year long.
Any home can have a radon problem – old or new homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, homes with or without basements. Health Canada estimates that 1 in 14 homes in Canada has an elevated level of radon. Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer; in fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Lung cancer caused by avoidable radon exposure is preventable, but only if radon issues are detected and mitigated prior to prolonged exposure in homes and buildings. There is real risk in not knowing if a home has a high level of radon. Is it worth not knowing?
WHAT IS RADON?
Radon is a naturally occurring odourless, colourless, radioactive gas formed by the ongoing decay of uranium in soil, rocks, sediments, and even well or ground water. While radon that escapes into the atmosphere is not harmful, dangerously high concentrations can build up indoors, exposing occupants to possible health risks.
HOW DOES RADON GET INTO A HOME?
Radon can migrate into the home in several ways. Openings or cracks in basement walls, foundations or floors are common avenues. Sumps, basement drains, and spaces between gas or water fittings can also allow radon into the structure. Other entry points can include gaps in suspended floors and cavities within walls.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE MY CLIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES AREN’T AT RISK?
We encourage homeowners to add radon testing to the home inspection process. Your Pillar To Post Home Inspector will set up the monitoring equipment in the home and report on the results. If an elevated level of radon is detected, steps can be taken to reduce the concentration to or below acceptable levels inside virtually any home. This can include a relatively simple setup such as a collection system with a radon vent pipe, which prevents radon from entering the home in the first place. Professional mitigation services can provide solutions for a home’s specific conditions.
Request radon testing when you book your next home inspection with Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.
Help keep your loved ones and your home safe during the holidays with these smart precautions.
Check holiday light strands for damaged or broken wires and plugs. Enjoy indoor lights only while someone is home and turn them off before going to bed.
Keep live Christmas trees in a sturdy, water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Dried-out trees are dangerous and should be discarded immediately.
Always use non-flammable decorations both indoors and outdoors.
Be sure to keep space heaters away from bedding, curtains, paper — anything flammable. Never leave space heaters unattended while in use.
Children should not have access to or be allowed to use matches, lighters or candles.
Candles add lovely ambience to your holiday home. They need to be placed in stable holders and kept away from flammable items, drafts, pets and children or use an LED candle for peace of mind.
Busy with holiday cooking and baking? Kitchen fires are the leading cause of house fires. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach and know how to use it.
We hope you enjoy a happy and safe holiday season!
Feeling Blah? Top Energy- Boosting Ideas
Try these tips to keep your energy up throughout the day.
If you’re a morning person, try getting up extra early to get a jump on the day, or to just get some extra time for yourself.
Morning stretches help your body get off to a good start, and help with flexibility, too!
Instead of that afternoon cup of coffee, opt for a brisk walk outdoors.
Sitting at a desk all day? Be sure to get up to stretch for a couple of minutes at least every half hour.
Avoid caffeine later in the day. It will just keep you up late and you’ll feel tired in the morning as a result.
Here’s to a great day!
Your Roof & Drainage Checklist
You may not think about your roof and gutters very much, if at all. But it’s important to give them a checkup and some TLC to prevent big problems down the road.
Clean leaves and other debris from gutters to prevent clogs and pooling water. You may need to do this more than once a year if you have very heavy leaf fall.
After cleaning the gutters, run water through them from your garden hose to make sure the downspouts are clear and the water is channeled away from the foundation.
Check gutter sections for alignment and adjust them if necessary. Make sure seams between the sections are watertight.
Downspout extensions, available at hardware stores, can be used to carry water away from the home. Use these only where they won’t pose a tripping hazard.
Use binoculars to check the roof for missing or damaged shingles and flashing. If you notice any issues, have the roof inspected and any repairs made by a qualified professional before the snow!
Keeping your refrigerator in top shape will help it last longer and run more efficiently. Here’s how to do it!
CLEAN THE COILS
Dust or vacuum the condenser coils every few months. Depending on your specific model, they may be located under, behind or above the unit.
Clean dirt and debris from the door gasket on all sides. Check for cracks or other damage and replace the gasket if necessary to keep a tight seal.
Change the water filter for the ice maker and water dispenser as recommended by the manufacturer. No one wants dirty ice!
TAKE THE TEMP
Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature stays below 38°F /4°C. The freezer should be at 0°F /-18°C.
FILL ‘ER UP
Keep both the fresh food storage and freezer sections at least half full if possible. Cold or frozen food help maintain the temperature inside, much like a portable cooler stays colder longer when it’s full of cold items.
TIME TO GO?
If your fridge is over 20 years old, it should probably be replaced. An aging refrigerator might be using up to 3 times the amount of electricity compared to current energy-efficient models. Appliance delivery usually includes removing and recycling your old (faithful) unit.
Following these steps will help your refrigerator last longer, perform at its best, and will save on energy costs, too.
Smoke Alarms 101
Smoke alarms are an important defense against injury or death in house fires, so make sure your smoke alarms are in good shape to help warn your family in case of emergency.
Location is key! Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement.
The two primary types of smoke alarm technology are ionization and photoelectric. Ionization alarms are more responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types or combination units should be installed.
Never remove the unit’s battery or disconnect the alarm to stop or prevent annoying alarm bells such as those caused by cooking.
Replace the batteries at least once a year. Test each unit monthly using its test button and replace the battery if necessary. Many alarms now come with 10-year batteries that can’t be replaced, but should still be tested monthly to make sure they work.
Smoke alarms that are wireless or hard-wired to the home’s electrical system should be interconnected. If one alarm is triggered, all of the others will sound as well. Hard-wired alarms, interconnected or not, should be installed by a licensed electrician for safety and proper operation.
Remember, a non-working smoke alarm is no better than no alarm at all!
Laundry Room Ideas
Whether you’re looking to improve your existing setup or re-doing your laundry area, consider these ideas for making the best of laundry day.
Have a place to hang clothes that can’t go in the dryer. If you have the space, use a folding or pull-out drying rack.
Store detergent and other laundry products where you can reach them easily without bending or climbing.
Fold clean laundry on a bed if you don’t have counter space in the laundry room.
Consider a washing machine leak detector that will give you an early alert to a water leak.
Add some fun framed photos or kids’ artwork to the space and make the chore less of a bore.
Experience the Pillar To Post difference. Schedule your next home inspection today!
You can almost hear the hum of furnaces in homes throughout North America cranking up for the colder months ahead. It is especially important to have furnaces inspected and properly maintained to ensure that they run efficiently and safely. Here are some pointers to get the most out of a furnace:
SIMPLE WAYS TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY
Home heating, especially with a gas furnace and your location, can represent half or more of a typical home’s winter utility bill. Efficient operation can mean lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. Programmable thermostats can be used to automatically turn heat up or down at specified times, so that the temperature is lowered overnight or while no one is at home. The newest types of thermostats can be operated via smartphone or tablet and can even “learn” the preferred temperature for different times of day. Now that’s a “Hot Trend”.
Thermostats should be calibrated occasionally to avoid “off-cycle” heat loss. A properly calibrated thermostat will result in more even heating between the on/off cycles, which is more efficient and more comfortable.
SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE
Safety is also an important factor in furnace operation. Gas furnaces can be a source of dangerous carbon monoxide if there are leaks or cracks that go unnoticed or unrepaired. The furnace flame should be steady and burn blue; if not, this should be addressed immediately. A qualified contractor or inspector can detect these types of problems and recommend needed action.
Simple furnace maintenance includes checking and replacing disposable air filters and cleaning permanent-type filters, as well as keeping dust, hair, and lint away from the burner compartment and air intake. No matter what type it is, a well-maintained furnace will not only last longer, but can save energy, money, and help a home’s overall air quality and comfort.
CONSIDERING A NEW FURNACE?
If a new furnace is necessary, it’s worth it to evaluate the various types of furnaces available and how well they might meet a home’s specific situation. Furnaces are defined as conventional efficiency, mid efficiency, and high efficiency. There are advantages and drawbacks to each type, and some are better suited to older homes, for example. Cost may be a factor in considering various types of systems. However, the ability of most new furnaces to reduce off-cycle heat loss, eliminate the need for an always-on pilot light, etc., make replacing a furnace worth considering if the current system is in bad repair or functioning poorly.