Biggest Mistakes When Heating Homes

With winter here to stay for the next few months, and thermostats are working overtime. That means high heating costs for a lot of us, but there are ways to make sure those bills stay as low as possible this winter. Here are six mistakes homeowners commonly make when heating their homes, and how you can avoid these pitfalls in the coming months.

1. Turning Up a Thermostat Too High To Heat a Cold House Quickly

When coming home to a cold house, it might be tempting to turn the heater up into the 80s to try to heat it faster. But thermostats don’t work like an accelerator on a car, as the Telegraph reports, and turning the heat up to blistering levels won’t warm your home faster. So just be patient and it will save you money.

2. Turning the Thermostat Way Down at Night

It’s best to avoid extremes with your thermostat. If you let the temperature in your house fall dramatically overnight, it’s going to require a lot of work from your heating system to warm the home in the morning. That could really cost you when the heating bill arrives.

3. Overworking a Thermostat That Has Its Limits

If you want the house to be 70 degrees and your thermostat is only reaching 66 degrees, turning the thermostat up to 74 degrees in an attempt to make up the difference could be a huge mistake. The furnace could be forced to work beyond its capability. Instead, find out what’s causing the problem and fix it. Heat could be escaping somewhere in your home, or you may need to replace a faulty furnace.

4. Heating an Empty House

In this day and age of controlling everything from a phone app, one of the easiest ways to save money is to install a system that can be adjusted remotely. Heating an empty home is one of the easiest ways to waste money, so a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars every year. Giving your thermostat a break every day – but don’t overdo it; see No. 2 – can also be beneficial to a longer life for your heating system.

5. Leaving Curtains Closed on Sunny Days

While your home is vacant, open the curtains to allow as much heating sunlight into your dwelling as possible. It’s most important that all south-facing windows are left uncovered. Solar warmth can go a long way not only in heating a house, but also in helping to give the furnace a break during the warmest hours of the day.

6. Not Locking Your Windows

In the summer, it’s common for homeowners to have a constant tango between opening the windows and keeping them closed to let the air conditioner do the hard work of keeping a home cool. It’s understandable if you forgot to lock those windows up before the cold weather arrives, but take the time now to ensure all windows are locked and sealed to keep warm air from escaping.

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Cleaning With Lemons

Soap scum on your shower door can easily ruin the relaxation of any morning shower. And while there are a number of good cleaners on the market for tackling this nuisance, sometimes it’s nice to switch it up with an all-natural solution that can leave your bathroom smelling lemony-fresh.

Step 1: Cut a lemon in half.

Step 2: Rub it all over the scummy door. Be sure to use the fruit side of the lemon, not the peel!

Step 3: Rinse.  Rinse the door using warm water. You may want to also use a squeegee. According to Better Homes and Gardens, it can help prevent hard-water buildup. Repeat with the other half of the lemon if necessary.

You can also try this quick fix on your shower tiles.

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Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term commonly used for non-specific symptoms that are temporally related to occupancy of a particular building. When building-related symptoms are characteristic of a specific clinical entity, they are called Building Related Illness (BRI). These illnesses are varied, and include Legionnaires’ disease, building related hypersensitivity pneumonitis, building-related asthma, and others.

SBS symptoms include mucous membrane irritation (cough, scratchy throat, stuffy sinuses, and itchy eyes), headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and other non-specific symptoms. The causes of SBS vary with the building and its occupants. SBS was once called “Tight Building Syndrome” and was considered to be a result of excess tightening of buildings in response to energy use concerns. However, many buildings with an excess of symptoms among the occupants are well ventilated. Still, increase in ventilation rates is often the “cure” for the problem.

Some people consider that SBS is caused not by the physical environment, but, rather, by psychosocial factors. Gender, lack of control, poor management, too much work, too little work, perceived housekeeping quality, and many other social factors have been blamed for the symptoms. In some cases, psychosocial factors may be the major cause of complaints. However, clearly, in some cases, environmental factors are at fault. For example, paper dust, and photocopier use have both been related to increases in complaints in a dose-dependent way. An excess of volatile organic compounds have been blamed for SBS symptoms. However, one study attributed this effect to the perception of odors at VOC concentrations far below those that would be likely to have an effect. These authors discuss the possibility that reactive chemistry might produce irritants that might be responsible for some symptoms.

Mold contamination has clearly been related to cases of BRI. However, its relationship to SBS is less clear. A Swedish study documented that dampness in residential buildings was associated with SBS symptoms with symptoms increasing with the number of dampness indicators present. Whether or not mold growth was responsible for these symptoms remains unknown. An extremely interesting study exposed people to measured doses of airborne fungal spores from growth on building materials. In this study, symptoms were similar among the two fungi studied AND for the placebo tests, indicating no specific effect of the spores. Mycotoxins have not been measured in quantities sufficient to cause the normal SBS symptoms, and the data regarding the role of mycotoxins in indoor air remain equivocal.

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Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 2

Bathroom

  • Ventilation. Install and use an exhaust fan to reduce moisture while taking baths or showers.
  • Floors. Remove carpeting and use tile, vinyl, wood or linoleum flooring. Use washable rugs.
  • Walls. Remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.
  • Shower and tub. Towel-dry the tub and enclosure after use. Scrub mold from tub, shower and faucets with bleach. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats.
  • Toilet and sink. Scrub mold from plumbing fixtures. Repair leaks.

Basement

  • Flooring. Remove moldy or water-damaged carpeting. If possible, use concrete, vinyl or linoleum flooring.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Foundation, windows and stairwells. Check for and repair any sources of leaks or water damage.
  • Air quality. Use a dehumidifier to reduce dampness, and clean it once a week.
  • Storage. Store collectibles and clothes in plastic storage bins.
  • Clothes dryer. Vent moisture outside.

Entire House

  • Temperature and humidity. Hot, humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain temperature between 68 F (20 C) and 72 F (22 C) and keep relative humidity no higher than 50 percent. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.
  • Pests. Control cockroaches and mice with inexpensive traps from the hardware store. If that’s not effective, hire a professional exterminator. To remove allergy-triggering insect and mouse residue, thoroughly vacuum carpeting and wash hard surfaces. To prevent re-infestation, seal cracks or other possible entryways.
  • Mold. Close doors and windows during warm weather and use air conditioning and dehumidifiers. Remove nonwashable contaminated materials such as carpeting.
  • Clean washable material with a solution of 5 percent chlorine bleach and wear a protective mask when cleaning away mold. Check the roof and ceilings for water leaks.
  • Weekly cleaning routine. Damp-mop wood or linoleum flooring and vacuum carpeting. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small-particle or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Use a damp cloth to clean other surfaces, including the tops of doors, windowsills and window frames. If you have allergies, either wear a dust mask or get someone who doesn’t have allergies to do this job. Change or clean heating and cooling system filters once a month.
  • Smoking. Don’t allow smoking anywhere inside your house.

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Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 1

If you have hay fever or allergic asthma, take a few steps to reduce allergens in your home. Some steps to reduce indoor allergens are complicated and time-consuming — but there are some easy things you can do that may help. Some steps may be more effective than others, depending on what particular allergy or allergies you have.

Bedroom

  • Bed and bedding. Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in water heated to at least 130 F (54 C). Remove, wash or cover comforters. Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials.
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Shampoo the carpet frequently.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Furnishings. Choose easy-to-clean chairs, dressers and nightstands made of leather, wood, metal or plastic. Avoid upholstered furniture.
  • Clutter. Remove items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines. Store children’s toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, at least keep animals out of the bedroom. Bathing pets at least once a week may reduce the amount of allergen in the dander they shed.
  • Air filtration. Choose an air filter that has a small-particle or HEPA filter. Try adjusting your air filter so that it directs clean air toward your head when you sleep.
 Living room
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash area rugs and floor mats weekly, and shampoo wall-to-wall carpets periodically.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Plants. Find a new home for potted plants or spread aquarium gravel over the dirt to help contain mold.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, consider keeping it outside if weather permits.
  • Fireplaces. Avoid use of wood-burning fireplaces or stoves because smoke and gases can worsen respiratory allergies. Most natural gas fireplaces won’t cause this problem.
 Kitchen
  • Stove. Install and use a vented exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture. Most stove-top hoods simply filter cooking particulates without venting outside.
  • Sink. Wash dishes daily. Scrub the sink and faucets to remove mold and food debris.
  • Refrigerator. Wipe up excessive moisture to avoid mold growth. Discard moldy or out-of-date food. Regularly empty and clean dripping pan and clean or replace moldy rubber seals around doors.
  • Cabinets and counters. Clean cabinets and countertops with detergent and water. Check under-sink cabinets for plumbing leaks. Store food — including pet food — in sealed containers.
  • Food waste. Place garbage in a can with an insect-proof lid and empty trash daily. Keeping the kitchen free of food crumbs will help reduce the chance you will have rodents or cockroaches.

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Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

At first, increasing forgetfulness or mild confusion may be the only symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that you notice. But over time, the disease robs you of more of your memory, especially recent memories. The rate at which symptoms worsen varies from person to person. If you have Alzheimer’s, you may be the first to notice that you’re having unusual difficulty remembering things and organizing your thoughts. Or you may not recognize that anything is wrong, even when changes are noticeable to your family members, close friends or co-workers. Brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease lead to growing trouble with:

Memory

Everyone has occasional memory lapses. It’s normal to lose track of where you put your keys or forget the name of an acquaintance. But the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and worsens, affecting your ability to function at work and at home.

People with Alzheimer’s may:

  • Repeat statements and questions over and over, not realizing that they’ve asked the question before
  • Forget conversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later
  • Routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations
  • Get lost in familiar places
  • Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects
  • Have trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or take part in conversations

Thinking and reasoning

Alzheimer’s disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts like numbers. Multitasking is especially difficult, and it may be challenging to manage finances, balance checkbooks and pay bills on time. These difficulties may progress to inability to recognize and deal with numbers.

Making judgments and decisions

Responding effectively to everyday problems, such as food burning on the stove or unexpected driving situations, becomes increasingly challenging.

Planning and performing familiar tasks

Once-routine activities that require sequential steps, such as planning and cooking a meal or playing a favorite game, become a struggle as the disease progresses. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer’s may forget how to perform basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.

Changes in personality and behavior

Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect the way you act and how you feel. People with Alzheimer’s may experience:

  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Distrust in others
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Wandering
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen

Many important skills are not lost until very late in the disease. These include the ability to read, dance and sing, enjoy old music, engage in crafts and hobbies, tell stories, and reminisce. This is because information, skills and habits learned early in life are among the last abilities to be lost as the disease progresses; the part of the brain that stores this information tends to be affected later in the course of the disease. Capitalizing on these abilities can foster successes and maintain quality of life even into the moderate phase of the disease.

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My Own Mold Testing Experience

After months of searching for a new home, my wife and I finally found our dream house.  A grand two story entry, a cookers dream kitchen with Wolf appliances, two story living room and a bedroom bigger than most apartments.  Our excitement was too much to contain and we even started planning what furniture we would buy for each room, and which colors to change.  There was zero doubt during the inspection period that I wouldn’t get a mold test for two reasons.  One being how often I preach of the importance of mold testing, and two, I own the company and perform all testings so it’s nearly free.  I was slightly concerned when I saw suspect areas on the joists in the basement and crawl space, and more anxious about the attic.  I took nine interior air samples and four lifts prior to submitting the results.  After a few days, the results came back with nearly nothing on the air samples, but failed in both the attic and basement for the surfaces tested.

Saying I was disappointed was an understatement, as I passed this house after we had an agreement probably thirty times, and even took my parents to see it.  So now what?  I approached this house as if it was someone else’s home, which it still was, and wrote an estimate which turned out to be just over thirty eight thousand dollars.  You see, the basement was big but the attic was massive.  If it was a small mold issue, it would only cost me material and labor to remediate the problem.  But this was very different because it would take three weeks to complete, and that’s something I can’t just chalk as a loss. After trying to negotiate with the home owner, we couldn’t come to terms and I walked away from the house.

The point?  I can see some people saying, “How can you own a mold remediation company and not see the mold?”  The answer is simple.  The areas were suspect and not definitive, and warranted testing to confirm.  I also sampled a few random areas that had no visible discoloration, and they too failed because mold is microscopic.  The greater point.  If I hadn’t followed my own suggestions to all perspective home buyers I would have been stuck with a major mold remediation project, even be it that I own the company.  Mold testing does not cost much, but what it can find can save you way more.

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