Wednesday, February 29, 2012

To Replace or Not Replace

With temperatures in low digits like they are now, our heaters and furnaces begin to seem like one of the best inventions ever. Truly, the development of home comfort systems was more than just a good idea. They’re actually life-savers during the harshest weather days.
We always tell friends that maintaining your system year after year does two important things: it helps lengthen the life of the system itself, and it helps improve its energy-efficiency. After all, the quality of your system is directly related to the quantity of energy dollars you spend. And, for wintertime especially, system maintenance alerts you to lurking dangers, such as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty equipment.
Even so, no matter how well you maintain your equipment, at some point, replacement time comes. If you think that’s true for your home, we’ve got two important things we want you to know. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Carbon Monoxide: A Hidden, Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide (CO) is one of the greatest dangers that can affect the quality of the air in your home as well as put your family’s life at risk. The seriousness of carbon monoxide poisoning has partly to do with the difficulty of its detection: CO is an odorless, colorless gas. According to the EPA, because you can’t see it, taste it or feel its toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware that it’s in your home.

Additionally, the symptoms of CO poisoning are much like those of many other illnesses – headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. So you might mistake it for a bout of the flu and make the very wrong assumption that staying home will be good for you.

How CO poisoning affects you and your family members will depend on various factors, including age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. Low concentrations of CO could produce fatigue in healthy people but chest pain in people with heart disease. Higher concentrations could produce impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. CO is fatal at very high concentrations.

What Causes CO Poisoning?

Exposure to carbon monoxide could come from variety of sources, including: unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke. In particular, worn or poorly maintained combustion devices – like boilers and furnaces – can be significant sources, or if the flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected, or leaking.

What Should You Do?

First, install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms and one near the main gathering area. And also follow this guidance from the EPA:

·                Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
·                Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.
·                Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
·                Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
·                Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
·                Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
·                Do not idle the car inside garage.

Have you had a tune-up and safety inspection on your heating system? Call us to schedule one at (512) 252-4700.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Give Your Home a Little TLC This Winter

In the lead up to winter weather, it’s a good idea to take stock of your home’s condition and tend to routine seasonal maintenance. After all, the steps you take now can help you and your family stays comfy and cozy when the weather turns bitter.

Winter home maintenance typically involves several areas of attention, including:

·         Gutters and Downspouts – Keeping gutters and downspouts clear of debris and fallen leaves should be a routine task, especially as winter approaches. Spraying water down the downspouts will help loosen and wash away debris. You may also want to consider gutter screens for your gutters.

·         Roof – Speaking of the roof, check for loose, damaged or missing shingles or tiles, or problems with flashing – any of which could lead to leaks. If found, make sure they’re repaired. Also, check the underside of the roof for any spots or odors that may be signs of a leak.

·         Windows and Doors – Check weather-stripping on doors, and check caulk on windows. Or consider both if you’ve done neither. Caulking helps seal gaps, keep heat in and keep moisture away.

·         Seal Leaks – While windows and doors are obvious sources of cracks, any cracks in the exterior of your house can let heat out. Check all exterior areas and fill and seal any cracks that are located with a caulking compound.

·         Home Heating Schedule a cleaning and inspection of your heating system. Ask about duct cleaning, too, if it’s been awhile since you’ve had that service done. Also, inspect your fireplace and chimney.

·         Insulation – If you aren’t sure if your home is properly insulated, or if you’re concerned that your insulation may be damaged, give us a call and we can inspect it for you. Proper insulation can result in significant energy savings. Give us a call for a free inspection!

·         Other Areas – Once you’ve given your home a complete once-over, don’t stop there. Check the driveway and sidewalk for cracks, and check the curb and gutter near your driveway to make sure they are clear of debris.

Let us know if we can help by inspecting your heating system and other areas of your home that may need winterizing for you and your family to stay warm and cozy this winter.  Call (512) 252-4700.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Does Cold Weather Cause Colds?

I used to think so. (Hey, the name fits!) But even though fall and winter are the “prime time” for colds, researchers say that sniffles and air temperature aren’t necessarily related.

The seasonal occurrence may be due to spending more time indoors. And when indoor groups spend a lot of time together – such as in classrooms – the odds increase that germs will be spread.

Relative humidity may also be a factor. In colder months, humidity is low, and that gives cold-causing viruses a better chance for survival. Also, in cold weather, nasal passages’ lining become drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.

To prevent colds:

§  Wash your hands. Hand washing is the simplest and most effective way to avoid colds, especially after making hand contact with others.

§  Don’t touch your nose and eyes. Sneeze or cough into a facial tissue and throw it away. Be aware that others with colds put you at risk. Avoid close, prolonged exposure.

§  Check into a humidifier. These keep the moisture in your home at the ideal level for your comfort and can reduce your chances of getting a cold. (Plus, they can keep your furniture from swelling or cracking and doors from sticking!) Call us and we will give you more info on these health and comfort marvels! They really work.

§  Cold germs can live up to 3 hours on objects and skin. Cleaning surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant also helps prevent spread of infection.