Summer home safeguards

summer home safeguards
Summer home safeguards (infographic from crime prevention pamphlet montgomerycountymd.gov/POL)

Did you know that the AAA estimates that there will be about 100 million Americans who will take a family vacation this year (aaa.com)?  If you’re one of those millions planning a trip this summer, you’re likely stressing over your plans.  Some of that stress is certainly vacation planning, but some may be about leaving your home vacant for several or more days.  Besides planning your vacation, you should also plan to “summerize” your home by taking some summer home safeguards.

Just like winterizing a vacant home before winter, summerizing is safeguarding your home while your away on vacation.  And just like winterizing a home, summerizing is implementing a preventative plan to secure your home and possibly save a few dollars. Here are a few common knowledge ideas for summer home safeguards.

To save a few dollars, many homeowners adjust the HVAC thermostat while vacationing.  Some even turn off the HVAC system.  However, if you have a basement or cellar, consider adjusting the thermostat to a reasonable temperature (and/or use a dehumidifier) to prevent mold growth in a dark and potentially humid area of the home.

If your home will be vacant for an extended period, consider unplugging “zombie” appliances.  Zombie appliances are appliances that consume electricity even when they are not in use.  Many small appliances and internet connected appliances (such as your TV and other entertainment devices) are included in this category. 

One of the biggest concerns while away is the potential of returning to a waterlogged home.  A faulty valve or supply line can leak at any time.  If you’re away, you obviously can’t immediately respond to this scenario.  Although some home owners turn off the water at the main valve, this can interfere with a sprinkler system.  Most shut off specific valves to appliances and fixtures.  Some vacationing home owners also shut off outside water hose bibs to prevent others from using water at their expense.

Securing your home can deter burglars and pests.  Although it’s tempting to brag to your friends about your vacation, refrain from posting about your plans on social media.  Store your valuables in a safe, inconspicuous place.  If you don’t have a security system, consider installing a camera and lighting system that can alert you of unexpected activity.  An exterior camera and lighting system can be a major deterrent.  However, interior cameras can also alert you of a determined intruder so you can take appropriate action. 

To deter mice and other rodents from ransacking your home while you’re away, ensure that the home’s doors and windows are shut and secure.  Also, make sure the exterior dryer vent cover is closed.  Find and seal any holes where rodents can gain access your home. 

You may also want to employ some common some summer home safeguards strategies that make it appear as if you never went on vacation.  Connect a few lights to a timer to give the impression that someone is turning on lights at night.  Ask your neighbor or a friend to park in your driveway (or reserved space).  Although stopping the paper and mail while on vacation may seem clever, some home owners have a friend or neighbor pick up the daily paper and mail. 

One of the most common aspects of some summer home safeguards is having a trusted neighbor and/or friend occasionally check on the home.  They can ensure the home is secure, pick up any packages left at the door, and deal with any necessary maintenance (such as adjusting the thermostat).  Spreading this responsibility among multiple “guardians” can make it less of a burden and increase the frequency of “check-ins.”

Many local police departments offer a home security survey. Consider going through the survey to help with your planning.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/06/15/summer-home-safeguards/

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Winter ready home

Winter Ready Home
Be Winter Ready (infographic from cdc.gov)

After several years of brutal winter weather, we were given a reprieve of mild weather last year.  The warm weather trend has moved into the fall with some balmy days.  But you shouldn’t become complacent thinking that winter weather is a long way off.  Yes, it’s the time of year to take stock in your home and prepare for winter.  Is your home winter ready?

Of course, at the center of your winter ready home is the comfort your heating system delivers.  Regardless of the type of heating system you have, have a licensed a licensed professional inspect your home’s furnace.  The inspection can identify any issues that can cause your furnace to be inefficient and/or fail.  The inspection can also root out potential safety issues, such as carbon monoxide buildup.  If the system does not need to be repaired or replaced, the HVAC professional will tune the furnace to optimize the its performance.

Another thought for being winter ready is the fireplace.  Unfortunately, many homeowners overlook fireplace and chimney maintenance.  However, putting off fireplace and chimney maintenance can become a safety issue.  Wood burning fireplaces should be cleaned, inspected, and repaired if necessary.  Gas fireplaces require a licensed technician to inspect the pilot and electronics in the firebox.  Both wood and gas fireplaces require flue and chimney maintenance.  Creosote buildup can combust and cause a chimney fire.  Birds and other animals or debris can lodge in the chimney and prevent proper venting.  Defective fireplaces or improperly vented fireplaces can produce excess carbon monoxide in your home, which can be deadly.

You’re not winter ready unless you’re prepared for emergencies.  Test the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, replace them if necessary.  If your heating system and/or fireplace burns liquid, solid, or gas fuel, then you need to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.  Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless and tasteless and prolonged exposure can result in brain damage and death.  Experts recommend installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home, primarily near bedrooms.

Hose bibs are often ignored because many people don’t use them, or are not aware of how to maintain them.  However, hose bibs that are not winter ready are probably the number one source of winter pipe leaks.  If not winterized properly, the pipes leading to the hose bibs can freeze and expand.  This expansion can cause the pipe to burst, creating an unwanted winter leak.  If you’ve never winterized the hose bibs, or are not sure how, contact a licensed plumber.  Attempting to operate pipe valves that have been idle or not operated in a while can create or exacerbate an undetected leak.

Make sure your home’s roof system is winter ready.  Have a licensed professional inspect your home’s roof.  If shingles are not secure, melting and freezing snow can create ice dams.  Ice dams can lift and dislodge shingles allowing water to penetrate your home.  Water penetration from ice dams can cause damage to your home’s interior.  Besides damaging ceilings, water penetration can also damage walls and windows.

While your roof is being checked out, inspect the roof flashing, gutters and downspouts.  Roof flashing is often ignored, however is as important as shingles.  Roof flashing is used to transition from shingles (or other roofing) to other materials (such as brick, metal or PVC).  The flashing prevents water to leak between the roof and chimney or vent pipes.

Clean and repair clogged gutters and blocked downspouts.  Poorly maintained gutters and downspouts won’t allow for proper drainage of water from snow and rain.  Improper drainage can allow water to penetrate the foundation, creating structural and mold issues.

Preparing for winter will reduce the probability of having surprises.  Being winter ready will allow you to enjoy the winter months in your own winter wonderland.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Home price impact of power lines and cell towers

home price impact
Power lines, Cell towers, and home prices (infographic from bragg.com)

Anyone who has bought or rented a home has been told about lead paint, radon, and maybe even asbestos, as well as other potential hazards in the home.  But what about potential hazards brought about by technology, how do they affect home prices?  Many shirk away from homes that are close to power lines or cell towers because of health concerns; while some are repelled by the aesthetics.  Regardless, there’s probably a home price impact when in close proximity to power lines and cell towers.

What is considered to be necessary for modern living, power lines and cell towers are fundamental to our lives.  And although many are wary of the health effects from living nearby these devices; they will still have wi-fi, and a microwave oven in their home, and they probably also use a cell phone.  All of which emit similar types of radiation.

According to the American Cancer Society (cancer.org), the type of radiation emitted from power lines and cell towers are non-ionizing radiation, like the electronic devices mentioned above.  Non-ionizing radiation does not remove particles from atoms, nor does it directly change DNA.  Power lines emit ELF (extremely low frequency radiation), which is a lower energy radiation than visible light and infrared.

Cell towers, on the other hand, emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation that is between FM and microwaves.  Although very high levels of RF can be damaging to body tissue, the American Cancer Society website states that cell phones and towers emit RF at much lower levels (of course, one should not stand next to a cell tower).  More about power lines, cell towers, and health concerns can be obtained from the American Cancer Society website.

What is the home price impact when you sell your home?

Findings of a 2005 study conducted by Bond & Wang (The Impact of Cell Phone Towers on House Prices in Residential Neighborhoods. The Appraisal Journal. Summer 2005.) indicated that about 40% of the control group were concerned about health effects of living in close proximity to a cell tower; which compared to 13% of respondents already living nearby a cell tower.  Nevertheless, both groups were highly concerned about future property values: 38% of the control group would lower asking price by as much as 20%; while almost two-thirds of the respondents living close to a cell tower would lower the home price by as much as 19%.  Certainly you can see that there are concerns that may have a home price impact.

Maybe a home price impact is minimal.  Roddewig & Brigden’s review of the research into property values surrounding power lines was enlightening (2014. Power Lines and Property Prices. Real Estate Issues, 39(2),15-33.).  They stated that the appraisal industry does not automatically reduce prices just because of a property’s proximity to a power line, even though there has been history of concern over the environmental impacts.  And caution home owners, buyers, and real estate professionals to not substitute opinion for analyses of actual home prices.

They concluded that if there is a home price impact, it is a small reduction.  They explained that “the real estate appraisal profession has been studying those prices since the 1960s.  Some of the many published studies have found adverse impacts to property prices and values while others have found no impact or statistically insignificant impacts despite media attention given possible health effects of exposure to EMFs.”

Roddewig & Brigden also found that the long history of research suggests that negative impacts on property values from power lines can be limited by proper “land use planning and subdivision layout procedures.”

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2016/09/10/home-prices-power-lines-cell-towers/

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Vacation home preparation

vacation home preparation
Vacation home preparation (infographic from Tower Hill Insurance thig.com)

Summer vacation home preparation is much like preparing it for the winter or severe weather.  Much of the plan is conventional wisdom and incorporates penny pinching advice intended to prevent a potential hazard.  The goal is to anticipate and minimize problems while your away by safeguarding the home’s systems and implementing a security plan.

Many electrical items we use are considered to be “zombie” appliances; meaning they use electricity even when not in use.  Unplugging such items as the toaster, Keurig, and other small appliances that won’t be in use while you’re away will conserve energy (and may save you a few pennies).  More so, shut down (and unplug) your computers and printers to not just conserve energy, but to also thwart hackers while your away.

Some people play with their home’s thermostat to save some money.  The thought is that by setting the thermostat temperature much higher than usual, the air conditioner will not run as much (or at all).  However, if you have a basement or cellar, you might consider setting the thermostat temperature to a more reasonable temperature to prevent mold from growing in your dark and humid basement.

Some shut off the water to the house to prevent a water hazard.  However, shutting off valves at faucets, fixtures, or appliances may be a better plan if your home has a sprinkler system.  And to prevent someone taking advantage of your absence and wash a car or two in your driveway, you might also consider shutting off the valves to the exterior hose bibs.

Besides protecting your home’s systems, think about home security too!  First, refrain from posting your plans on social media.  Although you may want to inform your Facebook friends and Twitter followers of your itinerary, broadcasting vacation plans in such a way could also get the attention of a would be criminal looking for their next break-in.

Although storing your valuables in a safe place could minimize loss, consider implementing crime deterrents as well.  Installing motion activated lights on the home’s exterior may deter activity around the home at night; while electronic devices, such as the camera-doorbell, can notify you if there is any activity around the house during the day.

You may also consider implementing some common tactics to make it seem as if you never went on vacation.  Having a few lights on a timer will appear as if someone is turning lights on and off.  Besides having a neighbor pick up the mail and newspaper (many stop their paper and mail while they’re away), have them park in your driveway to make it seem as if someone is coming and going to and from the home.  Additionally, have a neighbor or friend check in on the home regularly to ensure it is secure.  Depending on the length of your vacation, they may drop in a few times, picking up any packages left at the door and adjusting the thermostat as necessary.

A summer vacation home preparation idea if your home is on the market – consider restricting showings to be by appointment only to ensure the house remains secure.  Talk to your agent about how to contact you in case of an emergency, your agent may check in on the home regularly too.  Don’t worry about missing out on a great offer on your home – if you will have email access, your agent can send you any offers and have you sign them electronically.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

What’s the controversy with laminate flooring?

Infographic where formaldehyde is commonly off-gassed in the home. (from greatertorontobuilders.com)

Since my last installment of How your Home is Making You Sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released and revised their analysis of certain types of Chinese laminate flooring. The initial release was found to have used an incorrect value for ceiling height, which calculated airborne concentration estimates about “3 times lower than they should have been.”

The increased interest in health concerns over certain types of Chinese laminate flooring was due in part to an exposé by CBS’ 60 Minutes (which aired March 1st, 2015) that investigated California home owners’ claims that certain types of laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators was making them sick. The investigation alleged that the Chinese laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators did not meet California Air Resources Board standards for formaldehyde emissions in wood flooring. Lumber Liquidators questioned the testing methodology and results (Lumber Liquidators; cbcnews.com; August 16th, 2015).

In a May 2015 press release, Lumber Liquidators stated that “Initial results of the indoor air quality testing program for certain laminate flooring customers – conducted by independent, accredited laboratories – indicate that over 97% of customers’ homes were within the protective guidelines established by the World Health Organization for formaldehyde levels in indoor air.” However, sales of the products in question were discontinued; and company has offered air quality test kits for those who have purchased laminate flooring from the company.

reduceformaldehyde
from “Laminate Flooring Test Results – Health Issues and Solutions” (cdc.gov)

Since the 60 Minutes exposé, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) tested samples of Chinese laminate flooring and along with the CDC issued “Laminate Flooring Test Results – Health Issues and Solutions”.   The consumer handout states that formaldehyde is found in many home products; and levels typically decrease after 2 years of installation. Recommendations in reducing health risks are also listed (cdc.gov/nceh/laminateflooring/docs/nceh-atsdr_laminate-flooring.pdf).

The February 10th CDC press release initial reported analysis conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) of the CSPC data “…found that formaldehyde levels observed in select laminate wood flooring products could cause short-term irritation for people in general and in some cases exacerbate asthma.  The risk of cancer associated with long-term exposure to the observed formaldehyde levels is considered extremely small…” (ATSDR and CDC Analysis Finds Possible Health Effects Associated with Formaldehyde in Select Laminate Flooring; cdc.gov).

However, a correction to the analysis was made several days later indicated that that although “the final results are not yet available,” the estimated conclusions are to be close to these: Exposure to the range of modeled levels of formaldehyde in indoor air could cause increased symptoms and other respiratory issues for people with asthma and COPD; Exposure to the lowest modeled levels of formaldehyde could result in eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone; and The estimated risk of cancer is 6-30 cases per 100,000 people (increased from the initial “Low risk of cancer” 2-9 cases per 100,000 people). The CDC cautions that these revised results are “very conservative” and “the calculated risk is likely lower than our modeled estimate.”

Even though the results are revised, the CDC states that their recommendations will likely remain the same – “we strongly stress taking steps to reduce exposures, which should alleviate respiratory and eye, nose and throat irritation.  These steps should also reduce the cancer risk.”

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