Bamboo

How to Remove Invasive Bamboo from Your Yard

Bamboo is a popular ornamental plant in many areas with warm climates, but if yours has gotten out of control, then it can be a massive headache. Removing invasive bamboo isn’t always an easy process, but with a little bit of planning, it is quite doable. Here are a few tips for removing invasive bamboo in your yard.

What is Bamboo?

Native to tropical forests, bamboo is a type of grass that has a thick, woody stem, with stalks that can vary from a few millimeters around to nearly four inches in diameter. It can also be a very hardy plant, in some cases surviving freezing temperatures. Even though the stalks are hollow, the tensile strength of mature bamboo can be as strong as steel.

Bamboo is world-famous for being the fastest known growing plant. Most species can grow several feet in a month, with some kinds growing as much as three feet per day! Additionally, bamboo can spread outward as well as upward — runner bamboo can spread nearly 15 horizontal feet per season.

This plant spreads by sending out new shoots, rather than by spreading seeds. The root system grows outwards from the base, occasionally sprouting new stalks. This makes it very difficult to eradicate unless the entire root system can be completely removed, and since a single growth can extend for acres, this might be a difficult task.

How to Prevent Invasive Bamboo Growth

If you’ve lost control of the invasive bamboo in your yard, have a neighbor whose bamboo patch is spreading, or even live next to a forested area, then you know how tough it can be to deal with. Bamboo is an invasive species in many areas, and even when it’s native to a location, it’s still hard to keep it out of your yard. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to prevent this weed from growing in your yard.

Prevention, of course, is the best treatment. If you notice bamboo encroaching in your yard or want to control a plant of your own, start by putting up a barrier. It should be made of concrete or metal for maximum effectiveness; wood often works for a few years but will eventually decompose in the soil. The barrier should extend at least two feet below the ground and six inches above it. Be vigilant and cut back any shoots that try to sneak over it.

If it’s too late and you already have a invasive bamboo infestation, then not all is lost. There are steps that you can take to eliminate it — although these steps may not be the obvious ones.




3 Tips to Eliminating Visible Bamboo Growth

So what does work? If your invasive bamboo has grown particularly tall, then your first step should be to cut it back to a manageable height. This can be done with a machete (for large shoots) or pruning shears (for smaller ones). If you have extremely small or tender bamboo, then you might be able to use your lawn mower to trim it. Cut as close to the ground as possible to make the next few steps easier.

There are three basic steps you should take to eliminate invasive bamboo from your yard. You should:

  1. Cut Shoots

    Make sure that when you’re eliminating bamboo, don’t leave the bamboo shoots, root systems, or other waste near your yard where the bamboo can spread again. If your city has a green waste program, check to see if they accept bamboo. If not, the plants can be composted (without the roots), burned, or even used for arts and crafts. Just don’t let them back into your yard.

  2. Dig Deep

    The next step is to eliminate as much of the root system as possible. Dig up the bamboo clumps, eliminating as many of the shoots and tendrils as you can find. You may have to go as deep as two or three feet to make sure that you’ve gotten it all.

  3. Apply Herbicide

    After a few days, the bamboo will probably start to crop up again, although it will most likely be thinner than before. When you first encounter these small shoots, kill them right away. Use maximum strength herbicide to poison the plant. You can either spray it directly on the leaves, or (for the best effect) cut the plant back and dab the herbicide directly onto the freshly cut stem. After about a week or so, the plant will begin to appear brown; this means that it is dead or dying. Once this happens, dig it up again.

    This process can be helped along by placing a plastic barrier over the plant and anchoring it with rocks or landscape pins. Not only will this block sunlight from getting to the plant, it will help prevent rainwater from diluting the herbicide and intensify the effects.

Organic Alternative to Herbicides

If you dislike using chemicals like herbicide in your yard, one organic solution is to pour boiling water over the plant. The extreme heat will kill the bamboo without harming your soil. However, this many not be as effective for larger infestations.




Treatments to Avoid

What doesn’t work when you’re trying to remove invasive bamboo? Simply cutting it back is rarely effective, because this doesn’t deal with the root system. The plant will just send up new shoots in a matter of days or weeks. Using some substances such as rock salt or bleach might help, but they can also damage your soil and make it difficult to grow anything after the bamboo is removed. Trying to burn the bamboo can actually make the problem worse, since it not only leaves the root system intact but enriches the soil with extra nutrients. And purchasing a panda to eat the bamboo isn’t really a feasible option.

What you should do if nothing else is working

If none of these solutions are working, then there is one more drastic option that you can take. You may need to not only eliminate the bamboo plant, but also the topsoil in your yard. This step combined with concrete barriers can eliminate bamboo once and for all. However, since it’s an expensive and difficult process, you might be better off trying the other options mentioned here first.

Conclusion: Don’t Give Up!

A hardy bamboo plant can live for decades, so eliminating bamboo is not a one-time process. Two or three years of dedicated treatment may be necessary to make your yard completely bamboo free. Don’t give up hope, though, and keep fighting that plant — eventually you’ll be able to eliminate it and enjoy a bamboo free yard.

Bagless Vacuum Cleaner

5 Benefits of Bagless Vacuum Cleaners

How a Bagless Vacuum Cleaner Will Benefit You

The idea of centrifugal separation vacuuming has been around since at least the 20’s, but the most recent trend toward this technology, and the bagless vacuum, was the making of James Dyson who introduced his first unit in 1979. They gained in popularity especially in the 1990’s and soon other big name vacuum manufacturers, such as Hoover and Shark, adopted examples of the technology.

What makes a bagless vacuum a good decision?

Most bagless vacuums have much the same options their bagged counterparts including; motorized brushes, all the extensions and add-ons and running lights, but they have some standout characteristics. Below, we have taken a closer look at five benefits that bagless vacuum cleaners have over their bagged counterparts.

1. Less Loss of Suction

You know those times your vacuuming along, really putting a dent in the house cleaning, and you feel that slow dread rising as you realize dirt particles aren’t staying in the vacuum. A kernel of popcorn is sucked away as you pass over it only to be spat back out a moment later. You pull the hose, placing your hand against the end and sure enough, the satisfying slurp and high whine of good suction is not to be found.

Vacuum Cleaner Bag

Does the bag need to be changed? You expose the vacuums guts and tentatively poke at its stomach. It seems only half full. But something has stolen suction, so you pull the bag off the fitting, see nothing, replace it on the post, close it up and start the vacuum again. And suction is back, but still not quite what it is with a brand new bag.

Okay, it doesn’t always happen like this, but I’m sure this has happened to you at least once. Overall bagged vacuum cleaners preform admirably, but we all know that they have a tendency to slowly lose suction as the bag fills.

Bagless vacuums lose far less suction as the dust collection cup fills and often even continue to have good suction when the cup is almost completely full. But there is also less chance of the dust cup becoming completely full; it’s transparent and you know exactly when it needs emptying.




2. Bagless Vacuums Are Environmentally-Friendly

Bagless vacuums are better for the environment. Every bag takes resources to make, takes resources to transport to the store where you will purchase it. Every bag you use and throw away goes into a landfill. It may seem a small thing but when you’re trying to live greener the small things add up.

With a bagless vacuum you are not taking part in the using of those resources and the only thing you are throwing away is the dust and other debris sucked up off the floor. You are not adding to it by throwing away the container too.

3. Satisfaction of Seeing Your Work

There is something very satisfying about being able to look through the transparent plastic canister and see all the dirt and grime you’ve gotten off the floor. Like a salesman working hard to sell the vacuum, you may find yourself running to someone else in the house just to show how much you’ve picked up, how messy the house really was, and pointing out, yes it actually really did need to be cleaned.

Bagless vacuums also make it tons easier to find that jack of Jimmy’s or little Mary’s doll barrette, sucked away in a moment of poor floor scrutiny. There’s no having to cut into a bag to get at lost items, just dump the canister carefully in a trashcan lid and easily fish out the once missing treasures.

4. Easy To Empty

Bagless canisters are also very easy to empty. Usually only requiring a release from the vacuum body and a snap of the bottom or top canister lid. You want to do this over an outside trashcan and as close to the bottom as possible, because all the dust can easily turn into a big cloud if some care is not taken.

This also brings up the point of allergies. Bad allergies may be a good reason to stick with bagged vacuums. But many bagless vacuums now have HEPA filtration built right in and if done carefully and with a little thought these canisters can be emptied with minimal allergic reactions; and, going back to the green point, a single reusable allergy face mask worn when emptying the canister is greener then throwing bag after bag away.

After emptying the canister, you also have a unique opportunity to clean the inside of the bin and perhaps wash/replace the filters. Taking the extra couple of minutes to clean your machine will go along way in keeping it in top working condition.




5. No Fussing with Bags

I know I’ve found myself in the situation where I’m in a cleaning mood. I start vacuuming and realize the bag needs to be changed, so I start searching… where did I put those, in closets and drawers until finally I conclude that I have no more bags, so, an extra trip to the store to get bags. It’s a hassle, at least for those lacking in their organization. With a bagless vacuum cleaner this is just not a worry. When you’re ready to clean, the vacuum is ready to clean.

There is some maintenance with bagless vacuums. The filters need to be cleaned periodically to maintain best performance. Most are easily washable. They will also need to be replaced once-in-awhile, but far less often than you would be buying bags (again the greener part).

There’s also a reason most handheld, stick, and robot vacuum cleaners are bagless, this type of technology is more easily molded into these less conventional vacuum configurations. Not to mention more favorable by consumers.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether purchasing a bagged or bagless vacuum cleaner remember to do some research on the pros and cons of each type. It is important to purchase a well-designed and easy-to-use vacuum. After all, if you don’t like to use the vacuum it makes cleaning that much more of a chore. Bagless vacuums are not inherently better than vacuums that require bags, but they do offer a greener, more hassle-free cleaning experience for those that would like the option.


Steam Mops vs. Steam Vacuums: The Pros & Cons

What is a Steam Cleaner?
What Are the Benefits of Using Steam to Clean?
The Pros & Cons of Steam Mops
The Pros & Cons of Steam Vacuums
Which One is Best for You?

A decade ago, having a steam cleaning vacuum or a mop that was fancier than a stick with dreadlocks was pretty much a dream for your average homeowner. Over the last few years, however, an influx of technological advances and new features have created a wide variety of steam cleaning devices that have completely revolutionized the way we clean our homes.

We now not only have budget-friendly steam cleaners available to the average consumer, but we have choices between different types. For the purpose of this article, I’d like to focus on the differences between steam mops and steam vacuums. Weighing the pro’s and con’s of these two popular types of steam cleaners will give you the opportunity to make the best purchase for you and your family.

So, before you rush out and buy the first unit you come across, let’s take a closer look at the benefits, disadvantages and the differences between steam mops and steam vacuums. But first, let’s take a step back and review what exactly a steam cleaner is, and why every homeowner should own one.

What is a Steam Cleaner?

As the name suggests, a steam cleaner uses steam to clean your floors and carpets, mainly, but can also be used to clean your clothes, curtains, and a whole host of other areas and objects in your home.

On a personal note, as a father of an infant, my handheld steam cleaner is the easiest way to sanitize the toys my teething son loves to chew on. So, you may very well be surprised at what all you could clean with a steam cleaner.



What are the benefits of using steam to clean?

Let’s go over five of the most obvious benefits of using a steam cleaner to clean and sanitize your home.

  1. Hygienic Cleaning:

    Steam and the heat it produces can kill around 99% of the germs, bacteria and parasites that may be lurking around your home. That means that whatever surface you steam clean is completely disinfected and sanitized. More so than could ever be achieved by a vacuum or swiffer alone.

  2. Kills Almost Everything:

    Not only does steam kill germs and bacteria, but it can also kill pests and insects. This would include the microscopic pests you probably don’t even realize are there, such as dust mites. The steam is hot enough to kills ants, ticks, fleas and other common household pests. If you’re using a steam vacuum, it kills the pests with the steam, and then sucks up their remains.

  3. Chemical-Free Cleaning:

    The steam cleaners only use steam to clean and sanitize your homes. While some models may allow you to add chemical cleaners, they are not necessary to kill off the germs and bacteria that may be contributing to your dirty home. Maybe it’s just me, but the less chemicals used in my home, especially on the floors where my kids play, is nothing but a good thing. Not only does this help you clean your home, it helps establish a safer environment for your children and pets.

  4. Works Quickly / Saves You Time:

    Not only does the steam soften up the hard-to-clean stains, it also allows you to clean those trouble areas quicker and more efficiently. If you were to use a swiffer or traditional mop, you’d have to wait for it to dry, and possibly, re-clean areas that you may have used chemicals on.

  5. Air Purification:

    While this seems like a stretch, because of the filters that they use, some steam cleaners actually help clean the air as you clean the floors. While this is a benefit, it should be noted that an air purifier is still the most effective method at cleansing the air in your home. But, a steam cleaner can help supplement the air purification process, as can certain houseplants.

Bottom-Line:

The bottom-line here, is that a steam cleaner is a great way to safely and efficiently clean your home, especially the floors. But, you still have to figure out which type of steam cleaner is best for your situation. So, let’s now take a look at the differences between two of the most popular versions — steam vacuums and steam mops.

Steam Mop: The Pros & Cons

A steam mop is a common household appliance that helps you clean your carpets and floors without the use of harsh chemicals. Unlike a traditional mop that requires soap and detergents to clean the floors, steam mops utilize the heat of steam to sanitize, clean and disinfect the floors. Because the device uses steam, it is able to kill approximately 99% of the germs, bacteria and dust mites that may be on your floors, as well as clean up the dirt and grime that may be noticeable.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of steam mops to give you a better idea of what you can expect to get out of it.

The Pros:

  • No Bucket Required:

    Cleaning with a steam mop eliminates the need to have a container filled with water. The old-fashioned method of mopping would require a bucket of soapy water and a dirty mop that you would need to wring frequently. This is not the case with a steam mop. Simply fill up the canister with water and you cleaning your floors has never been easier.

  • Save Time & Energy:

    Piggybacking on the previous pro listed above, working with a steam mop will save you time, energy and, ultimately, help cut down on the fatigue you may experience while doing these necessary chores. Not only is a steam mop easier to use, it’s more sanitary and efficient than a conventional mop.

  • Environmentally Friendly & Healthier Home:

    Because a steam mop uses intense heat in the form of steam, you don’t need to use any chemicals to achieve a hygienic cleansing on your floors. Whereas, with a traditional mop or swiffer, you will need to mix detergents, bleach and other potentially dangerous chemicals to achieve the same level of cleanliness. And then follow-up with clean water, if you don’t want those chemicals lingering around.

  • Lightweight:

    A steam mop is a compact, small and lightweight appliance. While the sizes and shapes will vary from model to model, they are typically smaller than steam vacuums and/or a traditional (non-steam) vacuum cleaner.

  • Easier to Store:

    Because of its smaller size, a steam mop is very easy to store when not in use. It’s compact, lightweight dimensions allow you to store it in many areas of your home. Even those with little storage space available. The same cannot always be said about vacuum cleaners, whether they use steam or not.




The Cons:

  • Not Multi-Surface Friendly:

    Steam mops are typically designed to clean hardwood and tiled floors only. There is a myth out there that you cannot clean carpets with a steam mop, but that’s merely a myth. You may need to purchase an extra attachment or accessory, but there are many steam mops out there that can clean both carpets and hard floors. However, you cannot clean as many areas in your home as you can with a steam vacuum cleaner, including furniture, curtains and other upholstered items. At least, it’s not an easy task to accomplish.

  • Extra Prep Time:

    In order for you to get the most effective clean with your steam mop, it is strongly recommended that you sweep the floors before you start to mop. Unfortunately, this will increase the amount of work you have to do to achieve clean and sanitized floors.

  • Doesn’t Get As Hot:

    A steam mop gets the water/steam hot, however, the water does not heat-up as hot as other types of steam cleaners. Again, this will vary from model to model, but if you can’t achieve that necessary heat, you will have a slightly harder time achieving the same level of cleanliness that you could get with other types of steam cleaners.

Bottom-Line on Steam Mops:

The steam mop is a fantastic choice for anybody that is addicted to “swiffering” their floors. While they are designed for hardwood, tiled and laminate floors, there are plenty of models out there that can help you clean your carpet as well. Not only does its smaller size make it easier to store, it’s also easier to maneuver than its steam vacuum counterpart. And, on average, steam mops come with a lower price tag. It’s certainly better than a traditional mop, but depending on what all you want to clean, it may or may not be the best steam cleaner for your situation.

Steam Vacuums: The Pros & Cons

A steam vacuum, sometimes referred too as a steam vac, is basically a vacuum cleaner that has an extra feature that utilizes steam to help it clean and sanitize your floors more effectively than just vacuuming alone. Depending on the model that you get, it’s possible that you can clean more than just your floors, instead using it to clean your furniture, drapes and other upholstered furnishings in your home.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of steam vacuum cleaners.

The Pros:

  • Multi-Surface:

    Steam vacuums can be used on a multitude of surfaces, including carpet, wood floors, tiles, furniture, curtains and other upholstered furnishings in your home.

  • Multi-Dimensions:

    Just as it can be used to clean all sorts of surfaces, steam vacuums can also be used to clean both horizontally and vertically, which makes it useful when cleaning walls, windows and cars.

  • No Prep:

    Unlike other types of steam cleaners, it is not necessary for you to sweep the floors before you use it. The vacuum will suck up the dirt and debris, allowing the steam to clean and sanitize the floor. This not only saves you time, but also provides a deeper clean.

  • Environmentally Friendly:

    You don’t need to use any chemicals or other potentially dangerous substances on your floor. The steam will kill off 99% of germs, bacteria, insects and microscopic parasites that may be living on your floors.

  • Self-Contained:

    You don’t have to hook this appliance to your kitchen sink in order for it to drain. It has its own water tank contained on the device. The size of the tank will vary from unit to unit, and is something that should be taken into consideration when shopping.




The Cons:

  • Bulky:

    Even though steam vacuums get smaller and sleeker as the years go on, they still tend to be a bit bulky. Depending on the model you get, and the surface you are trying to clean, this bulkiness may make it a little more difficult to maneuver.

  • Expensive:

    When compared to a regular vacuum cleaner or a steam mop, a steam vacuum will likely be more expensive. This “con” is a bit anecdotal, as the prices will range based on the brand, model and features of the unit. But typically, they tend to have a higher price tag.

  • Noisy:

    Just like your average vacuum cleaner, a steam vacuum can be a bit noisy. At this point, the louder noise is expected with this type of cleaning appliance.

  • Hard to Store:

    Because of its large and bulky size, a steam vacuum may be hard to store. Again, this “con” is dependent on the size of the model you own and the amount of space available in your home. It may not be an issue for you, but is something that should be taken into consideration.

Bottom-line:

A steam vacuum is great for people with a variety of flooring, including a large amount of carpeted area, in their homes. It can thoroughly clean any flooring type, and do so without any previous prep work from you. It’s also a great device to help you clean other areas in your home, such as furniture and curtains.

Unfortunately, the bulky size may make it difficult for some to use and store. All in all, steam vacuums are extremely handy to have around, but may not be the best fit for everyone.


Steam Mop or Vacuum: What’s Right for You?

As you consider which steam cleaner is best for you and your situation, you have to think about what you plan on using it for. Do you have a lot of carpets to clean? Maybe that means a steam vacuum would be better for your household. Do you only have one room with carpets and the rest are laminates? Perhaps the mop would be better suited for such a household.

The fact of the matter is that both the steam vacuum and the steam mop come with their own set of pros, cons and uses. You have to consider your budget, what you need to clean, how often you would use it and how much time you would be able to focus on cleaning. These factors will all affect which type of steam cleaner is right for you. In the end, it is up to you, so you have to get what you think you will be happiest with.

Keep in mind, steam cleaning is a great way to really kill germs, pests and bacteria on your floors, not to mention help remove stuck on stains and other residue. If you’re consider getting a steam cleaner, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of the vacuum or the mop, and get whichever is right for you. Don’t rent another steam cleaner.


How to Winterize Your Sprinkler System

Your sprinkler system is an important part of your landscaping. Lawns, trees and plants are very expensive to replace, so it is important to protect and maintain your sprinkler system at all times. Before the temperatures drop with the onset of winter, it’s important that homeowners take the appropriate steps to winterize their sprinklers.

Without the proper preparation, you may be facing expensive repairs to your sprinkler system or the loss of established trees, shrubs, or flowers. And expensive repairs are the last thing that any homeowner wants, especially when a bit of preventative maintenance can avoid this altogether.

Check Your Owner’s Manual

First things first, if possible, look in the owner’s manual for how to winterize your sprinkler system and follow those directions to ensure that you don’t void a warranty or make any other mistakes.

If you’re unable to find the original owner’s manual or just want some quick tips to winterize your sprinklers, we’ve put together several important tips that every homeowner should be aware of.

1. Shut Off the Water

The first thing to do as winter’s freezing temperatures are drawing near is to turn off the water to your sprinklers. Make sure to shut it off at the main valve. Your sprinkler system’s shut-off valve should be housed in a space where it can’t freeze. If this wasn’t done during the installation, perform this task before the frigid weather arrives.

2. Turn Off the Controller

Once you’ve gotten the water turned off, you need to shut off the timer, also known as the controller. Timers sometimes have settings marked rain mode. If yours doesn’t, you will need to disconnect it from the power source.

If your controller is outdated, you may want to update to a model such as a solid-state controller, which has digital displays for time settings as well as efficient energy usage to reduce your electric bills.




3. Remove Backflow Preventer

Your system has a device to prevent backflow, which is great for lawn-watering season, but during the winter, it must be removed and stored safely until spring. After it is removed, it’s time to drain the water.

How to Remove Backflow Preventer:

  • First, you can try to siphon it out.
  • If siphoning doesn’t work, pump it out with a shop vacuum designed for wet/dry use.
  • It’s helpful to attach duct tape to the hose in order to narrow the opening.
  • Drain above ground valves and store them, as well.
  • You can use pipe-heating cables on some areas, but this can be problematic in case of power failures.

4. Drain Water From Pipes

It’s absolutely crucial that you drain all the water from your irrigation system. If any water is left in the system, it’s possible for the pipes to freeze, which will lead to the pipes cracking or bursting once the water starts to expand.

You can use a shop vacuum to do this process, which can be time consuming, or you can take an easier route. The simpler alternative method to clear your sprinkler valves is to blow them out.

How to Blow Out Irrigation System

Below are the steps to help you blow out your sprinkler system and remove all water from the lines. It’s important that you have the right safety eye protection prior to starting this process. If you have any doubts, it would be best to call a professional.

  • Get a large compressor: To drain your valves with the blowout technique, you’re going to need the right equipment: a compressor with 50 cubic feet per minute rating. It’s imperative that the regulator valve gauge on your compressor is accurate.
  • Take off the backflow prevention: If you have an anti-siphoning lock on your valve, remove the entire mechanism.
  • Turn on the air compressor: Connect this equipment to the backflow-prevention riser.
  • Switch on valves: Using the automatic controls, turn on your valves one at a time as you blow out your irrigation system. It’s best to start with the highest elevation and open the hand valves manually.
  • Turn on compressor: Take your time and gradually increase the pressure. If it’s too hot or powerful, attach a hose length to modify it.
  • Blow out the H2O: Watch the pressure gauge and temperature as you slowly blow the water out.
  • Move to the following valve: One by one, move around your yard, blowing out each valve. Repeat this process until the draining process has been completed.
  • Blow out main line: You’ll also need to blow out your irrigation system’s main line if it has one.
  • Finish up: At the end, you’ll need to replace caps, set rain mode or turn your power source off.

5. Protect Spigots & Hoses

In addition to protecting pipes and valves, you can also safeguard other parts of your landscape-watering system, including:

  • Spigots: Protect the spigots by covering them with Styrofoam protective devices that can be found at home improvement stores.
  • Hoses: Drain water from garden hoses and store them in an area away from ice and snow to prevent cracking.



Get to Know Your Irrigation System

While it’s not entirely necessary, it’s wise to have a good understanding of the ins-and-outs of your sprinkler system before you start the winterizing process. You don’t have to be an expert, but, if possible, every homeowner should learn what they can about the following:

  • Drain Valve Locations:

    Your system should have drain valves at each pipe’s low point. You also need them at high points, so air can be released; otherwise, the water won’t be able to drain properly.

  • Slope of the System:

    When a sprinkler system is installed, there should be a slight slope to allow for easy draining.

  • Auto-Drain Valves:

    If you install automatic drain valves, your annual winterization can be greatly streamlined.

Create a Map of Irrigation System

It would be helpful to have a diagram or map that tells you where all of the sprinkler heads, valves, and watering zones are located. This will not only help you stay organized, but also make it easier to upgrade, repair or winterize your sprinkler system.

Once you create your irrigation map, keep it in a waterproof and convenient location. This will ensure that it remains helpful and ready all year round.

Know Your Region’s Climate

Before performing any winterizing steps, take time to think about the climate in that your home is located in.

If it snows only once in the season and the temperature barely hits freezing, then you may not have to winterize your irrigation system at all. On the flip side, if your home is in an area that always has freezing temperatures, snow, and ice, then you will definitely need to prepare your irrigation system for the deep freeze.

This is where a professional can be a real help. They know the area well and will be able to tell you how to best prepare your sprinkler system for winter.

Takeaways

If you want a beautiful yard when spring arrives, there are many tasks that a homeowner should do to prepare their yard for winter. One of the most important is to winterize your sprinkler system.

Because it’s a moderately difficult DIY project, consider hiring a professional to do the job for you. You and your front yard and backyard will be glad you did.

relative-humidity

Relative Humidity: What Every Homeowner Should Know

Relative humidity is an important factor of the indoor air quality in your home. As such, it’s wise for homeowners to educate themselves about what relative humidity is, as well as how they can control it in order to protect their homes and family members.

As weather changes and temperatures move up and down the thermometer, relative humidity changes, as well. Homeowners should learn about how the humidity in their homes impacts air quality, wellbeing, and building structures. Excess moisture can damage the structural integrity of a house, plus lead to mold, mildew, and a wide variety of ailments for anybody living within. By controlling our indoor humidity, homeowners have the ability to prevent all sorts of problems.

What Makes Healthy Indoor Air?

Considering we spend the vast majority of our time inside, the indoor air quality of your home or office is so crucial that the EPA considers it a substantial environmental threat. In order for air inside a structure to be considered healthy, it should be:

  • Free of toxins
  • Fresh & well-ventilated
  • Less than 50% RH

In order to have fresh air, buildings must be well-ventilated to flush out pollution and airborne particulates. An air purifier is a great way to instantly improve the indoor air quality of your home. Outdoor air should flow in and out of a building, and allergens and harmful airborne particles should be kept at an absolute minimum.

What is Relative Humidity?

Relative humidity is a measurement of water vapor being held at a specific temperature compared to the amount it could hold. This calculation is usually expressed as a percentage. As temperatures rise and fall, the capacity of the air to hold the H₂O is impacted. The warmer the temps are, the more moisture the atmosphere can contain. When air cools down naturally, its moisture-holding abilities are diminished.

Once this happens, there are many variables that may affect an individual’s comfort level, such as their health, clothing, or physical activity at the time. Of course, everyone has their own personal preferences, but for the most part, humans are typically most comfortable when relative humidity stays between 20% and 60%.

While this may be the broad comfort range for your average person, however, it is not recommended to allow the relative humidity levels to rise above 50% inside your home.




What is the Ideal Humidity Levels For Homes?

Between 30-50%. To prevent mold growth, the EPA recommends keeping “indoor humidity below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50 percent) relative humidity.”

Depending on whether you’re using a heater or air conditioner to help control the temperature, homeowners may change the humidity levels in their home to make the air feel more comfortable.

Confused? The Paper Towel Metaphor.

If the concept of relative humidity seems confusing, you’re not alone. It may help to think of a concrete example such as a paper towel.

Have you tried to mop up a spill with a paper towel? After the towel is saturated, it can’t hold any more liquid. This would be considered 100% capacity; whereas if the sheet could still absorb a bit more, it would be a lesser percentage, such as 70%. Air’s capacity to hold moisture is similar to the paper towel’s; when it can hold no more, it has reached 100%, and this is known as its dew point.

How Can Excessive Humidity Affect Your Home?

You can use your senses to determine if your home has a problem with excess humidity. Unless you live in a dry desert, chances are you’ve noticed a few of these red flags:

  • Mold growth.
  • Warped boards or wood floors.
  • Musty smell, especially in crawl spaces, attics, and basements.
  • Bubbling or peeling paint.
  • Wallpaper peeling away from walls.
  • Stickiness on surfaces.
  • Condensation on windows or other areas.
  • Water stains on ceilings or walls.
  • Sneezing and other allergic reactions to inhaling dust mites.
  • Moisture build-up on ceilings or inside closets.
  • Frequently-fogged windows.

Is Excessive Humidity Unhealthy To Live In?

It is not healthy to live in a house that perpetually has too much moisture in the air. Many of these ailments develop as a result of mold exposure and other issues that homeowners face when there is too much humidity in their home.

For further research, here are a few studies that discuss the potential health effects associated with relative humidity.

  1. “Indoor air humidity, air quality, and health – An overview.” (PMID: 29398406)
  2. “Indirect health effects of relative humidity in indoor environments.” (PMID: 3709462)
  3. “The dichotomy of relative humidity on indoor air quality.” (PMID: 17499853)



Can A Dehumidifier Help With Relative Humidity?

Yes. If there is too much moisture inside your home or office, a dehumidifier can be utilized to help you remove the excess moisture and get your relative humidity back at an ideal level.

These devices have many uses and benefits for homeowners, but its most common purpose is to help extract H₂O from your indoor air, as well as help remove any musty odors that may be lingering as a result of too much moisture. Once that water has been removed, it will either be collected within the unit or pumped away automatically, depending on the type of dehumidifier you are using. To get rid of excess water by vaporizing it, an ionic membrane dehumidifier may be used.

Can A Humidifier Help With Relative Humidity?

Yes. Just as there are many reasons to remove moisture from the air, there are also many reasons why moisture in the air is beneficial. Striking the right balance of relative humidity is the key to having comfortable indoor air.

If your home is lacking humidity, you can help correct this by using a humidifier. Because they add moisture to the air, humidifiers can help alter the relative humidity levels in your home and make your indoor air more comfortable. These are especially important to use in the cold winter months, as you likely have a heater running which may be drying out the air. Just remember to clean your humidifier on a regular basis.

There are different types of humidifiers on the market, including:

  • Portable:

    These models are designed to humidify a space by forcing air to circulate through a wet pad, which then flows into the room in a fine mist.

  • Evaporating:

    A pan or absorbent pads are dipped into water, and then attached to a heating system. This causes moisture to evaporate into the environment.

  • Power:

    Water moves automatically into this unit to allow moisture to be circulated. A humidistat allows a homeowner to control the amount of water generated.

Where Household Moisture Comes From

The world is full of moisture; even your breath and body release droplets of water. While certain percentages of RH are desirable in an environment, too much can lead to trouble. Moisture moves through buildings in several ways:

  • Roof leaks
  • Rain water
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Steam from cooking
  • Steam from showers and bathtubs

No matter how your home becomes saturated with water vapor, condensation may occur on windows or other surfaces. This occurs more readily during chillier seasons. When moist warm air meets the cold glass of a window, it causes the air temps to drop, changes the relative humidity, and results in condensation.

Because a home’s relative humidity can impact family members’ overall well-being and the building structure, it’s crucial that homeowners educate themselves about this important component of air quality. If the RH percentage is kept in the proper range, health problems can be avoided or greatly minimized. For homes with too much moisture, a dehumidifier can create a safer and more comfortable interior. On the flip side, houses that are too dry can add water vapor with a humidifier. Armed with knowledge about humidity, individuals can live happily ever after in their homes.


Mold In Home

How to Remove Mold From Your Home

As a homeowner, it’s critical for you to know and understand the dangers that mold presents to your home. It is a common concern for homeowners and can cause unseen damage to your home and your health.

Mold is a fungus that has the potential to grow within any location that is damp or excessively moist. If these areas are also warm, poorly ventilated, or have no light, then mold is more likely to thrive and cause issues.

At first, mold in your house will only create a musty or unpleasant odor, but as time goes on, mold can lead to some pretty serious damage. In fact, according to the CDC, exposure to mold has the potential to provoke allergies and asthma attacks for people who are prone to them.

In this article, you’ll learn more about how to get rid of mold from your house, as well as how you can spot it and prevent it from growing in the first place. Ask any homeowner, mold is not something you want in your home.

1. Control Humidity & Moisture

Mildew is a thin black or white substance that you typically find growing on grout in a bathroom. It flourishes in warm, humid areas, so the first step in removing and preventing it is to clean the places in a home where it’s mostly likely to show up, and keep them dry.

Mold

Be sure to regularly clean your bathroom and kitchen, stretch out wet shower curtains and dry damp clothing quickly.

If your basement is often damp, there may be crevices in the walls letting moisture in, so replace cracked mortar and make sure you have sufficient outside drainage.

An air conditioner can help by taking in warm air, which holds more moisture, and circulating it back out as cool, dry air. A humidstat or dehumidifier is also useful for reducing humidity.

On days when the air outside is dry, open up your windows and use electric fans to let the outside air circulate into your home and carry the moisture out.




2. Use Cleaning Solutions & Products

There are a number of cleaning solutions you can use, all of which are relatively inexpensive and easy to find.

Bleach

Bleach is very effective when used on moldy surfaces. Mix 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water, then use either a spray bottle or a bucket and sponge to clean the affected area.

If you want to prevent growth, don’t wipe the area afterward. Note that bleach has some drawbacks, the foremost being that it’s useless on porous materials like wood and drywall. It also gives off harsh fumes, and mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia or certain other household cleaners is incredibly dangerous as it produces toxic gas.

Note: Never mix bleach with other chemicals!

Vinegar

Vinegar isn’t quite as effective as bleach, but it’s safe and doesn’t give off harsh fumes. Pour undiluted white vinegar or apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle, spray the affected area, let it sit for an hour, then wipe clean.

If you want to use it to prevent growth, simply don’t wipe afterward, and spray again every few days. Use it only on non-porous surfaces.

Borax

Borax is dangerous if swallowed, but it’s otherwise safe and doesn’t give off dangerous fumes. Create a mixture of 1 cup of borax for every 1 gallon of water, then clean with a scrubbing brush. Once again, only use it on non-porous surfaces, and you can use it to prevent growth by not wiping it off afterward.

Ammonia

Ammonia is similar to bleach in that it can’t be used on porous surfaces, and also that it’s a dangerous chemical. Make sure that you only use clear ammonia. Create a 50/50 mix of water and clear ammonia, and spray the affected surface. Let it sit for a few hours, then wipe and rinse.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is both mild and safe, and it also acts as a deodorizer. What’s more, unlike the other solutions, baking soda can be used on porous surfaces.

Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to 8 ounces of water and mix thoroughly. Spray the affected area, scrub with a sponge or brush, then rinse. Follow this by spraying a second time, but don’t rinse afterward.


3. Cut Out & Remove Large Infestations

Mold can grow behind the walls and other unseen places in a house, leaving homeowners unaware until they smell it or notice stains on the wall. At that point, it has to be literally cut out of carpets and drywall.

How to Remove Moldy Drywall & Carpets

If you choose to do this on your own, you’ll want to wear old clothing and shoes along with goggles, gloves and N-95 respirator.

N-95 Respirator For Mold Removal

N-95 Respirator For Mold Removal from 3M

Prep & Set-Up

Set a box fan in the window of the room you’re working on. Next, make sure you tape plywood or cardboard around the window openings so spores expelled by the fan can’t get back in. Turn off your air conditioner and/or furnace, and then seal off the airflow within the room by covering the vents and doorways with plastic sheeting and duct tape.

Removing Moldy Carpets

Use a utility knife to cut moldy carpets into 6′ x 8′ sections, and mist the surfaces with a pump sprayer to control spores. Roll up the sections and wrap them in thick plastic trash bags.

Removing Moldy Drywall

Turn off power to the room, and probe stained or soft spots on the wall with a screwdriver to find the infestation and locate any wiring, removing baseboards and trim if necessary. Use a drywall saw or utility knife to cut out the infested drywall and any moldy insulation behind it. Mist with the pump sprayer to control spores, then double-bag the material in heavy plastic bags and tie the bags off.

Clean-Up

Vacuum up the debris with a shop-vac with an extra-long hose, so you can keep the shop vac outside to keep spores from spreading. Use a brush to scrub stained surfaces inside the walls with a water and bleach mixture, and then wipe the areas, but don’t rinse them. Dry any trim you washed in direct sunlight, and use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the room for at least three days.

When you’ve eliminated it all, seal the wood with a pigmented shellac or oil-based primer. Put in new insulation and drywall, replace the trim, and repaint using paint that contains mildewcide.




4. Hire Mold Remediation Professionals

If you have a persistent infestation, you may need to hire a mold remediation specialist.

Do your homework to find one who is reputable. The specialist will thoroughly inspect your home to determine the extent of the infestation, and afterward he or she will let you know if you can take care of the problem yourself, or if you’ll need to hire professionals to handle it.

Make sure the specialist gives you a written report. Note that, to avoid conflicts of interest, the specialist who inspects your home should work independently from the company you hire to clean out the infestation.

Garden Slug

How to Get Rid of Garden Pests

Growing a successful and productive garden is a lot of work. It can be rather frustrating to tend to your garden, only to watch a variety of bugs, insects, and other pests destroy it before you can harvest.

Before deciding to use chemical pesticides which may be harmful to the overall ecosystem of your garden, homeowners should consider using a natural approach to getting rid of those annoying plant-eaters and garden disturbers. Any number of homemade sprays and methods can be helpful in deterring garden pests from your yard, all while keeping your plants healthy.

To start, it is helpful to identify the particular pests that have invaded your yard or to discover common pests to your area so you know what you’re up against. Then, consider using a few of these tips to keep your plants thriving and bug-free.

1. Slow Down the Slugs

Slugs can be good at eating other bugs, but unfortunately they also tend to target your garden veggies. Fortunately there are a number of ways you can deter these slimy garden pests.

One way to keep the slugs from destroying your plants is by distracting them with copper flashing. The copper will give the slugs a slight electrical shock when they come in contact with it. This means that the copper will act as a barrier to keep the slugs out of the blocked off area or away from a particularly susceptible plant.

Because slugs have soft bodies, you can utilize certain materials as garden borders that the slugs would avoid coming in contact with. Try applying gravel or lava rock in strips around your plants or garden in order to keep the little slugs from crawling across and into your garden. Wood ashes are another good choice for this sort of slug warfare because not only are the ashes good for deterring these pests, but the potassium in the ashes is good for the soil too.




2. Avoiding Aphids

Aphids come in a variety of colors and are excellent at sucking the sap from new growth in a plant. Often, you can get rid of these garden pests simply by hosing them off, but you will need to be vigilant.

If you are looking for a method that is a little more effective and permanent, you could try creating your own aphid-repelling spray. For this method, you will be creating a blend of cooking oil, water, and dish soap. Mix approximately one cup of fresh cooking oil with a tablespoon of dish soap.

Then, dilute the mixture in a spray bottle by taking four teaspoons of the oil/soap mix and blending it with one pint of water. As you spray this on your vegetables, it can help keep aphids away, and also thrips, spider mites, and whiteflies. You should reapply this mixture to your plants once a week for the best results.

3. Utilize Citrus Peels

Citrus peels from lemons or oranges are a great way to add nitrogen to your compost pile, but they can also be used as garden defense. This method will not only deter garden pests, but it will also improve the health of your soil.

If you dry the peels first, you will be able to grind them up and sift the powder directly into the soil. This will make your entire garden more resistant to a bug invasion.

A whole orange peel is also able to help keep aphids and mosquitoes away. For this method, all you need to do is cut a slit in an orange peel and carefully slide it over an aphid-susceptible plant, or else simply rub the peels on the plants to act as a mosquito repellent. Even cats are supposedly deterred by citrus peel. Sprinkle leftover orange peels in spots where your or neighborhood cats tend to prowl.

4. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a powder made of fossilized bodies of tiny, aquatic organisms, also known as diatoms. The particles in diatomaceous earth are abrasive and excellent for deterring soft-skinned insects, such as slugs.

All you need to do is sprinkle the diatomaceous earth over plants and around the garden’s perimeter to control flea beetles, twig borer, thrips, cockroaches, ants, earwigs and spider mites. The sharp edges of the dirt dry out and kill these undesirable pests. It also works to destroy these pests if they ingest the diatomaceous earth.




5. Use Garlic on Your Garden Pests

Garlic, a seasoning we all have in our kitchen pantries, is surprisingly useful in the garden as well. If you are dealing with apple maggots, caterpillars, sowbugs, grasshoppers, grubs, leafminers, mealybugs or whiteflies, garlic spray is an effective and natural way to battle the bugs.

To make a natural garlic pesticide, you need to blend 12 cloves of garlic with one and a half cups of water. Strain the pulp and then dilute the strained garlic water with a gallon of water. Shake it well, and then use the mixture in a spray bottle once a week on your plants to keep the bugs away.

6. Use Your Chickens

If you keep a coop of chickens, know that you can use them for more than a food source. While you may want to keep your chickens out of your garden beds, you might consider constructing a chicken moat around your gardening area.

A chicken moat is essentially a strip of dry ground fenced in on both sides which surrounds the plants. This space allows for the chickens to go to town eating weeds and grasshoppers and any other bug or beetle attempting to enter your garden plot. This is an effective method for controlling the pest population while giving your chickens plenty to feast upon.

If you are a homeowner interested in more details on how to construct a good chicken moat, check out this blog post. The double fence has the advantage of keeping deer and rabbits away from your plants, as well.

7. Invite Friendly Birds

Hornworms and other bugs are destructive to your tomato plants and can easily gobble up leaf after leaf if left unchecked. To prevent this, try attracting birds to eat these worms by placing bird feeders or a bird bath around your vegetable garden.

Check your plants once or twice a day for hornworms, and if the birds aren’t getting them all, you can always create another homemade spray. Try mixing garlic, soap and cayenne pepper with water to spray over your plants for added protection. This green pesticide helps to keep the moths that lay hornworm eggs out of your garden.




8. The Five-Finger Trap

One of the most common, cheap, and effective ways a homeowner can get rid of squash bugs, slugs, Japanese Beetles and hornworms is handpicking. It is tedious and not for the squeamish, yes, but very effective because you can see exactly what bugs you are removing and from where.

If you happen to have chickens, you can feed the insects and critters to the chickens or hope that some local robins may come scoop up the handpicked pests. Handpicking, along with some of the other remedies in this series, is a great way to be sure you have a pest-free garden.


As you prepare your garden, find out which pests are common to your area, and then arm yourself with these natural remedies for keeping the bugs out of your vegetable beds. By following these tips, you will find that garden care isn’t so challenging after all.


Robot Vacuum

Robot Vacuums: Are They Really Worth It?

Robot vacuum cleaners have really taken off in the last few years and it’s fairly easy to understand why. With their ease of use and practical, hands-free action, homeowners are discovering the many advantages of purchasing this type of vacuum cleaner. But, are they really worth the higher cost? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can expect from using one.

What Are Robot Vacuum Cleaners?

Robot vacuums are an autonomous device that is designed to clean carpet, tiles and hardwood floors of all dirt and debris, much like other types of vacuum cleaners. The main difference of robotic versions is their ability to minimize the amount of work hat homeowners need to do.

Upon their release in the late ’90s, robotic vacuums initially struggled with homeowners. However, after two decades of innovation and the continual rise in Smart Home devices, robot vacuums have never been more popular.

In recent years, there is no denying their spike of interest from homeowners, partly because they’ve become more affordable, but mostly because they’ve become more efficient at accomplishing their intended purpose — cleaning your floors without requiring you to put in much work.

The Benefits of Owning a Robot Vacuum

If you’re currently looking to buy a vacuum cleaner, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not considering a robotic vacuum. To help you determine if this is the right device for you, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits you can expect to receive from a robot vacuum.

1. Easy To Use

Perhaps the number one benefit of owning a robot vacuum cleaner is that they are extremely easy to use. Once the machine is programmed for a given space and the timer is set for a predetermined start time, the product virtually runs itself. Simply place the device on the floor in an appropriate starting spot and you’re good to go.

In addition, many models have been refined over the years to be self-regulating and nearly foolproof, meaning mishaps are becoming more and more unlikely as the technology evolves. That means you don’t have to worry about your vacuum malfunctioning or becoming stuck on a surface.

2. Incredibly Efficient

Today’s robot vacuum cleaners provide multiple tasks. They not only clean, they remember the layout of your space, are able to dump the dirt they collect, and then find their way back to the charging station.

Some higher-end models have advanced sensors and are also able to transition between bare floors and carpeted areas without manually switching settings. Other allow you to control them through a smartphone app.

The methodical, back-and-forth or circular motion of the machines also ensures that every inch of a floor or space is covered, which translates to a more thorough cleaning overall.

ECOVACS Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

Photo Credit: ECOVACS Robotics

3. Saves You Time

It is a universal experience that everyone’s lives have become increasingly busier in the 21st century. Indeed, multi-tasking has become paramount to, and part of, modern-day existence. One of the most desirable benefits of robot vacuum cleaners is that you don’t have to be present when the vacuum is operating.

Simply turn it on before you leave the house and it will do all the work for you while you’re out of the house. Therefore, time not spent manually vacuuming can be spent working, relaxing, playing with your kids, or doing whatever your heart desires. Indeed, the old adage that time is money certainly applies to this product as well.

4. Works on Different Surfaces

Another benefit of the robot vacuum cleaner is that it works on multiple types of surfaces, from carpets to wood floors to linoleum to concrete.

As mentioned, higher-end models are able to transition between different types of surfaces during the same cleaning cycle. With other models, you simply change the setting, place the product at a designated starting point, and set the programmer and timer as usual.

5. Detects All Levels of Dirt

Along with working on all types of surfaces, autonomous vacuum cleaners are able to tackle all types of dirt as well. From dust that has barely settled to deeply-embedded debris in your carpet, the vast majority of these vacuums are designed with increasingly powerful suction capabilities, despite their compact size.

Using built-in sensors, the machines also can detect the amount of cleaning required in different situations and will repeatedly go over an area until it is clean. This level of detail when it comes to cleaning is unmatched in other similar products.

6. Sets Boundaries

Another advantage of robot vacuum cleaners is their inherent ability to perform in — and only in — a given space that they are programmed for.

For instance, if you have children playing in another room while the product is operating, you can set virtual walls in the programming function to prevent the machine from going across doorways and other openings. Likewise, if you have pets alone at home while the machine is operating, you can easily limit the scope of the machine so it won’t frighten them.




7. Small, Compact & Easy to Store

A robot vacuum is much smaller than an upright or canister vacuum cleaner and, as such, can easily be stored in just about any space — in a closet, under a bed, or wherever you have room. This makes the product ideal for any homeowner that has limited storage space or is trying to downsize their belongings.

These smaller vacuums can also be easily transported from one location to another because of its size. You don’t need to clear out your trunk or borrow somebodies truck to move it from one place to another. As an added benefit, the small, low-slung nature of the product means it can get under furniture and reach areas that a regular vacuum cleaner cannot.

8. Makes Housecleaning Go Faster

Because a robot vacuum cleaner is self-sufficient and self-operating, it is an ideal product to help you maximize the amount of time spent on housecleaning.

Indeed, while your robotic vacuum is doing its thing on your floors, it frees up your time to work on cleaning other areas of the house. Working in tandem, you’ll be able to significantly cut down on the time it takes to clean your house. And, the result of more efficient cleaning is that you’ll be more likely to clean your house more thoroughly more often.

9. Ideal Solution for the Handicapped & Elderly

People with mobility issues, such as the elderly and handicapped, can truly benefit from owning a robot vacuum cleaner.

With its ease of use and hands-free operation, a robot vacuum cleaner can be a liberating product for this demographic, who would otherwise be forced to hire house-cleaners at a much greater expense. In addition, the money saved that would otherwise be spent on doing so makes this a product worth investing in.

10. Economical and Cost-Efficient

Because robotic vacuum cleaners have been on the market for a number of years, both the price and features have improved significantly, and continue to improve as the years roll by.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent product that does the job right for your particular needs. Starting at approximately $150, with high-end models running upwards of $1,000 to $1,500, there is something for everyone’s budget when it comes to this type of product.

Takeaways

When considering the reasons why you should buy a robot vacuum cleaner, the previous ten benefits should be at the top of your list. If you can see your life improving with 8, 5, or even 1 of the benefits outlined, then purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner is worth it and then some. For efficient and effective cleaning power, a robot vacuum cleaner is becoming the hands-down choice among many homeowners, businesses, and commercial establishments alike.


Carbon Monoxide Dectector in Home

Carbon Monoxide: What Every Homeowner Should Know

Nicknamed the “Silent Killer,” carbon monoxide is more common in homes than you may think. In fact, it’s likely in your home right now as you read this.

Should you be concerned by its presence? And, what can you do about it?

Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions homeowners have about carbon monoxide, and why you should have a CO detector in your home.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

A toxic gas that has no visible appearance or noticeable odor, carbon monoxide (CO) can pose serious health risks when it accumulates beyond a certain level.

Because it is completely indiscernible to the human senses, detecting it can pose a bit of a challenge for homeowners. It’s important to note that carbon monoxide is constantly present within your indoor air, but poses little risk until it hits a certain threshold.

Does Carbon Monoxide Smell?

No. You cannot smell carbon monoxide. Nor can you see, taste or otherwise notice its presence unless you have the right equipment.

Carbon Monoxide

It is precisely because of its inconspicuous nature that CO has earned the nickname as being a “Silent Killer” or “Invisible Killer.”

Sadly, unless you have the a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home, you won’t know that levels have reached a toxic level until it is too late.

What Causes Carbon Monoxide in a House?

The short answer is that CO can originate from anything that burns fuel for power. This can include everything from automobiles to gas-powered stove ranges, even water heaters and fireplaces. Carbon monoxide occurs as result of partial oxidation of compounds which contain carbon, forming when insufficient oxygen exists to produce carbon dioxide.

An average home will usually contain up to 5 ppm of CO in the air at any given time, a level that is near to the natural atmospheric concentration and is safe for people and animals to breathe. If you have a gas stove in your home, the level may be slightly higher, but still not high enough to cause significant health concerns.

However, problems with appliances or inadequate ventilation can cause carbon monoxide to collect in parts of a home, eventually elevating to levels where it may be unsafe to remain inside.




How Does a CO Detector Work?

A carbon monoxide detector works much like a typical smoke detector. Equipped with built-in sensors that can identify and measure the concentration of CO in the air.

When unsafe levels of CO are discovered, the device will broadcast an alarm that will alert the occupants inside the home. In theory, this would give anyone within the immediate area an opportunity to respond quickly in order to avoid overexposure to the gas.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

Where Should I Install My CO Detector?

While there are many factors to consider, it is important to pay particularly close attention to what the manufacturer states is best for that specific model. Within the user manual, you will find all the information you need to install it in your home.

Determining the Best Placement:

Aside from the manufacturer’s recommendations, there are a few general guidelines that can help you determine the best placement of a CO detector within your home.

  • Inside Bedrooms — It’s wise to have a carbon monoxide detector in all your bedrooms or any other area of your home where occupants may fall asleep.
  • Central Locations — Spread evenly throughout your home, you should place a CO detector on all levels near any main rooms where residents may be found, including your living room, dining room and near doorways that lead into a garage.
  • Unobstructed Areas — Wherever you install your carbon monoxide detector, make sure that you do not place it anywhere that may be blocked by furniture, drapes or other objects.
Where to Install CO Detector in Home

Just like you would with smoke detectors, it’s wise for homeowners to install these near any potential sources of carbon monoxide output or areas where it may accumulate.


Is Carbon Monoxide Heavier Than Air?

No. Carbon monoxide is lighter than air. Apparently, there is much debate surrounding this question, which has lead to further confusion about where homeowners should install a CO detector.

Hopefully, this 2012 study published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine will settle the debate and give homeowners some reassurance about the location they decide to install their unit. Researchers came to the following conclusions:

CO did not layer on the floor, float at the middle of the chamber, or rise to the top… Mixing would be even faster in the home environment, with drafts due to motion or temperature. It would be reasonable to place a residential CO alarm at any height within the room.


What Are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?

Any exposure to CO can be potentially dangerous. It is because of this that every homeowner should take any necessary precautions to protect their family and ensure that the air inside their home is safe.

Call for Help!

American Association of Poison Control Centers
1-800-222-1222

For the majority of homeowners, it is unlikely that minimal exposure will cause any issues, however, this is still a toxic gas that has no health benefits associated with it. If you have babies, young children or small pets in your home, you should be especially mindful of how much CO is in your air.

Symptoms may include the following:
  • Respiratory issues.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Headaches, ranging from dull to severe.
  • Dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
  • Impaired judgement and sense of confusion.
  • Faintness and loss of consciousness.
Symptoms, Safe Levels & Duration of Exposure:

While the actual duration and concentration amounts may vary, below is a general guide to help homeowners learn what symptoms they may experience when exposed to different levels of this poisonous gas.

  • Constant exposure to a CO concentration of 35 ppm for 6-8 hours can result in headaches and dizziness.
  • Exposure to 100 ppm can result in headache symptoms in just 2-3 hours.
  • Exposure to 200 ppm may produce headaches and impaired judgment within 2-3 hours.
  • With exposure to 400 ppm, more severe frontal headaches can occur in 1-2 hours.
  • 800 ppm of CO concentration can lead to nausea, dizziness, and convulsions within 45 minutes.
  • 1,600 ppm concentration levels will produce the above symptoms in just 15-20 minutes, and can cause death within 2 hours.
  • Concentration levels greater than 3,200 ppm will cause severe symptoms in 5-10 minutes, and death within a half-hour.
  • As levels increase above 10,000 ppm, unconsciousness will occur after just a few breaths. A full-grown adult will not be able to survive more than a few moments of such exposure before death occurs.

Note: If you believe you or your family is in any sort of danger, get out of the house immediately. Call 911. Call poison control at 1-800-222-1222.





How Can I Protect My Family From CO Poisoning?

No matter how large or small your home may be, there are several ways that a homeowner can prevent and protect their family from this poisonous gas.

Carbon Monoxide in Your Home
  • Install New CO Detector:

    Install a new carbon monoxide detector that meets all current requirements of UL 2034 safety standards. It is suggested that you install at least one detector for each level of a multi-story home, and one unit near each separate sleeping area of a home and/or near locations where gas might collect (such as near a garage).

  • Proper Installation & Maintenance of Fuel-Burning Appliances:

    Ensure that fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and maintained per manufacturer’s instructions, and with respect to local building codes. Professional inspections and servicing of heating systems and chimneys should be performed annually. Never attempt to complete repairs or servicing without qualified knowledge and proper equipment.

  • Never Use Gas-Powered Engines Inside:

    Never operate generators or tools with gas-powered engines indoors, including in garages. Even with doors and windows open, enclosed spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly accumulate to dangerous levels. Never leave cars running in an attached garage, even with the door fully opened.

  • Never Use Gas-Powered Heaters Inside:

    Do not heat your home using gas-powered appliances such as ovens or ranges, and never operate fuel-burning appliances in unvented rooms where people are asleep.

  • Ensure Chimney is Clear & Unobstructed:

    If performing renovations or repairs on your home, be sure that chimneys and appliance vents remain unobstructed. Verify that all such appliances are in good working condition after work has been completed.


The Best Resources For Homeowners

As your install a CO alarm in your home, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the resources listed below. While it is unlikely that you’ll experience an issue, especially now that you have the right equipment to alert you, it is still wise to know what to do if needed.


Bag of Leaves in Yard

13 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Complete Before Winter Rolls In

How to Prepare Your House for Fall & Winter

Fall conjures images of sunset-colored foliage, carved pumpkins and cinnamon in the air. Kids swap boogie boards for backpacks and moms and dads breathe a wistful sigh of relief. But shopping for pencil cases and Halloween candy are not the only important tasks you’ll do this fall.

Below, you’ll find a list of not-so-spooky house care tips that every homeowner should complete during autumn to help keep your home safe and warm all season long.

1. Get Ready for Fall(ing Leaves)

Watching the leaves change from vivid green to amber and gold is one of the highlights of the season. Raking up those leaves once they’ve fallen from the tree is not. Perhaps, composting or mulching all the leaves is your preferred route. But, if you plan on removing them from the yard, you’ll need to have the right tools ready to clear the lawn of debris.

At the very least, you’ll need a good rake to help clear the leaves from your yard. But, if you can get your hands on a leaf blower, you can save a ton of time. And don’t forget to stock up on large bags to help remove the ever-growing pile.

2. Branch Out

Aging trees can pose another threat as the weather gets colder and the winds start to kick up. If the branches of your trees are directly over your home, then you may have a more elevated risk of damage in the event that large branches break off and fall.

If this unfortunate scenario happens to your home, the damage of falling branches could range from minor to quite severe. Common issues may as simple as a few damaged shingles or shattered windows, but when it comes to heavy branches, you may see dented / blocked gutters, or a complete compromise of the integrity of your roof.

This is why it’s important for all homeowners to keep a close eye on the trees surrounding your property. Frequently, inspect them for potential weakness, and strategically trim them as soon as they start to get too close to your home. Use a chainsaw or hire a professional to remove branches that are too close to the house or those that appear to be in danger of falling.

3. Clean Your Gutters

Inspect your roof throughout the season to remove any leaves and branches that have accumulated there. As the leaves fall and pile up in your yard, keep in mind that the same is happening on top of your roof.

If the leaves are not cleared out in a timely manner, the accumulation of leaves or branches may prevent water from draining properly, and sometimes can create a “dam” that prevents water from draining entirely. Dammed up water may damage exterior surfaces and create a leak in your roof, window or walls. As every homeowner knows, a leak in the roof can cause all sort of other damage to items inside your home, possibly even creating an environment that allows mold to grow.

Check your rain-gutters, downspouts and other drainage items frequently to be sure they aren’t blocked by fallen leaves, debris or birds nests.

4. Repair Any Roof Leaks

A minor roof leak can become a major problem as the temperature starts to drop. Frozen water or the weight of snow can exacerbate minor flaws and leave your home vulnerable to major water damage.

This is precisely why every homeowner should make it a habit to climb up on their roof, grab a pair of binoculars or contact a roofing company to do a thorough inspection. Check the shingles and metal flashings for any signs of damage, especially on the ridge and in valleys or around vents and chimneys.

When it comes to roofs, a small amount of preemptive care can save you from an enormous amount of damage down the road.

5. Prepare Your Lawn

When the weather turns colder and the snow is near, some homeowners may breathe a sign of relief knowing that they won’t have to mow their lawn again until spring. For the most part, this is generally true. You will, indeed, have less lawn care responsibilities.

However, before you stash away your lawnmower and turn your grass over to the cold, it’s important to fertilize your lawn one last time. Spread a layer before the ground freezes, and your lawn will wake up in the spring nourished and ready to grow green once again. There’s no better way to start the spring season.

You will also want to winterize your sprinkler system. The last thing you want is to discover that it needs repairs come spring.

6. Walk the Walk. Fill the Crack.

Summer showers and growing roots may have damaged your driveway, or walkway. The wise homeowner will take a few minutes to check if their concrete or pavers have shifted, become loose or are somewhat uneven.

This simple task can prevent a falling hazard throughout all seasons of the year, but are increasingly treacherous in wet or icy weather. No matter how small the crack may seem, if you can spot and fill it before the winter chill, you have a better chance to prevent water from seeping in and freezing when the temperature drops. Once this happens, the cracks may expand and create an even more treacherous hazard as time goes on.

7. Dodge the Draft

Now that you have the windows down and you’re enjoying the cold weather, don’t forget that you need to prepare for the (even) colder temperatures to come.

Cold drafts inside your home can be a real drag. Buy some caulk, and seal cracks and gaps around windows or doors to keep your home energy efficient throughout the year. Check weather stripping for deterioration and replace or repair any sections that look damaged. Window treatments can also reduce energy loss, so consider installing insulating shades, curtains or blinds.

These small improvements are easy DIY projects that can save a ton of money for all homeowners. But this is especially true for those that live in areas that experience extreme temperatures.

8. Get Ready to Heat Things Up

You can also prepare for the cooler, drier winter weather by inspecting and performing routine maintenance on the equipment that heats your home. Perhaps the most important preparation that a homeowner can do to prepare for winter.

If you use a gas heater, hire a professional to inspect it for leaks and ensure it’s ready to warm your home in an efficient and safe manner. A “leaky” heater is not only inefficient but may also fill the air you breathe with dangerous poison. And the wise homeowner knows that they should never compromise their indoor air quality.

9. Change Your Air Filter

The air filter in your home needs to be changed on a frequent basis. While we may sometimes forget or neglect to change the air filter, the dawn of Autumn is a great time to change all the filters in your home.

Not only will this improve your indoor air quality, but it will also increase the overall efficiency of your furnace. If you’ve noticed screeches or whines coming from the belt, or maybe even erratic behavior from your furnace, you may want to have it inspected for blockages or problems with the burners, blower motor or thermostat.

It’s better to do this at the beginning of the Fall season, than to wait until the winter chill sets in.

10. Clear the Chimney (And Fire When Ready)

If you use a wood fireplace in your home, it would be wise to inspect the chimney to ensure there are no blockages or venting problems before you light the first fire of the season. Have your chimney swept, cleaned and cleared before you start any fires inside your home.

For the homeowner looking to save a bit of money, consider adding an energy-efficient fireplace insert or infrared heater to help provide heat to your room while slashing your overall heating bills.

This is also a great time to conduct routine other “home safety” measures, such as replacing the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.

11. Chill Out. (And Save Money)

After a long, hot summer, the cool weather can be a welcome relief to your body… as well as your budget. You can finally turn down your air conditioner, but may not need heat for a few more months.

Use the colder weather as an opportunity to create a comfortable temperature inside your home. Leave your windows open at night and enjoy the crisp chill of the Fall evening. Strategically tweak your thermostat, enjoy the mild temperatures and think of all the money you’ll save.

12. Add Welcoming Fall Decor

As the Fall season rolls in, there is no better time to change the elements of your interior decor to suit the season and welcome you as you come home.

  • Interior Fall Decor — Whether it’s autumn leaves, orange pumpkins or Fall candles, there are some very easy and cheap improvements that every homeowner can make to add a bit of Fall flair to their home.
  • Exterior Fall Decor — You might add outdoor lanterns along your walkway or fence to welcome visitors as the days become shorter and darkness comes on earlier. Extra light can be great for guiding trick-or-treaters as well. A seasonal doormat, large pumpkins and harvest themed elements create a warm welcome despite the cold.

Embrace the season with these simple upgrades to your decor.

13. Contain Yourself (And Declutter Your Mornings)

While your house may stay cleaner once the kids are back in school, odds are your entryway will not.

Backpacks, jackets and muddy shoes can quickly pile up around your main entrance, creating a mess, as well as a hazard. Now is a good time to add a mudroom bench with hooks to hold all the backpacks and outerwear coming in from the cold day. Extra storage for shoes and other gear will also help cut the clutter and keep your house looking neat. This will all go a long way to getting you ready for the morning rush.


Final Thoughts

Leaves, lawns, furnaces and fires all require attention as the cold weather starts to set in. And while this may be an intimidating task at first glance, getting your home ready for fall doesn’t have to be scary. These simple tips will make fall house care as easy as pumpkin pie.