Managing your home’s Humidity

Posted by on Jan 5, 2024 in General, home improvement, Safety, Seasonal | 0 comments

The level of humidity in your home will affect your health as well as the health of your home.  If you have asthma, allergies or have had respiratory infections, humidity that has been very high or very low is a contributing factor.  These factors will also have an impact on the condition of your home. Humans are most comfortable and healthiest in an environment where the humidity is maintained at a level around 40% (Every home should have a hygrometer). When levels drop below 20% humidity, it means the air is very dry.  There is an increased level of dust and allergens in the air, our skin becomes dry and you begin to get a lot of static in the air.  Dragging your feet on the carpet is sure to give someone a shock.  This is also hard on your home.  Wood starts to dry out, hardwood floors creek and wood in expensive cabinets and furniture starts to shrink. When levels climb above 60% humidity, it means the air is very damp.  Humidity above 60% is ideal for the growth of mold which will start to grow within 48 hours.  Mold will irritate health concerns such as asthma, allergies and respiratory infections.  Mold will also deteriorate wood and over time weaken the structure of a home. In today’s modern home a lot has been done to improve insulation and energy efficiency.  High efficiency furnaces, hot water heaters and fireplaces combined with new windows and doors built to seal up a house, means very little fresh air gets in.  During the winter (and summer if you have central air conditioning), you trap the air inside the home.  In our daily activities, bathing, cooking and even breathing you introduce humidity into your home.  Consider how much humidity you introduce into your home during that big family Christmas dinner. If you notice your homes humidity above 50% (remember every home should have a hygrometer) it is time to take action!  Newer homes have a built in whole house ventilation system.  In this case turning it on will remove some of that humidity.  If you don’t have that luxury, running your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans will help remove the stale damp air.  Both of these solutions work very well in the cooler winter months.   During a damp summer the outside air can be even more humid than the inside air.  Ventilation alone may not help, consider getting a dehumidifier for the house.  A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air eliminating the possibility of mold growing in your home. When you notice the humidity is below 30% it is time to take action.  Most homes are built with a central humidifier on the furnace.  If you have one make sure it is clean and functioning properly.  This however, is not my favorite way to add humidity to a home (see my blog on humidifiers for more information).  Run portable humidifiers, in most cases one console unit is enough but smaller units can be used to humidify isolated areas.  You can also run those bathroom fans for a shorter period of time after a bath or shower.  In this case putting moisture back into the air is good for your health and your home. Winter creates another challenge with humidity.  When temperatures become very cold (in Alberta it is not uncommon to have temperatures below -30c) to much humidity in these conditions can create moisture problems which includes condensation and frost on your windows, condensation and mold on your exterior walls and frost build up in your attic.  When you hear extreme cold weather is on its way turn your humidity settings down.  20% or lower may...

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Home Fire Escape Planning

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in General, Safety, Seasonal | 0 comments

A fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as three minutes to escape safely. Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning – a home fire escape plan that everyone in your home is familiar with and has practiced. These tips can help you put together and practice an effective home fire escape plan. Fire Facts • Most fire deaths in Alberta happen in homes, especially at night when people are asleep. People, who die in home fires, often die from breathing the smoke and toxic gases from the fire—not from being burned by flames. These toxic gases can render a person confused and disoriented or even unconscious after only a few short breaths. The effects may overcome you long before you have time to orient yourself to get out of your own home. If you plan and practice your escape drill, you will know exactly what to do, almost automatically, to quickly and safely get out from a burning house. • Once a fire starts it can spread rapidly. In as little as three minutes, a small fire can erupt into a “flashover” (when a room gets so hot everything suddenly bursts into flames). Three minutes isn’t a lot of time to notice the fire danger, round up your family, identify a safe escape route, and escape from your home. Seconds count in a fire emergency. Safety Tips Plan Your Escape • Have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and test your alarm(s) monthly to make sure they are in working condition to warn you of a fire. • Involve the whole household in drawing a simple floor plan of your home, marking exactly how to get out in a fire emergency. • Identify two exits from each room, particularly bedrooms that you can use to escape. Planning two escape routes could save your life if one exit is blocked by smoke or fire. • Establish a safe meeting place outside of the home. • Assign a designated helper for any person living in your home who may not be able to escape the fire emergency on his or her own. This may include young children, older people, or people with impairments due to mobility limitations, disabilities, medications, or alcohol. • Ensure your street number is clearly visible from the road so that responding emergency personnel can find your home. • Inform guests and visitors about your home escape plan and find out about others escape plans when you stay overnight in their homes.         Practice Your Escape Plan • Practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year with everyone living in your home. • Make the drill as realistic as possible. Sound the smoke alarm, and practice different scenarios and escape routes. Practice your escape using the escape tips identified below. • Most fire emergencies happen at night. Ensure you practice at night while everyone is asleep.   Home Fire Escape Planning How to Escape Get low and go under smoke. All household members should learn how to “get low and go” under the layer of smoke hanging under the ceiling during a fire emergency. In a fire, the air closer to the floor will be relatively free of toxic smoke and gases and will easier to breathe. Check the door with your hand. If the door is hot, fire could already be burning through! That’s when you’ll use your alternate exit. If the door is cool it may be safe. Brace your shoulder against...

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Home Safety

Posted by on Feb 17, 2011 in General, Safety | 0 comments

Finding things getting a little boring this February, why not check your home for safety concerns.  I often see dangerous things when I inspect a home, let me give you some things to help get you started on checking your home for safety. Does your home have a Carbon Monoxide detector? Where is it located?  Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas that is odorless.  It is heavier than air and can only be detected with a Carbon Monoxide detector.  The ideal place for a Carbon Monoxide detector is on the lower level near the furnace and hotwater heater, near a garage door or a fireplace. (Gas or Wood burning).  You may also consider putting one in the hallway where your family sleeps.  Since Carbon Monoxide is heavier than air, the detector should be close to the ground, usually in a wall plug.  It is OK to have more than one in your home. Do you have working smoke detectors on every level of the house, have they been tested with smoke lately.  Check the grills for dust build up and vacuum them if required.  Smoke detectors are good for 10 years and then replacement is recommended.  Batteries should be replaced every October.  Have you ever thought of putting best before dates on a smoke detectors just the same way the dairy does on a carton of milk?  This is an easy way to keep track of your smoke detectors age. Do you have accessible working fire extinguishers in your kitchen, garage and mechanical room. Check your egress escape routes.  Basement windows should open easily from inside and if there are security bars they should have quick release latch (No Locks).  Are the windows free of snow and debris and have a clear path to take you away from the house.  Don’t forget the upstairs bedroom windows.  They are also a point of egress and the same rules apply.  Is there a safe way to climb down from an upstairs window if needed? Are your railings tight and secure?  Check them all.  Basement stair railings are often removed for moving in furniture or during a remodel and not replaced.  Wooden deck railings loosen over time.  Do a general inspection of all the other guards and railings of the home.  Include any baby gates if you are using them, they loosen up over time as well. Does your home leak?  Water inside a home will enable mold to grow putting unhealthy mold spores and toxins in the air.  Check under all your sinks for signs on water and run the taps while feeling around under the sink for moisture.  If you find anything fix it immediately.  Check your ceilings for water stains which would indicate a roof leak or plumbing leak. Check all levels, a toilet leak on the top floor may first be detected in the ceiling below it. Is the area around you furnace and hot water heater clean and clutter free?  A small mechanical room should never be used for storage.  Make sure you have easy access to access panels on the furnace and hot water heater as well as the emergency shut off for both these units.  If your not sure where to find these shut offs nows the time to look around and find them and consider labelling them for easy detection in the future.  This is also a good time to do the same for the main water shut off valve. Check for basic electrical issues.  Do all your plugs and switches have proper cover plates?  Do any of your electrical appliances have frayed cords?  These items should...

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Winter Maintenance

Posted by on Jan 4, 2011 in General, Safety, Seasonal | 0 comments

Winter is a quite time and your home requires very little maintenance, however there is always a few things to do.  Here are some tips. Your furnace is running a lot these days so the filter gets dirty quickly.  Clean or replace it monthly, this helps the furnace circulate warm air throughout your home and saves you valuable energy dollars. Drain a bucket or two of water from the clean out valve at the bottom of your hot water tank, you may have to consult your owners manual.  This will control sediment and maintain efficiency, saving you more energy dollars. Clean your humidifier two or three times during the winter and monitor your moisture levels.  You can find more information about humidity on my website by following this link   http://jbrinspections.com/?p=79 Vacuum your bathroom fan grills. Vacuum radiator grills on the back of refrigerators and freezers and the drip trays. Vacuum your smoke detectors, dust and spider webs can prevent them from functioning.  Test them with smoke. Check your fire extinguishers and recharge them if necessary Check fire escape routes and egress points, are your basement windows free of snow buildup?   This is also a good time to review your home for fire prevention.  This is a good resource http://www.cmhc.ca/en/ab/cayoho/cayoho_003.cfm Poor some water down your floor drain to keep the trap full and run the water on any seldom used sinks or tubs. Examine doors and windows for ice build up or cold air leaks.  Make a note to repair any concerns in the spring. Check for ice damming and look in the attic for frost build up.  If you find these conditions occurring this is an indication of poor ventilation or poor insulation.  CMHC has a great resource about identifying and preventing ice dams. http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/grho/moaiprre/moaiprre_009.cfm Check your plugs and outlets for wear.  Inspect your power cords.  If they are wearing out replace them immediately. Taking care of these items on a regular basis keeps you safe, increases the life of your home’s components and ultimately saves you money!  Do you want to save more money in the future while making your home more comfortable to live in?  Call us to complete a thorough energy audit in your home and we can help you make a plan to improve your homes energy...

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