Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Home Environmental Improvement Tips 6-10

These informational tips have allowed me to saves hundreds of dollars in home repairs and improvements and I'd like to share some of these tips with you to get you into the mood to do 'stuff' around your home!

#6 Hardboard or Simulated Rain Forest Wood Doors - High performance alternatives that maximize wood alternatives.

#7 Whole House Attic Fans - I wrote about these before.They are an energy saver that also increases comfort.

#8 High R-Value Attic Insulation - The higher the R-Value the greater the insulating performance.

#9 Light Colored Roof Shingles - Reflects radiant solar heat. Energy saver in most climates except in areas with long cold spells. Darker colors are preferred there to bring heat into the house from the sun.

#10 Low U-Factor Windows - Look for this measure of glass performance.. The lower the U-Factor, the greater the heat transmission savings.

Every so often I will bring some more of these valuable tips for you to read and enjoy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's No Good in the Dark!

I just thought about a big item that will go unattended by everyone until the timing is terrible. Your outdoor lighting and how you'll replace a bad bulb in below freezing conditions during a snow storm when you need to be shoveling but you can't see anything. Sound like something that ever happened to you? It sounds too familiar to me, that's one of the reasons I live in Florida now! :) I know it's not a thrifty thing to do but I'd do it anyways, just in case you end up in this situation, but I'd replace all your outside bulbs, especially the hard to reach ones that will be impossible when the ice is in place. Keep the old bulbs as spares you can always have on hand for the warmer months if they are needed, or even in the house for regular bulbs. Like I said, I know it's not the cheap thing to do but have you ever tried to shovel snow with a flashlight? Also, metal enclosures are easier to handle with bare hands when they're above freezing temps!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Home Improvement Construction Tips 1-5

These informational tips have allowed me to saves hundreds of dollars in home repairs and improvements and I'd like to share some of these tips with you to get you into the mood to do 'stuff' around your home!

#1 Pressure Treated lumber - Chemical preservatives help to prolong the life of the wood. Remember to cut this wood outside, wash your hands after handling, and do no burn!

#2 Engineered Lumber - Maximizes wood resources, often is recycled wood content.

#3 Steel studs - Alternative building material with recycled steel content.

#4 Roof windows and skylights - Natural light saves on lighting costs; roof windows provide ventilation and light.

#5 High-efficiency fireplace inserts - The most efficient air quality and heating alternative to wood, wax or gas logs. Fan log stands can add several degrees of heat to your room as heat blows out through tubes.

Every so often I will bring some more of these valuable tips for you to read and enjoy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Keep Those Pests Away!

The colder weather is coming and you'll be closing up your windows and doors soon. You'll also be closing in those summer time pests that managed to get themselves into your house as well. There are some simple steps that can keep some of the peskier pests at bay. The one pest I'm thinking of is the spider. There are many spiders that are very beneficial to have around that eat all those other nasty bugs that still roam around. Unfortunately, they have to leave the house because you also have the risk of the nastier spiders that you don't want in your house AT ALL!! Three such spiders are the Black Widow, Brown Widow and the worst one of them, the Brown Recluse (pictures from left to right). I was raised in the Northeastern United States and had only heard of the Black Widow. Since moving to Florida I have heard the stories of the Brown Widow and Brown Recluse (aka Fiddleback). The Brown Recluse can cause Necrosis of the flesh which is a deadening of the flesh which must be removed or it will get worse, up to and including death. I want to state that these three spiders are small in size. It seems as though the smaller they are the more deadly they are. Aside from a professional pest control company coming in to your house and spraying (spiders walk on to of the pesticide and are killed only by a direct hit) the best method of prevention is to never leave any area of your house unmoved. That's right, unmoved. By keeping your house vacuumed and clutter to a minimum the only thing left to do is to move boxes and bags frequently from spot to spot. Spiders do not like movement and will seek solace elsewhere, preferably outside! Keep an open eye out in porch areas and garages. If you have below house/porch access be very careful there as well. Spiders are very resilient and are able to survive many environments and as I stated earlier, most are beneficial to have around!

Friday, September 26, 2008

More Winter Tips!

Since I'm on a roll here with the winterization of your house I figured I'd touch on a few overlooked items to be aware of. Let's touch upon lawn and garden items, shall we? First off, it's not a no brainer but, make sure you drain your garden hose completely before bringing it indoors to either your basement or garage. Removing the water will ensure no ice will form inside the hose to potentially rip it open if it's against a frigid wall in an unheated area (ie: garage, shed). Next, if you have a plastic hose cart or reel I would bring that in also to avoid cracking if accidentally hit by something hard in freezing temps. Hey, maybe one of those icicles might hit it! Give all your garden tools that are metal a light spray of WD40 to help fight rusting for a few months of non-use. Store long handle tools handle side down on some kind of barrier to keep out moisture from wooden handles if you are unable to hang them up. If you keep the tool end up it is less likely to acquire moisture from the floor or deck. This is also a good time to clean out that shed or garage. The cool temps make this job easier than in the summer.
Once all the leaves are taken care of you should put all your tools away as I have shown, you won't be using them for months. Put your snow shovel in a convenient location but not under foot. Keep it where, if you get a bad sudden storm, you can dig your way out of the house. A shovel in the shed is no good if you can't get to it. Lastly, your gas powered yard tools. Your lawnmower, string trimmer, power washer, etc. These need to be winterized. The lawnmower, trimmer and stored gasoline just need a fuel saver to keep out moisture during the long period of non-use, the power washer also needs this treatment as well as a moisture resistant flush of the pump system. This treatment can be obtained at any Sears store in the Lawn & Garden area, it's not cheap but it will prevent hard water damage that could kill your washer while standing for a long time unused and that means lots of money saved. You can get a few treatments out of one can. Lastly, keep rock salt or pellet melters in an easy to get to location to eliminate ice during snow removal and to keep stairs ice free. Hospitals cost LOTS of money, avoid at all costs! Also, if you store items in a shed make sure you remove ALL cardboard, paper, rags, bags, etc. Field mice and rats like to burrow up into sheds for protection during the winter(I know first hand) and they look for bedding material from these items. Without these items the critters may look elsewhere for a winter home and take their droppings with them.
One last thing, for people who own one, make sure you can start your snow blower. If for some reason it will not operate, now is the time to get it to a repair station. I'm sure there will be more to follow!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Barbeque Safety part 1

I don't know about you but I love to bar-be-que in all seasons as well as smoke meats. I don't use the standard method of cooking because I don't think, after several close calls, they're all that safe. What I mean by standard method is propane. I don't trust it, I never will and I don't like the way it cooks. I am a purist who uses hardwood charcoal pieces, not briquettes because they're full of paraffin and other 'things' that I don't want in my food or taste buds. Cowboy Coals is one of the few brands I have found that I can buy easily at Lowes but not Home Depot. I don't know why. Wal Mart used to sell it until it didn't make enough profit for them. That's what the manager told me! This was supposed to be a safety tip for propane and I got side tracked again. Sorry! There are a few things you need to be aware of to safely use and maintain a propane BBQ. The first thing is the valve. The handle on the valve must be the three sided style and not the five sided. The three sided is the current fire safety code version and it was changed for a reason, don't debate it just upgrade the tank. Most refilling stations will not refill the older style anyhow, it's illegal to do it. Next you want to check your hoses and connections under the grill. All you need is a soft brush and a small bucket of very soapy water. Just brush the solution all over the tubing and connectors with the gas valve open and the grill knobs OFF! The pressure in the line will make bubbles if the line has a leak. If there is a leak just shut the valve, open the grill knob to expel the gas in the line and replace the damaged part. Check burners for metal scaling from prolonged heat which can damage lesser expensive units and cause seams to open up creating another safety issue while working over an unstable fire. REPLACE DAMAGED PARTS! It's cheaper than skin grafts. Lastly, if you use your grill in the winter where it gets snow and ice, make sure you cover the grill well so ice doesn't build up on the rubber hoses or bind up the valve from turning easily. I'll talk about the amazing benefits of using charred hardwood in another post! Enjoy and grill safely!

Rev Up Your Ride!

I just wanted to put my two cents into the mix today since I filled my gas tank this morning for $3.999 per gallon and by the time I got home this afternoon it was already $3.659 per gallon. You know, it was a crap shoot when I filled up as to whether the price would go up or go down. I needed the gas so I bit the bullet. I spent about $4.00 more for the fill-up than if I was able to wait. Who knew! Well, just a couple of reminders for saving your gas money. This seems somewhat ironic but if you want to save money on gas you should spend some money on oil, fresh engine oil that is. In fact, if you haven't already done so I HIGHLY recommend the use of synthetic oil. I've been using Castrol synthetic oil since my cars first oil change in 1998 and I have over 156k on my car. With the increased age and mileage I have upgraded the 10W40 to 20W50 for the extra, high mileage, protection. Using synthetic also allows you to go a longer time between oil changes, which makes up for the higher cost of the synthetic. I also recommend a very good oil filter and I know Fram has some great high performance oil filters. Another two things you want to do to keep the friction to a minimum. The first is to get a 4 wheel alignment done at least once a year. If your a high mileage driver, or drive on not so great roads, I would do it at least twice a year. Straight driving puts less wear, which equals drag, on your tires which will increase miles per gallon. The second thing is purely optional but recommended. Maintaining the proper inflation of your tires is critical BUT you can go a step further by replacing the air in your tires with nitrogen gas, which is inert and does not heat up like regular air and is not combustible. Many auto tire dealers and Shell Express Lubes offer this service for a nominal fee somewhere around $5.00 per tire. Less heat on your tires means less wear and for $20.00 it's worth it!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds!

Carpet, Dollar & Sedge. If you know what these are that means you’ve probably had, or worse, have them. For those of you who aren't yet familiar with these names they're weeds. They are very invasive weeds that we see in the warm southeast United States. Many of us have taken up arms against them with little success, inevitably seeking out the professional lawn service companies such as Chem-Lawn Truegreen and Scotts, to name but two. I, in the past, sought out the pros to dispose of many lawn and garden weeds. I will point out that my lawn variety is St. Augustine floratam, a very water hungry variety. There are three weed types I'd like to address.

NUTSEDGE! I hate this weed with a passion. The lawn service assured me they could kill it all. They used chemicals know by the names Image and Manor, products that state they kill Nutsedge. Maybe they kill Nutsedge in Argentina during the cold months, but not here! I did some homework and talked with my local chemical supply store (DIY weed and bug killing) and was directed to only one chemical that guaranteed it would kill the dreaded sedge, Basagran! Basagran used in conjunction with an herbicidal oil, used to allow chemical to stick to the weed, would be successful. You can substitute vegetable oil for herbicidal oil with the same result. You know what? It worked just as I was told it would. The sedge browned out in a couple of days, killing the roots as well. All I needed to do was harvest the dead sedge.

DOLLAR WEED! This weed has such a long root system that you cannot dig all of it up to eliminate it, aside from tearing up your entire lawn and/or garden. It gets everywhere and the best you can accomplish is to control it when it surfaces. The chemical of choice here is Atrizine and only Atrizine! Why? Because it works, that's why. Here we go again, Image and Manor will kill Dollar Weed in ....yada, yada, yada! Due to the fact that too many people overapplied Atrizine in the concentrated form(if 1 oz is good then 3 oz will be really good!- NOT good) the EPA banned it. You may only buy it in the diluted gallon jug because people used it stupidly and did not follow the specific mixing instructions. Don't use Atrizine if it will be raining within a couple of days. The chemical works best when allowed to absorb into the leaf and when it's dry the leaf will absorb this moisture and hasten it's departure. To a lesser extent it will kill some of the root system if the area remains dry for several days. FYI! If you use a zoned sprinkler system try to direct spray away from moist or shaded areas as Dollar Weed loves moist soil to grow faster. Do Not over-water your yard as this will encourage weed growth and migration.

CARPET GRASS! This is a real pain in the butt! There is no chemical, that is still legal, you can use to kill carpet grass. People know this weed who have planted plugs or sodded a lawn. It creeps in and starts to take over the lawn voraciously. The only remedy I know for this, and I've had partial success with it, is 20 Mule Team Borax laundry booster. Yes, that's right, a laundry additive. Just sprinkle over the carpet grass and wait for it to yellow before pulling it out. When removed use Preen, or similar product, to ensure it won't return. Do Not over-apply the Borax as it can damage your lawn if it has poor drainage(ie: clay or tight soil).Borax can also be used on Dollar Weed but is not as effective as Atrizine.

Be smart when applying any killing agent to your property. Overuse will create collateral botanical damage, pet illness/poisoning and human health issues from contaminated shoes and clothing inside the house from the yard. When handling herbicides, and pesticides, always remember to WASH YOUR HANDS and change your clothes before lounging. When using powdered or misting chemicals always wear a breathing shield(doctors mask), gloves and eye protection. In concentration these chemicals are harmful to humans and animals as well as weeds! At the very least make sure your shield your eyes, as chemicals enter the bloodstream VERY FAST through the eye tissue.

Note: The treatments listed above are NOT a permanent fix. These weeds will come back/ The important thing to remember is not to stress out because it is treatable.