Here are some tips to improve your home and hazards to look for (and eliminate):

  • The two most important words to remember are probably moisture + maintenance.
  • 1. Drain the rain DOWN and OUT.
    2. If it can’t dry, it’s gonna’ die.
  • Carbon Monoxide Levels & Risks – link / download the chart (PDF)
  • If you have any gas appliances in your home, install carbon monoxide detectors (preferably low level/sensitivity detectors that are designed with pregnant women in mind). Carbon monoxide (CO) is similar in weight as breathable air according to the EPA and National Resource Council. See this link for more info and this 12 min video warning you about off-the-shelf CO detectors.
    Replace the cheap detectors every 3-5 years due to the sensor degrading each year.
  • Significantly corroded gas piping should be replaced.
  • Top 5 hidden home hazards to kids from the Consumer Product Safety Commission – link
  • Windows and child safety that you may have never thought about – link
  • Before turning on your oven, ventilate your kitchen (open window, exhaust fan to exterior). Ovens give off the most carbon monoxide in the first 1-2 minutes (legally allowed) of turning on the oven.
  • Run cold water (not hot) when operating your kitchen waste disposer (+ other tips) – link
  • Sloped roofs: Air leaks (warm air) into attics can form “ice dams,” which are supposedly one of the top insurance claims for the exterior of a northeastern house. This article (+comments) gives a brief overview.
  • Avoid unvented/ventless gas fireplaces altogether due to carbon monoxide safety concerns, Unvented/ventless gas fireplaces are banned in California and Canada (link).
  • Smoke detectors should be tested beyond pressing the “test button.” Pressing the test button means that the test button works!
  • An event speaker who previously worked as an insurance agent stated that the #1 insurance claim for the interior of a house was burst rubber hoses for washing machines. Therefore, it’s advised that you use metal braided stainless steel hoses. HOWEVER, more claims are being made against these braided hoses due to manufacture defects (see here). AUTO-SHUTOFF metal braided hoses is supposedly a superior choice. Also see this “Top 5 causes of water damage in the home” page.
  • Refrigerators with ice-makers: Replace old plastic tubing with copper to avoid a burst ice maker supply line.
  • Check your dryer vent periodically to make sure it’s not clogged with lint. This can become a fire hazard. And relocate a dryer exhaust vent that is blowing near (less than 3 ft) the outdoor air conditioning condensing unit. Lint can blow on to the compressor coils, restricting air flow, aside from moist, warm air every time you run the dryer.
    1. How dryer fires start – link
    2. Find a technician to clean-out your dryer + duct at DryerSafety.org – link
    3. Wikihow entry on how to clean a clothes dryer vent – link
  • Fire prevention: 35 tips
  • Video: microwaves and safety
    NOTE: You can test how well your microwave is sealed by taking two mobile phones and putting one inside the microwave, then call that phone with the other phone, and if you cannot call, you have a well-sealed microwave.
  • Electrical safety/fire prevention using arc fault circuit interrupters inside your main electrical panel – afcisafety.org
  • If you have kids, install an anti-tip bracket to prevent the stove/oven from tipping if a child steps on top of an open oven door (Consumer Product Safety Commission warning). A stove/oven door lock should be available, but I have never seen one during an inspection.
  • If you have a forced air/central air system, consider this when buying air filters:
    1. Ignore the CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating
    2. Check the PD (pressure drop) specification
    –David Butler of OptimalBuilding.com
  • Forced-air systems: Choose a MERV-13 air filter for healthier indoor air – link (but buyer beware)
    One of the easiest and most important actions for maintaining a central air conditioning system is to change or clean the air filter periodically. A clogged air filter puts unnecessary stress on the system and can even cause the internal parts to potentially freeze. A dusty air system provides food for mold to grow (dust + humidity).
  • You can check the main water pipe to see if it’s copper or lead by its color and hardness. Copper can have a bluish-green discoloration. You can scrape the pipe with a screw driver to determine if it’s lead because lead is noticeably softer.
  • Look at how rainwater is discharged from your home. It’s recommended that downspouts discharge water around 5 feet from your home’s foundation (around 10 feet total). You also want a “weather tight” seal throughout the exterior of your home. Any openings are pathways for water, pests, and unwanted air entry and unwanted air loss.
  • Dirty Humidifiers: Hazards of dirty humidifiers and preventive maintenance
  • Use a dehumidifier in humid/moist/unconditioned spaces (while eliminating the moisture source) to prevent mold from growing into a health hazard. However, keep in mind that consistently using a dehumidifier will/may require a lot of electricity-use.
  • Air duct cleaning seems to be rarely thought of (out of sight, out of mind). Check out DuctCleaning.org before hiring someone to clean your ducts.
  • If you have yellow-covered steel gas lines called corrugated steel tubing (CSST), they should be electrically bonded to potentially prevent holes from forming during an electrical storm. For more info see CSSTSafety.com
  • Paints to avoid using from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Lead paint usually cracks into squares, or a “grid-like” pattern.
  • If you have vinyl windows that open vertically, keep them locked when the windows are closed. This may help prevent sagging, which causes the latches to no longer lock the window.
  • If you have an air conditioning system (that isn’t a “heat pump”), consider covering the outside condensing unit during the winter to keep out snow and ice. The recommended clearance around the condenser while operating depends on the manufacturer, but it’s wise to allow 30 inches at the service area (where the two copper lines are). Between 6-12 inches (or more) is good to have around the remaining sides, and around 4 feet clearance over the top (depends on the manufacturer’s specifications).
    Shade from trees or very tall bushes can help, but be sure to keep it trimmed back to allow circulation.
  • See the Chimney Safety Institute of America page on protecting a chimney from water.
    Fireplaces: check out the “creosote sweeping log.”
  • If you have a gas water heater, there is a temperature pressure relief valve (TPRV) that should have a pipe (CPVC or copper) attached to it in case hot water discharges from this when the temperature is too high. This should NEVER be closed/sealed/capped (same goes for the TPRV for a boiler). Leaking indicates that the water heater is losing pressure/possibly time to be replaced.
  • Evaporator coils for refrigerators can be cleaned to extend the service life.
  • Seal or eliminate any vents in the garage to prevent car exhaust from getting into living spaces.
  • It’s suggested that you replace flexible air ducts in the garage with metal ducts. In the case of a fire, the flexible ducts will disintegrate and the openings in the ceiling will be vulnerable to smoke and fire.
  • Unprotected gas lines and gas appliances that are low to the floor in the garage are potentially vulnerable to damage from automobiles. It’s suggested that a barrier be placed between the parking space and the appliances/gas lines. This is also a good idea for gas meters located outside near a driveway.
  • Asphalt driveways: Try your best to avoid turning the wheels of your automobile while stationary (try to do only while in motion) so as not to gradually erode the surface of the asphalt, reducing its lifespan.
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