Take Action Against Radon

January’s designation as National Radon Action Month serves as a reminder for you to check your own home for unsafe levels of radon.

image courtesy of RISMedia

Homeowners should make sure they and their families are safe from the dangerous effects of radon. The EPA encourages everyone to have their homes tested – here’s why.

The EPA defines radon as a gaseous, toxic radioactive element that comes from the natural decay of uranium in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation.

Your home can trap radon inside, where it can build up. New and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements can be affected.

You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but it could be present at a dangerous level in your home. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates, and overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

The EPA recommends that you have your home tested, which is easy and inexpensive. Find a professional in your area or purchase your own test kit. You can find a radon test kit order form online along with a coupon. Some home improvement stores also sell radon test kits. Follow the directions on the package for where to place the device in your home and where to send it to receive your reading.

If you’d prefer to have a professional inspect your home, find out who your state radon contact is and the particular requirements for your state. Your state may also be able to provide you with a list of certified contractors.

If you’re considering a new home, look for builders who use radon-resistant new construction. The National Association of Home Builders says building techniques to prevent radon from entering a home are practical, straightforward and an inexpensive way to offer families a benefit that could reduce their risk of lung cancer.

Visit www.epa.gov/radon for more details on radon and how to prevent it from risking your family’s health.

Source: By John Voket. Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017; updated for 2021. All rights reserved.

7 Steps to Prepare Your Home for Winter

All seasons affect your home, but perhaps no other season impacts it more than winter. The cold temperatures, wind, snow and freezing rain combine to make it a season not to be ignored.

To ensure you do not have any unnecessary repair costs this winter, follow these seven simple steps while preparing for winter. They are short and sweet—and can save you money in the long run.

Preparing a home for the winter can sound overwhelming, but these tips can usually be done within a weekend, and you will be better prepared for whatever weather comes your way.

1. Clean Your Gutters

You should do this every season, but right before winter might be the most critical time. If your area gets a lot of snow, your home will have to bear that additional weight. If your gutters get too much weight on them, they could be pulled from your home.

But perhaps the most important reason is that if you don’t clean your gutters, your home could get water damage. As snow and ice melts and refreezes overnight, the devastation inflicted on your home could cost thousands of dollars. Make sure the water has somewhere to go when it melts so it is kept well away from your house.

2. Re-caulk Your Windows and Doors

Re-caulk your windows and doors each year to prevent water damage and heat loss. A caulk gun and tube exterior caulk will cost you around $20, and you can easily do it in an afternoon.

To be clear, you should only caulk the outside perimeter of your windows and doors’ molding. Use exterior silicone caulk because it is less affected by extreme temperatures—meaning it won’t shrink and expand as the seasons change.

To caulk your windows and doors, cut the exterior caulking tube at a small angle using your caulk gun (most caulking guns have an internal blade for this). Insert the tube into the gun and crank the handle until the circular pad is pressed tightly to the tube.  Caulking should start to come out of the hole you cut once enough force is applied.

Next, apply a thin line of caulk across the window or door molding to your house. Using a latex-gloved finger, lightly press down on the caulk to spread it out so it fills all of the tiny cracks and crevices until it is smooth.

3. Get Your Roof Inspected

This step is probably the most ignored yet most important step when preparing a house for winter. If you are unable to access your home’s roof, you can get it inspected by a contractor to look for loose or broken shingles.

Any contractor you hire to do an inspection should also be able to do any minor repairs in an afternoon (replacing shingles is usually a quick process). It might cost you more than you would like to spend, but neglecting it for an entire winter could easily lead to even more repair bills down the road.

Summer rainstorms are notorious for wreaking havoc on a roof, so it’s important you repair any damage before your roof gets its toughest test: packed snow.

4. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

As you learned in high school, warm air rises. Reversing the direction of each of your fans will create an updraft, which in turn will push down any heated air pressed against your room’s ceiling. By keeping warm air circulating, you’ll use heat more efficiently, which should cut down on energy costs. Even if you don’t have any rooms with high ceilings, do this one as soon as the weather turns.

To reverse your fan’s direction, make sure the fan is off, then click the switch above the blades. If you have a remote-controlled fan, you should see an option for reversing the fan’s direction on the remote.

5. Get Your Chimney Inspected

To keep your family and home safe, get your chimney inspected and cleaned before each burning season—even if wood is not your primary source of heat, and you only use your fireplace for aesthetic reasons.

When you burn wood, deposits of creosote build up on the inside of your chimney. Creosote is cancerous and highly flammable. When enough of it builds up in your chimney, the smoke from a fire can cause it to ignite, which in turn can cause a chimney fire. Many home fires are caused by chimneys.

If you want to go the extra mile, consider installing a steel liner, which will help protect your home in the event of a chimney fire.

6. Drain the Fuel From Your Small Gas-Powered Engines

Gasoline doesn’t last forever; in fact, it decomposes quickly. When this happens in a small engine (such as a lawn mower or weed eater), it can cause the engine’s carburetor to gunk up, which means you may not be able to get it started again when winter is over.

To prevent this, you can either add a fuel stabilizer or let the machine burn through all of the gas by using it one last time in late summer/early fall and letting it run until it turns off. If you do this, your machines will last longer and start much more easily in the spring.

7. Check Your Insurance Coverage

Right before winter is a good time to check your insurance coverage. If you have done any renovations over the summer that could add value to your home, make sure the added value is covered by your policy in case anything happens in the winter. You should also check what your provider offers for things like roof and ice damage to see if you may want to add additional coverage.

The Bottom Line

Preparing a home for winter isn’t a marathon, but it does take a little bit of forethought. However, if you take the seven simple steps above, you will likely spend far less on maintenance than you used to.

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.