Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday safety precautions

As the holidays are just about here, many people are winding down from work for the much needed break or vacation. As you enjoy this time of year, here are some final tips to keep you, your familiy and your home safe.

  • Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
  • Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten.
  • Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.  

Toys and Ornaments
  • Purchase appropriate toys for the appropriate age. Some toys designed for older children might be dangerous for younger children.
  • Electric toys should be UL/FM approved.
  • Toys with sharp points, sharp edges, strings, cords, and parts small enough to be swallowed should not be given to small children.
  • Place older ornaments and decorations that might be painted with lead paint out of the reach of small children and pets.  
Children and Pets 
  • Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out of reach, or avoid having them.
  • Keep decorations at least 6 inches above the child’s reach.
  • Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause anything from mild distress to death.
  • Keep any ribbons on gifts and tree ornaments shorter than 7 inches. A child could wrap a longer strand of ribbon around their neck and choke.
  • Avoid mittens with strings for children. The string can get tangled around the child’s neck and cause them to choke. It is easier to replace a mitten than a child.
  • Watch children and pets around space heaters or the fireplace. Do not leave a child or pet unattended.
  • Store scissors and any sharp objects that you use to wrap presents out of your child’s reach.
  • Inspect wrapped gifts for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men, and mistletoe berries, all of which are choking hazards.  
  • Use your home burglar alarm system.
  • If you plan to travel for the holidays, don’t discuss your plans with strangers. 
  • Have a trusted friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your home.
Enjoy the hoilday season. How'My House home inspections performs home inspections in Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn and Queens

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Holiday safety tips

As the holidays approach, I see more and more decorations being placed, both indoors and out. Here are some additional holiday safety tips.

  • Use only non-combustible and flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel and artificial icicles of plastic and non-leaded metals.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down. 
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp and breakable, and keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children.
  • Avoid trimmings that resemble candy and food that may tempt a young child to put them in his mouth.
Holiday Entertaining
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.  When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
  • Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays, and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).
  • Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.


  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "fire-resistant."
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches, and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.
  • Make sure the base is steady so the tree won't tip over easily.
Follow these safety tips to ensure a safe holiday season. For more information, or if you need to schedule a home inspection in Long Island, visit us at

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's time to tune up your heating system

If you haven't inspected your furnace yet this winter, it's time to.


Don't wait until the first frost to find out that your heating system is not working properly. Now is the time to get your furnace up and running.
Three heating experts -- Joe McDonald, vice president of marketing at Petro, which serves Long Island; and Michael Matarese, technical service supervisor, and Ed O'Connor, president, both of O'Connor Brothers Fuel in Freeport -- agree that homeowners should have an annual tune up on oil- and gas-fired equipment by a qualified service technician from a reputable company. Doing so, they say, will ensure that the burner is adjusted properly and that the unit is running at peak efficiency. "We do not recommend that homeowners attempt this annual maintenance on their own," McDonald says.
Two of the most common heating furnaces on Long Island are oil and gas. Here are some tips for each type of heating unit that homeowners can do safely as part of the regular maintenance before they have the annual tuneup by a qualified professional.
Oil heat burns 95 percent cleaner now than 20 years ago, due to the latest ultralow sulfur products and biofuels. New York State has gone one step further -- as of July, all heating oil sold in the state is ultra low sulfur heating oil, which is environmentally friendly, burns cleaner and has fewer emissions than traditional heating oil.
Look, listen and feel. Take a good look at your furnace now. You should not have any rust, scale or black soot on the tank. Feel around for any sign of seepage. Turn on the heating system and feel if heat is coming up through the radiators or vents. If there is a banging sound, chances are something is not lubricated correctly.
Check your filters. A clogged or dirty filter in both gas and oil will cause a unit to work harder and longer, causing your bills to increase. Change your filter and make sure it is free of debris, soot and dust.
Keep the area around the furnace clean. Vacuum around the unit and make sure there is nothing flammable close by. Lint from dryers can accumulate near the furnace and create problems with heat efficiency.
Inspect your duct system. See if there are any cracks or disruptions in the duct system
Check your circuit breakers. Oil furnaces have electric power coming to them. That's why when you lose power you also lose heat. The same is true for gas furnaces.
Inspect the flue. A clogged or inadequate flue will cause combustion gases to stay in your house rather than venting outside and can cause a carbon monoxide leak in your home
Thermostats. If you have a programmable thermostat, check the batteries and change them yearly. 

Make sure it is calibrated correctly so that you can get the temperature you need.
Make sure your tank is full. Don't wait for the cold to find that you ran dry or you don't have enough oil in your tank. Get a delivery now and make sure the fill pipe is easily accessible and cleared of debris.
Conventional gas furnaces work by taking in cold air, cleaning it with a filter, heating it up with a gas burner and distributing warm air with a blower motor through a home's ductwork.
Change filters monthly. Stock up on filters now. When changing a filter to a gas unit, make sure all the power to the unit is off. Make sure the filter is the right size for the unit. Dirty air filters will cause dust and debris to back up into the system and can cause the unit to fail or run less efficiently. Look for a pleated filter MERV (measured filter efficiency) of 8 or higher. It will be more expensive, but will pay for itself in the end. Make sure when you replace the filter that the arrows on the filter point in the direction of the air flow. If you have a reusable filter, make sure that it is completely dry before putting it back. Otherwise, you will be introducing mold into the unit.
Clean the area around the unit. Make sure the area around the furnace is clean and free of debris, especially around the blower fans.
Inspect the pilot light. In older gas units, the pilot light is always on. New units have an electronic ignition to light the flame. Make sure the flame is burning correctly.
Get carbon monoxide detectors. Get working carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries yearly. They should be placed near the gas burner and near other gas-run appliances. Carbon monoxide from gas leaks is odorless and colorless and can kill you.
Inspect your return vents. If your return vents are dusty or blocked, your furnace will not work efficiently.
Have your duct system professionally cleaned. Clogged, dirty or blocked ducts will impede air flow, so it's a good idea to have the system cleaned once a year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holidays season safety tips

The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents. The Long Island Home Inspectors recommends that you follow these guidelines to help make your holiday season safer and more enjoyable. 

Holiday Lighting 
  • Use caution with holiday decorations and, whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant and non-combustible materials.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees.
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. If you have any questions about electrical safety, ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next scheduled inspection. Do not overload extension cords.
  • Don't mount lights in any way that can damage the cord's wire insulation.  To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples--don't use nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
  • Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.  
  • Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire
Stay tuned for more safety tips.