Posts Tagged ‘home safety’

Summer is here. Be safe!

June 17, 2014

Summer SafetySafety is a top priority for us in the work we do in your home. We stress it every day.  In fact an energy audit is only partially about saving you money.  It is also about keeping you and your family safe.  As part of our audit, we check for gas leaks on the combustion equipment in your home like your furnace or gas stove.

While we keep you safe inside, here are a few tips to keep you safe outside as summer closes in:

  • Watch out for Bugs!  Mosquitoes and ticks are the most common.  Repellants are helpful for both.  If ticks are an issue in your area there are some simple landscaping efforts you can do to help deter them.
  • Enjoy the sunshine, but cover up! Hats, sunscreen and shade are encouraged.
  • If it gets too hot inside your home and even hotter oustide, maybe energy efficiency improvements are what you need for safety’s sake!





Photo by Steffen Flor  from wikimedia commons

Service agreements – a smart way to save.

January 25, 2011

Expensive things, like cars, come with a warranty, which is the manufacturer’s guarantee that your purchase will keep on working the way it should for the life of the warranty… IF you uphold your end of the bargain. When you buy a new HVAC system, read the fine print of your warranty, and you will find that in order to keep it valid you must have the unit serviced annually.

Is this just a scam for these companies to get more money out of you?

Actually, no. There are two very good reasons to make sure you have your heating and cooling system checked and tuned annually.

First, if there is a problem with your HVAC system it can become a serious health risk to you and your family. A licensed contractor can ensure that carbon monoxide is not leaking into your home.

Second, the cost of annual maintenance has been shown to pay for itself in operating cost savings during the peak season alone.

Together, these are reasons that the EPA and DOE recommend annual maintenance on your system—you should do it whether under warranty or not.

So it makes sense to have your HVAC system maintained each year, and if you’re looking to save some money it makes sense to enter into a service agreement.  This ensures your  heating and cooling system operates safely and efficiently and your protect your warranty.  Even better, service agreements allow for planned visits during regular hours, and thus we can plan for and control costs and offer special services and priority treatment to customers who sign up for these plans.  Check out the extra perks we offer to service agreement customers here at GreenHomes.

Safety Checklist for Houses

November 24, 2010

Here at Greenhomes America we tend to address problems homeowners experience, but what about the problems tenants have? Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a few blogs with topics of interest to tenants.

First up: Safety Checklist for Tenants on Move-In Day

When you move into a new home you have a thousand things on your mind. It might seem that the most important thing to figure out is how you are going to cook dinner without food or cooking utensils, but while you have your landlord or property manager with you take a half an hour to ensure your new home is safe to live in and that you understand how to keep it that way. Here is a quick checklist:

  1. Gas Line. When your landlord walks you through your new home ask which appliances are fired by gas, and where the control/shutoff valve for the house is. Don’t turn the gas off, but make sure you understand how to in the case of an emergency. If you ever shut the gas off don’t try to turn it back on by yourself – call your gas company and have them send a technician to do this for you.
  2. Power Hub. Next, locate the circuit breaker for the house. Learn which breakers correspond to different parts of the property and label them as such. Learn how to shut of the electricity to the entire house. For your safety, shut off individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit breaker.
  3. Water. Locate the shut-off valve where the main water line enters your house (not the street valve). Make sure you can completely turn the valve off. Sometimes this valve is rusted in the open position and if this is the case you should insist that the landlord replace it.
  4. Ventilation. Your new home probably has a number of ventilation fans that you should check are in working order. Likely places to look are in the kitchen and bathrooms. You should also check that major appliances are vented to the outdoors. You might feel a little stupid, but if a vent disappears into the ceiling ask to see the attic to make sure that venting continues to the outdoors. If it doesn’t, request that it be repaired.
  5. Heating System and Hot Water Checks. Ask when the last time a professional checked the heating and hot water systems. If the landlord seems unsure, or if it has been greater than one year since the last check it is not unreasonable to request a check-up by a licensed contractor.  Some places, an annual check on rental property is required by law.  But it’s a good idea everywhere.
  6. Smoke detectors. Check to make sure the batteries in the smoke detectors are still alive. While some jusidictions require carbon monoxide alarms as well, many don’t.  If you don’t have one, ask the landlord.  If he/she’s not willing to install one, get one of your own.
  7. Look for Mold. Keep your eye and nose out for signs of mold and mildew – musty and earthy smells, discoloration and water damage. If you observe these red-flags bring the issue up with your landlord right away.

Once you have these fundamentals taken care of you can move on to worrying about dinner!

Gas Meter Maintenance 101

October 16, 2010

Your gas meter and above ground gas piping need to be kept in shape, just the same as your combustion equipment does. Luckily, in most cases, this is quite easy and requires only minimal effort on your behalf. Maintaining meters and piping is mostly about controlling the environment immediately surrounding them.

Don’t do anything stupid:

  • Don’t try to move your meter assemblage on your own. If you have a home improvement project that requires the meter to be moved, call your gas company and ask them to do it for you.
  • Don’t build enclosures, decks, porches etc. around your meter, as this could prevent first responders from accessing it in an emergency situation.

Keep your meter clear:

  • In summer, don’t let a jungle grow around your meter and don’t cover your meter with topsoil or other landscaping materials.
  • In winter, use a broom to remove snow from the meter, and remove icicles hanging over it.
  • If your meter becomes encased in ice call your gas company immediately.

Important Tip:

You never want your meter to be hit by a vehicle, so make sure whoever clears your snow in the winter knows of its location. If your meter is in a driveway it is wise to erect a barricade to protect it. Contact your gas company about barricade options that protect the meter without compromising emergency access.

Space Heater Safety

October 15, 2010

It’s happening again… The leaves are turning, the mercury is dropping, and every store north of the equator has space heaters in stock. They are so tempting. They promise so much and are inexpensive to buy. But be aware of the dangers of heating rooms with space heaters, because there are some very real safety issues at stake.

Almost one in ten US households contain a kerosene heater, and approximately half of those have no chimney at all (Consumer Product Safety Commission). If you own a kerosene space heater or are considering buying one, be sure to read on and discover the risks you are taking by operating one inside your home. Additionally, make sure to check your home insurance policy to ensure use of a portable heater does not void your fire insurance.

There are two main dangers associated with operating a kerosene heater: Fire and Carbon Monoxide poisoning.


Use of an improper fuel can result in fire or explosion, but aside from that, you must be hyperaware of your home and its contents while operating a portable heating device. Maintain a clearance of at least 36 inches from all combustible materials, and never use flammable solvents, aerosol sprays or lacquers near the heater. Of course you should never operate a space heater in a room that also includes flammable liquids (such as gasoline) or is very dusty.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

If a heating unit is not cleaned and maintained regularly, it may produce high levels of Carbon Monoxide as a byproduct of the fuel burning process. Consult the manual of the devise to determine how frequently you should have it serviced and make sure to stick to that schedule, even if the unit seems to be functioning well.

Always ensure your heating unit vents the by-products of combustion to the outside. Only operate space heaters that are vented outdoors and that have been installed and maintained by a professional. Never operate an unvented heater in your home, the risk of serious harm or death is too high. Even if you own a sleek, new, top-of-the line model, it is still not advisable to operate an unvented heater inside your house because of the risk of high levels of carbon monoxide.


Although portable space heaters are a popular solution for warming drafty parts of the house during the cold months, they are very dangerous and should only be operated with great care. If you use a vented space heater, we recommend that you have it serviced regularly and that you keep the heater far away from combustible materials such as furniture, curtains, etc. to prevent fires. We do not recommend that you buy or operate an unvented heating unit inside your home as the health risks are too high.

Handy Hint:

If you have ‘problem’ rooms in your house it is likely that your home is inadequately insulated and sealed. Rather than pouring money into keeping problem rooms warm with space heaters, a better (and safer) solution is to have a home energy audit performed to fix the underlying problems.

Maintain Your Appliances!

October 14, 2010

When you turn on your shower faucet hot water comes out. When you turn the thermostat up it gets warmer in your house. Your clothes go into the clothes drier wet and come out dry, the same way your food goes into the oven raw and comes out cooked. So long as these rules hold true most of us never give a second thought to our gas (or oil or propane)-fired appliances, but we should.

The simple truth is that, if not properly maintained, your appliances could turn into the most dangerous things in your home. Forget sharp knives, poison oak or your killer doberman, if you don’t maintain your appliances they can cause you a world of pain, or even death through fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning (see Combustion Safety Week articles 1 and 2).

So what should you do?

Most importantly, have a licensed contractor do an inspection of your gas piping, gas appliances and heating system every year. You wouldn’t drive your car around for a year with out having a qualified mechanic inspect it, and your home appliances are no different. A well-qualified professional can detect problems before they become dangerous and advise you on the best course of action.

There is more that you can do in the period between check-ups. Run kitchen exhaust fans when gas appliances are used and make sure CO detectors in the home have fresh batteries. Also, be aware of your appliances. Take notice of changes in how well they function, strange smells and noises. Call a licensed contractor immediately if you notice any of the following red flags (courtesy of Vermont Gas):

  • Gas flames that appear pale or wavy
  • Gaps, rust or blocks in vents, or vents that do not lead outdoors
  • Strange smells
  • Appliances that are rusted or are covered in thick dust
  • Problems with furnace air filters, such as clogs, excessive dirt or the complete absence of filters.
  • Appliance valves that are missing, or improperly installed
  • The absence of a fire door on a gas appliance
  • Soot near burners or vents
  • Gas burners in a garage installed less than 18 inches above the floor
  • Venting that does not conform to the manufacturers recommendations
  • Discoloration around burners, access doors or vent area
  • Noisy appliances
  • Water/flood damaged appliances

Important Tip: Never store flammable liquids such as paint thinners or gasoline near appliances, and never hang things on gas piping or vents, even rags or clothes.

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer

October 13, 2010

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, which is dangerous to humans. It is almost impossible for an unaided person to detect CO, which is why it is often called ‘The Silent Killer.’ Each year approximately 500 people in the US die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Many of these deaths could have been prevented with a few simple precautions.

Carbon Monoxide is released when a carbon-based fuel (oil, propane, kerosene, wood, natural gas, charcoal etc.) does not fully combust. This may occur when an appliance is not functioning adequately or is used improperly. Luckily there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you and your family are safe.


1.     Have your heating system, water heaters and gas ranges inspected every year, no matter the fuel you use.

2.     Ensure that your appliances are properly maintained and ventilated. If you are not sure, call a licensed contractor and have them inspect your appliances and answer your questions.

3.     Keep all sidewall vents clear of brush and snow.

4.     Never run a vehicle or generator in the garage or basement of your home, even if the door or windows are open.

5.     Inspect your chimney for blockages. You never know what Santa may have left behind that could cause inadequate venting of your fireplace.

6.      Use your oven for heating your food, not your house.

7.     Never use a grill or portable stove in an enclosed area (even if you’re camping and it’s raining and really, really cold outside).

8.     Do not use or install an unvented room heater, space heater or gas fireplace.

Steps for DETECTION:

1. Install CO detectors in your home, with battery back-up. It is best to have multiple CO detectors and the models with a numerical readout are preferred.

2.     If you have symptoms such as:

a.     Shortness of breath

b.     Nausea

c.     Headache

d.     Dizziness

e.     Light-headedness

And you suspect CO poisoning follow the following evacuation procedure.


If you suspect you have been exposed to high levels of CO seek fresh air immediately and remain outside. Call 911 and ask for both the Fire Department and an Ambulance. Seek medical attention immediately for yourself and others who are exhibiting the symptoms listed above.

Handy Hint: CO detectors cost only a few dollars and most models only require their batteries to be changed about every other year. You will know when the batteries need to be changed because it will start to make that annoying chirping sound like smoke detectors do. Invest a few dollars and it could save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Your Guide To Gas Leaks

October 12, 2010

Welcome to GreenHomes Combustion Safety Week!

Topic of the Day is Gas Leaks.

Each day this week we will be addressing a different topic on the safety of your home in regards to combustion equipment.

Today we start with the prevention and detection of gas leaks.

Gas leaks can be extremely dangerous as natural gas is highly combustible. If a gas line, connection, or any of your gas burning appliances leak you and your family are in danger of fire or explosion.

To PREVENT gas leaks (the best way to go) always have your gas burning appliances installed by a licensed contractor, and have such a contractor check your home and appliances for you as part of an annual  check-up, as the EPA recommends for all combustion appliances, and after renovation.

While you should rely on a professional, always BE ON THE LOOK OUT for gas leaks using your senses of smell, sight and hearing.

Smell: By itself, natural gas doesn’t have any odor.  To help alert us to leaks, it is doped with a harmless substance called mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs. If you smell rotten eggs, and you don’t think you’ve left  decomposing poultry products on the counter, follow the evacuation procedure below.

Sight: On rare occasions, if you have a gas leak the pressure of gas escaping the pipes, connections or fixtures could cause dust to blow around or water to bubble. Additionally, if you have a gas leak outside your home it may cause the surrounding vegetation to whither and die. If you notice any of these problems around your home, follow the evacuation procedure.  We don’t recommend that you try to find these leaks yourself.

Sound: Also rare, hissing and blowing sounds near a gas meter, piping or appliance are a red flag.  If you experience this follow the evacuation procedure.


1.     Extinguish any open flames in your immediate vicinity including stove tops, cigarettes, candles, incense etc.

2.     Do not switch on or off any appliances or lights or make any phone calls. This can create sparks that can ignite gas.

3.     Leave the building with your family as soon as possible, leaving the door open as you exit.

4.     Call your gas company from your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone and ask them to immediately check your house for gas leaks.

Important Tip: It is not safe to use a telephone inside a home that has a gas leak, so it is wise to program your gas company’s phone number into your cell phone or leave their business card in your car or taped inside your letterbox.

Tomorrow: Carbon Monoxide Safety…

Protect yourself and your family from CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning

December 5, 2009

A story in today’s Burlington Free Press again points to the importance of making sure you protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning.

As we’ve discussed here before, check out the National Safety Council’s general recommendations.   As mentioned, all homeowners should get at least an annual check-up on their heating and hot-water system to make sure they are operating properly.  And anytime you make changes to your home, from building an addition, to adding air-conditioning, to changing your windows, you should have an expert make sure that all equipment is operating and venting properly. As a secondary measure, all homes should have a CO alarm.

Please, be safe.


Some sobering home maintenance statistics

November 5, 2009

I work with a great group of people at GreenHomes—and they help me look at things in new ways every day.  Thanks for this eye-opener from Frank at our Simi Valley (formerly Air King) office.

  1. 15,600 dryer fires occur each year resulting in property damage exceeding $75 million dollars. The leading cause? LACK OF MAINTENANCE
  2. 15,260 injuries and 2,660 deaths annually due to failure or problems with smoke alarms, sprinklers and fire extinguishers
  3. 38,300 reported home electrical fires including 120 deaths and 390 injuries associated with electrical wiring, circuit breakers, fuses and meters
  4. 49,200 heating equipment related home fires

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; National Fire Protection Association, 2008

Add this to the discussions of carbon monoxide, gas leaks, and moisture problems. Professional maintenance just doesn’t save you money and protect your property … it saves lives!

Spring and fall are good times to get your heating and cooling equipment checked and tuned to make sure they’re operating safely and efficiently.


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