August 3, 2012

Safety: Protecting Yourself and Others from Excessive Heat

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:40 am

It is so important that this time of year you take extra precautions to avoid the dangers of excessive heat. August is typically the hottest month of the year. But we have had a few months of extreme heat leading up to August, and that helps us get somewhat prepared. But you still have to remain vigilant when it comes to spotting the warning signs. Here are some tips to help you and your home beat the August heat:

1. Stay Hydrated with the Right Fluids – Not the Wrong Ones
Quenching your thirst does not necessarily mean that you are hydrating your body, and that can trick you into thinking that that you are getting enough water when you are not. Drinking alcohol before, during, or after exertion dehydrates the body significantly. The result is that your muscles get less of the vital fluids they need so you actually become weakened. That raises your risk of injury while reducing performance, plus alcohol reduces reaction times. So if you are working with a power saw or on a ladder, for example, you are inviting serious injury.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mayo Clinic confirms that caffeine does not dehydrate you – unless you drink too much. After a quart or so of coffee, soda, or other caffeinated beverages, though, experts explain that the caffeine starts to have a diuretic effect, depleting your body of fluids you need. So monitor your caffeine consumption or follow the Mayo Clinic’s advice and drink fresh, clean water instead. Make sure your children are drinking lots of water too, not just other kinds of popular drinks.Hydration also applies to pets, so be sure to keep them supplied with fresh, cool water that’s in a shady spot. Provide multiple dishes for them – like one indoors plus bowls in both the front and the back of the house – so they are always close to a source of water.

2. Don’t Avoid Proper Protective Gear
The hotter it gets, the more we tend to shed the clothes. But think twice before you remove the protective items, even if they do feel uncomfortable. You many need a hard hat, safety glasses, thick gloves, a dust mask or respirator, protective footwear, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts to protect you during many home maintenance activities. If the weather is just too hot to wear your safety gear then you have to postpone the job. Otherwise you could wind up regretting it and paying for expensive medical bills.

But there are many moisture-wicking fabrics on the market today, plus all-cotton work clothes that can help you beat the heat. Wearing light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat can also help, when appropriate, so just try to dress sensibly while resisting the temptation to cut corners when it comes to workplace safety.

3. Change Your Work Schedule
To keep working even during the hottest days of the year in dessert climates like those in New Mexico and Arizona, contractors and others who work outside have learned to adapt. In a recent construction industry article in a trade magazine, for example, a fellow who owns a roofing company in one of those blazing hot regions of the United States described that his crews adjust their schedules in order to remain healthy without diminishing their productivity.
If it is cooler in the early morning hours where you live, for instance, consider getting started extremely early. As long as you have sufficient lighting to ensure a safe and feasible work environment you can even put in 2-3 hours before the sun is out. You can also work later in the evening. But if you are going to do that always knock off from work during the hours when the sun is peaking. You might experiment with working from 5 a.m. until 10 a.m., for instance, and then resuming work from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. That still gives you a full 8-hour day but keeps you out of the sun during the blistering hours.

By the time we get this deep into summer it’s good to show a little extra heat tolerance, and over the past several weeks we’ve had lots of chances to build up some endurance and stamina. We’ve certainly had enough practice, and when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the hood of your car you have to just deal with it. But be cautious and don’t get complacent and so used to putting up with scorching heat that you accidentally fail to take care of yourself or your home. Otherwise what starts off as a typically miserable hot day can suddenly turn into a tragic one.

The number of emergency room visits and 9-1-1 calls related to heat stroke, exhaustion, heart attack, and other potentially deadly medical events always spikes when the temperatures spike. But we don’t want you to become another one of those unfortunate statistics, especially when you can safeguard yourself by following these few easy tips and common sense guidelines.

Safety: Protecting Yourself and Others from Excessive Heat

Filed under: Home Safety — Chuck @ 9:27 am

It is so important that this time of year you take extra precautions to avoid the dangers of excessive heat. August is typically the hottest month of the year. But we have had a few months of extreme heat leading up to August, and that helps us get somewhat prepared. But you still have to remain vigilant when it comes to spotting the warning signs. Here are some tips to help you and your home beat the August heat:

1. Stay Hydrated with the Right Fluids – Not the Wrong Ones
Quenching your thirst does not necessarily mean that you are hydrating your body, and that can trick you into thinking that that you are getting enough water when you are not. Drinking alcohol before, during, or after exertion dehydrates the body significantly. The result is that your muscles get less of the vital fluids they need so you actually become weakened. That raises your risk of injury while reducing performance, plus alcohol reduces reaction times. So if you are working with a power saw or on a ladder, for example, you are inviting serious injury.
Contrary to popular belief, the Mayo Clinic confirms that caffeine does not dehydrate you – unless you drink too much. After a quart or so of coffee, soda, or other caffeinated beverages, though, experts explain that the caffeine starts to have a diuretic effect, depleting your body of fluids you need. So monitor your caffeine consumption or follow the Mayo Clinic’s advice and drink fresh, clean water instead. Make sure your children are drinking lots of water too, not just other kinds of popular drinks.Hydration also applies to pets, so be sure to keep them supplied with fresh, cool water that’s in a shady spot. Provide multiple dishes for them – like one indoors plus bowls in both the front and the back of the house – so they are always close to a source of water.

2. Don’t Avoid Proper Protective Gear
The hotter it gets, the more we tend to shed the clothes. But think twice before you remove the protective items, even if they do feel uncomfortable. You many need a hard hat, safety glasses, thick gloves, a dust mask or respirator, protective footwear, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts to protect you during many home maintenance activities. If the weather is just too hot to wear your safety gear then you have to postpone the job. Otherwise you could wind up regretting it and paying for expensive medical bills.
But there are many moisture-wicking fabrics on the market today, plus all-cotton work clothes that can help you beat the heat. Wearing light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat can also help, when appropriate, so just try to dress sensibly while resisting the temptation to cut corners when it comes to workplace safety.

3. Change Your Work Schedule
To keep working even during the hottest days of the year in dessert climates like those in New Mexico and Arizona, contractors and others who work outside have learned to adapt. In a recent construction industry article in a trade magazine, for example, a fellow who owns a roofing company in one of those blazing hot regions of the United States described that his crews adjust their schedules in order to remain healthy without diminishing their productivity.
If it is cooler in the early morning hours where you live, for instance, consider getting started extremely early. As long as you have sufficient lighting to ensure a safe and feasible work environment you can even put in 2-3 hours before the sun is out. You can also work later in the evening. But if you are going to do that always knock off from work during the hours when the sun is peaking. You might experiment with working from 5 a.m. until 10 a.m., for instance, and then resuming work from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. That still gives you a full 8-hour day but keeps you out of the sun during the blistering hours.

By the time we get this deep into summer it’s good to show a little extra heat tolerance, and over the past several weeks we’ve had lots of chances to build up some endurance and stamina. We’ve certainly had enough practice, and when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the hood of your car you have to just deal with it. But be cautious and don’t get complacent and so used to putting up with scorching heat that you accidentally fail to take care of yourself or your home. Otherwise what starts off as a typically miserable hot day can suddenly turn into a tragic one.

The number of emergency room visits and 9-1-1 calls related to heat stroke, exhaustion, heart attack, and other potentially deadly medical events always spikes when the temperatures spike. But we don’t want you to become another one of those unfortunate statistics, especially when you can safeguard yourself by following these few easy tips and common sense guidelines.

How to Capture the Best Mortgage Rates in Recorded History

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 9:23 am

Mortgage interest rates have been at historical lows for the past 2-3 years, but recently they plummeted to yet another all-time low. Now it is possible to pick up a safe and reliable 30-year fixed rate loan for 3.62 percent or less. Many borrowers are too young to remember when people would have to pay that much just in additional points in order to get a rate twice that high. So you can likely buy a home today at an interest rate that is a better bargain than what your parents or grandparents got when they bought theirs. To help improve your chances of getting the best possible deal on your mortgage, follow these three helpful tips:

Simplify the Choices

Taking out a mortgage can be a mind-boggling experience because over the years lenders have come up with a dizzying array of different loan products. You can get fixed rates loans with paybacks of 15, 20, 30, and even 40 years from some mortgage lenders, or variable rates with all kinds of complicated schedules that determine when the rate changes take place and how that impacts your monthly payment.

But do your own research ahead of time so that you have a good idea about which kind of loan you want, what kind of payment you can afford, and how long you plan to service the loan. Ask plenty of questions, don’t lose sight of your personal financial goals, and don’t take any unnecessary risks. It’s smarter to buy a less expensive house than you can afford than to overextend yourself and risk a financial crisis.

Consider a Special Eligibility Loan

Choose a fixed rate loan if you plan to stay in the house for the long term, because rates really have nowhere to go but up from current levels. Most experts believe that anyone who takes out a fixed rate loan will get in on the ground floor and be rewarded for the foreseeable future. That’s because as soon as the economy is strong enough rates will start to rise and may continue to do so for many years. If you only plan to sell and move within 3-4 years then an adjustable rate loan might be attractive, because many of them start out with incredibly low monthly payments that could save you money.

If you are buying in the USA and are active in the armed forces or are a military veteran, don’t forget to look into the benefits of a VA loan. These are available at exceptionally attractive rates and terms to help you get into a home without incurring lots of out-of-pocket costs. The U.S. government also provides affordable loans through the FHA, and these are especially helpful to low income borrowers or people who don’t have a lot of cash to put toward a down payment.

Boost Your Credit Profile

Even though there are great rates out there, the only way that you will be offered the lowest advertised rate on a mortgage is if you have stellar credit. Banks and other lenders will charge you more if your credit score is low, for example, because they believe that a low credit score represents a greater risk to them that you won’t be able to repay your loan in a reliable fashion.

You’ll also need to show proof of your income and assets, so start gathering the paperwork ahead of time. Lenders will usually ask for copies of recent pay stubs, tax returns going back two years, and also copies of any other special documents that might impact your financial profile. Those include divorce agreements, for example, as well as loan documents pertaining to other loans you may already be servicing.

When it comes to credit cards, the best strategy is to stop using them, pay them all off, but don’t close down the accounts. Having open lines of credit that you do not use looks good to a lender, because it shows them that even when you have the ability to borrow you have the financial discipline to rein in your spending.

Home Maintenance: Minimize the discomfort and potential health threat of summertime mosquitoes.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 9:10 am

Nobody likes to be bothered by summertime pests like mosquitoes, and you cannot possibly avoid the nuisance that ‘skeeters cause. But you can at least help to manage and control them and their potential to spread disease. Here is some helpful information about mosquitoes and the potential danger they represent, along with some home maintenance tips that can help you control the mosquitoes around your property.

Mosquitoes: World’s Deadliest Creature, Believe it or Not

We tend to think of mosquitoes as bothersome, while we think of sharks, gang violence, and heart disease as deadly. But you will likely be surprised by the following statement that was published by the Illinois Department of Public Health (www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcmosquitoes.htm).
“What’s the most dangerous creature on earth? Without question the answer is: the mosquito. Mosquitoes and the diseases they spread have been responsible for killing more people than all the wars in history. Even today, mosquitoes transmitting malaria kill 2 million to 3 million people and infect another 200 million or more every year. Tens of millions more are killed and debilitated by a host of other mosquito-borne diseases, including filariasis, yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis.”

Every year people in North America are infected with treacherous mosquito-borne diseases including West Nile virus, encephalitis, and malaria. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that mosquitoes only kill people in tropical countries that are far, far, away. Especially in the wake of an unusually mild winter like the one we just had, mosquito populations will soar – and so will the chances of you are one of your loved ones being infected by one of these potentially lethal illnesses.
But there are some methods of controlling mosquitoes that you should not waste your money on, because research shows that they have no significant impact on reducing the mosquito population. These include gimmicks and gadgets that give off some sort of electrical pulse or ultrasonic sound waves, keychain-worn mosquito repellant devices, and planting certain kinds of herbs or flowers that are supposed to ward off mosquitoes.

Skeeters hate smoke, so if you are having an outdoor picnic and want some organic pest control you can just use the grill or burn some incense or Tiki torches. Citronella torches and candles are very effective, too, and you should keep them handy all summer long. But you don’t have to use a whole lot to ensure a comfortable setting. Use only as much as needed and that will cut down on the citronella odor, which some people don’t like. If you need to spray on some repellant, especially for children, use one of the newer and healthier versions that has either a low DEET content or no DEET at all. The chemical DEET was popular for generations as a mosquito repellant, but we now know that it is also very harmful to human health so if you need to use it then restrict it to small doses. There are effective alternatives that will help keep the bugs away without introducing unwanted toxic chemicals to your skin. Skin is, after all, the largest organ in the human body. So you need to be careful what you apply to it so that the cure does not become just as big a threat as the disease you are trying to prevent.

All the experts agree the most effective way to reduce the number of mosquito bites you get is to reduce the number of mosquitoes – and that the best way to do that is to remove the source of mosquitoes. If you give them no place to breed, they won’t be able to multiply. But if you leave standing water in swimming pools, ponds, old tires, or other places and don’t treat it then the number of mosquitoes and the problems they create will definitely multiply. Mosquitoes can breed fast and furiously in just a half inch of water in the bottom of a saucer, so you have to be really vigilant about tipping out any standing water around your property – after each and every rain or even after you use your sprinkler system. You can supplement that effort by using the anti-mosquito discs you will find at the local home improvement store. They cost about a buck or less apiece, and if you drop one of those into a barrel of water the skeeters won’t breed there for about a month (before you need to add a fresh disc).

But they also like to invade homes whenever they find an opportunity, so it is important that you perform routine maintenance on your home to deny them easy access. Check to make sure that your door and window screens and in good shape and that you have adequate caulking to fill voids around vent pipes, electrical lines, and other gaps. That not only helps cut down on mosquitoes in your home but it is also a great way to stop other pests like mice – and it can save you a bundle on air conditioning costs by keeping cool air indoors where it counts.