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  • January 28, 2024

    February 2024 MAHI Newsletter "providing relevant information to educate homeowners on how to properly maintain their home." Highlight is on fireplaces and fireplace safety. Also February To Do List: Replace furnace air filter Clean range hood filter and fan Clean and degrease kitchen cabinets Clean oven and stovetop

  • January 23, 2024

    Sometimes you are allowed to go off topic and advocate for a cause that is near and dear to your heart. Especially when you have your own blog. I opened up the paper today and was pleasantly surprised to see an opinion piece that I wrote on Friday was in Tuesday's paper. It was regarding the National Debt which now is over $34 Trillion. Give it a read and hopefully it will shed some light on a confusing topic.

  • January 22, 2024

    January is Radon Awareness Month. The CDC is providing additional highlights / information during the week of the 22nd through the 26th. This one-pager has QR codes to several radon publications – including guides for consumers, home buyers and sellers – to help people better understand radon and its health risks. Professionals in the real estate industry or public health can easily share these publications digitally. Clients can simply scan the QR codes to access the publications.

  • January 6, 2024

    I also belong to MAHI (Midwest Association of Home Inspectors). MAHI is a regional organization dedicated to the education, success, and improvement of every member and to the integrity of the home inspection profession. A great experienced group of inspectors that are very knowledgeable in their field. I also write a newsletter for this organization. Check out January's edition.

  • January 4, 2024

    Few things evoke a cozy ambiance like a crackling fireplace during chilly evenings. However, ensuring the safety and longevity of your fireplace requires more than just kindling and logs. Whether you have a traditional wood-burning hearth or a modern gas fireplace, understanding the nuances of operation, safety, and maintenance is crucial. Wood-Burning Fireplaces: The Timeless Warmth Operation Proper Ventilation Before lighting a fire, ensure the damper is fully open to allow adequate airflow. This prevents smoke from backing up into your home. Quality Firewood Choose seasoned hardwoods like oak or maple, as they burn cleaner and produce less creosote buildup. Small Fires Avoid overloading the fireplace with excessive wood. Smaller, well-managed fires generate less smoke and provide consistent warmth. Safety Measures Regular Inspections Schedule annual chimney inspections to identify creosote buildup or potential issues. A professional chimney sweep can remove creosote, reducing the risk of chimney fires. Spark Guards Use a mesh spark guard to prevent embers and sparks from escaping the fireplace and igniting nearby surfaces. Keep Clear Surroundings Maintain a safe zone around the fireplace, free from flammable materials like curtains or furniture. Maintenance Tips Clean Ashes Remove ashes regularly to maintain proper airflow. Allow a small layer of ash to remain to insulate hot coals. Chimney Cap Install a chimney cap to prevent debris, animals, and rain from entering. This protects the chimney’s structure and enhances safety. Repair Cracks Check for any cracks in the chimney or fireplace structure. Cracks can compromise safety and should be repaired promptly. Gas Fireplaces: Modern Convenience with Safety in Mind Operation Follow Manufacturer’s Guidelines Adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for lighting and operating your gas fireplace. Each model may have specific requirements. Ventilation Check Ensure that the venting system is in good condition. Gas fireplaces vent directly outside, and any blockages can lead to the accumulation of harmful gases. Regular Inspections Schedule annual professional inspections to check for gas leaks, inspect the burner, and ensure proper functionality. Safety Measures Carbon Monoxide Detectors Install carbon monoxide detectors near the fireplace and in sleeping areas. Gas fireplaces, while efficient, produce combustion byproducts that need proper venting to the outside. Childproof Controls If your gas fireplace has remote controls or buttons, ensure they are out of reach of children to prevent accidental operation. Maintenance Tips Clean the Glass Gas fireplace glass can accumulate residue over time. Use a mild glass cleaner to keep it clear, ensuring a beautiful flame display. Inspect Gas Lines Periodically check gas lines for leaks. If you notice a gas smell, turn off the fireplace, ventilate the area, and contact a professional immediately. Professional Maintenance While gas fireplaces require less maintenance than wood-burning ones, it’s crucial to have a professional inspect and service the unit annually. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the comforting glow of your fireplace while minimizing risks and maximizing its lifespan. So, stoke the fire, embrace the warmth, and let your fireplace become the heart of your home, radiating both heat and safety.

  • January 2, 2024

    When it comes to the intricate process of buying or selling a home, two crucial steps often stand out: home inspections and appraisals. While both serve essential roles, they address distinct aspects of the real estate transaction. Home Inspection - Uncovering the Foundation A home inspection is a thorough examination of a property’s physical condition, covering structural elements, systems, and components. It provides a detailed report highlighting any existing issues or potential concerns. Home inspectors assess the plumbing, electrical systems, roofing, HVAC, and more. For sellers, an inspection can help identify areas for improvement, ensuring a smoother sale process. Buyers benefit by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the property’s condition before finalizing the deal. Why a Home Inspection? Knowledge is Power: Buyers armed with inspection reports make informed decisions, negotiating repairs or adjusting the purchase price. Prevent Surprises: Sellers can proactively address issues, preventing last-minute complications during the closing process. Appraisal - Determine the Market Value An appraisal, on the other hand, primarily focuses on determining the fair market value of a property. Conducted by a certified appraiser, this assessment ensures that the agreed-upon sale price aligns with the current market conditions. Lenders often require appraisals to safeguard against overvalued properties and ensure that the loan amount accurately reflects the home’s worth. Why an Appraisal? Lender Requirement: Mortgage lenders rely on appraisals to justify the loan amount, protecting their investment. Fair Market Value: Buyers and sellers gain confidence in the fairness of the agreed-upon price through an objective valuation. Distinguishing Factors Purpose Home inspections focus on the property’s physical condition, while appraisals determine its market value. Timing Inspections typically occur early in the buying process, providing insights before finalizing the deal. Appraisals are often required by lenders during the mortgage approval process. Outcome Inspection reports highlight necessary repairs and potential issues, guiding negotiations. Appraisal reports justify the property’s value, ensuring a fair transaction. In summary, home inspections delve into the physical intricacies, empowering buyers and sellers with comprehensive knowledge. Appraisals, on the other hand, determine the fair market value, safeguarding lenders and instilling confidence in the transaction’s equity.

  • December 27, 2023

    A repeat post but always a good one to start the new year. Rogers was the sort of TV host that both kids and parents trusted and enjoyed. The series ran for 31 seasons, from 1968 through 2001. On the show, Rogers dispensed timeless wisdom about how to be kind to others, how to feel good about yourself, and what to do when you’re up against your worst fears. Here is 20 of Rogers’ most memorable quotes, reminders of the good old days of turning on the TV and spending an afternoon in the neighborhood. ON KINDNESS • All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver. • As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has or ever will have, something inside that is unique to all time. • When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” • Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. ON LOVE • Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now. • Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving. • Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors. • I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be. • Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other's achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain. ON HEALING • Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life's important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives. • There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth. • When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. ON LIVING LIFE TO ITS FULLEST • It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have. • The thing I remember best about successful people I've met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they're doing, and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they're doing, and they love it in front of others. • It’s good to be curious about many things. • You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. ON INDIVIDUALITY • If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. • We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are. • It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true: What we are ultimately determines what we do! • The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.

  • December 12, 2023

    In a recent Star Tribune article (12/3/2023 "Minnesota's biggest landfill may get bigger"), it stated that the Minneapolis / St. Paul metro area produces one ton (yes 2000 lbs!!!) of trash per resident per year. That is shameful. Come on Minnesota we can do better. Having an engineering background, I needed to quickly estimate the amount of waste that our household puts curbside. Rough calculations come out to be 250 lbs per year per resident. We average one 13 gallon tall kitchen bag each week. Even our household can make smarter decisions to lower our output even further. Anything worthwhile requires some amount of effort. In a world grappling with environmental challenges, individuals play a pivotal role in fostering positive change. One impactful approach towards sustainability is embracing the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle lifestyle, a mantra that not only minimizes waste but also contributes to a healthier planet. That is a major driver with our family and our home. Reducing waste is the first step in this eco-conscious journey. By being mindful of our consumption habits, we can cut down on the volume of materials that end up in landfills. This involves making informed choices, such as opting for products with minimal packaging or choosing reusable items over single-use alternatives. Simple changes in daily habits, like using a refillable water bottle or bringing your own shopping bags, collectively make a significant impact on reducing waste production. The second pillar, Reusing, encourages a shift towards a more circular economy. Instead of discarding items after a single use, consider their potential for continued utility. Embrace the practice of repurposing items, donating what you no longer need, or participating in community swap events. This not only extends the lifespan of products but also reduces the demand for new resources, lessening the environmental burden. Recycling, the third component, is a crucial step in managing the waste that cannot be eliminated through reduction or reuse. Sorting and recycling materials like paper, plastic, glass, and metal ensure that they can be transformed into new products, conserving resources and energy. Familiarizing oneself with local recycling guidelines and practices is essential to maximize the effectiveness of recycling efforts. To truly make a difference, it's essential to spread awareness and inspire others to join the journey towards waste reduction. Educate your community about the importance of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle program and share practical tips for integrating sustainable practices into their lives. Collective action amplifies the impact, creating a ripple effect that resonates far beyond individual efforts. The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle lifestyle offers a powerful framework for individuals to make a positive impact on the planet. Spreading awareness and inspiring collective action further amplify the program's effectiveness, fostering a healthier Earth for generations to come.

  • December 11, 2023

    In a world where technology evolves at an unprecedented pace, consumers face the perennial question of whether to invest in extended warranties for their purchases. While the allure of added protection and peace of mind is undeniable, a closer examination reveals that extended warranties are often not a sound financial decision for most purchases. One of the primary reasons extended warranties are typically not a good investment is the statistics behind product failure rates. Most consumer goods, from electronics to appliances, come with a manufacturer’s warranty that covers defects or malfunctions within a reasonable timeframe. Research consistently shows that the majority of these products, if faulty, tend to reveal issues within the initial period covered by the standard warranty. Paying extra for extended coverage, therefore, becomes redundant in the face of low failure rates post-initial warranty expiration. Moreover, the terms and conditions of extended warranties often include clauses that limit coverage, leaving consumers with unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. Many warranties contain fine print that excludes common issues or imposes deductibles, significantly diminishing their value. Consumers may find that the very problems they hoped to safeguard against are conveniently omitted from the coverage, rendering the extended warranty investment futile. Financial experts also caution against the opportunity cost of purchasing extended warranties. The money spent on extended coverage could be redirected toward an emergency fund or invested elsewhere, providing a more versatile financial safety net. In essence, consumers might be better off self-insuring against potential repairs or replacements, especially considering the limited coverage of most extended warranties. Another crucial aspect to consider is the rapid obsolescence of technology. In today’s fast-paced market, devices are often upgraded or replaced with newer models long before the extended warranty expires. This renders the extra coverage obsolete, as consumers are left with protection for outdated technology that may not even require repair or replacement. Consumers are better served by understanding standard warranties and making informed purchase decisions, ultimately saving money and avoiding unnecessary financial commitments.

  • December 7, 2023

    The holiday season brings joy and warmth, and one of the most delightful ways to celebrate is by adorning our homes with twinkling Christmas lights. While these festive displays create a magical ambiance, it’s crucial to prioritize safety to ensure that the season remains merry and bright. Here’s a comprehensive guide to Christmas light safety that will help you enjoy the beauty of your decorations without any unwelcome surprises. Inspect Your Lights Begin by carefully examining your lights for any signs of damage or frayed wires. Replace any bulbs that are broken or missing, and ensure that the wires are intact. Faulty lights can pose a fire hazard, so don’t skip this crucial step. Choose the Right Lights When purchasing Christmas lights, opt for those labeled as “UL Listed” for safety assurance. LED lights are energy-efficient and emit less heat than traditional incandescent ones, reducing the risk of overheating. Outdoor Lights Stay Outdoors If you’re decorating the exterior of your home, make sure to use lights specifically designed for outdoor use. These lights are weather-resistant and can withstand harsh conditions, protecting you and your property. Mind Your Wattage Avoid overloading your electrical circuits by adhering to the recommended wattage for your light strands. Overloaded circuits can lead to overheating and pose a fire risk. Secure Outdoor Extension Cords For outdoor displays, use extension cords labeled as suitable for outdoor use. Secure cords against the ground to prevent tripping hazards, and avoid running them through doors or windows where they may get pinched. Turn Off Lights When Unattended Save energy and reduce the risk of fire by turning off your Christmas lights when you’re not at home or when you’re going to bed. Consider using timers to automate this process. Mindful Decorating Be cautious when placing lights on your Christmas tree. Keep them away from flammable materials, and do not overload the tree with too many lights. Ensure that your tree is well-hydrated to minimize the risk of it becoming a fire hazard. Steer Clear of Overheating Touch your lights periodically to check for excessive heat. If any bulbs feel unusually hot, turn off the lights and replace the problematic bulbs to prevent potential fire hazards. By prioritizing safety, you can confidently revel in the warmth and glow of your holiday decorations, creating cherished memories for years to come.

  • November 30, 2023

    Snowfall transforms the world into a winter wonderland, but it also brings the responsibility of clearing driveways if you are a homeowner. Shoveling snow can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, you can efficiently remove it while prioritizing safety. Firstly, dress appropriately for the chilly endeavor. Opt for layered clothing to stay warm, waterproof boots with good traction to prevent slipping, and don’t forget a hat and gloves. Protecting yourself from the cold is crucial to ensure a comfortable and safe experience. Before starting, consider sprinkling some ice melt or sand on your driveway to reduce slippery surfaces. This provides better traction and minimizes the risk of accidents during the snow removal process. When selecting a shovel, choose one with an ergonomic design to reduce strain on your back. Remember to lift with your legs, not your back, to avoid injuries. Push the snow whenever possible, and if lifting is necessary, keep the shovel close to your body, bend your knees, and lift with your legs. Most snow shovels fall into one of three categories, based on the end of the shovel, also known as the shovel blade. The type and volume of snow is important when choosing your tool for the job. Pusher shovels are best for clearing light, fluffy snow from large areas quickly. Scoop shovels are better for heavier, wetter snow. Scoop/Traditional When you picture a snow shovel in your head, you’re probably thinking about a “scoop” shovel, which has a slightly curved blade that makes it easy to scoop and lift snow. Though they can get the job done, I recommend the more modern combination design as your go-to, as it’s more versatile. Push shovels As the name implies, push shovels are designed for pushing snow out of the way, rather than lifting and piling up. They tend to have short, wide blades that allow you to "plow" snow to edges of a driveway or out into the street. Combination The “combination” snow shovel is a modern, best-of-both-worlds design. It has a deeper, curved shovel blade that you can use to both push and scoop large quantities of snow effectively. (Though it will not push as well as a dedicated push shovel.) Take regular breaks to prevent overexertion. Shoveling snow is a strenuous activity, and pacing yourself will help maintain energy levels and reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents. The most snow may be at the end of the driveway after the snowplow has cleared the streets and deposited your half of the road in your driveway. This can be extremely heavy depending on the moisture content. There are many small companies that will clear out driveways for a nominal fee. I've seen the average around $50 for a typical suburban 2-car garage driveway (approximately 15 feet x 45 feet). It may average out to be less if you sign on for a season. If you’re using a snowblower, familiarize yourself with its operation manual and follow safety guidelines. Keep hands and feet away from moving parts, and never attempt to unclog the machine while it’s running. Additionally, be cautious of the discharge chute’s direction to avoid injuring yourself or others. Consider the environmental impact of snow removal. Pile snow away from drains to prevent ice buildup and potential flooding. Be mindful of neighbors and pedestrians, ensuring cleared pathways are safe and accessible. By following these guidelines, you’ll not only maintain a clear driveway but also ensure a safe and enjoyable winter experience. Stay warm and stay safe!

  • November 27, 2023

    In the realm of home maintenance, changing furnace filters is one of the easiest tasks you can tackle. When buying a furnace, this often-overlooked activity can: have a huge impact on your home’s heating and air conditioning help improve indoor air quality, and it might even save you some money on both energy bills and HVAC system service. That’s because a dirty filter can restrict air flow, cause loss of efficiency, impacting your furnace AFUE and maybe even impact the reliability of your furnace. As you might imagine, just as there are a number of different types of furnaces on the market, like high efficiency furnaces, there are a number of options when it comes to furnace filters. Fiberglass filters, pleated filters, 1-inch filters and thicker 4-inch filters are just a few of the typical mechanical-type filters. More sophisticated electronic air cleaners and whole-home air purifiers have their own maintenance schedules, but many also include a pre-filter that needs to be replaced regularly. For the health of you home comfort system, and to help improve the air quality within your home, it just makes sense to take a few minutes every month and inspect your system’s filter and if it’s dirty, go ahead and replace it. The general rule-of-thumb answer to the question “How often should I change my furnace filter?” depends on the type of filter. For basic, 1-inch filters, the standard is every 30 days to 3 months. For thicker, pleated 4-filters, you can usually count on replacing them every 90 days or 6 months depending on the recommendations of the manufacturer. Why is changing the air filter so important? Furnace filters are designed to both improve the quality of the air you breathe, and also to protect your HVAC system from build-up of dirt and debris. When you neglect your HVAC air filter, airborne pollutants such as dust, animal dander and pollen build up on its surface. Too much buildup can restrict airflow, making the air handler work harder. This not only affects the energy efficiency of your system; it can shorten the lifespan of your furnace which might cause you to ask “how long do furnaces last?” And, because your furnace blower is often an integral part of your central air conditioner, it can affect the longevity of your cooling system as well. While replacing furnace filters on a timed schedule is important, it’s also a good idea to become familiar with some of the signs that your filter needs to be changed: You notice more dust than usual, or faster build-up of dust after cleaning your home’s surfaces It takes longer than normal for your system to heat or cool your home (longer heating / cooling cycles) On visual inspection, the filter appears to be gray colored and / or you can see dusty, dirty buildup on the surface of the filter If you can’t remember the last time you changed the filter, or if it has been in use longer than the recommended replacement time from the manufacturer – usually one to three months for basic 1-inch filters, or 3-6 months for thicker, pleated filters

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