Seal your home to lower your energy bills – here’s how

Seal your home to lower your energy bills – here’s how

Brrrr! When these cold winds blow, we all put on an extra layer of clothing and hunker down inside. And if you want to reduce your energy bills, you can get to work to seal your home against that cold so that you will enjoy lower energy bills. The Federal Energy Star program tells us “Most people can save as much as 20% on their heating/cooling costs just by sealing all the air leaks in their house”. This is especially true if you live in an older home.

Those Leaks are Money! What you can do about it.

  1. Check your weatherstripping around doors and windows. Maybe you can just get the caulking gun out and go around repairing things that need a bit of love. But if it’s too far gone, weatherstripping is cheap.
  2. Check the places where there are gaps and holes in your walls, such as behind the electrical outlets, where plumbing comes out of the walls, floors, ceilings and under the sinks. If you can feel air moving, seal it up!

Ted’s Tip: Light an incense stick and watch the smoke to easily see where air is moving, and more important, where it is coming from or going to. Seal up those places and come back later with the incense to make sure you got it all. Be quick though, you don’t want to smoke up your home!

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  1. Foam gaskets can go behind switch plates and outlets in walls to stop the flow of air.
  2. Look for dirty spots in your insulation that could mean air flows. If it is dirty, it could be trapping dust as it goes by, thus alerting you to a small air leak. Repair any leaks with low-expansion foam.
  3. Other dirty spots may indicate unwanted air flows near ceiling and floor joists. You can seal these leaks with caulk.
  4. That foam sealant is also great for closing larger gaps around windows and baseboards. Smaller gaps can be sealed with caulk.
  5. Check your dryer vent as a place where air leaks may occur. That foam is really handy stuff and is useful for sealing around these vents.
  6. Check the weatherstripping around doors at the bottom very carefully. If there are gaps or the material has hardened, replace them with pliable materials that can seal properly.
  7. Check fireplaces and chimneys. Sealing these requires fire resistant materials. Also check the flue, An open flue in an unused fireplace can leak an enormous amount of air.  Be sure and check that the flue itself is not   warped or damaged and thus, unable to seal properly.

What does this have to do with Nok-Out or SNiPER?

Spending a little time and effort to seal up your home can save you plenty in energy bills. So it is well worth doing. Now that after you have sealed your home effectively, it is important to think about what cleaners you use. The reason is that now that your home is sealed up, if you use cleaners with toxic components, how will you get that toxic stuff out of your tightly sealed home? If that toxic stuff can’t escape, then it will begin to accumulate and the indoor environment in which you live, can become much more toxic than the air outside. This is how “Indooor Air Pollution” can become a problem.

Both SNiPER and Nok-Out are easy on your indoor environment.  Use one or both of these instead of bleach or ammonia and breathe easier in your home.

See our previous blogs regarding IAP here:

http://blog.nokout.com/indoor-air-pollution-part-1/
http://blog.nokout.com/indoor-air-pollution-sick-building-syndrome-part-2/
http://blog.nokout.com/indoor-air-pollution-the-green-solution/
http://blog.nokout.com/allergy-season-and-indoor-air-quality/

That Darned Cat has stunk-up my carpet!

That Darned Cat has stunk-up my carpet!

Few things on this planet smell as bad as cat pee odor.  It’s bad enough just putting up with that ammonia smell when cleaning the litter box, but when Kitty misses the box, has an accident  (Awww, pore old kitty!), or reacts badly to your extended absence by spraying the walls, it is a whole different story.  This is NOT something that you can just learn to live with.  That cat pee odor is the worst and getting rid of that odor can be quite the challenge. When enzyme-based products have failed you, Nok-Out will remove cat pee odor permanently.

When a cat first pees, it is mildly acidic, but within an hour or so, bacteria begin to break down the urea,  releasing ammonia.  After a few hours, it may have a pH of around 11-12.  Ammonia produced from cat pee will leach the blue and red dyes right out of the fibers comprising your carpet. The result you see may appear to be a yellowish stain.  In truth, however, the other colors are now gone and that yellowish color is all that is left.  No stain remover in the world can restore lost dyes to those fibers.   So it is important that you try to get all of that out of your carpet asap! If your cat has left you little puddle, blot up as much of that as you can, as soon as you can, to prevent this chemical change from ruining your carpet.

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Marking vs Peeing

Cats squat to pee.  But when they are marking territory, they usually back up to a wall or fence and eject their pee sideways onto the fence or wall, and their tail will twitch in an  unusual manner.  This is typical of marking or spraying behavior.  If it occurs outside on your fence, it is often not really noticeable to humans.  But inside your home – OMG!   This can cause you a real pain in the nose!

Go to your local hardware store and get yourself a little UV flashlight  (blacklight).  Cat pee is a strong source of phosphorus and will light up like a little neon sign under a blacklight.  Go around in the evening with the lights out or low and examine the walls for telltale signs of this marking behavior.  Take your Nok-Out with you and spray the areas affected carefully as you find them.  Spray Nok-Out – give it a quick wipe, spray one more time and walk away allowing it to air dry.   Cat pee on the walls may drip down and go between the baseboards and the wall.  Spray there too!

Removing Cat Pee Odor from Hard Surfaces

Older cats and younger cats may have accidents near the litterbox.  You can simply wipe up the puddle and spray directly on that area – and then walk away, allow it to air dry for maximum effect.  Hard surfaces are easy!  It’s the soft ones such as carpet and upholstered furniture that are trouble, because it can be difficult to get at all of the source.

Removing Cat Pee Odor from Carpet

The number one rule for getting Nok-Out to work well is direct contact with the source of the odor. As an oxidizer, Nok-Out is literally unable to do what it does without that direct contact. If you are lucky enough to find a small, fresh puddle that has not yet sunk through the fibers to the floor under your carpet, get an old towel and carefully blot as much as you can. Try to absorb it into the towel rather than pushing the cat pee deeper into your carpet. Spray the area with Nok-Out and use your fingers to try and work it down into the fibers a bit; again, you are trying to get Nok-Out to go to the same places the cat pee went, in order to make contact with all of the cat pee.

If you are dealing with a situation in which cats have peed repeatedly on the carpet in some room, use that black light to try and determine the extent of the damage.  Maybe it can be cleaned away using a rental carpet cleaner by following these instructions.  If it is really bad, however, it may be smartest to simply replace the carpet in that room.  You can treat the hard surfaces – floor and walls – easily, with Nok-Out.  Replacing the source of so  much grief is often easier than trying to salvage something that has been abused badly.

Nok-Out is non-toxic and can be used safely in your home.  It is non-corrosive and requires no special handling or equipment to use.  Give Ted a call at 866 551 1927 with any questions.  Buy some Nok-Out today and breathe easier!

Water Damage from Small Flooding

Water Damage from Small Flooding

Not All Water Damage is from Bad Weather

You leave for work one day, and then when you come home, you open the door and see that there is water everywhere – your home is flooded.  The water supply line to your washer burst during the day and now there is 2 or 3 inches of water on the floor throughout your house.  You need to act quickly to avoid costly water damage .  It’s not Harvey or Irma, but it is a real mess nonetheless. Here is what to do.

First – turn off the water.  You should be able to turn the valve just before that burst water supply to shut off the water.  But if it is not accessible, then you will have to find the valve for the whole house.

Next – take photos of everything as documentation for the insurance company.  And that is your third step – call your insurance agent and find out if they will send an adjuster and what they require you to do.

Get rid of that water!

Water is the stuff of life, but when it gets out of control it can create it’s own problems, even in a small-flood issue like this.  Your most important task to minimize water damage is to get everything dry within the next 48 hours to prevent the growth of mold, mildew and fungus.

If it is a large amount of water you have to deal with, the easiest solution is to call a carpet cleaner and request water extraction services. Their truck mounted machines have tremendous vacuum power and large storage tanks. They can vac up that water quickly, and may have powerful ‘air movers’ that can speed drying.

If it is not so much water, you may be able to use a shop ‘wet vacuum’ to vacuum up that water. Be aware that the reservoir is small and you will have to stop and empty the tank frequently. Remember that water is heavy!

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Keep the Air Moving

Once you have vacuumed up as much as you can, point fans at wet areas, turn the fan in your HVAC  to the ‘On’ position, borrow more fans, do everything possible to keep air moving and keep that water evaporating.

If the drywall is waterstained higher than the baseboards, you may need to remove those baseboards to check for trapped water. Hope and pray that there is no water trapped in the walls behind the baseboards!

It is absolutely crucial that you get your home dry within 48 hours or mold WILL start growing. All mold needs to grow is water. In dry condirions, spores which are floating around us everywhere, may land on the carpet. But since it is dry, nothing happens, mold does not begin to grow.  Add a bit of wetness, however, and natures little recyclers come to life and start growing resulting in water damage.

Remember that bleach DOES NOT KILL  MOLD.  It will weaken the mold and it may make it change color, but bleach does not kill mold.

SNiPER  kills mold and if you spray the air using atomizing sprayer, you can kill the spores in the air too.  SNiPER is so safe because it is not a poison.  You don’t need to wear protective gear to apply it, it doesn’t leave toxic residues, and it is non-corrosive, so you can spray it down – and walk away. Nothing could be easier.

We have several documents to help guide you in dealing with mold.

Flood Recovery

Flood Recovery

OMG Flooding

Disaster! Your home has been flooded! Two feet deep. And all that water came with a LOT of mud and muck that has started to stink. What to do? How can SNiPER or Nok-Out help with flood recovery? Restoring a home that has been flooded is an immense amount of work that is complicated by the sludge left behind because that sludge is likely to have everything from toxic chemicals to overflow from sewage ponds in it. Given that you must dry everything within 48 hours to stop the growth of mold, mildew and fungal infestations, you have a powerful need for a disinfecting odor eliminator to help you restore your home, your car, your offices. This is a perfect use for SNiPER, because with this one product, you can both disinfect and deodorize as part of flood recovery.

Disinfection

You need to disinfect not only for the nasty pathogens that may come from the sewage ponds, but also because natures little recyclers (mold, mildew, fungus) will begin growing within 48 hours if you cannot dry it out. Some – not all!  – but some of those molds are actually quite toxic and you really don’t want that stuff adding to the problems.

Odors

Many stinks in the world are of biological origin. A good example is sweat. Our perspiration is not smelly, until bacteria living in our skin start eating it. Their excrement is what stinks – not your feet! So killing or holding down the growth of biologicals can help keep horrible odors at bay.  As both a disinfectant and odor eliminator, SNiPER is perfect for flood relief, and home restoration.

How can SNiPER help my flooded home?

After you have pumped out the water, after the carpet and the upholstered furniture has all been thrown out to the curb, after the baseboards have been removed and holes poked in the drywall to allow trapped water to escape, it may well still be damp. But you can already begin spraying SNiPER even if it IS still a bit damp. Lightly spraying those damp areas that have stayed wet for 48 hours will slow the growth of biologicals and is an important part of flood recovery. It will not prevent the growth, but it can slow it down until your home has dried out further. The only thing that will stop the growth is for the area to be dry and SNiPER can retard growth enough to help prevent the entire structure being eaten by mold.

If mold has already started growing visibly, spray directly on it. (Be safe! Wear an N-95 mask, gloves and eye protection. If you start feeling ill or woozy, stop, go outside and breathe fresh air, before deciding if you can continue.) Use a soft scrub pad from the kitchen and try to scrub the crud loose, wipe it away, spray one more time and then you can walk away, leaving it to air dry naturally. If possible, use a ‘fogger’ for maximum efficiency in spraying. See below for links to many of our ‘how-to‘ articles on controlling mold.

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Why can’t I just use bleach?

Bleach doesn’t kill mold. Let me say this one more time – bleach does not kill mold. It will weaken the growth and it will make it change color, but bleach does not kill mold or the spores. SNiPER kills both – safely.

What about my furniture?

That overstuffed sofa that you like so much is likely to take several days to dry in the best of conditions. It is highly likely that mold will begin growing deep inside the stuffing where you cannot see it. Given the difficulty of drying and then removing the odor from that sludge, it is unlikely that sofa will ever be usable again. It is possible that you could clean it up, but given the demands on your time and the difficulty associated with cleaning it up, you will have to decide if it is worth trying to save it. It will certainly be a long row to hoe if you want to save it!

What about clothing? Can SNiPER save my clothes?

Yes – SNiPER or Nok-Out can be added to loads of laundry and if there is visible mold present, SNiPER will kill it. See https://www.nokout.com/Laundry-Odors.html for instructions.

Spores?

“My home is mostly dry, but still damp in some places. I know mold is growing because I can smell it. Should I worry about the spores in the air?”

Yes – you should worry! Breathing in mold spores is not a good idea. Spraying the air with SNiPER will kill the spores. A professional would use a fogger to spray the air, because this machine can create droplet sizes that are small enough to float around on the breeze. Wonderful machines, but expensive. A slower alternative is to use a common household vaporizer or a room humidifier. These can do the same thing but are very slow. We have a good article for you here.

I have a 2500 ft2 house. How much SNiPER do I need?

A very good question. And, one that is not easy to answer because it depends on so many things, such as ‘how much do you spray’?, ‘should I spray more here’? ‘am I spraying enough? or not enough’? and so on. We think that you will need around 1.5 gallons to make it around the house once spraying economically. But you may find that you need more than that.

In general, spray enough that the area becomes wet, but not so much that it runs down the wall as if you had sprayed too much paint. Do not wipe it away, instead, allow it to air dry. SNiPER is non-corrosive and will not damage the sprayed surfaces.

Sewer Bacteria

A very important consideration is the bacteria that come up out of sewers during a ‘big flooding’ event. Wherever that nasty water went – it carried those bacteria with it. These bacteria can easily pass to you if you touch something wet and then later, touch your mouth. Stop this mode of transmission by spraying interior surfaces with SNiPER.

Stay Safe!

Wear the mask (N-95) to avoid the possibility of breathing in spores and other muck. If you begin to feel ill – stop! Go outside and recover. Consider hiring a pro to do this for you. Here are symptoms to watch out for:

  • headaches
  • rashes or hives
  • eye irritation
  • nasal passage/sinus congestion or irritation
  • difficulty breathing
  • nosebleeds

Keep children away from standing water and mud, which is often contaminated with toxic chemicals and sewage. Pay attention to dangerous debris such as boards with protruding nails. Unplug all electronics and electrical devices. Make sure that gas is shut off. Avoid drinking tap water until you are sure it is drinkable again.

Some of our ‘How-to’ mold articles

https://www.nokout.com/Cleaning-Mold-and-Mildew.html
https://www.nokout.com/Get-Rid-of-Musty-smells.html
https://www.nokout.com/Basement-Mold-and-Mildew-Removal.html
https://www.nokout.com/Get-Rid-of-Black-Mold.html
https://www.nokout.com/Mold-and-Mildew-Problem.html
https://www.nokout.com/Keep-black-mold-out-of-your-shower-stall.html

More Information

https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-cleanup-after-floods?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-08/documents/mold._homeowners_and_renters_guide_to_cleanup_after_disasters.pdf

Ideas to Help You Keep a Healthy Home in the Heat of Summer

Ideas to Help You Keep a Healthy Home in the Heat of Summer

It’s that HOT time of year again, when we button up our homes tightly, to keep the cool air in, and the hot humid air out. This is great for keeping your electric bills from skyrocketing, but it also has an effect on our indoor air quality. Here is how that works – when your home is buttoned up tightly, there is little outside ventilation available.  That ventilation ordinarily would dilute any accumulation of toxic chemicals released as by-products from the use of some cleansers.   And that is the problem – tightly sealed homes trap indoor air. Since we spend so much time indoors during these HOT months, it become extra important to pay attention to maintaining the quality of your indoor environment and a healthy home.

Principles of a Healthy Home

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is promoting 8 “Principles of a Healthy Home” that they hope will help you keep your indoor environment as healthy as it can be.  We are happy to share this with you here.

1. Keep your home Dry Mold and moisture increase allergens and asthma triggers, and can cause deterioration of your home.

2. Keep your home Clean Clean homes help reduce pest infestations, dust, and exposure to contaminants.

3. Keep your home Pest-Free Many pest treatments pose risks for families with health problems or expose young children and pets to poisonous residue. Non-pesticide treatments are best for a first line of defense.

4. Keep your home Safe A majority of injuries among children occur in the home. Falls are the most frequent cause of residential injuries to children, followed by injuries from objects in the home, burns, and poisonings.

5. Keep your home Contaminant-Free Chemical exposures include lead, radon, pesticides, and environmental tobacco smoke. Exposures to radon gas, carbon monoxide, and second-hand tobacco smoke are far higher indoors than outside.

6. Keep your home Ventilated Studies show that increasing the fresh air supply in a home improves respiratory health. Air filters in HVAC units collect and protect families from many particulates found in the air.

7. Keep your home Maintained Poorly-maintained homes increase the risk for deteriorated lead-based paint in older housing which is the primary cause of lead poisoning in children less than 6 years of age.

8. Keep your home Temperature Controlled Houses that do not maintain adequate temperatures may place the safety of residents at increased risk from exposure to extreme cold or heat.

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Other ideas to maintain the highest standards for indoor air quality

  • Use an extra air filter if you have pets because  pets release ‘dander’ and shed hair. You can tape a 20 x 20 air filter to the back of a 20 inch box fan to make a very effective DIY air filter. They work great and can reduce the load on the filtration in your AC unit.
  • Clean your carpets regularly. Carpets act like a filter and catch dust, dander, hair, dust mites, cockroach and mice allergens as well as  other particulates. Cleaning this accumulation helps keep your indoor environment its cleanest.
  • Avoid the use of hazardous cleaning chemicals. Use Nok-Out instead! It is a multi-purpose cleaner that can be used all around the house. See: http://blog.nokout.com/replace-your-toxic-household-cleaning-chemicals-for-a-safer-home-environment/ for more on this idea.

Links to more information regarding Indoor Air Quality

 

Allergy Season and Indoor Air Quality

Allergy Season and Indoor Air Quality

Suffering from Allergies? Runny nose, teary eyes, congestion, sneezing got you down?

It’s the time of year that some of us dread – the coming of Allergy Season. Indoor Air Quality is directly related to our experience of allergy season because we spend a lot of time at home, yet is something most of us take for granted. We have air filters for our HVAC, our car, home, and office too, that trap particulates to prevent us breathing them in. This is a good thing because  much of that stuff masquerading as dust is actually pollen, spores, dander and other nearly invisible biological material that can irritate eyes, nose and throat and in some cases, can provoke a headache, dizziness or fatigue.

The degree to which allergy season affects you can vary widely. The blessed among us may never notice anything at all. Allergy sufferers, on the other hand, may dread the arrival of spring and/or fall because of the load of pollen, spores and other stuff floating in the air. Some of the immediate effects of breathing these are very similar to the symptoms of a cold or the flu, which may cause a bit of confusion.

These ‘pollutants’ in your home or office may have many sources:

  • combustion by-products
  • tobacco products
  • new construction (new floors, carpets painted surfaces, cabinetry
  • newly manufactured furniture such as mattresses that emit VOC’s
  • dirty HVAC filter
  • high humidity inside your home
  • things that continuously emit ‘fragrances’ or other odor masks
  • outdoor sources such as pesticides, and human-caused environmental pollution such as smoke and particulates arising from manufacturing and construction

For many of these a great solution is simply to open the windows and air out the home or office – but this is not always practical, or desirable if the outdoor air is filthy.

Filtration Helps

Fortunately, we have filters in our homes that help. If you suffer during allergy season, you should not skimp here. Purchase HEPA air filters with the finest filtration ratings you can find, and replace them regularly. There are other filtration sources in the home as well – your carpet is one of them. Drapes and curtains are another. A too-full vacuum cleaner bag can release particulates right back into your home.

How can you reduce ‘allergy triggers’ (allergens) in your home?

Remember that we can’t change conditions outdoors much, but we can have a positive effect on our indoor environment!   Don’t let allergy season get the best of you. Here’s how you can make a difference in your home.  With a little effort and knowledge, you can restore your indoor environment, to be comfortable  at home during allergy season.

1) Place doormats both outside and just inside entryway doors – one on each side of the door. Cleaning your shoes on both of them will help keep floors clean – and the air, too. Clean the mats as part of your weekly housecleaning. If this is unappealing, consider removing your shoes on entry to your home and wearing house shoes while at home.

2) Change your HVAC air filter regularly. Increase the air filtration with the use of an additional air filter. You can make a DIY one with a 20 inch box fan to which you tape a 20 inch square HEPA air filter. (The better quality air filter you get, the better this simple device will work for you – and, it’ll take some of the load off of the HVAC filter, allowing your HVAC filter to last longer and consequently, to run more efficiently).

Also, have your drapes/curtains and carpets professionally cleaned regularly. It is amazing how much filtration is provided by these household items, so keeping them clean will reduce allergens noticeably.

3) Dry wet items quickly. This will prevent the growth of mold and spores. Mold can begin growing on almost any surface within 24 – 48 hours. Put a squeegee in your shower stall and use it before you leave the shower every time. With mold, prevention is far and away the best solution.  Manage the water to manage the mold!

4) Dust and vacuum often. Replace your vacuum bag with a new one when it gets 2/3 full, because a full bag will leak particulates back into your home environment. Dust mites, animal dander, fleas and other small insects can be controlled effectively by frequent vacuuming.

5) Take control of indoor humidity levels by using the vents in the bathroom after a shower, and by using the vent over your stove when cooking (but only if it is vented outside the house). Use dehumidifiers in your basement during the times of year when it becomes damp.

6) Reduce your use of cleaning products that leave toxic residues. See: http://blog.nokout.com/replace-your-toxic-household-cleaning-chemicals-for-a-safer-home-environment/ (The Indoor air pollution blog entries are relevant also, part 1, part 2 part 3.) Non-toxic Nok-Out and SNiPER disinfectant are good alternatives for your bathrooms and even the kitchen.

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