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A crackling blaze brightens any dreary winter day. But if a fireplace or a wood-burning stove is not cared for properly, it can expel excessive smoke containing toxins such as combustible tar (creosote) and carbon monoxide, as well as carcinogens like formaldehyde. That ’s why kids who are regularly exposed to wood smoke are more likely to have a chronic cough, wheezing, and asthma, says Parents advisor Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., coauthor of the new book Children & Environmental Toxins. The risk for lung cancer later in life may increase too.
But don’t swear off fireplaces for good! You can still enjoy yours safely with this advice.
1. Air out your house.
This is an easy way to eliminate indoor air pollution and improve air quality. Regular use of a fireplace or woodstove may dry the air in a home, resulting in stale air and dust. Once a week, on a bright, clear day with light wind, open all the blinds and windows and let the air blow through your house for an hour or two. Make this a year-round habit—even during the warmer months when you’re not using the fireplace—to detox your space of other common pollutants produced by cleaning products, candles, and cooking.
2. Watch that ash pile.It’s fine to have 2 or 3 inches of ash on the firebox floor, but any more than that may push the logs forward and cause fire, sparks, or smoke to billow out into the room. Even when you’re not using the fireplace, having too much ash can also trap moisture and create a damp, attractive home for insects. Use a shovel to remove ash, and either toss it into a noncombustible garbage can with a sealable lid or throw it into your compost pile. (Fun fact: Ash makes great fertilizer—especially for rose bushes!)
3. Burn the right stuff.
To help reduce built-up soot, ash, and creosote, use only dry, well-seasoned firewood. Steer clear of green or wet wood, which can cause too much smoke, excessive creosote, and dangerous chimney fires. If you split your own firewood (go you!), cover the top of the pile and store it in a dry spot for at least nine months before burning. While it’s tempting to use your fireplace as a makeshift disposal, resist the urge: When burned, wrapping paper and plastic release chemicals that harm us and our planet. The same goes for cardboard and that Christmas tree you’re finally ready to part with: Both are highly combustible and greatly increase your risk of a chimney or house fire. Take them outside and to the curb.
4. Manage your carbon monoxide. Fires in a wood stove or a fireplace can give off deadly carbon monoxide. In well insulated homes, cracking open a window when you light a fire can help. Make sure a fire is out before closing the damper, leaving the house, or going to bed (though it’s okay to walk away from an ember or two). Avoid dousing flames with water, which may fill your room with smoke or damage your fireplace. Also, make a point of checking the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors twice a year when you change your clocks, so you’re less likely to forget.Chimney Safety Institute of America to find a certified chimney sweep near you and for more info on the level of inspection you need depending on the type of fireplace you own.
Going without homeowners insurance is not a smart move if you own a home, but you also have to make sure that there are no holes in your homeowners insurance plan.
Be informed. Stay informed about the risk of flooding. Check with your local Red Cross, planning department, zoning department or emergency management office to find out the risk of flooding in your area. The higher the risk, the more important it is to be prepared to take action.
An over-supply of lender-owned homes in the neighborhood may be the one factor that is depressing prices only for the short-term. Their presence will devalue a home, but only until they're sold. So buyers who are in it for the long haul might do well to consider buying in a location such as that - provided that other factors make the home a good choice.
People who buy homes in areas that have full-time fire service attract cheaper premium than folks who stay in places with only a volunteer fire service. Be informed that your premiums will be further influenced by your home's distance from a fire station, firefighting equipment or hydrant. People who reside nearest to firefighters or fire fighting facilities pay more affordable rates everything else being equal.
On a more personal level, buyers need to think about location in terms of their own lives. Saving several thousand dollars on the purchase price of a home is small comfort if they have to drive an additional 60 minutes to work each day.
About two months after purchasing a house and fixing it up, (it was still on the market) the State decided to put my house in a flood zone! The only body of water was a little creek that ran through a golf course half a mile away! What can you do! The Flood Insurance costs $800 a year! Try selling that to a prospective buyer.
The first thing you should do is to check with your state agency. There are some states that have requirements when it comes to buying one. They can offer you cheaper policies if you live in an area that has a bigger chance of flooding.
Many private insurance companies offer flood policies written through the NFIP. I suggest dealing with an agent that is experienced with the program. This type of policy can be purchased on the phone in a few minutes. Ask your agent about any questions you may have about the program. You can get more information at my Texas flood insurance site or you can call my Houston office at 281-537-2700.
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