Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids.  The excitement of costumes and trick or treating for goodies has children excited.  Halloween is just around the corner less than a week away.  Kids are excited and ready for all the candy and goodies they will receive.  Homeowners are heading to their local stores for candy for the kids and anticipating the unique costumes. 

To help keep the children safe on the trick or treating escapades; here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

If you are an old pro at this and have children already trick or treating, there may be a few tips you forgot or if you are new to this, definitely read below.

•Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
•Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
•Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
•When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
•If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
•Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
•Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
•Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

•Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
•Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
•Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

•To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
•Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
•Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
•Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

•A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
•If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
•Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
•Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
•Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
•Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
•Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
•If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
•Never cut across yards or use alleys.
•Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
•Don't assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will!
•Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

•A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
•Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
•Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
•Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

Have a safe and Fun Halloween!

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 23-29, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW), October 23-29, 2011 to raise awareness of lead poisoning in children. For children, even low levels of exposure to lead can cause a host of developmental effects such as learning disabilities, decreased intelligence and speech, language, and behavioral problems, which can affect children for a lifetime.

"Lead poisoning can have life-altering health effects, especially on our children. But it is entirely preventable if we take the right steps to protect our children in all the places where they live, learn and play," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. "National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week gives us the opportunity to strengthen our awareness and prevention efforts and ensure parents have the tools they need to protect their children against lead exposure every day of the year."

Major sources of lead exposure among children are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings. Lead most commonly occurs in the environment as a result of improper repair or renovation of pre-1978 homes. Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is entirely preventable.

This year's NLPPW theme, Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future, underscores the importance of testing your home and your child, and getting the facts about how to prevent serious health effects.

Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your children:

- Get your home tested. Have your home inspected if you live in a home built before 1978.
- Get your child tested. Even if your young children seem healthy, ask your doctor to test them for lead.
- Get the facts. Visit or call 1-800-424-LEAD.
More information on lead poisoning prevention: or In Espanol:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Smart Cooling Rewards-Demand Control "Smart" Switch Programs

We have had a few customers ask us about the Dominion Program, “Smart Cooling Rewards” and the effect it would have on their comfort, system and wallet.

Dominion Virginia Power will install an A/C Cycling or "smart" switch on your outdoor air-conditioning unit or heat pump system. During periods of high demand, Dominion Power will cycle your air conditioner or heat pump compressor on and off for short periods. The fan will stay on circulating already cooled air.  Virginia Dominion Power expresses that this will occur during the summer season between June and September. Typically cycling will occur for about four hours per event, between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and will not occur on weekends or holidays.

Dominion Virginia Power will provide the equipment and the installation is free and since the work is performed on your outdoor unit, you don't even need to be home during installation.  Qualifying homeowners will receive $40 following each summer season they participate.  (Click here for more information on the Dominion Virginia Power Program.

The following is our opinion (All Seasons Heating and Cooling Service Company):

The program is good as far as saving a little money on your electric bill, but your comfort will most likely be compromised. When "peak time" (periods of high demand) is in effect, your equipment will not function during those periods. We usually get a few service calls each cooling season because they do not have AC due to a program similar such as Demand Control. Some devices isolate one "leg"of your 230 VAC circuit so the compressor and water heater cannot operate during this "peak" period and this program from Dominion Virginia Power disrupts the "Y" compressor low voltage circuit to stop the compressor from operating.

If the outdoor temperature is 85 degrees or higher and your AC system is off for a period of 4 hours; the heat and humidity level in your house may rise to unacceptable levels during that time. When the power is restored and the AC system is allowed to operate again, it will have to run awhile (possibly hours) to overcome that heat and humidity load.

It depends on your schedule and your families' schedule if this may become an issue. If no one is home during these hours and for a while afterwards, it may not present a problem. If someone is usually home during this time; it most likely will present some comfort issues.

The indoor unit is not affected by their program. You should have your indoor fan set to auto in the humid months. If you set it to run continuously, there will be humidity issues. The AC's job is to cool your home and to remove humidity. When the indoor fan is set to run and the outdoor unit turns off; it just blows the moisture right off the indoor coil back into the air stream it just removed the moisture from, increasing the humidity again.

We do not believe it will harm your equipment as long as there are no power surges during the power restore period. A surge protection device can be installed if needed for added protection. Your equipment has factory installed time delay devices to protect the compressors from short cycling.

Another idea instead of the program from Dominion Virginia Power is installing and using programmable thermostats.  You can easily program your own schedules and temperatures to save money without having "Big Brother" do it for you at possibly the expense of your comfort.

The savings from using a programmable thermostat may well exceed the $40.00 incentive that Dominion Virginia Power is offering to send you at the end of each summer that you use their "smart" switch and you will not have to sacrifice your comfort.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Excessive Dust in the Home

We are often asked what can be done about excessive dust in the home. To answer this question, we have to ask several questions.

1. How often do you have to clean to keep up with the dust or is this an impossible feat? (Everyday might be considered excessive.)
2. Where is the dust accumulating? Is it all over or just in specific rooms?
3. What is the house’s social life like? Are there children and pets coming and going in and outside constantly? Is the outside yard dusty or near a dusty source?
4. Is your house built on a crawl space and does it have an attic?
5. What year was your house built and have you had any improvements or changes made to the house?

With the above questions answered; we can narrow down the source and then suggest solutions to end your excessive dust issue permanently. Sounds good, right?

If you feel as though you must dust several times a day during the heating and cooling seasons; your duct work may be at fault. If your duct work is located in an attic or crawl space and is leaky, you may notice dust after each heating or cooling cycle. You may see little particles of insulation or dirt on shelves or your TV screens and furniture. Leaking duct work is one of the most overlooked and common causes for excessive dust.

Solution: Have your heating and cooling expert inspect your duct work for air leaks and then seal the leaks with mastic and or mastic tape. This will drastically reduce your dust, improve your indoor air quality, and reduce you utility bills, and improve your comfort.

If your ducts are not part of your problem and are sealed correctly; the house envelope is the next most likely source of dust.  Your house envelope consists of its walls, windows, doors, ceilings, foundation, and roof. A home’s envelope can be tested for tightness by using an instrument called an infiltrometer or “blower door”. This instrument measures the amount of air infiltration and exfiltration in your house. The leakier your house, the more dust you are likely to experience among other serious issues.
Solution: Have your house professionally tested by a Building Analyst using an infiltrometer. The analyst will be able to pin-point your sources of air leaks and give you solid solutions on how to permanently reduce the leakage.

While the whole-house testing is the correct method to use in determining your dust issues among other house related concerns and All Seasons Heating and Cooling Service Company has a certified building analyst on staff. Please call 757-421-9790 for more information or to schedule your testing appointment.

If you would like to tighten your house by weather stripping/weatherizing it yourself; here a few suggestions at places to start that the average DIY person can tackle and get good results.

• Be sure your exterior doors (including a garage access door) are tight and have weather stripping on all edges and a “sweeper” plate.
• Install outlet and light switch gaskets on all outlets and light switches to help reduce air leakage.
• Seal plumbing drain and water pipes under the sinks or anywhere they go through a wall with expand-a foam or silicone. (Silicone caulking works best for small cracks and holes, the foam can be very messy and hard to clean if you are not very careful!)
• Be sure to weather-strip your attic access openings and to insulate the panels or doors.
• If you feel air by your windows, inspect the space around the window (take off a piece of trim to inspect it for any gaps) and caulk it to seal it.
• Recessed (canned) ceiling lights are an area to be concerned with concerning air leaks. There are kits you can purchase at the “Big Box” or hardware stores to help seal out air leaks safely if you have older style recessed lights. The newer style lights are air tight.
• Be sure your exhaust fans exit outside of the house, not in a wall or attic or crawl space. (Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and dryer vents.)

These are only a few suggestions on where you can seal your home’s air leaks to help reduce dust and lower utility bills. There are many more areas that should be inspected and you can find some at the energy star web site

See you next time! As always, please contact us with any topics you want answers to.