Gas Smell in Home

Problem: Natural gas or propane gas smell is detected in home, or in particular area of appliances.

Background: An odorant is added to natural gas and propane gas to alert people of its presence. Gas build-up can be extremely dangerous and should be taken very seriously. Gas leaks, which can result from a number of causes, can produce tremendous explosions, so it is wise to be overly cautious.

What to do: If you smell a strong gas odor upon returning to your home, do not enter. Call for help from a neighbor’s phone. If you smell gas within any area of your home, do not try to light any appliance. If faint gas odor is detected, put out any smoking materials, don’t turn on any light switches, don’t use any phone in the home. Shut off any valves to appliances suspected of leaking the gas, then call a technician. However, if you are in doubt or if the gas odor is strong, leave the home immediately, call your gas supplier from a neighbor’s phone, and follow their instructions. If you can’t reach the gas supplier, call the fire department or 911.

Special advice: Liquid propane (LP) gas is heavier than air. If there is a leak in a propane system, the gas will settle near the floor. Basements, crawl spaces, skirted areas under mobile homes (even when ventilated), closets, and areas below ground level, can serve as pockets for accumulated gas. Before at tempting to light or relight a pilot light, or turning on a nearby electrical switch, be absolutely sure there is no accumulated propane gas in the area by sniffing at floor level in the vicinity of any appliance.

Helpful hint: Be especially cautious about gas leaks whenever new gas appliances have been installed. Check all gas pipes and fittings for leaks with a soapy water solution. Before lighting any newly installed appliance, factory fittings on appliances should be checked by a qualified technician.

Excessive Moisture in Home

Problem: Excess humidity causes condensation that leads to dripping on windows, wet sills, damp walls, mold, wet insulation, wood rot, and metal corrosion.

Background: Humidity is water vapor absorbed in air. Condensation forms when vapor cools enough to convert to liquid, such as the fog, water, or ice seen on a cold window, or the dampness on cold wall surfaces. Excessive humidity can come from sources such as humidifiers, bathing, washing and drying clothes, cooking, washing dishes, mopping floors, plants, pets, plumbing leaks, humans, whirl pools, steam baths, saunas, and attached greenhouses and aquariums. Sources also may include moisture migrating through foundations, brought inside by air leaks, from combustion venting failure, or from building materials and furnishings.

What to do: A 30% to 50% humidity level is enough to control dry skin problems, dry throats, coughing, and static electricity. Higher levels may increase potential for mold and mildew. Even reasonable indoor humidity, however, can cause condensation and wet insulation in cold climates if water vapor penetrates into cool parts of the home, such as attics. (Holes where wires, pipes, ducts, or light fixtures enter attics should be sealed to prevent humid air from entering.) Wood rot may occur in studs, wall sheathing, or roof decking if condensation is pro longed.
Solutions include using bath room and kitchen exhaust fans or whole house ventilating systems, and controlling excessive moisture sources, such as wet basements, un vented clothes dryers or kerosene heaters, indoor firewood storage, overly frequent showers, or misuse of humidifiers. Installing an interior- side vapor retarder and a continuous air barrier system to keep vapor- laden air from penetrating into cool areas, are helpful as well as installing adequate corner insulation and thermally insulated windows and doors. In bathrooms, using triple-insulated glass, and well-insulated walls and ceilings installed with vapor retarders, can reduce condensation.

Special advice: Excessive condensation can also be caused by having improper vents for fuel-burning equipment, such as furnaces, water heaters, wood-burning stoves, and fireplaces. If this is the case, take action immediately because this situation can be dangerous. To be properly vented, the appliance area should be kept at neutral air pressure with a constant supply of outside air. All exhaust fans, exhaust hoods, and appliance exhausts should be balanced with an adequate supply of outside air brought into the house or directly to the equipment.

Helpful hint: New houses often have a higher indoor humidity the first few years due to the moisture in building materials. Opening windows or extra use of ventilation fans on warm days may help. If moisture problems occur when an automatic set-back thermostat (automatically adjusts the system to save energy) is used, adding a timer to operate the furnace fan several times an hour, or leaving the heat on during the night, may solve the problem.

Flood Threatens Home

Problem: Floodwater threatens the family, the home and its contents, and the community.

Background: In flood situations, the safety of your family is the most important consideration. Since flood water can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to evacuate be fore the water level reaches your property. Before a flood threatens, learn the safest route from your home or office to high, safe ground should you need to evacuate in a hurry. Also keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order.

What to do: Tune a battery-powered radio to a local station, and follow all emergency instructions. If you’re caught in the house by suddenly rising water, move to the second floor and, if necessary, to the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight and a portable radio with you. Then wait for help; don’t try to swim to safety. Rescue teams will be looking for you. When outside, remember that floods are deceptive. Try to avoid flooded areas, and don’t attempt to walk through floodwater that is more than knee deep.
If (and only if) time permits, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. Don’t touch any wet electrical equipment. Move valuable papers and possessions to upper floors or higher elevations. Fill tubs, sinks and buckets with clean water, in case regular supplies are contaminated. (You can sanitize these containers by first rinsing with bleach.) Board up windows, or protect them with storm shutters or tape to pre vent broken glass from flying. Bring in outdoor possessions that might be swept away, or tie them down securely.

If it’s safe to evacuate by car, stock the car with non-perishable foods (like canned goods), a plastic container of water, blankets, first aid kit, flashlights, dry clothing and any special medication needed by your family members. Keep the gas tank at least half full since gas pumps won’t be working if electricity gets cut off. Don’t drive where water is over the roads; parts of the road may already be washed out. If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it if you can do so safely since flood water can rise rapidly and sweep a car and its occupants away. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.

Special advice: If you live in a frequently flooded area, keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber on hand to use to protect your property. Sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building since they can create added pressure on the foundation when they are wet. Also check about eligibility for flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program. Generally there is a 5-day waiting period before a policy goes into effect, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

Helpful hint: Make an itemized list of personal property (photos are helpful) to assist an adjuster in settling claims and to help prove un insured losses, which are tax deductible. Keep your insurance policies and a list of personal property in a safe place outside your home, such as a safety deposit box. Know the name and location of the agents who issued these policies. (For more information on what to do after a flood.

Fleas Inside Home

Problem: Fleas in home are infesting pets or biting people.

Background: Fleas are tiny brown wingless insects, about the size of a common pinhead. They can jump more than a foot horizontally and their hard bodies are almost impossible to crush. All adult fleas are parasitic and must feed on the blood of an animal, such as a dog or cat, to live and reproduce. Small populations may not be noticed, but when numbers increase they may leave the animal and bite humans. Annoying flea infestations may also occur 1 to 3 weeks after a pet has been re moved from the home (fleas turn to humans as a food source), after a pet and owner have been away, when an infested pet develops a high temperature (fleas leave the animal), or when fleas from a neighbor’s pet collect on your animal.

What to do: People have differing reactions to flea bites; women and preteen children seem most affected. Flea bites, which are rarely felt, will occur in clusters, particularly where clothing fits tightly on the body. Hard, red, itchy spots may surround the bite and persist for about a week. To locate where adult fleas are, walk through suspected areas wearing white socks. The dark-colored fleas will show up against the socks as they jump from the floor.
Eradication includes sanitation and control using insecticides. Persistent infestations, however, are best handled by a pest-control specialist. Clean pet living areas regularly and thoroughly, removing manure, debris, lint, and hair. Destroy old bedding material and keep pets clean and well groomed. Thoroughly vacuum infested areas and along baseboards, carpet edges, around heat registers, and under and within furniture. Destroy vacuum- bag contents and apply an approved insecticide. Insecticides are available for use indoors, outside, and on pets. (Check with your local extension service for recommendations.) Treat both cats and dogs at the same time, and concentrate applications at the base of the tail between the rear legs. If the infestation is heavy, remove rugs, overstuffed furniture and mattresses from rooms, and air them outdoors in a dry, sunny place. Remove pillow slips or covers and hang affected soft goods from a clothesline for a few hours.

Special advice: Treating pets will not always end a flea problem; a thorough cleanup and treatment of the bed or resting sites is usually required to prevent future outbreaks. Plea larvae feed on animal matter where the host animal normally sleeps. This may be a bed box in the home, a doghouse, or under the front porch. Adult fleas can survive several months without a blood meal from an animal or human.

Helpful hint: Combinations of herbs, brewer’s yeast, vitamin B, garlic, ultrasonic collars, herbal shampoos, and herbal collars have not been proven effective in control ling fleas. Flea collars are slow to kill fleas, and don’t control fleas on all areas of a pet’s body, including near the tail and the back legs where most fleas are found.

Fire Inside Home

Problem: Smoke alarms sound, or five is discovered in home.

Background: In case of a fire emergency, don’t panic; stay calm. Your safe escape may depend on clear thinking. Get out of the house as quickly as possible, following any previously planned escape route. Don’t stop to collect anything or to get dressed. Feel the doors to see if they are hot. If they are not, open them carefully. If they are hot, don’t open them and use an alternate escape route. Stay close to the floor because smoke and hot gases rise. Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth (wet if possible) and take short, shallow breaths. Keep doors and windows closed, opening them only if necessary for escape. Call the fire department as soon as possible from outside your house. Never go back inside a burning building.

What to do: If fire does not appear to be present, check entry 2. It’s smart to develop a family escape plan and practice it with your entire family, including small children. Draw a floor plan of your home, and find two ways to exit from every room. There should be one way to get out of each bedroom without opening the door. Explain to children what smoke detector alarms mean, and teach them how to leave the home by themselves if necessary. Show them how to check doors to deter mine whether they are hot before opening them, how to stay close to the floor and crawl if necessary, and how to use an alternate exit if the door is hot and should not be opened.
Decide on a meeting place a safe distance from your home, and make sure your children understand they should wait for you there if a fire occurs. Hold fire drills at least every 6 months and know where to go to call the fire department from outside your home. Keep emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, in the house and teach your family how to use them properly.

Special advice: In addition to in stalling smoke detectors, providing fire extinguishers, and developing an escape plan, follow good fire prevention practices. Use smoking materials properly and never smoke in bed. Keep matches and cigarette lighters from children. Store flammable materials in proper containers and never use them near open flames or sparks. Keep electrical appliances in good condition and don’t overload electrical circuits. Also keep stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and barbecue grills free of grease, and make sure they are used properly, away from combustible materials. Make certain portable heaters and open flames, such as candles, are not used near combustible materials. Do not allow rubbish to accumulate.

Helpful hint: Contact your local fire department for more ideas about how to make your home safer from fires, and how to plan your family’s escape.

Earthquake Threatens Home

Problem: Home is in earthquake area, or is threatened by earthquake.

Background: Accurate predictions of earthquakes cannot be made. In the United States, earthquakes occur most often in the western states, but can occur at widely scattered locations across the country. Most casual ties result from falling objects and debris, and are caused by partial building collapse, flying glass, over turned fixtures and other furniture and appliances, fires from broken chimneys or broken gas lines, fallen power lines, and drastic actions taken in moments of panic. Consider the suggestions below for measures you can take before and during an earth quake. If your home has suffered earthquake damage.

What to do: Besides supporting community efforts to prepare for an earthquake, check your home for earthquake hazards. Bolt down or provide other strong support for water heaters and other gas appliances, because fires can result from broken gas lines and appliance connections. (Use flexible connections wherever possible.) Put large, heavy objects on lower shelves and securely fasten shelves to walls. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. When building or remodeling, always follow codes to minimize earth quake hazards.
Keep a flashlight and battery- powered radio in the home, ready for use at all times. Keep family immunizations up to date. Show your family how to turn off electricity, gas, and water at main switches and valves. Hold occasional home earth quake drills so your family knows how to avoid injury and how to remain level-headed during an earth quake. Also have responsible family members receive first aid instruction because medical facilities may be overloaded immediately following a severe earthquake (check with your local Red Cross for training seminars).

Special advice: During an earth quake, try to remain calm, reassure others and think through the consequences of any action. If indoors, watch for falling plaster, bricks, light fixtures, and other objects such as high bookcases, cabinets, and shelves or other furniture that might slide or topple. Stay away from windows, mirrors, and chimneys. If in danger, crawl under a table, desk, or bed; move to a corner away from windows; or stand in a strong doorway.
Usually it is best not to run outside.
However, when outside, avoid high buildings, walls, power poles, and other objects that could fall. Don’t run through the streets. If possible, move to an open area away from hazards. If you are in a car, stop in the safest place available, preferably an open area.

Helpful hint: If an earthquake strikes while you are in a high-rise building, get under a desk. Don’t dash for exits because stairways may be broken and jammed with people, and power for elevators may fail. In crowded stores, don’t rush for a doorway since hundreds of others may have the same idea. If you must leave, choose your exit carefully.

Cockroaches Inside Home

Problem: Cockroaches are found scavenging inside the home.

Background: Cockroaches, persistent household pests, generally breed in warm, moist, and narrow locations. As scavengers, they will eat almost any food, as well as backing glue, leather, bookbinding’s, even television wiring. They are nocturnal, hiding during the day and becoming active at night. The cockroaches seen running for cover when the lights are turned on will represent only a small part of the total population; a few seen can indicate a larger population that should be controlled.
Types of cockroaches include the German cockroach, which generally inhabits kitchens or places where food is easily accessible; the Oriental cockroach, which favors warm, humid places, particularly basements; the brown-banded cock roach, which can be found any where; the American cockroach, which is found in warm, moist places where food is available; and the wood roach which does not breed indoors, but will invade homes, cabins, and other buildings in or near wooded areas.

What to do: Cockroaches can be carried into homes in bags, boxes, and luggage. Corrugated cardboard boxes can be a source of infestation (see below). To reduce chances of infestation, don’t leave food in easily accessible areas, such as pet food in an open bag, or food left in a dish overnight. Keep garbage picked up and stored in closed plastic bags. Fix leaky pipes or faucets. Rinse bottles and store properly. Do not allow boxes, old newspapers, or anything else to clutter rooms and give cock roaches hiding places. Leave spaces between stored packages.
Once an infestation occurs, an insecticide is usually required, along with good sanitation. Several house hold insecticides available have a long residual effect; apply them where roaches hide or run, such as along baseboards, behind stoves, and along cracks and crevices. It is not necessary to treat flat surfaces, such as countertops or floor surfaces. An infestation in multiple-unit dwellings will probably require the treatment of several units. Cock roaches move along common pipes, electric conduits, and heating ducts. Plug space around these openings to prevent infestation from other units.

Special advice: To avoid moving cockroaches with you, use boxes and packing material from a place un infested with cockroaches. When packing, watch for cockroaches and their egg capsules, which are dark colored and about the size and shape of a kidney bean. If found, re move and destroy. If boxes are stored overnight in infested buildings, keep them off the floor and away from the walls by placing them on chairs or tables. During the winter, 2 days at 0°F will kill cock roaches at all stages; at 20°F 4 to 5 days may be required, especially for well-insulated boxes.

Helpful hint: When using insecticides, don’t spray near food, dishes, or utensils, and don’t allow children or pets near treated surfaces until spray has dried. Household aerosol bombs don’t deliver enough insecticide to have residual effectiveness against cockroaches. However, pyrethrum aerosols help flush them out and can increase effectiveness of residual pesticides. The use of ultra sonic pest-control devices is not recommended because they have not proven effective.

Carbon Monoxide in Home

Problem: Carbon monoxide affects personal health.

Background: Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Usually carbon dioxide (C0 is produced during the combustion of carbon-containing, or organic, material, such as natural gas, oil, and wood. But if enough oxygen is not present, CO is formed instead of C02. Any gas, oil, kerosene or wood-powered appliance, or combustion product has the potential to produce carbon monoxide. Examples include wood stoves, fireplaces, space heaters, charcoal grills, furnaces, water heaters, boilers, and gas cooking ranges. (If adequate combustion air is provided, and the appliance is properly installed and maintained, the small amounts of carbon monoxide generated can be safely vented to the outside.) Other sources include burning cigarettes; combustion appliances, such as a hibachi, used indoors; a cooking stove, used to heat a room; a blocked or leaky chimney; a cracked or corroded heat exchanger; combustion air backdrafts that spill back into the home instead of going out the chimney, vent, or flue.

What to do: Each year as many as 10,000 United States residents seek medical treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. Typical symptoms of exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. (Long-term exposure to low levels has also been known to cause chest pains.) Exposure to high levels can result in unconsciousness and death. Some people are more sensitive to carbon monoxide than others. If your home has gas appliances, and you or other family members are experiencing some of the above symptoms, check your appliances and see your doctor to be tested. If you believe your furnace or other heating appliances are releasing car bon monoxide, consult a heating or ventilation contractor or the company that provides your heating fuel. A visual inspection may identify the cause.
The first step in preventing problems is hiring a qualified technician to install fuel-burning equipment or to convert an appliance from using one type of fuel to using another. Never burn charcoal inside the house in a grill, hibachi, or fireplace. Don’t heat or warm a room with a gas oven, and don’t use a stove or fire place that is not properly vented. Don’t run a car engine, lawn mower, or other combustion engine in a closed garage. Set up a maintenance schedule with a qualified technician to inspect your furnace or boiler.

Special advice: Acceptable levels of carbon monoxide in the home is considered 9 parts per million (ppm) or less. Monitoring and testing services are available through private testing labs and safety supply stores. Passive monitors, about $10, change color when elevated C02 levels are detected. Electronic monitors, similar to smoke detectors (about $70 to $150), sound an alarm.

Helpful hint: Canadian studies show most carbon monoxide poisoning problems are related to poor maintenance; damaged chimneys, vents, and flues; and improper installation of equipment. One out of four cases results from the backdraft of furnace and water heater gasses. The backdraft may be due to excessive exhaust, inadequate air supply, and extreme airtightness of the home.

Bats Inside Home

Problem: Bats become problem around or inside the home.

Background: Bats are the only true flying mammals that also have fur, jaws with teeth, and bear live young. Normally they do not attack humans or fly into their hair. Bats can carry rabies, though few fatalities have occurred due to bites from rabid bats. Another disease problem, histoplasmosis, is associated with some bat colonies. It is caused by inhaling spores or fragments of the naturally occurring soil fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. The fungus is most often found in soil enriched by excretions from bats and birds, such as pigeons and starlings. Some infections produce flulike symptoms, though many produce no symptoms or distress.

What to do: Some bat species congregate in colonies. In a building or a home the accumulated odors, droppings, mites, and lice may cause problems. Though persistent, bats have little capacity to chew or scratch through modern building materials. Excluding bats by locating and blocking all entry or exit points is the most cost-effective method of control. Bats enter buildings through various locations, including unprotected vents, broken windows, split siding, chimneys, or other openings. The smallest bats can crawl through openings ¾-inch wide (or through holes the size of a dime). Locate openings by brightly lighting the inside of potential rest areas at night and observing them from the outside. If this is not possible, observe from the inside on a bright day. Block larger openings with sheet metal or ¼-inch hard ware cloth. Plug narrow cracks with steel wool, oakum, or other packing or insulating material, then seal with an exterior caulk.

Special advice: Be sure all bats are out of the area being bat-proofed be fore the work is completed. Usually the entire colony will depart from the roosts within 20 or 30 minutes once the first exits, but this may not happen if the bats have been disturbed or harassed. Leave 1 or more well-used exits temporarily open; close after a few days after all bats have departed for the evening. Watch the building at dusk for several days to see if some openings were overlooked.

Helpful hint: There are no effective poison baits for bats because they primarily feed on flying insects. Chemicals may be used to kill bats where all other alternatives fail, though it is expensive and will not provide long-term control.

Air Pollution in Home

Problem: Indoor air contains pollutants that have the potential to affect your health.

Background: Although pollutants such as radon may come from outside air or soil, many indoor air pollutants are generated within the home—sometimes in ex cess of ten times the concentration of outdoor levels. Besides radon, potential pollutants include asbestos, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, car bon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Typical sources of asbestos include pipe and duct insulation, shingles, and firewalls. Carbon dioxide sources include unvented combustion and human respiration.
Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide can come from gas stoves, furnaces, cigarettes, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, and unvented space heaters. Formaldehyde can be emitted from newly installed urea- formaldehyde foam insulation, or from new manufactured wood products such as furniture, ply wood, particle board, or paneling.

What to do: Ways of measuring in door air pollution have been developed, but in many cases they involve expensive equipment and technical expertise. Some private laboratories can pinpoint pollutants, but may charge between $300 and $2,000 to do such tests. Relatively inexpensive monitors that measure radon, formaldehyde, and nitrogen dioxide can be installed in your home and later sent to a lab for analysis. The more air exchanges there are within the home the more often indoor pollutants are diluted with outdoor air to lower pollution concentrations. The more tightly concentrated a home, the lower its air-change rate will be. However, proper distribution of outside air within the home must also be considered because indoor pollution is generated in different areas of the home.
Eliminate obvious sources of pollutants, such as all unvented combustion appliances, from the living space. A yellow flame in your gas furnace may indicate insufficient air supply for combustion, causing an increase in carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Attaching a combustion air duct from the outside to the appliance helps ensure safe combustion and minimizes the use of heated air inside the home. If the home seems too humid or has excessive condensation on windows, remove as many sources of moisture in the house as possible . This may include firewood stored in the basement, clothes hung inside to dry, and leaking basements.

Special advice: High levels of car bon dioxide (C02) may indicate that ventilation systems are not delivering enough fresh air. Symptoms may include stuffy air, drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches. First try running several fans at night to help mix air, leaving bedroom doors open and setting fans to blow air out into the hail and living areas. If you have a forced-air heating system, set the furnace fan to run continuously at night. If you don’t feel more refreshed in a week or two, try running the fans, plus leaving a window in each bedroom open about a quarter of an inch. Also make sure there is an adequate gap between all interior doors and the floor.

Helpful hint: If the above measures don’t help, consider having a mechanical ventilation system installed by a contractor. To determine if a gas furnace is leaking combustion by products, hire a qualified professional. If you ever smell leaking gas in the home, contact your gas utility company immediately and follow their instructions.