Why Does My House Smell?

Sometimes, previous owners can leave things behind. And sometimes, those things aren’t tangible items, like plates and furniture. They’re smells. Before you walk away from your dream home, use these tips to pinpoint the source of any odors and be on your way to breathing easy.

Kitchen Leftovers

You might be surprised to know that eliminating many odors is as easy as cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Before your search gets underway, head to the kitchen armed with trash bags and go through the fridge and all storage areas. It’s easy to miss items in dark corners, and busy tenants or owners may have simply forgotten food during the move-out process. Once you’ve determined that the kitchen is clear, you can check other key areas.

Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke is one of the most invasive, unmistakable odors, and one of the most difficult to remove. The smell from a cigarette can remain airborne months after it’s been lit, and inhaling leftover cigarette odor actually has a name–third-hand smoke. While daunting, removing cigarette odor can be done, and it’s almost always worth it.

The best way to approach stale cigarette smoke odor is to treat the entire house top to bottom, beginning by steam cleaning any carpets to remove residual smoke particles. Walls and upholstery can be chemically treated to neutralize the odors that are associated with smoke, and painting the walls can lock in stains and any remaining smell. Opening windows and doors will also help to purify the air, and there are air filtration machines available which cleanse and purge the home of toxic fumes.

Moisture and Mold

If your home smells “musty,” you probably have a larger project on your horizon. The leading cause of mold, moisture and mildew is water leaks in the roof, walls, plumbing or basement. Air conditioning units and drain lines can also be a culprit. Any of these issues will likely warrant a professional repair.

Insulation issues can also cause excess moisture. If flashings around windows are not properly sealed, condensation can collect and begin to mildew. You should also check freezer and refrigerator doors for sealing issues.

General Deodorizing

If you have decided that your home with olfactory character is right for you, there are simple steps you can take to deodorize a musty house. Zeolite, a natural mineral, absorbs odor without any perfumes or masking agents. It’s completely safe, non-toxic, and lasts up to six months. After that, it is easily rechargeable by heating in direct sunlight or a 250-degree oven for thirty minutes.

Activated charcoal is another powerful detoxifier that is used as an ingredient in many commercial odor removers. It is incredibly reasonable and lasts far longer than traditional air fresheners. Cleaning a musty home with vinegar is not only environmentally friendly, it also helps eliminate the odor from an old house. Baking soda is another miracle ingredient, that when sprinkled in an affected area, soaks up and removes residual odors. Not only does this work in refrigerators, but in any area of the home such as carpets, floors, and even clothing. Sprinkle it on the carpet at night, then simply vacuum in the morning for a fresh, clean scent.

If you’re having trouble pinpointing the source of a smell, call a National Property Inspections team near you. They can inspect your home from top to bottom and identify leaks, roof weaknesses, faulty appliances and more.

Don’t Pull a Griswold: How to Fix Christmas Tree Lights

One of the splendors of the holidays is all the festive décor, both inside and outside your home. Twinkling Christmas lights are what signal Santa’s sleigh, after all, so don’t get caught this season with lights that don’t work. Learn how to fix your Christmas tree lights easily so you can save money while still putting on a spectacular display. This way, you won’t get caught like Clark Griswold on Christmas Eve with blown fuses and a palooza of holiday frustration.

Christmas Lights Don’t Work? Check the Fuses

The first way to fix Christmas lights that don’t work is to identify whether half or all the strand is out. If it’s the latter, try replacing the fuse. A blown fuse can turn an entire strand dark, and often happens when multiple strands are connected from end to end. To change the fuse on a string of Christmas lights, first locate the plug (and make sure it’s unplugged from the wall, while you’re at it). On the male plug of every light string, you’ll see a sliding door that conceals the fuses. Open this and check the fuses—working fuses will be clear, while burnt out fuses will be dark in color. Replace the broken ones and you’re set.

Another lesson to learn from Mr. Griswold: do NOT use a stapler to put up your exterior lights, as this can cause the wires to blow the fuse.

Find Problem Bulbs with New Technology

With such new and innovative technology on the market, identifying a problem bulb is easier than it has ever been. A Christmas light repair tool costs about $20, and comes with everything you need to identify and replace a bad bulb: a continuity detector, shunt repairer, and light bulb removal tool.

The spark function on the repair tool can test each individual bulb, zapping and repairing the gap in current. If that doesn’t work, you can follow these steps to quickly trace the location of the dead bulb on the strand.

1. Pull apart the braided wires of the strand to identify the one directly connected to your bulbs.
2. Place the instrument about halfway through the strand, between two bulbs. If the tool hums or lights, the problem is in the half of the strand farthest from the plug.
3. If it doesn’t light up or hum, the problem is on the opposite side.
4. Once you have identified the problem side, you can replace the bulbs that have simply burnt out.

Remember, leaving a dead bulb on your Christmas lights can shorten the life of those around it.

Call Your Local NPI Inspector Today

With these simple instructions, you can easily learn how to fix your Christmas tree lights instead of buying new ones. If you have any questions, call your local branch of National Property Inspections. Their inspectors will give you advice and point you in the right direction so you don’t end up like Aunt Bethany’s cat this holiday.

The Best Electrical Outlet Type for Your Needs

Varying in category, voltage, and function, different electrical outlet types are each designed for a specific purpose. Different countries may have varying national standards, but the central goal is always the same: connecting you to your devices swiftly and easily.

Surge Protection Outlets for Clean Electricity

For reliable power you need to start with clean electricity, but what does that mean? Clean electricity is free of “noise,” (aka interference) that can be caused by nearby power lines or electrical substations. A noisy electrical supply is prone to surges, which is why one of the best ways to protect your home’s expensive electrical equipment is with a surge protector. Surge protection is also necessary in professional settings such as emergency power supplies or life-support systems for hospitals. If you don’t like the look of a surge protection power strip, you can buy in-wall surge protection outlets, too.

Polarized and Grounded Outlets Prevent User Error

Certain outlet types are designed only for specific connectors to improve safety. Polarized plugs and outlets are now the standard for all common household appliances. With polarized plugs, you’ll notice that one blade is slightly larger than the other. This ensures that you can only plug your appliance in one way, the right way, aligned with your home’s wiring system. Grounded plugs, usually found on larger appliances like ovens, refrigerators and televisions, have three prongs.

Use GFCI Outlets In Case of Water

Ever wonder why some outlets have reset buttons on them? This is a special type of receptacle called a GFCI, or ground-fault circuit interrupter. Required in kitchens, bathrooms, and other exposed or damp areas, that tiny “reset” button can protect from serious shock when the right amount of electricity and water meet. Acting like an ultra-sensitive circuit breaker, this face detects the amount of incoming and outgoing current, and if they are not even, shuts itself down. Therefore, if you are having trouble with one or more outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry area, simply locate the GFCI switch and try a reset, which will restart any circuits it has been connected to. If you are having trouble locating the GFCI switch, National Property Inspections is always here to lend a helping hand.

Childproof Outlets Protect Your Little Ones

If you have a young family, child proof outlets are now more accessible than ever. While they appear identical to standard outlets, they are anything but. A spring-loaded cover plate protects the outlet holes, which prevents the insertion of household objects when unequal pressure is applied to the receptacle’s contact points. So essentially, unless you are an adult trying to plug something in, the outlet won’t budge. With nearly 2,400 children (that’s seven per day!) in emergency rooms due to electrical shocks per year, this is a fantastic way to keep your little ones out of harm’s way.

If you are having trouble locating the GFI switch or are wondering if it is time for an upgrade, National Property Inspections is here to help. Give us a call today at 1-800-333-9807.

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips: Deck the Halls Without Them Falling

Decking the halls each year is a time-honored tradition, but laying the yearly yule log can be more than just a fun activity. Holiday decorations can pose fire hazards and other safety concerns when not thoroughly inspected and placed thoughtfully. Follow these helpful holiday decorating safety tips to keep your household merry and bright throughout the season.

Trees

For those that enjoy the scent of fresh fir, remember that a watered tree is a happy one and poses less threat of catching flame. The less watering you do, the more your tree will dry out, which can create a fire hazard with even the smallest spark.

To test your tree, first examine its branches and color. A green tree is a healthy one, and fresh needles that have been watered are difficult to pry from their branches. If you peek under your tree up and see a shower of needles, you need to increase your watering.

When deciding where to place the family Christmas tree, be sure to avoid areas by radiators, fireplaces, and other heat sources that can potentially dry out its needles as well. If curious cats or playful little ones are of concern in your household, consider using thin guy-wires to secure your tree top to the walls and ceiling.

Lights

Whether they are indoors or out, it is essential to read all labels to verify that your Christmas lights have been tested for your holiday decoration safety. Examine all strands to make sure they do not have any fraying wires, broken sockets, or loose connections from being stored year after year.

To protect from wind damage, always be sure to secure each strand of Christmas lights safely. When it’s time for bed, turn off all light displays to avoid overheating and starting a blaze overnight. Using faulty lights on a Christmas tree can cause it to become charged with electricity, allowing anyone touching it to be electrocuted. To avoid this, use colored spotlights around or beside the tree, rather than attached to it. Bubble lights should always be kept a safe distance from children, and you may want to skip them altogether—infants and toddlers may be tempted to pull on lights or even try to eat them.

Décor

Before electricity, candles were used to bedeck the branches of trees. Now, however, it’s essential to keep any sort of flame away from your evergreen for the safety of your holiday decorations. When trimming the tree, use only non-combustible and flame-resistant materials. Try tinsel, artificial icicles, or plastic materials.

In homes with small children, it’s important to choose decorations that are not sharp or breakable, and to avoid anything that looks like candy. Children can and will eat anything they can find, so be mindful of the little ones during this festive and bustling time. Paper decorations, for example, can be a great way to be crafty while finding a safe way for children to decorate. On Christmas morning, remove all wrapping paper and trimmings from the tree and fireplace areas as soon as possible. Never burn these items or any greenery in the fireplace, as they can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

For more information about getting your home holiday-ready, contact your local team at National Property Inspections. Our inspectors are always here to lend a helping hand.

Do you have experience with holiday disasters? Comment and let us know below!

How to Pick a Good Christmas Tree in 4 Simple Steps

Hanging the ornaments, caroling, and displaying the twinkle lights are all part of the holiday tradition. But without a Christmas tree, it would all seem empty. We gather, unwrap gifts, and celebrate the wonders of the season under the ole Tannenbaum, so it’s essential to know the ins and outs of how to pick a good Christmas tree.

How to Pick a Good Christmas Tree Step 1: Choose the Right Location

Choosing a safe spot for your Christmas tree is the first step to selecting the ideal fir. This spot will not only be a display for your tree, it will be the focal point for all your holiday festivities, so it’s important to consider your options carefully. Since the Christmas tree is where the family will tend to gather during the holidays, it is important to put the tree somewhere that the family feels comfortable gathering, such as a living room or den. When deciding the best placement for your tree, always consider your current home furnishings and what will be added when the Christmas décor comes out of storage. It might be a good time to consider a bit of rearranging, if only temporarily.

Always remember to keep the tree at least eight feet away from any heat source such as the fireplace or heating grate in order to prevent over-drying and a potential fire hazard. Foot traffic is also an important element to consider, as placing a Christmas tree in the way of people, doors, and staircases can easily lead to an accident. You’ll also want to consider any pet hazards, like curious cats who might try to hide among the branches.

How to Pick a Good Christmas Tree Step 2: Survey the Space

Before going to the tree lot, you should know what size tree best fits for your individual space. To do this, measure the distance between the floor and ceiling and subtract a foot. This measurement will be the maximum vertical height for your tree. Next, do the same thing with the measurements for the width of the tree, subtracting a foot. Also measure the length of the area allotted for the tree, subtracting a foot from this measurement. Multiply the length and the width, and you will have the area of space available for your Christmas tree. Other dimensions to consider are your tree topper, tree stand, and tree skirt. The tree topper should be no less than five inches away from the ceiling, while the tree skirt will need an additional six inches or more on either side to allow for gifts.

How to Pick a Good Christmas Tree Step 3: Consider all the Options

While some homeowners opt for a real tree, artificial trees are becoming more and more popular because of their ease and cost value. Before deciding which is right for you, consider the differences between real and artificial trees. Real Christmas trees are vibrant in color and have that fresh scent we look forward to every year. They’re also biodegradable as well as recyclable. Homeowners can make potpourri and air fresheners out of leftover pine needles, and real trees cost less than artificial ones.

Nowadays, artificial Christmas trees are designed to look, smell, and feel like the real thing. Some pros of going artificial include ease of purchase and a wide variety of sizes and lighting options to choose from. Unlike their real counterparts, newer artificial trees are typically fireproof and will never need to be watered.

How to Pick a Good Christmas Tree Step 4: Select the Ideal Tree

Once you have considered all your options, it is time to decide which tree is right for your needs. If you’ve chosen the option of a real tree, don’t forget to take your home’s space measurements and a tape measure. Chances are that your real Christmas tree is non-returnable, so it’s crucial that you avoid unpleasant surprises once you get it home.

Choosing the right tree can be a challenge, but once the tinsel is hung and Christmas morning comes, it will all have been worth it for the perfect Christmas tree. If you have any questions or want even more holiday tips, contact your local National Property Inspections team. They can help guide you through making the best decisions for your home.