1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

November 30, 2008

:335 Trim Dead Growth

Filed under: :335 Trim Dead Growth — Tags: , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:46 am

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:335 EcoTip: With winter nearly here and the leaves off the trees. This is a good time to trim dead growth and prune back your trees while they are dormant. Winter ice, snow and heavy winds place a lot of stress of tree branches. Pruning at the beginning of winter helps reduce the risk of damage to the tree and your property when outdoor conditions get severe. It is also easier to prune while the leaves are off. 

Another advantage to winter pruning is eliminating diseased sections while they are dormant. This a good organic way to deal with over wintering pest problems and disease. Make sure you don’t leave the waste laying around your trees or it may spread back to the plants when they become active again.

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November 29, 2008

:334 Radioactive Materials

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:334 EcoTip: Radioactive uranium is sometimes present in rock used for construction. This is more likely when the rocks contain granite, phosphate, pitch-blend or shale. Radioactive aggregate has also been mixed with concrete for foundations. Radon test kits and monitors can be used to determine if radon releasing materials are about to be used in new construction or if they are present in existing buildings.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :128, :129, :130

The following recounts an experience I had almost two decades ago when inspecting a home a family wanted to purchase. I conducted radon testing with electronic monitors, and found radon levels in the guest bedroom of about 27 picocuries per liter of air (EPA’s action level is 4.0 picocuries). The following excerpt is from Prescriptions for a Healthy House which I co-authored and is now in its third edition:

Upon visual examination of the guest bedroom, it was noted that the headboards for the two beds were made of rock that appeared to be granite. The headboards were later tested with a small Geiger counter. While normal radioactive background levels away from the headboards were approximately 12 radioactive counts per minute, the counts close to the headboards were over 300. It was clear that the headboards were at least one source of radon in the room. The headboards were in fact a decorative granite rock imported from Italy. Each headboard weighed several hundred pounds. The floors and walls had been especially constructed to hold the extra weight. It took six strong men to remove each of the headboards to a detached garage. The radon tests were repeated throughout the home with all values now under 1.0 picocurie. The home was given a radon clearance, contingent upon the proper disposal of the headboards.

This was the first home I ever inspected in which a radon source was caused by a building material or furnishing. Although radon from the soil is the most common cause of elevated radiation levels in a home, there are many other possible sources. Since granite rock is sometimes high in uranium, it must be considered a potential source of radon when used in construction. Rock can be a superb building material, but it should always be tested prior to use for the rare possibility of radiation.

Most U.S. manufacturers of granite rock products are now aware of this problem – but it never hurts to double check. Probably the easiest way for occupants to test stone is to set up a radon test kit or monitor in the room with the stone.

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November 28, 2008

:333 Porous Counter Tops

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:333 EcoTip: A recent University of Arizona, Tucson study has shown that porous counter tops can harbor harmful organisms such as E. coli. A non-porous material is safer because it is easier to clean and sanitize.

The study highlighted the fact that consumers need to consider wear-and-tear when selecting a countertop surface. After a few years, most porous surfaces, such as granite, laminate, marble, wood, concrete, tile, and limestone wear down; lose their protective coating, scratch, and warp –all decreasing the ability to be effectively cleaned and sanitized.

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 Additional Information:

According to the National Institute of Health:

Bacteria can spread from one food product to another throughout the kitchen and can get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, and countertops. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from all ready-to-eat foods.

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November 27, 2008

:332 Mulch Plumbing

Filed under: :332 Mulch Plumbing — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:35 am

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:332 EcoTip: If your part of the country routinely experiences freezing conditions, your in-ground plumbing is probably installed so it is protected. If your in-ground plumbing isn’t adequately protected, throwing a couple of feet of mulch over the area at risk may provide the extra insulation necessary to keep the pipes from freezing.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :331

Sprinkler systems should be drained and blown out. When sprinklers are installed in areas that routinely freeze – they should have drain plugs built in at the lowest points. If the system doesn’t have a good way to drain it and blow out the water – mulching over the lines may do the trick. This is also true for points where the water supply line isn’t burried deeply enough. Simply add mulch over the top of the area to be protected.

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November 26, 2008

:331 Mulch Trees & Shrubs

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:331 EcoTip: Adding home-made mulch around your trees and shrubs and to your garden is a good way to reduce your contribution to the landfill while adding nutrients to the soil and helping to insulate the roots from winter damage from the cold. 

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :082, :093, :094

Instead of raking up leaves I run the lawn mower over the leaf covered yard. This picks up the leaves and chews them to bits at the same time   – making mulch. Then I can add the mulch back where I please.

In our community – we put our yard wastes out separately for curbside pick-up. The trimmings are turned into compost and are available free for members of the community to use as mulch. If you don’t have enough mulch from your yard to satisfy your needs – check to see if your community has a similar program.

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November 25, 2008

:330 Testing Purifiers

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:330 EcoTip: Reverse osmosis water purifiers can be checked to see if the R/O membrane is working properly. This is done by testing the conductivity of the water. Special meters are designed for this purpose, but any electrical conductivity tester can be used. You can also send a sample of your purified water to a laboratory for testing.

tester

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review:

To use an electrical multi-meter for testing the water to see if the R/O membrane working – set the meter on the conductivity test setting. The probes need to be kept the same distance apart every time you test. Since tap water contains salts and minerals it will conduct electricity. Use a sample of tap water to check your meter reading. The closer the R/O water’s conductivity reading is to that of tap water, the less the purifier is removing.

If you check your R/O water with the meter when the purifier is new – you will have a baseline to compare. You may also want to test the meter with distilled water – which should have no conductivity.

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November 24, 2008

:329 Candle Soot

Filed under: :329 Candle Soot — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:30 am

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:329 EcoTip: With the holidays coming more households will be burning candles. Many types of scented candles or candles with other types of additives have been shown to create up to 100 times more soot than unscented candles. These fine soot particles are tiny enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs and have been shown to exacerbate respiratory problems and asthma.

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 Additional Information:

Research published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation(CMHC) has identified candles as a major source of soot deposits staining homes. These soot deposits are often referred to as ghosting because of the faint shadows they leave on surfaces. In their study they also list a number of other causes and make recommendations for homeowners and builders.

Homeowners should:

  • avoid or restrict the use of candles in houses;
  • use candles with properly trimmed wicks, in properly ventilated conditions as per manufacturer’s instructions (The National Candle Association website gives specific information on how to choose and burn candles so as to avoid soot problems);
  • avoid or limit scented candles;
  • have combustion appliances in the home checked regularly for proper operation and venting effectiveness;
  • keep a clean house generally and vacuum carpets regularly with an effective vacuum—central vacuums vented outside or HEPA grade filters are the best options. Use perimeter tool for wall edges;
  • never idle vehicles in an attached garage and ensure the garage is properly air sealed from the house;
  • eliminate or control other dust sources—properly clean up renovation projects, reduce storage of wood, paper and fabric products, control access of pets to certain areas of the house;
  • purchase and maintain better filters for the forced air system.

Builders should:

  • build tighter houses and specifically ensure air leakage pathways at floor header assemblies are well sealed;
  • use insulation techniques and wall details that minimize thermal bridging and cold spots;
  • ensure garages are air sealed from the home and any ductwork running through the garage is tightly sealed;
  • ensure all combustion appliances are properly installed and vented. Avoid standing pilot appliances and encourage direct vent, sealed combustion appliances;
  • clean houses thoroughly after the drywall and taping stage to eliminate drywall and other construction dust;
  • ensure forced air ducts are sealed during construction and/or cleaned thoroughly before carpets and other flooring are installed;
  • offer upgraded filters for forced air systems; and
  • offer darker carpet colours or inform homeowners that streaking problems are more visible with light carpets.

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November 23, 2008

:328 Check Supply Registers

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:328 EcoTip: The vanes on supply registers (the registers that blow the air into the room) should be installed to blow the air toward the middle of the room – not at cold exterior walls. In winter cold spots on walls may result in condensation forming when warm air is directed at them. The warm air hits a cold surface that’s temperature is below the dew point – condensation will form. Walls with condensation are more likely to grow mold. By blowing the air away from walls it can mix with the room air making condensation on the wall where the air hits it less likely.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :301, :302

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November 22, 2008

:327 Lead in Fixtures

Filed under: :327 Lead in Fixtures — Tags: , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:27 am

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:326 EcoTip: Brass plumbing fixtures and lead solder have frequently contained lead. When purchasing new fixtures or soldering copper joints make sure they are certified lead free. You can’t tell if a fixture has brass just by looking at it. The brass is frequently used on the inside of the fixture where it is not visible.

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 Additional Information:

To test for lead in fixtures, you can perform a duel lead test. Let the water sit in the fixture overnight then collect the first water from the tap for analysis. Collect a second sample of water after it has been allowed to run for several minutes to clear the plumbing. If the first sample has lead and the second doesn’t – then your fixtures or household plumbing are the likely culprit. If its in both samples – its likely the water supply.

National Testing Laboratories offers a duel lead water analysis kit.

Lead check swabs can be used to test plumbing solder. (see EcoTip :033)

Here’s a link to the USEPA water quality standards: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/contaminants/index.html

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November 21, 2008

:326 Lead in Water

Filed under: :326 Lead in Water — Tags: , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:28 am

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:327 EcoTip: Lead is a heavy metal that has been used for plumbing pipes in municipal water systems. It is supposed to be phased out but can still contaminate drinking water.

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 Additional Information:

National Testing Laboratories offers water analysis for lead and other heavy metals.

Here’s a link to the USEPA water quality standards: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/contaminants/index.html

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