I took this picture from the live webcam of Siesta Key Beach. Due to COVID-19, the beaches are closed. Usually this time of year you can't even get a parking space - but this year it is deserted. This is one of those events you will remember forever!
Rarely do we think of dryers as being a source of potential danger, but recently I learned that they're responsible for house fires each year in the US. Over time, your dryer will collect lint in the vent and exhaust ductwork. When this happens it leads to a reduction of airflow which reduces drying efficiently and increases trapped moisture. This moisture can cause humidity levels to rise around the vent work leading to mildew and mold growth in the surrounding walls and insulation. But most importantly, lint is combustible which can also lead to fires.
I recently had a customer's dryer vent cleaned. (Pictured above) They found nearly 1 1/2” of lint on a screen which covered the roof vent. Since the roof vent already had a flap which opened automatically when the dryer was operating, this screen should have been removed at the time of installation to prevent this very problem. This sure explains the unusually long drying time the homeowner was experiencing. Once again, dryer fires are one of the top 5 causes of house fires. Fortunately, in this case we avoided one by taking action sooner than later.
Here are some tips from the US Fire Administration to help prevent dryer fires:
Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.
Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
Things to avoid
Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
Don’t overload the dryer.
Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.
Here are 9 reasons you should hire a Home Watch Service that is accredited through The National Home Watch Association (NHWA).
1. Accredited members must pass a strict vetting process for consumer complaints or issues. 2. They must carry the proper insurance. 3. They must uphold the highest ethics in the Home Watch industry. 4. Accredited members will always look out for the best interest of the homeowner. 5. They provide regular visits to your home which may prevent or lesson property damage. 6. Offer protection against uninsured, unbonded and unethical individuals who represent themselves as Home Watch professionals. 7. Act as your liaison between contractors, associations, Realtors and virtually anyone you authorize. 8. Deliver consistent and accurate information to you during your absence. 9. Create a presence in your home which may deter squatters and other intruders.
Why take a chance with your home. Make the easy choice that will truly give you peace of mind! Aloha Home Watch Services, LLC - A bonded, insured and accredited Home Watch company.
I discovered these two batteries sitting on a granite desk in a homeowner's office. I then started to wonder about the proper storage and use of batteries. The following is some expert advice I found from an article posted by Duracell.
Should I remove my batteries from a device if I know I won't be using it for a while? Yes. Remove batteries from a device when it is not expected to be in use for several months.
Should I store batteries in the refrigerator or freezer? We recommend storing batteries at room temperature in a dry environment. Extreme heat or cold reduces battery performance. You’ll want to avoid putting battery-powered devices in very warm places. In addition, refrigeration is not necessary or recommended.
How can I get better life out of my batteries? Here are a few tips to help extend the life of your batteries. – Turn off battery-operated radios and appliances when they’re not in use – Remove batteries from devices that won’t be used for a while – Store your batteries in a dry place at normal room temperature without the contacts touching
Can I mix old and new batteries? Do not mix old and new batteries. Doing so will reduce overall performance and may cause battery leakage or rupture. We do recommend changing all batteries in a unit at the same time. A partially used battery will drain energy from a new one, reducing the total amount of battery power available.
How can I clean up after a battery leak? Follow these tips to clean up after a battery has leaked: Work in a well-ventilated area. Wear household gloves and glasses. Using a toothbrush or cotton swab, remove battery leakage from the electrical contacts. Make sure the electronic device is completely dry before trying a new battery. To avoid future problems, adopt the following practices:
Do not mix and match different battery brands in the same device.
Remove batteries from devices that are being stored.
To clean any leakage of the following battery types, Alkaline, NiCAD and NiMH batteries, use either one tablespoon of boric acid in one gallon of water or a mixture of equal amounts of diluted vinegar or lemon juice with water (50/50 ratio).
To read more good advice from the article, click the link below.
Ever go to use your garbage disposal and while it just worked the other day, now it only hums without spinning? In most cases the moving, metal parts have either rusted together or have some type of debris jammed between the blades causing it to seize. To overcome this problem you must manually spin the blade to break it free. Sometimes when the jam occurs it trips the overload button at the base of the disposal shutting off power to the appliance. If so, this button will need to be reset after you remedy the problem.
Your garbage disposal may have a disposal wrench slot. This slot will fit a standard 1/4 inch Allen wrench or Allen wrench bar. Sometimes this bar may be found taped to the side of the disposal. They are often placed there at the time of installation. If your disposal doesn't have a wrench slot, you may have to use something similar to a wooden spoon handle to manually spin the blade in the disposal. . Steps freeing a seized blade.
Remove the plug from the outlet, cutting off the power to the disposal.
Insert the wrench into the slot at the bottom of the disposal and using it like a crank, work it back and forth in both directions. If your unit doesn't have the slot, try using the handle of a wooden spoon for leverage while trying to turn the blade.
Once the blade is free, push the reset button (if applicable) to restore power to the unit.
Do you have household fixtures controlled by multiple switches, but to avoid confusion you prefer to use just one switch? Maybe you have computers, alarm clocks, timers or other appliances that you want to prevent from being turned off accidentally. If so, here is a simple gadget which makes life a whole lot simpler. It easily attaches to a wall switch using your existing hardware and prevents a switch from being unintentionally turned on or off.
As a home watcher, these make my life easier since I'm not always familiar with which switch controls individual devices or lights. With these in place, I never need to worry about accidentally leaving something on or turning something off.
If interested, you can learn more about this product in the link box below.
These graphs provide a historical perspective on the peak arrival time of storms in Florida and where major storms typically come ashore. As you can see, the Sarasota/Manatee area has geography and history on its side. It is not as easy for a major storm to get into the Gulf and hit us directly. Relatively speaking, counties to the north and south stand a greater chance of experiencing stronger storms. This is one of the reasons some residents have specifically chosen our area to live.
Stay connected to local weather with my Tropical Weather page. Simply click to see the weather forecast, hurricane tracks, wind speeds, beach webcams and more! Stay connected to your home, even if you are separated by thousands of miles.
Here is a view rarely seen by residents, the rooftop of a condo building. This is where the AC condensers for every unit are located and the point of entry for roof leaks. Since these roofs are typically flat, most depend on drainage holes leading to drain spouts to shed rainwater. Sometimes these holes get clogged with leaves and debris resulting in standing water. When this happens, even the smallest holes in the roofing membrane can lead to leaks. That's what happened recently.
While the top floor may have the best view, when the roof leaks the first stop is ....the penthouse.
Just another reason it's important to have someone check your condo regularly.
When homeowners receive notification from the county that their backflow needs testing, they often wonder why it's required at all. Firstly, it is important to understand why backflows are needed. A backflow prevents the safe, public water supply from becoming contaminated from a tainted source. This is accomplished by a one-way valve (backflow) which permits water to flow in only one direction once it enters your system.
Backflow preventers are designed to act as a one-way check valve, preventing the flow of contaminated water from your home back into the public water supply. The compromising of safe water is usually the result of cross-contamination happening when water from another source such as irrigation, well or pond water enters a homeowner's water system via some damage or faulty design. Since water flows in one direction only (into your home) through this preventer, any contaminated water on your property cannot pass back through to the public supply. This ensures that everyone's water is safe and protected.
Backflow tests are reasonably priced and easily arranged. Since they are located outside of your home, no one needs to be present when conducted. Most companies typically charge less than thirty dollars, so if you are paying more there are other options. Once the test is successfully completed, the county is notified by the tester and your backlfow is certified for another year.
Finding small problems before they become much larger is one of the most important roles of a good home watch company. I found this washing machine loaded with wet towels after a homeowner left for the summer. Sometimes it's the little things that can get missed but create a much bigger problem down the line. Can you imagine the mold that may have grown if this washer was left unchecked? I am not sure if you could ever get the smell out.
That's why it is always a good idea to go room by room throughout your home before leaving for an extended period. Create a checklist if that makes the job easier. It will be well worth your time. But rest assured, if something does get missed, I am there to catch it!
With Florida red tide in the news so much over the past year, I collected and shared some answers to common question provided by Mote Marine. Mote Marine Laboratory studies Karenia brevis, the organism that causes red tides in Florida.
What is Florida red tide? A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organism). In marine (saltwater) environments along Florida’s west coast and the elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes red tides is Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as K. brevis. To distinguish K. brevis blooms from red tides caused by other species of algae, researchers in Florida call it “Florida red tide.”
What causes Florida red tide? The Florida red tide alga, Karenia brevis, needs the following components to form a bloom. The first is biology — the organism must be present in the water and it must out-compete other phytoplankton. The second is the correct chemistry — this includes the appropriate temperature, salinity, and nutrients that it needs to grow and multiply. The third component is the right physical conditions to concentrate and transport K. brevis. The fourth component is ecology – the presence or absence of other life forms, such as other marine algae that may encourage or inhibit K. brevis blooms.
Has coastal (nutrient) pollution caused Florida red tide? In contrast to the many red tide species that are fueled by nutrient pollution associated with urban or agricultural runoff, there is no demonstrated direct link between nutrient pollution and Karenia brevis red tide formation or frequency (how often they occur). Florida red tides develop 10-40 miles offshore, away from human-contributed nutrient sources. Red tides occurred in Florida long before human settlement, and severe red tides were observed in the mid-1900s before the state’s coastlines were heavily developed. However, once red tides are transported to shore, they are capable of using human-contributed nutrients for their growth.
Leaving shades slanted, in either the "upward" or "downward" position does make a difference. Over time, ultraviolet rays from the sun can do a great deal of damage to fabrics and carpeting. Learning how to position your blinds will protect your furnishings. The picture below shows the same room with blinds in two different positions. The picture on the left shows them in the "upward" position while the right is in the "downward" position. The difference is dramatic. An interesting observation is that while blinds are "upward", they allow plenty of light in without damaging carpeting or furniture.
One thing to keep in mind for seasonal residents is that during the course of your absence, the sun's position will change so even though you are not receiving any direct sunlight in your home while you are here during the winter, that may be very different during the summer. That's why I always suggest the "upward position".
So you may heard what you think are rats in the attic and now you're wondering if they have taken up residence in the rafters. Here's a simple test I've learned from the extermination experts that can help determine if your suspicions are correct.
Rats typically use attics for shelter and raising young. They spend their other time foraging for food outside of your home and returning for shelter after they are well fed. They are continually moving in and out of homes on a regular basis. So think of it this way, rats use your attic as a hotel while everywhere outside is their restaurant.
I have learned that they are especially fond of mandarins and orange sliced jellied candy. So a simple way to check for rats is to offer them something special in a place very easy to find. Take two to three small pieces of either a mandarin or an orange slice candy and place them in areas of your attic you suspect the rats may be found. Check your bait every day or two and if it disappears, that may indicate you have rats. If you suspect rats, don't panic. They're very common in Florida.
To confirm your findings, call a pest service to come out and give you a free, through inspection.
Whether it is wind or lightening, summer storms can do damage. Having someone check your home is crucial. Anything can happen in a moment's notice.
The bottom two pictures are damage done to an HAVC thermostat following an electrical storm. The power surge followed the electrical line right into the home. Fortunately, this was the only damage done.
Armadillos are nocturnal animals, generally feeding on insects and their larvae. With a diet including earthworms, spiders, scorpions, snails, cockroaches, wasps, beetles and grasshoppers, they can be seen as a form of pest control. Unfortunately, they become a nuisance when leaving multiple holes throughout your yard and plant beds while foraging. I find the even bigger nuisance is when they return to the same location where they repeatedly dig holes that resemble burrows. Upon closer inspection, most holes typically dead end and extend only about a foot in length. Preferred areas for digging seem to be along home foundations, barrier walls and slabs for pool equipment. While most pose no damage to homes or property, they are an unsightly annoyance.
So the most obvious question I receive is, "How do I great rid of them?" Over the years I have read about several methods. My first action is to simply fill the hole with the displaced soil. I find that after several attempts, some armadillos do move on. This may take a half a dozen attempts or so before it is successful.
For the more persistent critters other options may include:
"Live" trapping by a pest removal company. This can prove quite costly.
Sprinkling cayenne pepper in the area because they don't like the smell of spicy herbs.
Burying chicken wire, rocks, broken concrete or paver stone pieces under the soil where they dig to frustrate them. (This one idea that has worked for me.)
It seems that what is successful is typically dependent on the persistence of your particular armadillo. So you may need to try several different methods before achieving success.
I came across this scene while inspecting an outdoor kitchen. It is becoming an all too familiar sight. Sure enough, when I met with the pest service to examine the area they confirmed it to be ... drywood termites.
These termites don't come from underground like the subterranean variety, but fly in to where they set up home. In this case since the cabinets were relatively new, they may have come via the wood used to build the cabinets for an outdoor kitchen. Unfortunately, before the wood is used it is very difficult to tell if it is infested with termites until they eventually bore tiny holes (kick outs) and begin pushing their frass (waste material) out from their chambers. It was explained to me that they expel these pellets through tiny holes they bore (pic below) when they feel they are running out of space in their current chambers. The color of the pellets is determined by the type of the wood they are eating.
If there is a positive side to this species, it is that they eat very slowly and take many years to do significant damage - unlike their subterranean cousins. In a typical case these termites would be in this wood anywhere between 2 - 10 years before damage like this would be noticed. Even in these pictures the damage looks much worse than it is actuality. If you could look inside these panels, you would find that very little of the wood has been eaten.
The most common method to eradicate drywood termites is tenting of the property or injecting the cabinets with a foam pesticide. I have included a link below that shows how the injecting process is done.
If you want to learn more about drywood termites, I've included a link to the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Typically, I've only seen deer in the The Lakewood Ranch Country Club just after sunup or right before sundown. But lately, I have been seeing them at various times throughout the day. The deer in the top picture was spotted about 7 am and the one at the bottom at about two in the afternoon. Both had something in common, they were tempted by the Schefflera plant. The deer below was even caught in the act.
It seems they can't resist the variegated variety and for whatever reason, this year I've seen more Scheffleras eaten than in years past. I'll keep my eyes on the plants and if the damage continues, deer repellent will be applied.
If you are interested in what plants deer favor or dislike, I've shared a list from an article I've linked below.