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Dr. Roof

Keep the top of your house in top condition. Dr. Roof’s advice can keep you from needing costly housecalls.

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Serious Materials

Seizing the Energy-Saving Opportunity in your Built Environment!

As a candidate during the presidential campaign, President Obama promised that the U.S. would lead the world in energy efficiency and in addressing global warming. President Obama took the first step on delivering on those promises with the decision to provide over $80 billion in new funding for clean energy and energy efficiency through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Congress is currently debating ways to mitigate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, the ARRA provides a host of immediate opportunities to reduce America’s contribution to global warming, increase energy independence and create jobs.

Building operations represent 39% of primary energy in the U.S. and 72% of total electricity used. A green building is one that is built with environmentally-friendly materials, as well as one which conserves energy. Such buildings can and must be the foundation of our country’s energy strategy. In fact, if building energy performance improved by 30% starting in 2010 and reached 50% by 2020- the impact would be profound. By 2030, our nation could save 5% of its total energy use in buildings alone (3 quadrillion Btus) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – equal to taking 28 million cars off the road (150 million tons of carbon dioxide). By 2050, savings would reach more than 100 quads of energy and 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Energy efficient buildings and building materials can and should play a key role in our national energy policy. The use of today’s advanced energy efficient building materials could have the quickest and most significant impact on climate change of any technology in any sector, while creating significant economic growth opportunities. Energy efficient windows alone can reduce heating and cooling costs up to 50 percent, resulting in a 5 percent savings in national energy use. This is equivalent to 100 million people driving a gas-electric hybrid instead of their older more polluting car.

ARRA provides substantial funding opportunities such as Energy Efficiency Block Grants and Tax Deductions for Commercial Buildings. Through the ARRA, $3.2 billion has been allocated for Energy Efficiency Block Grants; $5.5 billion is available to transform federal buildings into high-performance, green buildings; and $3.1 billion exists for state energy efficiency programs.  Another $5 billion is available for weatherization of low income housing and the Department of Energy estimates there are more than 15 million low-income households which require weatherization.

For homeowners, businesses and the government, the time to embrace energy efficiency is now. Tax credits of up to $1500 are available to Pennsylvania homeowners who install energy efficient windows. Serious Materials’ complete line of windows applies for this energy tax credit. SeriousWindows™ are super-insulating, full-frame R-value (the higher the R-value, the higher the insulation performance of a building)  windows of R-5 to R-11 windows that exceed today’s Energy Star® requirements by up to four times and can reduce heating and cooling energy costs by up to 50%. Tax credits of up to $1.80 per square foot are also available for new and existing commercial buildings that save at least 50 percent on heating and cooling.

Today, America is experiencing the timely alignment of government policy with emerging new building standards and the consumer awareness that may finally make green and energy-saving products the norm - rather than the alternative. The U.S. has led the world in technology and science innovation for generations. Our administration is making sure that it will do the same  in energy efficiency. Today, we have the energy choices and technologies that will reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels and their volatile prices. Today, we can address economic woes by creating green jobs in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors that will reduce global warming pollution and revive the manufacturing sector.

Staining Your Deck

A handsome cedar fence, an expansive redwood deck and a stately cedar gazebo all are constructed of wood. Thus, their appearance and lasting quality depends upon how well they are cared for.

As a horizontal plane, a wood deck is vulnerable to damage from exposure to ultra violet rays of the sun and rot due to prolonged contact with water from rain, snow or irrigation. This despite the fact that redwood and cedar have natural properties that make them more resistant to rot and damage from pests.

A little time, energy and a top-quality wood finish can keep your deck looking good. What's more, you won't be faced with major repair bills or, worse, the need to replace it.

One of the most important measures in keeping a deck healthy is cleaning it. Leaves, needles and other debris that collect on a deck should be removed, especially during the cooler months when they can trap moisture that fosters rot. Regular sweeping with a sturdy broom and an occasional rinsing with fresh water is sufficient for most decks.

Sweeping and rinsing might not be enough to get a really dirty deck clean. If this is the case, a solution consisting of detergent and water should be used in conjunction with a stiff bristle broom. If, however, the soap and water cleaning doesn't do the trick and stains remain, try using synthetic trisodium phosphate (TSP). Use the TSP in strict accordance with the directions and rinse the deck thoroughly when done.

If the TSP cleaning doesn't produce the desired result, use a commercial deck cleaner and/or brightener that contains either phosphoric or oxalic acid as the active ingredient. These are, in effect, wood bleaches that will remove the existing finish as well as any stubborn stains. Thus, be prepared to apply new finish to the deck. A pressure washer can be most helpful in removing oxidized wood fibers. Just be careful when using it since you can damage the wood fibers by holding the nozzle too close.

Whether using soap and water, TSP or wood bleach, you should take precautions for your safety and the health of your garden. Wear safety goggles, rubber gloves and have plenty of ventilation. Before using deck cleaners, water down surrounding plants to saturate their root systems. Also, cover plants to avoid overspray onto leaves.

Once the deck has had the opportunity to air dry overnight, you will be able to evaluate its condition to determine whether a new coat of finish is needed. If you had to use TSP or wood bleach in the cleaning process or it has been a couple of years since your deck was last finished, a new coat of finish is probably in order.

A trip to the stain section of your neighborhood paint store, home center or hardware store can leave you more confused about stains and wood finishes than before you began your search.

When it comes to finishing wood, there are two basic types of finish - oil base and water base. We suggest that you opt for an oil-base product.

Beware! Not all oils are the same. Some are thicker than others. The more penetrating the oil, the better the protection, the longer the finish will last. An easy means of testing penetration of a product is the "blotter test." Using about six sheets of white bond paper, apply a small sample of finish. Be sure to use the same amount for each sample. The one that penetrates the greatest number of sheets will offer your deck the best protection.

Ultraviolet protection is another important factor in the selection of a deck finish. Look for a product that contains transoxide pigments that will offer at least 90 percent protection from UV rays. While pigment has a great deal to do with UV protection, better finishes also contain microscopic metal particles that offer superior protection without leaving you with a heavy-bodied finish that hides the natural beauty of the wood. Keep in mind that heavy-bodied stains should not be used on horizontal surfaces since they scuff easily and show wear and tear more readily.

Mildew can be a problem with some decks, therefore it's important to use a finish that contains a mildewcide. Although a mildewcide can be added after the fact, a factory-applied one will provide a safe and properly balanced formula.

Although preparation is the better part of any painting or staining project, high-quality material and superior application techniques account for the balance of a topnotch job. It also helps to follow directions on the can of wood finish. Some common cautions found on instruction labels are to delay applying the finish when there is a threat of rain within 48 hours or when it is too hot or cold.

Most stains and wood finishes can be applied with a brush, roller or sprayer or a combination thereof. Whichever method you choose, don't over-apply the product. It is better to use two thin coats rather than one thick one. Allow the first to dry for at least three hours before applying a second. And don't forget to saturate the cut ends of the boards since they are most susceptible to rot.

The new finish should be allowed to dry for a day or two - depending on the temperature - before replacing furniture or exposing it to traffic.

Keeping Cool

. If you want to be cool this summer season, be sure to perform a preseason air conditioning checkup before the weather becomes blazing hot.

Regularly maintaining an air conditioner is rather easy and takes only a few minutes. A little cleaning, a filter, some oil and an adjustment or two and you can easily prevent what might be a big surprise on the first blistering day of summer. And, your comfort is only one issue. Repairing an air conditioner (or any appliance for that matter) in its "off-season" can mean avoiding a repair bill. Also, a properly maintained air conditioner will operate more economically. So, a preseason checkup can eliminate the frustration of having hot air blown in your face and off-season repairs. And, a properly tuned unit costs less to operate. If you don't have a service manual, contact the manufacturer and ask for a copy. Another "first-time-around" alternative is to hire an experienced contractor to walk you through the process. Tag items with numbers and list what to do by the number in a log or a journal.

Clean and lubricate the blower/motor assembly as necessary: It isn't unusual to open the furnace cover and discover that the blower assembly is filled with spider webs, dust and leaves. Dust is not a good thing for moving parts. A dirty, poorly lubricated bearing quickly can wear to nothing. A vacuum cleaner works well here. Follow the instructions on the motor or in the user's manual to determine which type of oil to use on the motor and blower pulleys. Just lift the fill cap and squirt in a few drops.

Service or replace the belt (this applies to belt models only): Regular belt maintenance can extend the belt's life considerably. After cleaning the belt, make sure that it is properly adjusted and free of cracks and splits. We oppose the use of a belt dressing to stop a belt squeak. Belt dressing might stop the squeak, but often will soften the belt and cause it to wear out more quickly. And it might not stop the belt from continuing to slip - a bad thing. Don't try to get extra mileage from a cracked or split belt. Replace it.

Clean or replace all Filters: Filter cleaning and replacement is important. As a filter begins to clog, air movement is reduced and back pressure is exerted on the blower system. This can cause the belt, pulleys and motor to expire. Also, it costs more to operate a clogged system. And no one who wants to breathe dirty air.

Check for proper air flow: If the air coming from a supply register is not flowing as freely as it is at other registers, or if the air doesn't seem to be as cold, there might be a break somewhere in the ducting. Air-conditioning contractors have a device they place over a register to measure air pressure (flow) and temperature. They can tell if a line has a possible break. If you aren't sure about flow, contact an industry professional. You might unwittingly be cooling your attic, basement or crawl space.

Check the condensate line: The condensate line in an air conditioner is used to transport water that condenses inside the unit out to the garden. Occasionally small animals will nest or die in the line causing a clog. Although this possibility is remote, it doesn't hurt to check. One thing you don't want is a flood in the furnace room.

Clean and repair the compressor coil fins: The compressor coil (located outside the house) acts like a car's cooling system. An electric fan moves air across the coils to cool them down. If the fins that surround the coils get bent or clogged, the refrigerant will not be effectively cooled and the unit will not operate to maximum efficiency. Use an old kitchen knife to straighten bent fins and use a garden hose to remove clogs.

Lubricate the fan motor: Once the fins are clean and straight, give the motor a wipe down and, if it looks a little hungry, feed it a drop or two of oil. Again, you will want to refer to the owner's manual for the proper type of oil to use.

Check the thermostat: Our maintenance list is in the order that it we think the work should be performed. You will want to wait to check the thermostat after you are sure that the rest of the unit is operating properly. All you need to do here is to ensure that the proper operation occurs when the various settings are switched from one point to another. Check system operation: Does it work or not. At this point if it doesn't, it might be the time to call in a specialist.

Inspect for unusual vibration or noise: If you decide to hire a contractor to service your unit, be sure to let the technician know whether your system is unusually noisy. As an occupant of the home you will be ultra-sensitive to changes in noise levels, whereas a technician might not recognize the problem right away. Increased noise level means something is coming loose or is wearing unevenly. In either case, quick action should be taken to prevent major damage.

Put some Step in your Spring!

You can break that down even further into two twenty-minute segments per day. If you’re looking for a place to sneak in that extra exercise, try taking a walk during your lunch break, or going for a jog instead of sitting down in front of the television.

The average American watches 20+ hours of TV a week. If you replaced just three or four of those hours with physical activity, you’d be in much better shape!

Losing weight is about so much more than just looking better. One study has shown that men with waistlines larger than 38 inches are twice as likely to develop health problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Don’t rely on fad diets, or miracle pills that sound too good to be true. Discuss your exercise and diet plans with a qualified health professional. It’s never too late to improve your quality of life, or even to increase your life expectancy. So make the life choice and get moving!

Stay young at heart, Karel.

For more info on food choices and exercise tips log on to www.overthehillfitness.com

The Easy Way to Control Insects

The Easy Way to Control Insects

The new W•H•Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets from RESCUE!® catches seven species of paper wasps, two types of hornets, and 12 species of yellowjackets – 21 species in all. And the beauty of the trap is that you don’t need to guess which of these species you have.

No matter where you live, or what biting, stinging, nest-building insects you have in your backyard, the W•H•Y Trap will catch what’s bugging you. W•H•Y works on species found across the U.S. – whether it’s red wasps in Texas, German yellowjackets in Wisconsin, bald-faced hornets in Oregon, Southern yellowjackets in Georgia or European hornets in Virginia.

The W•H•Y Trap can be used three seasons long. It will catch the queens of each wasp, hornet and yellowjacket species in the spring before they build nests, and will also capture the foraging workers throughout summer and fall when they’re most likely to sting.

As with other products from RESCUE!®, the W•H•Y Trap is environmentally responsible, using naturally-occurring ingredients rather than poisonous killing agents. A combination of three scientifically-developed attractants lures insects to the trap, where they enter through one of two openings. Once inside, the insects either drown in the top chamber, or dehydrate in the bottom chamber. The attractant kit with the trap lasts two weeks, refills are sold separately, and no extra food bait is required.

The W•H•Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets was created by Sterling International, Inc., manufacturers of the RESCUE!® brand of Fly, Yellowjacket and Japanese Beetle Traps.

Sterling International is a pioneer of “green” pest control methods. When the company’s founder, Rod Schneidmiller, created his  first insect trap over 27 years ago, sprays were the standard for controlling pests. His concept was so revolutionary that he was laughed out of several meetings with retailers when he tried to introduce the product.

Today, consumers are more aware of the hazards associated with harsh chemicals and pesticides. Insect traps have gained acceptance because of their more favorable impact on human health, plant life, and the beneficial insect population. 

Even Sterling International’s brand, RESCUE!®, and the bright colors of their products were selected to be a positive alternative to the deadly names and dark pest control labels found on store shelves back in the 1980s. Sterling is safely rescuing people from pests.

Then and now, Sterling International’s mission is to build and sell highly effective pest control solutions which are safe for the consumer, easy to use, and reasonably priced. Sterling offers innovative products which entail luring and trapping the target insect. All of their RESCUE!® traps use scientifically-developed attractants designed to replicate what is already found in the natural world – either from the target insect’s body, its food source, or its nest or colony.

Years of field testing and enhancement by Sterling’s team of scientists go into every product to ensure that it consistently lures the target insect in different geographic locations and varied weather conditions.

The first RESCUE!® product Sterling ever created was a Reusable Fly Trap, which they still offer. In addition, they make a popular Disposable Fly Trap and a “Big Bag” Fly Trap with a larger capacity for agricultural areas. Several years ago, they introduced yet another Fly Trap made from used two-liter soft drink bottles and post-consumer recycled plastic, called the POP! Fly Trap. All of these RESCUE!® fly products catch the most prevalent nuisance and filth fly species, and activate easily with the addition of water.

RESCUE!® has been the market leader with its yellowjacket traps since the late 1980s. Their Reusable  Yellowjacket Trap  catches all major North American species and is a familiar sight in yards throughout the Western United States. Replacement attractant for this trap lasts as long as 10 weeks. There’s also a Disposable RESCUE!® Yellowjacket Trap available. Activated with water, it’s perfect for taking on the go for picnics or camping trips.

Both Japanese Beetles and Oriental Beetles are significant pests of ornamental plants and turfgrasses. For those homeowners who do battle with these beetles, RESCUE!® also makes a trap for them. The RESCUE!® Japanese & Oriental Beetle Trap lasts the entire 6-8 week beetle season, with a slide-lock bottom that allows the trap to be emptied and reused.

RESCUE!® products are good for the environment, but they’re also good for consumers who care about using the most effective method of pest control. The RESCUE!® Traps and Attractants are widely available at home improvement centers, hardware stores and lawn & garden retailers throughout the United States.

Speaking of which, that’s where the RESCUE!® products are made: Right here in the U.S.A. – Spokane,  Washington to be exact.

 For information about the W•H•Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets, visit www.whyistheanswer.com. To learn more about the other products in the RESCUE!® line, visit their main corporate site at www.rescue.com. You can also reach them by phone at 1-800-666-6766, and follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/rescue.