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When Lightning Strikes

3/7/2018 (Permalink)

Each year thousands of home and other properties are destroyed or damaged by lightning strikes.

The first step to protecting your home is contacting a professional who is qualified to design and install a certified lightning protection system. It will be designed to control or force the discharge onto a specified path, thereby eliminating the chance of fire or explosion within non-conductive parts of the house such as those made of wood, brick, tile, etc. A lightning protection system is not intended to prevent a strike. Its purpose is to provide a safe path on which the current can be safely directed to the ground.

A typical lightning protection system

A complete system is made up of the following components:

  • Air terminals:Also referred to as lightning rods, these inconspicuous copper or aluminum rods are vertically mounted on the roof at regular intervals. The air terminals serve as strike receptors, designed to intercept the lightning strike.
  • Main conductors:Constructed of aluminum or copper, these braided cables connect the air terminals to the other system components and the grounds.
  • Grounds:A minimum of two ground rods, driven at least 10 feet deep in the earth are required for all structures. The ground terminations direct the dangerous current into the ground, to eliminate the chance of injury or damage to the structure.
  • Bonds:Bonding joins metallic bodies (roof components) and grounded building systems to the main conductor to ensure conductivity and prevent side flashing (lightning jumping between two objects).
  • Surge arresters and suppressors:A surge is an increase in electrical current due to a lightning strike on or near a power line or utility service. Surge suppression is installed at the electrical panel(s) to prevent the entrance of over-voltages which can cause a fire. Arresters installed at electrical panels help protect heavy appliances and prevent fires at service panel entrances. Additional devices may be needed to protect other in-house electronics. Surge protection devices are typically installed in conjunction with a lightning protection system.
  • Tree protection:The Lightning Protection Institute recommends that any tree taller than a home or within 10 feet of the structure be equipped with a lightning protection system. Trees do not offer protection and many homeowners choose to have trees protected for their own value. An unprotected tree in close proximity to a structure can also create a side-flash hazard to the nearby home.

Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to inspect any damage caused during the winter.

10 Commercial Building Water Conservation Tips

3/7/2018 (Permalink)

As conditions warm – thawing the ground and warming the air – here’s a list of conservation tips from water conservation firm Water Signal to help those who own and manage multifamily structures identify leaks and conserve water by staying proactive throughout the spring and summer.

1.) Inspect the building weekly (restrooms, kitchens, water lines, hose bibs, etc.) and make any necessary repairs.

2.) Tour the entire property monthly; thoroughly inspecting water lines and meter vaults for leaks. Also be on the lookout for wet spots and/ or cracking pavement, as these are common signs of an underground leak.

3.) Inspect cooling towers for valve malfunctions and leaks.

4.) Install meters on the make-up and bleed-off lines to aid closer monitoring, in turn, confirming that the system is operating at optimum parameters.

5.) Inspect your irrigation system for leaks and improperly set timers, as well as broken or misdirected sprinkler heads.

6.) Install rain/freeze sensors on your irrigation system and inspect weekly.

7.) Test the building’s water pressure. Excessive pressure increases the chance of leaking and may cause damage to fixtures.

8.) Replace high-flow fixtures with low-flow. Consider metered valve, self-closing, infrared and ultrasonic sensor fixtures.

9.) Look for products bearing the EPA’s Water Sense label for conservation and performance.

10.) Educate tenants, employees and visitors to conserve water and report leaks.

Spring Maintenance Tips for Commercial Properties

3/7/2018 (Permalink)

The official start of spring is coming soon and winter conditions may have caused stress to commercial structures. Spring is important time to make sure certain tasks are completed to prepare for summer and repair any damage caused by extreme cold and wet weather. Proactive maintenance can help prevent damage to a property, saving time and money throughout the year and can also help with insurance claims.  Below are a few items to be examined and cleaned.

Roof and Exterior

Wind, snow and rain can impact a building’s roof and exterior. Walking the property and being on the lookout for standing water or leaks from roofs and gutters is important. Chipped paint, siding dents and damage, cracked or leaking windows, foundation cracks, roof leaks, and clogged gutters should all be photographed, reported and repaired. If left unresolved, long-term issues can lead to more serious issues including foundation erosion and more.

Landscaping and Irrigation

Harsh winds, rain and snow can damage plants and limbs, especially on boxwoods, small shrubs and ornamental trees. Mulching, trimming broken limbs, pruning back plants, and cleaning debris needs to be done to prepare for spring growth.  Irrigation systems need to be checked for damage and proper drainage to be ready for the dry summer season.

Mechanical

Warmer temperatures arriving means the facility mechanical systems should be inspected and maintained. Replacement of air filters, flushing of water heaters, and checking carbon monoxide detectors and sprinkler and fire suppression systems should be done before summer arrives.

Get Your House Ready for Spring

2/14/2018 (Permalink)

Spring is almost here, hopefully! Here are some home maintenance tips to help welcome the new season.

Weather Stripping

The Department of Energy (DOE) says weather stripping the windows on your home is an easy and effective way to help save money on your energy bill. In the spring and summer, weather stripping works by keeping the cool air inside and the warm air out. In the summer, if the cool air is contained inside, then the AC will not have to work as hard, and that may help you save money on your energy bill.

Indoor Maintenance

Test and clean ceiling fans. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an efficient ceiling fan in each room can help allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort level. Ceiling fans can be a good way to air out the house and generate a cross-breeze.

Replace your AC filter. The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends that you replace the filters in the air conditioner in the spring. A new filter will likely optimize the efficiency of the unit.

Replace torn or damage window screens. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if you simply like to keep the windows open in the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens are in good shape — you don’t want to let flies in with all that fresh air!

Exterior Upkeep

The National Center for Healthy Housing suggests that in the springtime, you may want to consider these outdoor maintenance projects:

Check your roof shingles. This should be done by a professional, as working on the roof can be dangerous without the proper training. You should ask the professional to make sure the shingles are not curling or clawing.

Replace rotten siding or trim. Make sure your home’s siding and trim aren’t damaged from windy, icy conditions. 

Clean gutters and downspouts. Get rid of any leaves or other debris that accumulated during the winter to make sure your gutters and downspouts are ready to take on those April showers.

What to Do After a Flooding

2/14/2018 (Permalink)

After any water damage situation, your primary focus should be safety:

  • Is it safe to stay in the house?
  • Electrical and "slip and fall" hazards are some of the most prevalent concerns.
  • Only do activities that are safe for you to perform.
  • Wet materials can be VERY heavy. Be careful!

What to Do After Flooding

  • Remove excess water by mopping and blotting.
  • Wipe excess water from wood furniture after removal of lamps and tabletop items.
  • Remove and prop wet upholstery and cushions.
  • Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.
  • Turn air conditioning on for maximum drying in summer.
  • Remove colored rugs from wet carpeting.
  • Remove art objects to a safe, dry place.
  • Gather loose items from floors.

What NOT To Do After Flooding

  • Don't leave wet fabrics in place. Hang furs and leather goods.
  • Don't leave books, magazines or other colored items on wet carpet or floors.
  • Don't use your household vacuum to remove water.
  • Don't use television or other household appliances.
  • Don't turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet, and keep out of rooms where ceilings are sagging.

Be Prepared for Storm Damage

2/14/2018 (Permalink)

Spring is the time of year when many things change—including the weather. Temperatures can swing back and forth between balmy and frigid. Sunny days may be followed by a week of stormy weather. Sometimes extreme weather changes can occur even within the same day.

Thunderstorms cause most of the severe spring weather. They can bring lightning, tornadoes, and flooding. Whenever warm, moist air collides with cool, dry air, thunderstorms can occur. For much of the world, this happens in spring and summer.

Because spring weather is so unpredictable, you may be unprepared when severe weather hits—particularly if you live in a region that does not often experience thunderstorms, tornadoes, or flooding. And when severe weather hits unexpectedly, the risk of injury and death increases. So planning ahead makes sense; prepare for storms, floods, and tornadoes as if you know in advance they are coming, because in the spring, they very likely will.

Advance planning for thunderstorms, lightning, tornadoes, and floods requires specific safety precautions.

Keep an emergency kit on hand. Some items to include are:

    • A battery-operated flashlight, a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio, and extra batteries for both
    • An emergency evacuation or shelter plan, including a map of your home and, for every type of severe weather emergency, routes to safety from each room
    • A list of important personal information, including:
      • telephone numbers of neighbors, family, and friends
      • insurance and property information
      • telephone numbers of utility companies
      • medical information
    • According to the American Red Cross a first aid kit may include:
      • non-latex gloves
      • assortment of adhesive bandages
      • antibiotic ointment
      • sterile gauze pads in assorted sizes
      • absorbent compress dressings
      • tweezers
      • scissors
      • adhesive cloth tape
      • aspirin packets (81 mg each)
      • First aid instruction booklet
        (NOTE: Customize your first aid kit to meet your individual and family needs.)
      • A 3–5 day supply of bottled water and nonperishable food
      • Personal hygiene items
      • Blankets or sleeping bags
      • An emergency kit in your car

Plumbing Tips for Commercial Property

1/29/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial Plumbing Tips for Commercial Property Plumbing tips for commercial property owners.

Simple Maintenance Should be the Responsibility of Tenants

Commercial property owners who rent space to tenants should be aware that in some cases, the tenant is responsible for well-functioning plumbing. What should tenants do?

  • Drip faucets when temperatures dip down to freezing levels to prevent frozen pipes
  • Avoid putting harsh chemicals or solids down drains
  • Immediately report a toilet that won’t flush, or make a repair
  • Immediately alert property manager regarding substantial drops in water pressure or leaks

It is important to check the pressure gauge once the boiler is operating to ensure it is functioning per the pressure levels recommended by the manufacturer.  When the pressure is lower than recommended, you can top it up – but do so with caution, as the pressure release valve can easily sustain damage.  When this happens, you will need to call a professional for repair.

Sufficient space around your boilers is essential as well, so make certain that the area where the boiler is housed is clutter-free.  Your boiler needs to breathe, so remove coats, shoes, bags, and other items.  If housed in a box, be sure ventilation requirements are met according to manufacturer instructions and that there is an access panel to make your boiler easily accessible for maintenance.

Never Put Up with Leaking Faucets or Pipes

Not only do leaking faucets or pipes waste water (in fact, approximately 900 million gallons in the U.S. each year), leaks also contribute to the growth of mold, wood rot, and other structural issues.

While not all leaks are noticeable, if the water pressure drops you should have a plumbing contractor investigate the situation at once, as it could indicate a leak in the plumbing network. It is not always possible to prevent a leak, however investing in a thorough plumbing inspection once or twice each year is the best way to manage your system and avoid leaks.

HVAC Systems in Commercial Properties

1/29/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial HVAC Systems in Commercial Properties Commercial property and HVAC systems.

If you run a commercial property, you probably have HVAC units to maintain. You care about keeping your tenants comfortable and it wouldn’t hurt to cut down on energy costs. Well working HVAC systems not only keep people comfortable but also foster a lower upkeep. With that in mind, here are 3 tips for commercial property owners to make their HVAC systems work for them.

1. Develop a System

You should always make sure to schedule regular HVAC maintenance for your residents. That means, at the bare minimum, you should clean air ducts on a regular basis for all of your tenants. In addition, make sure you are consistently getting rid of standing water. Water collecting in drain pans, humidity managing equipment, and cooling towers can harbor harmful bacteria and other microbial horrors if left unattended to.

2. Constantly Clean and Disinfect

Especially for managing large amounts of HVAC systems, whether for business property or living spaces, you need to make sure everything’s perfectly clean. Otherwise you’re putting your tenants in danger. Use brushes and other equipment to loosen debris from all components, and extract contaminants with a vacuum or a power washer. This is a great time to inspect any worn or damaged equipment and you can replace as necessary.

3. Dispose of Contaminants Safely

If not only for the environment, you should dispose of all contaminants in a safe green way for the heath of all your employees and tenants. After you clean everything thoroughly, make sure to follow the EPA guidelines for disposing of any excess.

Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Building Services Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter Energy saving tips.

The strategies below will help you save energy, save money, and stay comfortable during the cool fall and cold winter months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

Take Advantage of Heat from the Sun

  • Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Cover Drafty Windows

  • Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

Adjust the Temperature

  • When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.
  • If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

Find and Seal Leaks

  • Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
  • Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

Maintain Your Heating Systems

  • Furnaces and heat pumps: Replace your filter once a month or as needed.
  • Wood- and Pellet-Burning Heaters: Clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.

Reduce Heat Loss from the Fireplace

  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
  • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly--approximately 1 inch--and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F.
  • If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
  • If you do use the fireplace, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
  • Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
  • Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.
  • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.

Lower Your Water Heating Costs

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands.

Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Water Damage Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter Save money on your water bill.

What is wastewater averaging?

Wastewater averaging is the practice of estimating the amount of wastewater discharged from your home into the city’s sanitary sewer system. It is essentially a cap on the volume of wastewater you will be billed for each month for the next year. This practice goes by a variety of names including average winter consumption, wastewater winter averaging, winter averaging, winter quarterly average, or winter period average.

Check with your local utility company to see how they handle your wastewater charges. Some utilities don’t want to mess with all these calculations, so they charge a flat, monthly wastewater fee.

Your water utility uses a wastewater average because they can’t measure the actual amount of wastewater discharged from your home. The best way to measure the wastewater discharge is to use your water meter to measure your monthly water use and then estimate the amount of wastewater that could be returning to the city sewers.

Shouldn’t water flow IN be equal to water flow OUT?

Well, in the winter time, it generally does, but during the rest of the year, it doesn’t since you could be using water outdoors. The water you sprinkle on your lawn doesn’t go to the city sewers. Therefore, the wastewater averaging period typically happens during the winter months when there should be little to no outdoor water use.

Typically, a multiple month average during the late fall and winter months is used rather than picking one month during the year. This averaging is more fair just in case you have a higher water use during a single month. If you use more water than your wastewater average, then it is assumed that this additional water has been used outdoors and will not be returned back to the city’s sewers for processing and treatment. Therefore, you are not charged for this water usage on your wastewater bill. Conversely, if you use less water during a month than your wastewater average, then your wastewater charge should equal only the actual amount of water used that month.

Why is this so important?

Generally, the cost of wastewater is higher than the cost of potable water. Due to the nature of wastewater, you can imagine it would be more expensive to treat before being released back into environment. In order to achieve these savings throughout the year though, you have to reduce your water use during your wastewater averaging period.

Conserving water in the winter = Saving money all year long

Using less water during the wastewater averaging period will result in a corresponding lower wastewater bill throughout the entire year.  Here are ways to reduce your winter time water use and consequently your monthly wastewater bill:

  • Fix all leaky fixtures – This one is a mundane tip but leaks are a major culprit of unintentional water use in our homes.
  • Shower at your gym – Not only will this conserve water at your home but it could also get your New Year’s resolution to lose weight started early.
  • Don’t wash your car at home – This one is easy.
  • Turn off your irrigation system – Your landscaping probably won’t need water during the winter months since the plants will be dormant.
  • Insulate hot water pipes – Since the cold weather is coming, this is a perfect time to insulate any exposed hot water pipes for more immediate hot water at the faucet. You’ll save some energy as well.