JAMES and MORRIS CAREYFor AP Weekly Features

Myths, folk tales and fairy tales are amusing when it comes to literature. However, when the subject is home maintenance, myths can be dangerous and costly. Here’s list of home maintenance myths that will make your home safe and help save you money.Testing a smoke alarmMyth: Pushing the “test button” on a smoke detector is all one needs to do to ensure that a smoke detector is operating properly.Truth: The “test button” on a smoke detector will only confirm that the audible alarm is functional; it does nothing to determine whether the detector or smoke sensor is operating properly. In addition to using the test button, a more complete test that will check both the detector and alarm is with smoke.Striking a couple of wooden kitchen matches, blowing them out and then allowing the resulting smoke to waft about the detector is a better test. Another method is to use “synthetic smoke in a can” (available at hardware stores and home centers) that, when sprayed about the detector, will have the same effect as real smoke.All smoke detectors should be tested at least once each month and batteries should be replaced at least twice annually.Furnace filter replacementMyth: A furnace filter only needs to be changed once during the heating season and once during the cooling season.Truth: The frequency that a furnace filter needs to be changed depends on many factors. In general, system operating time, the quality of the filter, and location all determine how often a filter should be changed. Cheap fiberglass mesh filters must be changed more often (typically monthly) compared with the pricier “three month” pleated upgrade.The longer you run your furnace, air conditioner or blower the more frequently filters should be changed. The other filter change frequency factor is how dusty the surroundings are. Filters in homes located in a well-developed area surrounded by lush landscaping usually dont need to be changed as often as home located in a “dust bowl.”InsulationMyth: The more insulation the better.Truth: Sometimes less is more. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, attic insulation is one of the most cost effective energy-saving improvements that can be made to a home. The DOE has established nine geographic insulation zones within the U.S. that include recommended R-values. The higher the R-value, the thicker the material.Installing too much insulation in an attic, wall or floor can be counterproductive. In order for insulation to be most effective, air space should surround the material. Thus, forcing material into a wall cavity will compress the material and diminish its effectiveness. When not properly installed, too much insulation in an attic can block eave or soffit ventilation, which is necessary to preventing condensation, mold and rot and fundamental in allowing insulation to do a good job.Double pane windowsMyth: A double pane window with moisture or condensation between the panes can be repaired.Truth: Double pane or “insulated” windows are created through a complex manufacturing process wherein two completely separate sheets of glass are joined at the perimeter to create an air space between the sheets of glass. The process by which the glass is joined is a “vulcanization” or fusion that employs a combination of adhesive, heat and pressure to create an airtight seal.From time to time the seal will fail and moisture and condensation will appear between the glass. There is no foolproof after-market method to restore the insulating integrity provided by the factory. To solve the problem, the failed window pane must be removed and replaced with a new insulated panel. This does not require the removal of the entire window frame, only the effected pane.Bathroom exhaust fansMyth: An exhaust fan is only needed in a bathroom that doesnt have a window.Truth: The Uniform Building Code does not require an exhaust fan be installed in a bathroom that has a window. Accordingly, as a cost-cutting measure, many production builders will omit a bath fan. The problem is that many people dont open their windows when bathing – especially during winter. Moreover, an open window typically wont adequately remove the buildup of condensation that results from bathing.If you have a bathroom with window or not it should contain an exhaust fan that will vent to the exterior, not the attic. The fan should operate for 15 to 30 minutes after bathing to completely remove excess humidity, which can lead to mold, mildew and rot. If your bathroom doesnt have an exhaust fan, install one. If it does, use it and keep it clean and in good working order.AsbestosMyth: If your home contains asbestos it must be removed.Truth: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in many building materials until its use was outlawed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1978. Asbestos was used primarily in the manufacture of certain building materials such as siding, roofing, wall and ceiling insulation, sheet vinyl (including the backing or underlayment), vinyl tile, pipe furnace and boiler insulation and tape, and acoustic, “cottage cheese” style ceiling treatment.According to the EPA, asbestos poses a health risk when the material is friable and fibers can be released – in other words, when the material can be crushed by hand pressure or the surface is not sealed to prevent small pieces from escaping. However, as long as the surface is stable, well-sealed against the release of its fibers, and not damaged, the material is considered safe.Treat material that could contain asbestos as if it does until reliable analysis proves otherwise.

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