Healthier Living | Child Safety | Eco Friendly Tips

Safety Alarms Needed to Protect Home Recently Converted to Natural Gas Heat and Water Heater

by Barbara 31. December 2010 02:34

Question: "We recently converted to natural gas heat and gas hot water boiler. We have two floors above this basement installation. What safety alarm units are required for protection? Nate.

Answer: Thanks for your question for the Ask Barbara Contest, Nate. I am going to answer with the assumption that your home was all electric prior to this conversion. If you heated with propane or oil, some of these recommendations may not apply.

Natural gas homes or businesses need two different types of safety alarms.

Combustible Gas Alarms.

Why do I need a combustible gas detector/gas alarm?

The purpose of a combustible gas alarm is to alert you when you have a raw gas leak. Yes, mercaptan is added to natural gas to make it smell like rotten eggs. But if you are not in the area of the gas appliances and/or you do not have an ability to smell, the odor does you no good. This units must be installed near the gas using appliances. So if your gas furnace and gas water heater are side by side, one natural gas alarm is all you need.

  • No matter how good your nose is, you may not be in the right place at the right time to notice a natural gas or propane leak.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms give NO protection against combustible gas leaks. carbon monoxide sensors detect only carbon monoxide, not raw fuel.
  • Turning off a light, setting a security alarm or closing a door spark a gas explosion or fire. Natural gas leaking from a basement furnace can leak upstairs through hollow walls.
  • Gas can leak into homes via sump pits, inbound water lines or a natural gas well under your home.
  • Each gas appliance is a potential source of a gas leak. Each gas appliance needs its own gas detector
  • We sell two different models with gas specific sensors. These are the Safe-T-Alert Model 40-411-120 and the Safety Siren Pro Gas Alarm; The main differences between the units are how they are installed.

    To properly install the Safe-T-Alert you need an electrical outlet near to the gas appliances. Because this unit has a line cord that is approximately 65 long, mounting ths unit properly is usually less a problem that the direct plug-in Safety Siren. Raw gas detection units must be mounted within 6 inches of the ceiling or on the ceiling at least 12 inches from a wall for natural gas leak protection. Natural gas pools above the appliance: think of an upside down pothole filling with water and you get the picture.

    The Safety Siren requires an electrical outlet near the appliance. Many people choose this option because the Safety Alert unit has a safety tab through which an outlet screw goes. This means the unit cannot be removed from a standard, single screw, double outlet without removing the screw.  These units meet the UL1484 standards for combustible gas alarms.

    Note: UL 1484 listed combustible gas detectors are not detectors for minute gas leaks. Sensors and detectors are tested in a combustible gas environment and meet the UL 1484 standards for alerts of dangerous gas levels. Deliberate exposure to natural gas, butane, propane, etc. can destroy the sensor in this unit. Use the test button to test this unit, not exposure to raw gas.

    Carbon Monoxide Alarms:

    One product of natural gas and all fossil fuels like coal, wood, peat, etc. is carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas. If your furnace and water heater are working properly, carbon monoxide is vented outside. If the vents are not working properly due to obstructions or the furnace heat exchanger cracks, then carbon monoxide is discharged into the air. Unlike combustible gasses, carbon monoxide does not pool but is distributed throughout your air. Carbon monoxide exposure symptoms range from flu-like symptoms to brain damage to death from asphyxiation.

    Recommended at a minimum are carbon monoxide alarms in or outside every bedroom, near the gas appliances and at the top of stairways. The easiest to install are the 9 volt battery units. Believe the alarm even if it sounds intermittently. About 5 years ago, I went to visit my parents in Pennsylvania. They have a washer and gas dryer in their kitchen (since 1952). I noticed that the Costar 9 volt CO alarms were all off their mounts (there were three units total). I was told they were "defective" as they were going off intermittently. I took them home with me and sent them to Quantum Group to be tested. Dave from Quantum phoned and said nothing was wrong with them! Meanwhile, my elderly father did NOT install the plug in Safe-T-Alert unit I had sent them because "I didn't know where to put it." The problem was the vent for the gas dryer was partially clogged with lint!  Since then, local code has changed: their 4 inch diameter gas dryer vent had to be replaced with a 5 inch for the newest dryer to be installed this past year.

    Types of Carbon Monoxide Alarms:

    If you are really concerned about a gas leak, we recommend the Scentry III gas valve shut off systems. Choose from a Scentry III GFRAB LP/Natural Gas Detector Valve Controller with remote sensor capability and a battery back-up option feature or a Scentry III SFGVC Automatic Gas Valve Controller, No Gas Valveunit with a single sensor at the gas valve itself. Scentry units are made in the USA. They do require a special diaphragm type gas valve in 1/2, 3/4 or 1 inch size, a 24 volt power supply and 120VAC or 240VAC power.

    Also install and maintain your smoke alarms which I am sure you already have.

    Thank you for your question and your entry in the Ask Barbara Contest.

    Sincerely, Barbara

    Fi-Shock Pet Deterrent Electric Fence Deters Stray Dogs, Not Stray Cats

    by Barbara 30. December 2010 07:51

    Question about the Fi-Shock Economy Pet Deterrent Electric Fence Kit

    Question: "I am calling because I have a problem with the neighborhood cats. As many as 5 or 6 at a time come into my yard, dig up the flower beds and use the yard as their litter box. These are not feral cats but ones that the owners let run loose. Public services were cut back here due to the economy. Animal control tells me it is my problem. Please tell me how this works. I have tried the organic repellents you spread on the ground but these have to be re-applied regularly due to the rain." Thanks, Debbie

    Answer:  In Coralville, IA, the laws are that cats are not allowed to run loose. (One of our cats was actually from a litter born under our house in April 2010. We didn't know they were there until a neighbor told us. Animal control got the Mom and my Jack socialized the kittens and found them homes.) In our city, animal control comes and sets traps.

    This electric fence is a deterrent for dogs, raccoons, possums and other animals that are not jumpers. As we talked, I learned that you have never owned a cat. This low voltage fence plugs into a standard outlet, works continuously, and can protect up to about 100 linear feet of area. The problem is that cats can easily jump over a fence. In fact, our Siamese cat once jumped 9 feet from a standing position and landed on the top of a cupboard. And the cats easily jump over the tall expandable dog gates we use to keep the dogs out of the living room and dining room. Our two cats are de-clawed house cats and never run loose outside.

    The options I suggest are:

    1. Get cat traps from the animal control officer or your local humane society. Trap the cats and take them to the shelter. Tuna fish works well. Then the owners have to deal with paying to get their animals back and perhaps will keep them indoors.
    2. Buy your own stray cat trap like this one from Havahart. Catch and take them to the shelter
    3. OR some better ideas, i.e. electronic repellers that are battery operated and/or AC operated.

    These products emit ultrasounds that cats do not like. (The Yardgard has multiple adjustments; the Koolatron repeller is set only for cats and dogs. ) Set up two of them up in your backyard where you say the cats go and keep the cats out without trapping them. (Of course then they are your other neighbors' problems. You can just send them along to Safe Home Products just as our customers do when they use mole chaser stakes and drive the moles next door!)

    First, the Yardgard. This Yardgard has settings to deter about any animal and birds, too. Run it on AC or use the battery mode. With cats, I recommend the AC, continuous on, mode rather than the motion activated mode as cats are swift running. Mount it at the cats' head level. With the yard you have, two is definitely the lower limit of units you need. These units last for years and years without maintenance. Just make sure they are not in standing water. If you should have a squirrel problem in your attic, rats in attic, garage or crawl space, a deer problem, etc, you can adjust this unit to handle those animal pests as well.

    Best results: Mount at animal's head level.  Low (sonic) settings may be audible to humans with good high frequency hearing. If this occurs, select a higher frequency. Note: Birds may be repelled by some frequencies of the Yardgard depending upon the height at which it is mounted.

    Yard Guard Technical specifications:

    • Dimensions: 6.75" x 5.25" x 3.5"
    • Weight: 1 pound (shipping weight 2 pounds)
    • Coverage: 4,000 sq. ft. (278.7 sq. meters)
    • Frequency range: 15,000 - 25,000 Hz (adjustable)
    • Sound pressure: 90 dB at 3 feet
    • Electricity costs: Less than $0.25 per month
    • Working current: <200 mA
    • Power: 4 "C" batteries or AC adapter (included).
    • Weather proof.
    • Motion sensor activation: 35 x 70 feet
    • Pattern: Oval pattern of sound is about 50 ft. wide at the widest and extends about 80 feet out. The lower the sound frequency, the wider the coverage.
    • Dial positions: Dogs and cats, skunks, opossums, armadillos, raccoons, deer, insects, rodents and bats.
    • In CONT AC ONLY mode: Continuous operation using AC power.
    • Power Light: Red light behind clear lens activates when motion sensor is activated. Note: if left on continuous one, this red power light is on continuously.
    • Compliance: EPA establishment No. 058480-TWN-001. CE marked.
    • YardGard includes: Mountable plastic unit, 110vAC power adapter (with 6 ft cord), and extension wire cord (63 ft).
    • Continuous or motion-sensor modes.
    • Multiple sonic and ultrasonic settings.
    • 6 month limited manufacturer's warranty.
    • Outdoor use recommended. Use indoors only in rarely occupied areas.

    Second, the Catstop. The Catstop is made especially to keep cats away. We also sell a 120VAC adapter for the Catstop so you don't have to be concerned about a dead battery. (With the traffic you've had in your yard, the adapter would be a good idea.) The unit includes a 50 ft cord.

    CatStop Highlights:

    • Ultra sound based concept: Safe, effective cat pest control without chemicals, visually objectionable barriers or shock.
    • Infrared detection range: 80 degrees across a 20 ft distance in front of the device.
    • Passive ultrasonic detector: Operates unattended. Activates when movement is detected.
    • Operates 24/7: CatStop protects day and night for up to 6 months (or 4900+ activations) on one 9 volt battery.
    • Silently creates a temporary sound 'barrier': Works where fences are not allowed or are impractical. Keeps neighborhood cats from violating your space without drawing attention to your efforts.
    • Simple Installation: Easily extend coverage with additional CatStops.
    • Power supply: 9V battery (not included).
    • Output: 124 dB.
    • Sensor warm up time = 40-60 seconds when battery is first inserted.When you activate the unit, the red light will come on for 3 seconds, and then turn off.  It takes approximately 8 seconds for it to re-charge between activation
    • Operational time when activated = 3 seconds.
    • Delay between activations: about 8 seconds.
    • Output frequency: sweeping from 21-25 kHz.
    • Fully water resistant.
    • 2 year warranty from manufacturer

    A third option is the Koolatron Outdoor Cat and Dog Repeller with AC Adapter As the Catstop, this Koolatron Repeller has ultrasonic frequencies that bother but do not harm cats. This unit also works for dogs.

    Cat and Dog Repeller Features :

    • Built-in focusing cone: Focuses sound for greater effective distance.
    • Passive Infra Red (PIR) motion sensor: located behind the front frosted white housing.
    • Test button: ultrasonic function is confirmed when button pushed as sound is lowered to an audible level.
    • Compact unobtrusive design: green color
    • Durable ABS housing: shock proof, can withstand harsh outdoor weather conditions.
    • Waterproof to IPX4 standard: international standard that means the Lentek Cat and Dog Repeller is protected against damage from the elements.
    • Perfect for yards, gardens, flowerbeds, near garbage, etc.,
    • Swivel motion mounting bracket: allows easy and quick range direction changes.
    • Wall Mounting Bracket: Adjustable angle allows for 180 degree direction adjustment.

    Cat and Dog Repeller Specifications :

    • Advanced ultrasonic sirens:
      • Ultrasonic sound: 80 to 115dB
      • Frequency sweep: 18 kHz to 24 kHz
      • Duration of ultrasonic bursts: 5 seconds.
    • Cone range: 70 degree cone range for primary ultrasonic coverage area.
    • Distance range: Up to 85 feet.
    • Power on LED lights: confirms unit is active and on when lit.
    • Wall mount bracket: install on wall or any vertical surface with two long screws (included). Attach unit connector to mounted bracket using bolt and nut provided.
    • Power: Two (2) 9V batteries (not included)
    • Battery life: approximately 2000 sound releases.
    • Optional AC adapter: included. Adapter must be kept in a dry location if used as main power supply. Use only outdoor rated extension cords that accept the Cat and Dog Repeller plug. Keep all cords away from heat, oil and sharp edges. Always keep the connection between the ultrasonic repeller and the extension cord dry. Unplug before cleaning the animal repeller.
    • Caution: Use outdoors only. Do not place near human ears or use in confined spaces or allow use by children.
    • Warranty: 1 Year manufacturer warranty.
    • Manufacturer: Lentek, Division of Koolatron

    Our customers have had great success with all the electronic devices. It is rare to have a return IF the units are installed correctly and in sufficient quantity. Remember that ultrasound is more like light than audible sound: best results are line-of-sight, ultrasounc stops at hard objects and can bounce back and is absorbed by soft objects like bushes and flowers.

    Good luck and thanks for your inquiry.



    Need for Oximeter for Elderly Mom with Congestive Heart Failure to Justify 24/7 Oxygen

    by Barbara 28. December 2010 09:16

    Question about the Medline Digital Finger Oximeter, Black.

    Question: "My mother is 89 years old and has congestive heart failure. She wore a 24 hour oxygen monitor a few weeks ago. The result was a non-portable oxygen unit so she can get supplemental oxygen at night. Her daytime reading was 90% and her night readings averaged 80%. Despite her age, Mom's mind is very good except now from mid-morning on you can see the deterioration. Sometimes her heart races. She says she had her first anxiety attack of her life: Gail and I feel it is that her heart is struggling due to the congestion.  I live over a thousand miles away but will be at her home for the rest of the week. Would this be something that her home care helper could use to help justify with her doctor her need for a portable tank on her wheelchair during the day? She has been told to use oxygen as she needs it! The tank is in the living room where she sleeps in a recliner during the night and naps. Thanks, Your brother Jim.

    Answer: Yes, Jim, this unit is what she needs and it should arrive in two days from Medline. This oximeter unit is reasonably priced, easy to use and gives accurate readings. I know you have already contacted her physician about what is happening to Mom.  I've ordered this oximeter that should arrive in another day. When I spoke with Mom two days ago, I knew then something was wrong because she seemed confused. She's been complaining about fatigue for months. I was wrong in believing that this was depression or age. Obviously Mom needed someone to actively be her advocate as her doctor did not see the whole picture.

    We do sell several other oximeters which would work equally well. Most are hospital grade units, though. For example,John Bunn DIGI O2 Finger Pulse Oximeter JB02007, the John Bunn DigiOx Finger Pulse Oximeter Model JB02008 which costs a little less than the Medline unit referenced in your question, the Medline Digital Finger Oximeter, Yellow and the Medline Handheld Pulse Oximeter which is personal computer and printer compatible.

    This oximeter as other finger pulse oximeters gives SPO2, pulse rate and pulse strength readings. SpO2 numbers give you the amount of oxygen attached to the hemoglobin cells (red blood cells) in your body or the saturation of oxygen in your red blood cells.. Normal is 96%.

    I've done more internet reading about what is normal for oxygen levels and will share this with my readers.

    HeartFailureSolutions.Com gives this list which covers part of Mom's symptoms:

    "Watch for the following signs:

    • water retention (especially feet/ ankles)
    • shortness of breath/ difficulty breathing
    • extreme fatigue
    • chest tightness
    • mental confusion/ short-term-memory loss
    • tingling fingers
    • chronic cough
    • blue coloring around lips
    • waking at night gasping for breath

    Your body requires 92% blood oxygen saturation or above.  There is no getting around your oxygen requirement.

    If you ignore you rlow oxygen level, you will lose your eye sight, short term memory, and your strength and stamina.  The progressive weakening of your heart muscle will contribute to your heart failure."

    Thanks for being there, Jim and Gail. I know Gail went through similar issues about supplemental oxygen for her late mom: she shared that she needed to buy an oximeter to present her case for 24/7 portable oxygen for her mom

    Love you!