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Should You Upgrade Your Breaker Box?

Whether or not to change out the breaker box is a question many homeowners have faced. Age, period built, brand, maintenance, environment, and cost are just some of the factors to consider when making this decision. There are a few options for any upgrade, but it really comes down to the needs of the individual breaker box.

In order to understand the needs for a service change, there are a few items within the service that need to be defined. An electrical service generally includes four major parts: the weatherhead with associated wire (which may be underground), the meter base and enclosure, the service feeder to the breaker box, and the breaker box itself.

The weatherhead is where the utility connects to your service. The associated wiring and conduit is generally governed by the utility, even though the homeowner is normally responsible for its parts and installation. The meter base is where … Read Full Post »

What Bed Bugs Are & What They Do

If you ever heard that nursery rhyme “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” you know these critters bite in the night. But most of us never heard of them in real life until now.

Some fast facts…

•              Life Stages: Eggs hatch into nymphs. Newly hatched nymphs are tiny—about 1/16th of an inch.

•              Nymphs—which look like small adults—become adults in 5 weeks. They go through 5 molts to reach adult size—meaning they shed their old, smaller skin 5 times. They must feed before each molt.

•              Females can produce 5-7 eggs per week, laying up to 500 in a lifetime.

•              Bed bugs grow fastest and lay most eggs at about 80°F.

•              They feed only on blood.

•              They feed when people are sleeping or sitting quietly, often when it’s dark.

•              They seek shelter in cracks and crevices when not feeding.

•              They poop out “blood spots.” Spots look like dots made by a fine felt-tipped marker. You’d see them … Read Full Post »

Tips for Aerating the Lawn this Fall

Hardly anyone thinks about the dirt the grass grows in, but the health of the soil is a key component to a great lawn. Grass does best in soil that drains well and has a rich, loamy texture.

Poor soil invites many lawn problems, including weak growth, which makes the grass subject to damage from insects, disease or weather conditions. If the soil is compacted or made of heavy clay, it may not drain properly. If it’s sandy or silty, it won’t hold water and will dry out too quickly.

Core aerate the soil every fall or every other fall. This process pulls 2- to 3-inch-long cores from the ground, where they stay until they disintegrate in a couple of weeks, feeding the soil as they do. Core aeration helps keep thatch, or dead root matter, under control and loosens compacted soil. The holes allow water, oxygen and other nutrients to work … Read Full Post »

Tips for dealing with Drought

We’re experiencing a drought that is close to becoming a record setter for this time of year in the Houston area. Here are some of ABC’s tips for keeping your outdoor environment in good shape.

Watering and Irrigation

-If you have an irrigation system, make sure that all zones and sprinkler heads are operating correctly and covering adequately.

-For most lawns, watering a couple times weekly is adequate.  Plant beds may need additional watering, especially if they drain well.

-Over-watering is detrimental, contributing to a number of root damaging diseases and yellow, weak plants.

 

Mowing

– St. Augustine needs to be mowed weekly. Higher mowing helps St. Augustine conserve moisture.  Shorter mowing heights shock St. Augustine, forcing it to expend energy and moisture growing new blades, and ultimately weakening and thinning it.

-Bermuda and Zoysia lawns are healthier cut much shorter and more often.

-Make sure your mower blade is sharp, reducing moisture loss.  Dull mower blades fray the … Read Full Post »

5 Guaranteed Bogus Fire Ant Solutions

I have fire ants.

That’s right, I work for a pest control company, I am treated on a regular basis, and I still have fire ants. Why is that? Well, as good of a job as Sam (the technician who treats my home) does, even he can’t anticipate where the little red devils are going to pop up. In most cases it takes 6 months for a fire ant mound to become visible. But the good news is that because I already have service, Sam is coming out to treat the mound free of charge and look for any evidence of other mounds popping up.

That brings me to my point. I have lived in Texas all of my life and I have heard of 100 different ways to get rid of fire ants. But the fact is most fire ant home remedies are bogus. Let me tell you a couple of … Read Full Post »

Top 10 Bug Infested States

We’re #3!!! Congratulations Texas, you have the 3rd largest bug population in the United States. Take that North Dakota (or should we say #44)!

But seriously, this was a survey done of homeowners on how bad of a problem bugs are in their area. And according to you guys, the only two states with more problems are Florida(#1) and Louisiana(#2). So why is that? Why is it that Texas is #3?

1. It’s hot! And even when the rest of the country has cooled off it’s still warm here. (Besides last Christmas, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t wear shorts on Christmas Day). Constant warmth throughout the year creates a perfect environment for bugs.

2. Humidity. It can be a beating in the DFW area, but go down to Houston or Austin during the summer and take a step outside-you’re automatically drenched. That is exactly the type of moisture that bugs … Read Full Post »

Centipedes & Millipedes

Centipedes and millipedes are distant relatives of lobsters, crayfish and shrimp. Unlike their marine cousins, centipedes and millipedes are land dwellers, but they do prefer moist habitats or areas of high humidity.

Centipedes and millipedes do not carry diseases to man or to his animals and plants. They are usually considered nuisances rather than destructive pests. Centipedes pose an occasional threat to man because they have poison glands and will bite. Millipedes occasionally damage seedling plants by feeding on stems and leaves

Description

There are many kinds of centipedes but all of them are more or less wormlike and have a flattened body. The largest centipede inhabits the tropics of Central America. Scolopendra gigantca is its name and when fully mature will attain a length of 12 inches. A closely related centipede, Scolopendra heros, occurs in Texas and may be over 5 inches long when full grown.

Like all centipedes, Scolopendra can inflict a painful bite with a pair of … Read Full Post »

Tips & Secrets to Buying a New Heating & Cooling System

Are you in the market for a new heating and cooling system?  Authorities say, be careful.  Many homeowners who have invested in new high efficiency heating and cooling equipment didn’t get the comfort and energy efficiency they paid for.

Information is the key to making a wise decision.  This report will teach you what you should know before talking to contractors, and it will let you in on some little known facts about heating and air conditioning. Unfortunately, even many contractors aren’t aware of this important new knowledge.

This report is based on important new research undertaken by the federal Department Of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and electric and gas utilities nationwide.  It also draws on the training resources of heating and cooling equipment manufacturers and trade associations.  And it shares advice from consumer protection groups, publications and TV investigative news stories.

This report will teach you the three common reasons most new heating and cooling systems don’t … Read Full Post »

How to Make Your Own Garden Compost Bin for Free

If you do not have $80 – $200 dollars to spend on a composter from Lowe’s or Home Depot, here’s some information for you on how to make a fast and easy DIY composter at home for free.  Have you heard of Austin Craigslist?  If you have visited this website, you have probably seen several postings for free wooden pallets.  And you have probably wondered, why would anyone want that?  You can create a DIY composter with 4 to 5 wooden pallets.  You will need the following materials: 4-5 wooden pallets, nails, hammer, wire or rope, and paint (optional).

Pick out a spot in your backyard that has enough space for about a 4’x4’ box.  Take one of the pallets and stand it up right in front of you, then you need to take another wooden pallet and place it side by side with the first wooden pallet forming a 90 … Read Full Post »

25 Organic Gardening Tips

1. Mulch your flower beds and trees with 3″ of organic material – it conserves water, adds humus and nutrients, and discourages weeds. It gives your beds a nice, finished appearance.

 

2. Mulch acid-loving plants with a thick layer of pine needles each fall. As the needles decompose, they will deposit their acid in the soil.

 

3. The most important step in pest management is to maintain healthy soil. It produces healthy plants, which are better able to withstand disease and insect damage.

 

4. Aphids? Spray infested stems, leaves, and buds with a very dilute soapy water, then clear water. It works even on the heaviest infestation.

 

5. Compost improves soil structure, texture, and areation, and increases the soil’s water holding capacity. It also promotes soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development.

 

6. Look for natural and organic alternatives to chemical fertilizers, such as the use of compost. Our use of inorganic fertilizer is causing … Read Full Post »