ABC Blog

Handling Firewood Improperly Can Cause Pest Problems

Heating your Houston home with firewood is cozy, romantic and environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, if your wood isn’t handled and stored properly, it can harbor unwanted pests. In most cases, these insects pose no serious threat to your home, but a few species could be problematic.

A variety of insects infest wood. The list includes bark lice, millipedes, centipedes, pill bugs, sowbugs, springtails, termites, beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees and some wasps. Termites are the biggest threat to your home’s structure, but they’re not usually a problem unless you bring firewood into a moist environment and store the logs against your home. If you find live termites in a wood pile, move the wood as far away from your home as possible.

Wood-boring beetles can be a nuisance if they create noise or wood dust. Bark beetles live inside a tree’s bark or between the bark and heartwood. If infested wood is stacked … Read Full Post »

Houston is a Prime Target for Solar Power

During the summer, Houston can hit triple digit temperatures. Homeowners spend hundreds each month cranking up their air conditioners. Instead of purchasing electricity from the power company, homeowners can completely eliminate their utility bills by switching to solar power and upgrading their homes with energy efficient upgrades.

Cheaper Prices and Bigger Savings

Manufacturing costs associated with solar panels are dropping fast, and homeowners are reaping the rewards. Adjusted for inflation solar panels in 1989 cost $8.78 per watt in 2010 dollars, but the average price per solar panel in 2010 dropped to just $2.79, its cheapest price ever. In that same time period, photovoltaic panel shipments increased 100-fold.

Compared to fossil fuels, photovoltaic technologies offer a reliable and future-proof energy source. Since 2002, coal has nearly doubled in price while petroleum costs five times as much. If current trends continue, solar panels will cost about $1.00 per watt by the end of the … Read Full Post »

How to Handle Mystery Bugs

A number of mysterious insects can be found in Houston. Many unfamiliar bugs are harmless, but they can also signify the beginning of an infestation. Most people only have the expertise to identify common bugs. More than 25,000 insect species live in the state of Texas, according to Texas A&M University. It’s important to handle mystery bugs carefully and take steps to keep them out of your home.

If you find an unfamiliar insect outdoors, take a photo of it to use for identification. You may want to catch the bug if it is inside of your home. Be cautious–wear gloves and use an implement such as long tweezers to move the insect. Store it in a glass container with a tight lid. Remember that some bugs can chew through cardboard, wood or plastic.

Keep children and pets away from the insect. Some bugs may trigger allergies or cause serious illnesses when … Read Full Post »

From AC to Heat: How to Ensure a Flawless Change of Seasons

It’s time to tune-up your furnace as summer-time humidity and temperatures begin to drop and the cool weather approaches. You don’t want to turn your furnace on when the first cold front blows in only to find that it’s not heating properly.

Every Houston HVAC system needs periodic maintenance to ensure that all components are working. Regular maintenance reduces the possibility of sudden breakdowns and costly repairs. Keeping the system working properly also reduces energy usage and lowers utility bills. Some routine maintenance is easy for the homeowner to do. Some tasks, however, are best left to the professionals.

Cleaning filters can be done by the homeowner and is one of the most important regular maintenance tasks. Clogged filters make a unit work harder and compromise indoor air quality. Regular cleaning removes allergens, bacteria, mold and dust. Replace filters as recommended by the manufacturer.

An improperly installed thermostat may cause a unit to … Read Full Post »

House Flies In Winter: Do Flies Hibernate in the Winter?

house flies in winter

What’s that buzzing around your kitchen? What is your dog chasing around the living room? What came in when you left the back door open too long? In many cases, the answer is the same: a fly.

Have you ever noticed that house flies seem to disappear during the winter months? How do they manage to virtually vanish in the cold weather and then reappear in full force once weather starts to warm up? Read on to find out.

What Flies Do During The Winter

Adult house flies in winter spend their days in cracks and crevices, away from humans. In the spring, these flies lay eggs on decaying materials. Although this behavior can be compared to hibernation, the truth is that flies do not spend the winter months in a deep sleep like some animals, including some species of turtles, snakes, bats, hummingbirds, ladybugs, skunks and frogs. The cluster fly and other … Read Full Post »

West Nile Virus Still Prevalent in Harris County

A mild winter combined with rain in Harris County has created a favorable climate for mosquitoes. This has led to an increase in the number of people infected with West Nile virus— several people have died from the disease. The virus spreads primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. In rare cases, the virus spreads through blood transfusions, breastfeeding, from mother to baby during pregnancy and through organ transplants.

Symptoms of West Nile virus appear between three and 14 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Four out of five people (about 80%) infected with the virus do not show any symptoms. 20% will exhibit mild symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph glands or skin rash

People over the age of 50 and those with a weak immune system have a high risk of getting severely sick. About one in 150 cases experiences severe symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of vision
  • High fever
  • Disorientation, stupor or … Read Full Post »

Use your iPhone for Tracking Bed Bugs!

In recent years, bed bugs have become a widespread problem in many cities across the United States. Houston is no exception, with hotels and multi-family residential buildings such as apartments among the hardest hit. Even if you live in a single-family home, you’re also vulnerable to bed bugs, as guests may bring them in or the pests may stow away in your luggage when you return home from a vacation. The best prevention against bed bugs is avoiding places that have been infested by them. If you are an iPhone user, you will find the Bed Bug Alert app very handy for keeping away from the pests.

Designed by Apps Genius, Bed Bug Alert is an interactive, user-friendly app that allows you to perform a number of actions from your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad equipped with iOS 3.2 or newer. First, you may set your location so that you only … Read Full Post »

Why is My Pool Green? How to Keep Your Water Crystal Clear

My above ground pool is green

One of the best ways to beat the heat on a hot summer day is to go for a swim. If you have your own pool, you know that maintenance is no small task. The last thing you want as a pool owner is to discover that your pool water is green and cloudy instead of crystal clear.

Why is My Pool Green?

Keeping a pool looking clean and clear requires paying special attention to the water chemistry. Let’s discuss the three basic factors in pool operation—physical, chemical and biological—how they impact the color of your water and what to do if your pool water becomes cloudy and green.

Pool Filtration & Circulation

The most basic part of your pool’s operation is your filtration system, which is responsible for keeping your water clean. The filters in your pool should remove dirt and debris which make their way into your pool from the air or from your … Read Full Post »

Houston’s Humidity & Your Health

Air conditioning in Houston keeps local residents cool during spring, summer and fall. Unfortunately, humidity in Houston coupled with the moisture produced by some air conditioning units can create hazardous mold inside residents’ homes. This substance can cause several health problems, and some are very serious.

Allergies & Irritations

Mold spores often trigger allergic reactions. This occurs both in healthy people and those who are prone to allergies. Irritated eyes, throat and nose are also common symptoms. Many people who breathe in airborne mold spores complain of sinus congestion.

Infections

When people are constantly exposed to mold spores indoors, their problems will escalate beyond irritations and allergies. Continuous exposure leaves a person vulnerable to respiratory infections and bronchitis. These conditions may become chronic.

Mycosis

If a person has a weak immune system, mold spores may grow on living tissue inside that individual’s body. This causes a systemic infection of the digestive tract, lungs, skin or sinuses. … Read Full Post »

Love Your Lawn…Without Chinch Bugs

It starts when you notice just a slight yellowing of your once lush lawn. At first you consider the recent lack of rain, but the yellowing continues to spread and turns your prized lawn into an eyesore. A healthy lawn that turns to an ugly yellow is one sign that a homeowner is dealing with a chinch bug infestation.

Chinch bugs are lawn pests that feed on healthy grass. The pests use a straw-like part of their mouths to drink the juice of a blade of grass while simultaneously injecting harmful chemicals into the plant. The result of a chinch bug infestation is a yellow, unhealthy lawn that is typically most damaged in areas that are exposed to sunlight.

Identifying whether there is a chinch bug infestation is a matter of investigating the grass near the soil. Chinch bugs tend to be more active on hot days in the summer and in … Read Full Post »