There was a kind of quizzical expression on Larry King’s face as he started interviewing me about our latest publication called “The Home Book.” It was as if to say: “why the home?”
Fair question. The home is so familiar, yet so unknown. So much time is spent there, yet so little discovery is brought to bear on ways to make the home safer, secure and less expensive to maintain — in short, more pleasant and livable.
Lots of unpleasant events occur in the home, as reflected in the National Safety Council’s figures. For 1987, the Council reported that 20,500 people died in household accidents and 3.1 million suffered disabling injuries. These casualties cost $17 billion that year.
Home “savvy” or skills are not part of the learning that most youngsters are exposed to in school or out of school. As a result of the harmful impacts on the home by all who sell to, connect with and pollute the home become invisible to the uninformed mind.
In practical terms, the more you know, the fewer worries and pain you and your family will experience and the more money you will save.
For example, consider the sample of the most frequent complaints made by households — against home improvements or repair frauds, against unfair utility bills, property tax assessments, appliances that break down too frequently or simply don’t work.
Indoor pollutants plague chemically sensitive people. Pesticides, fumes from gas ranges or poorly vented attached garages, detergents, disinfectants, glues and solvents, paints and coatings, unvented kerosene space heaters and tobacco smoke play a major role in making the indoor air you breathe an irritant or a real health hazard.
The Home Book provides some of this learning to point a lighted path to foresee and forestall household injuries, frauds and to expand the value of your home and its more efficient operation. A Walk Through the House Checklist lets you check off all applicable pollution sources from kitchen to bathroom to garage and then add the numbers after each item (such as aerosols, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, carpet shampoo, asbestos pipe insulation) to achieve your total score ranging from high indoor air quality to low indoor air quality.
Many people may not realize that although the injuries or costs may be high, the amount of time or money to prevent them are quite modest. Slips and falls and injuries are frequent, especially for children and the elderly. But a common sense reconnaissance around the home, that results in non-skid tapes at tops of slippery stairs or the removal of tantalizing kitchen cords or other implements from a child’s ready grasp or decorative cutouts on sliding glass doors or simple safeguards for the nursery equipment from cribs to high chairs, can do wonders for peace of mind safety.
Then, there are the activities to reduce your fuel and other utility bills, including such little recognized use of landscaping to break the winter winds. The costly herbicides used on your lawn by expensive “lawn doctors” can be replaced with non-toxic treatments as can so many household chemicals. Great grandparents had cheap ways to deal with these problems that merit readoption today.
Ever wonder about your meter readings, the pile of added charges attendant upon selling or buying a home, ways to get your house prospect inspected to reduce the selling price, what to ask for to obtain the best homeowner’s insurance buy, where to contact groups of households that are banding together to secure cheaper heating oil or better home repair or maintenance service?
The collection of useful materials in The Home Book covers other areas — toys, radon, termites, damp basements, condos, home warranties, housing rights, appliance life cycle costing, natural disasters, garbage recycling, fire safety and a series of toll free hotlines and free publications that you can send for to obtain more details.
This is not a “how-to-fix-it volume.” It is a few hours of knowledge that can encourage you to take the steps that will avoid the far more time consuming missteps that otherwise may likely occur.
(For information on how to obtain The Home Book, write to P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036).