Helpful solutions you may not know about

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Feb. 13, 2014
- Contributed Photo

Sometimes things come into the retail market that we never hear about. They may have a limited focus that doesn't apply to us, our families or friends. So they get right by us until we have a serious need for their function. Then we go searching for a solution.

But what if we have a need and don't think there is an innovation to address it? Recently I discovered two such unusual solutions and re-discovered another that I put to good use.

When families have children in the infant and toddler stage, they are always looking for things that will keep the kids safe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission usually takes the lead, pointing out those products that don't meet its requirements, and rating those that do. Think child safety seats in cars, high chairs, cribs, helmets. I'm thinking more of the everyday things very small children can get into in the house. When my children were that small, I installed safety catches on the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and discovered the little plastic covers that go into electric outlets. Both items thwart little fingers, while also challenging adults with and without long fingernails.

The outlet covers are fabulous while they are inserted. Once you remove them to use a vacuum, you either forget to put them back in, or misplace them altogether. Well, now there is a replacement solution. It is called a tamper resistant outlet, and most of the major manufacturers of electric components offer them. These prevent those little fingers from sticking small items such as paperclips into the outlet by closing off the slots from the inside. The outlet will only accept a two- or three-pronged plug which simultaneously enters both slots on the outlet. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

The solution is so effective that it has been adopted as part of the National Electric Code (NEC (2011) 406.14). Since its adoption, new or replacement outlets in child care facilities, as well as in new housing, must be of the tamper-resistant variety.

This is an easy project for DIYers with a little electric experience. For a couple of bucks or less, you can swap out each of the outlets for a replacement in the same color and configuration as the one in your home. And there is no need to replace the existing cover plates.

Another solution for those with a special need is the smoke detector for persons who are deaf or hearing-impaired. Not knowing anyone with this type of disability, it never occurred to me that there must be an alternative to the alarming high-pitched noise that standard smoke and CO detectors emit.

The devices are not replacements for the alarms, but rather accessories that are activated by the alarms. These strobe light accessories “hear” the alarm for deaf persons, and create a visual alarm. For deaf people to be awakened by an alarm while sleeping, accessories are available that will shake a pillow or bed.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, the ability to hear high-pitched sounds decreases as people age. The NFPA cites research that finds a low-pitched sound to be more effective for waking people of all ages.

Search on the Internet for “smoke alarm hearing accessories” and you will find a wide array of these solutions.

For anyone who has never suffered through the effects of ice-damming on the roof in winter, you should acquaint yourself with the roof rake solution, available for just over $40 at your home store. Use it to keep the snow off the lower part of the sloping roof exposures on your house. Do it right after the snow stops to prevent melting of the snow and the re-freezing, which causes the ice dams.

The best solution is improvement of the insulation between the heated living area and the roof, while also improving the ventilation of the uninsulated roof. This prevents ice damming by keeping the temperature of the roof constant, so the snow does not go through the melting and refreezing cycle.

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