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Solved! What to Do About Brown Grass

Fix the common problem of unsightly patches on your once lush, green lawn with this set of solutions.

7 Things You Never Knew Cause Brown Grass (and How to Fix Them)

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I started seeing brown patches on my lawn at the end of spring. They seem to have grown in size and number since then. What’s causing this, and how can I correct it before it takes over my turf?

A: Brown patches of dormant, dead, or dying turf is hardly unusual, as they plague grasses of all varieties and can be caused by a number of factors ranging from extreme weather and poor soil conditions to pests and fungus. Whatever the culprit, brown grass should be assessed and addressed ASAP: If the underlying problem is severe enough, the pesky patches could eventually destroy your lawn. So find out the cause early and treat your turf accordingly to restore it to its former green glory.

Wait out drought—or water properly. If brown grass appears or worsens with scorching temperatures, and fallen tree leaves on the surrounding lawn have shriveled, this can be a sign that the problem is drought. It’s natural for grass to go dormant to conserve water during periods of limited rainfall, and drought-induced brown grass should turn green on its own as the weather cools and rainfall increases. You can also restore your lawn by giving it an inch of water on a weekly basis with your lawn sprinkler. You may need to adjust a sprinkler head to ensure that there are no spots on the lawn that the sprinkler isn’t reaching. Remember to water early in the day, before the sun’s heat burns off the water.

Restore your soil’s pH balance. When soil pH is too “alkaline” or acidic, iron chlorosis, a type of iron deficiency affecting plants, can take root in your lawn and lead to yellow—or in severe cases, brown—patches. Check your soil pH is with a home soil testing pH kit available at your local home center or nursery for about $10. If the pH is higher than 7.2, apply sulfur to your lawn as a short-term solution for lowering soil pH and improving the color of grass. Generally, the higher the starting soil pH and the “loamier” or more clay-based the soil, the more sulfur it needs. Sandy soil with a starting pH of 7.5, for example, only needs 10 to 15 pounds of sulfur per 1,000 square feet to reach an optimal soil pH of 6.5, while a loamy soil of the same pH needs 20 to 25 pounds of sulfur per 1,000 square feet. As a long-term solution, reduce the frequency with which you water the lawn, as over-watering reduces iron uptake in grass and can lead to repeat cases of yellowing or browning.

The Unexpected Causes of Brown Grass

Photo: istockphoto.com

Lay off the fertilizer. Excess salt from fertilizer can build up in grass, scorching it and turning it brown. Your lawn might have this “fertilizer burn” if brown spots appear one to two days after fertilizing the lawn and the spots follow the pattern of where you applied the fertilizer. Act fast to beat the burn, watering until the ground is thoroughly saturated to help leach excess fertilizer out of the grass’ root zone. Then apply an inch of water to the lawn each day for the next seven days to flush out the fertilizer salts from the grass roots. If grass fails to re-grow completely, you can either sow new grass seeds or lay sod over dead turf spots. In the future, avoid over-feeding the lawn by applying fertilizer only in the manufacturer-recommended amount and frequency. Choose slow-release fertilizers to improve absorption and reduce the risk of fertilizer burn.

Weed wisely. Weeds and tree roots siphon vital nutrients from fertilizer and water that would otherwise go to grass, leaving you with a dry brown lawn. To treat, dig up the weeds or spray the lawn with a selective herbicide that targets weeds but leaves the grass undamaged. Follow up weed removal by spraying pre-emergent herbicide over the lawn to prevent new weed seeds from sprouting.

Fight the threat of fungus. Fungus thrives in hot, humid, moisture-rich environments, and stagnant water on your lawn helps it fester. Once conditions like Brown Patch Disease take root, you might notice thinned-out brown grass in a ring-like pattern, possibly affecting a large area of turf. If you spot these symptoms, apply fungicide to smaller affected areas, or call in a lawn care specialist if the problem is widespread. Avoid over-dousing your lawn, and stick to a morning watering schedule, to keep fungus at bay. To reduce the risk of fungal disease, mow the lawn weekly, aerate it twice a year, and clear thatch (shoots, stems, and roots that accumulate on the soil surface) when it rises to about an inch in height.

Don’t let your lawn be grub for grubs. Grubs, the larvae of beetles, spend their summers feeding on the roots of turf grass—and as the grass decays, brown areas emerge. To determine if this is a problem, simply dig into one of the brown patches and look for milk-white creatures curled up into a C-shape. If you spot 10 or more of these grubs per square foot of sod, a grub infestation is the likely culprit of your lawn’s brown patches. To be rid of the pests, apply either a chemical like carbaryl or natural grub control like nematodes (roundworms) over the lawn. In two to three weeks, new green shoots should start to emerge.

Have pets do their business elsewhere. You love your furry friends, but canine and feline urine contains salts that can kill grass and leave behind round, brown dead patches that aren’t likely to go green on their own. Revive dead turf by covering it with a layer of ground limestone (2 to 5 pounds per 100 square feet) to restore the soil’s pH balance, then let the limestone sit for a week before covering it with topsoil and planting new grass seeds. In the future, you can replace an area of your lawn with mulch and let your pets “go” there—or better yet take them for walks!


How To: Remove Sweat Stains

No matter how many times you run your shirt through the wash, a regular rinse just won’t get out unsightly armpit stains. But don't sweat it! Keep reading to learn how you can clean up your favorite shirts.

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How To Remove Sweat Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

Yellowing on your favorite dress shirt or old tee typically suggests that it’s time to add it to your rag collection. Though it’s common to call sweat the culprit behind these unsightly stains (especially those around the armpit areas), the real reason is more than just salty water. “Those ‘sweat stains’ are made from a combination of things—not just perspiration, but also body oil, skin flakes, and any chemicals in your deodorant,” said Mary Gagliardi, also known as Dr. Laundry. Because of that, Gagliardi recommends pre-treating any affected areas with an enzyme-based stain remover before laundering them as the most effective means of how to remove sweat stains.

Alternatively, you can use a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide—two all-natural powerhouse cleaners—for a homemade stain treatment that can break down the buildup and get your shirt to look new again. Follow the steps below on any clothing with dingy or even crusty yellow stains, and you may just save it from the toss pile!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Large plastic bowl
– Gloves
– Tea kettle or microwavable liquid measuring cup
– Small bowl
– Baking soda
– Hydrogen peroxide
– Scrub brush
– Laundry detergent

How To Remove Sweat Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Place your shirt into the large, empty bowl inside out. Make sure the shirt is situated with the underarm stains facing up.

STEP 2
Check to see if your shirt has any spandex in it before soaking the sweat stains with water.

• If it’s made with spandex, dampen with cold water—boiling water can damage those fibers—and proceed to Step 3.

• Otherwise, hot water is most effective for removing stains: Bring water to a boil either on the stovetop or in the microwave and, wearing gloves, pour this hot water onto the yellowed spots. This should start to melt (and therefore loosen) the sweat stains.

STEP 3
In the small bowl, thoroughly mix a solution of one part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, and one part water. The baking soda draws the sweat stains out and traps it, while also whitening the fabric and absorbing odors; meanwhile, the hydrogen peroxide is used as an oxidizing agent that disinfects. About 1/4 cup of each ingredient is needed for one shirt. Unlike other homemade cleaning solutions, this is not one to be made ahead and stored. Instead, keep each key ingredient handy in the laundry room for use.

STEP 4
Scoop out the liquid solution onto the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, gently work it into the stained area with a scrub brush, then rinse it away.

STEP 5
Launder the shirt as you normally would, and check the stain. If it isn’t all the way gone, repeat Steps 1 through 4 then run it through the wash again. Otherwise, you run the risk of setting the remaining sweat stains with the heat of the dryer. Only dry once you see the yellow stains are gone.

STEP 6
Going forward, make sure you pretreat any problem areas—like the underarms or the back of the shirt—regularly before laundering. By catching the sweat stains early, you can have an easier time removing them. Another way to prevent stains is to choose a deodorant with low-aluminum, which is an ingredient that contributes to these yellow stains.


New AC? 5 Top Factors for Sizing Up Your Needs

To make sure that you're cooling your house as efficiently as possible, why not call in a pro who can weigh some key considerations and come up with the right size AC unit for your home?

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How to Choose the Most Efficient AC Size

Photo: istockphoto.com

Do you find yourself raising your eyebrows at higher-than-normal energy bills? If your old air-conditioning system seems to be costing more to operate than it did summers past, yet your home still isn’t quite comfortably cool, it may be time to think about investing in a newer system. (A few other red flags that your AC system may be nearing the end of its useful life: increased humidity in your house, banging or other noises coming from your system during operation, and increasing repair costs.)

Even if your old system seems to be humming right along, it may be worth a review. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star division recommends having HVAC systems that are 10 years old or older professionally checked to assess their efficiency. Today’s new air-conditioning systems offer much more efficient cooling power than ever before—so long as you select the right size to meet your home’s needs.

First, Understanding AC Measurements
Air-conditioning systems are rated by the seasonal energy-efficiency rating (SEER) and measured by tonnage. The SEER rating indicates how energy efficient the unit is—the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit. Tonnage, meanwhile, indicates the operational size of the unit. A single AC ton is equivalent to 12,000 Btu per hour (Btu/h), or approximately the amount of coolness emitted by 1 ton of ice melting over the course of one day. An average 2,500-square-foot home might require a 3.5- to 4.5-ton unit, but there are many variables, and getting the tonnage exactly right is vital to both controlling cooling costs and maintaining comfort.

 

How to Choose the Most Efficient AC Size

Photo: istockphoto.com

Why Size Matters
Even though it may run constantly—and run up your energy bill in the process—an undersized AC unit is unlikely to cool a house adequately. It simply doesn’t have the power to do the job. But bigger isn’t always better in the case of a new AC unit, according to Dave Lincon, Director of Product Management and Business Development for Sears Home Services.

“When an AC unit is too large, it will cool your house quickly,” Lincon explains, “but then it will shut itself down because it’s reached the desired temperature. While that might not sound so bad on the surface, you’ll soon realize that your home never quite reaches the comfort level you expect.”

If an oversized unit cools the air and then shuts off too soon, it never has the opportunity to dry the air effectively, leaving much of the humidity (and general stickiness) unresolved.

To ensure that homeowners purchase the right size system for their houses, the professionals at Sears Home Services use Manual J (Residential Load Calculation)—a precise formula determined by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)—to compute an individual home’s cooling needs. Nothing is left to speculation. From a home’s floor plan to its geographical location and even its method of construction, all relevant details are analyzed to come up with the correct system size. Among the many variables the formula factors in, the following five may be the most significant for determining the correct tonnage needed for a given house.

How to Choose the Most Efficient AC Size

Photo: istockphoto.com

1. House Size
Your home’s size offers a good starting point for determining cooling needs. During the initial home analysis, Sears Home Service professionals will not only measure your home’s square footage, but they will also measure the height of your ceilings to determine your home’s cubic foot volume. A home with high, vaulted ceilings requires more cooling power than a home with standard 8-foot ceilings.

House style is also an important factor. A two-story home and a ranch-style home may have similar square footage, but their cooling needs will differ for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the ranch home could have twice as much roof as the two-story house.

2. Location
“A house in Colorado will have different cooling needs than a similar-size house in Texas or Florida,” Lincon advises. Typically, houses located in hot and humid climates require larger AC systems than houses in cooler, drier regions.

And while the prevailing climate in your geographical region is a major component of “location,” the term also encompasses considerations specific to your property: Is your yard full of large trees that offer midday shade? Does your house lack any protection from the harsh rays of the sun? How is your house oriented toward the sun?

3. Number (and Type) of Windows
Windows bring in light and offer wonderful views of the outdoors, but in many homes they’re a source of energy loss, which translates into increased cooling needs. According to Lincon, not only does the number of windows in your home affect the size of the AC system you’ll need, but the type of windows also matters.

When performing a Manual J load calculation, Sears Home Services representatives will make note of how many windows your home has, their dimensions, and their type. Single-pane windows are less energy efficient than double-pane, triple-pane, or low-e windows (low-emissivity film-coated windows that reflect the sun’s heat away from your home). The presence of energy-efficient windows can reduce the tonnage requirement.

4. Existing Insulation
Insulation plays a major role in keeping outdoor heat from penetrating your home on a hot summer’s day. Sears Home Services reps will note both the type and the amount of insulation in your home’s attic and walls. Insulated entry doors will also be taken into account.

Most communities have building codes that require a minimum amount of insulation in both walls and ceilings, but older homes that were constructed before the codes went into effect may have inadequate insulation. These older structures could require a larger AC system to keep the home comfortably cool.

5. Existing Ductwork
The type and condition of your home’s current ductwork is another consideration in sizing an AC system. A certified Sears Home Services contractor can connect a new central-air system to existing ductwork, or even install new ductwork if the existing ducting is leaky or poorly situated.

If new ductwork is necessary, Sears will install it in accordance with the ACCA’s Manual D (Residential Duct Design) standards. As these may be more stringent than your local building standards, homeowners can rest assured that they’re getting not only the right size AC system, but optimal ducting as well—and new ducting is yet another factor that could reduce the required size of an AC unit.

All the Other Little Details
While these five factors are important, they’re far from the whole picture. In using the Manual J formula to determine AC system sizing, Sears Home Service reps will need to gather many other details. For example, Lincon brings up the “human factor,” which includes such variables as the number of residents currently living in the home and the existence of either “hot spots” or spaces that never seem to cool adequately. Even the presence and types of window treatments can be a sizing consideration.

As you can see, AC sizing can be a complicated calculation. Certainly, shopping for a new AC system isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but professionals like those at Sears Home Services can help simplify the task so you can find the right size unit, keep your family comfortable, and maybe even see some savings on your next energy bill.

 

This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.






Old House, New AC: Your Best Bet for a Seamless Retrofit

If you're planning on updating an older home so you can enjoy state-of-the-art heating and cooling, look into a system that won't make you choose between charm and comfort.

The Unico System Installed in Older Architecture

Photo: unicosystem.com

Having once lived in a charming and historically significant Victorian home, I’m quite familiar with the compromises those old houses require. Built in 1870, ours was one of the first to adopt Edison’s newfangled electric lights, and it still had the original knob-and-tube wiring throughout its three stories. Just as electricity was an afterthought, so were heating and air conditioning. The house was designed to be heated by its numerous fireplaces, which had mostly been replaced with cast-iron radiators. But air conditioning? Forget about it! At the time, our only relief from the sweltering summers were a bunch of bulky, noisy, energy-gobbling window units that detracted from the aesthetic appeal of the house and impinged upon the lovely natural light from the eight-foot-tall windows.

Anyone who falls in love with an older or architecturally sensitive house faces a similar conundrum: How do you achieve up-to-date comfort and convenience in cooling and heating without compromising the architectural integrity of the structure? The most popular and prevalent HVAC systems in America—central air conditioning and forced-air heating—often rely on a network of bulky air ducts that are tough to incorporate into an existing home. In the past, retrofitting central air conditioning into an older home meant hiring a pricey contractor to open up walls, ceilings, and floors to route the system from room to room. Adding insult to injury, the rigid, unwieldy ductwork often takes up more space than the gaps in your walls and ceilings can accommodate, necessitating soffits, chases, and dropped ceilings that steal space from the home’s interior. In the end, to keep your family comfortable, you compromise the overall appearance and aesthetics that made you fall in love with your older home in the first place.

 

Installing AC in an Old Home

Photo; unicosystem.com

Nearly Invisible HVAC
Fortunately, there is an innovative and viable alternative to both conventional HVAC systems and inefficient window units: A newer technology known as high-velocity mini-duct HVAC allows cooling and heating to blend unobtrusively into the interior design without marring historic charm. The low-profile and versatile Unico System distributes comfort through cylindrical ducts that measure merely two to two and a half inches in diameter. Small and flexible, these mini ducts easily slide in behind walls and snake around and between joists where traditional metal ducting cannot fit, eliminating the need for altering your home in any significant way. The Unico System also features highly efficient air handling units that are compact enough to fit into tight spaces but deliver up to three times as much cooling power as larger, conventional units.

The rest of the system is just as inconspicuous. While most traditional HVAC systems rely on a variety of unsightly components—radiators, baseboard units, large metal vents—the Unico System maintains the attractive design aesthetics of your home by squeezing even its “big” pieces into the existing walls, and connecting to small, discreet outlets. The parts you do see—either 5-inch round or 8-by-1/2-inch slotted vents—can even be painted or stained to make them blend even further into the room’s overall design scheme. Meanwhile, the system’s whisper-quiet operation will preserve the peaceful charm of your old house, thanks to Unico’s impressive insulation: The mini ducts are constructed with nylon inner cores that muffle the movement of air, and the air handlers are housed within a cloak of closed-cell, sound-deadening insulation.

Advanced Comfort and Convenience
By opting for a high-velocity mini-duct HVAC in an older home, you’re not just bringing the place up to date, you’re also priming it for the future with cutting-edge energy efficiency. Whereas conventional HVAC installations can lose energy—as much as 25 to 50 percent—through typically leaky ductwork, the insulated mini ducts in the Unico System keep thermal loss close to none. Additionally, the system helps you lower your utility bills even further by removing 30 percent more humidity from the air than a conventional central air-conditioning system does, making the house comfortable even with the thermometer set slightly higher.

This combination of flexibility, painless installation, and advanced energy efficiency has made the Unico System the go-to retrofit for numerous historic and architecturally significant homes across the country, including the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and the Harry S. Truman Little White House, both located in Key West, Florida; President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C., his seasonal residence; the Petersen House in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln died after being shot at Ford’s Theatre; and the 277-year-old Orrin Hoadley House of Branford, Connecticut, an architectural gem built decades before the United States was even a country. So, if you are looking to add comfort and value to your older home, consider choosing an option that has been vetted by the National Park Service and has garnered the approval of architectural review boards in communities across the country. If it’s good enough for a presidential residence, isn’t it the right choice for your own palace?

 

 

This article has been brought to you by Unico. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Video: 9 Home Cleaners to Borrow From the Pantry

Save money on store-bought cleaners and make your own from items you already have on hand.

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Did you know that tartar sauce makes a brilliant copper cleaner? Or that a slice of the bread is your secret weapon when cleaning up broken glass? The food in your larder has a lot of genius yet little-known uses. Make the most of your pantry by testing a few of these cleaning hacks at home.

For more clever cleaning ideas, try:

9 Products You’ll Love—Even If You Hate Cleaning

The Top 10 Grimiest Spots in Your Home, According to Science

13 Lazy Cleaning Tricks for a Spotless Home


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Enter Bob Vila’s $5,000 Beat the Heat Giveaway with Fujitsu General Today!

Enter for your chance to win a wall-mounted mini-split heating and cooling system – plus installation!

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During the summer months, many homeowners escape from the stifling heat by blasting their air conditioner. Unfortunately, though, maintaining an ideal household temperature doesn’t come cheap. HVAC systems account for about half of a typical home’s energy consumption, which directly impacts your monthly utility bill. That’s why we partnered with Fujitsu General to give away an energy-efficient Halcyon RLS3Y Wall Mounted Mini-Split Heating and Cooling System, plus up to $2,500 toward installation!

Enter Bob Vila’s $5,000 Beat the Heat Giveaway with Fujitsu General today and every day this month (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on June 30, 2017 through 11:59 a.m. on July 31, 2017) for your chance to win!

ENTER NOW!

Fujitsu

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Thanks to its advanced technology and innovative features, the Fujitsu Halcyon is one of the most effective mini-split systems in North America. The energy efficiency of the system saves homeowners money on utility bills while maintaining a home’s comfort level. What’s more, the Halcyon is quieter than conventional HVAC models, with the ability to quickly achieve a homeowner’s desired temperature – even when working in extreme hot and cold temperatures. The Halcyon is available in three models (9, 12 or 15,000 BTU) and the winner of our giveaway can choose the best option for his/her home.

The Fujitsu Halcyon RLS3Y Wall Mounted Mini-Split Heating and Cooling System is made to heat and cool a single room. The system has many advanced, technology-driven features.

  • Halcyon systems have Wi-Fi capabilities, which allow them to be controlled remotely with an app for smartphones and tablets.
  • The Energy Saving Program (ESP) senses motion, adjusting a room’s temperature 20 minutes after it becomes empty. Then, when people return, the unit returns to its set operating temperature.
  • A wireless programmable remote control allows users to set weekly timers.
  • The design relies on ductless technology to keep the loudest parts of the system, like the compressors and motors, outside of the home, where they won’t create a noisy distraction. As another benefit of the design, hot or cold air can’t escape through ducting, so the mini-split system produces less wasted energy than standard central AC systems.

Enter today and every day this July to increase your odds of winning the Fujitsu Halcyon RLS3Y Wall Mounted Mini-Split Heating and Cooling System! To learn more about Fujitsu, click here. Also, don’t forget to check out Fujitsu General on Facebook.

“Bob Vila’s $5,000 Beat the Heat Giveaway with Fujitsu General” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Friday, June 30, 2017 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Monday, July 31, 2017. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Must submit name and email address using the online “Bob Vila’s$5,000 Beat the Heat with Fujitsu General” submission form. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.