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Spa blankets can pose a drowning hazard

Posted: October 16, 2009 10:56 p.m.
Updated: October 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hello Robert,
Your name came up in our board meeting. Our CC & Rs state that the spa is to remain heated year round. One of the board members suggested that we place thermal blankets over the spas when not in use to save money on the heating bills and has done this in the past, apparently with much success. The only thing is you can’t really secure the blanket to the spa and they would probably get vandalized or taken. We decided before voting, we would ask your opinion whether this is a good idea. Thank you very much,
Mary N.

Hi Mary,
Absolutely not. If a child were to walk on the top of the blanket, they would fall in and get engulfed by the plastic and drown. This is very, very dangerous. For anyone unfamiliar with these blankets, they are basically sheets of bubble wrap that you cut to conform to your jacuzzi. You place it on top and it works great in residential applications. In the public arena however, it is illegal.

Hi Robert,
For some reason, every year we have ducks that fly in and bathe in our swimming pool. The first year it happened, it was wonderful. I even took my children out to feed them. It has since become more a health and expense issue in that they leave a huge mess in our water and on the decking. What are your recommendations for keeping them out? Are there any repellants you could recommend? Sincerely,
Anne V.

Hi Anne,
You can’t use any repellants or poisons. You not even allowed to shoo them away. If you were to get caught jumping up and down and waiving your hands in the air to prevent them from landing in your pool, you could be issued a fine.

With the exception of hunting season regulations, migratory birds are protected by strict federal laws which prohibit you to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention... for the protection of migratory birds... or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.”     

As you can see, U.S. Fish and Wildlife would rather you not bother them.  

There is a net available though, that you can install at your pool. It comes with surface mounted eyelets that are placed around your deck that you hook the net into. The net is then stretched across and stays at the water line. When the ducks try to land in your pool, they land on this net instead. If they can’t swim, they fly off immediately to look for the next watering hole.  

Hi Robert,
I hear there are new locks for the home that can be activated from a cellphone? Could you give me more information about this? Thank you,
David B.

Hi David,
It’s called the Schlage Link. It’s basically an entire security system for your home or business that can be remotely operated with any internet enabled computer or cell phone.  

For the locks, you install a battery operated keypad on each of the doors. To enter, you can use a key or one of 19 unique user codes that will unlock the door.  

Using their computer program, you can check the status of your locks — which doors are locked or unlocked as well as the battery life of each. If someone forgets their code while you are away from home, they call you who can remotely change codes to allow them access.  

Other features include being able to check who has accessed each lock for the last 90 days; you can arrange to be sent a text message when a particular user accesses the lock, and you can disarm all the codes while on vacation. All commands sent to the system use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption technology, the same security used for online banking.

The system can also include and control cameras allowing for a live view when you’re away from home. Lights can be tied into the system with the ability to remotely dim or brighten each lamp, and climate, so you can adjust the temperature with the “z-wave” enabled thermostat. If, for example, you want to save on the heating bills during the day when there is no one home, you can program the system so the heat comes on an hour before you get home from work.  

Hi Robert,
We bought a cabin which is old but structurally in good shape. The only thing I’m not really happy with is it has fuses instead of breakers. Whenever we go up, I plan on replacing the fuse at least once which is a 25 amp Buss. I’ve gotten into the habit of putting in a 30 amp while were there, and then taking it out when we leave. This seems to have solved the problem. And, as far as I know, there was a 30 amp fuse in there originally that the previous owner replaced with a 25 amp. My question is, is the 30 amp okay to leave in permanently or how can I check to see what is supposed to be there? Thank you very much,
Chris R.

Hi Chris,
What you’re doing can be dangerous. The fuses are rated for a reason. You can’t just arbitrarily change out fuses to a higher amperage, because in theory, the wiring will burn before the fuses pop.  

It sounds like you might have a loose connection. You want to make sure that the fuse holder is snug. It should be a little hard to take in and out. You never want an electrical connection to be loose.  

Like you said, there is always the chance that the previous homeowner replaced it with the wrong fuse, but you would expect No. 12 and No. 14 gauge wiring with 15’s and 20 amp fuses, not 25s and 30s.  

The right fuse for the circuit is rated on what gauge of wiring you have coming into the panel. For this, I suggest you hire a qualified and licensed electrician. He’ll be able to tell you what fuse you should use.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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