Spring To Do List – Part 2

Finishing off our two part series on Spring Maintenance for your home, we leave you with some of the most important exterior issues to address each year.

Exterior Upkeep
Your window screens aren’t the only parts of your home that can fall victim to nasty winter weather, so you may want to take stock of your home’s condition. The National Center for Healthy Housing suggests that in the springtime, you may want to consider these outdoor maintenance projects:

Check your roof shingles. This should be done by a professional, as working on the roof can be dangerous without the proper training. You should ask the professional to make sure the shingles are not curling or clawing. If they are, they may be susceptible to leaks and should be replaced, says BobVila.com.

Replace rotten siding or trim. Make sure your home’s siding and trim aren’t damaged from windy, icy conditions. If your home is made of brick or stucco, look for any crumbling or deteriorated mortar. If you find a problem, contact a professional for help with repairing or replacing the damaged materials.

Clean gutters and downspouts. You’re making sure the inside of your home is clean; why not make sure your gutters are, as well? Get rid of any leaves or other debris that accumulated during the winter to make sure your gutters and downspouts are ready to take on those April showers. This job, too, is best left to a professional, as climbing on a ladder is required.

So, now’s the time to get those spring maintenance projects under way. By the time those May flowers start to bloom, you will be able to enjoy them with peace of mind knowing your home maintenance is up to date.

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Spring To Do List – Part 1

After a long, hard winter, spring is finally, hopefully, maybe even desperately, expected to arrive. Here are some home maintenance tips to help welcome the new season.

Weatherstripping

 

The Department of Energy (DOE) says weatherstripping the windows on your home is an easy and effective way to help save money on your energy bill. Weatherstripping is a material you can apply around your window and door frames to help ensure there’s a good seal. During the harsh winter months, it can help keep the warm air inside the house, and the cold drafts out. In the spring and summer, weatherstripping works the opposite way, helping to keep the cool air inside and the warm air out.

If you didn’t install weatherstripping before the winter cold set in, you may want to take this opportunity to seal your windows before you have to turn on the air conditioner. In the summer, if the cool air is contained inside, then the AC will not have to work as hard, and that may help you save money on your energy bill. The same can be true of your furnace when winter rolls back around. Thinking about installing weatherstripping? The DOE recommends that you apply weatherstripping to clean, dry surfaces in temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor Maintenance

 

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, an opportunity to sweep the cobwebs from your home, clear out the dust that accumulated during the winter and let the sunshine in. While you’re up to your elbows in soap, washing the windows, defrosting the refrigerator and tackling what seems to be a never-ending list of spring cleaning chores, you might as well make a maintenance checklist, too. On those warmer days, you may want to do the following:

Test and clean ceiling fans. According to the the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an efficient ceiling fan in each room can help allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort level. Ceiling fans can be a good way to air out the house and generate a cross-breeze. So, now might be a good time to make sure your fans are clean and ready to start cooling you off this spring.

Replace your AC filter. While the warm weather is still technically several weeks away, you want to make sure your air conditioner is prepared and ready to go. The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends you replace the filters in the air conditioner in the spring. A new filter will likely optimize the efficiency of the unit.

Replace torn or damage window screens. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if you simply like to keep the windows open in the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens are in good shape — you don’t want to let flies in with all that fresh air! Winter storms and wind can damage window screens, so it may be a good idea to assess any damage and replace what needs to be fixed.

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Biggest Mistakes When Heating Homes

With winter here to stay for the next few months, and thermostats are working overtime. That means high heating costs for a lot of us, but there are ways to make sure those bills stay as low as possible this winter. Here are six mistakes homeowners commonly make when heating their homes, and how you can avoid these pitfalls in the coming months.

1. Turning Up a Thermostat Too High To Heat a Cold House Quickly

When coming home to a cold house, it might be tempting to turn the heater up into the 80s to try to heat it faster. But thermostats don’t work like an accelerator on a car, as the Telegraph reports, and turning the heat up to blistering levels won’t warm your home faster. So just be patient and it will save you money.

2. Turning the Thermostat Way Down at Night

It’s best to avoid extremes with your thermostat. If you let the temperature in your house fall dramatically overnight, it’s going to require a lot of work from your heating system to warm the home in the morning. That could really cost you when the heating bill arrives.

3. Overworking a Thermostat That Has Its Limits

If you want the house to be 70 degrees and your thermostat is only reaching 66 degrees, turning the thermostat up to 74 degrees in an attempt to make up the difference could be a huge mistake. The furnace could be forced to work beyond its capability. Instead, find out what’s causing the problem and fix it. Heat could be escaping somewhere in your home, or you may need to replace a faulty furnace.

4. Heating an Empty House

In this day and age of controlling everything from a phone app, one of the easiest ways to save money is to install a system that can be adjusted remotely. Heating an empty home is one of the easiest ways to waste money, so a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars every year. Giving your thermostat a break every day – but don’t overdo it; see No. 2 – can also be beneficial to a longer life for your heating system.

5. Leaving Curtains Closed on Sunny Days

While your home is vacant, open the curtains to allow as much heating sunlight into your dwelling as possible. It’s most important that all south-facing windows are left uncovered. Solar warmth can go a long way not only in heating a house, but also in helping to give the furnace a break during the warmest hours of the day.

6. Not Locking Your Windows

In the summer, it’s common for homeowners to have a constant tango between opening the windows and keeping them closed to let the air conditioner do the hard work of keeping a home cool. It’s understandable if you forgot to lock those windows up before the cold weather arrives, but take the time now to ensure all windows are locked and sealed to keep warm air from escaping.

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Preventing Water Damage

One of the most disheartening experiences is to find flooding or extreme water damage to your treasured home.

Just a little time and some effort can prevent a lot of heartache and hassle.  Here’s a few tips that can help to avoid potential water damage in your home:

  • Make sure your water pressure is not set too high. For just $6 or so, you can purchase a gauge that will help you test your pressure for the appropriate level, which should be set between 60 and 80 PSI.
  • Standard hoses on new appliances are not as durable as they used to be. So check your appliances. If they’re rubber, either replace them with longer lasting stainless steel braided hoses or replace them every three years.
  • Keep water from leaking into the walls or floor of your bathroom by replacing cracked tiles and re-grouting when it’s needed.
  • Examine the shingles on your roof. Worn, curled or missing shingles allow water in, so replace them as soon as noticed.
  • Consider buying a water alarm, which can help you find leaks, or automatic shut-off mechanisms, which can help avoid bursts.
  • A lot of water damage occurs when you and your family are away from home. Make a practice to avoid running the washing machine or dishwasher while you’re out.
  • When you leave for vacations, turn off the water supply to appliances.
  • Keep up maintenance on all appliance hoses, because slow leaks from worn out hoses can cause major damage.
  • Clean and maintain gutters around your home and extend downspouts at least four feet away from your home.

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The Winter Prep

Christmas is almost here and before you know it, we all may be shoveling snow out of our walkways.  In fact, this Saturday the Delaware Valley may get one to three inches of snow with temperatures dropping to twenty seven degrees on Friday.  With that being said, prepping your home is vital to avoid potential disasters from occurring.  Here’s a quick winter prep list:

  1. Install Weatherstripping
  2. Install a Door Sweep
  3. Seal Any Attic Leaks
  4. Close the Damper
  5. Check Thermostats or Replace Them
  6. Replace Heating Filters
  7. Seal Any Ducting Leaks
  8. Have Your Furnace Serviced
  9. Insulate Your Hot Water Tank
  10. Wrap Plumbing Pipes That May Freeze
  11. Shut Off Water to Exterior Plumbing Sources
  12. Reverse Direction of Ceiling Fans
  13. Seal Off Any Leaks in the Home
  14. As Always, Check Batteries in Your Smoke Alarms

Following some easy and low tips for your home can reduce the chances of damage leading to costly repairs, while also reducing energy costs during a cold winter.

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Carbon Monoxide Prevention

You can take several precautions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  1. Install a carbon monoxide alarm in the hallway near every area of your home that is used for sleeping. Make sure furniture or draperies do not cover the alarm. Travel carbon monoxide alarms are also available for use elsewhere.
    However, in your home, an alarm is not a substitute for making sure that appliances that can produce carbon monoxide are in good repair and safe.
  2. Check to see that your appliances are installed and comply with building codes and manufacturer’s instructions. Qualified professionals should install most appliances.
  3. Get your heating system professionally inspected and serviced every year, as well as chimneys and flues.
  4. Do not use charcoal inside your house or your garage, vehicle or tent.
  5. In an attached garage, even if the door is open, do not leave a car running.
  6. Do not operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in a room where people are sleeping
  7. Do not operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool in or near any house, garage or other enclosed space.
  8. If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds, go outside and call 911 immediately. Do not return to the building until emergency services personnel gives you the all-clear.

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Locating You Water Main

Believe or not but many home owners do not know where their main water shut off is located and others simply don’t even know what a Main is. After the water passes through the three city-installed valves, it comes to what is known as the main shutoff valve in your home. This is the valve that you need to be able to locate in an emergency. This valve is usually in the basement or on an outside wall in a utility area of the house. The main shutoff valve allows a full flow of water through the pipe when it’s open. Turning off this valve (by turning it clockwise) cuts off the water supply to the entire house.

The main shutoff valve in your house probably has one of two designs:

  • Gate valve: Gate valves are very reliable and last for years, but they become difficult to turn after not being turned for years. If you haven’t closed the main shutoff valve since you moved into your house, do it now. Better to find out that you can’t turn it with your bare hands now than to wait until you’re standing in 6 inches of water.

  • Ball valve: Houses with plastic or copper main water pipes leading into the house may have a full-flow ball valve. This valve is open when the handle is aligned with the pipe. To close it, turn the handle clockwise 1/4 turn so that it’s at a right angle to the pipe.

The main valve is the one to stop most plumbing catastrophes, such as a burst pipe. Make sure that everyone in the household knows where this valve is located and knows how to turn it off. Turning the handle clockwise closes the valve. You need to turn the handle several turns to fully close a gate valve.

After you’ve closed and opened the valve, it may start to leak a bit around the valve stem. The stem of the valve is held in place with a packing nut. Tighten this nut just enough to stop the leak. Don’t overtighten it or the valve is difficult to turn again. (If you need a cheat sheet to remember which way to turn the control, use a label or tag with the simple reminder: “Right off” with an arrow pointing right, for example.)

Any time you shut off the water and allow the pipes to drain, unscrew the aerators (small screens) on the ends of all faucets before you turn the water back on. Doing so keeps the small particles of scale that may shake loose from inside the pipes from clogging the small holes in these units.

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