Hidden Fire Dangers in Your Home

In the U.S., fire departments respond to one fire every 88 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Cooking is the most common cause of home fires and smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. But there are many other ways that you could inadvertently start a fire. These are some of the hidden fire sources in your home.

batteries

Don’t store batteries near metal. Image: Mariva2017/Shutterstock

Batteries

All batteries pose a fire risk, even those with a weak charge, according to Craig Gjelsten, VP of Operations at Rainbow International, which restores damage caused by fire, water and mold. Gjelsten says that 9-volt batteries are the biggest fire culprit. Since their terminals are in close proximity, they can easily short. “I recommend a battery storage case or just leave batteries in their original packaging instead of lying around loose.”

Gjelsten also recommends storing batteries standing upright and placing electrical tape over the ends of each battery — regardless of the battery type. Other tips include not storing batteries in metal containers or placing them near keys, steel wool or other metal objects. “Also, be sure to store 9-volt batteries separately,” Gjelsten says.

damaged

Check for dust bunnies around sockets. Image: NothingisEverything/Shutterstock

Damaged electrical equipment and dust bunnies

If your electrical equipment is damaged, it can easily overheat and result in a fire, according to Tom Wallace, a Certified Master Inspector at Home Check Inspections in Riverview, FL. “It is important to regularly inspect the electrical equipment in your home for damaged or frayed cords and plugs,” Wallace advises.

You may be thinking that you’d know if you had damaged or frayed cords and plugs. But that’s not necessarily the case. “Power or extension cords hidden behind a bed or table that are repeatedly knocked against can become worn out,” explains Bill Timmons, Marketing Manager of Residential Products at Legrand. He also warns against walking over cords — for example, under carpets or on your hardwood floors — since this can also result in damage.

And don’t forget the dreaded dust bunnies. When they form around electronics, sockets and heaters, Gjelsten says they can ignite and start a fire. “Regularly vacuum dust near outlets, wires and appliances, including crevices and areas behind furniture,” he says.

coffee maker

Turn off your coffee maker when it’s not being used. Image: John Kasawa/Shutterstock

Coffee makers

“Your coffee pot could overheat and start a fire,” says Battalion Chief Raymond Williams of the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Department in Birmingham, AL. He says coffee pots with plastic components can get too hot if you forget to turn them off. Although most coffee pots with digital clocks have an automatic two-hour shut off, that’s still plenty of time for them to overheat. Also, several years ago, Kenmore recalled 145,000 coffee makers due to faulty wiring. So, to be on the safe side, don’t leave your coffee maker unattended and manually turn it off when you’re not using it.

flammable liquids

Use care with flammable liquids. Image: Elder von Rabenstein/Shutterstock

Flammable liquids

It’s probably no surprise that gasoline or kerosene can inadvertently start a fire. “These flammable items should be stored away from heat sources in appropriate containers,“ says Wallace. “The containers should be labeled and easily identifiable.”

However, there are other flammable liquids that can also start a fire. For example, a woman in Texas opened a bottle of nail polish remover and left it near a candle in an unventilated room. The bottle ignited and she suffered third-degree burns.

soft surface

Keep laptops off of soft surfaces. Image: Twin Design/Shutterstock

Laptops

If you’ve ever held your laptop in your lap for an extended period of time, you know it can get very hot. However, you might not have known that it can actually catch on fire. “Laptops can get pretty hot during normal operation. When placed on a blanket or similar surface, the batteries can overheat and cause a house fire,” Gjelsten says. He warns against leaving your laptop on any type of soft surface. If you don’t have a home office or desk, consider using a laptop stand.

lilght fixture

Use the proper wattage for your light fixture. Image: Darin Echelberger/Shutterstock

Light bulbs

Are you familiar with the term “overlamping”? It occurs when the light bulb wattage is too high for the lamp, and Gjelsten warns that overlamping can start a home fire. For example, if you use a 75-watt bulb in a 40-watt lamp, you’re overlamping.

“If the fixture is unmarked, stay under 60 watts to be safe,” Gjelsten says. He also advises caution with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). “Avoid using CFLs when the base of the bulb is enclosed by the fixture, such as with track and recessed lighting,” he says. “If your CFLs are burning out early and they’re brown at the base when removed, the bulbs are overheating.” Gjelsten recommends a cooler option, like LED.

dryer maintenance

Perform preventive maintenance on your dryer. Image: Good moments/Shutterstock

Dryer vents

While you’re sprucing up your laundry room, don’t forget to clean your dryer vent on a regular basis. You should empty the dryer lint screen before every load, according to Dave Lavalle, Founder of Dryer Vent Wizard. “While the dryer vent and duct system carries the air and lint outdoors, some of it gets trapped in the lint screen,” he explains. And since lint is very combustible, he says the screen should be emptied before every load. “Also, on a quarterly basis, clean the lint screen in soapy water,” he adds. That’s because detergent, fabric softener and other materials can build up and create a transparent film.

In addition, you need to check the vent cover on the home’s exterior to ensure that there’s no mulch or bird/rodent nesting materials. “Lastly, check the flexible tube-shaped transition duct that connects the dryer and the duct,” Lavelle says. Every other month, he recommends checking behind the dryer to ensure the transition duct hasn’t been crushed or broken.

paper pile

Don’t let paper pile up. Image: Nongnuch L/Shutterstock

Other hidden fire sources

Gjelsten also warns that if you leave stacks of newspapers and magazines too close to a heat source, they can ignite. “And if you use heating blankets and pads, do not place the cord between the mattress and box spring,” he adds. Gjelsten also advises against using these heating items on anything but the lowest setting.

“Also, throwing that unused bag of charcoal in the closest storage closet is never a good idea.” He says that damp coal can ignite and start a serious fire. Instead, Gjelsten recommends storing the bag in a metal pail or garbage can with a tightly closed lid.

The post Hidden Fire Dangers in Your Home appeared first on Freshome.com.

HomeAdvisor’s 2019 Report Reveals Popular Spending Trends

The new State of Home Spending report by HomeAdvisor provides a treasure trove of information regarding the habits and behaviors of homeowners relating to home improvement spending, home maintenance spending, and home emergency spending.

Misha Fisher, Chief Economist for ANGI Homeservices (which owns HomeAdvisor), provides insight on the report.

Improving and remodeling are more popular than upkeep projects for homeowners.

Improving and remodeling are more popular than upkeep projects. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Homeowners spend more on home improvement than home maintenance

When taking out their wallets, homeowners are more likely to spend money to improve their space, rather than tackle a maintenance project. “For every dollar they spend on home maintenance, homeowners spend an average of five dollars on home improvement projects,” Fisher says.

In 2018, homeowners spent an average of $7,560 on home improvement projects. “They spent an average of $1,105 on home maintenance projects, and $416 on home emergency projects,” according to Fisher.

Some states spend significantly more on projects.

Some states spend significantly more on projects. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

States spending the most and least on home improvement

Residents in Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Maryland are among the states that spend the most on home improvement projects. “On the other hand, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Maine are some of the states that spend the least amount on home improvement,” Fisher says.

Home improvement spending is up by 17.5% from 2018. Fisher attributes some of this to an increase in consumer wages, and a cultural focus on design aesthetics. “Also, the cost of skilled tradespeople is rising, and there are better (but more expensive) home improvement tools,” he says.

Everyone wants a renovated bathroom.

Everyone wants a renovated bathroom. Image: plusONE/Shutterstock

What are homeowners improving?

Rooms are the most popular home improvement choice. “Among these remodeling projects, bathrooms remain the overwhelmingly popular choice across all generations, likely in part because of their comparatively cheaper cost relative to kitchens,” according to Fisher.  Many homeowners are incorporating 2019 bathroom technology trends. “A bathroom renovation usually costs $10,352, and most homeowners spend between $5,957 and $14,832.” While a small or medium-sized bathroom ranges between $3,500 and $7,000, he says that a master or large bathroom could cost more than $13,000 to remodel.

Besides remodeling rooms, other popular projects include installing new appliances, replacing the roof, and refinishing hardwood floors.

Replacing windows can increase energy efficiency. Image: onzon/Shutterstock

Replacing windows can increase energy efficiency. Image: onzon/Shutterstock

Motivation to complete projects

Among generations, millennials are more likely to complete a home project to increase the home’s resale value. “Also, while baby boomers and Gen X are more likely to want to ‘modernize” their homes, millennials and the Silent Generation say they want to improve aesthetics and design,” Fisher explains.

When homeowners turn their attention to fixing parts of the home, they’re replacing or repairing areas that are damaged, decaying, or defective. Fisher says they’re most likely to focus on the following projects: a new roof, a new HVAC, new fencing, building a deck, new gutters, replacing windows, and new siding.

Roof repair is one common emergency home project.

Roof repair is one common emergency home project. Image: Radovan1/Shutterstock

Emergency home projects

One out of every five homeowners reported the need to complete an emergency home project. Examples of home emergency projects include fixing hail damage to the roof or replacing a failing hot water heater. “Homeowners who live in areas prone to extreme weather events spend the most money on emergency projects,” Fisher says. Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana lead in this area, as a result of tropical storms, thunderstorms, flooding and hail.

However, you might be surprised to find out that an older home doesn’t necessary mean you’ll spend more in the event of an emergency. “The owners of a 100-year-old home spend an average of $370 less on emergency home repairs than the owner of a brand-new home,” Fisher says.

Millennials and more likely to conduct research via the internet.

Millennials and more likely to conduct research via the internet. Image: one photo/Shutterstock

How homeowners research costs

When researching home improvement costs, there are stark generational differences. For example:

  • Millennials: 77% use the internet, 64% check big box stores, 30% ask a previously used contractor
  • GenX: 74% check big box stores, 70% use the internet, 23% ask a previously used contractor
  • Baby Boomers: 60% check big box store, 58% use the internet, 35% ask a previously used contractor
  • The Silent Generation: 50% check big box stores, 32% ask a previously used contractor, and 25% use the internet

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How to Flush Your Hot Water Heater

Your hot water heater is your pal. Very few people look forward to a cold shower, but a luxurious steamy one or — better yet — a long soak in the tub can be just what you need to decompress from a stressful day or shake off muscular soreness. Your hot water heater takes care of you, and you need to return the favor. How? It’s pretty simple, actually. Flush it once a year. Now, unless you’re a home maintenance pro, that probably begs a question. How do you flush your hot water heater?

Fear not, hot water lover. We’ve assembled a simple step-by-step guide to help you get through this process with minimal mess and optimal results. But first, let’s talk about why it’s important.

flush your hot water heater

If you like your hot showers, flush your hot water heater once a year. Image: Andrey tiyk/Shutterstock

Why you need to flush your hot water heater

You probably already have a lot of home maintenance needs pulling at your attention. Why add one more to the list? Because you like hot water, that’s why. And you want to keep it flowing freely in your home. And without a regular flushing, your water heater can suffer from a buildup of sediment. This reduces the efficiency of your hot water heater and can even plug up your water lines. That’s no good. But don’t stress. With a pretty simple yearly flush, you can keep your hot water heater running efficiently and extend its lifespan.

How to do it

Ready to get started? You won’t need much. Really, the key essentials are:

  • A hose
  • A towel
  • A wrench

This list assumes that you can run the hose somewhere to allow the water from your hot water heater can drain safely. If not, get a couple of five-gallon buckets ready to capture what you drain. You might also want to consider the bucket method if you’re water conscious. If you let the water cool first, you can use the water in your garden. Just avoid giving it to delicate plants that might not appreciate the sediment the water likely contains.

In addition to gathering your materials, there’s another key step you really can’t skip. Check the warranty for your hot water heater. Performing maintenance yourself, even simple maintenance like this, could void your warranty. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Assuming your warranty gives you the go-ahead, you’re ready to get to it.

flush your hot water heater - temp

If you have a gas water heater, turn the gas control to “Pilot” before you get started. Image: Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock

Step one: Cut off power and water

Safety first! Make sure your water heater is disconnected from its power source before you get started. If it’s electric, that means turning off the circuit breaker at your main breaker panel, then unplugging it. If it’s gas, note the temp it’s at for later, then turn the gas control knob to “Pilot.” Make sure your water heater is completely turned off before you move forward because draining water away from the heating element when it’s working can damage it.

Then, turn off your water heater’s water supply by shutting off the cold water valve. It will be located at the top of or above your water heater along a pipe that supplies it with cold water. A 90-degree turn will usually shut off the water.

If you can, wait overnight before you proceed to step two. This will allow your hot water heater to cool off so you’re not dealing with scalding water in next steps. If you can’t, use extra care.

Step two: Prevent a vacuum

You don’t want anything funky happening with your water lines while you flush your hot water heater, so go turn on the hot water somewhere in your house. Having this water source open will prevent a vacuum from forming as the tank drains.

flush your hot water heater - hose

Connect a hose to your hot water heater to drain the water and sediment without a huge mess. Image: C5Media/Getty Images

Step three: Get ready to drain

You’re about to empty out your hot water heater and all that water needs to go somewhere. Control it by connecting a hose to the drain valve. It will be located at the bottom of your water heater and will probably look a lot like a standard garden faucet. Tighten the hose with a wrench and drape a towel over the connection so you don’t have to deal with any spray issues.

Feed the hose somewhere the water can safely drain or put it in a bucket. Next, open the pressure relief valve towards the top of your water heater. It’s usually a lever you simply flip.

Step four: Drain it

If you didn’t let your water cool, be ready for hot water to flow quickly out of your tank. Consider gloves or towels to protect your skin. If you’re using the bucket method,  have a second bucket ready to take its place when it gets full. Alternately, you can turn off the drain valve when the water nears the top of your bucket, drain it, then reopen the valve and refill your bucket, emptying as needed until your water heater is empty.

Ready? Open the drain valve and watch all that water and sediment pour out. Keep going until the tank is empty.

Step five: Flush it

Reopen the cold water valve at the top of your tank for a few seconds, then shut it off again and let the water drain. This will stir up any leftover sediment so you can fully flush your hot water heater. Repeat this process until you don’t see any more sediment coming out of your tank.

flush your hot water heater - sink

Leave all your faucets open as you refill your hot water heater’s tank to prevent air bubbles. Image: bmphotographer/Shutterstock

Step six: Refill it

Close the drain valve and close the pressure relief valve. Disconnect your hose. Next comes a sort of annoying step. Turn on all the hot water faucets in your house (sinks, bathtubs, showers, etc.). Having these freely flowing as you refill your tank prevents any pressure issues from arising within your water lines.

Then, turn the cold water supply back on and let your tank fill. Once it’s full, slowly reopen the pressure relief valve again to let any excess air get released. Then, close it again.

Now, head back to your faucets. Once water flow returns to steady (keep an eye out for hiccups and spurts that are indicative of air bubbles), turn them all off.

Step seven: Restore power

If your water heater is electric, plug it back into the wall before you restore power to it at your main circuit breaker. Then, turn it back on at the breaker box.

If it’s gas, relight the pilot and turn the knob back to the temperature at which it was previously set.

Listen to your water heater. You’ll be able to hear it start working again. In about 30 minutes, test that you have hot water again.

Voilà! You’ve just learned how to flush your hot water heater, extending its life and increasing its efficiency. Again, make sure you check your warranty before attempting any maintenance yourself. You can also always hire a licensed professional to flush your water heater. The point is simply to take good care of your hot water. Now, it’s time to reward yourself. But will you choose a shower or a bath?

The post How to Flush Your Hot Water Heater appeared first on Freshome.com.

Exclusive! Chip Wade on Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Before Summer

 Chip Wade

Wade gave us a few tips to execute before summer. Image courtesy of Chip Wade

If you’ve ever watched Chip Wade on HGTV or the DIY Network, you know he’s pretty handy, both inside the house and outdoors. Wade, who is also the Owner and Lead Designer of Wade Works Creative and a Liberty Mutual consultant, specializes in helping homeowners create the perfect indoor and outdoor spaces.

As you can imagine, he’s busy, but Freshome asked him to stop and share a few tips on how to recover from winter and get your home and yard prepped for summer.

Service your air conditioner

You don’t want your A/C breaking down during the dog days of summer.

You don’t want your AC breaking down during the dog days of summer. Image: C5Media/Shutterstock

“I recommend checking out your air conditioning system in the spring to ensure it’s working properly before the weather really warms up,” Wade says. The first step is to change the system’s filter. “Clogged and dirty filters make air conditioning systems work harder, stay on longer and cost more to run.” Wade recommends changing heating and air filters every two to four months.

Changing filters regularly helps to keep your system running efficiently.

Changing filters regularly helps to keep your system running efficiently. Image: RF-2018/Shutterstock

After changing the filter, he recommends turning on the unit to see how it is working. “Give it a minute, but if the AC doesn’t start doing its job quickly, I’d recommend checking your fuses and circuit breakers,” Wade says. If that doesn’t make a difference, or you’re getting ghost readings, he recommends calling a professional to assess the situation.

Clean your windows and screens

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside.

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside. Image: 3DPhoto/Shutterstock.

Wade cleans his windows by filling a spray bottle with window cleaning solution and using a squeegee or some newspaper to clean the glass since this leaves it streak-free.

“It’s important to remember that everyone’s windows fare differently after the winter,” Wade says, advising homeowners to look for signs of dry rot. “If you live in a colder climate, look for any water damage caused by melting ice or snow.”

Caulk and weatherstripping keeps your cool air inside:

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside. Image: pics 721/Shutterstock

He also recommends checking the seals around the window. “Recaulk or replace damaged weather stripping where needed,” Wade says. “Those seals will work to keep the cool air inside and the hot air out all summer long.”

And don’t forget about your window screens. “Take time to clean them, inspect them, repair any damage and reinstall the screens in your windows.” Not sure how to repair damaged screens? Wade says you can find a repair kit at most hardware stores. “Also, the best way to wash your screens is by using a hose — not a pressure washer — and some mild detergent.”

Inspect outdoor plumbing

Check for leaks or blockages

Check for leaks or blockages. Image: VTT Studio/Shutterstock

Inspecting your outdoor plumbing is another maintenance task you should perform as the weather heats up. “Start by removing insulators from all outdoor faucets and then turn on the water,” Wade says. “If it isn’t flowing as it normally should, that likely means that there is an issue with your pipes and it’s time to call a plumber.”

If you have an in-ground irrigation system, he recommends calling a professional to tune up your system and ensure that it’s operating efficiently.

Get your yard ready

Inspect outdoor equipment for winter damage.

Inspect outdoor equipment for winter damage. Image: Mark Herried/Shutterstock

As the weather starts warming up, Wade also recommends getting your yard ready. “I like to do a full inspection of everything left outside during the winter, like playground equipment.” He says he’s looking for rust or areas that may be worn down by the weather, and starts troubleshooting from there.

 

 

Prep to enjoy the summer months.

Freshen up your outdoor furniture. Image: Zhu difeng/Shutterstock

After that, Wade says he’s onto the fun part. “I love bringing lawn and patio furniture out of storage and freshening them up.” He also sands and repaints if necessary. “Redesigning — or even redecorating — an outdoor space gets me excited because I’m thinking about all the time that will be spent there with friends and family.” Also, consider ways that you can erase the boundary between inside and outdoors.

Proactively maintain your home

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Image: kurhan/Shutterstock

If you stay on top of home upkeep, Wade says you can avoid future headaches. “In fact, a study from Liberty Mutual Insurance revealed 69 percent of consumers have procrastinated on home maintenance and repairs,” he says. And, unfortunately, many people don’t have money saved for maintenance issues or repair work.

“It’s all about routine maintenance, both inside and outside the home,” Wade explains. “This will save you time and money in the long run.”

The post Exclusive! Chip Wade on Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Before Summer appeared first on Freshome.com.

Caring for Windows: 5 Tips for People in Glass Houses

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They say that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but 13 years in a window-heavy home has taught me even more. The entire front of my home is made up of 12 windows and, while they’re visually interesting, I’ll be honest with you: they can be a major pain to keep clean. But as homes trend toward the more modern, windows and glass are only becoming more popular. Sure, that’s great news for the window-washing company I use, but it also means a lot of homeowner upkeep, too. Caring for windows is more than just a spritz of blue glass cleaner. Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned through life in my own glass house.

Home with large windows in grassy landscape

Windows add plenty of architectural interest to your home. Image: breadmaker/Shutterstock

1. Go commercial

Regular window cleaner is okay for quick shine-ups, but your glass will need more. Homes that feature a lot of glass — especially in place of exterior walls — will accumulate buildup from weather, dust, animals and more. And sometimes, you can’t even really see how dirty your glass is until the sun shines directly through. In any case, it’s best to go for commercial window cleaning solutions. One of the best methods is to simply use soap and water to remove the grime. Then, use a commercial-strength window cleaner (it usually comes in foam, not spray) to shine up.

Modern home with large picture windows

Avoid your hose to make your glass shine. Image: alexandre zveiger/Shutterstock

2. Wash and dry, but skip the hose

When I first moved into my glass house, I figured a quick spray with the hose outside would be enough to get rid of dirt and grime. But my window care contractor told me that I was probably just making it worse. Hose water is usually pretty hard and, what’s more, mineral deposits can be absorbed by the porous surface of the glass. Caring for windows properly meant filling a bucket with water from inside my home, washing and then making sure to dry the glass before finishing. Never wash your windows in direct sunlight, either, since that’s the time windows are most porous.

Modern home with large windows

Make sure your landscape maintenance doesn’t damage your windows. Image: artazum/Shutterstock

3. Check your sprinklers

Automatic sprinklers are super convenient, but they’re really hard on windows. Having a sprinkler system that splashes up against the glass in your home means wave after wave of hard water and scale buildup over time. I definitely fell victim to this issue the first year in my home; the sprinklers had to be reconfigured. Limescale and hard water buildup are notoriously hard to get off of glass, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. Make sure your sprinklers are pointed away from your windows and water areas close to your home by hand instead.

Living room with floor-to-ceiling windows

Yearly maintenance can ensure more energy efficient windows. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

4. Reseal annually

Having a home that is heavy on the glass can be stunning, but it’s not always the most energy efficient feature. Caring for windows can make your home more efficient and help keep energy bills low. Seals around windows and glass can shrink and warp over time, letting out precious heat in the winter and letting it in through the summer months. It’s best to do an annual checkup of your window seals to make sure they’re tight and still pliable. The good news? It’s an easy fix. A tube of caulk can make all the difference in keeping your glass house comfortable all year long.

Large modern home

Call in the professionals a couple of times per year. Image: rawmn/Shutterstock

5. Call in the pros

I do my best to keep our glass home in good shape but I’m not an expert. That’s why I have professional window maintenance come twice yearly to clean windows, clear debris, check seals and otherwise keep my windows in good shape. When your home features a lot of windows, having them look grimy or in disrepair makes a huge difference in the look and feel of the house. It’s usually $150 to $300, but it’s money well spent in keeping my house efficient. While I’m sure we’ll have to replace our windows eventually, it’s a huge cost. Taking care of your windows will extend their life and keep them looking great, so a professional opinion is definitely a worthy investment.

Caring for windows is a major part of homeownership. It’s even more important when glass is one of your home’s major features.

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HVAC Basics: Annual HVAC Maintenance Schedule

When properly taken care of, an HVAC system can last nearly fifteen years. While much of that work should be done by a qualified professional, there are things that you, as the homeowner, can do to make sure that your system stays in good shape. We’ve laid them out for you below. Keep this annual HVAC maintenance schedule close at hand so that you can refer to it throughout the year. With a little TLC, you’ll be able to keep your system running smoothly for years to come.

Clean off your HVAC system every time you see that it’s collected dirt and debris. Image: Shutterstock/ Christian Delbert

As often as possible

  • Visually inspect your HVAC system: The best thing you can do to keep your HVAC healthy is to pay close attention to it. Any time you are in your yard, just take a quick glance over at your system and make sure that nothing is amiss. If you see any dirt or debris on the system, clean it off. Additionally, pay attention to how your system sounds. If you notice any changes in the way the system sounds, you’ll want to call a professional.
  • Keep your landscaping in shape: You should also make an effort to keep any landscaping that surrounds the HVAC unit in good shape. The last thing that you want is to have roots or vines grow too close to the unit and have it cause problems with your system’s functionality. Ideally, you should aim to keep a clear 2-foot barrier around the unit at all times.

Remember to change the air filter every few months. Image: Shutterstock/ Steve Heap

Every three months

  • Change the air filter: Believe it or not, using a clean air filter is one of the keys to keeping a healthy HVAC system. It keeps dust and debris from building up in your ducts or being blown into the other rooms of your home. You should replace the air filter at least once every three months. Though, you may even want to check it monthly to make sure that it’s not full of dirt.
  • Adjust the thermostat: Constantly lowering and turning up your thermostat can have a big impact on your bills and not in a good way. Instead, if you can, consider setting your thermostat once a season and then letting it go.

Have a professional come evaluate the functionality of your system twice per year. Image: Shutterstock/ I AM NIKOM

In the fall

  • Professional seasonal maintenance: The reality is that the vast majority of your HVAC maintenance should be done by a professional. They will check the electrical connections and voltage, condensate drain, exhaust outlets, fuel lines, burners, heat exchangers and other components. Additionally, this is the time when they can address any problems other problems you’ve noticed.
  • Clean ice and snow off the unit: Depending on where you live, ice and snow may be inevitable. However, letting too much of it accumulate on the outdoor components of your HVAC system can do serious damage. Do your best to clean off any ice and snow.
  • Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector: Though this is not truly a component of your HVAC system, it’s just as important. If they’re not working properly, heating systems can give off dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Make sure you stay prepared by testing the detector at least once a year and putting in fresh batteries.

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In the spring

  • Professional seasonal maintenance: Bring your local HVAC professional back out for spring maintenance on your AC unit. They will inspect the connections, voltage, lines, fins, pans, coils, refrigerant levels and blower system components. This is also the time to bring up any problems or damaged areas that you’ve noticed over the winter as you get ready for warmer temperatures.

Are you getting ready for the upcoming season? Get in touch with a local HVAC professional today to make sure that your HVAC maintenance is taken care of.

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These Are 5 Easy Home Maintenance Tasks That Will Save You Money

These days, everyone is looking to save money wherever they can. However, if you look around your house, it’s likely that there are home maintenance tasks that you’ve been putting off fixing and, in the meantime, are costing you your hard-earned cash. This post is all about how to tackle those issues once and for all. Read on below to see five easy, money-saving home maintenance tasks. If you take care of each one, it will go a long way towards putting money back in your pocket.

home maintenance tasks

Add weatherstripping to insulate doors and windows. Image: ImageFlow/Shutterstock

Add weatherstripping

Especially in the winter months, it’s easy to tell if your doors and windows are letting in drafts of cold air from the outside. Though a little air may not seem like a huge deal, it’s making extra work for your heating system. Fortunately, weatherstripping provides a relatively easy fix for this issue. In just a few minutes, you should be able to seal your home up tight.

The first step to this process is choosing the right weatherstripping. Believe it or not, there are multiple kinds to choose from and each has its ideal purpose. Felt, for example, is the easiest type to install but has a habit of letting air through. Reinforced vinyl, on the other hand, is better at stopping air flow, but is very visible.  Check out this guide to find the material that best suits your needs.

Luckily, the installation of this product is fairly simple. Most materials come with self-adhesive versions that can be found in your local home improvement store. The key here is making sure that you measure both your doors and windows, as well as the weatherstripping product, at least twice before you cut it in order to ensure an accurate length.

hvac

Regularly change your HVAC filters. Image: Jovana Veljkovic/Shutterstock

Change HVAC filters

Chances are, even if you change your HVAC filter every once and a while, you’re still not tending to it often enough. Conventional wisdom states that these filters need to be changed every 90 days in order to keep your system from having to work harder than it should. However, keep in mind, that timeframe shifts to every 60 days if you have a cat or dog at home.

Luckily, changing one of these filters is super easy. Start by turning off your HVAC unit. Then, locate the filter and remove the access panels. Simply take the old filter out and replace it with the new one, paying close attention to any arrows to ensure that the filter goes in right-side up. Then, put the access panel back in its place and you’re free to turn the unit back on.

hot water heater

Flushing your hot water heater now could prevent a big catastrophe later. Image: ArchiVIZ/Shutterstock

Flush your hot water heater

Flushing your hot water heater is a crucial task that should become part of your regular home maintenance routine. Doing so at least once a year helps to ensure the greatest supply of hot water to your home, and also prevents sediment from corroding the water heater’s components. Unfortunately for many, that corrosion leads to breakage that can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

Begin the process by turning off the thermostat to your hot water heater. Follow that up by turning off the gas to it, as well as the hot water supply. (If your hot water heater is electric, you’ll also want to unplug it at this time.) Then, turn on the tap in a sink or bathtub and let it run through this entire process. This will help prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines while you’re draining the hot water tank.

When you’re ready, connect a garden hose to the drainage spigot on your hot water heater. Turn on the spigot and allow any water to drain out into a bucket. When the water runs clear and free of sediment, flush the hot water heater by turning on the cold water spigot and allowing the water to run until it’s free of sediment. Finally, turn off the drainage spigot, disconnect the hose and turn everything back on.

faucet

Fixing a leaky faucet can make a big impact on your water bill. Image: Ant Clausen/Shutterstock

Fix leaky faucets

In addition to being unpleasant to hear all the time, that faucet in your house that continually leaks is costing you money. Estimates suggest that a leaky faucet can end up costing you between $60 and $200 per year, depending on the severity of the leak.

To take care of this problem, start by shutting off the water underneath the sink and closing the drain. Then, remove the decorative cap on your faucet’s handle, as well as the handle screw. Pull off the handle and use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packing nut. After unscrewing the stem, remove and replace the seat washer held in place by a brass screw. Finally, pop the stem out of the packing nut and replace the O-ring, which is likely the cause of the leak. After you’re done, reassemble the faucet.

gutters

Your gutters should be cleaned at the beginning of each new season. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Clean your gutters

Clogged gutters may not seem like a huge deal at first but, left alone, buildup such as leaves and branches can cause water to pool and leaks to form in the fascia of the house. Over time, this can lead to severe water damage to your home’s structure, which is undeniably costly.

Cleaning out your gutters is a hands-on task. Begin by removing any visible twigs, leaves and debris. Then, take a garden hose and flush away any remaining dirt. If the water doesn’t drain out of your downspouts, there’s likely a clog. At that point, you’ll need to remove the clog with a plumber’s snake.

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