Gas Fireplace Safety

int_fireplace_standard door

‘Tis the season for a crackling fire in the fireplace. It’s also the season when the most house fires occur – due to fireplace misuse, candles, space heaters, etc. If you have a gas fireplace installed in your home, it is critical that you use it properly – especially if you have children and pets around.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Access the owner’s manual for your fireplace in your Homeowner Maintenance Guide. Maintain it per the manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure to take precautions where warnings are included! Above all, use common sense.

Do not try to manually light your fireplace with matches or a lighter. This is very dangerous! If you have followed the manufacturer’s instructions to light your fireplace and still can’t get it to work properly, call the manufacturer’s customer service line or contact a professional to troubleshoot the problem.

Don’t place combustibles or flammable items near your fireplace. It’s tempting to decorate your hearth with pretty things. But keep in mind that the heat from your fireplace can damage items placed too close, and in the worst case, cause combustible items to, well, combust.

Handle the glass carefully. Whether your unit has fixed glass or doors that open, it will get hot! Do not try to perform maintenance until the glass and entire unit has cooled completely.

Be safe and enjoy your fireplace this winter!

Fall Home Maintenance

Leaves-in-Gutters1Finally, it’s starting to feel like Fall. The holidays are beginning to be top of mind as we set shopping budgets and plan for holiday get-togethers. In the busyness of the holidays, it’s easy to neglect the important home maintenance tasks that your home needs before the cold weather really sets in. Why not make a personal goal to take care of these tasks before things get really crazy?

  1. Fireplace. If you have a traditional fireplace or a sealed gas fireplace, there are inspections that need to take place before you begin using it regularly throughout the winter. Inspect the chimney or venting system, as well as the firebox. For gas fireplaces, inspect the flame and rod. In traditional fireplaces, make sure your flue closes tightly.
  2. HVAC System. Have your furnace or heat pump professionally serviced. Just like your car needs a tune-up, so does your heater. A well-maintained heater will run more efficiently and use less energy. Clean ducts and air filters will also help your system work more efficiently, and reduce the allergens in your home.
  3. Weatherstripping. As we discussed in last month’s newsletter, now is the time to inspect and repair any detached or deteriorating weatherstripping. Keep the warm air in and the cold air out!
  4. Gutters & Downspouts. Once the leaves are finished falling, inspect your gutters to make sure they haven’t become clogged with leaves and other debris. Ensure that water can properly drain through your gutters and downspouts. Water shouldn’t spill over the edge of the gutters during rain (or behind them), it should flow easily into the downspouts. Make sure the bottom of your downspouts are directing water away from your home.
  5. Protect Pipes. If you live in a region with prolonged freezing, make sure that all exposed piping is properly insulated.
  6. Trim Trees. Trim any trees that may impact your home during winter storms.
  7. Irrigation. Reset your irrigation timers in preparation for the rainy season. If you live in a region prone to freezing, you’ll want to shut down and drain your system for the winter.

Proper home maintenance is what keeps your home working as it should all winter long. If you’ve fallen behind on your maintenance, don’t despair! Start with this list, and then refer to the Home Maintenance Summary in your Homeowner Maintenance Guide for an organized list of your home’s maintenance needs.

Two Reasons to Keep Your Weatherstripping in Top Shape

front-door-wood

 

The weatherstripping that is installed around your doors and windows serves a very important purpose. Over time, with constant exposure to the elements and frequent use, weatherstripping will deteriorate, begin to pull away, or come completely unattached. Don’t put off repairing this seemingly small thing – deteriorated or damaged weatherstripping will impact your home in two important ways.

1. Decreased Energy Efficiency

In the winter, weatherstripping helps keep the cold air out and the warm air from your heating system in. Conversely, in summer, it helps keep the hot air out and the cool, conditioned air in. If you can see light through the area surrounding your doors or windows or at the door threshold (the metal plate on the floor beneath the door), air can move freely through. Why spend all that money running and maintaining your HVAC system only to have the air fly right out the door?

2. A Welcome Mat for Pests

Weatherstripping helps keep pests out – the “if you can see light” rule applies here too – if you can see light through the areas surrounding your doors or windows, bugs, ants, and spiders have an easy way into your home. In addition to the headache of pest infestations, you’ll incur the additional cost of a pest control service to take care of the problem. Why go through all that when you can reduce or prevent the problem all together!

How to Repair Weatherstripping

It doesn’t seem right to tell you the potential problems without giving you a solution. Here are some links to great information on repairing your weatherstripping:

  • How Stuff Works has an excellent article on installing weatherstripping and the types of weatherstripping to choose from.
  • We found this great how to video that walks you through the process.
  • This Old House also has an comprehensive guide that walks you through all things weatherstripping.

 

 

Why Maintenance is Cheaper than Repairs

home-owners-manual-a4whoaWhether on your car or your home, preventive maintenance is always cheaper than repairs. Preventive maintenance is one of those things that is easily procrastinated in the midst of our busy lives. However, some of the simplest maintenance tasks can yield the biggest return in terms of saving you money in the long run. Let’s look at some examples:

Our “Useful How To Video Links” page has links to videos about most of these topics. Check them out here!

Refrigerator: Your maintenance guide recommends cleaning the coils annually.

  • Cost of cleaning the coils: FREE
  • Cost of extra electricity to run poorly maintained refrigerator: $5-$10 per month
  • Cost of repairing the compressor which can fail because dirty coils prevent it from working properly: $400-$600
  • Cost of replacing your refrigerator: $800-$3,000
  • Bottom Line: Simple maintenance tasks will help you get the full life of your appliance and escape pricey repair bills. Click here to read a post from our archives on refrigerator maintenance.

HVAC System: Your maintenance guide recommends replacing the filter monthly in high use seasons.

  • Cost of replacing your filter: $10-$20
  • Cost of a service call to repair the unit when the clogged air filter prevents your compressor from working properly: $200 and up. Click here for Home Advisor’s cost estimate.
  • Cost of extra electricity or gas to operate a poorly maintained system: up to a 20% increase
  • According to HousePro, up to 80% of all air conditioning and heating system failures could be eliminated by preventive maintenance. They state that every .01” of dirt on an evaporator coil can increase operating costs by 5%.
  • Bottom Line: Maintaining your HVAC system WILL save you money (and headache) in the long run! 

Water Heater: Your maintenance guide recommends draining your water heater annually.

  • Cost of draining your water heater: FREE
  • Cost of repairing a failed water heater: $500-$900
  • Cost of replacing a water heater: $850-$1,100. Click here for Home Advisor’s cost estimate.
  • Bottom Line: Over time, your water heater parts will corrode as the water minerals buildup and react with the steel. Draining your water heater as recommended will extend the life of your tank and save you hundreds of dollars.
    Not sure how to drain your water heater? We have a video for that!

Irrigation: Your maintenance guide recommends checking your system monthly for proper watering and timer settings.

  • Cost of inspecting your irrigation system: FREE plus minor adjustments
  • Cost of hiring a landscaper to inspect and repair a neglected system: $100-$300
  • Cost of wasted water and plant replacement resulting from broken sprinkler heads or drip emitters and improper coverage: A lot!! One of our staff members here at Home Experience recently had their older irrigation system fully inspected and repaired. The result was a whopping $100 a month savings on their water bill!
  • Bottom Line: Simply walking through your yard while your irrigation system is on will show you the areas that have leaks, broken parts, or improper coverage. Look for excessive runoff towards the end of the irrigation run times – run off indicates that the area is getting too much water.

Not very handy or just don’t have time to take care of some of your home’s maintenance needs? Consider hiring a handyman to take care of these things for you. It will be worth it in the long run! www.homeadvisor.com can help you find a reliable professional.

Should You Consider Installing Leafguards?

LeafguardsYour house probably has gutters installed and you likely know that they’re used to help funnel water off the roof and into a predetermined path. But do you understand why this is?

Water can be incredibly corrosive — just one look at the Grand Canyon and you can understand just how much water can destroy a land mass. Keeping your landscaping protected from erosion is just one reason why homes have gutters. When they’re working correctly, they keep rain from settling just outside your home’s foundation. However, when there’s a clog and rain can’t freely flow through the system, you could have a problem with sitting, stagnant water. When it sits for a long time, it can eventually seep in through your home’s foundation.

What Do Leaf Guards Do?

Leaf guards do exactly what you would expect — they keep twigs, leaves and other small pieces of debris from clogging up the gutters. The next time you see your neighbor up on a ladder, scooping out handfuls of decaying matter, realize that it’s mostly leaves he’s scooping out. These leaves can eventually cause a clog, which then causes water problems. This is why many homeowners choose to install leaf guards when their home needs gutter replacement or gutter repair, especially if they live in an area with a lot of large trees.

Click here for a quick video explaining how leafguards work.

Types Of Leaf Guards

There are two types of guards, sloped and mesh systems. The sloped system has a hood that covers the gutters with a small opening. This opening allows rain to run through, but it is too small to allow in sticks and leaves. The mesh system has a strainer installed directly on top of the opening. The holes in the strainer keep out any debris. Mesh is decidedly more popular than the sloped hoods, mostly because it can handle heavy rains. The sloped styles can quickly become overwhelmed and rainwater will just run over the side instead of being funneled down.

Why Install Guards During A Gutter Repair Or Gutter Replacement?

Leaf guards can be installed at any time, but many people choose to have them installed when they’re already working on their gutters, either during a gutter repair or a gutter replacement. Doing this at the same time means that your gutter repair company will be able to do the work for you, saving you from having to spend hours up on a ladder.

Another major reason to have a gutter replacement company complete this job is that they’ll be able to ensure that it’s done right. If the slope is off, you could have problems with water coming into your home or causing erosion problems during heavy rains.

Water may be necessary but that doesn’t mean you want to have it in your house! If your home doesn’t have gutters, talk to a gutter replacement company about having them installed on your home. But if you do have them and you hate the thought of spending your precious weekend time cleaning them out, consider adding a leaf guard system and buy yourself some extra free time!

Gearing up for Autumn

AutumnHouseFall is such a wonderful season. The air is crisp, families stock up on school supplies and the trees become vibrant with color. Fall is often a welcomed relief from the heat, when we can all slip back into our normal routines after the busy summer season. With our beach chairs and sunscreen stored for next June, it’s time to start thinking about fall projects for around the home. We have listed some project ideas in this blog that range from very easy to moderate. Enjoy!

1. Bring the warm air down. Difficulty level: Very Easy

If you’re looking for a great way to make your home a little warmer without messing with the thermostat, we have a solution. If you remember back to third grade science class, you may recall that warm air rises. So, clean your ceiling fans and then reverse their direction so they push warm air down. It’s an easy project that will leave your home a little warmer this fall and it might even save you a buck or two!

2. Start a compost pile. Difficulty level: Very Easy

If you start your compost pile now, you’ll be a happy gardener by springtime! Start by gathering leaves and garden debris and then add organic kitchen garbage all autumn long!

3. Get your furnace checked. Difficulty level: Easy

Look for companies that offer fall discounts and make sure your furnace is in prime condition before the coldest part of the year!

4. Hire a chimney sweep. Difficulty level: Easy

Even if you don’t plan on using your fireplace very much this winter, you should take the time to hire a chimney sweep. You never know what animals have decided to make your chimney their new home. We’ve heard of everything from birds to raccoons! Besides, Santa deserves a freshly swept chimney this December.

5. Fill in the cracks. Difficulty level: Medium

You may not realize it, but your home loses heat through small cracks and gaps in your home. Purchase a tube of caulk and/or weather stripping. Apply as needed to doorframes, window jams, and areas in your garage. Spending a few hours on this project will save your heating bill this fall and winter.

6. Clean the gutters. Difficulty level: Moderate

Be sure to spend some time cleaning your gutters this Fall. This project is important because extra debris and heavy rains can actually cause damage to your gutters. Use a small shovel or broom to push and scrape the debris down and out and then use a hose to spray them down. While this somewhat time-intensive project is a little messy, it’s relatively inexpensive and can save you from purchasing all new gutters!

Reprinted with permission from http://warrantyalerts.org/blog/gearing-up-for-autumn.html

Useful ‘How To’ Video Links

Each month we are including some helpful video links along with your monthly maintenance reminders. Here is an ongoing compilation of the links for your convenience!

Appliances

Cleaning your range hood filters
Dishwasher
Dryer Maintenance
Dryer Troubleshooting
Garbage Disposal
Refrigerator
Washing Machine
Water Heater

Electrical

Testing your AFCI’s
Testing your GFCI’s

Exterior

How to weatherstrip a door
How to inspect for termites
How to repair cracks in stucco
How to repair exterior siding
How to Buy Leaf Guards for a Gutter
How to Maintain Your Garage Door
Ensure proper drainage away from your foundation

HVAC

Changing your furnace filter

Interior

Removing tough carpet stains

Landscaping

Irrigation Tips and Water Conservation
How to Fertilize Trees

 

 

Follow our DIY Videos Pinterest board!