‘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 on Home Experience. 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!
Finally, 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Protect Pipes. If you live in a region with prolonged freezing, make sure that all exposed piping is properly insulated.
- Trim Trees. Trim any trees that may impact your home during winter storms.
- 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.
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.
Whether 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.
Appliances – Clean the filter screen on your cooktop/range hood vent. Check your dryer vent and ductwork. Click HERE for a video on how to clean your filter screen.
Caulking – Inspect caulk joints around your plumbing fixtures, doors, and windows.
Electrical – Test your AFCI’s and GFCI’s. Click HERE for a video on testing your AFCI’s, and HERE for one on testing your GFCI’s.
Fireplace – If you have a fireplace, check the chimney or vent system for obstructions. If you have a manufactured gas fireplace, refer to the owner’s manual for information on how to inspect the flame patterns and sensor tips.
HVAC – Change the air filter. Clean the registers. Clean filters in bathroom exhaust fans. Click HERE for a video on changing your furnace filter.
Plumbing – Inspect for leaks around plumbing fixtures and appliances that use water (garbage disposal, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine). Check water connections. Listen for running water to help locate unseen leaks.
Exterior – Inspect weatherstripping around doors – there should be a tight seal against the door surface when the door is shut. This is also a good time to do a mid-season check of your roof and gutters to make sure they’ve weathered the storms already this season and are ready to face the rest! Make sure that light fixtures are tight against the wall. Check your balconies, decks, and patios to ensure water is draining properly. Click HERE for a video on how to weatherstrip a door.
Implement a Plan
You are responsible for maintaining your home. Preventive maintenance saves you time, money, and extends the beauty and livability of your home. In order to implement a successful home maintenance plan, you should:
- Make maintenance a priority: The keys to cost-effective maintenance are attending to immediate maintenance needs and following the preventive maintenance program.
- Perform regular inspections: Inspect your home regularly and update your Maintenance Guide accordingly.
- Use professionals: When the maintenance tasks are outside of your expertise or ability, use professionals.
- Follow manufacturers’ recommendations: Failure to do so may result in voiding parts or all of your warranties.
- Be smart: Know your part and save money.
Manage Your Home’s Maintenance With Home Experience
Know what to do, and when and how to do it: Easy-to-follow maintenance schedules for every part of the home.
The personalized preventive maintenance schedule and home care tips give you knowledge to sustain or improve the value of your property, extend the lifespan of the products and amenities within your home and lengthen the home’s life expectancy.
The expert advice and preventive maintenance recommendations included in your Homeowner Maintenance Guide will assist you in monitoring the condition and needs of your home. They will also allow maintenance practices to be adjusted to obtain the best results that can be reasonably expected, given the conditions which exist in your home and community.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
Most product warranties begin at time of closing—and so do your maintenance responsibilities. Warranties last from 1 year to 10 years. Refer to the “Understanding Your Warranties” section in your Orientation Guide for detailed information about your warranties.
Your Maintenance Task List
Your Home Experience account contains specific preventive maintenance and inspection guidelines that are recommended to keep your house in great shape and help keep your warranties intact. Some of the tasks are more critical than others. We strongly recommend that you login to Home Experience to view your complete maintenance guide and Home Maintenance Summary for all of your maintenance responsibilities.