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Simple Summer Tasks

Whether you’re cooling off indoors or working on your tan, take the time to perform some simple, routine home maintenance. Rising temperatures and sunny days make summer an ideal season for getting work done around the house. You’ll have a safer home if you catch problems and wear-and-tear before they become hazards.

 Keeping Cool Inside

Energy efficiency is a top priority when electricity bills climb as high as the temperatures outside. Hopefully you’ve had your air conditioning system checked in the spring, as repairmen are often busy in the summer and you may have to sweat it out until your appointment.

Ceiling fans provide an energy-efficient way of circulating cool air. Dust them if needed and balance any wobbly blades by tightening loose screws. For additional energy efficiency, check windows and doors for air leaks and seal with weather stripping or caulk as needed. You’re paying for the cool air, so take steps to be sure it’s not escaping outdoors.

Home Exterior Care and Landscaping

Take advantage of the warm weather and wash the outside of your windows and clean the siding. While it might be tempting to use a pressure washer, a garden hose is best to avoid potentially damaging the exterior of your home. Apply a coat of fresh paint if needed, and repair any damaged vinyl or aluminum siding.

Be aware of termites while you’re outside inspecting your home. Termites can easily go undetected until significant damage has been done. Look for telltale signs like flaking wood or mud buildup and tunneling systems in the exterior wood of your home. Professional pest control inspections are recommended if you have any suspicions of possible infestation.

Well-tended landscaping and a trim and tidy house are as welcoming to guests as the smells of a barbeque. Garden beds look their best when mulched and weeded. Summer annuals can be induced to produce more flowers and bloom longer when you deadhead them. Removing spent flowers also prevents the plant from going to seed. Check garden plants, trees, and shrubs for insect infestations. Unhealthy plants should be removed so that others may thrive.

Lush green grass is of course desirable; however, it is not always realistic or water-efficient. Encourage healthy grass growth with regular mowing, but remember: Keeping grass cut longer in the summer months will prevent roots from drying out as quickly.

Grass and plants should be watered in the morning to allow the water to soak through the soil throughout the day in order to completely nourish their root systems. Check to see if your municipality has water conservation restrictions before watering your lawn or garden.

Trees provide shady ambience and should be well cared for to avoid potential damage to your home. Keep their branches pruned and at a safe distance from your home to avoid storm-related damage. Inspect trees for signs of decay, such as cracks or hollowed limbs, and keep branches clear of your home and power lines. Arborists or tree care professionals can assist with the cutting and removal of large or high limbs.

Also, before planting additional trees and shrubs in your yard, take into consideration the plant’s size when mature and whether or not roots might intrude upon underground pipes or paved surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways.

Garage Upkeep

Hazardous materials such as paint and solvents should be disposed of properly. Don’t store heat-sensitive or combustible materials in the garage, as the temperature will be rising throughout the season. Inspect the floor for grease spots from leaking car fluids, and have your car serviced promptly if you find any.

If you have children, instruct them not to go in the garage unaccompanied. Store your hand tools and power tools behind a lock and key. Fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides should be stored out of a child’s reach or behind a locked cabinet. You might also consider organic gardening, which employs nontoxic alternatives to these poisonous chemicals.

Driveways And Walkways

Inspect the pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This goes a long way in preventing accidental slips, trips, and falls. It also works to avoid larger repairs or resurfacing in the future. If you see weeds popping up between cracks in the pavement, resist the urge to pull them up. You’ll remove the upper part of the weed, but the root system will remain intact and new growth will return within a few weeks. For a cost-effective and chemical free solution, boil water in a kettle, carefully carry the kettle outside, and pour the water on any weeds to kill them off for the season.

 

You Don’t Have to Spend to Save

Here we are, noticing our summer tans fading, dark roots growing out from our scalps, and waiting for the first winter snow fall amidst the freezing rain and blowing wind. Winter is rearing its ugly head and so are heating costs. The television and web are full of great ideas on how to save money on energy costs, but more often than not it takes money to save money. For many, spending money on major home improvement projects to make a home more energy efficient just isn’t in the cards this year.

I am here to tell you that you still have options. You do not have to spend a bunch of money to cut your heating costs. Below you will find nine tips on how to save money on energy bills without breaking the bank. Each tip should cost from nothing to very little. Follow these ideas that all of us should have thought of a decade ago, and say good-bye to shocking heating bills.

  1. Bundle up! Running around with shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter just doesn’t make much sense. Winter is winter because it is cold, so act like it even if you’re just sitting around the house. Put on a sweater or sweatshirt, wear socks and fuzzy slippers. Place a soft, comfy blanket on the couch to cuddle up in while watching TV, reading or chatting with friends. Put throw rugs on hardwood and tile floors to eliminate the shock of the ice cold surfaces. It doesn’t cost anything to wear warmer clothes inside and by doing so you can keep the temperature inside the house a few degrees cooler and save big.
  2. Not all doors are used in the winter, nor are the windows, so plastic up the windows and doors that are going to go unused. There are window kits for sale for about $5 per window. These can help to eliminate drafts to keep in the heat! Can’t afford the kits or plastic sheeting? Hang blankets to help insulate! If you are creative enough, you can hang it to look shabby chic!
  3. Turn the heat down at night and when no one is home. This doesn’t mean turn the heat to 40 degrees, but turning it down to 60 overnight or while you’re away can make a big difference. Think about it; why keep it 70 degrees when you’re either sleeping or out of the house for more than 12 hours a day? You can adjust the thermostat manually for free, but if you want to spend a few bucks a programmable thermostat is a great investment.
  4. After baking cookies or making dinner in the oven, leave the door open a crack. There’s a lot of heat in that oven, so letting it escape puts the heat to good use by warming up the kitchen and surrounding rooms meaning the furnace has to run a little bit less.
  5. Use a space heater only in the current room you are hanging out in. This will take the nip out of the air to make you feel more comfortable without heating all of the other rooms in the house and wasting energy.
  6. Use silicone to fill any cracks in doors, windows, etc, including the basement floor and walls. You would be surprised at how much heat is lost through cracks that seem insignificant. A tube of caulk or silicone will only run you a few dollars and it’s an easy weekend project.
  7. Close any vents going to rooms that are not used regularly. That guest room that sits empty when you don’t have any guests? Close the door and the vents. Doing so can easily cut 100-200 square feet off of your energy footprint.
  8. Put weather stripping around windows and doors. Weather stripping helps quite a bit, especially in older homes. You’d be surprised how the seals around your doors and windows can deteriorate over time.
  9. Cover up the attic entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weather stripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help to slow, if not, stop, the drafts and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away.

All of these tips are good, old fashioned, common sense thoughts that don’t take but a few minutes and maybe a few dollars to implement. True these thoughts won’t save you thousands like all new windows would, but they will help you to save as much as possible with what you have.

10 Fall Projects You Can Do in 30 Minutes or Less

Fall home maintenance projects are all about protecting your home, preserving safety and comfort indoors, which help you get your home ready for winter. Grab a few tools and a half an hour now to tackle one of the following chores, and you’ll thank yourself warmly a few months down the line. 
  1. Find your valves:  Water leak emergencies are all too common over the cold weather month. Use half an hour now to locate and label every important water valve in your home, including the main water valve, water heater valve, hose valves and icemaker valves. Familiarize other family members with their locations and operation in case you’re away when disaster strikes.  If you are heading out of town for a few days, get in the habit of turning off your main water valve on the way out the door, to limit any pipe breaks to the water in the pipe, as opposed to the water in the local reservoir!
  2. Drain the water heater:  Your family will be depending on an efficient, consistent hot water supply in the coming Fall months, so prepare your hot water heater for duty. Sediment buildup on a water heater’s bottom can interfere with performance. Maintenance every six months by using the tank’s drain valve to carefully discharge a few gallons of the hot water inside.
  3. Tips on Fall Home Maintenance ProjectsLubricate locks and hinges: Creaky hinges and sticking locks can spook you at exactly the wrong moment, so make the rounds with a can of WD-40. It’ll clean and lubricate metal mechanisms in one shot.
  4. Clean and reverse ceiling fans:  Now that they’re done spinning out cool comfort, resetting fans for the winter routine is an important fall maintenance project. Give fan blades a thorough dusting, and then switch them to a clockwise spin in order to push warm air downward from the ceiling. 
  5. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors:  This biannual maintenance is especially important before you turn on your heating system. Vacuum detectors to remove excess dust, replace the batteries, and get in the habit of using the devices’ test buttons to check their function once a month.
  6. Clean the humidifier:  Indoor heat makes for a dry environment, and your home’s humidifier needs to be ready to balance things out. Over time, humidifiers can get clogged and stop working, or even worse, send bacteria and mold throughout the house. So go through the cleaning routine as recommended by your unit’s manufacturer. Soaking the evaporator pad in a solution of white vinegar and water often works well to dissolve mineral salts left behind as water evaporates; just be sure to rinse well after the soak so your home doesn’t end up smelling like a big salad.
  7. Check for roof leaks:  Winter rains are comforting until they start landing inside your home, so check and protect the most likely leak points in your roof. After the first big Fall rain storm, grab a flashlight and inspect areas where protrusions such as chimneys and plumbing vent pipes meet the roof. Then pick up your binoculars and inspect the same spots from the outside, also scanning for missing shingles and loose flashing that require replacement.
  8. Tips on Fall Home Maintenance ProjectsQuiet kitchen cabinets:  Before the Fall is over, your kitchen will soon be bustling with holiday dinners, baking projects, and house guests, so don’t let little annoyances get in the way of big plans. Clean and lubricate drawers and hinges on kitchen cabinets, and replace any catches that no longer catch.
  9. Steady all handrails:  Negotiating a snowy step or a busy indoor staircase is tricky enough without wondering if the handrail will hold steady. Make sure all inside and outside handrails are secure, and repair loose railings, posts and spindles. Indoors, loose wood spindles can be repaired by dipping a wooden toothpick in glue and wedging it in where the spindle goes into the handrail. Once the glue is dry, break off the excess toothpick or trim it away with a utility knife.
  10.  Caulk the chimney crown:  You can avoid major repair costs with a little maintenance of your masonry chimney’s crown – that cement area between the outside edge of the brick and the terra-cotta clay chimney liner. Cracks in the crown allow water to leak into the chimney, where it can cause bricks to freeze and break. An annual dose of caulking will prevent such an expensive disaster and help maintain the chimney’s structural integrity. 
Fall home maintenance projects are important to make sure your home is ready for winter and the holiday events that are just around the corner. Get them done with these quick tips over the next few weekends and you’ll be ready to hibernate!

 

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Different regions have different kinds of falls. In some places, it’s cool and rainy, and in others, it’s sunny and dry. Often, fall is a time for gathering in the harvest and preparing for festive holidays indoors. No matter what kind of fall you have, these steps can help during the transition from summer to winter.

Inside the home

Fall is a good time to complete indoor projects.

  • Repair vinyl and wood floors
  • Examine and repair indoor staircases
  • Test the furnace to make sure it works properly
  • Maintain locks, lubricating as necessary
  • Repair and replace caulking in floors and baseboards and around windows and doors
  • Remove and replace crumbling caulk around the bathtub, sink, or toilet, and also make sure there is no moisture under the bathtub or shower stall
  • Test for radon gas
  • Lubricate squeaking doors
  • Evaluate insulation
  • Have ventilation ducts cleaned, inspected, and repaired
  • Check for mice and rats—put out traps in areas pests might sneak into the home
  • Patch and paint holes and cracks in walls and ceilings, watch for indications of water damage
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries if needed
  • Repair indoor woodwork
  • Check the stove exhaust fan and remove dust and grease build-up  
  • Install plastic sheets on windows that require extra wind protection
  • Add weather stripping around doors

Outside the Home

With shorter days and the approach of winter, take some time to check the exterior of your home.

  • Check the roof for summer wear and tear
  • Clean gutters and downspouts
  • Drain the evaporative cooler
  • Inspect and service the heating unit
  • Repair cracks in siding and shingles
  • Repair any damaged masonry
  • Insulate water pipes that are exposed to extreme cold
  • Cover outdoor water faucets
  • Remove screens, clean them, and store away for the winter
  • Seal any concrete walkways
  • Check exterior ventilation flaps, making sure they are intact and functional

In the Garage

During the fall, take time to prepare your garage for the upcoming winter.

  • Protect and cover lawn equipment and garden tools
  • Drain lawnmower of gasoline and oil
  • Check for leaks in the doors and repair
  • Examine and repair the weatherstripping at the bottom of the garage door

In the Yard

The freezing and thawing of the impending winter can cause damage to outdoor furniture and your swimming pool.

  • Cover and protect your patio furniture
  • Drain the pool
  • Trim tree limbs that could break under the weight of snow and ice

In the Garden

With the arrival of fall, you can begin your early garden work and check any grading issues.  Keeping landscaping in check can help prevent leaking and foundation damage. 

  • Trim trees, bushes and other ground cover that may be near the foundation
  • Add a protective layer of mulch to your perennials, shrubs, and trees
  • Clean flower beds of spent summer blossoms and plants
  • Turn the compost
  • Remove the garden hose and place inside for the winter
 

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