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Prepare Your Home For Fall And Winter
Posted: September 20, 2018 by Andy

The changing leaves mean it's time to get ready for colder weather - don't neglect your home or you might be sorry (and uncomfortable)!

Fall officially begins this Saturday, September 22nd, and that means it's just around the corner! We're already starting to see the color of the leaves changing in some areas, so it's just a matter of time before we trade our nice warm days for cool afternoons and cold evenings.

But, just because the weather is turning colder doesn't mean you can't stay comfortable at home. You can start to use your furnace or throw some logs in the fireplace to keep cozy and warm inside when the weather outside isn't so great.

But before you do, it's wise to run through our fall home preparation checklist. Spending a few hours now preparing your home for the changing of the seasons will save you from repairs and aggravation (and uncomfortably cold nights) later.

Check for window and door drafts

It doesn't really matter how efficient your furnace is or how warm it can make your home; if there are leaks, it'll always have to work harder than it needs to. Checking for drafts and gaps in your windows and doors now will also help save you money on energy costs. If your furnace doesn't need to work as hard to heat your home, it won't be using energy all the time and running up your utility bill.

To check for drafts, feel for them with a wet hand. Slowly and steadily pass your hand along the edges of your windows and doors and feel for changes in temperature and/or a slight breeze. If you feel air movement at all, the window or door will need to be recaulked. Using a candle will also reveal leaks if you can't feel anything with your hand. If the flame flickers near the window, air is getting through and letting your furnace's hard work escape outside.

For additional efficiency, invest in heavy drapes or thermal curtains. Thin, sheer curtains let cold air pass through, while a thicker curtain acts as an insulator between your windows and your home's interior. Cold air gets trapped between the window and curtain, reducing its influence on your indoor temperatures.

Have your furnace professionally inspected

Before you begin to use your furnace for the season, it's wise to have it inspected by one of our HVAC experts. During our inspection, we'll check for any leaks, test your system to make sure it'll run efficiently, replace the filter, and perform a carbon monoxide (CO) check. Inspecting - and correcting, if needed - these items now will enable you to run your furnace worry-free throughout the fall and winter.

It's also important to keep extra filters on hand and replace them at least every few months (we recommend changing them monthly if you have pets). Because your doors and windows will be closed for months due to the cold weather, dirt, dust, and other airborne pollutants have no way of to escape your home - aside from being trapped in the filter. Inspect it periodically to see how contaminated it is and replace it frequently to keep your furnace system running efficiently and keeping your air clean.

Winterize your air conditioning system

When your furnace is on, your air conditioning is off. Since your AC won't be used during the fall and winter months, you can cover your outdoor condenser unit to shield it from the harsh elements. Getting covered in snow, smothered in fallen leaves, and frosted at night puts a strain on your air conditioner's components. Preventing these from adversely affecting your unit will save you money and aggravation in the long run.

Add a programmable or smart thermostat

It's always nice to return home to a cozy warm house, but running the heat all day to make it that way is expensive. Adding a programmable or smart thermostat will help your system regulate your home's temperatures more efficiently.

Some smart thermostats can also learn your behaviors and pre-heat your home just before you arrive, so you enter a comfy home without wasted energy use when you're not there. If you prefer a cooler bedroom to help you sleep, you can set your thermostat so this happens automatically versus having to lower the temperature setting every evening.

Prepare your humidifier

Cold air is typically drier, and it can wreak havoc on your skin and even negatively affect the way you feel. The ideal relative humidity for comfort is about 40-50%. In the fall and winter, humidity can be as low as 33% on average, and this is a difference you can feel. A humidifier adds humidity back into your home's air.

If you already own a humidifier, and it's been sitting idle during the warm months of summer, now is the ideal time to clean and prepare it. The best way to do clean a humidifier is with white vinegar. Simply fill the water reservoir of your humidifier with vinegar, allow it to sit awhile, then use a scrub brush to remove any residue that has accumulated. Rinse the components thoroughly, reassemble the unit, fill it with water, and enjoy comfortably humid air in your home.

Clean your fireplace and chimney

If your home has a fireplace, have it and your chimney cleaned in preparation for use in the fall and winter. After burning a few logs, you'll notice a buildup of charcoal and ash along the interior walls of your fireplace. If you start using it again this year without cleaning it, that ash can enter the air in your home. Minimize your family's exposure to any remnants of last year's fires by cleaning your fireplace and chimney. This will also ensure that the smoke produced from burning wood can move up through your chimney unencumbered. Smelling like a campfire is fine after a weekend in the mountains, but it's not so nice when it's happening in your own home.

Install modern lighting

Another piece to consider is updating the lighting in your home. The upcoming time change and winter's shorter days start to feel like you're living your life in the dark. You can beat those winter blues with enhanced lighting in your home.

Bright, warm traditional incandescent bulbs will keep that seasonal affective disorder away, but they'll also run up your electric bill. Instead, install energy-efficient LED and compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs that use less energy than those old, inefficient ones.

Winter is difficult enough when you've prepared for it - don't go into it neglecting your home and making harder than it has to be. Do these quick and easy tasks when fall arrives, and you'll go into the colder months with confidence and in comfort.

Caulk And Seal Like A Pro!
Posted: September 13, 2018 by Andy

You wouldn't open your windows in the winter, but if they're not caulked well, it'll feel like they're open anyway!

Your heating system takes a beating every winter and the best way to ease the strain on it and save money at the same time is by learning how to caulk your windows properly. Cold air can make its way through poorly insulated windows, making it much harder for your furnace to do its job.

Caulking your windows is one of the easiest ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home and get it ready for the chill of winter. Though window caulking is one of the fastest DIY projects, some homeowners may lack experience and need a few pointers. We've developed a step-by-step guide for caulking windows, and before you know it, you'll be insulating your windows like a pro.

When you should caulk

Caulk can be applied to any window type or style. While we'd all like to wait until winter, caulking windows is ideally done in the fall. Caulk adheres in warm temperatures (above 40° F) and you'll most likely be opening your windows as you complete the project. If you're working on saving energy, you don't want to be opening your windows in the winter.

Types of caulk

A wide variety of different kinds of caulk are available, but many homeowners opt for latex or silicone caulk. Latex caulk is easier to apply and can be painted, while silicone is more durable and can withstand extreme temperatures. As we will touch on later, caulk frequently needs to be removed and latex caulk is much easier to detach.

Removing old caulk

Just as you would clean and prepare a wall before adding a new coat of paint, the surface area to be caulked must be cleaned before application. The windows will usually have old lines of caulk, and the old caulk must be removed before applying a fresh, new layer. Use a utility knife or scraper to remove all old caulk and debris, followed by a good brushing or vacuuming. Then, clean the area as you would any wall.

Buying a caulk gun

Despite its similar appearance, caulk is not like toothpaste. It can't be easily dispensed by squeezing. You'll need a caulk gun to seal your window like a professional. We recommend buying a quick-release caulk gun that releases pressure when you stop pulling the trigger. This will save you from a mess, as compared to cheaper guns where the caulk just keeps on coming out even after you've stopped.

How to caulk properly

You first have to load the tube of caulk into the caulk gun. Cut the tip of the tube off at a 45° angle for optimal caulk release. Many caulk guns have a pin to puncture the caulk tube inside and allow the caulk to flow into the tip (use a long nail or wire coat hanger if not). Pull the trigger and place the caulk in the chamber, placing the back end first. Pull the trigger until the caulk tube is firmly in place. You're now ready to caulk!

Begin to apply a thin layer of caulk around your window, holding the gun at a 45° angle and steadily move the gun down the edge away from the tip - remember, pull the caulk, don't push it. You should cover every area where air might seep through. The resulting line of caulk is called a bead. When you're caulking your windows, be sure to always finish by smoothing the bead with a wet finger or smoothing tool. This keeps everything even and professional-looking. Once you're finished, make sure to cap the tip, as you'll most likely not use the entire tube. Capping helps keep the caulk from drying inside the tube.

Caulking windows is a cost-effective way to enhance the energy efficiency of your home. It's an easy DIY project and it will lower your energy bills.

Dealing With Extreme Heat
Posted: September 6, 2018 by Andy

Dog days of summer got you down? Don't sweat it - doing a few simple things around the house will cool you off!

Our area has experienced record highs over the last week or so, and that makes now the perfect time to help you find ways to beat the heat! Here are some simple ways you can reduce the temperature in your home without breaking the bank:

Change your air filter regularly

One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to keep your HVAC system running efficiently is by replacing your air filter at least a few times a year. Many homeowners ignore this simple step, and the filter becomes clogged with particles and debris, which slows air flow. This results in your system taking longer to heat and cool your home which, of course, ends up costing you more money. If you have pets, it's a good idea to change your filter every month.

Don't overdo it

Use your central air conditioning system efficiently. When the heat spikes, don't overreact and set your thermostat too low. Settle on a temperature that won't force your AC to run too often. This reduces wear, prolongs your system's life, and saves you a bit of money, too. Also, speaking of air conditioners, have yours serviced from periodically, so it remains in peak working condition.

Install a smart thermostat

Smart thermostats that can detect motion in your home will more effectively regulate when your air conditioning or heating starts or stops. Many can learn your routines and automatically adjust for maximum comfort. Some even take the local weather into account. The result is that your system is more efficient, keeps you more comfortable, and saves you money.

Promote airflow

Help air to flow throughout your home. Open a door or a window slightly so that the air pressure can balance and create a cooling draft. Using ceiling fans while you're at home is a great idea. Most fans have switches to adjust whether the air is pulled up toward the ceiling or pushed down toward the floor, depending on the season. Pushing air down in summer (counter-clockwise), and up in winter (clockwise) helps circulate the air properly and can save you as much as 10% on your bill.

When and how you do things matters

Every appliance in your home generates heat when running, so do your laundry in the evening and turn on the dishwasher right before you go to bed. Operating at night prevents adding to the heat that daytime already brings. This tip also goes hand-in-hand with the idea of eating meals that take less time in the oven or stovetop. Even better, cooking outside on the grill means no added heat inside.

Unplug and cover

Nearly anything that uses electricity produces heat. Unplug all devices that aren't in constant use. Likewise, keep your shades, blinds, and draperies closed during the day and opened at night. This will prevent your house from overheating. Not using some rooms? Keep those doors closed as well, so the precious cool air stays in the spaces you're occupying.

Traditional bulbs = heat

And last but not least - if there ever was an ideal time to switch from those old, obsolete incandescent light bulbs to LEDs or CFLs (compact fluorescent), now is that time. The cost of new-technology bulbs is continually decreasing, and their efficiency is always improving. They cost far less to light your home with, and they emit very little heat as well - it's a win-win!

Don't Neglect Your Furnace In The Summer!
Posted: August 30, 2018 by Andy

HVAC maintenance doesn't stop just because your furnace isn't in use when it's warm out - don't be sorry come winter!

HVAC maintenance is important during every season. This doesn't mean only paying attention to the air conditioner in the summer and only the furnace in the winter. You need to take care of your HVAC system as a whole through the entire year to keep it running efficiently.

You may welcome the warm summer weather with open arms, but don't forget about what kept you warm while you (im)patiently waited for outside warmth to arrive. It's also better to go into summer with peace of mind, knowing your heater will work properly when fall comes. Here are six reasons why you can't afford to neglect your furnace in the summer.

1. You'll regret it when it's time for heat

If your heater needs repair at the end of the winter or it's starting to show warning signs that it may need repaired soon, don't ignore it. Putting off the repair will lead to unpleasant surprises in the fall. By then, the damage could be even worse than it was before. It's not worth the headache to schedule a last-minute repair, which will also include an unexpected hit to your expenses. Scheduling an appointment at the last minute will probably even land you on a waiting list. In addition, it's not guaranteed that everything will be resolved and taken care of in one visit. Depending on your situation, a technician may need to schedule an appointment to return, and a full inspection and necessary repairs may take longer than usual if you've put repairs off for too long.

Keep a watchful eye on your system throughout the spring and summer months to prevent this from happening and don't neglect maintenance. Scheduling an HVAC maintenance visit in advance will keep your system healthy, and you'll avoid a possibly uncomfortable wait. In the long run, regular HVAC maintenance will save you money and keep you comfortable. Multiple tasks go into furnace maintenance, such as removing dust and dirt, lubricating moving parts, inspecting and measuring air flow, testing the thermostat and much more. Our best advice is to schedule this towards the end of summer.

2. Your heat pump is also used in the summer

You might not know this, but your heat pump is in operation year-round. If you choose not to get your heat pump fixed, you're choosing to let your air conditioner go as well. Just because you're switching it over from heating to cooling doesn't mean you should ignore a heating issue.

3. Spring can be unpredictable

Most of us know the saying "April showers bring May flowers," which means the turn of spring doesn't come with automatic warm weather and sunshine, but it also comes with lots of rainfall. It can be filled with lots of rainy, windy and chilly weather. When these days happen, you'll appreciate the option of turning on a heater that is safe and efficient.

4. Potential hazards

Dust build-up and hazardous gas leaks can happen any time of the year. With a forced-air heating system, your furnace and air conditioner use the same ductwork and vents to function. Regular duct cleaning is necessary to prevent dust and dirt from impacting the efficiency of your system, as well as your air quality. With a gas furnace, issues that are neglected all summer can cause dangerous gas leaks. A potentially fatal release of carbon monoxide (CO) could occur if something goes seriously wrong. It's essential to have a working CO detector. Don't put yourself and everyone else occupying your home at risk.

Another often-overlooked hazard: when you take your summer items out of storage, such as bicycles, toys, rakes, and lawn mowers, don't lean them against your outdoor AC unit.

5. Your heat is already off

A nice benefit to having your furnace repaired or scheduling a maintenance check-up in the summer is that your heat is already off. Not only are you being a responsible property owner, but you're also decreasing the chances of disrupting your heating when you need it the most - the winter.

6. Summer energy bills

Furnace issues could actually cause your summer energy bills to rise. Since your air conditioner uses some of the same parts as your furnace, a dysfunctional motor, a leaking pipe, or a bad burner, will cause too much energy to be used trying to operate with these faulty parts.

So, now you know many reasons why paying attention to your furnace in the summer is far more vital than you may have realized. Your heating system is complex and shouldn't be ignored when it needs a repair or cleaning. You wouldn't put off anything else that could put you or anybody else's health and expenses at risk, so don't do it with your furnace.

A wise homeowner schedules regular HVAC check-ups with an HVAC technician. You can also do many tasks on your own, such as changing your air filter. Don't take your furnace for granted during the heat of summer!

Preventing And Dealing With Water Damage
Posted: August 23, 2018 by Andy

When water infiltrates your home and causes damage, it is essential to address the problem immediately, or else!

We're headed into the rainy season once again, and "you have water damage" is one of the scariest things a homeowner can hear. You know what that entails, but few know exactly what caused the damage, unless you've had the misfortune of experiencing a severe storm, leaky rook, or a burst pipe. Likewise, you may not know how much it'll cost to fix the damage, how to replace damaged floors, walls, and insulation and finally, how to ensure that it never happens again.

Here's everything you'll need to know about water damage inside your home, including some of the most common causes, the cost to repair and a few safety tips.

Fix it fast

If you take one piece of advice away from reading this article, it's that you must remove the water and fix the damage as soon as possible. The longer you wait to deal with water damage, the worse the overall damage will become. Unlike fires (which you can put out), water will continue to flow throughout your home, soaking into your walls and floors until it's completely removed. It leaves a variety of complicated repairs to be made.

An expert restoration company will remove any standing water using various pumps, water suction tools, and high-powered fans. They may cut into walls and insulation to see how far the damage goes. Additionally, an electrician may have to cut wires and repair electric lines in your home.

Besides, if you don't call a pro right away, mold could grow, causing health problems and greatly increasing your water restoration expense.

Water damage repair costs

Depending on the amount of damage, and due to the potential health issues (mold), repairing water damage is usually not cheap. Also, more often than not, removing the water and repairing the damage typically involves two separate expenses. According to disaster recovery cost estimates, it averages just over $2,000 to eliminate standing water and $1,800 to repair a water-damaged home.

Causes of water damage

Many issues can cause water damage, and it aids in prevention to be aware of them. They include:

  • Flooding
  • Burst/frozen pipes
  • Roof leaks
  • A failed bathtub or toilet seal
  • Broken sump pump
  • A blocked drainage pipe
  • Failed gutters and downspouts
  • Foundation issues
  • Improper grading
  • A broken irrigation system
  • Human error (leaving a faucet running, for example)

Removing standing water

The water-removal process mainly depends on the cause. If a storm caused the flooding, you'll probably have to wait until the water recedes from around your home. If it was due to a pipe, a plumber would need to get to work right away. Expect to pay overtime fees if the issue occurs during non-business hours.

Many homeowners prefer to tackle projects themselves, but removing standing water is far from a safe activity. Aside from the risk of mold and further damage to your home, hidden hazards such as rats, live electricity and other dangers make water removal and damage repair a project best left to trained - and properly equipped - professionals.

The water restoration process

Naturally, the first step in repairing water damage is to remove all standing water. More likely than not, this will require a pump and the other tools mentioned above to remove water from a flooded basement, inside a wall or elsewhere in your home. Once all of the water is removed, specialized equipment will dry the damp areas as quickly as possible. This helps prevent mold growth, which forms quickly after the initial damage.

Once the area is completely dry, the restoration company will check all walls to see the extent of the damage. You'll probably need to replace at least some of the drywall and insulation.

Finally, the pros will check for foundation damage to ensure that the water didn't affect the structural integrity of your home. In all but the most extreme cases, foundation damage won't be an issue.

Preventing water damage

Sometimes, there's just nothing you can do to prevent water damage, such as historically-severe storms or a failed sump pump. Fortunately, though, there are precautionary steps you can take to substantially reduce the odds of water damage occurring. Here are some suggestions:

  • Free gutters of debris
  • Check for foundation cracks and seal them
  • Position downspouts away from the foundation
  • Install window well covers
  • Wrap exposed pipes to keep them from freezing
  • Let cold water drip from the faucet occasionally
  • Check your roof periodically
  • Regularly check your HVAC system and water heater

If any of the above tasks cause concern, be sure to call a pro right away. A visit from a pro could save you thousands.

Once you know how to prevent water damage and learn the steps that pros take once it has happened, you can rest easy knowing that you can handle the situation as well as anyone. The key - as we mentioned above - is to always remember that the longer you wait to deal with water damage, the worse the consequences will be. Therefore, it's essential to call a restoration company as soon as possible.

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