Posts Tagged ‘warm’

Spring Checklist

Take advantage of the moderate temperatures to get a head start on what should be an annual spring home maintenance routine. EXTERIOR INSPECTION “It’s good to do a walk-around of your property, especially after a storm,” says Curtis S. Niles, Sr., owner of Armored Home Inspections, Upper Darby, PA, and president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). “Winter is tough on roofs and chimneys.” It can also take its toll on windows, walls, foundations, gutters and decks. Roof. You don’t need to climb up there yourself; with binoculars and a keen eye, you can probably spot trouble. Do you see any shingle-shift, suggesting that some fasteners may have failed and need replacing? Any cracked or missing shingles? What about nail-pops? “We call them eyebrows,” Niles explains. “It’s when nails push the tabs of the shingles up, allowing water to get in where those nails are coming through.” All will need to be addressed to keep your roof at peak performance. Chimneys. If you have a masonry chimney, check the joints between bricks or stones. Have any fallen out? Is there vegetation growing out of them? Each signals water infiltration. Also, look for efflorescence—”a white calcium-like deposit that indicates your masonry joints are no longer repelling water but absorbing it,” says Niles. Consider re-sealing masonry with a clear, impermeable or water-resistant barrier material (like Thoroseal products). Brush it on, small areas at a time; let it absorb for 15 minutes, then reapply—it may need a couple of applications. Exterior Walls. Whether you have wood siding, stucco or brick, look for trouble spots, especially under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Water stains normally indicate that your gutters are not adequately containing roof runoff. If you have wood siding, check for openings, damaged areas or knots that have popped out, making way for carpenter ants, woodpeckers and other critters that may nest in or burrow through. Foundations. When inspecting the exterior of your home, be sure to examine the foundation from top to bottom for masonry cracks. “Routine caulking by homeowners won’t do the job,” says Niles. “Hire a foundation specialist who can employ a two-part epoxy injection system that will bond cracks chemically,” he adds. Windows. Leakage around windows will admit warm summer air and let cooled indoor air escape, so be sure to check that any caulking and weather stripping you have in place has remained intact. “A tight seal is the first line of defense against air and water,” says Marty Davis, marketing manager, Simonton Windows, Columbus, OH. If you experienced condensation inside the glass on double- or triple-glazed windows during the winter months, the weather seal has been compromised, and either the glass or the window will need to be replaced. Spring-clean your windows—inside and out—with a store-bought or homemade window cleaner (one cup rubbing alcohol, one cup water and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar will work just fine) and either a squeegee or a soft cloth. Never use abrasive cleaners or a high-pressure spray washer. You don’t want to scratch the glass or crack the caulking around each unit. If screens were on all winter, remove and clean them with mild detergent. Lay them on a dry surface, like a driveway to air-dry before putting them back on. “Never power-wash screens,” urges Davis, “it could damage the mesh.”

General Cleaning. Spring is a good time to clean areas of the house that often go neglected. Dust or vacuum chair rails, window casings, tops of wall-mounted cabinets and ceiling fans. Launder or dry-clean fabric draperies and use a damp cloth to clean wood and vinyl blinds. Vacuum upholstered furniture and mattresses and consider renting a carpet cleaner—anything you can do to remove settled dust, mites, and allergens will make for a cleaner, and healthier, home.

If you detect grease residue in the kitchen, consider washing cabinets, backsplashes and walls with warm water and mild detergent. The same is true in the bathroom, where soap residue and fluctuations in heat and humidity combine to create the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. While you’re cleaning tile, look for areas of worn or missing grout, as these may lead to more serious water damage if not repaired.

Air Conditioning. Just as you readied your furnace for fall, now is the time to make sure that air conditioning units are in good working order for the warmer months ahead. Change the filter, check hose connections for leaks, and make sure the drain pans are draining freely. In addition, vacuum any dust that has settled on the unit and connections; over time it can impact the air conditioner’s effectiveness. If you suspected problems with the efficiency or performance of the unit last summer, now is the time to call in a professional to check it out.

Attics. Search for signs that indicate insects and critters have colonized. Also, search aggressively for mold, which often takes the form of “gray or black blotches that look like staining,” according to Tim Gentry, vice president of technical services, DaVinci Roofscapes, Kansas City, KS. Proper insulation and good ventilation will deter mold growth in the attic, so take action now to prevent the problem from developing in the warmer months ahead.

Basements. The basement—prone to dampness and insects—must be part of any thorough seasonal maintenance effort. Dampness suggests higher than normal relative humidity, inadequate ventilation and the need for a dehumidifier. Check the base of poured-concrete walls. “Cracks start from the bottom up, not the top down,” Niles points out. “If there’s water penetration, it’ll show at the bottom of those cracks.” And be sure to use a flashlight to examine exposed framing. “If you see even a quarter-inch or so of tunneling on the wood,” says Niles, “call a pest control company immediately.”

Leaks. Spring is a good time to check for leaky faucets, clogged drains and sweaty pipes. Check under the kitchen and bathroom sink to make sure connections on pipes and hoses are properly sealed, and look for any wetness around the dishwasher that could signal an existing or potential problem. The same is true of your laundry room; check washer machine hoses for cracks, bulges or dampness. The same is true for hot water heaters, which may show sign of corrosion and leaks.

Lawns. Rake the lawn to remove any branches, debris and leaves that you might have missed in the fall; if left, they can suffocate the grass beneath. During the winter, soil compaction, along with chemical changes altering your soil’s PH, may have left your lawn vulnerable to weed growth and other issues. Even if you can’t see weeds, they are more than likely waiting for optimum conditions to propagate. If you want to prevent them from germinating, consider an organic herbicide; fertilizers are better suited to the fall.

Make sure outdoor water systems—pipes, faucets, and in-ground sprinkler systems—are in working order. Once the ground thaws completely, start preparing new garden beds for summer plants. And take stock of your garden tools and lawn-maintenance equipment, including lawn mowers, trimmers and hoses.

Decks and Patios. Look for warped, loose or splintered boards, and do a good sweep to remove any leaves and debris accumulated in the space between boards. “Whether it’s wood, plastic or composite, a deck should be cleaned every year to extend its life,” says Chuck Harris, owner, Custom Lumber Manufacturing Co., Dothan, AL. If the finish on your wood deck is faded or worn, now is the time to clean, stain, and reseal it. If you have composite decking, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on seasonal care. The same is true for wood and composite fences, pergolas, trellises and other structures. If you have a stone patio, a simple hose down provide be all the maintenance required (unless you detect moss or staining, in which case a more serious cleaning may be necessary).

Outdoor Furniture. If you stored your lawn furniture for the winter, bring it outdoors and give it a hose rinse, or wash it with a mild detergent. For metal furniture, check for signs of rust or paint erosion; a simple remedy of spray enamel will prevent further damage from sun, rain and humidity in the months ahead.

Grills. If your gas grill has remained idle over the winter months, check burner jets for clogs and obstructions, and be sure that gas hoses and connections are sound and secure. You’ll also want to check for propane. For charcoal grill owners, make certain your grill is clean of ash and free of grease residue. It’s a good habit to adopt throughout the grilling season, not just in the spring.

Winter Ready Checklist (now is the time)

In the fall is when you want to get ready for the winter cold. The worst thing in the world is trying to put your storm windows in when its 20 degrees outside. Or worse, not having your sprinkler system purged before the freezing weather comes. I’m going to give you a fairly easy checklist of things to do for the various systems of your home. From plumbing to roof, we’ll walk through each system and hit the major things to make sure you do before winter so you can enjoy the snow and not worry about your home.

OK, lets start with the basics of making sure you have heat when you need it. The time to check that is in the Fall, no later than the end of October. Give your system a test run through and make sure all systems are “GO“.

Heating System Checklist

  • Test Run:
    Turn the thermostat to heat mode and set it to 80 degrees just for testing. You should hear the furnace turn on and warm air should blow within a few minutes. If it’s running OK, turn the thermostat back to its normal setting. If it’s not running properly, you can try to diagnose it. Depending on what’s wrong, you can fix it yourself or you may need a qualified service technician.
  • Seasonal Maintenance:
    Either have the furnace checked by a service technician or do it yourself.
  • Replace the Air Filter:
    Put in a new clean air filter.
  • Fuel:
    If you have a propane or oil furnace, make sure to have your fuel storage tank topped off and ready to go.
  • Heating Vents:
    Clear obstacles to heating vents so air can freely flow.
  • Check for Carbon Monoxide Leaks:
    This silent killer can easily be detected with either an inexpensive test badge or battery operated alarm. Whichever way you decide, just please decide to protect your family with one of these units.

Although not thought about much in warm weather, the wood burning fireplace and chimney can be a major source of cold air leaks and other issues in winter. So the chimney and fireplace need a little going over before winter sets in.

  • Chimney and Fireplace
    • Check that the chimney is clear of any nests from birds, squirrels or other animals.
    • Check flue damper operation. Make sure it opens and closes fully, and that it is able to be locked in the open or closed position.
    • Check chimney draft. Make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. Test this by taking several sheets of newspaper and rolling them up. Then with the fireplace damper in the open position, light the newspaper in the fireplace. The smoke should rise up the chimney. If it doesn’t, you have an obstruction and need to call a professional in to clean the chimney of creosote and ash and possible debris.
    • If it has been several years (or never!) since you had your fireplace chimney cleaned, you should have it done by a professional chimney sweep. Definitely not a fun DIY project.
    • Inspect the fire brick in the fireplace. If you see any open mortar joints have them repaired immediately! A fire can spread into the stud wall behind the masonry fire brick through open mortar joints.
  • Plumbing is especially susceptible to cold weather and freezing. Burst pipes from freezing can cause some of the most expensive repairs in the home. So let’s go over some of the basics to make you have them covered.
    • Insulate Exposed Piping
      If you have any exposed water or drain piping at all in uninsulated spaces such as in a crawlspace, attic, outside walls, etc., make sure to insulate them with foam insulation at a minimum. Ideally you should wrap them with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them.
      Pipe Wrap and Insulating Tape 
    • Exterior Faucets
      Known as hose bibbs or sill-cocks, the exterior faucet needs to have its water supply turned off inside the house, and you also need to drain water from it by opening up the exterior faucet. You may also want to consider an insulated cover for the hose bibb. And remember to disconnect your garden hoses from the sill cocks or outside faucets and drain them if you store them outside.

    Seasonal Shut Down
    If you are shutting down a property for several months you should always shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system. If a leak were to occur without occupancy, the damage could be catastrophic.

Infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows is as significant a contributor to your heating bill as is poor insulation in the walls and ceiling. An easy way to reduce you heating bill is to reduce these drafts with simple weatherstripping.

Windows

  • On a day when it’s windy outside, close your windows and feel for air leaks. You can use an incense stick for this too if you don’t mind the smell. Watch the smoke trail and if it becomes anything other than vertical, you have an air leak. Typically air leaks will be at the edges where the window is hinged, slides or meets another unit, such as between the two panels of a double hung window.
  • Although you can tape plastic over the windows to seal them, this can be expensive and look bad. It can also reduce much needed light in the winter unless you use the shrink-wrap type of plastic seal. So a better and easier solution is to use inexpensive rope caulk.
  • Press the rope caulk into all the joints where air is leaking.

Doors

  • The easiest fix here is to check for weatherstripping on the side and bottoms of the doors. Install weatherstripping on any leaking doors.
    Infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows is as significant a contributor to your heating bill as is poor insulation in the walls and ceiling. An easy way to reduce you heating bill is to reduce these drafts with simple weatherstripping.Windows

    • On a day when it’s windy outside, close your windows and feel for air leaks. You can use an incense stick for this too if you don’t mind the smell. Watch the smoke trail and if it becomes anything other than vertical, you have an air leak. Typically air leaks will be at the edges where the window is hinged, slides or meets another unit, such as between the two panels of a double hung window.
    • Although you can tape plastic over the windows to seal them, this can be expensive and look bad. It can also reduce much needed light in the winter unless you use the shrink-wrap type of plastic seal. So a better and easier solution is to use rope caulk.
    • Press the rope caulk into all the joints where air is leaking.

    Doors

  • The easiest fix here is to check for weatherstripping on the side and bottoms of the doors. Install weatherstripping on any leaking doors.

Lastly, you’ll want to prepare your yard for winter too. Let’s take a look at what can be done for the grass, deck and outdoor amenities around the home.

Outdoor Landscape

  • Excellent information about getting your yard ready for winter can be found at your local Ace store.
  • Cover patio furniture.
  • If your deck needs it, consider giving it a fresh coat of sealer before winter.
  • Drain the gas from your lawn mower or just let the mower run until it is out of gas.
  • Drain any water fountains, unplug the pumps and prepare for winter.

Now if you use this handy checklist winter should not be a problem for you.

Cheap ways to keep warm

1.       Close all of your windows properly. This includes making sure storm windows are installed and closed in place if you have them. Windows should be latched. Open them during the day if the outside temperature is higher than the inside.

2.       Keep your windows air-tight. You may want to purchase removable window-caulk or plastic to better seal them. At a minimum, stuff a towel or shirt in front of any noticeable leaks.

3.       Use cheap clear shower curtains over the windows that receive sun light. This will keep the cold air out, and the warmth from the sun will heat your house without cold air coming in. You could also cover your windows with clear plastic sheets and make it airtight.

4.       Seal your doors. Check around the door frame and also under the door. You may want to buy weather stripping or a door sweep. Again, at minimum, make a draft dodger or stuff a towel at the bottom of the door.

5.       Use smaller rooms. If, for example, you have a bedroom that is much smaller than your living room you could choose to use it as your bed-sitting room.

6.       Close off any un-used rooms. The closed door makes that room another barrier between you and the frigid outdoors. It also stops air from circulating as much, which reduces heat loss. Also, home improvement stores sell magnetic register covers to ‘shut off’ forced air furnace registers in unused rooms. That way when the heater does click on, only the registers in the rooms you use will pump out heat. Makes for more efficient use of the heater. Check that all heat registers are adjusted open, especially where plumbing pipes might freeze. Unblock cold air returns in heated rooms [they may be blocked with furniture or rug] so heat can circulate efficiently.

7.       Put up curtains. A set of heavy curtains can block a draft. Open them when the sun is shining and close them when it’s not.

8.       Put down a rug or carpet.

9.       Add insulation in the attic and the crawl space.

10.   Exercise; get in shape. 20 minutes of vigorous exercise can warm you up and keep you warm well after the exercise session. And your healthy body is generally more tolerant of the cold.

11.   Dress warmly. A hat is your number one friend at a time like this. A large percentage of body heat loss occurs in the head region (This is a myth: heat lost from the head is proportionate to the surface area [roughly 10%]), so it is crucial to keep your head covered. A turtleneck sweater can work wonders. Dress in layers, especially with wool or cotton clothing. Don’t wear your winter coat or you will have nothing else to put on when you go outside. When you are sitting still put on a blanket.

12.   Tights. If you still get cold legs then you could buy a 2 pack of black tights from your local shop, make sure they are opaques. Wear one or more pairs over each other under your clothes, this will provide your body with another layer of clothing to trap warm air in. It is ok for men to do this as well.

13.   Cook. Steam will raise the moisture level in your home, making the air more dense, and it uses more energy to heat humid air. Limit cooking that gives off steam, as this will increase the humidity in the air and make your house damp. Make cookies or a pie instead, as your oven will help to dry the air and heat the kitchen. The kitchen will be warm while you are cooking, and then you can have a great home cooked meal too!

14.   Drink warm beverages. Make a cup of tea or coffee. Sip some warm broth.

15.   Light a candle. A candle/candles can produce a lot of heat, just be mindful of where they are placed and do not leave them unattended. A trip to most any grocery store or discount store can provide you with a number of candles cheap!

16.   Find a friend or pet to snuggle with. The living body of any warm-blooded being is a furnace unto itself.

17.   Be active. Moving around produces body heat! The more you are active, the better your blood circulation will be. This will mean that hot blood gets to your fingers and toes, keeping them warm.

18.   Evaluate and Plan. Consider how you got yourself into this position. If you are suffering a cold house due to an energy blackout, the above tips will help you get through this short term emergency. But if you are living with a non-working heater because you don’t have enough money to pay for heat repairs, you will need to start saving money in the bank for exactly this type of emergency. Pay yourself first so that you can get through any and all emergencies as they arise. Don’t leave yourself out in the cold.

19.   Let as much sun hit your house as possible. Check for obstructions (e.g. plants,sheds )to the sun’s light reaching your house and remove items leaning against walls etc. on the sunny side ( ideally put them back again at night for additional insulation ). One note though, if your home is in an exposed location you will have to balance the wind/sun break effect to suit.

20.   Sit on a 50 watt heating pad. Rather than heating the whole house or room, sit on a low wattage heating pad.[Warning! Safety instructions for heating pads say not to do this.–.]

21.   Buy a thick bathrobe or dressing gown. Think of it as a big, fluffy blanket with sleeves. They are very warm and comfortable, and you can even sleep in them!

22.   Go visiting. Purposefully spend time in a location that is heated at no cost to you: library, church, a friend’s house.

23.   Get a dehumidifier…dehumidifiers are designed to remove the moisture from the air not to cool…the way they remove this moisture is to reheat the air to further dry it after it releases its moisture. Basically, the room temperature humid air enters the dehumidifier where it is cooled to its dew point which results in its releasing its moisture. This dried air is then heated by the combination of latent heat of condensation, which is a natural result of the process, and by circulating through the condenser where heat is exchanged from it to the air. The result is the air going back into the room will be slightly warmer than it was going in, usually around 2 to 5 degrees.

Keeping warm

                 

  1. Fool the eye: Sometimes warmth is a matter of perception. Warm colors and textures make you feel warmer so change out your decor. Try a throw so you can snuggle under it.
  2. Cut a rug: Cover up your bare floors with a rug. 
  3.  Bake something: Stews, roasts, casseroles and soups are made    for     the cold weather because they cook at low temperatures for a long period of time and, of course, they warm you up going down.
  4. Drink something: Wrap your hands around a warm mug of tea, cocoa or coffee.
  5. Let the sun in: Open curtains and blinds during the day.
  6. Change your bedding: Switch to flannel sheets, a down comforter, use extra blankets.
  7. Clean the house: Not only will your house be cleaner but activity will get your blood pumping.
  8. Cover your head: It sounds silly but wearing a hat (and socks) to bed at night, even if the rest of you is clad in skimpy clothing, will keep you warm.
  9. It’s muggy in here: Use a humidifier. Humid air feels warmer. No humidifier? Open the bathroom door while you’re showering.
  10. Reverse the fan: We’ve heard that, since heat rises, running your ceiling fan in reverse will push the warm air back down to the ground.
  11. Do your laundry: Nothing warms you up like clothing straight from the dryer.
  12. It’s drafty in here: Block drafts with weather stripping, a rolled up towel or a draft stopper.
  13. It takes two: Snuggle up with your friends, or your significant other.
  14. Something old fashioned: Try a hot water bottle or, before you get into bed, running a hot pan over your sheets. Bags of rice or dried beans, warmed in the microwave, are another option

 

Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance

The most recent statistics show that fireplace fires cause more than 68,000 home fires annually. Without proper maintenance and cleaning, your newspaper kindling could quickly turn into a disaster, causing thick black smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) to enter your home, endangering the lives of you and your loved ones.

Your fireplace is the perfect way to keep warm and cozy as the weather begins to cool. Keep friends and family safe and healthy by following these tips to prevent a fireplace fiasco:

  • Call a Professional
    Have a professional chimney sweep inspect and clean your fireplace and chimney every year. It may not appear as though anything is wrong, but there’s a whole lot more going on inside the chimney than you may think. Visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America at www.csia.org for information on contacting a chimney sweep professional in your area.

  • Keep Critters Out
    Birds and other animals like to live in warm areas when the weather gets cooler, and the chimney is one of the first places they’ll call “home.” Install a chimney cap to prevent animals and debris from getting in. Construction materials range from practical wire mesh to more elaborate and decorative brass and bronze. A brief consultation at your local Ace store will help you find one that meets your needs while keeping unwanted visitors at bay.

  • A Flue that Works for You
    When lighting a fire, always be sure that the flue has been opened properly, and likewise, make sure it closes tightly after the fire has been extinguished. This not only minimizes health and safety risks but can also lower energy costs by reducing the influx of cold air into the house. To test how airtight your flue is, close it all the way and feel inside the fireplace for drafts – if you can feel cool air coming through and cracks or crevices, your flue may require repair or replacement. Chimney professionals will often recommend installing a damper on top of the chimney, which can be opened and closed from the inside and will seal out drafts when the fireplace is not in use.

Fireplace and chimney fires can easily be prevented if you follow these simple tips.

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