Friday, April 29, 2011

Your Spring Maintenance Checklist

Excerpt from Your Spring Maintenance Checklist
Taken from (Real Estate)

In addition to your annual spring-cleaning ritual, take some steps to save money on energy bills this summer and ward off big-ticket repairs later on. Here are 10 things for you (or the handyman) to tackle now to Summer-ize your home and keep it in top shape.

1. Inspect the AC.
For about $75 to $200, a technician will tune up your cooling system to manufacturer-rated efficiency. Look for a heating and air-conditioning contractor that belongs to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, employs technicians certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program, and follows the protocol for the ACCA’s “national standard for residential maintenance”, says Wes Davis, manager of technical services at ACCA. Call your electric utility to see whether it offers incentives. Also note that dirty filters make air conditioning work harder, increasing energy costs and possibly damaging your equipment.

2. Put the temperature on autopilot.
Set the hold or vacation feature for a constant, efficient temperature when you’re away for the weekend or on vacation. In summer, you can make those settings more tolerable if you install ceiling fans. Just remember that a ceiling fan cools people, not a room, so turn it off when you leave the room.

3. Caulk the cracks.
If the gap around a door or window is wider than a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk, says Bill Richardson, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Check window-glazing putty, too, which seals glass into the window frame. Add weatherstripping around doors, making sure that you can’t see any daylight from inside your home. You’ll save money on air conditioning and avoid having to repeat this task this fall.

4. Clean out the gutters.
Gutter cleaning generally costs $90 to $225 for a 2,000-square-foot home. Add extensions to downspouts to carry water at least 3 to 4 feet away from your home’s foundation. You can use 4-inch corrugated plastic pipe (about $7 for 10 feet).

5. Repair your roof.
An easy way to inspect the roof to find damaged, loose or missing shingles without risking life and limb is to use a pair of binoculars. If need be, hire a handyman to repair a few shingles. If the damaged section is more extensive, you’ll need a roofer. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too. If your home has a flat roof with a parapet (a short wall around the perimeter), check the flashing that seals the joint between them. Heavy snow can split the flashing, resulting in leaks.

6. Keep your basement dry.
If you have a sump pump, make sure it’s operating properly. If water seeps through the foundation walls (does your basement smell musty? are the walls stained?), the best solution is probably to excavate the exterior wall and apply sealant, says professional engineer Kenneth Fraine, of Leesburg, Virginia. Fraine says that if your home is on a slope, a floor drain (about $800) is better than a sump pump. “Gravity never fails,” he says.

7. Deal with your deck.
Resealing is always a good idea to protect the wood. But more important, make sure your deck can handle the load. The North American Deck and Railing Association says that deck components inevitably age, but that salt air can hasten deterioration and heavy snow can cause stress damage. At a minimum, test several areas of the deck, especially those that tend to stay damp, for decay. Two signs: The wood is soft and spongy, and if you poke it with an ice pick or screwdriver, it doesn’t splinter.

8. Call a chimney sweep.
Look for chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. The sweep will make sure that the chimney cap is in place and the damper is working properly. With a wood-burning fireplace, you can close the damper whenever the fireplace is not in use. In summer, you’ll save energy and reduce unpleasant odors carried by the inflow of air and aggravated by humidity. For the greatest energy savings, insert a fireplace “draft stopper” in the flue.

9. Don't overwater.
If you have an irrigation system, you may be overwatering (and wasting money on water bills) because a controller isn’t properly set for your yard’s needs or because of broken or leaky components.

10. Lose the lint.
Even if you clean your clothes dryer’s lint trap before every use, the vent accumulates lint over time, like plaque in your arteries, says Richardson. That’s especially likely if snow covered the exterior backdraft damper for a while last winter. A clogged vent can reduce your dryer’s efficiency and create a fire hazard.

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LondonHomes April 29, 2011 at 11:35 AM  

Good point on the AC check up I find it is important to do. Although I think you can get away with doing it every other year to save you some extra money.