Critical Furnace Maintenance Tips

Critical Furnace Maintenance Tips

Most furnaces are buried behind a closet door or hidden in a garage, making it easy to forget about basic maintenance. However, caring for your heating system saves you money over time. The system runs more efficiently, reducing energy costs, and also lasts longer than a neglected furnace. Several crucial maintenance tips should be followed to extend the machine’s lifespan and keep the entire family comfortable.

Physical Inspection

Turn the system off and grab a flashlight. You want to evaluate as much of the furnace’s exterior as possible. You’re looking for cracks or loose parts across the heat exchanger or outside housing. Run the system while observing it, but don’t place any limbs into the area. Look for obvious signs of vibration or unusual sounds. Observation is one of the easiest ways to find small problems before they become huge repair bills. If you check your furnace once a month, for example, you’ll be able to decipher between normal and unusual sounds or movements.

Clean It Out

When you observe your furnace, you may see a fine dust layer across coils. As the system pulls air into its components, dust is typically filtered out by an air filter. However, dust in the surrounding air eventually settles on furnace components, reducing their efficiency. Vacuum off the coils using a brush attachment, being careful to turn the system off when you work closely with it. As you reveal the clean coils, keep a wary eye out for any small cracks. Any possible leaks could come from a hairline fracture.

Test The Thermostat

Your thermostat controls the furnace’s activation, saving you money when it runs accurately. Test the thermostat by setting it at varying temperatures. Verify that it turns on when it reaches its temperature threshold. Because today’s thermostats are essentially small computers, many people opt for appliance insurance when they buy the unit initially. Some electronic issues are covered by limited warranties, but insurance covers other problems. Look for any frayed wires around the thermostat and any extensions into the furnace itself. Don’t touch any wires. If you find a frayed section, it’s best to contact a professional for help.

Air Filter Consideration

Air filters stop particulates from building up in the furnace, providing efficiency for all components. When you let the filter fill up, however, it fails to sift the air and forms a barrier. The furnace works harder to pull air in, effectively reducing its lifespan and driving up energy costs. Replace the air filter once a month during its busy season. Alternatively, purchase a reusable filter that can be rinsed. You’ll save money on filters and reduce landfill waste simultaneously.

Drain System

Furnaces convert cold air into warm breezes, but this conversion process also produces condensate. Moisture from the air drips into the furnace’s drain system, typically evaporating from a pan or moving along a pipe to the home’s plumbing system. Check and clean out the drain system periodically. Sediment may build up, causing a blockage and subsequent water damage. The drain should always be clear because condensate drips constantly as the system operates.

Professional Inspection

One of the best maintenance tips is simply hiring a professional once a year. They can reach furnace areas safely to evaluate any possible problems. Specialized cleaning tools make the furnace look brand new. They can also tweak its performance to save you even more energy over time. Avoiding professional inspections only makes the system vulnerable to breakdowns at the worst times. You don’t want to have a failing furnace during a cold snap. Choose a yearly inspection to see if your maintenance tricks are paying off.

From vacuuming the furnace to simply changing the filter, your consistent maintenance does pay off in the long run. It’s possible for this appliance to last a decade or more with diligent care and observation.

Washer and Dryer Maintenance: Protecting Your Home From Water and Fire Damage

Washer and Dryer Maintenance: Protecting Your Home From Water and Fire Damage

A burst washing machine hose can spill hundreds of gallons of water in your home in just an hour. Dryers with excessive lint build-up can burst into flame and cause a fire in the home. Property damage from ill-maintained washers and dryers can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. These kinds of emergencies can be easily avoided by taking care of the washer and dryer throughout their lives. These maintenance tips will illustrate how to take care of your home through proper washing machine and dryer maintenance.

Upgrade Old Parts

The hoses of older washing machines are often made of rubber that can burst much easier than newer hoses. Replacing these old hoses with steel-jacketed ones will prevent their splitting open and spewing water into the home. Older dryers also come standard with vinyl ducts that are flimsy and flammable. It’s no wonder they are so prone to fire. Regularly cleaning the lint trap is not enough to prevent dryer fires as lint can also become trapped in the ducts; replace those vinyl ducts with non-flammable metal ones.

Clean Filter Screens

Filters are built into washing machines to catch debris and sediment as it washes off of your clothes. If this screen becomes too backed up with sediment, water cannot flow properly into it. Clean the filter screen with a bristle brush to keep water flowing quickly.

Add a Drip Pan

By placing a drip pan underneath the washing machine, any potential leaks are caught in the pan and fed into a floor drain. This not only prevents your home from water damage, but it also provides a convenient way to check for leaks. After washing a load, check the pan for any excess water that is flowing from the machine. In this way, you can catch leaks while they are still small and call for some home appliance repair.

Turn Off Water If Not In Use

If you are planning on going on a long vacation or do not plan to do laundry for an extended period, turn off the water flow to the washer. This relieves the constant water pressure felt by the washer that can create leaks or cause them to become worse. Going out of town means you won’t be able to detect the leak until it’s too late and water has already flowed out and damaged the home.

Use Gently

Overloading a washer or dryer makes it run inefficiently as it works extra hard to accommodate the load. Break up larger loads into several smaller loads to prolong the life of your washer and dryer. You should also leave the lid of the washer open if it is not in use to let the drum dry out. Odors can sometimes arise from a continually wet and mildewy drum. If the washer is a front-loader and the door cannot be left open, towel dry the drum and rubber gasket after each load is removed.

Treating your washer and dryer gently can go a long way to elongating their lifetimes. Regularly check for leaks and for hose brittleness. Old hoses need to be replaced and not ignored to prevent a burst or split hose. It is much better to spend the money now to take care of the washer and dryer than to spend thousands of dollars later to repair damage to your home. Water and fire damage are expensive problems to have; steps should be taken when possible to limit the possibility of their occurrence. Keep your family and your home safe and sound by keeping regular washer and dryer maintenance a priority.

Tips for Fireplace Use and Maintenance for Safety

Tips for Fireplace Use and Maintenance for Safety

Fireplaces are a beautiful addition to any home. Whether it’s a modern fireplace with state-of-the-art technology or a traditional brick fireplace, the upkeep and maintenance should be the same. It’s important to keep up with cleaning and maintenance for aesthetic as well as safety reasons. It’s also vital to have a home warranty that can cover appliances damaged in a fire.

Routine, Scheduled Maintenance

Once a week, or after every fire, clean the fireplace of any residue from previous fires. Ash and soot builds in the bottom of the fireplace, along the inner walls and on the grates. It becomes messy and dangerous if left to build up over time.

Wait 12 hours before attempting to vacuum or dust the fireplace. There can’t be any chance of the embers being hot, or it could start an unintentional fire. Homeowners with a fireplace might want to consider a firebox for old ashes. After waiting until the fire cools completely, the fireplace should be swept and vacuumed.

At least once a week, the fireplace should be given a deep cleaning. The inner walls should be scrubbed with a stiff brush. If the fireplace is made of brick, be careful since the masonry could crumble and allow fire access to the home’s walls. Any grates, fireplace implements and grills should be cleaned too.

Yearly Maintenance

Once a year, the homeowner should hire an inspector to make sure the chimney is in good physical condition and to clean out the chimney. Over time, creosote from burning wood builds in the chimney walls. This substance is extremely flammable and could ignite the inner walls of the chimney.

The chimney has a cap on either end to keep small animals like birds and squirrels from entering, and to keep debris like leaves and dirt from falling into the chimney. The caps need to be inspected, cleaned and repaired if there’s a problem.

Troubleshooting

Any smoke that leaks into the home indicates a problem. A chimney packed with creosote or soot build up can cause smoke to enter the home. There might be debris blocking the chimney or the damper might not be open. There could be any number of reasons why smoke isn’t traveling out of the chimney, but it’s important that the fire is extinguished immediately so an investigation of the cause can begin.

Fireplace Tips for Safety

  • Only burn hardwoods if possible. They have less sap, will burn longer and don’t leave as much creosote.
  • Don’t start a fire in the home using liquids like gas or kerosene.
  • Stick to woods in the fire. Other materials could cause a fire to burn too hot or release chemicals into the air.

Added Protection

Glass doors are great protection from embers escaping into the room. They will increase the fireplace’s heat efficiency if the fireplace is used as a heating source too. Glass doors are heat proof when they are specially made for fireplaces. They are easy to clean and should be washed down after every fire especially if soot builds up frequently.

If there are small children in the home, adding an extra layer of protection to the fireplace is vital for their safety. There are gates and guards that will protect the children from harm. Large gates will keep the child at a safe distance, and guards will cover the raised brick to keep the sharp edges from hurting a child if he or she falls.

Fireplace maintenance is vital to fire safety in the home. The biggest problem with fireplaces is the buildup of harmful and flammable substances that are not cleaned out of the chimney. Blockages should be dealt with quickly too. The maintenance of the fireplace should be a weekly occurrence.

Transform your Electricity and Gas Bills in Six Easy Steps

Transform your Electricity and Gas Bills in Six Easy Steps

Steps to saving money on your electric and gas bills have never been easier. Making simple adjustments in your daily routine and making minor repairs around the house could save you hundreds of dollars a year. It may take some time to remember to make these changes before they become a habit, however the outcome will be worth it.

Cooking Habits

Only heat as much water as you require. The more water you try to heat the longer it will take and the more electricity you will waste. If you do this several times a day, it adds up. Consider this practice when preparing tea and cooking pasta or vegetables. Only use the amount required and using an electric kettle to heat water to cook with often takes less time than the oven. Essentially, you should reduce the amount of water you use in everything and make changes to reduce cook times.

Fridge and Freezer

Keep your fridge and freezer as far away as possible from direct sunlight and heating devices. This will reduce the number of times the fridge or freezer must start to maintain the desired temperature. And, keep the temperatures of both at the recommended rates rather than too cold or too warm. Do not forget to defrost the appliance on a regular basis. And, know what you are going to retrieve before you open the doors and organize your items and have a storage plan to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Use Technology

Sometimes the easiest way to modify behavior is to be aware of your actions. Typically, you have to wait until the electric or gas bill arrives to determine your exact consumption charges at any given time. Today, technology takes the guess work out of the equation. Purchase an inexpensive device that measures your existing consumption rate. You should also use automatic thermostats to reduce the heat or air distributed during the times you are asleep or at work.

The Water Heater

Water heaters are one of the prime places energy is lost or wasted. An overused water heater might need to be replaced, and that is where a home warranty would come in. But if your water heater is still in good shape, your energy conservation efforts start by keeping your water heater at a lower temperature. This will reduce the number of times the water heater turns on. You should also have the water heater inspected annually by a professional. Spending a few dollars each year could save you thousands of dollars in the end. If you have a small electric one, turn it off and unplug it during the times it is not in use. Turn it on 20 minutes before you wish to shower or bathe and it will be ready.

Air Ducts

According to most professionals, the air ducts are where the greatest loss in energy efficiency takes place. During the construction of homes, this area is often one that is overlooked during quality control. Simple home repairs can easily rectify this problem. Turn on the air or heat and follow the ducts throughout your home. Wherever you feel a leak, duct tape it. Also, you should ensure that all vents are free from furniture, drapes and other objects that may prevent the proper heating and cooling of your home.

Window and Door Frames

Another place where energy is lost is at the frames of windows and doors. These are often installed poorly or the protection wears away after time. A simple home repair is to use weatherproof sealant on all frames. You should also check as to whether or not insulation was used during the installation process. If you have significant drafts, you should consider installing insulation.

If you make these quick changes, you will save money. Once you have extra money, you can spend it on something you can use such as an energy-saving water heater or something you do not need like a trip to some place new.

How to Cut Down on Air Conditioner Wear and Tear This Summer

How to Cut Down on Air Conditioner Wear and Tear This Summer

Your AC unit can be a lifesaver in the harsh heat of summer. That’s why it would be incredibly frustrating if it started running poorly or stopped functioning. Many AC problems are caused by wear and tear over time, and they can be prevented with a few simple operating and maintenance tips.

Clean or Replace Your Filter

All AC units have filters that filter dust, dirt and grime from the air that is being circulated into the house. When this filter gets clogged, air flow becomes obstructed. This causes the air conditioner to be much less efficient in air flow, cooling and even energy use.

AC units differ in where the filter is located and whether the filter is disposable or not. Check your air conditioner’s manual for information on this subject. If your filter is disposable, you’ll need to purchase a new one when it gets clogged. If it’s not, you’ll need to clean it. Some filters can easily be cleaned with some cleaner and a wet rag, but others may need to be cleaned off with a hose or in the bathtub.

Keep the Unit Away from Sources of Heat

Most people don’t think about items that are placed around the air conditioner, but some items can have effects on its operation. For example, lamps and televisions tend to produce a good deal of heat. This heat is usually not enough to damage the face of the unit, but it has other effects. Air conditioners work through a thermostat. When the thermostat reaches a certain temperature, it either turns off or on. When you have appliances that produce heat near the air conditioner, it causes the unit to run for much longer than it would otherwise. This means the unit is overworking itself and wasting energy for no reason. Keep any appliance that may produce heat away from the air conditioner if possible. If you can’t avoid it, you’ll need to be more diligent about manually turning the unit off and on.

Window Seals and Proper Insulation

One of the most common ways that AC units tend to suffer from large amounts of wear and tear in short amounts of time is constantly needing to have the unit on due to heat getting in and the cold air getting out. Sealing your windows, especially the one holding the air conditioner, along with properly insulating your home can save your AC from constant operation. It not only saves your air conditioner from wear and tear, but it also cuts down on heating costs in the winter.

Curtains and Shades

When it comes to cutting down on AC wear and tear, keeping your curtains and shades closed can make a big difference. While many people love to enjoy the bright and sunny days of summer, it’s best to avoid the hot rays of the sun when you’re indoors to keep the temperatures in your home down. Not only will this allow your air conditioner to automatically cut down on operation time with a lower temperature reading, but it will also help you avoid feeling like you need to turn the AC on at all.

Prepare for Winter

If you have a window air conditioner that is too heavy or too difficult to remove from your window before winter strikes, you’ll need to properly cover it as much as you can to avoid water buildup, leaf and bug accumulation, and ice damage. Cover the back with a small tarp and wrap it up with bungee cord. The front can also be covered by a cloth or another insulated covering.

If you can remove the AC, ensure that it is stored in a safe location where it won’t get damaged. It should be kept indoors preferably in a fairly warm and dry area.

Insurance

If you are still worried about possible damage, issues or breakdowns in your AC unit, you can purchase a home warranty to help cover the costs. Not only does this insurance cover air conditioning units, but it also covers heating and other major appliances.