Posts Tagged ‘maintenance’
Maintenance requirements for modern heating systems may not involve as much of a homeowner’s time and effort as years ago, but there are still some basic maintenance issues that need to be addressed to help ensure your system will operate properly when needed.
Ideally all heating systems should undergo a preseason maintenance check. Some steps are relatively simple and can be handled by any reasonably competent homeowner; however, with the extra controls and safety devices used with modern systems, most systems should be serviced annually by a qualified heating or plumbing serviceperson.
A trained serviceperson is equipped with the tools, instruments and training necessary to inspect your system, complete regular maintenance tasks or needed repairs, and adjust the burners and other components of the system for optimal and dependable performance.
While you may already have started up your system for the heating season, it is always best to arrange this servicing well before the season starts. Wait too long to schedule an appointment and you may find that you are on a long list for service – well below all the “emergency” heat calls on the service technician’s list.
For many homeowners, if their system turns on that first chilly day of the season, they tend to assume all will go well for the rest of the heating season. It’s not that the system can’t undergo servicing during the season, it’s just that doing so means you’re likely to have to pay more for the service — and worse, you increase the chance of a cold, heatless day.
Whether your system received a professional seasonal launching or not, if the system doesn’t come on when the thermostat is turned up, there are a few steps to take that might get it going before you have to call for help:
- Check the thermostat for any obvious signs of physical damage.
- Make sure the day, time and ON-OFF settings are correct.
- If the thermostat was moved or removed for re-painting or a new wallpaper project, check to make sure the wires were reconnected (with power off).
- Check to make sure the power switch for the heating system is on. (This switch is typically located on or near the unit, or if an older house, it may be located at the top of the basement stairs or on the wall of the garage.)
- Replace the thermostat battery with a fresh one.
Note: if the power switch was turned off or the battery died, the programmed settings may have returned to the factory default settings and a full reprogramming to your desired settings may be needed. Look on the back of the thermostat cover for basic instructions; otherwise refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. If these are not available, try contacting the manufacturer through its website. Instructions may also be posted online. If you can’t immediately figure how to change the settings, look for a manual override (usually UP-DOWN arrows) to raise the setting to at least manually get heat if needed.
P.S. Look ahead: get your name on the service company’s schedule for next year now so you can benefit from off-season fees and ensure a successful startup next year.
Before the weather grows colder it’s important to prepare for the winter months to prevent costly damage. Below are the fall preventative home maintenance steps that every homeowner should follow.
Gutters and Downspouts
- Clean gutters and downspouts frequently throughout fall to prevent build up of leaves and other debris. Neglected gutters can lead to wood rot problems and pest infestations, not to mention ruined gutters.
- Be sure water is not coming down behind gutters and that all support brackets are securely in place.
- Ensure that water drains properly and doesn’t pool. Pooling can cause damage to foundations, driveways, and walkways.
Windows and Doors
- Change summer screens to cool weather storm windows and doors.
- Inspect and repair any loose or damaged window or door frames.
- Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to prevent drafts and to lower heating bills.
- Replace the filter in your furnace.
- Consider having a heating professional check your heating system to ensure optimal performance and discover minor problems before they turn into costly major repairs.
- Clean your ducts to better your heating system’s efficiency as well as to reduce household dust and to provide relief to those with respiratory problems.
- To prevent pipes freezing and bursting, ensure that the pipes are well insulated.
- Know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve in case pipes do freeze.
Chimney and Fireplace
- Call a professional in to inspect and clean your chimney. Fireplaces that are regularly used during the season should have an annual cleaning to prevent dangerous chimney fires.
- Test your fireplace flue for a tight seal when closed.
- Be sure attic insulation doesn’t cover vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof.
- Be sure ridge vents and vents at eaves are free of plants and debris.
- Check bird and rodent screens for attic vents to prevent any unwanted guests.
Landscape and Yardwork
- Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn.
- Prune your trees and shrubs after the leaves turn to encourage healthy growth.
- Trim any tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines or the roof of your house. Heavy snow and ice can cause damage in the winter.
Mold spores are present everywhere. Mold growth is most prolific in warm, damp weather, but high indoor moisture levels and poor ventilation can contribute to mold growth any time of year. To help reduce the potential for mold, provide adequate air circulation and reduce moisture levels in mold-prone areas, such as basements and storage areas.
Avoid storing items directly against walls in potentially damp areas, which restricts air circulation and trap moisture against surfaces. Also consider placing boxes and storage containers on blocks or pallets to allow for air flow.
Frequent air change will help control moisture levels and keep moisture and mold spores from building up. When outdoor weather is appropriate, promote air flow and air changes by using air circulating fans and/or opening the windows slightly. Dehumidifiers can help remove moisture from the air, but realize mold spores will remain. Problems may re-occur when moist conditions return.
When water leaks or spills occur indoors – act quickly. If wet or damp materials are removed or allowed to dry out within 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.
Since prevention is always the best way to keep a home fit, the following tips can avoid the potential health and financial burdens associated with mold.
- Repair or reseal roof flashings when damaged or worn.
- Clean gutters regularly.
- Make sure the ground slopes away from your house foundation.
- Pipe downspout water discharge points away from the foundation.
- Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed.
- Check the condition of all water piping, fittings, and fixtures periodically.
- Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes, dryers to the outside.
- Keep indoor humidity low. Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers when needed.
- Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever showering or cooking for extended periods.
- Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical.
- Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation.
- Add a moisture barrier over dirt floors in crawlspaces.
- Make sure attics and crawlspaces are vented properly.
- If you see condensation or moisture collecting on surfaces, act quickly to dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source.
For additional guidance on mold issues, visit the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Know how to shut off the water. Every inhabitant should know where the main water valve is located. This controls the flow of water as it comes into the house. By turning off the water at the main valve, you can avoid a burst pipe, overflowing tub or other emergency.
Avoid frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can cause flooding and significant structural damage to your house. Avoid disaster by making sure the temperature inside your house never drops below 55º. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to seal them. Insulating the pipes in your crawl spaces and attic can also help prevent them from freezing.
Keep grease out. Grease and oil can build up in pipes and cause backups in your home. Instead of pouring it down the drain, let cooking oil or grease cool and then throw it in the trash—or better yet, see if your municipality recycles it.
Stop hair from going down the drain. When hair escapes down the drain, it often becomes tangled and stuck together. It then acts as a barrier, keeping water from traveling smoothly down the pipes. Screened drain covers are an inexpensive way to avoid this. Buy one and clean it off regularly.
Avoid drain cleaners. They often contain corrosive chemicals that are harmful to pipes—and people. They also can kill the “good bacteria” your septic system needs to operate effectively. If you have a clogged drain, don’t risk damaging your plumbing system by using a drain cleaner; instead, arrange for an AHS service contractor to take a look at it.
If your kitchen has a garbage disposal, you know how easy it makes mealtime clean up. But what you may not realize is that your disposal comes with some pretty important rules. Here are some of the most vital:
• Insert food slowly. Stuffing it all into your disposal at once can cause clogs and shorten the life of your system.
• Grind hard materials. Many people think food like chicken bones or small fruit pits are a no-no, but they can actually help clean the walls of the disposal.
• Use cold water for at least 20 seconds. This will solidify grease so that it can be ground up. Also, make sure that all food particles are washed completely down the drain.
• Keep it clean. One good way to eliminate drain smells is by grinding citrus fruit peels. You can also add a few drops of dish soap and let the disposal run for a few minutes.
• Use hot water. This will make grease liquefy and build up, which can clog the drain.
• Grind fibrous or expandable foods. The former, like celery stalks and onionskins, can tangle up the disposal. The latter, like pasta and rice, can clog it.
• Turn off the motor too quickly. You’ll want to make sure all food particles are completely ground. Once done, continue to run the water for at least 15 seconds to flush out particles.
• Wash coffee grounds down the drain. While they won’t harm the disposal itself, they can clog pipes and drains.
• Forget to use it. Lack of use can cause rusting and corrosion, which can lead to premature system replacement.
A central air conditioning system can provide years of satisfactory cooling with relatively little maintenance. However, a seasonal start-up check and periodic maintenance is recommended.
The amount of do-it-yourself air conditioning maintenance a homeowner can do is limited. However, there are a few steps that can help the system operate trouble-free and minimize the potential for consequential damage. Ensuring adequate airflow is perhaps the most important homeowner responsibility.
Homeowners can (following manufacturer instructions):
- Clean or replace the filter(s) regularly.
- Keep leaves and other debris off the condensing (outdoor) unit.
- Keep the condensing coils clean by carefully brushing and hosing them.
- Keep shrubs and other plant growth that might obstruct airflow at least 18 inches away from the condenser.
- Maintain insulation on ductwork in attics and other unconditioned areas.
- Check the condensate drain for any sign of blockage or leakage. Water should be dripping from the end of this drain line when the unit is running. If no dripping is noted, check at the indoor unit for any signs of leakage.
- Keep room input and return registers clear of furniture or other obstructions.
Selecting Trained Professionals
If your air conditioner needs more than the regular maintenance described here, consult a qualified air conditioning technician. A well-trained professional can provide a thorough pre-season or maintenance evaluation and servicing as needed. Insufficiently trained service technicians forsake proper diagnostic procedures and often only perform stop-gap measures to keep a unit going. Such short-sightedness can have a drastic effect on other components leading to consequential failure of the entire system.
At a minimum, a technician should:
- Check that the system contains the correct amount of refrigerant.
- Test for refrigerant leaks.
- Check for and seal duct leakage.
- Clean the blower components.
- Measure airflow through the evaporator coil.
- Verify the correct electric control sequence.
- Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections.
- Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear.
- Check the condensate system for backup or leakage.
- Check operating temperatures and pressures.
- Check the accuracy of the thermostat.
(c) DBR Franchising, LLC
The cold weather and storms of the winter season can wreak havoc on the exterior of a home and the surrounding property. Sometimes it isn’t that there is significant damage, but simply the fact that it may have been several months since you last paid attention to or attempted any outdoor maintenance.
Now is the time to do a winter-end check to make sure everything is in order and your home is ready to withstand those spring-time showers and the pending heat of summer.
While all exterior areas should be checked periodically, one area that typically requires special attention at the end of the winter season is the roof. To identify possible roofing concerns, look for:
- Ceiling stains – A possible warning sign that your roof system needs repair or replacement. If localized, it may be an isolated point of roof damage or a flashing leak. Ceiling stains can also be associated with excessive attic moisture and/or ice dam conditions, which may require additional attic ventilation and/or insulation to prevent a recurrence. If there are stains on lower level ceilings, a plumbing leak could also be the cause.
- Loose or missing shingles – Any loose or missing shingles should be repaired or replaced immediately to avoid additional leakage and damage to the roof deck or interior of your home.
- Loose, lifted or cracked flashing – This is the sheet metal or other type membrane found at the base of chimneys and roof penetrations. Damaged flashing should be repaired or replaced to prevent leakage. Any open gaps should be sealed with roof cement.
- Lifted or curled shingles – This may be an indication the roof is worn and at or near the end of its service life, or, at the very least, makes it conducive to wind damage. If found just in an isolated area, spot replacement may be possible, but if widespread, get a professional opinion on the roof’s condition.
- Heavy granule buildup in gutters or at base of downspouts – The granules on roof shingles gradually wear away to the point where the underlying material is exposed over large areas. Once this happens the rate of shingle deterioration accelerates. If granule loss is excessive, it may indicate aging shingles that need replacement.
Any roof maintenance check should also include gutter cleaning. This is an area often not paid attention to until an overflow creates problems. Gutters need to be checked year-round to help avoid expensive water damage to the siding or house structure. Extensions or splash blocks at downspouts help divert water away from the house, avoiding soil erosion and infiltration through basement or crawlspace walls.
If you have questions on your roof system, consider utilizing the services of a professional home inspector or qualified roofing contractor to determine conditions.
Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue. More home safety and maintenance information is available right here by clicking any of the categories on the right.
Homeowners that have never had an in-sink garbage disposal system might wonder what the big deal is. Those who have been using a garbage disposal for years, on the other hand, know that they are one of the handiest kitchen additions around. When preparing food or cleaning up after a meal, rinsing off plates, pots, and pans becomes a snap, as you don’t have to worry about clogging the drain with bits of food. The convenience of a sink garbage disposal is so popular that they are found in a large portion of newly constructed homes and condos. If you are thinking of installing a sink garbage disposal system in your home, or of replacing your existing unit, there are a few things to consider.
In-sink Garbage Disposal Basics
Garbage disposals are pretty simple and they all work on a similar principle. They have a flat plate with small, rotating steel mashers, and an inner disposal wall that has “teeth” to do the job of grinding your food waste. A motor inside the unit rotates the flat plate in the food-grinding area. When you switch the unit on, the mashers are forced to swing toward the outside of the spinning plate.
Disposals should be run just until the food has been ground up, which is usually less than 30 seconds. Also, make sure to run a full stream of cold water through the disposal while it grinds. Then let the water run for another 30 seconds after you turn off the disposal.
Types of Garbage Disposals
By far the most popular kind of disposal unit in new homes is the continuous feed. When you place food in the disposal and switch it on, the mashers force food against the teeth of the inner wall and shred it. The shredded food then falls through small holes between the spinning plate and the inside walls, and is diverted into the drainpipe.
The job of the rubber shield at the top of the disposal is to keep fast-moving food particles from being ejected out of the disposal. The stopper lets you plug the sink to hold water when you’re not using the disposal.
Batch feed garbage disposals
Batch feed disposals function exactly like continuous feed disposals–the difference is only in how you turn them on. To turn these garbage disposals on, you place a special stopper in the disposal opening and turn it. The stopper activates a switch that turns on the disposal.
Dishwasher Garbage Disposals
Just as the name implies, these are separate garbage disposal units meant to grind up food particles in the dishwasher. These mechanisms can be found inside the dishwasher unit, or you may be able to connect our dishwasher to your sink garbage disposal.
Your garbage disposal can jam if something solid or tough gets lodged between the spinning plate and the inside wall of the disposal. There aren’t many parts of your garbage disposal that you can or should service yourself, so be sure to call a service professional for any repairs your disposal may need. And, be sure to never put your hands near the opening while it is running.
Tip: To reduce odors and freshen your drain smell, try grinding a lemon rind into your disposal.
While appliances make our lives much easier, they also pose significant risks if not maintained properly. Appliance maintenance is an absolute necessity if you plan on getting the longest life possible from you purchases. Proper appliance care is also able, in certain cases, to keep performance up to par and ensure that your units are running as efficiently as possible. Use this guide to take a quick inventory of the health and safety of the appliances in your home:
Kitchen Appliance Care
Kitchen appliance maintenance is probably going to make the most difference in your home overall, as the machines here are generally used quite often. Though a broken kitchen appliance should usually be handled by a service professional, keeping them clean and using them properly is something that homeowners should pay attention to if they are to function well over their lifetimes.
If a gas appliance stops working, check to see if the pilot light has gone out. If you have the manufacturer’s instructions handy, they may show you how to safely relight the pilot yourself. Wait until you have a full load of dishes before running the dishwasher; this will not only save you money on energy and water bills, but can also extend the life of your appliance, too. A freezer that contains too much frost cannot function at its best; whenever frost gets to be 1/4-inch thick in your freezer, it’s time to defrost. Has a burner on your electric stove stopped working? They are generally inexpensive and easily replaced. Yellow flames in a gas stove are an indication of a problem. Flames should always be blue, so seeing other colors means that you’re not running at full efficiency; you may want to call a service professional.
Laundry Room Appliance Maintenance
Washing machines and dryers are making an appearance in more and more American homes. Just like kitchen appliances, maintenance, and proper care will be a factor in the efficiency and performance of your laundry machines. If the hoses in your washing machine are old, consider replacing them with the tougher metal hoses available at hardware stores. If your washing machine rattles when it runs, it may need leveling. For most items, lowering the water temperature to warm wash and cold rinse will get your clothes clean and reduce your energy bills. Clean the lint trap before you use your dryer; this will prevent a fire hazard, save you energy, and make your clothes dry faster. Regardless of what kind of exhaust tubing you have, clean the outside vent once a year and make sure it opens when the dryer is on and closes properly when the dryer is off. And remember, don’t let lint and debris accumulate under a dryer or it can become a fire hazard!
Electricity and Appliance Maintenance
Sometimes, caring for an appliance doesn’t involve the unit at all, but instead deals with that appliance’s power source. Larger appliances shouldn’t be powered by an extension cord if at all avoidable. If it is a necessity, make sure that extension cord connections are secure and that the extension cord is the appropriate size for your needs. If an appliance stops working, test the outlet with a lamp or radio. With gas appliances, it is important to remember that older models often contain a flame that’s constantly burning. Never store paints, solvents, and other chemicals anywhere near an appliance with a pilot light.