7 Tips To Prepare Your Home For The Winter

warm winter

During the cold winter months, your heating system will be working hard to ensure you are warm and comfortable throughout the cold season. There are some steps you can take to improve the efficiency of the system as well as boost your home comfort. The following tips are things that we do to make our home winter-ready:

1) Seal All Windows

The area around the window frame as well as the window itself can cause huge losses of heat during the cold Winter season. That is why it is recommended you seal these gaps and cover the window to prevent loss of heated air to the outside. You can easily buy caulking from your local hardware store and caulk these gaps on your own. There are two types of caulking: temporary and permanent caulking. Both of them can seal the gaps properly. Secondly, you need to seal the entire window with plastic film, also sold at your local hardware store. You can tape the plastic film around the window with double sided tape. These are things that you can easily do yourself

2) Have Your Heating System Serviced

The most important thing that you can do as far as preparing your home for the winter goes is having your heater maintained by a professional. The entire system must be cleaned and moving parts lubricated. The thermostat will also be recalibrated and HVAC repairs carried out on any faulty components in the heating system. During maintenance, any worn out part can also be replaced. For instance, air filters should be replaced to improve indoor air quality. This is also a great time to consider cleaning your air ducts to improve indoor air quality during the cold season.

3) Install a Humidifier

A humidifier, as the name suggests, adds moisture to the room to improve the relative humidity of air circulating in your home. Low humidity air is difficult to breath. Furthermore, it has a poor heat-carrying capacity. This means that a humidifier will help to improve home comfort as well as increase the efficiency of the HVAC system. You can talk to your HVAC provider about the best humidifier to install in your home. Although it may not sound appealing at first, don’t think of this as keeping your home humid. Far from it. We just notice that our home stays warmer easier, and our skin doesn’t dry out as much.

4) Reinforce Your Insulation

Your attic, crawl spaces and basement are three areas that account for a huge fraction of heat losses in a home. Heated air is normally lost through poor insulation in these areas. As you prepare for winter, therefore, you need to add insulation in these areas. If you live in a cold part of the country, you should consider installing R-49 insulation to make your home energy efficient.

5) Install a Programmable Thermostat

To keep your heating bill low, you need to learn how and when to turn down the thermostat. For instance, you can turn down the thermostat at night when you go to sleep because your bedding will keep you warm at night. When you go to work in the morning and leave the house empty, you can also turn down the heating system since you do not need the heating system operating optimally when there is nobody at home during the day. When you get back home in the evening, you can turn the thermostat back to its normal setting. Since this is tedious work, and you might forget to adjust your thermostat on several occasions, you should consider installing a programmable thermostat. It has been a life saver around our house. This is a thermostat that can automatically adjust temperatures based on user settings. You can program it to turn the heating system up and down as required. This will save you the hassle of having to do this on your own. That said, a programmable thermostat can save you a lot of money every year.

6) Seal Your Air Ducts

Leaks in the air ducts can increase your heating bill significantly. After all, you will be losing heated air to unwanted spaces. To prevent these losses, all you need to do is plug leaks in your air ducts. This will also help to prevent contamination of air since dust and other types of air contaminants may be sucked into the air ducts and cause contamination. You can reduce your heating bill by as much as 20% by simply sealing your air ducts.

7) Insulate Your Water Heater and Hot Water Pipes

Water heating accounts for a huge fraction of the household energy bill. To keep your heating costs low, be sure to reinforce the insulation around your water heater. This will allow you to store hot water for longer, so there will be no need for further heating when you need hot water. Be sure to also insulate all your hot water pipes to minimize heat losses to the surroundings. There are many types of insulating materials you can buy from your local hardware store for this purpose.

If you follow all of these tips (most of which you can complete on your own), we’re confident that your home will be warm and efficient just like ours. So rest easy this winter and get the work done ahead of time so that you can stay warm all winter long!

Connecting A Portable Generator To Your Home Isn’t As Simple As I Thought

My brother isn’t easy to shop for, so finding the right Christmas gift is always a challenge. This year, I decided to get him a portable generator. It’s small enough that he can take it to a small cabin for the weekend, but it’s big enough to be able to power some pretty useful gear.

Then I remembered that my brother lives in a city with a lot of trees, overhead power lines, and the year-round possibility of severe storms. In short, he can count on a power outage or two every year. A couple of times, he’s been without power for a few days – both in the middle of summer and the middle of winter. I thought it would be great if he could connect that generator to his home in the event of a blackout. But as it turns out, you can’t just plug a generator into an outlet.

Here’s what I learned: A home’s electrical system is designed to receive power from the local utility. Power is distributed through the electrical panel; this panel features circuit breakers that can instantly disconnect a circuit in the event of overload. Problems can occur if and when power is received from another source, such as a portable generator. When the panel is bypassed, circuits (and the devices connected to them) are no longer protected from overloads; damage to wiring and electronics can be the result.

And that’s not all. There’s another danger called backfeed – the term for when power flows in the opposite direction to the one intended. Plugging your generator into your outlet also connects it to the utility line. Generator power can travel backwards up that line until it hits a transformer that will greatly magnify the voltage. This voltage can cause damage to electronics; more importantly, it can cause severe injury or death to any utility worker making outage repairs.

If you want to plug a portable generator into a home, you need to do so properly. (Read: After the local licensed electrician sets everything up according to code.) You’ll need to install a device that prevents backfeed, and which doesn’t allow your electrical system to connect to generator and utility power at the same time. You’ll need something called an interlock kit.

Interlock kits are attached to the electrical panel, and provide a proper point for connection between generators and household electrical systems. By using an interlock kit, generator power travels through an electrical panel properly, with the usual circuit breaking safeguards in place.

Interlock kits also require you to choose whether your home is powered by the generator power or by the utility line. If you opt to use generator power, you’ll disconnect the circuit from the utility line; opt to use utility power, and the generator is disconnected. This eliminates the possibility of damaging and dangerous backfeed.

Now that I know what has to be done to connect a generator to a home, I’ve already made arrangements with a local electrician to install an interlock kit on my brother’s home right after Christmas. (I had my nephew identify the electrical panel for me, so the panel-specific kit could be ordered in advance.) A generator and interlock kit may not be the most exciting gifts, and few could be more valued the next time power goes out.

4 Projects That Will Add Major Value To Your Home

No matter what kind of house you live in, whether it’s new or old, traditional or modern, it never hurts to take on a project that will add value to your property. If you ever decide to move and either rent or sell your current home, you’ll be glad that you took the time to raise your property values.

There are a wide variety of things you can do in and around your home that can significantly raise your property value. Some of these things require a fair amount of expertise, like building an addition, and some can be as simple as maintaining a beautiful garden. Let’s dive into some projects that can majorly increase your home’s value.

  1. Adding Rooms – Obviously adding square footage to your home will drive up your property values, but this can be a tricky thing to get right. There’s a lot that goes into adding on to your home. Chances are you’ll need to hire a general contractor in your area to make sure everything goes smoothly with an addition. Many people tackle this sort of project on their own, but unless you’re a professional contractor yourself, I don’t recommend it. There are too many things that can go wrong to risk doing this kind of project yourself. There are many ways to expand your home, whether you choose to add a sunroom, bathroom, bedroom, or garage. Depending on your budget you could add just about anything you can imagine on to your home.
  2. Erecting Another Building – Depending on how large your property is, you might want to add another building. This could be a separate garage, or an outdoor workshop, or a small apartment suite that you could rent out. There are lots of great reasons to add an extra building to your property, and a well-maintained garage, workshop, studio, or apartment could give a huge boost to your overall property value.
  3. Keeping a Manicured Lawn and Garden – This is something that will take a more regular commitment to keep looking nice, but a well-established garden, and a manicured lawn can go a long way towards making your property values soar. Adding in accessories like a trellis or pergola, seating areas, paved walkways, and sprinkler systems will all greatly improve the overall aesthetic of your home’s exterior, and in turn boost your overall property value.
  4. Replacing Windows – Depending on the age of your home, your windows could be causing a fair amount of energy loss for your home. To keep your property value high, you’ll want to make sure your home is energy efficient. One of the best ways to do that is to make sure you have modern windows that have a strong weathertight seal to keep your home a consistent temperature. This will keep your HVAC system from working more than it needs to, and bring your energy bills down each month. New windows can be fairly expensive, but they will bump up your property values significantly.

These are just a couple of ways that you can significantly boost the value of your home. Obviously there are many ways to keep your property value high, many of which just require keeping your home as nice as possible, but these 4 projects will add thousands to your overall property value.

There are many ways that you can increase your home’s value on your own, but some of the most significant alterations you can make will require the help of a general contractor in your area. Check the Better Business Bureau to find a reputable company near you. Most will give you a free estimate on whatever kind of project you’re looking at. With a little shopping around, you’re sure to find the perfect contractor for your addition, outbuilding, or window replacement.

Buying A New House? Don’t Forget to Check These Areas!

Buying a new house is an overwhelming experience, we totally understand. It’s a fairly high-stress procedure and you’re trying to make sure everything is perfect before you sign the deal, but you also want to make sure you’re getting in before anyone else snaps it up.

Unfortunately, realtors and landlords often depend on this high-pressure scenario to cause prospective tenants to overlook minor, and sometimes even major, problems with the property. Sometimes they’ll even tell prospective tenants that there’s already an offer on the property, even if there isn’t, just to make the sale go through quicker.

To make sure you’re really getting the house or apartment of your dreams, here are some things you should make sure to check before signing any sort of paperwork:

  • Check the Crawlspace: If you’re looking at houses, make sure to do a quick check of the crawlspace under the house. It doesn’t need to be super thorough, but you do want to make sure there’s no mold or standing water that can cause serious structural damage down the road.
  • Ask about Carpet: When were the carpets installed? If they aren’t brand new, when were they last cleaned professionally. If they can’t answer, you might want to try to negotiate getting them to hire a professional carpet cleaner to give the house a solid cleaning before you move in.
  • Check Plumbing: This is another check that doesn’t need to be super in-depth either, but you should take the time to verify that the plumbing under the sinks and behind the toilets looks properly attached and clean. Make sure it’s not corroded or about to become disconnected or anything like that. If it looks questionable, ask that they have a plumber in to verify that everything is hooked up properly. Water damage can be a very serious issue and it’s best to address any plumbing issues right away.
  • Siding and Shingles: This doesn’t necessarily apply for apartments, but for houses, make sure the shingles look new and there aren’t any patches missing. Do the same for siding. Not only does it make your house look unkempt to have broken siding or missing shingles, but it can be another avenue for water to get into places it isn’t supposed to in your home.
  • Attic and Basement: For buildings that have attics and basements, it’s always a good idea to give these areas some extra attention when checking out the house. You want to make sure there are no pests making your attic into their home. It’s also wise to make sure there isn’t a bunch of excess moisture in the attic or basement causing mold to grow. Mold should be fairly easy to spot in these situations, but looking for pests might take closer inspection.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it covers a lot of the things that most people forget to fully inspect before signing on a lease or mortgage. Making sure all of these items are in good shape will give you the peace of mind that your new living arrangement isn’t harboring dangerous mold or at high risk for water damage.

Obviously when checking out a new place you should inspect anything and everything you can think of. It’s a major investment and you want to make sure that you’re getting what you want and need out of it. You also want to make sure you’re not getting suckered into buying or renting a place that is at high risk for damage that can be blamed on you as the new tenant.

Use these tips to help you get the place of your dreams and keep one step ahead of the landlords and realtors. Knowledge is your best defense when it comes to checking out a new home. Hopefully you won’t find any problems, but if you do you’ll be glad you took the time to look first.