Ten Ways To Prepare Your Home For Spring And Save Money
Although it may not feel like it today with a little resurgence of winter weather, spring is here. And, now is the time to do a little maintenance that will boost your home’s efficiency as temperatures rise and to help you avoid repair bills.
Decades of home ownership have taught Steve and Marilyn Albertson a thing or two about getting a house ready for spring. It’s an expertise Albertson teaches at the Utah State University Extension office as an associate professor.
CHANGE HVAC FILTER
Her first tip is change your HVAC system’s air filter. It adds comfort and cuts energy uses by as much as 15%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
“When you have soil in the air filters, then it makes your furnace work much harder to push the air through,” Albertson explained.
“What I’m looking for when I look at the filter,” said Steve Albertson, “is if it’s covered in dirt. Sometimes I I’ll see white specs, some dust specs, stuff like that.”
Best practice is to change or clean the filter every season, said Marilyn Albertson. But construction tosses up lots of dust and dirt into the air. So, if there is a construction project in your neighborhood, she advises changing the filter more often.
DRAIN THE HOT WATER HEATER
“When you first get your water heater, you need to drain it about a quarter-tank every year,” she explained. This will drain out sediment and mineral build-up that chews up efficiency as your heater’s life.
“If the water is coming out clear, you’re pretty well set,” elaborated Steve Albertson. “It’ll come out milky with the sediments in there.”
But, do not drain an older water heater at all, if you have never drained it before.
“That sediment gets pretty hard, just like concrete in the bottom of your water heater,” he added.
If a chunk of that build-up breaks off, it will cause problems.
“It can actually cause the valve to stay open or a clog,” said Marilyn Albertson. “You have to replace the water heater.
TURN DOWN THE HEATER
But, do turn the heater’s thermostat down to 120 degrees. It will save you on energy costs: 3% to 5% for every drop of ten degrees Fahrenheit according to The Simple Dollar. Plus, you might not want to keep the water so hot in warmer months anyhow.
If you are not sure what temperature your water heater is set at, the Albertsons have a simple hack. Simply run the hot water on you sink for a minute or two to get the hottest water, fill a bowl and drop in a cooking thermometer.
CLEAN THE FRIDGE
Roll out your fridge and clean its dusty coils. A collection of dust forces the coils to work harder.
“I had a friend who just recently was having trouble with the refrigerator,” related Marilyn Albertson. “She thought she was going to have to replace it. But, she pulled the refrigerator out, cleaned the coils really well. Cleaned out underneath. And, the refrigerator worked. She didn’t have to replace it.”
“Just vacuum,” was Steve Albertson’s advice about cleaning the coils. “You don’t want to put any moisture on or anything else like that.”
A soft dry, thistle brush also does the trick.
Marilyn also suggests keeping the fridge about two-thirds full makes better use of the energy.
“You’re cooling nothing (when it is empty),” said Marilyn. “It’s much more efficient when it has things in there to cool.”
Marilyn says the expansion and contraction a Utah home goes through during winter can open up all sorts of cracks
which can let cool air escape your home in warmer weather.
“That is when,” Marilyn Albertson explained, “oftentimes, when the caulk begins to break down.” By sealing up openings with caulk or weather stripping, you can cut 10% to 20% off your energy costs according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
CLEAN OUT THE GUTTERS
Cleaning out the gutters will not save you much on energy costs, but it can save you in repair costs.
“The water can back up in those gutters and it can get backed up underneath the roof,” explained Marilyn. “And, then you can start having leakage into your house. It can actually leak down the walls and could do major damage.”
CHECK THE ROOF
Damaging leaks is also why homeowners should have their roofs checked out for any damage sustained during the winter. A missing or curled up shingle will let water seep into their homes.
Down on the ground, check out the garden hose bibs to make sure they are not dripping.
WASH DOWN YOUR SIDING
Power washing the siding is a great idea, said Marilyn Albertson, if you do it right.
“Be really cautious because oftentimes you tend to shoot (the water) up because you’re down on the ground,” she warned. “So, it gets moisture up underneath the siding and past its ledge (lip.)”
To avoid that damage, she recommended spraying from top down.
CHECK SOFFIT AND EAVES
Also, check your home’s soffit and eaves. They may need a little caulk or some paint.
“You need to make sure that the soffit and eaves are painted, if they are paintable,” Albertson said. “That is something that will allow moisture to get in if it’s not painted and in good condition. And, that can affect your insurance.”
Most homeowners policies will not cover what the industry refers to as seepage, typically defined as water damage caused by lack of maintenance.
CLEAR THE A/C CONDENSER
Also, check the A/C condenser unit in your yard. Any leaves or trash blown into, or up against the coils needs to be cleared.
“If they are obstructed, you’re making your air conditioning work a lot harder than it needs to be,” exclaimed Steve Albertson.
Spray water into the coils at low pressure to wash away loose dirt. For good airflow, trim foliage back at least a couple feet. The less your A/C has to work, the more money you save.
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