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5 Simple Ways to Reduce Cooling Costs This Summer
Each summer seems to get hotter. That means that we are spending more money to cool our homes every year. The good news is that you have control over your energy consumption. With a few simple tips, you can reduce cooling costs this summer and stay comfortable.
Maintain the Air Conditioner
Air conditioning makes up the bulk of your summer energy costs. If you are running an older, inefficient air conditioner, you are throwing money away. Maintain your AC to make sure it is operating effectively all season. Have your system serviced in the spring so it will be ready to use when the weather gets hot. Change your air filters monthly to improve air quality and help the unit run more efficiently. Upgrading to a new AC unit altogether will pay for itself in energy savings.
Use Fans to Reduce Cooling Costs
Using ceiling fans and other fans throughout your home will circulate the air, creating a wind-chill effect. This means that you won’t have to set your thermostat as low and can save money. Use fans in the busiest areas of your home and you and your family members will feel more comfortable.
Close the Curtains
As the sun pours in through the windows, it heats everything in the room. Even if you have newer energy-efficient windows, you can still benefit from using curtains to block the sun’s rays. Close the curtains on the east side of your home in the morning and on the west side in the evening to block direct sunlight, keeping the interior of your home shaded and cooler.
Reduce Cooling Costs With a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats are a great way to reduce cooling costs this summer. Programmable thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home throughout the day, so you can use more efficient settings when you’re not home. A smart thermostat allows you to control your air conditioner remotely. If you are gone from the house all day, you can raise the temperature when you leave and lower it before you return home using a smartphone app.
Use a Dehumidifier
If you live in an area with high humidity, a dehumidifier will help reduce cooling costs. Humidity makes your house feel warmer than it is. If you reduce humidity levels in your home, you can increase the temperature of your thermostat and feel just as comfortable. A hygrometer measures moisture in the air. If your humidity levels are above 50%, you will benefit from using a dehumidifier in your home.
Reduce Cooling Costs this Summer
These simple tips can save you hundreds of dollars this year. You will be glad you made the effort when your utility bill is lower and you feel comfortable all summer long.
How to Declutter Your Home
Spring is a great time to declutter your home. Decluttering can feel overwhelming, but here are a few things to do before, during, and after the process. Before you start your annual spring cleaning, use these tips to declutter the house first. Prepare to Declutter Your read more
7 Rewarding Fall Home Improvement Projects
Fall Home Improvement Projects
Despite warm temperatures, fall is right around the corner. It’s a busy time of year with children going back to school, fall planting, and getting the house ready for winter. Here is a list of 7 fall home improvement projects that will protect your home from storms, keep energy bills low, and keep you warm in cool weather.
1: Furnace Tune-Up
Get the furnace tuned-up or even replaced. Older furnaces run less efficiently than newer ones. A new furnace, when properly installed, can run at approximately 80% efficiency. A well-operating furnace reduces energy costs and increases comfort. Yearly furnace tune-ups also make your home safer.
2: Clean Windows
During the fall and winter, the sun shines for fewer hours and at a different angle. Clean your windows to increase your home’s solar gain. The sun can shine through clean windows more easily and help heat up your home. Clean windows will boost your mood and keep energy bills lower.
3: Weatherstripping and Caulking
While major insulation projects can substantially reduce energy bills, heat may be lost through tiny cracks. Check the weatherstripping around doors and windows and replace it if it’s worn or broken. Caulking along the edges of the window panes will keep out moisture and cold air. This fall home improvement project keeps out those cold winter drafts.
Debris has been filling your gutters all year. When winter arrives, any trapped water in clogged gutters may freeze which could damage the gutters and other parts of your home. Gutters direct water away from the house. If that water freezes or overflows, it could cause major damage to the exterior of your home. Clean out your gutters as one of your fall home improvement projects.
5: Fall Home Improvement Projects for the Roof
If your roof is compromised, it can leak and cause water damage. Call a professional to inspect the roof and make repairs during fall. If you need a new roof, roof replacement is a good fall home improvement project.
6: Fall Home Improvement for the Fireplace
Soot can build up in chimneys and potentially start a chimney fire. Just like the furnace, having the chimney and fireplace properly maintained prevents dangerous risks.
7: Clean Ceiling Fans
You have probably kept your ceiling fans running all summer long. This perpetual movement builds up a static charge on your fan blades, which attracts dust. Fall is an excellent time to give your fan blades a good dusting. Also, you should switch the direction the fan rotates. As the temperature cools off, the fans should run clockwise to push warm air downwards.
These fall home improvement projects can make your home safer, lower your energy bills, and increase your comfort levels all winter long.
9 Grilling Safety Tips to Follow This Summer
The summer months are the perfect time to host a cookout, but July is also the biggest month for accidental grill fires. Both gas and charcoal grills have risks associated with their use. The next time you use your grill, practice these grilling safety tips to keep your family and home safe.
Grilling Away From the House is an Important Grilling Safety Tip
Many homeowners don’t realize that their home is at risk since flames from the grill can reach nearby structures. Use your grill away from walls, patios, and balconies. Stay away from patio umbrellas and overhanging tree branches as well.
Make Sure That Your Grill is on a Flat Surface
Unstable grills can tip over and cause injury or fire. Make sure your grill is on a flat surface and doesn’t tip over easily. A grill pad will contain any food scraps, protect your deck or patio, and create an even surface that stabilizes the grill.
Clean Your Grill After You Use It
Always clean your grill after use. Use a brush to scrub the grates. Empty accumulated grease from the tray below. If you use a grill that requires charcoal, dispose of the coals in a metal container after they have cooled off.
Check Your Grill For Propane Leaks
If you are using a gas grill, check it for propane leaks. You can easily do so with a soap and water solution. Apply the solution to the fuel line hose, then turn the gas on. If you see any bubbles forming, there is a leak. Another sure sign of a leak is if you smell gas.
Don’t Re-Light the Flame Right Away
Sometimes your flame will go out on a propane grill. When this happens, wait about five minutes before igniting again. Be sure to turn the propane off while you are waiting.
Never Leave Your Grill Unattended
Accidents often happen because of an unattended grill, especially with children or pets present. Always stay close to your grill when you are using it. The grill can stay hot for quite some time after you are finished cooking, so it’s important to keep your kids and pets away from it both during and after grilling.
Starter Fluid Grilling Safety Tips
Only use starter fluid when you are starting a charcoal grill. If the flame goes out, don’t add more fuel. Use a safer alternative like newspaper to re-light.
Grilling Safety Tips for Clothing
When you are using your grill, pay attention to your clothing. Don’t wear flammable items or accessories. Stay away from shirts that have long sleeves or strings hanging from them. Tie back your apron strings. Make sure that nothing hangs over the top of your grill that could catch fire.
Be Prepared In Case Of An Emergency
Emergencies happen, so always keep a fire extinguisher close by. Don’t use water when trying to put out a fire caused by your grill. That can just make it worse. This is one of the most important grilling safety tips to remember.
The summer is a great time to barbecue. However, take proper precautions to keep your family safe when you are grilling out.
Five Tips on How to Safely Take Down Holiday Decorations
Many people enjoy decorating for the holidays but few people consider the hazards when undecorating after the New Year. Falls, cuts, shocks, and other injuries are all possible risks when taking down and putting away decorations. Review these tips on how to safely take down holiday decorations.
1. Set Up Your Ladder Safely
Many people hang holiday lights high on the roof without considering the ways to safely take down holiday decorations. When removing decorations from roofs, balconies, and trees, you’ll need to set up the ladder safely to prevent falls. If you are using an extension ladder, lean the ladder against the house at a 75-degree angle. Place the ladder on sturdy and dry ground. Have someone hold the ladder down so it doesn’t move while you’re using it.
2. Test the Lights
Testing your lights is the next step after you safely take down holiday decorations. Before returning the lights to storage, check for broken bulbs and frayed cords that could spark and create fires. You want the lights to work and to know they are safe to decorate with next year.
3. Be Careful With Heavy Items
Do not injure yourself while carrying heavy items. Big holiday decorations can weigh a hundred pounds or more. Set a maximum limit for each box that does not exceed 50 pounds. That is the weight that most people can carry without injuring themselves. Lift with your legs instead of your back.
4. Get Rid of Broken Items
Get rid of broken ornaments immediately after you safely take down holiday decorations. Do not stash them away, thinking that the damages are small and barely noticeable. Cracked bulbs or glass ornaments are still hazardous to children and pets.
Always Consider the Ways to Safely Take Down Holiday Decorations
After the holidays pass, it’s typical for people to remove their decorations quickly and carelessly when storing them. With a little planning and thoughtfulness, you can avoid injury. Remember these tips when you safely take down holiday decorations.
How to Improve Home Security During the Holidays
Protecting your home against invasions, burglaries, and other crimes is a year-round task, but it becomes more important over the holidays. In many homes, expensive gifts are placed under a tree and conveniently packaged in boxes for criminals to haul off in a matter of minutes.
Travel is common over the holidays so burglars are on the lookout for vacant homes. Boosting home security during the holidays is smart and can be accomplished in a few easy steps.
Easy Ways to Improve Home Security During the Holidays
Now is the time to assess your home’s most vulnerable areas. View the exterior of your home by putting yourself in the mind of a criminal. Is your home easy to access without being noticed? What is inside your home that may be appealing to criminals and easy to haul off?
By focusing on the right areas, you can improve home security during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year.
1. Install Motion Sensor Lights
Many criminals use the darkness of night for concealment as they get in and out of homes. Therefore, when you look at ways to improve home security during the holidays, illuminating your home’s exterior should be a top priority.
Improving landscape lighting throughout the exterior is one idea, and you can also install bright motion sensor lights that turn on when someone approaches your home at night. These lights can sense motion several feet away. If someone is up to no good, a bright light turning on might scare them off.
2. Invest in a Security System
Another smart idea is to invest in a home security system. A basic system can be armed when you leave and will alert you and authorities if the doors or windows are opened.
A more advanced system may have motion sensors in the home as well as video surveillance capabilities. You may also be able to activate and monitor the system remotely from your smartphone using an app.
3. Use Smart Home Technology
Smart home technology can be used in a number of ways to improve home security during the holidays. For example, a wireless video feed on a smart doorbell or exterior video camera can be used to alert you when motion is sensed on your front patio.
You can connect interior lights, the TV, and even automatic blinds to your smart home system. When you are away, you can adjust these features periodically to give the appearance that someone is inside the home.
4. Talk to a Trusted Neighbor
When you are away during the holidays, it is helpful to have someone who lives close by to keep an eye on your home. You may also have a pet sitter visit your home several times per day or a housesitter that stays for the duration of your absence. Either one can collect your mail and newspapers while you are out of town.
If you have a neighbor that you know and trust, inform them when you will be out of town, and ask them to keep an eye on your property. You can return the favor for them.
Improving home security during the holidays requires forethought and planning. After you identify your home’s vulnerabilities, determine which of these tips may be most effective for you. Combining all of these tips will allow you to enjoy your holiday vacation with peace of mind.
Elite Home Inspections wishes you a happy and safe holiday season!
Steps to Prepare Your Fireplace for Use
As part of your seasonal home maintenance tasks, preparing your fireplace for the first use of the season should be included in a fall maintenance schedule.
Regardless of whether you intend to use your fireplace only a few times or daily, you need your fireplace to be well-maintained and clean. By taking these steps to prepare your fireplace for use, you can keep your home and your loved ones warm and safe all season long.
Why You Need to Prepare Your Fireplace
If your fireplace functioned well the last time you used it, you may question the need to take any additional steps to prepare your fireplace for use at this time. However, house fires can be caused by dirty or damaged fireplaces. Even though your fireplace appeared to work well during your last use, it is common for birds or rodents to build nests in the flue.
The last time you inspected your fireplace may have been a year ago during the last fall season. It can be risky to begin using the fireplace again without understanding its true condition. When you take these steps to prepare your fireplace for the upcoming season, you’ll feel confident as you enjoy its warmth.
1. Clean the Firebox
The firebox may be filled with ashes which can hinder your ability to start or maintain a fire. More than that, soot and creosote that have caked onto the sides of the firebox can be flammable.
This may not seem like a concern given that you will have a fire burning in this location. However, these materials can catch fire along with the logs you are burning, and it can get out of control quickly. Clean the firebox before starting the first fire of the season.
2. Open the Damper
The damper is located in the flue, and it opens so that smoke can rise up and out of the home. Make sure that the damper opens and closes fully as needed. If the damper does not function properly, it should be repaired before the first use.
By opening the damper, you may notice that debris from bird and rodent nests falls down. This is a sign that flue cleaning service is essential. Keep in mind that the debris that is used to make nests is usually flammable. Also, blockage in the flue can cause smoke to filter into your home instead of up and out.
3. Check for Signs of Damage
As you clean the firebox and open the damper, pay attention to the overall condition of the structure. When you prepare your fireplace for its initial use, any cracks, fissures, or other damaged areas must be repaired.
A professional should be called to inspect the fireplace and determine the best course of action. Repair work should be completed before your initial use of the season in order to protect your home and loved ones from harm.
4. Schedule Flue Cleaning Service
Your flue should be professionally cleaned annually and the best time for this service is before the first use of the season in the fall. A professional will clean the flue from the top of your roof and from inside the fireplace.
When your fireplace’s various components are dirty, damaged, or clogged you’re at a higher risk for a fire or experiencing smoke-related damage. If you intend to use your fireplace at all in the months ahead, now is the time to take these steps to prepare your fireplace for use.
Fall is Here: Learn How to Clean Gutters Safely
Of all the home maintenance tasks for this time of year, one that should be near the top of your list is cleaning your gutters. It’s not as bad as it seems, especially when you know how to clean gutters safely. If you use common sense and follow the rules, you can get this chore done efficiently and it won’t take up your whole day.
Don’t Put It Off
Cleaning the gutters can get you dirty and sweaty, but the results are worth the effort. If you don’t get your gutters cleaned before winter weather hits, you’re risking a slew of problems that could lead to expensive repairs down the road. For example:
• The gutters might become detached from the house. Gutters jammed with debris that’s wet and soggy will freeze in the winter and force the gutter away from the home, eventually sagging and falling.
• Clogged gutters overflow, causing a buildup of water near your foundation which leads to a leaky basement or worse, a crack in the foundation due to expansion from freezing.
• Stains can when gutters leak. Organic materials like leaves and sticks can stain your siding when they mix with water that’s not diverting away from your home.
Issues such as these are easy to prevent if you remember to clean your gutters during fall. Read on to learn how to clean gutters safely.
How to Clean Gutters Safely
Homeowners should already know that gutters need attention. You may have noticed this during the last rain when the gutters overflowed from not having been cleaned in a while. Water spilling over and leaking from them is a sure sign of a repair waiting to happen. That said, let’s take a good look at how to clean gutters safely.
You’ll be working above the ground and in a place where your safety is at risk if you’re not careful. Prepare to take all the safety steps before starting. The primary tool you’ll be using is a ladder. Use a step ladder if you’re working on a one-story home and an extension ladder for a two-story. In either case, make sure the ladder is on level ground and can’t slip out from under you. It’s best to have someone else at home whenever you are using a ladder.
• Before climbing up the ladder, have hooks and buckets ready to attach to the ladder to keep things close by as you need them. Never carry tools up the ladder where you could lose your balance and fall onto the tools.
• Wear only good shoes or boots with non-slip soles. You don’t want to risk losing your footing when you’re on a ladder.
• Wear safety glasses while you’re up there working. With leaves and sticks flying around, you shouldn’t risk having something land in your eyes.
• If you see power lines near you, consider hiring someone to complete this task instead. Professionals have more experience in these situations, and it’s worth it to spend the money to stay safe.
Get the Correct Tools Ready
Now that you have a good idea of the rules involved in learning how to clean gutters safely, it’s time to gather the required tools to get the job done right.
• It should go without saying that a ladder in good condition that’s tall enough for the job is essential. Also on the list of essential tools is gloves and safety glasses. Remember, you can’t be too careful.
• Mentioned earlier is the use of hooks and buckets to keep tools within reach but not in your way.
• A trowel and a screwdriver work great for scraping and removing dirt and debris that’s packed tightly inside the gutter.
• To keep things a bit cleaner around your home, a large tarp or a blanket comes in handy to catch falling debris as you move down each side of the house.
• Don’t forget to have your hose with a sprayer attachment ready to spray the gutters clean after you remove the piles of debris. Use the hose to clear out the downspouts, too.
Time to Get it Done
The steps to clean your gutters are straightforward and common sense applies every time in these situations:
• Place the ladder near a downspout and lay out the tarp or blanket underneath the gutter.
• Use your hooks to place an empty bucket near the top of the ladder, with your tool bucket hooked on the opposite side of the ladder and easy to reach.
• Clean out all the debris within easy reach and dump it into the bucket or let it fall to the ground onto the tarp or blanket.
• Move your way along toward the opposite end of the gutter system, cleaning as you go.
• From the opposite end, have your hose and sprayer ready to rinse away leftover dirt and debris.
• Check the downspout as the water drains out. It should work fine. If not, run the hose up the downspout to clear any clogs.
• Check and clean the downspout screen.
• Now, all that’s left is the cleanup.
Now that you know how to clean your gutters safely, you are better equipped to maintain this aspect of your home. Remember to keep this task on your calendar and complete it at least twice a year. Always follow safety rules and take your time.
6 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Fall
As fall approaches, it’s important to get your home ready for the cooler days ahead. There are probably many tasks you’ll want to get done before the weather sunny, warm weather disappears, but here are 6 things you should definitely complete in order to prepare your home for fall.
1. Clean Your Gutters
Although it can be a tough job, cleaning the gutters is an important way to prepare your home for fall. It’s a job that should be done every year so that you don’t experience big problems over the winter months. As you’re cleaning your gutters, you also have the opportunity to inspect the condition of your roof and chimney. You can check for damage or note any areas that might become a problem as the weather cools down and your roof is faced with snow, ice, and severe winter weather.
2. Fix Cracks in the Sidewalk to Prepare Your Home For Fall
As summer winds down, you should work on filling in any cracks in your sidewalk, patio, or other concrete areas to prepare your home for fall. This could be the last chance you have to do this before the sunshine and warm weather disappear.
3. Compost Leaves
As the leaves start to fall off of the trees, start composting them to save for your garden next spring.
4. Turn Off Outside Plumbing
If you have outdoor hoses, faucets, or other types of plumbing, you’ll want to turn them off and winterize them before cold weather causes them to freeze and burst.
5. Prepare Your Furnace
On the inside of your home, it’s important to clean and inspect your furnace so it will be ready to effectively heat your home. Replace the filters, make sure air vents aren’t blocked, and clean dust and debris away from the unit. Having an HVAC technician service your HVAC when the seasons change is always a good idea.
6. Inspect Windows and Doors
Another important way to prepare your home for fall weather is to inspect all of your windows and doors. Check the weatherstripping on all of your doors and windows so that cold air won’t enter your home and warm air will stay inside. You should inspect any caulking around your windows to see if it needs to be replaced and re-caulk them as necessary. You’ll also want to clean your windows so they will let in more sunlight. This will help warm your home up on cold days.
These are just a few of many things you can do to prepare your home for fall both inside and out. Taking steps to get your home ready to take on the cold weather is important so that you don’t run into problems once colder weather arrives.
7 Outdoor Spring Home Maintenance Tips
Outdoor Spring Home Maintenance for Homeowners
Spring is the time of year when the weather starts to improve and people begin getting in the mood to do home improvements. Spring cleaning doesn’t just mean throwing away unwanted items inside the home, it also means doing maintenance around the outside of the home. In places with long winter seasons, yards and exteriors of the home often go neglected for far too long. Here are 7 outdoor spring home maintenance tips to help improve your home.
1. Trimming Back Trees
Once winter has ended and the weather begins to warm up, trees start springing up in the fence line and branches on existing trees grow like wildfire. Within a matter of weeks, a home can look overgrown with new growth and unruly branches. Pruning back trees is essential spring home maintenance because, not only does it improve curb appeal, but those branches can also cause damage to roofs.
2. Cut Back Overgrown Branches
Overgrown branches should be cut back away from the roof of the home so they’re not touching any part of the structure. Limbs should also be trimmed back away from any power lines because this is a safety hazard and can cause a fire. It is also important to know that after cutting a low hanging branch it causes the tree umbrella to raise in height, giving more clearance to walk beneath.
3. Cleaning Up Brush And Bushes
Another part of spring home maintenance is clearing up brush that has grown in around the fence line and pruning bushes. Perfectly pruned shrubs and bushes become unruly messes during the springtime without proper maintenance. Cutting the stragglers and overgrown portions of shrubs will definitely improve curb appeal.
4.Clearing The Fence Line
Another problem that arises fairly quickly when spring arrives is unwanted trees and brush growing through chain-link and picket fences. It is important to cut the brush out of the gaps in the fence so that a tree or shrub doesn’t grow to full size and damage the fence. Not to mention, overgrowth of brush along a fence is unsightly and often lowers your home’s curb appeal.
5. Pest Control
When winter ends and the weather begins to warm up, insects begin to emerge. Fire ants and fleas are pests that seem to thrive in the springtime and pose more of a threat to backyards with animals and children. Springtime is a good time to inspect the yard for ant piles and get rid of them with a pesticide or some natural method. Spraying the yard for fleas is also a good idea if you have pets.
6. Cleaning Gutters
Throughout the winter when the leaves are dropping from the trees, gutters have a tendency to get jam-packed with debris. Part of springtime maintenance involves getting the gutters clean so the spring rain will have somewhere to go instead of pooling on the roof of the home. Gutter maintenance is a vital part of spring home maintenance because roof damage can occur if the gutters remained clogged with leaves.
7. Getting Ready to Garden
A vegetable garden needs to be planted in the spring so it will be ready to harvest during the summer months. Spring home maintenance includes picking a proper spot in the yard where crops will thrive. The earlier the ground is tilled and prepared for sowing seeds, the better chance of a bountiful harvest. There are great ideas for planting a kitchen herb garden this spring listed here.
Elite Home Inspections is a certified home inspection company offering home inspections and home testing services to the greater Louisville, Kentucky area. Contact us today to schedule your next home inspection!