Late summer to early fall is the perfect time of year for home maintenance projects. In fact, we like to call this the Goldilocks season, not too hot and not too cold. It's just right to tackle dozens of little tasks around your home that will keep your house in good shape for years to come. Here are just a few that we recommend:
Water Heater: Regardless of the type of water heater you have, gas or electric, water heaters can develop a build up of sediment at the bottom of the tank. This build up can cause the water heater to operate inefficiently, shortening the life span of the appliance. To keep the water heater working properly, you should drain two gallons of water from the tank twice a year. It is very important that when you are doing this maintenance to your water heater, you make sure the appliance is turned off and that you protect yourself from a potential burn. Wear thick gloves, long sleeves, and safety goggles, and do not touch the water draining out of the tank. Turn the water heater off for one hour before you begin the water heater maintenance to reduce the temperature of the water in the tank.
There are two valves on your water heater. The one near the top is a safety valve that release pressure - DON'T TOUCH IT. The one near the bottom is for draining and the only one that should be opened for this purpose. Connect a hose to the water heater drain valve and set it to drain into a sink, or to drain outside where it can not hurt anyone. Once the drain is safely in place, turn the valve counter clockwise to open the drain. Remember the water is going to be very hot! In a few gallons, the water will become clear as the sediment washes out. Close the valve by turning clockwise and make sure you close it completely so there are no drips. Turn the water heater back on and continue enjoying your always at the ready hot water.
If you are considering a new water heater - the life expectancy is 8-12 years - you might consider replacing your tanked water heater with a tankless unit. Rheem makes several models - one that's even as small as a medicine chest. Tankless water heaters heat water as you need it, instead of keeping a tankfull of water hot ALL the time. You can put them in smaller places - like in a closet that shares a wall with you master bath, and that way you can have your hot water instantly. Tankless water heaters are HUGE on energy efficiency as well. Visit www.smarterhotwater.com for more info.
Furnace Filters: Another great home maintenance project for Fall is to change your furnace filter. Once the cold winter weather rolls around nothing is nicer than enjoying your family indoors, playing games and hanging out. That is all great, except the more time you spend indoors, the more susceptible you are to indoor allergens. To breathe easy and sneeze less, it is very important to change your furnace filter regularly. The furnace filter will be located in the main return grill near the furnace or inside the furnace near the blower. Remove the old filter and replace it with the most efficient model you can find for your system. The more efficient the furnace filter, the more particulates it will remove from the air. Install the new filter making sure the arrow, which indicates air flow, points toward the blower. The furnace filter should be changed every month; or for a more long term solution, install a whole house air cleaner like Aprilaire's Model 5000 Electronic Air Cleaner, which was ranked tops by Consumer Reports for the three years.
Insulation: By properly insulating your home, you raise your energy efficiency enabling you to do more with less, decrease your energy costs and carbon footprint. While it is hard to believe, more energy is actually used to heat and cool our homes and buildings than is used to power our cars, boats, planes and industry! Want to use less energy around your house? According to the experts at the McKinsey Global Institute, the single most cost effective way to reduce greenhouse gases is insulation.
How do you know if adding insulation should be on your Fall home maintenance checklist? All it takes is a quick peek. If your attic floor is insulated but the wood beams (joists) are still visible, you probably don't have enough. But even if you can't see your beams, that's still no guarantee you have enough insulation. The best thing to do is measure. To meet the Department of Energy recommendation for an R-value of up to 60 for attics, the experts at Owens Corning advise attics have about 19 inches of fiberglass batt insulation or 22 inches of blown insulation. Learn more about energy efficiency and insulation at www.InsulateAndSave.com.
Cleaning: Spring is not the only time you should give your home a thorough clean up. Vinegar and water is a great natural cleanser that will work on windows and wood floors. Salt and baking soda mixed make a great scouring paste. For a natural drain cleaner, try pouring ½ cup baking soda followed by ½ cup vinegar down the drain. Twenty minutes later, follow that with boiling water. Olive oil and lemon juice make a great furniture polish - just test this all natural solution in a hidden area first just to be safe. Once the house is sparkling, go ahead and add rich autumn toned throw blankets and pillows to your seating, and place brown and orange tone glass candle holders around to get you into the Fall season.
Lawn & Garden Care: The winter season can be very harsh on your flower beds that are resting and getting ready to bloom come springtime. Regardless of the seasonal temperature differences in your part of the country, flower beds should be mulched all year. It helps to provide protection to the plantings, provides organic matter for the soil, and keeps moisture on the bed to continually nurture the garden. If you live in a part of the United States where the fall and winter get cooler, you want to place a thicker layer of mulch during those seasons. All year round you should have about 2-3 inches of mulch. If winter gets cold in your area, go for four inches of mulch. As the leaves start to fall be sure to clear them from the flower beds so they do not encourage rot.
Apply a winterizer to your lawn to strengthen the root system and give the lawn the vital nutrients it needs to rejuvenate from the summer and to survive the winter months. Applying a weed control in the fall will reduce the amount of weeds in the lawn in the fall and what pops up in the spring. Fall weather conditions are also ideal for insect survival. Once the temperatures get really cold, many of those insects will search for shelter in your home. Applying an insect control will keep your yard safe in the fall and your home protected in the winter.
Fall is also great time to patch up those bare spots or overseed the lawn. Use quality, weed-free grass seed to sow the lawn or fill in bare spots to avoid planting weeds from the start since some grass seed inadvertently has weeds already in the mix.
Taking care of a few simple home maintenance projects in the fall will save you time and money in the long run, and couldn't we all use more of both?