By Jesse Morado
Fall is a great time to perform an annual home maintenance inspection in preparation for the cold months. With energy conservation on many people’s minds, this is also a great time to have an energy audit performed on your home as well.
Here are a few areas that you may want to consider addressing or repairing to keep your home in tiptop shape and to ensure it will continue to perform well and reduce energy consumption.
•Consider having an energy audit performed on your heating and cooling system to see how much leaking is taking place around ductwork or registers. Leaky ducts can increase heating and cooling costs approximately 30 percent or more depending on the quality of the installation. A duct blaster test and blower door test are performed to measure the level of air loss taking place. Sealing to address the leakage will make your system work more efficiently and save you money. While you are having this done schedule your technician to clean the air handler, inspect the heat chamber, replace the filter, check the vent for proper drafting, and calibrate the thermostat. Having the system cleaned along with duct tightening will you save you plenty of heating dollars.
•If you have a fireplace and use it seasonally, have it inspected and cleaned before use. Have the firebox, flue, damper, and chimney cap inspected and cleaned if you haven’t done it over. If you use gas logs, check all connections for leaks, ensure all shut offs are working properly and make sure the damper is locked open if the logs are to be used. If you will not be using your fireplace, install a draft stopper to keep warm air from escaping up the flue. An open flue is like having an open window which sucks a considerable amount of warm air up the chimney.
•Pressure wash and clean exterior trim, siding, walks, driveways, and brick veneer from mold and mildew to extend the life of exterior finishes and surfaces. Mold and mildew if left unchecked can compromise exterior surfaces. Make sure you hire a professional who knows how to clean without damaging the finishes. Keeping your exterior finishes free of dirt and mildew will prolong the life of your paint and materials.
•Have your water heater inspected and drained if this has not been performed in over a year. Sediments accumulate, reducing the life and performance of your heater. Test all relief and pressure valves to insure safe operation. If your water heater’s life expectancy is short lived, you may consider upgrading to either a tankless (demand system) heater or a conventional storage tank water heater with a pump that reduces the amount of water going down the drain. If your existing water heater is in good condition, an inexpensive jacket with a rating of R-11 or greater will be effective in reducing standby losses, especially if your heater is located in an unconditioned area. These will save you money and reduce water usage, lower water bills and lower gas or electric bills.
•Shut off and drain all hose bibs to prevent freezing during the cold months. Check shut offs for leaks.
•Check around windows and doors for air leaks. Weather-strip, caulk and seal any areas where cold air may enter the home. The blower door test I mentioned earlier can identify how much air infiltration is occurring as well as identifying specific locations of leakage. This is one of the easiest things to do towards making your home more energy efficient.
•Clean gutters free of any debris and ensure that they are properly secured to the overhangs. (After all the leaves have fallen) Make sure water at downspout terminations is being diverted away from the foundation of your home by flowing onto splashblocks, into buried drains or on a hard surface. Most moisture in basements and crawlspaces is attributed to poor ground water management around the foundation of the home.
•Replace any rotted or pest damaged wood at overhangs, door and window trim, corner boards, and siding. This is an area of the home that typically is neglected when it comes to maintenance. Keeping up with this a little at a time goes a long way towards keeping major repair costs down.
•Point up any loose or missing mortar in brickwork. Water that enters into these cracks can freeze causing more damage if left unattended.
•Inspect and drain your irrigation system. This will keep your lines and fittings from freezing and save water.
•Finally check and test all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries.
In today’s economy saving money and keeping our homes in good condition to keep our values from sliding further is just good business. Protect your home, keep it warm, dry and safe and all of these will help it maintain its value and efficiency.
Jesse Morado is a Certified Remodeler and Certified Aging in Place Specialist and the owner of Renovation Coach Inc,. an independent renovation-consulting firm that provides guidance, planning and management for those considering renovations. For more information, visit www.renovationcoach.com or call him at (404) 729-4969.