10 Ways to Save Some Cool Cash

power wash brick patio and walkway 4web

before and after blank eaves replaced

Before you get the summer parties started, take a moment and make sure there isn’t any damage, or wear & tear from past seasons that could cause you an issue in the future.

1.) Monitor your gutters and drainage. Debris naturally builds up in gutters over time, remove any blockages while looking for signs of bending, damage, and areas where water has been diverted onto the roof or siding.   It is recommended that gutters are cleaned twice a year: once at late fall/early winter, after all of the leaves have fallen and prior to the first snowfall, and once at late spring/early summer after flowers, seeds and blossoms are done blowing off.   Cleaning gutters regularly will help prevent clogging and unnecessary leaks.  To reduce the likelihood of jams and blockages and to increase the time between cleanings, have gutter guards installed.  You may be able to  make minor gutter repairs yourself.  Make sure your soil slopes away from the foundation at a rate of at least 6 vertical inches over the first 10 feet. If you have standing water or mushy areas, consider re-grading, adding berms (raised areas), swales (contoured drainage ditches). First try to identify whether your problem is improper sloping or gutter overflow.

2.) Inspect your roof and chimney for winter damage.Your roof should be inspected annually to ensure that you don’t have any problems. Shingles may need repair after a rough winter. Look for loose chimney bricks and mortar, rotting boards if you have a wooden chimney box, or rust if you have a chimney with metal parts and flashing.  Inside the house, check your skylights to make sure there are no stains that indicate water leakage.  If you suspect a problem with your chimney, call a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America for an estimate for repairs.  Don’t let a little problem, become a major expense —  minor roof repairs run from $100 to $350.

3.) Pressure wash the exterior  An important element of maintaining your home’s exterior is to routinely clean it, and the easiest way to do so is to pressure wash the walls. Do it to remove dirt, stains and mildew, especially prior to painting, staining and/or sealing.  Don’t stop with the house, walkways, decks, patios, porches, garages, outbuildings and outdoor furniture are all exposed to the same grit, grime, pollen and pollution as your house — start off the Summer season, or get ready for the real estate market with a fresh start!

 4.) Examine siding for signs of winter damage. Check for loose or rotting boards and replace; inspect the areas where siding meets windows and doors and caulk any gaps (close any entries created by unwanted house guests).  Repairs to wood, vinyl, and fiber-cement siding require the expertise to remove the damaged siding while leaving surrounding siding intact. Unless you have the skills, hire a professional carpenter or siding contractor. Expect to pay $200-$300 to replace one or two damaged siding panels or pieces of wood clapboard. Crumbling and loose mortar should be removed with a cold chisel and repaired with fresh mortar — a process called repointing.  Depending on the size of the mortar joints (thinner joints are more difficult), a masonry professional will repoint brick siding for $5-$20/sq. ft. To repair larger holes and cracks in stucco, you may want to call in a pro who’s familiar with stucco work.  A professional charges $200-$1,000 for a repair job, depending on the size of the damage. Repainting the patch to match your siding will be up to you.

5.) Pay a visit to the attic.During a spring/summer rain, check for visible leaks, water stains, discolored insulation, and rotting or moldy joists and roof decking. If detected, call a handyman for an estimate for repairs. If you have areas of rot or mold exceeding 10 sq. ft., call an indoor air quality inspector or mold remediation company for advice. If you have an attic fan, make sure it’s running properly and that the protective screen hasn’t been blocked by bird nests or debris.

6.) Window check Ensure that the hot summer heat stays outside by checking and maintaining your home’s windows. One of the key items in newer window maintenance is routinely checking the sealants; in older windows it would be the caulk and putty. Ensure that both inside and out are secured, and caulk any open areas in between. Also, check weather-stripping for any faults and replace it immediately if there is an issue.

7.) Air conditioning tune up  The number one priority for your summer home maintenance checklist is to have your air conditioning (AC) unit tuned up.  As important as getting your car tuned, your AC needs to be tuned to inspect and prevent unwanted emergencies.  If your system wasn’t running well last season, be sure to tell your contractor, and make sure he performs actual repairs if necessary rather than simply adding refrigerant.  The tune up is used to inspect refrigerant levels, which is important for your AC to keep running cool and keep your summer electric bills low, as well as to ensure your fan is functioning well, your coils are thoroughly cleaned and there are no potential fire hazards with faulty wiring.  Your  checklist should include inspecting thermostats and controls, as well as, making sure your air filters are changed and vacuum out your floor registers.  Replacing the air filter on your air conditioner every 1-3 months allows the system to run more efficiently and keeps the air in your home clean.  If you suffer from allergies, this is a great time to upgrade to a high-performance allergen air filter for your home.Expect to pay $50–$100 for a tune-up.

8.) Water and Icemaker Filters: Replace disposable water filters on your water filtration system and/or icemaker as recommended by the manufacturer (usually every six months). This will keep mold and mildew from growing in the filter and keep your water clean, fresh, and flowing freely.

9.) Hot Water Heater: Sediment buildup can shorten the life of a water heater and raise your energy bills, so it’s a good idea to drain the water heater each year to remove sediment from the tank. Turn off the power (or gas) and water to the heater, attach a garden hose to the drain valve, and run the water outside. In addition inspect the water heater for leaks, make sure the vent pipe on gas water heaters is clear, and test the pressure relief valve to make sure it works and doesn’t leak.

10.) Check your GFCIs.A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protects you from deadly electrical shocks by shutting off the power anytime even a minimal disturbance in current is detected. They’re the electrical outlets with two buttons in the middle (“test” and “reset”) that should be present anywhere water and electricity can mix: kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and the exterior of the house. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends monthly testing, which you’re likely to remember if you incorporate it into your spring/summer routine.

Extra Credit Tips

• Homeowner tip:  A home inspector can help you if you’re stumped; inspection services run about $80–$100 per hour.

• Homeowner tip:  Look into an energy-efficient pool pump to help keep your electric bill down during the summer months.

• Homeowner tip:  Identify and Schedule Winter work now and be ready for Holiday house guests.

• Homeowner tip:  Make sure your house number hasn’t been damaged or obscured by dirt and is easily visible to emergency personnel.

• Homeowner tip:  You can keep your AC bill running smoothly by changing out your air filters often. Experts advise changing them once a month when using your unit on a daily basis.

• Homeowner tip:  To test a GFCI, plug a small appliance (a radio, for example) into each of your GFCIs. Press the test button, which should click and shut off the radio. The reset button should pop out; when you press reset, the radio should come back on.  (If the radio doesn’t go off when you press the test button, either the GFCI itself has failed and should be replaced, or the outlet is wired incorrectly and should be repaired. If the reset button doesn’t pop out, or if pressing it doesn’t restore power to the radio, the GFCI has failed and should be replaced. These distinctions can help you tell an electrician what the problem is—neither job is one you should attempt yourself if you don’t have ample experience with electrical repair.)