The September fall equinox arrives when the sun crosses the celestial equator, the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s Equator from North to South. We already see and feel the waning sun as a reminder that winter is coming. Thus, while your energy reserves are stored, it is time to tackle the Fall Home Maintenance Check List.
Do not get overwhelmed by the list. Just assign different days and times to tackle one of the items on the list and before you know it, your mission is completed.
1) Pest Control – Maintaining your property from pests, including roaches, mice and bedbugs is central to good health of all occupants, visitors and pets. Pest can contaminate food, damage a home, make asthma and allergies worse. Pesticides used to remove or treat pests if not properly applied may be dangerous to people and pets. To keep pests at bay deprive them of food, water, shelter, and means of mobility by sealing cracks and holes, fixing leaks, keeping dishes out of the sink, not leaving food including pet food overnight and removing garbage daily. Hire a professional to derive a pest control plan and service your home regularly and review the plan annually.
2) Smoke Detector – On almost a daily basis we hear of fires where the fire detector alarms did not work. The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations. Maintaining Smoke Detectors are one of the most important safety features in the home to provide an early warning in case of fire and must be part of a maintenance schedule. Vacuum the alarm to remove dust, a big contributor to faulty alarms. Change batteries unless you have the long-life variety. Replace smoke alarms every decade. After 10 years, they have a 30% failure rate per the National Fire Protection Association. Keep in mind that Smoke Detectors are electronic devices and have failure rates of 3% for even new devise so diligently reviewing these devices is of the utmost importance. Keep a record of installation and maintenance. Additionally, Smoke alarms, sprinklers, and extinguishers can help protect you and your home ensure they are all up to date. Annually you should review your homeowner and renter’s insurance policy to cover your assets in the event of a fire or other type of disaster. If you rent, your landlord’s insurance only covers the structure of the building, not your personal belongings. Therefore, ensure your valuables are protected.
3) Carbon Monoxide Detector – Carbon Monoxide is a threat to your home that you cannot see thus nicknamed the “Silent Killer”. A Carbon Monoxide Detector sensing technology monitors the amount of Carbon Monoxide in the air over a given time-period to safeguard your home and family from the threat you cannot see, smell or taste. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that “during 2010 – 2015, a total of 2,440 deaths resulted from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, with the highest number of deaths each year occurring in the winter months. Although CO Detectors are designed to be as maintenance free, dust, dirt and other foreign matters can accumulate inside the device’s sensing elements and change its sensitivity. Always follow the manufacturer’s specific recommended practices for maintenance and testing and ensure it is equipped with an end-of-life alarm. Test the CO detector at least once a month by pushing the “test” button on the device. Carbon monoxide detectors are sophisticated electronic devices to maintain the integrity of any CO alarm system, it is important to have a qualified person periodically test the system upon installation and annually thereafter. Keep a record of installation and maintenance.
4) Counter-tops – Kitchen and bathroom granite, marble and natural stone counter tops require maintenance to maintain their luster and resist stains. Professionals generally advise sealing darker product surfaces once a year since they are denser, and stains are nearly invisible. Lighter surfaces require more attention and should be sealed every 3-6 months depending on frequency of use. It is important to clean any spills from liquids quickly as possible to avoid having them penetrate the surface. According to Precision Stone Works candle wax is the toughest stain to remove. Apparently, the combination of the dye and heat from burning the candle produce troubling stains. Always keep a plate or saucer under any candles.
5) Refrigerator Deep Cleaning – There appears to be a “national day” for everything and November 15th is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. Worth a read, last year in honor of this day the New York Times published an article “How to Deep Clean Your Fridge” providing guidance on cleaning the inside of the refrigerator and guidance on food storage. Some additional guidance would be to throw out the ice and clean the ice tray. Many refrigerators have water and air filters that should be changed at least every 6 months per many manufactures and if neglected will result in smelly or contaminated drinking water. Remove your old box of baking soda with a new fresh one and mark on the outside of the box a date 3 months out as the new replacement date to keep everything odor free. At the time you choose to clean the refrigerator don’t neglect the outside of the refrigerator; especially the outside cooling coils. Pull out the Refrigerator and vacuum and mop the area. It’s amazing how the dust bunny’s and crumbs accumulate in this area. HGTV devised a clever cleaning trick to tackle under the refrigerator grime by removing the grill and using a hanger or like devise with an old pair of pantyhose attracts dust bunnies and food debris.
6) Dishwasher – Yes, even this dishwasher needs maintenance. Take out the racks and clean them ensuring that no food bits are stuck. Clear and clean away any debris around the spinner, gasket and holes. Scrub clean the base and the edges and bleach any areas that display mildew or mold. Your dishwasher may have a filter and should be cleaned typically three to six months depending on usage, but refer to your specific model’s owner manual for guidance to ensure performance is not affected.
7) Stove, Oven and Range – Cooking often means lots of food debris and spillage ends up all over these appliances. A deep clean is necessary – begin by pulling out the stove and mop and clean the floor and wall areas affected. You may be in luck and have newer oven with a self-cleaning feature, which uses a high temperature to burn off leftovers from baking without the use of any chemical agents. Decrease the range hood and filters.
8) Washing Machine and Clothes Dryer – Common sense is to remove the lint filter between drying loads, however, the duct and cabinet should also be inspected, vacuumed and cleaned for lint build-up. Once a month, wash the lint filter with warm, soapy water and let it fully air dry to get rid of greasy residue that can clog it, then wipe the drum and exterior with all-purpose spray to keep them clean. Order, soil or detergent build up can occur inside the washer tub over time. GE Appliances recommends cleaning the washer tub once per month with 1 cup of bleach or white vinegar to keep the wash basket fresh and clean and free of mold or mildew odors. Use white vinegar and baking soda with an old tooth brush to clean around the edges so your machine sparkles.
9) Fireplaces – Prior to opening the flue and lighting a fire on a crisp evening the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to inspect your venting system annually. Over the months of not using the fireplace, a wild-life animal may have gotten trapped or built a nest within it or the chimney may have been damaged without you knowing. A chimney, damaged by a chimney fire, can endanger a home and its’ occupants. It’s important to have your chimney regularly inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. Here are the signs that a professional chimney sweep looks for: 1. “Puffy” or “honey combed” creosote, 2. Warped metal of the damper, 3. Metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney, 4. Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or 5. tiles with large chunks missing, 6. Discolored and/or distorted rain cap, 7. Heat-damaged TV antenna attached to the chimney, 8. Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground, 9. Roofing material damaged from hot creosote, 10. Cracks in exterior masonry and 11. Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners. The CSIA inspector will make sure your fireplace or stove is in good working order and provide you with a maintenance plan recommendation for your specific chimney and venting system type.
10) Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning – Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. If you have a forced-air furnace, check your filters and replace them. Generally, you should change them about once every month or two, especially during periods of high usage or if you have pets. Have a professional check and clean your equipment once a year. Vacuum radiators, baseboards and air registers. Anywhere in your home where there is a filter (Air Purifiers, Air Conditioners, Dehumidifiers, Gas Furnace, AC System); change it.
11) Exterior of Homes, Gardens and Roof Decks – To protect outdoor areas from the elements it is important to stay vigilant. Walk around and look for gaps and holes where pests, wildlife, rain and snow can easily penetrate and seal them. Mice can enter a space the size of a dime. Anything that appears to be damaged: doorways, roof, siding, gutters, foundation, downspouts, loose wires, and damaged trees (trim the trees) – call in a professional to review and repair. Shut off exterior faucets and store hoses. Pipes that are exposed to the elements require their own winter suit and should be insulated.
12) Conduct Your Own Energy Audit – A professional energy audit is the best way to derive where your home is losing energy, however, you can conduct your own due diligence to spot improvements to employ and save money. Check for drafts along the baseboard of the flooring, junctures of walls, ceilings, plumbing fixtures, electric outlets, lighting, windows, doors and where two different building materials meet. You can insulate, plug and caulk holes and cracks ensuring a cozy, warm home. Heat loss can occur from missing or damaged insulation or the insulation code at the time your home was built was less then is required today. Energy for lighting accounts for approximately 10% of your electric bill. Replace inefficient bulbs with energy-saving incandescent, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). How you use your appliances also impacts your energy use. To improve energy savings: 1) unplug the device when not in use to prevent phantom loads, 2) change the settings or use the item less often, and 3) use newer energy efficient products. Keep the thermostat at a constant temperature.
13) GFCI and AFCI – Test and reset your GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) and AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) outlets and breakers. Make sure your outlets meet the National Electrical Code and are tamper resistant because they are the most effective way to prevent injuries associated with electrical receptacles.
14) Closets – To maintain the life-style and tranquility you dream about every season you need to curate and clean out your closet. Take everything out of the closet and go through each item piece by piece. Everything needs a home and items that you no longer wear will be valuable to someone else. It’s a win-win; you feel good for providing something special to someone in need and they receive a special items that would not ordinarily have. By reviewing your wardrobe periodically you uncover the items that are in need of a dry cleaning and hand washing, repairing footwear to keep them in tip-top shape and away from bugs that are looking for a fancy feast. Repel moths naturally with dried lavender, essential lavender oils, cedar blocks or chips. For these to be effective, the storage area must be tightly sealed and the natural products fresh. Cedar that is more than three years old is no longer effective. No fabrics should touch the cedar directly or staining will occur from the natural oils in the cedar. Place cedar chips in a cotton bag and hang it where the bag will not be touching other fabrics. Always wrap folded items in a cedar chest in acid-free tissue paper before storing.
Now that you have tackled these maintenance items and increased the energy efficiency of your home you can rest assured you will have a beautiful time taking in the magnificent foliage of the Fall.