Colder months are a good time for maintenance and minor repairs
If you’re like me, you can’t wait for spring to come so you can get going on some of those remodeling ideas you’ve been planning. When the elements and freezing rain make bigger projects impossible, you can still keep your home improvement juices flowing with maintenance and minor repairs around the house. Sure, testing batteries and changing filters won’t quite get the adrenaline going like taking a sledge hammer to an interior wall, but when life gives you low temperatures, you can make low-cost improvements to save on utility bills, extend the life of your appliances and keep your family safe.
Keep out the Cold
Up to 65 percent of your energy bill is related to heating and cooling the home, yet as much as half of this air leaks out.* Inspect your doors, windows and vents to see if the weather stripping is worn or if any gaps or cracks have developed over time. Before caulking or installing new weather stripping, make sure the surface is spotless and that old caulk and stripping is completely removed. Use 100-percent silicone caulk so that your new seal is waterproof. Though there are many types of weather stripping available, in general, the more time it takes to install, the more effective it will be because the material is tough and more durable. Adhesive-backed products are a cinch, but they will probably last only 3-5 years, whereas tubular rubber or vinyl gaskets that are nailed in place will significantly last longer. And remember to also check rarely occupied areas like attics, basements and crawl spaces for air leaks.
Keep in the Cold
Your refrigerator works hard to keep your food and liquids cold, so make sure to give it the tender loving care it deserves. (I mean really, who likes warm orange juice?) Typically, the fridge backs up against a wall, creating a space that attracts and accumulates dust, hair and debris of every kind. The condenser coils that carry heat away from the fridge are located in back, right at ground zero of this debris build-up. It’s a good idea to run a vacuum over the coils regularly so that there’s less resistance and more cooling efficiency. You should also check the seal around the door to see if any air is escaping. An easy trick is to hold a piece of paper, or dollar bill, near the closed door and see if it flutters. If so, you’ll need to replace the seal, which is usually an easy fix.
Look out for Leaks
Identifying leaks where water flows within your home can prevent serious expenses and health issues down the road. When left untreated, water seepage and leaks can lead to mold, which releases harmful spores into the air. These spores are dangerous because they can produce respiratory infections, nausea, fatigue and even deadly neurotoxins. Common areas where water may be leaking include faucets, showers, toilets and the washing machine. At a rate of one drop every two seconds, a dripping faucet can waste more than 1, 000 gallons of water annually! Each type of faucet— compression valve, ball, cartridge and ceramic disks—requires different methods of repair, but all are fairly basic and shouldn’t require outside help. Toilet leaks can be tricky because they’re silent and slow, so try this trick to determine if water is escaping: Add a couple drops of red food coloring or dye to the tank water, let it sit for a half hour and then check the bowl. If the water in the bowl is clear, you’re good to go. If it’s pink, you have a leak. Usually, the problem is due to one of three things:
1. The water level is too high.
2. The float is ineffective and failing to shut off the refill valve.
3. The refill valve is damaged and needs to be replaced.
With a dishwasher or washing machine, leaks will usually develop at the water hose connection. Check washers, gaskets and spring clamps at every connection point and replace them if they look rusted or worn.