This time of year, the seasons are changing in Illinois. That inevitable drop in temperature sends an important signal to homeowners: it’s our last chance to complete those fall home maintenance projects before chillier weather arrives.
If you’re like most homeowners, you probably have a few repairs or maintenance tasks you’d still like to complete before the weather gets too cold. If you’re a new homeowner, you might even have some questions about where to begin. Here are some expert tips and advice for homeowners on home repairs and preparations to make just in time for the cooler seasons.
Chimney and Fireplace
Your chimney and fireplace will undoubtedly be getting more use in the coming months. It’s best to be proactive and have them professionally inspected and cleaned before it gets too cold. For example, the average cost to clean and inspect a chimney or fireplace ranges from $146 to $670 in Naperville, IL. This is an important and affordable way to ensure your home is well prepared for cooler weather this year.
Protect Your Pipes
Damaged pipes cost homeowners billions of dollars each year. That’s a shame, considering this is one of the easiest repairs to avoid. For starters, you can insulate your waterline pipes using special materials such as pipe sleeves, heat tape, or even one-fourth inch of newspaper. Another thing you can do on cold nights is leave your water faucets trickling. This will encourage water flow in your home.
Replace Your Air Filters
This is another affordable and easy task that any homeowner can do on their own. Ideally, your air filters should be seasonally replaced to help prolong the engine life of your air conditioner. By completing this simple task as the seasons change, you’ll help avoid costly repairs in the future. Replacing your air filter also improves your health by removing the nasty bacteria, viruses, allergens, and dust mites that love calling your air filter their home.
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
Carbon monoxide poisoning strikes three Americans each hour and kills hundreds every year. Luckily, this is a very preventable problem by purchasing a carbon monoxide test kit, a carbon monoxide detector, and smoke detectors for your home.
Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors at least once per month, if not every week. You should also replace the batteries for your battery-operated carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector whenever you change the time on your clocks in the spring and fall. Remember, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors save lives but only if we keep them in working condition.
As you can see, many of these fall home maintenance projects are quick and affordable. Whether you complete your home maintenance yourself or hire a professional, it is important to take the time to walk through the steps listed here. Not only will it prepare your home for the upcoming cold weather, but it will also protect your family and your health.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Outsite Co
Most seniors would prefer to age in place given the choice. It’s understandable for someone who’s lived in the same house for decades. No one wants to leave a comforting, familiar space full of memories unless they absolutely have to. As people get older, home becomes even more of a safe haven from a sometimes confusing and overwhelming world. Remaining in place can make the difference between good mental and physical health and a descent into depression. Yet aging in place may require home modifications so that accessibility doesn’t become a problem, and to keep falls and other potential in-home accidents from becoming clear and present dangers. Here are some modification ideas that can keep you living happy and healthy in the one and only place you call home.
Create more space
This is one of the easiest modifications. Creating more flow throughout your home improves accessibility and decreases the likelihood of accidents. The idea is to make sure there are clear and unimpeded walking pathways through each room. If you’re having to maneuver around furniture and clutter, accessibility is a problem. For seniors that need a mobility assistance device, like a walker or cane, being able to move around freely and without fear of falling is crucial. Put excess furniture and tripping hazards, like a footstool or low-lying coffee table, in storage or give them to a relative. Electrical cords should be covered or taped along the wall. If you have a pet, keep any toys or food dishes in a separate part of the house, tucked safely in a corner.
If you tend to use many of the same objects repeatedly every day, keep them within easy reach so you don’t have to stretch far or get on a chair or stool to reach them. If it’s keys, a broom, or handheld vacuum device, put them on a table so you can get to them without having to bend over or expend too much energy. Keep your phone nearby or in a pocket so you don’t have to go looking for it in an emergency.
Light it up
It’s hard to stay safe when you can’t see where you’re going. Falls are a real danger in a house that doesn’t have enough lighting, especially in each hallway, in the bedroom, and in the bathroom. Add lamps in the bedroom and make sure there’s enough lighting in the bathroom, an especially important factor because so many falls take place in the bathtub or shower or on the floor around the sink and toilet. Consider installing a motion sensor in the bathroom so it’s not necessary to fumble for the light switch in the dark. While you’re making the bathroom safe, make sure grab rails are installed alongside the toilet and in the bathtub, and place traction pads on the floor in front of the sink and in the tub. Consider installing a walk-in tub if mobility becomes a problem.
In and out
It can be easy to overlook doorway accessibility. Most of us take for granted that there’s plenty of room to get in and out of rooms, but a wheelchair, walker, or crutches may necessitate having doorways widened.
Sometimes, it makes more sense to find a readily accessible home to buy than trying to remake existing space. A smaller house and a downsized lifestyle can be a real blessing and a means of avoiding having to move into a senior living community. Review listings in your area to get an idea of what a new home may cost. Remember, aging in place is all about accessibility and safety. If modifying your home isn’t practical, it may be well worth your while to seek a new house that’s smaller and easier to get around in. The average listing price for a home in Naperville, Illinois, is $452,400. It may be your best option for aging in place.
Courtesy of Pixabay
Hello Again Britannia family....
We hope this post finds you all well and happy. Once again, I find myself having to apologize for the length of time between posts. Now, with a new year afoot and intentions to stay on top of our little blog, I am hoping for a little more consistency in blog entries. Feel free to hold me accountable on this point .
Anyway without further ado, lets get on with today"s topic du jour, appliance life span.
This is something that I actually get asked about a fair amount ......How long should my major appliances last. and that is an awesome question.......Unfortunately, one to which there is no hard and fast answer, as many variables come into play when dealing with appliances, There is however, a general range of what you can reasonably expect for an appliance life cycle. Most people can agree, that in general household appliances aren't built as robustly as they once where. Some people even argue that manufacturers build things to fail after a finite life cycle - after all, how else would they sell you the next latest and greatest household appliance if the old one runs longer than Forest Gump.
Another key point to bear in mind is that most appliance controls have switched from solid state to circuit boards. Add in a healthy dose of heat , moisture and vibration and you have a recipe for eventual failure. such is the sad reality of the modern appliances in our homes.
1) Oven\Range cook-top
On average a decent oven\range should perform for about 15 years. The most common parts that fail on ovens ranges and cook tops are Ignitors, thermostats, elements and on occasion the control board if equipped. It should be noted, that failure of any of the before mentioned parts is by no means a death knell for the appliance. Most of the items listed can be replaced for a reasonable cost. However, If the unit is towards the end of its useful service life when one of these items fail, then it may end up being more cost effective to simply replace it..
A Dishwasher has evolved in to a "must have" kitchen appliance these days, If like me, you have unpleasant memories of washing dishes by hand, then you can count yourself in with the majority of people who feel this is an indispensable kitchen item. Generally speaking, and failing any major component failures, you should expect about 10 years out of a modern dishwasher. Kids make an awesome plan B dishwasher, should the mechanical variety fail. As my Mum always used to tell me " it builds character" thanks Mum.
On to arguably one of the most important and expensive appliances in our homes- The humble refrigerator. Long evolved from a simple insulated box that you filled with ice to keep the milk fresh. The modern fridge now has as many bells and whistles, as a high end sports car. It's WiFi enabled, water dispensing, touch screen display, state of the art lettuce chilling. art work displaying and ice cube spewing to name but a few features. Unfortunately though, the refrigerator can also be one of the more expensive items to repair or replace. Average useful lifespan for a refrigerator, is approximately 15 years. On the bright side, if you replace your fridge the old one makes for an excellent beverage chiller if you have the room.. one last point to bear in mind, is the age to efficiency ratio to run a refrigerator or for that matter any appliance.
4) Hot water heater
When it comes to hot water heaters, there are quite a few variables to contemplate, All of which affect the longevity of this appliance. The hot water heater is arguably the silent star of any household, without it there is no hot shower in the morning, and as we all know, the rest is downhill from there.
Hot water heaters come in different flavors as I mentioned, meaning.....they are available with different tank warranties (qualities) which have a direct correlation to unit lifespan. warranties start as low as 4 year and go as high as 15 years. The average household in the US generally speaking, has a 10 year tank, which is pretty self explanatory. It means that, this hot water heater should last 10 years.or so....Now bear in mind, this is just an average, as I have seen 10 year units fail prematurely because of hard water and improper care. and conversely, I have seen well maintained 6 year units last 12 years with proper care.
Little has changed overall with hot water heaters over the last 15 years or so, save improved efficiency and venting options, Cost of replacement hot water heaters varies just as greatly as tank warranty does. expect to pay anywhere from $800 to over $2000 for a replacement unit..
,5) Furnace and Air conditioner
On average an HVAC system when properly maintained and correctly sized for the space to be heated or cooled, should last anywhere from 15-20 years. The key here is, being properly maintained. Furnaces and Air conditioners are probably the least well understood system of any home by the average home-owner. Most people simply turn the thermostat to heat or cool, and expect that there will be near instant heating or cooling effect as a result.. This is true 99% of the time except, when there is a system failure of some sort. A fair number of the heating and cooling calls I get during either season, are as a result of either improper or no maintenance on the HVAC system. It should be considered standard practice to have your Furnace and A\C inspected and maintained on an annual basis. This will ensure that your system is running correctly and as efficiently as possible. the upturn of this is that it should cost less to run throughout the year.
6) Washer Dryer
Both appliances have an average lifespan of about 8 to 12 years. This can be extended by regularly cleaning your lint trap. Additionally, clean your washer and dryer hoses, heating element, and dryer ducts at least once a year. Proper maintenance of your dryer not only extends its life, it also reduces the risk of a dryer fire (see previous blog entry on this dryer fires)This can happen when lint accumulates on the heating element Electric models) or in the dryer housing or ducts.
7) other appliances -Microwave oven\range hood etc.
As a general rule of thumb Microwaves will last approximately ten years or so. the same is also true of range hoods or extractor hoods and Bathroom exhaust fans. Ten years seems to be the golden rule for the majority of small to medium sized appliances these days. of course there are always exceptions to every rule and this is no different. depending on usage, maintenance and a splash of good old fashioned luck, there is no reason why some appliances cant far exceed there "average " lifespan.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog entry I hope you found it useful. as always please don't hesitate to leave us your comments and questions.
Hey Folks Welcome to the next issue of our lovely little Blog. I should start this one with an apology.I realize it has taken an extraordinary length of time to write and post this installment....I have no excuse except, that there is only one of me and lots of demand for my time and knowledge....I hope they perfect cloning technology some time soon.....In the meantime, sit back relax and read on.
Window and door screens are your homes first and last line of defense against a myriad of bugs and critters. Mosquitoes, Gnats, fly's, and any number of other insidious creatures out to feast on your barbecue, or worse yet you....... I think it is safe to say we have all been there at some point, Sitting innocently on the porch; enjoying a nice cold drink on a hot summers evening, only to look down at your drink and realize that a Gnat or fly has turned your frosty beverage into their last resting place. Annoyed at the ruined drink, you ask yourself "how the heck did that get in!"
in frustration you get up to survey your screens, only to find that little cousin Johnny, or one of your own kids has poked a hole in the screen material....Disaster,.... the flood gates have been opened....You can almost picture the epic army of insects amassing to invade your porch or living room.
But fear not, for there is hope all is not lost... your screens can be repaired or replaced, And generally speaking, repairing or replacing your insects screens is not that difficult. With the right tools and knowledge even the gnarliest of tears can be remedied.
Bear in mind, screens normally come in two different flavors Aluminum and or vinyl and also several different color variations to boot., however most screens I come across today, are the black vinyl variety. just make sure you are purchasing the correct color and type when attempting your own repairs.
There are quite a few kits available to repair holes in screens. lets explore some of your options.
Steps to replace Screen -
I hope you have found this post useful. As always please leave me your comments and suggestions stay safe enjoy the summer.
These pictures require no introduction, they are of course, your communal garden variety smoke detector and CO detector.
If you are lucky, and live in a properly equipped home, you should have several of these scattered around your house..
Smoke detectors and their distant cousins ;carbon monoxide or CO detectors, have changed very little since their inception and introduction.or at least from a design standpoint.
On a good day, they should sit quietly and do absolutely nothing. On a bad day however, they should do as designed and emit an unholy racket, which Should by all accounts awaken the deceased from their eternal slumber. That is to say, when triggered by enough volume of smoke and or CO in the living space, they are supposed to awaken and or alert the homes occupants to a present danger (smoke,fire, and or CO) this is achieved by emitting an ear piercing alarm, which on average is in the 85 decibel range designed to wake up even the most comatose of sleepers (you know who you are).. Hopefully yours have ever only been triggered by a round of burnt toast.
Smoke detectors when working properly and correctly installed, have saved a lot of lives over the years, as have their cousins the humble CO detector. This is why it's so very important to make sure and test your detectors on a monthly basis. It only takes a second to do, but failure to do so can be very very expensive indeed, Especially when the cost is a human life.
If you have battery versions of these devices please remember to replace the batteries annually without fail.
Hard wired and battery operated smoke and CO detectors should be replaced every 10 years or so.. Both Smoke detectors and CO2 detectors are available as plug in models. which in my personal opinion is to avoid them like the plague. The reason being, is in the event of a power outage you will be left unprotected.
Correct Smoke detector placement
Here is a handy illustration (see below)-which depicts suggested placement of detectors throughout the home.
But just in case you prefer text. let me spell it out. According to the NFPA (national fire protection agency) smoke detectors should be hard wired where possible and be located in the following locations.
Co detector placement
Given that CO is slightly lighter than air, and as a result has a tendency to rise,it is considered best practice. to mount your detection equipment at approximately 6ft (eye level on your walls) in a home with standard 8ft ceilings..
Apart from that , placement is relatively similar to that of your smoke detection equipment. As a rule of thumb, place a unit within 10ft of every bedroom door on a homes sleeping levels. and within 10ft of an attached garage on the main level
Each level of the home should have its own CO detector.
To avoid false readings, detectors should be placed at least 15ft away from a device which burns fossil fuels such as,. furnaces stoves, gas dryers, and fireplaces. Other mounting considerations would suggest you keep the unit away from direct sunlight, strong breezes and drafts or behind draperies/curtains which can block the sensor.
Types of Smoke detectors
Ionizing type- Consists of battery charged metal plates and a trace amount of the radioactive element, Americium 241. When smoke enters the ionization chamber it disrupts the flow of electrons. this disruption causes the alarm to be triggered.
Photoelectric or photo voltaic type.- This is the simpler of the two devices and works when smoke enters the detector it block or disrupts the light receptors inside the unit , and thus causing the alarm to sound.
Combination Photoelectric\Ionizing type - the best of both worlds here- and the best way of protecting your home and loved ones in my opinion. You get, ionization detection for sudden, low smoke flame-ups, and photoelectric sensors for smoky, slow-burning fires.
Types of CO Detectors
Biomimetic sensor: A gel changes color when it absorbs carbon monoxide, This color change triggers the alarm.
Metal oxide semiconductor: When the silica chip's circuitry detects carbon monoxide, it lowers the electrical resistance, and thus triggers the alarm.
Electrochemical sensor: Electrodes immersed in a chemical solution sense changes in electrical currents when they come into contact with carbon dioxide, and this change triggers the alarm.- much like the Ionizing type smoke detector.
Both Smoke and CO detectors are readily available at most major hardware stores and big box mart stores. Neither variety is expensive, so there really is no valid excuse for not having either one or both installed. In fact, it is illegal to not have an operating unit in your home ,as per Illinois law.
430 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 135/ -- Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detector Act
Requires that every dwelling unit shall be equipped with at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in an operating condition within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes. Every structure that contains more than one dwelling unit shall contain at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in operating condition within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious public health concern. Over 10,000 are poisoned by carbon monoxide needing medical treatment each year; over 500 people in the U.S. die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning.. please don't become part of this statistic.
As always we hope you have found this post both useful and or at the very least informative.
If you are not comfortable doing it yourself Britannia Home services is able to replace and or test your smoke Alarms and CO2 detectors for you.
Hello again gentlefolk and loyal Blog followers -
Well here we are on our next Blog post, and to be honest, fate has played a hand in this months topic as will shortly be revealed. The picture above is of course, a set of washing machine supply hoses in all their rubberized glory. Now, generally speaking, we pay these ubiquitous hoses very little mind. They are usually installed when one gets a new washing machine and that is, as a rule the end of that......Or so we think.... Let me give you a little background.
Last weekend I was enjoying some one on one time, with my eldest Son T, In usual tween fashion he tells me he is bored, So after a short discussion, we decided to go catch a movie together. Fast forward a few hours, minus some healthy brain cells.and now loaded with popcorn Kernels that have surreptitiously hidden themselves within the crevices of my attire no doubt for later consumption., So while brushing the debris of movie goer ship from my person,I turned my cell phone back on only to be greeted with a barrage of missed calls and text messages. 911 EMERGENCY....... in all caps punctuated in 3 minute intervals with help, and where are you messages. So as it turns out, while T and I where enjoying our very over priced movie and concessions, we were blissfully unaware of the ensuing disaster back home , All hell had secretly broken loose.....now In my defense, and given that I was Being a good movie Patron, I had turned my cell phone off for the movie. So while T and I enjoyed our Soda and bonded over an otherwise rubbish movie, our seemingly innocent vulcanized rubber washing machine hoses had decided to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war . In short, they had turned our otherwise dry comfortable suburban home into a giant slip'n'slide. My poor wife who was home alone at the time, had no idea what hit her..... One minute she enjoying some much deserved couch time, the next she has been turned into a stricken U boat commander, trying too rescue a sinking submarine.... Water everywhere. abandon ship......
Upon hearing water coming from the Laundry room, she did what any self respecting homeowner would do and investigated. Horrified to find that water was gushing out from behind the washing machine, she sprung into action and attempted to turn off the supply valve. Unfortunately for her, the shut off valve had other ideas, and promptly came off in her hand . Unbeknownst to us, it had corroded to the point of critical failure. My now very damp and panicked Spouse resorted to grabbing a towel and trying to stem the flow water with one hand while screaming for help.... Now as comical as this all sounds, please know that 6 gallons per minute flow from a residential washing machine supply line. and this has being going on for the better part of 20 minutes. So at this point, my downstairs neighbor has now got a new shower in his living room.... Luckily for us, he was home at the time and upon noticing his new water feature called 911.. Fast forward another 15 minutes, the fire department has finally arrived and shut off the water supply to the building.
Bear in mind, not before approximately 220 gallons of water, has escaped the confines of our plumbing system, and caused absolute bloody chaos. and a messy and inconvenient clean up.
Being your benevolent neighborhood Handyman, I would like nothing more than to spare all of you from a similar situation.
Pictured above is an example of a very badly corroded washing machine supply hose. if yours look like this or exhibits any of the following symptoms, then they should be replaced as soon as possible.
There are a few guidelines you should follow when replacing hoses
Install Hoses Properly
Leave Ample Space for the Hoses-When installing hoses, be sure to leave at least four inches of space between the back of the washing machine and the wall connection. This space is
necessary to prevent kinking in the hose near the valve connection, where sharp edges within the hardware can cut into the inside of the hose .
Handle Connections with Care
.Ensure that the valve connections are securely fastened, but do not over tighten them, as this may damage the hardware or the hoses. Tighten first by hand, then use pliers to tighten an additional ⅔ turn. Be sure your rubber washer gasket is in
good condition, and use Teflon thread tape.
Consider Installing a Lever Valve
Many homeowners may find it easier to manage a dual ball valve lever operated water shut
off valve than a traditional screw type valve (which is also prone to leaking). A lever valve can be set up to shut off both hot and cold water with a single lever, which will make it easier to turn off the water supply when it is not in use, or in an emergency situation.
Know How and Where to Shut Off the Water Supply.
Know where the building’s main water shutoff valve is located, so that the water may be shut off if the control valves at the washing machine are inoperable.
See image below for a typical household water shut off identification.
Well that's it for this installment. I hope it has been useful and or educational, As always,please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or comments.... I hope this installment serves to prevent any of you from a similar fate as was mine last week.
Picture above taken from a clients Dryer vent. Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent......I think they where trying to grow a new friend.
O.K gang, as promised here is post number 2 for January. And to be honest, I couldn't think of a more fitting time to write about this months topic.
Signs your Dryer vents need cleaning.
Now not to scare anyone, but imagine waking up to a house fire......and then to find out later that it could have been prevented. The culprit: Your clothes dryer!
According to the National Fire Prevention association, the common Clothes dryer was the cause of more than 18,500 home fires in 2015. Yikes.
Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer hose and vent ducting, this in turn reduces air flow, backing up exhaust gases and eventually creates the right conditions for a fire. The good news is, these hazards can be avoided by thoroughly inspecting and cleaning your dryer vent each and every year. (This is particularly true if your dryer vent duct was not designed or installed properly.) Not only are you reducing the risk of fire, but you are also putting money back into your pocket by improving the dryer’s efficiency. The venting system of your dryer is the appliances lungs, if it cant breath properly, it is going to work harder to achieve the same result as a properly vented and maintained system. This in turn ends up costing you more money....trust me, that's bad.
So how do you know if your dryer vent system is a ticking “time bomb”? well apart from the obvious... standing amongst the rubble of your former home, asking your spouse " honey...Did we get our Dryer vent cleaned this year" I am pleased to announce, their is an easier and much more pro active approach you can take. Simply check out our list below.
5 Signs that it’s Time to Clean Your Clothes Dryer Vent.
1. Drying time for clothes takes longer and longer.
When a dryer vent is clogged, the drying cycle can double or triple in time. You’ll notice that clothes are not completely dry at the end of a regular cycle. A dryer is designed to push out the hot damp air for clothing to dry. If your vent is blocked by lint or foreign objects, the air will stay in your dryer keeping your clothes hot and damp. causing extended drying times. This in turn puts more wear and tear on your dryer potentially cutting the machine’s life in half.
2. Your clothing and the outside of the dryer get very hot.
Do you notice that your clothing is very hot at the end of a cycle, or the dryer is hot to the touch? This warning sign means the vent is not exhausting properly. If your system is clogged, it not only wastes energy, but can cause the heating element, blower and other components in the dryer to wear out prematurely.....Bottom line, your Dryer should not be hotter than Satan's underpants... Period.
3. You notice a burning smell.
When you run your dryer do you smell burning? Lint, which is very flammable, (Makes great tinder for campfires) can build up in the exhaust tube, lint trap and even in the drum casing. If it gets too hot, it can catch fire, causing a burning smell. (Remember to empty the lint trap often). Discontinue use of your dryer and have it inspected as soon as possible.
4. The vent hood flap doesn’t open properly.
.Another visual red flag that you’re due for a cleaning: You can see lint or debris around the dryer hose or outside vent opening: This is also true if the duct hood flap does not open as it is designed to do. An outside vent that doesn’t open when the dryer is running means air flow has been restricted due to lint buildup or worse... In the case of broken or missing Outside vent cover you could have animals living inside your vent ducting. This is especially true in winter, when critters are looking for somewhere warm and dry to call home.
5. It’s been longer than a year since your last inspection.
Dryer vent ducts should be inspected at least once a year to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you hire a professional to clean your vent, expect prices to vary depending on the length and location of the vent. If the exterior exhaust vent is easily accessible, you can try cleaning it yourself with a brush kit. These can be purchased from most major hardware stores.
If you’ve tried cleaning your vent system and still have the above issues, then it could mean you need to have your vent rebuilt or repaired. Lint should not build up in your dryer if your duct system is properly designed and installed. If you haven’t had your system inspected and cleaned for several years, be proactive and get it done today!
Happy New Year Britannia Home Services Family.
Here is Wishing all of our friends new and old alike, a very happy, healthy and enjoyable new year. We hope 2016 brings peace prosperity and much love to all.
First of all My sincere apologies for not updating the Blog in the last 2 months- I have no excuses, it was just kind of a hectic time. Especially, when you factor in the Christmas holidays a bout of noro Virus, and some good old fashioned holiday laziness,and well you get the general idea. That should at least paint a pretty good picture of what we have been up to while being AWOL.
As penance, I promise there will be an additional post this month. As usual, please send any topics you would like to see covered here my way. we welcome any and all comments or suggestions.
in the meantime greetings from Niagara Falls
Hello again Folks
It is time once again, for a new Blog entry and I am very excited to share today's post, as it is all about something near and dear to my heart ....tools.
With the right tools and a little knowledge, there is very little which cannot be accomplished. Man has been fascinated by tools, ever since our Neanderthal ancestors had the bright idea, to strap a rock to a stick and hit things with it. That was of course, the birth of the humble hammer, the grand daddy of all modern tools. The advent of our earliest tools was also coincidentally, the catalyst which started the evolution of man as an intelligent species.....Well at least in most cases.. we all know evolution to be an imperfect science after all.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we have a plethora of tool choices at our disposal. At no other point in our collective history, have we been so blessed with such variety and diversity of tools. Tools to build houses, tools to build cars, surgical tools, in fact; tools for just about anything you can think of. So whether you are already a die hard tool fan, or if you run for the hills at the mere mention of a socket wrench, we still have a lot to thank our tools for.
I am often asked, what basic tools should I keep around my home? What Does a good tool kit look like?
To which I might reply something like, a Hammer, screwdriver,wrench etc....But lets get serious for a moment and actually look at what would be considered a good basic toolkit for any home owner to have in their arsenal.
At the very least every homeowner should own a hammer, great for keeping door to door salesman and religious whack jobs away from your door.....
I Have compiled a list of the basic tools that should be at your disposal, it is by no means supposed to be an exhaustive list. And as with anything these days, you really do get what you pay for. I firmly believe that if you spend a little more to get good quality tools, they should, with proper care last you a lifetime.
Welcome to our first Blog post Hopefully, the first of many....
Well folks its getting to be that time of the year again. The trees are slowly changing color and losing their leaves, the evenings are slowly getting cooler and our attention starts turning toward staying warm and cozy in our homes. Netflix marathons and other solid reasons to hibernate and it is easy to see why so many people feel comfortable tucked in at home at this time of the year.
It recently dawned on me, just how much we take that mystery box in the basement or attic for granted. Of course I am not referring to your secret stash of whatever it is you wish to keep secret surreptitiously tucked away in the rafters, or stealthily hidden behind the hot water heater. I am of course talking about our furnaces. We ask a lot from these mysterious machines. and your average homeowner is as mystified by their heating equipment, as a caveman discovering fire for the very first time was.
In the summer we call upon our furnaces to keep us cool and in the winter, nice and warm. We ask this without so much as a second thought. Turn the dial on a thermostat and we expect an almost instant result.. That is of course, unless you have been unfortunate enough to suffer through a mechanical breakdown in either season....Not fun and can be quite costly to boot.
I think we have all been guilty at some point or another, of furnace neglect, skipping an inspection, or forgetting to change the filter on a regular basis... At least I know I am guilty as charged. Either intentionally or unintentionally,of committing such furnace related atrocities. I am sure I am not alone here either. especially since there seems to be so much going on this time of the year. What with. Halloween thanksgiving and ultimately Christmas right around the corner, it is easy to lose sight of the important maintenance tasks around the house.
A Furnace inspection in my humble opinion, is a necessary evil.... Just like going to the doctor or or getting your oil changed..But did you know, an annual furnace inspection can actually save you money? As an example, a dirty furnace can run between 10% and 25% less efficiently than a well maintained furnace. bottom line...a dirty furnace will cost you more to operate..which is part of the reason why, it shouldn't be overlooked.
An inspection if properly executed, will also catch any potential issues before they arise.. Something as simple as a dirty flame sensor, can leave you shivering in no time. So its best to have your furnace professionally checked before each and every season.
Well you might ask, what does a good furnace safety inspection consist of.? I thought you would never ask....
Depending on the age of your furnace, a good quality furnace inspection should consist of at least 15 points, including the following. (*caution Furnace maintenance should only ever be performed by qualified service personnel*) we do not recommend you try this yourself unless you know what you are doing. there are dangerous voltages present inside your furnace, which pose a risk of injury or even death.
1. Check the igniter by using an ohmmeter. Measure the resistance through the igniter. If the furnace has a silicon nitride igniter, you should see 11 to 17 ohms. If the furnace has a carbide igniter, you should see 50 to 100 ohms. If the reading is outside these parameters, the igniter should be replaced. Remember that you need to test the igniter when the igniter is cold and furnace is not firing..
2. Check and clean the flame sensor (if present). Hook up your multimeter in series with the flame sensor and the sensor wire. Fire the furnace into the heat cycle. Your readings should be 1.5 to 4 micro amps (some manufacturer’s control systems only need 0.5 micro amps, so check the manual for the system you’re testing). When sensor tests at less than 1 Micro amps (or less than 0.5 micro amps on some systems) you’ll see nuisance problems, and soon it will stop sensing completely.
3. Pull and clean the burners. The most common failures associated with burners are contamination and misalignment. Many of today's in-shot burner designs incorporate the carryover mechanism into the burner itself. There may be slots or "wings" in the burner, which align with the burner next to it. Inspect these to make sure they’re free from debris that could disrupt the flow of gas and air.
A stiff brush can be used to clean superficial rust or soot from the burner face. Use air pressure to blow out the burners and burner vestibule area. A dirty crossover can cause delayed ignition, which in turn can cause high carbon monoxide (CO) on start-up and during the first 60 seconds of operation,. Replace severely rusted burners.
4. Inspect the heat exchanger for excessive rust, cracks, or holes. Visual inspection is always the best, but requires training and practice. There are tools available to assist, such as inspection cameras and dye penetration inspection systems. Inspect the metal flue for rust or holes, and make sure it’s supported properly.
5. On condensing 90%+ furnaces, clear the condensate line. Remove or blow out the P-trap and pressure tubes to remove debris. Condensate lines have become the source of a common issue for 90%+ furnaces: long run times in very cold weather can cause the pressure switch to lock out. Then, by the time the service technician gets to the house, the water has drained out and everything is working again. This is one of the little items that can cause homeowners to become frustrated when they pay for a cleaning and problems like this occur.
6. Check the system static pressure. Determine if you're working on a system with a non-variable-speed motor or a variable-speed motor. A system with a non-variable-speed motor will have maximum design total external static pressure (ESP) of 0.50-in. water column. A system with a variable-speed motor will have a maximum design ESP of 0.80-in wc. On an 80% induced-draft furnace you need 130 cfm or cubic feet per minute of supply air, per 10,000 Btu. On a 90% furnace you need 150 cfm of supply air per 10,000 Btu. Refer to a fan chart to set the correct cfm for the furnace so you can complete setting gas pressure and proper heat exchanger temperature rise (if the system has a bypass humidifier, make sure you close the damper during this process).
7. Read and record the temperature in the supply and return plenums. The supply air plenum temperature on condensing and induced-draft furnaces should be 60F warmer than the return air temperature; the difference on a natural-draft furnace should be 75F. The flue temperature should be 170F warmer than the supply air plenum temperature on an 80% induced-draft furnace, and on a 90% condensing furnace it should ideally be equal to or greater than the supply air plenum temperature.
8. Check and adjust the gas pressure. Gas heat content is lower than typical design. Manufacturer’s installation manuals for natural gas furnaces list the maximum Btu' per hour input, which assumes a certain heat content in the gas at 3.5-in. water column manifold pressure. The best way to measure the gas pressure is to clock the meter to verify that the orifice is the proper size and you can set the correct gas pressure (note that it isn't possible to clock a meter with an LP furnace). Furnace manufacturers typically list in their installation manual for natural gas that a range of 3.2 to 3.8-in. wc is needed for proper combustion because of the variation of gas Btu content. As it usually isn't very easy to have the proper assortment of burner orifices, you can typically achieve proper combustion for maximum safety and efficiency by adjusting the gas pressure.
9. Check for gas leaks. You can use either soap bubbles or an electronic leak detector, but keep in mind that some electronic leak detectors will produce a false-positive from certain brands of pipe dope and soap bubbles.
10. Look for proper support of the vent pipe. On condensing furnace installations, low spots will accumulate water and retard venting, possibly resulting in trips of the pressure switch. Pipe-support hangers should be placed every 3 ft. on PVC. Also inspect for leaking or loose fittings. If the PVC exits the side of furnace and has a rubber boot attaching the PVC to the inducer, be aware that boot isn't designed to support the pipe and should have a support strap directly outside the furnace.
11. Set the heat-off delay. For best reliability and maximum efficiency, set the heat-off delay to the longest time available, which is typically 180 seconds.
12. Lubricate the blower motor (Where applicable). Most modern furnace blower motors are sealed and require no lubrication, they do however tend to get "Gunk" around the shaft and bearings. This if left uncleaned, can cause the blower motor to draw more amperage than a clean motor should. This is why it is important to remove any dirt and debris from around the motor shaft.
13. clean the Furnace vestibule. Some people may argue this point with me and say it is not necessary. but, as my dear old Mum would say, everything should be "ship shape and Bristol fashion" meaning everything should be clean and tidy. My reasoning for this part of the inspection is this.... A dirty furnace vestibule will harbor dust, which can be sucked into the burners during the combustion cycle or end up on the motor shaft and bearings. Either way not good. a good cleaning with a shop vac and or slightly damp rag will go a long way here.
.14. Clean or replace the air filter. This is kind of a no brainer as they say.... The importance of changing or cleaning your furnace filter every 60 days, cannot be understated. Even if the filter looks clean, it should be changed religiously and without fail. I find it easy to remember to change the filter by setting a recurring reminder on my smart phone or PC. The furnace filter is the lungs of your system, without proper airflow the system will labor to get the job done, causing it to use more power and ultimately cost you money.
.15. Check electrical connections. Furnaces are subject to both extremes of temperature and in some cases vibration too. Either way this can be bad news, especially if you are an electrical connection. Changes in temperature cause metals to expand and contract add vibration and your connections could work lose over time. this is why, this step should be an integral part of any annual furnace inspection..
These points should ensure that you have a safe an trouble free heating season. We hope you found this post useful and or informative. Please leave us your comments questions and thoughts on today's blog. If there is a particular subject you would like us to write about just drop us a line.
Apologies if this post was a little long,...
Britannia Home Services
Hi My Name is Bruce Kenny and I am the owner and founder of Britannia Home Services. I am married with 3 kids and reside in Naperville Illinois.