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Get Your House Ready for Spring

2/14/2018 (Permalink)

Spring is almost here, hopefully! Here are some home maintenance tips to help welcome the new season.

Weather Stripping

The Department of Energy (DOE) says weather stripping the windows on your home is an easy and effective way to help save money on your energy bill. In the spring and summer, weather stripping works by keeping the cool air inside and the warm air out. In the summer, if the cool air is contained inside, then the AC will not have to work as hard, and that may help you save money on your energy bill.

Indoor Maintenance

Test and clean ceiling fans. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an efficient ceiling fan in each room can help allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort level. Ceiling fans can be a good way to air out the house and generate a cross-breeze.

Replace your AC filter. The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends that you replace the filters in the air conditioner in the spring. A new filter will likely optimize the efficiency of the unit.

Replace torn or damage window screens. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if you simply like to keep the windows open in the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens are in good shape — you don’t want to let flies in with all that fresh air!

Exterior Upkeep

The National Center for Healthy Housing suggests that in the springtime, you may want to consider these outdoor maintenance projects:

Check your roof shingles. This should be done by a professional, as working on the roof can be dangerous without the proper training. You should ask the professional to make sure the shingles are not curling or clawing.

Replace rotten siding or trim. Make sure your home’s siding and trim aren’t damaged from windy, icy conditions. 

Clean gutters and downspouts. Get rid of any leaves or other debris that accumulated during the winter to make sure your gutters and downspouts are ready to take on those April showers.

What to Do After a Flooding

2/14/2018 (Permalink)

After any water damage situation, your primary focus should be safety:

  • Is it safe to stay in the house?
  • Electrical and "slip and fall" hazards are some of the most prevalent concerns.
  • Only do activities that are safe for you to perform.
  • Wet materials can be VERY heavy. Be careful!

What to Do After Flooding

  • Remove excess water by mopping and blotting.
  • Wipe excess water from wood furniture after removal of lamps and tabletop items.
  • Remove and prop wet upholstery and cushions.
  • Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.
  • Turn air conditioning on for maximum drying in summer.
  • Remove colored rugs from wet carpeting.
  • Remove art objects to a safe, dry place.
  • Gather loose items from floors.

What NOT To Do After Flooding

  • Don't leave wet fabrics in place. Hang furs and leather goods.
  • Don't leave books, magazines or other colored items on wet carpet or floors.
  • Don't use your household vacuum to remove water.
  • Don't use television or other household appliances.
  • Don't turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet, and keep out of rooms where ceilings are sagging.

Be Prepared for Storm Damage

2/14/2018 (Permalink)

Spring is the time of year when many things change—including the weather. Temperatures can swing back and forth between balmy and frigid. Sunny days may be followed by a week of stormy weather. Sometimes extreme weather changes can occur even within the same day.

Thunderstorms cause most of the severe spring weather. They can bring lightning, tornadoes, and flooding. Whenever warm, moist air collides with cool, dry air, thunderstorms can occur. For much of the world, this happens in spring and summer.

Because spring weather is so unpredictable, you may be unprepared when severe weather hits—particularly if you live in a region that does not often experience thunderstorms, tornadoes, or flooding. And when severe weather hits unexpectedly, the risk of injury and death increases. So planning ahead makes sense; prepare for storms, floods, and tornadoes as if you know in advance they are coming, because in the spring, they very likely will.

Advance planning for thunderstorms, lightning, tornadoes, and floods requires specific safety precautions.

Keep an emergency kit on hand. Some items to include are:

    • A battery-operated flashlight, a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio, and extra batteries for both
    • An emergency evacuation or shelter plan, including a map of your home and, for every type of severe weather emergency, routes to safety from each room
    • A list of important personal information, including:
      • telephone numbers of neighbors, family, and friends
      • insurance and property information
      • telephone numbers of utility companies
      • medical information
    • According to the American Red Cross a first aid kit may include:
      • non-latex gloves
      • assortment of adhesive bandages
      • antibiotic ointment
      • sterile gauze pads in assorted sizes
      • absorbent compress dressings
      • tweezers
      • scissors
      • adhesive cloth tape
      • aspirin packets (81 mg each)
      • First aid instruction booklet
        (NOTE: Customize your first aid kit to meet your individual and family needs.)
      • A 3–5 day supply of bottled water and nonperishable food
      • Personal hygiene items
      • Blankets or sleeping bags
      • An emergency kit in your car

Plumbing Tips for Commercial Property

1/29/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial Plumbing Tips for Commercial Property Plumbing tips for commercial property owners.

Simple Maintenance Should be the Responsibility of Tenants

Commercial property owners who rent space to tenants should be aware that in some cases, the tenant is responsible for well-functioning plumbing. What should tenants do?

  • Drip faucets when temperatures dip down to freezing levels to prevent frozen pipes
  • Avoid putting harsh chemicals or solids down drains
  • Immediately report a toilet that won’t flush, or make a repair
  • Immediately alert property manager regarding substantial drops in water pressure or leaks

It is important to check the pressure gauge once the boiler is operating to ensure it is functioning per the pressure levels recommended by the manufacturer.  When the pressure is lower than recommended, you can top it up – but do so with caution, as the pressure release valve can easily sustain damage.  When this happens, you will need to call a professional for repair.

Sufficient space around your boilers is essential as well, so make certain that the area where the boiler is housed is clutter-free.  Your boiler needs to breathe, so remove coats, shoes, bags, and other items.  If housed in a box, be sure ventilation requirements are met according to manufacturer instructions and that there is an access panel to make your boiler easily accessible for maintenance.

Never Put Up with Leaking Faucets or Pipes

Not only do leaking faucets or pipes waste water (in fact, approximately 900 million gallons in the U.S. each year), leaks also contribute to the growth of mold, wood rot, and other structural issues.

While not all leaks are noticeable, if the water pressure drops you should have a plumbing contractor investigate the situation at once, as it could indicate a leak in the plumbing network. It is not always possible to prevent a leak, however investing in a thorough plumbing inspection once or twice each year is the best way to manage your system and avoid leaks.

HVAC Systems in Commercial Properties

1/29/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial HVAC Systems in Commercial Properties Commercial property and HVAC systems.

If you run a commercial property, you probably have HVAC units to maintain. You care about keeping your tenants comfortable and it wouldn’t hurt to cut down on energy costs. Well working HVAC systems not only keep people comfortable but also foster a lower upkeep. With that in mind, here are 3 tips for commercial property owners to make their HVAC systems work for them.

1. Develop a System

You should always make sure to schedule regular HVAC maintenance for your residents. That means, at the bare minimum, you should clean air ducts on a regular basis for all of your tenants. In addition, make sure you are consistently getting rid of standing water. Water collecting in drain pans, humidity managing equipment, and cooling towers can harbor harmful bacteria and other microbial horrors if left unattended to.

2. Constantly Clean and Disinfect

Especially for managing large amounts of HVAC systems, whether for business property or living spaces, you need to make sure everything’s perfectly clean. Otherwise you’re putting your tenants in danger. Use brushes and other equipment to loosen debris from all components, and extract contaminants with a vacuum or a power washer. This is a great time to inspect any worn or damaged equipment and you can replace as necessary.

3. Dispose of Contaminants Safely

If not only for the environment, you should dispose of all contaminants in a safe green way for the heath of all your employees and tenants. After you clean everything thoroughly, make sure to follow the EPA guidelines for disposing of any excess.

Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Building Services Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter Energy saving tips.

The strategies below will help you save energy, save money, and stay comfortable during the cool fall and cold winter months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

Take Advantage of Heat from the Sun

  • Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Cover Drafty Windows

  • Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

Adjust the Temperature

  • When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.
  • If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

Find and Seal Leaks

  • Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
  • Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

Maintain Your Heating Systems

  • Furnaces and heat pumps: Replace your filter once a month or as needed.
  • Wood- and Pellet-Burning Heaters: Clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.

Reduce Heat Loss from the Fireplace

  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
  • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly--approximately 1 inch--and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F.
  • If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
  • If you do use the fireplace, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
  • Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
  • Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.
  • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.

Lower Your Water Heating Costs

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands.

Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Water Damage Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter Save money on your water bill.

What is wastewater averaging?

Wastewater averaging is the practice of estimating the amount of wastewater discharged from your home into the city’s sanitary sewer system. It is essentially a cap on the volume of wastewater you will be billed for each month for the next year. This practice goes by a variety of names including average winter consumption, wastewater winter averaging, winter averaging, winter quarterly average, or winter period average.

Check with your local utility company to see how they handle your wastewater charges. Some utilities don’t want to mess with all these calculations, so they charge a flat, monthly wastewater fee.

Your water utility uses a wastewater average because they can’t measure the actual amount of wastewater discharged from your home. The best way to measure the wastewater discharge is to use your water meter to measure your monthly water use and then estimate the amount of wastewater that could be returning to the city sewers.

Shouldn’t water flow IN be equal to water flow OUT?

Well, in the winter time, it generally does, but during the rest of the year, it doesn’t since you could be using water outdoors. The water you sprinkle on your lawn doesn’t go to the city sewers. Therefore, the wastewater averaging period typically happens during the winter months when there should be little to no outdoor water use.

Typically, a multiple month average during the late fall and winter months is used rather than picking one month during the year. This averaging is more fair just in case you have a higher water use during a single month. If you use more water than your wastewater average, then it is assumed that this additional water has been used outdoors and will not be returned back to the city’s sewers for processing and treatment. Therefore, you are not charged for this water usage on your wastewater bill. Conversely, if you use less water during a month than your wastewater average, then your wastewater charge should equal only the actual amount of water used that month.

Why is this so important?

Generally, the cost of wastewater is higher than the cost of potable water. Due to the nature of wastewater, you can imagine it would be more expensive to treat before being released back into environment. In order to achieve these savings throughout the year though, you have to reduce your water use during your wastewater averaging period.

Conserving water in the winter = Saving money all year long

Using less water during the wastewater averaging period will result in a corresponding lower wastewater bill throughout the entire year.  Here are ways to reduce your winter time water use and consequently your monthly wastewater bill:

  • Fix all leaky fixtures – This one is a mundane tip but leaks are a major culprit of unintentional water use in our homes.
  • Shower at your gym – Not only will this conserve water at your home but it could also get your New Year’s resolution to lose weight started early.
  • Don’t wash your car at home – This one is easy.
  • Turn off your irrigation system – Your landscaping probably won’t need water during the winter months since the plants will be dormant.
  • Insulate hot water pipes – Since the cold weather is coming, this is a perfect time to insulate any exposed hot water pipes for more immediate hot water at the faucet. You’ll save some energy as well.

Safety Tips for Property Managers

1/11/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial Safety Tips for Property Managers Commercial property for rent.

Almost every day there is a report involving landlord-tenant violence or crime. Despite this, I’ve seen very little discussion of safety for property managers and landlords, who not only host open houses, but also deal with tenant complaints, collect rents, and process evictions–all of which can involve irate and emotional renters.

Here are four tips from various landlord and property manager resources to get the conversation started:

Don’t give out your home address. Instead have rent checks sent to a P.O. box, placed in an on-site drop box, or deposited electronically. Although it can be easy to get someone’s home address these days, if an irate tenant who has just received an eviction notice has to spend a couple of hours looking, it might give him or her a chance to cool off.

Consistently follow a screening process. When selecting tenants review applications for consistency and consider checking criminal records. Require references and call present and previous landlords. Use a reverse look-up service as an applicant may give you a phone number for someone who is pretending to be an ex-landlord. Also, check identification carefully, as some applicants may pretend to be someone they’re not.

Program emergency numbers on your phone. If you need emergency assistance, the ability to press a single button on your list of “favorites” will save you time and prevent you from making dialing errors, which can happen if you’re in a panic.

Know who you’re showing rental property to. Before you show your rental home have a formal meeting in a public place or your business office with the potential renter. Have him or her show at least two forms of ID and fill out a contact information form or rental agreement. Criminals tend to look for easy victims, and if you make the process more formal and require them to work a little, they may look elsewhere for trouble.

Prevent Mold in the Winter

1/11/2018 (Permalink)

Mold Remediation Prevent Mold in the Winter Mold growth on a wall.

The wet season in the winter months is one of the best times of year for molds to grow and expand. Often mold is contained near sources of water where it can easily grow and reproduce. As it grows, mold can breakdown and compromise the integrity and strength of the source in which it lives.

Mold spores are microscopic and are naturally found in the air we breathe indoors and outdoors. When large amounts of spores grow, one’s health may be compromised. Mold can be killed, but if it is not removed properly, it can remain in the area just cleaned and the dry spores can be released into the air. Mold remediation services can help eliminate the mold in your home and personal items affected by water damage.

Prevention, however, is what will help keep your lungs healthy and homes and buildings strong. We’ve put together a few tips on how you can help thwart mold from infesting your home that are efficient and realistic:

General Home and Building Maintenance:

  • Keep all areas clean.
  • Make sure there is good air circulation. Use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking, and washing the dishes.
  • Prevent mold and water damage by turning off the water flow to broken appliances and pipes.
  • Replace cracked or defective mortar in basements. If you find your basement is wet or has water leaking into it, inspect the outside drainage systems.
  • Spread moisture-barrier materials in crawl spaces over the soil. Heavy roofing paper or plastic film made of polyethylene can be used for this. Make sure there is good ventilation in the crawl space and, if possible, do not enclose it. One may need to use a fan to blow out humid air from under the building.
  • One can get rid of humidity or dampness within a building by heating it for a short time. After heating, open up the doors and windows, or use an exhaust fan, to let out the air that is moist.
  • If there are freezing temperatures, take measures to insulate pipes inside and out to ensure they will not crack and/or burst.
  • Make sure all the seals on the windows and doors are not compromised and in good-working condition.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure the ground around your building slopes away from the foundation so water does not collect around or enter in to it.
  • Act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Dry out the area and determine if the source of the condensation is from a leak or the result of high humidity.

Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

1/4/2018 (Permalink)

Community Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather Extreme Cold Weather

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes
  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
  • Turn off water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on faucets to allow them to drain.
  • Turn off sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.
  • Close or cover foundation vents under house and windows to basements.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
  • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
  • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single control faucets with lever set in middle.
  • Set ice maker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
  • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
  • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
  • Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
  • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.
  • After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.

How to Keep Warm in Your Home

  • Have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.
  • Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.
  • Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.
  • Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.
  • Cover or remove any window air conditioners.
  • Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers. 
  • Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.
  • Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.
  • Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.
  • Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.
  • If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.
  • If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

  • Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives
  • Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.
  • Add freeze resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spay to circulate it in lines.
  • Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
  • Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.
  • Drain birdbaths and fountains
  • Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.
  • Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).
  • Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.
  • Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.