13 Home Maintenance Tips

1. Drain your water heater: Over the course of a year, hard water sediment tends to collect at the bottom of your water heater tank. The sediment deposits reduce the efficiency of your heater, costing you money!

To drain your water heater, first turn off the water supply and power to the water heater. Next, connect an ordinary garden hose to the outlet spigot near the bottom of the water heater tank. If possible, drain the water into a sink, tub, or floor drain. (Pumping the hot water outside is likely to kill your grass due to the temperature of the draining water.)

2. Sharpen and clean your garbage disposal all at once: Put a few ice cubes into your disposal and run the unit, this will quickly clean and sharpen the blades, all at the same time!

3. Change your furnace air filter: Experts recommend changing your furnace filter once a month. If you haven’t done it in a while, there’s no time like the present!

Using cheap fiberglass filters is actually preferred as opposed to more expensive HEPA filters for two reasons: First, replacing the more expensive filters every month can be costly. Second, the fiberglass filters actually allow for more air to flow into your unit reducing the amount of energy needed to effectively heat or cool your home.

4. Toilets: Water leaking from your toilet tank will not only cost you money when it comes to your utility bill, but it can also cause water damage to your bathroom floor and premature wear of your toilet’s internal workings. To find out whether your toilet tank is leaking, add some red food coloring to the water in the tank. Come back in about an hour and see if the water in the bowl is pink. If it is, you have a leak. If you find that your toilet is leaking from the tank to the bowl, the flapper needs to be replaced. To do this, simply turn the water valve located directly behind the toilet. Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet in order to empty the tank. Use a towel or sponge to mop out any excess water left in the tank. Remove the flush chain from the lever, and then slide the old flapper up off the overflow tube. Slide the new flapper in place over the overflow tube, reconnect the chain, and turn the water supply back on.

5. Faucets: The main cause of leaky faucets is worn out washers. The washers inside of the faucet handles are rubber and tend to wear out quickly. Replace them by turning off the main water supply, unscrewing the leaky handle that controls the flow of water to the spout, removing the old washer, and dropping in the new one.

6. Washing Machine & Dryer: It is important to regularly inspect your washing machine water supply hoses for leaks. One of the top reasons for insurance claims is for water damage caused by leaky washing machine supply lines. Inspect washing machine water supply lines at least annually and replace them every three years if they are plastic. If you notice that the metal ends of your water supply lines are discolored or rusty, replace them immediately.

Faulty washing machine drain hoses are as important as water supply lines when it comes to keeping water off of your floor and in your drain where it belongs. As with supply lines, regularly inspect the ends of your washing machine drain lines for discoloration or rust, and replace them immediately if you find evidence of leaking.

Additionally, check the snugness of the drain lines by using a crescent wrench or a pair of pliers. You should not be able to tighten the line any further if the line is properly tightened.

When it comes to your dryer, it is important to make sure that you regularly clean your lint screen! Not only will a clean lint screen prevent fires, but it will also increase the life of the heating element. Physically remove the lint from the screen between each load of laundry. Also, be sure to remove fabric softener residue by washing the screen with warm water and dish detergent once per week.

7. Plumbing: In order to keep water flowing freely through your pipes, keep the following things in mind:

Never pour fats or other oils down your drains. This includes oils that are not solid at room temperature. If you accidentally spill oils or fats down the drain, run hot water down your drain along with a healthy serving of dishwashing liquid. The soap will emulsify the fat or oil and move it on down the pipe, preventing a clog.

Get a hair strainer for the bathtub drain. If fats and oils are the main source of clogs in the kitchen, hair is the primary culprit in the bathroom. If you have a strainer, make sure that you remove any accumulated hair from it following each shower. This will reduce the amount of hair that finds its way through the strainer and into your plumbing.

Skip the Drano. Though the acids it contains can help unclog a drain, they also cause significant damage to your plumbing, including premature leaking. If your bathtub or toilet is completely clogged, use a small drain snake – which you can purchase at any hardware store – to pull the offending clog to the surface. If your kitchen sink is clogged, try plunging it before trying to snake the drain. If you cannot remove the clog using a drain snake, call a professional.

8. Air Conditioning: Air conditioners are among the most overlooked appliances when it comes to performing regular home maintenance. However, they can be one of the most costly appliances to repair.

Regularly inspect the condensation hose to make sure that water can flow freely from the line. If there is standing water where your condensation line drains, create a drainage path using a small garden trowel and line the path with gravel to keep mold and algae from forming, which can be a serious health hazard when the spores are drawn into the appliance and blown into your home.

Additionally, keep the screen around your air conditioner free from debris to keep air flowing easily. This will prevent your air conditioner from using more power than necessary to keep your house cool and keep the internal parts from wearing out too quickly.

9. Humidifiers: Some climate control systems have in-duct humidifiers that help keep air moist and healthy during the winter when artificial heat systems are in use. But when these systems aren’t working properly, they become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which can cause serious air quality issues.

At the end of each winter season, it is important to drain the unit and close the water valve to keep water from stagnating in the system. Also, cleaning the reservoir with a mixture of water and white vinegar helps to keep mineral deposits to a minimum.

10. Refrigerators: The main component of your refrigerator that should get your attention is the door seals. Keeping your door seals tight will reduce the amount of energy it takes to keep your food cool or frozen, but will also keep your refrigerator working efficiently, preventing premature wear on internal parts.

To test the door seals, close the door on a dollar bill and attempt to pull it out with the door closed. If you cannot easily pull the dollar bill out from the door, your seals are in good shape. However, if the bill slides out without much resistance, it’s time to replace the seals. You can purchase new seals from any home repair outlet store.

Also, if you have a refrigerator that has coils along the back, periodically vacuum these coils to remove dirt and dust build up. These coils contain the coolant the refrigerator uses to keep the internal temperature cold. If they become dirty, they won’t work efficiently and your refrigerator may stop cooling altogether.

As a general tip, keeping your refrigerator full uses less energy than trying to cool when it’s empty. Therefore, keep as many items in your refrigerator as possible to help reduce energy costs.

11. Drafty Windows: Drafty windows are a major culprit of high energy bills in the summer and winter months. Periodically check the condition of the caulk line that holds your windows in place. If the caulk appears to be dry, cracked, or otherwise weathered, remove the old caulk with a box cutter or other sharp knife and run a new bead of caulk along the seam.

For added utility bill savings, you can further insulate your window by applying an insulating window film over the glass. These methods cost much less than the price of replacing your windows and implementing green energy technologies in your home.

12. Gutters: While gutters may go practically unnoticed when you look at your house, they are the main line of defense between your foundation and siding and the elements. Gutters are designed to capture water and debris runoff from your roof and divert it away from your foundation, and one of the main causes of water accumulation in basements is a lack of gutter maintenance and proper water diversion.

Clean your gutters at least once per year by physically removing debris from the channels and rinsing them thoroughly by using a garden hose. Avoid installing gutter guards – not only do these not adequately prevent debris from entering your gutters, they also make it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to properly clean your gutter system.

Also, be sure to regularly check that your gutters are properly affixed to your fascia boards, and replace any sections that appear to be damaged or leaking.

13. Roof: Periodically check your roof for damage. Damaged, discolored, or gravel-less shingles should be quickly replaced to prevent the need to replace your roof, water-damaged trusses, or drywall when you finally discover a leak. During the inspection of your roof, pay special attention to shingles that surround skylights, vents, and chimneys, as these areas are the most leak-prone.

6 Inexpensive Ways to Up Your Home’s Value

PAINT, PAINT, PAINT
It could increase your home’s value 2%

ADD A COLORFUL BACK-SPLASH
The kitchen is the #1 upgrade with the greatest return

SET HOT WATER HEATER TO 120 DEGREES F
Every 10-degree drop saves 3-5%

UPGRADE YOUR FRONT DOOR
It could increase your home’s value over 4%

INSTALL LED LIGHT BULBS
Save by using 75% less energy

STEAL CURB APPEAL
With these freebies: pull weeds, trim overgrown bushes, de-clutter

19 Things to Do Immediately to Reduce Your Home Energy and Maintenance Costs

So you’ve just moved into your nice new home. You’ve unloaded the boxes and started to unpack your life.

Right now is the perfect time to walk through a checklist of ways to save money on your home for years to come.

Starting on these things as early as possible will allow you to start saving money sooner rather than later. Plus, some of them will be easier to accomplish before you hang pictures or get too settled in — and lose your move-in momentum.

Here are 19 things to check or do immediately that will reduce the energy and maintenance costs of your home over the long haul.

1. Check the insulation in your attic – and install more if needed.

If you have an unfinished attic, pop your head up there and take a look around. You should see insulation up there between the beams, and there should be at least six inches of it everywhere (more if you live in the northern part of the United States).

If there’s inadequate insulation up there – or the insulation you have appears to be damaged – install new insulation. Here’s a great guide from the Department of Energy on attic insulation, including specifics on how much you should have depending on where you live. Many states offer financial incentives, up to a 75% refund, for instance, to encourage homeowners to better insulate their homes.

2. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius).

This is the optimum temperature for your hot water heater. Most people don’t use water hotter than 120 degrees — indeed, water hotter than that can scald you or a child — and thus the energy needed to keep the water above 120 degrees isn’t used effectively. Lower the temperature, save money on your energy bill, and you’ll never skip a beat.

3. Toss a water heater blanket over that hot water heater as well.

While most modern hot water heaters are well-insulated, some are insulated better than others, and many older heaters aren’t insulated well at all. A small investment in a blanket for your water heater will slowly and gradually save you money on your heating bill over time by keeping the heat in the water instead of letting it disperse slowly into your basement or utility closet.

The Department of Energy recommends being “careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment.” And of course, on-demand (or “tankless”) water heaters don’t require this treatment.

4. Install ceiling fans in most rooms.

Ceiling fans are a low-energy way to keep air moving in your home. Because of the air circulation effect, you can get away with keeping your thermostat a degree or two higher in summer and a degree or two lower in winter, netting a rather large saving.

A while back, I wrote a guide to maximizing ceiling fan use. The most important thing to know is that the air directly below the fan should be blowing down on you in the summer and should be pulled upwards away from you in the winter — you can use the reversal switch on your fan to switch between the modes at the start of each season.

installing a ceiling fan

5. Wrap exposed water pipes with insulation.

Exposed hot water pipes lose heat as they move water from your heater to your faucet or shower. Wrapping them in pipe insulation, especially in cold basements or garages, can make a two- to a four-degree difference in the temperature of the water, and also allows hot water to reach your faucet faster.

Check the pipes into and out of your hot water heater first, as the first three feet out of the heater (and the last few feet of inlet water) are key. Use good-quality pipe insulation for the job, which is actually quite simple — here’s a tutorial.

6. Install a programmable thermostat – and learn how to use it.

programmable thermostat allows you to schedule automatic increases and decreases in your home’s temperature, saving money on cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

They’re easy to install and easy to use, especially if you keep a fairly routine schedule. Just program the thermostat to drop a few degrees at night while you’re sleeping or off at work during the day, and set it to return to your preferred temperature just before you wake up or return home from work. You won’t notice the difference — until you see your lower utility bill.

7. Replace your air filters.

When you first move in, you almost always need to replace the air handling filter or the filter on your furnace or AC unit. Don’t worry, it’s easy to do – it takes about 10 seconds.

Go down to your air handling unit, find where the filter is (it’s almost always a large rectangle), and mark down the measurements (printed around the edges). Then, go to the hardware store and pick up a few of them. Go home and replace the old one with a new filter, and save the rest so you always have a clean one ready to go. An outdated filter not only doesn’t filter air as well, but it also has a negative impact on air flow, meaning your air handling system or HVAC unit has to work harder — and use more energy — to pump out lower quality air.

8. Make sure the vents in all rooms are clear of dust and obstructions.

None of the vents in your home should be covered or blocked by anything – doing that makes your heating and cooling work overtime. You should also peek into all of your vents and make sure they’re as dust-free as possible, and brush them out if you see any dust bunnies. This improves airflow into the room, reducing the amount of blowing that needs to happen.

9. Mark any cracks in the basement with dated masking tape.

Many homes have a few small cracks in their basement walls from the settling of the foundation and the weight of the house. In a stable home, the small cracks aren’t growing at all – they’re safe. If they’re growing, however, you’ll save a ton of money by getting the problem addressed now rather than later.

How do you tell if they’re growing? Take some masking tape and cover up the end of any cracks you notice inside or outside, and write today’s date on the tape. Then, in a few months, check the tape – if you see a crack growing out of the end of the tape, you might have a problem and should call a specialist before the problem gets out of hand.

10. Hang a clothes rack in your laundry room (or better yet, an outdoor clothesline).

Even an efficient clothes dryer can really eat up your energy costs, but it’s convenient for many people. If you’re willing to battle that convenience, you can save money by hanging a clothes rack from the wall in the laundry room and using it for some items; t-shirts, underwear, towels, and pillowcases dry great on clothes racks. If you can hang up 20% of the clothes in a load on a rack, you can get away with running the dryer 20% less than before, saving you cash.

Even better: If you can, install a clothesline in your backyard and hang most of your clothes to dry outside, where a good breeze can do the work of a dryer in no time — and at no cost.

Laundry hanging on clothesline

11. Check all toilets and under-sink plumbing for leaks or constant running – and check faucets, too.

Do a survey of the plumbing in your home before you settle in. If you find a toilet is running constantly, it’s going to cost you money – here’s how to easily fix that constantly-running toilet.

You should also peek under the basin of all the sinks in your home, just to make sure there aren’t any leaks. Got a leaky faucet? You should repair or replace any of those because the drip-drip-drip of water is also a drip-drip-drip of money; not to mention the terrible interplay between mold and home insurance.

12. Install LED or CFL light bulbs.

LED and CFL bulbs can save you a lot of money on energy use over the long haul, plus they have much longer lives than normal incandescent bulbs, making them well worth the upfront investment. Consider installing some in various places — especially in areas where the lights may be in use for long periods, like the living room or kitchen, or left on accidentally, like a back hallway or basement. CFL bulbs tend to be cheaper, but LED bulbs are usually preferable in terms of performance and have come down in cost quite a bit over the past few years.

13. Choose energy efficient appliances, even if you have to pay more up front.

Unless you were lucky enough to buy a fully-furnished home, you’ll likely have to do some appliance shopping. Focus on reliability and energy efficiency above all, even if that seriously increases the cost you have to pay up front. A refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts 20 years is far, far cheaper over the long run than a fridge that runs for seven years and guzzles electricity. If you plan ahead, you can buy it with a credit card that offers a big sign-up bonus. You’ll pay the balance off immediately and walk away with hundreds in cash or travel rewards.

14. Set up your home electronics with a SmartStrip or two.

Looking forward to getting your television, cable box, DVD player, sound system, and video game console set up? When you do it, set things up with proper surge protection (to shield your equipment from electric surges). You might also want to consider a SmartStrip, which makes it easy to “unplug” devices that aren’t in use.

SmartStrip allows the on-off status of one device — say, the television — to control whether or not there’s power flowing to other devices (say, the DVD player or the video game console). Having the power cut automatically from such auxiliary devices can save a lot of money over time, especially since many such devices eat quite a bit of power as they sit there in standby mode, constantly draining your money.

15. Plant shade trees near your house.

Mother nature can help you save significantly on your summer cooling costs — and heating costs in winter, too.

Plant deciduous trees — the kind that lose their leaves in the fall — on the western and eastern sides of your house. The leafy shade trees will naturally cool your home during the hot summer months by reducing the amount of direct sunlight that hits your house.

In the winter, they’ll lose their leaves, allowing that same sunlight to stream through your windows and heat up the home a bit more. And if you plant evergreens on the north and northwest sides of your home, they won’t affect the sunlight, but will shield your home from cold winter winds.

As an added benefit, mature trees can increase your property value. Just make sure to plant them a safe distance from power lines and your home itself (no one wants a downed limb poking through their roof). Plant them now, and they’ll grow and shade your house sooner.

16. Change the locks and make spare keys.

One of the first things many homeowners do is change the locks on their new home. You don’t need to be particularly handy to install new door hardware, and a set of basic doorknobs and locks for your front and back door will only set you back $20-$80 or so. It may seem unnecessary, but there’s no way to know whether there are copies of your old key floating around, and who might have them if so. Investing a bit of money and time today can protect you from burglary down the road.

While you’re at it, get an extra copy of your key made and leave it with someone you trust, so you don’t have to shell out $100 to a locksmith when you inevitably lock yourself out.

17. Air-seal your home.

This isn’t such a problem in new homes, some of which are built tight as drums, but in older homes, it’s important to look for any places where air may be leaking directly into or out of your home. Common trouble spots are around doorways, windows, and even electric outlets.

These aren’t just air leaks – they’re money leaks. Thankfully, fixing small air leaks is pretty easy – here’s a great Department of Energy guide to caulking and weatherstripping, which will keep such air leaks from sucking the heat – and money – out of your home.

18. Take advantage of tax benefits and other incentives.

The energy tax credit, which was set to expire in 2014, was renewed at the last minute in December. That means homeowners who made energy-based improvements to their homes last year were eligible to receive a tax credit for 10% of the cost, up to $500 lifetime. Whether this popular credit is renewed for another year, however, is anyone’s guess. A whopping 30% tax credit toward the cost of solar energy systems, residential wind turbines, and geothermal heat pumps is in effect through 2016.

Your state or city may offer even more benefits, from no-interest loans to rebates, so do some research when you invest money improving the efficiency of your home — you may save even more money than you expected.

Many states and local utility companies also provide home energy audits for free or at a discount. Someone will thoroughly inspect your home to find where you’re wasting energy. They’ll look for air leaks and uninsulated pipes, test the efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment, and even replace any older incandescent light bulbs for free.

19. Develop a home maintenance checklist, and run through it for the first time.

One final tip: Create a home maintenance checklist. This list should include regular home maintenance tasks that you’d want to do on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Then, make it a habit to run through the items on this list every so often. Doing so will extend the life of almost everything in your home, saving you buckets of money over time.

Easter Dirt Cake

dirt cake Easter

Easter Dirt Cake

Everyone loves dirt cake so why not put an Easter spin on this delicious treat! With no baking involved it’s a great recipe to whip up with your little ones! You can’t go wrong with Oreo cookies, pudding, and cool whip. You can add whatever you want to the top, Peeps, jelly beans, edible grass, etc.

For the carrots, you can whip up some vanilla frosting, then add food coloring to get the orange. Next, put it in a plastic bag and clip the corner off. Squeeze little orange blobs on some wax paper and put them in the freezer for 10 min. until they are set. Use a tooth pick to poke a hole in the top so you can add a few pieces of edible grass. (You should be able to find edible grass in the Easter candy aisle at places like Target & Walmart.)

Easter Dirt Cake
Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of Oreo cookies
  • 1 package 8oz of cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup soft butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 instant chocolate pudding 3.4 oz (you can use vanilla if you want)
  • 1 container 12 oz cool whip, thawed
  • peeps, edible Easter grass, 1 container of vanilla frosting (or homemade)
  • food coloring
Instructions:
  1. crush the cookies, I used a food processor
  2. in large bowl mix cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy
  3. in another bowl, whisk milk and pudding until thick
  4. add pudding mixture into cream cheese mixture and mix until combined
  5. fold in cool whip until well blended
  6. add filling into 9×13 dish
  7. top with crushed Oreos
  8. decorate

We hope your family has a wonder Easter holiday and as always if you have any mortgage questions contact us today! 662.890.3000 • http://www.desotohome.com

(Credit to The Semisweet Sisters)

 

Quick & Easy Shamrock Treats

This year instead of store bought St. Patrick’s day treats, save some green with these super cheap and easy recipes!

Shamrock Pretzel Pops

shamrock pretzels
SHOPPING LIST:
• Bag of Mini Pretzels
• Wilton Green Candy Melts
• Confetti Sprinkles
• Lollipop Sticks
• Wax Paper

STEP 1.  After you gather all the ingredients, take the candy melts and place them in a microwave-safe dish. Melt according to package guidelines. I added about 1/4 a teaspoon of shortening (just a tad!) to help the candy soften. I melted about half the bag for about 1 minute and 30 seconds, checking on it every 30 seconds to mix.

STEP 2.  Dip each pretzel into the green chocolate with small tongs or fork. You can cover the pretzels completely or let the access chocolate drip off. My pretzels were getting a bit drenched, but they made for even tastier treats!pretzels

STEP 3.  Arrange the pretzels into the shape of a shamrock on wax paper. You’ll need three pretzels for each shamrock, making sure all the pretzels touch — this will help them adhere as the chocolate dries. Place your stick on top of the pretzels and drizzle with more chocolate to seal. Let set for several minutes and decorate with colorful sprinkles.

wax paper.png

 

Shamrock Punch Recipe

shamrock punch

This is the perfect addition to your St. Patrick’s Day theme party! Plus, this would also be fun to serve to your kids on St. Patrick’s Day! This recipe only calls for 2 ingredients which makes it super simple to prepare (and also really cheap)!

SHOPPING LIST:
1 Carton of Lime Sherbet
1 2 Liter of Ginger ale

DIRECTIONS: 
Place lime sherbet either in a punch bowl or glass, top with Ginger ale and then allow it to melt slightly before serving!

We hope your family enjoys making sweet memories this St. Patty’s Day! As always, if you have any questions about purchasing or refinancing a home, contact us today! 662.890.3000 • http://www.desotohome.com