Save Money with DIY HVAC Care

Being a homeowner requires a fair amount of maintenance to keep your home in tip-top shape. And one of the most important systems in your house is the HVAC, the heating and cooling system that keeps your home warm in winter and cool in summer. While there are certain times you should use a professional to help with upkeep for your HVAC system, there are also many easy tasks you can manage yourself, helping to save a few bucks and keeping your system running for years to come.

Clean Out Debris

According to DIY Network, regular care of your HVAC system will save you money and energy as well as extend the lifespan of the equipment itself. Whole home air conditioning units located outside your house can collect dust and debris. In order to safely clean out the unit, first be sure to shut off the power using your breaker box. Then use a screwdriver to lift off the fan cage and remove any leaves, mulch or other debris that has accumulated inside the unit. You can also use a hose to rinse off the exterior, but be sure to hose from the inside out. To prevent excess debris, make sure to regularly keep bushes and trees near the unit trimmed.

Replace Your Air Filter

Another important task any homeowner can do to both keep the HVAC running smoothly and improve the quality of air in your home is to regularly change the air filter. The EPA advises that you change your filter every 60-90 days, but if you have pets or smoke, it’s better to change your filter every 30 days. Keep in mind the quality and size of filter is important. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, MERV, is based on a national consensus standard and should be used to choose the best air filter. The higher the rating, the more contaminants are being filtered. Most HVACs can support a MERV of 7-12, but it’s best to research your system to find the correct size and highest-rated filter that can be used without restricting the airflow.

Failing to routinely change your air filter can also cause your health to suffer. A dirty air filter can trigger and worsen allergy issues from pollen, dirt and mold. When the air filter is dirty, all the particles that were previously trapped in the filter can now start to circulate through the home. Because most people spend a larger amount of time indoors as opposed to outdoors, exposure is higher and the quality of indoor air is especially important to consider.

When to Call the Professionals

Just as important as knowing DIY tips, it’s equally important to know when it’s time to call in the professionals. If you find your HVAC system unable to properly heat or cool your home, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the problem yourself. First check to see if there is power or if a breaker has flipped. If there is power to the unit, make sure that all debris is clear inside and around the outside of your unit. If you run through these tasks and it still doesn’t work, then it may be time to call in the professionals.

While some issues with your HVAC may be out of your area of expertise, frequent and routine cleaning is easy and encouraged to maintain the life of your system. Air filters are inexpensive, and they are easy to purchase and install yourself. Proper care and cleaning will result in money saved, lower energy usage, and cleaner air circulating throughout your home.

Photo credit: pixabay.com

Get Greater Joy From Your Home! The Real Impact of your Remodeling Dollars

Remodeling Impact 2017

Homeowners and renters remodel, redesign, and restructure their home for a variety of reasons. This report takes a deep dive into the reasons for remodeling, the success of taking on projects, and the increased happiness found in the home once a project is completed.


The 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, the second of its kind from NAR, surveyed Realtors®, consumers who have completed remodeling projects, and members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Here’s what’s in this report:

→ The typical cost of 20 remodeling and replacement projects, as estimated by members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
→ How much appeal each project is likely to have for buyers, according to REALTORS®.
→ How much REALTORS® estimate that homeowners can recover on the cost of the projects if they sell the home.

Homeowners who take on remodeling projects gain not only equity and more resale value in their home, they are also more likely to find satisfaction and enjoyment from their home, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®, with insights from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Read the report here : www.nar.realtor/reports/remodeling-impact


What does the report say?

Homeowners Who Remodel Gain Equity and Enjoyment

The report reveals the top remodeling projects, as well as well as the increased value – both financially and emotionally – that specific projects bring to homeowners once completed. After completing a remodeling project, 75 percent of owners have a greater desire to be in their home, 65 percent say they have increased enjoyment in their home, and 77 percent feel a major sense of accomplishment when thinking of their completed project. Fifty-six percent felt happy when they see their completed projects, and 39 percent say they feel satisfied.

“Realtors® understand which remodeling projects and home upgrades will bring the most value to homeowners, whether they are remodeling with the hope of impressing potential buyers, bringing in higher offers or gaining more equity in the home,” said NAR President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California and founder of Investment Properties. “Realtors® also understand that many of these projects are undertaken solely to get more enjoyment from spending time at home. No matter the objectives, Realtors® have unique and invaluable insights into how renovations and remodeling will bring the most benefit to homeowners.”

Interior projects. For owners looking to sell their home, Realtors® named complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, bathroom renovations and new wood flooring as the interior projects that most appeal to potential buyers. When asked which interior projects yield the largest financial return upon resale, Realtors® named:

♦ Hardwood floor refinishing (recovers 100 percent of project costs upon resale)
♦ New wood flooring (91 percent of costs recovered)
♦ Insulation upgrades (76 percent of costs recovered)
♦ Bathroom renovations and adding a new bathroom yielded the smallest financial return upon resale, recouping approximately 50 percent of project costs.

Exterior projects. When it comes to exterior projects, Realtors® said new roofing will recover 109 percent of costs upon resale, more than any other project in the report. New roofing was also named the exterior project that most appeals to buyers, followed by new vinyl windows, a new garage door and new vinyl siding.

Brown also reminds consumers that exterior projects are just as, if not more, important than interior projects when it comes time to sell. “A home’s exterior is its first impression to potential buyers, so any project that improves curb appeal will yield plenty of bang for the buck,” he said.

Satisfaction from projects. When it comes to the enjoyment homeowners get from projects, several projects received a perfect Joy Score of 10; Joy Scores range from 1 and 10, and higher figures indicate greater joy from the project. Projects with a perfect Joy Score of 10 included both interior and exterior project of all price ranges, such as a new master/owner’s suite, with an estimated cost of $125,000 for a fully makeover, and new steel front doors, with an estimated cost of $2,000.

While Americans spent $340 billion on home remodeling in 20151, many homeowners find the idea of attempting a remodeling project too overwhelming to take on. Thirty-five percent of homeowners in the U.S. said they would rather move than remodel their current home. Owners in urban areas are the least likely to take on a project, with only 52 percent saying they would be willing to remodel their home, compared to 55 percent in suburban areas and 70 percent for owners in rural areas.

“Even though a remodeling project may seem overwhelming at the onset, working with a professional, qualified remodeler who has the required experience and training can make a big difference,” said Tom Miller, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “This year’s report confirms how remodeling can increase home value and day-to-day enjoyment. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to work with a contractor you can trust who adheres to a strict code of ethics and can help define a realistic budget. Get the project done right with a NARI member contractor.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry is the medium for business development, a platform for advocacy and the principal source for industry intelligence. NAR connects homeowners with its professional members and provides tips and tricks so that the consumer has the positive experience of remodeling done right.

1 Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University 2017 Remodeling Report


 

Caulk the toilet base? Yes!

Toilets are a divisive topic, but today I’ll be setting the record straight once and for all on three important toilet topics. First, the toilet paper roll: overhand or underhand? There’s only one right answer, of course, and it’s overhand. There’s no point in even discussing this one.

Toilet seat: up or down? Wrong question! It’s not about the seat. It’s about the lid. The lid is there for a reason. Put it down. Ladies, you’re guilty of this too. I’ve been in countless female-only homes where I found the lid up at every toilet. I document every one of them in my toilet lid journal.

And now, onto the most divisive topic. Unlike the first two, this one is real, and it actually gets a fair amount of discussion. Should toilets be caulked at the floor? The answer is yes.

Toilets should be caulked at the floor

As standard procedure for every home inspection that I perform, I check the toilets to make sure they’re properly anchored to the floor. Almost every time I find a toilet that’s loose, I also find missing caulk at the base of the toilet. The two go hand-in-hand.

When I find a loose toilet, I tell my client to properly secure the toilet to the floor and to caulk around the base of the toilet, but I frequently get clients that tell me they’ve heard otherwise.

The thought process behind not caulking a toilet to the floor is that if the toilet leaks at the floor, you’ll quickly find out about the leak as long as the toilet isn’t caulked. If it is caulked, the thinking is that if the toilet flange leaks, you’ll end up trapping water between the toilet base and the floor in an area that you can’t access.

In reality, toilets rarely leak onto the floor. More often, they leak through the floor around the flange. I’ve found plenty of toilets that leak down into the basement, but very few that leak onto the bathroom floor.

Why caulked?

There are two great reasons to caulk a toilet to the floor:

  • Caulk prevents a fouling area. If mop water, bathtub water, or a less pleasant “bathroom liquid” gets underneath the toilet, there is no way to clean it up. Caulking around the base of the toilet will prevent this from happening.
  • Caulk helps to keep the toilet secured to the floor. The bolts are really supposed to keep the toilet secure, but caulk helps. As I mentioned before, toilets that are caulked at the floor are rarely loose. Caulk does such a good job of keeping toilets secured to the floor that you could probably rely on caulk alone to keep a toilet secured… not that I would try this.

Besides these two great reasons, it’s also a code requirement. The Minnesota State Plumbing Code says, under section 402.2, “Where a fixture comes in contact with the wall or floor, the joint between the fixture and the wall or floor shall be made watertight.” For areas of the country where the IRC has been adopted, you’ll find nearly identical language under section P2705.1.3: “Where fixtures come in contact with walls and floors, the contact area shall be watertight.”

Some people prefer to caulk all around the toilet and leave about a one-inch gap in the caulk at the back of the toilet to allow water to escape out in the event of a leak.  It’s already tough enough to caulk behind a toilet, so if this is what you want to do, God bless. Just don’t go crazy with the caulk.


Reuben Saltzman is a second generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben has worked for Structure Tech Home Inspections since 1997, and is now co-owner and President of the company. Reuben lives in Maple Grove, Minnesota with his wife and two children. Follow Reuben on Facebook. Click here to Subscribe to Reuben’s Home Inspection Blog.