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Summer Home Maintenance Tips
Summer may not officially be here yet, but triple digit temperatures are in the North Texas forecast already! We’ve compiled some tips to your home get through a long, hot summer without losing your cool.
First thing first, tune up your air conditioner. A few simple maintenance items can help prevent a steamy home on the hottest days of summer! These tips are no replacement for professional maintenance, of course, but could help keep your unit cooling if your favorite service company’s schedule is already booking up. Remember to completely shut off the power to your system before opening any portion of the unit!
Change your filter. One of the most common causes of poor cooling is also one of the simplest to resolve. Filters should be changed twice per year at a minimum, preferably as the weather changes. Consumer Reports recommends checking filters monthly and replace as needed. Locate your return air duct (this will look like a larger vent and is usually located on a wall or ceiling. Make note of the filter size and head to your local home improvement store (many grocery stores carry filters as well). Select a filter of the same size, though avoid the thicker “purifying” filters. According to HVAC technicians, these filters restrict air flow, which can lead to inefficient cooling. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to insert the new filter, if you’ve not done this before. Note that some air conditioners, like window units, have reusable filters that will need to be cleaned instead of changed. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions before applying water or any cleaning products. There should be plenty of air circulation near the return vent, so avoid blocking this with furniture, drapery, etc.
Check for drainage issues. As your air conditioner cools, condensation is formed and will normally drain away from the unit through a pipe that either leads to an exterior exit or connects to your main plumbing system. Over time, dust, mold, and other debris can build up and clog the drain pipe, leading to a puddle of water in the drain pan. By current codes, the air conditioners have a second drain pan for overflows, to help catch water if and when the first drain fails. Most of the time this second drain is a PVC pipe leading to an exterior wall located somewhere near the outdoor condenser unit. If you see water dripping from a PVC pipe in this area, it is time to call in a technician for service. Likewise, if you see water building up in either drain pan, it’s probably time for a service call.
Flush the drain lines. If there are no drips coming from the exterior drain, this simple step can help prevent them. Every year before the cooling season begins, you can clean out the drain line. Turn off the unit and locate your indoor unit and drain pans (often in the attic or a utility closet). The access point to your drain line will usually be a PVC pipe near the unit with a cap on top. Pour bleach, distilled vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide (choose one, DO NOT MIX) and let it sit for about 30 minutes, and then flush the pipe with water. You may do this regularly during the cooling season as well. Fully clogged lines usually require a service call.
Clean and clear the condenser unit. Trim landscaping back from the outdoor condenser unit to allow for proper air flow. (Consumer Reports recommends at least 2 feet of clearance.) Turn the unit off first before touching the condenser. Use a brush or shop vac to remove any leaves or dirt that have built up on the unit. If there is a great deal of debris built up inside, you can unscrew the fan grill and vacuum that area out as well, but only do this if you feel confident. Leave it to a professional if you are unsure how to open or close the fan grill. Then use a regular garden hose to gently spray the condenser from the inside out (never use a power washer or high-pressure spray setting). Gently straighten out bent fins with a dull knife for fin-straightener tool. Water will be enough most of the time, however, air conditioning condenser spray can also be found in home improvement stores, if needed.
Check and insulate lines. Chances are this was done for you when the system was installed. If it wasn’t, or if the insulation is old and deteriorating, foam pipe sleeves are sold at home improvement stores and can be quickly installed to help maintain temperatures and reduce damage to outdoor lines. Inspecting the insulation should be part of your annual pre-season maintenance. If the air inside quits cooling, check these lines for frost before calling out a tech. Simply letting the system rest for a few minutes might be all that’s needed to resolve frozen lines, but recurring freezes in hot weather usually mean it’s time for a professional.
Make a check-up appointment. As we mentioned, DIY maintenance does not replace a professional checkup, it just helps prolong your system in between. In addition to inspecting the system for signs of wear and tear that could lead to a cooling failure, service techs can check and top off coolant levels and locate leaks.
Test your sprinkler system and inspect hoses and soaker hoses for leaks. You’ll need to keep your yard quenched to make it through summer alive. Using soaker hoses regularly around the perimeter of your home also helps prevent foundation shifting. The key is to keep moisture levels consistent in hot summer weather. Replacing broken sprinkler heads is an easy DIY repair. For zones that do not come on or underground leaks, however, a professional is probably necessary. Cracked or leaking hoses should be replaced so that your water ends up where you intended. Once everything is in working condition, set sprinklers on auto, based on your area’s watering restrictions.
Eliminate standing water pools. Check your yard thoroughly after running the sprinklers or after a rain shower and see if water is collecting anywhere. Standing water is the ideal breeding ground for mosquitos and smelly algae. Puddles close to the foundation of your home also can cause shifting, due to inconsistent moisture levels in the ground. If the puddles are happening on the lawn, fill in the low spots with soil and either place sod on top or plant grass seed. If it occurs in decorative planters, toys, etc. you’ll need to adjust the position or add drainage holes to allow water to flow through.
Refresh wood surfaces. Inspect decks, fences, and other wooden structures outside of your home for wear and tear. Use a wood cleaning product to clean off mold and mildew stains, and then replace broken or rotting wood pieces. Sand and stain or seal these surfaces to prevent water penetration that can deteriorate the wood over time. This routine maintenance is ideal for early summer, before the temperatures get too hot, and when rain chances are lower. Check wood surfaces every year. The same goes for exterior paint and caulk projects!
Clean gutters. Dirty gutters can clog on rainy days, leading to standing water pools that attract bugs. Take some time to clear the debris out before fall, when more leaves will make their way into gutters and make any small problems worse.
Clean up your landscape. During the spring, existing shrubs and trees will grow significantly. Summer is a good time to trim those back down to size. Switch out cool weather plants that are starting to die out with sun-loving plants that don’t need much water. www.txsmartscape.com is a great resource for plants that thrive in our native environment and weather conditions. Not only will they look pretty all season long, draught tolerant plants can help save money on your water bill. As a bonus, some of these plants can be natural bug repellants. Add a thick layer of mulch to help lock in moisture in the soil, and to prevent weeds. Cedar mulch products can even help repel pests!
Deep clean your patio and grill. Warmer weather draws people outside. Start by moving all of the small items elsewhere, temporarily, and sweep up leaves and debris. Give the surfaces a good spray with a high-pressure hose setting. Brush or wipe off the smaller items and furniture pieces and then return them to your porch. For grills, empty ashes and any other stuff into the trash. Clean with a grill cleaner or oven cleaner that’s labeled for use on grills, according to the label directions. Avoid using wire brushes, as the bristles have been known to break off and end up in food. Instead use a sturdy scrubbing sponge. Rinse the grill grates thoroughly and allow to dry.
If you have a pool, be sure to test the water and inspect the surfaces before the first use. Ensure that the water has the correct pH balance for safety and comfort. Proper pH will help lengthen the life of pool equipment, ladders, and liners as well. Check the tiles, liners, light covers, ladders, and diving boards for damage prior to using and test the pool filtration system. Make sure all screws and bolts are in place and properly secured. Clean out skimmers and baskets regularly to help prevent blockages. Contact a pool professional for assistance if you are not familiar with any of these maintenance items or repairs. Inspect all safety equipment prior to the first use as well and replace any that are worn or damaged. If young children frequent your home, consider adding a safety fence with a lock around the perimeter of the pool, and a surface safety alarm. Be sure to lock your fence gates to prevent accidents, regardless of who lives in your home.
A few simple steps can help keep your home comfortable for the summer ahead. After all, summer should be a time to relax and enjoy!
As always, if you’re looking to upgrade, downsize, or find a home with a pool this summer, GroupWatson is here to help.
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Christy grew up in West Texas and is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in Family Studies. She and her family have been residents of The Colony, TX for 3 years and are very....