12 Steps to a Safe, Cozy Home for a New Year
From smoke detectors to furnace filters, let January 1 be a reminder of some must-dos around the house
Houzz Contributor. I opened my remodeling company (http://innovateatlanta.com) in 2000, after I first discovered love for building as a child and worked summers and holidays for a builder in Boston. I've never had a real job in my life — and I love this one. I live in Roswell, Georgia with my wife and three kids.
Each season brings different challenges for your home's maintenance. Winter is typically the most stressful, so it's best to be prepared. Following these professional tips will help keep you safe from fire, water and carbon monoxide — and help you save energy and increase the comfort of your home.
2. Install carbon monoxide detectors. Place them near areas that use natural gas, such as the garage, furnace, chimney, gas fireplace, gas range and water heater. Most security system companies offer carbon monoxide detectors. They can also be hard wired into your home, meaning they connect to a constant power source. You can also install a battery-operated detector, like the one shown here. I make sure to place a detector on each level of a home.
3. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. I recommend changing the batteries once a year, no matter what condition they're in. The building code in Atlanta requires all smoke detectors to be hard wired. It also states that all smoke detectors in a house must be tied together, so that if one goes off they all will sound the alarm. I recommend having these tied into your security system as well.
4. Install an attic door blanket. Attic stair openings are a main source of heat loss in the winter. There are many versions of this product, but I like this one because it has a radiant heat shield that deters heat from entering the home during the summer and prevents heat from escaping during the winter. It has an easy-to-use zipper.
5. Adjust your water heater temperature. Here's a really simple way to save energy: Adjust the knob on the face of the water heater to a lower setting. Of course, if your water temperature is not as hot as you would like it, simply turn it up a few notches.
Warning: The gauge allows you to make your water scalding hot. If you have young children or elderly people living with you, please keep it on a lower setting.
6. Replace your furnace filter. Change out your filter every two months. This will give you better air quality. A dirty filter will cause your furnace to work harder and shorten its lifespan. A furnace will actually shut down if the filter is too dirty.
Tip: Write the filter size on the front of your furnace. This will give all of you procrastinators one less excuse to buy new filters. Yes, I know this from experience.
Tip: Keep fighting the procrastinator within by purchasing filters in bulk and leaving them next to your furnace.
Warning: Keep these filters a safe distance from anything combustible.
7. Install a pan under your washing machine. A leaking washing machine can be catastrophic to your home. Pans for underneath the machine are available at home repair stores or online. They have a spot in the back where a drain pipe can be connected. Run this drain to the exterior of your home.
Warning: Do not attach the drain to your home's plumbing. Installing it improperly can cause sewer gas to enter your home.
8. Install metal braided hoses to your washing machine. These hoses are much less apt to burst or leak than the traditional rubber hoses.
9. Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause myriad problems, including rotten exterior wood and leaks to the interior. Clogged gutters also cause water to spill over the top, leading to flooding and erosion. You can eliminate the need for gutter cleaning entirely by using a gutter cover.
10. Change your spotlights. While you're up there cleaning gutters, take the opportunity to change the bulbs on exterior lights.
11. Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets. This will be necessary if you live in a climate that has freezing temperatures. If you leave standing water in the pipe, there's a chance it will freeze, which can cause the pipe to burst, potentially flooding your house.
Find the water shut-off valves for your faucets, and turn them off. The shut-offs are usually a short distance from your exterior faucets, most often in a basement. Remember: "righty tighty" to close them and "lefty loosey" to open them. After shutting them off, go outside and turn on the exterior faucet to remove any excess water.
12. Install a faucet cover. When the weather starts to warm up again, you can install an insulated faucet cover. This way, you won't have to shut the water off to the faucet entirely, but you will be safe if the temperature drops again.
Note: These covers won't work well if your region is constantly near or below freezing.
Faucet cover installation: Simply slip the ring over the spout, place the cover against the house, and pull on the cord. It takes less than 10 seconds and costs about $2.50.
Tell us: What do you do to prepare your home for the winter?
Ideabook updated on Dec. 26, 2012.
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