Ah, springtime is finally in the air! Temperatures are on the rise. You probably thinking of doing some spring cleaning as a result of the change in seasons. If you are, though, there are some higher priority things you should do first.
Now that the weather is really starting to warm up, you will be running your air conditioner soon so it’s time to start making sure it’s working properly.
If your air conditioner isn’t running efficiently, it can push your energy costs sky high this summer. Calgarians were spending anywhere from about $1,200 to more than $2,000 annually in 2013 on electricity costs — and you can bet that a fairly significant chunk of that was spent on keeping your home cool.
That’s not all you should be thinking about. Your septic system is important too, because Calgary tends to get a lot of water run-off from the Rockies during the spring. That can cause flooding, and if the lessons from 2013 have been learned, you’ll want to be prepared for any eventuality so your home doesn’t get damaged.
So make sure that your sump pumps and backwater valves are working properly, and, while you’re at it, you should check the main drain line from your home to the sewer (also called a cleanout) — something that should be looked at every few years.
If you don’t have any idea where to begin, this article will give you essential home maintenance tips for spring you need to do to make sure your house is in tip-top shape.
1. Clean or Replace Your Furnace Filter
Your furnace filter plays a vital role in your home, winter AND summer. Not only does it keep unwanted pollen and debris from getting into your furnace and air conditioning system, the filter keeps it from working overtime. This cuts down on your energy bill — cleaning and replacing your furnace filter regularly means you can save five to 15 percent on your heating and cooling costs.
How do you clean or replace your furnace filter? The filter will be near the intake-outtake blower. Turn your system off, pull it out, and check it for dust. If you have to replace the filter, note what size it takes, leave the old one out for the garbage man and buy a new one.
If you can clean the filter, wash away the dust particles in a sink or your driveway with a hose. Let it dry and put it back.
When you’re done installing the filter, turn your system back on.
2. Make Sure Your Sump Pump Is Working Properly
If you have one, you should ensure your sump pump is doing its job before all of the snow has left the ground. A sump pump takes water from the ground below your basement and pumps it away to prevent flooding. You can learn how it works in the FAQ section here.
If you have an automatic sump pump, and most sump pumps are these days, do the following things:
- Look at the outside pipe where water drains away from the pump. Check the insides of the pipe to make sure there isn’t any debris or dirt clogging the drain. If there is, remove it.
- Find the sump pump in your basement. Take the electrical cords connected to the pump out of your outlet, pull them both apart and put the cord that plugs directly into sump pump into the outlet. The pump should run and you should hear it. Plug everything back as it was.
- Take the lid off of the sump pit. Pour some water from a bucket into the pit. The sump pump switch should automatically turn on and the pump should slowly drain the water out before turning off. Pour the rest of the water in to make sure the pump turns on again.
- If the sump pump fails either step 2 or 3, replace it.
If you don’t have a sump pump, it’s wise to buy one in most areas of Calgary. It’s a good investment that can save you thousands of dollars in flood damage repair costs.
3. Check to See That Your Backwater Valve Works
A backwater valve is a stopper that closes and makes sure that the sludge in the city’s sewers (ew!) can’t backflow into your home through the sewer line.
You can check on the backwater valve yourself, but if you’re not sure about its condition or just aren’t comfortable doing this, you can call Knight Plumbing to inspect it.
If you do the job yourself, first be sure to check your manufacturer’s recommendations around maintenance. You might also want to run some soapy water down one of your sinks to make sure the pipes are clean!
Then, while wearing rubber gloves, remove the cover to see if there’s any debris clogging the valve. Make sure all moving parts actually work. If you need to clean the valve, use a long-handled brush to do your scrubbing.
Check the O-ring around the lid to make sure it hasn’t deteriorated. If it has, replace it to make sure you have a proper seal. Look at the floats on each side of the flap, too, and, again, replace them if you need to. If they’re worn, they won’t be able to lift the flap during flooding.
4. Examine Your Home’s Foundation
Checking your foundation is really important to make sure you don’t have damage to your home, and to prevent water from seeping into your basement causing further problems.
While you’re looking at the foundation, which you should do every few days to see if there are any signs of flooding, you should also check on the following related things:
- Have a look at the interior and exterior walls of your home for holes and cracks. Also look for signs of water leakage on the walls and floors of your basement. See if you can find soft areas on your basement walls or carpet. This is a sign of leakage.
- Sweep away leaves and debris from your gutters to allow water to flow away from the home. Ensure that the gutters aren’t loose or leaking water.
- Check that the downspouts are working so water is carried away from your foundation.
- Make sure the grade of your lawn slopes away from your foundation. If there are low sections of your yard where water can pool, fill them in with compacted soil, too. (It will also help to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in these areas, which will stop the spread of the West Nile and Zika viruses.)
- Look at any concrete slabs in your basement, walkways, pool decks, patios and elsewhere and see if they can move, or have shifted or cracked.
- If you smell something strange in your home and there’s mould or mildew growth, you’ll want to call a waterproofing specialist as soon as you can. You probably have a wet basement or crawlspace.
- You should also look at the chimney for any damage. If your chimney is leaning to the side, you’ll have a clear sign that your foundation is failing.
If you find any sloping floors, cracks in your walls, or walls that bow, you’ll need to contact experts who can fix building foundations. Ignoring these things could allow water damage to occur in your basement, which — not to scare you — can be costly to repair.
5. Ensure That the Rest of Your Home Isn’t Damaged
There are other things you can check on, too, to make sure your home is in great shape for the spring. For instance, look at the roof with a pair of binoculars or through a camera lens to see if there are any missing or worn shingles. If your shingles buckle or are cracked, you’ll have to replace them to keep the wood from rotting inside the house.
Inside your home, use a flashlight and look at exposed framing. If you see any “tunnels” in the wood, you’ll have insects that need to be dealt with. Look in your attic, too, to make sure rodents and insects haven’t moved in.
6. See If You Have Any Indoor Plumbing Leaks
Check your faucets for leaks, and that your drains aren’t clogged. Look under all of your sinks to be sure that your pipes and hoses are well sealed. Determine if the area around your dishwasher is damp, which could suggest problems. Also look at your washing machine hoses for any cracks or dampness.
Your water heater needs to be checked for leaks and signs of corrosion, as well.
Check your windows, too. Examine the caulking and weather stripping around your windows, and be sure that everything is properly in place. This will help keep cool air inside this summer, and help you save energy on your cooling costs.
7. Maintain Your Air Conditioning System
With summer being just around the corner, another task to get your home ready for spring is to check on the state of your air conditioner.
The time to make your check and do your cleaning is just before the temperature really gets cookin’ but before you turn the A/C on.
The key thing is to take away the cover, and ensure the air conditioner grille isn’t covered in leaves or other debris from winter. There should be about 2 feet of clear space around the air conditioner – if there are branches in the way, prune them back.
You may want to consider giving your air conditioner a tune-up from a professional, as well. This can help you save more money in the future because it will help your A/C last longer and run more efficiently.
A tune-up saves you money on maintenance rather than paying for more expensive emergency repairs. Problems will be found and fixed well before a breakdown happens. Regular maintenance can even prevent water damage in your home from a drainage system that may be blocked.
If you’re thinking about a tune-up, contact Knight Plumbing today. We’ll be happy to assist you with all of your cooling maintenance needs.