FAQs House Maintenance
How often should I change batteries on my smoke detectors?
It has long been recommended that we change our batteries in our smoke detectors twice a year, once each time we change our clocks. If you have the new hard wired smoke detectors (ones that are connected to your home’s electric) you could probably do this just once a year because they don’t use the batteries to stay alert all day like they used to. Remember it’s not a good idea to wait until the smoke detectors “tell you they need changed” it doesn’t leave much battery to “scream” when its necessary. You might also want to check out the new line of detectors that have batteries guaranteed to go 10 years. By the way, all smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years. They do have a lifetime limit.
What are CO detectors? Should I buy one?
CO detectors are used to detect high levels of carbon monoxide, which is a noxious gas that is the natural byproduct of gas burning appliances and engines. Any house that has any gas appliance or attached garage should have at least one on the bedroom level of the house. You might not know this but they are required now as part of most building or electric codes. That’s a good thing but not very well know just yet.
What’s the difference in furnace filters?
Furnace filters not only vary in size and thickness (determined at the time of installation) but also by what they are made of and the measured efficiency. The inexpensive fiberglass filter (less than $5 ea.) are marginally effective and will only filter the largest of dust particles and pet hair, etc. Better filters (in the $5-10 range) will begin to do a better job of dust and dander control and begin to collect some allergens and smaller particulate matter. The best filters ($10 and up for a 1” or thicker) do a very good job of collecting some of the smallest particulate matter, allergens, mold spores. Again, you get what you pay for when it comes to cost versus value. If you or your family has any respiratory issues it pays to invest in better filtration and make sure you change them as often as recommended. No filter lasts indefinitely and prolonging replacement can actually decrease furnace and air conditioning efficiency and lead to premature equipment failure. Two ways efficiency of filters is measured is by MERV ratings and by particulate size captured. MERV ratings start in the low single digits (ie: 6-8) for lower end filters and top out in the teens (16 or perhaps higher) for very efficient filters. Particulate sizing of filters is in microns and the higher the number, the more efficient filter (ie: 1,600) you are selecting.
Is there a really good gutter screen?
Lots of late night ads and direct mail pieces tout the effectiveness of all sort of different brands of screens. Of course, there are all different price levels as well including do-it-yourself and professionally installed whole house systems. Bottom line is that there are some good choices but at a price. Do your research as this is an easy consumer item to be taken advantage of to some degree. If you are in an area with small debris coming off trees like pine needles or locust leaves don’t assume that the gutter screens will be maintenance free. Another consideration is that all these systems tend to shed high velocity water such as what you will get in a heavy rain or thunderstorm. That can lead to water at the drip line finding its way over the gutter and onto the ground. This can lead to water management issues at grade as well as below grade with possible water making its way into crawlspaces or basements perhaps.
What are ice dams? Are they harmful? How can you stop them?
Anyone spending much time in a freeze thaw zone has undoubtedly seen icicles hanging off eaves and gutters of homes and commercial buildings. They are formed by repeated thawing and freezing of snow that accumulates on the roof above the drip zone. Another potential phenomenon may be occurring in this same area . As this meltwater (due to the sun and/or heat escaping from the building) runs towards the eave, it may meet a non-melted portion of the roof eave that is simply cooler than the area directly over the building This snow and ice actually creates a wall or barrier to melt water trying to move downslope via gravity. As it hits this “dam”, the water can build up, actually ponding upslope and may eventually find its way in-between and behind the shingles. Guess what is next? It’ shows up in the walls and ceiling inside the structure. Not all houses have this potential problem and there are some very effective ways to counteract this happening. Building pros know just how to head this nasty intruder off well ahead of water seeping into your home. There are some effective ways to mitigate this on existing roofs but the best solution is to use full barrier membranes at eaves and valleys. It is especially critical at the eaves that these membranes come down over the fascia and are installed continuously behind the fascia and/or gutter.
Can you power wash roof shingles?
Power washing shingles to renew their look has been more in the news lately as granular roofing projects have had formulation changes that seem to support algae growth and becomes stained and dirty more quickly than older shingle formulations/substrates. While professional cleaning is available and can often be a good option, this is something that is best left to the pros.
Being overzealous with a pressure washer, using the wrong detergents or being unfamiliar with roof safety can all yield disastrous results. If looking up there has you dismayed, look up a roof cleaning professional or call your builder/remodeler for his/her recommendation.