Archive for March 2016

Scheduling spring maintenance

Regular maintenance on your home will give you time to address small problems before they become big problems. Spring is a great time to check your house for any issues that the winter months revealed or worsened. You might even find surprises in areas of your property that you aren’t around much!

I think that a biannual maintenance is great for HVAC systems, but that’s not the only part of your house that needs attention once the weather turns warmer. Some customers don’t even want biannual maintenance, and we don’t force them! In addition to having your HVAC system looked at, here are some other great ways to make sure your house is in great shape this season.

Exterior

Walk around your property. Go slow! Take some time to look at corners, cracks, shingles, where your foundation meets your house, and anywhere else you can think of.

Roof: Look for shingles that have moved or are at odd angles. Those can indicate issues with your roof that could worsen or lead to water damage if not addressed.

Ground: Is there pooled water at your foundation? Your gutters may not be diverting runoff water well. Check to see if there are any foundation cracks, because those need to be fixed by a professional.

Walls: If you have brick walls, look for signs of water damage or cracking. For homes with wood siding, you’ll need to make sure all the siding is flush. Any gaps could allow access to pests.

Windows: Is your caulking or weather stripping in good shape? You could lose a lot of cool indoor air (and cash!) this summer if they aren’t. Now’s also a good time to clean your windows with a gentle cleaner.

Interior

Of course spring is a natural time to tackle cleaning projects that you don’t do very often. You might vacuum your upholstered furniture, deep-clean your carpet, dust your fan blades—removing dust and dirt will help you have a healthier spring.

There are places you’ll need to inspect inside, as well as outside, to make sure your home stays in good condition.

Attic: Look for mold and for signs of bugs or animals. Good ventilation in your attic will make it harder for mold to grow there.

Leaks: Check the connection on pipes and hoses in your kitchen, laundry room, bathrooms, and even your hot water heater. Make sure the connections are secure and the pipes aren’t leaking or collecting condensation.

Basement: If you have a basement, look at your concrete walls for cracks, and inspect any exposed wood for termite damage. Small damage will become a big problem if left unchecked!

Check regularly

Regular home maintenance checks are like check-ups at a doctor’s office, but for your house. As a homeowner, you want to know that things are in good condition— and if they aren’t, that you know who to call!

A check-up for your HVAC system should be done by a licensed professional. A lot of companies waste time trying to chase their customers to schedule biannual maintenance, or try to push clients into a contract they may not want.

We don’t like that model. Starting this year, we will be calling our clients to ask if they would like for us to come out and do maintenance on their system this spring. The weather needs to be warm enough to run the AC in order for us to do a proper maintenance visit.

We’re not trying to sell labor and materials by pushing maintenance, but we want to make sure we offer it to any of our customers who may want it.

And for those who don’t, at least change your air filters!! Your nose will thank you.

Licensed to skill

Don’t let an unlicensed professional take care of a professional job. And that includes someone who is licensed for a different skill set than the one you’re employing them for. Your carpenter may be excellent, but please don’t ask them to rewire your breaker box.

Recently, I’ve searched for “the best circuit breaker companies in Edmond” on a commonly-used website that connect homeowners with industry professionals. I got a list of 5-10 people, including: a handyman, a roofing repairman, a carpenter, and a fence repair company.

And one electrician.

Most of the websites that link homeowners to industry professionals are unreliable in this way and aren’t really in it for the benefit of the homeowners. While the people that my search pulled up might have been top-notch in their respective fields, most of them would not have the licensing to do electrical work.

What does that mean for you? Employing someone who isn’t licensed and insured (or is licensed and insured in a different industry area) is taking a big gamble with your family’s safety and with your checkbook.

With electrical issues particularly, the risk of fire in case of poorly-done work is extremely dangerous. Your house could literally burn down because of the work of someone who is willing to do work for $500 that a licensed professional would charge $5,000 for.

The liability is all on you as a homeowner if anything goes wrong in a project done by someone without a license.

If an uninsured handyman gets injured doing electrical work in your attic, you will be footing the bill for his workman’s comp.

If your house burns down because of the work of a carpenter re-wiring your home, your homeowners insurance will not cover the loss.

If your landlord hires someone who isn’t insured to do work on your office or apartment, and there’s a fire or injury, there will be a legal battle between your attorney and theirs that will probably cost a lot more than simply hiring someone who is licensed to do the work they are hired for.

I’ve found that Home Advisor and Thumbtack are currently not very reliable websites to use to search for professionals. Angie’s List is, and that’s the one I recommend.

When you are paying someone to do highly-skilled work on your home, do yourself a favor. Pick a professional company who will stand by their word and who can give you proof of their insurance. This will save you the time, money, and potentially life lost from hiring someone who is not a licensed professional.

Prescribing blood work for your house

Don’t worry—there’s nothing spooky or gross about what I’m about to tell you. You don’t need any blood on your house, unless that’s a new blood red paint color for your kitchen… in which case, more power to you.

No, this blood work for your house ties into what I’ve written elsewhere about our service fees. I talked some about how getting a home repair requires an investment of time and resources, just like going to the doctor for medicine or to a surgeon to replace a knee.

I’ve written about what our clients get in return for their service fee. But now I want to talk about why that initial visit is important.

Your doctor can’t write you a prescription based on you telling them what another doctor told you. That’s malpractice! Similarly, we don’t do work based on another professional’s assessment of your problem, even when we have a professional respect for them.

If you told your doctor that you had blood work done at another practice, what would your doctor do? Either ask for the results of that blood work, or schedule you to have blood work done at their own office.

It’s the same with us. We need to know what the problem is before we can suggest ways to fix it. Even if the problem in your house is already “diagnosed,” we still need to investigate to determine the best way to meet your needs.

If you are adding lighting to your living room, for example, you already know what you need, but we still need to have a conversation about expectations and budget. We’ll also give you a bid for the job before we leave. With us, that’s a quote for the whole project, not an hourly rate.

Then we can give you time to talk to your bank, spouse, or anyone else relevant to the decision before the project starts. We won’t charge you a second service fee to come out and do the project we’ve already given you a bid on.

The reason we charge a one-time service fee of $99, and then quote you for the whole job, is because we don’t want to waste your time or money. You shouldn’t have to worry if you’ll be paying hourly while a workman goes to the store and gets more supplies.

We think of our initial visit as a professional consultation, just like a doctor reviewing your blood work, and we give it the attention and time it deserves. Sound like a good fit? We’d be happy to start a conversation with you.

Time for spring planting

The weather is getting warmer, so it’s not to soon to start thinking about planting for summer harvest. The end of March is a great time to plant a variety of vegetable crops.

It’s always a good idea to check for any predicted late frosts. Of course, they could be completely unpredictable! But try to plant your crops outside after the last predicted frost.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s garden planner for Oklahoma City, here are all the vegetables you can start planting in March in our area.

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Don’t worry—if you have a busy month ahead of you, many of these vegetables can be planted in April as well. Most of these crops can be harvested in June and July if you plant them in March. Some of them, like leeks and broccoli, can even be planted again in August for a fall harvest.

The gardening section in The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s website is a great resource for this kind of information and more. There are growing guides for popular garden plants, a frost date calendar for our region, tips for dealing with pests, and even recipes.

The website has several articles full of gardening advice, as well. They recommend starting small if you are new to vegetable planting, and planting some of the easier crops for your first venture. If you’re really curious, you can sign up for a weekly newsletter to help keep you on track.

Lettuce, carrots, and beets are relatively easy to grow and can be started this month. And try planting marigolds around your vegetables to prevent hungry rabbits eating your crop! If you’re worried about a last-minute cold snap, consider mulching to protect the roots, or even covering your plants up on an unexpectedly chilly night.

Will you be starting a vegetable garden this spring?

Pricing your HVAC system

If you find yourself needing to replace your HVAC system, or even a part of it, you’ll probably want to do some research on relative pricing figures. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of helpful information on the internet about that.

First, let’s talk terms. Your HVAC system takes care of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. It makes sure the inside of your home is comfortable. Your HVAC system includes your air conditioner, sure, but also a lot more than that.

I recently looked up pricing estimates to see what kind of information is out there, and there was very little of it. Angie’s List and Home Advisor did report price ranges from $5,000 to $15,000, but those estimates are problematic for a couple of reasons.

First of all, how helpful is an estimate with a $10,000 range? A bank is going to be much more open to a $5,000 loan than a $15,000 one, and if it were me, I’d want to have a better idea of what I was getting myself into than that.

Second, those are national numbers. We all know the economy in Oklahoma City has its own quirks, so having national pricing estimates without anything local to compare them to isn’t really very helpful.

How much you will pay any company for HVAC repair or replacement depends on a variety of factors. Here are some questions a contractor should ask you before quoting you for work:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how important is your home comfort to you?
  • How would you rate your system’s current or previous performance, from 1-10?
  • What components do you have? Heat pump? Condenser? Gas furnace or electric heater?
  • Do you need one part repaired, or are you looking for a system replacement (or upgrade?)

When we do work on your HVAC system, we prefer to have a conversation beforehand to make sure we are all on the same page regarding expectations. We want to make sure all your needs are on the table, as well as your budget concerns.

Most of the time, when we ask our clients about their budget for a project, they tell us, “As little as possible for it to still work right.” And that’s okay! We don’t want to pressure them, and we install a variety of brands and equipment models because of that common answer.

Our complete turnkey system installations average between $7,000 and $10,000. While we offer some systems that exceed this range, we don’t push those products.

It’s so difficult to find out how much HVAC service costs, but we think transparency is important. Somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000 is the average range we’ve found in the Oklahoma City market, which meets our customers’s needs and budgets.

If you think it’s time to have a conversation about your HVAC system, give us a call.