Archive for February 2017

Prevent critters from encroaching on your home

Recently, my wife and I had a battle of the ages with what turned out to be a family of squirrels.

We live a little outside of Oklahoma City on a wooded lot, so seeing squirrels is pretty common year-round. It was quite easy for them to jump from the nearest tree onto our roof. We hadn’t really considered why this could be a problem!

Once it got cold this season, we noticed a scratching sound coming from our attic. We heard it a few times over the course of a couple days and decided to investigate. A cursory search around the property revealed a soffit screen had been clawed or chewed through.

If you aren’t sure what a soffit screen is, that’s pretty normal. A soffit, on most homes, is the wood that bridges the gaps between your roof’s edge and the wood or siding of your home. Most will have screens installed by the builder, which helps circulate air and lets your attic breathe.

It was clear our home had been invaded by some manner of critter. The hole in the soffit screen wasn’t too big, so we were hopeful that it wasn’t a raccoon or opossum. After asking around and doing some light internet research, we decided to call a service company out to our home to have them look at the problem.

We happily paid the company’s service fee and their technician confirmed we did, in fact, have some squirrels in our attic. For a nominal fee they removed the vermin from our attic. We declined the preventive methods they suggested, though, and decided to tackle them ourselves. In addition to some of the things we tried, we read about a few other preventive tactics that are worth sharing.

Changing out the soffit screens

The soffit screens we had weren’t very durable and were easily compromised. For a few hours’ worth of work and a couple hundred dollars, we were able to replace our cheap screens with a heavy metal screen with louvers.

Trimming your trees

At our home, we had areas where the tree limbs were unnecessarily close to the house. We ended up handling this ourselves, but if you’re uncomfortable doing so, it’s a good idea to hire a tree-trimming company.

Seal any gaps around the home

Mice can squeeze through an opening as small as a quarter of an inch. Other critters can also get inside through surprisingly small spaces! Caulk around your windows and check into any loose trim boards around your home. Investigate your siding to see if any of it is loose or warped. We ended up putting some copper mesh in the weep holes of our brickwork near the foundation to block critters but allow for airflow.

Check your vents

Just like with your windows, you’ll want to make sure the vents in your roof are fully sealed around the base. To find holes, try turning off your attic lights during the day and looking for any daylight. If you aren’t comfortable making the repairs, a reputable roofing company can help you seal up vents.

Secure your trash cans

In our case we were lucky we just had squirrels to deal with! There are certainly raccoons in our neighborhood, and we’ve heard they can be quite destructive. Our trash cans are large, and the lids are heavy. We still keep some heavy rocks on top of them, just in case the raccoons get any ideas.

Kill the grub worms in your yard

Grub worms tend to attract the very kind of critters you want to keep away from your property. Skunks, moles, raccoons, and groundhogs all feed on grub worms. In addition to helping keep the critters away, you also won’t have as many June bugs to deal with when it warms up! If you want some tips on how to do this, check out this article.

If you’re concerned about critters getting into your home, these preventive measures can give you peace of mind. Adding these to your regular home maintenance will hopefully mean that you won’t have to share our experience of uninvited guests.

Baby proofing your home’s electrical systems

Before having any kids of my own, I knew very little about baby safety protocol for the home. Sure, I had seen the little caps people put in their empty outlets, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

With an 18-month old of my own now, I have become rather well-versed in baby proofing the home!

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are roughly 2,400 injuries and a dozen fatalities by children each year from electrical shocks in the home. There are several things you can do to baby proof your electrical systems, though!

Tamper-resistant receptacles

The first thing you should do is determine whether your power outlets are tamper proof (or not). Tamper-Resistant Receptacles (TRRs) have what appears to be plastic in the vertical outlet slots. These slots are designed to only open if both sides are pressed simultaneously.

Some quick information from a Google search confirmed that my wife and I did not have TRRs in our home. They were only required by electrical codes starting in 2008, so our home built in 2004 did not have any of these.

How we baby proofed our home

In addition to the individual plastic outlet caps you’ve probably seen, there are also safety plates you can install over existing electrical outlets. This added layer of protection requires you to slide the outlet cover over before you can plug something into it. These cost a couple of dollars a piece at various online stores.

We ended up going the thrifty route and bought some plastic individual outlet caps to take care of our empty and unused electrical outlets. That cost us less than ten dollars for the entire house! It only provided a certain level of security, though, as our little guy seemed to enjoy trying to unplug the power cords from outlets and power strips.

Once again, we utilized the power of internet search and located numerous other solutions to our dilemma.

There are several companies who have created different types of covers for your electrical outlets and power strips. They’re designed to keep the cords from being unplugged by little ones. Some are much easier to install and use than others, so be sure to read online reviews carefully.

Traveling safely

By the time we had our home’s electrical systems baby proofed, we had invested a fair amount of time in the process. I was a little concerned about what traveling would look like, but my wife’s Pinterest activities yielded a helpful tip—bring a roll of duct tape with you! While it’s a bit unsightly, and it’s not a great permanent solution, you can easily cover the outlets in a hotel room or relative’s living space with a small amount of duct tape.

Will you need to be baby proofing your home soon? If your home was built after 2008, then there is a fair chance your outlets are tamper resistant. It’s definitely worth investigating!

If you don’t have TRRs, feel free to pull from the experience my wife and I had. Of course, if you decide that you would like your current outlets changed to newer tamper-proof models, give our office a call. We would be happy to help.

Why your furnace may not be turning off

It’s been a relatively cold winter so far in Central Oklahoma. We have responded to a lot of no-heat emergencies. But believe it or not, we’ve also made several service calls this winter because a homeowner’s heat wouldn’t turn off!

We’re always happy to help, but in many of these cases, our services weren’t entirely necessary to solve the problem. If your furnace won’t turn off, there are several things you can check (based on your comfort level) if you’d like to investigate the issue before making a service call. Often, that will save you time and money as a homeowner.

Thermostat issues

We always recommend starting with the simplest solutions first. It might seem overly simple, but it’s worth checking the thermostat—especially if you share your home with anyone else!

Compare the temperature setting for your thermostat with the current indoor and outdoor temperatures. If it’s 10 outside, 72 inside, and the thermostat is set to 80, that’s probably why your furnace won’t turn off!

Is your thermostat set to ‘Auto’ or perhaps ‘On’? This happens more often than you would think. If there are multiple people living in one home, thermostat settings tend to mysteriously change. It’s always worth taking a few moments to investigate before opening up your wallet.

Other potential issues

If your thermostat settings are not the issue, there a couple of other things that could be the cause of the problem.

Clogged air filters can make it more difficult for your furnace to reach the desired set temperature. This could cause it to run continuously—it’s trying with all its might to do what it’s being told!

Leaks in your air duct system are less likely to be the problem, but if you are losing heat due to these leaks, that can cause your furnace to run continuously. Your furnace will keep running trying to reach the desired set temperature, even though the hot air isn’t going where it needs to go.

Mechanical problems can also sometimes be the cause of a furnace that won’t stop running. Issues with your blower motor or a failed limit switch can cause the furnace to keep running. A faulty thermostat, while unlikely, could also be the cause.

In our experience, many times homeowners are able to correct the issue themselves if their furnace keeps running, which saves them time and money. But if you aren’t comfortable investigating, or find that some of the simpler solutions don’t resolve the issue, we are happy to come out and fully diagnose the source of the problem.

Should you get your air ducts cleaned?

Although we don’t offer the service, we field a lot of questions from clients who are curious about air duct cleaning. Since that’s not something we do, we don’t have any skin in the game—so we felt compelled to share some of what’s known and speculated about air duct cleaning.

Before getting into why you may or may not want to get your air ducts clean, here’s a quick reminder about why they are important.

You air ducts are the vessels that connect your heating and cooling system. You have both supply and return ducts intermingled throughout the air duct system in your home. The supply ducts connect to vents, which is where warm and cool air enter your home. The return ducts are designed to do the opposite and actually remove air from areas of the home.

These ducts can and will accumulate dust over time. How much this affects indoor air quality is a larger debate than we can undertake here. But you can have the air duct system cleaned to remove the dust (and sometimes mold).

Companies that provide this service will often discuss the health benefits of having air ducts cleaned, but the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) disagrees. A recent addition to their website states that “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts.”

Our experience has been that clients who have allergy issues or other indoor air quality concerns see value in having the service performed. It’s not something that’s necessary, but it may provide peace of mind. The indoor air quality of your home can only improve from having you air ducts cleaned.

If you are going to get your air ducts cleaned, there are some things you should look for in the company that performs the service.

  • Make sure the company you’re using can provide proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Ask for references and check online reviews, if possible. That will give you an idea if the company is reputable and will do a good job.
  • Ensure they will be cleaning more than just the air ducts—most companies will also clean some of the heating and cooling system components, including drains. If they offer any corrosive chemical cleaning, we do recommend you decline.

If you feel you need this service, we would be happy to refer you to one of a few companies in the Edmond and Oklahoma City area we trust. As to whether or not you need the service, we really can’t answer that for you. If you suffer from allergies or have other concerns related to the quality of air in your home, it may be something worth looking into.