Archive for General – Page 2

Investing in a new HVAC system?

A new heating and air system isn’t a small investment for most people. And nobody wants to be blindsided with a surprise expense in the middle of summer or the dead of winter with a busted HVAC system.

It can be difficult to figure out how much a new HVAC unit will cost, though. Prices listed online might not be accurate for our Oklahoma market, and you run the risk of being chased down by salespeople if you call companies to try to price it out.

Obviously, there are lots of variables involved, and that’s part of the difficulty as well. Depending on how large your home is, the state of your ductwork, and the end result you’re looking for, there’s a wide range of possible investments you could be looking at.

Currently, in our Oklahoma City and Edmond markets, we find that people pay, on average, between $7,000 and $10,000 for a complete installation. You can stop reading now, sure—but if you’re curious about where in that range you might fall, these considerations can help you gauge what kind of investment you should prepare for.

Current state

Is your HVAC system completely broken, or is it simply working at sub-optimal levels? Is it December, or July, and you’re feeling some urgency, or it it a relatively mild time of the year like April, and you can wait a little to make your decision?

What’s the age of your home? Has it been recently renovated? Is your ductwork older? Will you be needing to replace the entire system, or just one part?

Desired state

Just like with cars, you can get normal, functioning models and you can also get luxury models. And trust me, there are luxury HVAC systems. Think about if that’s something that’s important to you.

If you just want something that works, that’s okay. Not everyone needs or wants the extra bells and whistles. We’re not going to push the units that are over $10,000 onto anyone, but if that’s something you’re interested in, that is an option.

Budget

What’s your budget? I’ve seen online estimates of anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 dollars for replacing a HVAC system, but I think that range is really too big to be useful. Typically in our market, people invest between $7,000 and $10,000 for a new HVAC system.

Ultimately, even an experienced HVAC professional won’t be able to give you a hard and fast estimate until they’ve come out to your home, because your home and your family’s needs are unique. But most people, in most circumstances, will find that a completely new HVAC system will require that size of investment.

Have further questions about HVAC installation, or the state of your HVAC system? Give us a call, and let’s have a conversation about your situation.

Don’t gamble with your home

Let’s say you know a really great general contractor who has offered to help you with an electrical project you’ve been wanting to get done. Or maybe you have someone in your family who’s dabbled in electrical engineering, and they’re sure they can help you finish that incomplete project for cheap.

Is there any reason you shouldn’t go with those options? A circuit’s a circuit, right? Surely there are tutorials online they can follow.

Obviously, I’m going to take some kind of issue with that, simply because of the work we do at Baxter. But regardless of that, I would still counsel a friend against cutting corners in that way, and there are several reasons for that.

For one, it’s dangerous. Electricity, managed improperly, can harm you or your contractor, and could create a fire in your home that your homeowners insurance won’t cover (more on that in a bit).

In addition to the fact that they simply haven’t gone through the work to become licensed—and therefore are probably not as skilled in electrical work as they are in their chosen field—there are some significant (and costly) considerations for you as a homeowner.

Often, someone who isn’t a licensed electrician will choose to do your project for a significantly lower quote than a licensed electrician. But if something goes wrong, the cost of that project could increase exponentially.

Homeowners insurance won’t cover damage

Having a contractor who doesn’t have an electrician’s license work on your electrical project requires you to take a risk. If there’s a fire caused by their project, your homeowners insurance won’t cover the damage.

Not only is a fire a significant hazard to your home and your family, but saving a few thousand dollars by having an unlicensed contractor execute your project could end up costing you far more than that financially if things don’t go exactly right.

What happens if they’re injured while working on your project?

If you hire someone who isn’t a licensed electrician to do electrical work on your home, you’ll want to consider who will cover their workman’s comp. If they’re uninsured for electrical work, you’ll be responsible for paying if they end up hurting themselves on your project.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how you spend your budget for home improvement projects. But hiring someone who isn’t a licensed electrician to do your electrical work could end up costing you more money than you save—and could even be dangerous for your family.

Indoor and outdoor spring home maintenance

As the weather gets warmer, we find that our Edmond and Oklahoma City neighbors are ready to give their homes a little TLC.

Whether you love spring cleaning or prefer a more gradual cleaning approach, there are some tasks inside and outside your home that are ideal to tackle in the spring.

Your home’s interior

Look in your attic for signs of mold and evidence of critters. Check the drain pan for your air conditioner (it might be in your attic or in a closet) to ensure it’s draining properly. Change out your air filters if you haven’t recently. It’s also a good idea to call for spring maintenance on your entire HVAC system to make sure it serves you well as the weather gets warmer.

Check for signs of moisture underneath sinks and near your washing machine, your dishwasher, and your hot water heater—if you find any signs of leakage, you’ll be able to address it before it become a larger problem.

Your home’s exterior

Clean out your gutters and look for any shingles that look out of place, or other signs of damage on your roof. Trim any branches that hang over your roof to keep them from falling during spring storms.

Take a walk around your property, looking for any places where dirt has accumulated. Give your windows a nice cleaning, and spray down siding or brick to remove any accumulation of dirt or grime.

Your yard

Now’s the time to clear your beds for spring planting and add fresh mulch. You can plant summer-blooming bulbs, and you can even start some cool-weather plants from seeds:

  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Lettuce

Giving your home a little care early in the season will give you time to relax and enjoy the results of your efforts well into the summer!

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.

How to prepare for an unexpected power loss

While you can lose power to your home any time during the year, the most common time for us to lose power here in central Oklahoma is during a severe winter ice storm. This can be more than a simple inconvenience—it can be a matter of life and death for some families.

Of course, we don’t know if this winter will bring any ice storms or widespread power outages, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Stock up on these essentials

1. Medications: Do you take regular medications? See if you can purchase your medicines in a 90-day supply instead of the commonly prescribed 30-day amounts.

2. Battery-powered emergency radio: Many weather-aware Oklahomans already have a battery powered radio, but then again, many families we’ve visited with don’t have one. If you don’t have one and aren’t sure how to choose the right model for you, this is a helpful article.

3. Phone charger for vehicle: A lot of us depend on our smart phones, which conveniently need a charged battery to operate. A car phone charger can keep that phone battery charged and keep you plugged in.

4. Dry foods and water: Having a two- to four-week supply of dry goods and water is a smart idea, extreme weather notwithstanding. If a storm shuts down supply lines, most grocery stores will run out of food within a few days, so it’s best to have some food and water on hand.

5. Portable generator fuel: If you’re fortunate enough to have a portable generator for your home, make sure you keep a decent stock of fuel for it. During a sustained power loss, most gas pumps won’t work properly.

Preventive steps you can take

Luckily for us, Oklahomans are highly weather aware. Our news channels largely do a wonderful job of preparing us for upcoming inclement weather. Here’s a small list of things we strongly recommend considering if you learn that significant winter weather is on the way.

1. Trim tree branches: Falling tree limbs can cause major damage to your property and pull down electrical lines. Be very careful trimming any branches in the vicinity of power lines. You may even want to hire a professional. It’s a good idea to keep your tree branches trimmed as part of your regular home maintenance.

2. Lower the temperature in your fridge and freezer: If you think power loss seems likely from a forecasted storm, you can proactively lower the temperatures in your refrigerator and freezer(s). Once the power does go out, they will maintain their cooling temperature much longer.

Safety tips for after the power is out

1. Unplug appliances: There’s a high chance that when power does come back on, it will be with a power surge. That can damage your appliances and electronics. Since the power’s already out, why not unplug them and prevent that potential cause of damage?

2. Leave one light switch on: Since the appliances and electronics are unplugged, make sure to leave at least one light switch on. This will let you know when the power has been restored.

3. Check on your neighbors: It’s the Oklahoma way. Take a few moments to check on people in your area who might be vulnerable. You might be able to help someone who is in a bad way or didn’t prepare for the situation.

4. Operate that generator safely: If you have a portable generator, remember not to operate it indoors. The generator produces carbon monoxide by burning fuel. Also, avoid plugging your generator into the outlets inside or outside your home. That runs the risk of sending power back to the utility grid, which could lead to the injury or death of a utility worker.

Hopefully, you won’t need to use your weather radio or dip into your stored food this winter. But being prepared and having a plan for what you will do if there is an ice storm that creates significant power loss will help you handle whatever Mother Nature throws at us this winter.

Enjoy LED light energy savings without sacrificing ambience

If you’ve been shopping for lightbulbs recently, you’ve probably noticed how overwhelming the selection is. There are probably twice as many options now as there were two years ago, and I’m sure in two years there will be more options than there are now.

As far as LED lighting goes, the investment for those bulbs has been steadily decreasing as the economics of supply and demand have run their course. Some of our Edmond and Oklahoma City clients have already switched to LED lighting for their homes and businesses because there’s quite a long-term savings with LED bulbs.

But the majority of our clients, especially our commercial clients, haven’t made the switch—for a variety of reasons. One of the more common reasons that our commercial clients give is that they don’t like the type of light that LED fixtures typically give off.

Fortunately, LED lighting is constantly evolving. We’re increasingly seeing the inclusion of filament-style LED bulbs, which look more like the incandescent (I/C) bulbs that many folks are used to. Want a refresher on the different types of light bulbs? Check this out.

LED filament-style bulbs are now being commonly used in many residential and commercial applications. The beautiful light put off by these bulbs is becoming increasingly popular in restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, coffee shops, and diners. These bulbs can capture the look and feel of typical Edison-style bulbs or tungsten filament bulbs while boasting lifespans of up to 15,000 hours, as compared to less than 1,000 hours for their I/C counterparts.

Another benefit to filament-style LED bulbs is that they produce 360-degree lighting. Many of the other LED bulbs on the market give you 180 to 270 degrees of light. That means that these filament-style LED bulbs are an ideal choice for open fixtures such as chandeliers, wall sconces, and lamps.

New LED options also include a range of color, from a soft orange glow to a bright white. The other benefits of LED lighting are still present, including longer lifespans, lower operating costs, and no maintenance—but now you have more options for the kind of ambiance you want to set with your LED lighting.

If you previously thought LED lighting didn’t make sense for your property, we would encourage you to think about it again.

OG&E is currently offering a generous rebate program for businesses who switch to LED lighting—we know dozens of clients who have already made the switch and received their rebate check. If this is something you would be interested in learning more about, we would be happy to visit with you today.

Thanks to the many available options, you can still reap the benefits of making the switch without sacrificing the quality and color of lighting you’re accustomed to.

Why we can’t give you a firm price over the phone

If I’m going to invest in a project, especially a large one, I’d like to know how much it’s going to cost before I commit to it. Most of the people who call us are the same way.

It can cause a lot of frustration when you take the time to make some phone calls and reach out to contractors about pricing a project on your house, only to find out that none of them will give you a quote over the phone. Maybe they’ll offer to send a salesperson out to your house to talk with you, but if you haven’t even committed to the project yet, why would you want to feel pressured to buy something?

Most contractors don’t want to set an unfair expectation around pricing. It’s always possible that when you quote a typical price for a particular service, you’ll get to the site and encounter something unexpected that forces you to add something to the price you gave over the phone. It’s uncomfortable all around.

I can’t speak for any other companies in our industry, but I know the reason that we don’t give firm prices over the phone is because we want to give our clients a fair, accurate price—and there are simply too many variables in most service calls to do so without going out to the site.

It’s important to us as a company to be helpful to our clients even though we can’t give a firm quote over the phone. We know that a lot of times, people call for prices because they want to gauge whether or not a project is feasible for them, and there are several things we do to help people decide on that question.

We can often provide a range of prices for budgetary purposes over the phone. Before that, we listen to your project goals and expectations and help you narrow down some of the many choices based on your needs. We may ask for photos or measurements to give us a better idea of the project difficulty and ease of access. If you have drawings or plan for a project, that can help us give you a more accurate budget, too.

Sometimes, after talking with a homeowner about their project, they decide to work with us to carry out the project. And sometimes that’s not the case. But either way, we’re happy to share our expertise, and it’s our hope that it saves people time and energy.