Sep 152011

Big Month for Home Owners

September is one of the busiest months of the year for home owners.  It is time to start thinking about preparing your home, climate control systems, and yard for winter.  Yes, even though we are enjoying fall weather now, winter can come without much notice and those of us who have prepared properly will not experience the frozen pipes, frozen hoses, inoperable heating systems and other costly items caused by that sneaky old man winter.  Pay close attention to this month’s checklists because the savings in time, repairs and replacements is well worth the few minutes of preparation we have designed for you this month.

I like to tell actual stories from maintenance problems in the past that have helped mold me into the maintenance guru I am today.  In the 1991, I became the program manager of a large Federal Law Enforcement Training Center facility in Artesia, NM.   I had implemented a maintenance program very similar to this program you are using today.  The only difference is that I had not created the “WINTERIZE” checklist at that time.
The facility had a softball field with a grass outfield.  The facility did not have a normal sprinkler system installed.  Instead, they installed a 3” PVC pipe above ground just outside the outfield fence.  They then tapped hose bibs every 20 feet or so from right field to left field.  Each morning, my grounds maintenance crew would unwrap 20 or more hoses and string them out to water the grass.  We had a beautiful outfield all summer long.  (You can see this one coming can’t you?)
Artesia, NM is located in southern New Mexico, (further south than Phoenix, AZ).   I never gave winterization a second thought.  We had a few days of freezing weather that winter where the temperatures dropped into the 20s and maybe the teens at some point.
During the spring of 1992, it was time to start the watering program on the softball field.  We turned the water on and found that the water inside of the 3” PVC pipe had frozen and broken the pipe into a million pieces.  It leaked everywhere, in addition, because we had not removed and drained the hoses, they also had frozen and split in multiple places along each 100’ run.  The mistake cost nearly $1,000 to fix (and that was using my own labor and purchasing the supplies at wholesale prices).
Many maintenance lessons come with a much higher price tag.  Because this was outdoors, no building was flooded and the only repairs involved replacing pipe and hoses out in the open.
Take if from the Maintenance Guru, it is easier to prepare for winter than it is to recover from winter.  Take your time and do it right.

You Can Take Steps To Reduce the Risk of Fire

Many of you know that I was a fireman in the United States Air Force and because of the rigorous training required, ended up with the equivalent of an associate’s degree in fire sciences.  I have always looked for ways to reduce the risk of fire and have presented fire prevention classes to several groups over the past 28 years.  With wild fires burning all over the country today, I wanted to conduct some research and see if there is anything we can do as home owners to reduce the chance of our homes falling victim to a wild fire.  I found the following article at .
I hope you enjoy the read and are motivated to remove the debris from your roof to reduce the chance a floating ember catching your home on fire because it landed in dry leaves or pine needles (kindling).

Identify Roof Vulnerabilities
Roof design and materials can increase or decrease a structure’s vulnerability to wildfire damage.

Step 1: Determine whether the roof design adds to its vulnerability

  • Does the roof have dormers or other features, such as those in a split level home, where vertical walls can intersect with the roof, or the roof of one level overhangs the roof of a lower level?
    • If any of these apply, note:
      • Whether debris such as pine needles accumulate at the vertical wall-to-roof intersections;
      • If the exterior siding is combustible (wood and vinyl are common types of combustible siding).
  • Evaluate whether your gutter, if present, or shape of the roof covering adds to the vulnerability of the roof.
    • Openings between the roof covering and roof deck that can occur at the edge and ridge of your roof can provide areas where embers can easily enter and lodge underneath the roof covering. Wind-blown vegetative debris can also accumulate in gutters.

If any of these fine vegetative fuels are ignited by wind-blown embers, this burning debris can potentially ignite the fascia and/or roof sheathing.

Step 2: Determine solutions to the aspects of your roof covering that arevulnerable to embers

  • Debris accumulation at vertical wall-to-roof intersections can be limited by:
    • Regularly removing vegetative debris from the roof;
    • Replacing combustible siding with either a noncombustible (such as a fiber cement product) or ignition-resistant material (such as exterior rated, fire-retardant treated wood);
    • Adding metal flashing at the base of the wall to provides additional protection to the combustible siding.
  • Debris accumulation in gutters can be minimized by regular cleaning and removal of debris.
    • Some gutter covers can minimize the accumulation of debris in gutters.
    • Some gutter covers (for example, those that have a rounded design) can result in the accumulation of debris on the roof side of the cover.
      • It is therefore unlikely that the installation of gutter covers will eliminate debris removal related maintenance.
      • Use of flat covers that are parallel to the slope of the roof covering should minimize the accumulation of debris behind the cover.
  • Use of an integrated gutter (a combination of gutter and roof edge flashing) will help protect the fascia and roof sheathing. IBHS recommends their use.
  • Barrel tile roof coverings, as well as other roof types that have gaps between the tile and roof deck should be blocked
    • Use either manufacturer supplied materials or with a mortar or cement mixture.
      • IBHS recommends the use of end-stopping products that minimizes the accumulation of debris in the space between the roof deck and covering and the entry of embers during wildfires.
Sep 062011

Many families have found that conducting an energy audit will result in significant benefits, including the discovery of energy inefficiencies and new ways to save on energy costs – perhaps as much as thirty percent – depending upon your family’s energy-use scenario.
Many of the Maintenance Guru’s checklists are designed in part to help you perform energy audits throughout the year. Each month new checklists are provided that help you determine the efficiency of structural, plumbing and electrical items. This audit kind of jumps ahead of the program but will allow you to take a nice survey of the current status of your home.

Steps to Conducting an Energy Audit

1. Assign Responsibility: Energy audits can be performed by the entire family with everyone becoming involved with the process. I encourage you to bring your children into the audit to begin their education on how to care for a home.

2. Gather Energy Data: Review your utility bills from the past year or from a typical twelve-month period. Also, look at data from your accounting records that reflect electric, gas, water, and sewer charges. Plot out the monthly rates on a spreadsheet, record consumption figures, and any other fees for natural gas, electric, water and other utility charges.

Now you are ready to begin your audit. Use the following checklist as a guide.

***Energy Audit Checklist***

• Is your home using the most energy efficient lighting options (incandescent lights should be replaced with new fluorescent bulbs whenever possible)?
• Are there areas that have excessive or unneeded lighting?
• Are you making effective use of available lighting, such as natural sunlight?

Building Envelope:
• Is the building well insulated?
• Does weather stripping around doors and windows need to be replaced? (move a lit candle around window and door openings and if the flame flickers or moves, you may want to consider repairing the seal)
• Are cracks around doors, windows and foundations properly sealed?
• Are there open doors around garages or other frequently accessed areas? Garage doors should be closed to maintain all available warmth in the garage which is next to your climate controlled home)

Heating and Cooling:
• Are furnaces, boilers and air conditioning systems operating efficiently?
• Is there a regular maintenance and update schedule for these systems?
• Are filters replaced regularly?

Motors and Equipment:
• Is your equipment maintained so that it is operating at maximum efficiency?
• Are machines shut down when not in use?
• Are fan belts at the proper tension and in good condition?

Energy Behavior:
• Are lights, fans and equipment (computer, printers, etc.) turned off when not in use?
• Are building temperatures set back when not in use? (VERY IMPORTANT, you don’t leave your car’s heater or air conditioner on while you are not in the car, don’t shouldn’t leave your home heater or air conditioner on either)

Establish a realistic target for future energy usage. For example, try to reduce your consumption by 5% next month (over the same month last year).
Helpful Hints
• Don’t run partial loads of clothes through your washer and dryer.
• Let clothes air dry when possible.
• Make sure your dish washer is full before turning it on.
• Turn your thermostat off when you leave the house (or down so the heat/air doesn’t come on so often).
• Turn your computers off when they are not in use.
• Turn your lights off when you leave a room.
• Do not leave ceiling fans on when you are not in the room. (They only provide value when you are in the room, as soon as you leave, the fan simply runs up your energy bill).
• Close your blinds to keep the sun out in the summer in rooms you do not use like spare bedrooms.
• Close doors and vents in rooms you don’t use.
• Let me know what other tips you have to conserve energy.
• If you are thinking of replacing appliances, remember that usually the older an appliance is, the less efficient it is.

Try writing down the date and time you walked into rooms and the lights were on or a computer was left running when nobody was there or some other appliance was left on like a television or stereo. Have your entire family do the same thing. At the end of the week, combine your results and discuss them.

The first step to energy savings is being aware of wasteful practices. Over time, you will be surprised what your savings will be.

I will be posting reminders each month to review your energy usage from the same month last year at try to use 5% less energy this month.

Signed, the Maintenance Guru.