05 Feb Common Questions for First Time Homeowners
Homeownership is one of the traditional American dreams. Our homes provide shelter to protect our families, but much more. Our homes become part of our fabric. Homes are the foundation of many great memories over the year.
But homes are not a cakewalk.
Homes require work to maintain. Over time, issues arise and need to be resolved. Like all of us, homes age and begin to show some wear and tear.
For first time or novice homeowners, it is helpful to note the common problems that may arise. Between heating, electrical and plumbing, there are a variety of signs to recognize and commonsense checks homeowners can complete. For any issues or questions, then contact a professional to audit the potential issue.
Proper Heating Maintenance
During the winter, keeping your home warm is pretty important. An interesting tidbit for first time homeowners is there are a few factors that go into home temperature.
At the foundation of heating is keeping the hot air inside the home and protecting the major appliances. The hot water heater and boiler are in high use during the winter, but there are some simple steps to protect these appliances.
Lower the Temperature
The optimum hot water heater temperature is 120 degrees (fahrenheit). In fact, any water that is hotter than 120 degrees can scald you or any member of your family (particularly children). Double check the temperature because any energy used to heat the water any higher is wasted.
Wrap your Water Heater in a Blanket
For older homes, or older hot water heaters, there are hot water heater blankets that help insulate the heater. The purpose of insulation is to keep the heat within the hot water heater and not let it dissipate out of the heater. However, please heed the recommendation of the Department of Energy and be “careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment.”
Also of note, this is not applicable for tankless (or on demand) hot water heaters.
Insulate Hot Water Pipes
Pipe insulation really works wonders in cold basements or garages because it can raise the temperature of your water by 2-4 degrees. Water that travels through pipes that are exposed to colder air will lose heat as they move from the water heater to your faucets.
In particular, check the first three feet of piping around the hot water heater because this is the key area where water starts to lose temperature. The Department of Energy provides some tutorials that demonstrate how to find and apply the proper insulation.
Proper Insulation Saves Money
The various home systems all work together, but each have subtleties to ensure they are working properly. Insulation works together with heating and air conditioning systems to ensure home air quality is in tip top shape.
Many homeowners think insulation is simply foam padding added in the attic. If there is a draft, a lot of homeowners think they can just add more foam to fix. However, that is not proper insulation.
The Department of Energy has a guide to attic insulation that includes specific details based on where you may live because many states offer various financial incentives.
However, proper insulation identifies leaks in the house and addresses ways to improve the air circulation.
Consider an Air Seal
When air leaks through your home, it is almost the same as money seeping away. There are plenty of trouble areas, such as doorways, windows and electrical outlets. The Department of Energy has a guide to caulking and weatherstripping and companies offer home energy solutions to help evaluate your home.
Avoid Bad Insulation
Most new homes have proper insulation. But if you have an older home, then the insulation may not use modern standard. Some homes may be really good at remaining cool in the summer, but fail to retain heat in the winter.
First time homeowners may find great value in having a professional conduct an energy checkup because it will help save on energy costs over time.
Common Ways to Curtail Energy Costs
Buying a home is an expensive proposition. For first time homeowners, there are a few ways to save some money on the edges that can be put back into larger projects.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Homeowners can leverage modern technology to control energy costs. Programmable thermostats help ensure that your home is the right temperature all the time. If you tend to keep a routine schedule, then a programmable thermostat can ensure you home is just right when you get home from the office or kids kids home from school.
Ensure Energy Saver Appliances
Energy saver appliances may cost a little more upfront, but will save money in the long run. First time homeowners will want to focus on reliability and efficiency. For example, a refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts 20 years is much less expensive over time.
Install LED Lights
The common theme with managing energy costs is saving over time. Although some products may costs a bit more upfront, homeownership is a long term commitment. LED bulbs last much longer than incandescent bulbs, so they are great for high use areas like the kitchen or family room.
Watch Out for Electrical Concerns
If you have an older home, then the first step is to ensure the electrical systems are up to current codes. In particular, double check the ground fault breaker outlets in bathrooms and kitchens. For new homeowners, it might take some time to understand how much of an electrical load the home can handle. A good tip is knowing how to recognize how your circuit breaker works.
Common Plumbing Concerns
Plumbing might be one of those out of sight, out of mind areas, but proper plumbing is a critical component to a working home. Plumbing problems can cause a major headache.
Pipes are part of the underlying foundation of a home. If you have an older home, then in all likelihood, there will be older pipes. For the most part, plumbing problems do not suddenly appear. To help alleviate any issues, consider finding a qualified plumber before any problems appear.
Avoid Clogged Drains
For the most part, clogged drains are avoidable. To avoid clogs in the kitchen sink, then focus on what does and does not get poured down the drain.
- Don’t pour cooking oil and/or fat down the drain – it solidifies in the pipes.
- Don’t put poultry skins, starch, stringy or fibrous waste down the drain – these substances (chicken, turkey skins, potato peels, celery, coffee grinds, etc.) don’t break down in the disposal.
Always remember to turn the water on before putting food or waste down the drain and allow the disposal to “catch up” after each cup of waste is poured down the drain. Just because it is a machine, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a break.
Check the Toilets
Running toilets and leaky faucets are like drips of money being flushed down the drain. Depending on the severity of the leak, it is possible to fix that constantly-running toilet. Along those lines, check under the sink as well.
Keep in mind that any leaks can also lead to mold.
Preventative Maintenance Works
Homes are about the long term. There are a variety of reasons that people purchase homes, but one of the most important is about safety and security. Homes are part of our core, so we want to take care of them and preventative maintenance works!
- Develop a Checklist
A routine checklist helps ensure homeowners do not overlook basic things. For example, check the hot water heater and furnace towards the end of the fall so they are in working condition in the winter. Similarly, check the air conditioning unit towards as the weather starts to turn warm.
Homes provide a tremendous amount of pleasure for homeowners. For many, our homes provide the backdrop for our family lives. Fortunately, there are some simple steps to ensure our homes are there for the long haul. If any of the steps reveal any substantial issues, then consider asking a professional. Snappy is always here to help!