7 Things To Do Now To Make Your Home Safer For The Summer
Take advantage of spring weather and longer days to hazard-proof your house
Every home can use a spring spruce-up on the inside. But what about the outside? Here are 7 ways things you should do in spring to get your house ready for summer.
1. Put your AC to the test
Make sure your AC will do its job before the mercury really rises. On a day that’s relatively warm, power it on and let it run for a few hours. If it doesn’t kick in right away or cool down your house as quickly as it should, or you notice any other glitches, call in a licensed heating and cooling professional.
The same goes for individual AC units. When you haul them out of storage and install them, turn on each one. If there are any problems, call a pro. Don’t attempt to fix the problem yourself. According to Electrical Safety Foundation International, contact with electrical current from AC units accounts for a significant number of electrocutions each year. The majority of those injuries happen to people who try to service the system themselves.
An unused ceiling fan is a magnet for dust. Before you turn yours on for the first time, run a tack cloth over the blades so that you don’t spew dust particles into the air and the noses of allergy-prone family members.
If the fan has a light fixture, dust the bulbs and double-check the wattage. The combined wattage of the bulbs should not be greater than the maximum rating stamped on the fan. If it is, swap the old bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs, which draw a fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs.
Even if you clean the lint tray in your clothes dryer religiously, lint will still accumulate in the vent hose, blocking the flow of air and creating a serious fire hazard. In fact, the majority of clothes-dryer related fires are caused by improper cleaning, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends cleaning dryer vents and exhaust ducts regularly. Spring is a great time to do one of these periodic checks, because you’ll need to go outdoors. While the dryer is running, look at the vent from the outside to make sure air is flowing from the exhaust. If it’s not, turn off the dryer, disconnect the vent and use a lint snake or brush — you can buy one at your local hardware store — to scrape out the lint. Don’t forget to reattach the vent before you use the dryer again.
Related: How to Make a Home Fire Escape Plan
When it’s time to shut down your fireplace for the season, don’t stop with simply clearing soot and ashes out of the grate. Spring is the perfect time to have your chimney professionally serviced and swept, which the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends doing yearly. It can be tempting to go ahead and build a fire as soon as the first cold spell hits in the fall, without waiting to have the chimney cleaned, but that can be dangerous. Having it swept now guarantees that you can safely use your fireplace as soon as you want to.
Another good reason to spring clean your chimney: According to CSIA, build up of creosote, a byproduct of woodburning, can smell really awful, especially in summer when humidity is high and the AC is running. Cleaning may not solve the problem completely, but will help tremendously. (If your fireplace is still smelly, the CSIA recommends trying a commercial chimney deodorant, baking soda or even kitty litter.)
Related: Is Your Fireplace Safe?
Winter weather can wreak havoc on roofs. Damage can range from torn or shifted shingles to exposed flashing around windows, doors or chimneys. These are things you’ll want to have repaired before a serious summer rain sets in, so one of your spring tasks should be to inspect your roof.
Start indoors. Look over the top floor of your house or attic for evidence of leaks — a concentration of peeling paint or brown spots on the ceiling or walls. To check for outside damage, use binoculars to give your roof a once-over from ground level. If you see anything inside or out that concerns you, call in a licensed roofing contractor. Don’t be tempted to climb onto the roof and fix the damage yourself. Roof repairs are difficult for most homeowners and climbing ladders in general is downright dangerous. Between 1990 and 2005, ladder-related injuries increased by 50 percent — and more than 97 percent of those occurred at homes or farms, according to research published in the “American Journal of Preventative Medicine.”
6. Send creepy critters packing
Winter has a way of drawing in unwanted houseguests, including some that aren’t even related to you. Warm basements and attics are tempting nesting spots for rodents and birds, which can do serious damage and pose safety risks. For example, besides carrying disease birds can build nests in attics, blocking vents or chimneys. Mice often enter through the basement and have been known to chew through electrical wiring, potentially leading to shorts or fires over time, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.
Inspect these two hot spots wearing safety glasses and a dust mask with a particulate filter. If your house is insulated with pink fiberglass insulation, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to keep fibers from getting onto your skin. If you find nests or droppings, call in a licensed animal control expert.
The dry air caused by having the heat on all winter takes a toll on windows and casings. Inspect the caulking around each window in your home. If any caulking has cracked, reapply a bead around the window.
A dry environment can also cause chips and cracks in paint. There’s a good chance that paint in older homes contains lead, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Paint and paint dust are the most common sources of lead exposure in children so have chipping paint tested for lead if your home was built before 1978. If a lead test is positive, have a painter who is licensed to perform remediation do the touch-up work. He can use a specially formulated sealing paint that binds to lead paint and reduces the risk of lead particles becoming airborne. In newer homes or if your paint is lead-free, it’s safe to scrape the paint and touch it up yourself.