Natural Ways to Treat the Most Common Household Pests

Pests are a common household problem. But how you approach that problem, could mean the difference between a comfortable, happy life or one of constant misery.

The Top Three Most Common Household Pests

There are plenty of household pests causing people all sorts of problems. However, the top three most common are:

  • Spiders
  • Ants
  • Fleas

Therefore, we are going to give you several natural methods you can use to get rid of them.

Preventing the Most Common Household Pests

Sometimes it’s possible to get rid of spiders, ants, and fleas using natural methods. And sometimes, depending on the severity and where you live, you might have to call in a professional. However, you can start with trying to address the situation yourself. Then, if it becomes apparent you are going to need some help, don’t hesitate to contact your local pest control company for assistance.

Natural Ways to Treat Pests_Spiders

Natural Pest Control Methods for Spiders

We all know that spiders are beneficial and a necessary part of our environment. However, most of us don’t really want them hanging around our house. So here are a few harmless ways to keep spiders out of your home.

  • Peppermint. Spiders hate peppermint; therefore, you can buy some peppermint essential oil, put it in a spray bottle and apply it around your home. And it smells great too!
  • Vinegar. White vinegar works beautifully for repelling spiders. Just put a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water and spray it around your home concentrating on the cracks and crevices. Yes, it does have an unpleasant odor, but don’t worry the smell doesn’t linger for very long.
  • Citrus. Yep, you got it. Spiders hate citrus as well. Take some citrus peels and rub them on the areas where spiders are known to frequent. Another option that works equally as well, and is a bit more convenient, is using lemon scented furniture polish as that same citrus scent will help repel spiders as well.
  • Chestnuts. We know this sounds a little odd, but chestnuts can also repel spiders and they last a long time before going bad. You simply place a few chestnuts around your home. For example, you can put them on your windowsills, along your baseboards, in your storage cabinets, or anywhere else spiders like to hang out.
  • Cedar. Cedar also works great for repelling spiders. Just take some cedar mulch and put it down around the perimeter of your home and this will help keep them from getting inside. You can also put some cedar blocks or shavings inside your home to repel spiders there as well.

Natural Ways to Treat Pests_Ants

Natural Pest Control Methods for Ants

There are many different kinds of ants. However, these particular natural methods for controlling ants will work for killing fire ants, black ants, carpenter ants and sugar ants.

  • Place cayenne pepper where you see the ants.
  • Spray lemon juice onto the trail of ants. The ants will then get this on their antenna which will, in turn, pollute and kill the entire colony.
  • Lemon juice and bay leaves. Make this into a paste and place the mixture where you see ants.
  • Spray a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water and spray it directly onto the ants to kill them.
  • Use food-grade Diatomaceous Earth and place it around the affected areas. The DE will dry out the exoskeleton of the ants and kill them.

Horse Apples

Natural Pest Control Methods for Fleas

Fleas are probably one of the hardest pests to control. However, it can be done, but you have to be diligent as it will generally require several repeated treatments before you will be rid of them completely.

  • Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth works for fleas just like it does for ants, which is by drying out their exoskeleton. You can also use boric acid, which has the same drying effect and will handily kill fleas. Just sprinkle whichever substance you’ve chosen onto your carpet and work it in with a broom and let it sit for 12-48 hours. Then vacuum and repeat the process after two weeks. Please note, however, that DE could possibly damage some vacuum cleaners so you might want to use a Shop-Vac instead for the first post-treatment vacuuming.
  • Horse apples can be used for flea control. Take whole horse apples and cut them into halves. Then place the apple halves all around your home. This method lasts for approximately two to three months when in an air-conditioned environment.
  • Plain old table salt works wonders for getting rid of fleas. You just sprinkle salt on your carpets, floors and around your baseboards. This method works by drying out the exoskeleton of the fleas which kills them.

The Bottom Line

Pest control can be a time-consuming task; however, it’s a necessary one if you want to keep pests from invading your home. But no matter which pest control method you’ve chosen to use, there might be times when you will have to call in a professional. Especially if you don’t have the time or patience for treating and retreating your home for pests. And that’s OK. Many people find that using a professional is a much quicker, easier route to go. You just have to decide which method is best for you and your particular situation.

 


 

If you liked this article, you might find our earlier post helpful as well: How to Prevent Pest Problems

10-Minute Fixes to Improve Energy Efficiency this Weekend

Have you got about an hour? That’s all you’ll need this weekend to make these five 10-minute fixes that will improve your home’s energy efficiency —resulting in potentially hundreds of dollars in savings.

1.) Unplug Things that Sap Energy

The Energy Department provides a handy visual guide for just how much those little appliances that you keep plugged in at all times are costing you. Whether they are actually turned on or not, little electrical pulses are still flowing through the outlet that they are plugged in, increasing your overall energy costs.

Turn off and unplug TVs in rooms where no one is watching. Unplug your toaster, computers, portable stereos, and other electronics when not in use to immediately start bringing down your electric bill. Take ten minutes this weekend to pick the items that should be unplugged and do it.

2.) Automate as Many Things as You Can (Like your thermostat!)

Technology has made it even easier to mind your electricity use, ironically considering most technology runs on electricity. Still, when you can program your thermostat and HVAC systems, you can potentially knock a huge chunk out of your energy bill.

By far, heating and cooling eats up the majority of your energy budget, accounting for 40% of all energy consumption in the average household. Turning it down by just one degree can cut that 40% down by 1%. Lights and sprinklers are programmable now. Automate these tiny energy wasters today if you can.

3.) Vacuum Your Vents and Air Filters

Clogged filters are a huge energy guzzler. When your vents are clogged, your air conditioning unit has to work twice as hard to cool the place down (and vice versa in the winter). Cleaning your vents and air filters regularly can cut your energy waste by 15%. Clean them this weekend but replace them every three months for maximum effect.

4.) Caulk Windows and Doors in Drafty Rooms

Is there a particularly drafty room in your house? Hundreds of dollars a year are escaping from some crack in there every year. Take 10 minutes to walk around your house with a caulk gun inspecting the air around your windows, doors, and any cracks in the foundation, filling them as you go.

5.) Swap Out Halogen and Incandescent Bulbs for EE Ones

When you go on an errand this weekend, don’t forget to pick up some energy efficient bulbs; enough to replace all of your halogen and incandescent ones. Take ten minutes by yourself or with your family to replace old bulbs in each room with energy efficient ones to reduce each light’s energy use by 75%!

6 Cost-Effective Home Security Upgrades Every Homeowner Should Take Advantage Of

Every single homeowner knows that timely upgrades are a part of owning a home. Some people view upgrades as a burden because they can be expensive, especially if you are undertaking a major project. However, home upgrades don’t always need to be a hassle. These upgrades can be easy, and they can be done in a cost-effective manner. In this post, we will be discussing some cost-effective home security upgrades that every homeowner should take advantage of at some point. These upgrades will not break the bank, but they will help you keep your home and your family secure.

teal-door-with-peephole

1. Door Upgrades

When it comes to home security, your strong doors are essential. This is the reason why it is always important to make sure that your doors (and all the components that come together to make it work) are always in tip-top shape and functioning at full capacity.

The first door upgrade should involve setting up a maintenance schedule (which is completely free). If you properly maintain your doors, door locks, and doorframes, your door will end up lasting much longer. That means that you will get the most out of the door while saving money and staying secure.

Next up, homeowners should look to upgrade their door locks. Ideally, you should have Grade 1 deadbolts installed to offer you a maximum amount of security. To make your deadbolts stronger, use 3-inch screws in your strike plates. This will make your locks much more resistant to any force exerted on them. In addition, you should use longer screws in your door hinges, which will secure them deeper into the doorframe, hence bolstering their security.

Another simple cost-effective door upgrade is the installation of a peephole. This simple action prevents any surprise attacks and reduces the chance of a burglar catching homeowners off guard. This can easily be accomplished with a drill and a peephole, which you can get at your local hardware store.

window-with-plant

2. Window Upgrades

Upgrading the security of your windows is just as important as upgrading the security of your doors. There are times when even the most security-minded homeowners neglect their windows. However, burglars pay close attention to your windows, even when you don’t. Windows are, statistically, a favored entry point among burglars so they should be high on your list of priorities when the time comes for upgrades.

Chances are, there are a few of your windows that do not have any locks. If this is the case, now is the time to upgrade. Installing window locks does not require a huge financial investment, it merely requires the time. One simple cost-effective measure that can be employed simply involves installing your window locks on the interior of your home. This will prevent burglars from being able to access your window screws/locks from the exterior of your home. This concept applies to both the locks and hinges (for both the window and the window locks).

Another cost-effective upgrade that comes in handy is the use of security film to reinforce glass windows. This simple measure makes it much harder for burglars to gain entry into your home by breaking through your windows. There are some expensive glass films on the market, but there are cheaper versions that run as low as $14. Even at a lower cost, these are still very effective in boosting your home security.

Homeowners can also secure their sliding windows by placing bars within the tracks to prevent anyone from opening the window from the exterior. Finally, another cost-effective addition is the inclusion of security bars. This might sound expensive, but you can get the required material at your local hardware store, and they can easily be installed by even the most novice DIY homeowner. If you are not comfortable handling these installations yourself, a locksmith can always help you repair and install window locks.

rose-bush

3. Landscape Upgrades

Home security does not always entail locking things up. Sometimes safety can involve using the environment to your advantage. This is where landscaping comes into play. The layout of your exterior can either be to your advantage or to your detriment, so it is important to pay close attention to it.

One upgrade that you can take advantage of is to simply place thorny plants under easily reached windows. This will serve as a natural barrier to anyone attempting to climb up through your windows. Also, if you have a driveway leading up to your home, make sure that you use gravel and loose stones to your advantage. These can be placed along the walkway so that there is always an indication that someone is approaching. Furthermore, utilizing exterior motion sensor lights will help alert you to any exterior movement.

nest-cam-outdoor

4. Surveillance Upgrades

Do not let the word surveillance scare you away. There is a common misconception that every means of surveillance is extremely expensive. However, thanks to many technological advancements, there are many easy to install DIY cameras that are available for homeowners to choose from.

Compared to subscribing to a surveillance service, these DIY options are affordable and are meant to meet homeowners at their point of need. A majority of these cameras are easy to install and operate. They come with many features (like remote monitoring capabilities), which allow you to fine tune and customize your surveillance and your home security.

smart_alarm_system

5. Alarm System Upgrades

As I mentioned up above, do not be scared by the name of this section. There are many affordable alarm options that homeowners can choose from. With this selection, you can pick the product that fits your needs and budget. My personal suggestion is that you choose an easy-to-use hub, which will allow you to monitor window and door sensors, as well as connect to your surveillance cameras.

This gives you the freedom to select the parts of an alarm that you want to be installed, rather than settling for what some alarm company might give you. Window and door sensors can be incorporated into your alarm, and these can be used to set the groundwork for a basic alarm system.

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6. Valuable Storage Upgrades

One of the main reasons why people employ home security measures is to prevent burglary. However, there are times when burglars can still foil the best-laid plans, so it is important to have contingencies in place. In this instance, the contingency plan refers to properly storing your valuable items away so that they are not left exposed. This is a very effective measure that people do not use enough.

One of the cheapest options to help you accomplish this is a lockbox. However, if you have a little more to spend, a safe will be more secure. These measures will help you keep your valuable items secure and out of sight which will make it much harder for burglars to get to, hence increasing your home security.

Although, you do not necessarily have to use any of these to keep your valuables secure, just make sure that they are obscure enough and well hidden. There is no cost for a good hiding spot.

Conclusion

It is always important to make sure that you are keeping an eye on your home so that you know exactly when you are due for some upgrades. A majority of these tasks do not take up too much time, and can even be tackled on a weekend. Even though this post focuses specifically on home security upgrades, it is important to apply the same mindset to other facets of the home. One thing that will always help you stay abreast with necessary upgrades is establishing a maintenance schedule. This will give you the opportunity to see how your security measures are holding up. It will also help you map out any changes that need to be made. Remember, this does not mean that you should neglect more expensive, but necessary, home maintenance tasks. It simply is meant to help you get an upgrade without spending too much money.

 

How to Prevent Pest Problems

Whether you have a spider phobia or can’t stand the thought of creepy-crawlers invading your home, it’s always a good idea to take precautions to prevent pest problems at home. In fact, a national study by HomeTeam Pest Defense found that 84 percent of America’s homeowners experienced a pest problem over a 12 month period. The top pest issues were ants (49 percent), spiders (43 percent), flies (37 percent), mosquitoes (34 percent), mice (30 percent) and wasps (29 percent).

While no home is completely safe from the occasional ant or spider, there are some simple —and practical— steps you can take to ensure you’re keeping the creepy-crawlers at bay. Follow these tips so you don’t become part of the statistic:

1. Inspect Your Home Regularly

Common pests like ants and spiders tend to sneak in through the cracks, so be sure to look around your home for holes, cracks and other potential entry points on a regular basis. Some of the most often overlooked areas are those around pipes and wires that enter the home. Make sure these areas are sealed and checked regularly.

2. Don’t Forget the Chimney

Forget ants and spiders, imagine having a bat infestation in your chimney! To prevent these and other critters like squirrels from entering your home, be sure to install and inspect chimney screens. A similar area that’s often forgotten? Flood vents in low-country garages, which need screens to not only prevent animals from entering, but debris from potential flood waters.

3. Fido Needs an Inspection, Too   

Critters can enter your home in more ways than you can imagine, so it’s important to think outside the box. Be sure to check your dog or cat regularly for fleas and ticks and, should you find any, be sure to spray your furniture and carpets with treatment spray.

4. Use Airtight Containers

It may seem like common knowledge, but sometimes we need reminding. Always store your food and pantry essentials in airtight containers to avoid late-night feasts in your kitchen. A quality set of Tupperware can last for years and —bonus— your pantry will be super clean and organized.

5. Maintain Your Faucets and Drains

Not only will pests enter your home in the cracks and openings around pipes and wires (Tip #1), many are attracted to water, since they need that to survive. Be sure to fix leaky faucets immediately, and make sure your drains are clear of leftover food.

A great, all-natural solution for this is to pour ½ a cup of baking soda then ½ cup of vinegar down the drain. Wait a few minutes and then bour boiling water down the drain to clear it all out.

6. Go All-Natural

Essential oils are all the rage right now, and they can keep the pests at bay, too! Whether you’re trying to keep mosquitoes out of the house or want to prevent ants and spiders from coming inside, you can mix 2 ½ teaspoons of essential oil with 1 cup of grain alcohol (like vodka) in an empty spray bottle to mist throughout your home or in problem areas.

Here are a few common uses:

  • Citronella essential oil = mosquitoes
  • Lavender essential oil = mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, flies
  • Peppermint essential oil = spiders and ants
  • Rosemary essential oil = fleas and ticks
  • Tea tree essential oil = mosquitoes and ants

7. Keep Nature at a Distance

Bugs and creepy-crawlers can live in the soil, grass and trees in your yard, so keep these plants at a slight distance from your house. Be sure to also manicure your grass, shrubs, bushes and trees regularly to cultivate your yard’s landscape and keep pests from coming inside.

Along the same lines, don’t pile firewood directly against your home’s walls or foundation and keep any piles of mulch or leaves at a distance.

8. Cover Up Your Trash

Unwanted visitors can be drawn to your garbage, so make sure you’re putting a lid on your trash —both inside and outside the home. And, be sure to rinse out your trash can regularly with a combination of water and vinegar to ensure bugs are not enticed to snoop around.

How to Prevent Other Home Issues

From tips on how to prevent pest problems to articles on numerous DIY projects around the home, be sure to explore our “How to” series to find more ways to maintain your home with ease. With a little effort and some elbow grease, keeping your home in tip-top shape can be simple.
Learn more in these recent posts:

5 Home Improvement Trends for 2017

Spring is in the air and that means DIY and home improvement projects are on the mind. Whether you’re a homeowner, builder or contractor, it’s always fun (and important) to keep up with the latest trends in home improvement. As a homeowner, this will help you get cued-in to what improvements will keep your home up-to-date and desirable, and for contractors and builders, it will enable you to stay in-tune with the desires of your clients.

We’ve put together the top 5 home improvement trends for 2017 to help you stay in-the-loop. Which trends are you most excited about?

1. Promoting a Healthier Lifestyle

It might not sound like a home improvement trend, but it is. A recent Houzz study found that ⅓ of homeowners report leading a healthier lifestyle after a kitchen renovation. And, the push for a healthier lifestyle is creating an entirely new market in the home improvement and products industry.

Indoor gardening, for example, was quite popular at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Tower Garden, edn, and others have been growing in popularity —and homeowners are looking for new ways to incorporate indoor gardening in their homes. This home improvement trend doesn’t stop here. We’re also seeing things like food recyclers and compactors being added to high-end kitchens.

2. Incorporating Smart Home Technology

Smart home technology has come a long way over the last few years. Companies like Ring have broadened their product offerings, as homeowners continue to show interest in ways to protect and automate their homes. Ring not only offers video doorbells, they’ve added the world’s only motion-activated HD security camera with built-in flood lights, a siren alarm and two-way talk.

Some smart technology is worth the investment, but do your research to make sure the products live up to their promises. For example,  all of GE Appliances’ WiFi-ready models feature a digital assistant called Geneva that communicates with Amazon’s Alexa, making hands free communication a breeze. However when we tested WallyHome, the home sensing solution failed to detect a leak even though the sensor was sitting in pool of water.

If you’re taking on a home renovation, it’s a smart idea to include smart technology!

3. Smaller, But Fancier

According to a recent Consumer Reports article and US Census Bureau data, for the first time since 2009, the average size of new homes built in 2016 went down from the prior year, to 2,634 square feet. But, with all the smart home technology they’re getting more modern.

Because they’re not splurging on McMansions, homeowners are able to splurge in other areas like kitchen appliances, high-end design finishes and other upgrades that may have previously been considered unnecessary.

4. Keeping Easy Cleaning in Mind

Homeowners are also keeping the ease of cleaning in mind when remodeling or upgrading their homes. From surfaces like tile and granite that are relatively easy to keep in good condition to high-tech appliances like this self-cleaning toilet (yes, you read that right), we’re looking for upgrades that will help make life a bit easier.

Touchless faucets and smudge-free stainless steel appliances are other examples of this trend coming to life.  

5. Color, Color Everywhere

Another easy-to-do yet popular home improvement trend for 2017 is color. We’re seeing everything from jewel-toned kitchens and bathrooms to color used as an accent to increase the depth and visual appeal of big, open spaces.

Painting is perhaps the easiest way to DIY your home improvement, and can easily be modified as trends change.

Making Home Improvements That Count

These home improvement trends offer insight into the many ways homeowners are advancing their living spaces this year. As a homeowner or construction professional, achieving any of these trends will bring your home into the 21st century —keeping it up-to-date and appealing should you decide to sell.

Whether you’re aching for the latest smart home gadgets or are planning a big remodel, 2017 is the year to modernize and live better. Spring is a great time to get your home life on track, and, if you’re still a bit behind the times, consult the smart home gift guide to see what you’ve been missing.

How to Maintain my Deck or Patio

Outdoor living spaces add tremendous value to your home, as well as your everyday enjoyment. A rustic stone patio or sleek modern deck can be the perfect gathering place for family and friends. Throw in some comfortable seating and perhaps a firepit, and you’ve got a real amenity.

The materials used for decks and patios vary as widely as home styles. They should be chosen with their intended use in mind. If the space will be used for dining, for example, it’s wise to choose a smooth, regular surface, like brick pavers or concrete for your patio. A more casual space might call for gravel or flagstones.

Here are some of the most popular materials for outdoor living spaces:

Deck Materials

These days, you can choose between many different natural surfaces, as well as a range of composite and artificial decking materials that may extend the life and reduce the maintenance costs of your deck.

Option #1: Wood

The most common choice for wood deck materials is pressure-treated or “PT” lumber. This is inexpensive, and can easily make for a sturdy, attractive structure. On the other hand, PT is also highly susceptible to warping, cracking and splitting, so it has to be treated regularly for weather resistance.  A deck made with PT lumber will last around 15 years, and the cost is around $1.32 per lineal foot.

An option for longer lasting wood decks would be redwood or cedar, which are naturally resistant to warping, cracking and pests. These woods are about three times as expensive as pressure treated lumber.

Tropical woods like ipe (pronounced e-pay), cambara, and ironwood, fall into the same price range. These are very dense and pest resistant and considered to be some of the most beautiful decking materials available. These are also relatively expensive, averaging $2.00 per foot, but they last for about 25 years.

Option #2: Composite

Composite wood is composed of wood fibers and recycled plastic, and comes in a wide range of colors and stains. It won’t warp, split or crack, and is an environmentally friendly option. It doesn’t need to be stained or painted, but should be scrubbed regularly to prevent mildew.

Patio Materials

Your first consideration in choosing patio materials is what you’ll be using the patio for most. If you’re like most folks, the answer is “general outdoor entertaining.” This usually includes dining, which means you’ll want a solid, flat surface and should consider patio materials like brick, concrete, cast pavers, or flat stone like slate.

Uneven surfaces like fieldstone, pebbles, or gravel aren’t recommended (unless you want to make eating and sitting comfortably more challenging).

Understanding Outdoor Patio and Deck Maintenance

Like any other feature of your home, your deck or patio is only an asset if it’s properly maintained

Even though pressure-treated lumber resists insects and decay, it’s still vulnerable to moisture and the sun’s rays. Eventually these forces will have your deck looking gray or grimy, so regular maintenance is necessary.

The first consideration in deck maintenance is a good cleaning. Deck cleaners come in bleach and non-bleach formulas. Either can remove surface and ground-in dirt. Bleach cleaners lighten the wood, while non-bleach ones gently remove dirt and grime without damaging the wood fibers or the wood’s natural color.

Here are some steps for cleaning a wood deck:

  • Sweep away all the leaves and other debris.
  • Gently rinse off the deck and the surrounding bushes and grass with a garden hose.
  • Using a roller, sprayer or a bucket and brush, apply the cleaner, being sure to remember to wear gloves to protect your hands. Don’t forget vertical surfaces, like posts and railings.
  • Let the cleaner set for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse, using a pressure washer to remove stubborn grime.
  • After cleaning, allow the deck to dry for a few days and then make any needed repairs: drive in any protruding nails and replace boards if necessary.
  • Finally, apply a protective stain or clear coat to bring new life to the deck.
  • Cover all the surrounding areas with a cloth tarp
  • Apply the wood finish according to directions
  • Let it set for about 20 minutes to penetrate.
  • Brush out any puddles to avoid shiny patches, and then apply a second coat.

Just like your deck, patios need regular attention to optimize usefulness and visual appeal. Check at least annually for needed repairs and cleaning. Some common patio problems are easy enough to solve with these steps:

Uneven Pavers

Weathering and settling can cause pavers to be less level, and this requires some adjustment. Pull up the offending stones or bricks and re-level the bedding material (ideally crushed stone) before replacing them.

Dirty, Moldy, or Faded Pavers

Clean and seal pavers every 2 or 3 years, using an acid-based masonry detergent, then apply a sealant.

Weeds and Debris Between Pavers  

Pressure wash the joints, clean the pavers, and sweep in polymeric joint sand, which solidifies with moisture, creating a solid and permanent bond.

A New Approach to Home Maintenance with Glasshouse

Not all homeowners have the time to maintain their homes in the way they know is required. Enter Glasshouse. Designed for the modern homeowner, Glasshouse Service Providers take care of your home so you can spend your time enjoying it. Learn more about our scheduled preventative maintenance service today.

How To Maintain Your Range/Oven?

The kitchen range is your home’s workhorse. Rarely does a day pass without the use of this appliance to create the food we enjoy, so a working range is pretty much essential to a smooth-running household. With good maintenance, a range will last up to 15 years.

Regular maintenance can keep your range working efficiently and prolong its life. This is mostly a matter of routine, thorough cleaning. Here are some basic steps in caring for different types of kitchen ranges:

The control panel

Use a light-duty cleaner or simply soap and water with a rag. Using abrasive pads or too harsh of a cleaner can wear off the decal indicators, which identify the knob controls for each burner.

Smooth electric stove tops

If a heavy spill occurs, use a razor scraper to remove large food deposits. Apply a cooktop cleaner. Remove the remaining residue with a scratch-free pad and then apply a coat of cooktop protectant.

Gas stove tops

Some gas stovetops are made of porcelain-coated steel and can be cleaned exactly the same as an electric smooth top. Stainless steel tops should be cleaned with heavy-duty degreaser and a non-abrasive pad. Avoid using too much water when cleaning, especially around the knobs, as this can cause a short.

The oven interior

Whatever model you own, you should clean the interior of your oven three to four times per year. Spills and drips should be removed as soon as possible, as they will smoke and may eventually catch on fire.

Self-cleaning ovens

Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using the self-cleaning function. This feature heats the interior of the oven to a temperature high enough to incinerate food particles and spills. The process generally lasts for 2 to 4 hours.

Important: Never use a cleaning solution to clean the interior of a self-cleaning oven unless it is made specifically for self-cleaning ovens.

Non-self-cleaning ovens

Simply wait until the oven is cool to the touch, remove the oven racks and spray oven cleaner directly onto the interior surface. Wipe with a clean rag.

Racks

Clean the racks by letting them soak in the sink. Then, scrub the racks using regular kitchen sponges. Don’t leave racks in an oven during a self-clean cycle.

Range hood

Clean your fan blades with warm soapy water on occasion to prevent buildup of dirt and grease. This will help avoid excess stress on your motor and keep it from overheating. Clean the filter frequently as it is the part that will collect grease the fastest.

How to Choose a New Range

Once your range has reached the end of its useful life, there are many considerations in choosing a replacement. Pricing can range widely, with many good options at $1000-$1500. High-end brands like Kitchenaid, Viking, Thermador, and Jenn-Air have models selling for up to $6000.

There are a variety of range types. The most popular and easiest to install are freestanding ranges. With this model, the oven control panel is typically on the back panel, above the cooktop surface. Some kitchens have slide-in ranges, which easily slide in between surrounding cabinets and give a custom, built-in look. The oven controls are on the range front and there’s no back panel, which showcases your backsplash.

Most electric and gas ranges are 30-inches wide. Pro-style ranges usually span 36 inches or more. Capacities generally range from 2 to nearly 4 cubic feet.  Ranges can be fueled by electricity, gas, or a dual-fuel system, which pairs a gas cooktop with an electric oven. Both power sources have their advantages. The type of range you choose may be dictated by the existing setup in your kitchen.

#1. Electric smoothtop

Ranges with electric radiant smoothtops are the most popular type. Most models have at least one high-power burner and expandable dual or triple elements that let you switch from a large, high-power element to a small, lower-power element within it.

One downside of this type of cooktop is that there is a lot of residual heat, so when reducing the temperature it can take a few minutes to reach the lower setting.

#2. Electric Induction

Electric ranges with an induction cooktop use magnetic coils below the ceramic glass surface to quickly generate heat directly to the pan, offering precise simmering and control.

Magnetic cookware is needed for induction to work. If a magnet strongly sticks to the bottom of a pot, it will work with an induction cooktop. Some stainless-steel cookware is induction-capable, and some isn’t.

#3. Gas

Gas stoves provide more responsive and precise heat.  The flame makes it easier to judge the heat, to get a feel for it, and to quickly move from a high setting to a lower one. Most ranges have four surface burners in three sizes, and some have a fifth burner instead of a center section.

Once you know which type of range you want, it’s time to take a look at the available features. Here are some popular ones:

Control lockout—These let you disable the oven controls, and are especially good for homes with small children.

Double ovens- Great for cooking a big meal. You can cook at different temperatures simultaneously.

Expandable elements- these can accommodate griddles and larger pots for more efficient heating.

Convection- Convection ovens use one or more fans to circulate hot air and reduce cooking time.

Time/Delayed Start- This lets you set a time for the electric or gas oven to start and stop cooking.

For more on “How to Maintain” various items in your home, check out our list of popular blogs below:

How to Maintain my Roof

How to Maintain my Gutters

How to Maintain my HVAC System
And, don’t forget to download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

How to Prevent Water Intrusion

One of the more significant budget lines you add when you become a homeowner is for home maintenance and repair. U.S. News reports that on average, homeowners will spend between 1 to 4 percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, and the costs tend to increase as the house ages.

Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize repair costs. Looking after your home’s structure and systems can extend their life and often prevent damage that will lead to costly repairs. One of the most damaging elements your home is exposed to is moisture. That’s why it’s so important to keep water out.

Water does more damage to your home than anything else, and the damage is usually gradual. Even small leaks, left unrepaired, lead to mold and mildew, rot, and eventually termites and carpenter ants. You can avoid a lot of expensive repairs just by keeping an eye out for moisture. Water can affect different areas of your home in different ways, so here are some tips for keeping things dry in key locations.

Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety tells us that these are the most common places where water intrusion occurs:

        Windows and doors

        Roof

        Foundation and Exterior walls

        Plumbing

Surprisingly, kitchens and baths are not listed. They will fall under plumbing, and there’s certainly the potential for water intrusion there. Other places to check regularly are the clothes washer and water heater.

Common Area #1: Household plumbing

If leaks in your kitchen pipes go undetected, the damage can be extensive. Long-term drips will ruin the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and can run down into the floor sheathing and joists underneath, causing mildew and rot. This will require a structural repair, plus new cabinets and new kitchen flooring.

Watch out for dark spots under pipes or changes in water pressure that may indicate a leak somewhere in the system. Remember to check the water lines to your icemaker and dishwasher regularly, in addition to the sink.

In the bath, check the floor around your toilets, tubs, showers, and sinks. Look for any soft spots or moisture. Check for leaking faucets, dripping or “sweating” pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems.

Don’t forget to check the caulk. Replacing old or mildewed caulking is a basic home repair, requiring only a few tools and inexpensive materials, and it helps keep water where it belongs.

In the laundry room, inspect washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or wetness. These should be replaced every few years, or sooner if problems are found. Take a minute occasionally to inspect the water heater for signs of rust or water on the floor.

Promptly repairing plumbing leaks can save the average homeowner about 10 percent on water bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Common Area #2: Doors and windows

Check for leaks around your windows and doors, especially near the corners. Check for peeling paint, which can be a sign of water getting into the wood. Look for discolorations in paint or caulking as well as swelling in windows, doorframes and surrounding materials. Keep caulk in good repair and seal leaks promptly.  This has the added benefit of reducing your energy costs.

Common Area #3: Roof and gutters

Check the roof regularly for any signs of leaks or damage. Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents and attic vents. Replace or repair missing or damaged shingles promptly, and keep the surface clear of debris that can allow damaging moisture to build up.

Getting water off and away from the house as quickly as possible is the best way to keep it from doing any damage. When gutters back up and overflow, water seeps under the shingles and begins its insidious work on vulnerable materials. Keeping your gutters clear can greatly extend the life of your roof. Clean and inspect gutters at least once a year.

Common Area #4: Foundation

Foundation repairs can be disruptive and expensive. Prevent water intrusion through regular inspections. Look for cracks or holes in the foundation or external walls, and seal them promptly.

You can keep water away from the foundation by ensuring that downspouts empty at least 2 feet from the foundation, and that the ground slopes away from the house to keep water from pooling at the foundation. Keep an eye out for dripping outdoor faucets, which can wreak havoc on foundations over time.

Some other quick tips for preventing water intrusion from damaging your home:

  • Investigate changes in your water bill; a spike may indicate a leak.
  • Keep plantings away from foundations and water lines. Roots can cause unseen damage.
  • Disconnect your hoses. If the water sitting in them freezes, it may back up into the pipe and cause problems.
  • Install water detection devices. These can alert you to low moisture levels or slow leaks that are harder to detect with the eye.

If home maintenance seems overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Learn more about how Glasshouse can automate your home’s maintenance with regularly scheduled maintenance visits.

How to Maintain my Furnace

Your furnace is key to keeping your home a comfortable and healthy environment. It also probably represents your largest utility bill. For these and other reasons, it’s important to properly maintain your furnace.

Good maintenance improves efficiency and the efficiency of your furnace can make a major difference in your energy bills. Heating accounts for approximately 30 percent of the energy used in a typical U.S. home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  A well-maintained unit can run efficiently for 15-25 years, but keep in mind that newer units are vastly more efficient than models manufactured before stricter regulation went into effect in 1992.

There comes a time when the cost of fueling an older unit should be weighed against the cost of replacing it with a more efficient model. Some signs that your furnace may soon be ready to go include:

  •         Soot streaks around the furnace cabinet
  •         Excessive moisture condensation on windows and cold surfaces
  •         Signs of moisture on metal flues and pipes
  •         Moisture at the base of vents or flues

Meanwhile, keeping up with regular maintenances is the key to getting the most efficient operation possible from your furnace. Make yourself familiar with tips for increasing efficiency, and make sure that your unit gets the care it needs. Annually, start-of-season service by a professional can be very inexpensive –often under $100- and will extend the life of your system.

Heating systems have 3 components: the source of heated air, distribution (blower), and control (thermostat). Dirt and grime can inhibit the performance of all of these; so much of the maintenance involves cleaning parts.

One of the most effective ways to improve efficiency is to change the air filter. This is a quick, cheap, and easy job that homeowners often do themselves. It should be done at least once a year, but can never be done too often. For units that see heavy use in the winter, it can be a good idea to replace the filter monthly. This helps your furnace run more efficiently and also improves the air quality in your home.  

You can easily clean the system’s registers as well. Just remove the cover and vacuum the duct opening.

Other parts of the furnace benefit from regular care, but are not as simple to access. These are most often left to a professional. Here are recommended steps for gas furnace maintenance.

  •      Shut down the system
  •      Clean the combustion chamber
  •      Inspect the flue pipe
  •      Check the blower belt’s wear and tension
  •      Vacuum out burner and blower cavities
  •      Clean the flame sensor
  •      Lubricate bearings
  •      Seal leaks in ductwork

Don’t forget that adequate insulation can help to boost your system’s efficiency too, and will save energy costs. Adding insulation and weather-stripping can be an ongoing effort, and some is always better than none. So you can make those improvements a little at a time with little expense in terms of time or money.

A great benefit of regular maintenance is that it keeps you aware of your equipment’s condition. That way you’re prepared when the time comes to replace it. A new furnace can represent a sizable investment for most of us, with average prices for equipment and installation around $5000, ranging up to $8000-$10,000, so it’s nice to have a little notice rather than an unexpected breakdown.

The good news is that with energy savings you’ll recoup your investment in a new system fairly quickly. To calculate that time, follow these steps:

  • Determine how much you already pay annually for heating costs.
  • Calculate the price of your furnace including installation. Be sure to subtract any government incentives or rebates.
  • Check the predicted annual energy usage for your new furnace to determine what it will cost you to run.
  • Subtract the cost of operating your new furnace for a year from the cost of operating your old furnace for a year to see what you’ll be saving.
  • Divide the total cost of your new furnace by the energy savings it will provide to see how long it will take for the furnace to pay for itself.

Even where major home systems like the furnace are concerned, it can be easy to forget about them until something goes wrong. When maintenance is neglected, breakdowns are practically guaranteed, no matter how excellent the equipment. Making a relatively minor investment in preventative maintenance helps you avoid the stress, inconvenience, and expense of equipment failure, and it saves energy costs every month to boot. It warms the heart to think of it.

For more on “How to Maintain” various items in your home, check out our list of popular blogs below:

How to Maintain my Roof

How to Maintain my Gutters

How to Maintain my HVAC System

Don’t forget to download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

How Much Do Utilities Really Cost?

Your monthly utility bills make up a significant portion of your housing costs. In fact, they can represent nearly half of a household’s monthly bills, according to a recent study by Trulia and partners Utility Score. They call utilities “the hidden cost of housing,” and they point out that costs can vary pretty widely depending on where in the country your home is located.

So a location with bargain home prices may not turn out to be such a bargain in the long term. Here are some of the significant findings:

  • Nationally, people in single-family homes spend $2,715 annually on utilities. ($1.68 per square foot, or 1.4% of the median single-family home value).
  • Of the largest 100 metro areas, Atlanta has the most expensive median annual utilities by dollar amount at $4,353.
  • The least expensive utilities are found in El Paso, Texas, where you can expect to pay $1,818 annually on average.

Based on the Atlanta figures, it’s tempting to conclude that a warm climate equals high utility costs, but the low costs in El Paso blow that theory out of the water. Apparently, climate is not a good predictor for how much median utilities are, at the zip-code or metro level, and nor is the value of local homes.

Markets like Detroit and Pittsburgh, which have relatively low home values, can be paying just as much for utilities on average as they do for their mortgage or rent payments. For residents in the most expensive metros like San Francisco or Honolulu on the other hand, utilities are just as high in dollar amounts, but look trivial after getting past monthly housing costs.

A good example of a city where home prices are high but utilities are fairly reasonable is Oakland. There, energy costs are a bit higher than the national average, but depending on the neighborhood, can stay under $300 per month.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has much more affordable home prices, but similar utility costs to Oakland’s, so energy consumption takes a bigger bite out of the budget.

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3 Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills

No matter where your home’s located, there are plenty of ways that you can minimize your cost for utilities. Some major changes might be adding solar panels –this carries some upfront expense, but will produce major savings down the road, or replacing old windows with a more energy-efficient product.  There are also small changes that you can make to have a big impact.

#1. Select efficient appliances

If your appliances are starting to show their age, you can likely save a good deal of energy by replacing them. The government awards an Energy Star to appliances that meet high standards for efficiency, so it’s a great idea to shop with that in mind.

#2. Add insulation

One relatively easy and inexpensive way to lower energy bills is to add insulation to your home. Keeping warm air inside in winter and outside in summer lets your HVAC system take it easy, resulting in lower monthly costs.

There are other benefits to increased insulation as well, like reduced noise from outside, better humidity control, and less pollen and dust from outdoors getting in. So you save as much as 10% on energy costs and have a more comfortable home. Win win.

#3. Practice preventative maintenance

A sure way to make sure your systems are running at top efficiency is to keep up with regular maintenance. This is an inexpensive way to buy some peace of mind, and it also keeps your utility bills under control.

Here are some important maintenance tasks to keep on top of:

Maintaining Your HVAC

  • Heating and cooling systems account for more than half of the energy costs in a typical U.S. home, so keeping yours properly maintained can yield big savings. Here are some general tips for HVAC care:
  • Check the system twice a year, as the seasons are changing. Replace the air filters at least that often.
  • The outdoor unit should be checked for adequate refrigerant levels, and any wear or damage. Accumulated leaves, dirt, and debris should be removed, and the drains checked for any obstructions.
  • Inside, the unit should be carefully inspected for gas leaks, loose connections, and clogged drain lines. The blower, burner assembly, and evaporator coils should be checked and cleaned.

For a more extensive look at how to maintain your HVAC, check out our recent blog.

Maintaining Your Laundry

Your laundry contributes greatly to a smooth-running household, so take some time to make sure that it’s running efficiently. This can be a simple matter of adjusting your habits.

  • Dryer: remove lint after each load; regularly inspect the vent. This will also prevent your dryer from suffering an early death. Here’s how much it costs to replace a dryer.
  • Washer: ensure that the machine is level; inspect the hose for loose fittings, bulges or cracks, don’t leave wet clothes inside to develop mold.

Maintaining Your Weatherproofing  

Another way to save on heating and cooling is to ensure that your home is as weatherproof as possible. As we noted above, insulation —particularly in the attic—  is a critical piece of this, but there are other things to keep in mind as well.

At least annually, check windows and doors to ensure that weather stripping s in place and in good condition. Inspect caulk around doors and windows. Depending on the severity of your climate, it might be wise to consider applying plastic over some windows as well.

Making it Easier: Home Maintenance with Glasshouse

This maintenance list can seem a bit overwhelming, and it’s true that most of us need professional help for many of these tasks. At Glasshouse, we specialize in carefully scheduled maintenance by proven, reliable professionals. Our clients save on their energy costs and gain peace of mind, knowing that we’ve got them covered.

It’s modern home care for today’s busy homeowners. Learn more about Glasshouse here.