DIY Home Energy Audit

Small problems can add up to a lot — just consider the idea that Americans spend more than $300 billion a year on energy that’s wasted because of drafty doors and windows. If you’re a homeowner concerned about your share of that hefty energy bill, you’re probably checking your house for any cracks or gaps around your door and window frames.

However, there are numerous other glitches around your home that can contribute to a higher energy bill that can be fixed easily. The difficulty with solving these little problems, however, is knowing what they are and where to find them. Although hiring a professional to conduct an energy audit can be a great idea for catching all of the biggest and smallest inefficiencies in a home, a regular DIY home energy audit may be one way homeowners can stay on top of any potential issues and fix them before they become larger complications.

The following checklist covers the most common areas around the home where small problems can have a negative impact on its energy efficiency. With it, you’ll be able to conduct a simple DIY energy audit and keep those little problems around your home from adding up on your energy bills.

DIY_Home_Energy_Audit_Checklist

Infographic brought to you by Mendel Plumbing and Heating

How to Maintain Energy Efficiency

If you are a new convert to energy efficient living, you should start with an energy audit. This way you know exactly where your energy is being wasted and how you can make it more efficient. Then you have to maintain energy efficiency.

If you don’t change air filters, leave lights on because they are LEDs, or haven’t upgraded your thermostat to a programmable one, you are not really saving much. Fortunately there are some very basic ways that you can boost your home’s energy efficiency.

Open Up Your Windows – Harness Sunlight (or Block It)

Your windows are a huge source of energy savings and waste. You can use the sun to your advantage in the summers by opening up your blinds and using natural light to brighten up your interiors while the sun is out.

By the same token, direct sunlight through windows that are not well insulated could be making your air conditioning work overtime. Use curtains and drapes to temper direct sunlight if you don’t have insulated windows; same thing in the winter to keep cold drafts out to save on heating bills.

Of course, in concert with natural light, you should have already switched from incandescent and halogen bulbs to LEDs. If you haven’t, you should do so now. LEDs last 10 times longer than traditional bulbs and can save you close to a hundred dollars a year by just replacing your most used light bulbs.

Turn Down the HVAC

For every degree you turn your HVAC down, you knock 1% of off your annual heating and cooling bill. Your HVAC system is by far the biggest energy draw in your home. If you take time to adjust your thermostat down when you are away and when you go to sleep, it can take around 10% off of your heating and cooling costs in a year.

One way to do that is to invest in a programmable thermostat. That way you can set it to turn on and off or go up and down on a timer. This one simple change can add up to close to $200 in savings per year.

You can double your savings by taking advantage of mild and balmy days by turning your HVAC off completely, opening windows, and letting your ceiling fans do the work. They use a lot less energy than your A/C unit and can be extremely effective at slashing your energy bills in spring and fall.

Plug Holes and Cracks

A lot of energy efficiency is lost through cracks and holes throughout your house. There could be a crack in your window sill, holes around your hanging lights, and drafts coming from your attic.

Go to any hardware store for a caulk gun and some caulk. Then seal any leaks, holes, and cracks that you find inside and outside of your house to maintain energy efficiency. It can save you over $200 per year for this change alone.

Have Your HVAC Unit Inspected

Having your HVAC inspected and tuned up at least once a year can add up to more than $400 in savings over the year. Don’t attempt to do this yourself. Professionals are trained to fine tune your system motors, your gas connections, and voltage among other things to find leaks and energy waste.

Change Your Filters

Just like direct sunlight beaming into your living room can tax your air conditioning, clogged and dirty air filters will block cool and heated air, also making your HVAC systems work overtime. By simply changing your filters every three months and cleaning them at least once a month, you will not only reduce your utility bills, but your indoor air will be much cleaner.

Remember to Conserve

Finally a note of caution; a recent study shows that most people use more energy because they have converted to energy efficient bulbs. One survey put the number at nearly 60% of people who are getting higher energy bills despite having gone EE. The problem is that too many are forgetting to conserve energy.

Instead, because LEDs last longer and use less energy, many people are using them more, which of course, is resulting in bigger bills. Remember when maintaining energy efficiency that you also have to remember to conserve energy as well.

[INFOGRAPHIC] What Is Sustainable Building?

Green construction involves the design, construction and/or operation of buildings in ways that reduce any harmful impact on the environment and/or on human health. Some of these include:

  • Reducing the carbon footprint of manufacture.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of materials transportation.
  • Reducing habitat loss.
  • Preserving and/or improving air and water quality.
  • Reducing materials waste.
  • Minimizing toxic emissions.
  • Increasing energy efficiency in building operations.

Sustainable building also can be economically beneficial. Using green materials and practices often benefits local economies, and the focus on energy efficiency frequently results in significant savings for property owners. The following infographic highlights 10 green building materials to consider for your next green building project.

green-building-materials

This infographic is courtesy of Accurate Perforating Company.

How to Improve the Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

As anyone with environmental allergies or asthma will tell you, air quality can dramatically impact one’s overall health and wellness. While changing the air around you may seem like an enormous task, there’s many small steps you can take that will have a huge impact on you and your family’s overall well-being. So in honor of Air Quality Awareness Week (yes, that’s a thing), we’ve compiled a list of ways to make the air you breathe a little cleaner.

1.) Clean Your Floors

Most of the dirt and debris in homes collects on the floors. In addition to regularly vacuuming (we recommend using a machine with a HEPA filter) and washing your floors, you should have your carpets professionally cleaned once a year to improve air quality.

2.) Clean/Replace Your Air Filters

Many homeowners forget to maintain the air filters in their heating and cooling systems, but deferring this can lead to poor air quality throughout your entire house. To avoid exposure to dust and allergens, clean or replace your air filters every 90 days for a regular home, every 60 days if you have a cat or dog, and every 30 days if you have multiple pets or a family member with severe allergies. If it’s been a few years, you may want to consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned as well.

3.) Add Plants to Your Home

There are a number of air purifying plants that can both clean the air you breathe and add an elegant touch to your home’s decor. Here’s a list a of 9 that have a bonus value of being difficult to kill.

4.) Replace Chemical Products With Natural Solutions

Now is as good a time as any to dig through your cabinets and dispose of household chemicals. Using natural products throughout your home will not only improve your air quality, but will make it less toxic for small children and pets.

Keep in mind that you can’t just toss these products in the garbage or flush them down the sink. Most communities have local businesses or dedicated centers where you can drop off hazardous waste. You might even have a hazardous waste pick-up day for your neighborhood.

5.) Ditch the Artificial Scents

According to WebMD, “synthetic fragrances in laundry products and air fresheners emit dozens of different chemicals into the air.” So while you are gathering up your household chemicals, make sure to toss in any aerosol sprays, plug-in air fresheners, or scented detergents. Instead open some windows, set out a bouquet of fresh flowers, and clean with natural solutions like lemon juice and baking soda to keep your home smelling fresh.
Do you have any air purifying tips that work for you? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to hear your advice.

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

4 Lessons Learned from Tackling a Green Building Project

Although green building is a trending topic in the construction industry, it hasn’t really evolved from an industry niche to a widely-accepted best practice. Education —both on the industry and consumer side— continues to bring green building into the light, yet there is still a wealth of mystery around the subject.

Shannon Bloemker, Founder of Glasshouse, recently sat down with Builder and Developer Magazine to chat about her experience transforming her mid-century modern Piedmont, California home into a LEED Platinum certified green home (the first in Piedmont and only the third in the San Francisco’s East Bay).

Whether you’re a consumer thinking about tackling a green building project or a contractor or builder who wants to segway into green building, here are four lessons that she learned from tackling that project.

1.) Get Your Squad Together

Tackling a green building project is no small feat. There is the environmental impact to consider, but also the cost, user experience, maintenance, design and more —and you’ll be hard pressed to find an expert that specializes in each of these areas. To make any green building project come to life, be sure to enlist the support and collaborative effort of a team of experts.  

From the onset —even during the research and planning stages— start building a team. Choices that are made for a certain design aesthetic could create high installation costs, for example, or a decision on building materials could impact design. When the homeowner, architect, builder, and subs are working toward the same end goal (your awesome home!), the result is a terrific design with a reasonable scope at a cost that everyone understands.  

2.) Brush Up On City Codes

Code restrictions, homeowners association CC&Rs and LEED certification requirements (among others) will have a huge impact on your green building project. During Shannon’s project, she found that the city had an array of ordinances (viewsheds, lot coverage, garage requirements, and design restrictions) that impacted the project. Her team needed to develop plans to make the vast majority of changes fit within the home’s existing footprint to maximize the existing space, including converting the garage and carport areas into living space.

As you begin your green building project, make sure to brush up on any codes, ordinances and restrictions that might impact the project. It might not be easy to design with these items in mind, but the alternative can be unforgiving.

3.) Be Patient When Sourcing Materials

The difficult and time consuming process of sourcing green materials can be a surprise for those tackling green building projects. In her interview with Builder and Developer Magazine, Shannon reflected on the material-sourcing process.

“The LEED Certification team I worked with was excellent at making sure materials used in the project contained no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and wouldn’t off-gas any detrimental materials into the home’s interior. This is more challenging than it sounds considering “green materials” extend into multitudinous categories from the glue used to adhere various surfaces to types of plywood, paint, carpet, shelving —everything you can think of inside a home’s interior.”

The lesson here is to remember to be patient, to think outside the box and to work with a team that shares your vision so you can effectively source quality green materials that bring the project to life.

4.) Don’t Forget the Interior

One of Shannon’s professors used to say a building is only green until it’s occupied. Meaning, what you bring into the building and the behavior of the inhabitants (cooking, showering, etc.) can change a healthy building into a sick one.

As you begin any green building project, don’t forget the interior components. From furniture and bedding, to plants and interior design features —sourcing eco-friendly materials in these areas will ensure that your home is not only built with sustainable principles in mind, but is also healthy to live in.

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Making Green Building Work For You

If there’s one key takeaway to learn from Shannon’s experience, it’s perseverance. Because green building is still a relatively new concept, it’s takes perseverance and persistence to get to the finish line. Having a team on your side, understanding the parameters of what’s possible, sourcing materials effectively and looking at the project holistically can help you get there.
Have you recently tackled a green building project? We’d love to hear from you! Whether you’re a builder or homeowner, share your green building experience with us on Facebook. Together we can help bring green building further into the mainstream.

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%!

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:

The Smart Home Gift Guide 2016

As home improvement experts, our house managers spend a lot of time updating our clients’ homes with the latest and greatest gadgets, and we’ve learned a thing two in the process. So we pulled together a list of our favorite smart home products to help you find a present that is both unique and useful. These powerful gifts will help make your loved one’s home run more efficiently, improve security, and more.

nest

#1. The Nest Family of Products: Thermostat ($249), Nest Protect Smoke + CO Alarm ($99), Indoor Nest Cam ($199), and Outdoor Nest Cam ($199)

We can’t say enough about Nest products, so we decided to recommend all of them. We even use the thermostat in our office. It learns your heating and cooling preferences to optimize the temperature in your home (or office) based on your behavior and location.

Second in line, the Nest Protect alarm actually tells you when and where there is smoke or CO in your home through an in-unit speaker and phone alerts. Rounding out the suite of products, the Nest Indoor and Outdoor Cams provide 24/7 video security with some added perks.

You can use the Nest Cams to have a two-way conversation with people at your home through the Nest app. You can also go back and pull video or still photos from parties when you were too busy having fun to grab your phone to capture the action. Using the Indoor Nest Cam can be especially helpful in capturing special moments with young children or checking in to make sure older kids made it home safely from school, when you aren’t there to greet them.

Plus, all of these devices communicate with the IoT (Internet of Things). For starters, they connect to your mobile phone so you can manage them remotely and receive timely updates. But they can also connect with a long list of other devices, some of which are included in our Smart Home Gift Guide such as: Alexa, Rachio, and WeMo.

 

rachio

#2. Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller ($199.99)

Say goodbye to hard-to-program watering systems and over/under-watering your plants. The Rachio Smart Sprinkler is here to help you control your sprinklers and your water bill from your smart phone. Rachio makes your home smarter and saves you money on your water bill by reading local weather forecasts, sunlight levels, soil and plant types to create a custom watering schedule for your home. It will even send you alerts, when the schedule changes due to rain or freezing temps. Don’t forget to sync it with your Nest and Alexa for even greater control of your home’s systems.

 

amazon-echo

#3. Amazon Echo with Alexa Voice Service ($179.99)

We’ve brought up Alexa twice in this post and we aren’t stopping here. Once again, this product can be found at Glasshouse headquarters, and we love it. The Amazon Echo with Alexa Voice Service helps you play music, answer questions, read books, check traffic and weather reports, access sports scores, and control smart home devices like Nest, Rachio, WeMo and more through voice commands. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish just by asking.

 

ring-video-doorbell

#4. Ring Video Doorbell ($199)

Worried about stolen packages or unwelcome guests? Ring will help you step up your security system with HD video. Similar to the Outdoor Nest Cam, the Ring Video Doorbell enables you to see and speak to visitors at your door, regardless of your physical location. The footage can be stored in their cloud service for a monthly fee or reviewed instantly on your phone or computer.

 

wemo-switch-smart-plug

#5. WeMo Switch Smart Plug ($39.66)

The WeMo Switch Smart Plug doubles as both added security and an energy saver. It plugs into lights and appliances, so you can control them remotely from – you guessed it – your smart phone. No need to walk into a dark house or worry if you left the toaster oven on. You can use the WeMo Switch to set on and off times or sync your lights to the sunrise and sunset, improving energy efficiency. Pairing with Alexa and Nest, gives you added voice control and informs your lights and appliances when you’re not home, so it can activate “Away Mode”.

The “Away Mode” will make you toss out all of your mechanical timers the next time you travel. It randomly turns your lights on and off – making it look like someone is home to confuse intruders. Talk about a smart device.

 

samsung-family-hub-refrigerator

#6. Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator ($3,799.99)

While this gift is a definite splurge item, for those who can afford one, the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator is a game changer. First of all you can order groceries from the touch screen on the refrigerator door. Or if you want to pick out your own veggies at the store, it will help you make a grocery list without opening the door using built-in cameras. Then, you can access these cameras on the go in case you forgot to make a list in the first place.

Once the food has arrived, you can use the touch-screen to pull up recipes and stream music while you cook. You can mirror your Smart TV and share photos on the touch-screen as well. As an added bonus, there is a “Flex Zone” in the bottom-right door that functions as a fridge or freezer depending on your needs.

 

red-grilbot-on-grill

#7. Grillbot Grill Cleaning Robot ($129.95)

You may have heard about the Grillbot Grill Cleaning Robot after CES this year. It got a ton of buzz for being the Roomba for grills. Simply place it on your grill, set the timer, close the lid, and walk away. The brushes go in the in the dishwasher when you’re done. No more scrubbing in the dark after dinner. The Grillbot handles the dirty work for you.

 

instacart

#8. BONUS: Instacart Express ($149/year)

While Instacart Express isn’t a smart device, we wanted to include it on our list because it’s a smart service for anyone short on time (i.e. all of us). The express membership gives you unlimited free grocery deliveries from local stores. Included on their list of recommended stores is Costco. So your recipient can ditch their Costco membership while stocking up on bulk goods.

For those who have it all, we’ve got one more suggestion. Give the gift of a healthier and safer home. Glasshouse subscription home maintenance plans and technology offer a unique way to help family, friends, and neighbors take better care of their homes. Learn more at glasshouse.com.

Preventative Home Maintenance: Yes, It’s a Thing

Oh yes, it’s a thing ‑and it’s a thing worth talking about. Preventative maintenance differs from maintenance in the general sense, and understanding the distinction can save you a lot of angst.

Many of us think of maintenance as “fixing things,” and indeed that is one way to look at it.  When the roof leaks, we repair it. When a fuse blows, we replace it. When the dryer catches fire, we get a new one and buy a fire extinguisher… Any time something goes wrong or an issue arises, there are options for repair or replacement.

That is part of taking care of a house. There’s often an element of surprise involved —the drain hose for the washer bursts at 3 a.m., sending a surprising cascade of water across the kitchen and into the family room, for example. While such hijinks may be entertaining for some, most of us prefer a bit more predictability in our home life.

Looking Beyond Reactionary Maintenance

All kidding aside, homeowners can really simplify their lives if they look beyond the sort of reactionary maintenance we’ve been talking about and focus instead on preventative maintenance.

This is maintenance, including tests, measurements, adjustments, parts replacement, and cleaning, performed specifically to prevent faults from occurring. It involves monitoring and inspecting in order to head off problems before they occur.

So in our washing machine scenario above, regular inspection of the drain hose which connects the washer to the drain (usually in the wall) would have detected any hardening of the hose that might lead to cracking. Then the hose could be replaced, at a cost of about $8.

On the other hand, responding to the burst hose would require replacing the hose (cost, $8) as well as emergency water abatement. Depending on your flooring and the extent of the damage, you could be looking at a fairly steep bill.

It Won’t Happen to Me

And yet for many of us, preventative maintenance isn’t really on the radar. This doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider how much more convenient and cost-effective it is than the alternative.  Without proper maintenance, even the best systems and appliances will fail; it’s just a matter of time.

I Can’t Afford it Right Now

Ignoring regular maintenance may seem like a way to put off spending money, but as the laundry room saga has shown us, waiting until there’s a problem nearly always results in much higher costs.

I Don’t Know Where to Start

For a lot of us, the first time we really notice our water heater is when our morning shower is a sub-zero experience that leaves our teeth chattering. When we buy a replacement, we may pick up on the manufacturer’s advice on draining and flushing the tank periodically to extend the life of the appliance.

“This is easy! It just takes an hour or so. I wish I’d known about this before. What else am I missing?”  This is a common mental exercise that may follow. It’s true that few homeowners are aware of —or have time to complete— all of the tasks that should be part of regular home maintenance. In many cases, this leads them to neglect maintenance tasks that could save them considerable grief and cash.

So hit-and-miss home maintenance is certainly easy to understand, particularly when you consider all of the other obligations that come with modern life. The point is: preventative maintenance is SO worth it, both in terms of the household budget and the sanity of its occupants.  It can be difficult to find the time to take care of these details, but every little bit helps.

A Practical Solution

It also helps to have reliable professionals to handle jobs that are too complex for Mr. or Ms. Average. This can present a challenge as well: getting references, making calls, scheduling service all take time. The ideal solution is to have someone who takes the whole job off your hands —a manager that coordinates care for the entire home, makes regular visits, deals with workers, and keeps you up to date on your home’s condition.

Glasshouse assigns just such a manager to every client, so you can leave the details in their capable hands.  They’ll keep problems at bay with the preventative maintenance that your house needs.