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Get Your Home Winter-Ready
Get Your Charlotte Home Winter-Ready
For those who live in the Charlotte area where weather events are typically mild, winter isn’t a season as much as it is a time for celebration. But friendly forecasts aside, as we move into the coldest months of the year, the city will still get its fair share of precipitation - whether it’s rain, snow, sleet or hail.
We’ll also experience a fluctuation in temperatures and an increase in days that dip into the low 30s and even below freezing - making it critical to get your home winter-ready. After a snow or ice storm, our restoration specialists see the aftermath firsthand: water damage caused by a burst pipe, gaping roof holes from falling trees, mold infestations in fireplaces, and smoke damage from a Christmas tree that went up in flames.
With so many North Carolinians spending more time at home than ever, we want to help you and family stay safe and warm, as well as protect your home from damage (both inside and out) all winter long. Just as Santa knows well the value of making a list and checking it twice, so should homeowners. The time to start winterizing is now - before the first storm or harsh weather event hits. Fortunately, you can DIY most of these home protection recommendations.
Indoor winterization tips
- Use pipe foam to insulate your pipes, especially those warm to the touch.
- Check and repair any attic, garage or shed leaks.
- Seal any water pipe or hose leaks.
- Be sure the temperature hot water tank is set safely, and clean your dryer vents.
- Seal the top of your fireplace if you don’t plan to use it during the winter.
- Change the batteries on any smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure the equipment is working correctly.
- Replace filters throughout your house and open heating system vents.
- Flush your water heater to let any sediment run out.
- Install window insulation film and weather-stripping tape around doors and windows. For a quick fix, use a rolled-up towel or blanket to keep under door drafts at bay.
Outdoor winterization tips
- Clean your downspouts and gutters of any debris, twigs, leaves, nuts or rocks so ice can’t build up and clog them.
- Trim tree limbs around your home. When weighed down from wet snow or an ice storm, they can break or fall, causing damage to your roof, home, car or fence.
- Fill any siding and window cracks or gaps with caulk.
- Take out any window AC units and remove any debris, branches or leaves around your air conditioner condenser.
- Drain and disconnect hoses and turn off your sprinklers. If your pipes aren’t frost-proof, turn off the water valve by the spigot.
- Move outdoor furniture, grills and propane tanks away from the elements, or wrap them in tarps and bungee cords to keep them secure outside.
- Remove any moss or vegetation from your roof.
24/7 water damage and restoration assistance
American travel writer Paul Theroux said, “Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” Unfortunately, sometimes preparedness is still no match for Mother Nature’s wrath or other cleaning or restoration emergencies. If that happens, you can rest assured our team is just a phone call away.
Although SERVPRO of NW Charlotte, Lincoln County, Southern and NE Gaston is part of a national network of 1,700-plus franchises, we’re locally owned and operated and part of the Mecklenburg, Lincoln, and Gaston communities. Our water damage and restoration experts are employees, not contractors, which means our team can respond faster to emergencies with a proven water damage restoration process and the most advanced technology and equipment. For questions, contact us anytime at (704) 393-7890 or request help online.
Winter Mix, What Does This Mean?
When I use the phrase “winter mix”, it refers to some combination of snow, sleet or freezing rain/drizzle (ice).
The term is used whenever any of these are possible over a certain time frame.
Both sleet and freezing rain require a layer of above freezing air aloft. The difference is in the depth of the sub-freezing layer touching the ground (lower blue areas on diagram)
While the most common layout is for snow to occur closest to the colder air with sleet, freezing rain and rain occurring in bands toward the warmer air (usually in a southerly direction), there are exceptions.
One is terrain. An increase in elevation means colder temperatures which can change the precipitation type. Or the opposite, occasionally cold air becomes trapped in valleys and alters precipitation type.
Also, convective (rain/thunder) bands tend to cool a column of air near the ground and turning what might be a freezing rain situation into sleet.
One more condition occurs when cloud droplets exist in below freezing air (which is common) but lack a ice crystal seeding only found at colder temperatures or occasionally falling from clouds above. The result is often freezing drizzle instead of snow.
Here are the definitions:
This is liquid (rain) aloft which falls into subfreezing air near the surface deep enough to freeze the drops into ice balls. Sleet “tings” when it strikes windows. Sleet accumulates like snow but because it is essentially little ice pellets, it doesn’t accumulate nearly as fast. It actually offers some increased traction on roads when compared to snow.
Freezing Rain (Ice)
Nearly the same as sleet except that the drops stay liquid falling into a much shallower subfreezing layer at the ground. These “super-cooled” rain drops will then freeze on contact with surface objects, especially those off the ground such as trees and wires. Freezing rain producing ice accumulations over a half inch can cause branches and wires to snap from the weight. An ice storm is born!
Car Prep for Winter
Put a “winter supply” box in your car. This is the single most important thing you can do for your car and for your personal safety. Having a box full of winter supplies in your trunk can make all the difference when something goes wrong while traveling on a cold winter day.
Here’s a quick list of items you should include in that box: a flashlight, road flares, a first-aid kit, a few blankets, a change of warm clothes for the driver, a few extra pairs of gloves, a radio, a charged cellphone for 911 calls, a bag of sand (for traction), an extra ice scraper and some high-energy snacks (like nuts or jerky).
My family keeps a pair of large Rubbermaid containers in the garage through the spring, summer and fall. The containers always carry these items, and we put those containers in our cars during the winter months after checking them over at the start of the season.
Check your engine coolant and antifreeze levels. Antifreeze is the magical substance that keeps your engine from freezing during those times of the year when you feel like you are freezing. Without it, your engine can freeze, leaving you in a real pickle at a time when it’s dangerous to be stranded.
A kit for checking your engine coolant levels is available at almost every auto supply store. Using that kit can let you know quickly if you have an appropriate coolant mix. You can also directly check your antifreeze levels by following the instructions in your car’s manual. Adding more antifreeze is very simple, too, if you need to do it.
Check your tire pressure and tread depth. Good tires are the key to staying on the road and keeping safe when the weather is questionable and snow and ice are falling from the sky. You can do your part to ensure your tires are in good shape with just a few simple steps.
First, check your tire pressure with a simple gauge sold at any auto supply store. Follow your manual’s recommendations for pressure level, and if your tires need air, fill them up at the gas station. Most gas stations offer free tire air fill-ups.
You should also make sure your tires have appropriate amounts of tread on them. The simple test is the “Lincoln test” – just insert a penny into your tire’s tread with the top of Lincoln’s head pointing inward toward the tire. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you need to replace the tire before winter weather begins.
If you live in a particularly wintry climate, you may want to consider installing winter tires before the season begins, as they will make all the difference when it comes to getting around.
5 Tips For Decluttering Your Home This Summer
No one likes a messy home— especially when it's summer and the sizzling temperatures are making everyone just a little bit irritable! Luckily, the blistering heat is also the perfect excuse to stay indoors and do some decluttering.
From creating a detailed cleanup plan to the best way to get rid of your extra stuff, take a look at these tips that will make decluttering your home a bit more manageable:
Make a plan and stick to it. Crafting a list of all your home's problem areas and laying out a plan of attack will save you a lot of time and stress. It's also important to pace yourself and allot a realistic amount of time to actually finish the project you're working on. If your garage is filled to the brim with boxes you haven't gone through in ages, you're probably going to need more than a few hours to get through it. This will help you stick to your plan, even when life and distractions get in the way.
Organize and clean room-by-room. Once you start a project, finish it! It can get very hectic (and messy) if you have multiple projects going on at once— not to mention it gets super difficult to prioritize your clean ups when there are multiple spaces that need attention. Pick one room at a time, and then only move onto the next room after everything is tidy.
Start small. Decluttering your home doesn't happen instantly. It can be overwhelming to think about the entire house as one big project. Once you choose a room, you can choose a specific area of the room to focus on at one time, like a bookshelf or a cabinet. Find a small project and then build on from there.
Keep, toss or give away? Purchase bins and boxes so you can more easily organize your keep, toss and giveaway piles. Look through your things and decide which items you can't live without. For everything leftover, decide whether you want to donate it or throw it out. If you think someone else might benefit from the item, add it to the giveaway box. If not, toss it!
5 Common AC Mistakes You're Probably Making
1. You're Neglecting the Air Filter
Air conditioners work by sucking in air and passing it over a continuous liquid-to-gas-to-liquid chemical reaction. That reaction forces the air around it to absorb its heat, thus lowering its temperature. With all that movement, it's inevitable that dust, dander, and allergens get stirred up. The filter is designed to catch any nasty stuff accumulated in the air.
However, as it grabs more and more particles, the filter can become clogged. That means the air conditioner has to work much harder to cool a room. It can also force dust into the room, which you definitely don’t want. “Clogged air filters can damage your air conditioner system’s parts and result in costly repairs,” says Lenny Cipolla, an owner of Florida-based HVAC service and repair company Southern Coast Services.
You should clean the filter on a central air conditioning unit about once a month. The filter location will vary based on your model, but be sure to turn off the power before you do so. A window unit likely has a warning light indicating when it’s time to clean the filter. And cleaning an air conditioner filter is pretty easy. Simply suck up any loose debris up with a vacuum, then soak the filter in a mixture of equal parts hot water and white vinegar. Give it a rinse, let it dry, and you should be good to go!
2. You Installed It in a Sunny Spot
For window units, location is everything. If your air conditioner is located in an especially sunny place, the unit will have to work much harder to cool the air, which could cost you money over time. If possible, install it in a shady spot.
Another common installation problem is not sealing the window properly. If there’s space around the air conditioner, you'll let in hot air. Make sure that the fold-out shield on a window unit blocks as much air as possible. Then you can look into weatherstripping to seal up any gaps.
For outdoor units, make sure the space around it is clear: no trees, shrubs, flowers, or structures should block their flow.
3. It's Surrounded with Appliances
Most air conditioners have sensors that let you pick a temperature and prompt the unit to cycle on and off to maintain that temperature. But these can be unintentionally tricked.
Make sure there are no appliances that give off heat near your air conditioner. This includes lamps, kitchen appliances like refrigerators, and home electronics like televisions. Those items will raise the temperature in their immediate area and fool the air conditioner into working harder—and thus less efficiently. Consider using blackout curtains in the room with your AC unit.
“Close the blinds or drapes on the sunny side of your home during the hottest part of the day to naturally lower the inside temperature,” says Ted Noonan, owner of Noonan Energy in Massachusetts. “Avoid cooking meals that involve the oven, which can increase the temperature in your home and force your unit to work harder.”
4. You Use It On Mild Days
Frankly, we all probably use our air conditioners more than necessary. These units use a lot of energy, making them expensive to run; it could cost you as much as $25 per month per unit to run half of each day.
If it’s only mildly hot outside, or if you’re not in the same room as the air conditioner, turn it off. Fans, especially ceiling fans, are a good option, too as they do a great job of circulating air. Plus, a ceiling fan costs only $1.50 per month for the same usage. And the less you use it, the longer your air conditioner will last.
5. You Ignore Preventive Maintenance
For smaller window AC units, proper location and air filter cleaning will take you through the life of the system. But for large HVAC units, more maintenance might be needed. “At a minimum, air conditioning condenser coils should be cleaned at least twice a year,” says Richard Ciresi, owner of an Aire Serv heating and cooling franchise. “It is best to clean the condenser coils before starting the system for the season and again when the weather starts to get hot for prolonged periods of time.” The condenser coils are located on the exterior box of your HVAC system. To clean them, first turn off the power at the outdoor shutoff, then use a coil brush or vacuum to remove debris. Spray with a hose or wash with coil cleaner as needed.
There are few feelings of relief so perfect as coming in from a hot, humid summer’s day to a crisp, air-conditioned house. But it’s important to remember that these appliances won’t simply take care of themselves. Take care of them with our expert tips, and they’ll keep your family cool all season long.
Spring Cleaning Outside
SPRING CLEANING OUTSIDE
When making your spring cleaning list, remember your home's exterior. A few hours of attention could save you a bundle in unexpected repairs.
Roof & Chimney
Examine your roof for cracked or missing shingles and damaged flashing around vents and chimneys. Check chimney caps and roof vents for bird nests and debris.
Gutters & Downspouts
Clogged gutters lead to rainwater back up and rot under shingles, waterfalls that cause window leaks and pools that drain into your crawl or basement and soften soil around tree roots causing them to fall. Consider installing gutter screening and downspout extensions.
Foundation Vents & Drains
Look for missing or damaged screens, debris, signs of insect or rodent infestation, or other issues. Unclog drainage systems designed to channel water away from the foundation, including city sewer drains.