Fall is here, which means, like it or not, cold weather is just around the corner. While most of us would prefer not to think about turning on our heat just yet, this is actually the best time to check your heating to ensure everything is operating as it should. Neglecting to winterize your home and letting small issues pile up can have big repercussions. Ahead of the winter season, make sure you’re aware of three major things that may go wrong if you don’t winterize your house or neglect your heating system.
- Your utility bills may skyrocket. Utility bills often jump up in the winter due to the increased hours of darkness and the cost to heat your home. But if your heater is on the fritz or your filters are clogged, you could be in for an even bigger surprise. Dirty filters cause your furnace to work harder, which leads to inefficiency and a shortened lifespan for your heating system. Replacing filters is often an easy task for homeowners. A yearly tune-up is an inexpensive way to help prevent a costly system breakdown in the coming months. Also, keep in mind that some warranties require annual tune-ups, so don’t let your warranty go invalid by skipping this year’s tune-up.
- The threat of carbon monoxide is very real. Do you know how old your furnace is? Do you know how long it’s been since a professional checked it over? Carbon monoxide poses a health threat when the heating system flue, vent or chimney becomes blocked from debris or other material. During a heating system tune-up, a professional service technician can check to make sure all your vents are not blocked and are working properly. Drains and traps also need to be checked and combustion gases should be analyzed and compared to the specifications of your furnace or boiler to make sure everything is running safely. Installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home is another smart way to help with early detection.
- Water pipes can burst. It’s not just your heating system that needs to be winterized. All too often it happens – we wake up to realize our pipes are frozen, or even worse, leaking. Before the cold sets in, make sure outside hoses are put away and water is turned off. Evaluate which pipes are at the greatest risk for freezing during cold weather. For example, if your water pipes come up from an un-insulated crawl space, or if they are in or close to an uninsulated outside wall or vent, they are more likely to freeze and burst in low temperatures. Inside pipes should be covered in insulation to keep pipes warmer longer. Pipe insulation is easy to apply and available at most hardware stores and home centers.
By having an annual tune-up in the fall, you can catch small issues now, instead of experiencing bigger problems in the dead of winter. A tune-up with a reputable local company can also save energy, reduce heating costs and prevent a system breakdown in the coming months.
We are in the aging in place business because we want to help people continue to remain their homes for as long as they desire – essentially the rest of their lives. Why do people get so attached to their homes that they literally do not want to leave them? Many reasons actually, notwithstanding the cost and disruption of moving into a retirement facility.
When people looked for and found the home they are in now, it took a tremendous amount of searching, comparison shopping, and an emotional commitment, as well as a financial one. They had to give up the home or apartment they had previously – one that may have had some very good memories for them and one that they maybe liked also – to move into their new home.
Their former home could have had some shortcomings in terms of layout, floor plan, size, location, or maintenance and repair concerns. It had served their needs for however long they had lived there, but now they were acquiring something else.
What they got and moved into – their current and “forever” home – was not a “house” or a “unit.” Those are real estate and construction industry terms. They are impersonal and cannot reflect the value that someone’s living environment has for them. “Home” is the correct word. People can get quite excited about remaining in their home long-term. Not so much about a house.
So, people want to remain where they are because they have been paying down their mortgage for a number of years (maybe it’s totally mortgage-free). They possess a lifetime of accumulated memories – from this home and all of their previous homes along the way, including the ones of their childhood. Usually, those memories are reinforced with mementos and keepsakes to remind them of their life experiences.
Most people have acquired so much “stuff” as they have gone through life, that the thoughts of going through it and sorting it – deciding what to keep and what to toss or donate (if anything) – become such a daunting challenge that it is not seriously attempted.
People find that financially it is very difficult to replace what they have now also – in terms of size, layout, monthly payments (if any), neighborhood, features, and other attributes. Add to that the thought of packing up everything and moving someplace else and starting the settling-in process all over, and it’s easy to see why people want to stay put.
Then, we come along – knowing how committed people are to remaining in their current homes – and simply help them evaluate how well their home meets their needs, what can be done to enhance their living experience, help them arrive at a sensible budget for undertaking some improvements that will allow them to live better in the home, and get started on the work.
We should consider it an honor to help people retain their independence and achieve their objective of remaining in their homes.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a highly regarded, much in demand, and widely recognized Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master Instructor, Universal Design Master-Instructor, aging in place thought-leader, and senior safety consultant throughout North America and beyond. His students have come from nearly every state, many areas of Canada, and several other nations around the world to attend his classroom sessions and his online webinars, to subscribe to his blog posts, and to engage his coaching. Visit: https://www.stevehoffacker.com
The presence of a lever door handle does not appear as anything special but is easy to use and looks stylish
A possible misconception about creating aging in place improvements or designs is that they need to address the specific needs of the client in ways that are noticeable to the client – and others. We know that if someone has a ramp installed when it wasn’t there previously that it going to be an obvious improvement – at least in the short-term. However, depending on how it is installed, its placement on the property, and any landscaping or other design treatments that are used to soften its appearance and provide a little privacy for the user, it does not need to garner all of the attention as the main thing that someone notices as they approach the property.
Ramps are becoming quite popular and rank as one of the most requested and completed aging in place projects. Nevertheless, they can be constructed in a way that allows them to blend into the home’s exterior design as an integral part of it rather than something that has been added.
This is the point of effective aging in place design and how universal design as a strategy helps us to implement changes that our clients need without calling attention to those changes. We want our clients to function well within their living space (and the area immediately around their home), and we can create improvements that are integrated into the home’s design rather than appearing as an addition – inside or out.
Safety considerations are a classic example of this. We can go through a client’s home and make several safety improvements that allow them to live in their home more effectively but aren’t necessarily obvious or even noticeable. For instance, if we add more lighting in a space – additional fixtures, increased lumens, or higher Kelvin ratings – the additional brightness might be noticeable but not the fact that it is easier to see in that space, that it is less likely that someone will trip over something on the floor because it wasn’t as visible previously, or that the space seems bigger and more pleasant. We don’t even need to inform the client why we performed this improvement – as long as they are pleased with the results.
There are many types of similar improvements that can be done to increase the function or effectiveness of the client’s living space without calling out what was done or why. If we add a safety bar (also known as a grab bar, safety assist, and similar names) near the entrance to the tub or shower in the bathroom, it is going to be noticeable – even though it is highly recommended. On the other hand, if we incorporated a grab bar into a towel bar or toilet paper holder so that it looked like the item that was expected only a little fancier, we would have increased client safety without letting them know what we did or why other than to add a little visual interest to their towel bar, soap dish, corner shelf, or paper holder.
In the kitchen, if we replaced small round or square door or drawer pulls that often are difficult to grasp and use with larger bar-style pulls that allow a person’s fingers to get behind it and pull it open, it might be noticeable as a different type of pull but not as one that is more effective to use (at least not until the client had experienced it) and easier on the hands and fingers. Similarly, if we made sure those new pulls did not have extensions on them past the mounting posts that could catch clothing or skin, they would be considerably safer but likely totally unnoticeable as an improvement over the type that has such extensions.
There are many other common improvements that we use for aging in place that likely go unnoticed because they are so common and attractive. Consider rocker light switches that are often installed in place of the older style toggle controls – or even using motion sensor light switches to turn lights on and off. Lever door handles used in place or round knobs likely won’t draw any notice because they are so frequently used, but they are effective nonetheless.
In the kitchen especially, and often in the bathroom as well, using a single-lever faucet is effective and quite common as well. No one is likely to comment on it being different or question why it is being used over a two-handle style.
There are many design features that we can use in creating effective aging in place improvements that are not especially noticeable as being special or different – or suggest why they have been used – that we can install for our clients to provide safer and more functional living spaces for them.
Guest Post by Steve Hoffacker:
Steve is an award-winning aging-in-place specialist-instructor (NAHB, “2015 CAPS Educator of the Year”), a universal design trainer-instructor, and award-winning new home sales trainer. Steve has written and published several books on universal design, aging-in-place, and new home sales. Since 2007, he has educated hundreds of remodelers, general contractors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, health care professionals, interior designers, kitchen and bath designers, architects, attorneys, durable medical equipment providers, building materials manufacturers, university faculty, local and regional governmental and non-profit housing agencies.
For more great articles Visit: https://www.stevehoffacker.com/blog/
Get ready for winter! Take steps to protect your investment and keep your family comfortable and safe with home maintenance. When you start feeling those first hints of winter, the instinct to get ready kicks in. You may dig out your car’s snow brush, blanket, shovel and winter survival kit and place them in the trunk of your car. The winter coats and boots come out of storage, and you may pick up some extra mittens.
But what do you do to protect your house against the hazards of winter? If you don’t take time for maintenance and winterization now, you can end up paying for it later, in the form of higher energy bills, frozen pipes or fixing a broken furnace.
Here are four common problems that can hit home during the winter and how you can ward them off.
Sky-high energy bills: Do your electric bills rise during the wintertime? Heating your home accounts for about half of your home’s energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Combat the cold by sealing off any cracks or gaps with caulk and inspect entrances for worn or broken weatherstripping. Schedule a furnace inspection with an HVAC contractor and consider installing a smarter thermostat. Learning thermostats can remember your favorite temperatures, turning down when you leave for work, and returning to your favorite temp at the end of the day.
Water leaks: According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage accounts for half of all property damage claims. Add winter’s freezing temperatures to the mix, and you can end up with a big problem if your home has a power outage or your furnace malfunctions.
For extra peace of mind, there’s now a leak and flood protection system you can purchase that shuts off your water main’s supply when it detects leaks – and sends an alert to your smart device. LeakSmart Snap installs in seconds without any tools or the need to cut into the main water supply line. Wireless sensors placed around the house can detect a leak or temperature changes and shut down the whole house water supply in seconds. It is compatible with LeakSmart Hub 3.0, which offers battery back-up and built in Wi-Fi for 24/7 whole home protection.
Power outages: When a winter storm hits, the ice and wind can break power lines and interrupt the supply of electricity to our homes. It’s not uncommon for some outages to last for days, which is why it’s always smart to be prepared.
Before winter hits, make certain your generator or other backup power source has ample fuel and is in good working order. Keep basic supplies at the ready, so you can keep your family comfortable. Make sure you have extra blankets, stocking caps, batteries and fully charged power banks for your mobile phones. It’s also good to have a few gallons of fresh water and some cans of ready-to-eat chili and stew. If you have a camp stove, keep it in an easy-to-reach place, along with a fuel supply.
Ice dams: Another thing to watch for in the winter are pools of water forming on your roof. These can be caused by ridges of snow and ice, and eventually cause leaks to the interior of your home. Ice dams can also lead to the formation of large, pointy icicles that hang from the gutters, which can fall and injure people.
A little work upfront can go a long way toward preventing ice dams and the damage they can cause. First, make sure the gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves and other yard debris, so the snowmelt has a place to go. Next, poke your head into the crawlspace of your attic and see if the insulation layer is still thick enough to keep the heat from escaping through the roof. While you’re up there, look for gaps and leaks. Finally, this is an appropriate time to invest in a simple snow rake, so you can easily remove wet, heavy snow from your roof before the dams can start forming.
Now that you know the most common winter hazards that can hit home, you can take the steps to protect your investment and keep your family comfortable and safe.
To learn more about protecting your home, visit LeakSmart.com.
Living in Southern California, we don’t have to worry about the dreaded tornadoes or hurricanes that batter the Midwest and East Coast. However, we have our own natural disasters that we must prepare our families and homes for. Earthquakes can hit us at any time without any notice at all. It is important to have a plan in place that everyone in your house knows about. That will keep the panic down to a minimum when the inevitable happens. Use the list below that is given to us by Ready.gov to help you prepare your home.
- To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Mirrors, picture frames, and other hanging items should be secured to the wall with closed hooks or earthquake putty. Do not hang heavy objects over beds, sofas, or any place you may be seated.
- Objects such as framed photos, books, lamps, and other items that you keep on shelves and tables can become flying hazards. Secure them with hooks, adhesives, or earthquake putty to keep them in place.
- Bookcases, filing cabinets, china cabinets, and other tall furniture should be anchored to wall studs (not drywall) or masonry. Use flexible straps that allow them to sway without falling to the floor.
- Electronics such as computers, televisions and microwave ovens are heavy and expensive to replace. Secure them with flexible nylon straps.
- Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
- Secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting to the floor. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Get professional help to assess the building’s structure and then take steps to install nonstructural solutions, including foundation bolts, bracing cripple walls, reinforcing chimneys, or installing an earthquake-resistant bracing system for a mobile home. Examples of structures that may be more vulnerable in an earthquake are those not anchored to their foundations or having weak crawl space walls, unbraced pier-and-post foundations, or unreinforced masonry walls or foundations. Visit fema.gov/earthquake-safety-home for guidance on nonstructural ways to reduce damage and earthquake resistant structural design or retrofit.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
- Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on.
Southern California has been plagued with a major drought in the last few years. As a result, huge wild fires have been destroying our neighborhoods. The fires have been even spreading to the coast where we thought they would never happen because of the coastal breeze and humidity. It is necessary to understand what you need to do during an emergency evacuation. Use the list below given to us by Ready.gov to prepare yourself and your family.
- Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood. Use the Family Emergency Plan to decide these locations before a disaster.
- If you have a car, keep a full tank of gas in it if an evacuation seems likely. Keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
- Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency.
- Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
- Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.
- Be alert for road hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas.
- If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Make arrangements with family, friends or your local government.
- Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
- Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions.
- Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency.
If time allows:
- Call or email the out-of-state contact in your family communications plan. Tell them where you are going.
- Secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows.
- Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving.
- Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
- Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a cap.
- Check with neighbors who may need a ride.
If you are a senior that would like help preparing your home for a natural disaster, Age Safe Advisor Members can get the job done!
by Fritzi Gros-Daillon Chief Advocacy Officer Age Safe America
Warmer temperatures, budding trees and blooming flowers are all lovely parts of spring, but what you really look forward to is the start of vacation planning season! Deciding where to go and what to see, making arrangements and planning your wardrobe are all exciting aspects of summer vacation planning. But before you pack up to leave on your getaway, be sure to take care of the most important asset you’ll be leaving at home – your home itself.
“Before going away on vacation, homeowners do a lot of
things to prepare for the security and safety of their home while away, including stopping the mail, powering down electronics and turning off water and gas,” says Emily Lewicki, brand manager with Coleman Heating and Air Conditioning. “Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that a home’s temperature needs to be monitored, which can easily be done by using a programmable thermostat.”
While you’re savoring the fun of your vacation planning, here are seven steps you also should take to prepare your home to remain secure while you’re away:
- Stop the mail. Home safety experts agree: a stuffed mailbox is a sign of an empty home. The United States Postal Service allows you to request a vacation hold on your mail up to 30 days before your departure date. Go to holdmail.usps.com to see if this service is available in your area. You should also put newspaper and package delivery on hold, too, as uncollected newspapers or parcels in front of your house could also alert others that you’re not home.
- Turn off water and gas. If a water or gas leak occurs while you’re not there to address it, the emergency could cause significant damage to your home. You can reduce risks by turning off water flow to appliances like the clothes washer. To conserve energy and money, you can also turn off the gas flow to your water heater.
- Adjust the thermostat. You don’t need to spend money to heat or cool your home to a comfortable level when you’re not there to enjoy it. Turn down the thermostat, but don’t turn your HVAC system completely off. Extreme temperatures can harm your home and its contents. A programmable thermostat can take care of temperature adjustments for you while you’re away. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, consider installing a model like Coleman’s Hx(TM) thermostat. The touch-screen interface makes it easy to program the system, plus a free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone, no matter where you travel. Just be sure to leave your internet connection active at home so your thermostat can communicate with the app while you’re away.
- Put lights on timers or sensors. A well-lit home looks lived in and is less appealing to burglars. Put outside lights on sensors so they’ll turn on when the sun goes down. Use timers to turn interior lights on and off at appropriate times.
- Prep your kitchen. Go through the refrigerator and pantry and throw away any food that could go bad while you’re away. No one wants to come home to smelly, spoiled food. Empty the trash and arrange for a neighbor to put the trash at the curb on your scheduled pickup day. Unplug all small appliances like the coffee maker, toaster ovens, food processors, etc.
- Power down electronic devices. Items like computers, TVs and phone chargers all draw power while plugged in, even if they’re not switched on. Turn off and unplug electronic devices to reduce power usage in the house and protect electronics from power surges while you’re away.
- Secure the garage. This is especially important if your home has an attached garage with direct access into your home. Most garage doors have a simple bolt lock that can be engaged from inside to prevent the door from being raised. Remember to also lock the door from the garage into your house.