What You Can Do This Winter
The concept of home maintenance makes a lot of people wonder where to start. Often stereotypically thought of as men’s work, women shy away from getting involved in the upkeep of their home. Truly, there is nothing about home maintenance that makes it a man’s job, any more than cleaning the house and doing laundry should be women’s work. If you live in a house, it’s in your best interest to ensure it is well cared for and all components are in tip-top condition.
Home maintenance can be shrouded in mystery, so we will be creating a series of articles brimming with tips. We’ll help remove some of the confusion and give you suggestions on how to care for your home—inside and out—as the seasons change.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY
One of the most important things you can do to keep your family healthy is to make sure the air in your home is fresh and clean. Indoor air quality is especially important during the winter months because we spend most of our time indoors. One of the easiest things you can do to maintain good air quality is to change your furnace filter.
Bill Meyer, of Meyer Mechanical, recommends changing the furnace filter regularly and using a good quality filter. He says that how often you replace your filter should be a “reflection of your environment and lifestyle” noting that a family with dogs and kids will most likely need to replace them more frequently than someone who lives alone in their home. He also recommends running the furnace fan continuously, allowing the air to cycle through the filter nonstop, thereby helping to improve air quality.
HEALTH, LIFE AND SAFETY
Here are some health, life, safety considerations that you may want to implement for your family’s well-being.
Have your home tested for radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that can seep into your home through foundation cracks, crawl spaces, floor drains, sump pumps, pipes and other structural openings. According to the EPA, radon exposure is the number one cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer (after tobacco) in smokers. In Minnesota, nearly 80 percent of all counties are rated high-radon zones (including Olmsted County).
John Mennenga, owner of Conspectus Home Inspection Services, shares, “We are finding that radon levels can vary from home to home—one home can have what are considered to be safe levels, while the house next door could have significantly elevated levels.”
If your home tests high, a radon mitigation system is relatively inexpensive and will effectively divert radon gas from entering your home.
Install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home. In fact, Minnesota §299F.51 takes it a step further and requires a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of every sleeping room. Every fuel burning appliance in your home—including your furnace and gas water heater—produces carbon monoxide. Normally, these gases are vented outside of the house, but if a leak were to occur, because you can’t smell carbon monoxide, there could be deadly consequences.
Change smoke detector batteries annually. If you haven’t been testing your smoke detector batteries regularly, take a few minutes and test them today. Smoke detectors can only save your life if they are in functioning order.
EXTERIOR HOME MAINTENANCE
On your home’s exterior, make sure entryways, walkways and the driveway are kept free of snow and ice. Ice melt works well and can prevent injuries from falls due to a brief moment of inattention on an icy surface.
Home maintenance and home safety is manageable and—with regular and consistent attention to various tasks throughout the year—you will not only protect your investment, but you will help to keep your family safe.
Cindy Mennenga is a freelance writer and along with her husband John, owns Conspectus Home Inspection Services, LLC based in Rochester. Visit conspectusmn.com for more information.