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Tips for Proper Furnace Maintenance

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A gas furnace is a key piece of equipment in a home. Most furnaces are installed centrally in the house but often are tucked away in a closet, up in the attic, or in the basement or crawl space. In other words, they may not be the easy to access. To help your home’s heating equipment live a good, long life, regular maintenance is strongly recommended. Just because the furnace is out of sight doesn’t mean it should be out of mind.

Many HVAC companies offer service agreements that include a regular scheduled maintenance program. Or maybe you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer who wants to get their hands dirty and take care of things themselves. If that’s you,  here are a few furnace maintenance tips.

  1. Change the filter regularly. The filter prevents dirt from entering the furnace. Dirt and debris can build up on the blower fan and in the ductwork, which can also reduce air flow, wasting fuel and drastically lowering the unit’s efficiency. The filter may be changed monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on the type of filter and the conditions the furnace is operating under. Generally, we recommend changing the filter monthly. Make sure to use the proper size filter.
  2. Remember safety first. When maintaining your furnace, follow some basic safety practices. Most furnaces have a service switch that can be shut off so the unit won’t turn on during maintenance. Check for gas leaks and loose wires before you begin cleaning the furnace. If you smell gas smell or notice a loose wire, contact an HVAC professional.
  3. Clean the blower and ducts. The blower assembly is usually next to the filter, so the dust and dirt that penetrates or goes around the air filter goes to the blower. Use a damp cloth or vacuum to clean the blower, belts and pulleys to remove any accumulated dirt.
  4. Inspect the fan. After the dirt has been removed, make sure the fan spins smoothly and is properly secured. The bearings on the fan and motor may need lubricating, and if the fan is belt-driven, then the fan belt should be checked for proper tension.

Cleaning and maintaining a furnace is not a daunting task and is fairly inexpensive to complete. Proper maintenance will extend the service life of your equipment and help your furnace stay energy efficient.

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

What You Need to Know About Sandblasting

Sandblasting is the process of sanding a surface to remove rough edges or foreign materials. Sandblasting makes sanding much easier, as it is pressure-driven and easily reaches hard-to-sand areas like nooks and crannies. The “blasting” is done using compressed air to blow sand through a nozzle for a smooth, clean finish. Depending on the project, you can use abrasive materials other than sand to prepare a surface for repainting, staining or refinishing.

What Materials Can Be Sandblasted?

  • Wood: Wood sometimes has several layers of paint, which may be peeling. Porch swings, picnic tables and gazebos are items you may consider having sandblasted.
  • Concrete: Commercial building owners may want to remove parking lines and reconfigure a parking lot, so they can sandblast the old parking lines for a clean surface to work with. Home owners may sandblast their driveways to remove paint or oil spills.
  • Cast Iron: If a cast iron railing or other detail has been painted, you may want to sandblast it to remove peeling and chipping paint.
  • Brick: Sandblasting can make painted or dirty bricks look clean and new.
  • Automobiles: Sandblasting can remove the rust on that fixer-upper in your garage before you paint it.

Costs for Sandblasting

Sandblasting can be performed on a variety of material and is preferable when sandpaper or hand-held sanders are just not appropriate for the task at hand. Sandblasting can save you time, strenuous work and the demanding physical labor of bending, sitting, squatting and reaching.

If you have never sandblasted before, you may want to contact a professional. Using a blaster without experience could potentially cause injury if correct measures are not taken or followed. In addition, keep the following in mind:

  • Some cities may require a permit for sandblasting, so check your local requirements before beginning. If hiring a professional, they may apply for the permit for you.
  • Although rare, accidental damages could occur to your property or neighboring property during the sandblasting process, so consider that additional expenses could arise.
  • The average cost to sandblast an exterior surface is between $664 and $1,116. The average cost per square foot:
    • Brush blast (1/32 inch deep): $1.35 to $2.70
    • Light blast (1/16 inch deep): $2.25 to $4.50
    • Medium blast (1/4 inch deep): $4.50 to $7.20
    • Heavy blast (3/8 inch deep or more): $6.75 to $15.75.

Originally published November 2, 2015, updated August 23, 2018.

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Weather is funny – it tends to warm up right under our noses. Then, before long, it’s time to crank up the air conditioning. Whether you’re going straight from cold to warm temperatures or you use your A/C regularly, these maintenance tips will help you keep your system in great working order.

Before you begin with your checkup, you’ll need to set your system. Make sure that the thermostat is off with the temperature set at 80 degrees.

1. Start with your thermostat

When was the last time you replaced your thermostat? If you’ve just moved into your new home, what do you know about it? If it’s been awhile, you might be working with an outdated model. In that case, it’s worth looking into springing for a programmable, energy-efficient thermostat. Most can be controlled remotely from your phone for ultimate savings.

2. Look out for wear on exposed ductwork

Worn ductwork is one of the biggest culprits for cooling loss in your home. Look for visible signs of damage and wear.

3. Check the flow of your air vents

You never know what might be blocking airflow, from furniture to curtains to your child’s toys. Walk room to room and be sure that all the air vents are free of obstructions. We promise it’ll make a difference!

4. Make sure your drain line isn’t clogged

Mounted above your furnace, you should see a drain near the cooling coil. This can become clogged with dirt, dust and debris over time. You can be sure that your drain line isn’t clogged by flushing a cup of bleach followed by a gallon of water down it.

5. Replace your air filter

Changing out your air filter is a super simple fix that will make a huge difference in indoor air quality and flow. Your filter should be changed every three months at a minimum, and more like once a month during seasons that necessitate heavy A/C usage.

6. Check your circuits

Look over your home’s electrical circuits to ensure that the connections are on and in working order.

7. Head outside to check the condenser unit

Your A/C unit’s outdoor equipment is just as important as its indoor system. First, make sure that no foliage is touching your unit, and remember not to make plans for any gardening in its vicinity. It’s just not worth it since plants can cause rusting, blockages and other damage. You’ll next want to make sure that refrigerant lines are insulated. If the insulation looks worn, you’ll need to hire an HVAC professional to replace it. The same goes for outdoor electrical wiring—when in doubt, hire out.

Once you’ve completed these seven steps, you can turn your A/C on to a comfortable temperature and wait for it to begin cooling your home. Be sure to head back outside to listen to the condenser. It shouldn’t sound irregular and you should feel warm air blowing out the top. Allow your air conditioning to run for about 15 minutes to be sure everything is working smoothly.

Call NPI to Schedule Your Inspection

National Property Inspections inspectors can provide a full report on the condition of your HVAC system as well as the other major components of your home. Call us today for help making decisions about your most important investment – your home.

How to Remove Scratches from Wood Floors

Replacing hardwood floors can be time-consuming and expensive. Luckily, you can fix a scratched wood floor with a few simple items and a little patience.

How you’ll plan for your DIY project depends largely on the type of scratches on your hardwood floor. If your home has an older floor, you may even have several different types of scratches to contend with. Here, we’ve broken down the most common hardwood floor anomalies and how to go about fixing them.

Dog Damage

Loving our pets usually means accepting a scratch here or a smudge there. But you shouldn’t have to sacrifice having beautiful hardwood floors. We’ll get into how to repair gouges and scratches in a minute, but for now, we’re talking accidents.

It’s important to know that having a sealed floor won’t necessarily prevent long-term damage to hardwood floors. Urine can still penetrate the wood through to the subfloor, causing discoloration and a lingering odor. If you notice any deep staining or an unpleasant smell emanating from certain areas, you’ll likely need to cut your losses and replace those boards. But for light staining, you can achieve great results yourself. First, use sandpaper to gently remove the finish, then use wood bleach to scrub the board. Finally, refinish the area and let it dry thoroughly before allowing your furry friend back in the room.

Surface Scratches

If the scratches on your hardwood floor are mainly surface-level and not too deep, you may be able to get away with applying a hardwood floor refresher. Be sure to thoroughly clean the floor and then follow the directions on the container to get the best results.

For scratches that are deep enough to expose bare wood, there are a couple of different options. You can either choose a traditional wood stain in a matching color or you can grab a stain marker or blending pencil. For traditional stains, use a small brush or cotton swab to apply it to just the scratch, taking care to wipe up any excess before it dries. Markers or pens can be applied directly to scratches. You’ll still likely need to wipe up any excess.

Deep Gouges

Deep gouges in your hardwood floors aren’t the end of the world. Fixing them is actually one of the easiest DIY projects you’ll do around the house. All you need is some latex wood filler, a plastic putty knife and some sandpaper.

First, clean the area thoroughly—you definitely don’t want to seal grime into your floor! Next, apply a small amount of latex wood filler to the gouge using the plastic putty knife. On a side note, be sure that your putty knife is indeed plastic—no metal or steel substitutions here, as those materials could cause further damage to your floor. Smooth over the area as best you can and allow plenty of time for the latex to dry. Finally, use fine-grit sandpaper to gently level the surface so that you don’t leave behind a raised area. Voila!

Tips for Keeping Hardwood Floors in Great Shape

Place doormats near all entrances. No matter how many measures you take, your hardwood floors will inevitably be subjected to the occasional scratch. The last thing you want is to introduce dirt and grime to the equation. You can either place fibrous mats near all entrances of your home to encourage foot-wiping, or. . .

Instate a no-shoes policy.
No-shoes policies aren’t just for carpet. You may think you’re in the clear when it comes to wearing shoes on hardwood flooring, but the truth is that various types of footwear can cause damage to wood floors, particularly high heels and cleats.

Use carpet squares to move furniture.
Before doing any rearranging, be sure to place felt pads or carpet squares underneath the legs of furniture. You may be tempted to skip this extra step since furniture tends to slide easily across hardwood floors, but trust us, it’s worth it.

Keep your pets’ nails trimmed. It’s never easy to restrict a pet’s access to entire rooms of your home, so we recommend keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed. If you have a medium- or large-sized breed whose nails can do significant damage, this becomes especially important. Most dogs need their nails trimmed every one to two months.

Sweep often. We mentioned avoiding dirt and grime earlier, but for the stuff that manages to sneak past the front door, you’ll want to make a habit of sweeping weekly. Once dust and dirt get ground into the space between slats, it’ll be much harder to get rid of.

Call Your NPI Inspector Today

For help diagnosing the scope of just about any home maintenance issue, call us today. From hardwood floors to attic insulation, our inspectors are trained to spot repairs and answer your most important questions.