How to Outsmart Mother Nature: A Homeowner’s Spring Survival Guide
Humans have been outsmarting nature forever. Fire, agriculture, boats, planes, technology. We’ve been steadily increasing life expectancies. We’ve reached the moon.
Our homes are no different. We can control the environment at will, access clean water at any time, and have the power of lightning running through our walls.
But nature continues to present challenges from pests and rain to heat and lightning. Learn how to outsmart Mother Nature at home with our homeowner spring survival guide.
Homeowner Spring Survival Guide
Integrated Pest Management
Bugs, insects, birds, and even rodents are important parts of our ecosystem. Without them, we wouldn’t have honey, grapes, and other important plants and wildlife. To keep our planet healthy, it’s necessary to make a peace deal with nature.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a way of controlling pests that combines chemical and non-chemical approaches. Instead of simply spraying the problem away, the idea is to identify your pest problem and what is attracting them in the first place. Using exclusion, barriers, sanitation, humidification, traps, and occasional chemical control, IPM takes a holistic approach to pest management.
Here are some effective non-chemical pest control tips:
- Before you go to sleep, make sure all food is put away and dishes are clean.
- Keep food supplies sealed.
- Fix plumbing leaks, dripping faucets, and broken gutters.
- Seal up gaps and cracks around the home.
- Use spring-loaded trash cans.
- Don’t leave pet food or water out overnight.
- Keep your home and yard free of clutter and debris.
- Speak with a professional about improving your drainage.
Pests in the HVAC system
Pests can wreak havoc on homes and HVAC systems, including chewing through wiring and refrigerant lines, building nests in ventilation systems, and dying inside HVAC equipment. Dryer vents and HVAC flues can provide an easy access for pests to enter the home.
- Check your outdoor dryer vents to make sure there is a screen that prevents rodents and other pests from getting inside. If you don’t have a wire mesh cover for your dryer vent, you can buy one at your local home improvement store. Follow the package instructions for how to attach the mesh screen.
- If there’s a pest in your home already, they may be able to get inside the duct system if there are cracks or openings. It’s good idea to seal your air ducts to improve energy efficiency and reduce the risk of pests entering the ductwork.
Broken, ill-fitting, and overflowing gutters and downspouts are a common cause of flooding. Clean your gutters regularly, at least twice a year. While you’re removing leaves and debris, look for loose connections and leaks and get them repaired immediately. Learn easy DIY gutter repairs.
Check to see if water is getting properly diverted away from the home. If necessary, install downspout extenders.
Contact Brubaker Inc. to for other waterproofing solutions to get your home ready for storms and flooding. We also provide sump pump maintenance, repair, and installation.
Drainage issues can cause all sorts of problems: slow drains, bad smells, bubbling noises, puddles in the front lawn, and potential sump pump problems.
Surge protection devices work by blocking or diverting (“shorting”) a sudden change in current. Most SPDs are designed to conduct a current after it has reached a certain voltage threshhold. This is done by using one of the many available technologies, including discharge tubes, zener-type semiconductors, and MOVs.
Normally, the surge energy is reduced and dissipated in the power lines or the ground. In cases of extreme surges, such as a direct lighting strike, there may not be enough power line or ground resistance and the surge protector could end up being destroyed.
If you want to protect your expensive electrical devices from internal and external power surges, it’s a good idea to have what is referred to as “layered protection,” with a whole home surge protector and plug-in surge protectors.
The whole-house SPD suppresses any surges coming into your electrical system, but smaller, in-house surges happen all the time. When an appliance sends a surge through a shared circuit (one that’s not dedicated), then the other outlets in your home get compromised. A power strip with surge protection (make sure it has the UL label) can help protect devices against these types of shared circuit surges.
For a return on your investment, check the doors and windows. Your home is new, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. There are few little investments you can make now to ensure that your home is energy efficient as time goes on. Did you know that around 10% of your home’s heat loss is because of leaky windows and doors?
Look at your windows and doors and see if they need weatherstripping or caulking. Weatherstripping the areas around windows or doors can save your furnace from working too hard as warm air leaks out. Remember, weatherstripping should to be replaced every few years. Take a note now and in 5 years, go back and inspect your doors and windows again.
Hard water is water that has a high mineral content, mostly magnesium, gypsum, and calcium. Hard water is rarely harmful to drink, although it may have a poor taste. Hard water’s effect on your plumbing, however, is much less benign.
A water softener works by removing excess minerals from the water coming into your home. Whether you have city water or well water, you could have hard water. At Brubaker Inc., we offer water testing services to help you determine whether your home needs a water softening system.
When you get a water softener, you’ll notice the difference right away. Softened water feels much smoother on the skin, and it helps you keep your home sparkling clean.
- Some other benefits of water softeners include:
- Water softeners reduce the buildup of calcium and limescale, making it easier to keep your sinks, tubs and showers clean.
- You can use 1/3 less detergent when washing towels using softened water.
- Whites washed in softened water come out 45% cleaner than whites washed in hard water.
- Soft water reduces buildup in water heaters, improving their efficiency and extending their life.
- Softened water doesn’t cause buildup in your hair or on your skin.
- Dishwashers and washing machines last longer when you have a water softener.
At Brubaker Inc., we offer a variety of water treatment systems, including water softeners, that will raise the quality of your home’s water.
Energy-Efficient Landscaping Design
Take advantage of the winter sunshine by designing your home to get shade in the summer and sun in the winter.
Source: Arbor Day Foundation
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “large deciduous trees planted on the east, west, and northwest sides of your home create soothing shade from the hot summer sun and reduce summer air conditioning costs by up to 35%.”
In addition to trees providing wind blockage and shade, consider planting shrubs and ground-cover plants to reduce heat radiation. This means that the air naturally cools down before it reaches your home’s walls or windows. Plant a hedge around your sidewalks and driveways and consider a trellis for climbing vines.
Vines against walls, hedges, and shrubs can provide shade within the very first growing season. Providing shade close to your home’s perimeter is a great idea for cooling down your home, but be careful not to create too dense foliage, which can create wetness, drainage, and humidity problems.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “a well-planned landscape can reduce an unshaded home’s air conditioning costs by 15-50 percent.” In addition to the energy savings that well-planned landscaping provides you will also create an environment for beautiful birds to perch and sing. Tree-canopied homes also lower the overall temperature of the community while also reducing the pollutants in the air. In fact, “in tree-shaded neighborhoods, the summer daytime air temperature can be up to 6 degrees cooler than in treeless areas” (EPA).
You can also help reduce cooling costs by shading your outdoor unit. Just make sure there is nothing blocking airflow. There should be a minimum 2-foot clearance around the unit.
Learn more about using landscaping to create a more energy-efficient home.
Additional spring survival tips include:
- Call a professional to inspect and analyze your home for structural weak points and flooding vulnerabilities.
- Go over your safety plan with your family and make sure everyone knows what to do in the case of a weather emergency.
- Consider investing in a home backup generator so you don’t have to worry about losing power in a storm. If you are using a generator already, have it professionally inspected every year and make sure it is at least 20 feet away from your home (all fuel-burning appliances produce carbon monoxide).
- Fallen tree limbs cause a lot of damage during storms and heavy winds. Take a look at the trees around your property and consider calling in a tree expert to determine if any branches need to be trimmed or cut off before hurricane season begins.
- Examine windows, doors, and garage doors for leaks and damage. Consider outfitting your windows with impact-resistant glass. If there is a storm blowing outside, stay away from windows and doors and board the windows up.
- Test your fire extinguishers and teach your entire household how to use one.
- Learn where your gas, water, and electrical shutoffs are located, especially if you are evacuating the home.
Call Brubaker Inc. for all your plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical needs.