Blog post

Preparing Your Vacation Home for Winter

Labor Day weekend is often the last time families gather at the beach house or cabin together.  It can be hard to say goodbye to the languid days of summer and adjust to the back-to-school routine.  But one thing that should be top of the list for the end of the summer:  preparing the holiday home so it’s safe and secure through the off-season. 

On the Outside

Make a checklist for tidying up the exterior of your holiday home.  If you are on a lake, take out the dock, winterize and clean the boat, dry out life jackets and cushions and store them in a well-ventilated area.  Mow the lawn and rake leaves around the cottage.  If you have expensive bikes or furniture, consider storing them in a locked garage or shed.

Sealed For the Season

Give your home a thorough once-over.  Do you see any openings in the floorboards or corners where a local creature could come in and stay for the winter?  If you find any suspicious holes, fill them with steel wool.  Check all the windows to ensure they close and lock; caulk the perimeters to stop any leaks. 

Time for Bed

Spider webs, dust and mice may find your home very hospitable in the winter.  One easy way to keep mites away:  cover mattresses and other soft furniture with plastic sheets and covers.  You can also scatter dryer sheets between the plastic and the fabric to freshen the room (and discourage vermin from getting comfortable).

Fireplace Safety

Wood-burning fireplaces can have residue that builds up over time.  If you haven’t had your fireplace cleaned recently, schedule an inspection and cleaning before the end of the season.  Repair any broken seals and then close the damper vent.

Turn The House Off

Take a walk through the home and turn off the furnace, unplug all appliances and electronics.  Clean out the refrigerator and leave the door open slightly to prevent mold growth.  A box of baking soda will also keep things clean.  Disconnect the oven, the washing machine and dryer.

It Takes a Village

Do you have neighbors who live near your vacation home in the off-season?  Ask if they will check in on your house while you are gone.  Be sure to leave your contact information with neighbors and local police.

Skip the Water Worry

There are a few important steps for avoiding leaks in the winter.  Turn off the electrical breaker for your water heater and pump, and follow instructions on how to best empty the hot water tank.  Shut off the water at the main supply to avoid freezing pipes.  For a fail-safe plan, ask your plumbing contractor to install a LeakSmart system—it will not only monitor for leaks and shut water off automatically if a leak is detected, but also remotely control the water supply from your smart phone. That way, you can be confident that your summer house is secure while you are away and you avoid leaks or worse, a catastrophic flood.

LeakSmart Blog Don't Give Mold A Home

Don’t Give Mold A Home

Along with crisp fall days and leaves starting to turn, September is designated National Mold Awareness Month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Particularly after the rainy and humid summer season that many households have experienced, it’s an ideal time to make sure your home is mold-controlled.

Part of Our World
Mold is a simple organism that thrives in a wet environment, and it ‘s very common in buildings and homes. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), mold growth can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours, especially around leaks in roofs, windows or where there has been flooding. Mold reproduces by spores traveling through the air, and destroying organic matter that it feeds on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that mold will also grow on many types of materials in your household, such as fabric, upholstery, ceiling tiles, wood products, insulation, drywall and carpet. This can cause damage in your home along with mild to severe health problems, like respiratory issues, cough, eye and skin irritations.

Making Mold Uncomfortable
The EPA notes that there is no way to get rid of all mold and mold spores in your home—the key is to control moisture so the mold stays at bay. Moisture and condensation are culprits that can be lurking in your basement, shower, or kitchen. Here are some simple tips to minimize moisture:
 Reducing indoor humidity is rule number one. Keep it no higher than 50 percent by venting bathrooms and dryers, using your air conditioning and dehumidifiers, and turning on exhaust fans when cooking and cleaning.
 Prevent condensation by adding insulation in your home.
 Fix any leaks so the mold does not have a hospitable environment to grow.
 Clean and dry your house quickly after any flooding.
 Avoid carpet in rooms that have a lot of moisture, like basements and bathrooms.

Suspicious Spores
If you find mold growth by sight or musty smell, the CDC recommends that you remove it immediately with a cleaning product, soap and water or a bleach solution. Be sure to wear gloves, a mask and eye protection, and keep the area well ventilated. Scrub the mold off hard surfaces and let it dry completely. If you find mold on ceiling tiles or carpet, you may have to discard it. Finally, the EPA cautions that you should clean up mold before painting or caulking.

Stop Mold Before It Starts
For extra peace of mind, you also can ask your plumbing contractor to install a LeakSmart system—it will not only monitor for leaks and shut water off automatically if a leak is detected, but also remotely controls your water supply from your smart phone. That way, you can be confident that an unexpected leak will not lead to a mold problem.

Be Smart About Your Sump Pump: Five Easy Tips

August means long, lazy days, ice cream treats, swimming at the lake and grilling on the deck.  The summer season’s heat and humidity also bring dramatic storms that can dump more rain than your garden might need—and unwanted water in your basement.  Your sump pump is a humble but essential tool, and keeping it properly maintained will ensure that your basement stays dry.  Here are some easy tips for a tip-top sump pump:

 Maintenance is Mandatory

Take time for regular “checkups” for your sump pump to keep it working well.  Late summer is a perfect time to remove and clean the pump and the sump pit.  It may have collected debris like leaves, mud, small rocks or lawn toys that can clog the pump and cause overflows.  Clean dirt from the floor and grate of the pit, and check to make sure the seals are intact.  Then inspect the valves for any dirt or leaks.  Finally, be sure to fill the basin with water so the pump runs correctly when it starts up again.

Try to clean the pump screen (or inlet opening) every three to four months, or more frequently if your sump collects water from the wash machine.  Always remember to disconnect the pump from the power source before you clean it and reconnect it once you are done.  Keep in mind you can ask your plumbing contractor to check your sump pump during your next scheduled maintenance.

Pump Up The Power

It’s possible that your sump pump may have been idle for few months, and the power could be disconnected or disrupted.  Check your sump pump’s power source.  To operate safely, it should connect to a ground fault circuit interruptor (GFCI).  Locate the cord, look for any damage, then turn it off and reset it.

Take a Test Run

Assess your sump pump’s position:  Is it level and upright?  Does it appear to be resting on solid and level ground?  Sometimes the vibrations from the motor can cause the pump to tilt; you can adjust the float so that it moves freely, without touching the basin wall. Then pour a bucket of water in the basin and watch the show (the pump should start immediately).

Follow the Water

Look at the pipes that move the water out of the basement; the joints should connect tightly.  If the pipe drains to the yard, make sure it’s pointing away from the foundation of the house.  Clear any debris that could be blocking the discharge pipe.

Have a Plan B

Strong summer storms are notorious for causing power outages.  Think about a generator or backup battery to keep the sump pump running if the power is out.  And remember that sump pumps need to be replaced approximately every ten years.

You can also ask your plumber to install a LeakSmart system—it will not only monitor for leaks and shut water off automatically if a leak is detected, including a sump pump malfunction, but also remotely control your water supply from your smart phone. And it works if the WiFi or power is down. That way, you can ensure a water crisis is averted even while you’re gone on a summer vacation.

Protecting Your Extended Family

Our busy lives are often crammed with taking care of something – the kids, the pets, the house, and even our own parents. That last one can be particularly difficult if aging parents live far away or require frequent visits. With your schedule, you cannot just drop by and check in on them every moment of every day. However, thanks to smart home technologies you can feel almost like you are there in person.

According to research from Business Insider, more than 24 billion internet-connected devices, or four devices per person, will be installed around the world by 2020. With some of these devices, such as smart cameras, smart door bells, and smart security, you can be alerted at any time day or night if your parents are in crisis. And you can even check in on them proactively. But have you ever considered how helpless you might be if the second leading cause of insurance claims happened in their home?

Water damage is outpaced only by wind when it comes to homeowner insurance claims. Water leaks lead to mold, which can impact residents’ health. If leaks go unattended, the resulting damage can be catastrophic – loss of valuable items, irreplaceable mementos, even whole home devastation. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen?

Smart technologies now extend to leak detection. LeakSmart detects and protects. When the system senses a leak, it shuts off the main water within five seconds and sends alerts to all identified contacts — your parent, you, even your preferred plumbing expert. The system works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If Wi-Fi is down, LeakSmart continues monitoring the water in a home.

You never have to worry about your parents suffering water damage again, giving you peace of mind and allowing them the independence of living alone. Smart technology, helping you take care of the ones you love.