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Winter Maintenance Tips For Your Home

Severe winter weather can cause significant damage to your home; some estimates find that winter storms cause more than $1 billion in damage each year. To avoid costly repairs this winter, help prepare your home for winter weather with these five tips.

Winter Maintenance Tips For Your Home - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps1. Inspect your fireplace

Whether you have a fireplace as a primary heat source or use one to supplement the furnace on cold days, regular chimney maintenance is extremely important. A fireplace sweeping and inspection can keep your fireplace burning safely and efficiently all winter long.

During a fireplace sweeping, the chimney sweep will remove soot, ash, and flammable creosote from the flue. In addition to preventing chimney blockages and allowing the chimney to draft effectively, removing creosote is extremely important in preventing chimney fires. Because it is so flammable, creosote buildup in the flue can be accidentally ignited by stray sparks or embers from the fireplace; removing creosote through annual chimney sweepings can reduce the risk of a chimney fire occurring.

As part of the chimney inspection, the chimney sweep will assess all interior and exterior portions of the chimney. This allows them to check for signs of damage or deterioration, such as:

  • Damage to or missing chimney cap
  • Signs of animal entry
  • Tree limbs or branches overhanging the chimney
  • Cracked or crumbling chimney masonry
  • Loss of watertight seal on chimney flashing
  • Staining on or around the chimney
  • When caught early, chimney damage can be easily repaired by a skilled chimney technician.

2. Seal leaky doors and windows

Gaps around doors and windows can allow cold air to seep into your home during winter months. In addition to creating cold pockets in your home, this forces your furnace to work harder to keep your home at a consistent temperature. According to the US Department of Energy, reducing drafts can help reduce energy costs by up to 20% during winter months.

Adding new weatherstripping is an easy way homeowners to stop conditioned air from seeping out of their home. There are a variety of weatherstripping choices available, each with their own pros and cons.

  • Bronze weatherstripping. Bronze weatherstripping is extremely durable and can last for decades. However, it is pricier than other options – and can be time-consuming to install.
  • Self-stick plastic weatherstripping. Extremely easy to install, self-stick plastic weatherstripping needs to be replaced often.
  • Adhesive-backed EPDM. This type of weatherstripping is more durable than self-stick plastic but is easier to install than bronze. Most EPDM weatherstripping can last for up to 10 years.
  • Don’t forget to seal around the exterior of doors and windows with latex caulk!

3. Keep pipes from freezing

Consistent temperatures below zero can wreak havoc on plumbing systems – especially for exterior pipes. While constantly moving water and warmer interior temperatures helps protect interior plumbing, exterior pipes are prone to cracking. In addition to releasing hundreds of gallons of water in a single day, the leaks from cracked pipes can lead to serious structural damage to a home.

Begin by shutting off external pipes at the beginning of winter. Check pipes again after a few days to ensure they have fully drained and to flush any remaining water out of the system. Consider wrapping insulating tape around any exterior pipes or pipes in basements or crawlspaces to help prevent cracks. Likewise, invest in exterior faucet covers to cover and project exterior spigots.

4. Clean the dryer vents

In winter it is too cold to dry laundry on the line or on a rack; this often leads to dryers being used more. Ensure your dryer is operating safely and efficiently by having the dryer vents cleaned.

Each year, more than 15,000 house fires are caused by clogged dryer vents. When dryer vents become clogged, dryers may stop operating efficiently, take longer than 1 cycle to dry, create excessive lint, or have lint that is visible from exterior vents.

To reduce the risk of a dryer fire, vents should be cleaned once per year. This is especially important for homes or buildings with longer dryer vents; the longer the dryer vent has to stretch, the more lint can become trapped inside.

5. Prevent ice dams

In areas of the country like Minnesota, significant snowfall is a part of life during the winter. Protect your roof from damage by helping prevent ice dams from forming. Ice dams form at the edge of the roofline and prevent melting snow from draining.

Ice dams form on the roof when warm air in the upper floors or attic melts snow or ice on parts of the roof – but not the eaves. As this snow melts prematurely, it freezes again on a colder part of the roof, such as the eaves; this creates the ice dam that can back up the flow of melting water and lead to roof damage.

There are several ways that ice dams can damage the roof. First, backed up water can sit on shingles, leaking through the roof and onto insulation and drywall. Ice dams also put downspouts and gutters at risk; because they sit at the edge of the roofline, a large ice dam can pull gutters down with it if it falls.

Ice dams can be carefully removed by breaking away small chunks at a time or using tools such as a rake or shovel to remove snow from the roof after a storm. However, the best solution to ice dams is to address the underlying cause: parts of the roof where snow melts too quickly due to leaking warm air. Adding insulation, keeping all parts of the home a consistent temperature, and preventing air leaks in the attic can all help prevent ice dams from forming.

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we are used to dealing with cold Minnesota winters! Contact us today for information on how we can prepare your fireplace and chimney for the winter.

Don’t forget your dryer vents!

Dryer vent safety often gets overlooked for the fireplace or stove, however, it’s important to remember to service your dryer vents annually. Call Jack Pixley Sweeps today to schedule your next appointment!

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please give us a call! We look forward to providing you with a lifetime of high-quality, professional services!

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please give us a call! We look forward to providing you with a lifetime of high-quality, professional services!

Don’t Forget About your Dryer Vents!

Many homeowners include chimney and fireplace cleaning and inspection on their list of annual home maintenance projects. However, few think to consider having their dryer vents cleaned.

Despite the fact that they are used nearly every day, most homeowners do not know that they should regularly clean their dryer vents. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, clogged dryer vents cause nearly 15,000 house fires each year. These fires result in upwards of $200 million in damages and more than 400 injuries and 50 deaths. However, these tragic fires can be prevented by regularly cleaning dryer vents and hoses.

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How do dryer vents cause house fires?

Most people know that lint is highly flammable – it’s why we clean the lint trap each time we use the dryer. Over time, lint also accumulates in the dryer vents and hoses. If left untreated, this lint can constrict air flow in the venting system. To compensate, the dryer will create more heat which can then cause the highly flammable lint to ignite. Once burning, dryer fires can quickly spread to other parts of the house.

Why should dryer vents be professionally cleaned?

Although homeowners may be able to remove some buildup from dryer vents and hoses, a trained professional is the only one who will be able to thoroughly clean the entire system. In additional to simply removing trapped lint, professional technicians will check vents, lines, and hoses for any kinks, knots, or other blockages, as well as evaluate the efficiency of your dryer.

Instead of rushing in and out of your home in 15 minutes or less, the trained technicians at Jack Pixley Sweeps will take the time to ensure that your entire dryer vent system is thoroughly cleaned and inspected. We utilize a variety of tools including a rotary system and vacuum cleaner to ensure that as much flammable material as possible is removed from the dryer line. In addition, we will also collect and dispose of the lint and debris from your dryer vents instead of blowing it all over your yard.

When should my dryer vents be cleaned?

Because many people are unfamiliar with their dryer vent systems, they do not know when they should be cleaned. Luckily, dryer performance is an excellent indicator of the condition of your dryer vents. The following signs may indicate that your dryer vents need to be cleaned:

  • Clothes take longer than one cycle to dry
  • The dryer produces excessive amounts of heat, even to the point of heating the room
  • There are greater than normal amounts of lint produced each cycle
  • Either the clothes or the dryer has a strong, musty odor
  • There is noticeable or large amounts of lint or debris surrounding the exterior dryer vent opening

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we can do more than just take care of your fireplace and chimney. Let the company you already know and trust to keep your chimney maintained take care of your dryer vents as well! Contact us today to schedule your dryer vent cleaning.