What is a Circuit Breaker? How to Check and Reset a Circuit Breaker Box
Before the invention of electricity, people had to make do with living in a world that was often dark, dreary, and cold. Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with that anymore. With the flick of a switch, our homes are bathed in light. We have the luxury of modern appliances, and our homes are a place of comfort and coziness. But do you know what keeps your electricity working tirelessly and safely in the background? The circuit breaker is one of the essential devices in the modern age. And it’s the home base of electrical activity in your house. Here’s what you need to know about checking and resetting a circuit breaker box.
What is a Circuit Breaker?
A circuit breaker is a switch that automatically stops the flow of electricity when there is an overload or short in the electrical system. The circuit breaker box is where the different switches are housed. However, the circuit breaker box isn’t the source of electricity in your home. That distinction belongs to the local power plant. So how does electricity get from the power plant to your house?
How a Circuit Breaker Works
The power distribution grid carries the power from the plant to individual homes. Inside the home, electric charges move in a large circuit, which houses many smaller circuits inside it. At one end of the large circuit, a hot wire goes straight to the power plant. The opposite end, called a neutral wire, goes into the ground.
So, the hot wire is connected to a source of high energy, while the neutral wire is in the ground where there isn’t an energy source. As a result, the voltage can travel in rapid, alternating currents across the circuit, powering your home.
Circuit Breakers: Fire Prevention
A consistent voltage between 120 to 240 volts is delivered from the power distribution grid to the house. But the current and the resistance of the voltage will change and vary throughout the home and its electrical devices. For example, light bulbs and appliances offer a particular amount of resistance. This resistance is called a “load.” The load is what powers the appliance or light bulb.
When a home is wired with electricity, hot wires and neutral wires do not touch. The charge that’s flowing through the circuit goes through the appliance or light bulb. The electrical resistance in an appliance, for example, will limit how much charge goes through the circuit. For the most part, the system runs smoothly. But sometimes, a hot wire may contact with a neutral wire or something else that is grounded.
For example, the motor in a ceiling fan could overheat and melt the hot and neutral wires together. Home remodeling can also lead to punctures in the power lines throughout the walls of the house. Hotwires that are connected to the ground lead to less resistance in the circuit. The voltage will create a considerable amount of electrical charge through the hot wire. This overheating will cause a fire. Your circuit breaker’s job is to prevent this from happening. Whenever the current is detected at a high, unsafe level, the circuit is cut off.
Learn more about fire restoration and the 10 steps you should take immediately after a fire.
Checking and Resetting Your Circuit Breaker
Circuit breakers are housed within a grey metal main service box that is attached to a wall. In most homes, the main service box is located in the basement, garage, or utility closet. A circuit breaker will only switch off power to the room in the house where a short or overload has happened. But it’s still annoying when you kitchen loses power while you’re trying to make a piece of toast before dashing out the door for work. Fortunately, it’s easy to check and reset the circuit breaker. But first, a few safety tips:
- Wear safety goggles
- Ensure that your hands are dry
- Stand on a dry surface when checking the breaker
- Do not stand directly in front of the service box when resetting the breaker
First, turn off all the lights and unplug the appliances in the room that’s been affected. You’ll want to use a flashlight to open up the main service box and ensure that you can adequately see which circuit breaker has been changed. Every breaker within the service box will have three positions that you can switch it to - on, off, and center position. The circuit breaker that’s been flipped to the center position is the culprit and the one that needs resetting.
Flip the offending breaker to the “off” position, and then flip it to the “on” position. Wait a minute. If the switch stays put, then you’ve successfully reset the breaker, and the power is back on in the affected room. But what’s causing the issue in the first place? In most cases, the switch gets flipped to the center position when an electric device has shorted. Or there are too many appliances running at once that are overloading the system.
How to Find a Shorted Device
Switch each light in the affected room on and off. If the breaker stays put, then unplug and plug in each device that’s in the affected room. Whatever trips the circuit breaker to the center position when you plug it in is the culprit. When you look at the device’s power cord, you’ll see charring or a melted power cord.
For overloads to the system, unplug and then plug in all the devices and switch everything on, including the lights. If the breaker trips when you do this, then the room is overloaded. Turn off the major power users, like AC units or space heaters. Plug them into a different room to prevent the breaker from tripping.
But what if when you initially check the circuit breaker, the switch won’t stay in the “on” position? A circuit breaker that keeps going back to the center position after you move it indicates a severe wiring problem in the home. You must contact an experienced electrician asap to prevent a house fire from an electrical wiring issue.
Has an electrical fire damaged your home? Our professional fire damage restoration experts in Dallas can restore your home to its original condition. Contact SERVPRO North Irving today at (972) 986-7677 to see how we can help.
Our Top 5 Holiday Home Safety Tips
While you and your loved ones are ready to relax and take a break for the holidays, home safety should never fall to the wayside, despite the festivities. Did you know that the holiday season is when most house fires occur? Slips and falls from snow and ice are also common. And are you hanging up Christmas lights? Prepare to take a trip to the ER if you aren’t careful. Below are our top five holiday home safety tips. Follow the steps below to ensure that you and your family stay safe while you enjoy the winter wonderland.
1. Lit Candles Holiday Safety Tips
Candles may light up your home with beautiful holiday ambiance. Fragrant candles can also make the rooms smell like Christmas. But they are dangerous, especially when left unattended or without adequate clearance. Candle fires are four times more likely to occur in December than at any other time of year. One easy way to reduce the risk of fires from candle flames is to give the candle at least three feet of clearance from anything that could be flammable.
Always place the candle on a sturdy surface. Consider covering them with a hurricane globe for increased safety. Whatever you do, do not leave the candle unattended. Children and pets can easily knock a lit candle over and start a house fire.
Now that you know the statistics and risks regarding candle fires, it might seem like using traditional candles to make your home a cozy winter retreat isn’t worth it. Fear not, there are ways to get that beautiful glow without risking a fire. Consider using safe LED candles instead. You can find a variety of different sizes, colors, and styles. If you miss the scent of a lit candle during the holidays, you can purchase fragrant and safe wall plugins to use instead.
2. Cooking and Kitchen Holiday Safety Tips
What would the holidays be without delicious, home-cooked food that you usually don’t get to enjoy the rest of the year? Unfortunately, house fires during the holidays often occur in the kitchen, for many reasons. On top of that, kitchen holiday safety issues can lead to burns and hot grease spills that can send someone to the ER. People get distracted and can leave the burners on, or forget a boiling pot on the stove. Incorrect use of a deep fryer is another holiday safety hazard.
So what can you do to keep everyone safe from fires, spills, and burns?
- Do not place anything flammable near the stove, like mittens and wooden spoons
- Be sure to turn pot and panhandles away from the edge of the oven so no one can knock them over
- Use a timer or alarm, so you don’t forget that something is cooking while you socialize
For added safety and security, make sure you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Check and make sure your smoke detectors are all working, too.
3. Christmas Tree Holiday Safety Tips
Christmas trees are pine trees, and pine is used to make turpentine, an extremely flammable substance. If a Christmas tree catches fire, it is practically explosive. If you are going to purchase a live tree, you’ll want to make sure the plant is as fresh and moist as possible. Also, make sure the needles are intact. A freshly cut trunk will also keep the tree hydrated so it won’t be such a tinderbox. And never place the tree near a fireplace, candles, or radiators.
learn more about fireplace safety before the holidays!
The air inside the home will mostly turn dry and full of static during the holiday season. This is a recipe for a dry tree that can easily catch fire from the tiniest spark. Be sure to refill the tree’s water supply often, and keep it well-watered during the holidays. But even a fresh and hydrated tree will dry out significantly within a month of being inside a dry, warm house. Discard the tree soon after the holidays to reduce the risk of fire. Are you using an artificial tree? Just make sure the model you choose if fire-resistant. A pre-lit, artificial tree should have a UL rating for safety.
4. Holiday Lights Safety Tips
Are you planning to hang up strings of colored lights for the holidays? Be sure to inspect each light and strand for any damage. Broken sockets on the light strings, or frayed and cracked electrical cords are a fire hazard just waiting for ignition. Never run more than three light strings end-to-end. If you’re using extension cords for the lights, check to see if they are for indoor or outdoor use, and use accordingly. Don’t string together several extension cords. It’s a fire and safety hazard. Hanging lights outside? Use a UL-rated hanger or clip instead of nails or staples.
While the holiday lights may bring a bit of cheer to you during the dreary winter season, try to resist leaving them for months on end. Rodents and pests will chew through the cords, and the elements will damage the lights too. Outdoor lights should be put away within three months.
5. Evacuation Plans
No one wants to think about a fire breaking out in their home. But to ensure the safety of your family, it’s best to come up with an evacuation plan. Making sure that everyone knows how to exit the house safely and quickly in the event of a house fire will prevent a tragedy from occurring. Develop a strategy for evacuating the home, and practice a few times before the holidays become far too busy.
Holiday Safety Tips: A Takeaway Message
Despite our best efforts and plans, accidents can and often do happen. Unfortunately, 780 homes in the U.S. this year will suffer from smoke and fire damage. Has your home been damaged from a fire? Our restoration experts at SERVPRO North Irving can help with fire restoration in Dallas.
Smoke Damage: How to Get Rid of Fire Smoke in A House
SERVPRO of North Irving has been a smoke damage cleanup company for 30+ years. We restore homes and businesses from any size smoke and fire damage.
Cooking mistakes commonly cause smoke damage. Either something is forgotten on the stove or the oven. Smoke smell is usually strong in the room where the accident happened, but sometimes you end up smelling it all-around the house.
The good news is that smoke damage can be taken care of.
These tips are useful for people who have had a small accident that was taken care of very quickly.
If your accident is severe enough to cause a fire or if you are experiencing nausea or headaches, leave the area and call a professional smoke damage cleanup company. Inhaling fire smoke can be hazardous to your health.
Light Smoke Damage Cleanup
First, get rid of the source of the smell.
Whatever has burnt -- whether it be food or a kitchen towel that caught fire -- it’s time to throw it away. Wrap it with a plastic grocery or zip-lock bag to help seal the odor inside, and then carry it outside to the dumpster. Getting rid of the source will immediately eliminate the bulk of the smell out of your house.
Open your doors and windows and let the smoke dissipate outdoors. Ventilation will help some of the smoke from settling in your home and will leave less for you to clean.
Then, deep clean.
Clean the room where the incident happened. Start at the top and work your way down -- this helps any small soot particles fall to the ground.
Wash walls, windows, and other surfaces with mild soap. Rinse thoroughly
If you have cabinets or drawers in the area, open them up, clear them, and clean the inside of them as well. Whatever was in the cupboard or drawers should also be washed.
Any knick-knack that can be washed needs to be cleaned, too. Continue using water and mild soap.
Finally, if your floors are made of a hard surface, give them a good scrub. If you have carpet, you may want to rent a carpet cleaning machine at your local hardware store or hire a local carpet cleaning company to deep wash it for you.
Are you thinking about using candles and aerosols? Save the expense. These items mask smoke odor for a little while. The smoke smell won’t be gone until all the smoke particles have been removed from your home.
Not Enough? Time for Pro Smoke Damage Cleanup
If the steps above didn’t go the trick or if you have clothing, carpet, or furniture and upholstery, then it’s time to consider hiring a smoke damage restoration company. Be prepared to tell them:
- What caused the smoke damage. Smoke is particles of that time that did not fully combust and is now in the air. Different items create different types of smoke, which require various techniques to clean properly.
- Where it occurred.
- Where you smell the smoke.
- What types of items are affected. They will bring the right tools and equipment to clean whatever was affected.
A smoke damage cleaning company will visit your home and inspect the damage. They may bring specialized sponges to test different surfaces of your home and check for smoke and soot particles.
After their inspection, they should give you an estimate for the cleanup and a general timeline of how the cleanup process will take.
If the damage is significant enough and you need to file an insurance claim, the odor removal company should be able to work with your insurance adjuster to help process your claim. Ask them if they have experience with insurance claims before you hire them.
Smoke Damage Repair
Cleaning smoke damage in a house will require different tools, techniques, and an eye for fine detail. Since smoke can get anywhere, the cleanup process can be time and work-intensive. These are some techniques you may see used:
Removing Smoke Odor From Clothing
Throwing your clothes into your home washing machine may not get rid of smoke smell. In some instances, your clothes may smell worse as the smoke particles embed themselves deeper into your clothing fibers. The most effective way to get the smoke particles (and thus the smoke smell) out of your clothes is to get them washed in a machine called the Esporta Wash System.
Advanced restoration providers have these sophisticated machines in their offices. The device uses water, hydraulic pressure, and a mixture of up to six detergents to make your clothing and other textiles food-grade safe.
Ask your smoke damage restoration company what method they use to clean clothes.
If you’ve searched for smoke damage cleanup, then chances are that you’ve seen articles about ozone generators. Ozone can effectively eliminate smoke odor, but should only be used carefully. For best results, hire a professional.
Deep Wash Carpet Cleaning
Your carpet may be able to be saved. Ask for a deep wash carpet cleaning. Professional fire damage restoration providers use powerful truck-mounted carpet cleaners to push detergent-laden hot water into the fibers of your carpet and extractors to get the soot out.
Upholstery and Drapery Cleaning
If your smoke damage cleanup company has carpet cleaning machines, chances are they will also have the proper equipment to clean your drapes and upholstery the same way they did your carpets. Upholstery and drape cleaning tools are made to handle the delicate fibers.
Air Duct and HVAC Cleaning
Smoke rises into the air and can settle inside of your air ducts. The next time your AC turns on and blows air, that soot will blow out with it. This is why it’s important to get your air ducts inspected and the soot removed before the AC runs again.
If your items need to be cleaned, a sophisticated fire damage cleanup company will have an ultrasonic cleaning machine. This machine looks like a tub of water with billions of small bubbles floating inside. Items are dunked inside the device along with detergent, and every part of the piece is thoroughly cleaned in just minutes.
Move-Out, Storage, and Move-Back
When fire and smoke damage is bad enough, some or all of your home’s contents may have to be temporarily moved out to be able to clean your home correctly. Ask your fire restoration company how your items will be inventoried, cleaned, and stored.
Fire Damage Restoration
If your smoke damage was caused by a large fire that caused damage to your home, read about our fire restoration process. Fire cleanup can be hazardous and should be left to experienced professionals with the proper safety equipment and tools.
We Provide Fire Restoration Near You
Need some help? We’re here for you. We've been fire and smoke odor removal specialists for over 30 years, and we have restored thousands of properties after damage, and we guide our clients from the start of their restoration to the very end.
Give us a call or leave us a message and let us know what’s happened. We’ll meet you and give you a free consultation and estimate.
Preparing Your Home for Winter: A Checklist
People are right to think they need a home. But the truth of the matter is, homes need people. Without people around to perform regular, routine maintenance houses deteriorate rapidly. Wintertime is especially harsh on your home’s interior, exterior, and critical systems like the HVAC and plumbing. Before we get into the thick of winter, you’ll need to do a few preparations to keep the house in great shape. Our winter home maintenance checklist is a good starting point.
Inspect and Prepare the HVAC System
Number one on our winter home maintenance checklist is the HVAC system. As an essential part of the house, preparing your HVAC system for winter is crucial. On average, a residential HVAC system will last between 12 and 15 years. Some can last over 20 years, while others will die within the first decade after installation. The way an HVAC system is maintained has a lot to do with its lifespan. The more meticulous you are about maintaining your HVAC system, the longer it will last (and vice versa).
Fall and spring are the best times to perform necessary HVAC maintenance. The filters will need to be changed at this time, and it’s a good idea to have an HVAC technician inspect the system. While cleaning air ducts, the technician should make sure hot and cold air are running efficiently and going where they’re supposed to go.
Check for Drainage Issues
Water that is given a chance to pool around the foundation wall can cause a range of expensive issues for your home. First off, water left near the foundation walls can lead to bowing and cracking over time. Mold can find its way into the basement, further compromising the structural integrity of the house and increasing the incidence rate of allergies and respiratory infections.
Before winter hits, look around at the soil near the foundation. If the dirt has settled, then these are prime areas for water to pool and cause future repair issues with the property. Don’t panic if you find low spots and depressions in the soil next to the foundation, though. All you have to do is fill them in with dirt.
You’ll also need to find out where the water is coming from in the first place. It’s usually the gutters. If possible, add downspout extenders to your gutters to ensure that water is adequately directed away from the foundation.
Clean the Gutters
Next up on our winter home maintenance checklist are the gutters. The relatively mild seasons of spring and fall are the ideal times to check and clean the gutters. Once winter arrives, it might be too late. The best time to inspect and clean gutters and downspouts are after the trees have lost their leaves. Clogged gutters will cause drainage backups and overflows, leading to water running down the exterior of the house. This can severely damage the home’s siding and other exterior features. Foundations are also compromised when the gutters don’t work correctly.
Seal Exterior Wood
When temperatures are mild during fall, you’ll need to paint, caulk, or otherwise seal any exterior wood. Wood left exposed to the winter elements will become damaged from the freeze, thaw cycle, leading to cracking, splintering, and other structural and cosmetic issues.
Wood for decks is usually pressure-treated or built using rot-resistant wood species. However, trim around doors and windows is generally made out of pine boards that will quickly rot if not cared for adequately. Repairing damaged exterior trim is not easy and the repair will rarely blend in with the rest of the home’s aesthetic. The best cure? Prevention.
Keep the exterior trim painted and caulked - an easy DIY job. Any paint that is chipped, flaking, or cracking will need to be replaced during the fall. Cracked caulk will also need replacing. Simply scrape away the damaged paint or caulk and reapply it fresh.
What about decks? Even though decks are usually made with hardy materials, they still need maintaining before winter weather makes its yearly appearance. Painting, staining, and sealing the deck is a good idea to protect the wood beneath, but you don’t need to do this every year.
Not sure if your deck is due for sealing? Pour some water on it when it is dry outside. If the water beads, you do not need to do anything this year. But if the wood appears to absorb the water, then you need to seal the deck.
Protect and Seal Masonry and other Hard Surfaces
Driveways, sidewalks, and concrete patios will need protecting over the winter season. Apply concrete sealers to all hard surfaces in the fall after you fill in any cracks in the masonry or concrete. Water that gets into masonry cracks will freeze and thaw, leading to larger cracks over time and structural issues. By repairing breaks and sealing the masonry, you’ll ensure that these structures last for many years to come.
Test the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The majority of house fires occur during the wintertime. People are running their furnaces and using the fireplace to keep the home warm and cozy. Adding to the risk of fires is the fact that the house is sealed up tight to keep the heat in, which makes carbon monoxide poisoning a bigger threat. Before winter starts, inspect all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are working correctly, keeping you and your family safe. If you were diligent in having an HVAC technician inspect the furnace, they should have checked to make sure the furnace and water heater were correctly vented. Ventilation problems are an enormous source of carbon monoxide threats.
Cold weather can wreak havoc on your home’s interior and exterior systems. Without adequate home maintenance, HVAC systems, decks, and masonry won’t last as long. Keep this winter home maintenance checklist in mind this fall to keep your home in tip-top shape and your family safe and warm as the temperatures drop. Contact a technician at SERVPRO of North Irving today to have your HVAC system inspected and cleaned.
Sewage Cleanup: Why It’s Important to Clean Your System
Before the invention of indoor and outdoor plumbing systems, millions of people died from contaminated water and bacterial infections. Luckily, today, these diseases have been mostly eradicated. Plumbing systems work silently in the background to keep us safe, and our homes and communities clean. But what happens when sewage systems back up and sewage cleanup becomes a code red on your to-do list?
Sewage is a biohazard and considered a Category 3 Blackwater, posing significant risks to your health. When sewage systems go awry, it must be dealt with efficiently, safely, and fast. Sewage cleanup is a labor-intensive and dangerous job. Homeowners should not attempt to clean up sewage unless it’s a tiny spill. Call a plumber and sewage cleanup specialist as soon as possible if you’re having problems with your system. Here’s what you need to know about caring for your sewage system so that you can prevent costly repairs in the future.
Why is it Important to Clean Your Sewage System Regularly?
For homeowners, plumbing and septic systems are easy to overlook. These critical systems hardly give us any trouble, and it’s easy to forget about them while they work in the background, on autopilot, and silently. Most people don’t even think about their septic system unless something goes wrong. But a malfunctioning septic system can be an absolute nightmare to deal with. Sewage problems are not only costly to fix; they are a hazard to one’s health and property. While your septic system is working below ground to keep you and your home clean and safe, problems could be forming beneath the surface. Regular maintenance can prevent septic issues.
Clean the Drains to Maintain Sewage System Integrity
A clogged pipe is the most common problem that your septic system will face if it’s not maintained correctly. As the months and years pass, debris will build up along the sides of the pipes. If water is taking way too long to drain, it could be indicating either a clogged pipe or a sewer system backup.
A professional should clean and inspect the property’s drains at least every two years. Why, you ask? Well, checking the drains at this interval ensures that any small problems are caught before they become big problems. A clogged drain that goes left unnoticed can cause significant damage to your home if it’s not fixed. Some signs of impending drain trouble include:
- Strange noises coming from the drains (such as gurgling or knocking sounds)
- Sink and shower drains that take too long to work
- Appliances like dish and clothes washers taking too long to drain
While it’s a good idea to have a professional inspect the drains every two years, drains can become clogged in between these inspections. Homeowners can take steps to prevent drain issues in the meantime:
- Never rinse greasy, oily, or corrosive substances down the drains
- Do not flush solid objects down the toilet (paper towels, wipes, etc.)
- Use natural cleaners to remove minor drain clogs
Even wipes that say “flushable” should never be flushed down the toilet. Creating a drain cleaner of baking soda and white vinegar can clear and clean the drains in-between plumbing inspections.
Clean the System to Prevent Bacterial Contamination
If the sewage system gets backed up with clogged pipes and slow drains, bacteria has a perfect pathway into your home. Even if the pipes are only partially blocked, this gives pathogens the ideal environment to grow and multiply. Germs will gather within not just the shower and sink drains, but also in the appliances where you wash your dishes and clothes. In some cases, bacteria can leach out of the sewage system and contaminate the groundwater on your property.
Worst case scenario? The sewage system will completely back up. Wastewater will make its way into your home, contaminating your floors and carpets. If this happens, you’ll need to evacuate the home until a sewage cleanup and restoration specialist and a plumber can fix the damage and decontaminate your house. Sewage backups can destroy a basement or a bathroom.
Clean the Sewage System and Prevent Damaged Drains
A clogged drain will make the plumbing systems corrode much more quickly than usual. With regular septic maintenance, you can extend the life of the pipes. Clogs will corrode the pipes rapidly, causing leaks that may go unnoticed for months. Fixing a leaking pipe takes time and money, and you may end up needing to replace flooring or drywall on top of it.
Another primary source of sewage system issues is pipe damage from tree roots. Tree roots will search for water, breaking through the pipes in search of moisture and nutrients. By regularly inspecting and cleaning your sewer system, you’ll be able to spot these issues before they become major headaches and hits to your wallet.
What do you do if you need sewage cleanup services?
Sewage spills can cause significant damage to your property and pose a health risk to you and your family. You’ll need to contact a sewage cleanup professional in Dallas immediately if your septic system fails. The longer the contaminated water is left to pool in the home, the higher the risk of severe water damage and disease.
How can a professional sewage cleanup specialist help?
Professional sewage cleaners have the skills, knowledge, and equipment to safely and appropriately remove unsafe blackwater from septic failures. They will clean and sanitize the home while decontaminating your property. If the home has water damage issues, a professional can perform necessary water damage restoration throughout the property as needed. In some cases, mold may form and pose another hazard on top of the sewage backup. Professional sewage cleaners can also remove mold and prevent future mold growth, keeping the air you breathe inside the home safe and clean.
What do sewage cleanup services cost? It depends on the extent of the damage and the size of the spill. On average, a sewage system cleanup can cost anywhere from $2000 to $10,000. If you need sewage cleanup services in Dallas, SERVPRO of North Irving can help. Contact us today to restore your home to its original condition.
Common HVAC Problems: Save on Electric Bills with Home Improvement
You rely on your HVAC heating and cooling systems to keep you and your family comfortable. When the air conditioner or furnace quits working, you notice. Coming home to a freezing home in winter or a stuffy house in summer indicates an obvious problem with the HVAC system. But sometimes, common HVAC problems are far more subtle. What happens when you let common HVAC problems go unnoticed? Well, these problems can cause a slow bleed to your bank account. When your HVAC system isn't working correctly, your electric bills will start going up. Learn how home improvement, cleaning your HVAC along with fixing common issues can lower your electric bills.
Who Are The Most Likely Culprits Causing Your Electric Bill To Go Up?
Unfortunately, there's no way around paying an electric bill. Using air conditioning in the summer months and heating your home during the winter can cause significant electrical use at certain times throughout the year. If you open this month's electric bill and find that it's far more than you're used to owing, then there might be something else going on. You'll want to identify what's causing the electric bill to go up and fix it. Fortunately, there are a lot of things that everyday Jane and Joe homeowner can do to fix common HVAC problems and lower their electric bill. But first, what are the most common reasons for sky-high electric bills?
- Energy vampires
- Leaving the lights and appliances on when they aren't needed
- Using large appliances
- Forgoing necessary home maintenance and home improvement
- Forgetting to service the AC or heating units
Fixing common HVAC problems with the AC and heating units is one of the most effective ways to significantly lower your electric bills. Home maintenance and home improvement can make your home more energy-efficient, too.
Home Improvement and Maintenance to Lower Your Electric Bills
Every home can benefit from home improvement and maintenance when it comes to increasing energy efficiency. For older homes, especially, home improvement is critical. Newer builds are constructed with more energy-efficient materials. As homes age, window frames and door frames can sag and floors can slope. This natural wear and tear of the home can make it less airtight, and more prone to drafts. A drafty house will make your HVAC system work harder and less effectively. The result? A higher electric bill. The good news is, there's a lot that homeowners can do to maintain the property and make it more energy-efficient.
- Seal windows and doors to cut down on drafts with caulking
- Add weather stripping to the door thresholds to keep cool or warm air inside
- Install window blinds or blackout curtains
- Replace inefficient light bulbs with newer efficient models
- Maintain and improve AC units
How HVAC Maintenance Fixes Common Problems
The HVAC system can be a major energy hog if it's not maintained correctly. You'll want to change your AC and furnace filters every three to nine months, depending on how often and how heavily you use the units. A general rule of thumb is to change them out every six months. Old, clogged filters will cause the HVAC system to run inefficiently. Luckily, this is a pretty easy and affordable fix!
You should also make sure the AC and heating vents are free of dust and debris buildup. Any obstructions will cause issues with the unit's efficiency, and your electric bills will increase. If there are any issues with the system's components, this can also make the unit hog electricity. This is why scheduling professional tune-ups and maintenance for your HVAC units is critical. A technician can uncover HVAC problems and fix them before they turn into a serious issue and become too costly for you to repair.
HVAC Operation for Lowering Your Electric Bills
How you operate the HVAC system will also impact how much you pay for electricity each month. Although it's really a matter of personal comfort, many HVAC systems have an ideal temperature range for maximum efficiency. How do you find out what that range is? Consult the owner's manual or ask an experienced HVAC technician. It's also a good idea to avoid wild swings where you set the temperature. Extreme fluctuations can cause the system to work harder and less efficiently. Also, putting a strain on the system can shorten the lifespan of your AC or furnace.
How the Thermostat Impacts the HVAC System
The thermostat plays a significant role in how well the HVAC system operates. Try to set the thermostat to the coldest temperature you can tolerate during the winter. On hot summer days, set the thermostat to the highest temperature you find comfortable. Not only will this lower your energy consumption, but it will also extend the lifespan of your HVAC system. It won't be working as hard to maintain indoor temperatures when the weather outside is extreme. Although this may seem insignificant, the impact it will have on your electric bills is substantial. By doing this, you can save 5 to 15% on your electricity bill every year.
Do you have room in your budget to install a programmable thermostat? Doing so can save you even more money on your electric bills. Old thermostats can also have worn out components that can make them less accurate and, therefore, less efficient. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the HVAC system to a certain temperature when nobody is home. Lowering the amount of heating or cooling you need when the house is empty will lower your energy bills, and also extend the lifespan of your unit.
Our HVAC Maintenance and Problems Bottom Line
Homeowners can do many things to maintain their HVAC and uncover common problems themselves. Regular, routine maintenance of the HVAC unit not only lowers your energy bills but can also save you money in other ways.
At SERVPRO North Irving, we can perform an air duct cleaning or HVAC cleaning service in your home to address any indoor air quality concerns and detect any possible HVAC problems. If you uncover a common problem early, fixing it is typically less expensive than if it had gone unnoticed for months or years. A well-maintained HVAC system will also last longer, which saves you money in the long run. Keep these HVAC and home improvement tips in mind to keep more money in your wallet!
Dallas Tornado Damage Repairs
SERVPRO of North Irving is locally owned and has restored thousands of properties in their 30+ year history. Contact us for Dallas tornado repairs.
Repairing Your Home After Tornado Damage
What Comes After Roof Tarping and Board-Up?
Temporary repairs like roof tarping and board-up will go a long way to helping the homes avoid secondary damage. Most homes and businesses have had temporary repairs completed on their properties, and this helps satisfy your insurance company’s homeowner insurance temporary repairs requirement.
There’s still more that needs to get done before your home is back to normal.
If you are hiring a restoration company, what comes next? What should you expect?
All debris needs to be removed from your home for a few reasons. First, it’s a matter of safety. Second, the restoration company you choose will need space to move in and out of your home. Third, any debris that remains on your yard has the potential to damage the underlying grass.
A full-service restoration company will handle the debris removal for you, including large trees. Everything should be hauled away -- not remain on the curb.
In homes with extensive damage, all belongings may need to be moved out so workers can correctly clean and restore the property.
The move-out process has to be meticulously documented. The reason for this is because all documentation is presented to your insurance adjuster so your claim can be validated. Just as important, you and your restoration company need to know what items can be salvaged and cleaned and what items have to be thrown away.
Every item should be documented, inventoried, and safely boxed. Then, they should be taken to the restoration company’s cleaning facilities. The items are unpacked, sanitized, and repackaged. Your items are then put into a storage facility for safekeeping until they can be returned to you.
Cleaning Your Belongings - Content Cleaning
Cleaning your belongings is important, especially if they were contaminated during the storm. Your restoration company should first make sure content cleaning is approved by your adjuster -- this will ensure you don’t have to pay for this out-of-pocket in the back end.
There are different ways your items can be cleaned. Companies can either use an ultrasonic machine and/or clean items by hand.
An ultrasonic machine can clean every nook and cranny of your item. Picture a large, deep bathtub filled with water. Your items will be loaded onto baskets and dipped into this bathtub, which has detergents and billions of small bubbles inside. In just a few minutes, contaminants are removed from your items. The final steps are to dry the items, document their cleaning, and re-pack them for storage. This is our preferred cleaning method.
Another method is hand cleaning. This process is slower than using an ultrasonic, but may be necessary for especially delicate items.
Cleaning Your Clothing - Textile Cleaning
Textiles are clothing, blankets, soft toys, sports equipment, and shoes. If your textiles need to be cleaned, ask your restoration provider: Do you clean textiles in-house?
Many adjusters today will only approve textile cleaning from restoration companies that can provide this service in-house.
Textile cleaning can be accomplished in a variety of ways. One of them is dry-cleaning, although this is rarely done in-house with a full-service restoration provider.
Instead, full-service restoration providers tend to use a process called the Esporta Wash System. This is a specialty wet-wash system that uses hydraulic pressure to sanitize items back to food-grade safety.
We are a Certified Esporta Wash System operator, and you can learn more about our process here.
After your contents have been moved out, your home’s cleaning can begin. Your home should ideally be cleared of all outside debris before this step starts. This will simply help the technicians walk in and out of your property without any additional tripping hazards.
Demolition is a big part of cleaning your home because everything that was broken inside and cannot be salvaged has to be taken out before it can be replaced. Demolition can take hours to days, depending on the extent of the damage to your property.
All debris and demolished items should be hauled away at the end of every shift. During storm situations, city garbage services may run behind schedule. Taking debris away will discourage unwanted visitors from picking your items and will help set up a safe worksite for the following day.
It’s important to meet the Reconstruction Manager of the full-service restoration company you use. Ask yourself:
- How experienced are they?
- Are they someone I trust and will want to work with for the duration of my project?
- How will they work with my insurance adjuster to make sure my claim is covered?
- Will they be available to answer all my questions in a timely manner?
- How will they guide me through the rebuild of my home?
- How long do they think repairs will take?
A great Reconstruction Manager should have plenty of experience rebuilding homes. They should be empathetic to your situation and have the same goal that you do -- to rebuild your home correctly, safely, and as quickly as possible.
A Reconstruction Manager will have a team of technicians and administrators behind them to help move the process forward. There should be frequent communication with both you and your adjuster about the process, and they should be available to answer your questions quickly.
During a storm situation, your home or property is unlikely to be the only one that has been affected. This, unfortunately, means that some flooring, wall, and other kinds of suppliers may be on backorder which will delay your reconstruction. If this is the case, expect a great Reconstruction Manager to be upfront and honest about a realistic timeline for your project.
Post-Construction Cleanup - Structure Cleaning
After the construction is complete, we’re almost done. Your restoration company should clean up after the work they’ve just completed. Since reconstruction dust tends to get everywhere, expect your home to be thoroughly cleaned before your return -- air ducts included!
Finally, it’ll be time to move back into your home. Your restoration company will take all of your clean items out of storage and drop them off at your house. Ask your company about their unpacking process. Some may simply drop off your items in boxes while others will take the extra step of unpacking and setting your items for you.
Water Damage Restoration After Tornado
Some properties experienced water damage when storms came just a few days after the tornado. For those properties, the water damage remediation process along with the tornado restoration process is necessary.
In this situation, temporary repairs (roof tarping and board-up) are still the first necessary measures to take. They will help keep additional weather out of the home and will make it possible to stabilize your home for mitigation work to take place.
Water damage restoration includes:
- Water Removal. All standing water has to be extracted from your property. The areas it touched need to be sanitized.
- Drying. To help prevent mold growth and further damage, the home has to be dried. Commercial air movers and dehumidifiers should be installed.
- Daily Moisture Checks. Every day, a technician should visit your property and ensure that the drying plan is going smoothly. Changes should be made immediately to help the home dry quickly.
Choosing One Full-Service Restoration Company or Many Companies
Choosing to work with either one full-service restoration company or many different companies is a decision that only you can make.
By law, your insurance company and adjuster must honor your choice of company(ies) to work with.
Let’s Finish Getting Your Home Back Together
Our franchise has been locally owned and operated for over 30 years. In that time, we’ve restored thousands of homes and have worked with insurance companies to process claims.
If you are looking for a company to help you finish your home’s cleanup and restoration, we’re here for you the rest of the way.
We are 1 Company for 100% Restoration. We routinely help homeowners in need cleanup and restore their properties -- from start to end. Our full-service restoration services help make an already difficult time easier to manage because we assign you one point of contact that you know you can always count on to guide you every step of the way.
We live and work in our hometown of Dallas Fort Worth. When the tornadoes hit, we were fortunate enough to stay safe. Not everyone is able to say that. Whether you decide to let us be your restoration company or not, we’re here to help our neighbors.
Contact us if you’re interested in a free consultation. We’ll visit you at your property, answer your questions, and give you guidance during this difficult time.
We’re here to help.
Who's Responsible for Water Damage: Tenants or Landlords?
Whether your landlord or you are responsible for paying for water damage depends on the circumstances that caused it.
Water damage can occur without warning, and it can be costly to fix. But who exactly is responsible for the damages? Is it the landlord or the tenant? This is what today’s blog will try to answer.
Signs of Water Damage
Water damage is every landlord’s worst nightmare. Even a tiny leak or a plumbing problem can lead to serious and costly damages. This event is especially true if the problem is left unattended for quite some time.
Some signs of water damage are easier to spot than others. They include:
Have you noticed an unusual puddle somewhere in your rental property? If so, get it fixed immediately. Even when it is just a minor problem, it is unlikely to reoccur. If it comes back, it may be an indicator of a leakage or seepage problem.
Is your home feeling unusually cold? If so, your walls are likely damp. Damp walls draw out heat from the walls leaving your home difficult to heat.
This is also another common sign of water damage. Mold and water do not go hand in hand—one cannot exist without the other. If you spot a mold growing anywhere in the property, it means there is unwanted moisture somewhere in the property.
Discoloration is commonly a sign of overflowing gutters. Inspect them as soon as possible.
Spotting any of these signs can be a sign of trouble. Call your landlord as soon as you can.
When does your landlord become responsible for water damage?
Your landlord ensures you live in a safe and habitable environment. This includes ensuring your rental unit is free from any plumbing problems, says Uptown Dallas Properties.
That being said, it also befalls on you to prevent further damages. For example, a supposed serious plumbing leak occurs. Your landlord makes sure you live in a habitable environment.
In the same regard, as a tenant, it is your responsibility to notify your landlord of any kind of problem that threatens your safety. This can help stop problems from getting worse that will eventually cause serious damage to your home.
If you fail to notify your landlord quickly enough, the liability for damage caused to your personal property may be yours to take.
When does a tenant become responsible for water damage?
You may also become responsible for water damage especially if the damage occurs as a result of negligence or carelessness. An example would be if you are out of town and leave the property under the care of a friend.
For whatever reason, your friend forgets to shut off the bathroom faucet and water flows all over the floor. By the time the problem is discovered, the damage has already taken place, and everything has been soaked.
In such a case, who do you think will assume the responsibility? It is definitely going to be yours to take. Your friend’s carelessness or negligence will have nothing to do with your landlord.
Another common sign of water damage is overflowing toilets. In this case, the problem must first be established. Is it because of poorly maintained plumbing pipes or is it a result of diapers and facial tissues being flushed down the toilet?
Of course, if the problem is as a result of misuse by the tenant, then the responsibility lies solely with the tenant. However, if it’s because of poor maintenance, then the responsibility becomes your landlord’s.
Can renter’s insurance help?
A renter’s insurance covers your personal property and will normally replace items if they get damaged or stolen. It covers personal items like furniture, electronics, small appliances like toasters, microwaves, coffee pots, and all other belongings.
Nowadays, more and more landlords require insurance as a pre-leasing requirement. For this reason, will a renter’s insurance help? Yes, it can. It is a beneficial backup strategy in the event of property damage as a result of negligence on your part.
Can you break the lease agreement?
Yes, you can. Your landlord is responsible for providing safe and habitable living conditions, at least as per the Implied Warranty of Habitability law. If your landlord ignores your requests to fix, say, a plumbing issue, then you may be able to break your lease.
Can you withhold rent from your landlord?
It may be possible. However, be sure to check what your local laws say first. Some states allow tenants to withhold rent until the landlord acts on a repair problem, while others don’t.
Back to the original question: who’s responsible for water damage? Is it you or your landlord? Clearly, there is no direct answer here. It just depends on the circumstances that brought about the problem in the first place.
How to Prevent Mold from Growing or Spreading
Ugh — mold. Outside of eating fancy blue cheese, there aren’t many instances where it’s welcomed with open arms.
Of course, this isn’t to say that when you’re faced with a mold situation, it’s the end of the world. While it does take some effort to remove mold from clothes, carpet, upholstery, drywall, and other items, it’s a manageable process (a professional mold remediation firm like SERVPRO can offer assistance with this). However, undoubtedly, you’re not hoping to find yourself in this position. Luckily, there are numerous preventative strategies that can help you steer clear of a mold problem.
Keep An Eye Out
Awareness is key! It’s a good idea to regularly check a home or structure for evidence of leaks and mold. Several areas tend to be culprits:
- Plumbing fixtures and leaky appliances
- Poorly sealed windows, doors, showers, and tubs
- Foundation problems
If you notice water stains or splotches of mold growth, it should be addressed immediately. Obviously, if there is visible water seepage or damage, you should fix the source of the leak right away so it doesn’t encourage mold growth. If signs of mold are present (i.e. musty smells, significant condensation/dampness, or fuzzy patches of black, blue, green, white, or yellow), you may need a mold inspection. Mold can turn up in spaces that are invisible to the naked eye.
Ensure There Is Proper Ventilation and Air Flow
Where there’s moisture, mold finds a way. Many areas require proper ventilation including
bathrooms, kitchens, basements, crawl spaces, and laundry rooms. It’s important to note that this isn’t an exhaustive list. Really, mold enjoys moisture in any setting. If you notice any water stains or condensation where there shouldn’t be, it’s an indication there’s a moisture issue.
A solution is to utilize ventilation fans in high-moisture areas. The capacity of these fans is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). For instance, a fan for a small bathroom should operate at one CFM for every square foot of space. The Home Ventilating Institute is an excellent source for fan guidelines.
Moreover, you can facilitate airflow throughout a building or home. This helps cut down on moisture. When it’s possible, open your windows to allow fresh air inside. Also, try keeping your closet and bedroom doors open. And, leaving some space between your walls and furniture can promote better air circulation.
If you should find a humid environment has caused mold growth on your belongings, it may be time to call in an expert. In many situations, there are specific processes to remove mold from clothing and other items.
Understand And Control Humidity Levels
Taking ventilation and airflow a step further, it’s wise to monitor the humidity level. Generally speaking, you want to keep humidity at around 30 to 50 percent. Moisture meters can give you a reading of the moisture content in various materials. These devices are available for purchase at your local home improvement store.
To better control humidity, It may be worth your while to invest in dehumidifiers. Plus, it’s not a bad idea to couple dehumidification with air filtration. An air purifier with HEPA filter works well for cleaning the air and removing some airborne mold spores.
Keep Everything Clean And In Working Order
Not too hard, right? If you keep your home or business tidy, it can help reduce the chance of mold growth. When there are conditions that mold likes, it can start growing in 24 hours! Fortunately, there are some simple steps for battling a potential mold invasion:
- Fix leaks as soon as possible
- In high-moisture areas, keep all surfaces clean and dry
- Make sure water is drawn away from the building structure (the ground slopes away from the foundation)
- Clean and dry shower and tub walls with a squeegee
- Re-caulk and re-seal plumbing fixtures when necessary
- Dry out wet materials as soon as possible (towels, mats, rugs, loofahs, etc.)
- Inspect your roof and crawl spaces at least twice a year
- Clean downspouts and gutter guards
- Check houseplants for mold
Also, if you have wet clothing, don’t let it sit in an enclosed space. You don’t want items to become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. As touched upon earlier, it is possible to remove mold from clothes; however, you may not want to experience what happens before that point. You could end up dealing with anything from fabric discoloration to skin and breathing problems.
Prevent Mold In The Refrigerator
It happens to the best of us. We forget about the leftovers shoved in the corner of the refrigerator until a gross discovery — a once delicious meal has turned into a moldy mess.
Certainly, we’re not saying that food mold is always dangerous. However, given the transient and airborne nature of mold spores, it can cause further problems like mold growth in other parts of the refrigerator. Additionally, spores can also travel into your respiratory system and cause irritation.
If you find moldy food items, don’t open the container. Place the items in a sealed bag and discard it as soon as possible. As far as fresh food, try to always store it in a sealed container.
Also, surely, you’ve heard the old trick of placing an open box of baking soda in the fridge. This is still a viable preventative measure. The pH composition of baking soda is such that mold is unable to thrive. It helps clean air as it moves through the appliance.
When Mold Has Already Invaded Your Home
If you got to this article a bit too late and you fear you’re in the midst of a mold intrusion, don’t worry. There’s support out there!
When you entrust a licensed mold company like SERVPRO of North Irving to perform remediation services, you can feel rest assured that the job will get done quickly and correctly. Our IICRC certified technicians use the latest technologies and processes to properly treat mold. Furthermore, our firm is the only SERVPRO in Dallas who is certified to use the Esporta Wash System, the leader in textile restoration.
If you’re in the Dallas area, you never have to battle mold on your own! SERVPRO is a full-service firm and can handle anything from removing mold from clothes to tearing out and rebuilding mold-infected parts of a structure. Contact SERVPRO of North Irving to learn more!
7 Most Common HVAC Issues & How To Solve Them
How often do you think about your HVAC system? If you’re like most people, probably not too often. The home is a place of comfort. It’s where you go to retreat from all the stressors of life.
It’s easy to forget the air in your home is highly regulated by a complex system. But, don’t let the word “complex” fool you. While intricate technology is certainly a part of any cooling and heating unit, it’s not difficult to make sure it’s functioning as best as possible. Once you understand the common HVAC problems and how to deal with them, you can greatly reduce the chance of an expensive and uncomfortable ordeal.
1. Common HVAC Problems: Neglecting Regular Maintenance
This is a big one that gets the best of a lot of people. Don’t feel bad if it has happened to you. Again, when you’re in the serenity of your home, it’s easy to forget things go on behind the scenes. Plus, even with regular maintenance, normal wear and tear can cause issues. If you notice any of the following, it may be an indicator that repairs are needed:
- A sudden increase in heating and cooling bills
- Low or no airflow
- Hot and cold spots in one area
- Air conditioner is blowing warm air
- Unusual noises (i.e. whistling or squealing sounds)
- Unpleasant smells
These issues should be checked out as soon as possible since it may mean your HVAC is under too much stress. If it continues in a weaker state, the heart of the system (aka the compressor) could fail. Unfortunately, a dead compressor often results in the need to replace an entire unit. To avoid common HVAC problems, it’s recommended to have your unit inspected by a professional every year.
2. Clogged Filters and Vents
Your HVAC filters have the important job of “grabbing” debris out of the air before it reaches the ducts. When dust and other particles collect in your ductwork, the unit can become clogged. This causes the system to work harder because the airflow is restricted. What’s more, if the filters aren’t properly catching pollutants, you could end up with poor indoor air quality. In addition, if vents are closed or blocked by furniture or other items, airflow can be compromised. The solutions are simple:
- Replace your filters at least every quarter.
- Have your vents and ducts inspected and cleaned every three years.
- Make sure all your vents are open and free of obstructions.
Another one of the most common HVAC problems is leaking refrigerant and/or water. Refrigerant is a substance in the evaporator system that’s essential in dehumidifying, absorbing heat, and cooling air. When refrigerant levels are low, the air pushed out will be warmer than it should be. If left in this state, the unit will start to work harder than it should. A technician should be able to pinpoint the cause of the low levels.
Also, if you notice water around the evaporator area (located near the blower fan on the inside of the unit), it could be because the drain line is clogged. Cleaning the line yourself is an option; however, it might be a good idea to have a technician take a look to see if there is anything else causing the leak.
4. Dirty Coils
In your unit are two coils — evaporator and condenser. Simply put, the evaporator coil picks up heat from indoor air while the condenser coil transfers the heat to an outside environment. Dust and particles can collect on these coils, causing a decline in the system’s efficiency. In many situations, this is a result of not cleaning the coils at least once a year and/or not changing filters regularly.
If you have an outside AC unit, you might’ve heard you can hose down your coils. The process is a bit more complicated than this. While you can employ DIY cleaning strategies, we must put out the warning that condenser coils have fins that can bend under water pressure. For safe, thorough cleaning, try to find a reputable air duct and HVAC cleaning company.
5. Thermostat Failure
In some cases, common HVAC problems such as uncontrollable temperature fluctuations may come from a malfunctioning thermostat. Luckily, this is often a quick and easy fix. First, check the owner’s manual to see if the thermostat runs on batteries; it may be as straightforward as replacing them. Next, if it’s not a battery issue, reference the manual again to see if there’s an issue with programming (if your thermostat is programmable).
Of course, if the problem consists — you guessed it — it’s probably time to call in a technician to investigate.
6. Blower Fan Issues
HVAC units have fans that blow air through ductwork. As you can probably surmise, when those blower fans stop working, the air stops flowing. This can be caused by the buildup of dirt or a blower motor failure. A trained tech should be able to find the exact cause of the issue.
Another complication is the blowers running constantly. Prior to hiring a technician, check your thermostat; it could be the fan is set to “on”. In this instance, it’s as easy as turning the fan off.
7. Other Common HVAC Problems
Obviously, what we’ve provided today is not an exhaustive list. An HVAC system is an impressive piece of technology with many moving parts. In addition to the complications listed above, there are some other issues that may be culprits:
- The valves that block or regulate airflow in the ducts (dampers) are imbalanced
- The furnace or AC unit has tripped a breaker or blown a fuse
- The furnace has a pilot light that’s out or its ignition device is malfunctioning
- A gas or electrical problem
For The Texans Out There…
If you’re in the Dallas area and need help with inspecting and cleaning your HVAC system, get in touch with SERVPRO of North Irving. We’re licensed, certified, and understand how to handle common HVAC problems. Plus, we work on both residential and commercial projects. We’re a breath of fresh air in more ways than one (sorry…we couldn’t help ourselves)!
Feel free to reach out by filling out an online form or calling us at (972) 986-7677.