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Sponsored by Sears Home Services
When it’s cold enough to fire up the furnace is a bad time to realize it’s not working. Before the first cold day arrives, there are a few things you should consider.
“This is especially important for an older system,” says John Ferrua, director for HVAC service and repair for Sears Home Services. “The stress of the season is when you see the failure of older equipment. Most people just don’t want to be in that situation.”
Follow these six tips to help make sure your furnace is ready for winter.
1. Tune up before you turn on.
“You should have a checkup done by a professional every year prior to turning on the system for heating season,” Ferrua says. Sears performs a 12-point inspection to make sure your HVAC system is functioning to manufacturer’s specifications. “We make sure the electrical wiring is good, or, if it’s a gas system, we’ll check valves for leaks, and adjust and clean the pilot burner. We check and lubricate the blower motor, which blows the hot air into your home, vacuum it out and test that the furnace is at peak operating efficiency,” Ferrua says. You can also set up a regularly scheduled yearly checkup through Sears.
2. Change your air filters.
Homeowners should do this every 30 days or once a quarter, depending on their situation. “If you’ve got allergens or pet hair and dander in the home, you should replace your filter more often,” Ferrua says. A dirty filter can damage the furnace components and restrict airflow. “And that’s when you can have problems with your system,” Ferrua says. Sears makes it easy to change the filter through its PartsDirect subscription program, which will send filters to your home on a regular basis.
3. Check your thermostat.
Turn it on to test it. Odds are “if it’s been working during your AC season, it’s going to easily switch over to heat,” Ferrua says. If the heat doesn’t engage, you might need to replace the thermostat itself.
If that doesn’t do the trick, it could be a power issue. “And if it’s not a breaker switch or a fuse issue — something you might be able to fix yourself — it’s time to call a pro to check the system,” he adds.
4. Clean your air ducts.
If your air filters get dirty quickly, if someone in your home has a compromised immune system or if you’ve recently finished a large remodeling project, you might want to have your ducts cleaned. Otherwise, once you turn on the heating system, dust or debris in the ducts will blow around.
“Everyone’s at a different end of the health spectrum,” Ferrua says. How often you clean your ducts really depends on the homeowner, and it’s not something you have to do often, he says.
5. If the furnace is more than 20 years old, it might be time to buy a new one.
Age is just one factor among many when it comes to the decision to buy a new furnace, Ferrua says, including how many repairs it has already needed and their cost, how much future repairs might cost and how long you plan to remain in your home.
6. Look at adding an additional warranty or maintenance program for your unit.
If your furnace is getting up there in age, having an additional warranty is a good option, Ferrua says. “Under the Sears Master Protection Agreement, you’ll be covered for any future repairs,” he says. “And if you keep up with your maintenance agreement and your furnace can’t be repaired, Sears will replace it for you.” Sears has other warranty options available as well to best fit your needs and situation.
Sponsored by Sears Home Services
Giving your kitchen and bathroom a fresh, updated look doesn’t have to mean demolition and downtime. Small changes can have a big impact, says Joe Maykut, director of product management for Sears Home Improvement. This quick turnaround is especially important for rooms that are used as often as the kitchen and bathroom.
“These ideas are small weekend do-it-yourself projects — no heavy lifting or major expenses with downtime of those areas,” Maykut says.
Little things like swapping out hardware or throwing on a fresh coat of paint in your kitchen or bathroom won’t make a big dent in your wallet but will have a big impact. Get started with these five projects to instantly freshen up your home.
1. Swap cabinet hardware.
Changing out the handles and knobs of cabinet doors is an easy and inexpensive project that can really alter the look of a room. Create a homey feel with mix-and-match knobs, or go sleek with long, slim metallic pulls.
2. Switch up light fixtures.
Take a look at the light fixtures in your kitchen and bath. Have they been there since the ’80s? If so, it’s time you give your lighting a new look. Maykut says you can do this without any major electrical work. Just ensure you turn off the breaker to the area you’re working on to be safe, he cautions.
3. Add a backsplash.
If you’ve just got plain old wall space behind your stovetop, it’s time to make a splash. So many colors, textures and styles of backsplashes exist today — glass, porcelain, stainless steel, copper — really, the sky’s the limit. Turn your backsplash into a true work of art to really personalize your space.
4. Get creative with tile.
Bathroom tile isn’t just for the shower anymore. Use tile in creative ways, like extending your shower tile halfway up one wall or using it behind the sink like a backsplash, to change up the look of your loo while keeping the design cohesive.
5. Paint with contrasting colors.
“A fresh coat of paint does wonders for perking up a room,” Maykut says. “Don’t forget those baseboards and door trim that get scuffed up over time and you just don’t notice much anymore.” Contrasting colors can add a dramatic effect to a room. Paint one wall a deep hue, or use different colors to create a harlequin pattern. Unleash your inner artist!
Sponsored by JELD-WEN
Old wood windows rot and split, bind, and are drafty and energy inefficient. So when you’re ready to buy replacement windows, it’s really tempting to shop for windows made from alternative materials that don’t deteriorate like wood does. Vinyl windows are currently the most popular alternative, and they have some advantages over old wood window technology. But one major window manufacturer has developed a revolutionary wood treatment that’s changing the entire “vinyl vs. wood” comparison. You owe it to yourself to check out the latest treated wood window products before you grab a package deal on vinyl windows. We talked to the experts at JELD-WEN, a large replacement window manufacturer, to learn more about the technological advances in treated wood windows. Here’s what we learned.
Here’s why the replacement window market shifted to vinyl.
Old wood windows need regular maintenance to keep them sealed to prevent swelling and rot. Vinyl windows don’t require any maintenance and don’t have swelling, rot or termite issues. They come in several solid colors and simulated wood grain finishes, so they’ll come close to matching your current wood trim. But they’ll never match perfectly.
But vinyl windows aren’t invincible.
Because vinyl has a much higher expansion/contraction rate than wood, vinyl windows can bind in high heat, and the movement often breaks the caulk seal, requiring recaulking. Although vinyl window manufacturers add UV inhibitors to the material, vinyl eventually fades, becomes brittle and develops cracks that can’t be repaired. You can extend the life of vinyl by painting, but you must use a lighter color—a darker color causes even more expansion and contraction. Plus, painting requires more rigorous surface preparation and more expensive latex urethane paint (to allow for expansion and contraction).
And they add less value.
There’s no getting around the fact that buyers prefer homes with wood windows in good shape over a comparable home with vinyl windows. In other words, vinyl windows cost less but add less value than wood windows.
A new wood treatment changes everything.
Most window manufacturers surface-treat wood by dipping it in a solvent-based wood preservative solution to reduce rot and insect damage. But a shallow surface treatment is like a skim coating of chocolate frosting on a vanilla cake. The second you cut or sand the wood, you’re back to vanilla, or untreated wood. So it’s no surprise that those wood windows fail along the surface, at joints and from weathering and water infiltration.
That’s why JELD-WEN developed the AuraLast water-based vacuum-pressure wood treatment process that drives a special wood preservative and insect repellent all the way to the core of the wood. So the wood is just as resistant to rot and insect damage on its surface as it is at the core. The AuraLast wood treatment resists swelling and eliminates rot, fungi and termite damage. Plus, the AuraLast treatment doesn’t change the color of the wood and is stainable and paintable just like untreated wood.
Wood windows are a great choice.
Choosing vinyl windows made sense when their only competition was dipped wood or composite windows. But AuraLast windows from JELD-WEN change the whole vinyl vs. wood equation. Finally, you can buy a window that provides all the beauty and advantages of real wood without any of the disadvantages.
New windows are a huge investment. Make sure you buy a window that provides the best look, feel, performance and resale value. Before you make your choice, check out AuraLast windows from JELD-WEN. To learn more, click here.
— Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor