GHNS' weekly Home Help, with tips on winterizing your lawn mower, sealing your heating and cooling ducts, and year-round backyard safety.
Tip of the Week
Winter is here in many parts of the country, and even if your region is still experiencing relatively warm temperatures, you know Old Man Winter is on his way. Your thoughts may already be on preparing the snow blower for a long, hard winter, but before you break out the ice melt, don't overlook the importance of winterizing your lawn mower. After all, your mower worked hard this year and deserves a little care and attention, right?
??Luckily for you, appropriate seasonal maintenance is fast and easy, and will go a long way to ensuring your mower continues to operate properly from year-to-year. Kohler Engines, a leading engine manufacturer, offers these lawn mower winterizing tips to help guide you through the process.
Remove or stabilize the gas: Stored fuel is likely to break down over the winter months, which can damage the engine. The easiest and most popular way to remove unused gas is to simply start the mower and let it idle until the fuel runs out. As an alternative, you can add a fuel stabilizer to any remaining gas to help protect the engine from gumming, corrosion and other fuel-related damage. Simply follow the mixing instructions on the bottle and make sure you run the engine for several minutes to get the stabilized fuel from the tank into the engine.??
Change the oil: Clean oil should coat the mower's engine during the winter months. The best time to drain and refill oil is just after the last mow of the season when the engine is still warm. Check your mower's manual to see the specific oil type required by your mower as well as the best method to drain oil from the machine.
??Inspect the spark plug: Closely examine the area around the spark plug to ensure no dirt or debris enters the cylinder once you've removed the plug. Then, using a socket wrench, carefully remove the spark plug and inspect it for any black coating (carbon deposits) or other damage. If the plug appears worn, or has been used for several mowing seasons, replace it with a new one.??
Clean the air filter: A mower's air filter collects a significant amount of dirt, dust and other debris over a typical cutting season. As a result, the filter needs to be cleaned or replaced every year. Again, refer to your owner's manual for instructions on how to remove the air filter from your specific mower.??
Inspect the blade: When performing seasonal maintenance, it's also a good opportunity to inspect the mower blade. If the blade shows any cracks, nicks, bends or other signs of damage, replace it. Also, if the cutting edge of the blade is dull, have it sharpened. You can use a standard file or take the blade to a local hardware store or small engine repair shop for sharpening.
??Clean the mower: Remove all dirt and debris from the engine. A leaf blower, rag, and wire brush may be helpful. Also, thoroughly wash the underside of the mower. If necessary, you can use a putty knife to scrape away old grass.
Home-Selling Tip: Decide whether to sell at all
In a buyer's market, you may be better off renting your old place instead of selling. Weigh the cost of the mortgage and property taxes, plus the time you'll have to spend being a landlord, against the thousands of dollars you may lose by selling in a down market and the mounting equity you'll be able to keep instead. There are capital-gains tax issues at play, however, so do your research and consult your accountant.
How-To: Shower in the savings
Any homeowner would agree that saving water to help the environment and to lower their water bill is a great idea. However, many may not agree if these savings interfere with the enjoyment of their daily shower. Luckily, the Moen Caldwell Four-Function Eco-Performance Showerhead is an ideal solution that offers water savings without sacrificing a quality showering experience. Installing in just minutes, you can shower in the savings, as Caldwell has a flow rate of 2.0 gallons per minute (gpm), 20 percent less than the industry standard of 2.5 gpm, and meets the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense criteria.
Did You Know ... 72 percent of homeowners plan to decorate or redecorate in the next two years, according to the 2012 Houzz and Home Survey; and 86 percent said that improving the look and feel of the space was their most important goal.
-- Family Features
Home Improvements: Seal your heating and cooling ducts
Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more.
Focus first on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawl space, unheated basement, or garage. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, look to seal any other ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house.
Backyard Buddies: Year-round backyard safety tips for families
Keeping your backyard safe begins with your fence. A yard without a fence is a little like a house without walls. Fences help protect children from danger, keeping toddlers out of swimming pools, hot tubs and ponds or keeping them in the yard, away from busy traffic or strangers. Fences can also help keep your own pets in your yard, and other animals out. They can reduce your liability by preventing injuries to uninvited guests on your property, or damage or injury caused by escaped pets.
Additional precautions to take when childproofing your backyard:Tighten and cover any protruding bolts on swing sets and do not attach ropes or cords, which could become strangulation hazards. Remove old tree stumps and rocks, level concrete footings to avoid tripping. Seal wooded items such as decks, swing sets and picnic tables before inclement weather sets in. Completely fence pool and spa areas with adjustable self-closing hinges like TruClose and self-latching gates, ensuring latches are out of the reach of children such as the Magnalatch Safety Gate Latch. Both products carry a lifetime warranty and are adjustable both vertically and horizontally for quick and easy adjustments. Eliminate access to lawn equipment and chemicals. Put these items completely out of the reach of children. Keep a first aid kit and a rescue kit for those backyards with water features easily accessible.