Most homeowners know that they should budget for expenses such as the mortgage, insurance, utilities, and taxes. However, many overlook another inevitable household expense – home -related repairs and replacements. If you fit within this category, read on for tips that can help you become financially prepared.

By scheduling routine basic maintenance, this can help you maximize the life expectancy and resale value of some of your home appliances, such as your washer, dryer, and refrigerator.  Even regularly changing heating and air filters can help your systems run more efficiently (and potentially help you save money on energy bills). Staying on top of routine maintenance and catching up on any delayed maintenance can help you minimize the necessity for potential household repairs.

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1. Boiling water

This is the easiest and least expensive solution of all, which makes it the best one to try first. Place a kettle or pot of water on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat, remove as much standing water from the sink as you can, using a mug or small pot to bail out the water. Then, pour the entire kettle of water into the sink and wait. If the water stands in the sink and the clog doesn’t move, give the water time to cool and remove it to try again. You may need to repeat the process several times to move the clog, but this often works on many types of stoppage.

2. Disposal

Check to make sure it’s not your garbage disposal that's causing the problem. A clogged disposal can stop up the drain, so run the disposal to see if that clears the clog. Then inspect it to make sure it’s running correctly. If the disposal has overheated, you may need to flip the switch found on the side or bottom of the unit underneath the sink.

3. Salt and boiling water

After removing standing water from the sink, pour about ½ cup of table salt down the drain before you pour in the boiling water. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then flush with hot water to clear the mixture.

4. Vinegar and baking soda

 Again, remove standing water first. Pour about a cup or so of baking soda into the drain, followed by an equal amount of white or apple cider vinegar. The solution will bubble, but when they subside, put the stopper in and wait about 15 minutes. Next, run hot water to see if the clog clears. Repeat if needed.

5. Baking soda and salt

This is another combination that can work on sink clogs. Mix about a cup of baking soda with a half-cup of salt, and pour down the drain. Let the mixture sit for several hours, then flush with boiling water. You can repeat this process if it doesn’t work the first time.

6. Plunger

 If these combinations aren’t successful in unclogging your sink, reach for a common household plunger. If you have a double sink, first seal off the second side with a wet cloth or a stopper. You’ll need to create a tight seal around the plunger, so fill the side of the sink you intend to plunge with enough water to cover the bell of the plunger. Place the plunger firmly over the drain and plunge vigorously several times. When you hear the suction clear the clog, remove the plunger and flush the drain well with warm water.

7. P-trap

 It may be necessary to clean your kitchen drain’s P-trap to clear the clog. The P-trap is at the curve of the drainpipe under the sink, usually inside a cabinet. Place a pan or bucket underneath the drain to catch any water or debris that may fall out. Unfasten the P-trap from the drainpipe and clear out anything that is stuck. Then replace and run water through it.

8. Plumber's snake

Sometimes called an auger, this handy tool can clear clogs that may be stuck further down the system. You’ll have to disassemble the drainpipe and P-trap that runs underneath the kitchen sink to expose the “stub pipe” or “stubout” that travels behind the cabinet wall. This is where you insert the snake into the pipe until you feel resistance to break up the clog.

9. Coat hanger

If you don’t have a plumber’s snake, you can use a wire coat hanger by straightening it. Of course, it won’t reach as far as a plumber’s snake would, but it may be long enough to reach some clogs. Insert it into the kitchen drain or stub pipe to push through or pull out the clog if you can reach it. Be careful not to scratch your sink with the wire.

To keep your sink smelling fresh and running clear, pour in equal parts of vinegar and baking soda on a regular basis. For routine cleaning, you’ll just need about one-half cup of each. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before running some warm water down the drain. You can also use lemon juice for the same purpose.

Of course, it’s always easier to avoid clogs in the first place. If you have a kitchen garbage disposal, don’t overload it. Feed items in a little at a time, and wait until they grind and run through completely before adding more. Never put bacon grease, coffee grounds or oils down your kitchen drain, and always make sure you run plenty of water down the drain after each use.

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The winter season is upon us, bringing frigid temperatures with it. Regardless of whether you're a fan of cold weather or not, virtually every homeowner agrees that a properly working heater is a must-have.

That's why it's extremely important to take the time to make sure your heater is in good working condition before the cold weather hits. Here is a list of HVAC winter maintenance tips for your heater to ensure that it keeps running smoothly until spring returns

Check The Pilot Light

It might seem obvious, but the first step to preparing for colder weather is to make sure the pilot light on your furnace is lit. Without a working pilot light, your entire system will be crippled. If you are uncertain on how to check your pilot light, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions by referring to your system's user manual or call a professional for assistance.

Give Your System a Visual Inspection

Another important step when it comes to heating maintenance is to give your system a visual once-over. You’ll want to make sure all wires look intact and that there’s no sign that pests have chewed or otherwise damaged the system's wiring. If you see any damaged wires, contact a licensed electrician immediately.

Give Your Heater A Good Cleaning

Take the time to wipe your system down and make sure it’s clear of any dust or debris. You can even use a vacuum with a long nozzle attachment to clean areas of the heater that are harder to reach, such as the fan blower. Also, moving from room to room, and clean your vents and adjust your dampers. Finally, replace any dirty filters and be sure to continue changing them every one to two months afterward.

Inspect the Ducts

Any leaks in your ductwork can keep your heater from operating at peak efficiency. If the seal around the return that feeds directly into your heater is not tight, it can create a backdraft. If necessary, wrap or caulk the joints, as well as the perimeter of your return. Heat-graded foil tape provides an easy fix and can be found at most local hardware stores. You might also consider having your ductwork inspected and cleaned by a professional before you know you'll be needing your heating system on a 24/7 basis.

Use Your Eyes And Ears

While you're cleaning your heating system, give your heating unit a practice run and make sure there isn't any any smoke or odd noises, If either a sound or soot is present, contact us and well send out a professional. Smoke or soot deposits could indicate that your burners need adjusting or that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger It’s not uncommon for older furnaces to develop such cracks. When this happens, carbon monoxide could leak into the home undetected.

Finally, if you have the opportunity, give your heating system a trial run. Turn on the furnace and let it run for five to 10 minutes and check to make sure you feel heat emitting from the system. Doing so will ensure your heater will be working as good as new when you need it most.

However you choose to keep your home warm and cozy, you'll also want to protect the investment you've made in your heating system. To further minimize the costs associated with the repair and replacement of your home's HVAC equipment contact us for a maintenance plan.

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