If you only do five home care tasks in September, here are the ones that we recommend you do that will help you to save energy, maintain safety, and avoid problems this winter.
FURNACE AND WATER HEATER ANNUAL SERVICE
This task involves scheduling a trained service professional to do a thorough inspection, cleaning and adjustment of your furnace and water heater. There are two important reasons for having this done each year:
Helps maintain the energy efficiency of these appliances.
This is a task that is best left to a trained professional. However, here is a checklist of questions that you should be sure to ask your furnace service technician furnace questions checklist. We suggest that you do this task in September for two reasons, first because if a problem is found, you will have time to get it remedied before the heating season, secondly, your service provider will likely get very busy as the heating season approaches.
TESTING GFI OUTLETS
Have you ever noticed that the outlets in your bathroom, kitchen and outdoors have little “test” buttons on them? These are special outlets called “ground fault interrupters” or “GFIs.” They are placed in locations where there can be water present, and their purpose is to automatically shut off if there is a potential for an electrical shock. So for example, if you are using a hair dryer and you are on a wet floor, then rather than shocking you, the GFI will trip off. The problem is that over time, the mechanism inside of the outlet can stop working. So it is very important to test each of these outlets to be sure that they are working properly. To test a GFI outlet, just plug a small electrical appliance into the outlet, and then press the “test” button on the outlet. The appliance should immediately shut off. If it does not, then this outlet should not be used until the GFI has been replaced (helpful accessory: GFI testers).
CHECK OUTSIDE DRYER VENT FLAP
At least once a year you should check your outside dryer vent to be sure that it is not clogged and stuck in the open position. When your dryer operates it blows hot exhaust air out of your home through vent piping. This hot air carries lint with it which can accumulate around the vent where the pipe exits your home. This vent has a flap that opens when the hot air is blowing, and then closes when the dryer stops blowing the air. But as lint builds up around the vent flap, it can cause the flap to get stuck open, allowing pests to enter your home, and increasing your energy costs by allowing air conditioned and/or heat to be lost from your home.
OUTSIDE LIGHTING INSPECTION
If any of your outside light fixtures have bulbs that have burned out, then September is a good month to replace them before the weather gets bad, and daylight hours start getting shorter. While you are checking your outside lighting fixtures for burnt out bulbs, you should also take the opportunity to: clear away any dirt and debris; check for any broken connections or fixtures; and clean the glass fixtures so that you get the most benefit from the light bulbs. One last tip is that you might want to consider replacing your bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
SMOKE DETECTOR INSPECTION
At least once a year you should clean, test and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Smoke detectors can only protect your family if they are working properly, and cleaning them, testing them and replacing their batteries is how to ensure that they will be working properly to alert your family in case of a fire emergency in your home (helpful accessory: cordless dust busters). To clean your smoke detectors, gently use an extension attachment for your vacuum cleaner to remove dust and cobwebs. Next, if your smoke detector uses a battery, then at least once a year you should open the detector and replace the battery. And finally, you should test your smoke detectors each month by pushing the button on it to see if the alarm sounds. But never use a match or smoke to test your detector, as this can shorten its life.
To schedule a chimney inspection, cleaning, repair & build out, or dryer vent cleaning & repair and duct cleaning & repair, contact Sweep Dreams Chimney & Ducts today at (320) 252-6242 online at https://sweepdreamschimneyservice.com/
All Clothes Dryers use electricity to rotate the drum that the clothes ride in and for operating the controls that allow you to set cycle times, the amount of drying to be done, etc. But an ‘electric’ Clothes Dryer is a model that uses electricity as the source of heat for drying the clothes as they are tumbling in the rotating drum.
If your Clothes Dryer has natural gas or propane piping connected to it, then it is a ‘gas’ Clothes Dryer. A gas Clothes Dryer burns natural gas or propane in a heating element, which produces the heat that dries the clothes as they are tumbling in the rotating drum.
All Clothes Dryers will have vent piping to the outside of your house, where hot air and lint from the drying process will leave the unit.
Some models of Clothes Dryers are stand-alone units, and some models are integrated with a Washing Machine. If your model has a Washing Machine unit with it, then you have BOTH Clothes Dryer (electric) and Washing Machine as your home features..
The heating element and tumbling action of a clothes dryer creates lint, which can build-up around your dryer and cause problems.
Safety: Lint is flammable, and can be touched off by the heating element in the dryer, or a spark from the motor, switch, etc.
Loss of Efficiency: A clogged vent pipe or stuck flap vent reduces the dryer’s capacity to dry clothes, requiring the unit to run longer, which uses more energy and shortens its service life.
Heat Loss: A flap vent that doesn’t close properly allows heat or cooling to escape from the house.
Pests: A flap vent that doesn’t close properly also leaves an opening for insects and other pests to potentially come through.
Extending useful life: An unbalanced dryer will cause its rotating components to wear out sooner.
Reminders for different tasks and timings in your recommended home care program for your Clothes Dryer.
Routine Care Task
Annual dryer maintenance involves the following 5 tasks:
Clean lint build-up from vent system. Out of the back of your dryer you’ll find a pipe, usually 4-5 inches in diameter, which goes through the wall of your house to the outside. Outside there is a “flap vent” that swings open automatically from air pressure when the dryer is running, then closes when the dryer shuts off. The entire piping and flap vent should be inspected and cleaned of lint or any obstructions.
Seal any hose joints with duct tape.
Clean behind and underneath dryer. Moisture, dirt, and lint tend to accumulate behind and underneath your dryer. Pull the dryer out from the wall and wipe these areas with a damp rag.
Scrub the lint trap. Chemical fabric softeners often clog the small holes in lint traps.
Remove the lint trap and scrub it with a soft bristle brush and mild soap or detergent.
Check the balance of your dryer. A dryer that is not level on the ground will cause its’ rotating components to wear out sooner. If the dryer moves, shakes, or is not level, adjust the feet at the bottom of the unit.
Clean and inspect burner (gas models). For dryers that heat with natural gas or propane, the burner should be cleaned and inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Dryer Vent Closure
Prevents cold, heat, rodents, and other insects from entering the dryer
Lint build up causes fire in your dryer
Health & Safety
Avoiding Unscheduled Repairs
The benefits of this task are very, very high. Doing this task can help you improve safety, save money on energy, prevent damage by pests, and extend the useful life of your dryer.
The cost of this task is relatively low. It is estimated that this task should only take about 30-60 minutes to complete, and the task is relatively easy to do. However, if you have a model that uses natural gas or propane, then you will need to hire a professional to clean and inspect your burner.
Asking what’s the best way to waterproof a chimney or what are the best waterproofing products are both understandable enough questions, but they’re also too broad for a simple answer. Best way to waterproof what kind of chimney? Are we waterproofing a vertical wall or the breast of the brickwork? There are brick, concrete block, stucco, and stone chimneys and there are different considerations for all of them – meaning you might use different products on different types of chimneys. Let’s peel this back like an onion.
Choosing the Right Waterproofing Product
Before getting started, please understand that the less a waterproofing product costs, the less likely it is to do you any good. One major brand costs fairly little but lasts a rather short amount of time because it breaks down in with UV exposure (sunlight.)
You want a product that uses polysiloxanes or silanes. Basically, that means that it doesn’t use solids to block up the pores of the masonry, rather it sets up an electrostatic charge that outside water can’t overcome. At the same time, if the masonry has trapped moisture in it the day you decide to waterproof (and it very well may) the head pressure of the water inside will be able to overcome the electrostatic charge and escape. In other words, water can’t get in, but it could get out if need be. The good stuff does cost more – not prohibitively more – but it is oh so, so worth it.
Sealing Brick Chimney
Since about 99% of the people reading this have brick chimneys, let’s start there (I will address non-brick chimneys later). One of the central issues concerning waterproofing is the porosity of the material being waterproofed. This makes sense: you don’t have to waterproof steel or vinyl because water doesn’t penetrate them in the first place. While bricks are generally less porous than many other materials (like a cinder block) different types of bricks vary in porosity themselves.
This explanation is to set the stage for understanding that sometimes you have to waterproof a chimney more than once. You should know this too: though we don’t like to admit it, the fact is that sometimes professionals misjudge how much waterproofing a chimney needs and wind up coming back when they get a complaint. We sure don’t like that, nor do we like people being dissatisfied with our work, but where waterproofing is concerned, it seems to be a fact of life. The moral of that story is 1) ask your waterproof service to go over it twice just for good measure (even if it costs a bit more) and 2) don’t be too tough on your guy if you have to call him back. I thank you on behalf of all the guys who ever get caught in that squeeze! And please look below for special information concerning re-applications.
The last item before moving onto specific information: If you have spalling brick, i.e. the faces of the brick are popping off, don’t bother to waterproof the chimney; it’s too late. Instead, kick yourself for not having done it ten years ago and have the brick structure rebuilt. Then waterproof it so it doesn’t happen again.
Now for some specific information, still with bricks:
How is chimney waterproofing applied?
Waterproofing is applied with a sprayer. On the vertical walls, i.e. most of the chimney, waterproofing should be applied from bottom to top because as the waterproofing material comes out of the sprayer it runs down the chimney and gets absorbed into the chimney below the area that is being worked on. It sort of amounts to doing it twice. Obviously, the top needs extra attention or it’d only get one pass. And as mentioned before, I’d do it twice. After you finish about 10 minutes’ worth, do it again just to make sure the whole structure gets a good soaking.
Special considerations should be given to breast walls, re-application, the crown, the flashing area, and the mortar joints. The breast wall is where a chimney doesn’t go straight down to the ground, rather goes around something (almost always a fireplace.) They aren’t usually outright horizontal areas, a 30°-60° angle is pretty common. These areas should get different treatment.
Sealing the Chimney Breast
Because the chimney breast has a more severe exposure to rain and particularly snow, it needs more coats of waterproofing. Most waterproofing used these days is water-based material. This is for a couple of reasons: one is that water-based materials cost considerably less than solvent-based materials. They are safer to ship, store and use and they are perfectly adequate to the task. The exception to the advantages is on non-vertical surfaces.
One way to deal with a non-vertical surface is to waterproof it over and over and over. Another is to use a solvent-based material, still with polysiloxanes, because it soaks deeper into the substrate. For a chimney with a breast below, opt for the more expensive solvent-based waterproofing.
A special note about re-applications. If one needs to re-apply waterproofing after the water-based material has already dried, solvent-based waterproofing should be used. This is not common knowledge, even among the trade. Whether re-applying the next day or ten years later, use solvent-based waterproofing. Don’t be alarmed that if after reading this article you know more than the people you hire to do the job; most people don’t know all this. Just patiently insist on getting what you ask for.
Sealing a Chimney Crown
The chimney crown is an almost flat surface and it’s made of concrete or mortar. It shouldn’t be made of mortar, but there’s a good chance that it is anyway. Based on what you’ve just read about waterproofing the chimney breast, you’d reasonably think that you’d just use a solvent-based waterproofing material there. But that is not so: a crown requires more than ordinary waterproofing.
The crown is rather porous. If you’re lucky the crown will be made of concrete and will have been worked in a way that makes the top quite smooth
and non-porous. But on average, crowns are fairly porous and have more exposure to rain and snow than all of the rest of the chimney, and accordingly more problems (e.g. leaks) that the rest of the chimney as well.
There are coatings made specifically for crowns (the two major brands are Weather Tight and Saver Systems and both are generally available to the trade only.) Regardless of the brand being used, crown preparation is key. All the moss and dirt must be wire-brushed away. The crown should be wet down before the material is applied. Crown coatings applied to dry surfaces don’t develop the necessary bond you’re looking for. Large cracks should be caulked with high resin filler before the crown coat is applied.
A note on horizontal surfaces which are not chimney crowns, such as driveways, etc. Siloxanes are not the best choice here because driveways are made of concrete. A similar material (silane) is appropriate in order to get proper bonding with the substrate. It’s not that chimney waterproofing material won’t work; it’s just that silanes will last longer in this instance.
The flashing area needs special attention.
Traditional flashing, which 99.9% of all of us have, is not actually so great. I’m sure traditional in-the-mortar-joint-flashing was a huge improvement over whatever was before it a hundred years ago, but don’t imagine it keeps water out the way you wish it did.
There are terrific flashing products which, in my opinion, are sadly underused. Flash Seal and Flash Tight (once again, Saver Systems and Water Tight products) are high-resin coatings specifically for this purpose. To waterproof the flashing really well, ask for one of these products. Your sweep may or may not even know what you’re talking about, but don’t hold that against him. In this case you’ll be educating him. As I said, they are still under-appreciated products at this point.
Now for the big one: the mortar.
Since most leaking occurs at the joints, you want to be extra sure you soak them real well with the waterproofing. You should know that as a rule mortar joints are often not as well bonded as you might think they are, and there are actually small cracks in the mortar (usually not visible though.) The joints themselves have different properties on different chimneys depending upon whether mortar cement or Portland cement was used, not to mention the particle size of the sand used and the pH of the water that was mixed to make the mortar.
How long does chimney waterproofing last?
Before moving on, let me answer another FAQ. The question is how long does chimney waterproofing last? The answer is, as a general statement, probably about 20 years for most people. If you have the wind blowing sand at your chimney a lot, perhaps in the desert or by the sea, the brick surface can wear away, but most people don’t have that. There are guarantees, generally about 10 years. When those guarantees were instituted they were basically guesses from studies done in wind tunnels and freeze-thaw cycles. After a lot of years of observation, 20 years seems to be a generally good answer. Having it redone every 10-15 years is reasonable maintenance.
What is the difference between beading and repelling water?
A related subject: there’s a difference between “beading” and repelling water. Right after anything is waterproofed, there is a very satisfying effect called beading. This is where you see beads of water just sitting on the surface, kind of like seeing water sitting on oil. As neat as it is to see, at effect is temporary. I don’t know why, but the fact remains that waterproofing remains effective for many, many years beyond the beading effect is gone.
How to waterproof chimney cinder block
Now concerning waterproofing concrete block chimneys. Concrete block chimneys are the most porous of all, and they are at the same time most in need of waterproofing and most difficult to get a good result. But not impossible – you just need extra passes, and it’s a good idea to use a solvent-based waterproofing material here as well. As you know, I trash-talked solids in your waterproofing at the beginning of the article. I’ll backtrack just a little here.
Polysiloxane waterproofing material is still the superior technology, but for pores this big, you might do well to outright seal them. You can do that with stucco or by using a waterproof paint. Boat paint might be overkill, but it should work like a charm. There’s also a special hybrid product from Saver Systems that has some solids in it (Chimney Saver for Concrete Blocks).
Stucco chimneys are a bit trickier.
(Disclaimer: I know less about stucco than I do about bricks) Old stucco was made with gypsum and I can’t help you with what kind of waterproofing material, if any, should be used. Modern stucco for plastering a chimney however would be made with Portland cement. Porosity would be “not too bad” so you could use a waterproofing material on it, i.e. – it will bond to it.
That said, I’m not sure it’s necessary as I believe stucco is pretty good at keeping water away from the surface below. It’s applied almost an inch thick and it’s pretty good at drying out. I suppose there is the danger of several days of rain and the stucco getting saturated; again I don’t know enough about stucco to comment on how long it will hold how much water. My observation in life is that most stucco surfaces are not falling apart, yet it seems that freezing and thawing should destroy them. Sorry to be of so little help here.
How to waterproof stone chimneys?
Finally, there are stone chimneys. Depending upon what kind of stone, the surface may be quite dense or quite porous. Regardless, stone usually doesn’t waterproof well with chimney waterproofing materials. The reason is that siloxanes and silanes bond to silica, and stones may or may not be silica. If they are, it’ll work, and if they aren’t, it won’t. Faux stone on the other hand, is made with Portland cement, and you can waterproof it.
If you only do five home care tasks in August, here are the ones that we recommend you do, that will help you to save energy, improve indoor air quality, keep things safe, and looking nice.
CLOTHES DRYER: Annual Cleaning & Maintenance
One of the most important maintenance tasks that you can do for your home is to clean and inspect your dryer’s vent pipe. Lint build-up is one of the major causes of the over 15,000 dryer fires that occur annually, so you will want to be sure to do this task at least once per year. You can read our tips for improving the energy efficiency and ensuring the safety of your dryer in our article here: Clothes Dryer Safety and Energy Tips
If you have an asphalt driveway, you should check its condition to see if it needs sealant. Routinely sealing your driveway will help prevent very small problems from turning into bigger problems, which are more expensive to repair.
MATTRESSES: Rotate Mattresses
August is also a good month to remember to flip or rotate the mattresses on your beds. Your mattresses will last a lot longer if you flip them every 6 months, and then 6 months later, rotate it from head to toe.
FIREPLACE: Check Firewood Supplies
And finally, if you have a fireplace or woodstove, August is a good time to check your firewood supplies. First, you will want to check to be sure that your firewood is being properly stored away from your home, elevated off the ground, and covered on the top (but open on the sides). And if you find that your supply of firewood has gotten low, then you should consider lining up additional supplies now, before prices rise as we get closer to the winter.
To schedule a chimney inspection, cleaning, repair & build-out, or dryer vent cleaning & repair and duct cleaning & repair, contact Sweep Dreams Chimney & Ducts today at (320) 252-6242.
Have you ever noticed your clothes dryer feeling cold in the winter and warm in the summer? If so, your dryer’s vent pipe is likely not sealing properly, and you are wasting energy as outside air leaks into your home. To prevent this, you should consider installing a new style of dryer vent closure.
One that we particularly like is the heartland 21000 Dryer Vent Closure. The Heartland 21000 is a good buy for under $38. Installing this type of tight-sealing dryer vent can save you up to 1% on your home’s energy bill or about $14 annually. So this is an investment that can pay for itself in under 3 years.
This easy-to-install vent lets your dryer’s hot air exhaust escape when the dryer is operating and uses gravity to seal it tight to keep outside air from leaking into your home when the dryer is not operating. The way this vent closure works is that inside the cylinder part, there is a plastic cup-like apparatus that rises when hot air is flowing out of your dryer. And then when the flow of hot air stops, the cup floats back creating a nice seal which prevents outside air infiltration. And further, it tightly blocks the path for insects or pests which might try to crawl in.
When you install the dryer vent closure, you will want to be sure to install it absolutely vertical, otherwise, it may not work properly. Also, you may want to paint your vent closure as ultraviolet light from the sun can damage the unprotected plastic.
The Heartland 21000 dryer vent closure is simple and effective, but it does require some maintenance from time to time. You will need to remove the vent lid periodically to clean out any lint built-up, especially as it may affect the free movement of the floating cup.
To schedule a dryer vent cleaning, repair or duct cleaning or repair, contact us today at (320) 252-6242.
Did you know that dryers are the second highest energy-consuming appliance in most homes? And lint build-up is one of the major causes of the over 15,000 dryer fires that occur each year.
This article gives you tips for keeping your dryer safe and for saving energy too.
Why Is Dryer Care So Important?
Washing and drying clothes is not typically a task that most people enjoy. It never ends, and if you have a large family, your washer and dryer are likely running constantly. And a dryer takes a lot of energy to operate. The annual cost for operating a clothes dryer is about $85 a year and can go up to $170 a year depending on the frequency of its usage. In most homes, the only household appliance consuming more energy is the refrigerator. Further, your dryer is an expensive item to replace, and as we mentioned above, the risk of a dryer fire is all too real.
The good news is that there are things that you can do to keep your dryer operating safely, reduce energy consumption and extend its useful life. So read on.
You may have heard the truly scary stories of clothes dryer catching fire because of lint accumulation. Here are some things you should do for the safety of your dryer.
The first is to clean your dryer’s lint filter trap after each load. In addition to helping keep your dryer safe, it also helps keep it performing efficiently.
clean your vent pipe of lint Also check your vent pipe. It is recommended that you use the straightest and shortest duct available. Flexible ducts can be a potential safety concern as they can be crushed or restrict the airflow, and may not be able to withstand high temperatures from the dryer.
Keep a fire extinguisher in the same room as the clothes dryer, near the door where you can access easily in an emergency (see costs and reviews of fire extinguishers).
If you are not confident of how to properly clean your dryer, check your vent pipe, etc., Then do not hesitate to call in a professional to give your clothes dryer a thorough cleaning and inspection.
Energy Savings Tips
Unlike most appliances, clothes dryers do not display “Energy Guide” labels. This is because dryers don’t vary much from model to model regarding the amount of energy used. But there are a number of things you can do to save energy when using your clothes dryer:
Reducing the frequency of use of the dryer is a sure way of reducing the energy used by your dryer. For larger families who run their dryer nearly every day, consolidating loads to reduce usage to three times per week can save them approximately $84 per year.
If you are looking to buy a new dryer, then it is recommended to buy one with a moisture sensor. This allows the dryer to automatically stop when the clothes are dry and thus saving energy since it prevents “over-drying” your clothes.
Use the retained heat of the dryer to do consecutive loads.
Use a dryer vent closure where the vent pipe exits your house, which will save you on your heating and cooling bills.
And of course, the biggest energy-saving step is to not use your dryer, and instead use an old-fashioned clothesline. This can save you around $100 on your annual energy bills.
Extending Your Dryer’s Useful Life
A clothes dryer is an expensive appliance, and so you should consider ways to extend its useful life. Here are some tips for you:
Sort the clothes according to their thickness. This way the dryer will dry it in a shorter time, dry more evenly, and will also leave fewer wrinkles.
Clean the lint filter trap after every load, so that the dryer can be operated optimally (in addition to helping maintain its safe operation, as mentioned above).
On the days when it is warm outside, dry your clothes on a clothesline. This will give your dryer a much-needed rest and extend its life.
To schedule a dryer vent cleaning, repair or duct cleaning or repair, contact us today at (320) 252-6242.