After a long, chilly winter, many homeowners are all too happy to welcome spring and the arrival of warmer weather and longer days. Although the increased sunshine, higher temperatures and the return of flowers and leaves can make spring and summer more inviting than winter and fall, the seasons are not without their challenges. Spring often means rain showers and the return of pollen. Summer brings with it high temperatures and humidity, as well as the risk of hurricanes and thunderstorms.
Tackling some home maintenance projects early on can help your home and family stay safe throughout the spring and summer. Scheduling a tune-up of your HVAC or air conditioning systems can reduce the risk of your equipment breaking down in the middle of a heat wave. Knowing what to do to prepare for extreme weather in Southern Maryland can help keep your home intact if a hurricane or another weather event should strike.
As you get ready to welcome flowers and the return of longer days, here are some summer and spring home maintenance tips to help keep your family safe.
Reduce Indoor Allergens
For around 50 million people in the U.S., the return of spring means the return of mild to severe seasonal allergies. Blooming trees and fresh-growing grass can be welcome signs of the season, but they can also make people sneeze, cough and have itchy eyes. Outdoor allergens aren’t the only cause of concern during the spring and summer, though. Indoor allergens, such as dust, pet dander and mold, can also be an issue.
Luckily, if you or anyone in your home has allergies, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your exposure to allergens and to improve the air quality inside your home.
Keeping your home as clean as possible will help to keep dust, dander and other allergens at bay. If you can, vacuum surfaces at least once a week using a vacuum that has a built-in dust filter. If you have allergies, it’s a good idea to wear a mask when you vacuum to limit your exposure to dust. Along with vacuuming, give surfaces a thorough wipe-down or dusting once a week. For best results, use a damp rag to dust. The moisture will help to trap dust in the rag, rather than just moving it around the room. After you have cleaned your home, leave for a few hours if possible to give everything time to settle.
Along with dusting and vacuuming, it is also a good idea to wash your bedlinens and towels frequently, to remove any dust mites or pet dander and fur from them. If you have a dust or pet allergy, you might want to rethink having carpeting or other textiles in your home. Carpeting, curtains and other soft surfaces can trap dust. For people with allergies, smooth, bare floors and minimal window coverings are ideal.
While cleaning your home will help to control indoor allergens, there are also things you can do to keep outdoor allergens, like pollen, out. Although the first thing you might want to do on the first nice day of spring is to throw open the windows, doing so will let pollen into your home. Keep windows closed to keep allergens away. It is also a good idea to put a “no shoes” policy in place in your home. Have family members remove their outdoor shoes the second they come inside or while they are still in the garage or covered porch area. That way, they will not track pollen and other outdoor allergens through the house.
Taking care of your home’s HVAC system can be a way to help reduce indoor allergens. Replacing the air filter regularly will help the equipment run more smoothly and will reduce the chance that it will blow pollen, dust and dander back into your home. Having an air conditioning or HVAC system that is fully functioning will also help you control the temperature and humidity levels in your home. Keeping indoor humidity below 50% will reduce the risk of mold growth.
Several products are available that can improve indoor air quality in your home:
- You can install UV lights in your HVAC system to kill off viruses and bacteria, preventing them from circulating throughout your home.
- Air cleaners can help to reduce particulate matter in the air, which can alleviate allergy symptoms and help to make your home less dusty.
- Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air, which can help to prevent mold growth.
- Humidifiers add moisture to dry air, making it more comfortable to breathe.
Prepare Your Home for Extreme Weather
Summer weather in Maryland can range from mildly warm to searing hot, with an average temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Southern Maryland is likely to experience higher levels of humidity than other parts of the state. Although the summer can be warm and pleasant, there is also the risk of extreme weather events occurring, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and heat waves. It’s rare for a hurricane to directly hit the state, but the effects of hurricanes and tropical storms can often be felt as they make their way up the coast. Hurricanes can cause power outages and flooding and are most likely to occur in August and September.
Heat waves or extreme heat situations can also occur in Maryland during the summer. The state considers it to be a heat emergency when the heat index is at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit for three days in a row.
If you and your family are going to be indoors for a few days because of a summer rainstorm or hurricane or because the temperatures have crept into official heat emergency territory, it is important to know what to do to keep yourselves safe and comfortable. It is also important to know what to do to protect your home from storm damage.
Secure Outdoor Objects
The strong winds of a hurricane or rainstorm can be enough to blow unsecured objects around your yard, damaging the objects and potentially damaging your house or other structures. If the weather forecast is predicting that a big storm is going to blow through your area, bring any smaller objects, such as children’s toys and patio accessories, indoors until the storm has passed. It is also a good idea to bring in cushions so that they do not get soaked by the rain or blown about by the winds.
If you have room in a shed or garage, store larger objects there when a storm is on its way. You can put bicycles, grills and patio furniture in a shed or garage. If there is no room in the garage, tie down the larger objects so that they are less likely to be blown around.
Prune Trees and Shrubs
To reduce the chance of branches landing on your home or damaging other property in the middle of a storm, it is a smart idea to prune trees and shrubs before a storm strikes. Head out to your yard and look for branches that extend over the roof or over a fence or another structure. You can also inspect trees and shrubs for signs of damage or to confirm that they are still living. Dead trees and bushes are more likely to be damaged by a storm than healthy trees.
If you do notice that a tree is dead or that it has dead or dying branches, you might want to hire an arborist to remove it or to cut away the dead or dying areas.
Install a Generator
Storms in the spring and summer can knock out power and leave it out for days. It can be difficult to go about your daily life without any electricity. Food in the refrigerator and freezer will go bad. If you have an electric stove, you will not be able to cook or boil water. You will not be able to use electronic medical devices or charge cell phones. Depending on the type of water heater you have, it might be difficult to bathe without any electricity as well.
If you have a standby generator installed on your property, it will kick in within 10 seconds and supply a back-up source of power until the main electricity returns. You and your family will be able to go about your daily lives, showering, bathing and cooking food, thanks to the generator. The generator will also protect the food you have in the refrigerator and freezer, keeping it from going to waste. You will also alleviate the worry of not being able to use any electronic medical devices.
Have a Back-Up Heat Source.
While you probably do not have to worry about a surprise cold snap in the middle of the summer, spring in Maryland is a different story. When springtime temperatures are a bit chilly, your home can use a heat pump as a back-up heating source. A heat pump typically uses less energy than other types of heating systems. It is also better equipped to handle the mild, not too cold but also not very warm temperatures Southern Maryland experiences in the spring.
Inspect Your Downspouts and Foundation
When it rains, you want the water to flow away from your home, to keep your basement from flooding and to avoid water damage to your foundation. It is a smart idea to regularly inspect your home’s gutters and downspouts to make sure they are not clogged with fallen leaves and other debris. Also, make sure the downspouts direct water away from your home, rather than back to the foundation.
At the start of the spring and summer, it can be a good move to walk around the perimeter of your home looking at the foundation. Keep an eye out for any cracks. If you see any, fill them yourself with hydraulic cement or caulk, or hire a mason to do it.
Stay Safe in the Heat
Heat waves occur when the temperature is hotter than average for two days or more in a row. Heat waves put people at risk, particularly older people and very young children. While you cannot keep the heat from rising in the summer months, you can take steps to keep your home and family cool. Here are a few heat wave safety tips to follow.
Double Check Your Thermostat
As summer gets underway, one of the first things to do is make sure your thermostat is working. If you have a battery-powered thermostat, confirm that the batteries are still functional. If the low battery signal is flashing or the thermostat is not lighting up or displaying numbers, it is most likely time to replace the batteries.
If you have a programmable thermostat, the beginning of summer is the ideal time to check the program to ensure it makes sense for the temperatures you are experiencing. During a particularly warm period, you may want to adjust your thermostat down so that your HVAC system can keep your home cool and comfortable.
Keep the Sun Out
In the winter, you are usually told to open blinds and curtains to let the heat from the sun warm your home. In the summer, the opposite is the case. Close blinds and draw the curtains to keep out the hot sun. Blackout curtains or blinds can provide an extra layer of insulation, keeping the sun’s heat from getting into your home.
Schedule Air Conditioner Maintenance Service
You want your air conditioner and HVAC system to work all summer long, whether the temperature outside is 70 degrees or 95 degrees. One way to make sure your system is in good working order and to potentially prevent a breakdown when you need it the most is to schedule an inspection and tune-up at the beginning of the season. During the inspection, a trained and certified technician will make sure your system is in good working order. If anything seems wrong, they can recommend a repair or replacement, depending on the age of your HVAC system or air conditioner and its overall condition.
Hot weather safety extends beyond protecting your home and cooling equipment. It is also essential that you protect yourself and your family. One way to do that is to make sure you are properly hydrated during a heat wave. Drink water even if you do not feel thirsty, and make sure your children and other adults in the home are regularly drinking water, too. It is better to take small sips of water throughout the day rather than to gulp large amounts all at once. You can stay hydrated by eating foods such as cucumber and water or by drinking fruit juice as well. Be cautious about drinking fluids that can potentially dehydrate you, such as caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
Know the Signs of Heat Illness
Heat illness can develop when a person’s body temperature gets hot enough that they cannot cool themselves down. It is important to act quickly if someone shows signs of heat illness, so learn to recognize the signs, such as:
- Dizziness and fainting
- Ashen, pale or moist skin
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive sweating
If you or someone else shows signs of heat illness, bring them to a cooler area and give them a cool, damp towel to help them cool off. Offer them small sips of water. Taking action to help someone cool down quickly can help them avoid an emergency situation.
Let SMO Energy Keep Your Home Cool, Comfortable and Safe in the Spring and Summer
Is your Southern Maryland home ready for spring and summer weather? SMO Energy can help you keep indoor temperatures within a comfortable range, improve your indoor air quality and provide a back-up source of electricity in case of a power outage. We are happy to work with you and to be a total home comfort provider. Whether you are interested in avoiding seasonal allergies by improving indoor air quality or want to keep the lights on and the refrigerator going in the event of a loss of power, contact us today to learn more about our services and what we’ll do to keep your home safe and cool all spring and summer.