Tips for Cooling the Air in Your Home

Air conditioning is the first and most popular method for cooling your home on a warm day, but there are additional ways, and most of these do not require any extra purchases or outside assistance. Let’s take a look at some of the best tips for cooling down your home.

Keep the Sun Out of the House

One of the best ways to cool your home without cranking up the AC is by keeping the sun’s warming rays outside. Shield your windows with shades, draperies, or other heat-filtering materials can reduce the temperature by a considerable number of degrees. Just make sure to block east-facing windows in the mornings and western-facing ones in the afternoons!

Change the Filter on Your AC Unit

When a filter is dirty, it is hard for that cool air to get into your home. Cleaning the filter in your AC unit is not difficult, and can be accomplished by looking through the manual that goes with your particular system.

Ceiling Fans

While fans don’t provide quite the immediate or intense cooling that air conditioning provides, they do go a long way towards reducing a room’s temperature and stirring up the stagnant, warm air. And they are much more energy efficient, besides.

Sealing Those Poorly-Insulated Areas

A poorly-insulated home allows both warm air to escape in winter and cooler air to exit in summer. A quick check of your home will determine if there are doors that aren’t closing tightly or windows allowing air to escape around the casings. Plugging these holes makes a remarkable difference in cool air retention. You can also put in weather stripping to keep cold air inside the house in the summer and warm air inside your home in winter.

If you feel like there is a problem with your air conditioning system or you want to be more effective with cooling the air in your home, contact Handyman Matters. We can help you save money and keep your home cool during the summer. Enter your zip code above or call 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME today to contact a Handyman Matters near you.

Senior Safety Fixes for the Home

Are your elderly parents still safe living at home? Even though they may be mentally sharp, their reaction times and physical abilities are most likely deteriorating over time.  If you are concerned about the safety of your parents in their current home, rest assured that there are relatively inexpensive measures you can take to keep them safe and independent for years to come.

As might be expected, elderly people want to stay independent for as long as they can. The last thing they want to feel like is a burden on their families. But according to the National Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of injury death among people 65 and older. Removing potential hazards in your parent’s home will not only give you and them peace of mind, but it will also save money if the alternative is placing them in assisted living.

The bathroom

The bathroom is one of the more hazardous places in the house. More accidents occur there for people of all ages than in the rest of the house. It is especially important to keep the bathroom safe for our elderly parents. Thankfully this can be done without a large expense.

Grab bars should be installed where ever support is needed. When proper support is not available, the elderly will use towel bars or the toilet paper holder, appliances not suitable for such use. Instead, grab bars should be securely placed both inside and outside the bathtub and within reach of the toilet.

As parents age they will find it increasingly difficult to stand up from a low toilet. If replacing the toilet with a higher model is not an option, then replacing the current seat with an elevated one complete with armrests will help them considerably.  Another solution is to attach stand-alone armrests that attach to the floor and wall. These are very stable and won’t wobble as some toilet seat models tend to do. Bath and shower safety devices can be purchased at most home improvement stores or online.

If the bathtub has shower doors, removing these and replacing them with a shower curtain will allow more space to enter and exit the tub. It is also helpful to use non-slip mats or tape in the tub along with non-slip rugs. Additionally, replace the faucet handles with knobs for those with levers. Also place a nightlight in the bathroom.  For added safety, make sure the bathroom doors open out. If your loved one were to collapse against the closed door inside the bathroom, then you or rescue personnel would have a hard time getting to them.

The rest of the house

Make sure the water heater temperature is adjusted to prevent accidental scalding. Replace the home thermostat with a backlit model with a large display. Remove raised thresholds in doorways. Put extra lighting switches in areas where they would be beneficial. The addition of extra outlets may be necessary if power cords on the floor are a tripping hazard.  Replace doorknobs with levers.

In the kitchen, replace cabinet hardware if your parent has trouble grabbing them. The same should be done for kitchen faucets. Make sure the kitchen and rest of the house are free of plumbing leaks. Not only can these pose a serious slip hazard, but they may breed mold in the crawlspace or basement.

If you’re looking to add some additional senior safety to your home, enter your zip code above to find your local Handyman Matters location or call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.  

Frank Nielson is a retired medical researcher who now spends his days writing and attempting to tie the perfect fly. Through this writing, he is keen on helping consumers find the best medical supplies at an affordable price.


When Should I Clean My Air Ducts?

Ducts can be one of the filthier aspects to our home, and the thought of breathing in dirty air can give someone nightmares about respiratory problems and disease. I’ve been called on dozens of occasions by friends and acquaintances who seek advice on whether their air ducts should be cleaned – either by their own inclination, or because a duct cleaning contractor offered them an apparently sweet deal on their services.

Ducts can be one of the filthier aspects to our home, and the thought of breathing in dirty air can give someone nightmares about respiratory problems and disease. I’ve been called on dozens of occasions by friends and acquaintances who seek advice on whether their air ducts should be cleaned – either by their own inclination, or because a duct cleaning contractor offered them an apparently sweet deal on their services.

It seems that every facet of a house needs to be cleaned every once in a while, so it is natural for both residents and contractors to assume that air duct cleaning is a necessary routine maintenance procedure. After all, ducts constantly wheeze particulates of dust which cling to its surface and collect in supply registers. But despite how necessary it may seem, the benefits of regularly cleaning your ducts are debatable at best. The real question should not be how often a duct should be cleaned; it should be, “Is duct cleaning worth it?

In fact, there are very few circumstances besides visibly witnessing large clumps of dust being blown through your system that merit a good cleaning. As long as you keep your filter replaced or cleaned every so often, there’s not much to worry about from your air ducts. There are, however, two circumstances that absolutely require a thorough duct cleaning.


Mold can be particularly insidious in a duct system, where spores might become dispersed throughout your home. Not all molds are necessarily toxic, and some might not cause any kind of noticeable harm. But no matter the strain, allowing mold to spread freely throughout your system is always a terrible idea, especially if anyone in your family is experiencing symptoms related to mold exposure. The easiest way to check for mold is to smell it; since air ducts transport air throughout the house, you should check your ducts if you smell mold anywhere in your house and can’t locate where it’s growing.

Visual confirmation can be difficult with a duct system unless you have specialized equipment, and attempting to disturb a mold colony to get a sample can cause a world of trouble since you’ll be scattering mold spores everywhere. The coloration of mold isn’t usually relevant, but black mold might mean you’re dealing with a particularly dreadful toxic strain that has received a lot of press: Stachbotrys chartarum.

Regardless of the strain, a confirmation of mold in your system unquestionably merits a professional cleaning. It’s also necessary to address the source of moisture, since mold can only prosper in a moist environment. You’ll need to have the house inspected for water leakages that might be reaching your ductwork. Alternatively, excess moisture might be a product of excessive condensation, which is a red flag that your system is pushing too hard and needs inspection. Sealing air duct leaks will help keep moisture out and greatly increase your energy efficiency.

Refrain from using harsh chemical biocides in your ductwork. Sheet metal found in ducts is an ideal nonporous material for a mild 1/10th water bleach solution. After the mold is dead, vacuum dead mold material out of your system − dead mold can still be harmful mold. And if any trace of mold exists throughout your HVAC system, it is only a matter of time before it spreads again, so thoroughness can’t be stressed enough.

Pest Infestation

Any critters or bugs that make their way into your air duct (such as mice, roaches, fleas, etc.) are not only difficult to reach in an air vent, but they’re also prone to kicking up allergens, leaving droppings, and spreading disease.  Like mold, pests in your system can stir up a variety of symptoms, like allergy/sinus/asthma issues.

And as with mold, pest infestations in air ducts are problematic because it is a difficult to access space where harsh chemicals are unwise. Aerosol poisons are completely out, since it will linger in your system for days and inevitably lead to heavy intake on your family’s part. Any poison is a terrible idea, since you’ll leave a dead mouse to dry up in your system. In any case, pesticides are only a temporary solution. Bait like peanut butter traps are hit and miss, and can be messy. One viable trick is to use glue traps, but their application is limited.

The best method for purging your ductwork of pests is to remove the reason why they’re there. To be precise, use the Integrated Pest Management approach, which is more effective, cost efficient, and environmentally safe than any alternative. The gist of this approach is that inspection, identification, and treatment are necessary to eradicate pests. Proper sealing and maintenance are essential to deprive pests transportation, water, and food in your home.

While there is no definite word on whether regular duct cleaning is necessary, you should be mentally equipped to recognize when a problem exists and your air ducts require more drastic cleaning measures.

For more information you can call 866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to get in touch with your local Handyman Matters location.

Jason Wall is an HVAC technician of more than 23 years who occasionally writes for Griffith Energy Services. He spends his time enjoying life with his family and keeping up with professional baseball. 

Protecting Your Home and Property With Fire Mitigation

As we hear more tragic stories about loss of life and property due to wildfires, it becomes increasingly important to take steps to implement fire mitigation measures around our homes. With preparation, you can dramatically reduce the risk that wildfire poses to your house, property and community.

As we hear more tragic stories about loss of life and property due to wildfires, it becomes increasingly important to take steps to implement fire mitigation measures around our homes.  With preparation, you can dramatically reduce the risk that wildfire poses to your house, property and community.

Consult with your local firefighting agencies as well as representatives of the nearest State or National Forest Services in your region for the best measures to reduce risk around your home and in your neighborhood.  And you can take the following steps on your own:

  1.  Remove all debris from your home’s rain gutters.  Check all the nooks and crannies of your roof where dried leaves and pine needles may settle.
  2. Do not store firewood immediately adjacent to your home.
  3. Rake and bag up all ground debris—pine needles, cones, and dried leaves, and arrange to have them hauled away from your property.
  4. Prune dead branches from all trees.  Remove dead and dying bushes and other vegetation.  Keep in mind that it is not necessary to clear-cut all vegetation and trees.  Consult with a tree trimming service or someone from your local fire department who can properly advise you as to how to cut back trees, bushes and shrubbery.
  5. If there is a fire hydrant located on your property, clear a 3-foot area around it for fire department access.
  6. Maintain clearly visible house numbers at the entrance to your property and keep the emergency number for the fire department near every phone in your home.
  7. Check with your homeowners’ association or your local Chamber of Commerce to see what wildfire awareness meetings and seminars are available in your community.  Encourage these and other organizations to put such programs into place if they aren’t there already.  Community-wide efforts at fire mitigation ensures even greater success.
  8. Don’t wait to have an evacuation plan in place.  Have an emergency evacuation kit at the ready for quick departure that contains the essentials—water, change of clothing, financial information and other important documents.  And keep in mind:  Ultimately none of this is as important as the safety of you, your family and pets.  If it’s a question of escaping safely with only your loved ones in tow, remember:  Everything else is ultimately replaceable.

For assistance in implementing fire mitigation measures, remember that you can always call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find the Handyman Matters location nearest you.

Cleaning Your Dryer Vent

As with any appliance, maintaining it in its best working condition is vital. In addition to the inconvenience of having machinery break down and requiring a visit from a repairman, poorly-working appliances pose health and fire hazards.

As with any appliance, maintaining it in its best working condition is vital.  In addition to the inconvenience of having machinery break down and requiring a visit from a repairman, poorly-working appliances pose health and fire hazards. 

The basic structure of a dryer consists of a large drum to spin your clothes, the mechanics to move the drum, a heating element, dryer setting controls, a fan, a lint trap and a vent for the hot air to be removed. It sounds simple enough, but if you don’t keep your dryer vents clean, it can be deadly.

When you dry your clothes, all the tumbling causes small fibers to come off and get caught in the lint trap. Not all lint is caught here. Some continues into the exhaust tube and is blown outside. Overtime, lint can build up in the tube. As the buildup increases and the dryer vents become clogged, risks build, too.

One of the first things you may notice is the increased time it takes your clothes to dry.  As your dryer runs longer, your electric bill grows.   You may also find an increase of moisture from warm air not being able to leave the dryer efficiently. This can cause mold to grow inside your home, which could lead to health issues.

If you have a gas dryer, there is a danger of carbon monoxide building up.  If it can’t vent to the outside, it has no other place to go but back into the home.  The most dangerous problem of a clogged vent is that lint is extremely flammable.  As the dryer struggles to get rid of the hot air, the whole unit overheats.  The combination of overheating and combustible material can ignite a fire.

Thousands of homes are destroyed every year due to fires caused by dryers.  Make sure your dryer vents and exhausts are cleaned on a regular basis.  Check and clean your dryer vent before and after each load of laundry.  At least twice a year, clean the exhaust tube that exits from the dryer.  If you are unable to clean these vents yourself, consider hiring a professional. Not only can he give you peace of mind for safety, a professional may also be able to help you decrease your electric bill.

For assistance in maintaining and cleaning your dryer, you can contact Handyman Matters at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code on our website to find a location in your area.


DIY: Home Maintenance Tips for April

With summer just around the corner, homeowners need to make sure that their properties are in tip top shape from the rigors of winter. April’s DIY home tips are all about making sure your house is ready to weather April showers and is prepared for summer.

  1. Clean and Adjust Ceiling Fans. You probably didn’t need to use your ceiling fans much over the winter, so getting them in shape for the warmer months means cleaning them (they get pretty dusty on top), and reversing the direction that the fan turns. In the summer, having cool air blowing downwards is more comfortable, while during the winter, having hot air directed up by the fan and then down the walls is better. There is generally a switch on the body of the fan or near the pull chain to reverse its direction.
  2. Inspect Chimney Cap and Masonry. Moisture and weather can begin to wear down and deteriorate the chimney cap (the flat part at the very tip of the chimney). If there’s been a lack of maintenance and the bricks have started to break loose, it can become expensive to fix.
  3. Inspect Siding, Soffit and Fascia Boards.  The horizontal boards underneath the eaves are the soffit boards, and the vertical boards that are attached to the gutter are the fascia boards. If there are cracks and/or separations within those boards, water can penetrate which causes additional damage. If this has happened, replace each board as needed.
  4. Change out Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector Batteries.  Even if they seem to be testing ok, it’s always better to play it safe and change out these batteries before they die.
  5. Inspect, Clean, and Re-attach Gutters.  Signs such as roofing nails or pieces of shingles in the gutters might be an indication that the roof needs inspecting. Check for rusting along the bottom of the gutters and make sure that gutter extensions discharge water at least three inches away from the house.
  6. Check Your Roof for Missing Shingles, Proper Installation and Other Issues.  Roofs can have a myriad of problems if proper annual upkeep isn’t a focus for homeowners. Make sure that there are no gaps around pipes and corners of roof, and double check to make sure that shingles extend ¾” past the roof decking to allow water to drip into the gutter. If there’s inadequate clearance, the water will run down the fascia boards and cause rotting. Add either a row of shingles around the roof to add aluminum flashing to fix these problems.

These quick and handy tips can help you make sure your home maintenance is up to date and prepared for the coming months. Handyman Matters has additional tips to help prepare you for the summer season – Enter your zip code above or call us at 1-866-FIX –MY-HOME to book your appointment today!

Easy Ways to Increase the Value of your Home

In the past, we’ve talked about ways to improve the value of your home. This is especially important if you’re trying to sell in today’s economic climate. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can improve your home’s value and increase the likelihood of a sale. Even better, the expert craftsmen at Handyman Matters can help with all of these home value-increasing tips.

Keep reading for ways to boost your home’s value with these quick and easy projects around your house.

Spruce up the Color with a Fresh Paint Job

One of the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective ways to increase the value of your house is to repaint. Focus on the interior paint – especially in the most social rooms of the house (i.e., the living room, dining room, and kitchen). This will give your home an updated and clean look, and will likely move an appraiser to increase the value of your home.

Replace Appliances with Energy Saving Appliances

Old appliances that are less energy efficient can end up causing a homebuyer to spend more money each year in utility fees. Make your home more appealing by replacing toilets and showers with low-flush and low-flow alternatives that use much less water. Also, consider replacing kitchen appliances with more energy efficient models and replacing windows with better insulated versions.

Make Household Repairs

Have a loose cabinet door or a light switch that doesn’t function? Making small replacements can be a big difference when it comes to your home’s value – especially when you have an outside appraiser visiting.

Invest in Some Strategic Landscaping

The outside look of the house is extremely important for a home valuation. It provides the first impression and can add to the overall appearance of your home. More importantly, an overgrown lawn and messy yard can detract significantly from a home’s value since it makes it appear older and poorly maintained. Add a flower bed or some shrubs to accent your home’s exterior.

These handy tips can help boost the value of your home significantly without any major renovations or remodeling. If you’re trying to increase your home’s resale value, consider giving the home experts at Handyman Matters a call at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to set up a consultation or, enter your zip code above to find a location in your area. We can help you figure out what improvements your home needs and which are the most vital to your home’s ability to sell in an ever-changing market.


3 Benefits to Performing a Monthly Maintenance Check of your Home

Oftentimes, homeowners don’t see the benefits of a monthly maintenance check until it’s too late and they’re already out time and money. However, having a monthly checklist and having someone complete a quick look over your home is a smart way to make sure everything in your house is running like a well-oiled machine. In fact, it can save you a decent chunk of money by making you aware of potential problems and helping you prevent home repairs and replacements before they happen.

At Handyman Matters, we want to make sure our customers’ homes are safe and not prone to accidents all year round. That’s why we’ve listed out the top 3 benefits to performing a thorough monthly maintenance check of your home.

1. Save money over the long-term

While looking over your property each month and making small repairs and changes can cost you money, the savings compared to having to fix unexpected emergencies can be pretty huge. Many homeowners end up spending thousands of dollars on emergency home repairs when the problem could have been avoided if it had been noticed earlier and taken care of.

2. Saves time and effort

Time is a valuable asset. Working during the week and finding enough time to spend with your family in the evenings and on weekends can be a tricky balancing act. By hiring a handyman or other home expert to look over your home once a month for any maintenance problems, you save a little more time for the more important things in life.

3. Benefits and expertise of a professional

Imagine being able to have a plumber check your home’s water pipes every month to make sure there were no leaks, a roofer check your home’s roofing tiles, and an electrician to make sure there were no loose wires or wiring problems. By having a specialist check your home’s safety and make sure everything is in good shape, you’re leveraging years of quality experience to your benefit.

The experienced craftsmen at Handyman Matters can complete your monthly to-do list to save you time and money. Call us today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to schedule your appointment or enter your zip code above to find a Handyman Matters near you.

4 Reasons You Should Switch to CFL Lighting in your Home

CFL lights have gotten lots of exposure lately due to their cost-saving abilities and their environmentally friendly energy usage. Given that they use, on average, 80% less energy than a normal light bulb, they’re a much better option for cost and energy conscious homeowners. But there are many other reasons for making the switch over from standard incandescent bulbs to CFL lighting.

1. Reduce your carbon footprint. A single CFL bulb can reduce a half ton of CO2 over the light bulb’s life. That’s a huge environmental benefit and helps you cut your carbon footprint without almost any work involved.

2. A variety of shapes and sizes. At one time, it was difficult to find CFL bulbs that would match up to certain interior specifications. But now, CFL bulbs can be found that work with all types of lighting, including lamps, overhead lighting, track lighting, etc.

3. They’re higher quality. A common complaint when CFL bulbs were new to the market was that they didn’t have the soft light that incandescent bulbs provided. Nowadays, they offer CFLs with all different levels of brightness, including soft white, and many people have said that the quality exceeds that of a standard bulb.

4. They last longer. CFL bulbs typically burn for 10,000 hours – but they’ve been known to last up to 50,000 hours. Compare that to a typical incandescent light, which burns from 800 – 1,500 hours, and you can see why CFLs are an obvious choice.

CFLs are a great option for homeowners who are concerned about their environmental footprint and who want to cut down energy consumption. For more information about how CFL bulbs can improve your home’s energy efficiency, contact Handyman Matters at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.

Updating Your Fireplace Mantle

Whether you’re thinking of selling a house in the near future, or just want to update it to keep pace with your changing tastes and styles, there’s one great remodeling option that can instantly change the entire character of your living room or den:  An update of the fireplace mantle. Unlike most remodeling investments, an updated mantle is one of the few that will usually add more than the price of the remodel to the value of your home, and it is a great way to make your whole house feel new and exciting all over again.

There are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind when considering a new fireplace mantle. The main thing most people think about is whether or not the new mantle will match their current home decor. This is actually not terribly important, and here’s why: a fireplace mantle will almost always become the centerpiece of the room, owing largely to its size and positioning. Since it’s such a large part of a room’s character, it will naturally set the tone for the rest of the room, meaning that it takes a lot less work to “make it fit in” than most people think. In fact, often something as relatively minor as painting the room to match the new mantle will be enough to make it fit.

One of the few times that you DO have to seriously consider the design of your mantle before upgrading is if your home is built in a very pronounced style. For instance, if you have an art-deco style home with lots of straight angles and minimalist design, a heavily embellished mantle will stand out. Or vice versa, if you live in a Victorian home with lots of molding and scroll-work on the walls, getting a sleek, modern mantle might not be doable, if you don’t want it to stand out.

You should also seriously consider your choice of material. If it’s a non-working fireplace, you can get creative with various woods and other non-standard materials; however, if it’s an actively used fireplace, your first consideration should always be function followed by form. Marble, granite, and other glossy stone will add brightness to the room, and will give the fireplace a more formal feeling. Slate, shale, and wood, on the other hand, often have the opposite effect, making a room more warm and inviting. Either way, a fireplace mantle remodel can be a fantastic way to turn your living room or den into the room you want it to be and set the mood for the entire house.

Handyman Matters can help you update your fireplace mantle to become a centerpiece in your living room or den. Enter your zip code above to find a location near you or call us today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to schedule your appointment today.