Inspect your furnace filters throughout the year, and if the filters are dirty, clean or replace them to ensure the furnace operates as efficiently as possible. This will help alleviate indoor allergies as well as conserve energy. If your thermostat is battery operated, you should change the battery as well as test and/or change the batteries in your smoke detectors.
“Most people see their smoke detectors as an irritant when it comes to changing the batteries,” said Smith. “However, if you ever have a fire, you’ll certainly be glad you took the five minutes it took to change them.”
Now is also an ideal time to get a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poisoning in the United States, so opting for a detector is worth the investment. “Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed at least five feet above the ground. If you’re going to have just one in the house, I’d suggest putting it on the ceiling and adjacent to sleeping rooms,” recommended Smith.
Inspecting doors and windows for minor air leaks is also an easy preventive measure. “People would be surprised at how energy-efficient homes are designed and built today,” Smith said. “But people would also be surprised how much energy is lost by lack of maintenance when their door gaskets wear out and become less effective.” Weather stripping for doors is an inexpensive investment of both time and money that will make your house more efficient and more comfortable.
If you have a fireplace, inspect the chimney to see that it’s clear of obstructions inside and out and that your damper is in the open position prior to using the fireplace. Start by walking around the exterior of your house. “Inspecting rain gutters and downspouts to make sure they’re clean and unobstructed from debris is important, even if you don’t have many trees around your house or they are small, less mature trees; you’ll be surprised at how much dust will settle in the gutters,” Smith said.
Inspect the roof for broken shingles or tiles and fix them if necessary. This is also a great time to adjust automatic sprinklers so that you’re not over-watering in the winter months.
If you determine this is the year you want to upgrade that old inefficient furnace to a newer, high-efficiency furnace, the City of Oakley has reduced permit fees by 50 percent for energy-saving devices and appliances such as skylights, high-efficiency water heaters and furnaces.
If some problems are beyond what you’re comfortable fixing, be sure to hire a licensed contractor. Smith recommends you get at least three to five bids and check references before hiring an agency to do the repairs. For tips on hiring a licensed contractor, visit the Contractors State License Board homepage at www.cslb.ca.gov.
If you have a question regarding what work needs permits and what is exempt, call the Oakley Building Division at 925-625-7005 Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.