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Myron Quinn
Myron Quinn
Lancia Homes
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The magical glow of a wood-burning fireplace requires extra attention to safety. Always use a fireplace screen when burning logs, but you may not want to completely close glass doors to create the proper draught. Don't use your fireplace as an incinerator or overload with logs. The Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Association recommends having your fireplace inspected annually by a qualified professional.

Be careful when heating liquids in your microwave. A phenomenon called superheating can occur where the liquids temperature exceeds the boiling point (212 degrees), but shows no signs of boiling. If the liquid is moved or stirred, it can ignite violent boiling, potentially burning someone. Items heated in tall containers are especially prone to this. To help prevent it, stir the liquid before placing in the microwave; don't heat for more than two minutes; and allow the liquid to cool in the microwave undisturbed for at least 30 seconds.

Ceiling paddle fans shouldn't be reserved for summer use only. They can also be useful in better circulating already warmed air during cooler months. The fan needs to be set so the blades pull the air up. To avoid the evaporative cooling effect of your fan, keep it on low speed in winter.

Ceiling paddle fans are an effective way to reduce your summer cooling costs, if used properly. In warm months, paddle fans should circulate the air downward. (Different manufacturers have fans rotate clockwise or counterclockwise to circulate air downward). Paddle fans work by cooling you from the breeze they create. They do not change the actual air temperature. Therefore, ceiling fans should be turned off if no one is in the room to feel the effects. For maximum energy savings, raise the thermostat a few degrees when using your fan.

Since gritty materials, like sand and dirt, and other substances such as oil damage any kind of flooring, it's advisable to use mats at all entry doors to help prevent tracking these materials throughout the house. For vinyl flooring, make sure you don't use a latex-backed, rubber-backed or coco-fiber mat. They can permanently stain the floor. Instead, look for a mat identified as non-staining.

Clogs in sinks and tubs often develop over time. In a best-case scenario, you periodically clean out any hair or other materials from the drains to avoid a clog. You can also pour boiling water down drains to clear them out.

But if your drain is completely stopped, you can try using a plunger. To create the proper vacuum and seal, you will need to seal off the overflow drain and add some water to the tub or sink basin. Do not plunge a drain line after chemicals have been used. Also, don't use a plumber's snake on a tub drain.

A plunger isn't your only option to unclog a toilet. If you don't have a plunger handy, you can try using a bucket of water and physics to unclog it. If the water in the bowl is low, you can fill a bucket or trash can with water and dump into the bowl from approximately waist height. This can force the clog through, although it can create splash-back.

If a plunger doesn't work on a clog, you may need to resort to a toilet snake (with rubber padding to avoid damaging your toilet). This will work the clog through the system.

When going on vacation, don't forget to turn the central water valve off to your home. This will minimize any damage if you have a plumbing problem. To save energy, you might also want to turn down the thermostat on your water heater. But don't turn off the heat. Leave the thermostat at a low setting.

Other vacation hints:

Put a few lights on timers throughout the house.
Stop mail and newspaper delivery or ask a neighbor to collect them while you're gone.

Towels and other heavy-weight cotton fabrics, such as denim, should be dried separately from lighter-weight fabrics. Consider using the moisture-sensor setting or the cool-down setting, which uses the residual heat to complete drying. By avoiding overdrying your clothes, you will prevent static cling without having to use a fabric softener.

The International Door Association recommends inspecting and testing your garage door and garage door opener monthly.

To test the reversing safety feature, completely open the door. Place a 1 1/2" thick piece of wood on the floor in the center of the door opening. Press the button to operate the door. If functioning properly, the door should reverse automatically.

Also visually inspect springs, cables, rollers and other door hardware. Do not attempt to adjust garage door springs -- they are under very high tension and could cause injury if not handled properly. If they appear to be worn, call a professional. Consult your owner's manual for recommendations on lubricating door and opener parts.

If you purchased a new refrigerator for your home, don't be surprised if you hear unfamiliar noises. Today's more energy-efficient refrigerators make different sounds than their older counterparts, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. To reduce sounds like the high-pitched whine or a soft hum, make sure the refrigerator is level and the defrost water pan is in place. If your refrigerator compressor coils require routine cleaning, vacuum them at least twice a year -- more often if you have pets.

The U.S. Department of Energy has found that carefully placed trees can cut up to 25% of a household's energy bill.

For example, deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter by blocking the intense summer afternoon rays and allowing the sun to warm your home in the winter.

You can find more information about how landscaping can improve your home's energy efficiency at the department's web site.

Over time, detergent residue can build up in your dishwasher. To remove this, run an empty cycle, but put a 1/2 cup of white vinegar in just after the dishwasher drains the residual water (during the first part of the cycle).

In-Sink-Erator®, the manufacturer of the garbage disposals Lancia uses, advises you use cold water when grinding food waste. To freshen your disposal drain, grind citrus peels or run eggshells through. Run the disposal after draining a sink-full of water. Avoid grinding fibrous materials like corn husks because they can cause drain blockages. Never place your hand in the disposal. If you have to retrieve something from the drain, use a pair of metal tongs.

The steel, insulated garage door on your Lancia home can be painted to give your home an updated look. Overhead Door®, Lancia's garage door manufacturer, recommends that you lightly sand the exterior before painting. Use a satin latex exterior paint. Overhead Door® advises against using oil-based paint.

Have some cooked-on splatters in your microwave? Try microwaving three or four cups of water for 8 to 10 minutes. The steam the water generates will loosen the particles, and make them easier to clean off. Clean your microwave frequently, because the food particles absorb the microwave energy and make heating/cooking times longer.

Here are two hints to get your dishes as clean as possible:

1. Run the hot water in your sink before you start the dishwasher. This will get the hot water to your dishwasher faster.

2. Leave a small amount of food residue on your dishes. The protein from the food will react with detergent and boost its cleaning power.

Your whole-house humidifier needs to be cleaned annually to remove hard water scale and bacteria. It's advised that you clean it at the beginning and end of each heating season. Consult your owner's manual for exact cleaning instructions.

If you have a jetted or garden tub, Jetta Corp. advises that you clean your tub exclusively with a damp cloth and window cleaner. Never use any sort of solvent, as it could damage your tub. The company also advises against using bubble bath or bath oils in your Jetta® tub.

To thoroughly clean your whirlpool every two or three months, fill the bath with warm water and add a small amount of liquid dishwasher detergent. Circulate the water for 10 minutes and drain. Refill with cold water. Circulate for another 10 minutes and drain.

To improve the tub's luster, you can use an automotive wax or a wax recommended for plastic surfaces. Minor scratches and abrasions can be removed and the original gloss restored by using a light buffing compound.

Keep your clothes dryer operating at its best by making sure the dryer and exhaust vents are free of excessive lint and dust. The more blocked the vents are, the harder and longer it takes to dry clothes.

Always clean out the lint before and after each load of laundry. Periodically clean out dust and lint around and behind the dryer. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers also recommends having a professional cleaning of the dryer and ductwork.

Bushes and other landscaping should be kept at least 18 inches from the outdoor unit of your central air conditioning unit. This will give enough air to circulate around the unit and help avoid any heat build-up.

The fresh food compartment of your refrigerator should be kept between 37 and 40 degrees. The freezer compartment should be 5 degrees. A separate freezer should be kept at zero.

To test the temperature of your refrigerator, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To test the freezer compartment, place the thermometer between frozen items. Read after 24 hours.

The U.S. Department of Energy calculates that 14% of a typical household's energy bill is devoted to the water heater. Consider lowering the water heater's thermostat. It not only saves energy but prevents accidental scalding. Also refer to your water heater's manual on how to drain a small amount of water from the unit to remove sediment.   

Cover liquids and cover or wrap foods in your refrigerator. Not only will it reduce refrigerator odors but it will also keep the humidity at the proper level. Ideal humidity levels reduce wear and tear on the compressor.

Cover liquids and cover or wrap foods in your refrigerator. Not only will it reduce refrigerator odors but it will also keep the humidity at the proper level. Ideal humidity levels reduce wear and tear on the compressor.

Although vinyl siding doesn't require extensive maintenance, it does need cleaning to stay looking new. The Vinyl Siding Institute recommends using general household cleaners for non-specific cleaning. Do not use solvents, undiluted chlorine bleach or other harsh chemicals.

Vinyl siding can be washed with a soft cloth or a long-handled soft-bristle brush. A power washer can also be used, however, only point the washer straight ahead. Aiming it upward can force water under the siding and cause moisture problems.

Moen® advises against using foaming spray cleansers on acrylic faucets. It can make the material brittle and prone to breakage. For clogged showerheads, consider using vinegar to clean away the deposits. If you have hard water, you may need to use a stronger commercial product designed for heavy mineral deposits.

Indiana-based Heating and Cooling Systems, Lancia's furnace and air-conditioner manufacturers, suggest checking your air filter every three to four weeks. A dirty filter makes the system work harder. Homes in their first heating season need to have their filters changed more frequently because of the residual construction dust. If you have a reusable filter, make sure it is dry before reinstalling it. 

Although it can be tempting to hide extension cords under throw rugs or carpet, it is unsafe. The cord can overheat and cause a fire. Cords should not be run underneath furniture either. Also, don't staple or nail cords to the wall or floor.

The first 90 days are critical for your new lawn, which is seeded with a combination of bluegrass, ryegrass and fine fescue. Water your new lawn in the morning for the first 60 days, with the sprinkler covering each area for 15 minutes. Fertilize four weeks after installation and repeat frequently in the first year. 

Allow the grass to grow to 4" before the first mowing. Don't mow shorter than 3" to avoid stressing young plants. Avoid using weed killer the first year and don't rake the straw from the lawn. It will decompose and add organic material to the soil.

Are you getting funny-tasting ice cubes from your ice maker? Your ice cube bin may have absorbed freezer odors over time. It may need to be replaced to fully solve the problem. You will also want to empty and wash the bin every two to three months. If your ice cubes are too small, you may need to replace the water filter. Consult your refrigerator''s owner manual on how to change the filter.

Keep wood floors free from dirt and other gritty materials by frequent sweeping. For regular cleaning, use products specifically designed for wood floors, but avoid leaving standing water when you clean.

Avoid moving heavy furniture across the floor. Pick them up or slide rags underneath and move. If your wood floor has been finished with polyurethane, contact a professional when the floor looses its luster and gloss. Never wax a wood floor finished with polyurethane.

Vinyl flooring, also known as resilient flooring, can offer years of beauty and service if maintained properly. Keep vinyl floors free of dirt, sand and other gritty material to avoid scratches. Consider using curtains to block direct sunlight on your vinyl floor to prevent discoloration. If you have to move appliances or other heavy objects, use wood "runways" to move the item. Don't drag it across the bare floor. It could rip the flooring. Don't use a beater bar when vacuuming vinyl floors. If you have high-gloss floors, you will need to use the recommended polish to restore the gloss.

Your sliding glass door will require some occasional lubrication to keep it sliding freely. Lubricate the wheels with silicone spray, making sure to avoid getting the slippery spray on the floors. Also check to be sure that drainage holes in the tracks are kept clear. They can be cleared by using a nail or ice pick.

Laminate floors give you the look of wood without the care and upkeep. Laminate floors can be swept or vacuumed with hardwood attachments. Laminate flooring manufacturers advise against using soaps and detergents to clean the floor. Some manufacturers have products specifically designed to clean laminate floors. Never wax, polish, sand or try to refinish laminate floors. 

One of Lancia's concrete suppliers, Erie Haven, offers some tips on caring for exterior concrete:

During the first year, Erie Haven advises against using any de-icing chemicals. The only safe materials are plain sand, kitty litter or birdseed.

Regardless of the concrete's age, de-icers containing ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate should never be used.

Concrete sealant should be applied at least 30 days after the concrete has cured, when the surface is dry and when the temperature is about 70 degrees. Resealing should be done every two to three years depending on wear.

Ceramic tile is known for its durability, but it does require care and maintenance. Keep ceramic tile free of dirt and particulate matter, as it can scratch the floor. Vacuum glazed and unglazed tile floor regularly.

For glazed floors, clean with an all-purpose, non-oil based cleaner. Unglazed tiles should be cleaned with soapless detergent.

Use bleach cleaners only for deep cleaning. Never use ammonia-based products because they can stain grout. Grout should be sealed twice a year to prevent stains.

Dirt is the enemy of any flooring, and carpet is no exception. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, dry soil, which is abrasive, can permanently damage carpet fibers, giving them a dull appearance over time. Vacuum soil and dirt before it gets ground into the carpet. The institute advises vacuuming high-traffic areas a minimum of twice a week.

Be careful when applying herbicides and pesticides near your home. Some can cause discoloration of the vinyl siding. Warping of your siding can occur when exposed to high heat. Common causes of excessive heat are BBQ grills and open flames, such as burning leaves. Distortion often occurs at temperatures of 160 degrees or above.

Instead of using regular incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent light bulbs provide a longer-lasting option and use much less electricity. With typical household use, they can last seven years. Although they are more expensive than their traditional counterpart, their energy savings combined with long lifespan can make them a better value. Consider using them in places where it's difficult to change a bulb. For outdoor use, use a compact fluorescent made specifically for that capacity.

Contact an Agent

Myron Quinn
Myron Quinn
Lancia Homes
& Coldwell Banker