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Author Archive for markthehomewatchguy

Our lungs are an absolutely incredible piece of engineering. In spite of intense abuse, they can continually transform air into life giving oxygen to the bloodstream.

In your Southern home, the air conditioner is constantly running, summer or winter. In the summer, cooling the air and in the winter, most units reverse themselves and remove the heat from outside and bring it inside. In each case the air is circulated through one or more filters.

I recently started managing a number of properties that, when the AC filter was inspected, looked like they were last changed or cleaned when Ronald Reagan was president! This has several major impacts that go unnoticed by the majority of homeowners:

  1. your electric bill will be higher as the air conditioner struggles to cool or heat your home by forcing air through this clogged filter.
  2. the AC unit will fail sooner because of the increased strain on the system and the fact that it has to run longer to cool the same amount of property
  3. your lungs have become the substitute for the filter. If you look and see a completely clogged filter, this is what COULD  have ended up in your lungs. If you don’t replace the filter regularly, your lungs will have to do the job. Do you have anyone with breathing problems? Grandkids with allergies? These will only be worse with an obstructed filter in your air conditioner supply or return line.

So start checking the filter regularly. Most central air conditioning units have a unit in the closet or garage and the filter is located there. You can find the size of the filter on the existing one.Go to hardware store

If you have a professional home watch service, they should be checking at least monthly. A quarterly program which changes the filters automatically can really reduce the dust in your house and can make a significant impact on allergies and related problems.

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Crime news affects everyone else. At least that’s the attitude the vast majority of us have. We don’t worry about the house because we live ‘in a nice area.’ Our neighbors keep an eye on the place (infrequently and from a distance) and there hasn’t been a house robbery that anyone can remember. So why get a security alarm?

Those alarms, sometimes seen on the TV, can actually offer a lot of protection. But let’s talk about alarm systems in general. Many homes have security systems installed during construction. These systems may be connected to a community service as part of your monthly association fee, may be connected to an individual company that monitors the system, or may be a standalone system that only alarms inside the house and does not call anyone. The first two are referred to as ‘monitored’ systems because a station employee is keeping track of its status.  The ‘un-monitored’ system is really nothing more than a last hope if someone breaks in. You hope the noise scares them away.

So a monitored system sends signals to a security station via two primary means: regular telephone lines or cell phone. One uses your phone line while the other has it’s own cell connection to the station. (No, there is no monthly cell-phone bill, it is a one time installation with no recurring payments for the cell.) The advantage of the cell phone connection is that burglars cannot cut the phone line to the house and disable the ‘calling’ function of the system.

Monitored systems have several advantages and a few limitations.

The first advantage is the ‘perimeter monitoring’ that ensures the ‘envelope’ of your home is not broken without an alarm. If a door or window opens and the alarm is set, someone will be notified. The monitoring company will call whoever you put on the their list. If they are unable to get a response, the monitoring company calls the police. if you have a smoke alarm wired through this same system, the monitoring company will call the fire department if you (or those on your list) cannot be contacted. Where a battery powered smoke alarm is only intended to get occupants out of the property, a monitored system can actually save you AND the property. A valuable consideration when the house is unoccupied.  While a house with just a battery powered smoke detector may burn for quite some time before an outsider notices, the fire department has already been called if a monitoring comp0any is involved.

The limitations of a monitored system do not remove the overall benefit. You just need to recognize what they are. For example:

-without a home watch service, there may not be anyone to respond when the alarm sounds. The monitoring service will try to call you but chances are you are thousands of miles away. If you have your neighbors on the list, you can only hope they are available and nearby. Remember: hope is not a plan.

-any alarm system only protects the perimeter and certain other threats. It cannot detect mold, roof or plumbing leaks, insects, noxious odors, refrigerator and freezer operation, power failure impacts, etc, etc. You need someone to periodically go into the property to survey all the systems and evaluate the safety and security of the premises.

-the monitoring company does not physically respond. You may have seen security vehicles while driving in town. they are hired by commercial companies for after-hours work. They only respond to residential if you have hired them to do so- and this is expensive and rare.

-Local authorities have put fees in pace when they are repeatedly called out for false alarms. A good Security Service should step up and immediately fix a problem when this happens. But if you are out of town, you may be between a rock and a hard place.

Home Security Systems can help with peace of mind when you are gone for the season as long as you know their limitations. One added benefit is that your home owner’s insurance may have a credit for a ‘monitored’ alarm system. Give them a call to see.

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Do You Hate the Move?

If you are like the average person, change is difficult. Whether it’s a change in the stocking pattern at the grocery store (that really drives me nuts!), having to find a new doctor, or the new (and unnecessary) HomeOwner’s Association Rules, they all get an emotional reaction.  But we rarely realize that the move between North and South twice a year causes the same upset. So we avoid it until the last minute, procrastinating until it is too late. Then we hurriedly pack, grab everything and head out. It will be about 2.35 hours later (scientific study) that you remember everything you forgot. Although the old stories of ‘did I leave the iron on?” are dated, leaving the water running is not.

In the hurry caused by inward hatred for the change, lots of issues are formed that can bite you later. Did you turn off the water? Clothes washer? Unplug all the small appliances? Computers? Lock all the doors? Windows, too? What about the electric garage door? Did you unplug those timers that you don’t want coming on (water heater, recirculation pump, for instance) and plug in those that you want working- lamps, pool and sprinklers, etc?

There are two ways to accommodate these problems- well three actually. The three are:

Option 1: You can always impose on the neighbors. Call them up in a panic and have them check the potential problems. Then two days later, call them up and ask them to mail your reading glasses. Then the next day apologize and ask them to send your prescription that you forgot. And a week later, call again, and ask them to make another trip to the store for envelopes and a trip to the post office for that checkbook you left behind. They don’t have anything better to do, right?

Option 2:  Make a checklist and then follow that checklist (the hard part). It needs to be fluid, where you can add and remove items at will. Some of my favorite websites for that include: printablechecklist.org and tadalist.com. Both are free,

(I always found those non-specific sites require you to start from scratch. So, with input from my clientele, made up a huge ‘master’ checklist that allows users to only pick the topics they believe are important. Then my website automatically sends a personal checklist of just the items checked. You can try it out for free at www.thehomewatchguy.com/checklist.)

Option 3: You can hire a professional service to maintain your home. They will be more than happy to help both before and after you leave. Forwarding items you forgot is no imposition for them- call as often as you like. Sure, you will pay for postage and their time, but you will never hear an exasperated ‘so what did you forget now’ nor will you wait for weeks because your items never really got mailed. Plus a professional service will do many of the item on your list so you don’t have to!

A professional service should make the transition much easier when you move. They should have checklists for accomplishing items that you would forget. My personal clients know that my view is simple “Just pack what you need, we’ll do everything else.” This makes their move simple. And it seems to improve the marital relationship when the guy doesn’t get grumpy and the woman doesn’t have to remember everything for both of them! Wow, imagine a FUN transition for a change- wouldn’t that be different…

Maybe I should offer marriage counseling for snowbirds!

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Email: Mark@HomeWatchValet.com