The year-round climate in the U.S. can’t get any more straightforward: cooler in the north and warmer in the south. While people in the latter don’t have to worry about blizzards and heavy snowfall (at least as much as those in the former), they experience their fair share of extremes. These include but aren’t limited to heat waves, cold snaps, and especially hurricanes.
Not everyone is a fan of their native climate, with three out of five Americans contemplating moving to a more conducive part of the country this year. But whether or not you plan to live elsewhere, a climate change-resistant home is in everyone’s interest, especially today. Mother Nature has many ways to make life in an unprepared abode a living hell.
As such, Southern homeowners should take note of this seasonal home maintenance checklist. Following it to the letter can help save a lot of grief.
No matter where you reside, a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system will always be at the heart of creature comfort. Even as annual temperatures in the south rarely go down below zero, single-digit ones are still chilly. Having adequate heating or cooling when the situation demands it is indispensable.
However, such a convenience means it sees extensive use all year round, adding to its wear and tear. To avoid the system from breaking down at the worst possible time, it pays to conduct an HVAC checkup, preferably before weather extremes become more likely to hit. There’s a lot to do here, but the most important ones are:
Cleaning or replacing air filters
Unblocking the ducts and vents
Cleaning the outdoor condensers (if any)
Inspecting the system for leakage
Draining the drain pan
Washing the unit to remove sludges
Doing these things yourself is possible, but paying for a professional HVAC service is worth the expense. Most checkups stumble upon problems that require expert repair and maintenance work using the right tools and skills.
For example, an HVAC system blowing warm air instead of cool air (or vice-versa) can signify trouble with the compressor, evaporator, or circulating refrigerant. Fixes will involve inspecting and dismantling the mechanism, not to mention handling dangerous chemicals.
The First Street Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to accessible climate risk research, stated in a report that Americans should expect heavier average rainfall in the coming years. Its latest model suggests the so-called “one-in-100-year storm” has already happened in some areas. On top of that, it doesn’t help that the federal model underestimates rainfall by up to 90% in many places.
Rain, no matter how much is dumped in an hour or so, has to go somewhere—and the interior of your home is the worst destination. Gutters lead the runoff to the ground, preventing any buildup of moisture inside that can promote mold growth or compromise critical supports.
That said, every season introduces something that can hamper a gutter’s function, from hornet or wasp nests in spring to ice dams in winter. That’s why it pays to examine your gutter system for unwanted obstructions seasonally. This also applies to covered gutters, more so because of their limited drainage compared to open-top ones.
Inspecting for issues is one thing, but addressing them is another. Unless you’ve done them before, hiring someone who does gutter cleaning and repairs for a living is better. Check for gutter cleaning in Atlanta and other places in the south, again before the extremes manifest.
Roof inspection and repair
Speaking of gutter checkups, roof inspection should naturally occur alongside them. No part of a house’s runoff drainage mechanism works independently, instead requiring a coordinated effort. One broken element can render the whole system ineffective, if not unusable.
Case in point: a working gutter won’t matter if the roof’s full of cracks and holes. Hurricanes and tornadoes pack enough wind speeds to chuck debris against any roofing material or rip the whole thing or part of it. The south is no stranger to such weather, being flanked by hurricane-spawning bodies of water and located within or close to Tornado Alley.
Some available roofing systems are rated to withstand wind speeds and uplift forces comparable to Category 2 hurricanes and EF2 tornadoes. However, it doesn’t essentially mean they’re able to weather the storm unscathed. The damage can compound as the roof endures further abuse from the harsh elements, bringing it closer to total structural failure.
As such, regular roof inspection and repair are important after a major storm, especially if it uses asphalt shingles. Damaged and missing shingles leave the entire roofing system vulnerable to future storms and other climatic phenomena. Gutter inspection may also be done concurrently, as asphalt granules can deposit in the gutter.
Siding, door, and window maintenance
Sidings, outward-facing doors, and windows are exposed to the same level of elemental abuse as the roof. Apart from letting rain inside the house, sufficient damage can leak comfortable indoor air out into the open.
According to the Department of Energy, air leakage is a major source of wasted energy—and the average house has dozens of potential trouble spots. Depending on the severity, broken doors and windows alone account for up to 30% of energy consumption in heat gain and loss. Even having older windows (without modern energy-saving features) can contribute to a high electric bill.
As with roofing, checkups for siding, doors, and windows should be conducted after a storm. In some situations, the solution can be as simple as re-caulking or replacing the weatherstripping. However, if your house uses older windows, swapping them out with new ones may be in order.
The south experiences its own weather extremes, which are no less damaging to homes than in the north. Routine home maintenance checks are essential for a more climate change-resistant residence. Consider performing them this coming spring to be prepared.