Being well into the cooling season, I would like to share a few useful air conditioner maintenance tips. An efficient system should have a temperature difference of at least 15 F between the return air and conditioned air - this can be easily measured by an infrared thermometer. If the difference is less, or significantly less, the unit needs maintenance. A good option is to call a licensed A/C tech, who can address any and all problems at once, then have him return every 3-6 months again for regular maintenance. Even in this case the homeowner will have to change/clean the filter at the required intervals, making sure that the correct sized filter is being used. Since the heat from the house is dissipated outdoors, it is crucial that the airflow around the outdoors unit (condensing unit) is not impeded by vegetation, debris, etc. If the clothes drier vents next to the condenser unit, the lint must be cleaned off the coils frequently. The "Cool-Cap" is a useful invention, that prevents rain and debris from getting in the condenser without impeding the air flow. The refrigerant lines sometimes have deteriorated or missing insulation, this should be replaced. A do-it-yourself project can be to assess and clean the evaporator coils. Access to it is usually inconvenient but possible trough the return grill or other ways. The clean coils have a metallic shine, the dirty coils can have gray/black/brown debris on the fins, made of lint, hair, dust and mold. They can be cleaned with coil cleaner and a soft brush to improve cooling efficiency. It is recommended to pour a cupful of bleach into the condensate line twice a year to prevent it from clogging. A small, but helpful investment can be a "Safe-T-Switch", a switch installed into the condensate line that shuts off the system if the line is clogged, preventing an overflow of condensation. If a system equipped with the "Safe-T-Switch" stops cooling, it is worth looking at the switch before even calling out an A/C tech, as in many cases the clogged condensate line is the root of the problem. Once the line is drained, the system resumes operation. For any other maintenance or repairs please call a qualified A/C tech who is trained and equipped to safely perform any repairs.
The very same shade trees that we love in the Summer will drop their leaf litter in the Winter. While the presence of leaves and debris is pretty obvious on lawns, planters and walkways, not always realised that roofs are affected, too. Flat roofs, or corners and valleys of sloped roofs can harbor a surprising amount of debris just after one Winter season, including leaves, pine needles and cones, twigs and branches, palm fronds, squirrel nests, etc. There are a few reasons, why a prudent homeowner won't tolerate litter on the roof. When dry, it only takes a spark or a firecracker to ignite the leaves and then the whole roof. When wet, they act as a sponge: they hold water that promotes the growth of fungi and algae, and softens the asphalt shingles. These will all contribute to a shorter useful life of the roof. Some of the litter also ends up in the roof drainage system, the gutters and downspouts. These clogged gutters and downspouts tend to overflow, drip and dump water all over, but where thay are supposed to. Even with no trees close by, trash and toys (such as tennis balls)can end up on a roof and do as an effective job of clogging the gutter as leaves. Removing all form of debris from the roof should be part of the regular home maintenance routine. If you don't feel comfortable climbing a ladder and walking on the roof, please don't try to do this yourself. There are specialists you can call, or yard guys also may be interested in earning a few extra bucks doing this for you a couple times a year.
Having owned a successful landscaping business in Daytona Beach for 9 years, I like to think that Hawk Eye is the home inspector with the most extensive understanding of landscaping. While it is common sense that extensive landscaping adds value to a home, it also might be a source of a few defects showing up on the inspection report. The most common one is vegetation too close the structure. Ideally, there should be at leat 18" of clearance between any shrubbery and the house, to perform home maintanance and don't restrict air flow. Wet walls can't dry properly and will get moldy in moist and shady conditions. Also, some vines attach themselves to walls with tendrils, causing mechanical damage, especially to wooden or vynil siding or insect screens. Larger shrubbery and small trees can rub against the soffits, the fascia or part of the roof, mechanically damaging the wood or the shingles. Even larger branches several feet away from the roof can rub against it during storms or windy weather. Dead or rotten limbs can cause considerable damage or serious injury if they fall unexpectedly. It takes a special skill set and proper equipment to safely remove these branches, please hire only experienced and insured crews to deal with the challenges these trees represent. Large trees on the property generate a considerable amount of leaf litter, and some of that will end up on the roof. Please read my another post why it is important to keep the roof free of debris. Large tree roots close to the structure may crack the water main (has happened on one of my own rental properties) , sewer lines, or even the foundation. Homeowners sometimes plant small trees or palms too close the structure, not realizing that those species may grow up to large specimens in as little as 10 years. And finally, there may be native or planted species on the property that have poisonous seeds, fruits or cause serious skin irritation. It is important for parents of young children to be aware of the danger these plants represent.