By Greg Stopher

Maintaining the exterior and interior of your home is necessary to keep up a safe and healthy home. A missed season of maintenance can accelerate the wear and tear on your home, especially in the environment where we live. Southeast Alaska is not forgiving, a roof leak gone undetected in an arid and dry climate can go unnoticed for years while a leaky roof in southeast Alaska will result in mold and rot in a matter of weeks. Maintaining the guts or mechanical systems of your home is just as important as maintaining the interior and exterior. The mechanical systems of our homes are what keep us warm, keep up our hygiene and hydration, keep us breathing fresh air, and allow us to see when its dark. Here are some mechanical system items you should check on a routine basis.

Electrical System
We all have electrical systems in our homes and this is probably the easiest item to check off the list. When I bring this up, people often think of checking the wiring in the walls, but instead what you can do is check outlets and switches to make sure they all are functioning properly. If your home was built pre-1940s and has tube and knob wiring this is a good time to get your wiring updated. There are also some breaker panels that should be replaced because they are susceptible to fires, Zinsco and Federal Pacific panels come to mind. If there is a fuse, circuit, or breaker that is always breaking then maybe it’s over loaded and it may be time to bring in a trained, licensed electrician to check it out. Otherwise, check outlets and switches to make sure they hold a plug and are not overloaded with many cords. Check switches and lights to be sure they are working the way they should and all bulbs are working properly. If there is any doubt have a licensed electrician go over the electrical system in your home.

Water Heating System
The water heater in our homes provides the modern convenience of warm water for a morning shower (and I personally appreciate that it keeps me from having to bathe in a creek each day). Water heaters now come in a variety of forms and fuels. Electric, gas, boilers, and on demand water heaters are just a few ways to heat water in a home. I cannot provide all the necessary steps to maintaining all water heating options out there today, so it is wise to call a licensed plumbing and heating specialist to perform yearly maintenance on these items. Most of us, however, have electric water heaters and there are a few yearly steps to take, to get the most life out of these units. The best way is to flush the tank of a water heater once a year to remove the sediment. This annual procedure will greatly increase the life of your hot water heater. You can find out how to do this by reviewing the owner’s manual of the water heater where you can normally find step-by-step instructions.

Heat Recovery Ventilation Systems
Some homes in Southeast Alaska have Heat Recovery Ventilation Systems or HRVs. They are an amazing system, but only when properly maintained. If installed correctly, HRVs should be accurately balanced providing the same amount of exhaust air as intake air. Start outside with an HRV to confirm the intake air and exhaust air ducts are clear from obstructions. Next, check the pre-filters on the intake side of the HRV and have the filter replaced. This pre-filter (often a Merv 8 or similar) takes a lot of the outdoor contaminates out of the air including mold spores and pollen. Sometimes there is an electrically charged filter that does the same type of air purification and it will simply need to be washed and dried (follow the owner’s manual directions for cleaning). Next, there is a core in the heart of an HRV that is the actual core of the heat exchange. Follow the instruction to remove this core and clean it thoroughly. Cleaning the core of an HRV will help it gain the greatest heat exchange. Lastly, there is a condensate drain that needs to be checked for obstructions. Make sure the condensate drain is draining properly. Yearly Heat Recovery Ventilation maintenance will keep your HRV performing optimally.

Heating Systems
Every home has a heating system in this climate. There are many options for heating systems, the most common being hydronic (water) boilers, forced air heat, woodstoves, or pellet stoves. Some other heating systems include electric baseboards, ground source heat pumps, and air to air heat pumps just to name a few. To keep us warm throughout the year, we must maintain these heating systems on an annual basis. The maintenance will keep heating units running at their top efficiency, thus saving money in the long run. Woodstove chimneys need to be cleaned once a year minimum, it’s important to clean chimneys before the start of the heating season. The buildup of creosote in a chimney is highly flammable so removal through cleaning is necessary to avoid fire. All other heating systems need to be looked at by a licensed professional heating contractor. Schedule this on a yearly basis to sustain a healthy and efficient heating system.

Preventive maintenance is always better then reactive maintenance so it is important to plan ahead and schedule annual home maintenance to keep everything running smoothly.

Greg Stopher has over 16 years of experience in the construction field and earned a degree in Construction Technologies from the University of Alaska – Southeast. His company, Stopher Construction, LLC, is a general contracting company specializing in remodeling, custom finishes, additions and new home construction projects. He can be reached at 907-321-2350.