Indianapolis Community and Life

Dip Into Fun: An Indy Pool Buying Guide

Posted by Mandy Padgett on Sep 2, 2014 10:30:00 AM

dipintofun

The hot summer months make us all crave a way to stay cool and if you’re thinking that installing a swimming pool might be your families future solution, here are some things to consider and a few ideas for area contractors.

What to consider

Once you’ve decided that you want a pool, you have a few decisions to make:

  • Are you going with in-ground or above ground? If it’s in-ground, there are actually several different construction types you’ll have to choose from. Set a budget and make a look book or a Pinterest board and decide what shape and style you’ll want, as well as how you’ll treat the rest of your yard.
  • Are you going to hire a service which will landscape your finished pool, or is that a separate contracting service, or even perhaps something you’ll do yourself?
Once you have your pool there are other expenses to think about; filter systems, chemicals for cleaning, skimmers, heaters, lights, decking and optional accessories like diving boards.

Another thing to make sure you investigate in advance is your HOA or local guidelines. Many times the legality of an area will specify that you must have a privacy fence if you’re going to have a pool, for the safety of children in the neighborhood.

Along these same lines, something to think about is resale. A pool can be a strong selling point to people who want a pool, but it could be a total deal killer for someone with very small children or who isn’t looking to deal with the upkeep and maintenance a pool requires.

Dealing with a contractor

Once you settle all of these things and have reached the point of talking to contractors, ask them these questions:

  • What warranty to you offer?
  • Do you service pools after installation?
  • How many referrals can you provide?
A good contractor should cover the entire scope of the project with you in writing. The contract should detail everything that is and isn’t included, materials they’ll use, the expected duration of the project and a total, fixed price. Installing a pool is a major and invasive construction project. Make sure you establish in advance who is liable for repairs to things like your driveway, existing landscape or any damage to your sewer/power lines.

Here are some pool services to interview:

Pools of Fun

Indiana’s largest pool company, Pools of Fun has been cooling Indiana residents since 1981. They have local roots right here in Indiana as a small family business, which has grown due to maintaining good customer rapport. Even now, Pools of Fun boasts a 98.5% customer satisfaction rating.

Pool City Inc.

Pool City Inc. is located in Greenwood but has been providing pool services to surrounding areas such as Indianapolis for over 40 years. The company specializes in constructing in-ground pools that come in all shapes, sizes and designs so that families can have a resort-style getaway without having to leave their homes. Pool City also offers services such as leak detection, automatic covers, and pump and heater servicing.

Along with many pool products and replacement parts, Pool City offers a line of grills and smokers for a complete pool side experience. They also sell hot-tubs, gas and wood fireplaces, and fire pits to give customers a true outdoor getaway in their backyards.

Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies

If you’re not looking to get a pool built just simply repairing your old pool for the summer, Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies will have all your DIY pool repair needs. Leslie’s holds a huge range of pool products that range from chemicals, heaters, pumps, covers, and liners. You can even shop to outfit your pool with great accessories like ladders, slides, diving boards and even signs. If you don’t have a pool and are not keen on your backyard being dug up, Leslie’s has a great line of above-ground pools that can be used as a great, portable alternative to the traditional in-ground pools.

While it’s true that having a swimming pool at home is a bit of a luxury, it’s an amazing investment. Especially when the summer heat is raging, you’ll be happy you had a piece of the Caribbean installed right at your backyard.

Kendall Pool Service

If it’s a simple repair job you’re looking for to fix up the old, unused pool in your backyard, then Kendall Pool Service is your best bet. The company that was started by Matthew Kendall prides itself in providing the best customer service to its clients. With over ten years of pool experience, the company provides services such as swimming pool leak detection, vinyl pool lining replacement, as well as installation of automatic pool covers for a worry- free and clean swimming pool. The company also provides packages that can get you weekly check-ups of the water, filters and pumps to ensure that your pool is always in the top shape. 

If you end up getting a pool, you're diving into a fun adventure!

Topics: Just for Fun

Being in the Know: Best Blogs for New Homeowners

Posted by Paula Henry on Aug 31, 2014 10:30:00 AM

When you're a new homeowner, you're constantly looking for decorating ideas for your new abode, DIY tips, and ways to save money. One of the best ways to do all of the above is to check out other people's ideas on their blogs. 

Blogs (which is a combination of the words web and log) became popular in the 1990s. But the internet has since exploded with blogs for just about everything! They are the ideal way to share ideas with the world. (And aren't we so grateful?)

The following are just a few of some of the best blogs for new homeowners. From couponing tips to staining concrete, you'll find it all! Happy reading! 

Blog

DIY Blogs

Bell'alimento

Paula lives in North Carolina and loves to share her DIY tips on her blog. (She also shares lots of cooking ideas, as well, but we especially love her Kitchen Sink posts where she details everything from DIY outdoor serving trays to DIY front door decor.

Beneath My Heart

Traci is a Southern girl living in a house full of boys, and she claims to "love hammers, paint, and a hard days work." We love this post where she crafted a DIY sawhorse desk. On her blog, you can tour her home, check out her project gallery, and drool over some of her homemade treats!

The Idea Room

The Idea Room is written by Amy, who is a Lowe's Creative Blogger. We adore this DIY fireplace mantel! In addition to doing regular giveaways (who doesn't love free stuff?!), she has projects amazingly categorized, so it's easy to find what you might be looking for.

Handyman Blogs

Home Repair Tutor

Jeff is the brains behind the Home Repair Tutor, which is "for thrifty homeowners who don't mind getting dirty." Not only does he offer tips to saving money, he'll show you how to fix your house (which makes you feel empowered). Want to know how to wire a dimmer light switch? Or repair your garden hose? Jeff has got you covered.

Dadand

Dadand is a blog about "DIY, how to, family, and gadgets." Pete and Marty will keep you laughing with their humor and busy with their projects. "As cheapskates, er, I mean, frugal people, we're all about normal maintenance and upkeep on anything you can maintain. Lawnmowers, cars, HVAC, and ...FURNITURE?" 

The DIY Village

The DIY Village is "Home of the Never Ending Honey-Do List" written by Matt and Jacque. In addition to having DIY posts, they also share important information like how to revitalize outdoor wood furniture. We also love their Before and After gallery. (Isn't it fun to look back and see how your hard work has paid off?)

Garden Blogs

The Home Garden

Stay at home dad Dave writes The Home Garden where he writes about vegetables, plant propagation, and his home garden projects. He makes even the most daunting of garden tasks (like building a paving stone pathway) seem like a snap!

Studio 'g'

Studio 'g' is written by Rochelle, who shares garden design inspiration, landscape ideas, outdoor art and design, and the latest in landscape products and services. Here, she tackles a shed makeover, but she also includes beautiful before and afters like this gravel garden in Queens.

What are some of your favorite homeowner blogs? Post below in the comments! 

 

 

Topics: Design and Decor, First Time Homebuyers

Best Ways to Find Home Repair Professionals

Posted by Paula Henry on Aug 28, 2014 10:30:00 AM

If you are a home owner, then you understand the joys - and the challenges - of home ownership. You likely love that you are not limited in painting like renters. Nor do you have to worry about rent rising or finding a parking place.

On the other hand, you know how much work it can be to keep your home up and running. From mowing the lawn to fixing the random assortment of things that go wrong, owing a home takes time and money. 

So what are you to do when something in your house breaks, and you aren't necessarily skilled in plumbing (or electrical or landscaping, etc)? One of the best ways to get it done (and done well) is to hire it out to someone who knows what they're doing. But if you don't happen to know a handyman personally, where are you to find these aforementioned professionals?

Don't sweat it... you've come to the right spot. We've put together some of the best ways to find home repair professionals. 

home-repairs

Ask your close friends and family

If you are going to be inviting a home repair professional into your home, you want it to be someone that you can trust. 

One of the best ways to get good, honest recommendations is to ask your family and friends. These are the people who love you the most, so they are most likely to be honest with you and give you good suggestions, especially if they live in close proximity. Chances are, your neighbors may have had similar issues with their home(s) since they were built around the same time. They would be a great resource to ask as well!

Turn to social media

If you come up empty handed with your close family and friends, you can always turn to social media. Regardless of your medium of choice (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+), people are always willing to give their opinions. Put a post out asking for recommendations - or generally asking if people have had good (or bad) experiences with professionals they may have used. You are likely to get many responses, which is great!

Angie's List

You can always turn to local industry leader Angie's List to get report cards for local professionals. It does require a paid subscription, but for a small fee you gain access to over 700 home review reviews and ratings. It allows you to sort by what type of professional you're looking for (plumber, electrician, etc). From there, you can read what other customers have said. It's a great way to choose someone that's right for you!

Your realtor

Have you thought of asking your realtor? (Why not?) Your realtor should be a trusted resource for all sorts of information. Most likely, your realtor has used a repair professional you're looking for. But if not, he/she will go to great lengths to find you a good recommendation. Here at Home to Indy, we love it when current and past clients get in touch with us for whatever their needs are (dentist recommendations, good places to ride your bike, where to find the best Mexican in town. Don't ever hestiate to contact your realtor for any questions you may have.

Online reviews

Check out online reviews on websites like Yelp. Enter in what you're looking for and in what city, and options will come up. Services are ranked with a 5 star rating system, and you can read reviews from past customers. Best of all, it's free!  

Do you have other recommendations for finding home repair professionals? If so, comment below. We'd love to know!  

Topics: Home Maintenance, Home Repairs

Keeping the Grass Green(er): How to Keep Your Lawn Looking Good

Posted by Mandy Padgett on Aug 26, 2014 10:00:00 AM

green

Taking care of grass may seem like a simple enough task, but with the onset of the blazing heat of Indy’s Summer months, it gets harder and harder to maintain the lush green turfs you’ve worked so hard on all Spring. There are, however, plenty of simple tricks you can do to keep your grass shining bright and green even when the sun is at its hottest.

Below are a few things you can try to make sure that your lawn looks cool and fresh even under the midday sun.

Mow the Lawn

While this seems like a no-brainer for anyone with any gardening sense, according to many landscape designers, mowing the lawn often promotes growth and keeps the grass healthy. It’s also advised that grass should be kept at around 2-3 inches tall since cutting the grass too short puts stress on the roots and prevents the grass from drying out too quickly during the hot summer months. Varying the direction the lawn is cut every time you mow the lawn also promotes grass growth.

To ensure healthy growth after mowing, don’t sweep away the grass clippings when you are done. Instead, spread it around your lawn so that the grass has a good source of nitrogen to use without the need for expensive fertilizers.

Weeds

Remaining vigilant against weeds in your lawn makes sure that the grass doesn’t need to compete for nutrients so it can grow thicker and greener. There are some natural ways to deal with the most invasive of the bunch, like dandelions, which can sometimes overrun and dominate a yard. We recommend good, non-chemical methods for de-weeding your yard space.

Fertilizer and Pesticide

A surefire way to get your lawn glowing is to add fertilizer whether it’s synthetic, natural, or organic. Fertilizer adds valuable minerals and nutrients to the soil which the grass can soak up. Fertilizer promotes lush growth, prevents any invasive weeds from growing as well as strengthens the root system. Just make sure that you don’t overdo the application; high concentrations of certain elements in the soil can kill grass resulting in brown patches across the lawn. Make sure that the fertilizer is evenly spread out across the entire lawn.

As for pests - there are always conventional options which are chemical based, but the reasons to use something closer to nature becomes more and more apparent the longer we see the results of chemical based pesticides. There are actually several plants you can grow in or around your lawn which act as a natural repellant to many pests, or of you don’t want to add to your plant family, here is a list of 100% natural pest solutions!

Good luck, and enjoy knowing that the grass isn’t greener anywhere else! 

Topics: Curb Appeal, Summer

[Quiz] Which Indianapolis community is right for you?

Posted by Paula Henry on Aug 24, 2014 10:30:00 AM

What Indianapolis community is right for you? With so many amazing areas to choose from, how do you know where you would fit in best?

ready-to-move

Find out by clicking below and taking our quiz. (Are your pencils ready?) 

What were your results? Were they what you expected? Post below in the comments. (We want to know!)

Topics: Indianapolis

Where to Find the Best Running Trails in Indianapolis

Posted by Paula Henry on Aug 21, 2014 10:30:00 AM

If you are a runner, then Indianapolis is a pretty great place to live, even though we may not always have the best weather for it. Runners abound here - in every age and stage of life. (I can't help but wonder if it's because we're home to the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon, which is the largest half-marathon in the nation!) 

If you're new to the area and are searching for some running trails, you've come to the right spot. We're going to highlight for you where to find some of the best in Indianapolis.

runners

The Monon Trail

Formerly a railroad track, this trail was established in 1847. Completed in 2003, it is the "Rails to Trails" path from Indy Parks, which is open from dawn to dusk. You can enjoy smooth asphalt, beautiful bridges, and gorgeous trees lining both sides. You can run from 161st Street in Westfield all the way down to the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis. The Monon Trail goes right through the heart of Carmel, so you can stop for a burger at Bub's or a pizza at Bazbeaux if you get hungry. If you happen to get tired, there are plenty of benches and water fountains, as well. The path is family friendly; if you're out for a run, you'll be dodging children on bikes and youth on roller blades. 

The Central Canal Towpath

The Central Canal Towpath is a scenic, mostly dirt and crushed limestone path. Good starting points include Butler University (just down the sidewalk from Hinkle Fieldhouse along 52nd street), farther north at the intersection of Broad Rripple Avenue and College Avenue, and at the eastern end where the path ends at the Monon Trail. The path is best maintained in the middle third between 52nd and Michigan Road, which is in the heart of the Butler campus. This area is also the most popular section of the Canal. You are likely to run into ducks and geese, but deer, foxes, turtles, blue herron, muskrats, and beavers have also been spotted.

Eagle Creek Park

Eagle Creek Park is one of the largest city-owned parks in the nation and arguably one of the best places to run trails within the city. The park is located on the northwest side of Indianapolis and includes 5K, 8K, and 10K certified road courses (in addition to an uncertified 7K course) that begin near the beach parking lot. Each course is clearly marked with road signs. The terrain is flat in some places but has gently rolling hills in others. There are also many miles of dirt trails for the off-road crowd. Warning: there is a charge for admission, but it's worth it. Eagle Creek Park hours vary during the year, so check them out before you visit.

Fall Creek Trail

The Fall Creek Trail is a narrow asphalt path that runs along the creek. It is popular with families and many runners and skaters. The scenery is dominated by large trees, many of which provide shade. The south end of the path is around 43rd Street and it extends North just past Emerson and 56th Street. The course is 2.75 miles from end to end (including a 1/10 mile trek along the road on the north end to make up the difference). It is conveniently marked at 1/4 mile increments in white paint.

Fort Benjamin Harrison

Fort Benjamin Harrison, formerly a military installation since 1903, is now a State Park and Nature Preserve. The park is located on the northeast area of Indianapolis and is most easily accessed from 465, and going east at 56th street. The park entrance is at the intersection of Post and 59th Street where you should be able to pick up a map of the roads and trails. Note: there are restricted areas, but there are still plenty of nice running spots. The Loop around the Duck Pond is paved with some good hills. The Fall Creek Trail is scenic, but be warned that it has a few very steep hills. The Lawrence Creek trail is a bit more friendly with its wide path and moderate terrain.

The Zoo Loop

The zoo loop is another popular race route, but it is also a wonderful "Heart of the City" run. There are 2 paths, a 3.3 and a 5 miler. Start at the corner of Capitol and Washington, go west to the zoo, then north along the White River Parkway. For the 3.3 loop, turn right on New York and go past the IU Track stadium and the Natatorium. For the 5 miler, turn right on 10th street, past Wishard Hospital and the Canal Overlook, then loop around Monument Circle. If you can find it, take the limestone walkway behind the zoo.

White River Wapahani Trail

The main section of the White River Wapahani Trail runs from 38th Street south to White River State Park, with several more miles planned (it will eventually connect to many other trails). Currently, it connects with the Central Canal Towpath, the southern segment of the Fall Creek Trail, and the Downtown Canal Walk. Trail users can also get to the Monon Trail via the Central Canal Towpath or a cross town connection on St. Clair Street.

 

Where are your favorite running trails in Indy? Share them in the comments below!

Topics: Indianapolis, Lifestyle, Things to do in Indianapolis

Whipping up Some Goodness: Cooking Classes in Indianapolis

Posted by Mandy Padgett on Aug 19, 2014 10:00:00 AM

cookingclass

The long summer months are great time work on your hobbies; and what better way than classes and what better skill than cooking? There are no shortage of places to get cooking lessons around the city, be they refresher courses or specialized courses on a particular kind of food. A few cooking lessons and suddenly you’re charming sweetheart on a whole new level, introducing the kids to a side of vegetables they never knew they loved, or just fanning the flames of your own culinary ardor.

So whether you know nothing about the kitchen and are looking for a beginner course or just looking for a few extra tips and tricks around the stove, Indianapolis has the places for you. So get out of the heat of the sun and into the heat of the kitchen because here’s some of the best cooking courses from around the city.

Indy’s Kitchen

With a broad range of classes on cuisines as varied as Thai to Seafood, from salads to spices, these classes with outstanding Indy chef Dwight Simmons is sure to delight. Ranging in price from $65 - $125, an evening full of memories to savor are in store!

Nestle Inn

The Nestle Inn Bed and Breakfast is a great place for cooking lessons if you’re looking for a relaxed feel and a light atmosphere. Lessons are held twice a month and are taught by two graduates of the The Chef’s Academy, Chefs Meija and Lauren Day, as well as a wine and beer expert from the Indy Star, Robert Scheer. The lessons focus on different aspects of cooking and kitchen skills each time with lessons ranging from knife skills and homemade pasta to making dog treats and canine birthday cakes. It’s definitely an experience the whole family can enjoy.

Grill Master

Looking to get down and dirty on the grill? Then Chef JJ’s Back Yard has the perfect cooking course for you. Chef JJ Boston shows attendees how to grill all kinds of food be it steaks, ribs, burgers or wings. He takes students on a food journey from meat preparation, learning various grilling techniques as well finally chowing down and eating all your delicious hard work. Chef JJ’s only uses fresh, local meat and each lessons includes beer tastings and non-alcoholic beverages.

Sweet Delights

If you just can’t deny your sweet tooth nibbling on sugary snack, why not learn to make them at home by taking lessons at Circle City Sweets? Not only are dessert lessons such as learning how to make delicate macaroons, chocolates, and pastries offered, but there are plenty of other great tips and tricks that you can pick up from the course. Circle City Sweets also offer knife skills and sharpening workshops as well as how to make soups and seasonal cakes.

This summer, give Netflix a rest and head out to become a Masterchef on your own.

Topics: Things to do in Indianapolis, Summer

Our Favorite Indy-Centric Pinterest Boards

Posted by Paula Henry on Aug 17, 2014 10:30:00 AM

Pinterest is all the craze. If it's not a social media platform you've dug into, we highly recommend it with all its home ideas. You can spend hours browsing through upcycling or recycling, bathrooms or bedrooms, decorating or organizing. Pinterest has it all!

Indianapolis has a solid representation on the site, as well. Check out a few of our favorite Indy-centric Pinterest boards.

pinterest

Indianapolis Colts

Our hearts bleed blue around here at Home to Indy, so it's no surprise that the Indianapolis Colts' Pinterest board is among our favorites. It offers everything from tailgating essentials to Colts crafts to cakes! It even has ideas for the home if you want to deck out your abode with blue and white in support of your favorite NFL team!

Visit Indy

We're proud to give a shout out to our friends at Visit Indy. They're your official guides to Indianapolis, and it shows on their Pinterest board. It's THE place to go for Indy eats, local shopping, and family fun. It even has a board for Girlfriend Getaways. (Gentlemen, we recommend paying attention!)

Indianapolis Children's Museum

The Indianapolis Children's Museum is the biggest and best in the world! (You don't have to take our word for it; it has been nationally ranked for years!) Their Pinterest board is filled with tons of fun boards, not surprisingly. There are boards for the young (Your Top 20 Toys) and the young at heart (Superhero Inspiration)

Indy 500 Through the Years

This Pinterest board is a tribute to our beloved race shows highlights throughout the years. Dating all the way back to 1911, this impressive display shows everything from winners to drivers' wives to crashes to cars. If you're a fan, it's a must see!

Indianapolis Zoo

Though this is not an official Indianapolis Zoo page, this Pinterest board beautifully captures the essence of our amazing zoo! Seen through the lens of visitors' cameras, these stunning photographs show animals and patrons alike. (We must say, the baby elephants are darling!) 

Indianapolis Breweries

If you're a beer fan, this Pinterest board is for you! It includes a map of local favorites. The pictures look so good, you can nearly taste it!

The Best of Indianapolis

We love it when locals tout their favorites! This Pinterest board highlights one person's favorite places, things, and events in the Circle City!

Drapery Street

This Carmel-based favorite shop celebrates everything local on their Pinterest board. From Fishers to Zionsville, they tout pictures of their favorite spots. 

What are some of your favorite Indy Pinterest boards? Put them in the comments below!

Topics: Pinterest

How to Choose Children's Extracurricular Activities

Posted by Paula Henry on Aug 14, 2014 10:00:00 AM

We proudly serve a lot of families here at Home to Indy. Oftentimes, parents will ask about local extracurricular activities they can get their children involved with. But with so many amazing options (from theater to sports to music), how is a parent to choose?

Before we jump into priorities you need to consider before you choose your child's activities, let's take a step back and acknowledge the pressure that (obviously) exists for your kids to excel.

 kids-play-soccer

The Pressure

Let's face it: it’s no secret that kids today are under an astonishing amount of pressure. Razor-sharp deadlines and workloads once reserved for college students are now standard for middle schoolers who are simply striving to get good grades, yet also still be kids.

For many, college does not seem far off and the pressure to compile a college-worthy resume compounds their daily stress. While it is important for tweens to begin participating in activities that get college admissions officers to sit up and take notice, it is equally important that they spend time enjoying the ride and choose extra-curricular activities that enhance character as well as their quality of life.

Each child is an individual and, with parental guidance, should choose their after-school activities based on personal preferences and goals. Remembering there are only 24 hours in a day, even for goal-driven children. 

Areas to Consider

Cost

We know that not everything is about money, but reality is that a lot of extracurriculars can be expensive. So you need to consider if you can afford for your daughter to dance in the competitive troupe or for your son to play on the all-star soccer team. Will you have to forego saving in order for your child(ren) to participate? Will you have to sacrifice in other areas - like having a family vacation? If the activity forces you into financial strain, then we suggest declining.

Sustainability

Even though you may be able to afford private piano lessons now, will you be able to sustain them longterm? Especially if you have multiple children in multiple activities, the bills add up quickly. You also should consider whether or not this is an activity that will be something your child will be able to carry into adulthood. If so, it might be a worthy investment to help your child hone skills that will land him/her a scholarship in college one day.

Time

Another area to consider is time: does your child have time for this activity? Furthermore, do YOU have time in your schedule to act as a cheuffer to and from lessons, practices, games, etc? If you happen to homeschool, time may not be as big of an issue for you. On the other hand, if your kids are in school and are involved in several activities after school, when will they ever be home? 

Commitment

Will this activity require a year-round commitment or is it just seasonal? For example: swimming lessons have a fairly low commitment rate of 2 weeks each summer. 

If your child is just delving into an activity, perhaps sign up for a short-term season just to make sure it will stick. On the other hand, if your child is older and more experienced in the extracurricular, maybe a longer-term commitment will save your family money by paying upfront.

Priorities

You should also think about if this activity is in line with your family's priorities. If your priority is to spend quality (and/or quantity) time together, will this activity distract from that? Or if you happen to be a church-going family, will this extracurricular require practices or games on Sunday mornings (or when your church meets)? 

Interest

Does your child have a genuine interest in this activity? Check your motives. If you are interested in it for your child because you feel like you missed out during your childhood, the "transfer of dreams" may not be the best way to go. Be sure that your child has a natural passion, talent or desire for this particular activity.

Purpose

There are many benefits to children's extracurricular activities - such as better grades and behavior and building self-esteem. Ask yourself: What is the purpose of this particular activity in my child's life? Will it will boost his/her ability to work within a team? Will music or art lessons stimulate creativity? Once you determine the purpose, then we challenge you to take a step back and determine if your child needs to be involved in multiple activities if they all meet the same purpose.

Consider the areas above and make the best choice that you can for your child and your family in regards to extracurriculars. 

 

Topics: Family Activities, Children, Back to school

Keeping it Cool: How to Condition Your Air Conditioning

Posted by Mandy Padgett on Aug 12, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Beat_the_heat

Temperatures are climbing, and I bet Gene Ray Heating and Cooling and Thiele are in high demand again. (Both locally owned and operated service providers with a good reputation here in the city.)

If you know what’s good for your AC—and your sanity, you’ll check in with the health of your air conditioning unit now, before it’s having to work really hard, to save yourself the headache of a breakdown or higher bills than necessary when the heat is high! Here are some tricks to keep your air conditioning going strong, as we head into the dog days:

Make sure the filter’s filtering—but not too much.

See your unit’s filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV. This ranges from 1 to 12 for home AC units. A higher number means better filtration, but it takes more energy to pull air through and around, so you’d want a nice balance between air-quality and energy costs.

Find the leaks and fix them.

If your formerly fast and trusty unit is suddenly taking far too long to cool the room, you might have a leak. You can use the old “smoke trick” to find any leaks. Not sure how to go about this? Here’s a video from This Old House that takes you through the process of detecting leaks, step-by-step. To repair ductwork, use foil tape to seal small gaps and duct mastic for larger ones.

How’s your insulation?

This could save you hundreds of dollars. One of the things that might cause your AC (or furnace, for that matter) unit will work harder than necessary is un- insulated air ducts. Especially if you live in an older home, but even in some newer homes, it’s a good idea to check to see if your duct work has been insulated. If your ducts aren’t insulated your AC works first has to work to cool hot air in non-insulated ducts. That means more energy consumption, which in turn means more dollars out the door.

So make sure your ducts are wrapped to prevent hot attics or crawl spaces from turning the air in the ducts hot. You can use spray foam, batt insulation, or rigid-foam insulation. Seal batt and rigid insulation with foil tape (not duct tape). For tight spaces, wraps like Reflectix offer some degree of insulation.

Here’s a video demonstration of one method!

Help your AC cool you.

Where’s the sense in having the AC full blast if the sun is roasting the room through the windows? This can be especially challenging if you have an East/West exposure for your home. It's beautiful for light, but it's certainly a bit more challenging in the Summer. Use blinds and even awnings to keep off the intense heat, use floor or ceiling fans for a cool breeze and air circulation and check the efficiency ratings of your windows and close off the

This might be the year your AC should be retired.

If your chilly friend is approaching or more than 10-15 years old, chances are it’s not as efficient and eco-friendly as it should be. Not only does this affect your bills, it’s also against the law to run less-than-efficient AC. The SEER and EER (seasonal/ energy-efficiency ratio) for central units must have a minimum rating of 13. This doesn’t mean if yours is less than that number you must go purchase a new one right now; it just means that when the time does come to get a new one, retailers are no longer allowed to sell you a less efficient unit. And. if your AC has a higher number, good on you. The higher the number, the better the savings!

Sign up for annual maintenance.

This is where your local friendly HVAC comes in. It’s just a good idea to have regular maintenance on your major appliances. Just like you would change the oil on a car, your AC is no exception. Every year, ideally before the cooling season, have someone do the following for your AC:

  • clean and inspect coils
  • clean or replace filters
  • adjust and replace fan belts
  • lubricate motors and bearings
  • clean and check blowers and fans
  • inspect controls and safeties
  • verify operating temperatures
Hopefully these little steps prove useful to you this summer and beyond, where my wish for you is that you “be cool!”

Topics: Home Maintenance, Summer