Furnace filter PSA

Today is the first of March. If you haven’t changed your furnace filter yet this winter change it today. If you have changed it more recently change it today if it is dirty.

Most of the forced air furnaces I see need a new furnace filter. People don’t seem to understand that the filter needs to be changed on a regular basis. Some filters are supposed to last three months.

When we have weeks of cold weather and the dang thing runs all the time I like to put in a clean filter every month.  People who live in warmer climates can probably go for three months.

How do I know mine should be changed every month?  I don’t know for sure but it usually looks kind of grey and furry and I would rather err on the side of changing it too soon.

You can buy furnace filters at home improvement stores.  I usually buy at least six at a time.

If you don’t know where the filter is or what kind to buy call a heating specialist. There are also some great videos on youtube that will show how to change the filter.

Your furnace has to work harder if the filter is clogged with stuff. That might mean a higher heating bill and it could shorten the life of the fan in your furnace or the furnace itself.  A severely clogged filter can cause the furnace to shut down.

The filter on the right in the picture is a new filter. The one on the left is dirty. They can get much dirtier than that. It depends upon how much the furnace is being used rather than just the passage of time.

Furnace Filters – dirty and new


Some folks are freaking out over electric lawmowers

There is a bill in the Minnesota House: HF 1715 authored by Rep. Jerry Newton, DFL-Coon Rapids, and Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, would require all new lawn and garden equipment sold in the state to be fully electric by Jan. 1, 2025, including leaf blowers, chainsaws, brush cutters, lawn edgers and more.

I have a gas mower. I have seen the newest battery-operated electric mowers and am looking forward to buying one when my mower dies.  The old electric mowers were pretty bad. They had cords which made them hard to use.

The newer electric lawnmowers have batteries that are fairly small.  They make a low less noise than gas mowers and they don’t need gas. They start with the push of a button. Upper body strength is not required. There is no carburetor to get all gummed up. I would rather not have a grass lawn at all.

I can only imagine the kerfuffle, and the pearl-clutching it would cause if gas mowers were no longer sold in Minnesota.

Some folks are really upset over the idea of gas stoves instead of electric. At this point, I am replacing gas appliances with electric. Yes, I love cooking on my gas stove but I am willing to give it up for cleaner air and for energy efficiency and maybe even save a buck or two on the utility bills. I like the idea of an on-demand electric water heater too.

They take up less space and there isn’t a big tank with water that can leak or rupture. They don’t have pilot lights and there is no danger of a gas leak.

I do think that anyone who wants one should be able to have a gas stove in their home. Stoves are indoors and they are not noisy like a lawn mower.

alfalfa and grass
Alfalfa and grasses


Snow last week, ice dams this week


The ice dams have grown after last weeks snow storm. You can see them hanging from the roof.

The dams are caused by melting snow on the roof and heat leaking out from the house.  Sometimes more insulation is needed and sometimes the problem is solved by adding more ventilation.

The snow at the edge of the roof turns to ice as it thaws and refreezes.

The water pools on the roof because the ice dam prevents it from rolling off the roof . . hence the term ‘dam’.  It does not matter how new your roof is you can still take on water.

The best way to handle ice dams is to prevent them. There are companies that will remove ice dams and damage the roof at the same time . . . or not.

Removing the snow from the roof will stop new dams from forming. If the roof is low enough a roof rake can be used to clear off some of the snow.

It isn’t just the melting snow on the roof that causes ice dams.  The University of Minnesota Extension website has some great information about what causes ice dams and how to prevent them. The information is much better than what you might get from your Facebook friends or the friendly folks on Nextdoor.


Epic cold, snow and wind


I have friends who live in the South. They don’t get the subzero weather with double-digit below-zero windchills, but sometimes temperatures go below freezing.

Some of the things they do to prevent property damage and stay warm are not good ideas for northern homeowners.  Maybe leaving a faucet trickling water will prevent frozen pipes but here in the frozen Northland, the end result will likely be a frozen drain, and maybe a frozen pipe.

If your house is vacant turn off the water and drain the pipes. Call a plumber for help if needed. I have seen what houses look like after the pipes burst and it isn’t pretty.

Have you ever had a drain freeze? I have and it isn’t pretty.  Water pipes generally won’t freeze unless the air around them is at about 28 degrees or lower for a length of time. We found that if we let the temperature get too low in the house at night there is a pipe that will freeze, especially if it is windy.

I got an estimate for having the pipes moved because they are too close to the foundation and it would be nice not to have to constantly check them, run heat tape, and thaw them when frozen.

It isn’t the freezing that damages that causes pipes to burst it is the thawing. Water expands as it warms up. Turning off the water and opening the spigots and calling a plumber are the best things to do if a pipe freezes.

If you have one that you can thaw yourself or want to thaw yourself, open the spigot and gently warm the pipe with a blow dryer. I have thawed frozen pipes with a blow dryer many times. It takes time and patience.

The last time the pipe that is too close to the wall froze was when I was away on a business trip. I opened the spigot and turned on the heat tape. A couple hours later it was completely thawed.  The temperature has dropped to 30 below zero or so and it remained in the double digits below zero for a few days.

Spigots can also be damaged and ruined if they freeze.

Plumbers and HVAC (heating) specialists are going to be VERY busy this week, but those of us who value our real estate will call a professional rather than ask our friends on social media for advice.

As for the weather, it looks like we have a warm-up coming next week.  Not a thaw but temperatures in the double-digits above zero.

Bringing summer indoors

As the days grow shorter and the landscape gets whiter I am still enjoying some summer. I have some house plants but I also have plants that I bring into the house at the end of the growing season.

I choose them because of their color, taste, and smell.  I have a large french lavender plant growing in an upstairs bedroom.  There is rosemary growing in the kitchen. It has a wonderful smell and it is edible too. It usually blooms in March or April.

Coleus is one of my favorite plants to enjoy during the winter because it is easy to grow and it comes in so many wonderful colors. I had no idea that begonias would bloom all winter until I brought some inside.

When it gets warm again I’ll bring my plants outside. Some will be planted in flower beds and others will stay in their pots and decorate the front porch. s

collage of plants
Plants I grow inside during the winter

From right to left, top to bottom, the plants are: Lavender, red begonia, white begonia, and rosemary, and on the bottom both are coleus.

Color of the year is Magenta

Magenta flowers
Magenta flowers

Viva Magenta (a shade of pink similar to the flowers in the phots) is Pantone’s color of the year for 2023.  I have been in like a zillion houses. I have seen every trend from past decades. Some folks will paint their wall magenta. I think that is fine until/unless it is time to sell the house.

For those who must have throw pillows on every soft horizontal surface magenta pillows might be an option. I wouldn’t mind wearing a magenta-colored shirt. Perhaps a magenta-colored dish towel or two?

Some of the trends from two decades ago can still be found everywhere. During the “Tuscan era,” entire homes had their interiors painted yellow. I tried it out in a room and I have to say that I got tired of it quickly. Yellow is also hard to photograph. Sometimes the photos have a yellowish cast to them.

I went back to various shades of white and grey. I tried a bright red in the very early 2000s. I never really got tired of it but it made decorating challenging.

I was never a fan of celery which was an extremely popular color for many years.

When choosing paint colors choose wisely.