Check your smoke alarms

When the smoke alarm batteries die it usually happens at around 2:30 AM. They chirp and the smoke alarms are conveniently located right by the bedrooms and a ladder is required to reach them.

If you change the battery or in some cases the backup battery once a year it probably won’t give out in the middle of the night. I like to do that in October right after I call and schedule my furnace tune-up.

According to the Minnesota Department of Safety, 41% of fire-related deaths occur in December and January. There are more housefires in the winter than during the warmer months.

If you do not have working smoke alarms you still have time to get them before the peak house fire season. If you live in St. Paul:

For Saint Paul Residents

Did you know, that as a Saint Paul resident, you may be eligible for FREE smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, StoveTop Fire Stops, and training from the Saint Paul Fire Department?

Call 651-228-6273 for more information

House Fire in St. paul
House Fire

Did you know that smoke detectors do not last forever? Well, they don’t. If yours are ten years old consider replacing them.


Vacant house? Winterize and call your insurance company

Water can destroy a house. A small plumbing leak can cause extensive damage. I have seen the aftermath when pipes burst.

If your home is going to be vacant over the winter now is the time to have it winterized. We have not had a hard freeze here in the Twin Cities and we still have some time before water will freeze inside of an unheated home.

If you own a vacant home consider having it winterized. Furnaces can fail and frozen pipes can burst when they thaw and that leaves a really big mess.

The process involves turning off the water and draining anything that has water in it like pipes, the water heater, and the heating system if it is a hot water type boiler. You can winterize your own home it isn’t all that difficult especially if you have a forced air furnace but most people prefer to use a contractor. If you don’t know who to call try your local heating and plumbing company.

Let your homeowner’s insurance company know that your property will be vacant. Check for vacant home coverage. 

Maple Leaf
Maple leaf

We will need heat soon

It won’t be long now before we will need to fire up the furnace or boiler. Most years we end up turning on the heat before the middle of October.  The house seems to stay warm during the day but the days are shorter and the nights are colder.

If you have a forced air furnace now is a great time to buy furnace filters. I usually buy enough to last through the winter.

Now is a good time to schedule a furnace or boiler inspection and tune-up. If the dang thing stops working on Christmas Eve or during a major cold spell getting it repaired is going to be expensive.

Usually, a tuneup isn’t expensive.

furnace collage
furnaces and boilers

To rake or not to rake

Maple leaf
Maple leaf

September is almost over and the leaves are falling. I usually clear the leaves from the sidewalk and boulevard and compost them. I use an old-school rake rather than a leaf blower because the rake is quiet and easy to use.

You don’t need to rake all of those pretty leaves. There are a few reasons not to.  The leaves provide shelter and even food for animals like chipmunks, box turtles, and earthworms. Butterfly pupae use the layers for protection as they grow over the chilly months.

As the leaves decompose (no, they won’t litter your lawn forever), they form a natural mulch and help fertilize the soil. They can be mulched with the lawnmower next spring.

Leaves do not belong in the trash. If you must rake take them to one of them to a compost site. Personally, I like to photograph them. Have you ever photographed a leaf using a macro lens?

Too much paper?

paper shredderWe all have too much stuff.  It isn’t just stuff we buy. I sometimes work with people who have boxes of canceled checks and paper copies of bills with “paid” written on them. Paper bank statements and boxes of receipts too.

These days just about everything, including bills and bank statements are available online. They don’t even have to be printed but for people who feel the need to have copies, they can be downloaded and stored on a computer.

I can find bank statements from years ago online. I can’t imagine how or why I would ever need a paper copy. I haven’t balanced a checking account in 20 years or so. The pennies I might be missing are not worth the time it would take to find them. I can see the math online when I look at the running balance and it passes my “seems about right” test.

Don’t  keep warranty information and instruction manuals for appliances they no longer own.

There isn’t any rule that states that paper copies of tax returns have to be kept forever. The IRS says “3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return. Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.”

Many companies offer the opportunity to go paperless. Get an email alert or a text message when bills are due instead of paper statements.

Don’t forget to use the paper shredder before disposing of documents. When getting rid of large amounts of paper look for secure disposal boxes or shredding services. There are many options. Search online for document disposal close to home.

Optional air duct cleaning

According to the EPA Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space.

However, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends air duct cleaning every 3 to 5 years.

If there are rodents in the air ducts or mold or some other air quality problem related to the air ducts they may need to be cleaned.

Air duct cleaning is sometimes sold along with furnace tune-ups. Furnace inspections and tune-ups should be part of yearly home maintenance. In most cases, duct cleaning is an optional add-on.