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5 Questions You May Have Before Installing a Central Humidifier

If you are tired of dealing with dry skin, allergies and static electricity all winter long, then it's time to have a central humidifier installed. This appliance integrates with your central HVAC system to add moisture to your air, keeping your relative humidity near the ideal 45 percent throughout the winter. Having a humidifier installed is a big yet worthwhile investment. Here are a few questions you may have as you navigate this process.

What Problems Will a Humidifier Correct?
In addition to correcting problems with dry skin, allergies and static electricity, a humidifier will also help preserve your walls, floor and furniture. Anything made from wood can crack and split when the humidity falls too low, and adding moisture to the air helps prevent these problems.

With a humidifier to keep your air moist, you may also notice softer skin, shorter recovery times from colds and the flu and healthier house plants. Plus, your heating bill may decrease since your air will feel warmer without you having to turn the thermostat up so high.

What Is a Drum Humidifier?
When researching whole-home humidifiers, one type you're bound to come across is a drum humidifier. This type of humidifier has a drum, outlined in a fabric belt, which spins over a water reservoir and absorbs water. As air blows over the drum, the moisture evaporates from the fabric and into that air.

Drum humidifiers are very affordable, making them popular among homeowners. However, they do require frequent cleaning to prevent mold and algae growth. Flow-through systems have a similar setup, though they drip moisture into a pad rather than onto a drum. Flow-through systems are less prone to mold than drum systems, but they do cost a little more.

What Is a Spray Mist Humidifier?
If you don't want to worry about changing a pad or cleaning an appliance, your HVAC specialist may recommend a spray mist humidifier instead. This type of humidifier sprays a fine mist of water into the air as the air enters your ducts. Though more expensive than drum or flow-through humidifiers, spray mist humidifiers are essentially maintenance-free, making them a good choice for busy, working parents and for rental properties.

How Do You Control the Humidifier?
Once your humidifier is installed, it will be very easy to control. If you have a Wi-Fi thermostat, you can control the humidity right at your thermostat. Generally, you can use the touch-screen display to navigate to the relative humidity settings and then use the plus and minus buttons to turn your humidity up or down. You should even be able to adjust the humidity remotely from an app.

If you do not yet have a Wi-Fi thermostat, you can have a HomeSmart service technician upgrade your system to include one when they install your humidifier. Wi-Fi thermostats save you a bundle on energy and can automatically adjust the temperature based on whether or not you are home.

How Much Does a Humidifier Cost?
A whole-home humidifier is an investment, but they're not as costly as you might assume. Costs vary widely based on the type of humidifier you choose, whether your HVAC technician needs to modify your ductwork to install it and the economy in your local area. On average, customers in the United States pay between $397 and $722, which includes the cost of installation.

If you are interested in having a humidifier installed, contact HomeSmart From Xcel Energy. We carry both Honeywell and Lennox brand central humidifiers. We can assess your needs, recommend the model that is best for you and provide you with a more precise estimate. 

Two Common Automatic Dishwasher Problems with Possible Causes and Fixes

denver-dishwasher-repair.pngAutomatic dishwashers are usually reliable and operate without much fanfare; however, like all appliances, they are subject to breakdowns and assorted problems, especially as they age. Knowing what these are can help you make a determination about repair options and better inform you about the odds of successfully making the repair yourself.

Below are two common dishwasher problems as well as a few possible causes and fixes:

Leaking from the Dishwasher
There are multiple locations for dishwasher leaks, and locating where water is coming from can be challenging at times. Here are a few of the most common leak points.

Door Seal
The door seal, or gasket, on a dishwasher surrounds the opening of the tub, and its purpose is simple: keep water from passing out of the tub during operation. These seals can wear out over time due to constant compression and exposure to heat. If they lose their flexibility, the seals can remain flat and fail to form a tight seal against the door.

Check the door seal by inserting a piece of letter-sized paper into the space between the door and tub and then closing the dishwasher. Leave a corner of the paper protruding and attempt to pull it out. If the paper grabs or tears, then the seal is probably still in good condition and not the cause of your leak.

However, if the paper freely pulls out of the door, then the seal is likely due for replacement. You can replace the seal yourself, but be sure you know what you are doing before beginning. Otherwise, your dishwasher may develop other leaks, and you couldmake the mess even worse than before.

Pumps and Internal Plumbing
The drain pump operates to remove the dirty water and food particles from the tub. Likewise, the inlet pump adds clean water to the tub. Both pumps are attached to a plastic drain hose that leads to the tie-in with the sink drain. Remove the front lower cover of the dishwasher, and then take a flashlight and look beneath the dishwasher during operation. If you spot water dripping from the pumps or hoses, then you know there is probably a leak at a joint or at the device itself.

If you suspect there is a leak, you can attempt to tighten the hose clamps that hold the hoses to the pumps and other fittings. Before attempting that, be sure to turn off the power to the dishwasher—there may be exposed electrical connections beneath the unit—and use adequate lighting to see the hose clamps. Tighten the clamps with a screwdriver and replace the front lower cover before restoring power.

Water Won't Drain from the Tub
Another frustrating problem encountered by dishwasher owners is a tub that won't drain. This leaves a disgusting mess that must be emptied by hand with a container. A failure to drain can be due to a couple of causes, including the following.

Clogged Drain Hose
The drain hose transfers the used, dirty water to the sink drain in most instances, though some hoses connect to another exit or are routed directly outdoors. No matter the circumstance, drain hoses can become clogged due to the disposal of certain foods or substances. For example, dry rice can expand inside a drain hose and block it completely.

To check for a drain-hose clog, you may need to disconnect the end attached to the sink drain and gently explore the interior of the tube with a flexible object. For example, you can push an opened wire coat hanger into the hose and carefully push inside the tube for signs of blockage. In other situations, the entire hose may need to be disconnected and replaced or flushed out.

Failed Drain Pump
If the hose doesn't seem to be clogged, then the drain pump may have failed and need replacing. The drain pump is subject to intense conditions and can be damaged if its impeller is jammed and causes the pump to burn out.

You may be able to tell whether a broken drain pump is the cause of the non-emptying tub if you hear a buzzing sound at the end of the wash or rinse cycle. Otherwise, the pump will need to be removed and tested by an appliance professional to make a firm determination.

Call HomeSmart From Xcel Energy (1-866-837-9762) to get started with a professional repair. 

Tips For Improving The Air Quality In Your Home

If you spend a lot of time indoors enjoying television with your family, avoiding excessive summer heat, or working on home improvement products, you're not alone. Most Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, and a lot of that time is at home. Improving your home's air quality probably isn't at the top of your list, but it should be.

Poor indoor air quality can exacerbate existing conditions, including asthma and allergies, and it may even make your family sick with another serious illness. Help ensure that your family's health isn't compromised by indoor air pollution, and instead, here are a few simple ways you can improve your home's air quality.

Invest in Quality Air Filters
One of the best and most cost-effective ways to improve the air quality in your home is to change the filters on your furnace and air conditioner—especially if they are several months old or of a lesser quality. Air filters are rated based on the MERV, or minimum efficiency reporting value, rating. The higher the MERV score, the more particulates and pollution your filter will capture.

For example, many hospitals will utilize filters that feature a MERV rating of at least 16. However, you need to purchase a filter that you can afford and that will eliminate as many pollutants as possible while not compromising the efficiency of your HVAC unit. If you purchase a filter with a high MERV rating, it requires more power to push air through the filter, which can make it difficult for your HVAC system to run properly.

Instead, contact HomeSmart to speak with a home comfort specialist who can provide a free installation estimate and can help you determine which air filter is the best for your needs, budget and HVAC system.

Become a Clean Freak
You may consider yourself a neat freak, but sometimes, you need to go the extra mile to reduce the allergens throughout your home. Here are a few simple cleaning tips that can help you improve your home's air quality:

  • Invest in a new vacuum. If you don't have one already, invest in a vacuum with a HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, filter. Vacuum all your carpets at least twice a week to reduce the number of allergens that become trapped in the fibers.
  • Sweep often. In addition to vacuuming, make sure to sweep your floors several times a week. Pay special attention to the areas in front of your doors. These areas are where the allergens found outside can be carried into your home.
  • Grab a damp rag. Instead of grabbing a feather duster, wipe off the surfaces throughout your home with a damp rag. Feather dusters simply move the dust in your home into your air. A damp rag will actually eliminate the dust and dust mites.
  • Wash your sheets often. The average mattress is home to anywhere from 1 to 10 million dust mites. Washing your sheets at least once a week on a hot setting will help keep these numbers down.

Additionally, don't forget to wipe down your blinds and drapes weekly, as well. This chore will help reduce the numbers of allergens and dust mites, as well.

Maintain a Healthy Moisture Level
Ideally, your home should maintain a humidity level of between 40 and 50 percent. Purchasing a quality home humidifier can help keep the moistures levels in check, but you still can't be sure if your home is at the ideal humidity level with this product alone.

The best way to monitor the moisture levels inside your house is with a hygrometer. A hygrometer is an inexpensive tool that can be purchased at home hardware and home improvement stores and is used to monitor the humidity inside of your home.

After installing the hygrometer in your home, adjust the dehumidifier, as needed, until your home features a humidity between 40 and 50 percent.

For a free estimate on a new home humidifier, contact HomeSmart at 1-866-837-9762 to set up an appointment for a free estimate with a home comfort consultant.

Purchase an Air Purifier
One of the most effective ways to eliminate allergens inside of your home is with an air purifier. There are several air purifiers available, including whole house models that are attached to your HVAC system, or portable units that can be moved to different areas of your home.

The type of air purifier that is best for your needs is dependent upon several factors, including the type of filtration system featured on the unit and your budget. A HEPA air purifier is a great option for many homeowners because they are so effective at removing several different types of particulates.

Another option is a UV air purifier. These types of purifiers are often combined with a HEPA filtration system that eliminates particulates from the air and kills several different types of airborne viruses and bacteria.

If you aren't sure which type of air purifier is best for your needs and budget, don't hesitate to contact HomeSmart to set up a free appointment with a home comfort consultant, 1-866-837-9762.

Improving your home's air quality is critical, especially if someone in your household is suffering with allergies or asthma. If you have any further questions about how you can eliminate allergens throughout your home, don't hesitate to contact the professionals at Home Smart Colorado

Take Care When Moving Refrigerators and Freezers

Standard-size refrigerators and freezers are the heaviest and bulkiest appliances to move. They also require special care, whether you're moving them from room to room or into a new home.

Because freezers and fridges are so bulky and heavy, it's best to find a few strong, willing friends or hired hands who have experience moving large appliances. If you plan to move the fridge or freezer yourself, say for a kitchen/dining room remodel, or cleaning, you should remember a few rules.

Empty and Thoroughly Clean the Fridge or Freezer
Before you prepare your refrigerator or freezer for moving, you need to take all of the food and medicine out of the appliance and clean it as throughly as possible. Even a short move into a different room will jostle glass jars and other containers. You'll end up with a bigger mess to clean.

Place any medicine, drinks, or cold food you plan to keep in a cooler with ice. All frozen food should be prepared or donated to others. If you have a large freezer, begin using up the frozen food inside at least six weeks before moving. Planning ahead allows you to use as much perishable food as possible.

Once the food is out, remove the shelves and drawers; wash them; and allow them to dry. Take a picture or label shelves and drawers as you remove them so you remember where they go. For a truck or van relocation, you can place the shelves back inside and tape them to the appliance walls. Or, pack them securely wrapped in boxes.

Use a mixture of baking soda and water to clean all of the walls and shelves inside the appliance. Dry thoroughly. Even a small bit of rotting food will make the fridge or freezer stink when it's turned off, so be sure to get into all of the nooks and crannies.

Defrost the Appliance In Advance
You may get away with leaving the freezer full of frost and ice, but only take this route if you think you can have the appliance moved in under 30 minutes. After this point, your drain pan will become overwhelmed and start leaking water everywhere as you roll the appliance to its new spot.

If the refrigerator or freezer will be taking a trip in a moving van, pickup, or other vehicle, you should fully defrost the frozen sections a day or so in advance of the move. If you wait too long, the defrost process may not be complete. Then, all the leaking water will end up soaking the bottom of boxes in the moving van or truck.

Because the amount of frost buildup may cause the drain pan to overflow, locate the drain hose and set it in a shallow pan to catch overflow. You can also place towels around the base of the fridge to soak up excess drainage.

Have Freezers and Fridges Disconnected Properly
If you own a simple electric refrigerator with no ice maker, all you have to do is unplug the appliance after you empty and defrost it. However, if you have a gas-powered fridge or freezer, or if you have water lines attached to the refrigerator, the disconnection process will be a bit more complicated.

Any gas appliance should be disconnected and re-connected by qualified technicians. There's too much potential for things to go wrong when gas lines are involved for you to take care of this job yourself. Possible problems include gas leaks, line damage, and fitting issues. A certified HomeSmart service technician should handle tasks related to the gas lines.  The same holds true for any complicated plumbing disconnections.

Move the Appliance Properly and Wait to Use It
Freezers and refrigerators shouldn't be tipped on their sides, since this allows compressor oil to flow into the lines that hold the coolant. If you absolutely must tip a freezer or refrigerator in its side, make certain the compressor is on the bottom. Secure the compressor with bolts if it isn't encased in housing.

You should also tape the refrigerator doors shut when moving the appliance. If the doors are secured, they won't get caught on a corner, bash a dent in the wall, or fly open and harm anyone. Some experts recommend rolling up a towel and placing it in the doorframe before taping the door shut. This keeps the door slightly open and allows ventilation into the appliance.

Don't use the appliance right away after it's been moved. Wait at least 24 hours to let any oil drain out of the lines. It sometimes takes a few days for a recently moved refrigerator or freezer to cool efficiently after it is plugged in, so be patient.

Contact HomeSmart today if you're having problems with a recently moved refrigerator or freezer. We can also service appliances and the HVAC system in your new home.

3 Tips to Save Energy and Extend the Life of Your Water Heater

Water Heater Energy Saving TipsWater heaters are some of the biggest power guzzlers of the home appliance world. If you're trying to cut your energy usage, it's wise to develop power-saving strategies to deal with the hungriest power gobblers on your grid.

Replace your aging water heater if it's approaching the end of its useful life. A new energy-smart water heater may be all you need to see your power bill shrink. No matter which kind of appliance you own, help your old or new water heater work more efficiently—and last longer—by following the tips below.

Know the Limitations of Your System
Each type of water heater has its drawbacks and limitations. Traditional water heaters use energy to heat water even when no one needs hot water. Tankless water heaters often can't keep up when multiple hot water–dispensing fixtures are running at the same time.

Gas-fired water heaters work during power outages in some cases, which is a plus. However, tanks on standard gas water heaters corrode faster if the gas fire is kicked on more often than normal due to heavy daily usage.

When it comes to life expectancy, traditional water heaters last anywhere from 8 to 20 years depending on the model and how well it's maintained. It's not unusual for tankless heaters to last 20 years at the minimum and much longer when properly serviced.

Work With What You've Got for More Energy Savings
When you know your system's limitations, you can take energy-conserving steps to work around the weaknesses. For example, ask your appliance service tech to install a timer on the water heater, so it only heats water during pre-set times. When the household is sleeping, or you're all away at work or school, the water heater isn't using any fuel or power. Modern smart water heaters have built-in power-saving controls that run the water heater according to your patterns of use.

If you don't have a smart water heater, set a schedule for the use of hot water so your tankless or traditional gas heater isn't overwhelmed by household demands. Stagger shower, cooking, and laundry times to reduce the draw on the system. Limit shower times and switch to cold water for clothes washing to save even more hot water and energy.

Insulate pipes, walls, and ceiling in the area where the water heater sits to reduce temperature loss due to cold drafts. Lower the water heater temperature to 120 degrees in Summer, and all year long if you can stand it, to lower your power bill and extend the life of your appliance.

Have Your Water Heater Inspected Annually
No matter which type of water heater you own, it's important to have the system inspected at least once a year by a certified HomeSmart technician to check for problems. You may not notice small issues, but those little details can become big problems in a hurry.

Two things that should be checked once a year in a standard water heater are the anode rod and the overflow valve (plumbers call this the T & P valve for "temperature and pressure".) If either of these components fail to do their job, you face serious leaks or even flooding from the water heater.

Anode Rod
A traditional water heater is normally composed of a thin layer of glass over steel. When the glass inevitably cracks, the steel is likely to corrode or rust out, causing a leak. Corrosion of other components makes the water heater work less efficiently.

The anode valve is called a sacrificial rod because it collects the corrosion that would otherwise end up on the steel tank and other parts of the water heater. The anode rod needs to be changed out every three years as it grows more corroded. Some types of environmental conditions and water sources can cause the anode rod to corrode and need replacement more often.

T & P Valve
The T & P valve lets off the "steam" of the water heater, so to speak. What it actually does is let off small amounts of pressurized hot water when the water inside the tank gets too hot and pressure builds. If the T & P relief valve is letting out water too often, you may need to adjust your water temperature down a few degrees. Or the valve may be failing and subject to a full leak soon.

If you want to maintain your current hot water temperature but don't want to overload a relief valve, have a HomeSmart service technician add a hot water expansion tank to your system (contact us for a free estimate). This smaller tank takes on the excess water so you don't risk leaks or blowouts and you still have the hot water you need when you want it. Remember, too, that the water released by the relief valve is costing you money to heat and waste.

Contact the appliance professionals at HomeSmart From Xcel Energy today to schedule expert installation, repair, and maintenance of your water heater. We offer the best brands and a 100% quality guarantee on appliance installations.


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