“Headed to the lake,” seems to be a common refrain on Friday afternoons in Alabama this time of year. Lake home ownership comes with the standard set of monthly expenses, however, since you are not there every day, little inefficiencies and maintenance problems can get out of hand before you know it.
Keep your lake house in tiptop shape and your wallet a little fatter this summer with these easy ideas:
Sealing a home properly will prevent air leaks that make a home inefficient, but around the lake, a properly sealed home will thwart insects and larger critters from infiltrating and nesting when you are not there. While you’re at it, check the roof, siding, gutters, foundation and any other exterior finishes for signs of damage. Do this in spring and again in the fall as leaky gutters and damaged roofs in particular can lead to big problems later. It’s also good to have a contact nearby come check on the property monthly, and especially after storms, when you are not in residence.
Leaving a home shut up with too much moisture will allow mold and mildew to build up. The simplest solution is to make sure all your bath fans are working and vented properly. Use them after each shower, especially on the day you leave. As an added measure, have a licensed electrician install a humidistat to bath fan controls and set them to come on at a preset humidity and turn off once that setting is reached.
Another good idea for a lake house is to install a multi-stage or 2-stage heat pump. A heat pump is an excellent choice for Alabama’s climate and the multi-stage motor runs on a low speed for longer cycles and steps to the higher stage only when needed. This saves energy, but also results in a quieter system with enhanced humidity control.
As an ultimate solution, consider installing a whole house ventilation system either when you build new or upgrade your current heating and air equipment. These systems need to be installed by a licensed HVAC contractor, sized and designed specifically for your home. There are varying complexities and expense for such systems, but the basic premise is that they are designed to draw fresh outdoor air into the home and vent stale air out to keep the indoor air quality good and the home free of mold and mildew.
Turn off all appliances and electronics before you leave. Better yet, unplug all those that you can, but remember DO NOT unplug the refrigerator, simply switch off the icemaker before you leave so ice doesn’t get stale. To make coming and going easier, plug small appliances and electronics into a power strip so you can turn them all off with one switch. Finally, consider investing in a water heater leak detection and shut off system. These will sense a leak and shut down water flow to the tank, especially important if no one is around. As an added measure of protection, install a web enabled leak detection system to alert you wherever you might be if a leak were to occur.
Programmable thermostats are a good investment for a lake house as they can automatically adjust in anticipation of your arrival on Friday. Today, however, there’s an even greater convenience you can purchase. Web-enabled thermostats allow you to control the heating and cooling system as if you were in the house from anywhere you can get on the Internet. They are especially handy to adjust the temperature to a more efficient setting from afar. But, they have other benefits as well. For example, if the weather turns especially frigid in winter, you can turn up the heat using a smartphone to prevent pipes from freezing and possibly causing significant damage.
In addition to thermostats, there’s a whole host of home automation and control products available. They allow homeowners control everything from lighting and window treatments to door locks, garage doors and individual outlets from the palm of their hand. Many can easily be retrofitted into an existing home by the homeowner and are found affordably at local electronics and home improvement stores. Such systems take on an especially important role in the second home market.
Enjoy the lake this summer and remember to:
Seal it. Vent it. Switch it. Control it.