Category: Heating + Cooling

Think you’re living with a ghost? Learn how to tell if your house is haunted and what that means for the value of your home.

3 Things You Absolutely Must Do If Your House Is Haunted & The One Thing You Shouldn’t

See something in the corner of your eye from time to time? Things flying through the air? Think you’re living in a haunted home? We’ll help you find out and deal with the ghostly presence making your home their life-after-death nest. 

So you have a ghost presence in your house. Congratulations! First, that means your house is way cooler than your next door neighbor’s, and second, you should have some awesome ghost stories for your Halloween party. But really — what do you do with a ghost “living” inside your house? We have a few suggestions.

#1 – Make sure you actually have a ghost

a ghost presses itself against a door into an office
Are you living in a haunted home?

Are you 100 percent sure your house has paranormal activity? While a Realtor.com 2018 study found that 2 in every 5 people believe they have lived in a haunted house, your ghostly happenings could be signaling that you need to complete some necessary DIY projects – if you are haunt-free, that is.

Lights turning on and off?

Don’t assume it’s due to a ghost. It could easily be loose or insecure wiring in a fixture, which is a leading cause of house fires. Check the fixture that’s blinking (only after shutting off the circuit breaker), and also inspect the breaker box for worn connectors and the main electrical panel for loose service conductors. When in doubt, consult a licensed electrician. You can also find additional electrical safety tips in the vipHome.app.

Getting paranormal scents in your home?

These range from stenches like rotten eggs, sulfur, and mildew to pleasant aromas like perfume or fruit. If your paranormal smells are more rotten than pleasant, look around for evidence of tiny intruders, such as droppings, gnawed holes, oily rub marks, and food crumbs. A rotten smell can be an indication of the unfortunate demise of a mouse or squirrel in your wall, stairwell railing, pipe, etc. If you suspect you have a small creature in your home, contact a pest control specialist. If you’re routinely smelling a mildew scent, try using a dehumidifier.

Cold spots in your home?

They could be a ghost — or perhaps your furnace’s burner isn’t lit. It could also mean your unit’s air filter is blocked. Complete a quick inspection yourself, or hire a professional. This is also a great idea if you haven’t completed your annual winter home maintenance, which can help you save money on your energy bill.

Hear strange noises?

Say hi! The ghosts might be trying to communicate with you. It could also mean that your HVAC unit may need servicing, so you may want to call your service professional.

#2 – Record your ghost sightings

Not all ghosts can be tracked on video cameras — with the exception of Disneyland, it seems — so you might have better luck keeping a running record. Determine if there’s any regularity to your ghost sightings or if anything you do specifically conjures your ghost. This information can help you find who your ghost was in their previous life and why they decided to make your home their haunting ground. Use vipHome.app’s HomeLog to document your findings for quick reference during the next step (or for a ghost hunter).

 #3 – Research your home

a scary Victorian home that is rundown
Ask about your home.

Do you know anything about the house other than it has four bedrooms, two baths, and one amazing kitchen? Your home’s earlier years may hold clues to your ghostly companion. If you learn of your ghost before closing on your house, ask your real estate agent. Though not legally obligated in most states to disclose if someone passed away peacefully in a home, Realtor.com says real estate agents are required by law to tell the truth or they can face legal repercussions.

Some states, such as California, require real estate agents to disclose if someone died on the property, regardless of circumstances, within three years. Violent deaths, such as murder or suicide, are categorized as events and must be disclosed before closing in most (but not all) states.

If you’re already in your home, decide if this is something you want to know. If so, learn how to uncover the history of your home, or visit the local library for the town’s history. That might help you find out more about your ghost and also come in handy if you intend to sell your haunted home in the future.

The one thing you should absolutely not do – Get rid of your ghost

a person stands in her nightgown near an open window at night, highlighted in a blue light - haunted home
Forget calling a psychic medium to connect with the spirit world.

According to Realtor.com, just under half of all homeowners (44 percent) suspected or were fully aware they were moving into a haunted house. Another third said they would buy a haunted house if it had a lower price, a bigger kitchen, or was located in a better neighborhood. (Of course, this means you’ll have expectations to fulfill as the neighborhood’s resident haunted house.) Another 18 percent said they didn’t even need perks to buy a haunted house.

Then again, 49 percent of home buyers said, “Nothing can make me buy [a haunted home],” but maybe they just haven’t gotten a look at that kitchen yet. (It has a breakfast nook!)

How to keep your home ghost-free

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Download the app today!

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your haunted home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Get it today!

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6 Safety Tips for Using Space Heaters (and Keeping Your Home Standing)

Space heaters can keep your toes warm, but they can put your home in danger. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association found space heaters are the leading cause of home fires when heating equipment is the culprit.

“When you start to get into the colder months, we always want to tell people to really be mindful about how they’re heating their home,” says Brett Brenner, president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International. “Space heaters become uniquely dangerous because it’s a source of fire, if it gets anything combustible near it.”

To help keep you safe (and warm) all winter long, here are top heating safety tips to help prevent a space heater fire in your home.

Tip #1: Keep your friends close and your space heater at least three feet away

“When it comes to home fires nowadays, you don’t really have a lot of natural materials around you anymore,” says Brett. “The microfiber couches or chairs you might be sitting in, or the leather imitation things you might have, those are very combustible.”

When a fire starts inside your home or “tinderbox,” it spreads quickly and can be deadly. So keep that three-foot perimeter around your heater! See what happens if you don’t in the above video from the City of San Diego.

Tip #2: One outlet, one plug

Cord being plugged into a 3 prong socket

Plug in only one major appliance per outlet.

One of the most important heating safety tips is to make sure your home’s electrical wiring can take your specific heater. Then plug only one device into one outlet. Never plug a space heater into an extension cord and mind those three feet!

Tip #3: Keep one eye on your space heater

Similar to how you don’t leave your children unattended, don’t leave your space heater alone.

“The big thing with space heaters is to never leave them unattended,” says Brett. “As you have kids coming to the home, as you have pets coming to the home, mistakes happen.”

If a dog leaves a combustible toy near a space heater that wasn’t there five minutes ago when you left the room, it can spur a home fire.

“As inconvenient as it might be – if you’re not in the room, you need to turn the space heater off.”

You should also be awake. Five out of six (or 85 percent) of home heating deaths are attributed to space heaters, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you feel yourself nodding off, turn the unit off, unplug it, make sure it’s cool, and then hit the sack.

Tip #4: Serve it the right fuel

space heater pilot light

Always use the correct fuel.

If you’re using a fuel-burning space heater, always read the manufacturer instructions (super important), and use the fuel specified. Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater, as this can lead to a risk of explosion (you read that right).

Tip #5: Give your detectors a quick check

man standing on a ladder changing a smoke detector

Check your smoke detectors.

Since 85% of the home heating deaths come from space heater use (or so you may have heard), check your smoke detectors. This way, if a fire does occur, you’ll be notified and can put your evacuation plan to good use. (You have one of those, right?) Also, if you’re using a kerosene heater, double-check your carbon monoxide detectors. As you know, carbon monoxide is “the silent killer,” so you definitely want to prevent buildup in your home.

Tip #6: In the unfortunate event that a fire does occurs…

firefighter fighting a house which is on fire

Get out, stay out.

“A space heater is an open ignition source,” says Brett. “If something happens, you have to react quickly and get out. You’re not going to have the time that you used to have even going back a couple of decades.” (See Tip #1 above.)

Stay on top of home maintenance

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app home management app can help. In less than four minutes, you can be introduced to a new way to home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist – Heating Tips

You’re burning daylight. With the usual suspects—Jack Frost, snow, and higher utility bills—arriving sooner rather than later, you need to prepare your home for those long, cold winter nights. We have a list of affordable home heating systems maintenance that is so quick and easy, you might be able to complete it during that extra hour you get back when Daylight Savings Time ends. (O.K., probably not. Sleep that extra hour, but then get up and get this done.)

Cast a spell on your ceiling fan

You want to know that the cool breeze across the back of your neck is from a poltergeist, not your ceiling fan. With your fan turned off, use a ladder to reach the small switch on the side that changes the way your fan runs – from counterclockwise to clockwise. This simple action sends the warm air flowing up and keeps the cool air from blowing down (on you).

Make your furnace filters disappear – and reappear!

Before the cold settles in for the winter, replace your old furnace filters. Having dirty air filters lowers your home’s energy efficiency and can create an unsafe environment. How often you need to replace your air filters varies depending upon the make and model. Some units are high maintenance and require a change every month. Others require you check on them only once or twice a year. 

Insulate, insulate, insulate

Worker in protective goggles and respirator insulating rock wool insulation in wooden frame for future house walls for cold barrier. Comfortable warm home, economy, construction and renovation concept

The key to keeping warm in the winter is insulation.

Insulate your attic for heat retention, which should lower your utility bill. Consider investing in a stair cover for your attic’s hatchway. Insulate your water pipes with foam rubber sleeves or use insulation wrap to keep them cozy all winter long. Finally, insulate your window treatments to add an extra layer of warmth—like another blanket—to keep the cold out and the heat in. Don’t forget to check your insulation annually as part of your home heating maintenance list.

Lower your heating bill by replacing your old weatherstripping – no trick!

Hands of worker using a silicone tube for repairing of window indoor

Keep the warm air in and the cold air out.

This is one super easy fall heating maintenance trick. In less than 10 minutes, you can seal your door by pressing the adhesive edge of the weatherstripping into the molding along the doorway. Cut away excess stripping and voila! You’ll enjoy reduced airflow and fewer drafts. Complete weatherstripping on your windows with the help of a peel and stick roll (or a caulk gun). Depending upon the choice of weatherstripping, including felt, rubber, and even metal, you may see savings in your heating bill up to 30 percent.

You may have never thought about all the heat you’re losing through your outlets. Stop the heat – and your utility bill – from slipping away from you by installing socket sealers. Simply remove the outlet’s faceplate, install socket sealer, and then replace faceplate. As we said, quick and easy.

Set your thermostat (lower)

woman adjusting a programable thermostat

Save energy, save money!

It doesn’t need to be super fancy, but a programmable thermostat can help you save money. By lowering temperatures at certain times of the day—say, during work hours when you won’t be home (wishful thinking)—you can also lower your heating bill. Get more fall home maintenance tips now.

‘Tis the season to inspect your HVAC

person feeling a radiator

Call before you lose heat.

One of the most frightening nightmares you can have is a cold winter’s night. Before you flip the switch that magically turns your air conditioner into a heater, call a professional to inspect and service the system. This helps to ensure that the heat will be there when you need it, and getting your unit serviced annually can help to keep it running longer – saving you money over time.

Hocus pocus – home in focus

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Download the app today!

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the sun is up and bright over a large cottage home

How to Beat Extreme Heat – Home Edition

Extreme heat means you’re now ordering iced coffee, and you’re no longer cooking on your stove. You can fry that egg right on the pavement.

Since heat waves are the leading cause of extreme weather-related deaths in the US and Death Valley hit incredible highs recently, we figured it was a good time to help you stay cool at home when the heat gets too hot to handle.

Before the heat cooks your street

Schedule your HVAC or air conditioning unit for service. This will make sure you don’t lose precious cold air once the heat arrives. If your area is prone to heat waves or cold spells, add this to your spring and fall home maintenance routine. (This way, you don’t lose heat when Jack Frost arrives.)

Also, when was the last time you checked your unit’s air filters? …That’s what we thought. Your unit’s air filters need these replaced or cleaned regularly. Sometimes, it’s as frequently as every month or as far out as every year.

Most units need their filter(s) replaced or cleaned every three months. Crack open your owner’s manual to find out more.

The heat is on, and it’s oppressive. Now what?

A homeowner closing a HVAC register

Close your registers in unoccupied spaces.

Keeping your house cool in extreme heat begins with knowing how not to heat up your home.

  • Avoid using your oven or even your stove top (the appliance, not the stuffing).
  • If you need to boil or heat food, use a microwave.
  • At the very least, use a lid on your pots.
  • Run exhaust fans only to clear the room, as they will pull the cool air from your home.
  • Close doors and HVAC registers in unused rooms.
  • Close the drapes and blinds that see direct sunlight. (Don’t have blinds? Get a professional to install a few.)
  • Turn off any appliances you do not need. (That might mean the TV.)
  • Become nocturnal and only use the clothes dryers, dishwashers, and other large appliances when it cools down in the evening.
  • Keep your garage door closed. (This keeps your home safer, too.)
  • Use CFL or LED light bulbs as they produce less heat than incandescent bulbs.
  • Limit your activity outside to when it’s the coolest.

Ceiling fans can make you feel cooler, but they must be rotating counter clockwise to do so. (This directs the air flow at you.) Unfortunately, for keeping your house cool in extreme heat, fans don’t ward off heat-related illnesses. If you feel yourself getting too warm, take a cold bath or shower.

Hot off the presses

Keep up to date with all weather and utility notifications, either via social media, emails, or websites. These alerts will inform you of government services that can help you beat the heat.

If your HVAC system does give out during times of extreme hot air (bummer!), many cities and towns set up cooling stations. Here, you can get a cool drink of water and spend some time in cooler air.

Heat waves also put a strain on power grids, so it’s not uncommon to suffer blackouts. Some areas – like California – institute rolling blackouts. This occurs when the supply for power exceeds the demand, and the utility companies voluntarily turn off the power in a specific area to prevent the entire grid from failing.

It’s important to be ready for a blackout, whether it’s scheduled or not.

How to get cool without juice

A few ways you can be ready for a heat-wave power outage include:

  • Buying a standby generator (to run fans or your AC).
  • Stocking your refrigerator with water bottles and other cool treats. (We recommend mochi.)
  • Filling up large Ziploc bags with water and packing your freezer. (These ice packs keep things cool, and you get fresh drinking water as the ice melts.)
  • Having batteries on hand for flashlights or electric fans.
  • Checking that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are operational and have back-up batteries.
  • Getting a solar charger for your phone.

If you have refrigerated medicine, contact your local pharmacy for instructions. If someone within your household has a powered medical device, reach out to your utility company for solutions.

If you’re playing the long game –

a family planting in a tree in their yard

Get some shade.

Contact a lawn design professional to plant a few trees around your property. You’ll want to make sure they’re far enough away from your home that they won’t attack your foundation but close enough that they’ll provide shade during hot weather. Their leaves can also help to shade your air conditioner, which should increase its energy efficiency and lower your energy bill.

And extreme heat kills bed bugs, right?

Extreme heat does kill bed bugs, but unfortunately, a heat wave will not solve your bed bug problem. The inside of a room must reach approximately 125-130 degrees to kill bed bugs (their internal temperature must be ~113 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 60 minutes. Unless you are one of the 320 people living in Death Valley, you will need to call a professional to help you get rid of bed bugs. (They’ll complete the “heat treatment” for you.)

Be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you

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The vipHome.app provides personalized reminders for home maintenance, so you can schedule that pre-season HVAC maintenance. We also provide tailored recommendations for home improvement to help your home be in the best shape possible. Our expert-backed vipTips serve you with the information you need to stay safe when Mother Nature decides to go to the extreme.

Download the app today!

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air filter for a humidifer

9 Super Easy Steps to Replacing a Humidifier Filter

A staple in southern states to regulate humidity levels, humidifiers add moisture to your home during winter and help to slow mold growth during the summer. They also keep your home air fresh and allergen free, but that requires you to replace the unit’s air filter (a.k.a. water panel or evaporator pad) frequently.

Recently, a member of the vipTeam replaced his whole-house humidifier’s air filter, so he created his step-by-step guide to help you how to replace your humidifier filter, too!

(Please note: The unit referenced in this article is an Aprilaire Humidifier, so while this guide gives a general overview of the humidifier filter replacement process, different types of humidifiers and different humidifier models may require additional – or even slightly altered – steps.)

Step #1: Turn off power to the unit

a person unplugs a humidifier from the outlet
Unplug the unit.

For extra safety, unplug the unit’s power cord, and if you’re not sure where it is or can’t get to it, then turn off the corresponding breaker in your home’s electrical panel.

Step #2: Open the front cover

a finger opens the front cover a humidifier
To change your filter, you need to get to it.

Depending on the unit, the cover may have two locking mechanisms – one on the top and one on the bottom. Squeeze them at the same time and pull the cover off.

Notes our teammate, “I could just open the bottom of the unit and replace the filter; however, I open the top to remove the cover completely for easy installation and cleaning of the tray.”

Once you have the unit open, you might need to disconnect the water tube or even shut the damper, depending on your unit’s make and model.

Step #3: Remove the filter

A black and gray humidifier tray inside a humidifier
This is what a filter looks like in a humidifier.

A few quick tugs should dislodge the filter’s tray. Make a note of any colored dots and the positioning of the water tube, so you know how to replace the filter tray later. (You can add this information to the Notes section of the vipHome.app!)

Then unsnap the top of the tray and pull the filter through the open section. Discard the used filter.

Step #4: Clean the tray

a garden hose hung up on the side of a hose
Use a garden hose to clean the tray.

The tray may have mineral deposits, dirt, dust, and other build-up. Take the tray outside and hose it down, removing all the materials. Dry.

Step #5: Replace your humidifier filter

This is the main event! Slip the new filter into the tray, making sure that the color mark (or dot) is on top. Snap the tray’s top into place and then put the filter tray back into the unit. The hose hole should be on top and the drain hole on the bottom. If you need to fit the hose back into the tray or open the damper, now’s the time.

Step #6: Reattach the cover

 This should snap back into place, too.

Step #7: Plug back in the power source

an outlet on the side of a humidifier that's plugged in
Plug back in your unit.

You might also need to turn on the breaker in your home’s electrical panel.

Step #8: Turn the humidistat back on

If you hear a click in the unit and see or feel water running through the drain tube, then the humidifier is working. If you don’t see any of those signs, you should contact a professional to service the unit.

Step #9: Buy a replacement air filter for next time

the box of a Aprilaire air filter for a humidifier
Be ready for the next time.

This unit needs the filter replaced annually, usually during autumn. By buying a new filter once you replace the old one, you can make sure you’re all set for the next replacement. This will also help to ensure you buy the right filter since using the wrong one can damage the unit.

Our teammate ordered two more Aprilaire humidifier filters after changing his current one. Together, the filters cost approximately $23.00. (No word on if he scored free shipping.)

How often should you replace a humidifier filter?

Upload your unit’s manual into our home management app, so you’ll always buy the right filter. You can also use the HomeLog section as a quick reference guide for all your essential home maintenance replacement parts, such as air filters for furnaces, air conditioning units, HVAC units, and, of course, humidifiers.

If you need to order a new filter every season, then it’s important to have the filter’s specifications on hand. If you need to buy one annually, like the vipTeam, then it’s important to have the information in a place you can easily find it every 12 months.

It’s also imperative to get personalized reminders (which our home management app can send), so you know when it’s time to change your humidifier filters. This will help to keep the unit running properly and your home’s air smelling spring-time fresh – all year round!

Stay on top of home maintenance

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Download the app today!

Learn More