10 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Summer


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Warmer weather is here, which means it’s time for backyard barbeques, evenings spent on the patio, gardening, and playing catch with the kids. Break out the home maintenance checklist. We’re here to help you get your home ready for summer with these tips. 

1. Get Your A/C Tuned Up

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While there are some great DIY projects on this list, getting an A/C tune-up isn’t one of them. You should call in a professional for this task. Just as you need to get your furnace tuned up every fall, you need to get your A/C tuned up before temperatures spike in the summer.  An A/C tune-up includes inspecting and cleaning components and connections inside your A/C, and it’s important because the technician should be able to tell whether your A/C will need repairs soon. With regular tune-ups, you can help avoid unexpected breakdowns and A/C issues. If your home warranty doesn’t cover your A/C system, check out an American Home Shield® home service plan today. 

2. Conduct a Home Energy Audit 

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Now is the time to learn more about your home’s energy profile and what you can do to improve its energy efficiency. A home energy audit can tell you whether and where your home is drafty, for example, or if you need more insulation and where to install it. Whether you have it professionally done, or do it yourself, it’s worth it – and your local utility company may offer an incentive for homeowners to have this done.  

3. Install a Smart Thermostat 

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This is a great time to install a smart thermostat so you can keep your home cool while also being more energy efficient. A smart thermostat lets you program your HVAC to cool your home only when you’re in it, so you’ll save a bundle on cooling costs while still staying comfortable on even the hottest days. 

4. Get Ready for Bugs 

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Many species of insects go dormant during winter and early spring due to the colder weather, but they come out again in full force as soon as temperatures rise. Before the bugs come out, get ready for their return. Take steps to keep the bugs away, such as cleaning up piles of leaves or other debris near your house, sealing cracks in doors and windows, and inspecting window screens for holes. If you want to put out pesticides or other repellants, now is the best time to do so.  

5. Check for Water Leaks 

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The summer months bring more than heat – they can also bring storms and flooding. Check your basement for signs of water leaks. Clear out grates or drains near your home so that water is directed away from the foundation. If dirt has settled around your home, or your home is at the bottom of a hill, water will run towards your foundation. Install grates to direct water away. 

6. Clean the Gutters 

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If you only clean your gutters once a year, do it in the spring or early summer, so that they can most effectively direct the rain of summer storms away from your siding and foundation. Ideally, you should clean your gutters twice a year – once in the spring or summer, and again in the fall. 

7. Reseal Your Doors and Windows 

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Now is the time to inspect your doors and windows for missing, cracked, or peeling caulk and reseal them to prevent water leaks and draftiness. If you have wooden window frames, check to see if they need to be repainted. You can also take this opportunity to repaint your front door, if necessary, and wash your windows.  

8. Aerate, Dethatch, and Overseed the Lawn 

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Okay, so this is three things, but they all go together, and they’re all equally important to helping your lawn look its best in the summer months when you most want to use it. Your lawn may not need to be aerated, dethatched, and overseeded every year – if it looks healthy and lush, it’s probably fine, especially if it’s newly installed. But take the time to do it at least every two or three years, so your lawn stays healthy and oxygenated. It will make a big difference!

9. Spruce Up Your Garden Beds 

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This is a great time to weed, mulch, and plant in your vegetable and garden beds, and if you’re looking for summer crafts for kids, there are plenty of gardening tasks they can do. Kids love playing in the dirt, growing things, and helping out. They can help pull weeds, spread mulch and compost, and even plant seeds or seedlings. 

Related Article: Summer Gardening for You and Your Family 

10. Clean Your Patio Furniture

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Soon you’ll want to entertain friends, relatives and neighbors outside, so it’s time to drag the lawn furniture out of the garage or remove the furniture covers, and knock the cobwebs off. Use a power washer or a hose to clean chairs, tables and other pieces of lawn furniture. Don’t forget to wash the cushions! You can also take steps to protect your patio furniture so that it lasts longer. 

Don’t let summer catch you unprepared. Get your home ready for warm weather so you can focus on enjoying yourself and your loved ones.  

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations.

How to Get a Greener Lawn


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For many homeowners and avid gardeners, a perfectly green lawn is the ultimate summer statement. But getting there can be a time-consuming and difficult goal. If being the proud owner of an enviably green lawn is your dream, the goal shouldn’t be absolute perfection, but you can work toward a greener and more uniform lawn. Here are five ways to get there.

1. Water, Water Everywhere 

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During hot and dry weather, it’s important to keep your lawn hydrated. That doesn’t mean wastefully drenching your lawn in water unnecessarily, though. Here are a few ways to do it: 

  • Learn how to effectively water your lawn and only water when absolutely necessary. Most lawns can withstand periods of drought without long-term, permanent damage. This will save water and money on your water bills! 
  • Keep the height of your lawn cut a little higher than usual so only the tips of the grass are cut.
  • Keep grass clippings on the lawn to reduce water evaporation from the sod.

2. Consider Your Location 

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Make sure you choose the type of grass that’s best suited for your particular conditions. There are a variety of grass types for different climates, soils, shade conditions, and purposes. Know what your lawn will be used for and choose the right type of grass: is it a formal or ornamental lawn, will be used for play or heavy traffic, do you want to minimize weeds, or do you want it to thrive in a low-water environment?  

3. Mow the Right Way

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Properly and consistently mowing your lawn is pivotal to maintaining a healthy, green lawn all season long. Starting around the beginning of May, grass will start to grow like crazy in most parts of the country. To keep your lawn in tip-top shape, it’s important to have a regular mowing routine and stick to it as much as possible. About once a week is usually the right mowing frequency for most lawns in the late spring and summer. You can lessen the frequency in fall and winter, usually about every 10 days to two weeks.  

Before you mow, ensure all debris is clear from the lawn, and gently rake the lawn to lift and straighten up the grass blades. Aim to do a gentle mow early in the mowing season, so you remove only the tips of the grass. In the summer, you should aim to remove about one-third of the growth in each mow.  

4. Aerate and Feed Your Lawn 

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In the spring and fall, it’s helpful to rake the build-up of dead grass. It’s also recommended to aerate the lawn using a special aerating tool that can push down into the lawn about three inches deep. These tasks will help get air into the soil to improve drainage and minimize the risk of fungal disease affecting your lawn. 

After aerating your lawn, you may want to rake compost and grass seed into the grass as a supplement. You can also feed your grass, just make sure it’s a food made for fall feeding.

5. Fake it Until You Make it 

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When in doubt, consider installing artificial grass. There are a lot of benefits to an artificial lawn: low maintenance, consistent appearance, no mowing, no weeds, great for pets. The downside is the cost of installation, and the undeniable allure of a real lawn. As far as environmental concerns go, it’s a toss-up: some people say an artificial lawn eliminates the need for fertilizers and helps cut down on precious water usage, especially in arid climates. Others say real plants are better for the environment, soil, and drainage concerns. There’s no right or wrong option here, so just determine if an artificial lawn is right for you and embrace whatever choice you make! 

Getting the green lawn of your dreams can bring a real sense of pride and accomplishment. Just like the rest of your home. Protect the systems and appliances in and around your house with an American Home Shield home service plan. Just like the right combination of elements that result in a green lawn, there’s a plan that’s just right for you and your budget.  

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations. 

How to Get Your A/C Unit Ready for Summer


How often does central A/C need maintenance? Ideally, you should have your A/C serviced once a year, in the early spring, before temperatures climb and you need to rely on the unit to keep your home comfortable. But it can be hard to book a service appointment, especially since the best contractors tend to also be the busiest.

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Fortunately, while there are some A/C maintenance tasks the average homeowner won’t have the skills or equipment to do, you can perform most A/C maintenance tasks on your own. If you’re wondering how to make sure your A/C is ready for summer, here’s what you need to know to perform your own A/C tune-up.

Change the Air Filters

The first step in your DIY A/C tune-up should be changing the filter in the blower unit. You can find it on your indoor furnace and A/C blower, between the large fresh air return duct and the furnace itself. You may need a screwdriver to remove the cover to the filter enclosure. Remove the old filter and put a fresh one in its place, matching up the airflow direction arrows to those on your unit. Replace your filter at least every six months, but preferably every one to three months if you have pets or someone in your home has respiratory issues.

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Shut Off Power to the Unit

Before you start taking apart your outdoor unit to clean and service it, shut off power to the unit. There should be a shutoff box on the exterior of your home near the unit. Open it and shut off the power, usually by pulling out a plug inside the box, or removing a fuse. Go inside and shut off your A/C at the breaker box, too.

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Clean the Inside of the Condenser

Use a screwdriver, nut driver or wrench to remove the top of the cage from the outdoor unit, and remove the fan, too, if it’s not attached to the top. Give the fan blades a spin to make sure they haven’t locked up over the winter. Remove any leaves, sticks, or other debris from inside the unit with your hands or a shop vac.

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Clean and Straighten the Fins

You have to be careful cleaning the condenser coils, because you could easily damage them with too much water pressure or a heavy hand. If you don’t know how to clean condenser coils, you can at least rest assured that it’s not too technically difficult. Use a soft brush attachment on your shop vac to gently vacuum dust and debris from the coils, or wash them with a gentle spray from a garden hose.

Once you have cleaned the condenser coils, examine them for bent fins. Carefully straighten any bent fins with a butter knife or a fin comb. Take care not to damage the pipes inside the fins.

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Clear Plants and Debris from Around the Unit

Your A/C unit needs at least two feet of clearance around it, so you’ll need to remove weeds, plants, and debris from around the outdoor unit so that it can get the airflow it needs to function properly. If you have garden plants growing close to your A/C unit, you should move them. If you have any kind of structure intended to camouflage your A/C, make sure it provides proper ventilation.6

Level the Unit

Check the concrete pad under your unit to make sure it’s leveled. If it isn’t, pry it up with a board and level it by placing gravel underneath. If your unit isn’t leveled, it could fail prematurely.

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations. 

Dishwasher Won’t Drain? Here Are 8 Steps to Fix it


One of the most common problems reported to plumbers by homeowners is when a dishwasher won’t drain. While it can be scary to open the dishwasher door and see standing water at the bottom, it isn’t always a plumbing emergency. In fact, you may be able to correct the problem yourself without professional help. 

What to Do When Your Dishwasher Won’t Drain 

If draining your dishwasher is an issue, here are eight simple techniques to try at home.

1.  Run the Disposal  

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A full garbage disposal or an air gap in a connecting hose can prevent water from properly draining out of the dishwasher. Simply running the disposal for about 30 seconds may fix the issue.  

2. Check for Blockages  

Check the bottom of the dishwasher to make sure that an item or pieces of food haven’t fallen from the rack to block the water flow.  

3. Load the Dishwasher Correctly  

Make sure you’re loading the dishwasher correctly. Read the manufacturers’ instructions or owner’s manual for tips and directions on how to load dishes for best results. 

4. Clean or Change the Filter 

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You may have a clogged dishwasher filter that’s preventing water from draining. Many homeowners don’t realize that dishwasher filters need to be cleaned regularly. Check your owner’s manual to see where the filter is located on your dishwasher, and for instructions on how and when to clean it. For many dishwashers, the filter can be found on the inside bottom of the appliance. 

5. Inspect the Drain Hose 

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Check the drain hose connecting to the sink and garbage disposal. Straighten any kinks that you may see, which could be causing the problem. Blow through the hose or poke a wire hanger through to check for clogs. Make sure the hose seal is tight, too. 

6. Double-check the Drain Valve 

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Inspect the drain valve found on the valve bracket, often located at the bottom of the machine. Push on the valve to make sure it moves freely and isn’t stuck. 

7. Try Vinegar and Baking Soda 

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Mix together about one cup each of baking soda and vinegar and pour the mixture into the standing water at the bottom of the dishwasher. Leave for about 20 minutes. If the water is draining or starting to drain at that time, rinse with hot water and then run the dishwasher’s rinse cycle. That may be enough to help loosen any clogs or debris that are preventing the dishwasher from draining properly.  

8. Listen to Your Machine While It’s Running 

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Listen to your dishwasher while it’s running a cycle. If it doesn’t make the usual operating sounds, particularly if it’s making a humming or clicking noise, the drain pump and motor may need replacing. If this occurs, it may be time to call a professional for help.  

How to Properly Drain a Dishwasher 

If you need to clear standing water at the bottom of a dishwasher, here’s how to drain it: 

  • Line the floor under the dishwasher with towels or newspaper.  
  • With a measuring cup or a large ladle, scoop the water from the bottom into a bowl or the sink.  
  • When the water becomes too shallow to scoop, soak up the remaining moisture with cloth or paper towels. 

Always make sure that you’re using the right type of dish detergent per manufacturer’s directions, to avoid clogging the drain. Taking some preventative steps to keep your dishwasher running smoothly can also help you avoid drainage issues in the future. 

Looking for an affordable home warranty plan? Here’s where to start: 

10 Steps to Drain Water Out of a Washing Machine


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We know how annoying can be when you go to your laundry area to transfer a load of clothes from the washer to the dryer, but water remains in the washer tub even though the cycle has finished. It can be confusing, frustrating and inconvenient when this happens. You can turn on the spin cycle to see if the water will drain, but if that doesn’t help, you’re right back where you started – with a load of soaking laundry and a washer full of water.  

Why Won’t My Washing Machine Drain Water? 

There are a few possibilities why your washing machine won’t drain. that might happen. Your washer may have a clogged drain hose or the pump may be broken. A broken lid switch or belt could also be the culprit. It may even be something as simple as the hose being jammed. Whatever the reason, the water will need to be drained from the washing machine before any work or diagnosis can be done. 

What Does the Drain Function on a Washing Machine Do? 

It removes the water from the tub during the spin cycle. The washer pump forces water from the bottom of the machine into the drain hose. The drain hose loops to the top of the machine, and then down to the drain, enabling the tub to fill. When the water reaches the bend in the hose, it goes out of the drain. 

How to Drain Water Out of a Washing Machine 

If you have water in your washer that hasn’t drained, you have a couple of options: 

One is to bail it out, but that can be a time consuming and tedious process. It can also be hard on your back to bend over to reach the bottom of the tub repeatedly. An easier way is to let the drain hose and gravity do the hard work for you. Here are some of the things you’ll need to have on hand for the task: 

  • Bucket
  • Screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Sponge and towels
  • Clamp 

Step 1 – Turn off the power 

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Unplug the washer from the outlet or turn off power at the circuit breaker or fuse box. While not mandatory, it’s also a good idea to turn the hot and cold water connections to the washing machine just to be safe.  

Step 2 – Locate the drain hose at the back of the washer 

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First, look to see if it is bent or kinked, which may be blocking the water flow. If that’s the case, simply straightening the hose may fix the problem. If the hose has no visible bends or kinks, then disconnect it from the drain, unscrewing with a clamp attached if necessary. Be sure to keep the hose higher than the washer tub until you’re ready to empty the water.  

Step 3 – Prepare your bucket and drain hose 

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Get the bucket in place and drop the hose lower than the washer tub into the bucket. If the bucket fills, raise the hose above the washer tub until you can empty the bucket and start to fill it again. If the water doesn’t flow freely, the filter may be blocked, which you’ll need to clear before continuing. 

Step 4 – Check for and remove all clogs in the drain hose 

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Once the water has drained, check the hose for a clogged piece of clothing or a soap blockage. Loosen the clamp that connects the hose to the bottom of the tub and inspect the inside. If you see something clogging the hose or a clog where the hose connects, remove it with your pliers and reconnect the hose. 

Step 5 – Check for deeper clogs in the drain or beyond  

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If the hose is clear, there may be a clog in the drain or beyond, which means you’ll likely need to use a plumber’s snake to clear it.  

Step 6 – Inspect the washer pump 

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Check the washer pump, to see if it has a clog or a broken impeller, belt or a leak. Refer to your manufacturer’s instructions for a diagram of your unit’s pump location and parts. In most cases, you’ll notice an unusual noise when the washer is operating that indicates a bad pump, or leaking may also be a sign. If you have a bad pump, you’ll need to replace it or call a qualified service technician for help. If you replace it yourself, be sure to purchase the same pump model.   

Step 7 – Inspect the washing machine lid switch

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To see if the lid switch is working, depress it by hand. If you don’t hear a click, it may be broken and need replacing.  

Step 8 – Inspect the washing machine for damaged belts 

To see if damaged belts are causing your drain problem, unscrew the access panel and check the main belt and the pump belt. Refer to your manufacturer’s diagram to locate these parts. 

Step 9 – Check to see if your configuration includes a washing machine drain vent 

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A drain vent allows air in which can help prevent a vacuum that could hamper water draining properly from the machine.  If there is a gap around the drain hose where it enters the drain, you may not need a vent. You should have a vent if building codes require one or if your washer is more than four feet from the vent stack for proper draining. 

Step 10 – When in doubt, call a service professional for help 

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If you’ve drained the water from your washer and inspected the hose, pump and lid switch and still can’t pinpoint the problem, you’ll probably need to call a professional plumber or washing machine service technician for help.

Home Warranty and Insurance Guide


Aerial view of residential neighborhood with colorful fall foliage North of Dallas, Texas.

Home warranty or home insurance? We vote both.

American Home Shield home warranty plans help pay to repair or replace home systems and appliances – things like A/C, heating, appliances and more. Homeowners insurance helps with the cost of repairs needed as a result of accidental damage or theft – things like natural disasters, fires and break-ins.

Contact your Ebby agent to find out more about how American Home Shield can pick up where homeowners insurance leaves off.