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How to summer-proof your home in 2021

Getting your house ready for summer is always important. This year, though, it’s more important than ever. Here’s how to do it right.

In a world that’s been upended, it can be comforting to observe familiar rituals. In summer, some of those rituals are fun: Taking in a ballgame, or making burgers on the grill. And some of those rituals are… less fun, unless you consider making sure your air conditioning still works “fun.”

Still, weather-proofing your house for summer is necessary, as the only thing less fun than working on your home is paying to have it repaired. (And with the COVID pandemic still lingering, you’re likely to spend a second straight summer at home more often than not.)

Below, a checklist of things to check on at your house during a normal changing of the seasons, plus some COVID-specific tips related to health, safety and, perhaps most importantly, fun.

In this article:

Inside your house

Yes, it’s hot outside, but that will have a serious impact on what’s within your walls. Here is a list of things to check in on and do before the summer heat gets out of hand.

The air conditioning

Perhaps the most important tip related to air conditioning is to deal with it before the weather gets truly hot. Installing a window unit can be sweaty work even in mild temperatures, and buying an A/C during the first hot weekend of the summer months is much like looking for a turkey on Thanksgiving day.

If you already have an air conditioner, replace the filter and clean the vents thoroughly before the warmer months hit. Then turn it on and make sure it still works. (Why clean it before checking it works? Because if you switch on a dirty air conditioner, it’ll spew out dust.)

If you’re buying a new air conditioning unit, work out how powerful it should be. Air conditioner power is measured in BTUs, so depending on the size of the room you wish to cool, you could be looking for a 5,000 BTU air conditioning unit or something that goes up to 18,000. When calculating what you’ll need, the general rule of thumb is to multiply the square footage of the room in question by 20 to arrive at the correct BTU, but it’s worth using an online BTU calculator which takes into account ceiling height, climate and other factors to arrive at the right number. You’ll probably find that your BTU number is expressed as a range — say 12,000 to 14,000. If space allows, it’s best to get a unit at the upper end of the range as it will cool the room faster and can be run for less time, which helps reduce your electricity bill.

Most new units have a timer, so they can be switched off while you’re out of the house and come back on to cool it shortly before you return. If you don’t find a unit with a timer (or your current unit doesn’t have one), get a basic plug-in timer (about six bucks from the hardware store) — it’ll save you a fortune. (And, of course, those with larger homes can look into whether a smart home device, like Nest, can provide similar savings.)

Ceiling fans

On warm days, rather than fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk days, ceiling fans often provide adequate cooling while using a fraction of the electricity required by an air conditioner. If you don’t have any fans, they’re worth considering. If you do have a ceiling fan, first clean the blades — the tops get filthy. Remember to clear the space below the fan (because of falling dust and grime) or put down an old sheet. Next, change the direction in which your fan spins. In summer it should spin counter clockwise to push cold air downwards. (In winter, if the fan spins slowly in a clockwise direction it will pull cool air upwards, forcing warm air down). Most fans have a small direction switch above the blades. A ceiling fan is a great way to lower energy costs during the summer season.

Insulation

One tends to think of insulation as something that keeps us warm, but in fact it’s just as important in summer. Not only does it keep cool air in and warm air out, it also acts as a barrier to insects and other small critters which proliferate and seek pleasant indoor locations (like your house) as the mercury rises.

We have some insulation tips here, all of which are the same for summer and winter (including the options for upgrading your windows). Bear in mind that it may actually be better to deal with insulation in summer than winter — if you have to open up a wall or ceiling, at least you won’t freeze.

Ventilation

Thanks to COVID, ventilation has become a hot topic — if you want to have people visit you indoors, it’s helpful to have plenty of fresh air movement. When you think about ventilation, remember that what you want to achieve is a through draft. You want air to come in, move through your home, and leave. The best way to achieve this may not be to just open all the windows in the room where you’re congregating, as you may find that a bathroom or kitchen window open at the other end of the house helps create proper air flow. If you can’t get the breeze you want just by opening windows, consider using your A/C in “fan” mode along with an open window, which can take air out of the house. Or use a standing floor fan: they don’t take up a lot of space, and can be stored in a closet when not used.

Also remember that open windows let in bugs as well as air. If your windows don’t have screens, get some — the hardware shop will have adjustable ones that fit most windows and budgets.

Seating arrangements

The other way to make your home more COVID-safe is to reconfigure your space so guests can remain at a distance from you and your family. Depending on how much room you have to play with, this could mean anything from getting a bigger dining table to placing existing living room furniture further apart and closer to windows. Whatever you can do to create physical distance between people from different households while they’re at your place will help.

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Outside the house

If you’re having people over — whether little people for your kids to hang out with, or full-sized friends of your own — you’ll probably be seeing them outside this summer if at all possible, since that’s the safest option. If you have outdoor space, whether a small flight of steps or a serious backyard, the key is to make it fun-ready for adults and kids, so you’ll actually spend time out there.

The grill

Assuming your grill was lying idle during winter, take it out and give it a deep clean. Also make sure you have plenty of propane or charcoal and lighters. While you’re at it, check that none of your grilling tools got “lost” (i.e., turned into playthings by your kids) over the last few months.

Small outdoor spaces

If you live in an apartment, your outdoor space may be limited to what New Yorkers call a stoop — a few stairs leading into the building. While this isn’t ideal for a multi-course meal, it’s perfect for drinks and snacks with friends. Make sure you have plenty of cushions for guests, because after an hour or so, the novelty of sitting on concrete wears off. Be sure the covers are easily washable and, since you’re sitting on something other people walk on, choose darker colors.

A porch, deck and/ or garden

Consider whether your porch needs to be re-stained or re-painted, if so, now is the time: The weather is pleasant and you haven’t bought any new outdoor furniture yet. Make it look as nice and feel as comfortable as your living room, since that’s what it will be for the next few months: add plants, check you have enough seating for guests and see if any of it needs to be repainted or have rust removed. Get some large pillows for smaller children. Small, stackable tables are also a good idea.

If it gets chilly at night where you live, get some blankets for guests so that people who arrive in shorts during the afternoon can comfortably hang outdoors once the sun has set.

Pest control

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, which could mean anything from a pond to a bird bath. Where possible, standing water should be eliminated (such as emptying out toys in the yard which might hold water after a rainy day). When you can’t get rid of water (the contents of your dog’s water bowl), change it often so the mosquito larvae don’t have time to turn into winged, biting things.

Your house Itself

Most of the tips above are about looking after people, but your home needs TLC, too. Clean out your gutters (mosquitoes love damp gutters) and while you’re up there, take a look at your roof to see if it’s been damaged during winter. Take a good look at your exterior paint job and siding — does anything need to be smartened up or mended? This is the best time of year for all such tasks.

If you have kids

If your kids have spent the last year on Zoom, summer is the perfect time for them and their friends to get back to a non-digital life. Here are some ways to make your home a fun place to be young.

Pools

COVID hasn’t just been good to Zoom, Netflix and food delivery apps — it has also boosted demand for at-home pools of all shapes and sizes. If you have the space and desire for your own water world, remember that last summer, all kinds of backyard pools sold out, so you should order one now. Options range from paddling pools to something an adult could use for (short) laps. Just remember to keep an eye on kids, especially those who haven’t learned to swim, at all times while they’re in the water.

Trampolines

Like pools, they come in all sizes and, unlike pools, they can be folded away in winter time. Take a look at this guide to child-safe trampolines and see if one of them might suit your kid and their friends.

A net

Badminton and volleyball are fairly COVID-safe games that kids and families can play together, and they require minimal equipment, which can be easily stored out of season.

Puzzles and board games

If you’d like your kids to entertain themselves without using screens, this could be the summer to make it happen. Because of COVID, it may be unwise for your child to spend hours sitting inside next to their best friend, playing video games on a giant TV. So get some board games — introduce your child to the games of your (or your parents’) childhood. COVID hasn’t given us many fond memories, but your child playing checkers outside as the sun dips could turn out to be one of them.

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About Michael Davis

Read more by Michael Davis

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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