Keeping your cool during summer means a lot more than having your temper under check. As the mercury rises, home maintenance issues crop up with amazing regularity, given the increased demand for cool environs. PW spoke to experts to get their views on the common home maintenance issues that plague residents, in villas or apartments, across Dubai, during the hot summer months.
On or off: the air-conditioning conundrum
Air conditioning is definitely one of the biggest home maintenance concerns during summers. Euan Cameron, general manager of We Will Fix It, says, “For those staying back in the UAE during the summer months there is a fear of an AC breakdown as temperatures edge closer to 50 degrees. For people heading out of the city, no one wants that call from friends or neighbours letting them know there is a problem at home. Empty houses and shoddy plumbing are the perfect recipe for disaster.”
Among common calls for home maintenance during peak summer months, “the air conditioner running but not cooling” tops the list. Mohammed Saif, co-founder and COO of HammerHeads, says there are a variety of reasons for air-conditioning giving way, or not cooling to desired levels during summers.
“It could be dirty air filter or low gas, but the most common reason that requires immediate attention is that the compressor or motor burns out because of cheap wiring used during installation,” he explains. “Often such cheap wiring cannot withstand the heat on the roof and hence quickly burns out.”
Another common concern voiced by expats travelling during summer is whether to leave the AC on while travelling. While there are set rules, the general consensus among experts is to leave the AC on, while maintaining a stable but higher temperature of 27C-28C. Cameron says that although this may come at the expense of a higher utility bill, it protects your property from potential damage due to temperature differences and humidity. But it’s always better to have someone keep an eye on the house while you are away.
“It is always a good idea to ask a friend to do a quick tour of your home a couple of times,” says Cameron. “Hence if any issues develop with your AC while you are away, the problems can be rectified before any major damage occurs.”
It also helps ensuring that the ACs are serviced and in good condition before leaving. “Residents need to make sure that their ACs are equipped with high gauge wires that have good insulation to withstand the heat,” says Saif. “We also recommend servicing your AC units every quarter to prevent blockages or gas leaks.”
The Dubai summer sun can be exceptionally hard and without proper care, plants that were once “plush green can turn to brittle brown blades of grass.” Villa residents also tend to cut the grass too small or use a non-automated irrigation system. Here is what you can do:
* Set your lawn mower blade setting to high, because taller grass grows deeper roots and deeper roots can reach moisture that’s further down in the soil.
* Sprinkle sweet sand over the grass every two weeks to help spread the roots and give even more growth for the grass.
* Less is more as sprinkling too much water causes good nutrients beneath the roots to be washed away. Sprinkling half an inch twice a week, preferably early in the morning to avoid evaporation, keeps greens refreshed.
How do I avoid a flood?
The standard of plumbing in many homes in Dubai leaves a lot to be desired and your worst nightmare could be returning to a water-damaged home.
“Flooding is one of the most common problems that people return to when leaving their homes empty for a long period of time,” says Cameron. “Nothing puts a dampener on your summer holidays like opening the door to a messed-up living room. The safest way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to isolate the water supply at the pump. Once done you should run one set of taps for five seconds on both the hot and cold side to de-pressurize the system.”
Choked pool filter pumps
Swimming pools can serve as the ideal saviour during the summer heat. But choked pumps are a common woe as debris and leaves enter the filtering system due to improper care. Have less trees close to the pool, suggests Saif, and daily cleaning can leave your pool swim-ready round the summer.
“Villas that have trees by their pools often have dry leaves falling in the water,” says Saif. “These eventually end up in the filter pump of the pool. The filter pump ensures that the pool is circulating well so that there is no growth of algae. Once it gets blocked, the circulation slows down causing the pool to fill up with algae and turn green. To avoid this, ensure that there are as less trees as possible close to the pool area and have the pool surface cleaned every other day along with a biweekly full service.”
During summer birds often build nests in kitchen and bathroom vents because these places are not only cooler but keep them secure from predators such as cats. Many residents will be oblivious to this until they hear excessive scratching sounds or smell foul odour.
“The best way to prevent this is to install fly-nets on the outside so it doesn’t inhibit the air flow and still prevents birds from entering the exhaust,” suggests Saif. “If birds do take up residence within a vent, they should be removed immediately with the help of a professional.”
Other common problems that end users suffer from during summer include enduring hot water during bath times, which can be resolved by building a shade for rooftop water tanks, as well as high energy bills, which can be avoided by keeping the house naturally cool through curtains and shades.