Preparing for Winter Weather in Ukiah 2014

You’ve heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, it’s true with home maintenance, too. After writing about earthquakes and disaster preparedness recently, I received a note from a reader who told me about a “motion-activated” gas shut off valve.

I called local plumber John Chan to get the details. He explained how the valve works: a small metal ball is suspended via a magnet, powered by a small electrical charge. If an earthquake hits, a sensor is triggered, electricity to the magnet is cut, and the ball falls to prevent gas from escaping. While there is a downside, (having to re-light pilot lights) it is minimal compared to your house blowing up or your family breathing gas until they don’t breathe anymore.

(I don’t know how sensitive the sensor is, but any time your gas service stops, you’ll have to relight your pilot lights. If John Chan is your plumber, he’ll re-light pilot lights at no charge.)

If electricity goes out—unrelated to an earthquake—but your gas service is fine, you may want to consider a battery back up to keep certain gas appliances going—yes, some gas appliances depend on a smidge of electricity to run. For example, I have a gas water heater, and I really don’t like to lose hot water when the electricity goes out (which I would because of the electric thermostat), so I have a battery back up that comes on automatically to prevent the pilot light from going out.

Other preventive tips you may find helpful this time of year include checking whether you have propane in the tank and whether your central heat will fire up after its long summer off. It’s a real bummer to be uncomfortably cold and find your heater is out of commission. You can check the propane levels yourself, but if you don’t know how to assure your heater is in good working order, you can call a local heating and air company. Mark Devereux of Devco Heating and Air Conditioning said his company charges about $100 for the service. I just refilled my tank and it cost $1.81/gallon. I get a little discount because I bought my own tank, but if you’re paying more than $2.00/gallon, consider finding a new propane company.

As a side note, if you use a wood burning or gas stove for your heat, I recommend buying a little fan that goes on top and sends the heat out into the house. The fan converts heat from the stove to electricity to power itself. Pure genius. The fans are available at Mendo Mill, ER Energy, and Friedman’s, and range in price from about $100 – $250.

By this time in the year, hopefully you’ve already cleaned out your gutters and made sure you have insulation on any exposed pipes. If not, now’s the time. After the first rains of the season, it’s also a great idea to look for evidence of water leaks or intrusions (check window sills, sheet rock—especially in hard-to-see places like closets, and damp spots in your attic). And, while you’re at it, fall is a great time to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure your homeowner’s insurance is up-to-date. Check weather stripping around doors and windows, and have your chimney cleaned before the first fire of the season.

A little maintenance can go a long way.

And a little plug for the Safe Ukiah contest, in case you haven’t heard. Realty World Selzer Realty is offering $750 to the person who submits the best plan to make Ukiah safer. Curious? Call my office for details at (707)462-4000.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at or visit our website at If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.


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