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Weathering the Storm

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Saying goodbye to your Shore home after another summer spent filling it with memories is a mixed bag of emotions, from being ready to go back home to already missing the sunshine and salty air of Shore season. It can be hard to turn off the lights one last time when you have no idea if this offseason will bring bitter cold, relentless snow and wintertime storms to Jersey Shore communities.
But local experts can help make sure your seaside getaway keeps giving you years of warm memories instead of winter's nasty surprises.

Keeping an Eye on Things
Jason Mangone of Your Home Concierge, an offshoot of longtime construction company C. Alexander Building & Maintenance, says that having someone physically check on your vacant Shore house can provide not only an invaluable peace of mind but also immediately responsive hands-on care, whether it's standard maintenance, professional winterizing or preparing for an off-season storm.

"One thing we do is offer specialty services," he says. "For example, a lot of what actually causes leakage are drafts coming under the home in the crawl space because that's just cold air circulating around where your pipes are. So something that we offer is securing crawl spaces' vents in the offseason to avoid that cold circulation and protect your pipes better."

Mangone adds that his company's clients are given checklists when they move in and move out for the season. It minimizes the potential for missing critical to-do items, as well as gives Your Home Concierge members the opportunity to select additional off-season measures that prevent cold-weather damage.

"You don't want your outdoor furniture sitting outside all winter; you probably want to bring your screens in; leave your bathroom doors ajar so warmer air can circulate, especially if they have outside-facing walls; and, arguably the most important, leave your drains open so that if there is flooding, there's somewhere for that water to go and mitigate damage," he suggests.

A Backup Plan
Winter storms present infinite opportunities for unforeseen disasters, which is why one of the most common professionally recommended assets is a generator—though not all generators are created equal. While a portable gas-powered one might be fine if your home loses power while it's occupied, homeowners should keep in mind that that's only a viable option if someone is present to start the machine and re-fuel it as needed. That's why the pros tend to suggest having a permanent stand-by generator installed.

VP of Operations for Colonial Generators Eda Petuqi has seen time and again how clients have benefited from having emergency systems in place. And whether you rely on a generator to power just the most critical circuits or the entirety of a house, correct maintenance is essential.
"Standby generators are the single best way to secure your home from the effects of power outages caused by major storms," Petuqi confirms. "They can protect against flooded basements, frozen pipes and defrosted freezers while you are away, and provide comfort and convenience if you are present for a power outage. Most generators are required to be serviced every year, sometimes more frequently depending on hours of runtime. It is very important to make sure the engine is properly serviced according to the manufacturer's guidelines, including regularly changing the oil, oil filter, air filter and spark plugs, and checking that the battery is properly charged."

She notes that winterizing your Shore home and preparing it for off-season storms aren't terribly dissimilar procedures. And their most important commonality is ensuring that a permanent generator is in good working order and properly set to its "stand-by" mode so it will kick in automatically should a storm trigger a power outage.

"Winterizing a Shore home and preparing for offseason storms are very similar processes with regards to your existing back-up home generator," says Petuqi. "One important note is that this is only the case for stand-by generators that are permanently installed and connected to a steady fuel source. ... Home generators are complex equipment to install and to maintain, and working with a certified generator dealer is the absolute best way to ensure your generator will perform when the big storm arrives."

Preventative measures may carry seemingly off-putting initial costs but, as Dan Gattuso of Dry Guys says, a couple thousand dollars of assurance is an easier cost to absorb than the significantly higher one associated with preventable damage. He adds that Dry Guys holds 31 patents, including one for its UltraSump backup system, unique for its ability to pump more than 14,000 gallons of water on a full charge, as well as working with a home's alarm system to notify the far-away owner it's running on a backup energy source well before floodwaters are an immediate threat.

"The average battery backup from a system you'd get off the shelf does about 400 gallons an hour and it's good for about 1,500 to 4,000 gallons; the pump that we use does 2,250 gallons an hour, which is far higher than most other pumps," Gattuso explains. "So with that sump pump good for 14,000 gallons—which is more than most Shore houses need—there's plenty of time for them to get there or find a neighbor or call us to see what the problem is. That peace of mind is priceless."

When it comes to handling a weather-related crisis at a Shore home you can't always rush down to or that might be blocked by impassable hurdles, every second can be the difference between an inconvenient headache and devastating heartache. That's why Gattuso says it's so important to give yourself as much of a time buffer as possible with adequate preventative measures.

"People with Shore homes live farther inland, so when a heavy storm would come, they used to just hope their sump pumps works," he says. "Now when they get system alerts, they know as soon as they're running on backup and it means they have days' and days' worth of power."
Mangone says that closing up a Shore home for the winter is less stressful nowadays with so many technological options allowing homeowners to keep tabs on their properties remotely, like monitoring a Shore home's thermostat from a dedicated app or install cameras that allow them to be their own eyes on the property. Still, there's no replacement for getting human eyes on your property, especially since technology isn't always a failsafe.

"It's a good idea to make arrangements for monitoring your generator," adds Petuqi. "The best way is with remote monitoring applications (Generac Mobile Link, Cummins Connect Cloud, Kohler OnCue, etc.) that notify you of issues in real time utilizing an internet connection to your generator. ... If an issue does arise, you can notify your generator service provider. If your generator is not capable of being monitored through an internet connection, you may be able to have a neighbor or local caretaker check in on the machine periodically to make sure it is working properly."

"In the wake of a storm, where we're physically standing in a member's driveway or their house and getting visual confirmation to tell them everything's fine, it's an additional level of peace of mind," Mangone says. "Technology gives you some powerful tools but when we're talking about a multi-million-dollar investment, it's really nice to talk to a human being and get assurance from them."

Colonial Generators
Serving Del., N.J. & Pa.
(844) 376-9374

Dry Guys
Serving N.J., Pa. and the Shore
(844) 641-1315

Your Home Concierge
Avalon, Stone Harbor, Sea Isle and Strathmere, N.J. | (609) 402-9210
Longport, Margate, Ventnor, Brigantine and Ocean City, N.J. | (609) 823-9200

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 21, Issue 11 (Fall 2021). 
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