Ten home maintenance myths

A black radiator

We all like to think we know best when it comes to our homes, whether it's energy-saving tips or clever maintenance tricks.

But have you ever checked out whether they're actually true?

"We all have that one friend or family member that swears by an age old myth when it comes to home improvements and DIY," says Stephen Jury, spokesperson for home improvement marketplace Plentific.com.

"Whether it's an energy saving tip or secret cleaning hack, knowing what actually provides results and what is a waste of time can be tricky."

Their experts have put together a list of the top ten home improvement and DIY myths - are you making any of these mistakes?

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1. Solar panels don't work on a cloudy day
With summer on the way, it may seem like the perfect time to install solar panels, because everyone knows that solar panels need sunlight to work, right? Wrong. Although they do work best on a sunny day, they are still perfectly functional on cloudy days, as they can still absorb UV and infrared light.

2. Leaving the heating on low all day is more efficient
Many people believe that leaving the heating on low all day is more efficient than turning it on as and when you need it. However, because no home is completely airtight, you will always be losing a little heat, even if your system is on low. Only having the heating on when you need it means nothing's wasted when you're not around.

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3. Bleach eliminates mould spores
This is a common misconception due to the fact that bleach will kill and remove the visible mould. It doesn't, though, get rid of the spores. To do this, you'll just need to scrub with detergent - although it's worth investigating the cause and treating it properly. Mould can be as bad for your health as asbestos.

4. Painting a radiator will make it more efficient
While it's true that darker colours are better at absorbing and transmitting heat than lighter colours, covering a radiator in dark paint will not improve its efficiency. Radiators actually work through convective heating, warming the air around them. Painting over a radiator can actually insulate it, actually making it less efficient.

5. The best time to water the grass is the evening
Heat evaporates water, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that the best time to water your garden is after the sun goes down. This does have some benefits for soil, helping it soak up and retain water more efficiently - but it also creates an ideal breeding ground for mould, fungi and other potential problems for your garden. The best time to water your grass is, in fact, as the sun is rising, giving it time to absorb as much water as it needs to before the sun evaporates the excess.

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6. You can kill trees using copper nails
It's an age old myth that copper nails can kill trees, but in an ordinary healthy tree a copper nail won' have much of an effect. In fact, it's thought that some plants use copper as a source of proteins that are essential for photosynthesis. There have even been cases of trees being chopped down to reveal rings of copper nails that the tree has actually grown around.

7. Asbestos always needs to be removed
Although in some cases this is true, there are exceptions where there is no need to remove asbestos within your home. Contrary to common belief, asbestos isn't actually harmful to your health unless the fibers become exposed or disturbed due to home renovations or decorating. Still, although materials containing asbestos won't necessarily affect your health if left alone, it's always important to check them on a regular basis for wear and tear as this is when damage can be done.

8. Conkers keep spiders at bay
Many people will remember visiting their grandparents and finding little piles of conkers on the window sills and in the corners of the bathroom. The myth is that conkers contain a harmful chemical that wards off and can even kill spiders, making them ideal as a natural repellent. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove that this works. Instead, though you could pop a couple in your wardrobe to keep moths away, as this is one tip that's proven to get results.

9. Coffee grounds unclog sinks
This could be doing your sink more harm than good, as coffee grounds are one of the top causes of blocked drains. Emptying coffee grounds down a sink will create a build up of thick slushy material that may require a plumber to unblock. Some plumbers even compare it to pouring cement down the sink!

10. Turning your electronics on and off at the plug wastes energy
While some people believe turning devices on and off at the wallplug generates a surge in energy greater than leaving appliances on standby, this isn't generally the case. Having said that, the belief that turning off appliances at the switch stops the use of energy is also, in fact, false.

The top ten DIY projects: are they worth it?
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The top ten DIY projects: are they worth it?

Of course with all these things, the value it adds depends on the property you have to start with, and the kinds of improvements you make, but Which? estimates the cost of a new kitchen at £8,000 and HSBC calculates the added value to your property at £4,500 - which is a clear loss.

This has been done by 41% of people in the last three years, and 29% of people plan it in the next three. It's cheaper than a kitchen, and Which? estimates the cost at £3,000. This is roughly the same value that HSBC says it will add to your property - so you'll break-even.

This has been installed by 31% of us in the last three years, and 15% plan it in the next three. Installing central heating is a disruptive job, and according to WhatPrice it will cost you around £3,235. However, this is the first of the top ten to actually pay off. Property expert Phil Spencer says it will add £5,000 to the value.

Some 18% have added one in the last three years, and 30% will in the next three. This is another huge job, but with more people struggling to move and deciding to improve instead, it's increasingly popular. The amount it costs will depend on an enormous number of things, from the area you have to work with, to the size of the extension. However, assuming you add a single room you could spend around £20,000. HSBC estimates it will add around £15,500 to the value of the property, so you are unlikely to gain as much as you spend.

17% have done one of these in the last three years, and 20% will in the next three. This doesn't have to cost more than a couple of hundred pounds, but according to a survey from Halifax a few years ago it costs an average of £850 and adds almost £1,500 to the value. This is the second financial sound project in the list.

11% of us have knocked rooms through in the last three years and 8% will in the next three. If you're creating more usable space, then buyers won't mind you are reducing the number of rooms. If it's a supporting wall you can end up spending around £1,500, whereas a non-load-bearing wall should be doable in a day with a laborour and a plasterer for a couple of hundred pounds. It's unlikely to specifically add value though.

8% have put them in over the last three years, and 8% plan to in the next three. A solar panel costs about £6,500. It's definitely not going to add value to your property. However, it can pay off. With a feed-in-tariff you can save yourself £600 a year in heating, and can sell up to £450 back to the grid. The lifespan of the panel should be 20 years, so you'll break even after six and a half years and start making money. It's the third wise financial move here.

6% have done this in the last three years and 11% plan to in the next three. According to HSBC it adds the most value - at an average of £16,000. However, at a cost of £20,000 or more, it won't make you money.

4% of people have added one in the last three years and 7% plan to in the next three. As with a similar extension, you're likely to spend £20,000 and add £15,000 of value. So it only makes sense if your family is too big for the house.

2% have converted the cellar in the last three years, and 4% plan to in the next three. This is not a great way to see a return on your money - unless you live in the kind of area where you are absolutely out of any other options when it comes to making more space. It's not cheap - starting at £10,000 for simple waterproofing and finishing, to £50,000 for more intensive work. It will typically add £20,000 to the property.


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