It’s finally warming up… time to go out and do some inspections

It seems like every winter gets a little weirder. For folks up north, it looked like an exceedingly dry winter until the most recent snowpocalypse covered us all in the white stuff and caused major havoc. For the west, it’s been too much water after too many years with practically none. Now that spring is here, it’s likely to get even more bizarre. I’m a little worried about what our friends a little further south will get, whether it’s going to be floods or tornadoes or who knows what.

Now that we’re firmly into spring, it’s time to take a look outside, as soon as you can. There are bound to be a few warmer, drier days on the horizon, and while you know you’re going to want to go out and frolic, trust me a little time spent working will be just what you need.

I’m talking about the spring ritual of looking at the damage that winter might have done to your outdoor electronics. I mean your antenna, your satellite dish, your cables, and potentially your outdoor internet connection or access points. Are the cables still tight? Is there any sign of oxidation on them? That would be a dull grey appearance, potentially some green flecks where exposed brass or copper are. What about a crusty buildup on the outside of the connectors? That could actually be a sign of mold or fungus that could make things much worse over time. Take a good look at the cables, especially in areas where they’re exposed to the sun. Do you see any cracking or crumbling? This would be a very bad sign and it’s likely you’ll want to replace those right away.

If you use a grounding rod, is it still firmly in the ground? Are all the ground wires in good shape? Exposed copper, found at ground blocks, can oxidize quickly and limit the effectiveness of the entire grounding system.

And what about the internet node? Most likely you haven’t touched it and shouldn’t touch it, but if it does have any user-serviceable areas, if you’ve had to go in there for any reason, take a look to see if things are nice and clean in there, that it doesn’t look like any gaskets have cracked. There’s a lot of sensitive stuff in there and you don’t want any of that getting wet either.

If you have outdoor electronics like a patio TV or outdoor access points, you may have taken them in for the winter. But what about the connectors? With nothing connected to them, they are probably a bit worse for wear and you should look at them carefully if you intend to use that stuff for entertaining once summer comes around. This is the time to take steps like this, because you want everything to work right when you need it.

It’s also worthwhile to run a quick test on your satellite system to see the signal levels. On DIRECTV equipment, this is done by pressing the MENU button, then going to Settings&Help, Settings, System Setup, Satellite, Signal Meters. If you’re not seeing numbers in the 80s or 90s, it might be time to repoint that dish.

Of course, all this work should be done on a sunny day, when there’s no chance of rain or lightning. I can’t say this enough… DON’T handle anything electrical in a storm and stay off the roof! Just going up there can get you seriously hurt if you slip on the ladder.

If nothing is wrong with your outdoor equipment, all your tests should take an hour or two, and after that you can go enjoy the springtime, knowing that your chores are done for another few months. I recommend doing an inspection like this about every six months… just before and just after the damaging winter months.