Advanced Air

How to Keep Wild Animals Out of Your Home in Southwest Florida

January 20, 2016

Our techs are in attics all day. So we’ve seen the damage wild animals can do to your home first-hand (like the rat inside an air handler in the picture to the right).

Rats, raccoons and other pests can create:

  • Fire hazards (chewing wires)
  • Increased energy bills (creating holes in ducts and ruining your attic insulation)
  • Malfunctioning equipment (chewing wires and getting inside things like your air handler)
  • Unsanitary air (droppings and dead animals in your air handler or ducts)
  • Roof leaks (creating holes in your roof or making them worse)

And the best way to prevent these problems is to keep the animals out of your home in the first place. Here’s how to do that.

1. Make sure there’s nothing in your attic currently

Before you do any prevention, you want to make sure you don’t have any animals living in your attic currently. Otherwise, you may end up plugging up holes and trapping them inside. And that’s the opposite of what you want!

Take a peek inside of your attic and look for:

  • Droppings
  • Nests
  • Chewed wires
  • Gnawed boards
  • Holes to the outside that appear to be chewed open

If you see holes and want to see if animals are still living up there, try stuffing the holes with some paper towels. Then check back in a day or two to see if any of the holes have been pushed open.

Alternately, you could sprinkle some flour in front of the holes and check for footprints the next day.

If you have wild animals living in your attic or home, get the help of an exterminator to get rid of them. Once they’ve been removed, move on to the next step.

2. Plug holes on the exterior of your home

Go over the exterior of your home in extreme detail. It doesn’t take much of a hole for an unwanted critter to make its way inside. For example, a bat can get through a hole as small as ⅜ of an inch. Squirrels only need 1.5 inches.

  • Seal, fill or cover any possible entrances you find.
  • Seal small holes with exterior-grade caulk or hardening spray foam.
  • Patch larger holes with construction materials, as needed.
  • Make sure all plumbing roof vents have screens over them.
  • Chimneys should be properly capped to keep animals out.
  • Make sure all soffit and ridge vents are adequately covered.

Some examples of entry points for rodents and other wild animals. Image source

3. Remove food sources

Most of the time, animals are attracted to your home by food sources nearby. Then they make your house their home since it’s so close to a good food supply.

Get rid of food sources around your home by:

  • Picking up fallen fruit from fruit trees
  • Feeding your pets inside or promptly picking up any spilled food that’s outside
  • Keeping your garbage cans sealed shut (or, even better, keep them inside)
  • Removing any bird feeders
  • Taking care of other pest problems (a rodent infestation can attract snakes, for example)

4. Trim your trees

Some animals, like squirrels and raccoons, use nearby trees as ladders into your home. Trim any trees that are touching or close to touching your home.

You may need to hire a professional landscaper to prevent damage caused by large branches landing on your roof.

5. Use a repellent

Sealing up your home, removing food sources and keeping your trees trimmed are usually enough to prevent an infestation of wild animals in your attic.

But if you know neighbors that have had problems with certain creatures, you may want to go a step further by using a repellant—a substance specifically used to repel animals.

The type of repellant you use depends on the type of animal you want to repel.

Here are a few of the most common animal pests in Southwest Florida and the repellents to use on each.

Raccoons

Raccoons can carry the rabies virus as well as leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects the kidneys of humans and other mammals. They’re known to open cabinets, chew through wires, get into your stuff and ruin your attic insulation.

Repel raccoons with:

  • Coyote urine. Coyotes are a natural predator of racoons. So the smell of their urine can be enough to discourage raccoons from hanging around.
  • Cayenne pepper. Mix cayenne pepper in a gallon of water and a little dish soap and then spray the mixture around your home. You’ll need to reapply after it rains.

Rodents (rats, mice, squirrels, etc.)

Having rodents in your attic can cause a serious fire since they often chew through electrical wires. Rodents also destroy insulation, ductwork, cabinets and some of the boards in your attic. Rodent feces and urine can be a major sanitary issue, as well.

Repel rodents with:

  • Peppermint oil. Rodents appear to hate the smell of peppermint oil and will avoid it if they can. Place it near where you think rodents may try to get into your home.
  • Ultrasonic repellents. These devices emit a high-frequency noise that humans can’t hear but rodents hate.

Bats

Bats can create significant damage due to their acidic waste. Bat feces, known as guano, can be particularly dangerous and harbors a large potential for disease.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any effective bat repellents. Some ultrasonic sound repellents are sold, but haven’t been shown to actually keep bats away. The best way to keep bats out of your attic is to seal up your home tight.

Snakes

Snakes can cause illnesses in humans like E.coli and salmonella poisoning. Some (although not many) are venomous. Like all of the animals on this list, they can also get inside of your air conditioner’s indoor unit and cause problems.

Repel snakes with:

  • Cinnamon oil. Snakes don’t like the smell of cinnamon oil. Spray it near possible entry points into your home. However, oil evaporates quickly and needs to be reapplied. This can be an expensive solution.
  • Rock salt and garlic. Mix equal parts rock salt and freshly ground garlic. Sprinkle the mixture around your house as well as into all crevices and cracks in the exterior of your home.

Further reading:

Advanced Air serves the air conditioning and attic insulation needs of all Southwest Florida, including Naples, Fort Myers and Port Charlotte.