Owning a home is a large and important investment, so naturally, it’s one of your most significant responsibilities as well. You’re doing your home, your bank account, and your peace of mind a disservice if you don’t take care to maintain it.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment of your free time working on your home; by checking your home’s exterior, appliances, plumbing and electrical systems regularly, you can catch or prevent small issues before they become big problems, cause big headaches… and wind up costing you big money.
Water, water everywhere
You don’t have to be a trained plumber to do light maintenance on your water pipes and fixtures.
Make sure you know where your home’s main water shut-off valve is; test it to ensure you can turn it, and most importantly, make sure you can access it easily. If you ever need to turn the water off, you’ll be glad you’re able to access it quickly.
A sump pump helps prevent basements from flooding by removing excess water from around a home’s foundation, so if you have one, maintaining it is absolutely essential. Check the float by slowly pouring water into the pit until the pump turns on; it should also turn off once the water has been drained away. You should also ensure the pit is free of debris, as this can cause the float to malfunction.
If the pump doesn’t switch on, check the electrical connections to ensure they’re plugged in properly, and that the breaker hasn’t tripped. If the electrical supply checks out, your pump may be malfunctioning.
Consider insulating your exposed water pipes, especially if they’re in an unfinished basement, unheated garage, attic or crawlspace. Moisture can gather on uninsulated pipes, corroding and weakening them, increasing the likelihood that they could break or crack. Insulated pipe sleeves are available at home improvement stores, are easy to install, and add peace of mind that your pipes will stay intact.
It’s also a good idea to regularly test your kitchen and bathroom faucets, and if they’re dripping, replace the washers inside.
Drain sediments from your hot water heater
Whether your hot water tanks is gas powered or electric, over time sediments and minerals are going to accumulate in the tank bottom, reducing its energy efficiency and its life. Carefully read your tank manufacturer’s instructions about how to partially drain it, removing gunk and minerals that are settling on the bottom. This simple maintenance will extend the life of the tank and probably lower your energy bills too.
Remember to always check the safety regulations and instructions before you start; gas and electric tanks both have specific steps you must follow to safely work on them.
Clean your fridge
We’re not talking about clearing the expired condiments out of your refrigerator, but instead about the less common task of checking the condenser coils on the back or bottom of your fridge for dust, pet hair and other dirt that might find its way there. If the coils are dirty, your fridge is most likely working harder than it has to, and consequently shortening its operating life. To ensure they can release heat efficiently (as they were designed to do), clean the coils yearly with a flexible brush.
Clean out your dryer vents
No matter how efficient your lint catcher is, some bits of debris and lint will still make their way up into your dryer’s vents. At the very least, a dryer vent plugged with lint will mean your dryer is working too hard… and maybe not even drying your clothes as well as you’d like. At worst, it can be a potential fire hazard. Remove the vent from the back of your dryer at least once a year to clean out the ducts; use a wet/dry vacuum to remove debris, or pick up a handy flexible cleaning brush kit that attaches to your power drill.
If your ducts are the flexible corrugated kind, consider replacing them with smooth metal ones; and if they’re plastic, you should definitely replace them altogether, as those types are now generally considered a fire hazard.
Always consider hiring a professional when it comes to electrical work; however, there are a few things you can check safely to ensure everything is working correctly.
Start by confirming that correct wattage bulbs are in your light fixtures; using bulbs that have higher wattage than the fixture can shorten the life span of both. You should also periodically check your ground fault power outlets by pushing the ‘test’ and ‘reset’ buttons, and ensuring cords aren’t frayed or damaged.
It’s also important to test your smoke and CO2 detectors and replace the batteries, or buy new detectors if your current ones are over 10 years old.
Preventative maintenance is a bit of a chore, but wouldn’t you rather spend a little time on upkeep now so you don’t spend a lot of time (and money) further down the road? Us too.