For just a moment, think of your new home like a car. Since cars depreciate so fast (not that homes do), you’re always striving to ensure you’re keeping up with routine maintenance to keep the car alive for as long as possible, by changing the fluids, rotating the tires, replacing the brakes, making adjustments so everything is up to spec. These little (or not so little) tasks are what keep your car on the road for thousands of miles longer.
How exactly? Think of it as the snowball effect, but in this example, it’s not a good effect. When you push off these tasks for too long it creates a bigger problem which creates an even bigger problem if left untreated. If you don’t change your oil, there isn’t adequate lubrication for things to move and eventually the engine will seize resulting in an even larger and more costly repair. In a home, it works the same exact way, and not only will it be costly, it can be detrimental to your health.
Moral of the story, don’t slack on home maintenance, because it won’t just be costly to your pocketbook, but your health as well.
A lot of people struggle to remember to do their monthly, quarterly, biannual, and annual maintenance tasks, so it would be wise to set a reminder on your phone to remind you of these tasks, write it down in an accessible calendar or on a marker board if you have one.
Number one – One of the first things on any list for home maintenance is checking and replacing your furnace filter. Most homeowners barely change it 3 times a year, when it should be done every 1-2 months. They run for about $15 to $50 depending on the brand, quality and how many you get per pack. Instead of just buying one and having to go to a hardware store every month, consider buying your stock in advance so you don’t need to make extra trips. You may be standing in an aisle at Home Depot trying to figure out if the $50 one is that much better than the $15 one. The more expensive ones do a better job of filtering out pollen, dust, mold, pet dander and even bacteria, so if you have allergies or respiratory conditions, a better furnace filter may be the better option.
You may have gasped when I said you should change this filter every 1-2 months, but believe me when i say it’s for good reason. Not only can all that bacteria and grime pile up on that filter and potentially cause a fire, it can circulate all of that in your home and cause some serious health problems. So if your home ever feels stuffy, take a look at your furnace filter and see if it needs replacing.
And according to the Department of energy, heating and cooling account for almost half of a home’s utility bills, so replacing your filters regularly means the fan doesn’t have to work as hard, and you won’t have to throw money away each month for unnecessary energy costs.
Number two – Test your carbon-monoxide, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. Not only is it good to check these monthly, you should also make it a habit to change the batteries in the detectors every 6 months. Worst case scenario, your carbon monoxide detector hasn’t worked since you bought the home 3 months ago, and you’ve been breathing it in excess the whole time. Carbon monoxide can be harmful in just 2 hours depending on if there’s a lot or not, and it can cause long term neurological symptoms that truly aren’t worth it. It really is a small price to pay, especially when yours and your loved ones health is in the equation.
Number three – Inspect the grout and caulking. This isn’t necessarily a job that’s in need of replacing every month, but it’s good to catch the deterioration of grout and caulk immediately, as well as touch up on any cracks in the shower, tubs, sinks, etc. This is important because if this task is abandoned for too long, water could find its way into these crevices and create extensive water damage over the years.
Number Four – Check your water softener and replenish the salt if necessary. On average, you’ll need one full 40lb pound bag of salt a month to keep it at an adequate level. Most items you’ll see people purchase 3 bags at a time and pour all 120 lbs. of salt in at a time so they only need to do it every 3 months. It truly just depends on what works for you, just make sure you are always putting salt in there.
If you don’t, the resin at the bottom of the water softener will stay saturated, and it brings what is called an ion exchange to a halt (essentially, during this exchange it needs to grab onto another sodium ion to keep the process continuous, which would be new salt), at that point, it would allow hard minerals in your pipes and fixtures.
At that point you might see some cloudy glassware and maybe even some cardboard like laundry. That truly is only the beginning. The water softener was intentionally created to keep hard minerals out, if they pass through it could not only force your appliances to work harder as your water pressure starts to drop, it could also result in premature failure in the water pipes and cost you thousands of dollars to replace the pipes in your home, along with whatever it costs to replace what’s in the way of them.
Number Five – Check the indoor and outdoor air vents, registers and covers. This is a very easy task to get checked off your list for the month. Take a look inside your home and make sure there’s nothing covering or blocking the vents. This could cause insufficient air flow and potentially hurt your system. You may also consider removing the covers and registers to vacuum them and loosen up any dirt or debris as it tends to sit near the vents.
You’ll also want to take a walk around your home and identify all your vents and make sure the covers aren’t damaged in any way, as it would be very easy for an animal to make a new home in there, and if they are blocking air flow, it could bring carbon monoxide back into your home, which as I mentioned before, is not good.
Number Six – Take a look at your kitchen’s range hood vent filter. If you didn’t know, range hoods were created to improve the air quality in your kitchen by removing all the odors, grease, smoke and other pollutants while cooking. Not using a range hood when cooking dinner can cause some irritation to your nose, eyes or throat and increase carbon monoxide levels that are caused by the use of the stove. Not replacing this filter can hinder ventilation, as well as potentially cause a fire depending on the amount of build up.
These filters can run between $10 and $30 depending on the brand, quality and amount per pack. It is suggested to replace these every 1-3 months. Consider doing so Every month if you do a lot of cooking. You don’t necessarily have to replace it every month, you can actually run them through the dishwasher to be cleaned, just make sure you do it frequently so there is no build up. If for some reason your filter is caked with grease, you can pick up some degreaser form an auto parts store, mix it with hot water and let it soak for a little bit.
Number Seven – Check around your toilets and under your sinks for leaks. As I mentioned before about grout and caulking, it’s important to catch leaks immediately to eliminate the risk of potential water damage. There was an interesting table created by the water conservation department in New York City that broke down what the total cost leaks and drips were over the course of a year.
A slow drip of a faucet over the course of a year would be approximately 36 gallons of water and cost you $65 on top of your bill. For a leaking toilet, it would be about 250 gallons of water in a year span, and that would cost you $451.37. So when you see water or moisture, you should definitely consider investigating further.
Number Eight – Clean your Kitchen Sink disposal (if you have one) – This task is definitely overlooked in a lot of households. It’s not life threatening, but it is good for cleanliness and the performance of your disposal. You may or may not have known that ice cubes actually sharpen the blades of your disposal, and vinegar is good for cleaning the disposal. So what do a lot of people do? They combine the two by filling their ice trays up with vinegar to freeze and throw in their disposal. You can also use baking soda and water, along with some products at the grocery store that leave your sink smelling like a scent of your choice.
Number Nine – Checking on the electrical. This isn’t necessarily a maintenance task, but rather a safety inspection. Take a walk around your home and inspect the electrical, extension cords, outlets and light bulbs for any noticeable damage, as well as make sure they are not exposed to any water. Use surge protectors to keep your appliances safe by diverting the excess voltage to an outlet’s ground wire in case of a power surge of any kind.
Debris and dust can hinder the function of electronic devices, so be sure they are cleaned regularly. This will save you money on your electrical bills and reduce the likelihood of an electrical fire.
Number Ten – Show your water heater some love. Be sure to test your water heater’s pressure relief valve every 6 months or so. This most definitely will prevent any build up and create timely awareness for any possible leaks. It will also help your water heat run more efficiently, and when things run more efficiently, it saves you money.
Once a year you should flush out the hot water from your water heater to remove any accumulated sediment over the year. It could cost you $100 to $250 to get it flushed and cleaned by a professional, but there are a lot of how to articles and videos to break down exactly how to do it yourself so you can avoid paying that cost.
Number Eleven – Clear out and Vacuum Your Refrigerator Coils. This is a task that wasn’t suggested by a lot of sources, but it definitely has some importance. Think for a moment, how often does someone move their fridge? Not very often I know. Believe it or not a fridge can use 15-20% of your home’s power, so it’s safe to say that’s an appliance you’d want running efficiently. If I haven’t said it enough already, keeping things clean is great for efficiency. Back to my car example, it’s about maintaining something to ensure it lasts its whole entire lifespan plus some.
Since we are talking about refrigerators, manufacturers recommend changing the fridge water filters every 6 months to avoid any build up and damage to the unit. Filters go for about $30 to $60 depending on the brand, quality and the amount per pack. There’s nothing worse then water and ice cubes smelling like eggs, so be sure to look at your owner’s manual to see when the best time for replacement would be.
And last but certainly not least, Number twelve – Giving your home that deep clean. Just like a car, you keep it clean inside and out, not only for yourself, but for the people that ride in there with you, and of course to reduce the possibility of cosmetic flaws caused from you neglecting a spill or stain. Every 6 months, take a day and deep clean everything! Whip out the lemon pledge and dust every crevice of the home. Spray on some Windex to bring some natural light into those now clear windows. The important thing is to not let any dirt, dust, grime, grease or mold build up beyond repair because that just adds more work down the road.