This post is created from questions my children and some of my younger home buyers ask. There is a learning curve to maintaining a home. Everything wears out one day but there are some simple things that can be done that cost nothing or almost nothing that can help preserve your home and some of the appliances in it. I am not a home inspector or an expert, but I have owned a home for many years.
Forced air furnace – Change the filter once a month. Furnace filters are cheap and in general the cheapest filters are the best because they do not constrict airflow. If you buy the more expensive filters that are supposed to last three months change them once a month anyway. Furnaces are expensive, gas is expensive, filters are cheap.
Refrigerators – Pulling your refrigerator out and vacuuming the coils on the back of it once a year can help the fridge run cooler and last longer. It can be kind of scary but it is also a great way to find cat toys.
Water Heater – They never tell you this when they put in your water heater but it needs yearly maintenance. Most people ignore the water heaters and will they fail they can make a mess. Sediment builds up in water heaters through normal use. In a nutshell they need to be turned off, drained and flushed once a year. There should be instructions in the manual that came with the water heater. If not there are detailed instructions on the DYI Network site. Cleaning out the water heater is very important, but I don’t know anyone who does it.
Outdoor faucets – Before the freezing weather sets in, disconnect all hoses, turn on the outdoor faucet, go in the house and shut off the water to the faucet.
Clothes Dryer – Most people, but not everyone, knows that the lint filter in the dryer needs to be cleaned after each load of wash. There is one more lint filter you might want to check, and that is the filter outside where the dryer vents. Once that baby gets all clogged up you may notice that it takes an eternity to dry a load of wash, and like I said, gas is expensive. If the dryer isn’t drying check the vent.
If you are a home buyer reading this, it is best to make any offer on a home inspection contingent. A good home inspector will go over some of these basic maintenance tips with you or provide a CD or booklet with information. The inspector will also show you some very important things that you need to know — like where the main water shut off is located, and where the power shut off is located. They will often mark water supply pipes and shut off valves. You should also ask the sellers for any manuals and warranties they have on the appliances. It is nice to know how old they are too. Newer appliances tend to be more energy efficent.
If your home will be empty this winter now is the time to winterize it. That means turning the water off and draining the pipes and the water heater, and the furnace if it is a hot water unit. Water can destroy a home very quickly.