Home Maintenance 101: DIY Tips for Beginners

The comforts of home bring peace and tranquility. When it comes to keeping that peace, it means establishing a routine maintenance plan and sticking to it. If you follow an annual program of checking on all the moving parts; plumbing and electrical basics; and moisture detection and prevention, you can ensure your home stays in good shape for the long term. To help you, the following tips provide some inside home maintenance knowledge for beginners.

The Most Overlooked System in the Home

We expect it to perform year in and year out—until it doesn’t. It is operational nearly year-round, save for a few precious months. What is it? It is your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. So, what’s the big deal? For starters, cost is a big deal when ignored issues become expensive problems to repair, not to mention the possibility of suffering the extremes of weather when you would rather have a well-controlled indoor air climate.

The primary purpose of your HVAC system is to control humidity levels to achieve optimal indoor air quality. The in-duct humidifiers operate to maintain the correct amount of moisture in the air when the heater is used. As winter subsides, you should drain the unit and shut off the water valve to prevent the formation of stagnant water. Cleaning the reservoir with a mix of vinegar and water helps reduce and prevent the formation of mineral deposits.

Since your HVAC system uses a condenser, it produces moisture that must flow from the system. Regularly check the line to ensure proper drainage and that water is not collecting where it drains. Create a clear pathway and designate a channel to prevent the growth of mold or algae from standing water. Any spores that develop present a health hazard and could be delivered throughout your house if not eliminated at the source.

In addition to ensuring you have charged batteries in your thermostat, you should be replacing or cleaning your air filters at least once a month during high capacity use. You should also be keeping your outdoor unit clean and free of debris to make sure it can operate at its most effective levels. If your system is not turning on or is cycling too frequently with inferior results, check for the following:

  • Dirty evaporator
  • Dirty or blocked condenser
  • Faulty compressor or inadequate amount of coolant in the system

By process of elimination, if your system is working harder while costing more in excess energy use, it might be time to consult a professional contractor to perhaps evaluate the capacity of your unit for the size and occupancy of your home. The internal parts in an overworked system rapidly wear out and require repair. A service professional can also check if you have enough coolant in the system and correct any issues. They may also inspect your duct work to ensure there are no leaks and recommend the best repairs, if needed.

Water Heater Basics

The water heater is another machine that can be easily ignored to your peril. This is due to the high degree of sediment that is suspended within the tank. As particles settle, they can cause damage to the water heater floor. Annually, drain the water and clean the floor surface. This calls for flipping the circuit breaker to the “Off” position for electric and turning the thermostat to the pilot setting with gas. A regular garden hose will fit directly onto the tank fitting. Open the hot water faucets throughout the house, and then, open the water heater’s drain valve ensuring it is directed away from anything the hot water might damage. Remove sediment build up by turning the water back on, then, close the drain valve, fill the tank and restore the power.

The Fundamentals of Drains

Drains are convenient, but they were not meant as a means of disposal for much more than water. It is easy to assume anything goes down the drain, but this would be to your own peril. In the kitchen, resist the desire to run fats and oils down the drains. They are one of the main reasons drains get stopped up. If you do accidentally, chase them with hot water and a generous dose of dish washing liquid to emulsify the oils and allow the matter to course through the pipes. Similarly, your disposal is not a trash can. Avoid putting anything down the disposal, if you can help it. Properly dispose of food in the waste can or a compost bin if you have one.

In the bathtub, use a hair strainer. When you do, you will see just how much hair ends up heading for the drain while preventing hair clogs in the bathroom. Make sure to remove accumulated hair regularly. As with kitchen drains, the toilet is not an all-purpose waste eliminator. Avoid using it as a convenient means of disposing of hair, dirt or anything else that the toilet is not meant to get rid of. If the tub or toilet gets clogged, try using a snake in the drain to dislodge the clog. You can use a plunger on a clogged sink before resorting to the snake. When these measures fail to clear the clog, it might be time to call the plumber.

Time to Venture Outside

You want to conduct an annual roof inspection to check for damaged or discolored shingles or those that have lost their gravel. Water damage to the roof structure is insidious and silent. Be vigilant about your inspections. Immediately replace shingles or tiles that need it, and inspect the shingles surrounding typical leak-prone areas such as vents, skylights and chimneys. Ignoring these issues could lead to water damage to trusses and could extend right into the drywall.

Rain gutters are another area that can be forgotten. Include them in your annual roof inspection. Clear out the debris and run water from the hose down the channels to make sure everything works properly. Gutters are an integral defense against water damage to fascia boards, siding and foundation. This is the damage that is by far the costliest in terms of repair the longer it is ignored.

Proper home maintenance can help save you money by extending the life of your appliances and home systems. You can manage energy efficiency while saving money in the long term. Expand your annual checklist to include the many other areas in the home that you can maintain. With each year, you can increase your ability to preserve and maintain your home while saving the maximum in expense when it comes to repairs.

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