Lose weight; quit smoking; exercise regularly; test the smoke detector. What have you resolved to do in the New Year? If you’re like most Americans, along with wringing in the New Year come a host resolutions that will improve one’s lifestyle and well-being. Our examples, losing weight, quitting smoking and exercising are among the most common “to-dos.” Less common is our final example – testing the smoke detector in your home. Ironically, it is no less important than the other resolutions, yet it is often overlooked.
Testing a smoke detector is just one of several home maintenance tasks that should be performed on a regular basis. When it comes to home maintenance, timing is everything. Maintenance performed regularly and “on schedule” provides optimum longevity and helps prevent potential breakdowns or malfunctions. Beyond maintenance procedures for operational sake, the primary (and most important) reason for checking, inspecting, and constantly tuning up your home is to ensure maximum safety for you, your family, and friends.
Home maintenance – faithfully and consistently employed – will help you turn frequent frustration and constant chaos into a better life. One filled with the joy that modern conveniences are intended to bring. Thus, there’s no time like the present to resolve to take better care of your home.
So as not to overwhelm you, we mention only a few tasks. A more thorough explanation of these tasks and a list of other maintenance routines can be found in our book; Home Maintenance For Dummies; Hungry Minds, Inc.; 2000.
1)Check Furnace Filters: The purpose of the filter on a forced-air furnace is to keep dust, soot, and other contaminants from collecting on the interior workings of your furnace. In addition, a high quality filter will cut down on airborne dust and particulate matter that is blown into your living area. Once the filter has been sufficiently coated with this grime, it causes the furnace blower to work harder, making it more costly to operate and shortening its life span. A clean filter will help the furnace run more efficiently and save on operating costs.
Since filter size and location vary from furnace to furnace, you’ll need to check the owner’s handbook for this type of information. If an owners handbook doesn’t exist, this information usually can be found on the furnace or on an inside panel of the furnace. Some furnaces have more than one filter that will need replacement one near the blower and one at each cold air return. Buying replacement filters by the case will cut down on the unit price and will make replacement convenient.
2)Check Water Filters and Softeners: Water filters (activated carbon, reverse-osmosis, etc.) are a great means of improving water quality (smell and taste). The secret to keeping water quality high is by replacing filters regularly. The frequency depends upon the type of system and the condition of the water. Whole house filters, point of use dispensers and icemaker water supplies can each be changed in a matter of minutes. Aside from providing better quality water, a clean filter will improve flow. Although a water softening system is reasonably maintenance free, every now and again the brine solution becomes clogged at the base of the brine tank, which prevents the solution from being siphoned into the resin tank. You know this is the case when your brine tank is full of salt and your water doesn’t have that “slick” feel. Check your owner’s manual for information on how to flush the brine tank or call a service pro to do it for you.
3) Clean the Dryer Duct and Filter: Clean the lint screen thoroughly after every load. If it’s filled an clogged with lint, the air won’t circulate and the cloths won’t dry, and the dryer runs far longer, which wears it out faster ad wastes lots of energy dollars in the process. What’s more, dryer lint is a big fire hazard. Use a duct cleaning brush to clean the dryer duct at least twice annually.
4) Clean and Freshen Sink Drains: Foul odors from a sink drain can make your home both unpleasant and uninviting. To keep sink drains in your home running freely – and absent of odor – try these methods: 1) Run hot water through the sink after each use. 2) Throw a handful of baking soda into the drain and follow it with hot water. 3) Pour 1 cup of vinegar into the drain and let is sit for one-half hour. Then chase it down with very hot water.
5) Test Smoke Detectors: All smoke detectors and alarms have a “test button,” which, when pushed, causes the alarm to sound. Once a month, get up on a chair, or use a broom handle for extra reach, and push the test button. If you don’t hear anything, then your batter is dead. If after changing the batter, the smoke detector is still not working, immediately replace it with a new one. Test the smoke “detector” by striking three kitchen matches, blowing them out and holding them near the unit. While you’re up there checking your battery and testing the detector, also brush or vacuum the alarm to keep dust out of the mechanism.
6) Test Carbon Monoxide Detectors: The care and maintenance of a CO detector is basically the same as for smoke detectors with regard to cleaning and frequent testing. However, unlike using kitchen matches to test a smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide detector can’t be tested using an outside source. Therefore, it is imperative that the test buttons provided on the equipment be tested at least once each month.
7) Flush the Water Heater and Check the PTR: Mineral deposits and sediment at the base of a water heater tank make the job of heating water infinitely more difficult and wreak havoc with your utility bill. Check your water heater for and remove sediment at least once annually. The pressure and temperature relief valve (PTR valve) opens to release pressure buildup in the water heater when the temperature or the pressure gets dangerously high, thus preventing a possible explosion. To test the valve, simply raise and lower the test lever several times so it lifts the brass stem it is fastened to. Hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If no water flows through the pipe or you get just a trickle, replace the valve.
8) Clean and Lubricate at Least One Major Appliance: The life span of most major appliances can be severely shortened by neglect – and often greatly prolonged with simple care and very basic preventive maintenance that mostly centers on cleaning.
9) Test GFCI receptacles: The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) was developed to help save people from getting shocked. All GFCI receptacles have test buttons. You should test each GFCI receptacle in your home at least once a month. If the test doesn’t trip the breaker, replace the GFCI immediately.
Happy New Year!
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