It may seem like there’s nothing worse than spending a sunny afternoon tackling a list of home maintenance tasks but coming home to a pool of water on your kitchen floor or an 80-degree house in the middle of summer would undoubtedly be worse. Not to mention dealing with the stress of scheduling professionals to replace major systems in your home and shelling out thousands of dollars.
Do These 12 Home Maintenance Tasks Every Year to Save Money in the Long Run
Home maintenance, even on a brand-new home, can go a long way to saving cash on costly repairs and breakdowns. So, while you might want to put off checking on appliances, HVAC systems, plumbing, or electrical, don’t wait for a surprise blowout to force your hand. Do it now to protect your investment.
Below, we’ll walk you through some of the best ways to keep your house running smoothly to avoid major surprise expenses.
Getting Started: Your Annual Home Maintenance Calendar
Just like a car needs routine oil, filter, and brake changes to run safely, homes also have systems that need regular care. But, unlike a car, most homes don’t have a manual. Luckily, sometimes builders set up online manuals and maintenance lists with Dwelling Live to keep homeowners in the know. Here are some critical monthly, quarterly, and annual lists to keep you on track and (hopefully!) eliminate any avoidable repairs.
Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist
In addition to carpet cleanings, window washing, and clearing debris from your sliding door tracks, Dwelling Live recommends checking and cleaning the following items every month to keep tabs on your home’s status:
- Test GFCI and AFCI outlets. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) can be found in areas with an increased risk of shock due to electrical hazards—like kitchens and bathrooms. Check these types of outlets regularly by pressing the “test” and “reset” buttons to protect yourself and others from dangerous shocks or burns—and be sure to plug any electronics near a water source into them.
- Replace or clean HVAC intake filters monthly. While you may want an air filter with the highest minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) available (especially if seasonal allergies are ruining your month), most HVAC specialists recommend sticking with lower or medium-level filters. While filters with high MERV ratings will block more dust and other contaminants, they can also cause suction in your system, damaging the fans and blowers on your heating and air conditioning. Instead, opt for a filter with the appropriate MERV rating for your HVAC system to allow for easy airflow, and use portable air purifiers for allergens instead.
- Look for all leaks around toilets, sinks, water heaters, etc. Make sure to check cabinets or floors near showers and sinks extra carefully. Hard water in Nevada can cause build-up that slowly damages pipes and fixtures. Seemingly minor issues—like damaged or degraded caulking and sealants along water fixtures—can cause big headaches.
- Check doors for scratches, creaks, and hinge pins coming out. Hammer the pins back in and use recommended lubricants to keep doors operating smoothly.
Most of these alone won’t cause significant problems, but broken outlets, minor leaks, mistreated HVAC systems, and creaky doors can slowly lead to more significant issues. Luckily, if caught early, many of these repairs are easy home fixes that you can do with supplies from your home or the local hardware store. More significant issues—like a more extensive leak or electrical problem—might require a plumber or certified handyperson to come out for a better look.
Quarterly Maintenance Tasks
Quarterly maintenance starts to get into the more critical items that, when ignored, can begin to cause problems, especially for people who live in multi-family housing, such as condominiums, duplexes, or townhouses. A leaking dishwasher isn’t just a headache for you—it also affects homeowners next to and below you.
Other than replacing your water dispenser filter every four months (if yours has one), you can do a few other things to keep your refrigerator running smoothly. Two areas to consider:
- If you have a water dispenser, a tube will connect the fridge to the wall. Most refrigerators come with cheap plastic water tubes that can crack in a high desert climate. Replace it with a braided stainless steel water line, like what is attached to a toilet, which is more flexible, lasts longer, and is less leak-prone.
- Keep your fridge running smoothly by cleaning out all the nasty fuzzy bits stuck to the condenser tubes, which keep your food cold or frozen. To find them, look for a metal panel or cardboard cover toward the bottom back area of the appliance.
Bathroom and Laundry Exhaust Fans
Similarly, exhaust fans in bathrooms or laundry rooms can accumulate dust and fuzz around the blades and motor, clogging them up and forcing them to work harder, eventually burning out the motor. If your bathroom exhaust fan runs louder than it did a few years ago, dust fuzz is probably the cause. If possible, remove the fans entirely from the ceiling and clean all the parts with a vacuum, brushes, and sponges as best as possible. As always, handypersons are helpful for these more complicated tasks.
Kitchen Appliances and Plumbing
Dishwashers and garbage disposals can leak in various places, from the weather stripping on the door to the pipes in the back. But, small leaks often go unseen until they become bigger problems. Once a quarter or more, watch your dishwasher as it runs and look for water marks under the sink, under the dishwasher, and floor. Garbage disposals also can leak from a few different places, including loose pipes or even the bottom, which indicates broken seals. Water sensors can also be installed to make this task easier.
Semiannual and Annual Home Maintenance To-Dos
Check the most important systems in your home at least once a year. With the dramatic climate shifts in our region, twice a year is better.
Heating and Air Conditioning
Calling a reputable HVAC company to inspect and clean your entire heating and air conditioning system at least once a year will cost $150 to $300, according to Cavallero Heating & AC. Still, it will save thousands on replacing the entire system if it burns out from overuse due to dirty coils and clogged intake fans.
Fire Sprinkler System
If your house is equipped with fire suppression systems, inspecting them annually is necessary. The water in the fire sprinkler pipes sits and turns muddy, becoming a biohazard if the sprinklers ever go off. Have the system flushed and the sprinkler heads inspected to ensure they work in an emergency. Northern Nevada Fire Protection estimates $150 to $300 for different types of inspections. Properly functioning fire sprinklers can save your home from burning down, a worthwhile inspection if there ever was one.
Dwelling Live recommends draining your tank water heater annually and doing a full inspection every five years. With the hard water deposits in Northern Nevada, this is a must to avoid bursting pipes, corroded seals, and 30 to 50 gallons of water suddenly flooding your garage or crawl space.
Tankless water heaters must also be inspected for hard water deposits that accumulate on the heat exchanger inside. This is not usually visible outside, so a professional system flush can help improve water pressure, quality, and heater lifespan.
Smoke and CO2 Detectors
Most people are used to replacing smoke detector batteries twice yearly because they constantly chirp at the most inconvenient times when the battery dies. But did you know smoke detectors only have a lifespan of 10 years? If your house is older than ten years and you’ve never replaced the entire smoke detector, now might be the time.
If you want a smoke detector you can set and forget, First Alert makes 10-year lifespan smoke detectors with permanent lithium batteries that don’t need to be replaced—ever. These smartphone-connected smoke detectors work with hard-wired smoke detectors so that you can mix and match them. If you have vaulted ceilings, they’re an even better investment. It’s never fun to purchase a specialty ladder just to change the 9-volt battery on a 15-foot-high smoke detector twice a year.
Dryer Vent Cleaning
While you should clean lint traps with every dryer load, have you considered cleaning inside the dryer vent? Lint traps are OK at their job, but a lot of lint passes through them and gets stuck inside the vent tubing that exits the house, eventually causing clogs and decreasing the efficiency of a dryer. Anyone with a sensor mode has probably noticed it takes longer and longer to dry the same amount of clothes over the years. Poorly structured dryer vents can also fill with lint, stay moist, and cause fires (ever wonder why lint makes great campfire kindling?).
This service can be done once per year or once every two to five years, depending on your dryer vent construction and length of the tubing that exits the side of the house. It can also be done by savvy DIYers with brushes attached to drills. Either way, replacing the vent with a well-structured tube, getting all the stray lint vacuumed out and removed will improve drying times and prevent fires, saving you money on your energy bills and keeping your family safe.
Ways to Save for Home Maintenance
How much will home maintenance cost each year? That depends. Some experts expect spending 1% to 2% of your home’s value yearly to keep it in top shape. Others estimate about $1 per square foot per year in maintenance costs for homes with typical finishes and more for those with higher-end appliances or fixtures. To get a more specific idea of what your home might need, Freddie Mac offers a worksheet that can help.
Once you know how much you might spend each year on home maintenance, you can save for these expenses at a comfortable pace for your budget. Our friends at Greater Nevada Credit Union have a few blog posts with helpful tips on creating and managing a budget that fits your lifestyle and allows you to have fun.
Another way to make the most of your home maintenance budget is to schedule and plan them regularly. For example, instead of doing your annual or semiannual tasks simultaneously with your quarterly tasks, plan to get some major inspections and maintenance done on the shoulder seasons between holidays and summer vacations.
You can save money and keep your home safe and cozy by keeping tabs on the monthly maintenance and learning how to do the DIY tasks.
If you need help planning your budget for home maintenance, care, or upgrades, talk to a Greater Nevada Mortgage consultant or Greater Nevada Credit Union expert. Reach out to us online or give us a call today to get started on your journey.
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