To help you start of 2012 on the right foot, here is an abbreviated master “to do” list compliments of KUDZU to keep your home in tip-top shape.
Heat & Air
- Consider replacing traditional thermostats with programmable ones. According to ENERGY STAR, the average household could save $180 a year by using a programmable thermostat to maintain proper heating and cooling settings.
- Have your heating and air conditioning systems inspected and replace the filters. The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates you can save up to 15% if you change your filter every 90 days and this also keeps the systems from getting clogged up with debris.
- Ensure ceiling fan blades are spinning counterclockwise. The U.S. Department of Energy reports ceiling fan users can bump up their thermostat by 4 degrees and see no change in comfort level.
- Boost your water heater’s efficiency by wrapping it in a thermal blanket. According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, adding an insulating wrap can reduce heat loss by as much as 45 percent and save as much as 10 percent on water heating costs.
- Drain your water heater, over time sediment and minerals build up and reduce efficiency and lifespan.
- Check for leaks around sinks, toilets, tubs and showers. Leaks often start small and can be tucked away under cabinets, behind toilets or even in your crawl space or attic. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average home loses 10,000 gallons of water a YEAR to leaks.
- Check your toilet’s hoses and supply valves for leaks. When these fail, watch out, your house can flood.
- Inspect all exposed wiring. Electrical fires annually kill 310 people, injure 1,100 and cause $1.1 billion in property loss, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
- Trip circuit breakers and reset ground fault interruptors.
- Test ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. GFCI outlets are designed to protect people from an electric shock. These specially designed outlets will trip if there’s an imbalance in the current flowing to and from the outlet.
- Check your home’s smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. It could be a matter of life and death. The U.S. Fire Administration reports more than 3,500 people die in fires each year, and more than 66 percent of residential, fire-related deaths occur in homes without a working smoke alarm.
- Locate shutoff valves and show them to your family. These shutoffs serve an important purpose, cutting off your home’s electricity, gas and water supply.
- Clean the lint from dryer ducts. Running your clothes dryer with a clogged lint trap or duct work is a very bad idea. Blocked traps and ducts cause reduced air flow and a buildup of heat, which can produce a fire.
- Check your washing machine’s drain hose for clogs. Your washing machine’s drain hose and pump can become clogged with lint, coins, jewelry and other objects.
- Clean your dishwasher filter. The food particles that cake your plates and utensils don’t magically disappear during the wash cycle. Usually, these large particles collect in your dishwasher’s filter and are held there until the filter is cleaned.
- Clean your garbage disposal. Garbage disposals can produce a foul aroma and they need to be cleaned regularly to keep the odors under control.
- Clean out the refrigerator. Foods have expiration dates!
- Clean your refrigerator’s condenser coils. If they look furry, then it’s time to get the vacuum and give them a cleaning.
- Clean or service your ice maker.Often referred to as the “forgotten food,” ice can lead to serious illness if contaminated with bacteria or other pollutants.
- Change your water purification filters. Eventually all filters will lose their effectiveness and will become saturated unwanted materials.
- Clean your range hood’s grease filter. These filters serve an important purpose and should be cleaned at least once a month. If ignored, the grease filter will become saturated which can cause grease to build and become a fire hazard.
General Cleaning & Organizing
- Organize your home. January is the National Association of Professional Organizers’ “Get Organized Month.” A well-organized home will save you tons of time. No more sorting through mounds of paperwork to find that missing bank statement. No more re-buying items you already own because you can’t find them anywhere.
- Organize closets and your garage. The easiest way to get started is to develop three piles– one for items to keep, one for items to donate and another for throw-aways.
- Have your carpets and upholstery cleaned every 12-18 months. A professional cleaner will use specialized equipment to remove the gnarliest of stains. These regular cleanings will enhance visual appeal and help remove allergens that have become trapped.
- Check the ductwork in your home. There’s a growing contingent out there with the opinion that a buildup of dust, mold and bacteria in your home ducting system can make asthma and other breathing conditions worse.
- Check and clean your tile grout. Mold and mildew are the most common causes of it in the bathroom and food stains and foot traffic are usual culprits in other areas of the home.
- Clean out medicine cabinets. Go through your medicine cabinet and discard any medications that have expired or are unidentifiable. If you’re unsure how to dispose of certain medications, check the label or look at the Food and Drug Administration’s website for guidelines.
- Seal natural stone countertops. They can take just about anything you can dish out, but they may be damaged. If not resealed regularly, liquids can soak into your countertop, leaving your surface cloudy or stained.
- Clean your windows, window sills and blinds.
- Replace damaged blinds.Blinds only have two settings; opened and closed. When they will do one, but not the other, then it’s time to replace them.
- Inspect your attic. If you haven’t inspected your attic lately, get up there and give it a thorough once-over. Your attic should be cool and dry.
- Look for evidence of termites and spiders. Each year termites cause more than $5 BILLION in damage to homes. And while most spiders are good to have around, some spiders can cause deadly bites.
- Check weather-stripping on doors. Do this quick test: Close one of your outside doors on a sheet of paper. If the paper pulls out fairly easily and doesn’t tear, you’re likely losing energy and need to have a professional take a closer look at the weather-stripping and caulking around your doors.
- Rake or blow leaves. Did you know that these fallen leaves contain tons of carbon? When added to those lawn clippings you saved from last summer , they make an incredibly rich compost for your soil next Spring.
- Get your chimney cleaned. Fire safety officials recommend cleaning your fireplace and chimney at least once per year. Creosote is a product of inefficient wood-burning that builds up inside your chimney. Left unchecked, it could potentially ignite and is a fire hazard.
- Check chimney and roof condition. Chimneys and roofs are two things you don’t want to ignore, so take some time to inspect these. Chimneys should be free of cracks and should not lean in any direction. While inspecting your chimney, take a look at your roof to ensure your shingles are not chipped or curling. Both can spell big trouble and lead to water leaking into your house.
- Check grading to ensure moisture funnels away from your house. Moisture can get trapped next to your home where it will deteriorate your foundation and seep into your basement.
- Trim landscaping that is too close to your house. Trees and shrubs that touch the side of your house or overhang your roof are too close and should be trimmed. Shrubs should be clipped back far enough to allow someone to easily walk between them and your house, and all tree limbs should be pruned so they are not in the vicinity of your home.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts. Gutters that are clogged will hold water, and downspouts that have blockages may not be able to properly funnel water away from your house. Both situations can create significant problems for homeowners.
If you need help finding vendors to do some of this work for you please check with KUDZU, the BBB, Yelp or others or contact me– I have many reputable vendors in my database.