Home Maintenance Top Tips

Your home is likely your biggest investment and keeping it maintained is one of the best ways to help protect that investment. When you stay on top of home maintenance, it can also help:

  • Keep home systems and appliances working safely and efficiently.  
  • Save on utility bills. Did you know an HVAC unit that’s not regularly maintained can lose from 5% to 15% percent in efficiency each year? Small water leaks can also add up on your water bill.
  • Identify small problems before they become larger, more expensive ones. Don’t let a water leak turn from minor irritation to major water damage.

Regular home maintenance can also save you from unnecessary expenses and the headaches that happen when thing break.

Here are home maintenance tips that you can do yourself or with the help of a service professional.

Change HVAC Filters Regularly

Replacing your air filter regularly is probably one of the simplest things you can do to keep your heating and air conditioning system working its best. Keeping filters changed regularly will also help with indoor air quality and prevent contaminates and allergens build up in your home.

Dirty HVAC air filter

Most higher-end pleated filters have a three-month life (cheap ones don’t last as long). If constant air conditioning or heating is necessary where you live, you may need to replace your filter more often—even monthly. You may also need to replace your filter more often if you have allergies or asthma, and if you have pets.

Keep Your HVAC System Maintained

Have your HVAC system serviced twice yearly: once for the air conditioning system and again for the heater.

We recommend having your air conditioning system checked in late winter or early spring, before the temps heat up, to uncover any potential problems. You should also keep leaves, branches, dirt, and other debris away from your air conditioner’s outdoor condenser. Many people like to surround their condenser with plants to block it from view, but you try to keep foliage trimmed at least two feet away from the unit.

Your furnace or central heating system should also be serviced yearly, typically in the early fall before temperatures turn chilly.

Help Your Washing Machine Wash its Best

You may not think of cleaning your washing machine, but doing so will keep it cleaning (and smelling) its best. Many newer washers have a “self clean” feature, or you can clean it yourself using the hot water cycle with a cup of oxygen bleach or vinegar and baking soda. For front-loading machines, the pump or debris filter that should be cleaned monthly.

You should also regularly inspect the water hoses that attach to back of the washer. Check to make sure hoses attach securely to the drain hose and there are no leaks. Tighten them if necessary. Replace them if you notice any cracks or kinks. Hoses usually last about three to five years.

Washing machine hoses being tightened

Tips to prevent mold and mildew or odors:

  • Leave the washer lid or door open between cycles to help it air out.
  • Don’t leave wet clothes in the washer.
  • For front-loaders, dry off the rubber gasket around the door after each load.

Clean Your Dryer Vent

Dryer lint can build up in the ducting, reducing dryer efficiency, and even creating a fire hazard. At least once per year, inspect and clean your dryer vent and ducting. If you’re reasonably handy around the house you can clean the dryer ducting yourself, or you can hire a professional who will take care of it for you.

Cleaning dryer vent and ducting

In addition, you should:

  • Clean your lint screen after every load.
  • Occasionally, wash the lint screen with warm, soapy water to remove buildup from fabric softeners. Use a long-handled, narrow brush to remove excess lint from your lint trap opening.

Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Most newer dishwashers have a manual filter that needs to be cleaned regularly. The dishwasher filter is typically a removable cylinder located at the bottom of the dishwasher tub, under the rotating arm.

A dirty or clogged filter means dishes won’t get as clean, and can also create unpleasant odors. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned the filter, you may want to clean the dishwasher by running an empty cycle with a cup of white vinegar. This can help deodorize it and clear out old food particles, as well as removing hard water deposits and stains.

Clean Your Garbage Disposal

Being smart about what you do and don’t put down your garbage disposal is the best way to keep it clean and working well. That said, food particles do build up in the disposal, so an easy way to keep it clean and odor free is to turn it on and pour ice cubes into it while running cold water. Small strips of lemon peel (not a half of a lemon peel) or white vinegar can also help keep it clean and odor free.

Prevent Plumbing Problems

For your plumbing system, prevention rather than maintenance is the key to avoiding many problems and larger issues.

  • Be cautious of what goes down the drain in your showers, sinks, and toilets. Install screens over your drains in your showers to catch loose hair, and only flush sewage and toilet paper.
  • Even if you have a garbage disposal, limit the amount of food scraps that go down your kitchen drain. Never pour grease down the drain since it can harden in your pipes and cause issues.
  • Take care of leaks promptly, before they become larger issues and cause problems such as water damage or mold and mildew.
  • Know where your shutoff valves are located. Your home’s washing machine, sink, toilet, and water heater all have shutoff valves. Know where they are as well as your home’s main water shutoff valve.
  • If you have a clog, follow these tips for how to clear clogged drains.

Prevent plumbing problems

Flush Your Water Heater

Many manufacturers recommend having your water heater tank flushed regularly to remove sediment and minerals that can build up, particularly in areas with hard water. This buildup can cause the water heater to work harder and use more energy to heat water. The anode rod protects your water heater tank from corrosion, and should be replaced every few years, or according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

Although tankless water heaters don’t store hot water, mineral deposits can still build up in the heating chamber (heat exchanger) and cause problems. How often you need to flush a tankless water heater will depend on the hardness of the water where you live.

Clean Your Roof Gutters

Keeping your roof gutters clean may be one of the single most important ways you can keep your roof leak-free. Clean gutters and downspouts keep water channeled away from your roof, walls, foundation, and landscape. When leaves and debris pile up, this can damage your roof as well as your gutters. If your home is surrounded by trees, you may need to clean gutters several times per year.

Gutter covers or “leaf guards” can be a good investment as they help prevent most debris buildup. Even with gutter covers, you should still do a visual check at least once per year.

Gutter covers

Other Important Home Maintenance Tips

These home maintenance tips are a good starting point. Consider creating (or downloading) a home maintenance checklist that you can use to remind you what appliances and home systems need to be maintained, and when. A home maintenance log can also help keep track of service and repairs to important systems and appliances. If you really want to stay organized, you can create your own home maintenance manual

How a Home Warranty Can Help

Even though practicing routine home maintenance will help keep your home systems and appliances running safely and efficiently, these items eventually will break down—sometimes when you least expect. A First American home warranty can help protect your budget when covered items break. With a home warranty you also don’t need to worry about the hassle of finding a qualified professional to get the work done.

Learn more about home warranties, what appliances and systems First American home warranties can cover, or simply get a quote.