When trouble springs up at your house, what’s your first reaction? For all but the technically trained, it’s a call to an expert. Whether it’s a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, or any other skilled worker, it’s going to cost you a bit. Those kinds of unexpected expenses can put a real dent in your budget, causing all sorts of mayhem. But with a little work, many of these emergencies are preventable.
All it takes is a little know how and some supplies at the ready. With those anyone can perform basic household maintenance that can save them money in the long run. It might not prevent your furnace or water heater from breaking, but it can help prolong their lives and help stave off expensive visits from contractors.
1. Test electric sockets
Surprisingly enough, I learned this one while living in an apartment. The cable guy came to do his setup thing, and I had left the TV and everything unhooked so I could move them if necessary. He found a good spot to run the cable, and so we plugged in the TV to test out the connection.
Only it didn’t work. Power had stopped flowing to that outlet. We had to jostle things around to find another outlet that worked. What a pain.
In my home I now routinely check unused outlets to make sure that they’re still working. You never know when you’re going to need them, and you can imagine the frustration of needing an outlet that doesn’t provide any power. You can get a fancy tool to test outlets, or you can just plug in an alarm clock. That’s easy enough.
2. Clean air filters
Have you ever noticed that your air conditioner isn’t working like it used to? Chances are, it’s not breaking down. Well, it might be, in a way. There’s a good chance that the air filter is filthy. That restricts the airflow, which can cause weak fan strength and dusty air to emerge from the unit. It’s best to take a vacuum to the air filter once a month, and replace it — if not every year, every other year.
But the most important air filter might be on your furnace. Failure to clean that can result in complete shutdown of your furnace. And do you know how much a new furnace costs? It’s a question you don’t want the answer to, trust me. Keeping that filter cleaned — or better, just replace it — will help prolong its valuable life.
3. Check for loose pipes
Don’t fancy yourself a plumber? Don’t worry; most of us don’t, either. Even if you don’t plan on making it a profession, you can learn basic plumbing procedures that can save you a call to a professional. And just as any professional tradesman, your plumber is going to charge you considerably for labor. If you maintain your pipes, you might be able to avoid those calls.
There are plenty of books on plumbing, so pick one up and then make sure you have the right tools. Having a set of basic plumbing fixtures on hand will make jobs easier, too. Maybe you can’t fix a burst pipe, but you can ensure that they’re tight and in good shape. If it saves you even one plumber call, it’ll be worth the effort.
4. Unclog gutters
Cleaning the gutters is a thankless job. Maybe you’ve taken the plunge before. If you have, maybe you’ve decided to leave it to the professionals. There are some things in life worth paying someone else for, and perhaps cleaning the gutters is one of them. That is, unless you take some prevent gutter disasters. It takes less than an hour, once a month.
On that designated day, climb up on the ladder to where your gutters drain. If you remove any thick patches from around that area, you’ll clear the passageways. You’ll eventually have to clean the rest of the gutters, but this will make that task more manageable. After paying a ridiculous bill to a nameless gutter cleaning company I decided to try this myself. After spending an hour a weekend for three straight months, I dove into the whole job. It didn’t take me that long at all. Much more manageable, because I’d performed that maintenance.
5. Seal driveway cracks
This one goes especially for kids, and especially especially for kids who want a basketball hoop in the driveway. But it works just as well for everyone who wants a clean and even driveway. We all know the deal with cracks in asphalt. Water gets in there, and when it freezes the cracks expand. Eventually the asphalt comes loose, and you have potholes. You might drive over those potholes at 3 miles per hour, but they’re still a pain — and unsightly to boot.
All it takes is a quick trip to the Home Depot for some driveway sealer. Slap some of that in the crack, and you’ll avoid the pothole problem.