Everyone in the home repair field sees examples of homeowner neglect that costs money, increases wear and tear on expensive mechanical systems, and can even threaten life and limb. It’s unfortunate and completely preventable because with just a little bit of maintenance and moxie, homeowners can stretch their budgets, improve equipment performance and significantly reduce most household hazards.
Here are some of the simple little things that most homeowners should know, but most don’t.
- Household water pressure typically starts out at 40-60 pounds per square inch. That’s enough to cause weak piping joints to burst and to create a noisy condition known as water hammer when things aren’t right with the plumbing system.
- Never, ever store flammables in the vicinity of a furnace, boiler or water heater, especially one with a standing pilot light. This is easy to overlook, because basements and utility rooms are by definition storage areas. Also, some substances prone to combustion aren’t obvious fire hazards such as swimming pool chemicals or many household cleaners. To be on the safe side, if it’s a substance you wouldn’t ingest, keep it away from combustion appliances.
- Furnace filters ideally ought to be changed four times a year, and certainly at least twice a year. Yet, heating technicians routinely encounter furnaces where the filters haven’t been changed in years.
- Just one working smoke alarm can reduce your chances of dying in a home fire by almost 50%. Yet, a quarter to one-third of smoke alarms don’t work due to dead or missing batteries.
Tip: get in the habit of changing all alarm batteries once a year on your birthday or some other memorable date you won’t forget.
- Studies have shown that duct leaks account for as much as one-third of residential heating and cooling consumption. Yet, almost nobody bothers to check for leaks, not even most heating technicians.
- According to the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association, it only takes half of a second to scald someone in 150°F water, one second in 140°F water, and four minutes in 120°F water. Modern water heaters are factory-set at 120°F, but many older models deliver much higher temperature water.
- The most common household injuries occur from falls, which are blamed for more than 8,000 U.S. deaths a year. Bathtub and shower stall slips account for more than 160,000 documented injuries each year, and many more that go unreported. Nonslip bath mats and grab bars are important safety measures for any house.
- One of the simplest ways of extending the life of your water heater is periodic replacement of sacrificial anode rods. These are made of magnesium or aluminum and are intended to corrode so that the water heater tank doesn’t. The anode rod starts out about ¾ inch in diameter, but within three years is typically reduced to ¼ inch or less. Next time you have a plumbing or heating service technician to your home, ask them to check out your water heater anode rods.
- More and more homes have carbon monoxide detectors, which is good. Many of them have them installed in the vicinity of CO-emitting appliances, which is bad. You want them installed near bedrooms. The biggest risk from CO occurs when people are sleeping.
- Ground-fault circuit interrupters are simple, inexpensive devices that can be obtained at any hardware store. They ought to be installed in bathroom outlets and any other outlets near water.
- Corrosive drain cleaners, such as those sold on supermarket shelves, frequently cause injury to plumbers or homeowners when they open up pipes or sink traps to do repairs. Non-corrosive drain cleaners are much better choices. One of the best, Bio-Clean, is sold exclusively through plumbing contractors.
- Soldering is not the most difficult task in the world, but it is not quite as easy as it looks. Professional plumbers routinely end up repairing leaks caused by do-it-yourself solderers. A common problem is using too much or too little flux.
- Any water heater without a working temperature and pressure relief valve is a time bomb waiting to explode. Plumbing and heating technicians encounter too many of these bombs.
- An automatic setback thermostat is one of the best investments any homeowner can make. These devices can be programmed to modulate your household temperature for maximum comfort when occupants are present, but conserve energy when everyone is away at school and⁄or work.