Owning a home comes with some significant responsibilities … and possibly a few headaches and wallet hits. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of projects that call for a professional, even if DIY seems tempting. Nevertheless, some basic home maintenance skills can save you oodles of stress and strain on your finances.
Here are the top things every homeowner should know to keep their home in tip-top shape and cut down on maintenance calls:
How to reset a tripped circuit breaker
Have you ever tried to plug in your hairdryer while simultaneously microwaving a breakfast burrito and managed to overload or short the circuit? (Is that just us?) If a section of lights in your home suddenly stops working, chances are, you’ve tripped the circuit breaker — in other words, your circuit is trying to carry a heavier electrical load than it’s meant to support. If something in your house doesn’t seem to be working because it doesn’t have power, check the breaker panel. Do this before calling in any service people; it can save you a lot of time and money!
What to do: Find the breaker for that circuit, turn it off and then back on, and then recheck it. The trick is finding the tripped circuit, which is typically easily located by a red or orange marker. If there’s no indicator window, you can spot the culprit by looking for the switch that has shifted entirely to “off” or is mid-way between “off” and “on.”
How and why to change the direction of your ceiling fan
Did you know that ceiling fans run in both directions to help your HVAC system run more efficiently? Learning when and how to run your ceiling fan can lower your energy bills. It’s a seasonal thing — in the summer, ceiling fans should run counterclockwise to push the airflow throughout the room. While you’re running your heater in the winter, ceiling fans should run clockwise to create an updraft. Reversing the direction allows warm air that’s near the ceiling to move down toward the floor, which better heats your home.
What to do: Changing the direction of the blades is simple. If you have a remote control feature, you should have a built-in reverse button. If not, turn off your fan as a safety precaution. Next, locate the switch near the base of your fan fixture. Flip it, and you’re good to go!
How and why to replace your air filters monthly
It’s easy to forget about changing the air filters in your home until they get completely clogged or start making odd whistling noises, but the best practice is to change them monthly. This is particularly true if you have pets or allergies. It’s best to use an inexpensive pleated air filter, which is generally made from higher quality materials.
What to do: Most air filters are labeled with an arrow, so you know which way to install them. You should always face the arrow toward the unit — in other words, toward the ceiling or wall into which you’re putting the filter.
How and when to replace the toilet flapper
If your toilet is constantly running, don’t call a plumber until you’ve spent 30 seconds inspecting the tank. While it may not sound like a super exciting prospect, you’ll be much happier if it saves you from a hefty bill! A corroded toilet flapper is often the cause for a running toilet, so it’s worth taking a peek before calling a plumber.
What to do: Carefully remove the lid from the back of your tank. Put a few drops of food coloring into the tank water and wait about half an hour without flushing. If the colored water makes its way to the toilet bowl, your flapper isn’t sealing properly and needs to be replaced. The replacement process is inexpensive and straightforward, as long as you know what size flapper to get. Often, a universal toilet flapper will do the trick. Once you have the replacement flapper, locate the water shut-off for the toilet, which is typically at the wall behind your tank. Turn the knob to the right (“righty tighty, lefty loosey!”). Next, flush the toilet to drain the tank, then unhook the old rubber flapper and chain. Attach the new flapper by hooking the sides onto the stem and reattaching the chain (make sure there’s enough slack in the chain). Turn the water back on and flush to test your work.
How and when to test your electrical outlets
When it comes to most electrical matters, I defer to the professionals. However, knowing how to test your ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) is a basic necessity. GFCIs protect us from electrocution by discontinuing power if they experience a disruption. You’ll find many (or perhaps most) of your GFCI outlets in areas with running water such as bathrooms, the kitchen, the laundry room, or the exterior of your home. They’re easy to recognize by the “test” and “reset” buttons, and it’s a good idea to test them once a month. Fortunately, the process is an easy one.
What to do: Plug a small lamp into the GFCI outlet, then press the test button. You should hear the button click, your lamp should turn off, and the “reset” button should pop up. Next, press “reset,” and the light should come back on. If it doesn’t, your outlet likely has a malfunction or incorrect wiring, and it’s time to call the electrician.