Preventive Home Maintenance Tasks for the Frugal Homeowner

by A. J. McKnight

Preventive home maintenance might take a bit of your time each month, but it is better than repair costs taking a bit of your money. And it can keep your utility costs in check, too.

Taking the time to regularly do some simple, preventive home maintenance tasks is essential for the frugal homeowner. You’ll ineveitably have unexpected repairs. One morning you’ll wake up to a cold shower or the dishwasher won’t drain and you’ll be facing an unexpected bill.

An emergency fund is ideal for covering these unplanned costs, but you are not in the minority if your emergency fund balance is too low to cover a visit from a plumber or the purchase of a new dishwasher. You need your appliances, A/C and furnace running as efficiently as possible for as long as possible.

HVAC System

Perhaps you always remember to change the air filter of your HVAC system based on the recommended schedule for the filter type.

Go one step further and check your unit’s outdoor condenser each month as well. Remove any leaves or objects that are obstructing airflow.

And if you don’t regularly change your HVAC system’s filter?

That dirt and debris clogging up the filter is likely making the unit work harder, putting stress on the system’s mechanical components and shortening the lifespan of your unit, not to mention running up your heating and cooling bills each month.

Furnace

Just like an HVAC system, your furnace also has a filter that needs to be regularly cleaned or replaced typically every 30 days, depending on the filter type. Occasionally vacuum the compartment where the filter is placed and the blower fan, as well as the outside surface of your furnace to remove dirt and cobwebs.

Inspect burner compartments for dust and debris. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment or a soft brush to clean the compartments without  damaging the burners.

Move anything that has been placed against or near the furnace. The furnace should be fully visible, especially all the pilot lights.

Hot Water Heater

Every six months, use the spigot on the side of the hot water heater to drain a bucket of water from the bottom of the tank to remove a lot of the sediment that can eventually build up and lead to rust and deterioration of the unit.

Fridge/Freezer

A few times per year, prevent and correct air leaks by cleaning the door gasket with a mild cleaning solution. Then check for places where the gasket has been pinched out of shape or torn. Use gasket cement to repair minor tears or do a simple DIY gasket replacement.

Keep your compressor from overworking by defrosting the freezer as necessary when ice coating gets thicker than 1/4 inch. Also, clean condensing coils (either on the bottom or back of the unit)  every 3 months. Use a broom or vacuum to remove the majority of the dirt and then clean the coils using a non-abrasive liquid cleaner.

If your refrigerator has a fan, make sure that it’s clean and not blocked.

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Dishwasher

In might seem odd that you need to clean a machine that is designed to, well, clean, but all that cleaning can lead to mineral and soap accumulation.

Each month, place a bowl with two cups of white vinegar upright in the dishwasher. Run by itself on a normal cycle.

Occasionally (and carefully!) remove both the strainer from the dishwasher door and the spray arm from the bottom of the unit. Soak the strainer in soapy water while you gently use a thin, stiff wire to clean the small holes of the spray arm.

Range Vent

When is the last time you cleaned your range hood filter?

Never?

At a minimum, remove it and clean it once per year. Instead of spending money on a store-bought degreaser, you can find plenty of tips online, from soaking to boiling, for getting your range hood filter as clean as new.

A grungy range hood filter is not as likely to lead to a large repair bill like a clogged HVAC or furnace filter can. But it can cause an unpleasant odor in your home and even attract bugs (and possibly an exterminator bill).

Washer

A few times per year, run your washer on the hottest and longest cycle with one gallon of white vinegar added to the water to remove the soap build-up that can prevent your clothes from getting fully clean.

Never overload your washer. You’ll extend the life of the motor and use less energy.

Keep an old towel handy to dry the barrel and lid after each use to prevent rust. If your washing machine barrel begins to show rust, run a cycle of hot water and two cups of lemon juice.

A few times per year, check the water supply hose for kinks or cracks and replace as necessary. Also make sure your washing machine is level. Uneven settings can cause unbalanced loads (not to mention a lot of noise), which can damage the barrel over time.

Dryer

As with your washer, preserve the life of the dryer motor by not overloading the machine.

Hopefully you are in the habit of cleaning out the dryer’s lint screen after each use. Also remove the lint screen about once per month and scrub with warm, soapy water to eliminate the buildup of fabric softener and soap residue.

Twice a year, use a steel vent brush to remove lint clogging the vent hose.

Ceiling Fans

Too much dust can cause your ceiling fans to overheat. Vacuuming with a brush attachment is an easy way to clean the fan blades. Or you can just use a cloth. Just don’t put too much pressure on the blades.

Does you fan wobble? It is likely unbalanced and increasing wear and tear on the fan’s motor. Correct wobbles with a balancing kit that can be found at most hardware stores.

How Much Can These Preventive Home Maintenance Tasks Save You?

If you’re tempted to dismiss the importance of adding these preventive home maintenance tasks to your to-do list, go online and price a new HVAC unit, furnace or even your kitchen appliances. Research repair costs.You could be looking at a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

If you’re not going to maintain your current appliances, you might as well start saving for new ones now.

These preventive home maintenance tasks might take a bit of your time each month, but it is better than repair costs taking a bit of your money. And if you can extend the life of your appliances, you’ll have more time to gradually build up your emergency fund to cover those unexpected, yet unavoidable repairs.

So get your calendar out right now and schedule the preventive home maintenance tasks that apply to your home.

Build an Emergency Fund

With these simple tools, you could save $1000, even while living paycheck to paycheck.

Reviewed March 2019

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