With the rush of the holiday season over, many of us are faced with the prospect of starting anew. For others, the New Year brings an opportunity to gain a fresh perspective. This translates into the often loathed, and occasionally loved, New Year’s resolution.
Will you be shedding those extra pounds acquired over the holidays?
Will you aspire to reach some other lofty personal goal?
Maybe you will even be taking the plunge to reinvent yourself in a whole new way.
While you tackle these overwhelmingly gigantic goals, why not work in a few New Year’s resolutions for your home?
New Year’s resolutions often come associated with enormous pressure to attain something nearly unreachable. That’s why only 8 percent of the population is successful in achieving their resolutions. Increase your chances and start with something that you can easily achieve. Improving your home also offers the promise of great, long lasting, benefits. That’s why we’ve created The Ultimate Home To-Do List.
With some simple, often low-cost, maintenance tasks, you can win at the most satisfying goal of all: helping to protect your loved ones.
There are two approaches to help ensure the safety of your home. First, you can perform regular maintenance tasks to take care of vulnerabilities and eliminate common causes of injury. Second, you can makes upgrades to add that extra level of protection.
Set aside the gym membership and set your sights on your home. Without further ado, here is our Ultimate Home To-Do List to bring in the New Year:
Starting from the inside and working your way out, here are 12 things you can do to keep your home secure:
Clean out your dryer vents: Your dryer is constantly venting. Often, this causes a buildup of material inside the vent. If not cleaned regularly, this buildup can cause blockages, which will prevent proper ventilation. What many homeowners do not realize is that dryer lint is extremely flammable. This seemingly innocuous material is responsible for 2,900 fires per year. The number one cause of dryer vent fires is a failure to clean them.
Cleaning your dryer vent is easy. You should wait until the dryer has not been in use for at least one hour. Pull the vent tube off the back of your dryer and take a look inside. Reach down in the tube and remove the lint. If you are unable to clear the accumulated lint, you can replace the dryer vent tube. This is a very inexpensive part available at any home improvement store.
Most newer homes have a vent tube that runs to an exhaust vent on the side of your home. After cleaning or replacing the vent tube, it's also recommended that you make sure the vent is clear of lint and debris. However, it’s important to remember that every house is different. Some homes have extended tubing for the dryer exhaust. For example, if your dryer is on the second floor or located somewhere in the middle of your home, you will likely have this extension. In that case, it’s recommended that you buy a dryer duct cleaning kit or call an HVAC specialist to perform this maintenance task.
Inspect your doors and windows: Check your doors and windows to ensure all locks are latching correctly. In addition, ensure that doors close properly and have appropriate caulking and weather stripping to avoid leakage.
Test your doors and windows on the first cold day of the year. Simply, run your hand around the edges and seals of the window or door. If you feel a draft in any area, you will need to investigate further. Look for ripped or missing weather stripping. Also, make sure there is no cracked or missing caulking.
Test your smoke detectors: As a regular maintenance task, you should check your smoke detectors for normal functionality. Smoke detectors are vital to preventing disaster. By detecting fire early, you dramatically increase your chance of getting out safely.
Most smoke detectors have a small test button on the front of them. Pressing and holding the button will start the detector’s self-test sequence. If you can’t find the test button or don’t know how to perform the detectors test sequence, you should remove the battery and replace with a new one.
Don’t forget about carbon monoxide detectors. These devices also need to be tested and have the batteries replaced on a regular schedule. The procedure is the same as the smoke detectors, and in some cases, the carbon monoxide detection is built into the smoke detector. Unlike smoke detectors which have a functioning life span of 10+ years, carbon monoxide detectors only work for 5 years. If yours are nearing that age, consider replacements.
Check faucets, sinks, bathrooms, and plumbing for leaking or corrosion: Check the water lines around faucets, sinks, and toilets. Look for signs of corrosion. Corrosion can generally be identified by a change in color or a buildup of material on the outer surface of the pipes. Leaking is easier to find as you will see the water puddled or running down the pipes. If you see either of these conditions, make the necessary repairs or call a plumber to avoid water damage.
Another common plumbing issue is frozen pipes. As the temperatures outside drop, your water pipes are susceptible to freezing. When water freezes, it expands. When it expands, it can break the pipes. If your pipe breaks, you could faced a huge problem and may have extensive damage to repair. Shut off your external water spigots and remove any attached garden hoses. On exceptionally cold nights, you can leave your cabinet doors open under sinks to allow warm air access to the plumbing.
Don’t forget the water lines coming from your washer. Like the rest of your plumbing, those lines can leak or freeze.
Service your water heater and furnace: It is recommended that you have your furnace inspected and serviced once a year by a licensed HVAC specialist. Also, don’t wait until the coldest day of the year to turn on your furnace. Turn your furnace on a few weeks before it gets cold. Make sure it heats up and blows hot air. Checking the functionality in advance gives you time to make repairs if it’s not functioning properly.
Your water heater does not typically require much service. It’s a good idea to drain the water tank and check the pressure valve yearly. You can do these yourself or hire a plumber to maintain your water heater. On average, a water heater lasts 8 to 10 years. If your water heater is nearing it’s life expectancy, budget to replace it.
Change air filters: The most important thing you can do to extend the life of your furnace and improve the quality of the air in your home is to regularly replace your furnace filter. The filter should be replaced at least every 90 days to avoid furnace damage and reduce the dirt and allergens in your home.
Lubricate your garage door: The garage door is a major point of entry to our homes. If you are like most people, you leave the door from your garage into your home unlocked. Lubricating the wheels and track on your garage door can prevent malfunctions. Imagine what could happen if your garage door was stuck open and you didn’t realize it. Someone would have an unlocked door leading directly into your home. Keeping the garage door lubricated can reduce the chance of this home security vulnerability.
Inspect fireplace and/or chimney: If you have a fireplace, check the venting to make sure all areas are properly ventilated. It is highly recommended that you have your chimney inspected by a licensed chimney sweep on a regular basis. A blockage in your chimney or too much buildup is a significant fire and health risk.If you choose to take on a chimney inspection, make sure a chimney cap is present and in good condition. Clear the area of any accumulated or overhanging debris. Inspect the chimney for missing or broken bricks. If you notice the chimney is leaning to one side, you will need to make immediate repairs.
Trim bushes and trees: These beautiful landscaping additions can become a hazard if not trimmed and maintained. Trim any overhanging tree branches and bushes so that foliage is not touching your home. Cut down or remove any dead trees or bushes. Dead branches fall very easily during high winds or severe storms.
Repair any missing or broken siding: Take the time to repair or replace any broken or missing siding. Unbeknownst to many homeowners, siding is not purely cosmetic. It prevents water from accessing your home. If water gets past the siding, you could be faced with water damage, and even mold buildup. Mold can be a major health hazard to you and your family.
Check roof for signs of deterioration: Similar to siding, your roof shingles direct the water away from your home, which helps to prevent damage and health hazards. Keep an eye out for streaking, standing water, or the presence of fungus.
Clean out gutters: Gutters can easily become clogged with leaves and other debris. If your gutters cannot direct the water away, it can build up around the foundation of your home. Water against your home’s foundation can cause leaky basements and possible foundation damage.
In addition to regularly maintaining your home, you should consider making upgrades to keep your home safe and secure. The following improvements can be made to enhance the security of your home.
Install LED lighting: LED light bulbs use little electricity. Even better, the cost of LED bulbs has significantly decreased in recent years. LED light bulbs last an extremely long time. Many LEDs have a rated life of up to 50,000 hours. At 8 hours per day, this would be approximately 17 years. So, LED light bulbs last nearly 30 times longer than incandescent bulbs and 5 times longer than compact fluorescents.
LED bulbs can also help with home security. These lights provide a brighter and more consistent light source to keep your property well-lit.
Install a smart thermostat: Smart thermostats include the likes of the Nest Learning Thermostat, Ecobee3 Smart Wi-Fi Termostat, and the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat. They have several advantages that reduce costs, increase comfort, and help protect your home. The Nest thermostat will allow you to remotely control the temperature in your home and set different temperatures when you are away. As an added benefit, some of these smart thermostats also learn your preferred temperature settings based on your habits and adjust accordingly.
Add carbon monoxide detectors: If your home is not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, take the extra step to install them. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, making it undetectable by your home’s inhabitants.
There are many Carbon Monoxide Detectors on the market today. All detectors will alert you of the presence of built-up carbon monoxide. The ADT Monitored Carbon Monoxide Detector from Protect Your Home actually communicates with you and emergency services. The ADT Monitored Carbon Monoxide Detector will detect low and high omissions. The detector will alert you at 70 PPM. This informs about you of a problem as early as possible.
Install smart locks on doors: Installing smart locks gives you more control over who enters your home. Examples include the Kwikset Kevo or the August Smart Lock. Rather than leaving doors unlocked for guests, you can share a code or digital key so that your home is never left unsecured. The days of making sure everyone has a house key are over.
Replace old or rotten windows: Deteriorating windows can be a significant vulnerability for your home. Unsecured windows are a main access point for anyone seeking unsolicited entry into your home. You can significantly reduce your risk by ensuring you have fully functional windows.
Install security lighting: Well-placed motion sensor lighting is a huge deterrent to anyone who might try to break into your home. These simple devices are well worth the investment. In fact, 24% of convicted burglars admitted that outside lighting was a factor in choosing a home.
Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances: Energy efficient appliances help reduce the strain on the environment. They use less power and resources while typically increasing your functionality. Check out the Energy Star Refrigerator Calculator to estimate what you could be saving with a new appliance.
Get a home security system: Home security systems constantly monitor your home to help ensure the safety of your loved ones. ADT(R) provides redundant, around-the-clock service in the case of a break-in or issue. Home security systems frequently come with options to the incorporate cameras. These cameras are accessible with an associated app or web portal access to provide remote viewing of your property at any time.
There it is folks. Like other resolutions, don’t let this list become overwhelming. Take as many of these steps as you can. Don’t sweat the fact that you can’t do these in a single day. Any improvements will make your home that much more secure and your families safer.