Home Care Basics for New Homeowners
You’ve finally done it—you’ve just moved into your brand new home. The smell of fresh paint still permeates the air. You’re likely consumed with unpacking, setting up furnishings, rearranging, decorating—energized by the blank pallet you have to work with. But once you’ve signed the thick pile of closing documents, the moving trucks have left and everything is neatly in its place, what do you do next? It’s time to get a handle on the routine maintenance you’ll need to perform in order to ensure that you and your family live comfortably in your new home for years to come. Here’s some advice to get you started and help save money while you’re at it:
Maintaining a clean home will ensures it will last longer and works better. Dust and dirt, if allowed to accumulate, can harm the finishes on blinds, cabinets, countertops, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, walls, tiles and other items. If dirt does accumulate, make sure to clean it with a substance that does not scratch or damage the finishes.
On the outside of your home, make sure that gutters and downspouts do not get clogged with leaves or other objects. The exterior of your house is built to withstand exposure to the elements, but a periodic cleaning will improve the appearance and, in many instances, prolong the life of siding and other exterior products.
When you bought your home, you probably received a warranty from the builder on workmanship and materials. This warranty applies to problems related to the construction of the home, but it does not apply to problems that arise because of failure to perform routine maintenance. For example, if your roof begins to leak after six months because of faulty workmanship, your warranty would cover that. If you develop a problem because water backed up in clogged gutters that you should have cleaned, the builder is not responsible for repairs. Also, some items, such as appliances, may be covered by manufacturers’ warranties and are not the responsibility of the builder.
You should fully familiarize yourself with the terms of your warranty soon after you move into your home. With all the excitement surrounding a move into a new home, most people have little desire to curl up in front of the fireplace and read a legal document. Nonetheless, you should not wait to read your warranty until a problem arises. Set aside an hour to learn what your rights and responsibilities are from the outset.
Here are some additional tips for properly maintaining specific systems in your new home.
Remember to read the instruction manual for every appliance in your new home. The manuals provide recommended cleaning and maintenance schedules and sometimes your warranty will become void if you don’t follow these recommendations.
If you have an asphalt driveway, remove oil, gasoline and similar substances immediately with soapy water.
To avoid holes in your asphalt driveway, refrain from resting patio furniture or bicycle stands on it.
Do not burn anything on your driveway.
Gutters and Downspouts
Clear away leaves, tree limbs and other debris from gutters and downspouts.
Downspouts should be turned away from your home’s foundation.
Every four to six years, paint gutters that are not are made of aluminum or vinyl to help prevent rust.
Heating and Cooling Systems
Late summer or early fall are the ideal time to do an annual inspection and cleaning of these systems.
Make sure you change the filters every three months.
Keeping your pilot light burning during the summer will help keep the furnace dry and prevent corrosion.
Registers help regulate the flow of air and maintain the desired temperature in your home. Keeping registers closed in rooms you don’t use will save on cooling/heating costs.
Using heat generating appliances in the evening and reducing the number of lights on will help keep the temperature down and save on costs during the summer.
Every member of your family should know where the intake valves are located. Label each one.
If any of your appliances develops a leak, inspect your drain trap. A partially clogged drain can cause overflow. Use a plunger or a plumber’s snake to unclog the drain. If you need to, use boiling water to help unclog a partially opened drain. Call a plumber if these techniques don’t work.
A worn washer, a loose part in a faucet or steam in a hot water pipe generally causes a noisy pipe. Do not hesitate to repair the noise because vibrations can follow the noise and lead to leaks.
Take Control of Your Energy Costs
The cost of cooling your house continues to rise. There are a number of ways you can save a significant amount of money on your energy bills. In fact, it’s possible to save up to 25 percent on your power bill by using the following tips. While your results might vary, you’re guaranteed to find at least a few ways to save money. The idea behind all our advice, and in fact our entire conservation effort, is to give you the information you need to make the right decisions.
These simple steps don’t cost a thing, but can potentially save you 10-25% on your monthly energy bill.
- Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Don’t forget your computer – it can use as much energy as a refrigerator. Most new computers have “sleep” settings.
- In the cold months, set the thermostat to 68 degrees when home, and then back to 58 degrees when sleeping or when you are not home more than four hours.
- In warm months, set the thermostat to 78-80 degrees when home and 5 to 10 degrees warmer at night or when you’re not home.
- Do not turn your air conditioning off in the hot months when you’re not home. Your house will store up the heat and you’re likely to make the air conditioning run for hours to feel comfortable.
- In the winter, open window coverings on the sunny side of your home to take advantage of “free heat from the sun” Close the coverings on cloudy days or right after the sun sets.
- In the cooling season, close blinds and drapes during the day to keep heat out.
- Also, use your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, and cook as late in the evening as possible.
- Barbecue outside if practical, keeping in mind the heat and effect of sun on your body. By reducing the heat coming into your home from any source, will reduce the load on your air conditioning.
- Use pool trippers to reduce the time your swimming pool pump runs on—eight to twelve hours a day is plenty in the summer months, less in the winter months.
- Set your water heater to 120 degrees.
- Vacuum your refrigerator coils (underneath and in the back) and don’t obstruct the coils. They need air space to work.
- Keep the seals (gaskets) on refrigerators and freezers clean.
- Keep your freezer as full as possible. You can place containers or plastic bottles filled with water in the empty spaces.
- Make sure food is cool and covered before it goes into the refrigerator.
- Close doors to rooms that are not being used.
- Run full loads in your washer and dryer, and use “solar drying” (clotheslines).
- Use energy saver option on your dishwasher, allowing dishes to air dry.
- If you A/C unit is on the ground, keep the area around it clean and free of obstructions to maintain air flow.
- Unplug your televisions/VCR when you’re on vacation. Most new sets draw power even when they’re turned off.
- Keep lights and lighting fixtures clean, especially if you’re reducing the number of lights you use. Dirt absorbs light. Let lights cool before cleaning them and never touch halogen bulbs with your bare hands. The oil from your skin can greatly damage the bulbs. Use a small piece of paper to hold the bulb.
- If your dishwasher has a filter clean it.
- Clean the reflectors underneath the burners on stovetops.
There are plenty of low cost, easy to do projects or steps you can do to save another 10-25% on your energy bill.
- Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones. This will typically save $1 per bulb changed out (for bulbs running 4-6 hours per day) and reduce heat in your home. Regular bulbs use most of the electricity to generate heat so use care when changing bulbs.
- Caulk windows and caulk and weather-strip doors. Keep the outside air out and the inside air in.
- Install a hot water heater blanket but be careful not to cover vents or temperature settings.
- Install hot water pipe insulation. Do keep the insulation at least six inches away from the flue (exhaust pipe) of gas water heaters.
- Plant trees and shrubs on the south and west side of your residence. The vegetation acts as insulation and provides shading, reducing thermal gain in a building.
- Fix leaky faucets Install low flow showerheads.
- Use room fans to keep the air moving and reduce the feeling of heat in your home.
- Replace furnace and air conditioner filters. Spray the filters with a light coating of lemon furniture polish or vegetable oil cooking spray to help trap dirt in the filter.
- Check the seals on your refrigerator and freezer.
- Replace normal thermostats with programmable thermostats.
Each year more than six million residential burglaries occur throughout the United States. That’s one every ten seconds! In addition to the worry of home burglaries, we now also need to concern ourselves with computer hackers and personal identity theft. Listed below are some things that you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Home Security Checklist
- Have home security system professionally installed that offers a 24 hour monitoring system. Make sure to post the home system stickers and window decals–this should alert and deter would be intruders.
- Never stop mail or newspaper deliveries, it signals that you are away. Have a neighbor pick up all deliveries if possible.
- When recording your answering machine message, do not state that you are not home or out of town.
- When leaving for an extended period, put lights and stereo or television on a timer to give the appearance that someone is home.
- Replace all locks immediately upon moving into your new home and install deadbolts on all outside doors.
- Secure your sliding glass doors with pins to prevent all horizontal and vertical movement. Also install security film over the glass panes for additional protection.
- Remember to lock all doors and windows.
- Provide remote panic buttons for children and/or elderly residents.
- Never keep garage door openers in cars that are parked outside of your home.
Keep Your Valuables Safe
- Keep your important papers, heirloom jewelry and large amounts of cash in a safe deposit box.
- Engrave your valuables with your social security number or drivers license number.
- Store jewelry, firearms, furs and like in a small closet with a non-hinged solid core door that has a deadbolt.
- When purchasing new electronic equipment, breakdown cartons before discarding them. This way you avoid advertising your new purchase to the entire neighborhood and drive-by observers.
Computer security is the process of preventing unauthorized use of your computer.
- Use of anti-virus software on all Internet-connected computers. Be sure to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.
- Use of some type of firewall product, such as a network appliance or a personal firewall software package.
- Turn off your computer or disconnect its Ethernet interface when you are not using it. An intruder cannot attack your computer if it is powered off or otherwise completely disconnected from the network.
- Use software backup tools if available, and store the backup disks somewhere away from the computer.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. While you can’t entirely control whether you will become a victim, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.