Help Squad: Spending money to save money in home maintenance

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Being a homeowner isn’t easy. Maintaining the place where you live can be time consuming, regardless of whether you’re doing the work yourself or simply making calls to set up service appointments. Then there’s the cost.

Maintenance that includes things like getting your furnace and air conditioner serviced, steam cleaning carpets, cleaning dryer vents and sweeping your chimney aren’t cheap. That’s why the trigger for maintenance is often an emergency service call to address a loud noise, a non-responsive “on” button, or the worst, sewage where it doesn’t belong.

To prevent the huge costs that can be associated with fixing or replacing home fixtures, we put together five maintenance musts. If you take our advice, you’ll have to dig into your wallet a little bit now, but in the long run, you’ll be avoiding big costs!

Automatic garage door: This is one of those household items that you don’t think much about until it isn’t working, at which point is a huge inconvenience. An annual preventive maintenance tune-up can reduce the number of issues you could have. Most likely the company that installed your garage door offers this service. The chains, gears, springs, rollers, sensors, door alignment and transmitters are just a few of the items that will be inspected, adjusted and/or lubricated.

Sewer pipes: For older homes with clay sewer pipes and large trees (i.e., long roots seeking an easily accessible water source), yearly rodding of a home’s main sewer line is essential to ensure that all sewage flows away from the house and into the sanitary sewer. Ignoring or forgetting to perform this service can have a very smelly and expensive end result! Toilets that gurgle or don’t flush well, or a poorly draining floor drain are all signs that a rodding appointment is overdue.

Home exercise equipment: If you have a treadmill or exercise bike, or any other fitness apparatus that contains moving parts, you need to ensure that they too are kept “fit.” If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can lubricate and tighten the belt on your treadmill yourself. You can also tighten the nuts and bolts (which inevitably loosen over time), adjust the leveling and tension, and replace the pedals and pedal straps on your exercise bike. Your owner’s manual will provide directions for all of these adjustments. Depending on how often your equipment is used, this type of maintenance should be done once every three to 12 months, and a professional tune-up is generally recommended once every two years.

Refrigerator: Easily the most used appliance in the house, the fridge also tends to be the most neglected in terms of regular maintenance. Sweeping or vacuuming the condenser coils, which are located on either the back or underside of the unit, replacing the water filter and treating the gasket (the rubber seal that frames the door) by wiping it down with vinegar to prevent mold are all steps you can perform just once a year that will help to extend your fridge’s life and keep it running energy efficiently. Refer to your appliance’s owner’s manual for details.

Computer: Probably one of the most used items in your home and most neglected (until something goes wrong,) you should be doing the following two to six times a year. Remove old programs; the more you have on your computer, the slower it will run and the more prone it will be to bugs, make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date and your subscription is paid, regularly download updates to your most-used software to keep it safe from viruses and spyware and wipe down your monitor with a clean, lint-free cloth. Clean the tops of the keys with rubbing alcohol and under the keys with pressurized air.

One last tip: The amount of maintenance in a home can sometimes seem overwhelming. So, we recommend scheduling just one maintenance appointment per month, which makes things seem so much more manageable, and spreads out the costs. No one likes to spend their hard-earned money to pay a serviceman to come clean your dryer vent. That said, spending money on your maintenance musts will save you big bucks tomorrow!

Cathy Cunningham is a new contributor to Help Squad. A former marketing and communications professional, Cunningham also spent several years as a business process improvement consultant. She is now a writer and print journalist.

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