- Replace the batteries in your smoke & carbon monoxide detectors.
- Check your home's insulation.
- Inspect the air-conditioning system.
- Give you central heating system a check-up.
- Check the basement and crawl space for moisture.
- Flush your water heater.
- Inspect the washing machine water hoses for cracks.
- Inspect the dryer vent for lint buildup.
- Clean the refrigerator coils.
- Drain the dishwasher.
With winter thawing out and springtime kicking in, this is a great time to check on your major appliances and systems. If you live in a colder or rainy climate, it’s a good time to make sure the last few months’ winters weather didn’t damage anything inside or outside your home.
It’s also great to get this stuff out of the way so you can relax and enjoy the coming months with peace of mind, confident that all your appliances will keep you cool and keep - your home running smoothly. And let’s face it, no one likes dealing with this stuff once the hot weather kicks in.
1. Replace the batteries in your smoke & carbon monoxide detectors.
Replace the batteries
One of the most vital Spring home maintenance tasks is the replacement of batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Check your smoke detectors at least three to four times a year. In certain states, hard-wired detectors are mandatory but battery-operated detectors are pretty standard elsewhere.
It’s very simple. Push the testing button on the carbon monoxide or smoke detector. Usually, you’ll hear a steady beep if the battery is low. If you’ve been using the same batteries for over 4-5 months, it might just be a good idea to replace them either way. This is one area you don’t want to skimp. Verify that the unit is working properly as well. It could save lives.
Or, replace the Unit
If your smoke or carbon monoxide detector is up to ten years or older, it has to be replaced. Some states mandate this by law. In these and other states, it’s just smart.
2. Check your home's insulation.
Check around to ensure your insulation is up to par. It’s a great way to save on energy bills but also helps keep your home cool with less temperature fluctuation. Poor insulation can cause your A/C to work much harder than it has too, hastening a break down or necessitating repairs sooner than normal. You don’t want this to happen over the summer, so now is a great time to check your home’s insulation. Windy or drafty days are best for this task.
Check the weather stripping around the edges of all your doors and windows. Replace it if it’s falling apart or damaged in any way.
If the windows and doors are caulked, old caulking can dry up, harden and chip over time. Poor caulking can also let other problems in, like rain. Before you re-caulk the doors or windows, scrape or cut away the old caulking if it’s dried up. Even if you don’t feel a draft, small gaps can run up your energy bills significantly if there are enough of them – both in the summer and winter.
3. Inspect the air-conditioning system. Change HVAC air filters.
When it comes to your central air conditioner (and central heating) systems, regular maintenance and cleaning can increase their efficiency up to 15%. Your A/C will perform better and consume less energy as a result. Not to mention -- the last thing you want to do is wait until the summer heat kicks in to fix or fuss with your HVAC system. A new air conditioner should last 12-15 years or longer. Proper maintenance is the best way to give it a good, full lifespan.
- Start outside. Trim any brush around the outside air compressor and clean the coils if needed. Then, just clean the unit with water. Spraying it down with a hose is sufficient.
- Be sure to have the duct work professionally cleaned every three to four years. It will help you breathe easier at home and cut down on dust pumping into your home. If you have hardwood floors, this is all the more important.
- Make sure the unit isn’t leaking and that it drains properly. If it’s not draining as it should — or if too much water is escaping — it won’t run as well as it should. Check around the hose attachments for leaks or cracking. Make sure the condensate tube can drain without impediment.
- Change your air filters. Not doing so regularly can cause your A/C system to freeze up. And it typically happens at the worst possible time — when your A/C is working its hardest.
- Change the filter(s) every 4-6 weeks. Most take only three to four minutes to replace. If anyone in your home suffers from allergies, a clean filter could help them a great deal. Some filters will last longer than 4-6 weeks, so read the instructions that came with your filters to make sure you’re on schedule.
- Keep your thermostat set a little higher than usual—especially when you’re not home. Setting the A/C to low temperatures will not necessarily cool the house any faster. Setting your temperature higher when you’re out for the day will generate less wear and tear on the system and helps out significantly with your energy bills.
4. Give your central heating system a check-up.
For central heating maintenance, it’s usually best to have a service professional perform a checkup. HVAC contractors can do a thorough check, ensuring that it performs at peak efficiency through the colder spring and summer nights – and you won’t have to deal with it in the fall.
If you want to try this yourself, here are a few steps that you can take:
- Test the heater to make sure it runs.
- If you have a natural gas system, check the pilot light. The flame should always be clear blue. A yellow or orange flame could signify an issue. If this is the case, call a professional.
- Dirty filters will strain your system, causing a decrease in efficiency, and could hasten a breakdown.
- Clear any drapes, furniture, or plants blocking the vents.
- Clear any obstructions from outside vents.
5. Check the basement and crawl space for moisture
Plumbing leaks in the basement are a dreaded affair for any homeowner. It’s best to catch them before they get worse and cause damage in your basement.
- Check for burst pipes.
- Check around the floor drain for backups.
- Check your basement walls and floors
- Check for a flooded sump basin
- Check around the floors for leaks between your walls and floors
Two standard inspection practices can help you determine if you have a plumbing problem or a foundation leak:
- Water quantity: Burst pipes, backed-up drains, and clogged fixtures are usually the cause of a large amount of water (especially if it’s happening over a short period of time). If you see this, call a plumber over as soon as possible.
- Foundation: For leaks in your foundation, water typically takes a while to seep into the basement. Check around where the floor meets the walls (or wait until after the next heavy rain) and look for seepage. Foundation leaks and seepage can be tough to spot. Basement water proofers are who to call if this is the situation. Some of them can also repair your sump pump if needed.
6. Flush your water heater.
You should flush out your water heater at least yearly, this can significantly prolong the lifespan of your unit and help your HVAC system run more efficiently.
Flushing your water heater tank removes the buildup of sediment. In addition to clogging your water line or causing the steel to rust, this sediment can lower your water heater’s efficiency and increase your utility bills.
7. Inspect the washing machine water hoses for cracks.
The average household washer uses between 4,500 to 13,000+ gallons of water per year. If you keep it maintained, the flow of water to and from the unit will keep your family’s clothes clean. Give it a quick check to help ensure it keeps running as it should through the spring and summer.
Here are some typical problems to watch for:
Ruptured Supply Hose
Check the hoses (usually rubber) connecting the unit to hot and cold water faucets behind the washer. These hoses become brittle over time and can rupture, releasing 650 gallons of water per hour into your home, causing serious damage and necessitating serious repairs. If a rupture does occur, turn off both water supply faucets on the wall to stop the flow.
Don’t skimp on the hoses. Replace older hoses with the new, more reliable braided stainless steel lines.
Check the hose that connects your washer to the PVC drainpipe on the wall (behind the unit). Blockages here can cause an overflow from the top of the pipe. After running a load, check around the unit and behind it for signs of leakage.
If you do have a clog, you’ll need a professional plumber to fix the drainpipe. Unplug the washer and don’t run it again until the issue is fully resolved.
Your washer should have an internal water pump that removes water from the machine tub. A leak here will typically show up in the form of a small puddle under or near the unit. Usually, the leakage only occurs while the unit is operating, so this is the time to check it.
If you do spot a problem, just turn the washer off and unplug it from the wall. Also shut off the water at the wall behind the washer. Now it’s time to bust out a mop and call a good appliance service.
8. Inspect the dryer vent for lint buildup.
Clean the Vent
Not to be confused with the lint trap, a clogged dryer vent can be a fire hazard. Cleaning it is simple:
- Disconnect the vent from behind the machine.
- Buy a dryer vent brush and use it to remove any lint or debris.
- Use the brush and remove any lint from the other end of the vent line.
- Ensure that the vent cover flap moves without any impediment.
All said and done, this should only take a few minutes and could save your household from a fire.
9. Clean the refrigerator coils.
Used to conduct the hot air from inside the unit, the coils are located on the bottom or the back. They typically get caked with dust and debris, making your refrigerator work harder and run less efficiently. Over time, ignoring this can shorten the lifespan of the unit – never mind the increase in your energy bills.
If you don’t do this often, the accumulative build-up could create a serious mess. The more often you do it, the easier it will be and the better your refrigerator will perform.
- Unplug the unit and pull it out from the wall and make sure the coils are dry with a paper towel. Use your vacuum cleaner hose to clean the dust and debris from the coils. Be gentle with the coils, apply the vacuum hose lightly so as not to damage them.
- Once you’ve done this, just run over the coils once using a damp cloth.
- If there’s any stubborn debris, you can use a paintbrush to remove it.
- At the bottom, most refrigerators will have a removable grate in front and there may be coils behind it. Remove the grate.
- Again, make sure no moisture is leaking from the unit. Use your vacuum cleaner to clean grate and coils.
10. Drain the dishwasher.
If your dishwasher isn't properly draining, you may have a clog. Here are some steps you can take to help diagnose and fix the problem.
Run the disposal for at least 30 seconds
Turn on your disposal while running water from the sink. Let it run at least 30 seconds. Often, this step alone with clear up any blockage.
Drain the dishwasher
Place towels on the floor around the appliance. Use a large cup or ladle to scoop as much of the water as possible into your sink or a large bowl. Use cloth or paper towels to soak up any remaining water when you get to the bottom.
Clear the drain basket
First, unplug the dishwasher or switch off the circuit breaker. You may have to remove a fuse from the fuse box or flip the circuit breaker "Off." Make sure the power is cut off by trying turn the unit on.
The drain basket can usually be located at the bottom or side of the dishwasher. If it’s clogged with food or detergent, wash it under the sink until clear. If you can't find or remove the basket, pour one tablespoon of baking soda, then two tablespoons of vinegar down the drain. Wait 15 minutes and run hot water down the drain.
Clear blockages & check the filter
First, check underneath, where water drains. Clear any blockage and/or food particles that might have gathered under the dish racks.
If you haven't cleaned it in a long time, your filter is a likely culprit. These filters need cleaning every 6 – 23 months, depending how often you use the machine and how clean the dishes are when loaded. Your owner's manual will help you find the filter.
Check the drain hose
Older drain hoses can form kinks, which create blockages. Inspect the hose to make sure there are no kinks or clogs. If kinks have formed, simply straighten them out. Carefully poke through the hose with a wire hanger to remove clogs and any debris and make sure the hose's seal is securely connected at both ends.
Check your drain valve
Consult your owner's manual to locate the drain valve. You should be able to move the drain valve easily with your fingers. If the valve doesn't move freely when you push on it, most likely its electrical components are burnt out and it needs replacement.
Check the air gap
Typically, an air gap is located next to the faucet. This prevents your sink water from backing up into the dishwasher. If water is flooding onto your counter, this is most likely the cause. Clear the air gap by removing and cleaning the cap with a bottle or pipe brush — or by flushing it with a funnel and hot water.
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