We recently wrote about things at home you don’t need to worry about. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. For every ahh, it’s not actually that big of a deal item on the list, there’s—sorry—something waiting to take its place. And it’s not always the stuff you might think about. So, just in case you need something to keep you up at night, here are five things that you should be worried about.
File this under things we often take for granted: running water. It’s the running part that makes it kind of insidious. When something fails—even little bitty parts—you are left with either trickles, or torrents, of water that seeps and floods where it doesn’t belong. There are so many horror stories involving water heaters, fridges with that convenient in-door water dispenser, washing machines—you name it. Anything connected to running water can potentially go very, very awry. So, invest in quality fixtures, check these fixtures periodically, and turn off your water main if you’re leaving home for an extended period. I’ve also heard of devices that can detect a sudden change in pressure and automatically shut your water off for you. (If you have experience with one of these, share in the comments!)
It doesn’t get much less sexy than replacing a furnace filter. Know what else isn’t sexy? Calling an HVAC repairperson when your heat goes out in the middle of winter, only to learn that it shut off because your filter was completely clogged with dog hair. Yep, it happened to me. Even if you don’t have shedding pets, you should still change them at least once a heating season, and more often if the cat and dog hair is flying. This is especially important for anyone with environmental allergies.
I mean, is there anything more deceptively innocuous than dryer lint? But I was raised with a healthy fear of fires from a lint build-up, to the point where, when we rented out a flat in our Detroit house, I was the most giant nag about tenants cleaning out the screen. I would even send reminder texts when I noticed it packed solid with weeks of the stuff. I wasn’t just being an unnecessarily annoying landlord; the experts quoted in this Consumer Reports piece say it should be cleaned after every. single. load.
Still don’t think it’s that big a deal? Here’s your Debbie Downer stat of the day: An accumulation of lint causes one out of four fires, according to the article, and “dryer fires are responsible for nine deaths, 420 civilian injuries, and $222 million in property damage annually.”
Criminy. So yeah, clean the screen on the regular, but also inspect your vent and exhaust duct periodically, especially when you notice clothes take longer to dry than they used to, which could be a sign of blockage.
Or, maybe we should just bring back clotheslines and drying racks?
Are you cleaning your refrigerator? I don’t mean throwing out last week’s leftovers before they turn green (although note to self: do that). The Family Handyman lets us in on a little secret. We can avoid most repair visits by cleaning the parts of the fridge you don’t think about. Have you ever vacuumed your coils? That’s the kind of thing I might get to in a once-yearly cleaning frenzy, but if you do it twice a year—more if you have pets—you’ll eliminate more than 70 percent of expensive service calls. Okay, I can get behind that.
Another necessary task that only takes two minutes? Wiping down the door gasket. The sticky stuff that collects on the inside of the door dries up and basically glues the gasket to the frame, leaving it vulnerable to tearing and air leaks. Like cleaning the coils, this little chore will also keep the utility cost of running the fridge in check.
DIYing in older houses
Okay, this is straight up horrifying. In this Q&A: Toxins We Overlook in Old Homes on Old House Web, Bernard Goldstein, M.D., shared some nightmare material. Take this for instance:
People sometimes make the mistake of sanding lead paint off the woodwork instead of stripping it, and that’s a great way to inhale fine particles into your lungs. I once saw a young man who had bought an old Victorian for a song and was sanding that stuff off, and he was just wearing a drugstore mask. He had incredible levels of lead poisoning and arsenic poisoning.
If that doesn’t scare you off getting rid of those layers of old paint, take proper precautions. The good doctor says:
…you really need a much better mask than what you get at the drugstore. With a surgical mask like that, you’re breathing out of the side of it, and the particles come in just as easily as if you had your mouth open. Get something from the hardware store that’s made for the job.
With that, I’m Captain Bringdown, signing off.