I had lived in my first home for almost one and a half years before I knew furnaces had filters that needed to be changed on the regular.
Here’s how that discovery went down: My mom was at a hardware store, and she texted me about filters being on sale! Did I want her to pick me up some?
I Googled: “How often do furnace filters need to be changed?” Google responded: “Check them once every month.” I looked around my home, feeling inept, wondering what other appliances I was neglecting in my first-time homeowner naivety. This felt much like freshman year when I mistakenly washed my clothes with liquid fabric softener for an entire semester. But more was at stake: Clogged furnaces could shut down or even start a fire. Eek.
Combining my experience with the help of home maintenance experts, I’ve gathered some ideas I think would be worthy of being in a first-time homeowner’s manual.
1. Those HVAC filters need to be changed
Like I mentioned, it took me 18 months to replace my furnace filter for the first time. #Adultingfail. Because I solemnly swear to be a better homeowner, I checked in with Jordan Ribelin, Lowe’s maintenance expert, for some filter guidelines. The recommendation? Change or clean filters monthly, or at least every three months. When your HVAC system is circulating through dirty filters, it works harder and costs you more money to heat and cool your home, he explains. Noted.
2. Don’t overlook your gutters
Let’s be honest, gutters are easy to forget about. They’re outside, usually a neutral color blending in with your house, and are pretty self-sufficient. But, when your gutter gets clogged up with debris, it can wreak all kinds of havoc, including a leaky roof and water damage to your home. Grab a ladder and make sure your gutters are clear of dirt, leaves, and debris, suggests Andrew Hecox, a general contractor in Wichita, Kansas, who often works with real estate agents for post-home inspection fixes. You should do this check at least twice a year, typically in the spring and fall. If you’ve got pine trees nearby your gutters, make this a chore you do every season because the pine needles are notorious for causing clogs. “Something as simple as gutter cleaning could save some major money in future home repairs,” Hecox says. You can also install gutter guards to help prevent clogs.
3. Bring an outlet tester to closing
Ideally, any electrical problems would be discovered during the home inspection. But Leon Goldfeld, the co-founder of New York City real estate brokerage Yoreevo still suggests bringing an outlet tester to the pre-closing walk-through. “This lets you check all the outlets to avoid expensive electrical work if one of them doesn’t work and there’s a bigger problem behind it,” he said. You could pick up an outlet tester for about $10, or try using your phone charger to test each outlet.
4. Your dishwasher needs to be washed, too
It’s important to keep your dishwasher running regularly because it helps keep the seals, gaskets, and hoses from dry-rotting and prevents mold and mildew from growing, according to the maintenance professionals at Sears. If your dishwasher starts to get stinky, try using a product like Dishwasher Magic to eliminate the odors and clean mineral buildup. If there’s still a bad smell coming from your dishwasher, there’s a good chance some food got stuck in the removable filter. In that case, you can remove the filter and clean it with warm water and a soft brush.
5. Think about replacing the locks
Here’s the deal: The sellers may have turned over all the keys in their possession. But what about their friend they gave a key to five years ago to water their plants while they were on vacation or the copy of the key that they forgot is hidden under a rock in the front yard? You get the point. “New homeowners may want to replace older door hardware with a new finish or style, and at the same time take advantage of having all of their new locks keyed alike,” says Anne Rodriguez, a marketing manager with Zabitat, a home improvement retailer.
6. Weather-strip your doors
It usually just takes one high energy bill to spur you into weatherstripping action. But, we want to save you from that sticker shock altogether. As the temps start cooling, it’s time to add foam weatherstripping around your windows and doors, especially if you live in an older home that gets drafty. Here’s a guide to weatherstripping.
7. Consider a home warranty
Gone are the days where you can call up your apartment’s maintenance tech and request a dishwasher repair or a new refrigerator. Often, first-time homebuyers aren’t equipped with the skills or money to tackle home repairs, so choosing a home warranty to help cover unexpected costs can be a good route to take. Consumer Affairs has a home warranties guide that compares plans, and breaks down the types of services they offer.
So, what advice would you have liked to have had before moving into your first home?