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On the House

Follow a Home-Maintenance Checklist

January 20, 2002|JAMES CAREY and MORRIS CAREY | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Testing a smoke detector is just one of several home-maintenance tasks that should be performed on a regular basis.

Regular maintenance provides optimum longevity, helps prevent malfunctions and ensures maximum safety for you and your family. Here are a few other tasks that should be performed regularly:

* Check furnace filters.

The purpose of the filter on a forced-air furnace is to keep dust, soot and other contaminants from collecting on the interior workings of your furnace. In addition, a high-quality filter will cut down on airborne dust and particulate matter that is blown into your living area. Once the filter has been sufficiently coated with this grime, it causes the furnace blower to work harder, making it more costly to operate and shortening its life span. A clean filter will help the furnace run more efficiently and save on operating costs.

Because filter size and location vary from furnace to furnace, you'll need to check the owner's handbook for information. If an owner's handbook doesn't exist, information usually can be found on the furnace or on an inside panel of the furnace. Some furnaces have more than one filter that will need replacement. Buying replacement filters by the case will cut down on the unit price and will make replacement convenient.

* Check water filters and softeners.

Water filters are a great means of improving water quality (smell and taste). The secret to keeping water quality high is replacing filters regularly. The frequency depends upon the type of system and the condition of the water. Whole-house filters, point-of-use dispensers and ice-maker water supplies can each be changed in a matter of minutes. Besides providing better water quality, a clean filter will improve flow.

Although a water-softening system is reasonably maintenance-free, every now and again the brine solution becomes clogged at the base of the brine tank, preventing the solution from being siphoned into the resin tank. You know that is the case when your brine tank is full of salt and your water doesn't have that slick feel. Check your owner's manual for information on how to flush the brine tank, or call a service professional to do.

* Clean the dryer duct and filter.

Clean the lint screen thoroughly after every load. If it's filled and clogged with lint, the air won't circulate and the clothes won't dry. The dryer runs far longer, which wears it out faster and wastes energy dollars. Use a duct cleaning brush to clean the dryer duct at least twice annually.

* Clean and freshen sink drains.

Foul odors from a sink drain can make your home unpleasant. To keep sink drains in your running freely--and absent of odor--try these methods: Run hot water through the sink after each use, throw a handful of baking soda into the drain and add hot water or pour a cup of vinegar into the drain and let it sit for a half-hour. Then run very hot water.

* Test smoke detectors.

All smoke detectors and alarms have a "test button." Once a month, get up on a chair, or use a broom handle for extra reach, and push it. If you don't hear anything, your battery is dead. If after you change the battery the smoke detector still is not working, immediately replace it with a new one. Test the smoke detector by striking three kitchen matches, blowing them out and holding them near the unit. While you're checking your battery and testing the detector, brush or vacuum the alarm to keep dust out of the mechanism.

* Test carbon monoxide detectors.

The care and maintenance of a carbon monoxide detector is much the same as for smoke detectors with regard to cleaning and frequent testing. However, a carbon monoxide detector can't be tested using an outside source. Therefore, it is imperative that the test buttons provided on the equipment be tested at least once each month.

* Flush the water heater and check the pressure and temperature relief valve.

Mineral deposits and sediment at the base of a water heater tank make the job of heating water infinitely more difficult and affect your utility bill. Check your water heater for sediment and remove at least once annually.

The pressure and temperature relief valve opens to release pressure buildup in the water heater when the temperature or the pressure gets dangerously high, thus preventing a possible explosion. To test the valve, simply raise and lower the test lever several times so it lifts the brass stem it is fastened to. Hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If no water flows through the pipe or you get just a trickle, replace the valve.

* Test ground fault circuit interrupter receptacles.

The ground fault circuit interrupter was developed to prevent electrical shocks. All receptacles have test buttons. You should test each receptacle in your home at least once a month. If the test doesn't trip the breaker, replace it immediately.

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For more home improvement tips and information, go to www.onthe house.com. Readers can mail questions to: On the House, APNewsFeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, or e-mail carey bro@onthehouse.com.

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