Texas Living

No-Cost Home Maintenance

By Mitch Gruen 9.10.20

Without routine home maintenance, simple problems can worsen and become expensive repairs. But a little elbow grease today just might save you thousands tomorrow. Many routine home maintenance tasks are easy enough to take care of yourself, and a few can be done for free with tools and supplies you already have at home.

Clean Your Gutters

There is something cathartic about cleaning out your gutters. Grabbing a mass of pine needles and leaves and restoring uninterrupted flow to your house’s gutter system is inherently satisfying. When you regularly clean your gutters, you ensure that water will drain away from your house properly the next time it rains. This potentially saves you from costly water damage to your roof or foundation, or gutters collapsing under the weight of accumulated debris. Grab a ladder, a bucket, and work gloves. For best results, clean your gutters twice per year.

Vacuum Refrigerator Coils

For a fridge that runs smoothly and efficiently, clean its condenser coils at least once per year. First, unplug your fridge and find the condenser coils — they’re usually on the front of the fridge, at the bottom, and covered with a faceplate that should come off easily. Sometimes, the condenser coils are at the back of the fridge, covered by a panel. Using a vacuum, ideally one with a flexible hose, suck up the dust off the coils. Canned air and a toothbrush can help dislodge stubborn dust, making it easier for the vacuum to do its job. When the coils are nice and clean, plug the fridge back in.

Clean Your Dishwasher

If your dishwasher smells funky or has an accumulated layer of grime, we’ve got a quick fix for you! Fill a bowl with one cup of white vinegar; place it on the dishwasher’s top rack; and run the hottest, most intense cycle available. When that is finished, dust baking soda throughout the interior of your dishwasher, and run it again. This will leave your dishwasher sparkling and smelling fresh.

Drain Your Water Heater

Draining your water heater once per year will help keep it free from sediment and hard water deposits, extending its life and boosting its efficiency. First, locate the recirculation pump and turn it off. Then, if you have a gas heater, switch it to “pilot” mode to stop it from heating. Or, if you have an electric water heater, simply unplug the power cord. Next, locate the valve to shut off the water supply to the water heater. (It should be at the top.) Then, connect a hose to your tank’s drain valve, and place the other end of the hose outside. Open the drain valve with a screwdriver. If it doesn’t start draining right away, find the pressure relief valve and open it to allow air into the tank. Once the tank has drained, turn on the water supply while leaving the drain valve open. This will allow water to cycle through the tank, further flushing problematic sediment and hard water deposits. Finally, close the drain valve, and plug it back in (or turn the switch from “pilot” to “on,” if it’s a gas heater).

Follow this annual home maintenance guide to make sure you’re all caught up for fall.

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