Owning a home is a bit of a mystery, when you think about it. You have all these hidden systems working to keep you clean, safe, and comfortable—half of which you don’t really think about until they go out.
It’s those hidden heroes we’re here to talk about today. Your sump pump, quietly lying in wait until your basement floods. Your range filter, sucking up soot, grease and grime every time you cook—and never asking for anything back in return except a dip in a bucket of soapy water every now and again.
Learning about these unsung home systems will help you lower your electrical bills, keep a cleaning and happier home, and improve the longevity of your equipment and appliances—without more than a few hours of effort on your part. Here are four frequently-ignored parts of your home that deserve a little recognition today.
You probably look out of the windows in your home all the time. But when was the last time you looked at the windows themselves? First, take a moment to examine the caulk around your windows. If it looks dry, cracked, or missing altogether, it’s time for some TLC! These caulking gaps can cause energy losses, driving up your bills and causing drafts.
Start by scraping out all the old caulk. Use a razor so that you can really get into the nooks and crannies. Clean out any dust with a cloth, then apply new silicone caulk in a straight bead and smooth it down to create a good seal. Instant energy improvement.
Then give your windows a treat by washing the glass. Use a strip applicator and squeegee for an extra sparkly sheen. As a bonus, it makes the whole job a lot easier.
Your Kitchen Range Filter
Smoke, oil, food particles, dust—the buildup on range filters is a particularly toxic brew. It’s easy to ignore your hood range, but a greasy, dirty filter will make itself known eventually. Contaminated filters attract pests and can cause your smoke detector to go off more frequently. Plus, eventually they start getting a pretty nasty smell.
Clean the filter by dunking it in a bucket filled with soapy water and a ½ cup of baking soda. Allow the filter to sit for at least 10 minutes, then remove it and scrub it gently with a non-abrasive scrub brush. Give it a rinse and dry it with a towel. Enjoy your grease-free cooking!
Anything that handles smoke and soot for a living is going to need some attention eventually. In addition to that, neglected chimneys can cause air infiltration, which you and I know by its common name: drafts. Meanwhile, soot and wood-burning byproducts contribute to creosote buildup, a highly combustible chemical compound that could lead to a house fire if you’re not careful.
A chimney sweep can take care of cleaning the chimney, as well as the smoke ducts, flue pipes and fireplaces. Many chimney experts offer inspection services too, which means verifying that the liners, smoke chamber, chimney exterior and firebox are all crack-free and working as expected. Chimney sweeps can point out masonry leaks that should be addressed, increasing the lifespan of your heating equipment—and making those winter days by the hearth a whole lot cheerier. If you use your chimney regularly, have it swept out about once a year to keep your fireplace working at peak operation.
Your Sump Pump
A sump pump is one of those things you never really think about until you need it—and by that time, you’re usually ankle-deep in water. That’s exactly why you want to test your sump pump regularly—in fact, if you live in a very wet area, you may want to take a look as often as every month or so.
To test it, find the two cords and unplug both. Then plug in just the pump cord. The pump should turn on right away. If it doesn’t, now’s a good time to start looking for a good plumber, because you’re going to need a new pump. To double check, plug both cords back into place, lift the lid and pour some water into the crock below, just enough to raise the float. The pump should kick on right away. If not, call the plumber—you don’t want to wait until the next time it rains to get this problem fixed!
Cleaning, repairing and testing these frequently-overlooked parts of your home may mean getting a little dirty this weekend. But it will be worth it to avoid a nasty little surprise in your home-owning future.