There are two major things in life that should come with instruction manuals, but unfortunately do not.  1. Babies.  They just let you take them home from the hospital after a couple days and are like…”good luck!”  2. A house.  The age of the internet has greatly helped out with this one, as you can literally find out how to do anything and everything when it comes to home maintenance.  So, if you are a brand new home owner, or a seasoned veteran just trying to learn some new skills, check out these 6 essential skills that will save you some headaches and some money.

Change Filters

Furnaces are not “set it and forget it” appliances.  HVAC systems use filters to trap dust and pollen and to prevent the furnace or AC compressor from spreading debris throughout the house. Changing your filters regularly will keep your unit functioning properly and it’ll keep your energy costs down as well. Most require cleaning or replacing filters monthly or quarterly.  Filters usually come in a few different sizes, so figure out the right one and head to the store.  Unless you have severe allergies, avoid the high end filters as those can reduce air flow and cause stress on the system.  The toughest part is remembering it’s time to clean the filters. Many thermostats will have a reminder alert that you can reset when you change the filter.  There are also phone apps and the good old fashioned trick of writing it down on the calendar.

Shut Off The Power/Let There Be Light

If you are one of the lucky ones, the house you buy will have an electrical panel that is fully marked and labeled so you know what ever breaker will control.  If you aren’t that lucky, get a friend to stand in a room and start flipping breakers until the lights/appliances in that room shut off.  Continue on until you know what each breaker does.  If you ever lose power in a certain part of the house, find that breaker and flip it back on.  If you were too lazy to label the breakers, try to locate the one that looks like it is not quite in the on position.  Sometimes you may have to jiggle each one to find the breaker that feels loose.  Flip it back on and label it while you are there.  Sometimes, a power outage may not be at the breaker, but at the outlet.  GFCI outlets are like a mini breaker box.  Usually located in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, these will have a little reset button.  Sometimes more than one outlet may be linked together, so you may do some searching to figure out which outlet the reset button is located on.

Shut Off The Water

Water is one of the most essential elements in your home, but it can also be one of the most destructive.  If a pipe bursts somewhere, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars in damage and the potential for mold.  Even if you are lucky enough to never have this problem, if you are ever trying to repair plumbing or replace a fixture, you’ll have to shut off the water supply, so it’s a good idea to locate the main water valve as soon as you move in. The shut-off valve mostly likely is located in your basement or crawl space where the water enters the house. When you find it, tag it so you won’t lose it again.  It’s also a good idea to locate any other secondary shut offs, so that you won’t have to kill the water to the whole house if you just need to shut off a bathroom sink or toilet.  Most of the time, there will be a shutoff located nearby each fixture or somewhere branching off from the main line.  Once you figure them out, tag them as well.

Unclog A Drain

Sinks and showers can get gunked up over time with grease, oils, hair and anything else that may find it’s way down there.  Chemical drain cleaners can often do the trick, but if you’re reluctant to use harsh chemicals there are some things you can try first.  A pot of boiling water may do the trick.  If not, you can try to combine one-third of a cup each of baking soda and white vinegar and pour it down the drain when it starts to fizz, Let it sit for at least an hour (the longer the better) and flush with hot water.  If you need something stronger, keep a drain snake in your arsenal of tools. The snake can be wound down into the drain and mechanically remove what’s blocking it.  Preventative measures can help, especially in the shower.  Once a month, take out the stopper and using some tweezers or a drain tool, try to pull out as much hair as you can.  In the kitchen, avoid putting grease or oil in the sink and rinse dishes with cold water so any oils can move through the pipes more easily.

Clean Your Gutters

It’s a dirty, gunky job and depending on how tall your home is, can be a bit frightening.  But, when gutters and downspouts aren’t cleared of leaves and other debris, water can get trapped and end up seeping into your house, costing you thousands of dollars to repair.  There are gadgets and gizmos that may make the job easier, but it’s a pretty simple process. Use a ladder to climb up to the gutter and using your hands or a garden trowel,  scoop out leaves and debris,  There may be sharp sticks or other objects, so grab some good gloves and go slowly.  Once you’ve removed most of the junk, use a garden hose to rinse the gutter out.  Make sure water flows out and doesn’t hit any unexpected blockages along the way.

Stop A Running Toilet

Is your toilet running?  Better go catch it!  But seriously, a running toilet, if gone unnoticed, can lead to some seriously high water bills.  Toilets run for several reasons: problems with the chain, flapper or float are the most common.  Luckily these are all fairly easy to replace and also pretty inexpensive.  A quick trip to your favorite hardware store, a few minutes on Youtube, an hour or less of your hard work and your toilet should be as good as new.


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