It can make or break a closing appointment. Home inspections are powerful piece of information for home buyers. Some people have been known to walk away after hearing about unexpected expenses.
No one enjoys that kind of surprise. You can avoid many costly disasters by doing periodic "walk-through" of your own. A good rule of thumb is to check everything once a quarter, preferably before each season starts to change.
Basement or crawl space: This might not be the first place that folks check, but it's one of the most critical. Failure to address problems can lead to mold, rotten floor joists, termites, and increased energy bills.
o Walls and floors should be dry. Puddles can be a sign of problems. Look around the area. Are pipes dripping? Are floor joists wet or discolored? If it's hard to find the source, dry the area and check it in a few days. Sometimes, water pools under a house after a heavy drain. Repairs could be as simple as redirecting water from downspouts away from the house. However, it could be as complicated as replacing rotten floor joists.
o Pipes should be insulated. Hardware stores sell foam tubes that you can cut to fit.
o Duct work should be off of the ground. It should also be sealed well. Surprisingly, experts do not recommend that you use duct tape to close gaps. It doesn't last long. Consult heating and air experts for a thorough evaluation.
Registers and vents: Build-up makes your heating system work harder. Wipe excess dust with a cloth. Periodically, use your vacuum's brush attachment to keep your returns clean.
Thermostat: Current thermostats are programmable. Most manufacturers recommend that you keep the temperature at the same setting for the entire season. Always check with your manual or your service representative.
o Change your filters often. Some furnace companies recommend once per month. Some say once every three months. Refer to your manual.
o Are you comfortable? Sometimes, reaching an agreement on comfort might involve something as simple as wearing a sweater.
o Do you notice that some rooms feel colder than others?
o Does it take a long time for your furnace to reach the desired temperature? A service call may provide answers.
o If you decide to replace your current system, consider using those with the Energy Star Certification. Some systems with this rating can qualify you for Federal Tax Credits for 2013.
Windows: Keep your drapes/blinds open during the day and closed at night. Insulated drapes work best.
Doors: Stand inside and face your outside door. If you can see any light around your door, it's possible that air is escaping. You can test this further by lighting some incense and holding it near your door. If the smoke from the incense is drawn toward your door, you may need to add some insulation. Hardware stores sell rolls of self-sticking weather stripping tape. Apply this to the interior part of your door frame and you'll close those gaps.
Storm Doors: While you are looking at your doors, consider installing storm doors. This is more costly ($200 and higher), but energy cost savings make up for the difference quickly.
Garage Door: Keep this closed except for the obvious coming and going. Some experts recommend that you add insulation to your garage door. As with other modifications, check with your manufacturer to make sure that the additional weight doesn't shorten the life of the springs in the door.
Water Heater: If this is stored outside, a blanket designed for this appliance can reduce costs. It will reduce the amount of water that has to run before it reaches the desired temperature. If your heater is stored inside your home (a closet or a laundry room), make sure that the area around it is clear. Don't panic if your water stops heating well. Before you rush out to buy another heater (They can run $200-$500, depending on your family's needs), check the elements. Replacing a burned out element can run between $50 and $100. Visit www.thisoldhouse.com for tips about maintaining your water heater. You might even lengthen its life.
Fireplace: When you are not burning a fire, close the flue. Make sure that it closes well. Otherwise, the heat in the room is going up your chimney.
Outlets and Switch Plate: You may be surprised to find a slight draft coming through these common features. A house full of these can add to heat loss. Insulate these, too. Stores sell pre-cut foam in packs. Unscrew your outlet cover/switch plate. Place the foam over the opening. Replace the cover/plate. Don't forget unused outlets. Use safety plugs. Every little bit counts.
Attic: Insulate your access panel. Use a staple gun to attach a layer of insulation. Visit www. Energystar.gov for guidelines on installing insulation, adding to existing insulation and federal tax credits for 2013.
One last piece of advice: don't try to tackle all of these items at the same time. Approach the tasks that apply to you. Good luck on your projects as you take care of yourself and your house.
Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor, home repair specialist, or licensed contractor. Always consult owner's manuals, service representatives and certified experts.
Lisa Hetzel is a local Christian freelance writer, speaker, teacher and mom. Go to www.thequiltandthequill.blogspot.com to find out more.