As we start the new year, it is a great time to resolve to take on those routine home maintenance and improvement items that sometimes fall by the wayside.  Here are some tips to help ensure the continued safety and comfort of your home, and may give you peace of mind. 

SMOKE DETECTORS:  If you have been in your home for a while, but cannot remember the last time you replaced the smoke detectors, or you bought a new home but don’t know the age of the smoke detectors, now might be a good time to install new detectors, as well as carbon monoxide detectors.  Even if the detector is hard wired and you routinely change the battery, the devices themselves have limited life spans.  Also, in some jurisdictions, such as in DC and Montgomery County, the requirements for the number and type of detectors needed in a home have recently been changed.  Check with your local fire department or on line on your local government’s website to see what your local requirements are. 

HVAC SERVICE:  Haven’t had your furnace or air conditioning serviced and cleaned in a while?  Why not call your HVAC professional and set up a service call to keep your furnace running efficiently for the rest of the winter and also schedule an a/c check for this spring.

FILTERS: The beginning of a new year is also a great time to change all your home’s filters – such as your HVAC system filters, the ice maker filter, air filters, etc.  

GUTTERS: Did you forget to clean the gutters this fall?  If so, it is very important to do that task soon.  Clogged gutters can lead to ice damming in the cold months, which can lead to roof leaks and even to water in your basement. 

TERMITE INSPECTION:  When you bought your house, you probably had a termite inspection.  If at the time, the report indicated it was all clear, you may not have given termites a second thought. And even if you have had a termite treatment in the past, they don’t last forever.  Termites and other wood destroying insects can become a problem at any time. Schedule a termite inspection with a qualified pest control company.  You might also consider doing a preventative termite treatment and maintaining an annual warranty contract to ensure no wood destroying insects do any harm to the home for years to come. 

RADON: If you haven’t ever done a radon test in your home, or it was done years ago, consider scheduling a test soon.  Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is naturally occuring in the atmosphere, but long term exposure to elevated levels of radon is linked to some health issues. There is no way to tell you have elevated levels without testing.  And it is possible that levels can change over time.  You can buy a do-it-yourself test kit from most home improvement stores or have an inspection company come by to set up a testing device for around $200.  If your home’s radon level measures higher than the EPA standard, the good news is that there are very effective remediation systems available.  Click HERE to learn more about radon, its impact, testing and remediation.

DECLUTTER & DONATE: Shed unneeded or unwanted items cluttering your home by clearing out closets and storage spaces in your home and identifying items to be donated, sold, or discarded.  There are some fantastic local organizations that can make great use of your donations to help those in need, such as A Wider Circle (for donations of furniture & household items), Dress for Success (for women’s professional attire), and Martha’s Table (for donations of clothing, housewares & tech devices).

ENERGY SAVING: Save some green while making your house more green with these easy, inexpensive home improvement ideas:  Switch out old incandescent and CFC bulbs with more energy efficient LED bulbs. Add or replace weather stripping around exterior doors to prevent cold air from seeping in.  Add rain barrels to catch rainwater from your downspouts to use for watering your lawn.  Improve the insulation in attics and crawl spaces. Install a programmable thermostat.
 
CHIMNEY SWEEP: Schedule a chimney sweep to prevent creosote build up that can lead to chimney fires. And remember to keep the damper closed when you’re not using the fireplace. 

INSURANCE CHECK: Have you made substantial renovations to your home, like an addition or a new kitchen or bath?  It is a good idea to check in with your home insurer to confirm your coverage is adequate to cover these improvements to your home.

(Condo dwellers, not all of these may apply to you, but feel free to share these tips with your house-dwelling friends). :)