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Five things you need to know about your home

Is the regular maintenance of your house adding up? TODAY contributor and do- it-yourself expert Lou Manfredini offers advice on how to keep your water heater, toilet, filters and other systems running smoothly.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

You know it’s a funny thing. When you buy a toaster, a car or even a lawn mower, you get an owner’s manual. But when you purchase a home about all you get is surprises, bills and a big fat mortgage.

Now I am a firm believer that a well-maintained home is one that is more pleasant to live in and one that is of higher value. The other fact is, that regular maintenance of certain systems in your home is fairly easy and costs little to do. If not attended to, you can wind up with hefty repair and replacement bills. Below are five common issues in a home and some advice on what to do and how to keep them running and working smoothly.

1. Water heater: Here are some facts about that tank sitting in your basement or mechanical room. The average life of a tanked water heater in the U.S. is seven years. Now, I know there are some of you reading this thinking that you have a water heater that is older than 20, and that’s great! But know that a tanked heater starts out at about 75%-80% efficient when new and after about five years their efficiency levels can be as low as 50%, which means for every dollar you spend on energy to heat that water, 50 cents is heading up the chimney. One way to boost their life and efficiency is to drain the tanks twice a year to remove any sediment that can build up at the base of the tank. This is done by turning the heater off, both the water coming in, and turning the temperature dial to low or vacation. Then attach a garden hose to the spigot at the bottom side of the tank and run it to a floor drain and empty the tank. Once empty, turn the water valve on and off a few times, to flush the bottom out. Close the spigot; turn on the water and once the tank is filled, turn the heater dial up to 120 degrees or the normal notch. On the side of the tank about eye level is a pressure valve that is a safety device whose job is to open if the temperature or water pressure gets too high. There should be a pipe connected to this that runs down the side of the tank and stops a few inches from the floor. Slowly pull the metal tab to exercise the valve and be careful, because water will come out of the pipe and could be hot. This tip makes sure that the valve is working and ready to engage if needed. If after you do this the valve does not shut off and you start to see a drip, then this device needs to be replaced.

2. Toilet troubles: If you ask me what are the most common questions I get, it usually involves plumbing, and toilet questions rank at the top of that list. “It won’t flush,” “it always runs,” “it makes noises.” The toilet gets a lot of use and the parts that make it run will not last forever, and the constant water running through it can also lessen the flushing action. If your toilet does not have the same flushing power, 90% of the time it’s because the water level is not at the right setting and the holes under the rim need to be cleaned out. Use a small flexible wire or scrub brush to clear the holes under the rim. Make sure the water level in the tank is about ½” or so below the overflow tube. If water is leaking from the tank to the bowl, you could be wasting hundreds of gallons of water a year. Chances are the flapper needs to be replaced and the ring that it sits in needs to be cleaned with a scrubbing pad. If the water will not turn off. you may need to replace the fill valve assembly that is connected to the water line. You can learn how to make more repairs on your own at

3. Sump pump issues: For those with a basement, this mechanical device is your insurance policy for a dry basement. And for the most part, they work well. But two things you need to consider: The average life of a sump pump is seven years, and the life of the switch that turns it on and off is three years. On an annual basis you should unplug the unit on a dry day and reach in and clean out any debris in the sump pump pit. And if the switch is three years old, that should be replaced. On many units this float switch is connected to the pump and looks like a ball; when it floats, the pump kicks on. The entire assembly can be purchased at good hardware stores and is pretty easy to replace.

4. Dryer cleaning: We have a family of six and our dryer runs all the time. And that means that lint is created every single day. According the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 12,000 fires occur due to dryer issues. And 70% of those can be directly attributed to non-cleaning of the units. This should be done at least twice a year by removing the hose from the rear of the dryer and using a brush and vacuum to remove any lint buildup. The hose should also be cleaned using a brush on a flexible line. On the outside, where the vent is, the brush and vacuum should be used as well. A cleaner dryer works better and costs less to run and is of course safer to run as well.

5. Filters in your home: Things that you may have in your home that have a filter need to be replaced. Furnace filters should be replaced every two to three months. Ice-maker filters should be replaced once a year. Water dispenser filters, replace once a year. Coils on your refrigerator or freezer should be cleaned once a year.

If you have more questions or comments, please visit Lou Manfredini at .