35 Things Every Homeowner Needs to Know ASAP

Protect your biggest investment, make smarter decisions, and avoid costly mistakes.

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Check a warm fridge’s temperature dial  

tempcontrolNils Petersen/ShutterstockMake sure it hasn’t been turned way down. Kids may have messed with it, or someone might have bumped the knob. Also, make sure that food containers don’t block the fridge and freezer compartments’ vents—they supply the flow of frigid air. Technicians report that up to 30 percent of their service calls require only the push of a button or the flip of a switch. Those small actions can cost you a minimum service charge (typically $50 to $100)—plus embarrassment. Try these tactics first. This is how you can clean your fridge in 9 easy steps.

Press the reset button on GFCIs  

outletPamela Au/ShutterstockSometimes all the bathroom outlets—or several exterior lights—are powered through a single GFCI (the red button in the middle of some outlets) located in one bathroom or elsewhere, such as in a basement. If there’s an outage, push the reset button on the GFCI, and you could be back in business. Make sure you also do these smart things that every homeowner does at least once a year.

Test the outlet  

outletpixfly/ShutterstockIf any electronic item suddenly won’t turn on, don’t immediately assume it’s broken. Plug in a clock or lamp to make sure the outlet works. These are some handy tricks to fixing squeaky floors, doors, and more that every homeowner should know.

Inspect the breaker  

breakerphotographyfirm/ShutterstockWhen a light goes out or a switch doesn’t work, check the main electrical panel for a tripped circuit breaker. Look for a switch that’s not in line with the others. Flip it to the off position if it’s not fully to the side and then back on.

Get a low-flow showerhead

showerheadRachata Teyparsit/ShutterstockShowerheads are the second-heaviest water users—and also major energy eaters, since 70 percent of the water used is heated. By reducing hot-water consumption, a low-flow unit can pay for itself in just one month. And you don’t have to settle for subpar water pressure. Many of today’s water-efficient showerheads use new technology to provide a high-flow feel. Avoid these eight showering mistakes that you're probably making.

Fill gaps under sinks

sinkvvoe/ShutterstockPull back the escutcheons (metal plates) where pipes enter exterior walls, and you may see gaps around the pipes. Use expanding foam to seal those gaps. Shake the can vigorously, then squirt the foam around the pipes inside the wall. Don’t completely fill the gaps—the foam will expand. Try out these plumbing tips from experts.

Stop leaks under doors

doorrodimov/ShutterstockIf you can feel a breeze or see daylight under your exterior doors, that’s bad news. The good news is that most thresholds adjust up or down with just a few twists of a screw. Turn all the screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated.

Seal electrical boxes

electricboxesV Sot/ShutterstockThese can be major sources of heat loss; foam gaskets can help. They’re quick to install: Simply take off the box’s cover plate, stick the gasket over the box, and then screw the plate back on.

Install a ceiling fan

ceilingfantammykayphoto/ShutterstockMoving air increases evaporation from your skin and helps keep you comfortable at higher thermostat settings. Each degree above 78 degrees can save you 5 to 10 percent on air-conditioning. Beat the summer heat with these cool down tips.

Easily inspect your gutters

gutterRadovan1/ShutterstockYou don’t need a ladder to find out if they need cleaning. Attach a hand mirror to the end of a long PVC pipe (available at home-improvement and hardware stores) that you’ve cut at a 60-degree angle so the mirror will reflect the inside of the gutter.

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