Every homeowner makes mistakes. The real trouble, however, starts when these blunders become habits that cost a lot of money over time. Some behaviors also create safety issues.
If you're guilty of these bad habits, break them — pronto.
Inadvertently clogging pipes
Be mindful of what you're putting down your drains, advises Krystal Rogers-Nelson, home safety and maintenance expert at ASecureLife.com. "Don't flush anything down your toilet besides toilet paper, especially heavier materials like paper towels, diapers or cotton swabs, and paint, oil or harsh chemicals," she says. "Even 'flushable' wipes aren't recommended."
If you notice warning signs of clogging — a gurgling when you use the toilet, for instance, or low water pressure — call a plumber ASAP.
Not cleaning gutters
Overflowing gutters can damage your house's roof, siding or foundation, says Eddie Zielinski, a Lowe's store manager in Harper Woods, Mich. Zielinski recommends clearing gutters of leaves, pine needles and other debris at least twice a year. If you're worried about falling, you can hire a professional gutter cleaner for about $150, HomeAdvisor says.
To prevent clogs, install gutter guards such as screens, foam inserts, fine mesh or surface tension covers, says Brendon DeSimone, brokerage manager at Houlihan Lawrence real estate in Bedford, N.Y.
Letting trees overgrow
Many homeowners forget to trim their trees, and that can create safety problems, DeSimone says. If you have trees near your house, prune them every two years to keep limbs and branches away from your home. For large or hard-to-reach trees, the risk of injury is high, so consider hiring a trimmer. On average, a tree costs $200 to trim, HomeAdvisor says, but costs can vary depending on the size and location of the tree. (Trees near power lines, for example, require additional time because crews can't just toss the branches down as they work.)
One way to mitigate risk is to have a certified arborist inspect your trees for disease, weak limbs and rotting every five or so years.
Slamming the front door
This habit might seem harmless, but repeated slamming can pull the door out of alignment and create gaps that allow outside air into your house — potentially driving up utility bills, Zielinski says. If your front door is slamming shut because of its weight, though, a heavy-duty door closer might solve the problem.
Letting dryer lint build up
There are about 2,900 clothes dryer fires a year, and they cause an estimated five deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million in property loss, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Letting lint build up can also increase energy bills because the dryer has to work harder with each spin cycle.
Zielinski recommends cleaning your dryer's lint trap before each run and cleaning the exhaust every 90 days. You can do these tasks relatively easily with a vacuum, but if your vent is clogged, it might be worth hiring a dryer exhaust technician to clean it for about $125 to $175, according to Angie's List.
Forgetting to change furnace filters
"Your furnace won't run as efficiently if you don't change the filters," says Zielinski, who recommends replacing furnace filters every 90 days. "A lot of programmable thermostats will remind you when it's time to change your air filters," he added.
This is a task you can do yourself — just be sure to start by turning off the furnace and getting the right replacement. A filter with a plastic frame is reusable, but you have to clean it periodically with a vacuum and water and let it dry completely before reinserting it, Consumer Reports says.
Not changing batteries in smoke detectors
Smoke detectors work only when they're juiced up. Unfortunately, 1 in every 5 home fire deaths results from malfunctioning smoke alarms, the National Fire Protection Association reports. In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not sound, almost half (46 percent) of the devices had missing or disconnected batteries.
The moral: Replace or change your smoke detector batteries according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
Leaving lights on
Sure, it's okay to leave a bathroom light on when you go to bed — and, for safety reasons, it's good to keep a porch light on when you're out of town. But, in general, it's cost-effective to turn off the lights when you leave a room.
To maximise your savings, consider buying energy-efficient lightbulbs. They cost more upfront but use a lot less energy and can significantly reduce your electricity costs in the long run.
Taking long, steamy showers
Long showers — showers lasting more than 10 minutes — can strip your skin of moisture, make you itchy and, of course, increase your water bill. And although they feel great, steamy showers can create mold and mildew. Aim for five-minute showers and avoid blasting the hot water.
Wearing shoes in the house
Want to keep a clean home? Wearing dirty shoes in the house spreads dust, toxins and allergens. In fact, researchers at the University of Houston found that nearly 40 percent of soles carry Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, that nasty bacteria often spread in health-care facilities that can cause infections. Moreover, abrasive soles can scratch or scrape floors and turn your beautiful hardwood into a disaster zone.
The solution is simple: Take off your shoes at the door.
This article was first published in the Washington Post.