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BEACON Senior News

6 home maintenance tips for seniors

Aug 04, 2020 02:01PM ● By Hilary Thompson

Home maintenance is all about catching problems

Our homes are our sanctuary, especially during seasons when we’re spending more time inside. It’s important to make sure everything’s working right and protected against deterioration.

Keeping your home well-maintained or sprucing it up doesn’t have to mean expensive home maintenance improvements. It’s all about taking a look at the things you already have and making sure they’re in top working order, ensuring you get the most out of the dollars you’ve already spent and making sure there aren’t hazards that could exacerbate health issues or cause injury.

1. Keep things cool.

When the summer months hit, cooling down is key to comfort and for safety. It’s important to know what you’re looking for when buying and maintaining air conditioners to help avoid problems with wasted energy down the road. Consider central units, ductless units or window- or wall-mounted units for smaller spaces. If you’re not sure what kind will be best for your home, consult with an energy or HVAC professional.

Maintain your unit annually by changing out air filters or having it serviced by an HVAC company. If your unit isn’t operating efficiently, first consider the age of the unit—they generally need replacement after about 15 years. If you’re noticing warm air coming through, it’s possible your coils have frozen. Debris or dirt can clog air filters or ducts, which prevents proper airflow. If thawing the coils doesn’t do the trick, consulting with an expert may be the best idea to pinpoint other problems. Keeping units covered when not in use, particularly during the winter season, helps prevent damage.

2. Get the air moving.

A simple way to save money on heating and cooling costs is to switch your ceiling fan direction twice a year. Counterclockwise will push the cool air down in the summer and clockwise helps with the heat in the winter. Cleaning out kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans helps keep the moisture out of your home and prevents the growth of mold. Keep lint out of your dryer vent–not just the filter but the vent itself–to keep the unit working efficiently and preventing fires.

The one place you don’t want the air to move is around windows and doors. Make sure the sealant around your windows and doors isn’t cracked, so your heating and cooling systems aren’t working overtime. Having an energy expert conduct an audit of your home can also help pinpoint problem areas where you may be losing money.

3. Check what’s under your feet.

As seniors, making sure the flooring in your house is even and in good repair is vital to helping prevent injury-causing falls. If it’s time to replace the flooring in your house, consider varieties such as vinyl and linoleum, which provide more traction than slippery tile or wood flooring. Even if you don’t replace the whole floor, consider replacing or repairing damaged areas to help reduce hazards posed by tears or warped flooring.

Whether you prefer carpet, linoleum, or other types of floors, it’s best for it to be uniform throughout the house to avoid having thresholds or transitions between rooms. For carpet-lovers, short, loop pile carpeting is safer than a shaggy carpet. Area rugs are discouraged as they create both a slipping and tripping hazard.

Making sure floors are free of clutter can also be a simple (and free) way to spruce up your home and make it safer. Thinking ahead to potential mobility issues or injuries never hurts. It’ll help you plan a safer, more easily navigable home.

4. Keep appliances working for you.

Each year, your water heater must be drained to help remove minerals that keep it from operating efficiently. Annual home maintenance of your furnace can help prevent malfunctions (which invariably happen on the coldest day of the year). Keeping kitchen appliances in good repair—such as vacuuming out refrigerator coils—can extend their life.

When it’s time for a replacement, purchase appliances certified by Energy Star to help you save on energy costs. Smart appliances, while more expensive up-front, can also help keep repair and replacement costs down by letting you know when there’s a problem. Some smart refrigerators even let you know when you’re getting low on milk!

5. Make simple replacements and additions.

Replacing doorknobs with levers can be a simple, cheap way to make life easier if you’re dealing with arthritis or limited mobility. Rubberized pads in the kitchen or other work areas can ease joint pain. Grab bars in bathrooms provide steadiness and help prevent slips. While you’re in there, check the caulk around bathtubs and sinks–it might need cleaning or a touch-up.

How is the interior paint doing? Sometimes repainting a room or adding a colorful accent wall feels like a total makeover. Have you downsized yet? Going through each room and getting rid of what you don’t need not only helps reduce trip-inducing clutter but can freshen up interiors and create a calmer, more inviting space.

6. Keep the outside happy.

Making your home last and avoiding expensive problems starts on the outside. Invest in a roof inspection to catch early problems. Making repairs when needed can mean avoiding a full roof replacement. Keep gutters clear to prevent water damage and make sure downspouts are attached and clear of debris. Keep the siding washed to prolong its lifespan, or touch up exterior paint as needed.

Check the driveway for needed repairs. Cracked concrete or asphalt can pose a tripping hazard, and it’s not pretty. Resurfacing or replacing with a different type of material may be worth the investment. Inspect your home’s foundation for cracks to help avoid costly repairs and check for invasions by small critters that may be looking for a way in.

Catching home maintenance problems early can mean the difference between small repairs and major renovations. Doing whatever you can to keep your home well-maintained—and outsourcing the rest—will ensure your home works for you in the long run.