Give your home a check-up

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Published January 23, 2013

| FoxNews.com

Just like you, your home also needs a regular checkup to make sure things are running smoothly. Many people forget to give their place a thorough inspection on a regular basis, leaving them vulnerable to disasters and breakdowns. Here are a few things around the home that you should get inspected regularly.

Furnace

For many people, furnace maintenance ends with an occasional air filter change. But a furnace on the fritz can be costly and even downright dangerous. To ensure that your heater is in tip-top shape, get it checked by a professional every one to two years.

First, a professional should check if all of the jets are burning properly. Dirty or malfunctioning jets can cause natural gas to escape into your home -- a serious safety issue! Next, check the flue for blockages or leaks, which can allow the exhaust from the natural gas to escape into the home. An inspector should then check the furnace’s motor, replacing the belt if it has worn out, as well as lubricating or replacing an aging motor. Finally, an inspector should do a check for carbon monoxide. An improperly burning furnace can release this deadly gas at any time, so while it’s crucial to get CO levels checked during an inspection, a working carbon monoxide detector in the home is equally important.

Air Conditioner

Whether you have a window unit or central air, it’s important to give your air conditioner a yearly check-up. Air conditioners are prone to a build-up of dust and debris, so you’ll want to clear or replace filters and ensure that that coils are clean and clear. The moist, warm conditions inside an air conditioner are prime breeding grounds for mold, mildew and fungi, so a thorough cleaning with a pressure washer is recommended to scrub these machines clean. Finally, you’ll want to have a professional check the refrigerant levels. A slow leak in the coils can cause your A/C’s efficiency to drop, costing you money in the long run.

Chimney

If your home has a fireplace, it’s important to have it inspected every few years. Over time, soot, debris and creosote -- a sticky residue caused by burning wood -- can build up in the chimney, causing smoke to suddenly fill your home when you light a fire. It’s not just the inside of the chimney that needs a regular checkup. Structural problems to the chimney can cause major headaches down the road, making an inspection a good idea even if you never use the fireplace. Loose bricks and missing mortar can be entry points for water, causing roof rot which can be far more expensive to repair than the cost of an occasional inspection.

Energy Audit

If you’re like most people, your home could probably use an energy efficiency upgrade.  Aging windows, worn out weatherstripping and outdated appliances can be costing you a fortune. Start by tracking down leaks in your home, which let out warm air in the winter and let in hot air in the summer. On a cold winter day, you can use an infrared thermometer to track down drafts creeping into your home. The crevices around windows and doors are the obvious culprits for these thermal leaks; but also pay attention to wall sockets and vents entering the home.

The next step on the path to a greener home is figuring out which devices are gobbling up the most energy. Unfortunately, electricity bills don’t break down usage by socket, so it can be tough to find out where the waste is coming from. By adding a device like the Kill-A-Watt energy use monitor to a wall socket, you can see in real time how much energy an appliance or gadget is using. Armed with this information, you can decide whether to ditch an outdated appliance for a more energy efficient model and curb your use of energy hogging gadgets.

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