Just like cars, homes need regular tuneups to ensure they're safe and healthy. But unlike cars, homes don't come with manuals — and maintaining them looks different for everyone.
Homes with kids need child-proofing, focusing on hazards such as window blind cords and choking. Homes with seniors need practical living solutions, such as a streamlined kitchen and a nonslip bathroom. But regardless of who's living there, homes should be regularly checked in the following five areas:
1. Fire and carbon monoxide prevention
Make sure your smoke alarms are updated, tested and equipped with fresh batteries. Check the expiration date on any fire extinguishers, and make sure the seals and pressures are normal. Never overload electrical outlets — and do regular cord scans to ensure they're not frayed or compromised. For detailed fire safety suggestions, browse FEMA's safety checklist.
2. Medication safety
Expired medication can have decreased potency, and potentially have an adverse effect. If a medication is past its prime, safely dispose of it — and replace it immediately so it's there when you need it. In shared households, keep prescription medications locked and secure so others don't use them.
3. Vent and filter cleaning
Vents and filters are notoriously neglected, trapping unhealthy dust. Air and heating system vents should be cleaned whenever you spot buildup, and if they have filters, change them to manufacturer's specifications. Some appliances require regular vent or filter tuneups from a licensed professional, so keep your calendar up to date.
Even if you're diligent about cleaning the lint filter in your dryer, you still need your dryer vent ductwork checked every year. Full or compromised vents cannot exhaust properly, and could cause home damage or fire.
4. Food safety
Big on meal prepping? Prevent food sickness by tossing refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods after one week. And check that the thermometer in your fridge reads 40° F or lower.
Frozen foods never really expire — as long as the freezer temperature is below 0° F - but they can lose flavor. If you're big on frozen meals, replace them every few months.
Scan dates on products in your cabinet, and keep a close eye on spices. While spices don't spoil, they have generally long expiration dates, so they tend to be forgotten. Use containers with tight-fitting lids for flour, rice and sugar to ensure they're well-sealed and free from bugs.
5. Emergency prep
Don't let a home emergency catch you off guard. Review your first-aid kit to make sure it has all of the necessary items. Check your emergency number list to ensure the information is current. Take inventory of medications — for both you and your loved ones — as emergency professionals typically ask for it. And clear your house's address number of foliage or debris so it's easily seen when needed.
Lastly, have an escape plan. You could have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. So invest in escape ladders, draw and post a route map, and plan a fire drill for everyone in the household.