Once warmer weather hits, you can’t throw a figurative stone online without finding at least one spring cleaning list chock-full of tips to help your home sparkle.
What those lists often leave out are the simple home maintenance steps that can ensure everything is working at maximum efficiency year ‘round. After all, what better time than when you’re already cleaning out every nook and cranny?
Taking care of these tasks early in the year helps to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your home’s more expensive systems, as well as saves you money over time.
1. Give Your HVAC System a Once Over
Changing your furnace and return air filters is critical to keeping your home’s HVAC system running properly. When the filters are dirty, your system can’t operate at its full power since all those bits of dust and particulate matter that a filter prevents from entering your system can impede airflow.
Over time, this will impact your unit’s performance and cooling ability—costing you more money in monthly bills and shortening the life of your system.
There’s no trick to cleaning your furnace and air conditioner filters—when they’re dirty, change them. How often filters should be cleaned depends on what kind of system you have:
HEPA filters are some of the best at filtering, but that means they collect the most dust and dirt—and need to be cleaned most often. They can also become blocked very easily if neglected. If your air conditioner has an HEPA air filter, you should check it every month. If you notice your filter is dirty and clogged, it’s time to change it.
Electrostatic filters generally need to be changed every three to six months to keep them running smoothly. Check quarterly, as it depends on how dusty your home gets or if you have pets.
Electronic filters rarely get clogged to the point that they will impede air flow and affect performance. They can, however, get so clogged that they cannot filter out any more dirt or dust and blow it back into your home instead. Electronic filters should be cleaned every six months, or more often if your home is extremely dusty.
Filters might need more frequent attention than once a year, but doing so is worth the effort. According to Energy.gov, replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5-15%. 
Don’t forget your air conditioner’s coils, either. Evaporator and condenser coils collect dirt throughout the year even when filters are regularly cleaned or replaced. The dirt and debris that accumulates around coils hampers air flow and insulates the coil, reducing their ability to absorb heat.
Unlike filters, your coils only need to be cleaned once a year. Remove any debris that’s collected and trim back nearby foliage to give at least a two-foot berth. Just be careful—you should always shut off power to your system before performing maintenance
For an in-depth look at system maintenance, check out this article covering how to clean outdoor coils by Family Handyman. It includes step by step instructions that, when performed annually, will help ensure your HVAC system runs efficiently throughout the summer months to come.
Finally, if your system is older or it’s been several years since it’s been serviced, consider calling a technician to give it a once over to avoid any emergency calls come summer.
2. Inspect & Re-Caulk Your Tubs, Showers, & Toilets
If your recent attempts to relax in the tub have been scented by mildew, it’s time to check the caulking in your bathroom.
Caulk, the putty-like substance that seals where your bathtub or shower meets the wall and floor, breaks down over time. If left unrepaired, water will be able to seep down past your floor tile to wood baseboards and the sub-flooring itself. This is also how homes come down with nasty cases of mold—a problem that’s preferably avoided.
To check your caulking, look for brown or black stains either in the caulk or the grout behind it, both around the edge of your bathtub and where the tiled wall meets the shower pan.
If your caulk appears solid and clean, you’re done! If not, you can choose to contact a local handyman or attempt the job yourself by following these steps:
- Purchase caulk designed for kitchens and bathrooms, and choose the color you want.
- Grab a utility knife, razor blade, and an old toothbrush.
- Cut the old caulking out with the utility knife, removing as much of it as you can.
- Once removed, use the brush to get out any mold or mildew.
- Load the tube into your caulking gun using the instructions on the gun package. Once it’s properly loaded, cut off the tip of the caulk tube.
- Apply the caulk at a measured pace along the cracks in your window's seal, pushing the caulking tube into the crack. It’s important to use smooth movements with consistent, light pressure. The idea is to apply caulk in one continuous line.
- Smooth your caulk with a plastic spoon, drinking straw, popsicle stick, or even your fingers. Pro tip: To prevent tearing the caulk, keep the spoon, drinking straw or popsicle stick wet.
- Let the caulk dry completely before you cover it with anything.
Still unsure how to apply fresh caulking? Check out this instructive video from Ron Hazelton to learn how it’s done:
While caulk is universally used to seal the edges of tubs and showers, some homeowners might realize that their toilets don’t have caulking sealing them to the floor. That’s because whether or not to caulk the base of a toilet is a subject of debate between many plumbers.
One camp argues that doing so has two big benefits: Caulk keeps out excess moisture and debris from going underneath your commode. Additionally, it helps secure your toilet to the floor.
However, some plumbers argue that caulking at the base of a toilet can disguise a leak until it’s too late. Others attempt to reach a happy medium by caulking three-fourths of the way around, but leaving a gap at the back of the toilet. This allows any leaking water to be immediately noticeable.
The one thing all plumbers agree on in the great caulking debate? It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions with any specific model.
For homeowners performing their spring cleaning, that makes it simple: If caulking exists at the base of your toilet, give it a check and re-caulk if necessary. If not, no worries! Just make sure to mind the back for an intentionally left gap.
3. Service Your Ceiling Fans & Switch Their Direction
Energy efficient ceiling fans only use 100 watts of energy, compared to the 3,500 watts of a central AC unit or 900 watts for a room AC unit. That means for every minute you use a ceiling fan instead of blasting your cooling system, you can enjoy significant savings along with feeling more comfortable indoors.
That being said, your ceiling fan will perform much better if you give it a little attention during your annual spring cleaning. Annual ceiling fan maintenance includes:
Inspecting: The vibration of a constantly spinning fan allows important bits to come loose over time. As a result, your ceiling fan can start to wobble and spin out of balance. This causes irritating noises and wears your ceiling fan out faster than it otherwise would. To inspect it, you’ll have to climb up a ladder to look carefully at each of the screws, the down rod, decorative plate, and light fixture (if it has one).
Cleaning: While you’re inspecting your ceiling fan, you’ll probably notice a layer of dust. This can reduce airflow and make your fan work less efficiently, as well as contribute to wobbling. Clean the blades with a damp cloth, being sure not to saturate wooden surfaces.
Lubricating: Some ceiling fans have maintenance-free, double-sealed ball bearings that never require oiling. Others have a small oil hole above the motor. To find the oil hole, first turn the fan is turned off. Then, stand on something very sturdy, and look for the oil hole on the top portion of the motor. Once spotted, add 4-6 drops of light machine oil (one professional handyman blog used 3-in-One oil as an example) to lubricate the motor. Note that before adding any lubricant, you should first check the manufacturer’s guide for your particular model of ceiling fan. Pouring oil in the wrong place could result in it being flung around the room and creating more of a mess.
Many ceiling fans have a switch on the side that allows you to change the direction that they turn. One direction, used in cooler months, draws cool air up and pushes the warm air down—the exact opposite of what’s needed once spring starts.
Image via Hansen Wholesale
If you changed the direction your fan rotates before winter, you’re already familiar with how to change it back for spring and summer. Never touched it? First, check that a switch exists. Once spotted, be sure that the blades are rotating in a counterclockwise direction to blow air directly down.
4. Check Your Home From Top To Bottom
Does your home include an attic? Take advantage of the cooler weather while it lasts to climb up and explore your home’s top-most corners for signs of leaks, bad ventilation, or animal activity.
The same goes for basements or storm cellars—taking the time to inspect these areas for small signs of trouble can help you save. After all, who wants to pay for a water heater emergency when a simple servicing would do?
Here’s a list of more areas to check while you’re spring cleaning:
Outside: Examine your deck for signs that it needs to be repainted, stained, or sealed. Take the time to learn about the trees in your yard, and if any need pruning or fertilizing. Also, check your fences to secure any loose boards and make sure posts are in good shape before the stormy season. Finally, walk around your home to check the caulking around all external windows.
Up top: Cleaning your gutters? Take advantage of the view to inspect your roof for signs that it needs repairing. Also, check the eaves and corners outside for holes, wasp nests or other signs of animal activity. If your home includes a fireplace, reduce your risk of a home fire by having it cleaned come spring.
Indoors: Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Along the same lines, check the last service date on your fire extinguisher and replace if needed. Have a squeaky door that’s been driving you crazy? Add a little WD40, or call in a handyman to rehang them. Test your water heater’s pressure relief valve. This will prevent mineral and corrosion buildup, which safeguards against leaks. It will also help your heater run more efficiently. While you’re there, don’t forget to also check the overflow tank.
Kitchen: If the plastic tubes in your refrigerator's water dispenser appear to be filled with gunk, remove and clean them. Go through your pantry to throw out expired cans and packaged foods. Even if you don’t have a pest problem, after giving your kitchen a deep clean, it is the perfect time to sprinkle diatomaceous earth or other non-toxic powders to keep bugs away.
There’s no doubt that home ownership requires some serious time and labor. Just like regular oil changes for your car keep your engine happy and healthy, keeping up with regular home maintenance tasks will prevent future headaches and wasted money.
While performing everything above might take the better part of a weekend, the good news is that most of these various tasks can be accomplished on your own without much experience! If you’re unsure how to perform any of the above, remember that Google is your best friend—and don’t forget to check Youtube for helpful instructive videos.
What do you do to keep your home in tip-top shape? Do you have any hacks for doing these tasks as efficiently and effectively as possible? Let us know in the comments below!
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