As the holiday season nears its end and we embark on the last few days of the year, it is possible, if you listen closely, to hear an audible sigh of relief. Most years, this is the time when we begin to say our sweet goodbyes to the months that have passed, fondly reminiscing each detail, somewhat reluctant to let go. This year, however, has many hunkering down and praying for a quick and uneventful departure of the crazy train that was 2020. Never has the phrase, “out with the old and in with the new” felt more applicable. While it may be true that a good portion of what lies ahead is out of our hands, there are some simple, yet effective ways to be sure that you and your home start off the new year on the right foot.
Say Goodbye to the Holiday Gear All good things must come to an end and, sadly, that must include the giant inflatable nativity scene, featuring Snoopy and Baby Yoda (as wisemen) that you have been dazzling the neighborhood with for the past month. A good first step into the new year is to pack up the reminisce of the last.
Dispose of trees and wreaths safely. Live trees and holiday wreaths made from branches dry up quickly, becoming a fire hazard as the new year begins. For many, a simple journey to the curb on trash day is all that is necessary for disposal, since many trash services will collect trees free of charge in the weeks immediately following Christmas. Be mindful of the height of your tree, if it is taller than six feet it may need to be cut in half before it can be collected. In addition, many communities organize and facilitate tree recycling programs. Check with your HOA or consult your community's social media page(s) to see how to take advantage of these opportunities.
As you take down the lights, try to imagine yourself eleven months from now, joyfully pulling out delicately packed decor, tangle-free strings of unbroken bulbs, and inflatable friends free from holes. Now imagine yourself, at that same moment, cursing as you slash yourself on shattered lights while unsuccessfully attempting to detangle a knotted mess, all while your treasured inflatable Santa (the one wearing the flamingo swim trunks and sunglasses) flops around pitifully as the air escapes through the various holes in his poor nylon body. This is the moment that you decide which possible future will become your reality. Take your time and save yourself the mental anguish and Band-Aids next year.
Replace Filters. While you're making the trek to the basement to put away all of your holiday cheer, you should probably make a pitstop by your furnace. You probably don’t give this hardworking appliance much thought. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to. If all is going well, then this committed companion will happily chug along without complaint, all while you keep warm and toasty. But this relationship can’t always be completely one-sided. Every so often, it is paramount that you give your furnace a little love and attention. It is recommended that furnace filters be replaced every 90 days. However, some experts recommend that, during the winter months when we are relying on our home heating systems a bit more, that this be done even more often. Not only does your heating system work far more efficiently when filters are replaced frequently, neglecting to do so could make you sick. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the air inside your home can be more polluted than the air outside of it, and the EPA has identified indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks. They say that, “For people with allergies, scientific studies have shown that air filtration reduces these airborne allergens and may provide some relief.”
While you’re on a roll, why not check all of the other important filters throughout your home? Whole home water filters should be changed every three to six months (or possibly more often, if you have a large family), and refrigerator water filters should be changed every six months.
Filters in vent hoods and over range microwaves, depending on frequency of use, should be changed every two to six months. Replacing these filters is a great way to create a fresh (literally) start to the new year.
Check on water Heaters and Other Major Appliances. Your water heater is another major appliance in your home that it is easy to forget about. That is, until you're standing in your birthday suit, being pelted by thousands of tiny icicles in the shower. So long as they are well maintained, most water heaters can reliably heat the H2O in your home for eight to twelve years (on average). Take a close look at your water heater every month to be sure that nothing is leaking. Examine pipes and the relief valve, and be sure that there are no puddles or damp areas surrounding the unit, and that there is no musty or moldy smell. In addition to this routine check-up, professionals suggest that you have your water heater flushed once or twice a year.
Inspect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors The U.S. Fire Administrations suggests that homeowners test the alarms on a monthly basis and change batteries as needed, but at least once a year. They also recommend that the entire device is replaced every ten years for smoke alarms, and five years for carbon monoxide detectors. It is a good idea to dust and/or vacuum around the alarms, keeping them clear of dirt and debris that can alter their effectiveness.
Check for Ice Dams on Your Roof If you live in a colder climate, then you'll want to be sure that you are checking your roof for potential problems that can be caused by those falling temperatures. If you are getting any amount of precipitation, you’ll want to be on the lookout for ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of the roof, preventing the melting snow from flowing downward, off the roof, as it is designed. The water that gets backed up can cause major damage to your roof, walls, insulations and ceilings. While it may sound like a lovely way to relieve some post-holiday aggression, experts discourage the use of hammers or shovels to hack away at the imposing ice. Rather, they suggest standing on the ground, and using a rake to pull snow downward, off the roof. If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, you can keep ice dams from forming by ensuring that the entirety of your roof stays the same temperature. To do this, you will need to add insulation and ventilation, and be sure to seal each and every tiny little crevasse that might allow air to leak through.
Onward It’s true, this year went nothing like we had planned. So, let us put our collective focus on doing all that we can to make the coming year one that we look back on fondly. Let’s do our best to start off the year right, and make 2021 a much, much better year.
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