8 tasks for your August home maintenance checklist
As fall draws nearer, the days are inching shorter and temperatures in some parts of the country are starting to drop a bit. August can still be sweltering, though, making it an ideal time for indoor projects and preparations for heading on vacation. Here are some home tasks to tackle this month.
More residential burglaries occur in the summer than in any other season. (Winter is least risky.) To keep your house from becoming a statistic, replace or repair any locks that don’t work. If your house doesn’t have deadbolts, install them. Deadbolts that require a key to open on the inside might make you feel more secure, especially if you have a door with glass, but they aren’t legal in many communities because someone without a key couldn’t escape a fire.
Although you can install a lock yourself if you are handy, hiring a locksmith might be wise. A professional can also evaluate your doors and door frames and make sure you have high-security strike plates and heavy-duty screws long enough to bite into the framing behind the door trim. The most secure locks have a high-security ANSI Grade 1 rating; locks labeled as Grades 2 and 3 offer less protection. If the packaging doesn’t specify, check the manufacturer’s website.
Is it time to switch to a smart lock? Maybe one with fingerprint or voice sensors, allowing you to open the door without a key or a code? Most models have an industrial look, but the Level Lock Bolt (the Touch Edition lists for $329 at level.co) works with your existing hardware. Replace only the deadbolt so the door looks no different on the front or back; only the edge of the door reveals the switch.
Getting a grip on installing the right smart lock
A dripping faucet might seem like a trivial home maintenance issue if the water lands in a sink, and can’t damage the floor or furniture. But one drip a second adds up to 3,153.6 gallons of water a year, according to a drip calculator at drinktap.org, sponsored by the American Water Works Association. Fixing a leak is simple enough once you understand the type of faucet you have. This Old House has a guide on how to determine whether you have a cartridge, compression, ceramic disk or ball type faucet and how to fix each one.
A toilet flapper that doesn’t seal tightly between flushes is another kind of leak, one that might not even make a sound. But it can waste 200 gallons of water a day — enough to make a significant difference on a water bill. Test for a toilet leak by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Wait at least 10 minutes without flushing. If the color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak. When you go to a hardware store for a replacement flapper, take the old one with you so you get one that fits.
How to detect water leaks in your home
Toilets typically account for almost 30 percent of the water used in a home, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Replacing an old one — or even a relatively new one that you have to flush multiple times to get the job done — is the perfect indoor task for hot weather.
The best new toilets work on the first flush and use dramatically less water than old ones, enough to save more than $140 a year in water costs, according to the EPA’s WaterSense program. Don’t choose one based on price; instead, look for toilets with the WaterSense label, an EPA partnership program that identifies toilets that work well and are water-efficient.
It's time to replace that old toilet. Here's how much you could save.
To find toilets that work even better, look at the model-specific ratings from a program known as Maximum Performance. Toilets with a MaP Premium rating use 14 percent less water and reliably flush 170 percent more waste than the WaterSense standards require.
Unless you’ve done it recently, replace or clean your air conditioner’s filter. This one step can lower the air conditioner’s energy use by 5 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Department. An air conditioner works better when the filter is clean because it takes extra energy to pull air through a dirty filter. Although some manufacturers recommend cleaning or changing the filter only every three to nine months, the Department of Energy recommends doing it every month or two during the cooling season, and even more frequently if you have furry indoor pets.
What you need to know before buying an HVAC filter
While you’re thinking of air conditioner maintenance, also check and clean the evaporator and the outdoor condenser. If the fins on the coils are bent, straighten them with a fin comb (a set that works on six spacings between fins lists for $7.99 on Amazon).
It’s easy to be in a languid mood on a hot August day, but sometimes you just want to feel like you accomplished something. Look around and pick one easy upgrade, such as updating hardware on kitchen cabinets, installing new curtains, or swapping a standard shower curtain rod with a curved one to make the space less cramped. Or you can reduce the clutter in your primary home entry by adding shelves, hooks and a chair or bench for taking shoes on and off.
August is the month for back-to-school sales at stores selling office supplies, office furniture, linens and storage containers. If you need to set up a home office or want to redo one you already have, it’s a great time to get the furniture and supplies. Or if a summer of hosting guests on the couch has convinced you to set up a dedicated guest room, check out the sales aimed at teens shopping for a dorm or a first apartment.
Cut back spent flowers and vegetable plants that are no longer producing or look tired. Forgo that last handful of beans or zucchini and clear out the bed so you can grow varieties that have short growing seasons and thrive in cool weather. Depending on where you live, you may be able to plant seeds or transplant nursery seedlings in time for fall harvests of leafy greens such as Swiss chard and kale, peas or string beans (bush beans usually mature earlier than pole beans) and more. Check with your local nursery because options vary considerably depending on latitude and climate.
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When your other chores are done and you’re ready to head out on vacation, protect your home from break-ins by making it look as if you never left. Buy a couple of timers and set them to turn a radio and key lights on and off at hours similar to what you usually do. Keep shades and blinds in their normal position. Arrange to have mail stopped, newspapers taken in and the lawn mowed.
Have a problem in your home? Send questions to [email protected]. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.