House Calls: 5 Important Health Checkups for Your Home

by James Florence


To keep your home’s plumbing, electrical, and other systems operating safely and efficiently, it’s wise to invest in ongoing “health checkups.” Photo: Kelly Plumbing & Heating, Inc. ©2018

If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between your body and your home. For example, each contains a network of systems that allow the whole to function as needed. With a little imagination, you can draw parallels between your home’s plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems and your body’s circulatory, nervous, and respiratory systems.

Given these similarities, it’s ironic that most of us are proactive about our bodily health yet negligent about the health of our homes. We do our best to stay consistent with annual physical exams and dental cleanings, but we seldom schedule routine examinations of our plumbing or electrical systems. Yet, just as preventative exams and procedures are crucial for your bodily health, preventive inspections and maintenance services are crucial for the health of your home. Likewise, in the same way your doctor examines you for signs of illness, your home needs to be periodically checked for signs of leaks, mold, pest infestation and other elements that can compromise its health.

If you’re concerned about keeping your home healthy, consider these five important home health checkups:

1. Plumbing System Inspection
Your home’s plumbing system serves several important functions, from bringing in water to disposing of waste. Unfortunately, it also has a high potential for problems, from leaks to clogs to premature failure of crucial fixtures. Often, these problems occur gradually—starting with a minor drip or layer of buildup—and aren’t noticed until they’ve become full-blown, resulting in a major leak or backed-up drain line. By having all plumbing fixtures, connections and drains annually inspected by a professional, these common problems can be caught and remedied before they progress to something worse.

In addition to inspections, your plumbing system needs ongoing maintenance services to ensure ongoing performance. For example, every year you should have your water heater flushed to remove sediment—a simple measure that can potentially double its lifespan. Furthermore, things like sink and toilet supply line shut-off valves should be tested regularly to ensure they’re functional.

2. HVAC System Inspection
Your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system fulfills the crucial function of keeping your home comfortable. However, over time, issues with system safety and energy efficiency can arise. Annual inspection and maintenance services help ensure all system components continue to operate safely and efficiently.

HVAC system inspections may be split up seasonally between furnace inspections and air conditioner inspections. At a furnace inspection, an HVAC technician will verify the gas pressures are accurate, the system is burning safely and there are no gas leaks. Additionally, the technician will clean the furnace’s burners, fan motors and indoor coils to keep them running efficiently. At an air conditioner inspection, the technician will check the refrigerant charge and clean the evaporator and condenser coils.

At all appointments, the technician will check the condition of your system’s air filter and replace it if needed. They’ll also advise you on your system’s overall condition and suggest measures to improve performance.

3. Electrical System Inspection
Due to the potential dangers that electricity poses, it’s wise to have your home’s electrical system inspected on a recurrent basis. Besides checking for faulty wiring connections, loose outlets, improper grounding and absent GFI protection, an electrician will inspect your home’s electrical panel for unsafe conditions. For example, electrical panel connections can come loose over time due to weather-related expansion and contraction. Additionally, older panels may contain outdated and/or unsafe circuit breakers such as Zinsco or Federal Pacific. Both of these circumstances can compromise system performance and pose a fire hazard.

In addition to verifying system safety, an electrician will recommend upgrades to save energy and improve your electrical system’s overall performance.

4. Roof Inspection
Roof inspections allow for problems like leaks and dry rot to be caught before they compromise the roof’s integrity. During an inspection, a roofing technician will check key areas like valleys and gutters to make sure they’re clear of debris and able to flow smoothly. They’ll also check waterproofing components like flashings (which seal joints in the roof from water intrusion) and reseal or repair any that are in poor condition.

Frequency of roof inspections should depend on your roof’s age. If your roof is fairly new, it only needs to be inspected every three to five years; once it passes the 20-year mark, it should be inspected annually. With ongoing inspections and basic maintenance, you can prevent thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your roof and maximize its life span.

5. Pest and Termite Inspections
Keeping rats, roaches and other pests out of your home isn’t easy, but it’s even harder to remove them once they’re inside. That’s why it’s worthwhile to invest in preventive pest inspections two to four times a year. Besides maintaining your home’s defenses against pest intrusion, this will allow for any breaches to be caught early, before they result in a full-blown infestation.

It’s also important to get a termite inspection every two to three years. During the inspection, a termite professional will look for signs of activity from termites, wood-boring beetles and other wood-destroying insects, as well as more passive (yet equally destructive) agents like dry rot. They’ll also assess your property and take note of any conditions that make it more susceptible to infestation.

Maintaining consistency with a service agreement
Nowadays, many service providers offer service agreements, also known as membership or customer loyalty programs. For an annual fee, a service agreement entitles you to regular home inspections and maintenance services. This is a great way to ensure consistency with home health checkups—after all, it can be challenging to remember them all. Additionally, loyalty program members often get perks such as priority service and discounted rates. When looking for home service providers, ask if they offer service agreements or customer loyalty programs, and take advantage of the opportunity for consistent inspections and maintenance.

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