Whether preparing your home for guests over the holidays or simply performing a deep clean on general principle, don't overlook these two cleaning tasks: Dryer vents and exhaust fans tend to get skipped, sometimes for years at a time, which can cause both inefficiency and fire risks.
Bathroom exhaust fans do a lot of important work. Obviously, they draw unpleasant odors out of the bathroom quickly. But they also remove moisture from the air, lowering the humidity and preventing mold or mildew risk to your paint and fixtures.
All this work takes a toll on the exhaust fans themselves, though. Debris, mildew and grime can build up on the vent and fan itself. That's why it's a good idea to clean your bathroom exhaust fans twice a year. Cleaning is a relatively easy DIY task in most cases; you can remove the vent grate, clean it by hand, and carefully wipe down the fan blades. As with any time you're dealing with electricity, flip the circuit breaker to stop power running to the fixture you're working with. You can also hire a handyperson to take care of this task.
Dryer vent cleaning
Dryer vent cleaning is an easily overlooked chore. But failure to clean your dryer vent can mean clogged ducts and potential fires, not to mention damage to your dryer, which adds up to expensive repairs or even the cost of buying a new appliance.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, you should hire a pro or do a DIY dryer vent cleaning at least once a year. This may be required more often, depending on how many people live in your house and how often you use your dryer. (This is also a great reason to clean out your lint filter after every load. Not only does a lint-covered filter make your dryer work less efficiently, but it also pushes more debris into the vents.)
Some dryer vent cleanings take about half an hour, though some could take two or three hours. On average, dryer vent cleaning will cost about $130.
If you have pets, your vents will likely become clogged with lint and pet hair even faster, and long ductwork with lots of twists and turns may also need more frequent cleaning. Prices may also go up if the dryer vents out at a particularly complicated location that requires technicians to go up on ladders or crawl under decks.
Birds, squirrels and other wildlife often attempt to create nests in dryer vents, especially ones that exit at the roof. At that point, debris from your clothes can quickly create a blockage as it catches on the nesting materials.
If you choose to do it yourself, dryer vent cleaning kits, which typically attach to a handheld drill, usually cost $20 to $50 depending on the rods' length and the kit's quality.
Your everyday toolkit: Keep these items on hand for home repairs
Keep a box with these essential basics: tape measure, claw hammer, utility knife, level, crescent wrenches, hex keys, a handsaw, pliers, multiple screwdrivers and a collection of screws and nails.
Try to keep it organized and easily accessible; it’s very easy for a tool box to dissolve into chaos if you don’t keep things in proper order. You’ll thank yourself later on when you need to find a particular screwdriver for a task.
Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher per floor. If you have only one, make sure it’s near the kitchen, where most home fires start.
Look for an ABC-rated unit that will extinguish all fire types.
Teach everyone in the home where it is and how to use it. While you’re at it, make sure your family has a plan to escape in the event of fire, and practice it.
Drill and drill bits
A battery-powered drill and driver is an essential home tool. Add a selection of drill bits in many sizes to be ready for whatever you need.
The standard 12-volt cordless drill you can find at many big-box stores should provide more than enough juice for most home purposes.
Emergency supply kit
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends keeping an easily accessible kit with these items for emergencies: three days of food for every person in the house, 1 gallon of water per day per person, first-aid kit, flashlight, weather radio, basic tools, dust masks, plastic sheets, garbage bags, can opener, medicine, hygiene products and cellphone charger.
You can find more details from FEMA at Ready.gov/kit.
A must-have for many household needs. Many injuries take place due to people using chairs or other inappropriate stand-ins for a ladder.
Remember to practice ladder safety: Never go beyond its recommended top step, don’t try to reach just a few inches more, and have a buddy hold and stabilize the ladder for you.
Keep plastic gloves, leather gloves, dust masks, ear protection and eye protection on hand. You never know when a job might call for them. It’s wise to use protection during a wide variety of tasks — a mishap during yard work or while using a drill can lead to an eye injury. You can usually find safety kits that will include all the basics you need.