Whether you’re making road trip plans or just firing up the BBQ in your backyard, don’t forget about your home – and your family’s safety – this season. Take advantage of these longer days to do a home safety check.
From replacing burned-out bulbs to checking alarms, here are eight safety tips to protect your home this summer:
1. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
If you’ve been lucky enough to never have had an alarm go off, it’s easy to forget about them. But they’re around for a reason. Home fires claim 2,650 lives a year on average and injure more than 11,000 consumers, so you want your alarms to be in good working order.
Test the alarms by pushing the test buttons (and repeat this test once a month). If the alarm doesn’t sound when you push it, it may be time to replace the batteries or buy a new alarm. Also, does everyone in your household know the plan in case one of these alarms goes off? Make reviewing your household emergency plan part of your summer routine.
2. Buy a fire extinguisher if you don’t already have one
If you’re only getting one fire extinguisher, make sure it’s an ABC all-purpose variety. If you already have an extinguisher and it’s not in the Class ABC category, consider investing in this type of extinguisher because it will put out most types of home fires.
Store the extinguisher in an accessible place and teach everyone in your home how to use it. Also, check monthly that the pressure gauge is pointing in the green section, indicating that it is charged.
3. Have your HVAC system cleaned and the filters replaced
In case you didn’t know, HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Ventilation is key when it comes to reducing the spread of airborne diseases and allergens. In addition, your air conditioning may cost an extra $1,000 per cooling season if the filters are clogged and the coils are dirty, according to HVAC trade groups.
4. Clean out your dryer and vent
Many people don’t realize dust and lint are combustible – that is, they can catch on fire.
Clean out the lint filter and remove lint around the outside of and inside the drum each time you run a load of laundry. After drying a load that includes items coated with grit or animal hair, wipe down the inside of the drum with a damp cloth. And don’t forget to check and clean the dryer vent once a year to make sure it’s not blocked with lint.
Most dryer fires are caused by lint buildup, according to the National Fire Prevention Institute. If you don’t have a lint tray for some reason, dry your clothes on a clothesline until you get one.
5. Check your water heater pressure valve
Did you know that a faulty water heater pressure valve can cause an explosion? While you are doing that deep clean down in your basement, have a plumber check your water heater and its pressure valve. It only takes about five to 10 minutes and involves lifting the valve to ensure the water can be released.
6. Get rid of that mold already
Mold has its place in the world – it’s constantly breaking down organic matter – but it doesn’t belong in your house. According to the Mayo Clinic, mold can cause headaches, allergies, rashes and even asthma attacks.
Make sure your cleaning routine includes some mold elimination. Replace your moldy shower curtain (if there are brown or black spots on it) and fix any leaks (mold thrives on excess moisture). Also, the Environmental Protection Agency advises you to keep the indoor humidity below 60 percent and offers other helpful tips for cleaning up mold.
7. Check your outdoor lights to make sure they’re working
Now that the daylight lasts longer, it’s easy to forget about those porch lights. But you don’t want to get stuck in the dark, so make sure they’re all functioning. If you don’t already have them, this might be a good time to add motion detection lights, which tend to scare thieves away.
8. Make a set of spare keys and find a good hiding spot
Hint: Do not put them under the mat, in a flowerpot or under a potted plant, inside a fake rock near the door or on a windowsill – those are among the first places a burglar will look for them.
Don’t keep one in your wallet either, because if that gets stolen, the thief has your driver’s license and your address. Consider leaving one in a password-protected lockbox or with a trusted neighbor instead.
Isabel Estrada-Jamison has worked for years as a teacher in New York and is a member of African-Caribbean dance ensemble and a contributing writer for MoneyGeek.com. Her writing includes nonfiction, memoir and poetry.