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New Year's Home Safety and Maintenance Checklist

From healthy diets to exercise, the New Year marks a fresh start-and there’s no time like the present to give your home a refresh, too. It’s easy to get so busy in our daily lives that we push small home projects, like checking smoke detector batteries or changing outdoor floodlights, to the backburner. These little home maintenance tasks may seem minor in the moment, but they can have a major impact on your family’s safety.

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This year, resolve to stay on top of home safety tasks. Here are five to get you started:

1. Give your home a security checkup.. Even if you have a home security system installed, simple mistakes could put your home at risk. Check to be sure your home security system is not visible through a window or reflection in a mirror; if burglars can see the alarm status they’ll know when it’s “safe” to enter. Reduce the likelihood that your home will be a target. Keep the shades closed when you’re not home, set lights to an automatic timer, and keep bicycles, lawn equipment, and other valuables securely stored out of sight.

2. Complete a home inventory. If your home were burglarized, would you be ready to file an insurance claim? A household inventory is an essential document that lists your home’s contents and valuable possessions. List large pieces of furniture, electronics, and valuables like artwork or antiques. You may also want to use your smartphone to do a “video walkthrough” of your home and then save this digital file to a secure cloud storage location. Questions about what to include in your inventory? Your insurance agent is a great resource for specific information that will be necessary to file a policy claim.

3. Test your smoke detector batteries. Whether your smoke detector is powered by 9-volt or AA batteries, or it operates on a household electrical current with backup batteries, you should test this device regularly to ensure it is operational. Tests can confirm if you need a new battery or if the entire smoke detector has failed. Every level of your home should have smoke alarms, according to guidelines from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). For best protection, interconnect your smoke alarms. This means that if one alarm sounds, it will trigger all other alarms.

4. Test your carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide - also known as the "silent killer" - is a colorless, odorless gas. Improperly vented or incorrectly used fuel-burning appliances like furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and fireplaces could cause a deadly CO build up to occur in your home. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends placing carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home and outside sleeping areas. CPSC recommends replacing batteries annually and testing the alarms each month.

5. Stay on top of winter yard maintenance. During a major snow or ice storm, low-hanging branches can fall and damage your gutters, roof, and deck railings. Plus, overgrown shrubs or bushes offer natural hiding spaces for prowlers. While January is not always the warmest month for outdoor work, take advantage of any milder days to prune back shrubs, remove dead or hazardous tree limbs, and catch up on yard maintenance. If you live in a region that’s prone to ice dams, consider taking additional steps to prevent damage from snow and ice on your roof.

6. Make a monthly home checklist. From the roof to the basement, your home can benefit from a little monthly maintenance to stay in tip-top shape. Now that you have covered a few essentials already on this list, a monthly checkup may feel less overwhelming. Consider setting a recurring calendar reminder for the following:

  • Replace or change your furnace filter to protect inside air quality
  • Check salt levels in your water softener, add more as necessary
  • Remove mineral deposits from sink faucets and shower heads to increase flow
  • Inspect fire extinguishers
  • Test smoke alarms and CO detectors
  • Check bath and tub drains for clogs
  • Check locks on all doors and windows
  • Soak your range hood filter in degreaser
  • Check for gaps around windows and doors and caulk or weather strip
  • Check and clean dryer vents and other exhaust vents
  • Clean ceiling fans and adjust blade direction as seasonally appropriate


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