The holidays are upon us once again, and many of us are staying home to host guests or leaving for extended periods. Whether you plan on traveling, hosting guests for a big meal, or just cooking a few special meals for two, thinking about the maintenance and performance of all your home’s key systems and appliances beforehand is time well spent. Set aside shopping and decorating concerns for a while and focus on the essentials that keep your home running smoothly. Whatever your plans, you’ll be glad you did. Here’s a holiday home maintenance checklist to help you get started.
Staying home for the holidays and hosting guests?
If you’re expecting company, you want to be sure your home’s systems and appliances are firing on all cylinders well before anyone arrives. The last thing you need is for your oven or home heating to stop working at the worst possible holiday moment. Schedule a preventive pre-holiday appliance maintenance visit. While you’re at it, here are our preventive-maintenance suggestions for crucial home systems and appliances and how to make sure they’re ready and running smoothly for all the intense holiday action.
Pre-holiday refrigerator maintenance
Your pre-holiday maintenance check begins with your refrigerator. You’ll want to clean the dirt from the condenser using a vacuum or a brush to knock out the built-up debris. Go ahead and replace the water filter, clean the dispenser, and make sure your ice maker is going strong. For more on this, check out our post on refrigerator maintenance 101.
Pre-holiday oven and stove maintenance
For that ideal holiday meal, you know you’ve got to start cooking early, so you’re going to want to be sure your range is fired up and ready to go. At least a few days before your gathering, clean the interior and exterior of your oven, stovetop and hood, making sure your oven door has a tight seal and its lightbulbs work. For more on this, check out our guide to common oven repairs.
Pre-holiday microwave maintenance
Many households neglect the microwave because the oven and stove do the lion’s share of the cooking. But if you eat leftovers, you know how essential this at-times-underrated home appliance can be. To get yours ready to tackle the onslaught of many a heated (or reheated) holiday meal, clean it inside and out, test the doors and the power, and make sure there are no issues. If so, it may be time for a replacement.
Pre-holiday dishwasher maintenance
You can undoubtedly buy products designed to flush the gunk from your dishwasher system while running a complete cycle on the hottest temperature setting. Still, a tried-and-true DIY method that costs less and often works just as well is to run that same cycle and add a cup of vinegar on the top rack. Vinegar is also the perfect cleaning agent for spot removal, inside or out.
Pre-holiday washer and dryer maintenance
Much like our dishwasher recommendation above, you can purchase various products designed to deep-clean your washing machine during a cycle, or you can run a cup of vinegar (or bleach, if you’re careful) through your system to flush the gunk. Don’t forget to clean your dryer’s lint filter and vent either, because you could create a fire hazard without realizing it.
Pre-holiday water heater maintenance
If your water heater or other appliances are gas-powered, it’s a good idea to have an annual gas safety inspection from your local gas provider. This simple visit can alert you to any leaks or potential problem areas and make sure all pilot lights, venting systems and intakes function as they should. If you were thinking of switching to a high-efficiency, on-demand, tankless water heater, before multiple guests arrive could be the perfect time.
Pre-holiday maintenance for furnaces and other heating systems
Colder temperatures cause your heating system to work harder. Get yours checked and serviced by a professional before the chilly weather creeps in to ensure you make it through winter without issues. If you have a fireplace, have it checked out as well so you know it’s safe and ready for those cozy nights indoors. Are you wondering whether your furnace’s time has come? Check out our post on how long home appliances should last.
Sealing and insulating your home properly
How well-insulated and sealed your home is impacts the maintenance of its critical systems and appliances. For example, your heating system won’t have to work as hard if your house is doing a good job of keeping warm air in and cold air out. Taking the time and effort to seal your windows and doors well with weatherstripping or caulk is an investment that pays dividends in energy efficiency and related savings.
Checking batteries on smoke alarms
Between the extra cooking and use of heating systems or fireplaces, there’s a higher risk than usual for fire-related emergencies. Make sure you and your loved ones stay safe and get ample warning in the event of a fire. Ample warning begins with functional smoke alarms, which typically last about a decade before requiring replacement. However, smoke alarm batteries often need to be replaced at least once per year. Grab a ladder and test yours carefully.
What to do if a power outage or other unforeseen incident occurs
If you’re wondering how to prepare for a power outage or another unpleasant surprise, always remember that having essentials on hand and knowing where to find them is critical. Even if you don’t live in a snowy climate, cold-weather power outages happen. Pipes burst and cars break down. Here are some great suggestions on what you might need in an unfortunate event:
- Keep some essential extras on hand, including duct tape, multitools, lightbulbs, and a camping stove with fuel, just in case you can’t make it to the store or use your appliances.
- Make it a habit always to have an ample supply of bottled water, nonperishable food and disposable essentials (e.g., toilet paper, toothpaste, floss, napkins, plates and utensils).
- Know where extra headlamps, flashlights, lighters, matches and candles are kept, along with warm clothes, coolers and bandages so you’re ready to handle anything.
Stocking up on holiday necessities
When planning to house guests over the holidays, make sure to grab extras of whatever you have in your emergency stash of food and supplies so that you have enough for everyone. Along with being prepared for anything out of the ordinary, it pays to have plenty of everything you need in case visiting friends and family end up forgetting items or use way more of something than you anticipated.
Preparing a special space for guests
This is a no-brainer if you have a guest room,, but it’s still possible to make your guests comfortable without one. You can use a simple tension rod and curtain to partition a space to give guests more privacy if they’re staying in an open area of your home. If your couch isn’t the comfiest, get an inflatable mattress and a nice set of pillows and bedding.
Making your home feel festive
Give your home at least a few holiday touches to evoke the spirit of the season and treat your guests to a memorable experience that will stand out from other visits throughout the year. Remember, you don’t need to imitate Clark Griswold to make an impact with outdoor lights. A wreath, twinkling lights or a holiday-themed welcome mat is a good place to start.
If you’re going away
Don’t pay extra money or waste energy to heat or cool your home when you’re not in it. Set your heat for far lower than you usually require, but warm enough to keep pipes from freezing. If you live in a frigid area, make sure not to turn off the heat completely. Suppose you’re looking at an extended absence of more than a few days away from home. In that case, you still have plenty of reasons to prioritize a holiday maintenance checkup for its major systems and appliances. If you’re not willing to hire a professional, you can certainly do many of these checks on your own. Here are some suggestions:
- Check for leaks, especially around water heaters, washing machines and dishwashers.
- Make sure your heat is working reliably and isn’t due for annual maintenance.
- Seal drafts around any openings near doors, windows, attics and basements.
- Install reliable surge protectors for essential appliances.
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.