If you've never had your air ducts cleaned or sealed, the quality of your home's indoor air could improve. A thorough cleaning of your air-conditioning system will limit the amount of dust in the air and can help your AC work more efficiently.
Who should do it? Qualified air-conditioner technician.
How often? Every five to seven years.
What the job entails: Seal and disinfect the air handler's coils and the components that return the air to the home. Disassemble part of the air-conditioning unit during this step, check your supply ducts for leaks and clean them with a semi-rigid, high-pressure vacuum hose.
Tip: Don't waste your money on a duct-only cleaning service that costs a couple of hundred dollars. The only useful duct cleaning is part of an overall cleaning of your AC system. It will take two technicians half a day to do the job, and it will cost between $400 and $500.Tile floor/wall
Sealing the grout prevents it from getting deep-down dirty, which can break grout down and cause it to crack and loosen.
Who should do it? Tile installer or cleaning service.
How often?Once every year or two.
What the job entails: If you have a pro do this relatively simple job, expect the tech to thoroughly clean the grout before sealing. That involves a good, stiff brush and a powerful cleaner like phosphoric acid.
Tip: Choose a sealer that doubles as a grout stain.Washing machine
Few home mishaps are as costly as the failure of a washing-machine hose. Take the time to inspect your washing-machine hoses frequently and replace them if necessary.
Who should do it? Plumber.
What the job entails: Check the hose connections — including the drain hose — to make sure they're secure, and straighten them, keeping them free of kinks and tight bends.
Tip:Even if your hoses are problem-free, replace them every five years to ensure they remain in working order.
The best kind: Braided, stainless-steel hoses.
Calcium deposits and other gunk can collect in the bottom of your water heater. To keep it operating smoothly, it's a good idea to flush it.
Who should do it? Plumber.
How often?Every six months.
What the job entails: Attach one end of a hose to the water heater's hose bib and put the other end in your laundry sink or through a window, and then turn on the valve. Up to 40 gallons of water will drain out, along with the gunk from the bottom.
Tip: : If you have a whole-house water softener — a good idea in Arizona, where the water is especially hard — you won't need to have your water heater flushed.Sink drains
To keep your sink drains from clogging, clean the drain trap before you see any signs of a backup.
Who should do it? Plumber.
How often?At least once a year.
What the job entails: The plumber will remove the drain trap under the sink, scrub out the grease and gunk and rinse it clean before replacing it.
DIY Tip: :Prevent clogs by filling your sink to the brim with water once a week and then pulling the plug so the water rushes down the drain. The force of the water will help clear any buildup of hair and grease.Reverse-osmosis system
A reverse-osmosis system installed under the sink removes up to 98 percent of metals, pathogens, chlorine and dirt, but it requires filter replacement to keep the water tasting and smelling clean.
Who should do it? Water-treatment specialist or plumber.
What the job entails: The simple filter change involves removing the old filter and inserting a new one.
Tip: :If you touch the new filter by accident, bacteria from your hands can contaminate your drinking water. It's a good idea to leave this chore to a pro.
Cleaning the condenser coils under or behind your refrigerator can improve the appliance'sefficiency by as much as 30 percent.
Who should do it? Qualified appliance-repair technician.
How often?Every six to 12 months.
What the job entails: The hardest part of this job might be moving the refrigerator away from the wall. The half-hour cleaning involves removing and gently vacuuming the cover panel and then the coils with a long, narrow attachment.
Tip: Ask the tech to also remove the drip pan from under the fridge so you can soak it in warm, sudsy water while the coils are being cleaned.Countertops
If you chose Silestone, Corian or laminate for your kitchen countertops, you'll never need to seal them or do much more than keep them clean. If you opted for natural stone countertops like granite, you'll need to seal them.
Who should do it? Countertop retailer, granite fabricator or handyman.
How often?Every one to two years.
What the job entails: The contractor will clean the countertop with a stone cleaner and then use a clean cloth or brush to rub two coats of a granite sealer into the stone. The sealer takes a few hours to dry.
Tip: If you notice that water is soaking into the granite instead of beading up on the surface, it's time to seal your countertops — even if it hasn't been a full year since the last application.Insulation
Even if your attic has adequate insulation, it is ineffective if it has detached from the ceiling and walls. Reattach it or add more.
Who should do it? Attic, insulation, energy-efficiency or heating/air-conditioning specialist.
How often?Check it once a year after the monsoon; replace as needed.
What the job entails: The pro will reattach insulation to the walls and ceiling, or apply new insulation where there isn't enough.
DIY Tip: Check in the attic to see if there is a continuous sea of loose-fill insulation with no mountains or valleys — and no drywall, joists or lumber peeking out over the top of it.
When you hire a chimney sweep, choose one who can clean and inspect.
Who should do it? Qualified chimney sweep.
How often?Every two to three years.
What the job entails: Looking for and repairing cracks in the masonry, damaged dampers, worn-out chimney caps and other problems. If you ask only for a simple sweep, the tech will sweep and vacuum ash and creosote from the chimney and fireplace box but might not fix the other problems.
DIY Tip: Between inspections, check the outside of the chimney for cracks, which are usually stained by smoke so they're easy to spot. Install carbon-monoxide detectors and smoke alarms on every floor of your home.Gas fireplace
Like any gas appliance, a gas fireplace needs regular attention to keep it safe and efficient.
Who should do it? Plumber or a fireplace retailer.
What the job entails: Clean and adjust logs and accessories like glowing "embers" so they look their best. Clean the fan, air-circulation passages and glass. The service also should involve checking the carbon-monoxide detector batteries and making sure vents are unobstructed.
DIY Tip: If you have vented logs, use your fireplace only when the damper is open. The open chimney will allow carbon monoxide to escape.Carpet
Carpet is one of the most popular flooring materials in Arizona. Like any part of your home, proper maintenance can extend the life and beauty of the product. For carpet, that means vacuuming and cleaning.
Who should do it? Professional carpet cleaner.
How often?Once or twice a year.
What the job entails: The pro will perform either a "dry" extraction of dirt or a power shampoo followed by a hot-water extraction. For an extra fee, you can also get stains removed.
DIY Tip: Vacuum your carpet daily — but first, replace your old vacuum cleaner with a well-sealed HEPA-filter vacuum. Other vacuums tend to blow dust from the carpet into the air.
Sometimes called the "100-year floor," solid hardwood floors are typically finished with a thick, durable top coat that protects it from damage. When it's time to refinish the floors, they can be sanded and refinished up to 10 times over their lifetime because they're so thick.
Who should do it? Wood-flooring specialist.
How often?Every 10 years.
What the job entails: The finisher will strip or sand the old polyurethane finish before applying one or two fresh coats.
Tip:If your floors are engineered hardwood — not solid hardwood — only the thin, top layer is made from solid wood, so you won't be able to sand it down and refinish it more than a couple of times.Heating and air-conditioning
If you maintain your heating and air-conditioning system well, it should last 10 to 15 years.
Who should do it? Qualified air-conditioner technician or a plumber if the furnace is gas-powered.
How often?Twice a year: spring for AC and fall for heat.
What the job entails: Inspect cabinets, motors, fan blades, the control box, wiring, the blower assembly and other parts as needed. Alert you to any problems-in-the-making that you can address before they become disasters.
DIY Tip: Because Arizona is so hot and dusty, you'll need to replace the AC filter(s) every month. Ask the technician if you don't know about filters.Clothes dryer
An uncleaned dryer vent can catch your house on fire. You can prevent a fire by cleaning your lint trap after every load of laundry and cleaning the dryer vent regularly.
Who should do it? Electrician, a plumber or a vent-cleaning specialist.
How often?Once a year or when it takes longer than one cycle to dry clothes.
What the job entails: Remove the lint trap and vacuum any lingering dust under or behind the filter. Remove the access panel on the back of the dryer and vacuum lint. Remove and clean the aluminum vent tube and any wall ducts.
DIY Tip: Keep the area where the dryer vent empties outside clear of debris and vegetation so nothing blocks the opening. Check it often for birds' nests.
by Rosie Romero The Arizona Republic Oct. 7, 2010 02:15 PM