Self-sufficiency is highly under-rated in today’s society. There are so many things we can do ourselves, but instead, we look to others to take care of it for us. I know this is true when I hear statements like: “I don’t know how to change a fuse.” (Honest to God, true story.)
Seriously? If you can write a mortgage check, you can change a fuse. (And if you can’t write a mortgage check, you’re beyond my help.) Much in the same way that I don’t think you should be able to drive a car unless you can pump gas and change a tire, I think there should be some simple basics to home-owning, too.
Here are three that you need to get familiar with. Be their friend. They can get you out of a jam, save you some serious damage, and maybe even save you some money, too.
Fuse Box – Know where it is. Know what kind of fuses you need and keep extras on hand. (Ideally, in an easy-to-find-with-a-flashlight location.) Most boxes have an area that you can attach a label to that tell what fuse runs which room, section, or appliance. This is great information to have when the lights are out.
Shut-off Valves – The late Tim Russert told a story he had gotten in response to his book “Big Russ and Me” from a woman who said that as a child, she was embarrassed by her plumber father. Abridging profusely: One day, the phone rings and one of her not-so-nice school chums, the progeny of a wealthy lawyer, needs help because a broken pipe is flooding their house. The woman’s father goes to the house and she goes along. Her dad asks where the shut-off valve is and the lawyer says, “I don’t know.” Plumber dad finds it, fixes the problem and saves the house. Lawyer is grateful to plumber dad. When they leave, plumber dad tells daughter: “That was one dumb lawyer.” Well, yeah. If you have a sink fixture or a commode that goes haywire, these little handles (metal or plastic, usually mounted at the fixture’s connection to the water source) are lifesavers. But, sometimes these can break, so it’s good to know where the main shut-off valve is as well.
Furnace Filter – I once heard someone ask: “You’re supposed to change a furnace filter?” There’s an HVAC man’s dream. Filters come in an assortment of sizes, so know yours. And don’t buy the cheap ones. While they will work, there’s some side benefits to the pleated, name-brand kind. (This is particularly true if you have pets or a smoker in the house. Me, I’m a Filtrete girl.) Since the filter is housed between your heating/cooling unit and the blower, if it’s dirty, less air gets circulated. Not very energy efficient. And at today’s energy prices?! Minus a clean filter, the dirt and other pollutants can get trapped inside the unit, leading to some costly repairs or maybe even a new unit. Plus, they’re usually good for up to 90 days. (That “up to” can be a month or two if you live in a pet-filled, smoky house.)