First Home, First Hints

Congratulations! You're about to move out of an apartment into your first home. What a great move, but you need to know a few things and buy a few things. Remember there will be no "building manager" to take care of things for you - you're it!

First things first. Let there be light, but where is the fuse box? Does it use fuses or just switches? (Hint: Label each switch with white tape and black letters so you can see them easier in the dark.) It's a good idea to turn the switches off and on a few times so you're used to how stiff they can be.

Water, water everywhere. Find the turn-off valve inside the house so minor floods don't become major. Make sure you know where the toilet turn-off valve is. Can you turn off the outside faucets in the winter? (Hint: you may have to leave one outside faucet dripping during the cold months so you don't burst the pipes during freezes.) Find the water meter and make sure it is functioning. If your garbage disposal stops working, find the red reset button on the unit under the sink. Before you turn it back on, check with your fingers to see if anything is blocking the blades, and then press the reset button. (Hint: Remove your fingers and the offending objects from the blades before turning the disposal on again…duh.)

Keeping warm and toasty. It's important to find the furnace. What kind of fuel does it use? If you have an oil furnace, ask how often you need to refill it and who refills it. Do you have a maintenance contract for repairs? If not, can you get one? If you're going to have to replace or clean the filters, where do you get them? (Hint: buy a couple of them, you never seem to need to replace them when the store is open.) Find the reset button and label it. Does the furnace have a fan for cooling the house in the summer? Where are the thermostats for controlling the temperature? No matter what the source of energy for your heating, find the main shut off valve.

Curl up by the fire. But make sure the fireplace flue is cleaned every one to three years, depending on how much you use it. Otherwise, the chimney may not draw well and "smoke gets in your eyes", which is not as romantic as the song. A clogged chimney can cause a fire, which is not cool.

Nothing like a long hot bath. Check the water heater to see if it has a pilot light. If it goes out, how do you re-light it? Find out how to set the temperature and decide what temperature you should set it to.

Your very own washer and dryer. Clean the lint tray on the dryer every load or two, or it will build up and slow down the drying process. Also, too much dry lint can cause a fire. If your washer drains directly into a utility sink, place a filter on the end of the hose to keep from clogging your sink.

How about a tall cold one? At least twice a year, clean the water tray under your frostless refrigerator, and vacuum the coils at the back now and then to keep it cooling effectively. (Hint: Check the seals around the doors of your refrigerator to make sure no cool air is escaping. If there is moisture on the rubber seal, you've got a faulty seal.) Now pop open the cold one and toast your new home.