As our homes begin to age, so do household items like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. There's no good reason not to replace these devices and, with the advances in safety product technology, there's even more reason to do so.
Whether it's as something as small as a smoke detector or as large as say your washer and dryer, or even your air conditioning and heating systems, making a habit of replacing and upgrading these items can save you money, and potentially even your life.
But what do you replace and when do you replace it? Hopefully this simple guide will make that decision a little easier.
Properly running smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can be the difference between life and death in the event of a house-fire. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, smoke detectors should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every 7 years.
There are plenty of options for replacements, with everything from photoelectric smoke alarms to ionization smoke alarms, ones that are hardwired into your electric system, ones that are battery operated, and even ones with digital displays. And the good thing about these devices is that you can find one for any budget. There is everything from an inexpensive standard smoke detector all the way to the Google Nest smart smoke and carbon dioxide detector that will even send an alert to your phone if you are away from your home.
Having a functioning fire extinguisher is just as important as having a working smoke detector around your house.
The frequency at which you replace your fire extinguisher differs from case to case, but most will need to be replaced every 5 to 15 years if they are in prime condition. If the hose or nozzle looks like it has been cracked or cut open, or the locking pin is missing, it's safe to say that it's time to find a replacement.
The good thing about a home fire extinguisher is that they won't cost you and arm and a leg at most retailers.
An old lightbulb won't bring down your house, but too many of them will jack up your monthly electric bill, so it's a bright idea to switch out the highly inefficient incandescent bulbs throughout your home with more energy-efficient halogen, CFL, and LED bulbs. By doing this, you'll help conserve energy, which in turn will help lower your energy bills.
A failing thermostat won't do you any favors, especially when it stops working in concert with your HVAC system in the dead of winter or the no man's land that is the summer. That's why it's a good idea to replace your thermostat before it's too late.
Unlike smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors, there aren't really any timetables for replacing a unit. However, with the abundance of smart thermostats available for purchase, now is as good a time as any to replace your old thermostat. Products like the Nest thermostat allow you set a schedule and control the temperature for each room in your house, which will make cooling and heating your home much more efficient.
A quality window will last you anywhere from 15 to 25 years depending on the materials used to make the windows. With that being said, you will probably need to repair the windows over the years to fix broken panes, rotted caulking, and other cracks that all cause drafts and high energy bills.
A quality dishwasher will last you anywhere from 8 to 10 years depending on how it has been used, cleaned, and repaired over the years. With technology rapidly improving in this department, you will probably be better off replacing your aging dishwasher sooner rather than later to save energy and money in the long run.
But if you wait until the 10-year mark or later, be on the lookout for signs of aging that include dishes not getting fully cleaned, water spots, strange noises, and leaks. If you see any of those, it's time to start looking for a new unit.
The refrigerator is one of the most used appliances in any kitchen, so it's one of the household items that will hurt you the most if it goes out. You can prevent that from catching you off guard by knowing that a quality fridge will last you anywhere from 10 to 15 years if it's kept in good condition.
You will know it's failing if food starts to spoil before the expiration date, it starts making a lot of noise, excessive frost builds up in the freezer, or you start repairing it more than usual. The final symptom (repairs) is the telltale sign that it's time to replace your old fridge with a new, high-efficiency model.
Although washing machines and dryers are two separate appliances you can't have one without the other, so most people buy them at the same time. Washing machines and dryers both have an average lifespan of 12 years, so if they're purchased and installed together, chances are - they'll go out together.
High efficiency models of both appliances are readily available for relatively low prices at most home improvement retailers, so now is the best time to let go of that outdate combo you've had in your basement for close to 20 years now. Your wallet will thank you, your family will thank you (for fresh smelling clothes), and you won't have to worry about decades-worth of lent catching on fire.
A good hot water heater will give you between 8 and 12 years of use before it enters a state of disrepair and needs replacement. If you notice that your water doesn't get as hot as it used to, leaking around the tank, or it just stops working entirely, it's time to buy a new one.
If you're a holdout with major purchases like this, it is recommended that you perform annual maintenance (draining the tank, checking for damage) and also lowering the thermostat to reduce overheating.
Finally, there's the HVAC (air conditioning and heating) system replacement that we all dread and fear. If you live in a house for longer than 20 years, chances are you'll be spending an arm and a leg on a new heating and/or cooling system at one point or another. Most modern systems will last between 10 and 15 years due to the breakdown of components that are essentially running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
If you think you can hold off on a purchase like this and continue to repair the unit as it breaks down over the years, please know that major repairs will often cost you more than half the cost of a new system before everything is said and done. That doesn't even take into consideration the high energy bills you will be paying thanks to an inefficient HVAC system. Those two reasons, alone, are more than enough to consider replacing your aging system with a state-of-the-art high-efficiency unit.