It was a Sunday night and the house felt cold. The only way for the Doloski family to keep their Illinois house warm and cozy in December is with a working furnace. One look at the thermostat told them that clearly, theirs was not.
Within minutes of arriving, the service technician diagnosed the problem. They needed a new igniter. At least the problem was one they could not have resolved themselves.
Then the technician opened the side panel of the furnace. Filthy. Neglected. He said the igniter failed because the furnace filter hadn’t been cleaned. What would have taken five minutes to vacuum or replace, cost hundreds in “after hours” fees, parts, and labor. They know the furnace filter needs to be changed regularly, and usually, they do. But this year they simply forgot.
When it comes to forgetting about routine maintenance issues, the Doloski’s are not alone. Take automobiles, for example. A National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) survey showed that while 48 percent of its certified technicians always tell customers about the importance of routine vehicle maintenance, only 2 percent routinely follow that advice.
If you own a home, a car, or simply a human body, the words routine maintenance should be part of your vocabulary. Safety and good health are, of course, the most important reasons to keep what we’ve got in good working order. But the financial benefits are significant, too.
A regularly scheduled $25.95 oil change could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in engine work. Find the recommended timetable for oil changes and the inspection and maintenance of other systems in the owners’ manual. Read it and figure out what you’re supposed to do, then follow those directives religiously.
Have your tires rotated and balanced regularly to extend their useful life and to comply with terms of the warranty. If you’re responsible enough to drive a vehicle you can also be responsible enough to maintain it properly. Predictive maintenance planning is cheap insurance.
Furnace and air conditioner
Replace furnace filters regularly. Most manufacturers suggest cleaning or replacing filters at least every other month. It’s cheap insurance. I wrote here about the best way to never again forget to replace a home’s HVAC filters. Bonus: Clean HVAC filters will eliminate the ugly dark shadows around the edge of carpeting, known as filtration soil.
Computers require maintenance inside and out to perform at their peak. Since many of us rely on computers for our livelihood, we stand to lose more in a computer crash than just the cost of repairs when we factor in lost wages and data.
Everyone loses data at some point in their lives. Your computer’s hard drive could fail tomorrow, ransomware could hold your files hostage, or a software bug could delete your important files. Failure to regularly back up your computer means you could lose those files and your photos forever.
If you have an external USB hard drive, you can just back up to that drive using your computer’s built-in backup features. On Windows 10 and 8, use File History. On Windows 7, use Windows Backup. For Macs, use Time Machine. Occasionally connect the drive to the computer and use the backup tool, or leave it plugged in whenever your home and it’ll back up automatically. Backing up is cheap and fast.
However, If your house gets robbed or catches on fire, your backup can be lost along with your computer. Rather than just storing your files on your computer’s hard drive, you can store them on a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or a similar cloud storage service. These services are cheap for the peace of mind they offer.
While it may seem like a waste of money, a can of compressed air can safely blow dust and dirt out of your keyboard and away from all the nooks and crannies in your printer and CPU unit/tower. Or a VaccuFlex attachment for your vacuum cleaner will do a great job on all of those tiny crevices, as well. Learn more about required maintenance in the instruction manual or from the computer manufacturer’s technical support department or website.
Don’t ignore seemingly minor issues, as they may signaling a larger problem. One reader recently reported that two weeks before her washing machine warranty expiration date she called to complain about a minor squeak during spin cycles.
The technician replaced the motor, which was covered under the warranty. Had she waited until the squeak gave way to full motor failure (as it likely would have done the day after the warranty expired of course) the cost of replacing that part could have sent her shopping for a new machine.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the leading cause of death in the U.S. of persons between the ages of 18 and 70 is malignant neoplasms. In short, cancerous tumors. Routine maintenance for women should include monthly self-examination for any suspicious breast lumps. Get an annual physical that includes a breast exam, and mammograms as recommended.
Unlike many other forms of cancer, colorectal cancer in both men and wonen typically grows for years before spreading. If caught early, it can be cured. The American Cancer Society says men, starting at age 50, should talk to their doctors about the benefits, risks, and limitations of prostate cancer screening.
The cost of these exams and procedures should be seen as preventive maintenance if not life insurance.
Jennifer Doloski says that by the time the hot and humid days of summer rolled around, the pain of spending $246 to fix their filthy furnace became a much less painful memory than it was that day in December. Next fall, though, when the winds turn chilly, she’ll remember that preventive maintenance lesson well since she has already flipped ahead in her calendar and penciled a reminder to change the furnace filter in October.
Question: Have you had to learn the hard (expensive) way that, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Please, share your experience and wisdom in the comments below.
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