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LIVING BETTER: 6 common homeowner problems to avoid

To keep it simple, mistakes homeowners make fall into two broad categories: The first are problems that are not detected because they’re not recognized as potentially dangerous, and those that can lead to major problems. I’ve dumped them into one list which ought to be addressed and not put on the back burner and forgotten. Here they are:

1. Poor wiring. If you can’t spot poor, old or inadequate wiring, call in a professional. Old, frayed, worn and brittle wiring must be replaced because it is a potential fire hazard. Inefficient and frayed wiring is common in old homes. But wiring should also be checked in new homes. Unfortunately, not all electricians use state-of-the-art materials.

2. Holding onto old or inefficient appliances. It makes little sense trying to hold onto electronic appliances for as long as possible, especially if they’re using twice as much electricity as they should. You’ll save money over the long term if you buy energy-efficient machinery that’s rated highly.

3. Don’t put off small problems. That slow leak from a cracked fixture or leaky pipe might not seem like much when first noticed. Not dealing with it as soon as it’s spotted is a mistake. Small problems can quickly become big problems.

4. Think twice about buying extended warranties. When buying new appliances, such as a washing machine, dryer or dishwasher, for example, salespeople routinely urge you to buy an extended warranty. The question is do you need it if you already have a manufacturer’s warranty, which often covers many of the problems covered under an extended warranty? Before you plunk down more money for a two- or three-year extended warranty, read the fine print on your manufacturer’s warranty to find out if you need the extra coverage.

5. Failing to use state-of-the-art light bulbs. Light-bulb technology has undergone major improvements over the past decade. If you’re still using old fashioned incandescent light bulbs, they’re costing you more than you have to pay. CFL and LED bulbs have revolutionized the lighting industry. They cost more up front, but will save a great deal of money over time because they offer superior efficiency.

6. Failing to sock money away for emergencies. Maybe it’s my old school thinking that’s amazed that many homeowners fail to sock away money for emergencies. But it’s true, and I have friends who were caught short because they failed to create an emergency fund for household emergencies that ranged from an old outdated water heater that sprung a major leak, water pipes that cracked in the dead of winter because the walls weren’t properly insulated, and a roof hatch that rotted out and collapsed during a major snowstorm. In each case, the homeowner was taken by surprise because he had no idea they were problems. Hard lesson to learn.

Each repair ran into the thousands. And they all could have been avoided if homeowners regularly checked all crevices of their homes to spot these problems in their early stages so they could be repaired immediately.

They would have been spared the stress and pressure by avoiding an emergency and saved themselves a great deal of money in the bargain.

 Bob Weinstein is editor-in-chief of Edmonton-based the Global Times, a news and commentary website, author of SO WHAT IF I’M 65 and an obsessive do-it-yourselfer.

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