This is a question I am asked often when I suggest that a house owner consider proactively maintaining their house. And sometimes, it is followed by something like this:
“Really Nate? I’m spending all this money on my mortgage, insurance, utilities, and taxes and fixing stuff when it actually breaks, and you’re telling me I should also spend money to ‘Proactively Maintain’ my house when everything is working just fine?!!? That sounds like fixing something that ain’t broke!”
The suggestion may seem counter-intuitive. The truth is if you own a house, you are going to spend money to keep it in good shape. The only question is how and when. With the Happy House STL approach to home maintenance and repair, you will save money and increase the quality of your experience living in your house, whether you only use the information and tools on our website to do it yourself, or you hire us to do it for you.
If you only reactively maintain your home, meaning you spend money only to fix things that break, you’re winning the battle, but losing the war. When it comes to your home, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.
Have you ever had a maintenance emergency in your house? Maybe it was a heater that quit on a cold winter night; or that leaky faucet decided to flood your bathroom while you were on vacation; maybe it was the discovery of black mold in what was going to be your child’s playroom. Just about everyone has their own story—and the ending usually includes a lot of stress, money spent on repairs, and a lingering sense of anxiety about the reliability of one’s own house.
Why is this so common? I believe it’s because most of us adhere to a reactive philosophy in regards to maintaining our houses. We notice that something is not working properly and we react to address it. Interestingly, while most of us approach the maintenance of our house this way, this is not the case when it comes to other areas in our lives:
- Most people receive regular dental checkups to prevent cavities and if needed, work is done to maintain/repair their teeth.
- It is common practice to see a doctor for a physical where we have our bodies evaluated for health. Periodically we need maintenance and repair there too.
- Most of us understand the importance of routine maintenance evaluation and repair performed on our cars so they will operate efficiently, safely and for a long time.
Proactive maintenance like this helps people avoid unpleasant emergencies, as well as provide current information on how things are going which results in peace of mind.
Living well in your house is no exception: Proactive maintenance of your house’s systems gives you useful information about the condition of your house and helps keep it running smoothly.
In addition to freeing you from worry though, proactive maintenance can save you a lot of money when compared to reactive maintenance. To illustrate, let’s compare two scenarios. We could use any mechanical system in the house to do this, but for this discussion, we’ll use a common maintenance requirement found in most homes. Let’s consider the filter on your HVAC system.
It’s simple enough to evaluate and maintain. This is something that should be done at a regular interval, and it differs from system to system, but for most, the interval is every three months.
If you are performing regular evaluation and maintenance on your HVAC system, part of that is replacing the filter. The benefits you get from this are clean, filtered air in your house, a system that runs optimally, and longer service life for an expensive piece of equipment.
And what is the total cost to replace the filter? It depends on the features you select in a filter which could evolve into a longer, more technical discussion about the filter MERV rating and how it impacts replacement requirements. But for the sake of discussion, let’s consider a standard 1” thick filter. You’ll pay as low as $3 for the bargain basement EZ –Flow Fiberglass one from Walmart. I don’t recommend that, but it’s better than nothing. On the high end, you’ll pay $10+ for a hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, electrostatic filter. There are a lot of variables when it comes to transportation and shipping, what your time is worth, etc, but it’s somewhere around $10-$20 each time you change a standard 1 inch filter.
If you are doing regular check-ups, this requirement would be identified and the filter replaced, and your HVAC would continue to run at full efficiency, pushing purified air throughout your house.
On the other hand, let’s say you are not proactively maintaining your HVAC system. Unfortunately, we see filters that are long past their service life all the time.
With a clogged filter:
- The system can’t pump air efficiently to the rest of your house.
- It causes the fan in your system to work much harder, decreasing its service life.
- You notice that after adjusting the thermostat, it takes longer for the space to reach the desired temperature. This costs you more money over time – both in energy costs and depreciation. According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for approximately half of your monthly energy bill.
- Additionally, many HVAC producers actually require proof of regular filter changes in order for their warranties to be valid on new HVAC systems.
So by not doing proactive maintenance, you’re spending more money, having lower indoor air quality, and potentially wearing out an expensive piece of equipment. And unfortunately, when the system fails, it will likely be when it is working hardest, either on a miserably cold night in winter, or a sweltering hot day in summer. These are often the worst days to try and get an HVAC service company in to repair or replace equipment as they are out servicing everyone else who’s HVAC system has failed.
This is just one example of the importance of regular proactive evaluation and maintenance of your house and its mechanical systems. There are similar benefits to maintaining other things like your hot water heater, refrigerator, disposal, garage door opener, emergency shut off valves, exhaust fans, sink aerators, gutters, fireplaces, smoke alarm systems, and more.
So how much does it cost to just maintain your house and its mechanical systems? There are a lot of variables here including the age of the house, its size, the current maintenance condition, etc,. Probably the biggest variable is the current maintenance state of the house. Multiple studies place the annual cost of maintaining your house at between 1-3% of its value. These studies look at what people are paying today to simply keep their home in good condition. This does not include any improvements or upgrades.
So for a $250,000 home, that averages between $200-$600 per month for maintenance, repair and replacement requirements.
The goal of my company, Happy House STL is to reduce this amount while simultaneously improving the experience my clients have in their house. My value proposition is that through the application of sound, proactive home evaluation and repair practices, we will make the house and its mechanical systems last longer and run more efficiently. We will solve small problems before they become big problems. And we will help you see and plan for larger expenses in advance so you can be prepared for when you have that inevitable big home repair/replacement expense.
For our valued clients who work with Happy House STL, it will become abundantly clear that it pays to be proactive, whether they use the free information on our website and take advantage of our house maintenance calendar to do it themselves, or subscribe to our house maintenance and repair subscription service.
Please click here to learn more about our services.
For all your home maintenance and repair needs.
Founder and CEO
Happy House STL
“Because a Happy House is part of a Happy Home!”