How to Recognize and Deal with Home Strain

By Andrew Wynn, director of home services at Hippo Insurance

During this uncertain time, it’s important to keep family members home to be safe. That means that during the day when your home is usually empty, it is now operating 100 percent of the time at full occupancy. While this extra time at home is good, it can lead to excess strain on your home. Review these tips to get to know the areas to keep a close eye on and how to relieve strain to avoid overuse.

First, know “home strain” and the signs. A good place to start is to think about the kinds of things we use regularly that we’re now using all the time because more people are at home. Some of the more obvious ones include your dishwasher. Some lesser known ones that you’re using more often and not necessarily realizing are plumbing fixtures like toilets and sinks. Make it even simpler by keeping an eye on three core areas – water, appliance and energy use. 

An early sign of strain could be your breakers tripping which usually means you’re overloading your circuits from what you’ve got plugged in – electronics, appliances, even heaters or HVAC units.  

Recognize how your home is operating differently than before. Every home is going to be different when it comes to experiencing home strain. If you live in a relatively warm or cool climate, you’re likely going to have your heater or air conditioner running throughout the day which usually means heavier energy use. Imagine a two-story home running the heater to account for a full family functioning at home during all hours of the day which is usually empty during this time. And when there’s no going out for meals, this can put added strain on appliances that are being used more often like dishwashers and laundry machines. 

If home strain becomes too much and things start to break, expect there to be some underlying costs. 

A broken dishwasher costs between $1,000 and $2,000 to replace including labor. 

A water heater costs between $1,000 and $2,000 to replace including labor.

A flood or fire as a result of overstrain can reach up to tens of thousands of dollars. 

Reduce your strain with quick fixes room by room.

Kitchen – 1) clean your dishwasher filter to increase the longevity of your appliance during a time when its seeing excess use 2) make sure your smoke detector works and the batteries are fresh during a time when you’re cooking more often at home. 

Bathroom – 1) check under the sink manually for leaks or add a smart sensor to monitor them in real time with alerts sent directly to your smart phone 2) clean your shower drain by clearing any visible hair away. Easy DIY tips on snaking drains can be found online. 

Bedroom/home office – 1) avoid overloaded plugs to avoid tripping a circuit 2) consider replacing your light bulbs with LEDs to use ⅕ the amount of energy as you were using before.

Laundry room – 1) check that your washer and dryer appliances are working well 1) review each hose for its condition by looking at the rubber exterior for cracking or brittle bits 2) ensure there’s no lint build-up in your dryer vent.  

Living room – 1) change your HVAC filter to avoid lint build-up. 

Yard/exterior – 1) as we’re moving into the spring months, this is a good time of year to clean your gutters 2) ensure water drains are diverting water away from your home, not toward the foundation.  

If you think something might be wrong. Don’t panic. Sheltr and Hippo clients can call us directly to be connected to one of our Home Pros who can help troubleshoot issues over video using our free home inspection product. If you’re not a Sheltr member, you can still use the chat function on Sheltr’s website to get quick answers on your home repair questions. 

Leave some things to the professionals. Plumbing, electrical and roofing related issues require a licensed professional and in most cases, these issues would be considered “essential”. For example, if you’re hot water goes out, an appliance breaks, or your outlets keep tripping then its time to reach out to a professional to get the work done. 

So, if you have $50 to put towards home maintenance right now, here’s what to prioritize. We actually find it’s the simplest things that are the most important. Start with replacing HVAC filters, cleaning your dishwasher filters, and replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors. A membership with Sheltr which includes twice annual service checks for your home is on its own a $500 value.  

And if you have extra time, here’s a few other things to think about that often get overlooked. Check the condition of caulking in your bathroom, kitchen, and your windows. Replace old incandescent bulbs with LEDs to save on electrical use over time.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take good care of the things you use a lot. Especially during this unusual time when the things in your home are seeing increased usage and professionals are not available to provide routine services and repairs that aren’t deemed essential. Paying attention to and anticipating major issues upfront with routine maintenance and upkeep can save you quite a bit of money down the line. 

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