gutters

Overflowing gutters can damage your house's roof, siding or foundation, said Joey Richardson, owner of Gutters of Charleston. Provided

Every homeowner makes mistakes. The real trouble, however, starts when these blunders become habits that cost a lot of money over time. Some behaviors also create safety issues.

If you're guilty of these bad habits, break them — pronto.

1. Inadvertently clogging pipes

Be mindful of what you're putting down your drains.

“Just because it will go down the drain does not mean that it’s meant to,” said Cassi Hedges, plumbing service manager with Limric Plumbing, Heating and Air in North Charleston.

Toilets are only meant for human waste and toilet paper, she says. Feminine products are the No. 1 reason for clogged toilets, followed by “flushable” wipes.

And dental floss, though it may seem harmless, can create a web in your sewer pipes that causes backups.

If you notice warning signs of clogging, a gurgling when you use the toilet, for instance, or low water pressure, call a plumber ASAP.

In the kitchen, don’t ever put grease down the drain.

“It will solidify in the pipes and, over time, will cause blockages,” she said.

Garbage disposals are not safe for starches of any kind. The top reason for clogged kitchen sinks/garbage disposals is rice and pasta, which swell after they enter the piping.

But here’s a helpful hint: Putting citrus fruit peels down the disposal periodically will help freshen the disposal.

2. Not cleaning gutters

Overflowing gutters can damage your house's roof, siding or foundation, said Joey Richardson, owner of Gutters of Charleston.

“If gutters become packed with debris, it’s more likely they’ll overflow rather than drain from the spout,” he said. “That overflow could go behind the gutter and cause rotten fascia, and sometimes get underneath the shingles and damage the roof sheeting.”

If you’ve got trees close to your house, you should clean the gutters of leaves, pine needles and other debris quarterly, he said.

If you're worried about falling, you can hire a professional gutter cleaner for about $150, according to HomeAdvisor.

Another option is to spring for installing gutter guards, either professionally or DIY, that block leaves and debris from getting in the gutters in the first place. 

Among the material choices are plastic drop-in screens, which are the easiest to install and inexpensive, costing from 10 cents to $2 per foot. Aluminum versions are offered, too.

Also available are surface-tension gutter covers, about $3 to $6 per foot, that screw into the gutters and are long-lasting and highly effective. Yet another choice is fine-mesh guards that block everything but tiniest particles. Costing $2-$3 a foot, they can be installed under the shingles or screwed to the fascia. And you'll find even more products out there.

3. Letting trees overgrow

Many homeowners forget to trim their trees, and that can create safety problems. If you have trees near your house, prune them every two years to keep limbs and branches away from your home. For large or hard-to-reach trees, the risk of injury is high, so consider hiring a tree trimmer.

On average, a tree costs $200 to trim, HomeAdvisor says, but costs can vary depending on the size and location of the tree. (Trees near power lines, for example, require additional time because crews can't just toss the branches down as they work.)

One way to mitigate risk is to have a certified arborist inspect your trees for disease, weak limbs and rotting every five or so years.

4. Slamming the front door

This habit might seem harmless, but repeated slamming can pull the door out of alignment and create gaps that allow outside air into your house, potentially driving up utility bills, says Eddie Zielinski, a Lowe's store manager in Harper Woods, Mich. If your front door is slamming shut because of its weight, though, a heavy-duty door closer might solve the problem.

5. Letting dryer lint build up

There are about 2,900 clothes dryer fires a year, and they cause an estimated five deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million in property loss, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Letting lint build up can also increase energy bills because the dryer has to work harder with each spin cycle.

Clean your dryer's lint trap before each run and cleaning the exhaust every 90 days. You can do these tasks relatively easily with a vacuum, but if your vent is clogged, it might be worth hiring a dryer exhaust technician to clean it for about $125 to $175, according to Angie's List.

6. Forgetting to change HVAC filters

“The No. 1 cause of equipment failure is not changing your air filter regularly,” said Jason Rahman, service manager at Limric Plumbing, Heating and Air.

“A dirty filter causes your system to work overtime and can burn out motors and cost you in increased utility bills and repair costs," he said. "Also, a dirty filter causes poor indoor air quality and affects people with allergies and asthma without their knowledge.”

Another problem, he said, is drains in attics that overflow from lack of a maintenance plan.

“Your HVAC drain should be flushed semi-annually to keep it clear and prevent overflows.”

7. Not changing batteries in smoke detectors

Smoke detectors work only when they're juiced up. Unfortunately, one in every five home fire deaths results from malfunctioning smoke alarms, the National Fire Protection Association reports. In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not sound, almost half (46 percent) of the devices had missing or disconnected batteries.

The moral: Replace or change your smoke detector batteries according to the manufacturer's guidelines.

8. Leaving lights on

Sure, it's OK to leave a bathroom light on when you go to bed, and, for safety reasons, it's good to keep a porch light on when you're out of town. But, in general, it's cost-effective to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

To maximize your savings, consider buying energy-efficient light bulbs. They cost more upfront but use a lot less energy and can significantly reduce your electricity costs in the long run.

9. Taking long, steamy showers

Long showers, showers lasting more than 10 minutes, can strip your skin of moisture, make you itchy and, of course, increase your water bill. And although they feel great, steamy showers can create mold and mildew. Aim for five-minute showers and avoid blasting the hot water.

10. Wearing shoes in the house

Want to keep a clean home? Wearing dirty shoes in the house spreads dust, toxins and allergens. In fact, researchers at the University of Houston found that nearly 40 percent of soles carry Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, that nasty bacteria often spread in health-care facilities that can cause infections.

Moreover, abrasive soles can scratch or scrape floors and turn your beautiful hardwood into a disaster zone.

The solution is simple: Take off your shoes at the door.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713. Follow her on Twitter @brindge.