Have you ever accidently left a candle burning unattended? Or left home without turning on the security system? You probably made a mental note to yourself not to do it again but otherwise didn’t think much about it.
But next time, you might not get so lucky. A simple “uh oh” could lead to thousands of dollars in damage to your home.
“It’s a mindset of thinking about the consequences of things, of what could go wrong,” says Tim Reinhold, Ph.D., senior vice president of research and chief engineer for the Institute for Business and Home Safety.
Here are five common safety mistakes that even good homeowners make:
Mistake 1: Not cleaning out the filter on your clothes dryer
Why it’s risky: Fire. Those wads of lint that get caught in your dryer’s filter can pose a major fire hazard. “It’s hot enough, particularly if you’re running the clothes on the dry setting instead of just permanent press,” says Reinhold. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, dryers cause more than 15,000 fires annually.
Your strategy: Be sure to completely empty the lint trap every time you use your dryer. Also, make sure that your dryer ducts are metal, since they’re less likely to sag and allow lint to build up.
Mistake 2: Putting cardboard boxes from recent big-ticket purchases out on the curb with the garbage
Why it’s risky: Theft. By placing boxes in a visible location, you’re sending a signal to burglars that you have valuable items in your home.
Your strategy: “Cut those boxes up and put them into the garbage or recycling bin,” recommends ERIE Agent Beverly Goff of Northern Insurance in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Mistake 3: Neglecting tree branches that hang close to your home
Why it’s risky: Roof or other property damage. A snowstorm or even high winds could sweep through your neighborhood and knock those branches right off onto your roof, causing serious damage. Ice can also weigh down branches, causing them to snap off.
Your strategy: Consult an arborist or tree surgeon about any trees in your yard that might present a potential hazard. “You’ve got to think about pruning them back, or if it’s an older tree, having it removed altogether,” says Terry McConnell, ERIE’s vice president and manager, Personal Lines Underwriting.
Mistake 4: Leaving your outside hoses connected to the house during the winter
Why it’s risky: Potential water damage. It’s easy to forget that you never stored your hoses after the weather cooled off. But Goff warns, “Get those hoses disconnected. If you don’t disconnect them, you run the risk of water seeping into the internal walls. Often this type of loss is not detected in a timely manner, causing serious widespread damage, plus the health risk of black mold.”
Your strategy: Disconnect the hoses from the outdoor faucets, roll them up and store them inside your garage or basement before cold weather sets in.
Mistake 5: Not checking the status of the water hoses for your appliances
Why it’s risky: Water damage. Hoses for washers and refrigerators do wear out and need to be replaced before they spring a leak. According to Reinhold, the water supply line to the icemaker can also be a water leak waiting to happen. “The plastic piping on the back of the fridge a lot of times will get brittle with age,” he warned.
Your strategy: Replace washing machine hoses every five years. If you see the plastic line along the back of the refrigerator becoming discolored (yellow or brown), have an appliance repair expert check it out.