Winter is a great time to turn your attention to indoor house maintenance. Make note of wear and tear, paint that's chipped, discolored caulking, and wood cabinets that could use an oil treatment. By its very nature, maintenance is eco-friendly because you're preventing untimely replacements and extensive repairs that waste resources.
CHECK THESE MONTHLY
Refrigerator: Vacuum the vents; clean coils are more energy efficient. Check the drain pan for excess water.
Furnace and fans: Check and clean or replace the furnace filter; a dirty filter impedes the flow and quality of air. Exhaust fans in the kitchen and bath tend to collect dirt. (Hint: Be sure to turn off the power before cleaning.)
Drains: Why resort to toxic drain chemicals? You need only pour one cup of baking soda in and around each sink drain, then follow with 1/2 cup of white vinegar. A half hour later, chase the mixture with a cup or two of boiling water.
Sinks and tubs: Check kitchen and bath grout and caulking. Discoloration could be hiding damage. When the waterproof seal is broken, structural damage and harmful molds can find a home in the wall.
CHECK THESE SEASONALLY
Plumbing: Water creates costly damage. While you're inspecting plumbing fixtures, also check appliances that have water connections (dishwashers, ice-making refrigerators)..
Clothes dryer: Collected lint in the hose and exhaust area obstructs hot-air flow. Besides creating a fire hazard, lint blocks the hot-air exit, which slows the drying process and wastes energy.
Doors, drawers, hinges: A few drops of oil can improve the longevity of hinges and drawer guides. Avoid products such as WD-40, which is high in toxic chemicals. Vegetable oil works, but it can become rancid. Try mineral oil instead; although it's a petroleum byproduct, it's nontoxic.
Walls, baseboards, corners: Regularly touch-up trim paints to keep your home looking clean and bright, using up older paint you have on hand. For new projects, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint emits far fewer air-polluting chemicals.