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Prevention steps should always be considered

Home maintenance series
By: Paul Apfel Inside Lincoln Correspondent
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Earlier this year, I wrote a couple of articles on replacing and repairing home appliances and systems. Earlier this month, I listened to a couple of conversations regarding home repair costs that suggested I should revisit my earlier cautions. One of my speakers expressed some concerns about her 20-year old hot water heater’s performance and life expectancy. When I asked her if she had ever replaced the expansion tank, I received a blank stare from both her and her companion. What’s that, they questioned. Meanwhile, the other participant in this conversation recounted how she had just replaced the springs on her garage door opener. It seems she had a single spring mechanism on her door that was installed by the developer/builder and it failed. Of course, it failed on a weekend, leaving the door in a position so it could not be opened. You guessed it - her car was inside the garage so she had to wait for the repairman to open the door so she could drive to work. Fortunately, her husband’s truck was in the driveway when the door malfunctioned so she could catch a ride. Does anyone doubt that Murphy’s Law is alive and well? And there are those who say Murphy was an optimist. Hot water heaters First, let’s review the hot water heater issue. This appliance is prone to fail within the eight to 10-year timeframe. If your hot water heater falls within this period or is older, you should seriously considering replacing it before it malfunctions. If you see water leaking from one of these older tanks, chances are good that it’s failing and should be replaced. Repair is generally not an option. And, if you have an expansion tank - typically a small blue tank mounted on top of your water heater - and it’s as old as the water heater, chances are good it is getting ready to fail. Plumbers tell us these expansion tanks rust from the inside out, usually beginning with a pinhole leak that will allow a steady stream of water under pressure to fill your garage or wherever else you store your water heater. And, because Murphy is alive and well, that pinhole may also face your drywall. So now you have to replace some soggy drywall as well as clean up the mess from the accumulated water. You can purchase replacement hot water heaters at Home Depot or Lowes. Either will install it for you - at extra cost of course - or you can have your own plumber do the job. Your plumber can also obtain a replacement water tank for you from his wholesale sources. Shop and compare prices and talk to your neighbors to see which solution satisfied them. Plan to spend around $800 to $950 for the job. But do your homework and get at least three bids. The package deals from local plumbers can be attractive as that’s basically a one-stop shopping experience. Plus you can have a local, Lincoln-based plumber do the work. It’s a good idea to spend locally when possible. Finally, don’t forget Lincoln’s permitting requirements when replacing your water heater. That permit will cost you a little over $50 for various city fees. Your plumber can get it for you from the city’s building department. Garage door springs Our experience and that of friends and neighbors plus some Internet research suggests that the single springs commonly installed on new home garage doors will last approximately eight to 10 years. Here again, some preventative maintenance and early replacement with a set of two springs may pay dividends. Although do-it-yourselfers can install replacements, we recommend consulting a professional to do the job. Springs are typically under considerable tension, making installation more of a challenge than most DIYers are capable of handling.