Preventative Maintenance

New Residential

What is Preventative Maintenance?

Preventive Maintenance refers to scheduled maintenance that supports operating reliability. Since mechanical parts wear out, the reliability of any equipment directly relates to operating age and service. Therefore, equipment that is serviced or overhauled as needed helps to better protected it is against the likelihood of failure.[1] A green home is not only built with green materials and systems but is also operated and maintained with green practices and procedures. The home’s energy and water efficiency, indoor air quality, durability, and resource efficiency are determined as much by its operation and maintenance as its design. The cost of operating and maintaining (O&M) a home over its lifetime far exceeds the initial construction costs, so reducing O&M costs can lead to substantial savings for the homeowner and preservation of resources in the environment.

    Figure 1 – Regular Housekeeping (Source:

    Figure 1 – Regular Housekeeping (Source:

    How to Implement Regular and Preventative Maintenance

    Preventative maintenance can extend the life of a home’s systems, equipment, and materials. Some examples of systems that benefit from preventative maintenance include ventilation systems, water fixtures, and automatic sensors. Keep a list of all equipment and track equipment conditions and maintenance year round.[2] Include information on the component condition and functional performance, as well as information on equipment age, usage, location, model number, and warranty. Also keep a checklist of standard housekeeping for each season including grounds check, exteriors, roof, windows/doors, plumbing, attic, and cooling/heating systems.

    Regular equipment maintenance is the consistent upkeep of equipment and appliances in the home. Regular maintenance keeps equipment and appliances running efficiently, which in turn reduces energy demands as well as costs. Equipment benefitting from regular maintenance includes:


    Basic maintenance of appliances generally results in more efficient operations, energy savings, and cost savings. Some examples of typical appliance maintenance are keeping refrigeration coils clean, keeping the food scrap bin empty in the dishwasher, and keeping lint traps and vents clear on the clothes dryer. Another important appliance to regularly maintain is the exhaust fan found in kitchens and bathrooms.[3] Detailed instructions on regular appliance maintenance can be found with the new product or on the manufacturer’s website.

    Heating and Cooling Systems

    There are a wide variety of heating and cooling system elements that need regular maintenance. First and foremost, all heating systems should be annually inspected and maintained by a certified contractor; the best time to do this is at the beginning of the heating season. Filters on heating and cooling systems should be changed or cleaned at least every 3 months to ensure positive indoor air quality and free air flow.[4] Furnaces, flues, and chimneys should be inspected and maintained each year to check for any damage since this could result in the release of particles or harmful gases. Finally, even regular maintenance on new furnaces is essential. It is possible for corrosion to occur and combustion gases to leak.[5]

    Air ducts have not been considered a vital source of indoor air contaminants or mainly instrumental in preventing health problems.[6] Consider having ducts cleaned, however, in cases where there is mold visible on the inside of the ducts or other components of the heating and cooling systems; where there have been vermin present; or where there are excessive amounts of dirt or debris in the supply registers. The National Air Duct Cleaning Association can help guide the decision to hire a service.[7]

    Preventative maintenance tasks include:

    • Changing furnace filters as needed
    • Caulking around tubs and showers
    • Having weatherized and properly fitting operable windows
    • Repairing leaking faucets and valves
    • Clearing away vegetation growing on the building exterior
    • Keeping grading high around the home’s foundation and sloping away from the foundation to keep water from ponding around the structure and migrating below
    • Reducing interior moisture by using exhaust fans
    • Maintaining caulking on exterior walls
    • Ensuring adequate ventilation for exterior air conditioning condensers

    Review product material safety data sheets (MSDS), available from manufacturers, for all chemicals used in the home and look for the most resource efficient and non-toxic alternatives when servicing or making repairs.

    Moisture Reduction

    Moisture can cause many problems in the home, so it is vital to ensure that it is minimized as much as possible (see Moisture Control). Dehumidifiers can be used to reduce moisture in the home, and it is crucial to clean dehumidifiers regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.[8] Ventilation fans are also an excellent way to keep moist areas, such as basements, dry. Any areas that get wet in the home need to be dried out thoroughly within 48 hours to prevent the growth of any mold.[9] Regularly inspect pipes for any leaks or drips and repair promptly.

    General Housecleaning

    Simple housecleaning can go a long way in terms of regular preventative maintenance. When using a vacuum around the house, choose one with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce allergens. Vacuuming and cleaning around vents, baseboard heaters and radiators, and cold air returns reduce dust buildup, which is an indoor air pollutant.[10] Other valuable housecleaning maintenance items include professional carpet cleaning (look for services that provide chemical-free cleaning and use low-water processes) and sealing garbage and food waste and removing it often.

    Preventative maintenance can help avoid more costly repairs. For example, keeping the roof free of debris and mold growth extends the life of the roof. Another example of preventative maintenance is trimming the trees and shrubs away from the foundation of the home and ensuring there is no wood-soil contact around the perimeter of the house. These conditions attract termites and carpenter ants, which can cause potential structural damage. Taking preventative measures can save the expense and environmental impact of using chemicals to contend with wood-destroying insects.


    Not only does preventative maintenance have significant implications for the health, safety, and comfort of the occupants of the home, it affects the home’s environmental impacts and its financial performance. Effective maintenance goes a long way in preventing the need for costly repairs and optimizes equipment operations. Also, a well-maintained home can increase resale value.

    • Energy savings. Conducting regular maintenance like cleaning air filters and getting annual servicing for HVAC systems can improve the efficiency of those systems, and therefore save energy and money.[11] Keeping these systems maintained and in working order also saves money since replacements are needed less frequently.
    • Air quality improvement. Regular maintenance of equipment improves indoor air quality. Changing and cleaning air filters often allows them to work better and capture more dust, allergens, and other particulates in the air. Many different kinds of equipment and appliances run on combustion. Some examples are furnaces, water heaters, ovens, and stoves. If not maintained adequately, these pieces of equipment can release excessive amounts of combustion pollutants, like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other particulates.[12] Regular maintenance on pipes and other damp areas can reduce excessive moisture, preventing mold growth and airborne mold spores. Reducing gases, particulates, and other airborne pollutants protect the health of the occupants of the home. Air pollutants can cause a range of health issues, including but not limited to irritated eyes, nose, and throat, headache, dizziness, fatigue, asthma attacks, respiratory disease, and even cancer.[13]


    Homeowners should expect to spend between 1 to 3% of the value of the home on annual home maintenance and repairs.[14] Preventative maintenance reduces energy use, improves indoor environmental quality, extends the life of the equipment, and saves money over time. Regularly maintaining equipment and appliances saves money over time by reducing the frequency of repairs and replacement and saving energy costs. By keeping equipment and appliances running efficiently, they use less energy and therefore result in reduced energy bills. Finally, it is essential to check to manufacturer warranty on equipment and appliances; often, manufacturers include annual maintenance for a few years, allowing equipment servicing at no extra cost to the homeowner. Simple maintenance tasks like cleaning air filters, vacuuming refrigerator coils, and cleaning out exhaust fans require only time from the homeowner, not money. For more involved maintenance such as annual furnace servicing, paying a professional may be a better option. Annual contracts are often available, and service costs vary with the system. The money spent on the professional pays for itself in the energy savings and replacement and repair costs.


    Preventative maintenance strengthens home performance and bolsters resiliency by regularly identifying and fixing vulnerable building systems and features, such as a leaking roof or windows, and helping to prevent additional damage and loss during extreme weather events.


    [1] Whole Building Design Guide. (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [2] Kyasen, Ronda. The Annual Home Maintenance Checklist. The New York Times. (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [3] US EPA. An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [4] ENERGY STAR. Save Energy at Home, (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [5] US EPA. Green Building, Indoor Air Quality, The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality, (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [6] US EPA. Indoor Air. Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [7] National Air Duct Cleaning Association. (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [8] US EPA. Green Building, Indoor Air Quality, The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality, (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [9] US EPA. A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home. (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [10] National Association of Home Builders, Don’t Ignore Outdoor Home Maintenance Chores This Fall, (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [11] ENERGY STAR. Save Energy at Home, (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [12] US EPA. An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [13] US EPA. Green Building, Indoor Air Quality, The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality, (accessed April 24, 2019).

    [14] HouseMaster. Inspection Services. April 24, 2019).