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The Importance of Maintaining Your Home Systems


I'm sure you've heard the expression that “they don't make it like they used to”. That truly applies to appliances and home systems and their components more than ever.


That is why it is so important that you maintain your systems and monitor their functions.  As we are in a remote location, it is difficult to make arrangements for a service provider to repair anything and monitoring will help you anticipate that a service appointment is in your near future.

Owning a home is a significant investment that requires regular maintenance to ensure its systems function efficiently and last as long as possible. Key home systems, including the furnace, septic and well systems, and various appliances, play crucial roles in the comfort, safety, and value of your home. This article shares with you the maintenance schedule of these systems and provides insights into their typical life expectancies.

Heating and Cooling System Maintenance

Whether you have a furnace, heat pump, mini split, electric units, radiant heat or a wood or propane heat stove, it is integral to your home’s heating and/or cooling system. Regular maintenance is essential to ensure it operates efficiently, safely, and without interruption. Neglecting any of the heating/cooling systems upkeep can lead to higher energy bills, unexpected breakdowns, and potentially hazardous situations, such as carbon monoxide leaks.

Maintenance Tips

  • Annual Inspections: Schedule professional inspections and tune-ups annually before the heating season.  Ask the service provider to attach the service history card to the appliance.   Clean out the chimneys every other year subject to your amount of use.

  • Filter Replacement: Replace filters every 1-3 months to maintain airflow and efficiency.

  • Clean Components: Keep the blower motor, flame sensor, and burners clean to ensure optimal performance. Have a professional inspection of your propane heat stove annually.

Life Expectancy

A well-maintained heating unit typically lasts between 15-20 years. Factors such as usage patterns, local climate, and maintenance frequency can influence its lifespan.

Septic System Maintenance

A septic system processes and disposes of household wastewater. Proper maintenance prevents system failures, which can lead to costly repairs, environmental contamination, and health hazards.

Maintenance Tips

  • Regular Inspection:  In accordance with San Juan County regulations, your septic system must be inspected. Subject to the type of system, the rules require inspections every 1-3 years, and one must be processed prior to the sale of the home.

  • Regular Pumping: Pump the septic tank when your inspector recommends it.   Pumping removes the sludge and prevents blockages.  If you pump too often, you will kill the bacteria in the system, and it will not function as well.

  • Water Conservation: Use water efficiently to reduce the load on the septic system.

  • Avoid Hazardous Chemicals: Avoid flushing chemicals that can disrupt the bacterial balance in the tank.

  • Avoid Washing Machine Lint:  Install a Washing machine lint filter and clean it at least once a month.  I was shocked and appalled at how much lint was being sent to our septic system from our washer.  Due to lint and a 30-year-old system, our lateral lines failed last year, and repair was required.   In very small print on the washing machine manual, it will recommend that if you are on a septic system, you must have a lint filter installed as it is not included on the unit.

  • Avoid Vegetation on the Lateral Lines:  Be sure to remove deep rooted plants that are near your lateral lines or tanks. Over time, roots can become very problematic.

Life Expectancy

A well-maintained septic system can last between 20-40 years. Regular inspections and pumping are crucial to achieving the upper end of this range. Repair expenses can be costly, the range is $5,000 - $60,000.  An entire replacement system is in the range of $50,000 - $100,000.



Well Maintenance

For homes that rely on a private well for water, maintaining the well is vital to ensure a clean and reliable water supply. Poor maintenance can lead to water contamination and decreased water pressure.

Maintenance Tips

  • Annual Testing: Test the water annually for contaminants such as bacteria, nitrates, and other pollutants.  Obtaining a San Juan Short and Bacteria testing are recommended.  The cost is around $375. 

  • Inspect Well Cap: Ensure the well cap is securely in place to prevent debris and pests from entering.

  • Pump Maintenance: Regularly check and maintain the well pump to avoid mechanical failures.

Life Expectancy

The lifespan of a well varies widely based on the type and conditions. Generally, wells last between 20-50 years, while pumps and pressure tanks may need replacement every 10-15 years. The water lines that connect the home and other structures to the well system wear out as well.  The old PVC lines become brittle, and roots can cause a break in the line.   After 30 years, one should expect that they may have breaks and consider upgrading to a PEX connecting line.

Appliance Maintenance

Household appliances, from refrigerators to washing machines, are essential for daily convenience and functionality. Proper maintenance extends their life, maintains energy efficiency, and prevents inconvenient breakdowns.

Maintenance Tips

  • Regular Cleaning: Clean appliance components such as refrigerator coils, dryer vents, washing machine lint filters and dishwasher filters.  Change filters as needed.

  • Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions: Adhere to the maintenance guidelines provided by manufacturers.

  • Prompt Repairs: Address minor issues promptly to prevent major malfunctions.  


Life Expectancy

  • Refrigerators: 10-20 years

  • Washing Machines: 8-12 years

  • Dishwashers: 8-12 years

  • Dryers: 10-13 years

  • Water Heaters: 8-12 years

I know it is very exciting to have an appliance last longer.  I recently retired a hot water tank that was over 30 years old.  It provided it’s service to our property and may it rest in peace.  

Cedar Decking Maintenance

Everyone enjoys using their decks but over the years, wet-rot, storm damage and general wear and tear take their toll. 

Maintenance Tips

  • Regular Cleaning: Clean your deck surface annually.  Pressure wash or scrub off the Pacific NW mildew that grows on the wood surface. You may want to apply paint or stain to ensure the wood is not exposed.

  • Prompt Repairs: Address minor issues promptly to prevent dangerous conditions.  Wet rot will continue to grow in the board and the risk of breakage is not always obvious.  No one wants a person to “fall through” your deck and be injured.

Life Expectancy

A cedar deck should last up to 20 years. With proper maintenance, it may last longer.  It is also possible to just replace the problem boards each year as needed.  Depending on the materials used for the framing, when it is time, just replace all of the surface deck boards but not the entire deck framing structure. Further, enhancements to the framing can expand the life of that component.  The last quote I obtained was $95.00 per foot for an entire new deck system, deck boards, handrail and framing.

Replacing the system with one of the man-made board systems is a good option as their life expectancy is much longer than cedar and their maintenance much less. Concrete slabs create a wonderful patio for entertaining, I wish I had concrete as an option.  

Gutters and Roofs

In the Pacific Northwest, your roof system must be maintained due to the amount of tree debris and moisture in our area.  Lack of maintenance will result in water damage and possible pest infestation to your home.


 Maintenance Tips

  • Regular Cleaning: Clean your roof and gutters at least twice a year, subject to the number of trees in close proximity to your structure. I have April and November as my schedule as it coincides with the fall leaves and after the winter and spring storms. There are organic products that the service providers can treat the roof with that will not harm your plants and do a great job retarding the moss growth on the roof.    As a ladder is needed to service both the roof and gutters, it is best to leave this maintenance chore to the professionals.

  • Prompt Repairs: Address minor issues promptly to prevent possible leaks into the framing which can cause wet rot. Check your flashing regularly to insure it is functioning properly.

Life Expectancy

Composition roofing typically has a 30-year life however, some roofing applications come with a 40-year expectancy.

It is possible to re-roof over the top of a composition roof at least once, and this process will save you dump fees.  However, the added weight can stress the trusses and framing.  Your roofing expert will let you know the best application for replacing your roof.  

Shake roofs have a 30-year life expectancy, again subject to the amount of forest nearby.  Metal and slate have a 50-year or more life expectancy. 

Metal or copper gutters will last as long as your roof, but wood gutters need replacement after 15 years.

Crawl Spaces

No one likes a crawl space, but it is imperative that you check yours twice a year.  I have October and March as my schedule as it allows me to note the condition before and after the winter rains.

Maintenance Tips

  • Moisture in the Crawl Space:  It always comes down to water, whether it is an appliance overflow, leaking roof, pipe, window, or clogged drain or the typical French doors facing south.  Moisture or water in your crawl space is the worst water problem for a home.  It typically isn’t detected immediately and therefore adds to the possible damage to the rest of the home.  Further, it is hard to remedy due to limited access.  Making a crawl space repair is a very messy uncomfortable job. Sump pumps, re-grading or drain tile or a combination thereof, are your best options. 

  • Critters in your Crawl Space:  It is imperative to avoid any gaps in your vents or foundation that allows the entrance of critters.  Otters and racoons can ruin your home due to the odor they leave.  Nothing is worse than an otter poop party under a home.  Having your space treated by a professional Pest Company regularly will also help reduce the ants.  

  • Clean your Crawl Space:  It is quite possible that your crawl space may have wood debris from the original framing and foundation installation or torn down insulation.  When you do your crawl space inspection, be sure to remove any debris and check your vapor barrier and make sure it is installed properly and functioning. Debris in your crawl space will attract wood destroying organisms.  

Life Expectancy

The crawl space will last as long as your home; however, ironically, a non-functioning crawl space can shorten the life expectancy of your home.


One option is to consider is a home shield insurance policy that covers the appliances and other major components.  They are very common in metropolitan areas and other states. Unfortunately, I have found that due to our remote location, the service providers on their list are not on the island and cannot arrive here in a timely manner.  Some repair items just can’t wait, such as a new hot water tank.  Most of my clients felt they were a waste of money when they tried to file a claim and repair.  

Your best take-away from this article is a washing machine vent.  I am sorry that I added this at the end of the article, and you had to read the entire document to find the best part, but if you are on a septic system, install a filter.  They wall mount next to the washer unit. They are not overly attractive but very functional and will protect your septic system.

As a person that has owned property on the island since 1989, I have been involved in my share of deck replacements, house painting, house siding, new appliances, failed septic systems, crawl space bonding, broken water lines, and a few remodels just to add to my enjoyment. I have had plenty of experience in this area of construction.   

As a REALTOR on the island, I have seen almost every level of property maintenance and more deferred maintenance than I care to see.   

Bottomline: Maintaining your home systems is essential for preserving their functionality, efficiency, and longevity. By taking a proactive approach to home maintenance, property owners can ensure their systems operate smoothly while protecting their investment.

If you are a handy person, You Tube has videos for all types of repairs.  Also, you can email a question to “Ask the Expert”.  Most major repairs should be left to the professionals, as it is frightening to come home to your washer in parts all over the garage floor.

If you need references for service providers or general contractors, please be sure to contact me.


As with all my articles, the opinions expressed herein are solely my own.  And these opinions are based on my personal experience, observations, and from interviewing and reviewing both public and non-public information sources. 


Written By:

Merri Ann Simonson

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Inc.



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