Seasonal Checklist

Spring cleaning isn't just for closets-prepare for a stress-free summer by completing a few crucial tasks now.

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No one wants to spend prime beach time on mundane house repairs. Get your coastal home ready this spring so you can spend the coming months strolling the sand.

 Check heat and AC systems. Your home's hardest-working heating and cooling components are in out-of-sight, out-of-mind locations such as basements and backyards. Avoid costly problems by asking your dealer or service person to monitor and maintain compressors, furnaces, ducts, and other components of your climate-control system. If you're interested in a DIY project, try one of these:

• Put a coat of car wax on the exposed metal housing around your outside central-air unit; wax helps protect metal in corrosive coastal environments.

• Replace the filters in your furnace/AC unit at least as often as the manufacturer recommends.

• Vacuum air vents to remove dust.

• Repair tears in insulation around ductwork with duct tape.

• Clean AC vents with a household cleanser to remove mold.

 Remember the refrigerator. Clean your fridge's condensing coils now to make sure you don't run out of cold drinks later. Turn off the refrigerator by pulling the plug or throwing the appropriate circuit breaker. Remove the base plate or top grate (check your owner's manual to locate coils), then use a vacuum cleaner with nozzle attachment to remove any dirt and lint. For more suggestions, see hometips.com (click on "Kitchen Appliances & Fixtures," then "Refrigerator Maintenance").

 Prepare for spring showers. Gutters and downspouts can cause expensive problems when they're clogged. Clean them yourself, or pay a pro to do the job. Installing gutter screens or shields to keep debris out and water flowing can prevent blockages. For more information, visit gutterjacket.com, guttertopper.com, or thegutterbrush.com.

 Inspect the irrigation. Now's the time to check out all components of your in-ground irrigation system. Look for leaks, and adjust sprinklers so you're watering the ground beneath plants instead of the shingles on the side of your house. If this puts you in the mood for gardening prep, see this valuable site: landscaping.about.com (click on "Yard Maintenance").

 Listen up! A good way to check for leaks or faulty spigots is to head for the basement (or wherever the water main enters your home). Switch off machinery such as sump pumps or furnaces, and just listen. If you hear water running, it's time to investigate. You might have a running toilet or a punctured hose line.

 Head upstairs. Planning to clean, insulate, or make repairs in your attic space? This is the ideal time. Attics can be prohibitively warm during the summer months. If you live in a warm climate, consider installing thermostatically controlled attic fans. For homes with no electricity upstairs, solar-powered fans are now widely available. Visit solaratticfan.com.

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