WATCH NOW: Proper maintenance can get the most out of appliances and other systems | Business

Erin Browne

Any type of home improvement is an investment in your property. How long that investment should last is a top question many want to know before spending hard-earned cash.

Each home system or element has an expected lifespan, but experts say a variety of factors can determine how long the components will last.

Conventional water heaters typically last 6 to 12 years, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. The mineral content of water, including calcium and magnesium. can shorten that.

Rob Revels, owner of R&R Plumbing Technicians in Homewood, says a proper flushing as part of annual maintenance can help extend the lifespan of a hot water heater.

However, he says newer models often have a sealed combustion chamber.

“I strongly recommend a licensed plumber perform the first cleaning of the chamber and teach the homeowner how to do it from there on out,” Revels said.

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How long your appliances should last can feel a bit like a game of throwing darts.

“It’s all over the board,” says Margie Larocca, custom kitchen consultant with Novak and Parker in Orland Park and Mount Prospect. “You have your basic appliances and your high-end appliances. Really, with any appliances, I tell all my customers you have to maintain them like you maintain your car.”

Her No. 1 tip? Read the appliance manuals.

The manual will include manufacturer guidelines that can affect how long an appliance lasts. Specific recommendations may even include the type of detergent used.

“With washers, dryers, basic refrigerators and dishwashers, the lifespan is about 10 years,” Larocca said. “Ten years is a pretty good lifespan, but you can get longer if you maintain them.”

She advises to clean compressors, check dryer vents and not to forget the food traps at the bottom of dishwashers.

Regular maintenance can also help keep any minor issues from turning into major repairs, Larocca says.

A well-laid concrete driveway and sidewalks should last for about 25 to 30 years, says Paul Crest, owner of Crest & Son Cement in Palos Heights.

However, he says it’s important to keep in mind that hairline cracks will occur, thanks to frost heave, or an upward swelling of soil during winter.

The typical concrete strength used for a driveway should be 4,000 psi, Crest said. Contractors should also incorporate a wire mesh, a strong gravel stone base and seal on driveways and sidewalks.

With regular maintenance, an heating, ventilation, air conditioning system can last decades, says Rich Dykstra Sr., owner of Dykstra Home Services in Crestwood.

“For a furnace, the average life expectancy is 15 to 17 years,” he said. “With a lack of maintenance, it goes down.”

A central air conditioning unit can expect a similar lifespan, and the same consequences if not properly maintained.

“The A/C is a little more critical because with cottonwood, this can get pulled into the unit and put a blanket over the coil,” Dykstra said. “The unit can’t breathe, and it can’t operate or will cost you a lot more to operate.”

If your unit is under warranty, Dykstra says it’s important to have an HVAC specialist perform annual maintenance to check the efficiency of the unit and ensure there are no potential problems on the horizon.

“I always use the analogy of a car,” Dykstra said. “You have to change the oil even though it might be warranty, and if you don’t change the oil and the engine seizes, it’s not going to be covered. You have to take care of it.”

Homeowners should plan to change their filters about every two to three months.

“If it’s a high-efficiency unit filter, you can probably go six months,” Dykstra said. “But stay away from the one-inch pleated filters that will catch a lot of dirt. The furnace can’t breathe and the coil will ice up. Same with the furnace.”

For those considering replacing their HVAC equipment soon, Dykstra says not to wait.

“Prices are going up with the cost of raw materials, like copper, aluminum and steel,” he said. “There are equipment shortages with chips for the circuit boards as well. I’ve been in the business all my life. I’ve never seen it like this, ever.”

How long electrical wiring lasts in a home can vary, but in general, experts say its lifespan can be several decades.

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), copper-plated wiring, copper-clad aluminum and bare copper wiring can last a lifetime. However, homeowners may need to replace electrical accessories and lighting controls such as dimmer switches after 10 years.

Electrical service panels can last up to 60 years, according to the organization.

While many electrical components can last for several decades, InterNACHI warns that damaged or overloaded electrical circuits or equipment are the leading cause of house fires. The group suggests having a home’s electrical system routinely inspected and updated as needed.

There are also several warning signs that electrical wiring and equipment need to be examined, including frequent circuit breaker trips, dimming lights when using multiple appliances, warmth or vibrations coming from electrical outlets, burning odors, and sparks from an outlet when plugging in a cord.

The lifespan of a roof can depend heavily on factors such as weather, materials and maintenance, according to InterNACHI.

Asphalt shingle roofing typically lasts 20 to 30 years, whereas metal roofing can last 40 to 80. Clay roofing can last more than 100 years.

Exterior siding can vary as well, with materials such as stucco lasting more than 50 years versus aluminum siding, which lasts about 25 to 40 years. Vinyl siding can last around 60 years.

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