We already use labels to remind us of upcoming maintenance. Make labels to remind you when to perform home maintenance. Just like the oil in your engine or the food in your refrigerator, many critical features of your home expire, or require replacement, on a regular basis. If we don’t regularly check or replace these items it may contribute to improper functioning, or worse. According to the US Fire Administration, the incident of residential fires peaks in the  month of January. So having a working smoke detector is of upmost importance.

Trying to remember all the expiration dates, or dates to maintain things, may sound daunting especially for those parts of the home that aren’t seasonally motivated. Can’t remember if you’re supposed to change batteries on Daylight Savings Day? Are the air filters changed twice a year? There is an easy way for you to keep yourself, and your home, organized.

The best way to attack this project is to go through your whole house once, it should only take a short amount of time. If you have a label machine, simply print out the dates at one sitting and start labeling. If you don’t have a label machine then just use a permanent marker and removable tape. Here’s another tip: while you are physically labeling, use the calendar function in your phone (or a scheduling app like Cozi) to set reminder dates. That way if you don’t remember to physically check the expiration date, you’ll get a notification on your phone.

Use this list below as a guide to the most important things to update regularly.

Smoke detector

If your detector runs on a 9 volt battery or if it’s hardwired in your home, replace the battery once a year. If your detector runs on a 10 year lithium battery, you’ll need to replace the detector according to the manufacturers directions. Changing the batteries on a regular basis is very important. More than one-third (37%) of all home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms. According to the National Fire Protection Agency “the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.”


Carbon monoxide detector

Just like your smoke detector, don’t wait for the “chirping” to alert you to a battery change. Replace the batteries once a year.


Dryer vent

Lint is a flammable material so thoroughly cleaning the dryer vent (the flexible tube connecting your dryer to your exterior vent) is very important. Experts recommend cleaning this vent once a year. If your washer and dryer are regularly serviced, make sure that vent cleaning is part of the maintenance. Label the date to clean this in an easy-to-spot location like the wall above your machines or directly on the dryer itself (use an old magnet and put a label over it with the date).


Water filters

For whole-house water filtration systems, check with your technician for the suggested replacement schedule and consider purchasing a year’s worth of filters and labeling the replacement date on each box. Usually this type of system should be replaced every 2-6 months. Refrigerator filters should be replaced about every 6 months. Pitcher-type filters should be replaced every two months. This website can offer more specific product information as well.


Furnace air filter

The frequency of air filter replacement depends upon the size of the unit, the size of your home, if you have pets, if your home is occupied full-time,  and other factors. When you have an HVAC inspection, that is the best time to get your professional’s advice regarding how often you should change the filter. A good rule of thumb is to replace the air filter about every 30-60 days (more frequent if you have more than one pet or severe allergies, less frequent if you don’t). Consider buying a year’s worth of filters from your service technician and labeling each of them by month.