August 30, 2023 at 11:00am | Bob Myers
Moving into a new house is an exciting time. But it can also come with a steep learning curve.
From the moment you get the keys, you’ll start to discover what makes your home unique – including the many systems that make it function.

As you familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of a new space, it helps to start with the basics. Because, let’s be honest: The best time to find your water shut-off valve is before your first leak – not after.
Here are 15 essential things you should know about in your new house:

  1. Electric panels. Knowing the location of your home’s electric panel will quickly pay off the first time you trip a breaker. Typically, electric panels are located in a basement, garage or utility closet, but not always. After finding them, familiarize yourself with the design of your breaker box. Know how to turn off the main circuit, as well as individual breakers. If the breakers aren’t labeled, take some time to turn each circuit off and correctly label the areas of your home they power.

  2. Water shut-off valve. Whether you need to replace a leaky faucet or prevent a burst pipe from flooding your home, it’s important to know how to quickly turn off the water supply. To do this, you’ll need to locate the shut-off valve connected to the main water line entering your home. If your home has a basement, check for the shut-off along one of the outside walls. If your home does not have a basement, check for the water shut-off at ground level near your water heater. After you find it, make sure everyone in your home knows where the shut-off is located in case of a plumbing emergency.

  3. Gas shut-off valve. Depending on your home’s configuration, a number of appliances may be fueled by natural gas – including your water heater, fireplace, furnace, oven, dryer and more. Local building codes typically require that every natural gas fixture has its own shut-off valve. But in case of a gas leak, you should also know how to turn off the main gas supply in your home. In most cases, your main gas shut-off valve will be located outside the home near the gas meter (it may also require the use of a wrench). And remember, natural gas leaks can be deadly. If you suspect a gas leak in your home, call 911 and evacuate the area immediately.

  4. Dryer vent. Did you know that clothes dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries each year? To help protect your home from dryer fires, make sure you clean the lint from your dryer – and dryer vent – regularly. To clean your dryer vent, start by locating the point where it exits the house. This will likely be on an outside wall near your laundry room. But depending on your home’s design, the dryer could also vent through the roof. Then, use a dryer vent cleaning kit (available at any home improvement store) to remove any trapped lint. And make sure the vent isn’t obstructed from the outside.

  5. Sewer or septic lines. Nobody likes thinking about the wastewater system in their home. But if you ever experience a major plumbing issue, it helps to know where the key components of your sewer or septic system are located. If your home is connected to a city sewer system, find where your main sewer line exits the home and check for a cleanout valve. If you have an older home and the sewer cleanout isn’t serviceable, consider getting it replaced as preventative maintenance. For septic systems, you’ll also want to know where your tank access points are located, as well as any inspection ports.

  6. Well location. If your home isn’t connected to a city water supply, make sure you know the location of your well. Depending on your home’s design, the well may be located indoors in a crawlspace or basement. If you can’t find it inside, look for signs of a well cap, casing or pit in your yard. Knowing the location and general design of your well system can help expedite repairs if part of your system begins to leak or fail.

  7. Meter locations. To measure your home’s gas, electric and water use, each utility service will have its own meter. After locating these meters, be sure to keep the area around them clear and easily accessible.
  1. Furnace filters. A clean furnace filter not only improves the air quality of your home – it also helps your furnace run more efficiently. Depending on the design of your furnace, experts recommend replacing the filter every 30 to 90 days. Note the location and size of your furnace filters, then pick up a few replacements to have on hand. 
  1. Crawlspace and attic access. Every attic and crawlspace is different. Some may provide access to utilities and appliances, while others are just empty space. Either way, it helps to know how you can gain access to each area of your home – just in case. It’s also helpful if you hear little feet running around up there and need to check your attic for squirrels.

  2. Sprinkler system. Does your new home have a sprinkler or irrigation system? If so, take the time to understand how it works. This includes learning how to set the timers, shut off the system and winterize the pipes to prevent freeze damage.

  3. Smoke alarms. Make sure you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home. Then test them regularly to confirm the batteries work. You may also want to check the expiration date (smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years). If you have young children, let them hear the sound of an alarm in advance. This will help them recognize the sound during an actual emergency.

  4. Property lines. After you buy a new home, familiarize yourself with its exact property lines. You can do this by using a metal detector to find the stakes buried at your property lines or get a surveyor to mark the lines for you. Not only will this help you decide where to install your fence or landscaping, it can also prevent potential property disputes from your neighbors.
  1. Sump pump. Failing sump pumps are a notorious cause of home flooding. To ensure your sump pump is working properly, test it a few times each year. You can do this by pouring water into the sump pit until the pump kicks on.

  2. Gutters and downspouts. Poor drainage can be a common cause for wet basements. Help direct rainwater away from your home’s foundation by inspecting your gutters and downspouts. Make sure the gutters are clear and test any underground drains with a garden hose to check for clogs. If water starts backing up, you’ll want to clear the lines or redirect your downspouts away from the home. Regularly inspecting your home can also help prevent heavy rain from doing a number on it when it hits.
  1. Fireplace. If your home has a gas or wood-burning fireplace, familiarize yourself with how it’s designed. Learn how to operate the damper (it should be open when using the fireplace and closed at all other times).  It's also recommended to have your chimney inspected once a year to protect against risks associated with fire and carbon monoxide.

Not all of these may apply to you, but certainly many will. Bottom line: get to know your new home!

Please consider The Myers Team your resource for all things real estate. We have over 35 years of real estate experience, specializing in (but not limited to) the Montgomery County area. If you are refinancing, want a recommendation, need a service provider or just have a home related question, please give me a call at 301-910-9910 or email me at 


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