If it ain’t broke, maybe you should fix it anyway.

That’s the message consumer advocates and insurance experts want you to hear about your home’s hidden dangers. Too often, they say, people put off relatively inexpensive repairs or improvements that could prevent significant damage, injuries or even death. While you can’t eliminate every potential hazard, some small moves can have a huge impact on home safety.

The following fixes typically cost $ 200 or less.


Fires cause thousands of deaths and billions of dollars of property damage in the US each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating fire-related loss. Climate change has also increased the risk of wildfires in many places.

Especially in wildfire-prone areas, you can reduce the chances of a stray ember igniting your home by installing screen mesh over vents and other openings, says Amy Bach, executive director of insurance consumer advocacy group United Policyholders. Clear gutters and the area under decks of dead leaves and other combustible material and create a “defensible space” by moving landscaping and other flammable objects at least 5 feet away from your foundation. If you have a fence that attaches to your home, the last 5 feet should be metal rather than wood, Bach recommends.

“You should not have wood fencing attached to your house at any point because it can act like a wick,” Bach says.

A roll of 1/8-inch galvanized mesh costs about $ 30 at home improvement stores, while metal fencing panels cost around $ 100 to $ 200 each.

Inside your home, install and regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Prices vary based on features, but a three-pack of combination alarms often costs $ 50 to $ 100. You should have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (expect to spend around $ 50), but don’t store it under the sink where it could be damaged by water leaks, says Ashita Kapoor, associate director of product safety for Consumer Reports, a nonprofit product-testing organization. Instead, place the extinguisher near the stove but not so close that you couldn’t reach it in the event of a fire there.

Also, clean your dryer filter and vents; lint buildup can cause fires. Vent cleaning kits cost around $ 30.


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