I initially designed this page for women who were having to learn to live without a man around. Since I posted it to the site, though, I’ve been surprised at the number of men who appreciate the information, too.
- Stuff around the house
- Heating and Air Conditioning Filters
- Smoke Alarms
- Circuit breakers and fuses
- Caulking, Taping, and Sealing
- Signs of water
- Stuff in the yard
- The Lawn Mower
- The Grass
- Stuff with your car
- Changing the oil
- Dealing with squeaks
Heating and Air Conditioning Filters
If you have heat pumps or air conditioning units, they probably have filters. You need to change the filters often. If you don’t, you’ll pay much bigger electric bills, and you won’t be as comfortable.
Check them once a month, like when you pay a particular monthly bill. Make sure you check all the units. Larger houses often have more than one A/C unit, and you need to make sure you check all of them. If you can see the dust building up on the filter, it’s time to change it. The filters are cheap as dirt, available at almost any grocery store, drug store, hardware store, or discount store.
There are several sizes available, and you need to make sure you get the right size (as in “20 x 24 x 1”). The air needs to hit the fuzzy side first, not the side with the cardboard showing. You don’t need to turn the unit off to change the filter. It may blow on you a little, but it won’t hurt you.
Most smoke alarms have batteries (usually a single 9-volt transistor battery). If you’re really feeling bushy-tailed, you can check the batteries by holding in the little plastic button on the alarm. I don’t recommend it, though, unless you have three hands: one to hold in the button and two to hold your ears — it really kicks up a racket.
If you really don’t care to hear that piercing squeal, just get into the habit of changing the battery every six months. The easiest way I know to remember is to do it whenever you set your clocks forward or backward for the change in daylight saving time.
Be forewarned, though: when you insert the new battery, the smoke alarm may scream at you briefly. Just stick the battery on in. It’ll quit screaming after a second.
Circuit Breakers and Fuses
Men are notoriously bullheaded about circuit breakers. They never seem to want to take the time to write down which breaker controls which lights, outlets, etc. If that’s never been done for your house, it’s a good project for you and the kids, or you and any other person who’s willing to help you. Don’t try to do it by yourself – you’ll wear yourself out running back and forth to the circuit box.
You need some way to communicate with each other – cell phone, cordless phone, your kid’s walkie talkies, yelling, whatever works. Turn on everything in the house, lights, TV’s, fans, everything. Then note on a clipboard which appliances are off when you click off a particular breaker or fuse. Once you’ve finished it, put it in a logical place near the circuit box, so you can refer to it when you need to turn off power to a particular section.
Caulking, Taping, and Sealing
Don’t mess with it. Get on your feet the first year or two. Then if you want to get into the caulking routine, go to your local hardware or building supply store and get the staff people to show you what you need and how to do it.
Signs of Water
If you see signs that water is coming in where it doesn’t belong, you should take it seriously. Water that comes in from a roof leak or a plumbing leak (or from anywhere else, for that matter) can inflict serious structural damage on your house. Call a qualified professional and insist on a thorough explanation of what is happening in terms you can understand. If you need to, ask a guy to be with you when the professional comes, but don’t let the guy monopolize the conversation. This is your house, and you need to understand what is happening with it.
The Lawn Mower
You need to change the oil and air filter in the lawn mower and sharpen the blade about once a year. The best way to do it is to take it to a lawn mower repair shop, and you need to do it each year at about the same time you put up the Christmas decorations. That way, you’ll get in before the spring rush, and it’ll be ready to go when you need to crank it the first time.
Lawn mowers thrive on fresh gas. Ask the repair shop to drain the gas tank for you, and make sure you use fresh gas when you crank it in the spring.
You probably need to fertilize your grass. I’m not smart enough to tell you what your grass needs, because different grasses and different climates call for different formulas. If you can afford it, use one of those services where they come once a month and spray goop all over your yard. If you can’t, ask at a garden shop, or Home Depot, or Wal-Mart. They’ll tell you what you need.
Or you can ask almost any man. Men love to talk about grass. Go figure.
You’re probably going to let the grass grow too tall before you cut it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It happens. Just make sure that when you do get around to cutting it you cut off no more than half the length at a time. Then give it a few days before you cut it again.
Changing the oil.
You need to change the oil regularly. Most of us men grew up believing you need to change the oil in a car every 3,000 miles. Consumer Reports says every 6,000 miles is plenty. That means that if you’re not a high mileage driver, you can take your car in and get the oil changed whenever you set your clocks forward or backward for daylight savings time. When you’re doing it before cold weather, get them to check the antifreeze level at the same time. While they’re checking, go buy smoke alarm batteries.
And while you’re at it, get the tires rotated. Don’t ask what tire goes where, because I don’t know. But those greasy guys with loud pneumatic wrenches do know, and that’s all that matters.
Cars generally don’t need to be tuned up nowadays unless something is wrong. Same goes for spark plugs. Leave them alone as long as the car is running okay. I got a nasty note on this from a guy who fixes cars for a living. Go read his web site and see if you agree with him.
Dealing with squeaks.
When men hear a squeak in the engine, they usually don’t know what to do any more than you do. They just know they need help to find it. When they hear a squeak in one of the doors or the trunk, they get a can of WD-40 and squirt in the general direction of anything that moves and then wiggle it back and forth. If that works, they quit and feel proud. If it doesn’t, they squirt something else. If that still doesn’t work, they cuss about “those lazy bastards in Detroit (or Tokyo, or wherever) who don’t know their ass from their elbow.” You’ll get the knack of it after you squirt a few times.