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Protect your home's value with these essential safety, maintenance tasks

Ready to tackle some easy, yet important, maintenance tasks that could save you money down the road? Here are a few of those annual, monthly and seasonal chores:

Once a year

• Inspect your fireplace chimney. Do you see shiny black soot? It's called creosote, and excess build-up can cause a chimney fire.

• Dust heating registers, vents, radiators and smoke alarms. A good vacuuming will get rid of airborne dust and improve airflow on heating units, and will ensure that smoke alarms work properly.

Once a month

• Look for leaks. Check your hot water heater for rust stains or water on, around or under it. This could mean a valve is leaking and a plumber should be called to replace it, or could also signal the entire unit should be replaced.

It's a good idea to take a look at your dishwasher and toilets, as well. Leaks over long periods of time can damage floors and lead to expensive repairs.

• Test smoke alarms. Press the test buttons to make sure the alarm is working.

Once each spring and fall

• De-gunk your gutters. To prevent overflow and decay, remove leaves and other debris from gutters, and clean the screens that lead to the downspouts. Check the gutter joints for cracks.

• Examine the roof for leaks. Take a look at places where items protrude from the roof - such as a chimney, sky light or vent pipes - and see if shingles are loose or broken. Inspect the interior ceiling at those same places for water stains.

And one simple maintenance tip that can fit into anyone's busy schedule:

Once a year, you should "exercise" your home's circuit breakers. Open and close each breaker to prevent it from sticking.