Source: USAA Magazine, Summer 2006

Do Your Home Work: Simple assignments keep your house -- and you wallet -- in A+ shape

I selected only the items that are currently useful for my own home.

Have dryer exhaust duct and vent professionally cleaned.
When: Every three years
Why: Prevents duct fire
Cost now: $60-$150
Cost later: $2,000 or up to the entire value of the house

Check washing machine hoses for leaks, cracks, or bulging
When: Every six months
Why: Avoid water damage
Cost now: $10-$20 for hoses, depending on type; replace rubber hoses with more durable, flexible, stainless-steel hoses
Cost later: $3,000-$10,000 for water damage

Inspect water heater for rust or cracks
When: Every six months; drain the tank each year
Why: Prevent water damage and electrical malfunctions
Cost now: About 15 minutes
Cost later: $200-$600 plus the cost to replace anything water-damaged

Replaced cracked or missing caulk around sinks, tubs, and toilets
When: Annually
Why: Prevents leaks
Cost now: $2.50-$5 per tube of caulk
Cost later: $200-$700 to replace damaged flooring or walls

Have heating/cooling system inspected and cleaned
When: Annually
Why: Improves efficiency and lifespan
Cost now: $300-$900 for professional service provider
Cost later: $5000-$6000 for a new system

Replace air-conditioning filters
When: Every two to three months, depending on dust buildup
Why: Saves energy and improves efficiency
Cost now: $2.50-$50 per filter, depending on type and size
Cost later: Higher energy bills

Pull out refrigerator and vacuum condenser/compressor coils
When: Annually
Why: Removes dust, lint, and pet hair
Cost now: About 30 minutes
Cost later: $500-$600 for a new compressor