Unsung Heroes – Paying tribute to the underappreciated elements of your house

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield made a handsome living by being self-deprecating, often invoking his famous catchphrase: “I don’t get no respect.” If appliances, hardware and the other all-but-invisible parts of your house could speak, I’d bet they’d express the same sentiment about how they’re treated. My intent is not to elevate inanimate hardware to martyrdom, but I think it’s time we paid tribute to some of the underappreciated components of modern housing that make our convenient and efficient lifestyle possible.

Plumbing is deservedly first on the list because it often takes a plumbing disaster to get our attention. Though it’s tempting to curse a plugged drain, a leaky water heater and a running toilet, keep in mind that these components need a little TLC. My water softener recently died a spectacular death, literally spilling its guts (tiny resin beads) throughout the water pipes, clogging nearly every spigot and valve in the house. Once the problem was rectified, I had renewed gratitude not only for soft water but for running water.

The electrical system is neck and neck with plumbing in its importance. If you’ve ever experienced a power outage, you realize how totally dependent we are on electricity. It’s not just the lights that go out; it can also be the air conditioner, the furnace, the refrigerator, the stove, and one of the biggest potential headaches: the sump pump. Sitting in a cold, dark house is bad enough without adding a flood to the equation. The safe delivery of power to all of the electrical components in your house is truly a modern miracle.

We also depend on the systems that keep us warm or cool and dry – regardless of the weather — to function like harmonizing singers. HVAC systems, windows and doors, insulation and ventilation need to be compatible, efficient and reliable. So don’t forget to change the furnace filter and replace worn weather seals when needed.

Of course, our homes have many more unsung heroes — from the roof and gutters to wire nuts and framing nails — and they all deserve respect. They typically do their jobs quietly and without complaint, but occasionally they need a little love. So watch and listen for the warning signs of wear and tear, and treat them like they’re important so they can return the favor.