The very beginning of a new year is the perfect time to learn something new. Why not start off 2018 right, by finding out ways to protect and make the most of of that prized possession — your home?

Here six important facts that all homeowners should learn this year.

Never go to sleep when your dryer is running. This is a bit of homeowner trivia I just learned myself, which is actually not at all trivial. Most likely, you’ve already heard that it’s dangerous to leave your washing machine on when you’re not awake or around, in case it floods. But did you also know not to leave your dryer unattended? The National Fire Protection Association reports that US firefighters respond to nearly 15,000 dryer fires annually. Most of these emergencies could be avoided by properly cleaning the dryer.

Clear out your weep holes. "What are weep holes?" you may well ask. They’re small openings at the base of your window frames that allow water to drain safely away. True to their name, weep holes have a tendency to get all choked up … not with tears, but with debris like dirt, pet hair, or dead bugs. You can while away your time cleaning out this dirt with a screwdriver or toothpick — or do it the faster, more effective way, by spraying weep holes with compressed air (just like you use on electronics).

Save yourself the cost of a service call for your fridge. Water leaking inside your refrigerator may look like a sign of serious trouble (and it certainly makes quite an impressive mess). As a general rule, though, stopping the leakage is actually a (relatively) simple DIY fix — clearing out the drain. Water leaking outside the fridge could simply be the overflow from the blocked drain, which will clear up as soon as you do your unclogging magic. On the other hand, the appliance might need leveling.

Take good care of your concrete — quickly. Here’s the lazy … er … efficient homeowners’ way to lavish a little TLC on a patch of less-than-lovely concrete: Instead of scrubbing the heck out of dingy small concrete features like windowsills (knowing that all your hard labor may or may not improve their appearance), just cover them up with a thin skim coat. You’ll still have to clean the concrete first to allow the overlay to bond properly with the surface, but the final results will be much better looking.

Future condo owners: Avoid potentially expensive plumbing problems. If you’re looking to buy a condominium this year, you may end up with a short list of two or three very attractive prospects. All other things being equal, go for the home with its own water heater, rather than a whole-building water heating system. The reduced wear and tear on plumbing pipes will mean fewer of those (painful) special assessment fees to pay out.

Ensure your thermostat is positioned ideally. Your wall thermostat should be mounted in a spot where it will get the most accurate sampling of room temperature air. This translates to approximately five feet above the floor, away from any direct source of heat or cold (such as a vent or window). A thermostat that is discreetly tucked away in a corner of the room or — worse yet — a closet won’t pick up an accurate sample either. Hire an electrician to reposition your thermostat, if necessary; it will make for more efficient comfortable heating and cooling in the long run.

— Laura Firszt writes for