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For anyone who is not handy, household maintenance is at best a chore, at worst a nightmare. Rarely is it a hassle-free experience. But the fact that many people don't have the skills required or the urge to learn them, doesn’t make the work any less important.
Whether you live in a villa or an apartment, regular maintenance, no matter how mundane, is an essential part of keeping your household running smoothly. It can also save you from paying big bills.
"For energy-hungry systems such as air conditioners, running costs increase as performance degrades” says Alan Millin, a facilities management consultant.
He says an AC unit is expensive to replace if something goes drastically wrong. A dirty or underperforming kit can also have a negative impact on air quality. Dirt accumulates in condensate drain pans and ductwork, so it is important to keep systems clean to maintain the quality of the indoor environment.
“It’s surprising how much dirt can build up in an air distribution system,” says Millin.
Keeping your AC going is only part of the maintenance picture and although it is always going to need an expert, other tasks around the house may be more accessible to everyone.
"We can do a lot of maintenance ourselves, without the need for experts, but we do need some knowledge and often we need tools and equipment,” says Millin. "Safety should be everyone's first concern when carrying out do-it-yourself [DIY] tasks. If you don't have the knowledge and equipment to do the job correctly, call in the experts. For example, safety glasses are cheap and every DIY enthusiast should have them. but they are often overlooked.
“Dangers lurk in walls too. Many people have drilled or hammered a nail into a wall only to find an electrical cable or water pipe inside."
So if there's a tiny shred of doubt, get an expert to be sure. But how do you go about finding one? Most people agree that you just can't beat a word-of-mouth recommendation - this is how good companies thrive, regardless of their size. However, if you're new in town, it might be tough to find a reliable service provider.
Ibrahim Colak found that to be the case when he moved to Dubai about six years ago.
"I was thinking it would be great to have a web page to find the best service providers, with ratings and comments from previous customers," he says.
Last year, Colak decided to turn his idea into a business and launched mrUsta.com, an online directory that gathers details of different household service providers, from cleaners, painters and plumbers, to more off-beat services such as dance classes.
The website also provides reviews of listed providers, who are experts in their fields. As the next best thing to word of mouth, it gives consumers a head start in searching for the right service provider.
"In the UAE a large number of customers are searching for service providers online," he says. "If a service provider is skilled and has good ratings, it will be listed at the top of its business category.”
This sort of directory is ideal for households looking to deal with ad hoc services. Jim Will Fix It Services was started by long-term Dubai residents Colin Thomas and Dan Garner to specialise in ad hoc maintenance, repairs and general DIY services.
"We knew what we wanted as customers," says Thomas. "As a customer, I didn't want to pay a massive amount of money up front. I wanted something where I could try it first and find out whether I trusted them and they delivered what they said they would."
Handling around 150 jobs a day. the company employs technicians who are carefully vetted through an on-the-job trial process. The company also offers a three-month warranty for its services and parts are warranted for 12 months.
"As we are paid for each job individually, were there to be any issues, we have a chance to rectify it immediately, or else our customers will not pay the bill,” says Thomas. "On an annual contract, the business management may not hear about any issues until renewal and by then it's too late."
The company has grown fast- it now has around 20-24 teams of technicians on the road at any time, six days a week- and Thomas says it is set to grow further.
For landlords or owners of multiple or larger properties, annual maintenance contracts offer a set-and-forget option.
"It's about peace of mind that everything is maintained and looked after," explains Rob Milthorpe, Senior Operations Manager of Macro Technical Services, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing division of facilities management company Macro. "Preventative maintenance is normally part of a contract and this ensures all equipment in a villa or apartment is running correctly and safely.
"This is very important, especially for owners, since it assists in maintaining the value of the property. You need to look at the lifecycle of a building and the residual value. Owners and their tenants should ensure all equipment is maintained regularly."
Leave it to the pros
The most common issues encountered by service providers are related to air-conditioning systems and electrical distribution, both of which require qualified technicians to carry out any work.
"Air- conditioning, plumbing and electrical jobs should always be done by properly trained technicians," says Ian Robinson, General Manager of MPlus+, a company engaged in maintenance services. "They are best equipped to diagnose parts that are likely to fail in the future and take steps to extend their lifespan."
Robinson says regular maintenance minimises the chance of breakdowns, particularly as homes get older and deteriorate through wear and tear.
"Regular maintenance saves you money in the long term, not only by reducing the chance of breakdowns, which are costly and can take time to repair, but also reducing your utility bills," he says. "A properly maintained air-conditioning unit typically uses 10 per cent less energy than one that is not maintained."
Source: Stuart Matthews, Special to Property Weekly