Knowing one's medical history is important in case of an emergency. So is knowing the history of your home in case of household emergencies and repairs.

These might require matching colors, or locating the same brand of materials, or knowing when and where things were purchased and who did the original installation or work.

Some warranties may still be in effect. Even if they're not, the original dealer might have knowledge, and maybe even key parts in stock, that can be invaluable in an emergency.

When you buy a new home, gather all the info you can and, while they're still available, construction drawings, too. When buying an older home, ask previous owners about colors used and product brand names, and for any warranties or literature they might have. This could be really helpful information for remodeling or repairs.

As you go along, be sure to record everything you do. Save scraps and samples, product labels and keep all manuals and literature in an archive box. Today's home history is tomorrow's helping hand.

The No. 1 cause of water-heater failure is sediment buildup in the tank.

Sometimes it makes a sizzling, crackling noise when the heating element fires up as it works harder to heat the water. This wastes energy and often requires earlier replacement.

However, you can save money and extend the life of your water heater by draining your tank and flushing away sediment at least once a year.

Here's all you do:
-- For electric heaters, turn off the power. For gas, turn the control to pilot.
-- Next, turn off the cold-water inlet valve. Attach a garden hose to the outlet valve at the bottom. You will be running hot water, so be careful.
-- Then, open a nearby faucet to improve flow. Once the hot water drains out, open the cold-water valve to rinse out the tank.
-- Finally, reverse the process to restore normal operation, turning off faucets last.

Also check your thermostat. It should be set at 120 F or lower.

A water heater that might have lasted only 10 years could now last 15 or 20 years, or even more.

Are you removing a bathtub to install a shower stall?

You can now make the transition without a lot of work and messy revisions. When you tear out a bathtub to replace it with a shower stall, you no longer have to do major construction work such as reframing walls and reworking plumbing to fit and match up with a new shower stall.

Bright minds from the plumbing industry have come up with a super, yet simple, solution. It's simply a shower stall base with exactly the same measurements (length and width) as a standard 5-foot bathtub. And with plumbing that matches up, too.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.