When homeowners think about home improvement, they usually think about updating a dated bathroom or replacing ugly light fixtures. The average bathroom remodel costs $19,000, and homeowners typically can only expect to recoup around 50% of that cost when they sell their home. However, some home improvement tasks will cost money up front but save money over the long haul. Staying up to date on home maintenance tasks can prolong the life of your home’s systems and make them more efficient. Here are ten tasks that can save you money over time!
Replace Your Furnace Filter
Your HVAC system has a filter that traps dirt and dust so the air in your house stays clean. A dirty air filter causes your HVAC unit to work harder, which draws more power and runs up your electric bill. It also can shorten the life of your HVAC system by clogging the machinery with dirt and debris. Luckily, changing your filter is relatively easy and cheap. The filter is typically located in the filter cabinet between the return air duct and the furnace or air handler. Different furnace systems require different filters, so write down or snap a picture of the current filter before you head to the store. Once you return with a new filter, turn off your HVAC system, slide the old filter out of the filter cabinet, and replace it with the new filter. How often to change your filter will vary depending on the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of the filter.
Caulk the Tub and Shower
Some water leaks are silent but can do tens of thousands of dollars in damage to your home. They can also lead to mold and mildew issues. Stop them by making sure that your bathroom is watertight. The easiest (and cheapest) way to do this is with a tube of caulk that only costs a few dollars. Caulking the seams of your tub and shower will prevent water from running between your tub and the walls or floor of your bathroom. Worried about making a mess with caulk? Try taping off the area above and below where the caulk will be applied with painter’s tape; caulk, smooth the caulk with your fingertip, and then remove the painter’s tape for a clean line.
Fix Running Toilets
A running toilet can add major money to your water bill. To fix it, first, try taking off the top of your toilet tank and flushing the toilet. Even people without plumbing backgrounds will usually see what the problem is with a visual inspection. The most common issue is the toilet flapper, which isn’t too tough to replace. If you don’t have time to fix it right away, turn the water off at the base of the toilet until you can.
Fix Leaky Faucets
The drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet is the sound of your money drip, drip, dripping down the drain. It’s going to add up to a big water bill, so you’ll want to fix it quickly. How to go about it will vary depending on the type of faucet you have, but most people can manage this repair job on their own.
Install a Smart Thermostat
The first great technological advance in thermostats was the programmable thermostat, which allowed people to set what temperature their home should be at certain times of the day. These are great, except for one catch: A lot of people find them complicated to program and don’t use them correctly. The problem was so widespread that in 2009, Energy Star stopped rating programmable thermostats. In 2015, a survey reported that 40% of programmable thermostat owners never programmed them. Enter smart thermostats. Smart thermostats can be programmed with simple controls or even through an app. Energy Star estimates that smart thermostat users save $50 a year on their energy bills, and some manufacturers claim that you’ll see savings of up to $100. Check with your local utility company, as some offer discounted thermostats or rebates for installing them.
Switch Your Light Bulbs
Incandescent light bulbs have long been the standard for residential use, but the introduction of CFL light bulbs is changing that. A CFL bulb uses 70% less energy than an incandescent bulb once it is up to full power. A common complaint about early CFLs was that they buzzed, but newer bulbs don’t have this problem. CFLs are more expensive, so let the changeover occur naturally, as your incandescents burn out. Soon, you’ll see savings on your electric bill!
Seal Doors and Windows
Does your house have drafty windows? You could replace your windows with snug energy-efficient ones at a cost of $270-$800 per window. Or you can improve the energy efficiency of your current windows with a cheap fix: You can shrink-wrap your windows and cut down on drafts significantly. If the draft comes from the bottom of your door, try using a draft snake.
Install Weather Stripping
Weather-stripping your doors is another great way to keep your house warm while lowering your energy bill. Start by tightening the hinges of your door. Next, measure your door, and then go to your local home improvement store to pick out your weather stripping. Apply the weather stripping to the top of your door, move to the sides, and then test the fit. You want the door to be snug but still open easily. Finally, apply a door sweep to keep any air leaks from coming through the bottom of the door.
Clean Your Gutters
Gutters direct the flow of rainwater safely around your home. But a clogged gutter can cause roof damage and even allow water to seep into your home. Clogged gutters can also cause damage to the gutters themselves. Make sure to clean your gutters regularly, especially during the fall, when leaves will tend to fill them up quickly. If your house has high rooflines or you don’t feel like climbing a ladder, having them cleaned should only cost between $100 and $300.
Inspect Your House
The cheapest but most effective home maintenance task is to inspect your house regularly. Walk around the interior of your house and check the windows, look at the ceilings, and check the corners. Outside of your home, walk around the entire perimeter and look for anything that seems off. Checking your house often can allow you to spot small problems before they turn into large, expensive problems.