As the cool weather approaches, you may be making a list of projects to tackle around the house, both big and small. This is also a great time for a quick checkup of often overlooked areas—such as windows, doors and faucets—to see where you might make a few adjustments and maybe even save some money by doing so.
Many money-saving fixes involve keeping water out, heat in, or cold air out. They are, for the most part, relatively inexpensive improvements that will save you money in the long run in terms of avoiding more expensive repairs, or even to improve your home’s resale value. Here’s your fall punch list for repairs and saving money:
- Apply Caulking and Weather Stripping. Keep drafts out! This means inspecting doors, windows, ducts, furnace flues, fireplaces and then adding insulation or weather stripping to seal the deal. Getting a good seal on windows and doors (or replacing them altogether) is a great start. Caulking windows and weather stripping are two of the easiest and cheapest ways to save money, ranging from $3 to $30 per window or door, according to Energy.gov.
- Check the Attic Insulation. Inspect the quality of insulation and reinforce it, if necessary. Attic insulation may be more of an investment, but will likely pay for itself in just a few years in reduced energy bills. Does your utility company offer a free energy audit? You also may be eligible for tax credits for upgrading your insulation, windows and doors, air conditioning and more. Read more about Insulation. Cost: $500 – $1000.
- Inspect the Sump Pump. An operational sump pump can be a basement saver during a flash flood or other big storm. Check your pump regularly and replace it every 10 years or sooner if it fails to start properly. Consider a backup power supply in the event of a power outage, which can happen during strong storms. If you have these situations a few times a year or even once a year, a battery backup will be worth the investment. Cost: $150 – $300.
- Clean the Gutters. Water damage can be a major home expense, so you want to make sure gutters are free from leaves and debris so that the water drains properly and away from your foundation or basement. Water can lead to basement leaks and flooding, cracked foundations, rotten wood fascia and termites. You’ll need a ladder, or if your budget permits, a contractor. Cost: $100 – $250.
- Change HVAC Filters. Furnaces and air conditioning systems need attention throughout the year. Start with changing filters every few months, which trap airborne allergens and dust so that you can breathe cleaner air. Changing filters regularly can also lower utility bills since your HVAC system won’t have to run as hard. Cost: $40-$60/dozen.
- Fix Leaky Faucets/Running Toilets. A faucet that drips or a toilet that continually runs means money down the drain. The faucet problem might be a simple fix—like a washer or aerator, or maybe an inexpensive replacement of the whole unit. Toilet tank assemblies are also relatively cheap. Take a picture of your tank and enlist the aid of your local hardware store, which can suggest the proper replacement parts and give you some tips. Cost: $10 – $20.
- Install a Programmable Thermostat. Enjoy immediate energy savings when you install a programmable thermostat. These smart thermostats allow you to program different temperatures throughout the day, when no one is home, and gradually raise or lower the temperature in time for your arrival. Some even operate remotely with your smartphone. Cost: $90 – $300.
- Caulk the Tub and Shower. For a few dollars, you can head off moldy walls and rot in tile by caulking along the edges of your tubs and showers. Keep in mind that tile jobs and drywall repairs can run into the thousands. Cost: $10 – $15.
- Flush and Wrap the Hot Water Heater. Keep your water heater running smoothly by checking for sediment buildup at the bottom. Also, consider purchasing a hot water heater blanket to insulate it, and save some money on your energy bill. Cost: $20 – $30.
- Get Smart with Lighting. Lighting nowadays comes in different forms—Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), Light Emitting Diodes (LED), and halogen incandescents—all designed to be energy efficient and save you money on your monthly bills. Although these options are quite a bit more expensive than traditional incandescent lightbulbs, they last much longer. You can also install motion sensors to cut down on leaving lights on when no one is in the room. Cost: $20 – $30/pack.
Resources: Money Talks News, Lifehacker.com, Bankrate.com, Family Handyman.com, Quicken Loans.com.