You don’t have to be a new homeowner to take advantage of these money saving tips. Right now is the perfect time to walk through a checklist of ways to save money on your home. Starting on these things as early as possible will allow you to start saving money sooner rather than later.
Here are 10 things to do immediately that will reduce the energy and maintenance costs of your home over the long haul.
1. Check the insulation in your attic – and install more if needed. If you have an unfinished attic, pop your head up there and take a look around. You should see some insulation up there, and there should be at least six inches of it everywhere (more if you live in the northern part of the United States). If there’s inadequate insulation up there – or the insulation you have appears damaged – install new insulation. Here’s a great guide from the Department of Energy on attic insulation, including specifics on how much you should have depending on where you live.
2. Install ceiling fans in most rooms. Ceiling fans are a low-energy way to keep air moving in your home. Because of the air circulation effect, you can get away with keeping your thermostat a degree or two higher in summer and a degree or two lower in winter, netting a rather large savings. The air directly below the fan should be blowing down on you in the summer and should be pulled upwards away from you in the winter – you can use the reversal switch on your fan to switch between the modes.
3. Install a programmable thermostat – and learn how to use it. A programmable thermostat allows you to schedule automatic increases and decreases in your home’s temperature. This lets your house naturally warm (or cool in the winter) while you’re at work or asleep, saving quite a bit of energy use, and then when it comes time for you to actively use the house, the thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature of your home back to what you prefer. Such devices save money on cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.
4. Check all toilets and under-sink plumbing for leaks or constant running – and check faucets, too. Do a survey of the plumbing in your home before you settle in. If you find a toilet is running constantly, it’s going to cost you money – here’s how to easily fix that constantly-running toilet. You should also peek under the basin of all sinks in your home, just to make sure there aren’t any leaks. Got a leaky faucet? You should repair or replace any of those, because the drip-drip-drip of water is also a drip-drip-drip of money; not to mention the terrible interplay between mold and home insurance.
5. Replace your air handling filter. When you first move in, you almost always need to replace the air handling filter. Find where the filter is (it’s almost always a large rectangle), and mark down the measurements (printed around the edges). Then, go to the hardware store and pick up a few of these, then go home and install one of them, replacing the old one. An outdated filter not only doesn’t filter as well, it also has a negative impact on air flow, meaning your air handling system has to work harder to pump out lower quality air.
6. Make sure the vents in all rooms are clear of dust and obstructions. None of the vents in your home should be covered or blocked by anything – doing that makes your heating and cooling work overtime. You should also peek into all of your vents and make sure they’re as dust-free as possible, and brush them out if you see any dust bunnies. This improves air flow into the room, reducing the amount of blowing that needs to happen.
7. Install CFL and LED light bulbs in some locations. CFL and LED bulbs can save you a lot of money on energy use over the long haul, plus they have much longer lives than normal incandescent bulbs.
8. Air-seal your home. Look for any places where air may be leaking directly into or out of your home. These aren’t just air leaks – they’re money leaks. Thankfully, fixing small air leaks is pretty easy – here’s a great Department of Energy guide to caulking and weatherstripping, which will keep such air leaks from costing you.
9. Choose energy efficient appliances, even if you have to pay more up front. Unless you were lucky enough to buy a fully-furnished home, you’ll likely have to do some appliance shopping. Focus on reliability and energy efficiency above all, even if that seriously increases the cost you have to pay up front. A refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts twenty years is far, far cheaper over the long run than a fridge that runs for seven years and guzzles electricity. Take advantage of tax benefits for any improvements you make like buying good appliances. Similarly, if you make energy-based improvements to your home in 2009, you can receive up to $500 in tax credit for that purchase, essentially making things like insulation tax free. Your state may have even more benefits, so be aware of all of these when you invest money improving the efficiency of your home.
10. Finally, develop a ‘home file’ which includes maintenance checklist and any information about the systems in the house (and their warranties). This list should include regular home maintenance tasks that you’d want to do on a monthly or quarterly or annual basis. Then, make it a habit to run through the items on this list each month. Doing so will extend the life of almost everything in your home, saving you buckets of money over time and this will add value to your home should you decide to sell.
Licensed Home Inspector, Kevin Michaels, Hudson Valley Property Inspections, llc.