20 Things Homeowners Should Do to Save Money

Buying a house is one, if not the biggest, investments you'll ever make. Once you go through the exciting and sometimes arduous process of moving, you can make small changes to your home right away, which could save you money in utility and maintenance expenses moving forward. Here are 20 things you can do now to ensure this happens:

1. Inspect attic insulation

One of the first things you should do is to inspect your home's attic - if it's unfinished - to determine if it has adequate insulation. Since this will vary depending on your state of residence you can consult the insulation guide by the Department of Energy to see how much insulation you need in your home. Having the proper levels of insulation is important because it will increase the heat flow resistance, leading to lower utility bills.

20 Things Homeowners Should Do to Save Money

A good recommendation is to set your water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For one, it is doubtful you'll ever require temperatures higher than this, and two, by lowering the temperature, it requires less work on the water heater's part, resulting in fewer utility expenses. In addition, if you have an older water heater, you should consider investing in a blanket it for it, as this keeps more of the heat in the tank, reducing the amount of energy over time the heater has to exert.

3. Inspect windows and replace if necessary

As much as 25 percent of the heat in your home can escape through its windows. Due to this, it's imperative you check your home's windows to see if they have proper insulation. If you notice a draft at the corners or along the tops, there are many things you can do from weatherstripping to replacing your windows. The best part about this is you can start small by applying draft snakes or plastic film and if that doesn't work then decide to replace them. Seeing as windows account for one of the main ways heat escapes your home, insulating your windows properly can net you some significant savings.

4. Weatherstrip around your home's entry points

Your home's windows are not the only area where air can escape easily. Upon move in, you should run your hand around your home's door and electrical outlets to feel for drafts. In the event you notice some, you can use weatherstripping or caulk to seal these areas. This will reduce the amount of air escaping from your home which will reduce the amount of work your home's HVAC unit will have to do.

5. Install ceiling fans

Keeping air circulating throughout your home will make it more comfortable no matter what the temperature is outside. If your house doesn't have ceiling fans, you should install them, as they will save you money on utility costs due to the fact you won't have to set your home's thermometer as high in the winter or as low in the summer due to the regular air circulation. It's important to note you will want to rotate how the air circulates, as in the summer you want the air circulating down and in the winter you want it moving up. You can achieve this by finding the reversal switch on the fans and adjust according to the season.

6. Replace air filters

This is a simple and inexpensive way to ensure clean air circulates through your home. You can find the appropriate air filter you need at your local hardware or department stores. Installation is also easy, as all you need to do is slide the air filter out from the furnace area and replace it with the new one. By replacing them regularly, more clean air will circulate through your home. The result is the HVAC unit operates more efficiently, leading to fewer energy costs.

7. Clean all the vents

To ensure there's proper airflow throughout your home, you should inspect each of the air vents. If you notice dust or any obstructions be sure to clean them. You can also schedule for a company to come inspect and clean your home's air ducts. Similar to replacing air filters, this will save you money in utility costs.

8. Install a programmable thermostat

If your home doesn't have one, buying a programmable thermostat is a great way to keep energy costs low. You do this by scheduling temperatures that correlate with your schedules. To illustrate, if you are away from home during the day you can program the thermostat to be a few degrees higher or lower-depending on the season- then, when you come home at nights you can have another preset temperature to make it more comfortable.

9. Insulate exposed water pipes

Similar to an older water heater, exposed water pipes tend to lose heat during transfer; this results in the water heater have to use more energy, leading to higher energy expenses. To offset this, you can wrap them in pipe insulation which will increase the heater's efficiency, especially for pipes located in colder areas such as the basement.

10. Update older appliances

Appliances in your home such as your washer, dryer, dishwasher and refrigeration can account for as much as 13 percent of your home's energy costs. As such, buying energy efficient appliances might be costly initially, but you will offset some of those costs in the future with lower utility bills. You can take advantage of great deals department and home improvement stores offer on appliances during holidays.

11. Inspect plumbing fixtures for leaks

When you first move into your home you should inspect plumbing fixtures like the toilet and sinks to ensure they are operating correctly, meaning the toilet doesn't run continually after a flush and after using the sink the water doesn't drip from the faucet. It's also a great idea to do a visual inspection under and around these fixtures for signs of water damage. If you notice some, it is best to fix the problem right away, as putting this off will not only lead to more water loss, but it could result in a mold issue moving forward.

12. Do tune-ups on your home's HVAC

Depending on the season when you move in, chances are you will be using your home's furnace or air conditioning soon. To ensure each is in peak operating condition, you should schedule inspections with local, reputable companies. As part of the inspection to units like your air conditioner, they can suggest tune-up services, which it help it run more efficiently. This small expense will pay huge dividends down the line in the way of lower energy costs.

13. Install energy efficient light bulbs

Using CFL or LED bulbs is a great way to save money because they are much more energy efficient than your standard incandescent bulbs. Moreover, LED and CFL bulbs last much longer, resulting in you having to purchase bulbs less over the life of ownership in your home. Though the initial expense can be higher for these bulbs, they are well worth the investment. You can start by installing them in areas of your home where you will need regular lighting like your kitchen, living room and hallways.

14. Use the SmartStrip for your electronics

Chances are you will have an entertainment area in your home which includes a TV, cable box, video player--Blu-Ray--and more. If you use a normal surge protector, it will keep these devices powered at all times, making it convenient anytime you need to use them, but it also requires more electricity to keep them on as well. With the SmartStrip, it gives you the opportunity to cut the power off at one source. So say you have your TV powered off, the SmartStrip will cut off power to the rest of the auxiliary devices connected to your TV. As you can see, this is a smart way to reduce electricity consumption thereby saving you money.

15. Replace flooring/carpet

Even if you purchase a newer home, it doesn't take long for its flooring and/or carpet to wear down due to regular use. If you have carpet and notice signs or fraying or unsightly stains, you can freshen up the look of your home by replacing it. Carpet is inexpensive to buy -depending on your tastes-and some home improvement stores offer free installation. The same applies with hardwood flooring. In either regard, updating your flooring gives the home a fresh look with little expense.

16. Open up space

This won't be a small change and it could be expensive, but if you have the means and patience, creating space is an excellent way to increase the value of your home. This could entail knocking down a non-structural wall or moving kitchen components around to create a more open area. What this achieves is it gives your home more flow and connectivity. When it comes time to sell your home in the future-if you ever want to-the new floor plan will be highly desirable to buyers.

17. Update your home's roof

The home inspection you receive as part of buying your house could outline any concerns regarding your roof. Even if there was nothing pertaining to it in the report, it's still important to inspect your home's roof regularly and look for signs of damages to the shingles such as them curling or breaking up. If you come across this, then now is a great time to replace your roof. While this can be an expensive endeavor, a new roof will give your home some fresh curb appeal and it will reduce your cooling and heating bills. In addition, a new roof can last more than 10 years so it's one less thing you will have to worry about moving forward.

18. Plant a vegetable/herb garden

Planting a garden is a great way to produce wholesome food for the fraction of the cost you would pay at a grocery store. It's important to pay close attention to your local climate, so you can select the vegetables and herbs that will thrive in your climate conditions. Along with growing nutritious food, your garden can elevate your home's outdoor appearance.

19. Trim shrubbery and trees

Landscaping is one of the most important, and often, one of the most overlooked aspects of home ownership. If you have trees and/or shrubbery in the front yard, you will want to keep each trimmed. This will create more visibility for your home, bolstering its curb appeal. It can also protect your house from incurring damage. To demonstrate, if you don't trim your tree limbs and some are close to your home, all it takes is a violent wind gust or storm to create property damage. Most importantly, doing proper landscaping adds value to your home. In some cases, you can receive up to a four-fold return on the amount of money you spend on keeping your yard looking great.

20. Buy a new front door

The front door isn't just the entry point to your home, it's the first impression visitors and neighbors can gain from you. If the home you bought has an older front door or a screen door with rusty hinges, it's time for an upgrade. A new door can transform the look of your home's outer appearance. Moreover, a new door can hold more of your home's air in, reducing your heating and cooling bills. While expensive initially, the benefits you receive from replacing it will offset the cost, especially if you plan to sell your house in the future.

Overall, these 20 tips are great ways to bolster your home's appearance, function and most importantly, value. What you will discover is that in many of these cases it will require just a small investment from you up front, but what you will receive in return is a home that functions better, costs less to maintain and gives you pride of ownership.

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