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Most people living in older homes have big home improvement projects they’d like to tackle. A full kitchen remodel, adding a bathroom, replacing a roof or installing new hardwood floors are all great projects that can enhance the value of a home, but they are also expensive.
Chances are there are some simple changes you could make around your house that will save you money and won’t incur a major up-front expense. Here are some examples.
New homes feel different. Often that is because everything is tight. With older homes, caulk shrinks and floors and walls settle. The inevitable result is narrow gaps that allow outside air, sound and even water to get in. Regularly resealing gaps with caulk or silicone will help you recapture that airtight feel of a new home. It will also help you save money on your energy bill.
You should also replace weather stripping around windows, exterior door and even your garage door. Seal areas where different surfaces meet, such as the foundation and siding, brick and siding, concrete and stucco, etc. It doesn’t require a big investment, but it will make your home more efficient and comfortable.
Home living author Eliza Cross recommends filling two-liter bottles and putting one into each toilet tank in your house. If your household flushes 20 times each day, you’ll save 3,650 gallons of water each year. You can achieve even more water savings by installing low-flow shower heads.
Plant with a plan
Large shade trees like maples and oaks act like natural air conditioners if you plant them on the south and southwestern sides of your house. If you want something that grows faster, hybrid cottonwoods and poplars can reach an impressive size in less than a decade. The U.S. Department of Energy reports properly located shade trees can reduce home cooling costs by up to 25 percent. Summer air temperatures in tree-shaded neighborhoods can be as much as 6 degrees cooler than treeless areas. On average, a well-designed landscape can pay for itself through energy savings in eight years, according to the energy department.
Better temperature control
Many older homes still have thermostats with a dial that you turn up or down depending on how you feel at the moment. If you forget to adjust it when no one is home or when you go out of town, you’re spending too much on heating and cooling. Instead, upgrade to a programmable thermostat. Your heating and cooling systems are the biggest energy users in a typical home and the energy department estimates you can save as much as 10 percent a year on your energy bill by using a programmable thermostat to better control temperatures when you are asleep or away from the house.
If you have an electric water heater, did you know it costs 10 times as much to wash your laundry in warm water than in cold? An article for Mother Earth News reports washing and rinsing a load of clothes in cold water costs 3 cents. The same load washed and rinsed in warm water costs 34 cents. In hot water the cost jumps to 66 cents. The cost savings isn’t quite as great if you have a gas water heater, but it still adds up over time. Make sure and choose a detergent formulated for cold water washing.
For most people, a home is their biggest lifetime investment. As a result, it makes sense to protect and maintain it. “It’s the little things like caulking around the tub and making sure your gutters aren’t clogged that prevent bigger things like serious water damage, interior and exterior,” writes Melanie Pinola in an article for lifehacker.com. As any homeowner knows, there are always things to be done, but sometimes it is difficult to remember everything. To solve that problem, Pinola put together a free, comprehensive home maintenance calendar/checklist. It is available in several formats to download directly into almost any calendar system you use.
Staying on top of regular maintenance will save money over time by helping you catch minor problems before they become major. The end result will be a home that maintains its value and helps you keep more money in your pocket.