Money-Saving Home Improvement Checklist: 4 Upgrades That Will Cut Costs
Thanks to the novel coronavirus, Americans are now spending a lot more time at home. And since unemployment is at an all-time high, it’s only natural that many of us are on the lookout for projects to occupy our time. Although 840,000 single-family homes were built in 2018, most homeowners have at least some small property improvements they can make.
However, the potential costs of these projects may be holding you back. If that scenario sounds familiar, you may want to think about how these improvements could affect you in the long term. If you choose carefully, the projects you take on could actually save you money down the line. If your main aim is to cut costs while making your home function a bit better, you might want to consider the checklist below. These upgrades will often add value to your home and reduce your monthly bills at the same time.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Smart home devices are known for their convenience, but they also tend to promote greater energy efficiency. That’s certainly the case with smart or programmable thermostats. Instead of having to manually adjust the temperature in order to save money, you can automatically set up your new thermostat to adjust based on your preferences and schedule. Some will even utilize your smartphone’s GPS system to determine whether you’re at home and adjust accordingly.
HouseLogic reports that programmable thermostats can save up to $180 per year, while individual smart thermostat companies claim that their products will reduce heating and cooling costs anywhere from 10% to 15%. Some utility companies will even give you a rebate for installing a smart thermostat — and since many cost around $100, the technology will easily pay for itself. Not only will you not need to remember to turn the temperature up or down, but you’ll be able to be totally comfortable in (and have more control over) your home while saving money.
Add Low-Flow and High-Efficiency Appliances
Whether or not you realize it, your family probably wastes a lot of water on a daily basis — especially if your major appliances are outdated. Older toilets, showerheads, dishwashers, and washing machines are going to be more wasteful than the newest appliances on the market. And while you might already have some control over your household waste (as more than 21 million U.S. households use private septic systems to filter toilet waste), there’s likely more that you can do.
Low-flow toilets, showerheads, and even faucets can have a drastic impact on the amount of water you use (and, therefore, your monthly water bills). The EPA reports that WaterSense toilets can save the average family of four around $110 per year — and $2,200 over the toilet’s expected 20-year lifespan — while low-flow faucets can reduce tap water usage by up to 30%. Low-flow showerheads typically reduce shower water volume by 70% without disrupting the pressure and can also reduce water-heating demands, thereby saving you even more money.
Energy Star home appliances are much more efficient, as well, which is why you should replace any refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, or furnace that’s more than a decade old. Energy-efficient front-loading washers use around 50% less electricity than older top-loading washers, while Energy Star dishwashers have been found to use 40% less water than outdated models. Energy Star reports that replacing an old fridge can save homeowners $300 over the next five years. If you’ll need to replace your fixtures and appliances within a couple of years anyway, it’s worth swapping out for a more efficient option.
Seal or Replace Doors and Windows
You might be surprised by how much heating and cooling energy escapes from your home’s doors and windows. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that heat gain (during the summer) and heat loss (during the winter) are responsible for 25% to 30% of residential heating and cooling energy use. In other words, you’ll want to do something to keep your home comfortable and stop your HVAC unit from working overtime.
A relatively easy fix can be found in sealing leaky windows and doors with weatherstripping, which can improve efficiency by 5% to 10% by spending up to $30 total. You can also place low-E window film over your existing windows to reduce some heating and cooling loss. However, replacing outdated windows may be the most efficient option. Since single-pane windows are up to 25% less efficient than double-pane windows, it’s no surprise that you could save up to $330 each year by replacing them. That said, window replacement isn’t cheap; you might pay anywhere from $800 to $1,200 for each new window you install — so this option is really best for those who already needed to replace their windows.
Opt For a Reflective Roof
Professionals recommend that homeowners have their roofs inspected twice per year, which is a good way to identify any vulnerabilities and make repairs before damage occurs. Certainly, these inspections can save you money in the long run. But if your roof is coming to the end of its lifespan and you’re already considering what to do for replacement, you may want to think about how a metal or reflective roof can improve your life.
So-called “cool roofs” reflect light and keep your home a lot more comfortable as a result. The EPA reports that these roofs stay up to 60 degrees cooler on hot days, which can save you hundreds of dollars every year. Although they may cost more upfront to install, a 1,000-square-foot roof that provides a net energy savings of $0.50 per square foot will give you a net annual energy savings average of $500. What’s more, installing a cool roof can often reduce your homeowners’ insurance premiums in significant ways and provide you greater protection from wind and storms. And since metal roofs don’t require nearly as much maintenance as traditional asphalt shingle roofs do, you’ll end up saving money on repairs, too.
Choosing the best home improvement projects may not be an easy task. But these upgrades will improve your overall quality of life and allow you to save money over time. In the end, that’s a real win-win.