“A stitch in time saves nine.” Your grandmother might have been speaking about mending clothes when she said this, but the same philosophy holds true when it comes to your house. Taking care of a few basic home maintenance projects before problems arise can save you thousands of dollars down the road.
Here are a few easy and simple home improvement projects that will save you money in the long run:
Seal your drafts. How would you like to save up to 30 percent on your heating and cooling costs each month? You can do this by simply eliminating drafts in your home. It’s easy, too. For most air leaks all you need is a tube of 100 percent silicone caulk and a little time. Run a bead of caulk over the cracks around doors, windows, baseboards, vents and ducts, and plumbing penetrations. Cracks and holes larger than ¼” may require backer rod for caulk to work effectively, or use a can of spray insulation instead. Pay special attention to locating and sealing cracks in your basement and attic. Many homes — especially older homes — have huge gaps and holes in these areas that easily go unnoticed.
Other areas to seal include your light switches and outlets — you can get inexpensive foam insulators to install behind the outlet covers. While you’re at it, inspect your weather-stripping and replace it if necessary. When you are done, you will probably find that your home is far more comfortable as well as cheaper to heat and cool.
Seal your ducts. According to Energy Star, many homes lose 20 to 30 percent of their heating and cooling systems’ efficiency to air duct leaks. This can make the home uncomfortable as well as raising heating and cooling costs. While some of your ductwork may be hidden in your walls, sealing any accessible ducts in your basement, attic or crawl spaces can make a big difference in your utility bills. Just inspect your ductwork and seal any cracks or holes with mastic sealant or duct tape. (Be sure to use genuine metal duct tape made for this purpose; the popular fix-it-all type of duct tape won’t work well over time.)
Clean and Replace HVAC filters. Plugged filters will block the airflow through your air conditioning and heating systems. Without proper airflow, your furnace and air conditioner must work overtime, and will not be able to properly heat or cool your home. Cleaning your air conditioning filters three or four times a year and replacing your furnace filter monthly will keep your home comfortable and your energy bills low.
Unblock your cold air returns. You’re probably aware of the locations of all your heat vents, but do you know where your cold air returns are? In many homes, these are hidden behind sofas and other furniture, or blocked by carpets, area rugs or clutter. Blocked cold air returns can wreak havoc with your heating system’s efficiency, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to locate yours and make sure they’re unobstructed. Allow at least six inches of clearance in front of your cold air returns. If your furniture does not allow adequate airflow you should consider rearranging it or getting a professional contractor to move the duct.
Clean your dryer vents. Clogged dryer vents cause over 15,000 home fires each year. Cleaning out accumulated lint regularly with a vacuum hose or lint brush will keep your family safe. It will also save energy and extend the life of your dryer.
Inspect your washing machine hoses. While you’re inspecting your dryer vent, check your washer hoses for cracks and leaks as well. Minor hose leaks are easy to miss because they’re hidden behind your washer, but if left unchecked you could find yourself with thousands of dollars worth of water damage, and/or unhealthy mold growth in your home.
Clean your gutters. When gutters get clogged with leaves and debris, the rainwater they were meant to direct away from your home can instead begin to flow toward it. Cleaning your gutters twice a year is a simple preventative maintenance solution that can easily prevent untold damage to your home.
Clean and seal your wood decks and steps. Even pressure-treated wood needs protection from the elements. Power washing and sealing your deck every one to three years can double its life expectancy. New decks are expensive, so maintaining your existing one is definitely worth the investment!
Every one of these home improvement projects is easy enough for the average homeowner to do on their own. However, sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions. If you find you are too busy to take care of these and similar projects on your own, call a home improvement professional. You can save money by having them do multiple projects in one trip. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to help, taking care of these important home maintenance tasks is sure to save you money in the long run!
Darryl Crosby is the Marketing Manager of Schedule Fred. A home repair company based in Bethesda, MD that helps homeowners take care of the small projects throughout their houses.