Home maintenance can definitely put a strain on your wallet. When budgets are tight, it's tempting to put off routine upkeep and small repairs. But overlooking those drips, leaks, and drafts today can result in costly repairs and replacements. These simple and relatively inexpensive steps will keep your home sweet home in top shape and provide long term savings:
1. Regularly replace the air filters on your HVAC system.
Dirty filters block the airflow, putting a strain on the system and increasing your heating and cooling costs. Regularly replacing used filters will allow the unit to work efficiently, helping to extend its useful life and using less energy. Make it a habit to replace the filters with the change of seasons in the spring and fall, ensuring that your air conditioning and heating will run smoothly in the upcoming heat and cold. Be sure to check the filter dimensions before you buy; using a filter that is too large or too small can let dirt and dust escape.
2. Inspect and clean your gutters.
Clean out leaves and other debris from the gutters and downspouts every spring and fall. Use a hose to flush out dirt and small debris. Clogged gutters can cause damage to your roof and fascia (the area behind the gutters). Pooling water can lead to costly damage to the foundation, so be sure that the downspouts are positioned to divert water away from the foundation. Trim trees located near the house to minimize falling leaves.
3. Fix drafty doors and windows.
Lower your heating and cooling costs by replacing cracked or dry caulk and replacing worn weather stripping. Install sweeps on the bottom of your doors to close up any gaps; self-adhesive or slide-on vinyl sweeps make this an easy fix. Even easier: buy or DIY a draft snake, a fabric tube placed against the door bottom to block drafts. If you find that you are losing heat through your windows, consider installing insulated drapes or temporary plastic window insulation film.
4. Clean the refrigerator coils twice a year.
Dust builds up on the exposed condenser coils making your fridge work harder at keeping food cold. Lower your energy costs and extend the life of your appliance with some simple maintenance. Depending on the model, condenser coils are located behind a grill at the bottom front or at the back. Unplug the refrigerator, remove the grill and vacuum away dust and debris. An easy energy saver: keep the fridge and freezer fully stocked; empty space actually makes the compressor work harder to stay cool.
5. Replace incandescent bulbs with cost-efficient LEDs.
Although the initial cost of the LED bulb is higher, you'll be buying replacement bulbs far less often. The average lifespan of an LED is 25,000 hours as opposed to 1,200 hours for an incandescent bulb! Moreover, LEDs use less than half the energy of incandescent bulbs. Multiply the savings by the number of lamps throughout your home, and the savings add up.
6. Set the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees.
Most water heaters are set at 140 degrees. However, many safety experts recommend a temperature of 120 degrees to avoid scalding, especially for homes with small children or the elderly. But don't go any lower, or you may be risking the growth of nasty bacteria.
7. Invest in a programmable thermostat.
Although these cost anywhere from $30 to $100 or more, you'll save in the long run. You'll significantly reduce energy costs by setting a schedule that automatically reduces heating and cooling when you are asleep or away from home.