Greenbrier Valley Real Estate Blog
Thursday, July 11 2019
So the weather is heating up and so is your home. The increasing temperatures can put stress on your home & garden, as well as your bills.
Here are 19 things to do immediately that will reduce the various costs of your home over the long haul. You can read about them and click any of the links provided for more information.
1. Check The Insulation in Your Attic – And Install More If Needed.
Important: proper insulation keeps your home warmer in the winter but also cooler in the summer!
If you have an unfinished attic, pop your head up there and take a look around. You should see insulation up there between the beams, and there should be at least six inches of it everywhere (more if you live in the northern part of the United States).
If there’s inadequate insulation up there – or the insulation you have appears to be damaged – install new insulation. Here’s a great guide from the Department of Energy on attic insulation, including specifics on how much you should have depending on where you live. Many states offer financial incentives, up to a 75% refund for instance, to encourage homeowners to better insulate their homes.
2. Pay Your Mortgage On Time? Utilize Congress's Newly Passed "E.R.R." Program To Cut Your Mortgage Down
Still unknown to many is a brilliant Government Program called the Enhanced Relief Refinance Program (E.R.R.) that could benefit millions of Americans and reduce their payments by as much as $3,252 per year! You could bet the banks aren't too thrilled about losing all that profit and might secretly hope homeowners don't find out before time runs out.
So while the banks happily wait for this program to end, the Government is making a final push and urging homeowners to take advantage. This program is currently active but could be shut down at any given time in 2019. But the good news is that once you're in, you're in. If lowering your payments, paying off your mortgage faster, and even taking some cash out would help you, it's vital you act now and see if you could qualify for E.R.R. or a better rate in today's marketplace.
URGENT: So many homeowners could still benefit today, but sadly, many perceive E.R.R. to be too good to be true. Remember, E.R.R. is a free program and there's absolutely NO COST to see if you qualify and this can save you $271 every month on your mortgage bills.
3. Automate Your Thermostat & HVAC system
One of the easiest things you can do to instantly start saving money on your heating and cooling bills is to get an automated thermostat. These smart thermostats will learn when you are home and make sure the home is at a comfortable setting during those hours so you're not cooling the house when no one is around to enjoy it. They also learn when you're going to be home so they can adjust the temperature before you step in the door to ensure your house is always comfortable!
Last year I replaced all of the thermostats in my house with the Nest learning thermostat. It learns your schedule to keep your home comfortable when you are home. Nests’ are pricey, but according to the Nest website, some energy companies will give you a $249 Nest Thermostat free when you sign up for some of their plans. Definitely check with your utility provider to see what you can get from them.
4. Check Outlets & Power Cords
Electrical appliances are the 4th leading cause of fires in the home and many can be prevented by a simple check of the health of your cords and outlets.
All you have to do is walk around your home and inspect your cords, outlets and surge protectors. Make sure the cords are not frayed, especially paying attention to where they have to bend. Confirm there are not burn marks around any outlets and spend a minute or so with each outlet and surge protector listening for any zips or zaps. Replace any that do.
This is also a good opportunity to unplug any electrical devices that you don't regularly use and may be leaching electricity and costing you money (especially those that have those big black wall-wart transformers -- those are notorious for drawing power when the device they supply power to are off: you should be able to tell if the transformer feels warm to the touch).
5. Save On Monthly House-Related Bills & More!
Is maintaining the health of your house-related expenses as important as maintaining the house itself? We think "yes", so we've curated a short list of some of our favorite online offers for homeowners.
Full disclosure: This section of tips is sponsored, and allows us to keep writing and sharing helpful content with homeowners like you. If you do decide to take advantage of the following items, Home Garden Pro Tips may receive compensation. We've hand-picked and verified the offers to be relevant to our readers, but if you're not into that sort of thing, feel free to skip right along!
a. You May Qualify to Save Over $400 on Car Insurance. A really great money saving tactic homeowners can use is to bundle insurance plans. Many providers offer steep discounts for consolidating policies! One of the easiest tools for lowering rates is a fast and free price comparison courtesy of this Car Insurance Discount Calculator. Our partners there take a look at rates in your area, compare them to national providers and help you quickly find the lowest rates with just a few clicks.
b. Never Pay Out-of-Pocket For Home Repairs Again. Homeowners know better than anybody: if it can go wrong it will go wrong. When purchasing new construction, buyers are often given an option to purchase a home warranty that covers home repairs on everything from microwaves to roofs. What many people don't know is that almost any homeowner is eligible to get a home warranty for their existing homes. Think of it as insurance for the things that break all the time in your home.
d. Get Out of Tax Debt, Fast! For anyone with more than $5,000 in tax debt, this debt relief program may reduce the amount of money owed. The program can resolve debt without a loan, and many have become debt free in 24 – 48 months by using this one strategy. Those with over $5,000 or more in tax debt can click here to see if they qualify for reduced payments.
6. "Childproof" Your Outlets Even If You Don't Have Kids
Sticking a simple child proof plug into your electrical outlets could save you 5% on your energy bill this year. Who knew that doing something to protect your kids could also protect your bank account!
My first home which was built in 1999 had this next problem. The inside outlets located on the exterior walls were like mini vacuums when it came to transferring air from the inside to the outside.
If you have an older home or a poorly constructed home you’ve probably got the same problem.
Electrical outlet boxes typically don’t have any insulation behind them, creating what is basically a hole in your wall. On a windy day take some incense or a match and put it in front of an outlet (one without a plug in it of course) and see if you can see air movement. In my situation I noticed this during the winter when I felt a cold breeze coming through the outlets.
If you have an older home, the exterior walls may be poorly insulated. And when you have poorly insulated walls, the holes that your outlets are in can be areas where the outside cold/heat can enter your home.
A simple solution to this is to install child-proof outlet plugs in any unused outlet on an exterior wall. This will close the gaps and reduce the amount of air that can leak through. This trick costs less than $20 at your local hardware store and can save you hundreds a year!
Your mileage may vary on how effective plugging your outlets are, but it can be especially beneficial in older households with poor insulation. Think of air (a fluid) as water. If you stuck your home underwater, you'd want to plug up all the places where you found a leak!
7. Use WD-40 For EVERYTHING!
You already use WD-40 to loosen bolts and stop squeaking hinges, but did you know it could do these other amazing things around your house?
1. Waterproof your shoes and boots - WD-40 works by displacing water (WD stands for Water Displacement) so it can be a great waterproofer in a pinch if it's wet or snowy out!
2. Keep squirrels away from bird feeders - spray around your bird feeder and enjoy watching those pesky squirrels slip and slide right off (warning: the result is hilarious)
3. Get rid of sticky fingers - WD-40 dissolves tough sticky and gluey materials with ease
4. Remove floor scuff marks and oil spots - if mopping is not doing the trick, try WD-40 to remove tough scuffs and stains
5. Clean the toilet - remove lime stains from the toilet bowl by spraying in some WD-40, then just scrub with a toilet brush and flush
8. Change ALL Your Air Filters
Replace the air filter(s) in your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, to keep it running more efficiently.
Old filters have reduced air flow forcing your equipment to work harder. This causes parts like fans and blowers to wear faster, especially after a cold winter. A $10 filter can save you thousands on repair costs!
9. Clean Your Refrigerator Coils!
You can eliminate more than 70 percent of service calls with this simple cleaning step. Skip this chore and you’ll be contributing to your appliance repair technician’s retirement fund. Not to mention handing over $5 to $10 a month extra to your utility company because the fridge isn’t running efficiently.
Do it twice a year or more often if you have shedding pets. Their fur clogs up the coils fast.
Condenser coils are located on the back of the fridge or across the bottom. These coils cool and condense the refrigerant. When the coils are clogged with dirt and dust, they can’t efficiently release heat. The result is your compressor works harder and longer than it was designed to, using more energy and shortening the life of your fridge.
Clean the coils with a coil cleaning brush and vacuum. A coil cleaning brush does a thorough job and will easily pay for itself. The refrigerator coil brush is bendable to fit in tight areas. They can be used for cleaning your dehumidifier and air conditioner coils too.
10. Check for Air Leaks Around Windows
Want to save some real money on the energy bill? Make sure your home is shut tight by running a simple candle test.
Take a look at all places in your home where two different materials meet as well as external facing doors and windows. Hold a lit candle and slowly move it around the window frame to see if the flame follows a draft. A simple helping of caulk around these leaks could save you 5-15% on your heating and cooling costs.
You can even use weather sealing tape around windows instead of caulk, but the finished product will rely heavily on your ability to tape cleanly.
11. Shop Bulk and Save Big
Many people never even bother to look at some of the larger packages of nonperishable items – they think it’s just too much. Try looking at the cost per unit of all of the sizes and choose the one that’s the best deal. Check for coupons and coupon codes for items you go through a lot of. There are many coupon sites out there with updated daily deals on hundreds of items. Simply search for what you need (and don’t buy what you don’t need, even if it’s on sale!) and if a good enough coupon presents itself, buy it in bulk.
Spread out over months and over a lot of items (think of all of the nonperishables in your home, from salt and sugar to soap and shampoo – food is just the beginning), this can add up to a lot of trimmed wallet fat.
12. Leverage Your On-Time Utility Bill Payments to Instantly Raise Your Credit Scores With This Free Tool
Got lots of bills for home utilities and telecom? Pay them on time? If so, a new tool built by Experian® called Experian Boost™ lets you get extra credit for the bills you’re already paying to actually raise your credit scores. Until now, all those payments you were making had zero impact on your credit. This tool is totally free, and no credit card is required!
In addition to instantly improving your credit scores, Experian® Boost™ also gives you access to track and view your credit scores. You’ll be able to see all the factors that impact your FICO® score, visualize your progress over time, and receive customized alerts when your scores change. You may be able to raise your credit scores in a matter of minutes, so don’t delay! See what Experian® Boost™ can do for you today.
13. Save Money on New Windows, and Benefit from Greater Energy Efficiency
Many people opt to replace old drafty windows at home with new energy-efficient ones. Replacing old windows can also lower your utility bill by 40% per month and increase your home’s curb appeal.
You may also qualify to save $100s in seasonal discounts from manufacturers like Pella, Champion, and Andersen. Make sure you find the best price you can get by shopping around to compare pricing from local professionals.
14. Gutter Cleaning So Important
Leaky & clogged gutters could cost you tens of thousands of dollars!
Gutters are an integral piece of your home’s well being. They serve to control the flow of rainwater to protect your roof, walls, foundation and landscape.
But when neglected, experts say gutters can turn from a necessity to a nightmare. A gutter clogged with leaves, sticks and other debris can cause a leaky roof or water damage to the interior or exterior of your home. Contractors say gunked-up gutters also make nice homes for pests, rodents, mold and honeycombs from bee infestations.
Although cleaning gutters is a task most homeowners can do themselves, it can be dangerous work. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, falls from ladders sent more than 240,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms in 2009 (the most recent year available).
During a cleaning, a professional should remove of all debris from the roof, gutters and downspouts, while checking and repairing any loose gutter spikes. The cost of gutter cleaning ranges from $75 to $225 for an average home, depending on the length of gutters, height of the home and scope of work. Most companies charge a flat fee per foot of gutter, but the cost can go up depending on the complexity of the work.
15. Use Colored Dye to Check for Toilet Leaks
Water leaking from your toilet tank will not only cost you money when it comes to your utility bill, but it can also cause water damage to your bathroom floor and premature wear of your toilet’s internal workings.
To check if your tank is leaking drop some food coloring in the water tank and check an hour later. If the bowl shows signs of coloring (like turns pink if you use red dye) you have a bad flapper.
If you find that your toilet is leaking from the tank to the bowl, the flapper needs to be replaced. Grab yourself a new flapper kit from Lowe's or Home Depot and check out YouTube for some great instructional videos!
16. Clean Out Your Dryer Lint Vent
Corral those lint bunnies. Those deceptively harmless looking little fluffs love to snuggle down in your dryer vents and lint traps. Before you know it, they multiply like, well, rabbits. Dryer lint is extremely flammable if you let it build up in the vents. You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can do it yourself and buy a vacuum attachment made specifically for cleaning out dryer vents.
Chances are this task has not been done in years. It's okay! You know what you have to do, and you'll feel better and more safe once it's done. This will not only save you money, it will protect you, your family, and your valuables.
17. Maintain Your Sump Pump
Most sump pumps are equipped with water level or flood alarms, usually battery powered, that alert you if the pump isn't working properly and water is backing up. More sophisticated systems can notify your alarm company or call your cell phone if the water starts to rise. Fortunately, this shouldn't happen often. Sump pumps on the whole are quite reliable. But as with any other important piece of equipment, regular maintenance is always a good idea. Spend a few minutes every couple of months, when heavy rains are forecast and in early spring to ensure reliable sump pump operation. Basic sump pump maintenance is usually as simple as doing these few jobs.
18. Water Heater Flushing - So Hot Right Now
Regularly flushing out your water heater is an important task. Getting rid of the gunk and mineral deposits that accumulate will help your hot water heater run more efficiently as well as prolong its life, saving you money in the long run.
Depending on your model, aim to flush your water heater every one to three years. Really, the job is so easy, it wouldn’t be a bother to do it at least once a year.
However, if your heater is old and has never been flushed, it may be better to call a professional to get advice specific to your situation. On the same note, if you're not comfortable with the follow steps, always err on the side of caution.
That's it! Simple right? Once completed, just follow the steps in reverse order to get the system back up and running.
19. Replace Your Inefficient Bulbs With LEDs
If you’ve never updated the lightbulbs in your home, consider switching to LEDs. These bulbs are about four times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and last for many years. One tip: When comparing bulbs, use the lumens number to compare bulbs, not the equivalent wattages. Lumens indicate the actual amount of light emitted by the bulb.
Remember also that under normal usage (four hours a day) and average electrical rates ($0.12 per kilowatt hour), replacing a 60-watt bulb with a 14-watt LED saves about $0.66 per month. Now multiply that by all the bulbs in your house to see how much you’ll save every month. Even switching just the five most-used light bulbs in your home could save you upwards of $40 a year on your electric bill.
Source Vital Home Maintenance by Marie Laurent