Few things can compare to the excitement that most people feel when they buy a home.
Unfortunately, people often also fear future expenses that can be both unexpected and costly. One of the best things that a homeowner can do is to prepare financially and plan to take certain money-saving actions starting on day one in their new home. To begin, one should create a list of potentially money-saving things that they can do right away.
Install More Insulation
Homes, particularly older ones, may be lacking when it comes to the amount and quality of attic insulation. As a result, homeowners may find themselves paying heating bills that increase over time. A simple way to determine if there is enough insulation is to look in the attic. When looking across the attic, take note of whether the floor joists are visible or if insulation is covering them. If they are visible and the insulation is even with or below them, then more insulation is required. If the joists cannot be seen, there is sufficient insulation. Add more insulation in any areas where it appears low. According to the Department of Energy, the recommended level of insulation is 10 to 14 inches. In northern climates, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association recommends deeper levels of insulation up to 18 inches. Another benefit, depending on the state, is the potential for a refund of a certain percentage of the cost.
About Insulation: How Much Do I Need? Most homes do not have enough insulation, according to the Insulation Institute. Visitors to their website can learn how to tell how much they have and how much they need.
Adding Attic Insulation: The R-value of insulation is the measurement of its ability to prevent the transfer of heat in and out of a room. Energy Star talks here about how much insulation homeowners need to have and what R-values are best for a home.
Adjust the Water Heater Temperature
Lowering the temperature of the hot water heater is one of the simplest and least expensive things that a homeowner can do, and it not only helps to reduce one's energy bill but also can prevent a child from serious injury due to scalding. The ideal temperature, which is sufficiently hot for most individuals, is 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot Water Temperatures: Excessively hot water can lead to injuries and even trips to the hospital due to scalding. The University of South Alabama provides answers about adjusting water temperatures in the home and how to do so.
Cover the Water Heater
The water heater is another place that benefits from insulation. In this case, insulation consists of a heater blanket or a pre-cut jacket that helps raise water temperatures by up to 4 degrees Fahrenheit and prevents the gradual yet expensive loss of heat. A person can tell if their heater requires this type of protection several ways. The first is by age: If it is an on-demand or tankless heater or one that's 10 years old or newer, chances are good that it is properly insulated already. If one is unsure of its age, touch its surface: A heater that's in need of insulation will be warm to the touch. When covering it, one should use caution to avoid covering the thermostat, burner compartment, or the top or bottom of the heater.
Savings Project: Insulate Your Water Heater Tank: Visit the U.S. Department of Energy website for detailed instructions on insulating hot water pipes. It includes a list of things one should buy to carry out the project as well as a video.
Install Ceiling Fans
The circulating air from a ceiling fan does more than just cool people down from the summer heat. Depending on the direction of the blades, they can also help make the home more energy-efficient in addition to helping people more comfortable in the winter. During the summer, adjust the blades to turn so that the air is blowing down toward the people in the room, allowing the thermostat to be set two degrees higher. Direct the air up and away from room occupants to force warm air from the ceiling downward and allow the homeowner to set the thermostat as much as two degrees lower in the winter. Place fans in bedrooms and in rooms where the family gathers. When buying a fan, select one that is Energy Star-rated and the appropriate size for the room, one that has a direction adjustment switch that can easily be adjusted by adults in the home, and one that has a style that fits with the rest of the room.
Ceiling Fans Add Comfort and Save Money: Consumer Reports has an article about how to find the right ceiling fan for the home. They talk about blade shapes, air flow in terms of cubic feet per minute, size, and more.
Insulate Any Exposed Water Pipes
Hot water travels from the heater to the faucet to give homeowners heated water. When these pipes are exposed, they can cool down the water, which leads to higher hot water settings and heating costs. Depending on the location of the pipes and how cold it is, this can cause as much as a four-degree drop in water temperature. To prevent this loss, conserve water and save energy by insulating pipes with foil, fiberglass, or foam sleeve insulation.
Insulating Hot Water Pipes (PDF): Visit Rutgers University to see a two-page document about insulating hot water pipes.
Replace Thermostats That Aren't Programmable
Homes have different heating and cooling needs based on the season, the time of day, and whether the home is occupied or not. Programmable thermostats allow homeowners to set how warm or cool their home is at any time for maximum efficiency. These are easy to install and program and can save people from having unnecessarily high energy bills. To program the thermostat, set it so that the heating or cooling systems are running as little as possible during the day when the home is empty and at night. Program it to turn on before the first person comes home, setting it at 78 degrees during the summer and 68 degrees in the winter for the most comfort without using an excessive amount of energy.
The Benefits of Programmable Thermostats: Programmable thermostats are as useful in the summer as they are in the winter. CBS Los Angeles offers readers advice on what kind of thermostat to buy, how to use it, and where to place it.
Change Air Filters
Replacing the air filters is one of the first things that one should do when moving into a new home. This is a simple process that can prevent a wide range of problems. Old filters collect pet dander, dust, and other contaminants and allergens that can prevent the HVAC unit from working efficiently. This can cause overheating due to decreased airflow and can make a home dustier than normal, negatively impacting air quality and one's health. Changing the filters should be repeated every three months at a minimum.
Time to Clean Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps: Visit the University of Nebraska Extension website for information about the benefits of changing air filters around the home.
Clean Dust From Vents
When cleaning the home for the first time, check the vents in every room. If any are covered, remove the covering or obstruction. Look at the visible part of the vents and also peer into them. If they are dusty or blocked in any way, brush the debris off or out of them. Clean, unobstructed vents allow for improved airflow and let the heating and cooling systems operate with less strain.
Air Ducts and Vents: Read an article here about how cleaning ducts and vents in the house can save up to 30 percent of heating and cooling costs.
Make Note of Cracks in the Basement
Look around the basement for any signs of cracks, even small ones. In some cases, cracks are non-problematic, won't grow, and are simply caused by settling of the foundation. In other cases, these cracks can get larger and can turn into costly problems. Keep track of all cracks that are there when one first moves in by taping over them with masking tape. Write the date on the tape and do nothing else for several months. At that time, recheck the areas to determine if the crack is getting longer or wider. Call a specialist if there's a change and address the problem early.
Basements: An article on the University of Wisconsin-Extension website gives readers tips on when to be concerned about cracks in a home's basement. It warns that water damage may result.
Doing laundry can put a strain on one's energy bill, particularly when it comes to running a clothes dryer. A quick way to immediately combat the expense normally associated with doing laundry is to avoid using the dryer. This can be done using a hanging clothes rack in the laundry room. Another option is to hang a clothesline outside during the summer, where the wind can do the drying. Although this can be inconvenient for some people, the benefits can make it worth the effort, particularly for people who have large families. A person only needs to hang up 20 percent of laundered clothing to reduce the costs normally associated with using a dryer.
Ditch Your Dryer: Green America offers readers advice on how to dry clothes without the use of an energy-hungry dryer. It also points out the safety factors and other benefits of not using a dryer.
Install Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
Every room in the home has lighting, and the wrong choice of light bulbs can result in wasted energy and contribute to a costly utility bill. Replace any incandescent bulbs that are currently in the home with energy-saving CFL or LED bulbs. The initial cost of these bulbs is higher than incandescents, but they use less energy and are longer-lasting. Of the two, CFL bulbs are cheaper, but they have a shorter lifespan than LEDs.
Fact vs. Fiction: CFL and LED Light Bulbs: For those hesitant to switch to energy-efficient bulbs, National Geographic dispells some myths that might be holding them back.
Buy Appliances That Are Energy-Efficient
When buying appliances for a new home, people should shop for energy-efficient, Energy Star-rated models. Although these appliances may be more expensive, efficient appliances are ultimately less expensive due to the amount of energy that's saved. Some homes may come with appliances, but if they aren't energy-efficient, one should consider replacing them, starting with the item that uses the most energy.
Energy Star Appliances: Energy-efficient appliances tend to cost more to buy than less efficient versions, but they make up for it in reduced energy costs. Texas A&M AgriLife explains the benefits of buying Energy Star-rated electronic devices in this article.
Eliminate the Risk of Phantom Loads
Electronics, even when turned off, continue to consume energy. This energy, which is called the phantom load or vampire power, keeps certain things running and up to date, such as the saved settings on a television. Because of the number of electronics in a home, it isn't feasible to unplug every device. To eliminate this power consumption that adds to one's energy bill, devices should be plugged into a power strip with a surge protector and a switch that can be turned off when device aren't being used. Alternatively, buy smart power strips that can detect when devices are idle and cut off the power to them.
What Is a Phantom Load, and How Much Is it Costing You? Electronic devices that use power while idle can cost hundreds of dollars every year in wasted energy. The Balance explains how they can account for up to ten percent of one's electricity costs.
Energy Vampires in the Home: Appliances that aren't being used may still be using electricity, putting a bite in a homeowner's wallet in the form of higher electricity costs. Michigan State University's website explains what devices use phantom power, where they're typically located, and how to identify them.
Trees add curb appeal to a home, but they are also a way to help homeowners save money. The right trees can also help control cooling and even heating costs. On the east, west, and northwest side of the home plant large deciduous trees that will provide shade and block the sun when it's at the hottest during the mid to late afternoon. The shade will help cool the home and reduce the need for air conditioning. Shade trees over air conditioning units can also help them to run more efficiently. During the winter, those same trees lose their leaves, allowing any sunlight to warm the home.
How to Plant Trees to Conserve Energy for Summer Shade: The Arbor Day Foundation has an article on this page about how to plant trees to conserve energy around the home. It includes an animated diagram of how it works.
Change the Locks
Changing door locks won't save money, but it will help prevent the theft of one's property or worse. Because one never knows how many copies of current keys are floating around, it's well worth the effort of installing new locks. This is a relatively simple and inexpensive task that one can do themselves. Ideally, it should be done before moving in.
Moving Tips: Things to Do Before Your Move: CBS Money Watch provides readers with a list of five things they should do when moving in. These include changing the door locks and reprogramming the garage door opener.
Test for Air Leaks
Older homes are susceptible to air leaks around doors, windows, and outlets. As a result, heating and air conditioning systems are forced to work harder and less efficiently. New homeowners should test their homes for airtightness, then caulk or weatherstrip any problem areas.
Sealing a Home's Air Leaks: Air leaking out of the home can remove undesirable odors and dust, but the same problems can also leak in, and it also means higher heating and cooling costs.
Look for Incentives and Benefits
Tax credits and incentives for home improvements may be available on a federal, state, or local level. One should verify whether the state or city where they live offers any special rebates or loans to homeowners. Additionally, some utility companies may also offer special benefits that can help save money, such as low- or no-cost energy audits.
Solar Tax Credits 101: Visit the Your Energy Colorado website for information about tax credits for solar energy options for the home.
Create a Maintenance Checklist and Plan
Performing maintenance on a routine basis is one of the most important ways to avoid spending large sums of money on repairs or improvements. Prior to moving, homeowners should create a maintenance list that outlines what and when tasks should be performed around the home. Upon moving in, run through the list and fulfill these maintenance needs for the first time.
The Annual Home Maintenance Checklist: Without the benefit of a plan, maintaining a home can seem like an overwhelmingly difficult and complicated set of tasks.