Congratulations on your new home! Home ownership is one of the great milestones in life. It shows you’ve made it. You’ve got stability and security. You’re dependable. Nice going!
Now, all you have to do is move in and begin enjoying that unique and wonderful lifestyle…
But with the circus comes the monkeys. Before you lose that dewy-eyed wonder at your good fortune, take a hard-headed look at your new domicile to make sure it’s going to be a Shangri-La and not a money pit. As wise old Ben Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are 19 hacks that can save you money upfront with your new home:
1. Check Your Attic Insulation
An unfinished attic needs at least six inches of insulation between the beams. And if you live up north in places like Minnesota or Maine, you should have more than that.
If your insulation is insufficient or looks damaged, don’t wait to repair and replace it. Quite a number of northern states offer incentives such as refunds to motivate new homeowners to upgrade the insulation in their homes.
2. Set Your Hot Water Heater Thermostat
Check out the setting on your hot water heater. If it’s set any higher than 120 degrees, you should immediately lower it. Anything above that is going to have the potential to scald you. Who needs that? A lower thermostat always means a lower utility bill.
3. Insulate Your Hot Water Heater
You can buy an inexpensive insulating blanket at any hardware store that fits around your heater. Why pay to heat the air around your hot water heater? Besides, if the power (or gas) ever goes out, you’ll keep your water hot (or at least warm) for several hours.
DON’T cover the top or bottom of your heater, or near the pilot light.
4. Install Ceiling Fans
Besides giving your house that elegant Casablanca look, ceiling fans are an economical way to keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter — they circulate the air so it doesn’t become layered. The key is to have the air blowing down on you in the summer and sucked up from you in the winter.
5. Wrap The Water Pipes
Wrapping exposed pipes will preserve the heat of your hot water so it arrives at your faucet at just about the same temperature as when it left the heater. With immediate hot water gurgling out of the faucet, you won’t be tempted to let it run for a minute or two, which can save you a pretty penny over the years. You can buy good inexpensive pipe wrapping at any hardware store, and if you can do papier mache, you can do the wrapping yourself.
6. Get An Automatic House Thermostat
Programmable thermostats are standard issue in newly constructed houses, but if you’ve purchased an older house, you’d better check to see what kind of thermostat you have.
With an automated thermostat, you can schedule ahead for days, weeks, even months to control when you want the most heat and chill. That way, you can be gone all day to work, or all week on vacation, and not have to worry about a monstrous fuel bill.
The new programmable thermostats are easy to install. All you need is a screwdriver and a pair of needlenose pliers.
7. Check Those Furnace Filters
Your HVAC uses air filters, and they probably have not been changed while your house was on the market — which could be anywhere from several months to a year. One of the first things you should do when you move in is go down to the basement/HVAC unit and find the filter(s). Write down the measurements on the side and go down to your local hardware store and buy several of them so you can replace them frequently. They are lightweight and you normally need no tools to replace them. It’s best to handle them with gloves because the filter fibers can be a bit prickly on your bare hands. Leaving the old filters in reduces the effectiveness of your furnace/air conditioner and gives your air a hint of staleness.
8. Check The Vents
While you’ve still got that “new house momentum” going, take a moment to check all the vents in the house to see how much dust and gunk buildup there is. If you can see those little dust bunnies peeking out at you, unscrew the vent screens and get cleaning. All that dust and gunk is nothing but a hotbed for bad odors and particles that can trigger allergies.
9. Don’t Let Your House Crack Up!
Many houses have small cracks in the basement/foundation from settling. As long as these are not growing, you don’t have to worry about them. Just plug them with some putty from the hardware store to keep out the bugs and forget about ‘em.
To find out if your little cracks have ambitions to become bigger cracks (which can spell major foundation repairs down the road), cover both ends of the crack with some masking tape and then date it. Check every few weeks to see if the cracks are extending beyond the tape. If they are, you’ll have to call in an expert to avert a Walls of Jericho scenario. The earlier you catch it, the less expensive and extensive it should be.
10. Clothesline = Lower Utility Bills
Your lovely new house has a dandy dryer, or if it doesn’t you’re already eyeballing the specials online and in the newspaper to see who’s offering the best deals on one.
But just wait and consider: home dryers are a major cause of home fires when they overheat, and they can eat up a huge amount of electricity or gas.
So, why not consider a clothesline in your laundry room and also outside? If you’re serious about shrinking your carbon footprint, this is a great way to do it while reducing your utility bills. Plus, nothing smells as good as clothes fresh off the clothesline.
Of course, there will be rainy and snowy days to contend with, so don’t throw out your existing dryer; keep it for a rainy day and for emergencies. A circular “merry-go-round” clothes pole is great for backyards with limited space.
11. Look For Leaks
Dripping pipes are one major cause of mold inside homes. You do not want to have to tell your insurance company that a leaky pipe in the basement has nurtured a fungus farm behind the wallboard. To prevent that, check all exposed pipes and under every sink and around every faucet. Look for signs of rust and water spots. Discovered leaks should immediately be fixed — a plumber working for a half hour is much less expensive and easier to find than a plumber working for several hours.
12. Use LED And CFL Light Bulbs
In some parts of the country, the zoning and residential laws already mandate the use of these instead of incandescent bulbs. But whatever the rules are where your house is, you should make the effort to install them, especially where lights tend to be left on for a long time, like the kitchen and living room, or where they are accidentally left on, like the garage or basement. They may be a little bit more expensive upfront, but they last longer than the old type of bulb, so you save money in the long run. And check your house insurance; some companies will give you a rebate or lower rates for using LED and CFL bulbs.
13. Check The Energy Ratings On New Appliances
If your house came fully furnished, then skip this section. Otherwise, please shop carefully when buying appliances — even a toaster or microwave! Always check the energy rating that’s posted on the side of the box or item. As with LED lights, you may have to pay a bit more upfront, but in the long run you’re saving money with appliances that will use less electricity and last longer.
14. Be Smart With SmartStrips
You don’t need to be told to plug all your electronics into surge protectors. It would be idiotic not to take that simple precaution against an electrical surge that could fry thousands of dollars worth of electrical equipment in your house.
You should be just as smart about SmartStrips. A few of these installed around your new home will significantly impact your electric bill for the better. These handy-dandy items sense when an electronic device, like a TV, is on standby mode, not being used, and will cut the power to it until it is switched on again. In the long run, this saves you mucho dinero.
15. Plant Shade Trees Near Your House
Deciduous trees, prudently placed around your home, can provide a cooling canopy during the summer months — this will make a noticeable difference in your utility bill.
If you’re after some wildlife, then you can also plant fir trees, but much further away from the house. They not only attract birds and other critters, but that touch of green during a long bleak winter can be very comforting. And most pinecone seeds are edible — if you can get to them before the squirrels do. Mature trees also usually increase your property value.
Remember not to plant your shade trees too near to your home — you don’t want them warping a wall or choking your sewer pipes with roots.
16. Throw Out The Old Locks
You really have no idea who might have a key to your new house, no matter what kind of assurances you get from the people selling it or the realtor. To avoid a nighttime visit from the former owner’s crazy Aunt Matilda, you should immediately hire a reputable locksmith or home security company to have the front door, back door, and garage locks changed. Of course, if you’re handy with things, you can do all this yourself, since complete lock sets are available at any hardware store. But be aware that hardware stores don’t always stock the professional brands that can really stymie a burglar bent on getting into your home.
And while you’re at it, get a couple sets of spare keys for emergencies — and for your own crazy Aunt Matilda!
17. Make It Airtight
Newer homes are fairly airtight, so there isn’t much you should have to do to them outside of checking the weatherstripping and replacing it if it’s worn or has gaps in it.
Older homes will need some work. Windows are the major culprit in heat loss during cold weather. Check your city and county weatherization programs to see how much, if any, of the cost of replacing old rattling windows they will reimburse you for. It might pleasantly surprise you how much you are eligible for.
18. Take Advantage Of Energy Tax Credits And Other Government Goodies
There are all sorts of tax advantages to owning a home instead of renting. Hopefully, you’ve already gotten with an accountant to take full advantage of these. But you may not know about federal programs in your area that allow you to claim an energy tax credit; the same goes for your state, county, and city or township. They all have programs, usually federally mandated and funded, to help homeowners increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Some of these programs are based on your income, but some of them simply have gobs of grant money to shower on whoever shows up first to claim it. Solar power tax incentives are probably one of the most common and easy to get installed. Depending on your state, you will have the option of leasing the equipment or simply buying it outright.
19. Create A Checklist
Before you settle back and become a couch potato in your new home, compile a maintenance checklist for your home and swear by the unholy mortgage you are carrying that you will follow through with it on at least a monthly basis. Checking on things like air filters, foundation cracks, weatherstripping, etc., will help extend the viability of all the nuts and bolts that make up your home and hopefully save you from ever having to call in a contractor for major repairs.
Again, wise old Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about because he also said: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com