Each summer, my husband and I find ourselves paging wistfully through home improvement magazines and wandering through the aisles of the local hardware superstore. Since we are old house enthusiasts, we certainly always have projects that we could (and should) be working on in our 1940 Cape Cod. But for right now, we need to focus on the less glamorous aspect of home improvement—the projects that will help our bottom line. Here are some of the home improvement projects that ultimately save homeowners money:
1. Insulation. This was one of the best investments we made in our previous house. Making sure that your house is properly insulated will save you money throughout the year as it helps your home keep cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Many old houses (ours included) may not have any insulation at all, and even those that are insulated may not have the appropriate R-value for your needs. An energy audit can help you decide where to focus your energy—whether in the insulation, windows and doors, or air ducts.
2. New appliances. Outdated and inappropriately sized appliances can be big energy drains. Upgrading to energy-efficient kitchen and laundry appliances can save you a lot of money while also improving the look of two of your most often used rooms. ENERGY STAR appliances have been vetted by the government program that promotes energy efficiency—so it’s easy to find new refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers that will work better and save you money. Just look for the ENERGY STAR logo.
3. Roofing. Having a high quality roof over your head doesn’t just help curb appeal; it can also save you money. Keeping your roof maintained will help it to last longer, meaning fewer costly replacements. Lighter color roofs can also help to keep a home cooler in the summer, saving you money on your energy bills. If you have to replace your roof, it’s better to spend money on a good (and long-lasting) replacement than to simply throw the cheapest option on your house. It will be worth the investment in the long run.
4. Windows. New windows are another place where you can both beautify your home and help your bottom line. When you replace windows in your home, you have the opportunity to weatherize anew, making sure that there are no air leaks or gaps that will have your energy budget literally going out the window.
5. Landscaping. This is one of the most satisfying types of home improvement projects, as it both gives you a beautiful end-product and a smaller energy bill. You can plan out your landscaping so that you take advantage of something known as a windbreak—the planting of shrubs and trees so that your home is protected from the elements.
Don’t forget, while you are planning your DIY projects this summer, that there are still tax breaks available for homeowners who improve their home’s energy efficiency. Though the tax credit has decreased from its 2010 high, it is still worth 10% of the cost of the home improvement project, up to $500.
Making your home more comfortable and cheaper to live in is a wonderful goal of home improvement. So even if these are not the glamorous projects that you might dream about from the innumerable home magazines, they’re still worth your time and energy.