5 Home Improvements That Can Save You Money

by Emily Guy Birken · 6 comments

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 Outdated and inappropriately sized appliances can be big energy drains.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.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

KM July 15, 2011 at 7:02 am

One of my goals for home improvement is installing solar panels. The biggest portion of our roof faces south and is in sunlight the entire day. Not only will it prevent the heat from going into the house in the summer, I can see how the energy generated will save a ton on the electricity bill. Not to mention all the rewards we would get from the energy company and the tax break from the government.

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jim April 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm

How does installing solar panels prevent heat from going into the house in the summer? Everyone I know in Colorado that has done this has regretted it ’cause the sun NEVER stops in the summer and their houses get unbelievably HOT.

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guest in ca July 15, 2011 at 8:48 am

We live in an area with climate extremes – hot in summer, cold in winter. We planed fast-growing deciduous trees on the west & south side of our house close enough to shade us in the summer but let the sun through in the winter.

We also have a wide variety of fruit and nut trees on our property, & some of our shrubs & ground covers are herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage for example) which saves us grocery money over the years.

Our house has a lot of built-in storage, including drawers & cabinets in the bedrooms, which limits how much furniture we had to buy.

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bluesauger July 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Our house is only a few years old, so we haven’t had to do any major repair stuff. We’ve mostly been trying to focus on the landscaping; making sure then grass can stay alive in the Midwest heat and attempting to grow some herbs.

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Yes I Am Cheap July 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

The most common mistake we do is that we don’t switch off the lights and fans before we leave the room. If we do this religiously then we’ll certainly save some money and obviously contribute something to the environment.

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Whitney August 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Great list! I totally agree with things that are new and updated. Our A/C went out this year, but it was a blessing in disguise. It was 30 years old. Usually our bill in August is well over $300 (since we live in TX) but this year it was closer to $250. I am so glad we decided to just get it done!!!

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