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8 Great Frugal Tool Options for Home Improvement Projects

by Frederick Edward on April 09, 2009

You probably already know that tackling home improvement projects on your own (or with some friends) is one of the best ways to build equity in your home. Skilled construction and remodeling labor commands a premium price in the U.S. By doing it yourself, you save the cost of that labor; plus you get the added satisfaction of showing off your improvements to your friends.

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10 Homeowner Secrets That Save You Money Now!

by Frederick Edward on March 04, 2008

This guest post comes courtesy of Fred at One Project Closer, a home improvement blog written by one of my friends. As a sign of how good of a friend he is, he still made to my wedding despite his basement being flooded by a burst water heater. And until I read his post, I had no idea he was late!

With rising energy prices, fear of a recession, and the stock market erasing the gains of the last six months, you’re probably looking to save wherever you can right? Well, today I have the opportunity to share ten fantastic tips you can use, many with hardly any up front investment whatsoever, right this very second to save yourself some money.

1. Insulate Your Hot Water Heater ($20.00 investment). Unless you have a newer tankless model, your hot water heater has a large reservoir of water it keeps constantly heated. Traditional hot water heaters are constructed with a relatively small layer of insulation between the inner water reservoir and the outer metal shell, requiring the heater to run frequently to keep the water hot. Manufactures under-insulate hot water heaters to keep the units small enough to fit into tight spaces. For about $20.00, you can find a hot water heater insulation wrap at your local home improvement big box. Upon installation, a typical homeowner will save between $3.00-5.00/month on energy costs.

2. Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater Temperature ($0 investment). Most people are very conscious of raising/lowering the thermostat on their central AC/heating system, but haven’t even considered lowering the temperature on their hot water heater. Your hot water heater should always be set to the lowest temperature that provides your household the hot water you need. Lowering the water temperature from 125 deg. to 115 deg. saves a typical homeowner about $3.00-$10.00.

3. Don’t Let the Water Run While You Wash Dishes ($0 investment). It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But the reality is that nearly all of the cost of running the water is in heating the water. Leaving the water running for 30 minutes could cost you as much as $3. Instead, use your dishwasher (just don’t use the built drying heater or a water heating option like sanitize rinse). Dishwashers use less than half of the water to perform the same task. Or, better yet, fill your sink basin and wash dishes with the water turned off. That method uses less than a quarter of the water of the first method.

4. Don’t Use Your Fireplace on Extremely Cold Nights ($0 investment). Traditional wood fireplaces require an open flu to allow smoke to escape. The air that’s leaving the house with the smoke has to be replaced with air from somewhere else. In most traditional setups, replacement air comes back into the house through pores open to the outside (outlets, leaky windows and doors, attic accesses, etc). On very cold nights, the cold replacement air coming into the house more than offsets any heat gained from the fire itself. As a result, using a fireplace on a cold night could cost $1.00-$3.00 in energy just to replace the lost heat.

5. Caulk Your Attic Access Door ($3.00 investment). Gaps in attic access doors allow heat to escape from the upstairs of your house. Since you don’t go up into the attic much anyway, caulk the rim of the door to prevent your energy from floating away. Estimated savings: $2.00-4.00 / month.

6. Replace Your Light Bulbs with Energy Efficient Models ($20.00-80.00 investment). Compact Fluorescent (CFL) technology has come a long way in the last 5 years. More than ever, CFLs look and behave just like incandescents. These bulbs use about 23% of the energy of their incandescent counterparts and last about 20 times longer. One 100-watt equivalent CFL can save a homeowner more than $60.00 over the course of its life. You shouldn’t wait for your incandescents to burn out either. Every day an incandescent burns, it wastes nearly 80% of the energy it uses. Since you’ll have to replace it when it burns out anyway, you should make the switch today.

7. Consider Replacing Your Refrigerator ($700-1000 investment). Refrigerators that are more than 10 years old use about 50% more energy than their modern counterparts. The older your model, the more inefficient it is. For models that are more than 20 years old, a homeowner can expect to recover the investment in as little as 2.5 years. If you can find a newer model on Craigslist or in the classifieds, you might realize a recovery period of as little as 1 year.

8. Change the Filter on your HVAC every 3-6 months ($5 investment). HVAC filters remove dust and allergens from your house as your HVAC circulates air for heating/cooling. These filters get dirty, eventually restricting air flow. When this happens, your furnace has to work harder to achieve the same temperature change – wasting energy. Changing the filter takes only minutes. If you haven’t changed your filter for more than a year, you can expect a ~$5.00/month savings in months where you run your HVAC the most.

9. Install (and use) a Programmable Thermostat ($50-$100 investment). Programmable thermostats allow you to adjust the temperature in your home based on the time of day, and day of the week. If no one is home during the day, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep the house at the same temperature. Typical homeowners can expect to see $10.00-$40.00 / month savings after installing these nifty little devices. Remember that a programmable thermostat will only save money if it’s programming features are actually used. So, get a programmable thermostat that’s easy to learn.

10. Set Your PC to Auto-hibernate ($0 investment). A computer, monitor, and printer can easily draw 300 watts. With electricity as high as $0.15/KWh, this equates to more than $1.00/day. If you only use your computer for 2 hours a day, setting the system to auto-hibernate (instead of leaving it on) saves as much as $25.00/month.

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