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On television, home improvement projects go from start to finish in 60 minutes or less. You’ve probably thought while watching, “If I could get a project done in less than an hour, I’d definitely do it, but I don’t have all day or a whole weekend.”
If you’re one of those people, there’s good news: You don’t need to spend a lot of time to spruce up your home. Here are some ideas for quick projects that deliver big results.
CUT YOUR ENERGY BILLS
The furnace is the largest appliance in your house. Help it work more efficiently—and reduce the drafts that force it to work harder—with these suggestions.
Install a programmable thermostat
If your home is one of the millions in America that still has an old-fashioned dial thermostat that you manually adjust, according to the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association, it’s time to switch. Programmable thermostats allow you to automatically vary the temperature in the home throughout the day, so the heat is lowered while you are at work but then raised before you return, which is a money and energy saver. Also, dial thermostats contain mercury, which can affect the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system of people of all ages. Of great concern is mercury’s impact on children’s developing nervous systems, which can affect cognitive function. Because of these risks, 15 states have restricted the sale of mercury thermometers.
Fortunately, programmable thermostats are easy to install and relatively economical, costing $35 to $100, says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction, Inc., in Castle Rock, CO. “These help avoid discomfort by raising temperatures while you sleep or before you return home,” he says. “Most are simple to install yourself and the job takes about 45 minutes.” A screwdriver, drill and possibly touch-up paint are all you need to start saving money on your heating bills.
Seal out drafts
Weatherstripping around windows and doors can stop chilly air from making your home feel less than cozy. Permanent weather stripping, which has adhesive, is recommended around doors and windows that are opened through the season. For windows that will stay shut until spring, consider temporary weather seals or sealant that peels off when it’s no longer needed. This will make your home more comfortable while ensuring your furnace won’t have to work so hard to warm your house.
Drain your water heater
Water contains sediment that can collect at the bottom of your water heater. These particles will create insulation over time that will force your heater to work harder to get you a hot shower. The extra temperature stresses the metal, causing leaks. To counter this, simply drain a quart of water from your hot water heater once every three months. Check your owner’s manual for instructions.
SPRUCE UP YOUR SPACE
Update your hardware
The most time-consuming part of this job might be selecting the new doorknob, door or drawer pull from the dizzying amount of choices at your local home improvement center. But once you make your purchase, installation in many cases requires nothing more than a screwdriver. If you’re placing pulls on doors that never had them before, create a template out of wood or cardboard that will ensure you drill your holes in the same spot on each cabinet door. And while you’re at it, install childproof locks that will stop either your kids, grandkids, visitors or pets from getting into unsafe places.
Switch out your faucet
Sick of your drab, impossible-to-clean or leaky faucet? If you can wield a wrench, you can install a new one quickly and easily. Simply unscrew the connections from your old faucet and screw in your new faucet. Just remember to turn off the water supply before you start the job, and you’ll be done quickly (with no spills to clean up). This is an easy solution that can help update your kitchen or bath. Add an aerator, and you’ll lower your water bill as well.
Freshen up an old room with paint
Pick a bold paint color. Then use it to paint just one wall in a room. It will cost less and won’t take as much time as painting the whole room.
PUT SAFETY FIRST
Clean out your dryer ducts
Ever sense that your dryer doesn’t work as quickly as it used to? Lint could be the culprit. But buildup not only affects efficiency, it also increases your risk of fire. In fact, “failure to clean” is the leading cause of clothes dryer fires, according to the U.S. Fire Protection. To clean your ducts, you’ll need a vacuum and some muscle to move your dryer away from the wall. Once it’s unplugged, disconnect the ductwork and vacuum as well as you can.
Inspect your electrical
Conduct an audit of your electrical outlets. Insert outlet covers into unused plugs and covers over power strips and secure any loose wires as childproofing measures. Look for overloaded circuits and power cords and adjust as necessary. Frayed cords should be replaced as should any light switch that is hot to the touch and cords that run under carpets, which are all fire hazards.
Replace your furnace filter
To improve air quality as well as efficiency, furnace filters should be checked for dirt monthly and changed at least every three months, according to the Department of Energy. A new filter will substantially lessen airborne dust particles. If you have allergies, you might want to invest in a better filter. Replacement is a cinch. Just swap the old one for a new one and you’re done.
CLEAN UP OUTDOORS
Don’t be surprised if a pressure washer becomes your new favorite household gadget. It has a multitude of uses and gets big jobs done quickly.
De-grime your house
With a pressure washer, there’s no need to crawl on the roof to clean your gutters. Just aim and spray. A pressure washer also cleans grime off your gutters as well as your vinyl siding and can be used to clean your second floor windows. Just make sure that all your windows are securely closed before you start.
Scrub your pathways
Sidewalks, walkways, and driveways can become stained by wet leaves, mildew and automotive leaks. A power washer can get rid of these eyesores.
Do an end-of-summer cleanup
Have patio furniture, kids’ toys, and inflatable pools that need to be scrubbed down before they’re stored away, but don’t want to spend hours wielding a scrub brush? A pressure washer can get the job done quickly.
Build raised flowerbeds
These beds, made from durable pressure-treated wood, make your yard look more organized. Add landscape fabric to the base and you can stop the growth of messy-looking weeds as well.
You can build an 8-foot-square garden bed in less than an hour. All you need are eight, 8-foot long sections of pressure-treated lumber, screws, construction adhesive and landscape adhesive. With a drill and a saw, you simply cut pieces to size and secure them together. Add dirt and you can start planting. Visit here for more information on this project.
SMALL PROJECTS, BIG IMPACT
Maintaining and improving your home can seem like a job in itself, but it doesn’t have to. Small projects that can be done quickly can greatly improve the appearance of your home without taking up an entire weekend.