Call In A Pro—For Free!
When looking to save, start with a home energy audit. This service, which many utility providers offer for free, identifies ways to increase your home’s energy-efficiency. Making a few of the recommended changes could reduce home heating and cooling costs by hundreds of dollars a year.
Related: 7 Things to Do Right Now for a Warmer Winter
Plug it Up
Holes, cracks, and gaps can send heat flying out the window—along with your hard-earned cash! Carefully inspect windows, doors, walls, and ductwork for any air leakage, then use weatherstripping or caulk to seal up any leaks. Merely eliminating drafts and air leaks can reduce a home's heating and cooling costs up to 10%.
Related: 11 Ways to Winterize Your Home on a Budget
Get With the Program
Savvy homeowners already know that heating or cooling an empty house is a big waste of money. That's why many people turn down the thermostat before heading to work or off to bed—until they forget, that is. A programmable thermostat does the work—and money-saving—for you, by dutifully lowering or raising the temperature according to your schedule and putting back $180 or more in your pocket each year.
Related: The Best 9 Smart Home Gadgets of 2015
Check Those Bills
Don’t assume your utility bill is correct! Your bills are often based on estimated usage, so it doesn’t hurt to double-check your meter readings to confirm that the bill is accurate. Cut costs elsewhere by shopping around for homeowner’s insurance. Before you renew your existing policy, check out rates with competing companies to see if you can lower your annual premium. Consider raising your deductible; in some cases this can reduce your annual premium by several hundred dollars.
Related: 8 Things New Homeowners Waste Money On
Grow Your Own
Don’t throw away money on herbs that rapidly wilt in your fridge—plant your own windowsill garden and enjoy fresh flavors all year long. Keep the pots in a sunny window during the winter, then move them outside onto the patio during the summer. A single pack of herb seeds costs only $1 to $2 a pack—and will allow you to harvest more than you can use.
Related: 9 Bright and Colorful Houseplants You Can't Kill
Saving While Bathing
Being water smart is as good for your wallet as it is for the environment. To save money, switch to showers rather than baths; a five-minute shower uses half the hot water that a bath uses. For even more savings, install aerators to shower heads and faucets. An aerator saves you money by mixing air into the water leaving the faucet to reduce water consumption. Adding an aerator to every faucet in the house reduces an average household's water consumption by 700 gallons per year, for a savings of $48 per month.
Related: 10 Life-Changing Buys to Help You Survive Winter Mornings
The major appliances are some of the biggest energy users in your home, and how you maintain them dictates how efficiently they perform. To keep your fridge in top condition, and to trim your energy bill, thoroughly vacuum the refrigerator coils at least every three months to eliminate the dust and dirt build-up that makes the fridge work harder.
Related: 10 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Kitchen Ever
You can save a lot of energy in the kitchen simply by changing your cooking habits. Use slow cookers, small electric skillets or grills, or microwaves to cook meals whenever possible. These small countertop models can be up to 75% more energy-efficient than stoves and ovens. When you do use the stove, keep the burners and reflectors clean so that they reflect heat better and work more efficiently.
Related: 9 Brilliant Cleaning Hacks Everyone Should Know
Sock Away Money
The average American family washes 300 loads of laundry each year, which adds up to a lot of energy and water consumption. By using Energy Star-certified washers, you'll reduce your energy usage by 25% and use 40% less water, saving more than $40 per year. To save an extra $50 each year, wash and rinse clothes in cold water.
Related: 8 "Zero Dollar" Laundry Room Hacks
Hang Out to Dry
The most efficient laundry dryer is the one you don't use, so opt for line drying whenever possible to save money. When drying laundry in a clothes dryer, make sure you are filling it at least halfway full. If you need to dry only one or two items quickly, try adding a couple completely dry towels to the drum before turning on the cycle. A full—but not overloaded—dryer dries promotes better air circulation, drying clothes faster and leading to lower energy costs. It is important to clean the lint screen and exhaust vent on the dryer regularly to minimize drying time and energy usage.
The water-conserving dual-flush toilet saves you money every time you flush. This low-flow toilet lets you select one of two flush options, depending on the type of waste you're flushing, which reduces the amount of water you send down the drain.
Related: The Toilets of Tomorrow
Refinance Your Mortgage
Finally, check into refinancing your mortgage to lower the rate and term. Lowering the rate from 7% to 6.5% on a 15-year, $100,000 fixed-rate mortgage can save you more than $5,000 in interest charges over the life of the loan. Making extra, principal-only payments also can reduce the amount of interest that you pay, and the length of your loan.
Usually, it feels like you spend copious amounts of money to maintain your home. However, with these changes, your house could end up helping you save money.
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!