Although we’re getting a slight break in the latest Steel City cold spell, winter has been in full force…which means you’re likely to be spending a lot more time indoors!
The first few months of the year are a great time to tackle some simple projects around the house that can increase your comfort, cut energy costs, and improve your family’s health. Many of the items on the following home improvement checklist are easy DIY tasks, so you can save even more money.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
– Upgrade your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
With the house closed up and the furnace and fireplaces going, it’s essential to have working smoke and CO detectors. For around $40, you can get a combination unit that contains both types of sensors. Better still is an interconnected system, which sets off all the alarms in the house when any single unit detects a hazardous condition.
– Change the furnace filter.
Most filters should be replaced every couple of months, an easy DIY task. A simple flat filter is pretty inexpensive at a home center, but it’s worth upgrading to a high-efficiency pleated filter which has increased surface area to trap mold spores, pet dander, and other allergens.
– Vacuum out dryer and kitchen vents.
Now that the rush of holiday-season cooking and cleaning is over, take a look at your dryer and kitchen vents. Removing built-up lint and grease cuts down on fire risk and keeps those systems running more efficiently, which reduces energy costs. It’s a job for a pro, who has the equipment to access hard-to-reach ducts. Expect to pay around $100 to $150.
REPAIR & MAINTENANCE:
– Take care of the little things.
Like contractors, handymen also tend to be less busy in the new year. A cost-effective strategy is to gang together small projects (dripping faucets, cracked plaster, paint touch-ups), and hire someone to do them all at once.
– Beef up insulation.
Adding fiberglass to your attic is one of the highest-value home projects, with a return on investment of 117%, per Remodeling magazine (average job cost: $1,268). Sealing air leaks into the attic can save you big, on both energy (up to 15% of your total annual bill) and potential repairs. In cold climates, poorly insulated attics are a chief cause of ice dams, which often lead to expensive roof damage.
– Install smart meters.
A programmable thermostat will pay for itself, saving about $180 a year in energy costs, according to Energy Star. A smart water meter can help conserve water and alert you to leaking or burst pipes.
– Retrofit fireplace doors.
An open firebox is notoriously inefficient, sucking warm air right up the flue. Adding glass doors doesn’t detract from the look, while making the fireplace much more effective at radiating heat. Although this should be common sense, doors are also a fantastic safety feature, keeping kids and pets from getting too close to that pretty flame. 😉