There has been a home improvement boom across America over the last 18 months. The upheaval of the pandemic has meant that many of us have been spending more time working and socializing at home, and that has caused the boom in home improvement projects. One study claims that 3 out of 4 households in America have completed a home improvement project since the outbreak of Covid-19, and a similar number plan to do a project in the future.
Home improvements projects can be costly, but making smart decisions might help you save money in the long run. Below we are going to look at five areas where money can be saved and which are worth thinking about if you have a project in mind. As you might expect, heating, cooling and energy expenditure are the main areas where savings can be made, but it’s not always straightforward. Where possible, we have done some rough math in each area to demonstrate the potential savings.
The average life expectancy of a furnace is around 15-20 years, although some might last for 30 years or more. Most of us will simply wait until the furnace breaks beyond repair before we consider replacing it. The issue is that the furnaces you can buy today are so much more cost-effective than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
What are the best furnaces? It’s a matter of opinion, but there are options to suit every type of home and budget. The average heating bill for Americans is somewhere in the region of $1500 per annum, but this is going to vary by region (someone in Minnesota would pay a lot more than a homeowner in Arizona). As such, it can be difficult to calculate. But if the efficiency of your furnace improves from, say, 80% to 95%, the average homeowner can save around $225 dollars per year – much more for bigger homes in colder regions.
Replacing your old thermostat with a smart option is a great idea to help save money and live more comfortably. The options are endless, ranging from Google’s multi-functional Nest to specific devices like Hive. While smart thermostats are relatively cheap – the latest Nest doesn’t cost much more than $200 – they obviously must be compatible with your heating and air conditioning systems, so it’s another reason to upgrade the furnace to the latest model.
As for the savings, some estimates put it at around 10-12% per annum for heating and 10%-15% for cooling. Again, the cash savings are going to vary based on many factors – but take a look at your bills and see if the math works for you.
The regulation of lightbulb efficiency has actually become a political hot potato in the 21st century. Former President Donald Trump rolled back some of the Bush-era regulations, but it really does make sense to install the most energy-efficient lightbulbs throughout your home. Around 5% of the typical household energy bill goes on lighting. Again, that might not sound like much.
But the Department of Energy believes you can save around $45 per year by replacing the five most frequently used lights in your home with more efficient bulbs. It does not need to be expensive lightbulbs – simply look for those that have earned the ENERGY STAR. As an aside, some experts claim that ultra-efficient bulbs produce around 75% less heat, thereby saving money on cooling – although it might only be a very small amount.
This is a big decision and one that is not always as straightforward as it looks. Luckily, an article in The Spruce did the math for us. The average cost of replacing one window in a home comes in at $650; you can assume that includes adding insulation around the frame too. The upper estimate of savings from new windows with good insulation is $465 per annum. So, a rough calculation says that it would take 14 years to earn the money back through energy savings.
But remember that is the upper estimate of the savings – it could be much less. And yet, unlike the other products on this list – windows are supposed to be aesthetically pleasing. So, when doing the cost-benefit analysis, you should take into account that new windows can make an attractive addition to your home, with any savings considered a bonus.
Home improvement projects might entail upgrading appliances. Should you immediately chuck out your washer, dryer and dishwasher? No. But this is more of a general consideration to think about when you do decide to replace them. As with the lightbulbs, you should look out for the ENERGY STAR label. It applies to many common appliances, including air-conditioning units.
One study claimed that Americans would save $1.5 billion each year if every clothes dryer in the country had the efficient ENERGY STAR rating. But the dryer is not the biggest energy drainer in the home – that ‘honor’ goes to the refrigerator. An energy-efficient refrigerator can save a homeowner around $200 over its 12-year lifespan. Again, you are not going to make a profit on your purchase, but it is worth factoring it in when you are looking to replace it.