People often use the coming of a New Year as a springboard for self-improvement, whether it's quitting a bad habit, or shedding a few excess pounds of weight. Why not use the same principle for a little home improvement? The New Year is a great time to start working on those home improvements, repairs and maintenance projects that you might have been putting off, before things escalate to unmanageable costs and expenditures.
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Get an Energy Audit
One of the first things on your to-do-list should be an energy audit. Hiring a professional energy auditor to assess your home's energy consumption may seem like an unnecessary expenditure. However, making your home more energy efficient can lead to more money saved over time. An energy auditor can point out poor insulation and air leaks throughout the home, which are common causes of increased utility bills over the winter. (For more, read 6 Ways To Save On Your Utility Bill.)
Improve Your Insulation
As stated above, poor insulation can be quite costly, especially during the winter months. What many people fail to realize is that poor insulation affects utility bills in the summer, as well. If your home is not properly insulated, you will end up spending more money on gas and electricity trying to keep it warm over the winter and cool during the summer. This makes insulation improvements an important task on your New Year's to-do-list for cutting costs in your home.
Look for Drafts
The final step in weatherizing your home for this New Year's home improvements is to check for drafts around walls, ceilings, doors and windows. After locating any air leaks, begin plugging them up with caulk, foam, tape or some other form of weather-stripping material. If you don't feel confident in doing it yourself, you can hire a contractor to do the job for you.
Start Buying Energy Efficient Appliances
According to the United States Department of Energy, home appliances and electronics make up 20% of your energy bill. From the living room television, to the refrigerator in the kitchen, replacing old appliances with new, Energy Star rated appliances can help save you money over time. Not only will you be saving money on your electric bill, but you'll also be saving the environment as well. Now that's a New Year's resolution worth making.
Get Organized and Ditch the Rental Storage Space
Many people find the need to rent a monthly storage space to store anything they can't fit in their home. In reality, most of these people would have sufficient space at home if they just took the time to do a little organizing. Consider clearing out the clutter in your garage and closets by having a yard sale. You can also donate any furniture, clothing or other household items that have been gathering dust in the attic to create more storage space.
This New Year, embrace Green Living by making your home more eco-friendly. Instead of tossing glass, aluminum and plastic bottles or containers in the trash, keep them in separated bins. Then, head down to your local recycling center and get a couple bucks back for being environmentally conscious. Also consider going paperless to minimize waste. You can pay bills and manage your banking online, while utilizing email instead of snail mail to make your home paper-free.
Stop Buying Bottled Water and Get a Water Filter
Cut costs on your grocery bill by installing a water filter on your kitchen sink for drinking water instead of buying bottled water. While city tap water is regulated and should be safe enough to drink by itself, a water filter can provide that fresh, clean taste without having to spend as much on bottled cases of water. This is another New Year's task that can save you money while you save the environment by minimizing plastic pollution.
Refresh Your Home by Repainting a Room
Instead of going for a full remodel, you can refresh and update an old home with a simple paint job. Painting a room with a bold color, or multiple colors can bring new life to a ho-hum interior. If you feel reluctant about using loud colors that aren't typically on your home palette, do a little experimenting by painting an accent wall instead of the entire room. Worst case scenario, you can simply repaint the wall to match the original color scheme.
Improve Your Home Safety
Remember when you took the batteries out of the smoke detector for the TV remote in the living room? The New Year is a great time to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. While you're at it, check and see that the fire extinguisher you've had since the 1980s still works. These tasks can prove to be invaluable on the off chance a real emergency like a gas leak or fire occurs.
Plan out Dinner Menus for the Upcoming Year
Your final task for your New Year's home improvement list is to start planning out your dinners for the upcoming year. Many people find themselves eating out more when they have no idea what to prepare for themselves at home. Even consider buying yourself new cooking tools to experiment with dishes you've never served at home before, like a deep-fryer or slow-cooker. That way, you can add more variety to your dinner menu.
The Bottom Line
Your New Year's home improvement list does not need to be limited to these 10 tasks. Take a quick tour of your home and inspect areas that you've been purposely avoiding, ignoring or hiding. For example, that stain on the carpet under the living room rug, or the draft you noticed around the rear sliding door. Use the coming of the New Year to help motivate you into doing something that benefits yourself and your family by properly maintaining your home.