The homeowner's 15-point money saving checklist – PLUS the pros and cons of 6 different driveways
Fifteen things you can do to reduce energy and maintenance costs:
1. Turn down the hot water heater to 120°F. It's a waste of energy to heat water hotter than most people can stand.
2. Get a water heater blanket. Many older water heaters and even fairly new ones aren't well insulated. A water heater blanket saves money by keeping the heat in.
3. Wrap insulation around exposed hot water pipes. Good quality pipe insulation makes the water 2° to 4° warmer and delivers it quicker. The first three feet leaving the heater and the last few feet coming back are key.
4. Check for running toilets, leaky faucets and under sink plumbing. They cost you money and lead to mold.
5. Check attic insulation. If you have an unfinished attic, have at least 6" of insulation, (more in the northern U.S.).
6. Put in a programmable thermostat. This automatically adjusts temperature, so you only pay for heating or cooling the house when you're actively using it.
7. Install ceiling fans. Their air circulation effect lets you put your thermostat 1° or 2° higher in summer and 1° or 2° lower in winter. Set to blow air down in summer and up in winter.
8. Replace the air handling filter. This is behind a slotted panel in the air handler. Note the size and stock up. A dirty filter makes the system work harder. Check every two months.
9. Clear all air vents. Make sure vents aren't blocked and look in to see they're dust bunny free.
10. Air-dry some laundry. Put up a rack in the laundry room or a clothesline outside. Air-dry a third of your laundry and you're running the dryer a third less of the time.
11. Choose reliable, energy efficient appliances. Paying a little extra for quality and reliability will save you lots over the long haul.
12. Seal out air. Air leaks are money leaks. Look for them around windows and doors, and then seal them up.
13. Monitor foundation cracks. If you have cracks in basement walls, cover the ends with masking tape with the date. If the cracks grow, call in a specialist. Foundation problems are way cheaper to fix sooner than later.
14. Plant shade trees near your home. They cool the house in summer, saving money on air conditioning, and add value to the property.
15. Write down a home maintenance checklist. Include tasks you should do monthly, quarterly, and annually. Review each month. You'll save tons of money over time.
6 WAYS TO DRIVEWAYS
1. Gravel. Loose stones come in different sizes and colors, make the least expensive surface, and allow water to drain into the soil. Water runoff, traffic, and plowing will move it around, so it may need annual touch ups.
2. Tar & Gravel. Also called surface treatment or double shot, this looks like gravel but the tar helps hold it in place. You need new stone every 7 to 10 years to keep the gravel color.
3. Asphalt. This is the least expensive solid surface driveway and great for kids to play on. But you have to re-seal it every few years, especially in northern climates, to keep water from getting into crevices and freezing.
4. Concrete. This needs less maintenance than asphalt and offers interesting options. The least expensive is installed as slabs with expansion joints to minimize cracking. Exposed aggregate concrete costs more and features a rough gravel surface. Decorative concrete comes in many different colors and stamped patterns and costs the most.
5. Concrete pavers. There are many styles and colors, from bricks to squares to octagonal patterns. The cost is similar to decorative concrete but individual pavers are easily repaired.
6. Natural stone. Cobblestones, Belgian blocks, and slate paving are beautiful, but expensive.
If you're looking to drive up to your first home, a larger one, or a downsize, we can help you with the financing. We're happy to answer any questions, whenever you're ready to take advantage of the opportunities in today's housing market. We can also help with refinancing your current home or funding home improvements. Please call or email us any time. We're always here for you... Have a great day!
P.S.: Mortgage rates remain at historically attractive levels. When buying or refinancing, it's smart to start the process early. Please call or email us to explore the appealing options available now.