As a first-time homeowner, I’m learning that owning a home means spending time and money to maintain it.
When I rented, I never had to worry about rusty water heaters, inefficient furnaces, clogged gutters, dirty chimneys, or skunks digging up the grass. But, as the homeowners insurance experts at Esurance tell me, a little upkeep can prevent costly mishaps and help me save on utilities too.
Now, with fall here and winter around the corner, it’s time to prep for the cold weather ahead. What money-saving home maintenance tasks do our experts suggest?
5 Money-Saving Home Maintenance Tricks
1. Change the furnace filter
I’ll confess: I had no idea that furnaces had filters until recently — or that they needed changing. But, apparently they do.
A clean furnace filter maximizes energy efficiency, prevents breakdowns, and even minimizes dust. A dirty filter, on the other hand, makes it hard for air to pass through (it’s like breathing through a stuffy nose), which means the system uses more energy to do less.
And, since 42 percent of your home’s energy use goes into heating, anything you can do to maximize efficiency can help you save.
2. Have the chimney inspected (and cleaned, if needed)
There’s something magical and comforting about a wood fire on a cold, foggy night. But, over time, those cozy fires can lead to creosote buildup in the chimney. Creosote, the residue left over by burning wood, is super combustible, and if left unchecked, could cause a chimney fire.
If you plan to use your fireplace through the long months ahead, hiring a professional to inspect and clean the chimney should definitely be at the top of your to-do list. It’s not too pricey either — the quotes I’ve gotten range around $150-$200 and it’ll be worth every penny.
Quick tip: if your fireplace smells, it’s a good indication that there’s creosote buildup.
3. Clean your gutter and downspout
With winter, generally comes rain. Which means you’ll need to get your hands dirty and give the gutters a good cleaning. After all, you want them to continue diverting rain away from the foundation, which prevents water damage to your home’s most important structure.
4. Trim overhanging tree branches near your roof or power line
Heavy storms can topple trees, down power lines, and send errant branches through your house. To prevent storm damage, it’s smart to prune overgrown trees — especially if they encroach on your home’s crowning glory, the roof. As a plus, you’ll also help slow algae, mold, and lichen growth, which can shorten the life of your roof.
5. Seal any gaps, cracks, and openings
Gaps, cracks, and openings in your home can be all too tempting to critters looking for food and shelter. To prevent having unwanted guests, check your attic, exterior walls, foundation, windows, and doors for gaps. If they’re there, seal them with caulk to prevent easy entry.
Bonus: sealing gaps will prevent heat loss, which can help reduce your heating bill.
Other ways to save money
Of course, these aren’t the only things you can do. If you want to maximize your energy efficiency in the coming months, energy.gov suggests:
- Turning down your water heater to 120 degrees. You could save $12 to $30 per year for each 10-degree reduction.
- Washing your clothes on cold. Much of your washer’s energy is used up by hot water.
- Cleaning the lint screen before drying every load to improve efficiency and prevent fires. In fact, doing so could save you about $34 per year, according to the EPA.
- Closing the damper when not using your fireplace to prevent indoor heat from escaping through your chimney.
And remember to, of course, give your homeowners policy a once-over. You want to know what kind of protection you have in case a storm damages your roof, your chimney catches on fire, or critters wreak havoc on your space.
Don’t have homeowners insurance? Or just want to see if you can save? We can help! Get your homeowners insurance quote today.