HOME & GARDEN IMPROVEMENTS How to save on home improvement projects With the economy still struggling, money is tight for many homeowners. That reality can present a problem to those who want to improve their homes without spending too much money. The cost of a home improvement project depends on a host of factors, including the scale of the project and the availability of materials. Upscale projects like a full roof replacement will set homeowners back a substantial amount of money. In its 2011-2012 “Cost vs. Value Report,” Remodeling magazine revealed that the average cost of a such a project was nearly $38,000. However, a smaller project like a garage door replacement could be completed for fewer than $3,000. When deciding if a home improvement project is within your budget, it’s a good idea to consult such Àgures before choosing a project. For example, if your home is a Àxer-upper, then one project may not be more urgent than another, something that may allow you to choose less expensive projects now while saving money for more expensive projects down the road. It’s also important for homeowners to know that Àgures such as those in the “Cost vs. Value Report” are just av-
erages. Some projects might cost more than the average, while others might come in well under budget. To ensure your project is one of the latter and not the former, consider the following ways to trim costs off your next home improvement project. * Avoid the DIY movement if you don’t have adequate experience. Many homeowners fall into the DIY trap, feeling they can pull off a project without hiring a professional contractor. While this is an option for those homeowners with home improvement experience, it’s an approach that’s best avoided by those without such experience. Homeowners who decide to go it alone on a home improvement project should know that mistakes are costly. One mistake could have you paying for the same materials twice: once when you begin the project, and then again when you need to hire a contractor after your efforts didn’t work out. A failed DIY project also costs you time, something homeowners hoping to sell their homes post-project cannot afford to waste. * Hire the right contractor. The best contractor for the job won’t necessarily be the one who comes in with the lowest estimate. The right contractor
will know how long a project will take and what the materials will cost. The wrong contractor, who might lack the experience of his competitors, might make empty promises that ultimately cost you more money via overrun costs. Find a contractor who comes highly recommended and is willing to provide references and show you his or her past projects like the one you’re hiring him or her undertake. If you hire the wrong contractor, the project may never be completed and you may Ànd yourself in court, where the money you had budgeted for home improvements is being spent on lawyers instead. * Consider supplying your own materials. If you diligently research your project, you should be able to buy the materials yourself, even if you plan on hiring a contractor to do the work. Some contractors mark up the materials as a means of padding the bill. If you research the project and learn about the materials you want to use, you can save a substantial amount of money buying those materials yourself and then hiring a contractor. * Don’t overlook recycled materials. Buying recycled materials is another way to reduce home improvement
costs. Bathroom Àxtures, doors, Áooring, and lighting are just a few of the materials that are commonly recycled and resold at a fraction of the cost of new materials. Shop around for stores in your area or peruse the Internet for recycled materials. Homeowners undertaking a replacement project rather than a remodel might even be eligible for tax breaks if they donate their old materials. * Choose projects that provide more bang for your buck. Another way to save is to choose projects that provide a strong return on your investment. The “Cost vs. Value Report” compares the cost of popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale. If money is a motivating factor behind your project, choose a project that will get you the most money back at resale. While the economy has not necessarily been kind to the home improvement industry, there are still plenty of homeowners looking to improve their homes. Savvy homeowners can do just that and save some money along the way by putting a few strategies to work for them. FH129460
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Friday, September 21, 2012 ECT 19
Make your home more energy-efficient Did you know that being green saves money, especially around the house? Homeowners annually lose hundreds of dollars to inefĂ€cient appliances and a drafty home. Making simple changes can beneĂ€t the planet and your bottom line. Choose the right appliances Appliances in your home as well as certain behaviors can have a considerable impact on how much energy is consumed. The Energy Information Administration reports that the average home uses approximately 1,000 kilowatt hours (kwh) each month. Kwh is measured by multiplying the number of 1,000 watts of electricity used by the number of hours the device is in use. Every appliance has a different measure of electricity usage. Here are some examples of common appliances in the home and how much energy they consume in one hour, courtesy of Bright Hub. Electric clothes dryer: 6,000 watts Washing machine: 425 watts Refrigerator : 188 watts Dishwasher: 200 watts Central AC: 6,000 watts Window AC: 1,300 watts Flat screen TV: 150 watts LCD TV: 213 watts Vacuum: 1,100 watts Freezer: 273 watts Water heater: 473 watts Toaster oven: 1,200 watts Coffeemaker: 1,200 watts Desktop computer: 95 watts DVD player: 25 watts Cable box: 20 watts Laptop: 50 watts Selecting energy-efĂ€cient appliances and using them in a conservative manner can reduce energy usage and the cost of your monthly utility bill. Try to run high-wattage appliances during the evening or early-morning hours when energy rates may be reduced. Also, if
the weather will be warm, running these appliances during cooler hours prevents the home from heating up even more -possibly requiring the additional use of an air conditioner. Unplug appliances when theyâ€™re not in use to avoid vampire drain. Many appliances still draw a small amount of power even when turned off. Also, be sure to properly insulate and position appliances so they can run at the highest level of efĂ€ciency. Energy audit You can request or hire individuals to conduct an energy audit or home energy assessment. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the audit will assess how much energy your home consumes and evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efĂ€cient. If you prefer to do an energy audit yourself, you can look at a few key areas around the home where there may be air leaks or inefĂ€cient uses of energy. First, turn off any combustible appliances, such as water heaters and furnaces. Make sure the windows are closed, then turn on exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen to suck the air out of the rooms. Feel around outlets, doors, windows, baseboards, Ă€replaces, and attic hatches for any apparent leaks. Use a stick of incense to easily see the Ă ow of air in the incense smoke. If any leaks are found, address each one. This generally involves recaulking or sealing around points of entry. The DOE says the potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5 percent to 30 percent per year. Additional steps There are other steps you can take to make a home more efĂ€cient. * Install solar panels to draw power from the sun. * Plant deciduous trees or bushes on
the south- and west-facing areas of the have is no longer efĂ€cient. home. The leaves will shade the home Save energy and money by making during the summer months and fall off easy adjustments and improvements to allow sunshine in during the winter around your house. months. EL126146 * Plant bushes by the front door to act as a wind buffer. * Use skylights to add light and warmth from the sun to the home. * Think about using motion-activated lights in the home. Electrical Contractors * Install a new proPH: 682-3352 â€˘ FAX: 682-5490 grammable thermostat. Email: email@example.com * Check the insulation in attics and basements Hours of operation are and install new if the inMonday thru Friday 8:00 a.m til 5:00 pm sulation you currently
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+80%2/'7 20 ECT Friday, September 21, 2012