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10 home upgrades to save money

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | April 13, 2015

Home remodels can be costly, but choosing those that allow you to save money in the long run makes smart financial sense. From low-flow showerheads to energy-efficient HVAC systems to a light tube for that dark bathroom, these money saving remodels are surprisingly affordable and offer a nice return on investment.

  1. Opt for low-flow. Cut down on water usage with low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets. A simple low-flow showerhead can be purchased for about $20 at home improvement stores, and can save 2,900 gallons per year. That's a big chunk of water utility bills! WaterSense toilets can save 4,000 gallons of water per year, which might translate into $2,000 for the life of the toilet.
  2. Upgrade your insulation. Adding insulation to your attic and walls might not be a remodel you can see, but it's definitely one you can feel. Home Advisor says the average homeowner will spend about $1,200 on insulation improvements, but that cost can be recouped in lower heating and cooling bills, not to mention a much more comfortable home.
  3. Look for energy efficiency. Aging appliances can account for up to 20 percent of utility costs, says Energy.gov. Choose upgrades that include energy-efficient models, especially for the HVAC system, refrigerator, and hot water heater.
  4. Add a light tube. Need more light in your house but don't have the space or money for another window? Consider a light tube. Much like a skylight, it funnels light down from the roof, giving you natural light for a fraction of the cost of windows. Solar tubes can be had for less than $300 at home improvement stores, and you save on artificial lighting.
  5. Plant trees and shrubs. When it comes to green home remodeling ideas, why not really go green? Landscaping is an often-overlooked remodel that can save you a lot of money. Plant shrubs for a windbreak and trees for shade, and then be patient. When they are big enough to tower over the house, you will reap the benefits of lower utility costs and higher curb appeal.
  6. Upgrade the windows. Though windows might seem like a costly remodel, they can offer huge benefits in energy savings. In fact, replacing single-pane windows might save you up to $465 per year according to Energy Star. You can also opt for windows that cut UV rays or deaden sounds from outside. That's before the value of curb appeal kicks in!
  7. Replace the doors. Upgrade your old front door to a steel model and expect to recoup 101.8% of the investment, according to Remodeling Magazine. It's an instant upgrade to the look of your home. Besides the nice ROI, the renewed sense of security can make your home a more peaceful place to live.
  8. Go tankless. Water heaters can account for up to 30 percent of your home's energy budget, but tankless water heaters are 22 percent more efficient, according to Consumer Reports. That translates into savings of up to $80 per year. In addition, these water heaters are also considered "on demand," meaning that you run less water while you wait for it to warm up.
  9. Boost your heating and cooling. Want to save more than $115 per year? If your HVAC unit is more than 10 years old, it pays to replace it with a new Energy Star version that can cut down significantly on your energy usage. Invest in the highest-efficiency model you can find and be sure to maintain it properly. Save even more money by inspecting and sealing the ductwork.
  10. Try something universal. Universal design is an important part of aging in place. If you know you want to live in your home through the golden years, now is the time to consider everything from grab bars to walk-in tubs to hands-free faucets. A little money spent now can mean big peace of mind later.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.