Top home improvements that offer big bang for your buck

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | January 26, 2015

Home improvements should do triple duty: They should be attractive, make your home more comfortable, and save you money in the long run. That final point is a very important one, because if you are going to lay out a big chunk of change for home improvements, you want to be sure you'll get your money's worth.

If you're ready to make some changes, these are the best places to use your home improvement funds.

Replacement windows

The Natural Resources Defense Council found that a third of a home's total heat loss comes from drafty windows. Though energy-efficient replacement windows might seem like a large investment, they can save you money every month after installation, as well as beautify your home.

Serious insulation

According to Energy Star, good insulation can save up to 20 percent in energy costs. To be sure of how much insulation you need, find your location on the Energy Star map and look for the corresponding R-value.

Energy-efficient appliances

Appliances draw a great deal of power, so it pays to turn to energy-efficient models. The appliances in your home account for up to 20 percent of your costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. By going with Energy Star products, you can reduce your home's energy and water usage by 10-15 percent.

Programmable thermostat

Speaking of energy-efficiency, few things can help lower your heating bills like a programmable thermostat. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning the thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours each day can save up to 15 percent on heating costs.

Water heater

Fifteen percent of your utility bill goes to that old water heater, according to the DOE. If your tank is ancient, look into a tankless or on-demand water heater. A solar water heater can save a whopping 90 percent on operating costs.

Seal the gaps

Close up drafts with caulk and weather-stripping, insulate switches and outlets, and unplug your appliances when they aren't in use. To get even more ideas, invest in a home energy audit that can help you pinpoint what needs work.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a journalist 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.