17 Home Maintenance Tasks That Save You Money

Homeowners fantasize about making fabulous changes to their homes: adding rooms, beautifying the grounds, and remodeling kitchens and baths. In reality, however, these dream projects may not be financially possible.

Don’t let that stop you, however, from taking good care of the home you have. By keeping up with small repairs, you’ll both save money by heading off the big expensive fixes and maintain your home’s resale value.

Here are some small jobs you can tackle to hold down household costs.

1. Change HVAC filters

Your furnace and air conditioner system filters trap airborne allergens and dust so you breathe cleaner air. These filters need changing every few months while you’re using the furnace or air conditioning. Changing filters regularly also can lower utility bills, since dirty filters force HVAC systems to run harder and use more energy.

2. Fix leaky faucets

A dripping faucet means money down the drain, literally. A faucet that drips just once a minute wastes 34 gallons of water a year, according to this fun drip calculator from the U.S. Geological Survey.

So, stop that leak as soon as you can.

3. Caulk the tub and shower

A tube of caulk costs a few dollars. Replacing mold-infested bathroom tile and drywall can cost thousands of dollars. To prevent water from reaching walls and floors where it can cause mold and rot, keep the seams around fixtures, tubs and showers tightly sealed.

Latex caulk is easier to apply, but silicone caulk lasts longer. The Lowe’s Caulk Buying Guide explains the pros and cons of different types of caulk. Consider using a product with a fungicide in bathrooms to discourage mold.

Before you start to work on your bathroom, practice applying a nice bead of caulk. It doesn’t take long to learn to use a caulk gun and apply caulk neatly.

4. Inspect the sump pump

Sump pumps keep water out of areas like your basement or crawl space. That protects you from water damage that could cost thousands of dollars in lost possessions and cleanup.

Check and replace your pump regularly, and replace it if it has failed to start promptly.

5. Update light bulbs

If you are annoyed by buzzing from compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), you’ve got old bulbs. “Most CFLs today — and all Energy Star-certified CFLs — use electronic ballasts, which do not buzz or hum,” the federal government’s Energy Star program website says.

Upgrade from incandescent bulbs to more energy-efficient bulbs as your budget allows. Put them first in lights you use most.

6. Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat helps save money by allowing you to set and automatically maintain a comfortable temperature for when you’re home, and to keep a more conservative temperature when you’re away or asleep.

Programmable thermostats can save you $100 or more annually in energy costs, according to Consumer Reports’ Thermostat Buying Guide. For the best savings, choose a simple device you can install yourself.

For more energy-saving tips like this, check out “12 Ways to Lower Your Cooling Costs This Summer.”

7. Inspect electrical outlets and cords

Electrical wiring problems pose a fire hazard. Tour your home to inspect light switches, cords and outlets. Signs of danger include:

  • Exposed wire
  • Spliced wire that’s connected with electrical tape
  • Multiple extension cords or overloaded power strips

Hire a licensed electrician to inspect for potentially hazardous wiring problems if you have issues with flickering lights, warm fixtures or switches, or outlets that sometimes don’t work.

8. Replace smoke detector batteries

Smoke detectors save lives. Detectors and batteries are cheap, so it’s just a matter of remembering to test each detector monthly and install new batteries every six months.

9. Fix running toilets

A running toilet wastes water, adding to your water bill and squandering a precious resource. Fortunately, running toilets are easy to fix.

Several things can go wrong with the simple mechanism in the tank that regulates water flow. You can often diagnose the problem by taking the lid off the tank, flushing a few times and watching.

Snap a photo of your toilet’s internal assembly. Take the picture and the failed part along to the hardware store when shopping for replacements. Ask a store expert for help in making sure you’re buying the correct replacement part.

10. Wrap the water heater

Energy.gov estimates you’ll save about 7%-16% in water heating costs by wrapping the hot water heater in an insulating blanket. Pre-cut jackets and blankets start at about $20.

You’ll find ready-made insulating water heater jackets in home improvement stores like Home Depot and at Amazon.

Newer tanks may already be insulated, but check whether the insulation is sufficient. Look for an R-value of at least 24, Energy.gov says.

11. Seal leaky doors and windows

Small cracks around windows and doors suck your pricey heated or cooled air into the great outdoors.

Inspect your home’s interior to check for leaks. As you do so, bring along:

  • A pencil and paper to note areas you’ll need to return to
  • A tube of caulk for filling cracks
  • A can of spray insulating foam sealer for filling larger leaks
  • A digital thermometer or a candle

Use the thermometer to check for temperature differences that signal a leak. Or hold the lighted candle up and down and around the front of windows and doors. The flame’s flicker will point you to air leaks. Also, check for leaks where appliance vents, hoses, plumbing fixtures and furnace ducts meet outside walls.

12. Flush the water heater

Sediment can accumulate at the bottom of a water heater. Keep it running smoothly by giving it an annual cleaning or hiring someone to do it.

13. Beef up attic insulation

You should enjoy a great payback for this job, both from lower fuel bills and from increased comfort. Attic insulation usually has the most potential for energy savings, according to Energystar.gov.

Tip: Be sure to seal air leaks before you start insulating.

14. Install weatherstripping

Seal air leaks around doors by installing weatherstripping. It comes in a variety of forms, including felt and foam. Attach door sweeps to the lower edge of a door. Energy.gov’s weatherstripping guide tells which products to use for the job and how to apply them.

If you have weatherstripping already, check it for cracks and brittleness, as it occasionally needs replacing.

15. String a clothesline

Putting a clothesline up in your backyard to hang dry your laundry is another way to reduce your fuel consumption — good for your budget and for the environment. If you can’t run a clothesline outdoors, a basement clothesline is an alternative, as is an inexpensive collapsible drying rack that can be used indoors or out.

16. Tour your home’s perimeter — twice

Take one more look around your home, this time on the outside. In fact, do this twice. On the first round, look for plants touching or brushing against the house or foundation. Trim them back and pull back soil or mulch that touches the siding: It could carry moisture or insects into the house.

For your next tour, wait until immediately after a heavy rain. Look for and fix any areas of lawn or garden that are channeling water toward your home or that trap it at the foundation. Fixing these areas may be as easy as grabbing a shovel and reshaping the ground a bit. Or, you may need to invest in landscaping repairs or new drainage.

Also, make certain gutters and downspouts direct water away from structures.

17. Give your siding some TLC

Brighten your home’s siding and protect it from wear with an annual cleaning. To remove dirt, moss, leaves and debris, HouseLogic recommends scrubbing the outside of the house with warm, soapy water with a half-cup of trisodium phosphate per gallon of water, using a soft-bristled brush attached to a long handle.

Cleaning also gives you the chance to see any siding problems that need repair, including stucco holes, crumbling mortar, mildew, cracks and rot.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Common and Costly Homebuying Myths
8 Common and Costly Homebuying Myths

Think you’re ready to buy a house? Don’t fall victim to these rookie mistakes.

The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money
The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money

These home improvement projects basically never pay off.

13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better
13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better

These inexpensive electronics will make your day-to-day life a little easier — and happier.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

5 Ways to Avoid Taxes on Social Security Income
5 Ways to Avoid Taxes on Social Security Income

Here’s how to minimize and delay the chunk that Uncle Sam claims.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.