7. Inspect electrical outlets and cords
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Electrical wiring problems pose a fire hazard. Tour your home to inspect light switches, cords and outlets. Signs of danger: exposed wire, spliced wire that’s connected with electrical tape and multiple extension cords or overloaded power strips.
If you have problems with flickering lights, warm fixtures or switches, or outlets that sometimes don’t work, hire a licensed electrician to inspect for potentially hazardous wiring problems.
8. Replace smoke detector batteries
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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, as the American Red Cross recommends.
“Your home needs a smoke detector outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, even the basement,” the Red Cross says.
9. Fix running toilets
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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 making sure you’re buying the correct replacement part and for tips on installation.
10. Wrap the water heater
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Energy.gov estimates you’ll save about 7 to 16 percent in water heating costs by wrapping the hot water heater in an insulating blanket. The project costs about $30 and takes about an hour and a half. It should pay for itself in about a year.
You’ll find ready-made insulating water heater jackets in hardware stores and online.
Newer tanks may already be insulated, but nevertheless check whether the insulation is sufficient. Look for an R-value of at least 24, Energy.gov says.
11. Seal leaky doors and windows
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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. 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, and 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 hot water heater
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Sediment can accumulate at the bottom of a hot water heater. Keep it running smoothly by giving it an annual cleaning or hiring someone to do it.
13. Beef up attic insulation
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“If you’ve got an unfinished attic, giving it proper insulation is one of the simplest ways to keep a lid on your heating bill this season,” This Old House says.
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 Energy.gov.
Tip: Be sure to seal air leaks before you start insulating.
See the U.S. Department of Energy’s insulating guide to learn more and the DOE-funded Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency for rebates and other programs that might help pay for the job.
14. Install weatherstripping
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Seal air leaks around doors by installing weatherstripping. It comes in a variety of forms, like 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
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Putting a clothesline up in your backyard 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
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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
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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 1/2 cup of trisodium phosphate per gallon of water, and 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.
What household repairs and maintenance jobs help save you money? Tell us by posting a comment below or on Money Talks News’ Facebook page.