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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Summer home maintenance saves $$$

With warmer weather and longer days comes the excitement of spending more time outdoors enjoying all that summer has to offer. It is also an excellent time to do some regular home maintenance and repair that can save money all season long. Relatively inexpensive maintenance in terms of time and supplies now can cost big bucks later on. Why waste big money now when it could be used it for summer fun?”

Replace filters regularly (at least four times a year, if not monthly). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household spends about $183 a month on home energy with about half that going towards heating and cooling. Those clogged filters use 15% more energy than when they were new. Using clogged filters can cost between $45 and $180 per year in additional utility costs. Continuing to run the furnace with clogged filters can shorten the life of HVAC units, and replacement can cost from $2,500 to $14,000.

Clean out dryer vents. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 15,000 dryer fires each year resulting in 30 deaths and over 310 injuries, not to mention the loss of property. Be sure to clean dryer filters inside both the machine (filter screen) and the outdoor vent at least once a year. The clogged outside vent can start a fire as that flammable lint gets too hot and ignites. A clogged vent also prevents the dryer from drying clothes efficiently. If clothes are taking more than one cycle to dry or longer than usual- it is time to clean out the vents. Savings will depend on the age and type of dryer but could equal hundreds.

Vacuum refrigerator coils. It used to be easy to see the dust build up on the back of the refrigerator coils. Today, many are located on the underneath of the appliance and are out of sight and out of mind. When these coils are covered in grease, dust, and pet hair, it causes the cooling system of the unit to run improperly, often causing temperature issues inside. This free chore can save an expensive repair bill, which these days start around $300. Replacing a burned-out compressor or chill unit is even more.

Inspect plumbing for leaks. Clean the aerators on faucets and shower heads. A single dripping faucet can waste about 15,000 gallons a year of water, a toilet that runs can use an extra 200 gallons a day. In my area, that can cost $500 or more a year in lost water costs alone.

Trim tree branches. You can remove small, low-hanging branches. For larger branches, you might best wait until fall when the tree goes dormant to do significant pruning. A professional tree trimming service can cost around $500. A branch that falls on the roof during a storm can cause an average roof repair that exceeds $1,000 and triggering a claim on your homeowners insurance can cause long-term premium increases.

Touch up exterior paint. Using a gallon or less of paint and a few hours of time each summer, touching up paint blemishes on heavy traffic areas of your home can save you a premature whole house paint job. Look especially at windows and doors and where wood is exposed to the ground or concrete. A typical full exterior paint job can cost more than $3,000.

Check the weather stripping and caulk. Inspect doors and windows. Check for leaking air from electrical outlets and light switches. Small leaks of air in or out of your home can make heating and a/c units work harder costing money. Putting new weather stripping around the entire home may cost about $400 and foam pads to go inside outlets and light switches are very inexpensive. If your energy bills are greater than $100 per month- this cost will pay for itself in savings rather quickly.

Clean your fireplace chimney. A professional chimney sweep may cost between $100-200 for an annual cleaning. A chimney fire could cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

Summer is the time to check on the roof. Replacing or fixing flashing around vents, applying caulk and replacing the occasional shingle are minor repairs. Waiting until the entire roof needs replacing can cost about $7,000 on average.

Clean gutters regularly. During the spring and other growing months, tree seeds, falling leaves, twigs and possibly animal nests can cause backups in the rain system resulting in flooding or leaking of sections of the gutter system. Overflowing gutters can cause erosion of paint, possible leaks under doors and may erode away foundation protection causing water in basements. While some of the effects are minor repairs, foundation fixes can cost in excess of $4,000.

It is easy to forget about or put off these chores. After all, who wants to spend precious summer time working when severe winter weather is right around the corner? If you commit to doing just one of these items a week, you will have a well-maintained home with minimal cost and still have time to do your favorite outdoor activities. The old adage says an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I say a dollar of prevention is worth thousands in the bank.

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