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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Summer-ize Your Home for Money Savings


Now that the weather has turned nice, the temptation is to sit outside with a cool beverage and enjoy the sunshine. For full enjoyment all summer long, take a few weekends now to get the summer home maintenance out of the way. Spending a little time and a little money now will pay off in money savings all season long.

Save Electricity

Electric bills often soar in the summer, not just from using air conditioning but because utility companies usually raise your cost of energy to a summer rate. By being strategic, and using some cost saving measures available in the summer, you can save big.

  • Use ceiling fans to avoid turning on the air conditioning for as long as possible. Make sure the fan is blowing downward (reverse the direction if necessary) and clean the blades with a damp rag. Even when the air conditioning is on, using ceiling fans is a cost saver since it takes less cool air to make you comfortable.
  • Have your air conditioning unit checked before it is needed. This is best accomplished by a professional who might be able to detect potential problems before they become costly. You can clean around the unit, clearing leaves and branches and trimming any hedges or plants growing around the unit.
  • Change/clean filters regularly. Make a date on your phone's calendar to remind you to change or clean your furnace/ac filters. Keeping those clean helps promote air flow which makes your units work less hard- cost less.
  • Consider an outdoor clothes line. Give your dryer a rest and use Mother Nature to try your clothes. You will save on electricity not only for not using the dryer but drying clothes can also heat up your house causing air conditioning costs to go up. Double savings. Bonus- your clothes will have a fresh outdoors smell that you can get from scented products.
  • Clean your refrigerator coils of built up dust hair and lint. Using a vacuum (and sometimes a special thin tool made to fit under the fridge) clear the coils of excess materials that cause the unit to work harder to cool. On newer models, these coils are located under the unit. Doing this regularly will not only save energy costs but will extend the life of your appliance by not burning out costly condenser or cooling units. With refrigerators costing several thousand dollars, you want them to last as long as possible.

Protect your home from damage

  • While you are giving your dryer a rest, take the opportunity to clean the dryer vents, lint traps and ducts. Insurances companies report about 16,000 fires annually due to a build-up of lint which can burn easily. Be sure to clean the vent outside your home and prevent birds and other animals from building nests and vacuum the lint screen housing. If you have an older dryer duct that is plastic and coiled, it is recommended that you replace with a rigid duct that collects less lint. These kits are fairly inexpensive at home improvement stores.
  • Clean your gutters. Fall leaves and withers snow and rains have likely created a build- up of muck in your gutters. Add to it the petals from spring flowering trees and tree seeds and they clog pretty fast. Be careful not to lean ladders up against power lines and never hang on the gutters for support-that will cost money not only in repairs but medical bills as well.
  • Check the deck for cracked, rotting or splitting boards. Replace if necessary. Power wash your entire deck and re-stain with a water proofing/sealing material made for the outdoors.
  • Power wash your house, removing bird stains, dust and insects. This makes your house look refreshed and helps you detect any damage that may need repair.
  • While you have the power washer out, do the windows too! Also check for weather stripping that may need to be replaced or caulking that needs repair. This can cause your home to leak expensive cooled air!
  • Check your roof for any damage from snow and ice over the winter. Repair before it starts leaking into the house.

Save on landscaping

  • Look for plants that have gotten too large for their space. You can often divide them and have a new plant to add to another area.
  • Be sure to mulch. Using mulch helps protect against weeds (saving on chemicals) retains water during hot weather (saving on water bills) and helps enrich the soil for great growing conditions.

Save on professional services

Some people prefer to hire professionals for home maintenance and repair services. If you do consider these hints:

  • Get bids on the work from a variety of providers. Tell each one you are getting more than one estimate and you will not be making a decision or signing contracts on site. You usually will get their best price if they know there will be competition.
  • Different providers may do the work differently- make sure you are comparing similar work. Don't just compare the bottom line cost.
  • Ask for references and check with the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau. Make sure you are not dealing with people who have lots of complaints against them.
  • Read all the fine print before signing any contract. Ask about down payments and financing options if it is a large repair. Be aware that their interest rates may be higher than a home equity loan or other means of financing you can get yourself.

A good resource for complete seasonal home maintenance ideas is the website for your homeowners insurance. Many maintenance chores actually prevent costly repairs that insurance companies would rather not pay.

Spending a few weekends now, early on, to get your house ready for the summer will pay off in lower bills and peace of mind for the rest of the season. Then you can relax in the sun and sip that cold beverage.

I'm going fishing…..

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