How would you like to invest $30 and be paid a $45 dividend on your investment every year after that?
That’s essentially what you do when you make certain home improvements to lower your expenses.
If you take the steps suggested below, especially if you do the work yourself, you could have a healthy annual rate of return. Even better, you won’t pay income taxes like you would with regular investment returns.
8 Energy-Saving Tips That Will Also Save You Money
When you invest in your home to lower your bills, every penny saved is yours to keep.
Ready to get started? Here are eight ways to save money by improving your house.
1. Insulate Your Water Heater
An insulating jacket for your hot water heater will cost $30 or so, and you can install it yourself in about an hour.
According to the experts at the Department of Energy, insulating a hot water tank saves 7% to 16% annually.
In other words, assuming the average hot water costs $438 to operate annually, you’ll have $30 to $70 more in your pocket each year.
2. Install a Programmable Thermostat
You don’t need as much heat when you’re in bed at night, and you don’t need as much heating or air conditioning when you are out of the house. But you don’t want to climb out of bed on a cold winter morning or come home to a hot house in the summer.
A programmable thermostat solves these problems by automatically adjusting the temperature settings for you.
Ten minutes before you get up in winter, the heat turns on. Ten minutes before you get home after a hot summer day at work, the air conditioning adjusts to cool the house. You use the heating and cooling only when you actually need them.
A programmable thermostat can save you $50 on heating and cooling costs each year, according to the government’s Energy Star program. Starting around $60, many models are simple enough to install on your own.
3. Switch Out Your Light Bulbs
Another bright idea for savings? Replacing your light bulbs.
Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are 90% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last up to 20 years.
LEDs used to be expensive for a single bulb, but today, you can get a two-pack of LED bulbs for under $5.
By using the LEDs, you can save $4.10 per bulb per year on energy usage compared to an incandescent. The average American household has 50 light bulb sockets, according to the EPA’s Energy Star program, which means a potential annual savings $205 if you replaced every bulb in your house.
4. Bundle Up Those Water Lines
Bare water lines leak heat, so you have to set the temperature of the hot water heater higher to still get a hot shower at the other end of the house.
Solve this problem with a little pipe insulation: an inexpensive foam tube with a slit down the side. Just cut it to the required length with scissors and push it onto the pipes.
This project will take you about three hours for a small home and cost $10 to $15 total, according to the Department of Energy. Each year, you’ll save 3% to 4% heating your water.
5. Buy a New Refrigerator
If your refrigerator is working fine, there’s normally no good reason to replace it, even if the new one is a bit more efficient. But if you have a fridge that’s more than 15 years old, it might be time to replace that one.
A new fridge uses about $80 less in electricity each year compared to one from 2005.
6. Insulate Your Attic
If you run your heater or air conditioner most days, you might save some serious money by adding new insulation to your attic.
Upgrading attic insulation from R-11 to R-49 is something you can do by yourself in a day or two for about $750, according to HouseLogic.com. (The cost is about double if you want professionals to install it.)
You’ll save about $600 per year on heating and cooling costs, depending on where you live and the type of heat you have. It also adds value to your home if you decide to sell in the future.
7. Seal Those Leaks
Check for cracks or spaces around door frames, windows and entry points for pipes and cables. You lose heat from these gaps during the winter and cool air in the summer, adding to your heating and cooling costs.
It takes about $20 in caulking and peel-and-paste insulating strips to seal these up all over the house.
The experts at Energy Star say doing this will cut your heating and cooling costs by an average of 15%, depending where you live. That’s potentially hundreds of dollars saved for an investment of an afternoon and $20. Not bad, right?
8. Replace That Toilet Flapper
If you hear your toilet running when it isn’t being used, you probably have a leaky flapper.
It’s not just an annoyance — a leaky flapper can waste up to 200 gallons of water every day.
Since a new flapper valve can be bought for under $10 and can save you $50 per month, this little investment might have the highest rate of return of any on our list.
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).