35 Things Every Homeowner Must Know to Save Money and Prevent Big Screw-Ups

Protect your biggest investment, make smarter decisions, and avoid costly mistakes.

april cover homeowners houseAdam Voorhes for Reader's DigestSave Hundreds Simply  

Technicians report that up to 30 percent of their service calls require only the push of a button or the flip of a switch. Those small actions can cost you a minimum service charge (typically $50 to $100)—plus embarrassment. Try these tactics first.

1. Check a Warm Fridge’s Temperature Dial  Make sure it hasn’t been turned way down. Kids may have messed with it, or someone might have bumped the knob. Also, make sure that food containers don’t block the fridge and freezer compartments’ vents—they supply the flow of frigid air.

2. Press the Reset Button on GFCIs  Sometimes all the bathroom outlets or several exterior lights are powered through a single GFCI (the red button in the middle of some outlets) located in one bathroom or elsewhere, such as in a basement. If there’s an outage, push the reset button on the GFCI, and you could be back in business.

3. Test the Outlet  If any electronic item suddenly won’t turn on, don’t immediately assume it’s broken. Plug in a clock or lamp to make sure the outlet works.

4. Inspect the Breaker  When a light goes out or a switch doesn’t work, check the main electrical panel for a tripped circuit breaker. Look for a switch that’s not in line with the others. Flip it to the off position if it’s not fully to the side and then back on.

 

Cut Your Utility Bills

5. Get a Low-Flow Showerhead
Showerheads are the second-heaviest water users—and also major energy eaters, since 70 percent of the water used is heated. By reducing hot-water consumption, a low-flow unit can pay for itself in just one month. And you don’t have to settle for subpar water pressure. Many of today’s water-efficient showerheads use new technology to provide a high-flow feel.

sink gapsEllaphant in the Room for Reader's Digest6. Fill Gaps Under Sinks Pull back the escutcheons (metal plates) where pipes enter exterior walls, and you may see gaps around the pipes. Use expanding foam to seal those gaps. Shake the can vigorously, then squirt the foam around the pipes inside the wall. Don’t completely fill the gaps—the foam will expand.

7. Stop Leaks Under Doors
If you can feel a breeze or see daylight under your exterior doors, that’s bad news. The good news is that most thresholds adjust up or down with just a few twists of a screw. Turn all the screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated.

electrical boxesEllaphant in the Room for Reader's Digest8. Seal Electrical Boxes
These can be major sources of heat loss; foam gaskets can help. They’re quick to install: Simply take off the box’s cover plate, stick the gasket over the box, and then screw the plate back on.

9. Install a Ceiling Fan
Moving air increases evaporation from your skin and helps keep you comfortable at higher thermostat settings. Each degree above 78 degrees can save you 5 to 10 percent on air-conditioning.

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