There are so many expenses associated with paying the bills for a home that it is easy to miss money leaks that are costing you big dollars. Putting a plug into these leaks can make a big difference in your budget. From old-school thermostats to faulty plumbing, here are some of the top money-pits to watch for.
1. Old School Thermostats
I recently replaced my 1980s-era thermostat with a new one for about $50. Why? Because the old thermostat was leaking money every day. My new thermostat is programmable, so I can automatically avoid heating or cooling the house when no one is home. It’s paid for itself in just the first few months.
2. Drafty Windows
It may sound extreme to replace windows to save money on your heating bill, but I was paying hundreds of dollars every month for propane when I moved into an old house with drafty single-pane windows. Old windows are almost as inefficient as having your windows open all winter. Replacing them will reduce your utility bill and add to the resale value of your house. If replacing windows is too big of a project, you can install clear plastic film over your windows for a few dollars each to help keep the money from flowing out.
3. Old HVAC Systems
I once lived in a house with a 40-year-old furnace. My home inspector said it was built like a tank, and I think it was about as energy efficient as a tank, too. If you plan to stay in your house for a few years, an energy efficient HVAC system can easily pay for itself through lower energy bills. Plus, the new system will increase the value of your house.
4. Poor Insulation
Don’t be fooled: It can be hard to notice a poorly insulated home because the furnace can compensate for this by running more to try to maintain the desired temperature. The most effective place to upgrade your home’s insulation is in the attic, since warm air is less dense than cold air and a lot of heat transfer happens through the attic and roof as warm air rises. If your floors are cold, you may benefit from adding insulation under your house, as well. Insulating walls can be a bigger project, but insulation can be often blown into the joint space in walls in a matter of just hours.
5. Old Appliances
Old appliances are energy hogs compared with newer, more efficient models — especially refrigerators, freezers, and dishwashers. It may be hard to notice that old appliance sitting there quietly sucking down extra electricity all the time, but the cost adds up every month. Some utility companies offer incentives to take away old appliances in order to encourage people to replace them with energy efficient models. And you may even qualify for tax credits related to energy efficient appliances.
6. Bad Mortgage Rates
When you got your mortgage, you probably shopped around and got the best rate you could find. But have you checked your rate lately? You may be paying more than you need to for interest every month. If you plan to stay in your house for a few years, refinancing your mortgage to get a better interest rate can help you hang on to more of your money each month instead of giving it to the banker.
7. Leaky Roof or Gutters
You won’t get a bill right away if you have a leaky roof or gutters that don’t work properly, but deferred maintenance is like a time bomb that can cost you a huge amount of money in the future in the form of repair bills and reduced property value. Take care of water leaks before they become a money pit.
8. Long Commutes
If your home is far away from work, shopping, and school, your commute is costing you time and money every day. Unfortunately, avoiding this money pit may require moving to a different house. I was able to move about 10 minutes closer to my work location and it made a big difference.
9. Too Much House
If your house is bigger than you really need, you are paying extra every month for your mortgage, utility bills, and property taxes. Consider downsizing to avoid sinking money into paying for space you are not fully utilizing.