Whether you enjoy making New Year’s resolutions or scoff at the idea, there’s something inherently motivating about seeing a fresh page on the calendar. If you don’t want to join the masses who hit the gym or vow to go on a digital diet, you may want to resolve to set some goals on behalf of your home.
Chances are, you spend a lot of time in your home, so why not make sure it’s as energy-efficient, safe, and comfortable as possible? If you’re a homeowner, making some New Year’s resolutions—and then following through—may pay dividends all year long.
Take a look at four improvements that are easy to implement and won’t break the bank. In fact, some may even put money back in your pocket.
1. Conserve energy
If you’re not quite ready to install solar panels on your roof, you can still save energy (and money) by conducting your own energy audit.
Are lights often left on in rooms nobody is in? Is electricity powering things that aren’t even in use? Commit to turning off lights in rooms you’re not using and unplugging gadgets that aren’t being used or charged. According to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.org), Americans waste approximately $19 billion on inactive electronics or devices every year. From your coffee maker to your laptop computer, you may be squandering energy and dollars. Give a quick look around and see where you can conserve and save.
Moving on to larger items, be sure to properly maintain your heating and cooling systems so they’re operating optimally. If you have an older model unit, you may want to consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient system to save money and enjoy a more comfortable environment.
Also, look for leaks around your windows and doors. If you find any, caulk the drafty areas or consider installing new energy-efficient windows and doors, which will help you keep heat or air-conditioning in your home where it belongs.
Installing low-flow showerheads also allows you to cut water costs at the same time you’re conserving this precious resource.
2. Do a safety check
Knowing your home is safe and secure offers priceless peace of mind. If you didn’t change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the fall, now is the time to do it. It’s also worth noting that smoke alarms have a lifespan of seven to 10 years, while carbon monoxide detectors last between five and seven years. If you’ve had yours for longer than these timeframes, it’s wise to replace them as soon as possible.
A seldom discussed, but just as real hazard, is your dryer’s lint trap. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, highly-combustible lint, which builds up in your dryer’s trap, accounts for more than 15,000 building fires per year. So make sure those are cleaned out.
But, just in case of an emergency, you’ll want to have an escape plan with two exit routes in place. If you haven’t worked those out, make it a priority in the new year.
Do an outdoor inspection and make sure all your stairs and railings are secure. Installing motion-sensing flood lights above your garage or in your backyard can make entering and exiting your home a bit safer for you, while at the same time deterring would-be burglars.
3. Deep clean and declutter
It’s not all about safety and savings, though! Making a resolution to love where you live can make your year more enjoyable, and a good way to do that is to give it a serious cleaning.
You can check this one off your list by simply hiring a house cleaner to do it for you. But if you want to save the money, just pick a room and get going. Work in manageable increments so you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you do, take a break but don’t give up. From washing bedding and windows to deep-cleaning your appliances and even your gutters, you’ll love the results that go hand-in-hand with freshly-scrubbed spaces.
To keep your place spic and span over the course of the entire year, set some small goals that ultimately make a big difference. For example, vow to put away all your clothing at the end of each day, deal with your junk mail the day it arrives, keep an ongoing donation box handy so you’re not holding on to items you no longer need or want.
4. Plan for the coming years
The new year is a great time to take stock of what needs to be fixed or improved in the future.
Could you benefit from a landscaping upgrade, new roofing, decking, or patio? How about painting or replacing furniture? If you’re outgrowing your current home, are you considering an addition?
If so, you may not be able to knock all of them off the list in the next year, but just resolving to do them and forming a plan can be worthwhile goal and achievement.
Once you have a list of what you want and need to get done, you can begin budgeting for these. From nice-to-have to the absolute necessities, prioritize your upcoming expenses so you can either start saving or looking into a home equity loan or line of credit.
Are you thinking about moving? If so, you’ll want to tackle those projects a buyer will notice, or a home inspector will surely catch sooner or later, so your home shines and fetches top dollar.
You don’t have to entirely renovate or remodel to enjoy home improvements. Start with these four resolutions, and by the end of the year, your home will be a better place to live.