Many homeowners don’t realize they’re making critical missteps that can cost a ton when winter sets in. Here are six wintertime mistakes homeowners often make (and what they could cost you!):
1. Forget to buy a $2 Protector for Your Outdoor Faucet can cost you up to $15,000 and a whole lot of grief.
It’s amazing what a little frozen water can do damage-wise. An inch of water in your basement can cost up to $15,000 to pump out and dry out. And, yet, it’s so easy to prevent, especially with outdoor faucets, which are the most susceptible to freezing temps.
The simplest thing to do is to remove your garden hose from your outdoor faucet and drain it. Then add a faucet protector to keep cold air from getting into your pipes. They’re really cheap (some are under $2; the more expensive ones are still less than $10). While you’re at it, make sure any exposed pipes in an unheated garage are insulated, too, or you’ll face the same pricey problem.
Wrap pipes with foam plumbing insulation — before the weather drops. It’s cheap, too, just like the faucet cover (only $1 for six feet of polyethylene insulation). And it’s an easy DIY project, as long as you can reach the pipes.
2. Skipping the Gutter Cleanups
It can be so tempting to skip gutter cleanups as winter nears. It seems like as soon as you clear your gutters, they clog right back up again. So what’s the point?
Well, if it looks like you’re living inside a waterfall when it rains, water is missing your gutter system completely. It’s being directed to your foundation instead. And a water-damaged foundation is never, ever cheap to fix.
A contractor can plug foundation cracks for $1,500 to $3,000. But a worse problem, one that requires a foundation excavation or rebuild, can set you back (gulp) $30,000 or more. Suddenly, cleaning your gutters a few times each fall doesn’t seem so bad. A pro can do the work for anywhere between $70 and $250, depending on the size of your gutter system.
3. Giving Cold Air a Chance to Sneak In
What It’ll Cost You: Nights where you never feel warm, despite sky-high heating bills. Yet cracks can be easily and inexpensively sealed with a simple tube of caulk, and it’s available in hundreds of colors to match your window panes, outside siding, and even brick. Not sure where to caulk? Look for visible cracks around:
- Window sills
- Fireplace or dryer vents
- Anywhere something inside pokes a hole to the outside
4. Not Getting Personal with Your Thermostat
What It’ll Cost You: Money you could spend on something else besides heating.
We all know we should, but we seem to have some mental block when it comes to programming our thermostats to align with our schedules. It’s not that hard, and sometimes all it takes is buying a new one that suits you. (Like maybe a Wi-Fi one that’ll give you a little money-saving thrill each time you swipe your app.)
From a cost-savings perspective, a programmable thermostat is a great investment— as much as 10% off your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
5. Skipping Furnace Tune-Ups
What It’ll Cost You: A furnace that’ll die years before it should — and higher energy bills. Forget to service your furnace can easily cut five years off the life of your system. New units can cost around $4,000 installed, making the $125 annual maintenance charge a no-brainer.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to replace the furnace filter, which cleans the air in your home, and also keeps your furnace coils cleaner, which can shave up to 15% off your energy bill. Filter should be replaced at least every three months, but possibly as often as monthly if you have allergies, pets, or smoke cigarettes at home.
6. Foregoing a Fireplace Inspection
What It’ll Cost You: Possibly your life — and your home. A cozy fire is great, but if you don’t maintain your chimney, a fire can cost you thousands of dollars, not to mention the risk to you and your family. Schedule your maintenance appointment as early as you can. If you wait until the busy season, you’ll have a hard time getting them out there, you’ll pay more, and you’ll get a lower quality job.