home repair tools

When you become a first-time home buyer, you gain an entirely new appreciation for the amount of work that landlords and homeowners do to keep up their properties.

When you were renting, your landlord hopefully took care of all of the building maintenance, yard work and any indoor issues that came up. As a new homeowner, this responsibility now falls on you and it pays to keep these costs low however you can.

This is where our money saving maintenance tips come in because when you’re a new homeowner, roughly every $1 you spend on maintaining your home could help you avoid $100 in repair costs down the road.

As you can see, the potential for saving thousands of dollars in the long term only requires a few minutes of work and routine upkeep. If you’re a new homeowner and want to save as much money as possible on home repair costs, you’ll find our first-time homeowner maintenance tips below a real treasure.

Once you’re done reading this post, you may find our guide on how to budget for home maintenance and repairs a good read as well. Especially if you have plans to make a lot of upgrades in the future!

Perform a Home Energy Audit

The very first thing on our list of money saving home maintenance tips is to perform an energy audit on your new home.

This initial step will help you discover where you’re losing energy and will give you a starting point on which projects you should take on first. To do this you have three options:

  1. Many utility companies offer this as a free service, so start by giving your local one a call.
  2. If a free home energy audit is not available through your local utility company, you can use the Residential Energy Services Network to find (and pay for) a certified auditor to assess your house.
  3. A final solution is to perform a home energy audit yourself by using the U.S. Department of Energy’s home energy audit guide.

The advantage of doing any one these audits is that it can save you 5 to 30% in your home’s yearly energy costs.

Control Your Heating and Cooling

This may come as a surprise to you, but the biggest cost of home ownership (besides the mortgage) is heating and cooling. In fact, about 50% of home energy use is the result of maintaining a comfortable temperature indoors.

One of the simplest new homeowner maintenance tips you can follow that will lower your monthly utility payment is to install a programmable thermostat.

With it, you’ll get precise control over the temperature settings and can set up a schedule for how cold or warm you want the house to be throughout the day. Having your heating and cooling system automatically cut off when you’re not home or during the night can drastically cut down on your energy costs.

Another cheap option for cooling your home is to install ceiling fans. If your home has more than one story you’ll reap even more cost-saving rewards by using them.

Ceiling fans help keep the air moving throughout your home and they’re extremely inexpensive to run. The average ceiling fan  costs only $73.58 per year to run, which is roughly $6 per month. Super-efficient model lowers that bill to $18.92 for the year, even while running it all day long.

Another tip on ceiling fans is that they’re not just beneficial for the hotter months. Normally, the fan blades spin counter-clockwise to push air down into the room as a way to cool it. During the winter season, if you reverse the direction of the blades (look for a switch on the base) it will pull air up towards the ceiling and help the room stay warmer.

Stay On Top of Your HVAC System Filters

The HVAC system is what controls the temperature throughout your entire house and performing routine maintenance is a must. The last thing you want is for it to break down during the hottest or coldest months of the year.

You’d be amazed at how important the air filters are for keeping such an expensive machine running at its best. When filters get dirty, they put stress on the system by making it harder for air to circulate. This, in turn, can lead to costly repairs.

To avoid paying between $4,000 to $12,000 for a new HVAC system, you should change the air filters at least every two months. During high usage periods, replacing these filters every 30 days is ideal.

Another cost-saving tip is to only use cheap fiberglass filters for the system instead of paying for the more expensive HEPA filters. While the HEPA filter may seem advantageous because they help remove airborne particles like dust and allergens, the higher price doesn’t pay off in the long run.

Additionally, HEPA filters are more condensed and restrict airflow, which can increase the amount of energy it takes to run your HVAC system. Inexpensive fiberglass filters allow for a higher volume of airflow and are perfectly safe to use.

If air quality is a concern, you really need an air purifier. This device will clean the air around your home and strip of of any harmful contaminants. Take a look at our list of the best air purifiers for the home.

Clean Your Air Conditioners

As a homeowner, you want to make it a habit to clean your air conditioners, especially during high use months. Well maintained air conditioning units can save yo up to 50% in energy costs.

For a central air conditioning unit, keep plants and brush away from the outside unit and clean off any debris that has collected on the grill.

If you really want to save money, and your home doesn’t already one one, consider investing in a window air conditioner. These units can shave 80% off of your monthly electric bill and often do as good of a job  cooling your house.

Maintaining a window AC unit is simple too. Just follow these steps:

  • Take off the front cover and clean it with soap and water
  • Remove the air filter and wash it (or replace it)
  • Wipe down the exposed coils
  • Straighten any bent fins

Use Weather Stripping

Take a look at your doors and windows. Those metal or rubber strips that seal the gaps are known as weather stripping. This material which is made to seal up air leaks tends to wear out over time, and some lower-end doors and windows don’t have it at all.

Damaged or missing weather stripping can account for 30 to 40% of home energy loss. If you spot any problems with the weather stripping around your house, you’ll want to replace or install it right away.

Inspecting and adding weatherstripping is often only talked about when preparing your home for winter weather, but it’s an essential step for keeping cold air in during the hot months too.

Caulk Around Doors and Windows

While weather stripping is great for sealing off the inner frames of doors and windows, this is not the only place where air can seep in and out.

The outer frames of these locations can also develop cracks that lead to energy loss. To keep your home airtight in these areas, use latex or silicone caulk to seal cracks between the doors and windows and their frame on the interior and exterior of the home.

This easy home maintenance project can save you between 10 to 20% in energy expenses.

Better Insulate Your Windows

Many houses still have single pane windows, and these are less energy efficient than double or triple pane windows. If this is the case for your home, you’ll want to install additional insulation around your windows or replace them completely.

The cheapest option that actually works quite well is to use a window insulation kit. This kit applies a thin layer of film over the windows and acts as an additional pane to keep air from leaking out.

A slightly more expensive option is to invest in cellular shades, which have pockets that hold trapped air and create a thermal barrier between the window surface and the room.

The most expensive choice is to upgrade all of the single-pane windows in your home. If you can afford this option, it can save you up to $465 per year in energy costs.

Don’t Forget Your Attic

Even if you don’t use your attic, you should routinely monitor it for leaks, damage, infestations and weak spots. It will be a whole lot cheaper to catch (and fix) problems right away before they get out of hand.

Every few months give your attic a walk-through and take note anything that looks suspicious.

Keep Closets Doors Closed

When you’re heating or cooling your house, square footage is a major enemy. The more air required to circulate inside a room, the longer it will take to reach a comfortable temperature. This leads to higher energy bills.

An easy way to save on heating and cooling costs is to keep every closet door in your home closed. This simple trick will reduce the square footage of airspace and help insulate the interior of your house better.

Add Insulation to Your Hot Water Heater and Pipes

Have you ever touched a hot water heater while it running? It gets extremely hot on the surface and loses a lot of heat. If you can keep that warmth in, you can reduce its operating costs.

One of the smartest A cost-effective home maintenance tips for for new homeowners is to insulate the hot water heater.

This job is super simple to do. Pre-cut jackets should be available at your local hardware store that fit over the tank. Just slip it on and that’s all there is to it.

Hot water pipes are another area where energy can escape. They make foam insulators for these things as well. At the very least, be sure to wrap at the first 3 feet of the outgoing pipe of your hot water heater. Then, try to cover any other exposed hot water piping. Doing this will reduce heat loss and can raise water temperature 2°F–4°F.

All in all, this maintenance project will cost you around $30 and can save between 7 to 16% in energy costs per year.

While you’re at it, check your water heater’s pressure relief valve to ensure it’s working.

Clean and Flush Out Your Hot Water Heater

Public water has sediment and this can build up over time inside your hot water heater if you don’t clean it.

If sediment accumulates too much, it can lead to your water heater breaking down or needing to be replaced. If it does break, it could cost you between $1,000 to $12,000 for a new one.

To prevent a hefty bill, drain the water from your water heater, remove any sediment, and refill it.

Another tip is to turn the thermostat temperature down to 120 degrees. This easy trick can save you 3 to 5% on your energy bill.

Clean Your Refrigerator Coils

Most homeowners (not just new ones) have no idea that they have to clean the refrigerant coils on their refrigerator. These coils are what keeps your fridge cold.

When the coils get dirty it causes the generator to work a lot harder than it should and about 70% of all refrigerator repair costs can be avoided by simply cleaning these coils.

Dirty coils can also raise the energy cost to run your fridge by as much as 35%.

Fortunately, this is one of the easiest home maintenance chores you can perform and it’s recommended to do every 6 months.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Unplug the refrigerator.
  • Locate the coils.
    • On some fridges, the entire back of the unit will be lined with the refrigerant coils. If this is the case, move the fridge away from the wall and vacuum all the dust that has accumulated.
    • Other fridges have hidden coils at the base, in the front or back, under a plastic grill. If this is the case, unsnap the grill to reach these coils and use a vacuum to remove any dust, hair or dirt that has collected.
  • If you spot the condenser fan go ahead and give the fan blades a quick clean too.

Replace Your Refrigerator Door Seals

If you can place a dollar bill in the door of your refrigerator, close it, and pull it out easily, you have to replace your door seals.

These gaskets break down over time and this can make your refrigerator work harder to keep things cold.

To replace the seal, simply order the correct gasket for your refrigerator’s model. Then, lift up on the gasket and you should see some hex screws keeping it in place. Loosen these screws to remove the old seal, replace it with the new one and re-tighten the screws.

Keep Your Dryer Vent Clean

Your dryer is one of the biggest energy drains you have in your home. If you don’t keep your dryer vent cleaned, it can take longer to dry clothes.

A clogged dry vent can drive energy costs up $140 per year. One of the simplest first time homeowner maintenance tips is to clean your dryer vent regularly to remove any buildup or debris.

Also, moving your dryer to a heated part of your house means it doesn’t have to work as hard each time you dry clothes.

Shorten Your Dryer Vent Hose

Here’s a simple home maintenance tip that can help your clothes dry 20% faster – shortening the dryer vent hose. A shorter line helps your dryer operate more efficiently.

To do this, start by disconnecting the hose and vacuuming it out to rid it of any debris. Then, pull the dryer a few feet out from the wall and trim the hose so it can still reach the vent. Push the dry back against the wall and your done.

A shorter dyer vent hose can also help reduce the risk of fires and problems later on.

Maintain the Downspouts and Gutters

Gutters and downspouts that fall into disrepair can cause massive damage to your home without you knowing it. This includes water damage, cracked foundations, rot and insect infestations.

Faulty gutters and downspouts can easily lead to over $2,000 in repair costs alone.

At the beginning of the spring and end of fall season, make sure your gutters and downspouts are free of debris and clean them out.

Also, ensure that the downspouts are positioned in a way that funnels water away from your home. You’d be surprised at how easy it is for these things to develop a leak or get out of position and cause water to pool around the foundation of your home.

Consider Extending Your Downspouts

If your downspouts end right at your foundation, you should really consider extending them so water flows away from your home. Depending on what material you want your downspouts to be made of, and the length, the costs is about $5-$20 per extension.