Owning a home is a huge responsibility, but there are quite a few "tricks of the trade" that can make home ownership a much easier affair all the way around. Below are some important tips and ideas that every homeowner should be aware of in order to get the most out of their number-one investment.
1. A poorly insulated attic can wreak havoc on your heating and cooling costs. If you look into your attic and see missing, damaged or sparse insulation (e.g., less than 6 inches in thickness), it's time for you to re-insulate the space.
2. Take time to make sure that the switches in your breaker panel are properly labeled because chances are, they're not. This is especially true if you have moved into an older house, or one that has been remodeled in recent years.
3. Lower the water temperature setting on your hot water heater to a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or 55 degrees Celsius). Most experts will tell you that this is the optimal hot water temperature for regular everyday use, and in fact, anything higher than that can potentially scald you (or a child). Not only is this an important safety precaution, but it can help you save money on your energy bill as well.
4. If you have any exposed water pipes, be sure to wrap them with insulation, especially in basements and garage areas. This will enable the water to retain heat as it moves from the heater to your faucets, and it will also help prevent a pipe burst due to freezing temperatures.
5. Paying your mortgage twice a month instead of only once per month can save you quite a bit of money over the long haul. Keep in mind that there are 52 weeks in a year, which equals out to 26 bi-weekly periods. By making 26 bi-weekly half-payments (paying roughly half of your monthly mortgage payment every two weeks), you have essentially made 26 half-payments by the end of the year, which is equivalent to 13 full payments. That means that you're basically paying an extra mortgage payment each year, which can greatly reduce your overall interest expense over the life of the mortgage.
6. Be sure to replace the air filter on your furnace or A/C unit on a periodic basis--e.g., at least once every six months. This will ensure better air quality throughout the home, and it can also reduce the amount of strain placed on your HVAC system due to having to push air through a clogged filter.
7. If you're dealing with a runny toilet, more than likely you will need to replace the flapper. You can buy a new flapper kit at your local home improvement store for only a few dollars, and it's a fairly quick fix to make in order to save quite a bit of money on your monthly water bill.
8. Try to maintain some type of emergency cash account for unexpected repairs. This can be something like hail damage to the roof, a busted water heater, a broken A/C unit, or any number of other unforeseen issues that can pop up and require immediate attention. Countless homeowners have horror stories about dealing with unexpected repairs, so it's better to stay financially prepared for these types of setbacks.