Spring is here -- and many people want to take on home improvement projects along with their spring cleaning. The best projects return significant value to the person doing them, either in terms of making the home more livable or directly saving money. But many home improvement projects are intimidating for the new do-it-yourselfer.
With those ideas in mind, here are five money-saving home improvement projects that almost anyone can handle. They require relatively few tools, don't take too long to accomplish and, in most cases, are easy to stop and start at your convenience. Plus, as with most home improvement projects these days, there are a ton of online guides for these projects. This weekend, consider spending time on one or two of these projects, and you just might find that they save you quite a bit of money over the long run.
Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat enables you to direct your heating and cooling system to automatically turn off when you're not at home or when you're sleeping. For example, you might instruct it to have both the air conditioning and furnace off during your entire workday, turning on only during the half-hour before you arrive home. Or you might allow the temperature to drop quite low during the winter or high during the summer before your heating or cooling systems kick in while you're sleeping. Such modes can save you a ton on your energy bill without much active effort.
Installing a new thermostat can be intimidating, but all you really need are a few simple tools to make it work. Here's a great guide from Lowe's on how to install one.
Weatherstrip your front door and other exterior-facing doors. A weatherstrip on your front door reduces the amount of hot air that can come into your house in the summer and cold air that can seep in during the winter. That's because a weatherstrip blocks the gap between the edge of your door and the door frame, a gap through which air can often flow. Such free flow of air makes it much harder to keep your home at the desired temperature during periods of hot or cold weather, so blocking that airflow can save you quite a bit of money.
Installing weatherstrips is a very simple task, only requiring a few tools that any hardware store should have. "This Old House" has a great guide for weatherstripping your home.
Caulk your windows. This process is similar to weatherstripping, except you're targeting the air that flows in and around your windows due to small gaps. That airflow can seriously impact your heating and cooling system's ability to keep your home at the temperature that you desire, and that can add up to significant costs over time.
Caulking your windows is even easier than weatherstripping, as it only requires a tube of caulk, a caulking gun and some patience. This DIY Network guide to checking and sealing your windows will show you the steps to take.
Install and run a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan running on low with the blades moving in an appropriate direction for the season can enable you to comfortably enjoy temperatures a few degrees higher in summer and a few degrees lower in winter. In summer, the direct movement of air across your skin creates a gentle cooling effect. In winter, a ceiling fan can push down warm air from the ceiling along the walls without you feeling the effect at all, just a gentle warmth. Both effects can help you keep your air conditioning and your furnace turned off.
It's a straightforward task to replace a light fixture with a light-fixture-ceiling-fan combo. Here's a wonderful guide from DIY Network for doing just that.
Plant trees. This home improvement project won't give you immediate results, but over the long term, it can save you a tremendous amount of money. Trees that block direct sunlight on your home for part of the day keep your home from heating up on the warmest days, which means that your air conditioner will run less during the summer, saving you quite a bit of money. Plus, fully grown trees look wonderful and can often increase the value of your home.
Again, planting a few trees is a very straightforward task. Here's a great guide from the Arbor Day Foundation on planting trees for shading your home.
These simple home improvement projects lead directly to significant energy savings for your home, trimming your energy bill and eventually paying for all of the costs and more.
More From US News & World Report