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Home Improvements that Pay Off

MoneyIn times of economic uncertainty it is only natural that we try to save money. We cancel expensive vacation trips, cut on leisure, postpone the purchase of that brand new car, and put off major expenditures such as home remodeling and repairs. The idea is to stretch our hard earned dollars and save everything we can, in case we come to face even tougher times

However, forfeiting some renovation projects and important repairs might not be the smartest choice. That outdated HVAC system, the old windows, and cold basement might be costing you big bucks. The next rainstorm may flood your basement. In other words, the money you’re trying to save in repairs might be being spent instead in utility bills or depleted in bigger repairs later on due to the lack of proper preventive measures.
Even in tough times, there are some improvements that actually pay off, lowering your energy consumption, preserving or increasing the property value, and giving you much-needed peace of mind.
Below is a list of the five of the most cost-effective home improvements and the best investments you can ever make in your home.

Basement Finishing 
Finishing your basement will do more that just add living space to your home. It will actually pay you back and eventually, even prove itself profitable! To sweeten the deal, it can be done at half the cost of building an addition.

Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report lists basement finishing as one of the few investments in which you will be recovering most of your money right away in added property value. You can recover an average of 75% of the cost if you sell the property immediately.

However, the most significant benefit of a finished basement is the ability to improve the home’s energy efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that an average 1,500 square-foot home that has a finished basement with R-10 insulation, and is heated by natural gas (at $0.72/therm) can save anywhere between $200 to $400 a year.

Add to that the fact that, even considering ups and downs in the housing market, the U.S. Census Bureau shows home prices tend to increase in average 251.69% every 20 years interval. Therefore, in 20 years, the added value to your property will not only fully cover the remodeling costs; it will prove profitable!

Crawl Space Encapsulation
That moldy, filthy, rotten crawl space is more than just unsightly and unpleasant. It’s a black hole in which not only your money disappears, but also your home’s value, structural integrity, indoor air quality, and your family’s health.

Because of the way the air moves inside buildings, everything that goes on in the crawl space has significant impact on how structurally sound, comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient your home is.

As the air in the house is heated, it rises and escapes through any openings in the upper floors. To replenish the air supply, new air is sucked from the lower levels, mainly from your basement or crawl space. That is called the “stack-effect” and because of it, everything that is in that filthy crawl space air, including mold spores and dust mites, is consistently entering your home.

It is estimated that 1/3 of the air you breathe inside the home is crawl space air. In addition, the typical crawl space moisture that is also being carried in with the air makes your home harder to cool and heat. During the winter, cold air is also sucked in through the floor. If air ducts run through the crawl space, energy losses can amount to as high as 50% – half of the money you pay in to heat and cool your home is literally wasted.

Crawl space encapsulation is a relatively inexpensive new technology that can control moisture and prevent moisture-related problems in this space. It protects your floor joists and wooden structures from mold and rot, and keep dust mites and other moisture loving pests at bay. Furthermore, according to studies conducted by Advanced Energy and Habitat for Humanity, sealing and conditioning a crawl space can make your home an average of 18% more energy efficient.

Battery Operated Backup Sump Pump
Say that you have a very good drainage system and a quality sump pump, which is well maintained and in great condition. Nevertheless, one morning, after a big storm, you wake up to a flooded basement and thousand of dollars in damaged property. The storm knocked down the power, and with it, the sump pump was rendered useless.

There is no way to fully protect your basement from flooding without a backup sump pump system, preferably one that does not run on electricity or depend on a generator.
During a long-lasting power outage, you will want the generator to spend its energy keeping your refrigerator, appliances and lights running.

battery-operated backup sump pump is, in that case, your best option. If you have a finished basement, or you store anything of value in your basement, a battery-operated backup pump is a must. It saves you a lot of money and lets you sleep better, knowing that your basement is protected.

Replacement Windows
Replacing your old, obsolete windows with new Energy Star rated windows can help save a lot of money in energy bills.
According to the Alliance to Save Energy, a non-profit coalition of business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders, installing energy-efficient replacement windows can reduce your heating and cooling bills by up to 30 percent! New double-hung, wood-clad windows with double-pane low-E glass, can reduce drastically your heating and cooling costs, besides improving significantly the looks of your home and adding value to the property.

HVAC Upgrades
Replacing obsolete furnaces, which usually operate at only 60 percent efficiency or worse for a new, high-efficiency two-stage unit, that rates at least 90% efficiency, can save you hundreds of dollars each year.

Likewise, replacing your old A/C system with a new unit that achieves a minimum of 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) can save you big bucks in cooling costs during summer. In addition, most new models use non-ozone-depleting refrigerants, making them more environmentally-friendly than older units.

In addition to all the benefits, some of these improvements, such as basement insulation and HVAC upgrades, may qualify for loans, grants and tax incentives under different local, state, and federal government energy efficiency programs.

In conclusion, a good assessment of your home’s overall condition is fundamental in times like these. You can’t afford to let your property, which is probably your most valuable asset, lose value. Sometimes, the best way to save money is to invest in technologies and repairs that will keep you from wasting it.

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