Small Changes for Big Bucks

Lead Image
  • 1-8 hours
  • Beginner

There is power in small actions, especially when it comes to DIY. Calling the plumber and paying high energy bills can be prevented with a few minutes of attention to small problems that could have potentially big consequences.

1. Stop Drafts Around Drapes

One can save up to 10 percent -- roughly $125 per year -- on their heating bill simply by closing the curtains at night. Even more, money can be saved by blocking drafts; this can be done by installing a cornice or hanging drapery panels at the ceiling and letting them fall to the windowsill or floor. Outer edges can be sealed to the wall and inner edges to each other using Velcro tape (about $8 for a 5-foot roll per Insulated liners are also an option; they usually run about $35 per pair at Sears. Blocking drafts in addition to closing the curtains at night can boost the $125 savings by 25 percent.

2. Use a Hair Strainer to Protect Pipes

The use of a plumber can soar into the triple digits. A plastic strainer for the shower costs a couple of bucks and can prevent the headache of clogged pipes.

3. Clean Light Bulbs

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, dirty light bulbs emit 30 percent less light than clean ones, causing you to turn on more light fixtures to make up the difference. Instead, one should dust the bulbs in lamps and other open fixtures on a regular basis using a clean, dry cloth. Before dusting, make sure the lights have been turned off and that the bulbs have had time to cool thoroughly. Every LED light bulb that is not turned on for five hours a day saves about $3 per year. So, if one avoids turning on about seven other light sources for this amount of time, they will save about $21 a year.

4. Skip Extended Warranties

Studies show that the average cost of repairs covered by warranties is only slightly higher than the cost of coverage. By declining extended warranties, one can save $37 with small appliances, $65-$75 with electronics, and $118 with major appliances.

5. Change the Showerhead

Old showerheads release as much as five and a half gallons of water per minute -- twice the federal limit and more than three times what newer showerheads release. Replacing an older showerhead with a newer one could save $112 yearly in hot water costs.

6. Plant Trees Around the House

Shade on the side of your house from even a five-year-old tree can save you up to 35 percent on energy costs. Over the course of the year and depending on where you live, this could add up to hundreds of dollars annually.

7. Replace Old Ceiling Fans

By running ceiling fans clockwise during winter, the thermostat can be turned down by up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. This is due to the fan pushing heated air down when it's running in a clockwise direction. This simple trick can save the average person 10 percent on heating bills, or $59 a year. One can boost these savings even higher by installing an Energy Star-rated fan; these fixtures are 60 percent more efficient than older models.

8. Enable Sleep Mode on Computers

Set the sleep mode on computers so that the monitors will dim after about 10 minutes of inactivity. Enabling this feature on devices saves about $90 a year on the electricity bill.

9. Give the Broken Vacuum a Second Chance

Before throwing out the old $300 model, one should make the effort to fix (or clean) it themself. The problem could be fixed with a simple clearing of obstructions in the hose or removing fibers that are wound around the beater bar. If the problem persists, one can consult the manual for tips on replacing a fuse ($3), a broken belt ($3.50), a brush roll ($20), or a filter ($5-$20). If the manual was lost or misplaced, visit Manuals Online ( By trying to fix the problem oneself, the cost of a repair or replacement ($75 and up) can be avoided.

10. Upgrade a Faucet Aerator

By forcing the water through a screen in the faucet, the water flow is slowed, which can save you up to $100 a year if your heater is gas, $140 if electric.