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Finally, it’s spring. To celebrate, do a few improvements indoors — tweaking your home’s energy efficiency and getting doors to operate smoothly — and then get outdoors to do some work that shows off your home’s exterior. Install a new screen door or repair an old one. Maintain fireplaces and gas appliances while avoiding the scammers who pop out of the woodwork like bugs this season. Repair fences. Remove stubborn stains from concrete garage floors, patios and sidewalks. And try one or all of our eight cheap and fun ways to give your home’s entrance some exciting spring sparkle.
Install a programmable thermostat
Energy is wasted when you push up the temperature when the room feels cold or turn down the heat manually when it’s too warm. You can save about $180 a year with one of these devices. (Bing: Find ways to reduce energy costs)
A programmable thermostat lets you set the temperature in your home, then leave it. The most useful products give you options for establishing different temperatures for day and night (62 at night, for example, and 65 during the day), weekdays and weekends (keep the house cooler while you’re away at work and warmer when you’re home) and also let you turn the heat way down during vacations without changing your daily settings. (Learn more and find out how to get a federal tax credit and possible rebates in this Energy Star article on programmable thermostats)
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Cut energy expenses further
While you are in the mood to reduce energy consumption, call your electric utility and/or your heating-fuel company to ask about financial incentives for installing energy-efficient appliances or improvements. Some utilities subsidize the cost of improvements: adding insulation or weatherstripping, or installing that programmable thermostat, for example. Others give rebates for purchasing Energy Star appliances such as water heaters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, heat pumps and fans. Also, remember to take the federal tax credit for such purchases. See the entire list at the Energy Star site. Senior citizens may qualify for additional subsidies.
Look for additional savings: Many states offer additional incentives. Find programs in your state on this map, at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
Straighten out problem doors
Walk around the house with a can of silicone lubricant and a rag, trying each door. If a door is sticky, open it partway and pull the hinge pin out. The pin is found in the center of the hinge, in the joint between the plate on the wall and the one on the door. Lightly oil the pin and the hole into which it will fit, using the rag to stop drips. Drop the pin back in place. (Find inspiration and tips at “Door repair 101: How to fix a squeaky door hinge, gaps and more.”) If a pin is stuck in a hinge, use a hammer and small screwdriver to knock it all the way out. Sand off accumulated oil, dust and rust from pin and lightly lubricate it before reinstalling. You may have to do this with both pins.
Repair or replace screen doors
Get ready for bug season by hanging screen doors. You can repair torn screens yourself:
- Measure the screen opening. You’ll need overage, so add at least an inch to each side. Bring the measurements to a hardware store and purchase a new length of screen.
- The screen is held in place by a flexible cord fitted into a channel that runs around the screen frame. Lift out the cord. If it is old and brittle, measure it and buy new cord at the hardware store.
- Place the new screen over the opening, fit it snugly in place by settling the cord in its channel around the entire opening (poke it in place with a screwdriver). Trim the excess screen with scissors or a box cutter.
If the door sags, see if you can tighten it by replacing missing or corroded hinge screws. If that doesn’t work, or if the door is bent or battered, purchase and install a new aluminum screen door.
Install a chimney cap
You could send out an invitation to birds and squirrels to come nest in the warmth of your chimney, or you could install a cap to protect the stack from dripping rain and uninvited critters. A cap, sometimes called a “crown,” shelters the opening while it lets smoke escape. A cap prevents wind from entering your home and helps create a good draft that feeds your fireplace or stove with oxygen. Metal chimneys usually come with caps, but if yours doesn’t have one, ask the manufacturer for advice. Caps are not appropriate for all chimneys. Ask your chimney sweep to inspect the chimney each year for damage and to advise you on whether to install a cap.
- ‘Listed’: 6 ways to boost your spring curb appeal
Beware chimney-sweep scams
Yes, you should have your chimney swept by a professional to remove flammable creosote that builds up inside the flue from wood smoke. (If you don’t use the stove or fireplace much, you can wait two to three years between cleanings.) But not every chimney sweep is right out of “Mary Poppins.” Door-to-door scammers prey on homeowners, dangling deliciously low prices, then pressuring owners into “repairing” expensive but fictitious problems. Protect yourself by using a chimney sweep with an established business in your town. Check a company’s track record through the Better Business Bureau and locate certified sweeps at the National Chimney Sweep Guild or the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Have gas-burning furnaces and appliances inspected
Every year a licensed gas technician should clean out dust and debris and examine the appliance for safety, efficiency and repairs. Find a repair pro through your gas company or utility or search the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association’s site.