Spring has sprung and so has your desire to get out and make everything clean again. While you may be inclined to do this as thoroughly as possible, just know DIY projects don’t need to be expensive in order to be efficient. Follow some of these rules and see your bank account sparkle like that kitchen table.
1. Borrow specialized tools—gas-powered post-hole diggers and table-mounted routers—from a DIYer in your area for a small fee. Go to Zilok for far better deals than rental retailers offer.
Cost: $1 to $100 per day.
Savings: $50 or more for the same tool at a rental center.
Bonus: Getting to know fellow renovators in your neighborhood with whom you can swap tips.
2. Close closet doors to lower the square footage you’re heating (and cooling). Shuttering closets along exterior walls also helps to insulate the house.
Cost: Zilch—although it may take a few minutes for your clothes to reach room temperature before you put them on.
Savings: About $50 per year off your energy bills.
Bonus: You and your guests won’t see closet clutter.
3. Choose one neutral trim paint for the entire house rather than buying a gallon of a particular color for each room and using only a fraction of each can.
Cost: You have to forgo the trendy color combos in the paint manufacturer brochures.
Savings: $50 on paint for three rooms.
Bonus: Crisp white trim is always in style, and you’ll never have to rummage around for the right can for touch-ups.
4. Sign up for your utility’s time-of-use plan. Many regional power suppliers offer rebates for reducing electricity consumption during periods of peak demand.
Cost: Washing clothes and dishes at night during nonpeak hours, and turning the thermostat up or down a couple of degrees during a cold snap (or heat wave).
Savings: $25 to $50 per month on your energy bills, depending on the season.
Bonus: You’re easing the strain on the power grid—and lowering the odds of a blackout.
5. Make your own cleaning solutions using inexpensive kitchen staples, such as white vinegar and baking soda. See The Green Guide for recipes.
Cost: A few bucks in extra pantry supplies.
Savings: $50 or more per year on commercial cleaners.
Bonus: Cleaners that don’t contain harsh chemicals are healthier for your household.
6. Replace central-air-conditioning filters every month during the summer to keep air flowing freely through the ducts and reduce strain on the blower motor.
Cost: About $11 for three filters.
Savings: $40 or more on cooling costs.
Bonus: New filters keep dust and mold from collecting on condenser coils, extending the equipment’s life.
7. Get your fall yard-cleanup crew to clear your gutters instead of having a gutter guy make a special trip.
Cost: $100 for your lawn crew.
Savings: $200 or more that you’re not paying the gutter guy.
Bonus: There’s no risk of gutter gunk being dumped onto your lawn after all the leaves have been blown and bagged.
8. Prune that overgrown rhododendron rather than replace it. If the shrub is blocking your front windows, cut it down to 18 inches high in late March. It’ll regenerate into the plant you want with routine maintenance in one to two years.
Cost: 1 hour with pruners.
Savings: $100 to $200 for each new mature shrub you don’t have to buy.
Bonus: Because the plant is already established, it won’t need the intensive watering a new specimen requires during its first growing season.
9. Plant a deciduous tree on the south, west, or east side of your house. Once mature, it’ll shade your roof and cut your cooling costs by up to 30 percent.
Cost: $25 to $70, depending on the tree species, atFast Growing Trees Nursery.
Savings: About $120 per year on air-conditioning.
Bonus: The tree drops its leaves each fall, so you’ll still get the warming benefit of winter sun.
10. Get gently used tools, electronics, and furniture from Freecycle, an online community of folks who swap what they no longer need for stuff they can’t do without.
Cost: Your fellow Freecyclers expect you to donate items, not just take freebies.
Savings: $75 or more for a new-to-you wireless router for your computer.
Bonus: Freeing up space in your garage and helping reduce the millions of tons of waste dumped into landfills each year.