2019 is winding down, and homeowners are looking for ways to improve their homes in 2020 without breaking the bank.  Read below for ways to upgrade your home and save money in the new year!


Install a Programmable Thermostat

No, it doesn’t have to be a fancy smart thermostat, though if you want the convenience of scheduling heating and cooling from your phone, a product like the Nest Learning Thermostat might be worth the extra spend. But if you reliably program your thermostat to keep your house cooler in the winter or warmer in the summer while you’re away, the EPA says you can save around $180 on heating and cooling costs, making it a purchase that pays for itself. Even better, your power company may also give you a rebate for installing one.


Don’t Forget About Caulking and Weather Stripping

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of low-tech, inexpensive home improvements that can pay off big time, especially here in the high country where our winters are long and cold.  Whatever modest amount you spend re-caulking and replacing worn-out weather stripping around windows and doors can be recouped in as little as a year in the form of lower utility bills, according to the Department of Energy.


Add More Attic Insulation

One of the best ways to save? Keep your heating and cooling expenses in check with some humble attic insulation. HouseLogic suggests checking to see if joists are visible over the insulation in your attic. If so, adding some more could lead to long-term savings of as much as $600 a year. HomeAdvisor pegs a cost of roughly $1.50 to $3.50 a square foot depending on the kind of insulation you choose.


Add Smart Power Switches

Smart lights are great, but if you’re not ready to make the investment or you want a more versatile option for small appliances and other power hogs, add a few smart switches. For under $30, the Wemo Mini Smart Plug can give you remote control of your favorite fan, a humidifier, the Christmas tree lights, or even that curling iron or space heater you’re always forgetting to turn off. That way you’re saving energy and eliminating a potential fire hazard, too.  Second homeowners will reap huge savings by "turning off" their outlets when they aren't using their home!


Opt for Smart Security Devices

If you’ve priced out a traditional monitored security system, chances are you already know what we’re about to say. They’re expensive — very. Smart security devices like the Nest Security Camera or the Ring Video Doorbell can give you peace of mind without the monthly bill, plus they’re easy to monitor remotely from your phone. If monitoring is a must, smart-tech companies are getting in on the game, too, with less costly options like the Ring Alarm System.  Second homeowners can easily keep an eye on their property, and investors who rent their home can make sure the renters are treating it well!


Consider Low-E Windows or Window Film

Though trees are a great way to block sunlight from making your air conditioner work overtime, you might not have room or prefer a more instant solution. Low-E, or low-emissivity, windows are specially made to let in less heat in the summer and keep in more of it in the winter. You could see as much as $330 in annual savings, the Department of Energy estimates. Of course, new energy-efficient windows aren’t cheap. One budget alternative to consider is low-E film, which can be applied to existing windows and costs roughly $6 to $14 a square foot.  The sun is especially strong at altitude, so owners in the high country could see even more benefit.


Have Your Ducts Sealed

Considering heating and air-conditioning account for the vast amount of a home’s energy usage, it makes sense to make sure each system is working as efficiently as possible. But chances are the very ducts meant to ferry warm or cool air to your living spaces are leaking — allowing as much as 30% of the air inside to escape before you ever benefit. Sealing up your ducts, either yourself or by using a contractor, can remedy the problem and save you a mint on your utility bills.


Splurge on the Hardwood Floors

In the cozy-versus-classic battle for the ages, it’s true that wood floors are typically costlier to install than carpet. But they can be a money-saver in the long run. If you’re looking to sell in the near future, hardwood floors can help your house sell faster. And if you hope to stay in your home for a long time, there’s good news for you, too: Wall-to-wall carpet usually lasts only 10 years, while hardwood floors can easily last triple that time — or much longer, if well cared for.


Cozy up to a Water Heater Blanket

Got an older water heater? Go touch it. Does it feel warm? If so, you could save some cash by purchasing an inexpensive water-heater blanket that will reduce heat loss and, in turn, your water-heating costs. The best part about this project: Water heater blankets are inexpensive, starting around $20, and easy to install yourself.


Consider Going Tankless

Once your water heater reaches the end of its lifespan, think critically about whether you need a behemoth with a conventional storage tank. A tankless water heater that heats up water on demand can be up to 34% more efficient than a conventional water heater for a small household using 40 gallons or less of hot water each day, according to the Department of Energy. And while you’ll pay more to install this type of water heater, there’s another big advantage: it’s easier to repair and typically lasts much longer — 20 years or more — than conventional models that may last just 10 to 15 years.


Install a Leak Detector

Any homeowner who’s had a washing machine give up the ghost or a pipe burst on an uncharacteristically cold morning can tell you how expensive it can be to repair water damage. One cheap way to potentially avert disaster? A leak detector that tells you there’s a problem before it gets too severe. As with many devices today, you can go low-tech, opting for a traditional alarm with some form of a siren, or you can grab a smart alarm like the Fibaro Flood Sensor that sends an alert to your phone — great if you’re away from home for long periods.

Sign up for a home energy assessment today at EnergySmartColorado.com or call the High Country Conservation Center in Frisco at 970.668.5703.