Financing a DIY Remodel Project? Here’s How Home Depot & Lowe’s May Help

Home Depot and Lowe's both offer ways to finance home improvement projects. Here's how to pick between them.

Now that spring is here, you might be thinking about tackling home improvement projects. Whether it’s a new deck or a remodel of your kitchen, you’ll need to figure out how to pay for the work. And if you’re taking on these projects yourself instead of hiring a contractor, you may be headed to your local hardware store.

If you’re debating between Home Depot or Lowe’s for supplies, perhaps considering their different financing options may help in your decision-making process. (Before you look for financing options, it’s a good idea to take a look at your credit to see how it’s doing and what terms and conditions you may qualify for. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Home Depot Consumer Credit Card

With the Home Depot consumer credit card (which you can read a full review of here), you will receive 0% financing for six months on any purchase of $299 or more. After the promotional period ends, the annual percentage rate (APR) will change to a variable rate of 17.99%, 21.99%, 25.99% or 26.99%, depending on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee with this card, but it charges deferred interest, calculated from the purchase date if you don’t pay your balance in full by the end of the promotional period.

Home Depot Project Loan

If you need a longer window to pay off your project, especially if you’re doing a large project (think projects like entire room remodels or additions), a Home Depot project loan could be another option. You can borrow up to $55,000 and have up to 84 months to pay off the loan. The first six months are considered a purchasing period during which you only pay interest on the amount borrowed, based on a 7.99% APR. The APR stays the same after this introductory period, but you’ll start to pay off the balance in monthly installments as well.

Why You Might Choose Home Depot Financing

The options at Home Depot and Lowe’s are similar, but there are key differences that could push you in either direction, depending on your preferences. With the Home Depot consumer credit card, there will be times throughout the year when Home Depot offers extended promotional financing beyond the standard six months. Some offers could be as long as 24 months. If you make your purchase during this period, you’ll have more time to pay for your project with no interest.

Lowe’s Consumer Credit Card

When using the Lowe’s consumer credit card there are a few options. You can either elect to receive a 5% discount on your purchase or special financing on purchases of $299 or more. One special financing option is to receive 0% APR for six months. If you go this route you will be charge deferred interest if the balance is not paid by the end of the six-month period. If you think you will need more time, you can choose to borrow for up to 84 months with a fixed 7.99% APR. Just be aware that if you take advantage of the special financing offers, you will not be able to receive the 5% off offer as well.

Why You Might Choose Lowe’s Financing

If you don’t need special financing and just want a discount, the Lowe’s consumer credit card might be the best choice. Because you can earn 5% off every purchase, the overall cost of your project could be considerably reduced.

Alternatives to Home Depot or Lowe’s Financing

If you want to earn rewards for your purchases or extend the 0% APR period, you might want to consider a credit card instead. Here are a couple of options.

Chase Freedom Card

This card allows you to earn rewards on purchases and offers an introductory 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the introductory period, the APR will change to a variable 15.49% to 24.24%. When you sign up for the card, you receive a $150 bonus after you spend $500 within the first three months. The card also comes with rotating 5% cash back categories each quarter. There is a limit of $1,500 per quarter on bonuses, which typically include home improvement stores once a year. All other purchases earn 1% back. This card comes with no annual fee.

Citi Simplicity

If you want to boost the time you have to pay off your home improvement project, the Citi Simplicity card might be an option. (Full Disclosure: Citibank and Chase advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) With this card, you receive an introductory 0% APR for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers. Once the introductory period is over, the APR changes to a variable 14.24% to 24.24%. This card also comes with no annual fee and will not charge a late fee.

Looking for more ways to spruce up your house? Check out our annual homeowner to-do list.

Image: andresr

At publishing time, the Chase Freedom and City Simplicity cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

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11 Ways to Save If Your Heating & Cooling Bills Are Boiling Over

Heating bills can shoot up as the temperature drops. Here are ways to cut costs while keeping warm.

It’s one of the facts of modern life: Keeping your home the right temperature can get expensive, whether you’re in a studio apartment or a spacious house, you may be paying more than you have to in order to heat your home. Fear not! There are several ways you can cut back on how much you’re spending on temperature control in your home. Here are 11 ways to lower your heating or cooling bill. (And if you’re looking for more ways to save on your monthly home expenses, you can check out these seven easy ways to save on your cable bill.)

1. Seal Your Windows

Windows that are improperly sealed can leak air, losing energy and causing your heating system or air conditioner to work harder.

“Gaps around the window frame allow air to leak, so caulk any gaps in the seals to save on your heating bill,” said Richard Ciresi, owner of Louisville Aire Serve, a heat and air conditioning company.

2. Upgrade Your Windows

You can also upgrade your windows to more energy-efficient models.

“New windows are a big investment, but not one without substantial reward,” said Larry Patterson, a Glass Doctor franchisee. “Replacing your old windows with double or triple-pane energy efficient glass can save you up to 30% on your energy bills.”

3. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats can cut energy costs by automatically adjusting the temperature while you’re away, reducing the energy wasted on heating or cooling an empty home.

“Investing in a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest ways to save money on your heating, as you set your heating to turn on and off at specific times throughout the day,” said Max Robinson of Turnbull and Scott Heating.

You can program your thermostat to turn off while you sleep or while you’re at work and turn back on when you wake up or get home, Robinson added.

4. Change Your Air Filter

Your furnace uses air filters to keep dust from clogging your vents and circulating through your home. When the filters are dirty, your system has to work harder to push air through. Air filters are affordable and easy to switch out, and doing so will help your heating system run more efficiently. You should swap out new air filters every few months.

5. Open Your Vents

Closed vents can waste a lot of energy. When you turn on your heat, make sure your vents are open.

“Blocked or closed vents and registers make furnaces work harder than they should,” Ciresi said. “Blocked vents do not allow for proper airflow. The furnace will continue to run but the rooms won’t heat up. Always unblock and open all vents and registers before running the furnace.”

6. Reduce Hot Water

The energy spent heating your water contributes to your heating bill. You can reduce your hot water usage a few different ways: Take shorter showers, avoid the hottest water settings and wash your clothes in cold water.

Water heaters are often set at a higher temperature than is needed. You can lower your water heater’s base temperature to 120 degrees, which is sufficiently hot for most household needs.

7. Use a Space Heater for Small Rooms

Smaller rooms can be heated by an electric space heater. While this method still uses electricity, it’s far more energy efficient than using gas heat.

“The rest of the house will be cooler, but this shouldn’t be an issue if your entire family is gathered in one room,” Robinson said.

8. Check Your Outlets

Even your outlets can leak air and reduce the energy efficiency of your home. Make sure to check your outlets for drafts.

“Electrical outlets in exterior walls are usually a major source of drafts, as it is rare for insulation to be used in these areas, and when it is it is often incorrectly installed,” Robinson said. “Luckily it’s easy to correct this. Use a simple foam sealant to fill any gaps around the outlet, and place a gasket over the front of the outlet.”

9. Check Your Insulation

Your walls, attic and other home areas must be properly insulated. If not, the temperature will be much harder to control. Make sure to check your insulation, or hire a professional if you’re not sure how.

10. Find an Alternative Payment Plan

Many energy companies provide alternative payment plans. Some will reduce your bill for reducing your energy consumption, while other plans might lower your payments based on income. Check with your energy provider to see what alternative plans they offer.

If you’re doing things yourself, you may want to consider funding these projects with a store credit card that offers you rewards for your purchases. (You can read our review of the Home Depot credit card here.) Before you apply for any new plastic, it’s always a good idea to review your credit so you know what types of cards you may qualify for. You can see two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

11. Change Your Attire

If you’re cold, you can always turn down the temperature a few degrees and bundle up. Don’t neglect your feet and head, areas that can lose a lot of body heat. Fuzzy socks and a knit hat should do the trick. And if you’re looking to escape the heat? Try a bathing suit and a cool body of water — You can see 28 ideas on how to save for your next big adventure here.

Inspired to do some renovations? Before you head out to your local hardware store, you may want to check out our 6 ways to save at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Image: DGLimages

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7 Ways to Save at Home Depot

Want to do more around your house without spending a ton of money? Here's seven ways to lower your costs when shopping at Home Depot.

If you work in the home improvement field or love do-it-yourself projects, there’s a good chance you’ve spent some significant time and money at Home Depot, one of the country’s largest suppliers of home improvement merchandise. But enthusiastic Home Depot shoppers know that, even after hunting down great deals, the bill can quickly spiral out of control at the register.

Luckily, there are many tricks that can save you a lot at Home Depot. Here are seven ways you can cut costs on your next expedition. 

1. Discounted Gift Cards 

Websites like Cardpool.com and Raise.com provide discounted Home Depot gift cards that save you a percentage of the total gift card value. For instance, as of writing this, Raise.com had gift cards discounted with up to 5.1% off their total value. 

2. Hunt for Coupons & Deal Alerts

You can look out for Home Depot flyers and coupons in your mailbox or in the store, but you can also get alerted to special promotions, deals and offers by signing up for Home Depot’s email or text alerts. Signing up right now will also get you $5 off your next purchase of $50 or more. 

3. Work the Low-Price Guarantee 

Home Depot offers a low-price guarantee for both online and in-store purchases. For online purchases, Home Depot will match any competitor price, including the item price and shipping costs. For in-store purchases, Home Depot will beat competitor prices on identical items by 10%. You’ll have to bring the ad, printout or photo to the cash register when you check out. Several exclusions apply to this policy, including custom products, open-box merchandise and auction pricing. 

4. Rent Equipment 

For equipment you’ll only use once or twice, you might want to evaluate the cost of renting versus buying. Many items can be rented on an hourly, daily or weekly basis at a fraction of the cost. For instance, we found a $188 leaf blower that can be rented for $23 a day. If you only need to blow leaves once a year, this can be a much more cost-effective option. 

5. Visit the Clearance Section

Many Home Depot locations have clearance sections located throughout the store (although they can sometimes be hard to find). Check out the far reaches of the store for deeply discounted items. 

6. Consider a Home Depot Credit Card

Home Depot offers a credit card (we’ve got a full review here) to help their customers finance home improvement projects. Home Depot is currently offering an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for all purchases of $299 or more if you pay off your balance in six months. They also offer cardholders up to 24 months of interest-free financing for special categories such as roofing supplies or custom kitchen cabinets.

If you were already planning on charging your Home Depot purchases to a credit card, you could avoid interest by taking advantage of these offers (although you can also avoid interest by paying off your balance in full each month).

Remember, before applying for any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to see where you stand. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, right here on Credit.com.

7. Join the Garden Club 

Avid gardeners should take a look at the Home Depot Garden Club, an email and text alert club that delivers special garden promotions and offers right to your inbox or mobile device. Plus, Home Depot is currently offering $5 off your next purchase of $50 or more when you sign up.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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9 Ways to Make a Small Kitchen Feel Bigger

tiny-kitchen

Image:Sarah Bossert

 

 

 

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4 Inexpensive Ways to Boost Your Home’s Value

If you’re planning to sell your home, you’re likely looking for ways to boost its value. The more money you can make from your home’s sale, the better. However, you may have been hesitant to perform some much-needed upgrades due to the cost. Fortunately, there are some adjustments you can make to your home that won’t break the bank. Here are some money-saving tips that will bolster your home’s value in no time.

1. Break Out the Paint

A quick, inexpensive way to increase the value of your house is to paint. A fresh coat of paint can make rooms look like new. But don’t get too wild when choosing paint colors. Your best bet is to stick to neutral shades because they will appeal to a greater number of potential buyers. However, not just any neutral shade will do. A Zillow study found that it’s best to steer away from colors such as dark brown and terra cotta when it comes to interior paint colors. If you do choose to use these colors for the interior, your home’s price might sell for $469 (when using dark brown) or $793 less (when using terra cotta) than Zillow’s price estimate. Homebuyers generally don’t care for these colors.

2. Upgrade Appliances

Know that you don’t have to go out and buy all new appliances that match exactly (and if you’re working with a tight budget, this isn’t a great idea, anyway). The experts at Kitchen.com say it’s OK if your appliances don’t perfectly match, as long as they don’t compete.

If you’re up for bucking the norm, white and stainless steel are both neutral colors, so you don’t have to worry about them clashing. What you should keep in mind is that when one appliance doesn’t match the others, it stands out. You can use this to your advantage and create a strong focal point: Designers often do this with the cooking area by choosing a gourmet range or artistic hood with a different style, color or finish.

3. Change Door Knobs

When it’s time to put your home on the market, details matter. One detail that often goes unnoticed is door knobs. You can add a bit of flair by replacing old doorknobs around your home and on kitchen cabinets. The best part is, a simple door knob upgrade doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Home renovation expert Brittany Cramer said one thing you should keep in mind when updating door knobs is the home’s era. “One of my favorite pieces of advice to give folks is to consider the era of the home before purchasing and installing accessories. You might be a lover of that wrought iron, Tuscan look, but will that style suit your home?” said Cramer.

4. Replace Light Fixtures

Another inexpensive DIY project is to replace home lighting. Updated light fixtures can give any home a lift. The right light fixture can make your home look not only brighter but also modern. In addition, consider replacing outlet switch plates.

[Editor’s note: Chances are if you’re selling a home, you’re also buying one. Check out our tips on how to secure the best mortgage for you.]

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.  

 

Image: Tempura

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7 DIY Ways to Make Your Grass Greener

ways-to-make-your-grass-green

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Angie’s List Is Now Free (Kind Of)

angies-list-free

Good news, home improvers: Angie’s List is now offering free membership. The home reviews site, which has grown to more than 10 million subscribers, announced its Green tier earlier this month, which will allow members to access reviews free-of-charge.

The company also revealed two new premium membership tiers, Silver and Gold, which offer guarantees of services beyond the reviews. Here’s how each tier works, according to the announcement.

Green: Free, nationwide access to companies in more than 700 service categories, plus more than 10 million verified customer ratings and reviews

Silver: All Green-level features, plus Angie’s Fair Price Guarantee and Angie’s Service Quality Guarantee. Chat and email customer support are also provided, along with discounts for $24.99 a year.

Gold: All Green and Silver features, plus complaint resolution and customer support via phone for $99.99 a year.

Among the new features the company is adding each quarter are “project pricing, scheduling and financing (through partnerships), handyman chat line, a home emergency service line” and instant hiring.

Hiring a Contractor 

Improving your home can add tremendous value to its resale price, which can be helpful when and if you decide to sell. However, it’s important to do your research before hiring a contractor, as the last thing you want is for him to walk off your lot without finishing the job — or to damage your property.

Home improvements and/or repairs cost serious money, so you also want to be sure that you can handle the strain on your wallet. After all, you don’t want to go into debt if it’s possible to put the project off for a few months and save the money to pay for it. (If you’re already in debt, perhaps you want to set the project aside altogether and concentrate on getting control of your finances instead.)

If you’re considering taking out a personal loan to finance your home improvement or repair project, it’s a good idea to make sure your credit is in tip-top shape before you apply, as this will help determine what kind of terms and conditions you may qualify for. You can view a summary of your credit report, updated monthly, for free by visiting Credit.com.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image:?David Sacks

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5 Ways to Save on Gardening

home_garden

Each spring, millions of Americans head out to their gardens and get to work growing food. In fact, the number of U.S. households engaged in gardening jumped from 36 million households in 2008 to 42 million in 2013 — a 17% increase, according to the National Gardening Association.

The trend is particularly hot among millennials, according to the association:

Young people, particularly millennials (ages 18-34), are the fastest growing population segment of food gardeners. In 2008 there were 8 million millennial food gardeners. That figure rose to 13 million in 2013, an increase of 63%. Millennials also nearly doubled their spending on food gardening, from $632 million in 2008 to $1.2 billion in 2013.

Such efforts result in a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that lasts throughout the summer and into fall.

But as every green thumb knows, gardening isn’t always cheap. Fortunately, there are ways to dig yourself out of a potentially expensive hole and still have a garden that is the envy of neighbors.

To create a flourishing-yet-frugal garden — whether it’s a longtime passion or you are new to the hobby — simply rake through these five steps.

1. Invest in Good Tools

If you are new to gardening — or you simply want to deepen your commitment to the hobby — the prospect of purchasing a slew of expensive tools can be daunting. Fortunately, there are ways to get those tools for pennies on the dollar.

Check out sites like Craigslist or Freecycle for bargains. People who are moving often are willing to sell their tools cheaply — or even give them away.

Other places to find cheap tools include thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales. You may even find the ultimate bargain by simply scanning the curbs in your neighborhood on trash day.

Finally, you can organize tool-sharing groups in your neighborhood.

Don’t let your passion for gardening outrun your common sense: If you need a tractor-mower, rototiller or backhoe, it may be more cost-efficient to rent.

2. Search for Cheap Seeds — & Don’t Overbuy

When you buy seeds, never get more than you need. Many dedicated gardeners have loads of leftover seed from previous seasons. It’s easy to fall prey to this mistake, especially when seeds are on sale.

If you do buy extra seeds, keep them in a cool, dry place so you can use them next year. Refrigerate them in an airtight jar or plastic container.

Some types of seed — including beet, cucumber, muskmelon and tomato — can be stored for at least five years. Others, including sweet corns and onions, may be good for just one or two years.

Also, as the growing year wanes, look for cheap, end-of-season seed. You can find it everywhere from eBay to your local supermarket.

3. Create Your Own Mulch & Compost

If you plan ahead, you can avoid purchasing mulch or compost from a gardening store.

Instead of bagging leaves in the fall, shred them for mulch. Follow the process recommended by HGTV.

Another idea is to ask road crews clearing trees and brush if they will dump their wood chips at your place. Crews may be willing to off-load their materials rather than having to haul them away at the end of a job.

It’s also easy to create your own compost. Eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, shredded paper, and leaves are all prefect compost ingredients.

Some city and county governments also give away mulch or compost.

4. Use Recycled Items Around the House

Repurposing household items can help reduce your gardening expenses.

For example, an old Better Homes and Gardens article recommends using a simple cut-off gallon milk carton as a scooping tool or a starting bed for seedlings. And a discarded door can be used as a wall in the yard for climbing roses.

5. Collect & Store Rainwater

If you are not careful, the large water bills you rack up when irrigating your garden can wash away many of the savings you gain from growing your own produce.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this problem: Collect rainwater in barrels. If you find a good deal on a rainwater barrel at a store, go ahead and buy it. But any type of barrel or large bucket that you have lying around the house will do.

[Editor’s Note: Gardening can be a fun hobby. It also provides light exercise and sunshine, and it can have an impact on your grocery budget. Still, if you’re looking to pay off debt, reduce your overall expenses or put away some savings, a vegetable garden may well be part of your plan, but it’s unlikely to be the one ticket that turns a difficult financial situation around. To help you get on a better track, you can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

More Money-Saving Reads:

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12 Cheap & Easy Summer Projects That Can Make Your Home Feel New

home_improvement

Home maintenance is like housework, flossing and exercise: Work it into your routine, because the penalties are worse than the jobs themselves.

For example, cleaning the gutters costs nothing if you do it yourself, and roughly $100 to $200 if you hire a service.

Ignore the job, though, and you may face expensive repairs thanks to:

  • Leaky or overflowing gutters that rot fascia boards (the roof edge under the gutters), soffits and rafters.
  • Water that drips onto window trim, rotting it.
  • Leaky gutters that let water pool at the foundation, causing basement leaks, mold and even foundation damage.

Fortunately, summer gives you a chance to repair damage, protect your home and keep its face to the world — and to you — looking bright.

Following are 10 cheap and easy home projects that make your home feel new — and potentially save you a bundle in repair costs down the road.

1. Paint

Fresh paint doesn’t just make your home look great — it’s also a protective skin against UV light and moisture.

Earth911 reveals where to get free paint: Many household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities around the country have product exchange rooms, sometimes called swap rooms or swap shops. These rooms offer safe, unopened HHW items for public consumption, keeping them out of the landfill and letting you save some money.Call your city to ask about your local HHW facility.

Other sources for cheap paint:

  • Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores (find one near you) sell “gently used” tools and supplies for home projects at low cost.
  • See EcoBusinessLinks’ national directory of recycled and surplus building materials and suppliers.
  • Search online for a city’s name and “salvaged building supplies” or “recycled building materials.”

2. Mulch

Laying a 1- to 3-inch layer of mulch on garden beds will quickly spruce up the area around your home’s exterior.

Mulch has other benefits. For example, it spares you from having to do a lot of weeding. Mulch smothers weeds by depriving them of oxygen and light, and it holds moisture in the soil, saving water and giving plants a consistent source of moisture.

Free or cheap sources of mulch include:

  • Shredded wood or bark: Electric utility companies and tree services may have cheap or free wood chips or shredded bark. Also, some cities collect leaves and branches, chipping them for use by local residents.
  • Grass clippings: Let them cool down before mulching.
  • Raked leaves: Shred first with a shredder or lawn mower so air and moisture can reach the soil beneath.
  • Cardboard: Ask recycling centers and appliance stores for free cardboard. Wet it down, cut it to fit and place it around plants, covering with soil or bark mulch. This is best in wet climates where cardboard breaks down into the soil.

3. Seal Wood Decks

If your deck is looking a little tired, it might be time to seal it, and stain or paint it. Staining or painting your wood deck will make it look like a million bucks — and you’ll only spend a tiny fraction of that amount.

The cheap way to seal a deck is do it yourself. You’ll spend a couple hundred dollars on supplies and rented tools. Do it annually or every two to three years, depending on where you live. Ignore the job long enough and you’ll need to replace the deck, at a cost of thousands of dollars.

 4. Clean Gutters

You may be able to do this job yourself, and at little or no cost. Rent or borrow a solid ladder tall enough to do the job safely. Enlist someone to stand on the ground and steady it while you work.

Clean gutters once or twice a year, depending on how quickly they fill with leaves and debris. While you’re cleaning, check for leaks and breaks.

5. Shine Windows

Cleaning your windows is one of the cheapest ways to give your home a new sparkle. Here are three cheap, no-streak approaches:

  • Apply a vinegar-water solution to the glass and wipe it off with crumpled newspaper.
  • Use TSP (trisodium phosphate), an inexpensive powder degreaser found at hardware stores, mixed in water and squeegee it off for a streak-free finish. Make sure you read the instructions for proper handling.
  • Many people swear by a few drops of dish soap in a bucket of warm water.

6. Caulk

Caulking around windows helps cut heating and cooling bills by keeping indoor air in and drafts out. It’s an important preventative, too: Leaky window frames rot and allow water to seep into walls, causing rot and mildew.

A $5 tube of caulk goes a long way in sealing edges and small gaps. Spray foam is better for larger openings.

7. Give the Furnace TLC

Give your furnace a little attention on its summer vacation. Remove the furnace filter. If you don’t know where it is, check the instruction manual and follow directions on how to remove and replace it.

Hold the filter up to the light. If it’s dark and dirty, it’s time for a new one. Use a vacuum cleaner on openings throughout the system, including registers, ducts and vents.

8. Check for Irrigation Leaks

Your irrigation system and hoses can freeze and thaw in cold winters. In the summer, water pressure and UV light do damage. Leaks waste water and cost you money.

Turn on the water and inspect hoses, timers and irrigation systems for leaks, pooling water, breaks and clogged sprinkler heads. Replace hose gaskets and make repairs, or call a service company.

9. Banish Pests

Warm weather gives you a chance to circle the outside of your home and remove anything that could shelter wood-boring insects, rats, mice or spiders.

Remove yard waste, tools, ladders, toys and stacked lumber. Orkin recommends storing firewood at least 5 feet from your home’s foundation and on a rack off the ground.

Trim bushes and relocate plants so that none touches the home’s siding or foundation. Clear vegetation and debris under decks and steps.

Other tips include:

  • Pick up fruit as soon as it drops from trees and bushes.
  • Give garbage cans tight-fitting lids.
  • Drain pools, puddles and ponds and change bird bath water frequently to discourage mosquitoes.

10. Primp the Lawn

A nice lawn can make your home the envy of the neighborhood. If you want a great-looking lawn, stop scalping it. Instead, mow higher and more often.

Set mower blades at least 3 inches high. That will encourage grass to fill in bare spots and push weeds out. Grass roots will grow deeper so the lawn looks better and needs less water. Don’t collect grass clippings; let them drop on the lawn to nourish it.

11. Inspect and Clean the Dryer Vent

Do this job for fire prevention. Although you probably clean your dryer’s lint trap after each load, lint still builds up inside the machine and duct.

Remove the lint filter and use a long-handled vent brush (ask for one at hardware stores) to clean as much of the cavity as you can. Carefully clean behind the machine without disturbing the vent attachment or gas line.

Use the vent brush or a rag to reach into the vent from outside and remove all the lint you can reach.

When finished, turn on the dryer and go outside to look at the vent. Is exhaust air coming out? If not, look for blockage in the vent or exhaust duct. If necessary, disconnect the duct from the dryer to thoroughly clean the exhaust path.

12. Insulate Water Pipes

Uninsulated pipes carrying hot water through a cold basement or crawl space waste heat, costing you money. It’s easy to insulate these pipes with pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible “sleeves” made of polyethylene or neoprene foam. Find them at hardware stores. Before shopping, learn your pipes’ diameter to get the right fit.

As you start to plan your home improvements, it’s helpful to set a budget so you don’t overspend. If you can avoid going into debt to make necessary repairs and wanted improvements, all the better. Carrying a high amount of debt on your credit cards — relative to your credit limit — can have a negative impact on your credit scores. However, if you do access credit for your home improvement projects, be sure to come up with a plan to pay it off (and follow it). You can see how your debt is affecting your credit by getting your free credit report summary on Credit.com, and you can calculate how long it will take to pay off your credit card debt using this free calculator.

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9 Home Improvements for Your Best Summer Ever

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Summer is just around the corner, so the time is ripe for thinking about some home improvements that can help you enjoy the longer, warmer days to their fullest.

Here are nine things you can do now that won’t break your bank account (or housing budget) and will ensure you get your summer off to a great start.

1. Buy Some Plants You Won’t Kill

Plants can add a ton of beauty to your yard, patio or porch, but they can also be expensive, especially if they die because you don’t have the right soil or you put them in too much or too little sun. If you don’t know a lot about what kinds of plants do well in your region or those that are easiest to care for, reach out to your local county Cooperative Extension Agent, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They offer free services and seminars, soil sample testing, advice on plants that do well in your area and even Master Gardener certification.

2. Get Your Grill in Tip-Top Shape

Nothing ruins a good barbecue faster than a dirty or broken grill, so before you head to the grocery store for provisions, do a thorough clean and check of your grill. If it’s a gas grill, it’s a good idea to check the burners to ensure they haven’t corroded. They should light quickly and burn evenly. If they don’t, it might be time to buy some replacement burners. Same goes for your ignition switch.

If your grill looks a bit worse for wear, you might also want to consider sprucing it up with a fresh coat of high-temperature grill paint.

3. Make Any Needed Repairs to Patio or Lawn Furniture

If you store your furniture, now’s the time to dig it out and give it a good scrub. You’ll also want to make sure it’s still sturdy enough for a full summer of use. Are the frames rusting or broken? Are the joints fast? Are there any rips in the fabric and can it be replaced? How about your seat cushions? Check it all out so you’re not having to apologize to guests later.

4. Lighten Up

How’s the lighting in your outdoor living space? Replace any old melted candles with some fresh new ones and check strings of lights for any broken or burned-out bulbs. If you don’t have any outdoor lighting except for your porch light, consider adding some. Uplighting under trees can be a lovely accent.

5. Don’t Bug Out

Along with the longer, warmer days come mosquitos, flies and other critters that can make being outdoors less than enjoyable. And who wants to coat themselves in stinky bug spray every 10 minutes? Consider some citronella candles, bug zappers or, if you have the budget, a mosquito trap.

6. Get Your A/C Serviced

To avoid your air conditioning going out on the hottest day of the year, consider spending some money now on a service call to have a technician come out and check your unit, especially if it’s older and out of warranty. Spending some money now on preventative maintenance can save you the hassle and possibly bigger expense later on. (High credit card balances related to home repairs or otherwise could hurt your credit. You can see where you currently stand by viewing your two free credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.)

7. Check Your Insulation

How old is the insulation in your house? It’s just as important in the summer months as it is in winter when it comes to keeping your monthly utility bills in check, so if you didn’t take a look last fall, you might want to do so now.

If you know what you’re doing, take a crawl through the attic and check the depth of your insulation. Energy.gov has some tips for how much you need when it comes to different types of insulation. If you don’t know what you’re doing, or if crawling around in the attic sounds like your own personal horror movie, hire someone to come check it out for you.

8. Check Watering Hoses & Sprinkler Systems

If you store your watering hoses for winter, it’s a good time to check them for leaks and to see if any of the fittings or washers need replacing. It’s also a great time to have your sprinkler system inspected for leaks, broken heads and other issues.

9. Service Yard Tools

If you mow your own yard, now’s a great time to get a tune-up on the lawn mower and have the blade sharpened. While you’re at it, you can also have the weed whacker, chainsaw and leaf blower tuned up as well so they’re running smoothly all season long.

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Image: Ingram Publishing

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