1. Replace windows
If your home felt drafty this past winter and you have single-pane windows, there’s a good chance those were one of the culprits. But replacing them all can be costly — $400 to $500 per window, plus $100 to $150 for installation, according to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler of The Money Pit. Whether that’s the place to spend dollars should depend on how long you plan to stay put or what houses listed in their neighborhood offer if you’re planning on selling. “If you’re the last ones with old, rotting-wood windows, that negative may affect buyer attention,” Kraeutler says. This year’s “Cost vs. Value” report from Remodeling magazine pegs the payback for vinyl windows at 71.2% and for wood windows at a similar 73.3%. Gradually replacing windows in any room that is currently being remodeled is a great way to start and a bit less cost prohibitive than doing them all at once.
2. Install a new heating system and change filters
If a your furnace and boiler were on their last legs this past winter, it may be time to install a new one, or at least provide buyers with a credit toward new equipment if you plan to sell. Any choice should carry an EnergyStar label for best results. Existing systems still in good condition should have filters checked monthly and replaced when dark and clogged, a DIY project.
3. Clean air conditioning units
Before summer temperatures rise and HVAC pros are swamped, clean coils and change filters so your system doesn’t have to work as hard. You may also consider having drain lines cleaned, so moisture is eliminated.
4. Install more insulation
A home’s first line of defense to stop cold or hot air — depending on the season — should be the attic, according to most contractors. An energy audit can determine how much more is needed, if they already have some.
5. Switch out inefficient appliances
Sometimes appliances are no longer smart to repair. The determining factors for that should be their age and the cost of repair versus replacement. Here, too, top choices carry an EnergyStar label. If you need to replace most of their kitchen equipment and have a limited budget or plan to move, prioritize and first switch out the range, followed by the refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave — in that order.
6. Repair or replace roofs, gutters, and downspouts
If you've seen moisture stains on your ceilings from recent rains, make sure you have your roof inspected for leaks before the damage gets worse. Have gutters and downspouts cleaned now so that water can flow through them. Gutter covers can be helpful but often don’t eliminate all debris.
Damage often shows up at this time of year, especially in climates where there’s been a lot of snow melting or winter rains, use the time to reassess your color choice for better curb appeal. Even changing the front door’s color can make a difference.
8. Prune trees
Cutting limbs that may have been damaged during winter and that might fall on a roof or allow squirrels to enter a house is smart, and it can be a cost savings later on. Called “thinning out,” this method gets excess foliage trimmed to allow more natural light into a house. A certified arborist will know the best ways to do this without removing too much of a canopy, which is useful for privacy and shade.
9. Mulch plantings
Along with fall, spring is a key mulch time. Mulch helps plants thrive by holding back weeds, retaining moisture so soil doesn’t dry out, and adding a tidy look, Glassman says. Use bark, shredded fir, leaves, straw, or grass clippings.
10. Replace light bulbs
When it comes to artificial light, most contractors recommend switching burned-out bulbs to LEDs, which last longer than incandescents, consume less energy, and have come down in price — now often just $10. Quality has improved, too, and they’re dimmable and available in colors.