Create a comfortable, healthy home for under $1,000 this winter

Winter can be a tough time of year for anyone ­ including your house. You rely on your home to keep you and your family warm and safe at this time of year, so make sure that it’s able to do its job by focusing on these five home improvements.

I. Water heater replacement

fireplaceKeeping your home warm this winter will help ensure that your family stays more comfortable no matter what the weather does outside. In addition to your furnace, your hot water heater will also get a lot of use as you spend more time cooking and enjoying long hot showers and baths. If your water heater is old, it could be at risk for leaking or even failing to work all together. That’s why now is the best time to consider upgrading to a new model. A newer water heater will not only help ensure you have plenty of hot water all winter long, it will also help you save on energy bills as well.

Electric or Gas?
You have several options when it comes to finding a new hot water heater for you home. First I would suggest reading the best tankless water heater reviews and get acquainted with the terminology. One of these is what you choose to heat the water with – electricity or gas. Many homeowners opt for gas heaters because gas is generally less expensive than electricity to run the heater. However, a gas heater does require proper ventilation according to the US Department of Energy and of course that it is important to get the best water softener systems at your home. The combustion that occurs when oxygen feeds the gas-lit flame needs to be vented or it could cause a buildup of toxic gas within your home. Older gas heaters may have faulty or dirty vents over time, which is why these need to be replaced with your hot water heater. So if your gas heater is getting older, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer model to prevent future problems or switching to an electric heater, which is less expensive to purchase and install.

Hot Water Heater Replacement Costs

The average cost of a gas hot water heater is $826 assuming a 50 gallon tank

Costs for a gas heater range from $453 for a 40 gallon tank to $1,077 for a more energy efficient tankless model

The average cost of an electric hot water heater is $639 for a 40 gallon tank

Costs for an electric heater range from $365 for a DIY job to $1,334 for a tankless model, upgraded


  • Electric heaters are less dependent on space planning because they do not require vents
  • Gas heaters will require additional floor space and a location near a chimney or other vent
  • Tankless heaters require no floor space, but are mounted directly in the walls
  • The above fees are assuming installation in the area directly around the service provider, taxes and fees extra.

DIY or Not

A very experienced homeowner may be able to install an electric or gas heater in a best case scenario, but licenses and permits, as well as home insurance  may require the presence of a trained technician.

A full set of plumbing tools would be required to undertake the job.

II. Thermostat Installation

Thermostats are an integral part of your home’s heating system. They help you control the level of heat in your home so that you aren’t using too much energy, while at the same time keeping your home at comfortable levels of warmth. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature for different times of day or days of the week. This allows you to maintain an even temperature, which keeps your home comfortable, while you’re there, and lets you save money by lowering the temperature while you’re not at home.

Thermostat Installation Costs

The average cost to install a digital thermostat is between $200 and $250.

Costs range from:

$50 for a DIY installation of a manual thermostat

$400 to $700 for an electronic thermostat plus labor


  • Built-in thermostats that attach to your appliance are easier to install, but tend to be less accurate than in-wall units.
  • Programmable units are available that will learn your patterns and can adjust over time, saving you more money.
  • Thermostats that come with remotes are also available, but will cost roughly $200 more to purchase. These may also require a wireless hub, which will add up to another $200 to the total.
  • Smart thermostats are also available, which allow you to make adjustments from an app on your smartphone.

DIY or Not?

Manual thermostats may be installed by anyone. Digital and electronic versions may be installed by an experienced homeowner who has experience working with electricity, as well as a full set of tools.

III. Blow-in Wall Insulation

According to EnergyStar, most American homes are under insulated. This can lead to a home that is less comfortable in the winter, as well as to higher-than-average energy bills each month. Cellulose, blow-in wall insulation is one of the most effective methods of insulating your home. There’s no fiberglass particles to worry about, and the results will mean that you stay much warmer and more comfortable this winter, while helping to ensure that the energy you use to heat your home stays in your home, rather than flying out the door. Best of all, blow-in insulation can be added anywhere, so there’s no major renovation that needs to take place.

Blow-in Wall Insulation Costs

The average cost of blow-in wall insulation is around $857, assuming 4-inch walls in a 1,125 square foot house

Prices range from $485 to fill 4-inch walls in a DIY application to $1,176 to fill 6-inch walls


  • You may be able to find local or federal subsidies or grants to make energy efficient improvements like adding insulation to your home.
  • These costs assume service in the area directly around the technician.

DIY or Not?

This project is entirely suitable for an experienced DIY homeowner with a full complement of tools and the ability to mount a ladder or scaffolding.

IV. Hardwood Floor Refreshing

Hardwood floors lend a beauty and warmth to any room of the home. They’re more comfortable underfoot than harder floors like tile, and they don’t harbor dirt, dust, and bacteria the way that carpeting does, however; carpeting is not a bad idea f you utilize the proper company to do a full clean-up, just like the one carpet cleaning Oahu does. Unfortunately, the salt, snow, and sand that winter tracks in can ruin the finish on your hardwood floor, scratching it and warping the wood underneath. If your floors are beginning to show signs of wear, having them refinished now can help protect them from the coming winter.

Cost of Hardwood Floor Refinishing

The average cost of refinishing an existing hardwood floor is about $2.80/sf

Prices range from $2.50/sf for sanding and refinishing the floor to $3.50/sf for sanding, refinishing, and sanding the finish


  • The cost of hardwood floor refinishing will depend on the total amount of square footage and the condition of your floor.

DIY or Not?

An experienced DIY homeowner may be able to sand and refinish the floors. This assumes access to a floor sander and experience providing an even pressure.

V. Tree trimming

You may not think a lot about your trees at this time of year, but weak limbs can break off during heavy snow or rainfall, potentially damaging your home, cars, or roof. Fallen tree limbs may also be responsible for knocking out your power or utilities at a time when you need it most. Tree trimming removes weak or overgrown branches, so that you don’t need to worry about damage or loss of lights and heats during the middle of winter’s harshest months.

Cost of Tree Trimming

The average cost of tree trimming is about $591 a tree, assuming five trees trimmed and including equipment, labor, and material

Prices range from $227 per tree for DIY jobs to $709 per tree during high season


  • Utility companies may sometimes perform tree trimming on trees around power lines at no cost to you.
  • Be sure to find out if your technician has certification of the International Society for Arboriculture or is a Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) Accredited Business
  • Never have live branches trimmed or allow the use of shoe spikes on the trees
  • Work should include the disposal of all old limbs and removal from the property

DIY or Not?

DIY is not recommended in this case, as it is extremely dangerous and does require an arborists knowledge of where to trim.

[By Yuka Kato – Cost Wizard at Yuka writes about home improvement tips & tricks to help homeowners learn more about improving their properties. She also delivers useful cost information you can use to help improve your own home at]

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