The Most Expensive Mistakes You’re Making in Your Home

Home is where the heart is — and it’s where your money goes, too. With a mortgage, yard care, appliance upkeep, and more, houses cost a lot. Investing in your home can improve your ROI. But you likely waste money by overlooking or underestimating the following things. It’s crucial to check one setting every spring (page 10).

1.  Ignoring faucet leaks

handy man fixing a leak
Fix that leak | nathan4847/Getty Images

Your faucet leaks, but you don’t have time to fix it yourself or call a plumber. But just one faucet dripping at a rate of one drop per minute adds up to 34 gallons of wasted water annually. Use the handy drip calculator from the U.S. Geological Survey to add up how many gallons of wasted water you’re paying for.

Next: Your plants don’t need AC while you’re at work.

2. Not customizing your thermostat

woman set the thermostat
Setting the thermostat | LSOphoto/Getty Images

If you still aren’t using a customizable thermostat, you’re paying money to heat and cool your home when you aren’t even there to enjoy it. Customizable thermostats will save money on your gas and electric bill. Just set it and forget about it.

Next: There’s too much of a good thing — at least with your lawn.

3. Watering the lawn too much

Sprinklers in the flower garden
Watering the flower garden | schulzie/Getty Images

It’s common for homeowners to set sprinklers to turn on in the morning. This is fine as long as the sprinklers work properly. Make sure to check on their performance now and then. It’s common to find a broken sprinkler head overwatering a specific area. Or, you may find your sprinkler is watering a sidewalk or wall instead of your lawn.

Next: Do you feel a draft in here?

4. Leaks in your doors and windows

man installing bay window
Installing better windows | Jean-Philippe Wallet/Getty Images

Air can seep in and out of your home easily when doors and windows aren’t sealed well. This raises energy costs as your heater or AC unit works overtime. If you feel a draft or notice it takes longer than usual to cool or heat your house, then check doors and windows for leaks. Caulking is a simple fix that can save you up to 15% on home energy costs, reports Energy Star.

Next: Don’t let a hailstorm or old age ruin this.

5. Neglecting your roof

Repairing roof
Fitting new shingles | Jens_Lambert_Photography/Getty Images

If your roof isn’t falling apart, you likely don’t notice it. But disregarding things like curled shingles will cost you when you need to replace your roof sooner than expected. Replace the damaged shingles now. If you leave roof problems for later, you’ll end up with a hefty bill to replace the whole roof later.

Next: Let there be (cost-effective) light!

6. Using traditional light bulbs

man replacing bulb
Changing a bulb in a ceiling fan | BackyardProduction/Getty Images

Traditional light bulbs are cheaper at first, but you’ll pay in high energy costs and faster burnout. In fact, 90% of light bulbs’ energy goes toward heat. You can save $45 per year just by replacing the five traditional light bulbs you use the most with energy-efficient light bulbs, reports EnergyStar. Choose from LED, halogen incandescents, or CFLs.

Next: You might need to set a reminder for this one.

7. Forgetting about air filters

Person Removing Ceiling Air Filter
Replacing a dirty air filter | Serenethos/Getty Images

If you even remember to change your air filters regularly, you’re a step ahead. But you may not replace them as often as needed. If you have pets, you should change air filters about every three weeks, as opposed to every 90 days for homes without pets. Make sure to use the correct filter size. Using the wrong one can lead to higher energy costs.

Next: Read this before you turn the AC up.

8. Disregarding the vents around your house

Floor vent in home
A floor vent | KURJANPHOTO/Getty Images

When was the last time you considered your vents? If you’re turning up the heat or AC to heat or cool a specific room, you can save money just by adjusting the vents. Directing the airflow properly can get heat and air in the rooms you use the most.

Next: Save hundreds of dollars with this one simple trick.

9. Using idle energy

Many devices plugged in
A full outlet | Rawpixel/Getty Images

Idle energy refers to the energy used when a device is idle. For example, you use energy keeping your TV plugged in while you’re at work, even though it isn’t on. The average U.S. household wastes $165 per year on idle energy, which equals $19 billion per year across America. Unplug devices when you aren’t using them and enjoy a decrease in your energy bill.

Next: Who doesn’t love a hot shower?

10. Turning up the water heater too high

Hot-water heater
Technician inspects a hot-water heater | Minerva Studio

A steaming hot shower may not be worth it. This is especially true in the summer when it takes less time to heat water. After all, your water is already keeping the water inside it hot (unless you have a tankless one). Each spring, examine your water heater’s setting. Turn it down if it’s set to maximum to save on unnecessary energy costs.

Next: Sometimes DIY is worth it.

11. Paying someone to fix everything in your home

Technician greets homeowner
Greeting a technician | DragonImages/Getty Images

We can’t all be expert DIYers, but if you pay a handyman to fix everything in your home, you may be wasting money. Many household projects are relatively simple (and cheap) to do yourself. So, when you’re about to call a handyman, look online to see if it’s too difficult for you to tackle on your own. You may surprise yourself.

Next: One phone call can save you hundreds of dollars.

12. Not negotiating services

Woman calling for appliance repair service
Negotiate for repairs | Kerkez/Getty Images

You probably got a great deal on cable or internet when you signed up. But after a certain period, the rates rose. You can still negotiate the costs of services, even as a current customer. Ask your service providers about specials and what they can do to lower your bill. You can save hundreds per year by making a few phone calls.

Next: When your best intentions to cook at home go sour.

13. Throwing away too much food

Person Throwing away Pasta In Trash
Throwing away leftover food | AndreyPopov/Getty Images

As much as 40% of food ends up in the trash. That’s shocking, especially considering how many people in the world don’t have food. Freeze food to prevent it from spoiling. Learn what the labels on your food mean. For instance, you can eat specific foods after the “sell by” date.

Next: Save money and the planet at the same time.

14. Buying bottled water

Water bottles in refrigerator
Too many water bottles | Sasaton Krungsee/Getty Images

If you want the crisp taste of bottled water without the cost, invest in a water filtration system. Depending on what system you choose, you can spend less than $100 to have filtered water running through your faucet for years. Bonus: You won’t add more plastic to landfills.

Next: It’s nobody’s favorite past time.

15. Doing laundry wrong

Laundry before washing
A full washing machine | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Going too long in between washes can cost you. For instance, you may buy new work clothes, forgetting you have a perfectly good pair of dress pants at the bottom of your hamper. When you do get around to the laundry, you may use too much detergent. If you have an energy-efficient washer, you don’t need to fill the whole cap. Too much detergent can damage your machine, leading you to buy one sooner than necessary.