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When buying a new house (or an older one you want to rehab) saving money should be one of your top priorities ‒ except if you just won the Mega Millions; then money is not a concern....or you can donate your savings to a worthy cause.

One of the most effective things you can do to keep money from literally being sucked out of your pocket, is to be smart from the beginning; as the old adage states, "Time is money". Unfortunately, it will take a bit of moolah up-front in order to save money over the long haul. Does that surprise anyone reading this?

See the section on LIGHTING YOUR HOME
Lighting is one of the biggest energy-suckers in your home - falling right behind clothes dryers and dishwashers. One of the easiest upgrades you can do to your home to make it more energy-efficient is to switch out all your conventional light bulbs (except the one in your oven and microwave) with LED bulbs. Our Lighting page has all the information you need, as well as an informative comparison chart that shows you the savings between different types of lamps.


Everyone wants to feel safe in their own home. The most dangerous thing in the home are the electrical outlets ‒ especially if you have small children. When I was 4 years old, I remember pushing a paper clip into the floor outlet in my Grandmother's house. The shock literally threw me across the room, and I was lucky not to have been turned into a "crispy critter". Needless to say, I never did that again!

If you have small children, all the floor-level outlets should have child-proof caps, and / or be GFI (Ground-fault Interrupter) outlets, or chained as the " load" from a GFI. Better still, replace all the breakers in the breaker box with GFI breakers.

GFI outlets and breakers monitor the current in the "hot" and "neutral" wires. If the current is the same on both wires, the power remains connected. If the current flowing through either of the wires varies by more than 4 or 5 milliamps, circuitry in the outlet immediately trips the circuit and disconnects the power.

GFI outlets can be "daisy-chained", so that, for example, you have 3 outlets on the wall on the same circuit, the GFI at the beginning of the chain will shut off the power to itself and the other two other 'down-stream" outlets if ANY outlet on the chain "faults".

GFIs are also available as circuit breakers that can be installed in the Mains breaker box. Yes, they are expensive, but cheaper if you get them in bulk.

Home inspections today REQUIRE GFI outlets (or GFI breakers in the breaker box) for circuits servicing the kitchen, bathroom, and any outdoor outlet. If the house you are buying doesn't have these, count GFI outlets and breakers as one of your initial expenses.

Before I end this discussion, let me make one thing clear: a GFI breaker or outlet WILL NOT prevent someone who sticks a paper clip into an outlet from getting shocked. It WILL keep them from getting electrocuted and turned into a crispy critter. This means that if you're on a ladder with an electric chain saw trimming your Maple tree, and the saw is electrically defective, you may get a 1/4-second 'zap' before the breaker trips; enough to make you fall off the ladder onto your (still spinning) chain saw... But you won't get electrocuted.

Working outside? Use cordless power tools, and NEVER use an electric lawn mower. If you have one, get rid of it.... If possible, give it to someone you secretly hate and has named you in their will ☺.

They say it is good to die in your sleep with your boots on. I say it is better to stay alive as long as you can. Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO2) will kill you in your dreams.

Every bedroom MUST have a smoke and CO2 detector, and there should be one in every room in the house, and in the "boiler room" where there is a furnace and (gas) hot water heater.

There are a variety of these available, and this is NOT the place to try to save a buck. Get the BEST units available. Some units come with 10-year batteries, and you won't have to worry about those annoying "battery low" beeps for ten years. Others come with audible warnings such as "Smoke detected" and "Carbon Monoxide detected" evacuation warnings. The newer alarms are so loud that you'd have to be dead for them not to wake you up.

You should have at least ONE detector that senses "explosive gas". This should be located in the boiler room where gas leaks are most likely to happen. Natural gas is lighter than air, and accumulates from the ceiling down. Fumes from gasoline are heavier than air, and accumulate from the floor up. No one in their right mind keeps gasoline in the house, as a gallon of gasoline contains the same amount of energy as 63 sticks of dynamite.

Some detectors can be wired together so that if one goes off, they ALL will sound. Other, more expensive units use wireless technology and a Central Monitoring Station to monitor for danger.

Hazardous condition detectors do NOT fall into the category of "diminishing return on your investment", because the "return" on your "investment" may be your life, and your family's lives.... And you can't take the money you "save" by being frugal in this matter, with you when you (eventually) shuffle off this Mortal Coil.

Most home inspectors require that there is at LEAST a 2-A:10-B:C rated fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and a suitable extinguisher in the boiler room (if there is a basement). The PRIMARY purpose of a fire extinguisher is NOT to put out the fire; it is there to help you ESCAPE. If you put out the fire, all well and good, but your primary mission is to escape with your life.

Grease fires (or cooking oil fires) in the kitchen are more common than you might think, but the last thing you want to do with a grease fire is spray it with ANYTHING, because if you don't have enough "juice" in the extinguisher to put it out, it will get a hundred times worse.

Putting out a grease fire is easy if you don't panic ‒ just cover the pan with the lid and smother it.... Which is a good reason to keep the pan's lid at hand, even if your recipe doesn't call for covering the pot or pan. If something else has caught fire (like the drapes over the kitchen window), use the extinguisher on THAT, but use the extinguisher to get out of the house.

So.... while a big red fire extinguisher hanging on the wall next to the stove may clash with your decor and Ralph Lauren paint scheme, which would you rather have; your reputation as a "fashionista" or your life?
I thought so.

As mentioned earlier, a bathroom without GFI outlets will NOT pass a home inspection, and is extremely unsafe. If there is no GFI outlet, install them wherever outlets are in the bathroom.

Most injuries in the bathroom are slips in the bathtub. While "non-slip" bathtub mats are OK, they are breeding grounds for mold and athlete's foot bacteria if they are not removed, washed and dried after each use. It is much better to install the sticky non-slip tape strips, which become a permanent part of the bathtub. These cost from $5 to $15 depending on the brand, and provide firm footing you need to keep from slipping and breaking your ass.

Most bathtubs with showers have sliding glass doors. Make sure yours are tempered glass, so that if you DO fall against the glass, you won't sever your Jugular vein or Femoral artery and bleed out on the floor while the paramedics are on the way.

If some schmuck has painted over an outlet or switch, or if they seem worn (switches don't operate smoothly, or outlets don't hold plugs firmly), spend a few bucks and replace them all. You should do this in the daylight with the Mains breaker turned off to prevent getting shocked or electrocuted. Vacuum out any debris or dust in the boxes, and if there are any twist connections, check that they're tight. I prefer to remove the twist-on wire connectors and solder the connections, then replace the twist-on cap. See  the situation I ran into when I bought my house, and what I did to fix it.

If you're buying an old home that has a fuse box, be prepared to spend upwards of $3,000 to replace the fuse box with a breaker box and new breakers (you have to call the electric company to disconnect the mains when you do this). You should also tear out all the old wiring, and replace it with BX or Romex (according to local codes).

Older homes that had fuse boxes, most often have fabric-coated (usually woven cotton "
kernmantle") wires. This stuff rots after so long, and is a fire waiting to happen. Removing old wiring behind lath and plaster walls is no picnic, so you may end up gutting the place and replacing lath and plaster with Sheetrock. Tearing out the old walls will give you access to the old wiring, and with copper prices the way they are these days, new wiring will cost you a small fortune to do the entire house, and the old wiring will get you some money back when you take it to the scrap yard.

Even if there is a breaker box in place, the easiest way to tell if the WIRING is old is to remove a few of the outlets and look inside the box. If you see strings in there, or the wires are covered in FABRIC instead of rubber or plastic, you have a house that has been "half-assed upgraded"; where they replaced the fuses with circuit breakers and left the ancient wiring in place. You MUST replace the wiring, or my advice is have LOTS of fire extinguishers handy, and a good insurance policy.

Thirty years ago if you would have told me that people would be paying a dollar for a bottle of water, I would have called those "nice young men in the clean white coats" and they'd be "coming to take you away (ha-ha!)" to Creedmoor, Belleview, or some other spin-bin.

If money is no object, then a dripping faucet won't put much of a dent in your wallet compared to all those "Mineral Water" bottles you take to work with you. If you want water in a bottle, fill the bottle from your faucet. Get a water filter if you think water from your tap is any different than the water you buy in a bottle (chances are it isn't).

Fix or replace leaky faucets, as they're annoying when you can hear them dripping at night, and that drip will take a nibble at your disposable income that you could otherwise have used for better things. Remove and inspect any screens at the ends of the faucets, as rust and contaminants are a frequent cause of what appears to be "low water pressure".

Why spend money to light a pathway to your door, or to illuminate your backyard deck at night. Solar lamps are available for 5 bucks each, that will charge up in the daytime, and cost you nothing to operate. You don't turn them off, so they also add security to your property as well as making it look beautiful at night.

Many people do not realize the cumulative effect of their habits. What may seem miniscule and insignificant for a single occurrence, can accumulate very rapidly into a huge expense. To demonstrate the cumulative effect of things, have everyone in the house drop their change in an empty milk container for a month. Wrap it up with brown paper, and secure it so nobody "fishes" for change. At the end of 30 days, count the money. You'll be surprised! The following are some of the most wasteful habits:


Taking showers that last an hour.


Taking a bath instead of a shower.


Leaving the hot water / cold water running while you're shaving.


Watering the lawn before it rains.


Leaving the lights / TV on in an unoccupied room.


Using the oven instead of the microwave to heat a small meal.


Turning on the Air Conditioner when opening the windows would suffice.


Leaving doors open in the winter.

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Last modified: 05/29/15


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