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What Household Items Are Worth Splurging On?

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Typically, the word “splurge” has negative connotations; it implies wasteful spending, after all. But what if all that spending amounted to real savings in the long run? Here are some home appliances that may cost a chunk of money upfront, but will certainly recoup your investment over time:

Home Insulation

An insulation upgrade for your home is absolutely necessary if you’re looking to save money in the long run. Why? Such an upgrade can save you as much as 50% on your heating and cooling bills. Up to 30% of energy loss can occur near the bottom of your home, so besides crawl spaces on the sides and top of your house, don’t forget about the basement. Of course, your attic is usually the best place to start because heat rises. Remember: when you buy insulation material, the higher the “R” value, the more energy you save. (Installers and home sellers are required to give you an “R” value fact sheet.) Not sure how much you’ll need in order to truly save on cost? The Zip-Code Insulation Program at the Department of Energy website can show you the most “economic insulation level” for your house. Other items that can be insulated include: keyholes, open fireplaces, old boilers, vents, and window heaters.

Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat might sound excessive, but it’s another crucial addition to your long-term money-saving strategy. If you can program your heating and cooling at the times of your choosing, you can avoid paying to keep an empty house at a comfortable temperature. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save around 10% on energy costs a year by setting your thermostat back 10-15 degrees for eight hours out of the day. The Dept. of Energy also suggests setting your thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the Winter, and about 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the Summer when you’re awake and at home.

Digital thermostats offer the most features for your buck, and run from $30-$130; the nicer, more expensive ones are usually easier to program, though.

New Refrigerator

Refrigerators are huge energy guzzlers–they use at least 5 to 8% of all energy in your household, more than any other single appliance. Moreover, they’re terribly inefficient–the Energy Information Administration estimated that, in 2005, there were 135 million refrigerators in the United States–and that 104 million of them were inefficient. A government-sponsored Energy Star model operates at 20% more efficiency than the standard. If you’re still using a fridge from the 1980s, you can save over $100 on utility bills; if you have one from at least 1993, you can save $200 over the lifetime of your fridge.

Water Filter

Don’t like the taste of tap water but tired of spending money on bottled water at the supermarket? You might want to consider installing a water filtration system in your kitchen. A good, quality water filter under the sink can cut the costs of your water-drinking tremendously. Assuming that you have a family of four, buy $6 cases of water on a regular basis, and your family drinks 2 gallons a day combined, you can ideally save $2,878.57 a year by switching to a filter. A basic Brita water filter costs around $20, but you must refill when it runs out. A full under-the-sink filter costs anywhere from $50 to $200. It’s definitely a great long-term savings deal.

Hybrid Water Heater

20% of energy use in the home goes toward making hot water, costing Americans about $300 a year. Hybrid water heaters, which have a pump that draws heat from the air and transfers it to the water, cost about $1000 more than conventional heaters, but ABC Consumer Reports estimate that you’ll save about $300 a year on one. GE’s popular hybrid heater, released toward the end of 2009, uses about 62% less energy than the standard model.

Generally, appliances with the government-sanctioned Energy Star label will save you money (and energy) over time; barring that, try looking for the most energy-efficient item you can afford when investing in your home.

Faucet Aerators/Low-Flow Showerheads

Buying faucet aerators for the sinks in your home will run you a good $5-$10 a pop, but you can save up to 50% on water heating cost if you install one. An aerator spreads the water droplets that come out of your faucet, rather than allowing it to come out in a powerful stream.
The Dept. of Energy suggests buying aerators with flow rates of no more than 1.0 gpm for maximum efficiency. Similarly, low-flow showerheads, which cost anywhere from $35-$60, can cut your shower water use (and hot water costs) by as much as 30%.

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