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Three Home Renovation Projects for Fall

As temperatures begin to cool down in autumn—offering a hint of the colder winter temps to come—it’s the perfect season for outdoor renovations and indoor improvements to help keep the home comfortable. DIYers might want to prioritize the ones of interest or do them in order of importance. Hiring out? None of these should interfere with the scheduling of another one. So, if desired, they can be done at the same time.

1. Repair or Replace Exterior Windows

Besides making a home look fresher and more attractive, new or carefully repaired windows can make a home much cozier when winter winds howl. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), ENERGY STAR® certified windows have special coatings that can help a house stay warm during freezing temperatures.

By replacing single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR certified options, the DOE estimates that a homeowner may save, on average, between $101-583 in annual energy costs. By replacing double-paned ones, the savings might be between $27-197 per year on average.

These certified windows can help keep a house cool in the summer, as well. About 75% of the sun’s heat can go through a standard double-pane window, while the certified windows can allow in light without the heat.

Here are two more benefits:

•  ENERGY STAR windows help to prevent fading of wood floors, curtains, furniture, and other home decor items up to 75%.

•  These windows also reduce the carbon footprint of a homeowner: Single pane windows can reduce it annually by 1,006 to 6,205 pounds of CO2 (on average), equivalent to 51 to 317 gallons of gasoline; double-paned windows by 246 to 2,001 pounds of CO2 annually (on average), equivalent to 13 to 102 gallons of gasoline.

Where a home is located can help to dictate cost savings. ENERGY STAR shows these statistics for annual heating and cooling savings ; the first set of potential savings amounts is for single-pane windows, and the second is for double paned:

•  Northern Zone: $366 (22%) / $134 (9%)

•  North-Central Zone: $236 (20%) / $87 (8%)

•  South-Central Zone: $319 (31%) / $108 (14%)

•  Southern Zone: $280 (31%) / $126 (17%)

An alternative to replacing windows might be patching, caulking, and weatherstripping them, which can also cut down on chilly drafts and help with heating bills.

2. Repair or Replace Exterior Doors

The front door of a home is the focal point of its curb appeal, so replacing it or sprucing it up with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware can make a big difference. If exterior doors are past their prime or they let in more cold air than desired, there are some repairs that can increase a door’s ability to insulate.

How well a door provides insulation depends upon the amount of glass they have (their “glazing” level). Less glass can mean more protection.

If a homeowner appreciates the look of glass in an exterior door but also wants good insulation, double- or even triple-pane insulating glass is the key. Core materials of the door also make a difference. The most energy-efficient options today are fiberglass, steel, or wood clad doors with polyurethane foam cores. For added protection, homeowners may want to consider looking for doors with a magnetic strip that provides a tighter seal and, therefore, allows for less air leakage.

Weatherstripping and making any repairs before winter hits can be a good alternative to door replacement.

3. Service, Repair, or Replace the HVAC System

Even the best windows and doors won’t keep a home cozy if the HVAC system isn’t working at its best—or, even worse, is on the fritz. After all, approximately half of a home’s energy goes to heating and cooling.

Fall is an important time to take care of HVAC maintenance, at a minimum. This includes changing the air filter (which should be changed at least every three months) and having the HVAC tuned up—professionally, unless the homeowner is skilled at this.

If the HVAC system is in relatively good shape and reasonably energy efficient, a homeowner might decide to have any recommended repairs done. One upgrade that can be made is installing a programmable thermostat. They are ideal for people who are away from home at regularly scheduled times because temperature settings can be programmed to be ultra-efficient when people are away from home and comfortable when they are back home. In general, this type of thermostat has the potential to save homeowners about $180 in annual energy costs.

Sealing heating and cooling ducts can also lead to money savings, perhaps improving efficiency by 20% or more. If doing this, prioritize those in the attic and crawl spaces, as well as in unheated basements and garages.

If an HVAC system is ten years old or older and/or it isn’t keeping the home at comfortable temperatures—and leaks of significance and repairs have been addressed—replacing it with a new, energy-efficient system might make sense. A new system can often cut energy bills by $115 or more per year.

Financing Home Renovations

Some home renovations can be paid for out of pocket, but others might require financing. For the latter, it might make sense to compare home equity lines of credit (HELOC) and personal loans for home renovation financing. When deciding, questions to ask yourself can include:

•  How big is the project and what will it likely cost?

•  How much equity is available in the home to borrow against?

•  What information is needed (income, debt-to-income ratio, credit scores, and so forth) to apply for each type of loan?

•  How quickly is the renovation money needed?

•  How quickly would the money need to be paid back for a HELOC? Personal loan?

•  Would the loan be tax deductible?

Advantages of a HELOC might include the following:

•  Because a HELOC is a secured loan (with the home as collateral), interest rates can potentially be lower than rates for personal loans. This might be a more important consideration if the amount needed for renovations is large.

•  While there is a limit on the approved credit amount of a HELOC, the borrower can draw, pay back, and draw again against that same limit. This differs from the lump sum amount of a personal loan.

•  Borrowers only pay interest on the amount drawn at any given time, not the total line of credit.

•  The loan may be tax deductible if used for certain purposes.

Advantage of personal loans may include:

•  The home is not put up as collateral, which might be helpful for recent homebuyers and others who don’t have enough equity in the home.

•  Upfront costs are typically lower—HELOCs can have fees of 2% to 5%, often deducted from the credit line at closing time.

•  The application process is often faster and easier than that of applying for a HELOC because it doesn’t include the home valuation process that’s required with applying for a HELOC.

•  Personal loans might make good sense for smaller home improvement loans.

People with solid credit scores and good cash flow typically qualify for more competitive interest rates on personal loans because the risk is perceived by the lender to be lower. Both of these factors, among others that vary from lender to lender, can help demonstrate to lenders that applicants can manage their money effectively.

Home Improvement Loans with SoFi

If an unsecured personal loan sounds like the right decision, then it might be a good option to consider applying for a loan with SoFi. Borrowers have no origination fees required and no prepayment penalties.

Qualifying applicants may be eligible for loan amounts from $5,000 to $100,000. Applying can be quick and easy online, with customer service available through the process, seven days a week.

Make your renovation dreams a reality with SoFi’s home improvement loans.

Learn More

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