Chapter 10 - Repairs

DIY repairs can save you money, as you well know. But they can still become a costly expense for any home or flat, depending on how much work is needed on the project. As the third most popular item for men in the UK to spend their money on,1 repairs to the house are a common expense, which means any way we can shave costs in this area will pave the way for big savings over time. So whether you're brand new to the fix-it game or an old pro with years of sawdust under your nails, this chapter may give you some new ideas for how to save even more on an already frugal idea - do-it-yourself repairs.

As always, the same thrifty principles apply. When you're tackling a home improvement project, don't buy what you don't need. If you plan to use certain tools only once, borrow them from a mate instead of buying them. Look for bargains as you shop for supplies. Then when you've finished the job, don't throw away the leftover materials; save them for future projects.

When saving on home repairs, you don't have to wait for something to break down. You can get the ball rolling with cost-effective home improvements right now. These projects may cost a bit up front, but the energy they save will translate into lower utility bills for you and your family each month.

These are nifty because you can programme ahead of time what the precise temperature of your home will be at any time of day. For instance, you could set it to cool down while you're asleep and warm up again just before you awaken, saving you lots of money on heat during the night.

A family can save more than 30,000 litres of water a year with eco shower heads installed throughout the house. But these products don't just cut down your water usage, they also lower your water bills.

Nearly half (45 percent) of heat loss in the home is through walls, floors and the roof. Insulating the loft or the air ducts keeps the heat inside where it belongs, saving you money on energy bills.

These windows reduce unwanted heat loss and air leakage, which in turn will lower your energy bills even further.

For many repair jobs, even if you're a far cry from a handyman, you truly don't need a professional. The consumer group Which? has assembled a list of relatively easy repairs that are essential for a home's general upkeep, complete with a cost comparison of doing it yourself versus calling in a professional. See how easy it is to keep your home functioning on the cheap, courtesy of Which?4

The temperature's dropping, and now's the time to take precautions for all the problems Jack Frost likes to cause. Here are a few ideas - some free, some quite inexpensive - for how to prepare your home for the cold weather.

  • Clean the gutters to avoid ice dams

  • Drain the water cylinder to flush out sediment and extend its life

  • Change air filters to boost the effectiveness of your heating system

  • Use window insulation film to abolish up to 70 percent of heat leakage

  • Block draughts around windows and doors with silicone sealant or weatherstrip tape

  • Inflate a chimney balloon to prevent further heat loss

Nobody likes to pay for things they don't need. Unfortunately if we aren't conscious of how we're using energy around the house, that may be exactly what we're doing - paying extra for what we don't need.

Many households could reduce their energy bills by £150 to £300 a year if they changed a few habits, according to the Energy Saving Trust.5 For the next 30 days, experiment with these tips for using less energy around the house, and watch for savings on your utility bills.

Central heating generates a hefty bill. Turn down the thermostat one degree per day until it feels too cool in the house. Then turn it up one degree and keep it there for the season. You could save £60 a year for every one degree lowered.

To help you keep the heat inside where it belongs, exclude draughts around doors and windows with silicone sealant and draughts guards. These simple measure could save you up to £90 a year.

Turn off lights, appliances and chargers when they're not being used, as it's cheaper to hit the "off" switch than it is to let the power run. According to the Energy Saving Trust, "If you turn a light off for even a few seconds, you will save more energy than it takes the light to start up again, no matter what sort of lights you have." Your household could save £ 40 a year with this practice.

And while you have lights on the brain, switching to low-energy bulbs could save you another £55 a year.

Simple measure like washing your laundry at 30°C, line drying your clothes, and boiling only as much water as you need can add up to another £35 in yearly savings. Plus, if you buy a tank jacket to insulate your hot water cylinder, you could save an additional £55 on water heating costs.

There are other ways to reduce your water usage. An eco shower head "will cost around £27, and a family of four will save around £72 a year on water heating, and another £78 on water bills if they have a water meter," says the Energy Saving Trust. It's a small investment that reaps large savings!