SPRING HOME?IMPROVEMENT?FOCUS:Cut costs by taking on home-improvement projects

Once spring arrives and the daffodils begin to bloom, your old front door may look pretty drab. Still, many consumers may avoid home improvement projects because of a reluctance to spend money in a questionable economy.

As many as one-third to one-half of consumers expect to stick with money-saving strategies even after the recession ends, according to Retail Forward, a retail consulting firm. However, this could be the season when homeowners can have it all.

“Today, homeowners are still focused on getting the most for their money,” said Kathy Krafka Harkema, Pella Windows & Doors spokesperson. “Home improvement projects can add to the look and comfort of your home, and help reduce monthly utility bills to help make the most of your hard-earned money.”

According to a survey conducted by Kelton Research, almost two-thirds of U.S. homeowners admit they have a major item in their home that needs some maintenance. In fact, the average American has five items that need to be repaired or replaced.

In many cases, items on the “to-do” list include replacing windows or doors. One way to update your home and help cut the maintenance of it is to revitalize your entryway with an energy-efficient, stylish new prefinished door.

Decorative glass options featured in today’ entry door systems can welcome in natural light and enhance the curb appeal of a home.

Now’s also the time to replace those worn-out windows and get the added benefit of energy-saving to keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Try these cost-cutting tips when planning your home improvement projects:

• Improve energy-efficiency, lower bills. If your home is overdue for new windows, consider replacing them with Energy Star products that can lower your energy bills by as much as 20 to 30 percent.

For a typical home, replacing single-pane windows with Energy Star qualified windows can save $126 to $465 a year on energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star Web site.

For greater energy efficiency, choose double- or triple-pane options and look for windows with low U-values, which measure the ability to resist the transfer of heat.

Another way to help reduce energy bills is to keep window blinds and shades closed during hot months to conserve energy and open on sunny days during cold months to let in solar heat.

• Cash in on tax credits. Energy-efficient windows and doors can add to the comfort and appeal of a home—when properly selected and installed to help keep out air and moisture.

Now’s the time to replace drafty old windows or doors with more energy-efficient options. American homeowners may claim a U.S. tax credit of up to 30 percent (not exceeding $1,500) of the cost for qualifying energy-saving windows and doors installed in their home in 2010.

Consult your tax professional to determine if your purchase is eligible for the U.S. tax credit.

• Spare the paint. Another way to save is by eliminating the need to repaint windows and doors. Quality vinyl or fiberglass products are low maintenance and can increase your home’s energy efficiency. Factory-assembled vinyl or fiberglass windows and patio doors don’t need additional painting, staining or refinishing.

Another timesaving option is choosing factory prefinished wood, fiberglass and steel entry doors. Factory prefinishing saves finishing time for windows—a significant time and cost savings for homeowners or contractors.

2010 is shaping up to be a year of cautious optimism. With careful planning, home improvements can be made cost effectively to help add to the overall look, energy performance and enjoyment of your home.

—Courtesy of ARAcontent

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