5 Dream Home Renovations You Can Do On A Budget

Family in backyard

September 25, 2018


In the U.S., homeowners spend $326.1 billion each year on home improvements. That’s one big bucket of Benjamins!

Whether it’s the noble goal of making your home more energy-efficient, or the ever-so-slightly ignoble goal of getting one up on your neighbors (we’re not here to judge), pursuing that next big dream home renovation is obviously a national pastime.

Finding ways to make your home sparkle can involve a big hit to the back pocket, but it doesn’t have to.

In fact, there are a ton of great options for enhancing your home on a budget that not only look great, but can also save you money.

Below, we’ll look at five dream home renovation projects you can achieve with limited funds.

Better yet, you may even be able to finance some of these improvements through the property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing program, which is designed to help homeowners cover the cost of a wide variety of energy-efficient upgrades.

1. Weatherstripping

OK, we admit it. This first dream home renovation idea might not win the gold medal for Most Exciting Home Upgrade of 2018, but bear with us!

The thing that makes weatherstripping such a great home upgrade for the moolah-mindful homeowner is that it can literally cost about the same as a cup of coffee and a fancy cupcake (with sprinkles).

Even if you go all-out and decide to reseal every door and window in your home, Home Advisor estimates the maximum you’re likely to pay is around $200.

Considering the U.S. Green Building Council estimates you can save a minimum of $100 each year by plugging air leaks (and much more if you live in a climate with extreme temperatures), leak sealing may not be the most exciting dream home renovation to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but it definitely might be one of the most cost-effective.

2. Windows

While we’re on the subject of making your home as climate-efficient as possible, let’s talk about a dream home renovation project with a touch more “zazz”—upgrading your windows.

Windows are great for letting you see stuff, but the garden variety are pretty terrible at protecting your home from heat and cold.

Your home loses up to 30 percent of its heating and cooling energy through conventional single-pane windows. That’s one hefty chunk of your energy bill.

If you live in a hot climate, a conventional window can cause you an even bigger energy headache, with up to 76 percent of the heat outside seeping into your living room like it owns the place.

Many people assume upgrading to energy-efficient windows would be one of the more costly dream home renovations, and out of reach for the budget-conscious homeowner.

Not so!

Sure, the fancy-schmancy triple-glazed windows with advanced gas fills are cost-prohibitive. But if you set your sights a bit lower and go for simple double-glazing with low heat-transfer glass, you’re looking at around $40 more than a conventional window—and just between us (and everyone else reading this), they’re almost as good.

That’s a pretty small investment considering the Department of Energy (DOE) estimates the typical homeowner can save almost $500 a year by upgrading to energy-efficient windows—and for bonus points, it gives you bragging rights with the neighbors.

3. Lighting

Anyone who’s taken a selfie knows that everything looks better in the right light. One of the simplest and most cost-effective projects you can do is an exterior and interior lighting upgrade.

Smart lighting (lighting systems controlled by a central smartphone app) is inexpensive, easy to install, and comes packed with groovy options to fine-tune not just illumination levels but also color and remote automation settings.

Geeky features aside though, smart lighting is a dream home renovation idea because it also delivers a great return on investment.

Smart LED bulbs use only a quarter of the energy a conventional incandescent bulb requires. They also last up to 25 times longer. Given the average household spends around 5 percent of its energy budget on lighting, they deliver great savings potential.

On top of that, the “smart” part of smart lighting adds to those savings simply by eliminating one of the main causes of energy waste: accidentally leaving the lights on.

Smart lights can be set to turn off when you leave the room and can even be turned off remotely, so they can help you cut down on the energy you waste.

4. Low VOC Paint

No list of low-budget dream home renovations would be complete without the classic "fresh paint.”

These days though, repainting your living room can do more than just make it look good. You can improve the quality of the air your family breathes, as well.

EPA studies tell us that indoor air is filled with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) slowly released by conventional wall paints, making it over 500 percent more polluted than outdoor air. Not only are VOCs correlated with a range of health conditions, they’re also a major contributor to urban smog.

A fresh coat of low VOC paint earns its place as a dream home renovation because in the space of an afternoon, you can brighten up your home and do something great for the environment (not to mention your health).

You’ll be an eco-warrior and have a flashy living room! That’s a pretty sweet deal.

This stuff is also surprisingly inexpensive. In fact, you can find a rainbow of low VOC paints that cost no more than conventional paint.

5. Duct Replacement

Sometimes that dream home renovation project you’re looking for is completely invisible but incredibly useful nonetheless. Duct replacement falls into this category.

The DOE estimates that a typical home will spend almost 50 percent of its energy bill on climate control costs.

When we think about upgrading climate control, most people immediately think of their HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) units. That’s a big investment. Instead of shooting for the primo option, why not set your sights on the lower hanging fruit?

A major part of your home’s efficiency in controlling climate boils down to the maze of ducting hiding up in your ceiling.

A correctly sized and sealed duct system can have a significant and lasting impact on your climate bill. Doubling down on its usefulness, it can also prolong the operational life of your HVAC system.

Sure, as far as dream home renovation projects go, replacing old and leaky ducts isn’t exactly going to make your neighbors gasp in admiration and proclaim you king or queen of the neighborhood—but it can definitely save you lots of money.

You may also be eligible to cover the costs of the upgrade with PACE financing.

Your Next Dream Home Renovation Needn’t Break The Bank

It’s easy to think that embarking on a dream home renovation will be a nightmare for your bank balance, but not so.

With a bit of knowledge and planning, there are lots of inexpensive ways to make your home both more attractive and more energy-efficient—and with PACE financing, homeowners may be able to even further lower the cost of these great green technology upgrades.