Five Easy Home-Maintenance Gifts

One of those holiday season emails caught our attention: Instead of buying a bunch of cheap, throw-away merchandise made in China, it said, think outside the box and give gifts of genuine concern for other Americans. For example, a gift certificate for a haircut, car wash, oil change, or computer tune-up. Mow someone’s lawn or plow the snow. A gift card to a local restaurant. You get the idea. We decided to put our own spin on the idea. Here are five easy home maintenance gifts for the important people in your life -- your Mom, say, or a friend. Or heck, even your own home.

1. Weatherize your Mom’s house. It’s easy and quick to add weather stripping around windows, doors – even the garage door. Stopping leaks will make the home more comfortable. Visit the hardware store and you’ll find a variety of easy-to-apply products and kits. And not just weather stripping. Pick up a caulk gun and can of spray foam and seal up every crack and crevice. Are kitchen and bathroom on outside walls? Look under the sink and seal up any holes around the pipes. Any electrical outlets and switches on outside walls? You can get a foam electrical outlet and wall plate insulating kit. Leaking around the attic scuttlehole? You can get a kit for that too. If you don’t believe it about leaks, wait for the coldest day this winter and then crawl around and play house detective.

2. Want to do more? Bring in an expert home energy auditor. This service can cost between $250 and $1,000. An auditor measures the air tightness of the home, looks for leaks in your duct work, determines how well the home is insulated, and makes recommendations. You might be eligible for a free audit and rebates – see information about the Austin Energy home energy audit program.

3. Replace water-hog toilets and faucets with new water-savings models. This is a gift that keeps on giving by reducing monthly water bills. Visit a plumbing supply company and ask for their recommendation for the most cost-effective products. Or, visit the EPA’s WaterSense web site for a list of water-efficient products.

4. Buy a year’s supply of air conditioning filters and then show up regularly to change them out. Better yet, hire an air conditioning specialist to service the home’s air conditioner and furnace. Keeping these systems in good working condition helps keep energy bills down and can help the equipment to last longer.

5. Paint the place. Spruce up the interior with a fresh coat of paint. Do it yourself and make it a labor of love – you’ll need paint, supplies, drop cloths to protect furniture and floor, plus time and an energetic playlist on your iPod. Or hire a professional painter. You can forestall rot and deterioration on exterior wood surfaces by keeping them protected with good quality paint.

These are our ideas, off the top of our head. Look around -- you can probably think of a dozen more.