Click on the arrow for some upgrades you can discuss with your contractor.
Safe and Secure
You can use your smartphone, tablet or personal computer to operate a standalone security system, or to augment one provided by a home security company. You’ll need a camera ($150 to $200) that streams video to your phone or tablet via an associated app.
The Connected Kitchen
Your smartphone or computer can allow you to control your oven’s temperatures remotely, or to use the built-in computer in your refrigerator to keep an inventory of what’s on your shelves. Expect to pay upwards of $3,500 for a smart fridge, $1,400 or so for an electric range.
Bright New Ideas
A wireless lighting system lets you manage your home’s energy usage from anywhere. One app allows you to run your house remotely—turning lights on or off, setting your thermostat, monitoring home security and opening locked doors. You can get a pretty sophisticated setup for $200 to $300.
In Hot Water
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use as much as 1.2 trillion gallons of water for showering. Much of that goes down the drain each year as we wait for the water to heat up, and about $2.5 billion is wasted in heating water.1 A recirculation system, usually costing less than $400, can deliver hot water instantly, potentially lowering your water and energy bills in the process.
1Environmental Protection Agency website, 2-23-16.
A leak detection system with a solenoid valve (approximately $200 to $500) signals when your pipes malfunction—or, in some cases, if a tap is left running. It then shuts off the water, potentially preventing a flood and saving thousands of dollars in home repairs.
Low-emissivity (low-e) windows capture the sun’s warmth and then emit low levels of radiant thermal energy—helping heat your home. You’ll pay about $15 per square foot more for low-e glass, but will recover the cost (and then some) over time through energy savings.
The latest catchphrase in home entertainment is “multi-room wireless audio”—in other words, being able to play different sounds in different rooms, using just a touchscreen controller or an app on your smartphone that’s connected to your digital music collection. Systems generally run between $200 and $400.
Up On the Roof
Solar has been around for a while, but recent advances have brought the cost down—with many tax advantages still in place. New in the last decade are easy-to-install photovoltaic roof shingles. According to one manufacturer, a cluster of 350 shingles could cut your electric bill by 40% to 60%.1
1 "Sun Roof: Solar Panel Shingles Come Down in Price, Gain in Popularity." Scientific American, April 2, 2013.
3 Questions To Ask Your Advisor
1. Given what I want in a house, should I buy or renovate?
2. How should I fund my renovation?
3. If I’m considering selling, is it worth it to renovate?