Q: I'd like to put in a new programmable thermostat to better control my energy costs. Can I install it myself?
-Sam Aleksy, Chicago
Lance Marques, HVAC contractor, Swezey Fuel Co., replies: Sure you can. Upgrading to a thermostat that automatically changes the indoor temperature setting is fairly easy, and it can trim about $180 off your annual heating and cooling costs, according to the EPA.
Simple models that only control heat are sold at home centers for around $25. More expensive products, such as the Honeywell Prestige that I installed here, handle many more functions, including cooling and humidifying. Typically they're purchased through and installed by HVAC contractors, but you can also buy them online.
Before you buy a replacement thermostat, however, take a peek at your existing wiring. If there are only two wires, the simplest solution is to get a replacement with a battery-powered display. Full-featured devices like the Prestige need power from a third wire, something
Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine
- This Old House Magazine | Work + Money – Fri, Oct 22, 2010 10:03 PM EDT
- This Old House Magazine | Work + Money – Fri, Oct 22, 2010 9:48 PM EDT
How to Carve a Pumpkin
You've seen their creations in our Inspirational Pro Pumpkin Carving gallery. Now, here are the expert carvers' tips and secrets for every step of the pumpkin-carving process. Follow their advice to create an award-winning masterpiece, and enter the 2010 Pumpkin-Carving Contest for your chance to win the $500 Grand Prize.
1. Select It
Whether you're opting for a gourd straight from the patch, or choosing to carve a synthetic pumpkin, make sure you consider your design or pattern when making a selection. Pick one that's large enough and shaped to accommodate the length and width of whatever design you're going to carve. And before you leave the pumpkin patch, Ryan Wickstrand of Zombie Pumpkins recommends the following: "Make sure it can stand well on its own, and never carry a pumpkin by its stem."Read More »from How to Carve the Perfect Jack-o'-lantern
If you dread seeing your hard work turn to mush-even with good care, a carved pumpkin will last about a couple of weeks-consider an artificial pumpkin,
- This Old House Magazine | Work + Money – Thu, Oct 7, 2010 10:22 PM EDT
Get Ready for the Cold SeasonRead More »from Top 3 Easy Fall Prep Projects for a Warm and Cozy Home
Fall means vibrant red, orange, and yellow foliage, lots of pumpkins, and refreshingly cool temps. But, it also means winter isn't far away. Here are a few projects-from looking after your exterior to maintaining your heating system-that can help your home brace for the cold and save you some cash.
See a project you could use some help with? We've got the step-by-step instructions, shopping lists, tools lists, and other helpful information you need to get the job done right.
Prep Your Landscape and Start Composting
"Grass roots keep growing until the ground gets down to around 40 degrees," says TOH landscape contractor Roger Cook, "so this is a good time to feed them." Apply a high-phosphorus (12-25-12) mix to lawns in fall to encourage roots, so turf greens up earlier in spring. It's also a good time to seed a new lawn, start a compost pile, and trim shrubs and trees.
See Roger's entire Fall Groundwork Checklist for more seasonal landscaping
If the bath of your dreams seems out of reach, you've typically got two choices: Cut corners or compromise. Or, you could follow Susan and Mark Nitchman's lead and get creative-and a little dirty. For this couple, affording a spa-like retreat for their 1876 Queen Anne in St. Charles, Missouri, started with bidding their contractor farewell once the drywall and subfloor were in.Read More »from Vintage Bath on a Budget
Susan and Mark resolved to do the finish work themselves to stay under the $6,000 cap they'd set for completing their master bath addition filled with high-end fixtures and finishes, such as a claw-foot tub, marble tile floors, a generous glassed-in shower, and a furniture-style vanity. And because there were no existing materials to preserve, they also knew they'd have to be resourceful-shopping garage sales, building all the cabinetry, even making their own trim. Keep reading to see more of their tips and the products they used.
butterfly gardenHave nature put on a show just for you this spring! Plant nectar-rich flowers and you'll attract not only butterflies, but beautiful birds and beneficial insects too. We've shown you which plants attract which butterflies, and plants for backyard birds, but Wind & Weather makes planting a wildlife-friendly habitat garden foolproof by offering the ideal plants in a handy bundle. The bi-color Butterfly Bush shown here is included. Pick up the Butterfly Collection, which also includes Foxglove Candy Mountain and Coneflower Pink Double Delight, ($44.95) at windandweather.com -From The Hardware Aisle @thisoldhouse.comRead More »from Wind & Weather's foolproof butterfly garden
- This Old House Magazine | Work + Money – Tue, May 4, 2010 9:26 PM EDT
Who doesn't enjoy the sight of a brightly colored bird, or a passing butterfly? These natural visitors add appeal to our landscapes, help control pests, and seed and pollinate our gardens. But we're in danger of losing them through our own actions. According to the National Audubon Society, the 20 birds on the Common Birds in Decline list have lost at least half of their populations in just four decades due to residential and industrial development.Read More »from Invite Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard This Summer
It's not too late to coax fine flying friends into our yards, though. This summer-with skyrocketing fuel prices putting the squeeze on your vacation plans-instead of going to visit nature, why not bring nature to you? Encourage birds and butterflies to come to your place and stay awhile with these easy habitat gardening tips. And, don't forget to keep your birdhouses and feeders out in the cold season, when native and migrating birds need your help most.
Reduce Your Lawn
According to the National Wildlife Federation, about 20 million U.S.
- This Old House Magazine | Work + Money – Tue, May 4, 2010 9:16 PM EDT
You tried sweating it out in the sauna and "Om" isn't exactly hitting home. No wonder! You're working too hard at relaxing! Put all that effort into creating a place to sit quietly and contemplate the sounds of nature: birds chirping, breezes blowing, brooks babbling. What-no backyard brook? Not a problem. Just build yourself the next best thing, with a softly trickling garden fountain.
In a mere weekend, you can fountain-ize most any leftover garden ornament, turning it into an enduring monument to tranquility. Revive a defunct birdbath, declare your own ode to a Grecian urn, or drill holes in a stack of rocks you found on-site, as This Old House technical editor Mark Powers did for a friend one hot afternoon. See How to Build a Fountain to get started on yours.
Use This Old House's step-by-step project planner to map out a late spring, summer and early fall's worth of fun and functional do-it-yourself home improvements. Here's what's on the agenda:Read More »from A Full Summer of DIY Weekend Projects
1. How to Install Rain Gutters
2. Plant a Tree
3. Build a Raised Vegetable Garden
4. Create a Brightly Colored, Weather-Proof Planter
5. How to Put in a Picket Fence
6. How to Hang (and Fill) a Window Box
7. How to Build a Sitting Wall
8. How to Create a Backyard Pond
9. How to Install Drip Irrigation
10. How to Put in Programmable Sprinklers
11. How to Build a Toolbox
12. How to Epoxy-Coat a Garage Floor
13. How to Build an Adirondack Chair
14. How to Build a Grilling Station
15. How to Lay a Bluestone Patio
16. How to Install a Ceiling Fan
17. How to Refinish Your Entry Door
18. How to Hang Interior Shutters
19. How to Swap Porch Lattice and Rotted, Weather-Beaten Floorboards
20. How to...GO ON VACATION?
21. How to Build a Garden Fountain
22. How to Lay a Brick Path