Green Tips

Insulating doors and windows can slash your energy and money costs. Installing solar energy panels is another good method of saving energy. If you can swing it, installing a solar thermal energy heating system will also remove a significant chunk of your energy bills.­

Cost-Effective Home Improvements

Though virtually all home improvements cost money, some can flush your money right down the toilet. Others, however, can make their cost back in a raised selling price -- sometimes several times over.

Looks are a big deal when you're trying to sell your home. Probably the simplest way to improve your home's value is to improve its lighting. Make sure all the lights work well and aren't dimming. If you're looking to help the environment, too, you should replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights because they use less energy and stay bright much longer than incandescent light bulbs. Homeowners typically pay somewhere around $100 for replacement light bulbs, and this investment could make a return of more than 700 percent [source: Weston]!

If you have a little more to spend, it's a good idea to look into kitchen and bath remodeling. You could update the kitchen with more modern features, such as new countertops, appliances and cabinets. In the bathroom, you might look to replace toilet seats, grout, drawer handles and cabinet pulls. Depending on what you do, you might spend an average of $2,000, but your sale price could increase $4,000 [source: Weston].

There are other home improvements that might be more expensive but still save you money in the end. You'll probably need professional help to install new electric and plumbing lines. But by fixing the plumbing or electricity, you could see an average return of 196 percent [source: Weston].

If you want to see the glass as half full, you should definitely consider replacing your windows. Potential buyers look for windows that effectively keep out the cold and warm weather. You can see an average return of 90 percent on your investment if you replace your windows. Not only does this help you when you go to sell your house, but replacing old windows also helps you cut back on energy costs while you're still living in your home [source: CNN].

No matter the improvement, if you're looking for returns, stick to classic designs. You might love that bold granite countertop and plum paint, but classic black or gray granite countertops and light, neutral paints will suit the most potential buyers. To learn even more about cost-effective home improvements, visit the links on the following page.