If I were buying a "frugal" house I would look for... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 10-10-2011, 07:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We're house hunting. I want it to be an efficient house. I'd love to do solar energy, and geothermal heat, etc, eventually. However, in the meantime, I'd love for it to be as energy efficient as possible. And if there are other ways a house can save or waste money, please enlighten me. So, I'm looking for any advice. We're a family of 8 (5 kids, 2 parents and grandma), in Michigan, if that helps at all.

 

What we're looking for:

1600+ sq ft on 2 acres or more of land outside the city

3+Beds 1.5+Baths

Full finished basement/IL apartment (for grandma)

 

 

Things we've tried to think of:

*I've read that cathedral ceilings are pretty and all, but cost you more for heat. Not sure if it's true, or if it can be offset by ceiling fans...?

*Open concept: are big open spaces harder/more costly to heat/cool?

*Currently we live across the street from dh's job and he walks/bikes to work. This move will mean 1 more car+gas+insurance

*We'll be on well water/septic, so -$89/month for water bill

*Long driveway would mean we have to pay someone to plow it a few months of the yr.

*I want lots of windows (will this increase heating costs? We own insulated curtains...)

*Gas stove and/or water heater: more expensive or less than electric?

*What to look for in terms of efficiency if there's a fireplace?

 

Anything else we aren't thinking about? Things that cost more in the country than the city?


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#2 of 24 Old 10-11-2011, 06:08 AM
 
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I looked at a few houses this year to buy.  One that struck me as the most frugal to own was very interesting but I really didn't like the area.  The things that I thought would make it frugal was that it was very simple and unimproved in many ways.  BUT it had a newer furnace, new roof, new hot water heater.  There was no basement and hence no worry about water penetration into that area.  It had a short driveway that would have been easy to shovel out and a very short walkway to the house and only one step up to the interior so I could have managed all of that myself without paying anyone.  Not too many older trees on property that would be expensive to maintain/remove if necessary.  Relatively low ceilings to retain heat.  It was all on one level so I could have aged in place without too many concerns (I like to be proactive!).  The kitchen was very simple but functional.  There was a section of the house that could have easily been split off to make a separate living area with one or two bedrooms that would have served as a rental or for parents.  The taxes were fairly reasonable (did not look up school taxes, but taxes in general definitely matter).  The bedrooms were small but the living space was quite nice.  I liked the fact that it had more rooms with doors than the more modern open space.  If you have many family members, being able to go in rooms and shut doors for tv viewing, music, instrument practicing, etc. is desirable.   Also, you could install more heating zones and save money that way.  An older, smaller house with small rooms means you can buy older, smaller, "vintage" furniture or at least save money with less massive furniture.  Septics and wells can cost BIG bucks to repair.  Quality maintenance is critical, but many people ignore this aspect. 

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#3 of 24 Old 10-11-2011, 10:04 AM
 
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Full finished basement/IL apartment (for grandma)

 

Is Grandma at or near the age where she could have trouble climbing stairs? If that's the case, a basement apartment might not be the best choice. Also, Michigan basements are often damp and/or chilly.

 

 

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#4 of 24 Old 10-11-2011, 11:09 AM
 
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An energy-efficient orientation of the house on the site is a huge thing that is very often neglected these days.  In Michigan, the winter sun is low in the south, so it helps to have main rooms facing south to get the best winter light (and not so much of the hot summer sun).  A kitchen looking south-east gets good morning light.  On the north side, where the Arctic winds hit, it is best to have fewer, smaller, windows, and storage more than full-time living space.  Landscaping will help with this too:  shield the north side with pine trees, leave the south side open or have deciduous trees that let sunlight through in the winter.

 

In the summer, the ability to open windows on two or three sides of the house to cross-ventilate will help a great deal with cooling.  Also, some kind of a screened porch so you can be outside in the evening without being bodily carried off by mosquitoes would be good, instead of being cooped up inside with the AC on.

 

Property taxes have been rising steeply in many parts of the country lately.

 

Good insulation is important.  (People find some very strange things inside old walls.)

 

The house should have an "airlock" for the main family entrance, to conserve heat when you are going in and out in the winter. 

 

Windows sized/placed to make good use of natural light.  (Many old houses from the pre-electricity days were designed this way.)  But not excessive window area, or many single-pane windows.

 

It would be good to get into the habit of conserving water--well water probably requires electricity to run the pump.

 

Grandma may need someplace drier than a basement, and probably needs a separate heating zone.  My grandma used to need to crank her heat up into the 80s, and also had to run the dehumidifier in her finished basement all summer long.  

 

A smaller yard is easier to mow and water, but a bigger plot of grass helps keep bugs and critters away from the house.

 

Upkeep needed for roof and outside walls can vary widely from low-maintenance to high-maintenance, depending on the materials.

 

Transportation:  places are further apart in the country, it is more miles to get somewhere (but not necessarily more time driving, since you can usually drive faster and less stressfully than in town).  Don't live too far off the main roads if you can't winter drive through unplowed snow.

 

Cell phone and internet access are sometimes less available/less reliable in the country.

 

Opportunities for self-sufficiency:  areas to hunt/fish/garden/tinker/hang laundry/plant fruit trees/cut firewood, etc. would be a frugal bonus, at least for me.

 

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#5 of 24 Old 10-11-2011, 02:00 PM
 
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I'd look for a fixer upper so I could do our own remodeling.  We saved a ton doing that.  Furthermore, we know it was done correctly. 


I don't know how you feel about high property taxes, but that is something I want to avoid.  Also, in my area, brick houses have a separate rider for earthquake insurance and that can be spendy. 

When my friend sold her house, the buyers asked for a run-down of monthly heating/cooling expenses.   She had to get them from the utility co bc she did not save her bills. 

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#6 of 24 Old 10-12-2011, 12:22 AM
 
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I would too go for a fixer upper. This way you could address changing windows with energy efficient ones or just better ones, you could add insulation underneath the siding, insulate the floors if you replace the existing flooring, etc. You could see if there are any programs out there offering incentives for making your home more energy efficient and take advantage of those..

 

For our first house in US we took a 203k reconstruction loan (don't know if it's still available) and redid the siding of the house adding more insulation, changed the windows and installed laminated flooring with an insulating layer on the back. We had a contractor doing both windows and siding and as a bonus he insulated the attick as well. Dh did the floors. Back in 2000 it cost us about 12k for a 1500sf house.

 

Good luck.

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#7 of 24 Old 10-12-2011, 03:48 PM
 
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Things I would not mind fixing:

insulating windows, door, attic etc

paint, flooring, and other cosmetic

kitchen and bathroom appliances/fixtures (i was surprised how inexpensively I could do my bathroom and kitchen  They aren't top of the line or high style but they are sturdy and attractive. My appliances are efficient)

adding alternative energy such a wood burner, wind turbine, solar forced air heater (which I still might do) and solar panels

adding windows or replacing windows (ok this is in the middle.....)

adding ceiling fans and lighting

 

things I would not go in needing to fix (unless the price of the house reflected the cost of the repairs and the hassle of doing them):

roof

foundation

a basement known to take on water (unless it has a good sump pump that is efficient and quiet)

furnace

a house with bad insulation through out

 

 

you mentioned  you would need to buy a new car and hire someone to shovel.  Why not combine the two.  Buy a sturdy truck with a plow attachment.

 

 

 

 


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#8 of 24 Old 10-12-2011, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No, Grandma is still quite spry. :) We would definitely NOT buy a house that looked to have a damp basement, and we're only looking at walkouts (which tend to be dryer because they are open on at least one side of the house).

 

Could do a beater truck to plow, or a quad as the kids want one anyway, but not right away. We'd need something fuel efficient for dh to drive to work, and a truck is definitely not that.

 

We are looking at fixer-uppers, but sadly the rural fixer-uppers don't seem to reflect their status. They're either TOTAL pieces of crap you'd rather tear down and start over, or they "need updates" and the owner refuses to see that and sees only dollar signs. I've got one likely candidate, but it's near train tracks and possibly too close to highway and a coal-fired power plant for my liking... Sigh...

 

Keep the suggestions coming.


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#9 of 24 Old 10-14-2011, 10:23 AM
 
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Things that would be priorities for me are:

 

1.  Having a house that is correctly sited to southern exposure. Lots of flaws can be fixed not this one.

2. Having a roof that lasts a long time (steel in my neck of the woods).
3. Having standard sized items (doors, windows toilets) if you think they are going to need to be replaced.

4. Considering places that are within a mile or two so DH can still walk or ride is bike or you can easily drop him off with your one car.  Being a one car family is going to save you a lot over the course of many years.

 

Other random comments

Fireplaces are often not effecient/frugal at all.  They are pretty. A wood cookstove might be a better long term investment.

Septic and well require maintainance too.  You might have less monthly outflow, but you still need to have some sinking funds set aside for maintainace and repairs.

 

 

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#10 of 24 Old 10-14-2011, 11:34 AM
 
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For me a frugal house is not only the house, but the big picture as well.

 

Location is big for me.  If its rural and thats to your liking, is it costly because it would take a tank of gas to buy milk or is it cheap because there is a dairy down the road who will sell you milk. I remember a friend of ours building their home in a large metro area but way way way out because they paid a lot less and got so much more house. Then their gas for the car tripled and now with the $$ it costs, that hurts. They also live in a huge subdivision and yes the house is econimical for what theey have, but they drive thru their subdivision, to the main road fight traffic to get milk, groceries etc. That alone is not frugal in my book. Also again, lot of house, bigger utilities.

 

Can make improvements on your own that will add warmth in the winter and cool in the summer? This pays off usually within one year.

 

Less space, less energy you will burn.

 

Just some ideas...


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#11 of 24 Old 10-14-2011, 12:11 PM
 
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Cathedral ceilings are definitely bad for heating- it's just a lot of unusable space to heat, and running fans will increase your energy usage and not totally do it anyway.

When we were looking at houses we knew we would be in the market for a fixer upper. However, not all fixers are the same. I kept saying I wanted something that needed "heavy cosmetic" work, and I found exactly that. Foundation is new and good, roof new, new energy efficient windows and doors. Those are all really expensive things to fix yourself. Inside, the floors were weird and mismatched (even different types in the same room), the cabinets were apparently salvaged, didn't fit where they were and there were 3 different types in the kitchen, many of the walls were not fully textured and not primed. There was a lot of ugly stuff, and because of that we got the house for very cheap. We have put about $15K into it (doing all the work ourselves), but recently had it appraised for a refinance and it appraised for $50K more than we bought it for, and looking around the neighborhood comps I think we would get even more for it once we finish up a couple of projects (though we are planning on renting it out, not selling).

I don't know how much you are into doing work yourselves, or dealing with contractors, but you are definitely paying a premium for a house that is updated and in perfect condition. That being said, there are a lot of projects that can get out of control pretty quickly, so my advice is to stick with cosmetic stuff that is easily doable, that you can live with over a number of years while you do it.

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#12 of 24 Old 10-14-2011, 12:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mnnice View Post

Things that would be priorities for me are:

 

1.  Having a house that is correctly sited to southern exposure. Lots of flaws can be fixed not this one.

2. Having a roof that lasts a long time (steel in my neck of the woods).3. Having standard sized items (doors, windows toilets) if you think they are going to need to be replaced.

4. Considering places that are within a mile or two so DH can still walk or ride is bike or you can easily drop him off with your one car.  Being a one car family is going to save you a lot over the course of many years.

 

Other random comments

Fireplaces are often not effecient/frugal at all.  They are pretty. A wood cookstove might be a better long term investment.

Septic and well require maintainance too.  You might have less monthly outflow, but you still need to have some sinking funds set aside for maintainace and repairs.

 

 


Yes to all of these. 

 

Normal size replacement windows aren't that expensive and if anyone is at all handy, it can be a DYI project.  Huge 36x50 double hungs, like I have, need to be special ordered and cost a fortune.  We are doing one at a time.

 

Fireplaces, for the most part, will suck the heat out of the house when the flue is open after the fire has died down.  That being said, we have one and use it all the time because we love nothing more than starting it in the morning and letting it go all day and into the evening.  Our evening entertainment is sitting around the fireplace. 

 

Because I live in the part of the country where there is no such thing as a truly dry basement, I am always suspicious of below grade living spaces.  A home with a garage that could be converted to a small apartment might be something to consider.

 

When wells and septics go bad, the costs are huge.  Wells do run dry and septic tanks do deteriate over the years.  Not to be an alarmist, just saving it isn't a sure-thing money saver.
 

 


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#13 of 24 Old 10-14-2011, 02:55 PM
 
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I had never thought about stuff being standard size (which is odd because i have non standard stuff and it drives me crazy!!)  Standard size windows will also save you money on window treatments as well as the more major expenses.  Also check the bathroom fixtures (including the toilet bolts.  they should be 12 inches from the wall)  and doorways.   Also check light fixtures.  

 

Updated wiring is something you want to check out in an old house.  If I had to redo my wiring I would have to replace the walls when it was all over.  Get estimates for work before you buy the hosue.  We bought this house thinking we would be able to put in central air.  A standard system would not work so we would need a more custom one and I believe he said something about tearing out a lot of the wall (plaster walls suck by the way).  There were several other things I wanted to do only to be told that they could not be done. (well there is always a way if you have a lot of money but how much money do you want to pour in a 100 year old duplex that you paid $100,000 for?)

 

Another frugal thing to consider is the cost of trees.  I loved the trees and then bought the house and then realized how much they cost to maintain.  From raking and disposing of the leaves, to professional tree trimming (they reach about five stories high), to damaged caused by branches and leaves (they wrecked my gutters), to expensive grass seed and landscaping that will thrive in their shade.  The expenses are never ending.  However the shade my house in the summer and block a little wind in the winter.  


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#14 of 24 Old 10-18-2011, 10:02 PM
 
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We moved from the suburbs to the country several years ago. Living in the country has been more expensive for us, no question.  I live in MN, so the climate is probably similar to yours.

 

To answer your concerns:

*cathedral ceilings- I've lived in houses with them and without them, and honestly didn't notice much of a difference with regard to the cost of heating/cooling.  However, now that we live out in the country, we heat with propane which is much more expensive than the natural gas we heated with in the suburbs.  It costs us about twice as much to heat our house here.  Also, in the suburbs we were able to use the gas company's budget plan, so we paid the same amount each month.  That's not an option for us now.  We can prepay for propane in the fall which locks in lower prices.  Or we can just wait and pay for each individual propane delivery.  Either way, it's an outlay of a minimum of several hundred dollars at once.

 

*extra car/gas/insurance- we've always been a multi-car household, so I can't comment on that.  But I think it would be difficult to live with only 1 car in the country.  I don't know how old your kids are or if they're involved in any extracurricular activities, but our schedule would be impossible with only one car.  I think you're absolutely right about the plow truck.  We have an old beater plow truck for our driveway, but I'd hate to drive that on a regular basis, it's terribly inefficient with gas.  The one thing I would strongly encourage you to think about is buying a 4 wheel drive vehicle.  We live on a paved road, but on snowy days the county plow truck doesn't always make it around as quickly as we'd like.  If we were going to wait until the roads were clear, we'd often be late for work/school.  It's also hard to make it out of our driveway without 4WD.  After getting stuck on our driveway and sliding off the driveway far too many times, DH and I both now have 4WD vehicles. 4WD doesn't always have to mean horrible fuel economy, although sometimes that is the way it works out.  DH has a smaller car with 4WD and gets 31-34 mpg.  I have a mid-size SUV and get 21-23 mpg, which is a little bit better than what I used to get with my front wheel drive minivan.

 

Well/septic- water was pretty cheap in the suburbs- our water/sewer bill was about $30/month.  Living in the country has been much more expensive.  No, we don't have a water bill.  But we pay for the electricity to run the pump.  After we'd lived here a few years, a crack developed in a well pipe, which required an $1800 repair.  We've been told that the pipes generally have a lifespan of 10-15 years (I think the pipe that failed was about 12 years old).  There's also septic maintenance.  Our septic tank needs to be pumped out once every 2-3 years.  IIRC, the cost the last time we had the septic pumped was about $300 ($350?).

 

Long driveway- if it is a gravel driveway, you'll need to buy additional gravel every few years.  We just had this done a couple weeks ago.  We ordered 30 tons of gravel and paid about $250 for the gravel + delivery.  We then had our neighbors come over with their bobcat to grade the gravel.  As for plowing, you'll either need to pay for someone to do it (again, you'll have to wait for them to show up), or figure out a way to do it yourself.  I really wouldn't recommend buying a beater plow truck unless someone in your family is handy with vehicles.  Older plow trucks tend to be pretty rusted because they've been subjected to so much road salt, and that makes them difficult to work on.  Also, the older the hydraulic system (for the plow) is, the more likely it is to be finnicky.  My DH enjoys working on cars, has always had project cars, and he's never had more issues with any other vehicle as he's had with our plow truck.  Last winter the hydraulics weren't working well (AGAIN) and in attempting to fix the issue my DH stupidly dropped the (800 pound) plow blade on his foot.  That resulted in a very broken foot, surgery, and me driving DH everywhere for way too long.  Sigh.


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#15 of 24 Old 10-19-2011, 07:14 AM
 
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Thought:

 

Why do you have to pay someone to do your driveway in the winter? If you have 2+ acres, are you going to mow it all with a push mower? With you have a riding lawnmower? Get one that you can put a snow thrower on. If you do lots of gardening and plan on having chickens, having a riding lawnmower/lawn tractor is really great and a HUGE help to have something that can haul that fruit tree to the other side of the yard, fill a cart with leaves and move to the compost, take the chicken bedding to the compost, moving chopped wood, ect ect.

 

We are attempting to get rid of as much lawn as possible but we still use our riding lawnmower for lots and lots of chores.

 

I agree with costs of gravel drive upkeep. If possible get a short driveway. We have 1.3 acres and a very long driveway, and it does need new gravel from time to time. Although I greatly prefer living far from the road.

 

 

Also, look for a house that has a good place to put a wood stove in. Not all houses have an appropriate spot.

 

 

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#16 of 24 Old 10-19-2011, 07:51 AM
 
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Open concept feels bigger... but nothing is more irritating to me than to see dirty dishes from the front door. I grew up in an open concept house and there's no "spot" for kids to play separately while grown ups try to have grown-up talk.

I agree with what folks are saying about the in-law suite. It needs to be on the main level or a detached garage you could make over for her.

I have some friends who did American clay in their homes. Its so quiet and helps with the energy efficiency. I may have to try it on my next house.
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#17 of 24 Old 10-19-2011, 11:26 PM
 
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I didn't feel like monkeying with the quote, my thoughts are in blue.  :)
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gabbyraja View Post

*I've read that cathedral ceilings are pretty and all, but cost you more for heat. Not sure if it's true, or if it can be offset by ceiling fans...?
I live up north.  As in, we've started up the wood stove already to warm up the house, and we don't bother with those goofy gates around it for our kids since they figure out it's hot fairly quickly (our 19mo goes up and blows on it when it's hot, or puts kindling in it when the stove's cold).  If you live in a cold climate and heat with gas or electric, odds are you won't care about heating anything above the 10-foot level, but if you live in a warmer climate the cathedral ceiling type thing may be nice for the hot air to rise to.  And heating *that* much, at least in my area, gets up in the $200-$400/mo range for most folks I've asked.  I'm only used to this area though, and I know all my now-dead relatives had smaller houses with low ceilings when building/growing up back in the day.
 

*Open concept: are big open spaces harder/more costly to heat/cool?

If you heat/cool by section (like crank on the electric baseboard only when you're in the room), maybe.  If it's all one big area that you want the same temperature, then I think you'd be good.  We have a split level with our wood stove on the 'main' living/dining/kitchen floor, homeschool/laundry/entry down half a flight of stairs and bathrooms/bedrooms up a half a flight of stairs.  We keep the bedroom doors closed/partly closed during the day to keep the toddler out and keep the rooms cool enough to sleep in.

 

 

*Currently we live across the street from dh's job and he walks/bikes to work. This move will mean 1 more car+gas+insurance

And fuel prices won't likely hit $2/gallon ever again.  So make sure to budget for it.  Also, if you have to drive kids in to school every day or have sports or other extra curriculars, that'll also add up.

 

*We'll be on well water/septic, so -$89/month for water bill

But a septic tank still needs upkeep.  Our $300 pumping turned into a $1400 bill due to a ruptured pipe, a giant 4'x4'x8' hole that needed dug, and a tank riser thingie we put in so we never have to dig again.  I have photos of that giant hole - took the kids a month of 'playing' to fill in all the dirt and rocks again. 
The water pump could die or you could need to get the well re-dug or re-drilled, and that typically runs into the thousands of dollars up here - unless you luck out and have an artesian well.  Pump, pipes and electrical things can cost a pretty penny.  Or find a place with a a community water system - we have an un-metered community water system of about 150 houses.

 

*Long driveway would mean we have to pay someone to plow it a few months of the year.

Buy a good tractor that you can use several different ways (plow the garden, snowplow the driveway, etc.).  That's what hubby's plan would be if we managed to afford acreage at some point.  Or strike up a deal with a neighbor to do it for you when the weather dictates it, or park the vehicle at the road and snowshoe to it.  You can be creative if you have to be (it just might not be as fun).

 

*I want lots of windows (will this increase heating costs? We own insulated curtains...)

Make sure there's insulation around the windows, like behind the trim.  Sigh.  We learned that one the hard way.  Usually you can work with windows.  Our living room is usually a dark pit looking place in the summer (hot afternoon/evening sun on four giant 7-foot windows and zero cross-breeze possibilities), but it works.

 

*Gas stove and/or water heater: more expensive or less than electric?

Depends on where you live and the prices, but usually gas is cheaper - even if it's not necessarily more efficient.  We do a bunch of canning/cooking from scratch, and have an electric stove that we want to replace with a dual-fuel.  Our water heater is natural gas, and no complaints once we got the defective one replaced (oh yeah, hard water shrapnel from the inside of the water heater's an experience).

 

*What to look for in terms of efficiency if there's a fireplace?

Fireplaces suck.  They literally pull/suck the heat out of the house through the draft up the chimney.  If you want to heat with wood, you need an honest to goodness wood stove.  Not a goofy insert from the 70's.  A regular plain fireplace is 20-25% efficient.  A crappy non-airtight 70's insert is about 25-35% efficient, and the newer wood stoves are about 65-75% efficient.  It's the difference between waking up every two hours to load your stove/fireplace vs. waking up to load it every eight hours.  Can't speak for everyone else, but I certainly prefer having a toasty house during a 3-week 10*F snap, and only having to load the stove 3-4 times in a 24-hour period.  We have a QuadraFire and an Englander, those both have good options.  We've met the Kuma Stoves guy and a friend has one of those, and they're well built.  Just see what's in your area.  Oh, and if you go from a straight-up fireplace to an insert (which I totally would do again in a heartbeat, that's how much we love the wood heat), also check the building codes (non-flammable floor, stainless stove pipe up the chimney) and homeowner's insurance cost.  Also keep in mind how much a cord of wood costs, or if you plan to cut down your own firewood the costs associated with that (chainsaws, safety gear, truck, etc.).

 

Anything else we aren't thinking about?

Would 1600sf be okay for your nice sized family if you're housebound for a day or twelve due to weather if that's a concern?  If we couldn't leave the house at all for weeks at a time, we might want more room for the kids to literally bounce off the walls.

Storage.  Out of season clothes, if you plan to do any food storage (again, what would you do if snowed in or a vehicle breaks down?) or canning or anything, make sure there's a spot you can claim for that.  My pantry has taken on a life of it's own and spilled out of the 'pantry' into another basement room and garage.  Makes me happy, but not so fabulous for total home organization.

 

Have fun house shopping!

 


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#18 of 24 Old 10-19-2011, 11:44 PM
 
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We are looking at fixer-uppers, but sadly the rural fixer-uppers don't seem to reflect their status. They're either TOTAL pieces of crap you'd rather tear down and start over, or they "need updates" and the owner refuses to see that and sees only dollar signs. I've got one likely candidate, but it's near train tracks and possibly too close to highway and a coal-fired power plant for my liking... Sigh...


Don't necessarily knock out living in the same neighborhood as a coal-fired plant.  They may not be as efficient as you'd like, but they typically are cleaner burning than a lot of busses and trucks.  I went to a college that has a wood-chip fired steam plant.  Steam tunnels under the sidewalks heated the majority of the buildings (and made for less shoveling/plowing).  Only annoying thing about that was parking downwind of the stacks (as in, 150-300 feet away) would sometimes result in some wood ash on the windshield.  Sorry, this is one of my hubby's specialties, and occasionally I do absorb some of what he's explaining to me.  ;)

 

Train tracks?  You get used to it.  A friend actually has property that borders a BNSF line.  It's not a super busy one, but there's about a train every 2 hours or so.  You get used to it - just like you get used to the sounds of a bustling city.  My kids love playing at that friend's house because they love trains and will just stop whatever they're doing to wave at the passing train.  :)  My grandma lived about a mile and a half from a busy train that parallels I-5, and for the first few years I lived here and heard the trains it totally took me back to Grandma's house.  Trippy, but neat.  My house is about 2-2.5 miles from the closest BNSF line, so we can hear it clearer at night than during the day, but still.  We also live under the airport approach.  Again, sounds scary, right?  It's a teeny airport.  As in, I'll hear a bunch of helicopters one day and think to myself "huh, fire season must've started."  Doesn't hurt that the kids love airplanes and will (just like with trains!) stop and check them out, so it's more a novelty.  If it gets you a deal on the house you love and you don't overpay, don't pull it out of the running immediately.


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#19 of 24 Old 02-23-2012, 07:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We've found a house we really like.

  • It's NOT situated N/S. I've really been looking, but people are just stupid about building around here I guess... The kitchen, sunroom and bedrooms are S/E, the livingroom is N/W.
  • However, it DOES have a heat pump! That's very encouraging.
  • It has 1.38 acres (enough for a couple of sheep and some chickens, plus the lot next door is vacant and a possibility to buy in the future),
  • the trees ARE planted well for passive solar (deciduous on the south side, evergreens on the north). It also has a sunroom/4 seasons room with sky lights.
  • I don't know about insulation and all that, but they did disclose their bills. They said about $200/month for electric (same as we already pay in a MUCH smaller space) and one fill of the propane tank per year (about $750, also about the same we pay for heat currently).
  • It has a short driveway, newer windows, roof, furnace, etc.
  • It has a wood-burning fireplace, but with an insert. And the 2.5 car garage is prepped for a woodstove, and could be easily converted to an in-law apartment for grandma.
  • And, it's only 10 minutes outside of town, so it's plenty close to everything still that it won't cost much more than it does now to drive to everything.
  • There are woods all over behind it, it borders a cow farm, and there's a stream/creek on the other side of the vacant lot (kids are super excited about that part).
  • Property taxes are relatively low.
  • We have to find someplace in move-in condition for our financing, so we can't get a fixer-upper, but we are fine with doing upgrades ourselves. It doesn't need to be the prettiest inside. It does really look great, but the countertops are navy blue laminate... Stuff like that. Simple stuff.
  • It has 2400 sq ft of finished space, too, plus a basement for storage, and outbuildings are allowed (so we could eventually build a detached garage). It's a quad level, similar to lmonter's desc above. It has 2 "living rooms", so the kids can have their own "den" space/space for toys/space for HS stuff, etc. We are a homeschooling family, and days at a time in our little 1400 sq ft is enough to drive me insane. The space there was SO great.
  • And it was built in 1976, so unlikely to have lead paint (we've already been lead poisoned once from a house and my kids are still paying for it. I'd rather avoid it again).
  • We do not plan to mow 2 acres. We plan to have the sheep do that for us. :) What space they do not take up we plan to fill with a very large garden and fruit trees.

 

Only problem is, it has an in-ground pool and our financing doesn't allow it. We're trying to find out if the pool were filled could we get it. We think the sellers would be motivated enough to fill it. Otherwise, we're going back out looking again in a week... Though that's not all bad, either, as there's another one that's pulling my heart strings as well. No heat pump, but situated right, on 3 acres with a creek and gorgeous willow trees! Anyway, not married to the house above...

 

Dh has found someone he works with who is his "farm mentor", lol. He has a 4WD truck he had converted to biodiesel, and a source for the biodiesel at $1/gallon. Sounds good to me! Even pleases my inner hippie.

 

So, we're still shopping, but for reals now, since our lease is up in May. Wish us luck! And if you have any more tips, please share them. Love the lawn tractor for all the chores idea...


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#20 of 24 Old 02-23-2012, 07:53 AM
 
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I remember reading this thread way back in 2011.  Sounds like an awesome place!  I want to live there!!  Good luck!


N, wife to my goofball K partners.gif and mamma to my EC grad D (July 2010) and my new little love S (May 2013).  Exploring the uncharted territory of tandem nursing with my two boys.

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#21 of 24 Old 03-04-2012, 05:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The homeowners wouldn't fill the pool, so we kept looking. Good thing, because we found something else that's wonderful! The next door neighbors have horses, and it's literally 3 houses down from a petting farm!

 

It has gas hot water for heat. I don't rally know anything about this kind of heat... We had it in an apartment, and it was VERY good at heating, and we didn't get bloody noses all winter. But, heat was included there, so I don't know: is it very efficient? I KNOW it HAS to be more efficient than propane, but... I'm not sure if you can use a solar hot water heater(s) to bypass the gas and heat your house with it? THAT would be super cool! 

 

It's also situated correctly, has the overhang on the front porch (south side) and everything, for passive solar. So that's too cool. And it's only got a crawl, no basement. It's a 3'8", concrete, lighted crawl. And the garage is heated. We will convert it for grandma. It's also a ranch, so no stairs and we could live in it easily when we're old/if we're "less-abled."


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#22 of 24 Old 03-04-2012, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, also, it has a fireplace (They have it boarded up and obviously haven't used it in a while). We wouldn't have cared if it didn't have one or did have one, but I LOVE fireplaces. Is there any way at all, even if it's only used a few times a year, to do anything to it (I've heard "insert" a lot, but don't really know what it is or what it costs), to make it so we could actually use it in a semi-efficient manner? I wouldn't expect to use it for efficient heat, just to make it not lose too much heat (when in use or not in use), not be too smokey into the house, and still have the fire visible and warm?

 

Thanks


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#23 of 24 Old 03-04-2012, 07:33 PM
 
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Gabby, we just installed an insert into our old fireplace and use it for our primary heat as well--we lined and insulated our chimney at the same time to go with it. It was around $3,000.  http://www.chimneylinerinc.com/napoleon1101.php  This should link what we got. It is very simple and yes you can definitely watch the fire.  We are quite happy with it.  Previously our fireplace just sucked heat and we just used it for fun/entertainment.  It did not help keep us warm!

 

 I hope the house works out for you!


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Quote:
Originally Posted by gabbyraja View Post

Oh, also, it has a fireplace (They have it boarded up and obviously haven't used it in a while). We wouldn't have cared if it didn't have one or did have one, but I LOVE fireplaces. Is there any way at all, even if it's only used a few times a year, to do anything to it (I've heard "insert" a lot, but don't really know what it is or what it costs), to make it so we could actually use it in a semi-efficient manner? I wouldn't expect to use it for efficient heat, just to make it not lose too much heat (when in use or not in use), not be too smokey into the house, and still have the fire visible and warm?

 

Thanks



My grandparents have an insert, with a fan and vents, the doors close super tight, so you get the beauty of a fireplace and the efficiency of a wood stove.  They heat their whole house in the winter, and a log burns forever.  It would be a very efficient way to heat if you can do the fan!


N, wife to my goofball K partners.gif and mamma to my EC grad D (July 2010) and my new little love S (May 2013).  Exploring the uncharted territory of tandem nursing with my two boys.

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