Author Topic: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!  (Read 2472 times)

frontstepdesign

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This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« on: January 17, 2018, 11:15:13 AM »
We're experiencing some pretty chilly temps for the Mississippi Delta: 11F this morning, with a windchill of -1. The previous owners stopped by to check on me, and tried again to sell me the 5 room gas heaters they didn't include with the house.  "It only cost us $200/month to run them," they suggested.  I tried not to visibly blanch.

It's a 1925 Greek Revival, on a fantastic lot, located in a great neighborhood, in walkable/bikeable distance to EVERYTHING. We got a terrific deal.  I can work from home.  But they had no idea how to live in it as anything other than CrazyConsumerClowns.  It has no insulation of any kind, necessary caulking has NOT been done...three of the windows are actually fractured.  It does have a central heat pump.

They're right, the house is chilly.  But there are things one can do, that don't involve running gas lines to every room ($1500 min), 5 gas appliances ($500 min), and a monthly $200 in gas for 3 months minimum/year. 

I chose thermal drapes (rather than their chiffon + blinds) and close them at night, and in rooms I'm not using.  I taped large-size clear bubble wrap onto the uninsulated south-facing windows, gaining a 20-degree differential immediately for a cost of $15.  That one change made that room usable, and the heat pump can now easily keep up with down to 35F.  We got the cobweb-filled thermostat upgraded to a programmable one ($100). Lowe's just ran a deal on attic insulation, and I'm only waiting on a helper to come available to lay those lovely R19 batts - that $500 investment should pay for itself inside a year, since it'll also help during the 9 months of air-conditioning.  When I get the knob & tube upgraded (and out of my way), I'll overlay to R45.

I'm torn between self-satisfaction that we're saving this beauty from a generation of neglect...and dismay looking around at my neighbor's houses...most of whose roofs display the rapid melt that belies inadequate attic insulation.  Maybe I should sell insulation!

TheWifeHalf

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2018, 01:03:01 PM »
We bought our 1915 house, and the first thing we did was put R45 in the attic. Took us a couple of years, but we added to the wall studs to get 6" insulation in the walls.
While we did that, as the walls were open, we put in the pipes for a central vac. Next to the insulation, one of the best things we did!

frontstepdesign

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2018, 11:16:14 AM »
We bought our 1915 house, and the first thing we did was put R45 in the attic. Took us a couple of years, but we added to the wall studs to get 6" insulation in the walls.
While we did that, as the walls were open, we put in the pipes for a central vac. Next to the insulation, one of the best things we did!

Both those ideas sound fantastic - that would also be the opportunity to get at any residual old wiring, add outlets, and fix some strange plaster "fixes".  Hmm, did you do that yourselves?

Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2018, 02:41:28 PM »
Something we do in Alaska is put shrink plastic over the window in the winter if you live in a house without double panes. The shrink wrap kits are available at Lowes, at least up here.

osbornab

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2018, 06:44:41 PM »
Before adding attic-insulation make sure you appropriately air seal. This should greatly increase the return on investment. See http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/air-sealing-attic



TheWifeHalf

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2018, 09:08:04 PM »

Both those ideas sound fantastic - that would also be the opportunity to get at any residual old wiring, add outlets, and fix some strange plaster "fixes".  Hmm, did you do that yourselves?

When we bought it, there was one push button light switch upstairs and the plumbing was very old. We redid that, along with new wiring and plumbing in the whole house. We had the house 21 years and we hired a guy to do the shell of an addition, and we had a guy make kitchen cabinets last spring.  The rest, we  (and my Dad) did.

It was the talk of the neighborhood, 2 young newlyweds tackling that dark old house. I think we were a topic down at the county offices. I remember the last time a county gal knocked on the door, I told her what wasn't done yet. She said she and her husband did it the same, "just do what you can do, and enjoy the process."

When I read your post I thought "Oh how exciting!"

frontstepdesign

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2018, 08:09:37 AM »
UPDATE: We got the first pass at insulation in yesterday!  Clarification - the knob-and-wire turns out to occupy the center half of the attic floor, and I have to cross it to get to the living room. I'm not touching that area until it's rewired.  But in 6 hours of work yesterday, I got the entire (unwired) north third insulated - all those plush joist spaces look so much warmer than the bare plaster!

After 6 hours of crabwalking and crawling, I am very sore.  My husband can't fit through the hatch, so it was just me.  He passed up the rolls, and water, and light sources, and boards to walk on, and cut the power/managed a generator so I would be very safe from accidentally touching the knob-and-wire.

It turns out the house was once roofed in cedar shingles.  I suspected as much from looking at the roof - there's purlins and plywood, which is an unnecessary combination.  But when they removed the shingles, they didn't CLEAN UP.  So that was a lot of yesterday, picking up bags of shingle shards, crawling back to the hatch and passing them down.  I didn't want to leave them because 1) extra weight on plaster ceilings, when plaster keys break from age anyway; 2) would compress insulation from the bottom, reducing R-value.

When we bought it, there was one push button light switch upstairs and the plumbing was very old. We redid that, along with new wiring and plumbing in the whole house. We had the house 21 years and we hired a guy to do the shell of an addition, and we had a guy make kitchen cabinets last spring.  The rest, we  (and my Dad) did.

Thank you, we feel the same!  It's the right size project for us.  And definitely a way to practice Stoicism.

How did you learn how to do the wiring?  Both of us have the basics, but we are not sure we're up to merging/updating/relocating the panels.  I'm going to get quotes for that this week - small town, so it might take a while.  I have run Romex before, I've done that on new construction. I'm hoping doing that will cut our cost.

I hope this is our last house - a couple of crazy additions were made with poor workmanship/design, and we want to tear them off, and do it properly.  Doing so should give that area attic space that can be insulated, and a modern utility core and master suite overlooking our beautiful back yard.  Fortunately the kitchen is okay with the old cabinets and flooring, both of which can wait quite a while.  But there's an outbuilding that needs a roof rebuild to remain useful (and we want that, for a workshop and tool storage).

Before adding attic-insulation make sure you appropriately air seal. This should greatly increase the return on investment. See http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/air-sealing-attic

This is a great article, thanks!  I learned some things about what to do with our unused chimneys!  Will definitely be a further step after getting the attic insulated!  When I say ZERO, I mean NOTHING.  Mama is cold!

Sibley

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2018, 11:24:41 AM »
I've got a 1919 house. Someone before me had added loose fill insulation in the attic and replaced all the windows to double pane. But there's no insulation in the walls, and the first floor is COLD due to the crawl space. When they did the windows, I'm pretty sure they didn't do the right insulation around them. Regardless of that, the caulking on some windows is bad and needs to be replaced. The 2nd floor is pretty good, the first floor is freezing because the floor is so cold. I'm coping this winter, but plan to address the crawl space this summer. And windows as I paint the woodwork. Thank goodness for slippers.

Also getting a quote to rewire the old knob & tube and put a new box in. I love old houses, but they are interesting to live in.

adayrider

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2018, 12:01:57 PM »
I'm a lurker here but thought I comment on this one.
I live in NE Ohio and one of the worst decision my Wife and I ever made was to buy a house built in 1901.
After 14 years of it we made one of the best decisions and that was to push it in and build new. We now pay an average of 12 month $140 to heat and electric combined. The electric bill for old house was average $180 month by itself plus heat. House insurance cut in half. No more cold drafty floors, windows, doors. Warm basement. No more dish washer freezing up when it gets to single digit temps.
Financially we would have been better off to sell old house and move to newer one but there are other circumstances that made it easier to do what we did.
I have already instructed my daughter to wait as long as it takes to save enough to buy no more than a 25 year old home. Buy less house, less property, whatever it takes but do not buy older than 25 years.
I wish the best for you. Just my opinion though

CSuzette

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2018, 11:00:00 AM »
My sister just bought an 1812 colonial in a cold climate
 Until she can get new windows we put shrink plastic over most of them. But i told her about the bubble wrap idea. Thanks!

thisisjeopardy

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2018, 09:35:27 AM »
We bought window inserts (Indo Windows) that are removable and it stopped the constant draft between the single pane windows and masonry, did some caulking around the baseboards and most importantly, found a working damper valve that was painted shut but moving it now forces air downstairs.. Pretty sure previous owners didn't know about it. There's one inside the mech closet that doesn't do anything.

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ysette9

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2018, 09:19:13 PM »
We recently bought a 1947 house with no insulation and knob and tube wiring in parts. We got the electrical upgraded and insulated everything. I really wanted spray foam insulation but the attic space was too low to allow the workers room to spray, so we had to go with batts in the attic and crawl space and blow-in in the walls. I am so glad we did. We are paying around the same as we did last winter in the drafty old rental a few streets over. However the difference is that this year we are comfortable. It really is lovely. It sucks to pay lots of money to basically heat the outdoors and still have cold feet.

One day when my little is not a baby we will work on keeping the thermostat lower and save a bit more.

1962colreb

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2018, 05:07:37 AM »
Can I ask what town you live in ? I have lived all over Mississippi
and love the Delta.  Man, I miss going to Doe’s and Lusco’s .

frontstepdesign

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2018, 04:06:49 PM »
Can I ask what town you live in ? I have lived all over Mississippi
and love the Delta.  Man, I miss going to Doe’s and Lusco’s .
We landed in Cleveland.  I have not made it to either Doe's or Lusco's yet - but we'll get there.

1962colreb

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2018, 07:35:15 PM »
Nice town and go Statesmen, or is it the Fighting Okra ?

frontstepdesign

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2018, 05:41:29 AM »
Both!  In the same way that Georgia Tech (my alma mater) is the Jackets, but has the Ramblin' Wreck, DSU is the Statesmen, but FEAR THE OKRA (World's Angriest Vegetable).

https://www.ncaa.com/news/ncaa/article/2013-02-08/fear-okra

I have to admit, despite not really being a sports person, I am definitely a Vegetable Fan.

TheWifeHalf

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2018, 09:41:54 AM »

How did you learn how to do the wiring?  Both of us have the basics, but we are not sure we're up to merging/updating/relocating the panels.  I'm going to get quotes for that this week - small town, so it might take a while.  I have run Romex before, I've done that on new construction. I'm hoping doing that will cut our cost.


My husband had a lot of past experiences in high end handyman stuff, and my Dad built the house I grew up in down the road (built himself, not hired to be built)
TheHusbandHalf always does things to code, or better, and has included our sons in the process, so they at least know the basics. He lets the boys do their own work on their own houses, with his supervision, so they learn. When our oldest bought his, the inspector said a floor joist in the crawl space had a crack. So TheHusbandHalf watched our son as he told him how to repair it. This kind of stuff has to be passed on.

The only thing he does not know how to do is fix tvs and computers.
For the computer, our son went to a vocational high school and now works in a hospital IT dept, the networking part of that.
So, guess who gets all my computer work?! He's trying to talk us into getting away from tv and going all computer, but we are dinosaurs,  in a few years I suspect he will.

We live in a rural county and I think there are classes for the basics, maybe even more advanced, for adults? Not sure about the details, I never read that far.

Off topic:
I heard yesterday the President making the comment about vocational schools. There is a 5 county vocational high school my son attended, and they build a house every year, using the classes at the school. I think there is a waiting line for the list of people who want to  hire them. Just remembered, my brother attended their automotive program and has had an auto body shop for 37 years.
I'm all in favor of vocational schools.

Best of luck with your house!

frontstepdesign

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Re: This new old house doesn't have to be a heating money trap!
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2018, 07:46:41 PM »
UPDATE:

So it's been a couple of weeks, and we've had some colder nights...and despite only getting a third of the insulation in so far, I've actually been SURPRISED by the temperature when I go outside.  As in, "brr, I need a heavy coat after all!" surprised.  And the unit is not running nearly so much.  If I had thought about it, I would have taken note of the rate of spin on the meter, so I'll have to wait for the bill, but I'm hopeful!!!

At any rate, the house is much more comfortable, so that's nice.

A possible electrician will come by Friday (crossed fingers), very exciting!