Author Topic: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home  (Read 4286 times)

nwhiker

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Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« on: August 29, 2017, 12:39:35 PM »
This is such a first world problem that I'm almost ashamed to ask. My wife and I recently just moved to a LCOL area and will be looking to buy a home within the next year. The reason for the move was an itching for a new adventure and hopes of finding housing that did not take up such a large part of our income. This brings us to my question.

We know the area we want to live. It has got good schools that can be walked to and a mix of parks with some commercial buildings. The issue is that the houses are way bigger than what was typical in our market. So when we are looking at a 4BR/2B home they are typically 2,600 - 3,200 sqft in size, while I was hoping to find something in the 2,000 sqft range. That appears to be unlikely so I was wondering if what tricks people have regarding reducing energy costs. Note that the home price isn't going to be an issue. Using a 3x your income ratio the house would be well below the top of our affordability range.

Note: The area mainly contains a bunch of 1930s-1950s Craftsman style homes. We would have been fine with a 3BR/2B house if it had a place to put my home office. But the 3BR we have seen are typically under 2,000 sqft and don't have a good space for a home office.

gooki

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2017, 06:11:03 AM »
Clones the doors to any unused homes.

gaja

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2017, 06:46:50 AM »
The increased costs of a larger house will not only be for energy, but all type of maintenance, furniture, property tax, etc. Could you get one of the smaller ones, but prioritize differently to get a home office (kids sharing a room, take part of another room and make an office)? Could you rent out part of the house?

marielle

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2017, 06:51:23 AM »
Buy a plot of land and build a house? LCOL areas typically have a lot of lots for sale. Buy a modular home that's only 2000 sqft? I think I would go crazy having to clean a house that was 3000+ sqft regardless of cooling costs.

bacchi

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2017, 02:43:31 PM »
Buy one of the smaller Craftsman or bungalow houses and add a separate office in the back yard. Use 2x6 studs and spray foam and exterior rigid roam to make it super efficient.

nwhiker

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2017, 10:59:21 PM »
I like the idea of building a separate office in the back. The issue is whether the figures actually pan out and whether I can find a space big enough. So I would prefer a house that is at most 2,200 and most of the houses in the area start around 2,500. So at approximately $90 soft that is a price difference of $27,000. I'm wondering if I can build an office for that amount. I'm thinking back to the office that MMM built and I believe it cost him $30k with him doing some of the work.

koshtra

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2017, 11:13:34 PM »
Think about the passive heating / cooling situation of the house in the first place. Big windows that the sun reaches (generally south-facing) will bring in lots of radiant heat, easily blocked when you want to by blinds. Trees shading the roof will cut air-conditioning costs way down. These are things most people aren't thinking about, so they won't generally add much to the price, but they make the house a lot more energy efficient. (And nicer to live in!)

dragoncar

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2017, 01:18:36 AM »
Second the suggestions to partition/rent a portion or build on a lot.  Building also gives you the chance to make it energy efficient from the ground up.  However, this suggestion is the winner:

Clones the doors to any unused homes.

nwhiker

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2017, 12:00:44 PM »
The increased costs of a larger house will not only be for energy, but all type of maintenance, furniture, property tax, etc. Could you get one of the smaller ones, but prioritize differently to get a home office (kids sharing a room, take part of another room and make an office)? Could you rent out part of the house?

A lot of the homes have walk out basements so we have thought about the AirBNB route. My mom is older is anti-MMM as you can be. The thought has always been that we might have to support her in retirement and knowing how she spends money we would rather offer her a place to live versus giving her money that she would just blow. We figure we could get a good 10 years of rental out of it before she might want to move in.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2017, 02:32:02 PM »
I wouldn't buy square footage you don't need. In the end it will cost you more money for many reasons as others have sited here unless you can negotiate the price down to cover the cost. But that takes a whole lot of figuring. Otherwise if you find a house get an a/c guy in there and get a price to zone heat/cool it in a very efficient way but that wont again cover so many other things. But since that was your question whatever the cost negotiate that out of the price.  I too would build instead in your situation or be patient and wait till i found what i really needed.

HipGnosis

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2017, 03:47:29 PM »
It's not clear what you want and/or need.  And where you are makes a difference.

You, kids, an office and renter/ mom makes 2000 sq ft seem tight to me.
Will you need the home office in 10 yrs when you anticipate mom?

Re; Energy   Get an energy audit once you own the home.  Follow their recommendations (at least) for sealing drafts, windows, insulation, etc.
Yes, close the doors to unused rooms of the home.  But also close the heating/cooling ducts and put something to stop a draft at the bottom of the door.  I cut a piece of 3" Rigid-foam insulation that just fits in the heating duct and put it behind the register of my un-used room (it's actually used for storage).
Wear sweaters and slippers.  Use throw rugs for cold floors.
Use fans when it's warm.  I use a dehumidifier and a fan in my bedroom.  On warm, muggy days I turn the dehumidifier on and close the door after dinner.  By bedtime, it's quite nicer.

FINate

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2017, 04:08:01 PM »
Our 1800 sq ft house has a built in garage that faces west. The exterior walls and windows are all well insulated, but the house would heat up like crazy in the late afternoon, even if the outside temperature wasn't that high. The issue was that the roll up garage door was totally uninsulated, just a single layer of sheet metal that would get super hot in the late afternoon sun and all this heat would radiate into the garage and heat the house.

About $150 of foam board insulation, adhesive, and foam spray insulation fixed it. I calculated that the materials would weigh about 12 lbs so before starting the project I tested the door by attaching 12 lbs of weight to verify that it would still operate property. Took about 2 hours to cut and install. This has also reduced our heating during winter, and the garage stays at a much more moderate temperature year-round which makes it a better place for storing bulk food.

dragoncar

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2017, 07:44:59 PM »
Our 1800 sq ft house has a built in garage that faces west. The exterior walls and windows are all well insulated, but the house would heat up like crazy in the late afternoon, even if the outside temperature wasn't that high. The issue was that the roll up garage door was totally uninsulated, just a single layer of sheet metal that would get super hot in the late afternoon sun and all this heat would radiate into the garage and heat the house.

About $150 of foam board insulation, adhesive, and foam spray insulation fixed it. I calculated that the materials would weigh about 12 lbs so before starting the project I tested the door by attaching 12 lbs of weight to verify that it would still operate property. Took about 2 hours to cut and install. This has also reduced our heating during winter, and the garage stays at a much more moderate temperature year-round which makes it a better place for storing bulk food.

Good on you, but I'm not sure I would blame the garage.  It sounds like there wasn't much insulation between the garage and living space!

FINate

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2017, 08:01:45 PM »
Good on you, but I'm not sure I would blame the garage.  It sounds like there wasn't much insulation between the garage and living space!

Correct. Code at the time the house was built was (I think) insulating the exterior walls. None of the interior walls are insulated and I'm not keen on tearing up the drywall to add it.

Sun Hat

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2017, 07:43:52 AM »
I'll echo the above suggestions of building a home office separate from the house if you think that other family members will be home while you're trying to work. Being separate keeps the interruptions down to a minimum (think kids wandering in and appliance noises) while still keeping you nearby.

However, if you decide that the cost isn't worth it, you can always use a walk-out basement for the same effect if you add sound-blocking insulation to the ceiling. If your mom eventually moves into your basement, then the sound-proofing will help dampen the noise of kids from upstairs and late-night TV from downstairs. Noise will still travel through vents though, unless you can figure out a system to block the vents to the basement and use baseboard heat, though that would likely increase heating costs.

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2017, 02:28:47 PM »
Two things.

Avoid buying more house than you NEED at all costs.

Many power companies do energy audits for a nominal fee which can really help with ideas for saving energy.

nwhiker

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Re: Optimizing Energy Use in a Home
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2017, 11:26:17 AM »
Thanks for all the replies.  We have discussed an in-law suite but my Mom, the person that will most likely need financial assistance, might not be willing to move. She and my sister are close and she might probably will not move. We were thinking that if we rented it out that there was some financial upside for us. I had not thought about the disruption from our guest though. I do keep our kids during the summer but have them on the other side of the home. I spend most of my time analyzing contracts and reviewing lawsuits. I often have video conferences with my team and also attend meditations via phone. So disruptions could be an issue. My wife is pretty set on buying when our lease is up so I hope we can find what I am looking for. Our last rental was around 2,200 sqft and it was great. The only issue was that the bedrooms were too big and the kitchen was too small. Our rental now is 2,700 and the kitchen and bedrooms are too small but we have this huge basement space that is wide open.