One Year later...

By dblowe7 on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 12:29pm

Hi All!

Don't know how many of you are still on-line reading this group, but thought I would give all of you an update for us now that it is almost one year later.

We have been heavily planning and implementing changes to both finances and the house.  The biggest changes are around the house, as we are breaking ground next week for a new garage addition, a conversion of an old breezeway to living space, and doing heavy energy efficiency changes.  We should be complete in September!

On the house front, we started with a BPI approved energy audit to give us a baseline and where to target our dollars first.

The biggest of the energy improvements is in the new garage extension, which will give us a roof space, facing due south, for a 12.32kW solar array that will cover our current electric bill.  YEAH!  After getting quotes from five installers, we finally signed a contract for the array and we also took advantage of my father and his wife wanting one and we were able to get a package deal for both and saved ourselves thousands.  We also negotiated having the solar contractor installing a portable generator tap with manual transfer switch for 6-10 circuits for free!  Remember: EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE!

If any of you are seriously interested in doing solar, I have learned a GREAT DEAL about what questions to ask and what info you need to have to make the best decision.  Please feel free to contact me and I will share the spreadsheet we used to do our analysis.  All the contractors calculate the numbers differently and you have got to level them to compare them.

The new spaces will also be getting high efficiency ducted split HVAC systems with a SEER rating of 22+ and will be fully insulated and sealed.  All the existing ductwork got stripped of any insulation, all joints sealed, and new higher R-8 insulation reinstalled.  The oil furnace and tank that supplied the emergency heat for our heat pump was removed (last winter was horrendous on the wallet) and we will be converting to emergency electric strip heat and let the sun provide the juice for us.

We have also converted about a third of the lights in our house to LED, which is now showing a noticeable drop in the power bill.  We did a heavy first round of insulating both the attic and crawl that has boosted the efficiency and have begun installing all new high efficiency Andersen windows and new doors in the house.

Other plans include, removing the 80 gal water heater and installing a new 42 gal with full insulation jacket.  Looking at also installing an Nyle after market heat pump for the HWH and installing a solar powered back-up well pump.

On the finances front, we moved away from the "big 5 bank" to a local one, doubled down on more tangible investments, liquidated 95% of our stock holdings to cash, and started using some of that for these renovations.

We also have a 20x20 garden in place with critter protection.  Hoping to have a rainwater collection system in place to store and water that garden by next spring.

Soon we will begin looking at fruit trees, another round of attic insulation, a wood stove for the new space, a greenhouse, and possibly getting into raising some ducks.

There is more, but I won't overload you. ;o)

Hope all of you are busily moving forward with your shift to a prosperous lifestyle.  All the best!




cmartenson's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 7 2007
Posts: 6035
Great progress Ian!


thanks so much for the update, what an inspiring amount of progress.

Two things jump out.

(1) I want everyone to note what is possible to do in just one year.

(2) I want everyone to note that it still took a year.

For all of the people thinking to themselves well, I'll take steps like Ian's if/when it seems really necessary, you need to understand that no matter how motivated you are, real preparations just take time.

They just do. time like right now! :)

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 500
Not To Old

Thanks for sharing Ian, thought I'd share too.

For a few years we had a beautiful boat and explored some of the coastal waters of Alaska. It was a fun and amazing period in our life. After we discovered Chris and the Crash Course we sold the boat and started looking for a homestead. We found our dream property but it was expensive so I cashed out 100 percent of my retirement and savings and we bought it. Turning Alaskan wilderness into agricultural land is hard work. My husband and I are in our late 50's and We are quite intimate with exhaustion, fatigue and plain old physical hard work. Instead of going out to dinner, on a vacation or golfing we do the next thing to improve our homestead. This weekend it will be to have topsoil delivered work on building a fence and we still take time to play cards with the grand kids too. Power naps are a given these days. Sometimes I think it must be nice to be blissfully ignorant.... at least until the unthinkable happens then all the hard work will pay off especially for the children and grand children.

We know we can't do what we are doing forever but figure in 10 years we will have created a sustainable, amazing place. Don't under estimate the power of a focused goal.

AK Granny

Phil Williams's picture
Phil Williams
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2009
Posts: 346


Wow, that is a ton of progress in a year, congratulations! When you get to the water heater install, GE makes a really nice water heater complete with an air to air heat pump. I few years ago, I swapped out my electric 50 gal tank that used 4000 KWH to the heat pump model which uses about 1800 KWH per year. As a bonus, my battery backup can handle that load, where before I had no hot water when the power was out.

The past year or so, Denise and I have focused mainly on building our permaculture site. So, I've put in a 2000 square foot earthen compacted pond for aquaculture, 500 linear feet of water harvesting swales, two bee hives, and planted 600 trees. The trees are everything from nitrogen fixers, pioneer species, timber species, medicinal, fruit, and nut.

Also, I put in a grey water system. I still have to build the wetland area to process the grey water, and I have plans for a small silt pond, and another small clay frog pond. And of course more trees. My chickens are prepping a food forest area now, and I'm planning an early spring install of bare root trees, shrubs, and groundcovers. I am really concentrating on unique food producing species that produce a nice yield easily without chemicals. It's fun to discover these unique varieties that people have forgotten or never even knew existed.


dblowe7's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 27 2013
Posts: 6
Phil, Good to hear from you


Good to hear from you and Denise.  You have been busy too! 

Thank you for the HWH tip.  Unfortunately, we are removing the 80 Ga unit and moving it to the crawl space, so I have to go with a low boy unit, hence the aftermarket heat pump.

I would love to try some of the stuff you are doing, but we are limited on what we are allowed to do in the community and town.  The permitting for the grey water, if we could get it, would be expensive, since we have a rainwater runoff/creek running through our yard.  The yard is our next big target next spring and I want to try to dabble in the permaculture thing (Melis is just not on board with that yet).

But, I am interested in doing the bees.  Just not sure how my neighbors would react to them.  We are only on 2 acres and I need to do more research on them and see what their "area" would be, how territorial, the best location on my property, etc., but they are definitely on my list.

With all this construction we have going on, I have been trying to devise a way to get some large storage tanks (100 gallon +/-), in line with the well system, to store water in that crawl space.  The crawl is on the larger size at 5' high, but only have a 2'-8" door to bring them through.  The big thing is I want to be able to get a bucket under them just in case we loose ALL power.

Say hello to Denise for me and stay in touch.



Phil Williams's picture
Phil Williams
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2009
Posts: 346
Bees and Permaculture


Even in rural PA, we are forced to do a lot of illegal projects. Codes and restrictions are so behind, and a lot of them are so vague that they can choose who to enforce, as everyone's breaking the rules. Having said that if you have a waterway running thru your property, you are wise to not mess with it without a permit, as the penalties for that are crazy. It's a shame how much government gets in the way of people trying to take care of themselves. 

On the bee front, they will forage a mile or two radius. My bees are not very territorial at all, but honey bees in general are only aggressive if their hive is threatened. The big issue with neighbors is if they have a pool and that's the only water source, then they will get some bees in their pool. If you provide a close water source though, no problem. 

Good luck with all your projects!




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