We live in an older house. (This term is used loosely in Alaska because we’re about twenty years behind on the housing trends. I swear they just stopped building split-levels a couple years ago.) Our lovely wood windows all have broken seals and heavy fog between the panes. We can’t see out of them. Also, they build up major condensation at the bottom. This means ice in the winter and mold in the summer. And only two windows still open. The rest are broken. This winter (it was a warm one, so no ice on the windows), I watched Lui walk around with moldy wood under his fingernails, I could only vaguely see Penny walking up the driveway from the bus through the foggy glass, and the house was super hot from having the oven on but I couldn’t crack the windows. I was done. Oh, and also, our front door doesn’t open in the winter because of the weather stripping and it’s hung weird. So, of course, when Penny got home, she couldn’t open the door. Grrr. Mr. T and I mentioned our need for new windows and a new door to several friends. One friend told us about the state’s home energy rebate program. (Always talk to friends about these things. It literally pays off!) Mr. T and I looked into it and had an energy auditor for the program come out to our house in February.
The basic gist of the program is that they walk through your house and tell you all the things that could be fixed to make it more energy efficient. They also tell you how inefficient it is now. Each thing you do gives you points and you move up a scale. There are set levels of reimbursement. The points add up and you move from level to level of reimbursement. And you have 18 months from the day the auditor comes out to finish. As soon as I got our report in the mail, it became a game. I calculated everything. If we did all the things on the list, we would get $8,500 back (they won’t pay out more than you spend, however, and you can’t reimburse tools or safety things like masks, etc.). If I took off the two ridiculous things on the list (which involved removing siding and taking apart our floor to get insulation into forgotten cracks), we could still get $8,500 back. So, the goal is to do everything on the following list for as close to $8,500 as possible:
- Replace Water Heater with an on-demand version (ours had just started leaking all over, so this came at a good time)
- Replace garage door with a super thick, dense one
- Replace terrible windows with good ones
- Blow more insulation into the attic
- Insulate the crawlspace
- Replace the front door with one that is hung straight and will open year-round
- Get a better furnace. (Ours apparently wins the award for the “least energy efficient furnace sold in the country.” Yay!)
- Replace fans in both bathrooms and all venting. (We discovered that one bathroom fan doesn’t actually vent. It just blows the air around. The other one has the venting disconnected in the attic, so it’s blowing all that awesome air filled with water up to our attic to cause problems.)
Mr. T and I had sworn off house projects in 2015. But two months into the year, we had signed ourselves up for all of the house projects! We technically have until the end of summer 2016 to complete it all, but since we’re on a mad dash to early retirement, we’re trying to get it all done by October so our reimbursement check will arrive around the same time as our PFD. As obsessive DIYers, we’re jumping in deep. The plus side is that we’ll get new windows and a new front door paid for by the state and all the improvements together will equal long term savings on our energy bills. If we do the work ourselves, we should get 80-90% of our money back. Which is a good deal all around. So, all current discretionary funds are going to pay for these updates, and we plan to use the reimbursement to kick us off to paying off the house and heading toward early retirement in 2022!
I’ll continue to post updates on “Mission: Energize” (you love it), but here’s where we stand so far:
- Water heater replacement: $2592.75 – $1911.84 of this is reimbursable. Non-reimbursable items included a $150 permit, lots of different wrenches, pipe cutters, a gas flow checker thingy, a voltage checker thingy, etc. This gigantic task involved rerouting the water and gas lines to our garage for installation. We still need to get a pump, but we’ll get that sorted with the furnace.
- Garage door install: $1042. This is the one project for which we hired out. Our energy auditor told us that she had seen several people special order garage doors from Lowes or Home Depot and not receive them in time to have them count (we live in a strange place where things either aren’t available or take forever to get here). She also said no one in town has the right doors available (remember, they have to be the super thick, expensive kind) for purchase without installation. So, we bit the bullet on this one and they finished it in an afternoon. We kept the planks from the old garage door. We cut one in half for new shelves in the garage and the others are currently a giant table on saw horses in the garage on which I’m painting the trim for the windows. Yay for reusing!
- Windows: This is what we’re working on now. Updates coming soon.