The Never Ending Quest for a Better Home
A couple of years ago I did a post on how I was working hard to update my old house. We had a hail storm come through Billings in 2014 that did significant damage to the roof and to the siding. The result was that an insurance claim provided enough money to not only fix, but also to upgrade parts of the home. Doing a lot of the work myself made the money go further.
In the previous post I had only gotten as far as the roof. Now, a little over two years later, there are some major improvements that have been made.
Upgrading from Crappy Vinyl Siding
When I bought the house in 2006, the MLS described it as having asbestos siding. That was only half true. At some point the original house’s siding was torn off, and presumably asbestos siding was put on. However, that asbestos had since been removed from the house and vinyl installed in its place. It wasn’t bad, but it was far from good. And there were wires going all over the place (cable, electric, you name it). The hail, smashed up one side of the house, and because there was no suitable match to be found insurance paid to have the whole house resided (garage too).
The garage still had asbestos siding. But I was able to remove that siding on my own (taking proper precautions of course) with a couple days worth of work and about $200 in dump fees. I wrapped the garage in a water barrier, and then hired someone to install the new siding. It would have taken far too long to do it on my own.
With the money saved from doing some work myself and doing the roof on my own, I was able to upgrade the garage windows, basement windows in the house, and put a new bay window in the living room.
Natural Cedar Soffit
As noted in the previous post about upgrading, I built out the gables on the house and garage to provide better protection against snow and rain. This meant that I needed to install soffit. I put it off as long as I could, because I didn’t want your run-of-the-mill soffit. I wanted something unique. I was going to have a friend bend me some metal, he owns Beartooth Metal Roofing and I support him whenever I can. But the timing didn’t work out quite right, and after visiting family in Oregon I saw a style that I loved.
Tongue in groove cedar planking turned out to be the perfect contrast to the green house. To make it even better, the cost of materials was almost exactly the same as the cost to use regular aluminum soffit (If I was paying someone to do the work, labor costs would be outrageous, this stuff takes forever to put up!).
I started last July, and got almost all the way done. All that is left is to do the awning in the back yard, partly because I had to wait until it had a waterproof roof over it and my lights were installed.
Solar Panels to Offset Electric Use
This wasn’t exactly an upgrade because of the hail damage, but rather an upgrade because the timing was right.
Solar technology has come a lot in the last decade. So much that it’s now affordable to many people. Combine the affordability with tax credits that offset about 35% of the cost, and having them installed was definitely the right thing to do.
The process to have them installed, and hooked up, took a bit more than I realized. Ben, from Winpower West, did a complete analysis of my electric usage and what I would need for panels. He created graphs, charts, put me in touch with the state of Montana to get the loan, and organized the entire install. In October, 2016, I went solar! And then had to wait until Mid December to have them turned on because Northwestern Energy doesn’t appreciate you making your own electricity.
The panels were in place, and it took about 5 weeks for Northwestern Energy to swap my electric meter from a traditional meter to a Net meter. Had the panels been activated prior to that, the old meter would turn forward for any electricity that I made. The new meter goes backward.
Then we ran into the problem of snow. Here in Billings we don’t usually have snow that sticks around too long. But this stuff did. We got about 14 inches in December, and it didn’t melt away until late into January. That meant no energy production. Finally I got a broom and extended the handle and pulled the snow off the panels.
Now, late in March, I can go out and watch the meter turn backward during the day. On days where it’s sunny all day long we have a net gain of 15 to 20 KWh; overproducing enough so that when fall comes we will use our credits and our electric bill will be basically nothing.
For those wondering, the system costs me $135/mo for 10 years. But it wipes out our $65/mo electric bill; so essentially it costs $70/mo… in other words exactly what I had been spending on electricity anyway.
If you’re on the fence, go solar, it’s worth it!
A Metal Roof Down in the Future
There are still plenty of projects that need worked on. The basement has been in mid-remodel for several years, a front porch needs constructed, as well as a few other projects need wrapped up. The good news is that most of the big projects are done, and by the time the solar panels are paid off, the mortgage should be as well. That means time for more big projects!
At that time, I will upgrade to a metal roof. I’ve studied the numbers, and looked at the costs of putting on metal versus doing another asphalt shingle roof. It costs more now, but it’s a no-brainer if you want the best roof available. If you’re looking for environmentally friendly, you have to go metal too (although the up and coming solar shingles might throw a wrench in those plans).
Crafting, Remodeling, and Going Green
Daily life around here consists of getting a 4 year old off to pre-school, working on Sery Content Development, entertaining said 4 year old in the afternoon, and updating my old house. It’s a bit overwhelming at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.