Moving in was the climax of a summers work. We have been in the new house for a while now. Long enough to get a feel for its advantages and shortcomings.
The house gave us a good felling, and was very comfortable from day one. Of course I had been working on it everyday, and was quite familiar. I am still, slowly, finishing some of the interior.
The living space seems very roomy. The bathrooms, although small, do not seem cramped. The master bedroom seems perfect for us. Our bedroom suite was a near perfect fit. The en suite bath with the two entries works very well. It is very convenient.
The back entry is a little cramped. I think I will add a porch or an attached garage to alleviate this problem. The original design allows for this as well as for an expansion to the other side.
The rather unconventional heating system has been working perfectly. The system has had a thorough testing with outside temperatures going as low as minus 40. The floors are comfortably warm, and the interior temperature varies hardly at all. I wonder now, why we ever tolerated forced air heating.
Our first months bill for natural gas was $60.23. We use NG for cooking and hot water as well as heating.
I had considered installing an off grid system for heating and hot water. I was unable to conceive a system that was convenient enough, or that offered a reasonable payback. I focused instead on building an energy-efficient house. I was pretty successful, but could have done even better if I was willing to accept a longer payback.
I haven’t gotten around to connecting my heat recovery ventilator yet. We have been leaving a window slightly open instead. Not the most energy-efficient solution.
Our electrical bill was under $100.00 last month. An off grid solution would be hard pressed to show a reasonable payback at this cost. Solar to reduce grid consumption is worth consideration, though. We use quite a bit of electricity and could reduce that considerably with various conservation practices.
A smaller, well-built, house does not use a lot of energy.
One unusual problem developed. The joints between the ceiling and the interior walls cracked and opened up. As much as 1/4 inch in places. This only happened near the center of the house. I was forced to replace the wooden supports with jack-posts to bring everything back together.
The problem did not seem to be caused by settling of the center supports. Unlikely, as they were considerably better than code and normal construction practice.
I believe the culprit was shrinkage of the 2 x 10 floor joists, from drying caused by the under-floor heating. I had encountered this problem with another house with under-floor heat and conventional floor joists. In that case the joints would open slightly during the heating season and close again in the summer. I suspected wood shrinkage in that case and this case is some confirmation.
I think it would be wise to use engineered floor joists for future jobs involving under-floor heating. Engineered joists or trusses should be more dimensionally stable.
I am not certain how to address the problem if seasonal movement continues. Ideas include flexible caulking instead of taped joints, or crown moldings to hide the problem.
Our long driveway and building positioning is not ideal for winter. Snow accumulates from drifting and there is not a lot of places to put it. Strategically planted trees and bushes should help alleviate that problem for the future.
All in all, we are extremely happy with our new home. It suits us almost perfectly.