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Save Cash, Reduce GHGs and Save the Planet

Reduce energy bills, reduce GHG emissions, save the planet

Can you help save the planet and gain a dollar advantage at the same time? Are you concerned about global warming, air pollution or just your energy costs? Here is a list of things you can do to your home which can cost little and have excellent returns. The list starts from the least costly and is suitable for existing housing.

Typical costs are based on a specific Canadian location in Canadian dollars. They could vary widely. Do your own research and calculations.

Caulking, a cheap way to help save the planet.

Caulk everywhere there is any chance of air leakage

Number one. Caulk, caulk and more caulk. Whether you live in a heating or cooling climate, air leakage is a large energy cost. Caulking is cheap, typically a couple of bucks per tube. Watch for sales. Use paintable or clear product that is suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Fill every crack and space that has even a remote chance of air leakage. This has the added advantage of reducing hiding spaces for insects. If cracks are large, repair or stuff with a suitable material before caulking. Typical cost $10 to $50. The short course on caulking.

Angie changed the 312 furnace filter
Collin Anderson / Foter / CC BY

Number two. Maintain your equipment. Keep furnaces, air conditioners.refrigeraters and freezers operating at peak efficiency by cleaning heat exchangers and changing filters regularly. Anything that looks like a radiator and has a fan needs to be kept clean as well as any radiating surface. Use metallic tape to seal any leaks in ducting. Arrange furniture so that it has a minimal effect on heat distribution and does not block ducts. Do not install restrictive filters in an attempt to clean the air. They effect efficiency and can damage a furnace. Good maintenance reduces replacement costs. Typical cost for filters is about $25 for a year in colder climates. The best furnace filters to buy.

Keeping your furnace clean can help save the planet
Keep your furnace cleanslworking2 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Number three. Use less cooling or heating. Turn the heat or air conditioning as low as possible if no one is going to be home. Lower the temperature at night in cool climates and use more covers on the beds. Turn heating and cooling completely off if there is no possibility of freezing or other damage. You can do this manually or you can purchase programmable thermostats (or smart controls) that will allow you to raise or lower temperature just before you need it to prevent temporary discomfort. Typical cost $0 to $100. Learn more about thermostats.

Number four. Use less lighting. Make certain everyone in the house turns off lights when not needed. Replace bulbs as they burn out with lower wattage bulbs or replace high usage bulbs immediately with LED or CFL bulbs. Prices are still fairly high for more efficient bulbs but in

LED lights can help save the planet.

LED lights are the new efficient lighting.

many cases the payback time is very rapid. I just bought 4 Led bulbs. 2 were 6w to replace 40 watt and 2 were 10.5w to replace 60w incandescents. My total cost including taxes was $60. You can likely find them for as little as 1/2 that. Pretty pricey but I did a calculation for one much used light. At 6 hours use per day the LED would pay for itself  in 1.5 to 2 years. that’s a good investment in my book. Our electrical rate is $.08 right now and higher rates would effect a higher return. I am very impressed with the LEDs. They are practically instant on. The light is pleasant and at least as good at replacing incandescent as advertised. A 10.5 watt actually gives as much light as the 60w it replaces. Typical costs $0 to $500. I tried to find a good link to information about LED bulb. Everything I could find was outdated. Development in LED technology is proceeding at a lightning pace

Baths use a lot of hot water
Baths use a lot of hot waterwester / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Number five. Use less water and heat less water. Showers typically use much less water than baths. A shower can be installed in most bathrooms for as little as $200 if you do it yourself. A new bath spout with a flex hose and shower head along with a shower curtain may be all you need. A tub surround or tiling may be needed as well in other cases. A lot of energy can be saved by doing laundry in cold water and drying you clothes on an outdoor clothes-line when weather permits. A more expensive option is a front load washer. It is worth considering if you have a large family and are replacing your existing unit. When replacing water heaters, consider high-efficiency models. There is really not a typical cost here but some options cost practically nothing while others can run into the thousands.

Sufficient attic insulation can go a long way toward saving the planet.
This attic obviously does not have enough insulation for cold climates.zieak / Foter / CC BY

Number six. Increase attic insulation. In many heating or cooling climates, attic insulation up to about R60 is cost-effective. Have a look. If you have less than 16 inches of insulation you likely have room for improvement. Although a bit of a pain, do it yourself installation is not difficult. Adding 10 inches of loose fill insulation to a 1000 sq. ft. attic can cost under $700. This is an increase of about R30. 

Insulate your basement for heating efficiency..
Insulate your basement for heating efficiency.Paulgi / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Number seven. Basement insulation is important and inexpensive if the space is unfinished. Often neglected is the at the top of walls between floor joists. Insulate to at least R20 and pay close attention to sealing against moisture on the inside. There are several different possible methods of insulating this area with wide range of efficiencies and cost. Necessary in any cold climate but probably not effective in a hot climate.

To help save the planet use use energy efficient windows when replacing.
Choose energy efficient windows when replacing your old ones.Joe St.Pierre // Joestpierrephoto.com / Foter / CC BY

Number eight. Replacing old windows and doors with new and more efficient ones. This is one I don’t recommend for energy-saving reasons alone. It is very costly and the payback is long. However, if you are replacing for appearance or for functionality, use at least a double paned glass with low E coating. Vinyl or wood frames allow the least energy transfer.

These last two may be out-of-order but costs can vary from very little to very much so I have placed them at the last. They are not always a possible solution in all situations

 Orient your house to take advantage of the sun or shade
Foter / CC BY-SA

Number nine. Consider your home orientation to take advantage of natural, passive heating or cooling. This is easier with a new house, but use of awnings, heavy drapes or cross ventilation can be effective with older homes.

Trees can go a long way towards saving the planet
Trees can go a long way towards saving the planetblmiers2 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Number ten. Use trees for shading and wind breaks. They also tend to lower the temperature in their immediate vicinity on hot days. They have the added advantage of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The result is stored carbon and released oxygen. In my area winters are very cold and the prevailing winds are from the north and west. I would plant evergreens to the north and west for windbreaks and deciduous trees to the south for summer shade while allowing sun through in winter. Varieties require careful consideration. Planting large trees can be very costly but  some varieties grow rapidly and can be used while waiting for slower growers to mature. Time is rather irrelevant here as it is the future we are trying to save. Facts about trees.

You can do your bit to reduce greenhouse gas emission and pollution while padding your pocket at the same time. It doesn’t matter if you believe in global warming or not. The cost of fossil fuel and thus energy is bound to escalate in the future, perhaps rapidly. The Idea that recoverable reserves have increased due to technology is misleading. Oil prices have increased 10 fold in recent years in spite of increasing production. We may not be in danger of running out soon, but costs are increasing rapidly.

You may notice that I have not included any alternative power options in this post. That is because it is pretty complicated, especially in our northern climate. Regulations for connecting to the grid vary widely as well. The economics requires a detailed study for each situation. It deserves a post of its own, and I don’t feel qualified to write one, until I have completed a lot more research.

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Cost to Build Our House

I think it is time to explore the cost to build our house to date. We are close enough to completion to get a fair estimation of the final cost. About all that is left to buy is gutters, deck material, steps and walks.

Final cost to build can be estimate when completion is near

Close enough to completion to estimate the final cost

Yes, the weather is getting colder, and I am more inclined to work less, and to spend more time on this blog. From now on I should be able to get back to doing a couple of posts or more per week. It is about time, as my mother used to say, when I dragged myself from bed.

We are not quite within our original cost expectations, although we did not completely blow our budget. This, however, is not unusual or unexpected so does not create any major problem. I was prepared for overruns of up to 20%. The importance of planning for the unexpected is emphasized. As I have mentioned before, it is important to have as much as a 20% buffer.

Our original cost to build estimate was 85,000 dollars (Canadian), which included the cost of land.. I am not certain of the accuracy of my accounting, but it appears that our cost to date is just over 90,000 dollars.There is still some cost to go, but our final cost to build will be considerably less than 100,000. This is for a 1008 sq. ft. house, with a 16 ft. by 24 ft. detached garage, on a 100 by 120 ft. lot. For most of the world that is a 93.6 m^2 house, a 4.9 m by 7.3 m garage, and a 30.5 by 35.6 m lot. Approximate conversions of course.

Related posts you may find interesting. – A house for less than 100000 dollars – The footing ,foundation and floor is in progress – Buying wisely, buying for less, buying early – Installing Water and Sewer .

The house is on a crawl space. Adding a full basement would have increased the cost by 10 to 20 thousand, mostly because I am to damn old to pour a concrete floor and would have been forced to hire a contractor. .

Part of the purpose of building  was to prove a point. The goal was to build a good quality home for less than 100,000. As a result, a lot of time was spent bargain hunting. A lot of used tools were purchased, All the appliances were used. As much material was repurposed as possible. Care was taken to purchase only what was necessary, at least until time became more important than cost.

An unexpected expense was the cost of installing a sewer main extension. Estimated extra cost-7000 dollars.

ICF foundation a sinificant partof the cost to build

ICF foundation

A change from a planned wooden foundation to  an insulated concrete form foundation (ICF) cost, very roughly, about 3000 extra. This type of foundation took less labor and considerably less time. Important, since we were delayed about a month in starting.

I somehow managed to order about 300 dollars worth of unneeded drywall. I can use it on other projects

I paid extra to have drywall and shingles delivered and placed where needed. Worth every penny when you do not have help.

No time was available to bargain hunt for siding, soffits and the like. I do, however, believe the local store gave me a very fair price.

Several hundred dollars worth of extra electrical, plumbing, and gas fitting material was purchased to reduce travel time making up shortages. The time saved was the primary motivation, but travel is a major consideration when much of the material is not easily available locally.

The natural gas installation cost about 600 dollars more than I had guessed.

All the utility suppliers were different from those I had used before and required substantial deposits. This is not an expense, but still requires cash.

I used a standard of construction somewhat higher than normal. This cost a few hundred more. Examples are, heavier than required wall and roof sheathing and higher rated shingles. Weather conditions may be a little more severe in the future, and I wanted a little extra strength.

All these items added up to substantial extra cost, but I was able to save more than half this amount in other areas. For example, I had planned for the cost of hiring a little extra labor for jobs that cannot be done alone. Friends, family, and neighbors were all there when I needed them, and I spent nothing at all on labor.

We did find tremendous savings in many areas which greatly reduced the cost to build.

All our light fixtures were purchased used from yard sales and habitat for humanity. Cost was likely only about 10% of new retail.

Kitchen appliances

Range and dishwasher— total cost $200. microwave—$75.

All our appliances were used and cost a total of 625 dollars. The surprising part is that we ended up with far higher quality units than we would normally buy. The style in favor right now is stainless steel. Good, nearly new, white appliances are easily available, very cheaply. We purchased almost all ours through Kijiji.

Sink and faucett

Sink and faucet—total cost $150

We found a new kitchen sink for 100 dollars. This one retails for over 600. We acquired a new kitchen faucet for 50 that usually costs about 400. Lavatory sinks complete with faucets cost only 50 dollars each from Habitat for Humanity Restore.

My water heater, which retails for as much as 2700, I found for 600. About 200 worth of extras was included.

Similar bargains were found for windows, flooring and cabinets.

Since I had disposed of most of my construction tools at retirement, I had to repurchase many. Almost all were found on Kijiji or at yard sales,for a  very a  low cost. Their cost is included in the cost of the home.

Our old living room suite was getting shabby so my wife, Bobbi, spent a couple of months watching ads for a good used set. She found a set for free. We only had to travel, about 80 km (about 50 miles to my American friends), round trip to pick it up. It is in new condition but a little dated in style. Included was a hide a bed, love seat, swivel rocker and cushions. The colors suit us perfectly. We didn’t care that it is a little out of style since myself and Bobbi are a little past it too. We gave our still usable old set to a family that could use it.

mitre saw

an almost essential tool—cost for saw $40 cost of stand $50

I think I have proven that the cost to build a home can be less than 100,000. Of course I am reasonably adept at all aspects of home building and have had considerable experience. I am good with my hands and familiar with the tools of the trade. My wife and I are adept at bargain hunting and bargaining. Remember, however, that I am nearly 71 years old and not nearly as quick and tough as I once was.

If you do not have at least some of these skills, or feel you can not acquire them, then a project like this could be considerably more difficult for you. You may need a couple of years for planning, and acquiring knowledge and experience.

Total cost includes the purchase of the land. We acquired our site, which included the garage, for 35,000 dollars. This leaves the total cost of the house alone at about 60,000.

It should be noted, though, that our end result is considerably more than just a basic house. We are very happy with it, and feel it suits our needs very well.

We do live in Alberta which has no sales tax. Our national sales tax, the GST, is partially recoverable when building a new house. Taxes could be considerable in other jurisdictions.

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