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What to do with a big house?  RSS feed

 
Ben Good
Posts: 27
Location: Central Ohio - Humid continental climate - USDA zone 6
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I have an old (pre-1900) farm house. There have been a couple of additions from maybe the 20's or 30's. All in all, it's almost 2500 square feet. We bought it because the house was in good condition and the right price but the 15 acres of farm fit our goals perfectly. I feel very overwhelmed with trying to make this drafty old house more energy efficient and really wish it was half the size it is. We heat primarily with wood (in an old pre-EPA regulations stove) with an oil furnace kicking on in the middle of the night when the stove runs out of wood (or when the temps drop below 0F for a while). The thermostat is set at 50F. We burn 3+ cords of wood and 200 gal of oil.

Location is central Ohio, typical winter lows -10F to 25F. Fierce winds out of west all winter long.

We had new windows and doors installed. It's balloon framed and I have plans to block up the studs from the attic and try to do as much air sealing as possible.

I see the the small homes heated with a RMH and am really disheartened and overwhelmed with this large house. Any suggestions? Priorities?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3358
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
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Can you build a second house on the property without zoning issues? Building a second tiny house is a simple solution.

Most people I know that had this problem in the 70's when oil first spiked moved to the basement or added wood fired boilers. Do you have a basement? You can insulate off the core of the basement and get a working kitchen and bath and a bedroom or two. Small wood cookstove will heat that space. That space protects all the water pipes you need from freezing (all the rest of the house will have to be drained and winterized). Very simple construction.

Or you can bring in spray foam and seal it up. It will make it better than a new home R-value wise, but still big.

 
William Bronson
Posts: 1491
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
19
forest garden trees urban
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Pastured pig farmer Walter Jeffries (?) Had this issue and built a new tiny house.
I have been thinking that a rocket in each room is not a terrible idea, with beds set on top of benches, or bells.
Rocket space heaters basically.
Insulation could help, but at that kind of money new construction looks better and better.
 
dan collins
Posts: 73
Location: Nova Scotia
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Could you subdivide off two acres with the house. We went through the same problem with a large house which didn't suit us, and needed tons of work. We a bought the property 35 ac 2 years ago and subdivived off 5 acres with the house for 3/4 the price of our intial investment.
 
Ben Good
Posts: 27
Location: Central Ohio - Humid continental climate - USDA zone 6
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Basement is tiny; both in area and height. Subdivision got me thinking...Maybe partition off the house with exterior doors in the interior and insulate the interior walls? The problem is the bedrooms are in one end and the kitchen, stove and utilities are in the other. Any way I look at it, there is no easy (or cheap) way out of it. If I look at it from purely an economic standpoint, it doesn't make any sense to change major anything since the payback period from greater efficiency will be as long as my expected lifespan. Changing from a moral reduced-footprint perspective is another story.

I also like the idea of additional heaters. Several smaller heaters would probably be more efficient than one large one. And continuing to insulate and air-seal won't hurt either.

Maybe I'm just bummed dealing the coldest winter we've had in years.
 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1996
Location: Maine (zone 5)
241
chicken dog food preservation forest garden goat hugelkultur rabbit trees
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I'm in a similar situation. Big drafty house on just the right piece of land for me. One thing I've thought of was building a tiny house someplace else on the land and then divide and rent the large house to wwoofers. In this way I might be able to get some help around here, pass on a little permaculture info and pay all the bills too. If the house needs a lot of work then you could rent it cheap to a contractor or handy man. Somebody who is capable of doing the work to button the big house up from the winter weather could be given a better rent rate too. The trouble is finding somebody trustworthy.

 
Joseph Fields
Posts: 174
Location: Berea, Kentucky
2
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I'm in the same boat, codes in my area are impossible to deal with. Love my current location, close to work, and have years of hard work and sweat into the property. If I built a rocket stove than my insurance would go up so high, I might as well pay for electricity. I asked about those outside water jacket wood stoves and asked if It would still raise my rates, they said, "yes". I said what if I put it on Island in the middle of a pond 300 yards from the house, still got, 'yes".

I need a RMH that makes electricity.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
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Hi Ben, et al,

You have a common issue in many places. I also read on this post about insurance companies being an issue with wood burning. You should start a new post thread for that topic as it deserves a thorough vetting and sharing of info...there are ways around it, to challenge it and get some satisfaction out of it.

As for to big a house..."imploding" the design is one successful approach from both a permaculture perspective as well as good repurposing of older architecture. If it is not a timber frame, then it is one of the first balloon frames for your area if it is 1870 to 1890 in circa date.

If you like the layout of the structure and the rooms are large enough, you may find insulating the structure from the inside to your advantage. You can also take the "foot print" and redesign the home for a smaller living/heatina space. If you would post pictures, I am sure folks could be more helpful.

Regards,

j
 
Martin King
Posts: 7
Location: Limousin
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Simple solution in these here parts is to close most of the hous off and make smaller rooms within larger rooms on the ground floor. This is normal in central rural France that can also get very cold. All our old neighbours sit around a wood firred cooker or stove and have a bathroom and their bedroom off of the kitchen. Economical in the winter and you can always open up room in the summer.
 
Ben Good
Posts: 27
Location: Central Ohio - Humid continental climate - USDA zone 6
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The deed says 1901, but either all the neighboring old houses were built in 1901 or there was a courthouse fire and that's when they re-deeded it. I'm assuming it was built sometime shortly before then. I do like the idea of super-insulating the house. Not only would it shrink the floorspace, but the whole house could stay a lot more comfortable year round. It might be one of those things that go room by room because off the expense. I'll have to work up a plan. Thicker walls mean I'll have to make jamb extensions for all the windows but that isn't too bad of a job. Drywalling is not my favorite job though. Probably not up to par with passive house standards but could be a big improvement.

Any one have experience doing a superinsulation retrofit?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
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Dry wall

This is a permaculture site...

Think cobb, lime, wood board, paper plaster, cloth, decoupage with ferns and fern paper, etc...not drywall...yick!


 
Joseph Fields
Posts: 174
Location: Berea, Kentucky
2
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If I had the time I thought about extending all my roof eves, building a Cordwood wall on the outside of my place. Building a new wall on the inside is an option. How heavy is dry cob?
 
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