Moved in and Settled

lawrence-01We have moved in. We have settled in. Pictures are hung on the walls. Landscaping is complete. Fence is in. Electric bill is still a negative dollar amount. Have not driven my car to work in almost four months. Walking a lot. Biking a lot. Loving it.

We Are Down to Three Days

IMG_2332We are down to three days before we move in! Final coat is on the wood floors, just a few minor detail things to do, landscaping is in, cottage is rented, and both solar systems combined are churning out about 63 kW a day. Our 34th anniversary was today and tomorrow is Father’s Day. Life is very very good.
Cleaners come Monday, Window washer Tuesday and Movers Wednesday. I’ll post again when we’re in.
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We Are in the Home Stretch!

 

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We are in the home stretch on our new home. I haven’t posted for a while because there haven’t been a lot of visible changes and this stage has been very time consuming with the last details.

Inspections are down to final electrical, final mechanical, final plumbing and final building. 

Insulation is complete. Exterior stone is almost done (just the wall caps). Irrigation and landscaping going in. Cabinet hardware and door stops are almost done. Appliances are in and they are measuring for window coverings. You know you are close when they are measuring for window coverings!

Solar, as you can see from the photo, is almost complete (all the panels are now in on the house and cottage; 9.4 kW total) and we just need final solar inspection (Monday) and the installation of our net meter so we can be reimbursed for our electricity generation. LEED and Earth Advantage inspections will come near the end of this month. (A shout out to my electrician, who, after drilling a new hole in the floor for some wiring thought to foam it before we covered it. Thanks, Tyler!).

One last thought: this above picture is especially meaningful for me because this is our third home Brenda and I have built in our journey and the first that we have been able to do solar. Our previous two homes had just a bit too much shading. But our home downtown has clear, unobstructed sky, so we decided to put solar on the home AND the cottage. Making up for lost time, I guess.

All along this process, we’ve been diligent at not setting a firm date for completion. The last two homes we did that and the final stretch became stressful; so we decided not to do that this time. But now, we have the movers scheduled later this month, so it’s official. We still have 350 sq ft of extra teak flooring for sale (see that post here) and we are going to start officially advertising the Cottage for rent (see that post here). It will be available July 1.

I’ll post again after we move in.

351 West 15th Ave – For Rent

cottage15th AVENUE COTTAGE
351 West 15th Avenue

Available July 1, 2015 (UPDATE: The cottage has been rented)
Award-Winning Architect-Designed, Brand New Construction
Bright and Beautiful Craftsman Style home

Live near the center of downtown Eugene, just a short walk or bike ride to the Farmer’s Market, Saturday Market, 5th Street Public Market, Restaurants, the Library, Banks, Churches, the University of Oregon and much more! This brand new, super energy-efficient cottage will be an amazing place to live. Owner-Landlord is living next door, beautiful landscaping (maintenance is included in the rent), teak floors, fir cabinets and quartz countertops throughout.

800 square feet

2 bedroom
1 bath

9 foot ceilings
Washer/Dryer/Freezer hookups
Stainless Steel Energy Efficient Appliances
Refrigerator
Microwave Hood
Glass-top Range with Oven
Dishwasher
Disposal
1 Car Attached Garage with alley access
South facing patio and front porch
Teak Floors throughout (FSC Certified)
Vertical Grain Doug Fir Cabinets with a deep, chocolate stain
Solid Quartz Countertops
High-Speed (150 mB) Internet Available

ENERGY FEATURES
8” thick, super insulated walls (resulting in low utility bills)
LEED and Earth Advantage Certifications (Platinum ratings – pending)
3.4 kW solar electric generation (resulting in even lower utility bills)
High efficiency mini split heat pump (heat and air-conditioning)
Heat Recovery Ventilator (maintains fresh air while conserving heat)
Efficient LED lighting (uses 1/4 the electricity of normal lights)
Energy efficient appliances
Heat Pump Water Heater (uses 1/3 the electricity of normal water heater)

Very Walkable WalkScore of 87
(most errands can be accomplished on foot)

Biker’s Paradise: BikeScore of 100
(Flat as a pancake, excellent bike lanes)

Good Transit: TransitScore of 61
(Many nearby public transportation options)

Walking distance to grocery stores, restaurants, banks, churches, library, downtown. An easy walk or bike ride to the University of Oregon, just 1 mile east on 15th

No pets
No smoking (tobacco, marijuana, vapor)

$1,350/month plus electricity, internet and garbage
Landscape maintenance, sewer and water included
12 month lease
Separate Paid Application for each Adult (18 years and older)
$35 non-refundable application fee
$1,000 refundable security deposit
$250 non-refundable cleaning fee

Previous Rental History/References for each Adult

Contact Bill Randall
541-517-2223

Download Application and return to rental@thesimplehouse.com

 

Wood Floors are Done

IMG_2033We finally have something I can post a picture of. And I believe it was worth the wait. Our wood floors are now down and two of the three coats of finish are on them.

And we have to say they are gorgeous!

We purchased the wood for our floors in June 2010 when we thought we would not have any trouble selling our Wintercreek house; OK, we were really wrong. Almost five years later, we have been able to pull the wood out of my business partner’s warehouse (thanks for storing it for five years, Dan!) and get it installed.

As you can see, our floors throughout both the house and the cottage are FSC Certified Plantation Teak. The certification means the wood was grown in a managed forest under strict environmental and social guidelines.

The finish on the floors is three coats of Pallmann Oil, which has an extremely low volatile organic compound (VOC) rating (5g/L). It is a combination of natural oils and waxes. Very durable. Easy to maintain.

For our LEED credits, the wood floor needs to be something that doesn’t trash a rain forest or at-risk stand of trees. The teak we used is plantation-grown under a controlled setting in one of my favorite countries: Costa Rica. No, it isn’t local, but travels about the same distance to our west coat as hardwood from the eastern coast of the US (about 3,000 miles).

Also, for LEED, our floor finish has to be low VOC. VOCs are the harsh chemicals in finishes that can make us ill. As I’ve mentioned, our paint has 0 g/L VOCs (we are allowed in LEED up to 50 g/L) and our floor finish is allowed up to 100 g/L (the Pallmann Oil is 5 g/L).

It’s been eye-opening (not eye-burning) to go into our house right after painting and right after the wood floor finishing and still be able to breathe. To not have our eyes burn from the chemicals found in many paints and varnishes. We have been able to walk through and breathe and not be bothered by any of the smells or vapors.

But beyond the specs and numbers: it’s simply a beautiful floor!

Insulation, Sheetrock and Plaster

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It’s been an interesting few weeks. We’ve spent a significant amount of time (and money) drying out the houses in order to insulate. So everything during this time pretty much ground to a halt other than running two large fans, three dehumidifiers and three heaters getting the moisture content of our interior wood down to 10% to 14% and sending our EWEB bill through the proverbial roof. Because we used closed cell foam, we needed to be drier than Code (which is 19%). The closed cell foam seals the wall and we didn’t want to seal in any excess moisture.

But we made it and then have started moving again. We insulated and today the sheetrockers finished the main house. The cottage will be Monday as will the beginning of the plaster. They will be spending most of next week doing the plaster, then Monday-Tuesday of the following week (March 23-24) painting the walls, stocking the wood floor to acclimate on the 25th and moving on with interior trim.

It’s refreshing to see  workers on site again. We’ll keep you up-to-date on our progress.

Energy Efficient Appliances

Hybrid_Heat_Pump_Water_HeaterIn addition to the LED lights, which use about 1/4 to 1/3 the electricity of an incandescent, we will be using energy-efficient appliances in our homes. When people think about energy efficient appliances, they usually think about Energy Star.

And while Energy Star is a factor in our decisions, it is a voluntary program. So as we’ve made our selections and decisions, we have looked a little deeper into the REAL energy savings. An example is our refrigerator in the main house.

We have selected a Whirlpool refrigerator that is NOT Energy Star. However, the energy use guide shows it will use the same amount (or less) of electricity as a comparably-sized Energy Star refrigerator. Our dishwasher will be Energy Star.

The most exciting appliance, however, is our water heater. Yeah, I know, who gets excited over a water heater? But this one uses an estimated $214 of electricity a year versus a standard electric water heater using over $500 per year.

And this is where I want to talk about our culture and the shift that is happening and I hope continues to happen.

We hopefully are changing our perspective to look at the longer term when we make purchases. In my last post, I talked about LED lights. Yes, they cost more initially, but use WAY less electricity and last much longer. So in that longer term, they are less expensive. Same thing with appliances that use less energy and specifically this water heater.

This water heater cost us about $400 more than a standard water heater. Or double the cost, if you’re into that perspective. But what that means is after the first year of investment, we will be saving money. Almost all the extra money in the first year. And energy savings the rest of the life of the heater. When we looked at it that way, we had to ask why WOULDN’T we do this?

I really hope our culture grasps this concept. Because it is what’s at the heart of true sustainability.

LED Lights

creeNot much visible from the exterior has been happening on our house lately. So I haven’t been blogging. But Brenda suggested I talk about some of the aspects of our new home like LED lights, energy-efficient appliances, sustainable materials.

I married a smart woman.

To start, we are going to use LED lights in our house. Everywhere. No incandescent “heaters”. In the picture with this post is the new CREE bulb that just came out.

It weighs just 2 ounces. It uses just 11 watts of energy and is the equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent bulb. Cost is $8. It should last virtually forever (expected life is just over 22 years). It has a color rendering of 2700K (what we would call a “soft white” or “warm white”). It puts out 815 lumens.

And those last two notes are where I want to focus my discussion about LEDs. There are a lot of LED bulbs out there and probably the two most misunderstood, overlooked and disappointing aspects are the color and the lumens.

A typical incandescent “soft white” or “warm white” bulb is about 2700K. The “K” stands for Kelvin. White light really has a range of reds and blues. If you ever notice some of the really really white LEDs, they are probably closer to 5000K (lots of blue hue), which is supposed to simulate natural daylight, although I’ve never thought natural daylight was that harsh. What most of us seem to like in our homes is a warmer, more “comfortable” color of white nearer the 2700K to 2800K range with more of the red hues. So when you go to buy an LED bulb, check the color temperature and look for the K value.

The other aspect is lumens. Lumens are not as readily advertised with LEDs, but are just as important a factor as the hue. A lumen is “the SI unit of luminous flux, equal to the amount of light emitted per second in a unit solid angle of one steradian from a uniform source of one candela.” Like that’s helpful to anyone but physicists. Bottom line is it’s a measured unit of light output. It’s helpful because some LEDs are advertised as a “60 watt equivalent” but may only put out 400 lumens (closer to a 40 watt equivalent). A typical 60 watt incandescent bulb will put out about 650-800 lumens.

Some advice, then, as you look to purchase LEDs: check color and lumens. If you’re wanting to keep the incandescent “feel”, make sure the color is between 2700K to 3000K (which closer to a halogen color). Then make sure you’re getting adequate lumens. A 40 watt incandescent will put out 400-450 lumens, a 60 watt 650-800 lumens, a 75 watt 1,000-1,100 lumens, and a 100 watt about 1,400-1,600 lumens. Since most of us are familiar with the “feel” of incandescent, this is a good measuring tool as our conversion to LEDs happens.

In our Lawrence Street House, we will be using quite a few of these new CREE bulbs. We’ll also be using a fairly new Juno brand 2″ recessed spot. It is a 10 watt LED that puts out 650 lumens at 2700K. We also have some halogen replacements coming that put out 400 lumens using just 5 watts. We’re excited about the lighting and the energy savings we’ll see by using all LEDs.

 

Why Are We Building Downtown?

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Occasionally, we have friends and acquaintances ask us where we are building and we reply “downtown Eugene.” To which we usually get one of three responses: 1. “There is a vacant lot downtown?”, 2. “Why?”, 3. “Awesome”. In response to number 1, yes, there are a few vacant lots downtown (we purchased ours in 2009) and to number 3, thanks, we think so, too.

This post is more in response to number 2, the “why.” There are many reasons that I won’t go into here right now, but one is the walkability and bikeability of the neighborhood. Brenda and I love walking and biking. When we lived on the hill, walking was easier than biking. But now that we are going to live downtown, there is just so much more activity nearby: restaurants, the library, shops, the Saturday and Farmers Markets.

As you can see in the graphic posted here, our new home will be very walkable and VERY bikeable. The higher the walkscore, the better. (Check out more here about walkscore).

I wanted to quote an excerpt from a wonderful book about walkability. The book is Walkable City, by Jeff Speck. And one paragraph sums it up very succinctly for us. It’s about the empty nesters (which we are):

“With the leading edge of the boomers now approaching sixty-five years old, the group is finding that their suburban houses are too big. Their child-rearing days are ending, and all those empty rooms have to be heated, cooled, and cleaned, and the unused backyard maintained… Freedom for many in this generation means living in walkable, accessible communities with convenient transit linkages and good public services like libraries, cultural activities, and health care.”

And I might add, Cornucopia just three blocks away. Best burgers in town.

 

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