So you’ve decided to downsize your home, and now you’re considering your options. Living under someone else’s thumb (retirement community / assisted living) does not appeal to you. But living in a little farmhouse in Vermont sounds wonderful. After all, it’s beautiful there in any season, you’ll own a small piece of history, and the last crime that occurred anywhere near the home you’re reading about in that brochure. The crime happened when Farmer John’s bull broke down the fence 40 years ago to visit Farmer Fred’s happy heifer next door, as a result of which Fred never talked to John again. Peace, serenity, safety, charm, picturesque – these are all yours for the buying. And your quick visit during the summer confirmed it all. You fell in love with the place and are considering buying it as a way of downsizing. Why, there’s even a little barn where you can store some things you haven’t been able to part with yet (and about 1,237 mice waiting to help you). [https://www.caregiver.org/downsizing-home-checklist-caregivers]
STOP! Consider This
Before you write that check, consider the following tips for downsizing for seniors:
- Winter’s coming. Vermont winters can be brutal. A friend of ours recalls moving to Vermont in the summer to live in a farmhouse like the one you’re considering. He wondered what the big deal was about putting up enough firewood to heat the place from October to April. By the time that winter was over, he had used 18 cord of seasoned hardwood! That is a stack of wood 4 feet high, four feet deep, and 288 feet long! Not long after that, he moved to Florida. [http://modernhomesteading.ca/blog/firewood-basics-five-lessons-for-heating-with-a-wood-stove]
- Cozy is as cozy does. A vintage Vermont farmhouse seems to scream “Cozy!,” at least in summer. But when it’s 30 below zero, and the wind is howling outside (and inside), the only cozy place is three feet from the wood stove that’s supposed to heat the whole place, and the only way to stay cozy is to pretend you’re a vertical rotisserie.
- The walls and windows leak (the walls having been stuffed with anything available to try to hold Old Man Winter at bay, from newspapers to magazines to feathers to old underwear). The floors creak and once in a while a loud gunshot-like crack can be heard in the attic, leaving you to wonder what you have gotten yourself into – echoes of “The Money Pit,” that’s what. Downsizing of this ilk is not what you had in mind, for sure.
But how can you know about all this in advance? Well, with buildings more than 40 years old, it’s not really possible, but starting in 1992, the US EPA established a voluntary program to identify and promote energy-efficient products, adding new homes in 1995 [https://www.energystar.gov/about/history]. The net result of more than 20 years of ratings is that it’s now relatively easy to decide which freezer or refrigerator, computer or monitor, or home (if built after 1995) is more or less efficient in its use of energy. [https://www.energystar.gov/newhomes/?s=footer] The reason it’s nearly impossible to obtain comparisons between the pre-Energy Star era and today is partly because much of the analysis is computerized, with the final Energy Star number coming from a combination of many factors that do not apply to older construction. For example, how can one know for sure what R-value (a measure of thermal resistance) to assign to insulation in a really old home, without tearing the place apart?
Modern technology has produced multiple new construction methods and products that can easily be incorporated into new construction, to meet and exceed Energy Star requirements. The results are remarkable, including:
- Energy bill savings
- Improved home performance (in terms of air quality or reduced maintenance) which creates a healthier environment for residents;
- Greater future financial stability for residents and property owners through increased savings;
- Improved marketability of the home when renting or selling;
- Reduced long-term maintenance costs due to the use of more durable products and building techniques; and
- Increased affordability of housing due to reduced utility costs. [i]
All of our homes exceed Energy Star’s highest certified rating, including even our entry level basic homes. We also build high-performance homes (more on this category next time), net zero homes, and off-grid homes. Instead of downsizing to that quaint little old Vermont farmhouse, let us build you something better.
[i] See http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=19758_200809energystar.pdf for a wealth of information on this subject.