We have a house! Well, sort of. We have a house in need of a ton of work.
When I first wrote about the move, I mentioned I had two tiers of requirements: (1) must haves and (2) would love to haves. Our “must haves” included the following:
- Neighborhood within walking distance of University of Arizona and close to downtown (less than one mile to central campus).
- Neighborhood where we would feel comfortable with our kiddo running a few blocks to see friends.
- Neighborhood with a good public school.
We won on the “must haves.” We found a great home in a close-in, kid-friendly neighborhood that will keep our lives bike-able. We are eight blocks from our daughter’s amazing public school, a half mile from U of A’s campus, and two miles from my office. If I can keep myself committed, we will only need to use our car for errands and weekend trips.
My beloved bike and new Tucson office.
We pretty much lost on our “would love to haves.” The one that pains me the most as a conservationist is that our home is big—a whopping 2600 square feet. We fell in love with it for its natural light and open profile, its relatively low cost, and its “potential.” To realize all of its potential, our home needs a TON of cosmetic work to make it feel like my home. The big, fat, intangible, and unrelenting desire to nest that is causing me to dump buckets of money into a kitchen and bathroom remodels.
I could absolutely forgo these upgrades and do the earth-friendly fixes – such as installing a more efficient AC and ductless heat pumps in rooms that have wall AC units. But let’s be honest: I can’t bear the thought of living in a place that is, well…ugly.
My lofty gray water, solar, EV, and high-cost efficiency aspirations are taking a backseat while we renovate the kitchen and bathrooms.
Am I selling out my values? Maybe. Human? Absolutely.
In the process of the kitchen and bath remodels (which includes the removal of a puzzling bidet and 1950’s turquoise tile in the main bath), I am purchasing low-flow toilets for each bathroom as well as an energy efficient dishwasher and refrigerator for the kitchen. I also sprung for a soon-to-be released shower head for the master bath which I’m excited about (I’ll report back on its effectiveness once I get to try it out). It claims to use 70% less water and have huge energy-saving benefits.
My better self can see the charm in this tile. Sometimes. Well, not really. It has to go.
Also, the home has a number of structural energy “pros” to offset the “cons” associated with its size and age. They also help to assuage my conscience. For example:
- The largest bank of windows in the home are north facing, which keeps it cool most of the day.
- The home is surrounded by large trees that keep it insulated and sheltered from the Tucson sun, particularly along the south-facing walls.
- The home is made of re-enforced block so it is naturally very insulated, capturing a pocket of air between the outer block and the brick that makes up the interior walls.
- It is equipped to use an evaporative cooler in place of AC, which (once we purchase one) we can use outside of the monsoon season to cool the home. It’s an old technology, but an efficient one.
We are in it for the light and these north facing windows in the home’s interior atrium. Do not rest your eyes on the wicker for too long, lest you hurt yourself.
All in all, this whole process has really opened my eyes to how big the intangible barriers to efficiency and clean energy upgrades are. It has also cued me in to what it costs in time, effort, planning to create an energy-efficient home. The trade-offs and compromises are not fun – and as Eric said to me – “sometimes you just have to wait, Anne.” And, while it’s not my style to wait for things, this time he’s right.