Putting the cart before the horse

Currently the Yrppie living room looks like this:

Current state of the Yrppie living room

The progress is exciting (who doesn’t find ripping up sub-flooring titillating?) and based on my Words to Live By Pinterest board, I obviously value the importance of “living in the moment”. That being said, I CANNOT WAIT until the moment that the house is done and we can start “living in the house”. The renovations are taking place in 3-4 phases so total completion is not expected until a year (or maybe two) from now; however, the living room should be done by this fall. (Putting it in writing means it is fact…right?) We are in the market for new furniture to fill this living room since our current couch looks like this:

Penny loves the couch so much she gave it her own personal touch, that is Maggie’s hand looking kind of creepy to the left

My sister’s dog, Penny, obviously has a strong attachment to the couch (She also was attached to the chair…and the ottoman) so it was either take the dog AND couch, or leave the couch. We are leaving the couch. This is how Penny feels about the decision:

” I promise I will not eat the new couch two weeks after you purchase it.”

We used to try to put matching covers on the cushion so no one would notice the big gaping hole and missing foam, but the hubby got sick of doing that and got the genius idea to cover it with duct tape. Much less noticeable, wouldn’t you agree? Anyway, chewed up couches aside, the point of this post is that even if it is a little premature to be acquiring “stuff” to fill the living space; I could not help myself at Target last week when I found these lovelies on clearance:

Jade green matching lamps-bargain buy!

How can you not be inspired by a $70 savings?!?!?

I had been eyeing these bad boys up for the last few months but felt like $100 was a ridiculous price to pay for two lamps I did not even have a place to put. However, $14.98 per lamp seemed a like a perfect price to pay for two lamps I still do not have a place to put. So I bought them, brought them home, and proudly showed the hubby. Hubby: “Where are you going to put those?” Me: “In the new living room, aren’t they great?!?!?!” Hubby: “They’re green.” Me: “They were $14.98 a piece, and I have been eyeing them up forever. They are awesomely green. They were originally $50 a piece-I saved $70!” Hubby: “Where are you going to put those?” The response was anti-climatic at best. I tried to liven him up by showing him the price-tags but he still wasn’t feeling them. I am not concerned though, he sometimes struggles to have a sense of style:

Jorts are cutting edge

I have also been stalking Craig’s List for things like wooden chairs I can paint fuschia (the hubby is going to LOVE them) and a sideboard. This weekend the Shipoke Flea Market takes place Saturday, July 14, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Riverfront Park in Shipoke, rain or shine. I am thinking about grabbing some coffee at Little Amp’s Roasters in Midtown and then heading down to see what goodies I can find. I am usually not a flea-market/yard-sale kind of person, I hate haggling and would rather pay $5 and not have to barter than $3 and feel like I just robbed little Johnny’s college fund. I do like good deals though, and Shipoke is a fantastic neighborhood filled with people who can afford to have their house flood yearly. I am excited to see what I can find. What about you? Are you a bargain hunter? If you have any haggling tips let me know in the comments below.

Show me the money! (How the geothermal tax credit works)

After spending hours trolling various websites, two phone calls, one to EnergyStar and one to the IRS, I have finally confirmed that the 30% tax credit applies to the installation of the ENTIRE system NOT just the heat pump. That will amount to about $7,800 of awesomeness come February 2013 when I do our taxes.

My original hunt for verifiable information made it obvious that finding a definitive answer to the question “What does the 30% tax break apply to?” was not going to be easy. Some websites use language that indicate the whole installation is eligible for the tax break, some are very specific in their mention of the “heat pump” when referring to the tax break. EnergyStar’s Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency page has in small print on a secondary page that installation is included. I decided to be that annoying person who calls with a question that is already answered for them. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Hello, I was just calling to confirm that the 30% tax credit for geothermal systems includes the installation costs and not just the heat pump.”

EnergyStar Man: “Yes, that includes the whole system.” 

Me: “I saw that on your website but just wanted to clarify that it includes the loops, digging, excavation and all the other things that go along with installing the system.”

EnergyStar Man: “Ummmmmm…I think, but you should call the IRS just to make sure.”

Me: “Ummm, okay, so how do I do that…just call up the IRS?”

EnergyStar Man: “Yes and they will be able to tell you specifically what is eligible.” 

I am sure this conversation would drive the hubby crazy because he hates that I ask too many questions. He really hates it when I ask questions that we seemingly already know the answer to, but I like to be super thorough when dealing with insurance, realtors, banks, loans, purchases of really expensive products and directions when lost in the middle of NYC. So I called the IRS. After an extended wait and about 7 holds I was put through to Mrs. Sneed (sidenote: perfect name for an IRS agent). She asked me about 30 questions, which included “Is the house in the United States?” and “Will you be using this system to heat a pool or hot tub?” (There was an awkward pause when I answered “I wish.”)

To sum up her 30 questions:

  • you must own the home where you are installing geothermal (and it must be in the US)
  • you CANNOT be receiving any other subsidies or credits from your local government or other entities
  • the system must be EnergyStar approved
  • you must be heating your house, not a pool or hot tub
If you meet all of these requirements and are installing it in 2012 you are eligible for the 30% tax credit and that covers the ENTIRE cost of the installation and materials. The other awesome thing about the credit is that you can split it up if needed. For example, if when I do our taxes in February we owe less than what the credit is, we can carry over the difference to 2013 tax return. I think that is how she explained it. I suggest calling the IRS to confirm if you are thinking of installing a geothermal system just to be sure :).

The Heat Beneath…or “How Geothermal Works”

Pennsylvania is a four season state, which is one of the reasons it is a great place to live. Even though the temperatures fluctuate above ground, the temperature about 8-10 feet below the surface stays around 50°F (http://extension.psu.edu/energy/geothermal-energy). While 50°F sounds cold in actuality it is 50 degrees of heat energy that geothermal systems move to heat or cool your house. One unifying theme that I try to burn into my science students’ heads is that “energy” likes to move from area of higher concentration to lower concentration, this same concept is what drives the really complicated and hard to explain condensers, loops and heat pumps. The simplified explanation is that the heat is moved from the ground into your house in the winter, and from your house to the ground in the winter. I was going to try to write a post that was all scientific and sexy to get folks really excited about geothermal but instead I think the easiest way to explain it is to check out these awesome graphics Mike Armstrong created for Morrison Inc. Tomorrow I will have information about what tax breaks and incentives are available for people who install this type of system. Anyone have any experience with geothermal? What do you think the pros and cons are?

How Geothermal Heats Your House, Image courtesy of Mike Armstrong of Morrison Inc.,http://www.morrisongeothermal.com/Morrison_Geothermal/How_they_Work.html

Why We Chose Geothermal

The renovation process has not been the most peaceful experience. I would like the internets to believe that the hubby and I operate in a mature and loving manner at all times, even when we disagree. Unfortunately, we know lots of people who have access to this blog, through the internet, that know us. I do not want to ruin my credibility, so I will admit right now that there have been AT LEAST 1000 things we have argued over (last night’s lively debate over wooden floors ups that number to 1001). These things include small things, big things and things that have not even happened yet (even those that may never happen-like where to place the 15-year plan in-ground pool). However, one thing we have both agreed on is that we wanted to renovate the house in a way that will support our tree-hugging tendencies. Making the decision about what heating and cooling system to install was an easy one for us; we knew immediately we wanted to invest in geothermal.

There are two things people usually say to us when we tell them we are installing geothermal:

1.) Isn’t that expensive?

2.) Don’t you get a great a tax-break on that?

Answer to #1: Since we take baths in $100 bills, the answer to the first question is always “no.” In all seriousness, to us the cost was not a big issue, not because we are rich but because we are firm believers in putting your money where your mouth is. Our mouths have a tendency to rant and rage about America’s addiction to oil and the ridiculous billion dollar profits the oil companies make every year.  Geothermal systems do not rely on oil or any other fossil fuels (in theory you could debate this since they do use some electricity to operate), have low-emissions and last for a long time (20-50 years depending on the source of information). Geothermal has a high up-front cost but a very low operating cost. We had estimates from a few different companies and ended up choosing Morrison Inc. because of their incredibly detailed estimate came in below the other companies and because the hubby liked how informative, Mike, the salesman was. Morrison Inc. has been installing geothermal systems since 1980 and are located out of Duncannon, PA. Their total bid from last August was a little less than $26,000 for a 5-ton, vertical loop system. That includes excavation, drilling, ductwork, labor and all the other parts that allow you to walk into a climate-controlled house. If you would like more specifics, please email me and I can provide them. The cost can vary depending on the size of your house, the terrain, existing insulation, etc. The most important thing to stress about the cost of geothermal is that it is front-loaded. The number of years it takes for the system to pay for itself varies, but typically the operating costs are about 45% less from traditional fossil-fuel based systems.

Answer to #2: Yes, you do get a tax break. I am still getting clarification on how that tax break specifically works. The way I understand it is that there was legislation passed by Congress in 2009 that offers homeowners a tax credit of 30% if a system is installed by  Dec. 31, 2016. I am still trying to determine if that 30% is on the pump or on the entire cost of the system. I also understand that there are additional incentives depending on your state and power company. I am working on a later post that will detail the specific savings and tax-breaks you can get when installing a geothermal system in Pennsylvania.

At this point we have only had the ductwork installed. We want to pay for that and then have the rest of the system installed. The system we are putting in includes the heating and cooling of the attic (it will be converted to a guest room or office space); that did increase the cost a bit. Based on the Afghanistan like temperatures we experienced when trucking 100 boxes of stuff from the second floor to the attic this weekend the investment was necessary. The system will hopefully be in and running before the cold weather hits. If not we will just throw another layer on and get another dog to keep the bed warm. Stay tuned tomorrow for an explanation of geothermal works to heat and cool your house!

Yrppies do Yoga

No this is not really a renovation post but I do think it is relevant to our “yrppie” lifestyle so therefore it is fair-game for the blog. The hubby has had lower back issues for YEARS. He started playing rugby again (that is how we met in college) and the back pain has increased (along with pain everywhere else; it happens when you are over 30 and still rucking over).  For years I have suggested yoga to help him stretch out the back of his hamstrings, which is where he has been told the pain is originating from. He finally agreed that he would try yoga before we moved, so I was THRILLED to score an awesome Groupon to “Om My Yoga” in Camp Hill. He was so excited that he threatened to wear spandex and pass gas while in Downward Dog. He is one classy guy.

The hubby is less than flexible and does not really believe in “stretching”. Sometimes just for fun the sista’ and I have him lie on the floor and try to pull his knee to his nose. We sit on the couch while he rolls around on the floor like a stranded beetle stuck on its back. He could not wait to show off his skillz in front of an audience.

The hubby and I ready for some yoga

As we got ready I realized our water bottles matched our yoga mats. Obviously this was meant to be.

Matching water bottles and yoga mats-fate!

The class was great; the hubby did awesome. I think we were the only sweaty beasts in the room (a few times we made eye contact as sweat was rolling off our faces in Downward Dog and I had to stop myself from laughing out loud), but at the end he said he actually felt really stretched out and that he had fallen asleep during the relaxation track. He was delighted to know that he had NINE more classes to perfect his practice since I grouponed him a 10-class pass. Now we just need to find a yoga studio in Klingerstown so he can continue his yogi lifestyle. Anyone in the area know of one?

The hubby and “Princess Hollywood” passed out on the couch after yoga

How we spent our 4th of July holiday

Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! We yrppies had a pretty low-key day that involved some grilling, lemonade and fireworks in beautiful downtown Harrisburg, PA.  We scored perfect seats right across from the firing location thanks to some friends who got there early and we were home and in bed by 10:30 PM. There are definitely benefits to living right up the street from City Island and the state capitol.

Maggie micromanaging Daddy’s grilling

“Adult” strawberry lemonade

Quick pic of the Capitol as we were walking home from the fireworks.

We had purposely planned a day full of “laidbackness” because we knew we were going to be pretty tuckered from July 3rd. The hubby took off from work on the 3rd so we could tackle removing the sub-flooring, removing some metal pipes and old heating units and mow. We are used to a 15 minute mow-job at our Harrisburg house; the hubby usually completes it once a week and we move on with our lives. The mowing at the farmhouse is much more involved; it is a lot of grass.

I am used to a lot of grass. Growing up we had about two-acres of lawn that we push-mowed and then raked into nice, neat piles for my dad to collect and dump into the compost pile. While it was better than hanging wet laundry out on the line on a freezing winter’s day; it was not one of my favorite chores. I am still not a fan. I would rather have more trees and less grass. Once we move, we plan to do some tree-planting in different areas of the yard to provide some shade and wind-breaks. The hubby is also in the process of cultivating bee and butterfly habitat on the hill so we are not mowing that. Neither of us are fans of endless, monocultures.

The hubby’s bee & butterfly hill-“no-mow zone”

On Tuesday I got up, went to the gym at 5:30 AM, came home and woke the hubby up so we could get started before the house really heated up. The temperature in central PA has hovered around the mid-ninties the last week or so; this is not ideal manual labor weather for someone who is used to sitting in a temperature-controlled environment teaching on a computer all day. I wanted an early start. When it was all said and done we did not get up to the house until 10 AM. We immediately started to hack away at the floor. Once the hubby felt confident that I could not screw up removing sub-flooring;  he transitioned to removing the metal pipes and metal heating units that were left over from the gutting of the house.

Sub-flooring about to be removed

Sub-flooring and the most durable chair ever (LHU peeps you should recognize this as an old dorm chair)

83 degrees and rising…

The sub-flooring removal involved a lot of hammering, crowbarring and splinter-removal since the hubby thinks gloves are sacrilegious. At first we were only going to remove the parts that had water-damage and urine stains, but we were having so much fun we decided to do the whole thing. We had only one minor melt-down about half-way through due to the hubby thinking we were not getting enough done. Apparently he had a whole “secret to-do list” that involved about two-weeks worth of work to be completed in one 8-hour day. Renovations and heat bring out the best in everyone :).

Bend over and pull, break and pull some more

Removing the old copper pipes leading to the heating units

While I worked on the sub-flooring; the hubby cut out the old copper pipes leading the heating units around the base of the first floor. This was a wet and messy job. However it was cooler in the basement so that had to be a plus. He then came up to the first-floor and ripped up the heating units themselves. Once this was done he took over the sub-flooring job and I went outside to the Sahara and mowed.

Water damage to the floor and old metal heating units

Copper pipe cut in half ready for removal

Working on my farmer’s tan and feeling bad every time I run over a bee

Once I was done mowing the parts of the lawn that are not going to cause the lawnmower to tip over and cut my feet off (this is my fear the whole time I am mowing; I would really prefer a push-mower); I went back inside and removed the hundreds of nails that did not come up when we crow-barred the sub-flooring off the floor. I then swept and cleaned up from the mess we had made while the hubby finished trimming up the lawn and moving the metal heating units to the scrap pile. We got a little over half-way done, which means we have more sub-flooring fun to look forward to this Sunday. The finished product looked like this:

Living room without any sub-flooring; new ductwork to the left-more on that in a later post

Kitchen without and sub-flooring; the dogs approve and want to head back to the AC

It was a pretty productive day. We are trying to balance the DIY part with the “pay someone else to do it” part so that we make the most out of our monetary and time budget. If we can do it, our plan is to DIY it, but we both work full-time jobs and a part-time job every other weekend. The hubby keeps saying he can’t wait to have more time; I feel like our part-time job is worth it because we have more money. Which one do you think is more valuable when doing renovations?

No Oven Required

Today I am working on a post about the heating and cooling system we are installing at the Yrppie homestead, which involves some research and drafting so that the information is accurate and makes everyone want to invest in geothermal. In the meantime, I wanted to share one thing that we Yrppies like to do, and that is entertain and feed people. This past weekend we had some peeps over for crabs from Wegmans Crab Feast. (I am currently compiling a list of things I will miss about Harrisburg; Wegmans is in the top 5. I really like having the choice between 16 different types of cheddar cheese and 100’s of craft beers in the same place.) To satisfy the masses’ sweet tooth I made these OVEN-FREE cheese-cake stuffed strawberries. Simple, yummy and no electricity required. A perfect recipe for a Yrppie without a kitchen.

Click here to see step-by-step directions for how to make these sweet treats!


Bump it! The creation of the kitchen addition

We are still in the process of battling Ikea’s virtual planner, so while you wait to see the grand unveiling of the 3-D kitchen plans I decided to share the progress we have made on the kitchen addition, fondly referred to as the “kitchen bump”. The kitchen is in the back of the house and faces the backyard; in the picture below you can see the “before”.

Before the removal of the built-in kitchen porch

The hubby and I were both in agreement that the kitchen needed to be enlarged from its original size. Our Harrisburg kitchen is small and does not have a lot of counter space. The appliances are all close together which makes for close quarters if you are trying to make dinner and load the dishwasher at the same time. The decision was made to remove the built-in porch (it was falling down anyway), and to “bump” out the kitchen to create a more permanent addition. The first step was to tear down the porch; the contractors were ridiculously fast at this and it was really exciting to see it come to fruition so quickly.

After the removal of the kitchen porch

Termite damage to the left of the sliding glass door

Finding termite damage was not so exciting, but the hubby did not seem too upset over the discovery. He gave some complicated explanation about the life cycle and leaving the wood to burrow in the yard during the summer, etcetera, etcetera. During his explanation, I realized I probably could have paid better attention in Dr. Yoho’s Entymology class back in undergrad because I still don’t understand why they would not return to munch on the new kitchen come the fall. The hubby assured me we could wait to treat the house after the renovations were complete and that the termites would not destroy the NEW kitchen. We shall see.

Checking out the inside was even more exciting than looking at the outside. As a reminder here is what it looked like before:

Partially gutted kitchen

And here is what it looked like before the porch was gone, but after the walls were out and some of the naked parts were exposed:

Kitchen window to the left; opening to stairs leading to the second floor

Kitchen window and the porch wall to the left of the window

Sliding glass doors with the view of the blue shed

Once the porch was off and the sliding glass doors were gone forever it looked totally different on the outside and the inside.

Prior to the bump being built the exposed kitchen was closed in

A few days later “the bump” was complete and it looked awesome. The kiddo and I drove up the evening it was completed to see it and surprise the hubby with a picnic dinner. The first thing I checked out when we got out of the car was the roof color. I was thrilled to see that it was exactly the color we were imagining. We had chose “avocado green” without actually seeing it in person, so there was some worry that it would not be what we wanted. It was perfect though, and eventually the roof will be replaced on the rest of the house to match.

Avocado green metal roof covering the kitchen bump

New roof, addition of the kitchen bump all closed in

More room and new concrete

Exposed stairs leading up to the second floor-this picture was taken while standing in “the bump”

Maggie approves of the kitchen addition

Once everything had been given my approval and two-thumbs up by Maggie, we ate. It ended up being a great evening to eat outside (not that we really had anywhere else to eat) and it was wonderful to eat some picnic food while gazing at the completed kitchen bump. We are looking forward to more picnic dinners between now and the completion of the kitchen. If you have any good suggestions for picnic foods, let me know. It could be a while before we have a working oven…

Picnic dinner celebrating the kitchen bump

Greens, berries, pecans and raspberry vinaigrette

Maggie excited about moving; Huck excited about fried chicken


Kitchen Dreams…Planning Nightmares

Tonight the hubby and I are sitting down to layout and plan the kitchen. We have picked out an Ikea kitchen per my request. I am super excited about the white cabinets with lots of room for organizing and wine bottles; he is super excited about swedish meatballs and teeny-tiny allen wrenches. The planning and layout you do all on-line; it is in 3D and can be user friendly once you know what you are doing. Once the plans are done you save it in your Ikea account, head to the store, and share it with one of their “Kitchen Experts”.  They look it over and either give you the thumbs up, which means they can then help you order all of the flat-packed materials you will need from their little kiosk, or they give you a thumbs down. Thumbs down means you then have head down to Smaland to see if you can extend your 4-year olds play time so that you and your significant other can have a quiet domestic dispute over the changes that need to be made in the presence of a “Kitchen Expert”. We are hoping to avoid being “that couple” in the kitchen section and perfect our plans tonight. I will let you know how we make out. We are becoming quite skilled in the art of compromise throughout this renovation process. Check out the pictures below to see our inspiration (these were taken on my phone in Ikea so the quality is pretty poor). What do you think a “dream kitchen” should have?

The “before” of the second floor

In the last post I shared the “before” pictures of the outside and the first floor. I am working with the hubby on creating a postable image of the floor-plan so it will be easier to visualize the lay-out of the house. Originally “we” had some pretty grandiose proposals (there may be a little bit more of “me” in that “we” than the hubby), but we have settled on staying pretty close to the original layout with two small additions and an attic renovation. The goal is to try to complete the projects in stages so we are not incurring a huge amount of debt (“huge” is a relative term-I have not figured out what it is relative to yet…). The first stage was supposed to be a complete renovation of the first floor before we moved to the second floor; however, that has already changed and currently both floors are completely gutted.

In the pictures below you can see that the second floor consisted of a little hallway at the top of stairs. There were four bedrooms, one very small bathroom and a closet area (this used to be the hubby’s mem’s sewing room). The plan at this moment is to renovate the bathroom first so we can move in sooner than later (I can deal relying on a microwave and grill for cooking but this yrppie is not popping a squat in the woods). Eventually we will be adding a master bath onto the master bedroom when we renovate and add an addition onto the shanty. Somehow, in this series we missed taken pictures of the second floor bathroom; I am sure I have them somewhere and will post when I find them. They are worth a look.