How We Purchased an Older Rural Home and Transitioned to Self Sufficiency

| 8/15/2017 9:28:00 AM

Tags: solar hot water, solar pv, solar power, home energy, sustainable living, self sufficiency, Wisconsin, Paul Kuenn,


In 1987, my fiancé Jude purchased a 1960s house surrounded by grass within walking distance of city center in an Appleton, Wisconsin. The house and yard were not my ideal vision of a home. I was raised as a farm kid and spent the previous seven years as a climbing guide. It was a drafty, cold house with nothing to look at outside.

Faced with a tight budget, we started with interior repairs, added extra insulation in the attic and dug a small garden in the backyard. Looking back, this would be considered “bliss”.

Soil-Building and Solarizing

Transforming the yard. Armed with a spade, I turned over the compacted clay yard while adding compost. Fiberglass pods I had built served us well by extending the growing season. While trees I planted grew, I had to be more selective so plants would find maximum sunlight. Over the years, half of the yard became native perennials — the other half was used for food. For color, hundreds of tulips and daffodils brightened spring.

Energy efficiency and solar heating. In 2000, double-pane windows were installed while replacing roofing and siding. Jude was smart enough to hire a contractor even with my building-trade background. She wanted it done quickly. In 2006, I took solar installation courses at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. I befriended Rob Ryf of Solar Heating Services who helped me install our solar-domestic hot water (SDWH) system with a gas-fired, on-demand unit as a back-up to the new solar thermal collector and 50-gallon domestic hot water (DHW) tank.

One winter day, I noticed cobwebs waving in the basement. On investigation, I saw the backyard through a gap between the sill band and concrete. “I’m heating the backyard!” Running to the garage to find caulk, I noticed the wind swinging power lines across shingles. Changes were needed to make this a comfortable home and keep hard-earned pay in our own pockets.

12/1/2017 12:04:31 PM

I too am looking for alternative roofing to replace my deteriorating asphalt tiles. Where can I find info on the tiles you used?

12/1/2017 11:46:32 AM

Hi, You said that in order to get clean water runoff you changed the roof tiles to a recycled rubber / plastic slate tile. What product did you use, and where did you get it? Did you have any challenges finding a Roof Contractor that worked with green roofing supplies?

12/1/2017 11:46:30 AM

Hi, You said you replaced the roof tiles for clean water run off with recycled rubber/plastic slate tiles. What product is this, and where did you get it from? Did you do it yourself, or have a roofing Contractor do it? Thank you!

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