Save On Your Electric Bill : Free Energy Audit

Do you feel like your electric bill is outrageous??

We kind of did.

So I called Huntsville Utilities and asked for an explanation as to why our reading was that high.

We only turn lights on if absolutely necessary, utilizing every last drop of sunshine our large windows can hold.
Our thermostat is set at a brisk 61 degrees in the winter, using our fireplace to heat up the house.

What other extremes could we explore?

"We offer free energy audits for all of our customers," the kind HSV Utilities employee responded.

Sign. Me. Up.

A couple of days later, Brad (the energy audit man) walked around our house with me, pointing out areas where we could do a little handiwork while saving a lot. 

Do we recommend this program? Absolutely. It's free and Brad printed out a full-blown Energy Audit Report that explained areas where most cold / warm air is lost and how we can improve those areas for better energy usage. The report also includes an estimated cost of repairs along with a Quality Program Participant List if we choose to hire someone to fix the problems. 

I normally feel obligated to working with a company if they come out to give us an estimate or to evaluate an issue at our house. But there is no obligation in working with the utility company as a contractor... because it's not a contractor. They aren't the ones who will be doing any of the work required to make our house keep more energy efficient. This also makes their evaluations more trustworthy.

Fortunately, we will be able to DIY most of the stuff from our report. For those of you who may not have this free service offered through your utility company, here is a list of things that Brad recommended we do...
Also, please remember that our house was built in 1965. There are a few issues that stem from the age of the home.


  • Spray expansion foam around pluming openings under the sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms 
  • Glaze single pane windows around the panes and caulk all windows at the edges to prevent air and moisture from coming in
  • Ensure all of the doors leading to the outside of the home are actual exterior doors and not interior doors
  • Exterior doors should be sealed on the sides, top, and bottom to prevent air and moisture from coming in (jamb-up weatherstripping and thresholds with vinyl bulbs are recommended for sealing existing doors)
  • Attic access doors and pull down stairs should be insulated and weatherstripped if located within conditioned areas
  • Make sure your HVAC system is serviced annually if more than ten years old, and on a two to three year basis for systems less than then years old
    Maintenance should always include cleaning the coils and an inspection of the condensate drain and overflow system.
  • Check for places where air may be penetrating your house and either caulk the openings or add a foam seal where you find the problem
    This may include exterior / interior wall receptacles, outside walls at floor, wiring openings, fireplace damper, and / or light fixtures.

Needless to say, we have a lot of weatherstripping to put up, pipes to warm with foam sealant and cracks to caulk. 


If you would like a free energy audit from HSV Utilities, call the number from the website and ask the operator to connect you with the energy department. They'll be able to help you from there. Good luck! 

Postscript: There tend to be many frustrations with utility companies but I have been incredibly impressed with the immediacy of HSV Util. to solve the problems we've had so far. We owe about 98% of this post to Huntsville Utilities and give them the credit for it. We wouldn't have any of this information if it wasn't for their guidance and service. Thank you, HSV Utilities for going above and beyond.

DIY Todd Nest : Hymnal Banner {Come Thou Fount}

After we took down our Christmas decorations, the front entryway seemed so bland. 

Solution: Banner across the glass block wall (can you tell I'm really embracing it these days?)

I wanted to make a banner that would fill the entire wall so it needed to be a phrase with either three words of similar length or three phrases that could be made into one. 

Micah 6:8 stuck out to me. I could have one banner with "act justly", one with "love mercy" and one with "walk humbly with your God". I got super attached to this idea but it wouldn't work out the way I had planned. 

Next idea. Mama E sent us home with a box of old books and hymnals when we came back from our Christmas visit. "Come Thou Fount" had just about the same number of letters, it's one of our favorite hymns and it was the first hymn in sight when I opened up the book. It's a song of redemption and Christ seeking us out while we were but strangers.

It was the obvious choice. 

My original plan was to feed the hymnal pages through the printer but they looked like this (two examples on the left) when they came out. The color didn't hold well and the printer devoured the top of the page (see the wrinkled ink-blotted top). Instead, I decided to print each letter off on cardstock and trace the letters onto the hymn. Time-consuming, yes. But so worth it.

Supplies:

Hymnal Pages (I used 14 pages since I made a flower for one)

Pencil

Black Marker (or whatever color your heart desires)

Hole Punch

Jute

This is the pen and pencil I used...

I printed two letters to one page since the hymnal page is about half of an 8.5" x 11".

Then I went old school and traced the letter silhouette using a sunlit window.

After you have traced your letters, fill them in with a brush pen or marker.

I like to put a decorative paper on the back for more support and to give the banner a finished design. Hole punch the tops and string jute through. If you use only the hymn, be very gentle in stringing the jute!

The banner is a lovely complement to the three palette frames my dad made us!! I still need to put some photos in them but I'm also kind of okay with them being empty for now. 

I used the actual "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" hymn for the first flag and added a paper flower onto it.

What is your favorite hymn?

The Anniversary : Rose Petals, Flooding & a New Home

We have finally moved into our new house! 

We were planning on staying our first night the weekend after we signed the contract. Unfortunately, I began washing our sheets for the bed and quickly found out that the washing machine drain was clogged.

Yeah.
First day of move-in: The laundry room floods. 
Good thing it has tile flooring down there.

So we called Roto Rooter out to unclog the drain and decided to wait it out a few more days until our anniversary.

Ends up, the first night was more than perfect. Way more perfect than it would have been if we stayed there the originally-planned evening. JD had a few wonderful surprises waiting for me on our screened-in back porch (candles, bouquet of flowers and scattered rose petals surrounding our tiny chairs). 


My sweet husband is so brilliantly romantic that he scattered rose petals on the bedroom floor - on top of bubble wrap so that our floors wouldn't get stained. 

That's love, right there, y'all.

We prepared the popcorn, got cozy in our completely unorganized living room and watched "Up", the first movie we watched together on our first date four years ago. I cry more and more during that movie as each year passes. Only now I don't need 3D glasses to hide my tears. ;)

In the past week, adventures in home ownership have thrown us for a few surprises and left us with several moments of frustration. 

{we'll tell you more about that later}

Yet, we are truly having the time of our lives. After our first shock of an old-house issue (laundry room flood), we laugh about all of the other huge and tiny problems that arise.

It's our house now.

Our home.

No maintenance guys to call or leases to let run out. It's our responsibility - and challenge - to take care of.

And it's awesome. 

For now, we will share at least one small victory from our first week: a freshly mowed lawn. 


Whoop whoop!


House Search Update

It's official. We have found a house!!

We signed the contract for it Monday and are having our home inspection TODAY!

I can't believe how quickly everything is going now that we have found a house we love.

The last few weeks have been uber stressful since our apartment lease is up at the beginning of July but we had to notify the apartment complex 60 days before moving out (beginning of May). Time was running out. We were at the point of either finding a house reallll quick or staying in the apartment for another year.

We looked at eight houses in one day. Not gonna lie, that day transpired from complete excitement to a major headache by the end of the home tour. Only one house blew us away though.

It was an older home, vacant, freshly painted in neutral colors, move-in ready, super amazing accents, a huge master bedroom suite and had a FABULOUS garden. Those were merely the small bonuses though. (Yes, an old home was a bonus for us.)

We're waiting to actually close on the house before we show photos or write much about it, as we're still trying to guard against loving it too much (sometimes things don't go as smoothly as hoped). Granted, I have already designed the "We've Moved" postcards with the new address so I guess we're not guarding our hopes too much.

Whoops!

We are so ready to move into the house and transform it into a home. The Pinterest boards have been filled, revamping lists have been created / prioritized and our minds have been racing with tons of ideas.  But it will all have to wait until the final documents have been signed.

With the crazy and stressful month we've had, I haven't had hardly any time to read about my bloggin' buddies lives. Please know that I miss y'all and can't wait to catch up soon!!

Obviously the next few weeks will be crazy still because of the house goings-on as well as another big adventure we'll be embarking on (we'll discuss later), but no worries. A few of my favorite bloggers will be taking over Jitney's Journeys in our absence to keep y'all entertained and challenged.


Do you have any suggestions for new homeowners / people who are buying their first home? What was your biggest joy and challenge in the process?


Free Printable!! Finding Our First Home with a House Searching Score Sheet


If you follow me on Pinterest, you have probably noticed a lengthy feed of house renovation inspirations. We haven't bought our first home yet but we are looking heavily.

It all started when I was searching on Trulia and Zillow for houses in our price range. We were debating between buying an old house and putting some elbow grease into it or just breaking down and buying a new home (aka: the cookie cutter). 

Everything we looked at in our range looked cheap (granted, our price range is super, super low). It was hard to imagine that we would ever move out of our spacious apartment into a home that we could really call home.

Then my mom sent me an email of one that we fell in love with

Borderline obsession.

It was an older home (1960s) but the family renovated it in such a perfect way. 
Barnwood accent wall.
Butcher block countertops with double oven and green accent cabinets.
Real brick and mortar backsplash.
Bathroom cabinets were made out of repurposed vintage dressers with amazing sinks.
BEAUTIFUL hardwood flooring throughout and true tile (not laminate) in the wet areas.
Awesome backyard and patio.
Lovely full brick exterior with heavy barnwood shutters.
Best of all? They converted the garage into 3/4 of a large sunroom and 1/4 of it as a laundry room.
The sunroom would be my new studio.

AND - we had the exact 20% down payment stashed away. On the dot.

I could picture it all... until we put in our offer and the agent said someone else had offered the full listing price. 

Devastation.

After a number of shed tears, JD gave me the sweetest pep talk. He reminded me that God didn't intend for it to be our first home, but rather our inspiration. We would find an older home and give it the same love and care as that couple did for the home we fell in love with. We could do that too. We just needed to find a home with a nice floor plan, a bedroom that our queen-sized bed could actually fit in (not a whole lot of those in our price range), a couple of bathrooms, a room for my studio, and a great backyard for gardening. 

We pulled our bootstraps up, found a great real estate agent and have been searching ever since.

Houses seem to get a little redundant after you've seen a few, so I decided to make a scoring sheet for each house. If you work with a realtor, she / he will normally give you an MLS sheet on the house. This describes the specifics: square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of rooms, appliances included, etc.

You can write notes on these sheets but I prefer charts and checklists. After looking at a couple of houses, I decided to design the survey below. It's a free printable and we would love for you to use it if you think it would help in your house search too!

Today, we continue in our adventure for buying our first home with clipboard in hand:


Lovely clipboard from the dollar bins at Michael's

How to Use the Printable:
Write the house address at the top. When you're finished looking at houses for the day, rank them in the top right-hand corner. (example: 1/6)

Basically, I created a scale from 1 - 10 for the appearance of the neighborhood, exterior of house, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and backyard. For closet space, I rate it on how much space there is, the appearance of the closet, etc. For elbow grease, I rate it from 1 (being not a whole lot of work needs to be put into it on our part) or 10 (may need to demolish the whole thing and rebuild it from the ground up). There should be enough space between the lines for you to write notes on each topic.

At the bottom, you'll find a Notes box and places to check off if there is a garage and laundry room, as well as the types of flooring in the house (carpet, hardwoods, tile, laminate).

Most importantly, the question of if you can make it a home... 
Yes, you can make any house a home
but think about if it's worth it.
Is it worth investing into?
Does it have charm / character or can you add that yourself?

**If you choose to share this free printable on your blog or website, please give credit where credit is due and link it back to our blog, Jitney's Journeys. 


Right-click, save image, then print. May be printed on a 5" x 8" index card.

We hope this helps in your search of a home! 

Don't forget to check out our other printables in our Etsy shop here.








Etsy Product Release!! "Home Is the Nest You Build" Series


We are super excited to announce a few of our new products that arrived in our Etsy shop yesterday!!

These products were created by the one and only Mama E. We have entitled this series: 
Home Is the Nest You Build


"Our Flourishing Home"
We pondered over this piece for quite sometime. Then, all of the sudden, it just came together. A flourishing home is difficult to build, but wonderfully satisfying to attain. 



"Our Wild Nest"
Home is the nest you build for your family... And it just so happens that our nest is a WILD one!! Isn't family more enjoyable that way? If your home is filled with an overwhelming amount of laughter and joy, this may just be the perfect piece for you to place in your home. Take pride in that Wild Nest of yours!


...And my personal favorite... 


"Our Sweet Nest"
Since we've had a place to call our own as a married couple, we have always called our home, "Our Sweet Nest" in the same way I call JD, "My Sweet Husband". The word "sweet" just fits our lifestyle to a tee. I'll be honest, this is a tough piece for me to let go of. If you're an avid reader of our blog, you know that birds and nests have a lot of symbolism in our marriage. But, I am willing to let this piece go as long as someone will cherish it as much as we do. :)


Hope to see you in our Etsy shop!!
More products to come throughout the next few weeks!