Tuesday, April 27, 2010


A few years ago we subscribed to Natural Home Magazine.  Their subscription page states that they give, “...an up-to-date outlook on current trends in sustainable building and wholesome living. Natural Home gives today’s eco-conscious homeowners the information they need to live in nurturing, healthy homes.” It sounds pretty new-agey, but the magazine really does have some good information. In fact, my only complaint rests with the homes they often feature. These are typically 4,500 square foot plus homes with green denim insulation or inspired landscaping. To us, it seems like most of the homes are structures that require the homeowner to have vaults full of money that enable them to build a “sustainable and wholesome” home.

Scott and I don’t have money like that. We feel like regular folks who hope to live in a home that allows us to exist in harmony with our planet. Yes, we’ve got our own eco-slant, but we really would like to build our house using local resources, work with folks who will be our neighbors and, when we are finally moved in, have completed a project that didn’t violate our commitment to taking care of Mother Earth.

Budget plays a large role in our decisions. I’ve been keeping track of our expenses in several spreadsheets: garage construction, house construction, site preparation and landscaping, things we would have bought anyway and tools. (It’s astounding how much money goes into tools!)

After receiving bids for windows, a roof and the garage, we noticed everything seemed to come in increments of $30,000. When I mentioned this to my dad, he chuckled and said he and Mom had observed  a similar phenomenon when they built their house in the early 1980’s except they worked in $10,000 increments. That’s inflation for you.

The $30,000 plumbing bid really came as a shock to me even though it included all of the plumbing for the house, our radiant heat flooring and the solar thermal hot water system. Still, with bills like that, how would be ever be able to build a house for under $250,000? Maybe the good news we were soon to receive would help.

One day after Phillip delivered that staggering plumbing bid, Larry Wilkins of Tempcast, sent us information about an income tax credit offered through the state of Utah for renewable energy systems. The investment tax credit for residential systems offers a 25 percent credit for qualifying equipment and installation costs up to a maximum of $2,000. The design of our house includes technologies that qualify for this tax credit, so Scott immediately filled out the application and sent it off.

The site entitled Incentives / Policies for Renewables and Efficiency also proved to be very useful as did this Financial Incentives site. If we receive all of the state and federal grants and tax credits we've just applied for, our $30,000 plumbing system will become a $23,000 plumbing system. Hooray for rebates!