The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mr. Blue vs. The Devil Queen

It seems too good to be true. I want to believe it, but it just doesn’t seem possible.

Yesterday, we received our first electric bill for the Devil Queen since we moved. We’ve feared this moment of truth for weeks now.

To our shock, the Devil Queen cost us about 18% less for our first month of habitation than Mr. Blue (our old home turned rental) did this same time last year.

While this is great, I don’t think that it is really representational of what a normal energy bill for June-July will be. First, we didn’t live in the Devil Queen for the first week or so of the billing period. The first few days we were there we only had one hot water heater, a fan, and lighting. As the month dragged on, we gradually turned on more appliances. Little things like our 5 ton AC unit, the second water heater, a refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher.

I’m pretty sure that next month our energy bill will be noticeably higher. I’m guess that it will be 5-15% higher than our energy bill for Mr. Blue this time last year. That is still pretty mind-blowing. Ever the pessimists, we were anticipating a 100-150% increase from Mr. Blue’s usual rate. I mean, everyone is always carrying on about how hard it must be to heat and cool and old house. There must be some truth to that, right? I’m not so sure myself. Here is comparison of the two houses:

Mr. Blue

1050 +/- square feet
8 foot ceilings
50 gallon standard water heater (approximately 10 years old)
electric stove (new)
refrigerator (25 years old)
washer & dryer (7 years old)
dishwasher (new)
1 window unit AC (new)
piss poor insulation
double pane vinyl windows
ceiling fans (4 total)

The Devil Queen

1850 square feet
12 foot ceilings
2 tankless water heaters (new)
electric stove (new)
refrigerator (20+ years old)
NO washer or dryer yet
dishwasher (new)
5 ton AC unit
insulation (new)
single pane, double hung wood windows
two ceiling fans (to date)

Here are few other factors to consider. The Devil Queen has 19 windows and 4 exterior doors. The doors and windows are all wood with single pane glass. There is no weather stripping at the moment and the storm windows have been removed for maintenance. Most of the windows’ have had their interior casings/trim removed for maintenance too. Mr. Blue has 4 windows, one sliding glass door, and a metal/glass front door with a full storm door.

You’d think the Devil Queen would be hemorrhaging money for the AC alone, but that hasn’t been a problem so far. I have a growing suspicion that old homes have a reputation for being horrendously energy inefficient because of two reasons: 1) the utter lack of adequate insulation (particularly the walls) in most of them and 2) old, inefficient appliances. There are no shortage of people bemoaning their drafty windows (myself included), but I think good insulation is the real key to it.


Blogger amanda said...

I should show that to my dad, who cannot fathom why I won't replace my old drafty windows. It looks like insulating the attic would be money better spent! For now, we just sweat in the summer and bundle up in the winter. I'm glad that you've been pleasantly surprised with the energy company thus far!

11:58 AM  
Anonymous mindy said...

I agree! Our heating bills are outrageous, but I'm 100% sure it's the lack of insulation. The PO's put in vinyl windows (ugly as can be, by the way) but I have to think the $ would have been better spent insulating the walls and attic. On windy winter days, we can actually feel a light breeze blowing through the walls! That's a much bigger area for heat loss than a few gaps around old windows.

Now that our rewiring is mostly done, we'll be able to insulate before the winter. I'm interested to see how drastically our bill changes.

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