News flash: Big houses cost more to maintain

In 2005, we learned that big houses cost more to heat. In 2006, we learned that big houses cost more to cool.

But then the research into big houses seems to have stalled.

No worries. The research journal The Wall Street Journal recently released a paper concluding that big houses cost more to maintain.

Comments (21)
  1. John Ludlow says:

    In other news: Big houses are larger than small ones.

  2. I had no idea.  lol

  3. Bill P. Godfrey says:

    Big houses cost more… than what? Elephants? Even bigger houses?

  4. Brian_EE says:

    These seem like obvious statements, including the articles from the two previous blog posts in '05 and '06. However, to be fair, the scientific method says you test that hypothesis.

    Q. How many times has an "obvious" statement/assumption been proven wrong when the theory is actually tested/analyzed with real experiments and data?

    A. I don't know, but I do know it is not a null set.

  5. Vitor Canova says:

    I had missed completed the joke.

    My "mind" made me believe that I read "Litle houses cost more to maintain" because in the other way is completely insane make a article about that.

    I completely agree with @John Ludlow. It probably will be the next article.

  6. Nawak says:

    The houses in the article are not big, they're GIGANTIC. I can't imagine their maintenance cost are a surprise to anyone!

  7. SimonRev says:

    I think the real question, as a bunch of computer nerds here is:  Is the cost of Maintenence O(N) where N is the living area (e.g. sq ft or m^2)?  Or does the cost rise faster than the living area?  

  8. Gabe says:

    The article says to "have at least one daily housekeeper on staff for every 5,000 square feet of living space". Doesn't everybody know that?

    [Like duh! -Raymond]
  9. Joshua says:

    @Gabe: Try having 40 acres of living space. I find it mostly maintains itself.

  10. Kevin Eshbach says:

    I have always said the bigger the home the more it costs to maintain and people told me I was crazy or jealous.

  11. Joe says:

    I was raised in a 3500 square foot house with about 1/2 acre of land. It was built with radiator zone heating. My dad kept adding closing doors throughout the house to keep the heating bills down. By then time us kids left home and my dad retired, they were using about a quarter of the house. My parents sold it and bought something a third the size in another state.

    And the houses from the article ARE silly huge.

  12. j b says:

    I am right now planning to extend my house to make it cheaper to heat… I will be building a winter garden, a glass wall, about ten feet out from the walls of my house, to serve partially as a greenhouse to grow vegetables and herbs ready two to three weeks earlier than otherwise possible, partially to invite people to (semi)garden parties even when weather forcasts are bad, and partially to build a swimming pool that can be used from April to October at no additional heating costs. Most of all: When it is -30°C (or -22°F for you non-metric guys) outside, ten feet of air cushion has a significant effect on the heat loss!

    (Actually, cooling could be a problem, even up here at 63° north, so I am planning for goood summer ventilation. I have heard rumours that the heat pumps people around here buy can serve as coolers as well, but I haven't ever heard of anyone around here who has had that need…)

  13. NT says:

    Obviously, the next step in the progression should be the shocking revelation that big houses cost more to buy.

  14. waleri says:

    Now all those researchs should be repeated, but this time analyzing price per square feet…

  15. ioctlLR says:

    @SimonRev, @NT: Anecdotally, it's not linear per square foot.  That makes sense when you think about it: Bigger houses have more stuff to maintain, and more thermal mass to heat & cool.  Even given the same efficiency ratings and construction techniques, it just costs more per s.f. to operate a larger structure.  There are some "clever" tricks that can be applied to larger structures to reduce operating costs, but all of them increase construction costs enough to offset the reductions (assuming a typical 30yr mortgage).

    All that said, there's no substitute for looking for the highest efficiency you can afford while keeping the s.f. to a minimum for your needs.

  16. Evan says:

    @ioctlLR: "Anecdotally, it's not linear per square foot.  That makes sense when you think about it: Bigger houses have more stuff to maintain, and more thermal mass to heat & cool."

    But what *doesn't* necessarily make sense is that they have "more-enough" more stuff to cause an increase in per-area costs. My guess would actually be opposite: *sub*linear, or at least sort of stepwise. For example, even a smaller house needs a water heater, but for a while as you increase the house size the most you'll need to do is increase the size of the water heater — and I suspect the maintenance costs of the larger heater scale up less than linearly. Same with furnace or A/C. And then you get into things like a 3-story house is probably more thermally-efficient and definitely more area-of-roof-efficient than a one- or two-story house.

  17. Pseudo-Anonymous says:

    Do bigger houses cost more to build?

  18. hacksoncode says:

    So, honestly, what I want to know is whether big houses cost more to maintain *per square foot*. I don't think either conclusion about this is "obvious". Even if all else were equal, it's hard to compare, because people with bigger houses value their time more highly. At some point the imputed cost to doing the maintenance yourself at whatever your marginal pay rate is (in this case, how much more you could make by working longer hours) gives way to having someone more poorly paid take care of it.

    By that measure, simply having a *more expensive* house is probably a pretty good indicator that it's more expensive to maintain, regardless of size.

  19. Smeargle235 says:

    @Bill P. Godfrey

    To parse a comparative with no context only one noun phrase which contains an adjective, assume the omitted other phrase is the noun phrase with the adjective inverted. "Big houses cost more to cool (than non-big houses do)"

  20. Anonymous Coward says:

    The first link is to… and the second link is to…/oldnewthing…. Does the extra /b make a difference?

  21. zzz says:

    I've read some experts warning that using those pumps meant to heat up house to cool it up during summer may cause things I cannot properly explain but are lead to believe (depending on temp differentials, how the house was build) could cause, in some perhaps rare circumstances, for dew point to be such that condensation could occur within eg. insulation etc.

    I had some personal experience of something like that occurring when the air con was momentarily too low during winter while there was moisture in air – I have a collection of big box PC games and all the cardboard stuff in the house after that event seem like its suffered some sort of moisture damage that you can tell in the way the cardboard has taken slightly round shape.

    So I don't know what I'm talking about but if you do plan to cool a house with a heat pump, probably best to see if your insurance covers should any structural damage happen…

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