The Cool House: heating
Showing posts with label heating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heating. Show all posts

Monday, November 03, 2014

Spucing Up

Hard to believe that it's been almost a year since I last posted anything on this blog. It's not that we haven't been tending to The Cool House rather that social media has changed a lot about the way I document my life and that goes for the house too.  I'm more likely to take a thousand word snap of something we've done and post it right there to Facebook or twitter. One click and I've saved all that tedious typing. You could say instagram killed this blog.

But it would be unfair to ask you to search through all the hundreds of photos of sunsets and kittens to find one that shows the renovated pool, or the color we ended up with in the sitting room after several, expensive redoes.  So, here, in no particular order, are the projects we undertook in the first ten months of 2014.

Pool renovation: all the pipes, skimmers and reruns were replaced. This job entailed digging up and replacing half the brick patio but it mbas meant no more leaks. Also the pool light works again and we have a new, quieter energy saving pump. The pool housing is screened off with a nicer replacement for the termite eaten fence and next Spring a gas heater will be installed.

We lost a couple of trees and big rhododendrons to last year's severe winter, which Neal the Landscaper said was an opportunity, especially as the pool guys had to rip through the shrubbery to lay new pipes so hey presto one May weekend we got a new awesome shrubbery. well, almost new, The Guy insisted on keeping a dog wood because it looks spectacular from the master window for one week in May. It will probably come crashing down this winter!

The kitchen patio, front path and steps were re-grouted and broken bluestone slabs were replaced. We also installed four Marvin windows in the den, downstairs bath and basement where the rot or weather had damaged them beyond repair.

While all that was going on we started the BIG PAINT JOB, which kept getting bigger as we progressed form room to room. I'd taken three months to narrow down the fifty odd shades of gray and gold to half a dozen. We used Benjamin Moore Aura paint on all the walls and baseboards, which has no off gases and dries to a tough knock resist finish; the painters replaced moldings as needed. Eventually after much trial and error, we chose Collingwood for the kitchen and second and fourth bedrooms, Moonshine for the great room, stairs, hall and balcony and one bath, Camouflage for the third bedroom & the den. My office ended up Golden Tan, the third bedroom Buena Vista Gold, the laundry Metropolitan and we matched the original dusky pink tiles in the downstairs bath to Peau de Soie. The painters took advantage of the cool, dry summer and stained the house Mission Brown, with doors in Marvin Bronze to match the windows.

Last but certainly most significantly, we converted from oil to gas. This was prompted when our oil guy telling us he couldn't keep the monster burner going much longer coincided with an oil bill that cost more than our first new car. I won't bore you with the details of the 6 month saga of no heat or no hot water, repairs, work-arounds and crossing our fingers it took to get us to October 8 when National Grid finally turned the gas on. It's also not the prettiest project, and it took one guy an entire 8AM-4PM day to get the monster out of the basement but it did finally get done. We worried about an ugly gas meter outside our beautiful house but we managed to hide it behind an estate rhododendron. Can you see it in the photo above? No? Neither can anyone else! More importantly we can take showers without screaming and the air coming out of the vents is toasty so it's probably the project that impacts our comfort level the most.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Draught free

I had to ask the help of the twitterverse and facebook so I could write this quick post. Thanks Jenni for the correct answer and Heidi for making me spill my drink.
Yesterday while I was screwing up the last socket plate in the mud room/back hall I noticed a howling draught coming from under the garage door. Since the hardwood was installed and a new bullnose on the garage steps there has been a small gap that we hadn't noticed until now. Apart from the draught I didn't want our energy bills to increase so we needed to find a solution pronto. That's when I realised that "draught excluder" is British English and the locals had no idea what I needed. I was offered weather stripping that goes around windows and even a stuffed dachsund. It was also suggested I roll up a towel and stuff that in front of the door - great for when the door is closed, not so good when I've left in the car and there's no one to put it back in place after me!
Anyhow, after weighing up the options I had a Eureka moment and remembered I'd seen a metal strip with rubber attached in the back of the book closet and I wondered if we could screw it to the underside of the door rather than the bottom as a "draft stop". The answer was we could and, even better, it fitted perfectly. Hey presto, no more draught - in the nick of time for this morning's hail/sleet/snow/howling wind weather extravaganza. I have since learnt this strip is called a door sweep, I call it magic.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thermal Imaging Maps

This is the last hot day of the mini heatwave and, I thought, an appropriate time to post this neat interactive imaging map of heat loss from buildings in Brussels.

Search by locality and street to see how much energy literally disappears into thin air. The map allows residents to see how efficient (or not) a building is and links within the site (French or Dutch only) suggest improvements such as insulating the attic or turning down the thermostat; a separate section directs home owners to grants that help offset the costs of making the building more economic to heat and more environmentally friendly.
This type of mapping was also undertaken a couple of years ago in the UK but I haven't seen a similar US thermal map. I'd be very interested to see how much we are heating the neighborhood on a cold December night. What do you think: An invasion of privacy or a useful tool to fight climate change?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's tropical

Inside the Cool House, that is. I'm sitting here in my bikini, sipping on a cocktail, skin glowing from the heat of the sun's rays. The strange thing is that outside it's a very chilly 38 F.
We knew there was a problem at 4:00 AM when we awoke to Hermes coughing up a hairball and found the temperature difference between our bedroom and downstairs was at least 10 degrees. Turning down the thermostat was no help, so we switched off the heat to the first floor. Gradually the temperature fell but it's still jolly pleasant here.
I don't know how much extra fuel oil we have used but I guess it was cheaper than a Caribbean vacation? And I jest about the cocktails. 4:00 Am was a little early to start drinking, even for me.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Oil Crisis

Shock, disbelief, wailing and gnashing of teeth. That pretty much describes yesterday when the oil company filled my tank. Oh, I knew it was coming. When we moved here in 2004 home heating oil cost $1:35 a gallon and it was predicted it would be over $3 way back last summer. So I had plenty of time to do the math, scream and enter the comfort of denial land. It hasn't helped that our bills have been pretty consistent over the years. Fuel prices went up but we became more economical and installed programmable thermostats, turned the temperature down and shut doors. We also replaced all those single pane windows, so we used less oil. Obviously this trade off had to stop sometime and that would be 01/07/08 when the price per gallon was $3:11. The bill was humongous. A whacking, walloping whole heap of cash is required to pay it.
Faced with the fact that there isn't much room for more energy efficiency, absent a new boiler or a change to gas, what to do? We could just do without heat or hot water, though that's not the way I'd choose to go. It might be 65 F here later today but I'm pretty sure we will need to put the heating on again this winter.
I'm thinking we might have to sell something. A cat, or a kidney or maybe that fabulous credenza.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not that I'm cheap

But it's been so mild this October, and I had to run the air conditioning at the start of the month (that nearly killed me), that I'm trying to get into November before we put the heating on. It hasn't been a problem until today when the temperature inside dropped to 64F. The weather is set to get warmer again on Halloween so I'm just going to tough it out. After all, we didn't have central heating when we were kids and we survived. And it's environmentally friendly. Right?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Our environmental impact

Today is Blog Action Day, the day when bloggers worldwide blog on a single topic and this year it's the environment.
We're still trying to do our part to save the planet but I have to say that since we moved from Europe I feel that we've become a lot less environmentally conscious.
For example, in Belgium we sorted all our garbage. We had to as the law changed to mandate it. We were forced to buy separate garbage sacks for household rubbish, bottles, cans and cartons, paper and vegetable matter. Everyone grumbled because the sacks weren't cheap and the price varied from commune to commune but there were fines for non-compliance and eventually people got with the programme.
When we moved to the US in 2000 we attempted to keep up this regime but there was no separate collection and thus no incentive to sort. Then when we moved to this house in a different district we found that we could recycle our bottles and cans (but not cartons) one week and our paper the next. We can also put out bundles of twigs and grass clippings but not kitchen compost. So we sort of recycle. But the garden waste goes into the same truck as the ordinary household waste so I guess even if we sort, the garbage collection guys don't. Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose?
We have replaced all the outdoor lights and most of the indoor bulbs with the compact fluorescents but once again in Europe we would have done all of them by now because they are more readily available and we know everyone else does it.
Further than that I can say that today I'm running neither the air conditioning system nor the heating, which has to be good news both for my wallet and the environment but that's a matter of climate and not a conscious decision on my part. When we do run these system I keep the airco at 78F and heat at 65F. We strip off in summer and wear layers in winter.
Outside we don't do too well either. We have a pool, although we don't heat it and a sprinkler system that uses a lot of water, although I do use a landscaping firm that has "Environmental" in its name and the tree spraying firm I employ only uses environmentally friendly products (hot oil). That's still a big environmental impact.
On the renovation front we try to be as green as possible - bamboo floors and silestone for example, and re-purposing the previous owners' furniture but I'd like to do a lot more, including solar panels. But we have a long way to go to renovate in a truly sustainable manner.
I also try to ensure that all the products and furnishings we use are made in factories that comply with International Labour Standards.
The sad truth is when we were forced by the government to do our part, we did it, and while I like to think we are environmentally aware we are not coming close to do all the things we could do to ensure that we are impacting the environment in a positive way.