Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dampers and Energy Efficiency

Since moving in three months ago Jenny has been complaining about how it's hotter upstairs than down. With a single zone HVAC system I figured this would be the case at least to some extent and the reverse in winter since after all hot air rises and cool air sinks. About a month ago I was talking to my neighbors and they mentioned that it was possible to adjust dampers in the attic to change the amount of air flowing to each floor. This was news to us as it had never been mentioned by anyone. (And definitely not at the final walkthrough/orientation like I would have expected.) I went up in the attic a few times looking but never could figure out how to make the adjustment.

I saw our project manager outside last week and asked him about it. He explained in more detail what I was looking for and once more I went up in the attic. I found what I thought was it but still couldn't figure out how to make the adjustment. (I also didn't want to do it wrong and screw it up either.) I ended up calling the service line Thursday and they in turn put in me in contact with a local HVAC contractor that sent a technician out Friday afternoon.

Essentially the damper is a lever secured by a wing nut on the main air ducts running from the air handler. (Two for upstairs and one for down.) Along with showing me how to make the adjustment the tech also labeled everything for future reference. In the summer the downstairs damper needs to be halfway closed and the two upstairs need to be wide open. In the winter it needs to be the exact opposite. He also discovered that the rear upstairs damper was closed which was definitely not helping our situation.

Instructions left on the air handler for future reference.

The lever that opens and closers one of the dampers.

On the topic of the air conditioning I continue to be very impressed by how energy efficient our house is. Ryan Homes really pushes this fact in their sales materials and what I've experienced so far has proved it. Our old house was a mid-1950's brick rancher that definitely was no where near as sealed up as the new house. On days when the temperature hit the upper 90's or over 100 the air conditioning would routinely run all day and never quite reach the 76 or sometimes 78 that we set it for. At our new house we've had the thermostat set at 74 and with similar temperatures the A/C cuts shuts off throughout the day. Even with the lower setting and a 30% larger house our electric bill has so far been roughly the same or slightly lower than it used to be at the old house. I'm curious now to see what happens this winter with our heat especially with it running on gas now. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Odds and Ends

-I changed the name of the blog from "Build" to "Built" recently since the house is no longer under construction.

-The No Solicitation sign I mentioned in the last post appears to have worked for the most part. We went from receiving multiple door-to-door marketers a week to none for the first three weeks after it was posted. (And I saw several of them roaming the neighborhood during that time. I finally got a chance on Tuesday of this week to mock two of them for willful stupidity in ignoring the sign however. Somehow I'm guessing neither of the violators expected the response I gave them when I opened the door.

-Two weeks ago I finally got around to cleaning up and organizing our garage. I've been kind of embarrassed to open the door lest the neighbors think we belong on an episode of Hoarders. At our house we had a shed in addition to the garage so a lot of the stuff in there like the lawnmower and yard tools normally wouldn't even be in there. Hopefully sometime in another month or two we'll have a shed. There's also quite a bit of stuff in there I still need to sell, donate, or otherwise get rid of and I've really been lazy about taking care of it.

-I probably still wouldn't have gotten around to organizing it except that since old house finally sold I needed to move my Beetle project over to the new house. Since the engine caught fire in 2004 I've been very slowly restoring my first car, a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. (Link to the restoration site I set up for it.) Moving it also required a truck and large trailer, neither of which I have easy access to so it required making arrangements for that as well. But with the help of my brothers and a friend we got it safely moved along with my other work bench and a few parts. Getting around in there requires a bit of effort at the moment to not trip and fall over anything.

-A contractor for Comcast came through our section of the neighborhood at the beginning of the month running cabling and installing pedestal boxes. I only had a few small holes in my yard but in other yards, particularly the corner lots they dug huge holes and did a poor job putting the sod back. I was also disgusted by how the crew threw cigarette butts in my yard and in the street. They also didn't dig deep enough under the driveway of one of my neighbors causing it to buckle.

-Having never had an irrigation system before we were surprised by the amount of water it uses. I've had to dial it back from twice to once a day and shorten how long each cycle lasts to avoid using so much. I guess it will take a bit of experimentation to see how much we really need to water to keep the yard in good shape. It would also help if we could just get some more rain. I think eventually I'm going to add a rain barrel or two to the downspouts in the back to save water as well.

-Construction finally started on one of the two empty lots to the right of our house. I've been taking a picture from the same spot in our bedroom window every afternoon hoping to do a time lapse once the house is finished. I also spoke with the project manager earlier this week and he told me construction on the other vacant lot directly next to us where the concrete washout and a storage container currently sits should begin in a few weeks. They're the last lots on our side of the neighborhood so I'm looking forward to them being done and finally having neighbors on the other side of the house in a few weeks.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Farewell Old Friend

The sale of our old house finally closed Friday evening. As glad as we are to be in our new house and be done with the old (including the paying of two mortgages for the past three months) we're also a bit sad to see it go. It was our first house and home for 7 years, 6 months, and 27 days. We have a lot of memories in that house and walking through it for the final time last weekend we paused in each room to reminisce a bit. I also remarked to her about how small it seemed compared to our new house and how I wasn't sure how we had lived there for so long.

When we bought it we had just had our first son earlier in the year and were looking for a place to call our own. Jenny also wanted a decent kitchen and I wanted a garage/workshop. After looking at a number of houses we came across this one on Stevie Road. Three bedroom, one bath brick rancher on a large corner lot with a shed and garage/workshop and a fenced in yard. It was exactly what we were looking for.

We watched our older son grow up in that house. His first Halloween, first Christmas, first birthday, all celebrated there. I proposed to my wife on our second Christmas there. (Seeing as we already had a child and a house I'm not sure what she could have said aside from yes on that one.) Our first spring in the house we planted this little twig of a tree in the front yard the survival of which I was highly skeptical. The following Christmas I put lights on it and deemed it the Charlie Brown tree. As of last Sunday it's got to be at least 30 feet tall with a trunk diameter many times the size of the sapling planted. (I even enlarged the border around it last year due to the roots spreading.) Somewhere up top there's still a string of lights that I put up one year and was never able to get back down.

If there was a low point it was probably following Hurricane Irene in August 2011 when we lost power for eight days. We ended up going to my in-laws house most nights for hot food, showers, do laundry, and just to stay sane. It was miserably hot and humid for most of that week and was an experience I have no desire to go through ever again. It didn't take much to lose power in that house. Twice we had squirrels fry themselves on the transformer out back knocking it out for a few hours each time. ("They like to run around up there," said my neighbor once as we watched the Dominion Power lineman fix it. "This one won't be anymore," replied the lineman as he flung the crispy critter into the neighbor's yard.)

There are definitely things I won't miss. Yard work was a beast. I ended up buying a riding mower for the lawn but between two sidewalks, the fence, and other various edges it took me almost as long to run the weedwacker (something I hate with a passion) as it did to mow the lawn. On our new house with a smaller yard it takes me about a third of the time to do everything. I also won't miss the maintenance that comes along with having an older house. (It was built in 1955.) It seems like there was always something that needed fixing or adjusting. I managed to accumulate a nice collection of power tools over the years at least. We also spent a substantial amount of money over the years replacing the HVAC, most of the roof, gutters, and updating the septic system among other things. We also did extensive landscaping and left it in far better shape than it was when we bought it.

Through it all though it was a good, solid house that served our needs well for the years we were there. We will definitely miss it.

I also want to take a moment to thank our real estate agent Linda Earnhardt of Long and Foster in Richmond. We used her for the purchase and sale of this house and building/buying our new house. I couldn't ask for a better, more responsive agent who did a lot more work behind the scenes than I think Jenny and I realized. Any time I had a question or issue with anything she was quick to return my calls or texts. We also appreciate her constant presence from the beginning in dealing with Ryan and felt confident in knowing we had someone looking out for our best interests. While I have no desire to go through this process again anytime soon Linda helped it go as smooth as possible for us and for that we are very thankful.