House maintenance update . . .

There are a few people reading this who probably remember earlier blogs where I described the house we live in and what challenges we deal with in trying to “go green” with it.  However, since I get about a new subscriber every week, I’ll do a brief recap.

First, our house was built in 1930.  It is solid brick – by which I mean that the exterior is brick, the interior is brick, and the only wood is the floor, roof, and interior paneling.  There is no insulation or dry wall.  The electrical outlets are almost entirely built into the floor, like they were an added afterthought – quite likely since indoor electricity and plumbing weren’t particularly common in 1930.  The house inspection listed our water heater as “approximately 18 years old” – and the HVAC system was installed in 1973.

So, one of our focus points on investing in our house has been looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency.  We’ve replaced about half of the windows with energy-efficient double-pane vinyl windows – with good results.  Every window we replace shows an almost immediate reduction in our utility fuel use.  We have also planted nearly a dozen trees around the east and south borders of our home, to eventually provide shade in the summer.

But, one of the things we’ve been keeping an eye on was that hot water heater.  Knowing that the average water heater lasts around 10 years, ours was nearly 2x expectancy when we bought the house.  So, we started a special savings account just for putting aside money against the day it would fail.  That day arrived – today.  I first suspected a problem when I went to make coffee at 0300 (3AM for those who don’t work with international time) and it seemed to take a very long time for the water to warm up at the kitchen sink.  Later, when my wife got up and started getting ready for work, she couldn’t get any hot water for her shower.  She tried 3 different water faucets with no hot water, and pronounced a state of emergency.  So, I called our plumber at 0800.  After I described the situation, he said that it did indeed sound like the unit had finally failed, and told me that he’d stop at the store on the way over to get a new one.  He’d be here within an hour.

He left here, job completed and all trash cleaned up, at 1030.  He didn’t even give me a bill – saying, “We’ll mail it to you.”

Then, completing the cycle of spending this year’s income tax refunds, we had our electrician come over to give us an estimate on upgrading our outside security light.  The one we currently have uses mercury-vapor bulbs, which (besides being an incredibly BAD idea for the environment) drink electricity like a drunk goes through beer.  We’re going to have him replace the fixture the mercury-vapor bulbs go in with one that uses standard light bulbs – which would be an energy savings in itself.  But we’re not going to use standard bulbs, which would still use about 200 watts.  We’re going to put in an LED bulb, which will use about 40 watts for the same amount of light we get right now.  He thinks he can get this job done within the next week.  His fee?  $35 plus parts.

The future of portable energy?

The following link is to a BBC News Online article about how certain microbes can consume almost anything, and their “waste” output is electricity.  Of course, if there will ever be a battery made using this technology, it is not going to happen within the next 5 years.  Still, it’s something to think about.

 

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160613-there-are-microbes-that-eat-and-poo-nothing-but-electricity

Window progress…

We finally got the guy out here (Thursday, after two appointments that he no-showed without calling us) to measure the windows we wanted to try to get on this round.  We had him measure four windows, two on the north side and two on the south side.  If we got them all replaced, it would set us up for some nice straight-through ventilation on mild days.

Yesterday, Home Depot called and said they were ready to talk to us about choosing the windows we want.  We went out there in the early afternoon, and after looking at the options we chose the Anderson Low-E windows, and were able to afford three of them on this order.  We’ll still get the ventilation, because two of the replacements are going on the north side, and we already had two windows replaced on the south side.  This is huge progress – to the tune of $1,340 USD.

Oh, and another thing.  Window World took 6-8 weeks (that was the official estimate – the last window we got from them was ordered in early October and wasn’t installed until the end of January) to prepare a window for installation.  Home Depot is getting our Anderson windows in about half the time – 3-5 weeks.

Another window update…

After the frustration of not reaching the nearest office for over 3 months, calling the office in KC, KS, and getting passed up to the regional sales manager, I still couldn’t place my order.  The company I’ve been so frustrated by is Window World.  If possible, I’m not going to do business with them ever again.

After talking with the regional sales manager for Window World, I called the local Home Depot.  I called them because I remembered getting a flyer in the mail a few weeks ago touting their replacement window business.

It only took about 4 minutes for me to be talking one-on-one with the local sales manager in their replacement windows/doors department.  I described our situation and told him what the replacement windows we’ve already installed look like, and he was confident that he could replicate the windows with high-quality facsimiles from 2-3 different companies he orders windows through.  According to the website, one of those companies is a subsidiary of the Anderson windows company.

Someone should be arriving within a week to measure our next replacements.  We’re confident of getting at least 3 windows with this order, but that could be 5 or 6 depending on the price differences.

This is why . . .

Nearly 2 months ago, I started trying to place an order to get more of our windows replaced.  The overall goal is improved energy efficiency, but a sub-goal of that is being able to open them in nice weather.  There were only a few windows in the whole house that could be opened when we bought our home.

The last week has been of such a fair weather that, if we’d had even one window on the north side of the house that we could open, we wouldn’t have needed to run the heater or air conditioning the whole week.  Instead, afternoon high temps have driven the internal house temperatures into the uncomfortable zone and forced us to activate the air conditioning system.  Yes, I am calling the window people again today to see about getting that order placed – I want those windows in before we have the same type of weather this fall.  We’re ready, once again, to order 4 windows for certain, and if they keep dragging their heels on reopening the local office, we’re going to soon be ready for 5.  That’s 1/3rd of our remaining windows all at one time.

New window today . . .

I got a phone call yesterday afternoon, and the people installing our newest replacement window will arrive this afternoon to do that.  It may happen as early as 1pm (1300 hrs).  This brings us to 2 replaced,  11 upstairs windows left to go.  We’re considering spacing them out a bit more, and ordering 2 at a time in the future, so each visit makes more of a difference for us, and they don’t have to drive as much.  Well, it’s something to think on.