Sunday, January 24, 2010


Lately we have been busy setteling up accounts. One of the first trades we actually farmed out was sheet rock or in other words drywall. For some reason I thought it may be easier to hire out the work. It would take me a long time to do it ourselves , especially with me doing all of the lifting, taping, mudding, sanding etc. besides holding a full time job. So we hired two locals hoping to keep the work in our community adding to our sustainable efforts by supporting our local economy. Sometimes the best laid plans are just that!

These guys started out witout clear intententions except to make some money. They quoted a fair price and set some expectations regarding quality. They ended up making little because it was all about their expectations without having a clear plan in place and without understanding the skills they actually shared. An example is that one of them was good at finishining work and the other was only capable. Lucky for them the work turned out well because that was their saving grace. I can only say that we were glad that we had a firm a quotation and were not dependent on an hourly rate. It is difficult around here to get trades to give a firm bid. Now we understand why.

Monday, January 18, 2010

White Knight

Whew. . .the painting is almost finished and it is bright, white and finally almost "finished" looking in the house. Sensei wears a white painting "suit" and a white hat and with the paint drips he is truly a white knight!! (Aside from his Herculean efforts to manage the house while beginning a new semester and working at the college from 7 am to 7 pm all last week, he is always a brave warrior on the house front!!)

MLK day off and time to finish the rest of the priming. Last check on drywall this week (we hope) and it's on to floors and trim.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Insulation does work

The insulation is amazing!! It keeps the house at 55-60 degrees even in cold weather. We have pictures (I know, promises, promises.) and will post them, honest, some day. We're almost finished with the drywall (a long, involved dusty process) and we'll be able to reclaim the house to tweak small items while we recover a little financially.
The mechanical system was working brilliantly for the 3 days we had it on before the heavy sanding started. Since it's supposed to be single digits here (as bizarre as the 13"+ snowstorm before Christmas), we might turn it on this week and deal with the dust later. Yikes. . .
Sensei will provide more details about our fabulous mechanicals soon along with pictures.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Preparing for Winter

It's been a while since either of us has had time to discuss the flurry of activity that we are currently involved in. In fact, Sensei has been working for 19 days straight on the house to manage the plumbing and electrical issues so that the insulation could be installed. (pictures of that later). It went in on October 14th and the last big push for a while is the HVAC.
Lots of research on the most energy efficient unit and the appropriate size for our 2400 square feet on 2 floors. We have utilized every square inch to its fullest and Sensei's research on bringing in fresh air AND filtering the air has paid off with a wonderful set of units that will help the environment while keeping us comfy.
Time to slow down and give thanx for all that we've accomplished!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Some green perspectives

I found this link and thought I would pass it on.

It has lots of info and places to look. More later on that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shady Respite

Stopping by the renovation to empty the dehumidfier (it really helps keep the house from sweating!!), while helping Sensei as he recuperates, has meant a lot less time spent at the project site. I share much of the water that collects with the plants since they are newly rooting and the rain has been sporadic. The really hot weather we had for a spell was great for their chlorophyll but not so good for their flowers and leaves, so I have been dumping 2-3 gallons of water at various spots and treating them for slugs and such.

With that hot weather and just running in and out, I have come to appreciate the huge buckeye tree that shades at least half of the side yard that I walk down to approach the house from the street level. There are various mystery plants that we have inherited spread throughout that garden, which have sprouted and bloomed since the spring (including many weed varieties that are still unidentified). They give a sense of green, especially to the sunny part at the top which has gone quite wild (many dinosaur plants) while waiting for a caring gardener's touch. (Won't be this year!!)

The previous tenant planted plenty of hostas in the shady area below the butterfly bushes and roses that tenaciously thrive despite any tender loving care. These shade lovers are quite content with the umbrella provided by the spreading arms of the buckeye and even though they are covered in leaf detritus rather than mulch, they seem to be flourishing, also.

So, even though my time is spent running while I pass through, the sense of coming into a loving space that the shade provides continues to encourage me about really settling into our new space and loving it. . .even while we're in the process.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Number Crunch

Well, I have finished my first round of Residential Manual J calculations for Heat Gain and Heat loss. It really isn't too difficult of a task if you are willing to learn and read between the lines. One good thing is that once you have all of your data together (areas, volumes, infiltration factors, thermal values, thermal coefficients, shading coefficients, etc, etc.) it is easier to perform several calculations for different design scenarios expeditiously. What I discovered is that the scenarios I thought would work better did not provide the better results. Small changes to the construction systems could yield improved performance for the HVAC (Heating Venting Air Conditioning) system.
The HVAC system we are planning to use is a two stage high performance heat pump with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator) and a HEPA filter. The house will be broken into two zones one for the grade level and the other for the lower level which yields side hill exposures. The attic will be insulated at the roof deck and unvented. We are in a moderate hot humid location. This means that the heating and cooling requirements are about equal. In our current home, which is much larger, we used a geothermal system for heating and cooling and the performance has been phenomenal. The renovation is located on a smaller site and the floor plan is about 1/2 the size. The return on investment for geothermal would be much longer and an overkill on our renovation.
So far, our work is paying off. We recycled the existing 3 ton single stage heat pump and based on the calculations installing no more then a high performance 2 ton heat pump. This calculation includes adding about twice as much glass as the old house had to increase daylight conditions and improvements to the thermal envelope through out.
The photograph is a picture of David Williamson and Jonathon (?) . David and Jonathon were two HVAC students at Asheville Buncombe Community College who began their own company, Asheville Heat Pump Service. In the photograph, they are in the process of removing the 3 ton unit. David was great because he also helped to find another home for the unit. We remain optimistic about our final results.