Sunday, July 20, 2014

It occurs to me that I probably shouldn't announce that someone had threatened to kill me and then just disappear. So back to what else is going on on my life...

When I had the house inspected prior to buying it, the inspector expressed some alarm at the decrepit state of the heating and air unit. It was chugging along but was disturbingly hot to the touch.  I was given a price reduction on the house and planned to replace it. But to get the rebate from the utility company, I had to schedule an energy audit with TVA. If you saw "O Brother Where Art Thou?" you might remember that the Tennessee Valley Authority flooded many a homestead in the Southeast to make lakes for hydroelectric dams.
Anyway, the TVA energy consultant echoed the concerns of the home inspector, but more from an energy inefficiency stand point. I opted for a dual fuel HVAC, which means that it runs on electricity until it drops below 35 and then switches to a natural gas furnace. Because of our hydroelectric dam system, electricity is reasonably inexpensive in these parts and the best choice for air conditioners and heating in all but the dead of winter. Electric heat pumps become inefficient when the temperatures approach freezing. This dual system, then, is the best of both technologies.
Enter the heat and air guys. They set up camp at my house Friday and went about replacing the old unit. The man on the team responsible for the electric work and the gas line commented to me that he was glad to see the electric lines were easily accessible and not stapled in. I heard him saying to the other guys, "Yeehaw!  This is gonna be easy!"
I overheard one of the guys telling a story about going into one home and seeing a bag of weed left out on the table. I was wondering what prompted that story until I remembered that they also had to work in the crawl space to fix the sagging ductwork. Maybe it was the 46 bottles of wine I have stashed under the house. And since he'd also been inside sealing up the vents, maybe he'd also noticed the additional 25 bottles there. Yeah, okay, that's more than 70 bottles. I like to be prepared. Sue me.
By early that afternoon, in spite of working in the rain, they were done and my new system was quietly saving me money. Or at least it will be when this cool spell is over and I turn the AC on again.
There was also the matter of this old water heater dying in the garage. For our first month here, the best we could hope for was a lukewarm shower. Not a summer problem, really, but rather than fixing it, I decided it would be a good idea to upgrade that as well. I asked the TVA auditor about tankless water heaters and he said that would require running a gas line from the opposite end of the house. He suggested I consider a hybrid heat pump water heater instead. I'd never even heard of that, but I like the sound of it.  It uses a heat pump to pull heat from the air around it to heat the water and then kicks in with an electric heater when the air is colder. And it sits right next to my freezer, which really heats the air around it. As a bonus, the heat pump acts as a de-humidifier. Here in the foothills of a temperate rain forest, a de-humidifier is always a useful thing. At the store where I ordered it, several people stopped to chat because it's not a common option yet. For one thing they are way more expensive than standard water heaters. But with a projected energy savings of about $350 a year, it will pay for itself in three years. Sign me up.
The man who came to install it said his assistant was across town and rather than wait, he was going to lift it (250 pounds, empty) into place himself. I said I'd help but he laughed and said, "Oh no, I'm not going to let you touch it!" A wise decision given my pathetic upper body strength. Not only did he make sure the thing was level, meticulously bend the pipes to perfect 90 degree angles because he said haphazard pipes bugged him, AND explain to me how to use and maintain the heater, he also noticed my off-kilter freezer and insisted on leveling that, too. That's service.
Over the new water heater, I hung this painting of a caped robot my older son made when he was in elementary school. With it's gray tank-like body and red top, it just matched. Even the ribbed legs and arms of the robot matched the metal pipes. Which leads to the next post about fixing up the garage.

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