November 16, 2009

Let the Befores and Afters Begin

FRONT OF HOUSE: right view



FRONT OF HOUSE: left view











November 6, 2009

Heat Goes on First Time and other details

The temperature dropped below 62F inside for the first time this year. A combination cloudy weather and lack of cooking drove the fall in temperature while a sick kid, and a wife raised near pineapple farms, drove the raising of the thermostat..........ok, but just one day. A warm weekend is forecast.

I'm continuing to fail getting a whole house electric meter working. The Blue Line Power Cost Monitor is supposed to be fastened outside on the electric meter and then read and transmit wirelessly to a indoor station. Why? Because we can....or thought we could, but so far we can't. I had hoped to be able to nail down what the hardwired and 220V appliances were using (dishwashers, dryers).

The average 12 month oil usage pre-construction was 1300 gallons between the two units.
The June 2008 - June 2009 oil usage was 738 gallons. This was the construction year that started in October and included full removal of roof and siding and windows and doors, and contractors trapsing into and out of the house. The insulation itself was not completed until mid-January. This year should be better, because it couldn't be worse. If we are able to upgrade our heating system with a smaller unit, it could be much better. We'll keep you informed.

Mass. Dept of Energy Resources Commissioner Philip Giudice took his first tour of the house (see VIP link to right for photo). Phil is a special friend of the project having given the final OK for the state's participation.

October 16, 2009

Testing the Heat

With temperatures dipping below 40 F for the first time this year, we experienced our first heating events.
Unit 1 has an oil fed steam boiler which produces both heat and hot water. The hot water component has never shut down, but the heat has been effectively off since March. The thermostat dropped low enough to kick on the steam heat for the first time October 14.

Unit 2 has an oil fed steam boiler, but since November, hot water has been moved to a tankless in-line system. Without it's hot water component the boiler has slept since March. Boilers hate that. The Unit 2 is thermostat driven, but it's been manually shut off as well. Today we turned the unit on for a test, not entirely sure that the boiler was going to be in the "mood" to be "on"........but our worries were misplaced.......our lovable boiler jumped to action and pumped out 30 minutes of heat. We switched the unit back off, hopefully for a few more weeks.

We'd like to keep the heat off until sometime in November.
Temperature October 16
Outside: 35 F
Inside: 65 F

October 1, 2009

The final buttoning up

So many tiny projects to finish up. Can you bear with me as I just quickly run through them? They may look small, but they still included contractors tromping through the house to use the bathroom.

New back steps new back trim........who likes to paint?

Drywalling all 3 basement entrances (1 for each unit + the exterior entrance) covering the spray foam......because we're worth it.

Installing the two new Velux skylights into the holes which had been roofed over since October 2008

Adding lead to seal the chimney. I love lead ! What the heck did we have instead of lead for the last 10 months. Probably best not to ask.

Enclosing the ugliest deck roof ever.

Rebuilding the entire front entrance with new cylindrical columns and Ipe decking that won't splinter. We have some Ipe guilt (comes from some warm place), but somehow we convinced ourselves that it was the way to go. Wait until you see the finished job.

And the beginning of the clean up.

April 28, 2009

Huffed and they Puffed.....

After months of insulation working through one of the worst winters in memory, we come to where the butter hits the toast. Sort of. We are performing the blower door test to see how tightly the house has become.

Larry Masland arrived from the Department of Energy Resources, Gary and David arrives from Synergy Construction, Kohto arrived from Building Science Corporation, plus two guys from Conservation Services Group which will be performing the blower door test.

For the blower door testing, we closed all windows and doors, put these lovely red frocks on the back doors, engaged the fans inserted within said frocks, and started sucking the air out of the house to reduce the internal pressure. For those of you concerned about such things, the fan was not of a power to make us gasp for air, boil our blood, bulge our eyes, or make us float around the room.......which would be more of a gravitional problem.....ANYWAYYYYYY

Here's what the test looked like.

How'd we do?
Here are the results.

The results are not official, but the house is around 60% - 65% tighter. The walls and the roof were not really serviceable. They were as tight as they were ever going to be. But air still flowed into the basement, and therefore somehow up into the house through the basement ceiling. With the fan drawing, with some smoke pens, with a few cans of insulation foam, we should be able to walk around the basement, and then track and kill each tiny ceiling leak. But this was not to be, as everyone's schedule would not permit. Big disappointment.

UPDATE: To answer the comment from Jerry Marin: "So what was the cfm? Enquiring minds want to know."
With the basement door open the leakage was 2825 CFMs (cubic feet per minute)
With the basement door closed the leakage was 2275 CFMs
(Explanation: These leakage rates are during a highly de-pressured test, not during normal usage.) The original pre-project leakage rate in August was 7800 CFM (more or less until I track down the exact test result).
The team was very pleased with the results, but I know that we can do better. I am confident that with 60 minutes we could bring that result south of 2000 CFMs. The disappointment here is that the basement ceiling is completely at hand and reachable. I will attempt to get some sort of de-pressurization using the building's 2 kitchen fans and 3 bathroom fans, get some incense "punks" (are they called "punks" anymore?), armed with a can of foam. Only problem is that we will never have a new reading of the results.

April 25, 2009

Chickens come home to roost

If you plan on taking a house from the age of leakyness-as-virtue to the new age of super-insulated energy efficiency, one imagines that you will occassionally run afoul of the laws of unintended consequences. And so we least a little.
With the addition of super-insulation, and the conversion of hot water to a gas on-demand unit, our 25 year old boiler was firing up less often and for shorter burn duration. By the end of March, we weren't firing at all, so we shut it down. But when a cold snap hit in April, we couldn't get it back on.

The Fawcett Oil servicer informed us that these units were never designed to be cold, never designed to have the hot water portion removed, that by removing the hot water we had essentially signed its death sentence. (evidently Fawcett servicers are very protective of their boilers). I was to learn that to maintain boiler health, the boiler needs to reach full operating temperatures to clean out its pipes and eliminate condensation.......or something like that. Long story short, we were warned to have our boiler cleaned twice a year, September and January, instead of only once. I guess that's not so bad.

April 13, 2009

Foam Touch-Up

Anderson Insulation, who were here for 10 hours in December, fit us into their schedule on short notice for a final foaming touch-up prior to the blower door testing which will mark the end of the insulation phase of the project.
We needed to fix the areas where the cable guys, the plumbers, and the electricians did their damage, as well as get at an area we didn't have access to in December, and a window that was removed.
December 2008: Window still in place

April 2009: Window removed. It's a storage area, who needs a window? On the other side of that window cavity is 4" of rigid foam.

April 2009: The Anderson folks having finished the foaming.

More work in the basement.

Particular attention to the areas where the cable guys, the fiber guys, and the electricians were ripping and tearing at the foam to get their wires in place.

April 12, 2009

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit That

Two Fantech HRVs (Heat Recovery Ventilators) are installed for unit 1 and unit 2 to bring in fresh air, exhaust stale air, AND salvage the heat from the stale air to heat up the fresh air.
The Unit 1 HRV is installed in the basement. Since the bottom of the unit is below grade it was going to be something of a challenge to get the condensation drain out of the building....but then who knows how much condensation is expected in winter. We decide to drain into a bucket and see if evaporation can keep up with condensation.

Unit 2 had its own challenges. To reduce breaks in the envelope, the HRV for unit 2 would exhaust through the 2nd floor bathroom exhaust duct. At the same time the 3rd floor bathroom, which never had ducted ventilation, also was going to be connected to the 2nd floor bathroom exhaust duct. It's a busy duct.

This image is looking up to the 3rd floor soffit. The vent on the right is the exhaust damper for the 2nd + 3rd floor bathroom and the Unit 2 HRV. The small hole on the left has a small clear hose protruding so condensation can drip out.

The HRV was designed to pull from the 3rd floor back room and vent into the 2nd floor back room. Because the connecting staircase is in the front of the house, the air circulates throughout the house. The air intake is not visible as it is hidden within the new soffit. Normally this might be fine, but the soffit is fabricated from a PVC material, and I'm not comfortable having our fresh air filtered through a solar heated PVC box.......of course I could be nuts.

We get our exterior water spigot back, while finally solving that mysterious leak in the wall. This is just in time for spring grass re-seeding.

We got the bulk of our backyard back as the contractors start pulling materials and equipment out.

The mason arrived to fix the foundation which had split. This shows the opening the Mason made to fix the guts of the wall.

Here we're all finished.

Anderson foam is coming in for a final spray to fill in the few areas ripped out by various electricians, plumbers, and cable guys and to spray an area where the drywall had not been removed prior to the main spraying back in December.

March 26, 2009

Final Details

The final trim piece is installed by Rick and Mike, closing off the last nesting spot for the irrritated birds. We started on the walls on November 17, and now some 120 days later, the walls are finished.

Dryer vents are removed from the window and built into the wall. There's nothing quite like a dryer vent through the window to mark one as hmmmm something less than fully cultured.

Bathroom dampers are finally reinstalled for the 1st floor bathroom.

In a moment of unplanned excitement, Mike lost control of his coffee, spilling it down the wall. Mike is house broken though as can be seen in the photo.

March 24, 2009

The Great Buttoning Up

Final soffit and trim work.

Here's the final final front of the house....prior to the entranceway rebuild and gutter install. It is very nearly miraculous in its rebirth.

New Pella sliding windows get installed in the basement.