Central Air

It’s no secret that we live in a house that was built in another era.  Just looking at it, you can see from the construction that it was designed and built from materials that you just can’t find anymore.  No modern building would ever be constructed with no insulation between the outer and inner walls, let alone none in the interior walls.

Going through the interior of the house, one finds there are places where there are double ceilings, usually to conceal plumbing that was added later in the life of the house, considering when it was constructed, there were no bathrooms inside.  I’ve never figured out where the outhouse was located, though I’m fairly certain there was a barn out behind the house, given there are the bones of an ancient foundation behind the current garage.

Either in the 1950s or 60s, a previous owner decided to do some upgrades to the house.  They put on an addition with a cinderblock foundation, along with the attached one-car garage.  While they were doing that, they neglected to tie in that part of the house to the furnace/heating system, so there’s a thermostat next to the coat closet that may have been attached to a space heater, though I’ve never been able to figure out -how- it was wired to work adequately.  Consequently, in both the Spring & Summer, along with the Fall & Winter, it either is too hot, or too cold in the addition.  So we have to utilize space heaters in the winter, and an air conditioner in the summer.  Which both add to the utility bills.

Two years ago, we spoke to the local HVAC business we use to clean our furnace, about possibly upgrading our system to at the very least a new, more efficient one, which would save us money in the long run.  He was very informative and gave us some options to consider, and then we may have hit a snag.  The ductwork that was installed at probably the same time as the old furnace had what appeared to be fiber blankets glued to the metal.  Given the time frame of when it was all put together, there’s a high probability that the blankets would have asbestos in them.  Suffice it to say, that gave our HVAC guy some pause, as he was indicating that with the more efficient furnace, there might be the necessity of replacing the ductwork in the house.  We left it alone at that point and didn’t pick up the subject again until last year.  By then, he had consulted with a few people that had experience in such matters, and their collective opinion was; that if the blankets on the ductwork were left alone, there wouldn’t be a problem replacing the furnace.  Just leave the ducts as they were.

Around April of last year, we called and asked for an estimate on replacing the furnace, but my wife wanted to have a quote on possibly going a step further, by upgrading to a central air system.  We settled on a Goodman furnace system, but it was going to have to be vented out the opposite side of the house from where the old one was.  Which meant drilling into the old brick twice for a fresh air intake and exhaust vent.  They gave us several options to choose from, we settled on the best choice for our house after consulting with several people familiar with both the brand and our situation.  We also decided to bite the bullet and go for the whole smash, which would put a condenser next to the house so we could have central air.  We had vacationed at a house in the Hudson Valley that had both central air AND cathedral ceilings, and it was a very nice setup.  Even in the 85-90 degree weather of late July & early August, the house was quite cool with the in-house air conditioning.  Too, no more lugging and installing (then removing and storing) heavy AC units.  That’s a plus.

The furnace was installed back in August of 2021, and it worked very well over the past winter.  Even with the price of NG going up with the pandemic and subsequent rise in fossil fuel prices, we really didn’t do all that bad with the cost of what we were consuming.  I’m fairly convinced that we would have been spending more if we were still on the old furnace.  Last month the HVAC guys came and installed the condenser (we went with a 16 seer unit instead of a 14 because we believe we could get more efficiency out of the larger unit and a 14 would probably labor a bit more and cost us in electricity) and accompanying electrical work to make it all run, he had an electrician with him and were able to do some juggling in our breaker box to make it all make sense.  There was some suggestion that we might not have had enough space in the box, but they assured us we’re not going to have any power issues; we have a warranty for 10 years on their work and the equipment as well.

We as of yet haven’t had a day where we can test out the whole new system, but probably in the next couple of weeks, we will.  Generally, there will come a day when the bricks on the outside of the house are being baked all day long and that will heat up the house to the point where it will become necessary for the central air to kick in.  Right now our nights are a bit cooler (30s and 40s) and our days are still getting into the 60s and 70s (though the weather is calling for near 80 for today and tomorrow).  We’ll see how it all works out, and I’ll be posting a follow-up to this post come Autumn.

Technically speaking, Part IV

When we last left this series, I was planning on changing the location of the router and fiber modem.  Instead, I chose to run my Cat 6 cable to the middle of the house, except in this configuration, I changed the wireless repeater to an access point.  This way, the router, and modem can stay in place, be hard-wired to the computers and the access point will do the heavy lifting in terms of extending the wireless signal to the rest of the house.  I also reset and reprogrammed the repeater to the upstairs bedrooms, and everything seems to be working the way it’s supposed to.

The big test was this past week when we were on vacation.  Before we walked out the door last Saturday I checked, re-checked, and then re-re-checked the system, to make sure there weren’t any drop-outs or signal loss or degradation.  The cobbled-together system worked like a champ.  Our security cameras stayed connected, all the smart bulbs and smart plugs stayed in contact with the router and the router itself, being that it’s connected to the cloud, was accessible to me even on the other side of the state through both my laptop and cellphone.

Even so, while we were on vacation, we stayed in a place that had a more advanced version of a home network.  It’s from Netgear and it’s called Orbi.  In the house, (which is on 2 floors), there was the actual router, and two physical satellites installed on the walls (the outer walls, though it might have been the correct placement for the building) which by my estimation bathed the house in high-speed wifi coverage (what’s now being called WIFI6 or .   The few times I checked the speed on my phone, I was getting throughput in the 650-700 Mbps range, which was more than sufficient for doing things that I needed to at the time, and anyone else using the wifi signal/coverage would have been able to do the same.  As far as I could tell, there was no signal drop, and everything that needed to be connected to the system stayed connected.  Unfortunately, it’s not an inexpensive system, and outlaying $400-$1200 for more advanced wifi coverage for me isn’t an option.

As of right now, my own system is working just fine.   As a matter of fact, it’s working better than I’d anticipated.  Honestly, I’d tried this method once before, purchasing a dedicated access point and installing it in the house about midway, but it didn’t work.  Though as I recall at the time I attempted to do it wirelessly and that seemed to be where things fell apart.  Instead of taking the system a step further and hard-wiring the AP to the router, I gave up.  I went back to just using wireless repeaters, and degrading my signal through the piggy-back system, and making do.

Coming full circle

It’s early Saturday morning, which means my vacation is rapidly coming to a close.  By this time tomorrow I will be tucked into my bed, snuggled under the covers and anticipating (or dreading) going back to work.  I’ve purposefully stayed away from my place of employment so as not to interrupt the flow of work (hopefully) happening in my absence.  I expect things haven’t been going completely hunky-dory.  Certainly they didn’t the last time I went on vacation, and despite my best efforts to be sure my relief had all the tools he needed to get the work done, I expect it’s going to be a wreck when I go back on Sunday.

Needless to say, I haven’t missed being at work all that much.  I do get four weeks of vacation per year and as I’ve said many (many!) times, I’d be content taking two weeks of vacation and just getting paid for the other two weeks.  But my employer prefers that their employees take all of their alloted vacation.  Basically ‘Use it or lose it‘.  So I use it.

This week has not been so much sitting on my ponderous butt, watching TV.  It just so happened that my wife and I had scheduled four medical appointments, and we were on the go for most of the days that I was off.  Monday and Wednesday were the only exceptions, but Wednesday was gobbled up by an emergency dental appointment due to the fact that my wife slightly broke one of her teeth.  So that needed to be attended to.  And was.

Even though I spent some time helping a friend furnish her new apartment, I didn’t necessarily neglect my own domicile.  I ordered 4 large plastic storage boxes from Amazon (actually probably larger than I needed) and have been sorting through some things that I haven’t had use of in several years, that need to be secreted away before something nefarious happens to them.  I have to say I’d be pretty devastated if something did happen to them, and certainly I wouldn’t forgive myself easily.  If at all.  Once I have that attended to, I think I’ll breathe a sigh of relief.  That’s been a long time in coming to get accomplished.  At least when I have need of them again, I’ll know where they are.  I hope.

Anyway, it’s back to work tomorrow.  Only one more week of vacation to take for this fiscal year, then I’ll get another four weeks to agonize over on April 11.  Never ends, does it?