Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Late 2011 Entry

Life is busy as always, and it took a detailed question from a Palo Alto Eichler owner to remind me that I haven't updated the blog in a while.  Granted the remodeling efforts are largely complete, but there are longer term projects we continue to embark on.

This post is not so much about a change to the house, as an addition to its contents in September 2011 that go along the theme of creating a green, efficient house.

Can you guess??

Need another hint??

Beep Beep!!  Say hello to our new Nissan Leaf EV!!

Now granted in late June 2012 and over 10,000 gasoline free miles it isn't exactly "new" but it is a blog-worth addition.  How, you ask?  

The Leaf replaced our newer Civic and allows us to use the carpool lane, the #1 benefit, other than not having to fill it up or have any regular maintenance other than battery checks.  With the Federal and California government subsidies and a FREE home charging unit, the delta in cost was only a few thousand dollars over our Civic.  In addition, it costs a little over 1c/mile to operate, which speeds the payback to break-even substantially,  with gas hovering around the $4 mark, it will take just ~3.5 years until the Leaf overtakes the Civic on operating costs.

Of course I was a little hesitant on how much this would increase our electricity rates (and move us towards solar), I was pleasantly surprised that with an 80+ mile/day commute, it is only adding about $40/month to our costs.  That is less than ONE tank of gas that wouldn't even last a week.  

Even so, I wondered about solar and how much it would take to break even on that investment with an EV.  Sizing a system for a possible future PHEV SUV (I hope), it STILL would take 15 years to break-even because of the efficiency we've built into the Eichler remodel with roofing, insulation and glass. I guess PG&E will get our money for time to come until solar takes the next step in cost-down manufacturing.

I do believe I'll have more posts in 2012, as we need to replace a few of our fences and we're researching how to add a fireplace remodel, so stay tuned!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A little tax return spending...

The updates seems to about once a year now, as most of the major house changes are done. There a few projects still lurking, but we've been down to doing one major project a year as money allows.
This year is no different. After unsuccessfully trying to make the original Shoji doors look good, we gave up. We tried staining and texturing with grass-type of wall paper but they just never looked right - especially with the bottoms cut off to accommodate the leveled floor.
So we made the decision to replace all the closet doors with panel doors that match the rest of our interior doors.
Here is the stack of unaltered Shoji doors. It's a damn shame we couldn't get them to look nice again, but oh well...

And here are the new ones. We used Premier Doors in Los Altos again. Surprisingly, they were the same cost as ordering special order from Lowes or Home Depot (these are some taaaaall doors), but also included installation - SCORE!

Here are the hallway doors. I will miss the old ones clanging back and forth every time I walk down the hall - NOT!! :)

Here are the office doors.

The guest bedroom doors, with the same entrance door for reference.

And finally Keira's bedroom doors with the required model.

That's all for now. I know there will be at least one more update for 2011, so stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Uhh...2010 update

Wow, I can't believe its been almost a year since my last house update! Okay, maybe not that surprised, as I haven't done too much this spring summer except enjoy the fruits of our labor :-) Let's just say we decided to take a break on upgrades.

But there have been some updates since last year. Shortly after my last post I finished the firepit and got some nice (cheap) Adirondak chairs. Here is the fire pit in my favorite setting, a cool night with a glass of scotch!

We also scored a bit of deal on Craiglist on an expanding teak table and a small round teak table for the master bedroom patio. Ultimately, we'd like to score a bench for the back of the table against the glass and light the outdoor dining area with some sort of outdoor chandelier.

The BIG expenditure for the year was that we put in Air Conditioning!! Now I know we've had about as temperate a summer as anyone south of Seattle could ask for, but I just "knew" that meant we'd have a HOT indian summer. With President Obama's 30%tax credit for energy efficient appliance installation, we knew we'd have to install a system in 2010.

Since Eichlers do not have ductwork, nor crawl/attic spaces to install a traditional A/C system, we decided to go with a mini-split system, where the compressor is outside like a traditional central air system and the blower was attached through a wall. These systems are very popular in Australia and Europe and have much better efficiency than a window-mount room air conditioner.

Since 75% of the house virtually open, we knew if we sized the mini-split big enough, it would cool most of the house. We measured the square footage and concluded that the main space was still well over 1,000 sq feet, necessitating a 2-ton 24,000 BTU system. Off we went to research the systems.

Unfortunately, the larger the mini-split, the harder it was to achieve the desired efficiency needed to obtain the tax credit. But there was one system that fit the bill - the Fujitsu Halcyon 24XLS. Bonus that it doubled as a heat pump, allowing quick heat for when the radiant floor is off or coming back up to equillibrum temp (like when returning from vacation).

Here is the inside blower unit. It only serves to blow the cool air into the house. It has auto-variable speed and adjusts automatically for the ambient room temerature. It also has up/dowen/side/side sweeps to make sure the air keeps moving throughout the space. Combined with the ceiling fan, it really doesn't take much to cool the room and we can even feel it reaching the bedrooms on low speeds.

This is the outside unit. It is slightly taller than a central air conditioning compressor but about half as wide.

This system is quiet like I have never heard before. Even with the sytem maxed out, the system is STILL quieter than any wall/window mount system I've heard. And check out the sound level!! This is on a steady-state with the indoor temp set at 74 degrees and the outside temperature at 95degrees. You can BARELY hear it!!

Overall cost was comparable to just replacing a decent sized central air compressor, about $3850 including installation, but after the PGE and Federal tax credits will be reduced to about $2500.

Controlled Air Systems handled the installation and I cannot say enough about Josh and the the quality of their work, professionalism and resaonable costs. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone with HVAC heating and cooling needs. Installation took a day and a half, and CAS handled it all, including the electrical hookup. All that is left for me to do is paint the conduits and hose covers.

A/C was installed just in the nick of time, as predicted we are HOT and HEAVY into an Indian Summer with daytime temps well into the 90's. But we are calm, cool and collected with our new A/C! Ahhhhhhh.....

I still have quite a bit on my list of "honey do's" including: Lighting fixes, a shed, fireplace, chimney facing (slate) and miscellaneous interior furniture - all of which take time and $$$ . So hopefully it won't be another year before the next update, but heck you never know....I have been eyeballing a Tahoe project lately ;-)