Monday, December 6, 2010

Knox Hill Project: Weekly Update

Winter appears to be on us or as I like to call it "pre Spring" . Hey I'm an optimist. Cold weather means one thinks of heat and in the Knox Hill Cottage. Our house had several heat systems over the years. The house started out with Pot belly stoves when it was a weekend residence which were replaced by  Coal burning fireplaces which was then replaced by a coal fired/then gas fired Boiler system. In was only in 2005 that a forced air system was introduced to the house and the only "registers' were there simply as passive pass-trough registers. Of course when the house was in foreclosure, thieves walked off with the then brand new furnace gas furnace and most of the ductwork.
These upper wall registers were originally just passive registers between rooms but in the new system they will be 'switch ducts' that will be tied to both heat and cold air return and can be switched depending on the time of the year

I would love to have had a steam heat system, and I can only imagine what the original radiators much have looked like but with the need for both AC and heat we will be going with a new high efficiency electric heat pump system which we hope will receive most of its power from the solar cells on the roof.

My biggest "pet peeve" is that people put modern registers in old houses and it totally spoils the overall look. I also am not a fan of the mini duct systems either. I like old registers and you should not let yourself be talked into modern registers by HVAC techs who simply don't want to build larger sized register pans. I also recommend that you NOT follow the traditional new house install model with all the heat ducts at the outside and the cold air returns on the interior.
The upper floors will have these simpler old registers saving the budget for the "Register Jewelry" on the main floor. High end salvaged registers are not cheap but are required when doing a high end period room.

WHY? well in a new house with highly insulated walls, thermopane windows and such most of your actual heat loss is through the roof. placing the ducts near the outside makes sense. However in an old house we tend to find attics are well insulated (because we can get at them) but walls tend to be uninsulated or minimally insulated and we have single pane windows. Because of that, heat loss if your registers are on the outside the majority of your heat is sucked out before it even has a chance to get to the cold air returns in the middle of the house. By reversing this layout the warm air in the center will be drawn towards the outside walls, meaning the heat you paid for stays in your house longer and the net result is you are more comfortable. You may still have the drafts but at least all your heat isn't being sucked out of your house the minute it leaves the registers.

A few years ago I had a client who had put in a new system but their heat bills were still higher than they should have been. They changed the ducting, and their heating bill went down by 15 percent. Of course if you haven't done this already you should should insulate all your ductwork, especially if it's in unheated attic or basement space and you should also pay particular attention to your sill where it meets the foundation and be sure that space is properly insulated. You will be amazed what a difference that will make.

Other projects: Insulation work continues and I am working on stripping a fireplace mantle that will be in the rear bedroom.

Today marks a milestone for this blog: Our 700th blogpost!

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