Living off the grid doesn’t mean I don’t have residential HVAC

I even have a ductless heat pump along with a big wood stove for seriously good quality heating and air in my home

My mother actually thought I was going off to live in a cave or something when I chose to live off the grid. This was an easy decision to make but one that took plenty of planning to execute. At the time I made the decision, I was still working far too many hours inside the zone controlled HVAC of a corporate office. When I came out of college all bright and ready to be a master of the universe, I got an immediate reality check. The company I worked for was more about making rich people more rich than they were about doing the right thing. That was a tough thing to swallow and I had a hard time accepting that. Thankfully, I had chosen to live as cheaply as possible by sharing a small apartment and it’s less that great quality heating and air. That gave me the freedom to start planning and saving every dime I made of the next 7 years working inside that zone controlled HVAC of that office. It wasn’t easy but the money for the land came first. And since it was so remote and backed up into federal wilderness, it came pretty cheap. Then, I spent 18 months building my cabin. I even have a ductless heat pump along with a big wood stove for seriously good quality heating and air in my home. My solar array gives me enough power to enjoy some air conditioning from that ductless heat pump in the summer and I’m sure thankful for that.

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That HVAC air filter needs to be changed

Can you imagine how quickly your car would just get rundown and fall apart if you never changed the oil.

We all spend money to maintain our cars and yet, we often ignore or forget about the HVAC equipment in our homes.

I would argue that residential HVAC is every bit as essential as a car. There’s no way I’d try to go through a winter or the heat of summer without having HVAC equipment that I could trust. So why do so many people just not lift a finger when it comes to paying the least bit of attention to the HVAC unit. It’s just not that hard. And it’s not like you have to take the HVAC equipment to a place where they maintain the way we do with a car. The HVAC professionals come to you. All you have to do is call them. But I’ve been slack about taking care of my HVAC unit and I will own that. It was not something that registered with me unless it was really hot or really cold. And even then, I was just going to the thermostat to adjust it for more heating and cooling. That’s just not good enough. The HVAC service plan I just joined is a big part of me taking better care of the HVAC unit. The HVAC professionals schedule the HVAC maintenance appointments so that’s off my plate. Still, I have the meagerest of responsibilities left and I still struggle with that. All I have to do is change the HVAC air filter once per month and I’m golden.
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Saving a classic and putting in first HVAC that fits

The house that we are in now was one that we coveted from afar.

  • Seriously, when we moved here, this house was on one of the routes that my wife and I took for walking.

She and I have always been the type who likes to get out of the air conditioning and be active. Tennis, golf and racquet sports are something we’ve always enjoyed. However, just getting outside for a walk for some fresh air and some movement is a daily thing. Plus, we like to find different routes which helped us get to know this town a bit better when we moved down here. Each time we got out of the quality heating and air to walk we gravitated to the route that took us by this house. It was obvious nobody was there. But the place just had this perfect grandeur to it. For a couple of years, we inquired about the house but got just about zero information. So when we saw a for sale by owner sign on the place, we called right away. This led us to upgrading the HVAC equipment in our condo in order to sell it. Once we bought this place, we were all in on bringing it back to its former glory. We actually lived in the house during all the renovations which wasn’t easy. It really had no air conditioning but a few window units because it was designed prior to residential HVAC being available. But we found an HVAC contractor who was able to place a series of ductless heat pumps throughout the house so they fit with the flow of the design.

 

air conditioner tune-up

Summer heat the same but utility cost of HVAC cooling sure changed

It never ceases to amaze me how just a bit of attention directed in the right spot can result in a great benefit.

  • That’s certainly been the case this summer after I spent some time in the spring on a new HVAC cooling cost saving strategy.

It’s not like I had to sit and study the situation. I went to the HVAC company website first and they had all the basics listed for prepping the house. But I still was interested so I followed some links to see other ways in which one can help reduce the cost of air conditioning. There are some pretty fundamental challenges when it comes to living in this region from June through July, this is when the heat is peaking. I don’t call it summer, I call it heat season. Still, it’s a more than fair price to pay for the best 8 months of weather I’ve ever experienced the rest of the year. Our winters are sublime. Not only does the sun shine in clear blue skies on a nearly daily basis, it’s not cold. But for sure, we pay for it in the summer. So this year, I wanted to institute a plan to stop overpaying for HVAC cooling. Essentially, I just sealed the house really tight. There is new weatherstriping and I sealed up every crack, gap or crevice I could find from the attic perimeter to all of the exterior. Then it was pull the shades to stop direct sunlight heating and ease up on the thermostat. For the thermostat, I finally figured out how to program it to stay at a higher setting during the peak heating hours of the day. I can’t believe the savings thus far.

heat pump repair

Attention to the HVAC ductwork really pays off

Paying for the HVAC service plan offered by the HVAC company has been something we’ve been doing for almost a decade now. When we moved into this house, the first thing we had to do was to replace the HVAC equipment. We tried our best to get the seller to do it but he as just not interested in any sort of HVAC project prior to selling the house. In fact, he really was only interested in selling the house pretty much as is. That’s just fine and all that but you can’t sell a house at premium price and not be willing to do any of the necessary improvements. So we took our offer off the table and moved on. A week later, the realtor called us to say that the seller wanted to negotiate the sale price if we would replace the HVAC equipment. While it was a hassle for us since we were sort of looking for a more turn key situation, it worked out great in the end. We saved so much money on the price of the house that we could have put in four or five HVAC units. But what didn’t need to be replaced was the ductwork. And over the years, I’d meant to finally get the ductwork cleaning and ductwork resealing that the HVAC contractor had suggested almost ten years ago. Finally, I had it done this spring. Not only does the indoor air quality feel breathe better, I’m saving a bunch on HVAC cooling costs. The ductwork resealing really made a big difference in HVAC efficiency.

a/c serviceman

All it took was a different sort of HVAC air filter to change my house

When I moved into this house, I was well aware that it was an older home.

That was actually part of the charm for me.

This place just was so unique and had it’s own character. It for sure was a one off design and not some cookie cutter situation. However, like with most older homes, there was stuff to upgrade and change. The house sat empty for a long time. While it wasn’t totally neglected, it was caught up in a decades long inheritance dispute between two brothers. The place was cleaned and maintained periodically but, it wasn’t lived in for a long time. And it was old when it was shuttered. So when I got the place, it was like walking into a time capsule. From the HVAC equipment to the kitchen appliances, it was like a set straight out of the late 70’s. I started by replacing the HVAC unit and I was lucky that the ductwork was in great shape. All that was recommended by the home inspector was to have the ductwork resealing done. Well, I should have done the ductwork cleaning as well. Once I moved in, I was always sniffing or would get sinus problems. Turns out, it was the indoor air quality. I fixed that by getting the ductwork cleaning after all. But the big change was simple. I replaced the paper air filter for a HEPA filter that traps and removes more that 99 percent of airborne contaminants. The results were immediate. All those respiratory symptoms vanished and the house even felt and smelled cleaner. I highly recommend changing to a HEPA filter once the HVAC air ducts are clean.

Air conditioning system

Added a bit of air conditioning to the house for the summer

There was plenty to learn over the past couple of years.

Basically, it’s been learning a new normal for my wife and I.

We are both in such different circumstances than we were just 2 and a half years ago. In February of 2020, we were both working inside the zone controlled HVAC of our respective offices. These were jobs that we were happy to have since we worked so hard in college to get those opportunities. Still, adulting and putting in the sort of time that was demanded by our careers was a tough transition. And I think that’s why we were both so completely stunned to get laid off when the pandemic shut down those offices with the zone controlled HVAC. It’s like the huge effort that we’d made for nearly 5 years was meaningless. Thankfully, we hadn’t purchased a home yet. So having cheap rent made a big difference while we scrambled to find online gigs or any other way of making money. After a year, we both found jobs that were even more fulfilling and we could work remotely. This worked out great because we took the other bedroom in our apartment and turned it into our full time offices. The HVAC equipment in our place is old and so we decided to buy a window air conditioner for the office. It really has made an enormous difference in our comfort this summer. Both of us like this life better and we’re making close to the same money. Soon, we hope to keep growing what we’re doing so we can buy a house. But we’ll be for sure taking our window air conditioner with us!

Central heating

Thankful for more than cooling from the heat pump

It’s almost the end of July and I’m so ready for the halfway point of summer to be here.

  • That means there are two more sizzling months ahead that will require a good bit of HVAC cooling in order to manage.

But this is how it is in this region. It’s how it was for my folks and it’s how it is for me. The idea of moving away from this region was one I had once I got out of college. The heat of summer and all that air conditioning was something I wanted to see in the rearview mirror. So I took a job with a company where I had to be up north with a gas furnace for the winter. I was so excited to have snow and all that sort of stuff. That is, I was excited about it until it happened. Wow, I could not handle the cold all the time up north. It was like I was on a perpetual HVAC heating hunt. It was the longest couple of years of my life. As soon as this position opened up inside the zone controlled HVAC of the southern office, I jumped at it. That interview was like interviewing for my life. That’s how much I missed living back home in the south where winter barely needs any help from the heat pump. Of course, July is still July but I think I have a totally different perspective on the heat and humidity. There is an acceptance. And I’m awfully thankful to have a heat pump that is cooling off the house. But equally important, the heat pump is also balancing the humidity in the house as well.
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Love the versatility of the HVAC heat pump

All the stuff that you really took for granted about your life becomes so readily apparent once you have a paradigm shift.

  • Life’s paradigm shifts come in many forms and we all relate to them differently.

Some people get sick, recover and are forever changed. Then, there are subtler paradigm shifts that help you understand more about who you really are. That happened to me when I took a job where the winter needs a gas furnace or radiant heating from some sort of boiler. The only bit of HVAC heating that I had ever dealt with during my days on earth came in the form of heat pump HVAC heating. And even then, it was an occasion when the thermostat had to be flipped to heating. Like, if there was that sort of cold snap, it was a very big deal to come home or wake up to the HVAC heating being on. So going somewhere that needed near full time HVAC heating was a paradigm shift indeed. But that experience was ultimately such an informative one for me. Plus, I was doing it to better my career and that seemed like a worthy reason to deal with all that. Still, I missed home so much that the four year commitment I agreed to seemed daunting. Finally, I back where I belong and so thankful to enjoy the versatility of the heat pump once again. While I think the heating was needed from the heat pump maybe a half dozen times my first winter back, I was glad to have it.

ductless mini split

If you’re too busy for the HVAC unit, then you’re too busy

Things are sometimes just off the chain crazy in this house.

It wasn’t always this way.

There was a time where it was so Ward and June Cleaver around here. I’d come home from a long day inside the zone controlled HVAC of the office to my wife and small children. Walking through the door, I could enjoy the air conditioning and get just the best welcome in the world from my girls. These days, if the girls are home with friends when I come in from another long day inside the zone controlled HVAC of the office, I’m an embarrassment. They just want me to go to the basement or wherever they aren’t. That’s some change from when I was the returning hero each day. As they’ve aged, the girls also need lots of attention when it comes to getting them where they are supposed to go. And then the clothes shopping, the groceries, the laundry and getting everyone fed also has to happen. These days, my wife is also putting a long day inside the quality heating and air of her office as well. So it feels like we just don’t have time to even figure out whether we’re coming or going. That’s how details and the little things fall through the cracks. I realized that we weren’t paying attention to the HVAC equipment the way we should have been. So I joined the HVAC service plan so the HVAC company is the one who does the remembering when it comes to HVAC maintenance. I’ve also set alerts across all of my devices that remind me to change the HVAC air filters as well.
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