Oct 8, 2008

Chimney comes down!

When purchasing the property we learned that the chimney in the attic area was badly cracked and needed repair or removal. We did much research on if we could have it fixed just to keep it historically for the house. However that would have probably costed around $5000. So since we no longer needed it for the heating or water heater as now with their replacement it could all be vented out the walls we decided to have it removed since that was a much cheaper plan. In knowing we had to have the chimney removed that also spurred us to do the water heater and hvac replacement now rather than waiting. So mid August was the time. In figuring this out Greg thought it would be a great idea to put some more ventilation up there. In our quest to try to do things a little greener we found out about solar attic fans. Found a way to order one and purchased one to fill part of the hole the chimney was removed from. We are hoping on those sunny summer days it helps to move the attic air around more than just the ridge and gable vents and help to keep the attic cooler.
On chimney removal day I could only get off part of the day as I was swamped at the lab with botulism and other samples. Luckily Greg's parents were free and offered to come help Greg pound the mortar off the bricks being removed so we can in the future reuse them. The day went off with out any problems the guys did a great job taking layer by layer down from the top into the attic and then fixing the hole and adding the solar fan. So it is a little sad to lose the 108 yr old chimney but it is still in the center of the house down to the basement and we hope to use that to run new electrical and things like that when we get to that point.

Horrible discovery!

So in exploring more and trying to figure out the problems with the chimney Greg came down from the attic one day and said "I think there are mice or something in the attic." I said " Mice or is it bats?" How big is the poo. Well yes you guessed it we have bats. In researching to find out a little more about the best way to get them out of the attic I believe we probably had a nursery colony in the attic. I hired a great guy to do the bat exclusion but we needed to get the chimney out and the gutters done also so the removal needed to be scheduled around that. Plus it needed to be done after the baby bats could fly and get out of the attic so at least mid-Sept at the earliest. So more on that later.

Furnace comes out!

So once the plumbing was all done and cleaned up we could have our new heating and cooling system installed. After much research and pricing we decided on a hybrid system. We had thought about geothermal but decided right now the hybrid was a better option for us. It is kind of the best of both a normal system and a geothermal. Instead of the underground temps being used to heat and cool the house via a heat pump a hybrid uses the outside air temp. So anytime the temp is about 30 degrees or above it will use the air through the heat pump to heat your house. When temps fall below that it runs on normal gas. Summers you have central air as usual. The outside unit is much larger than a conventional central air unit and it has a two speed cycle so if the temp is very low then it runs higher for a time to heat or cool more then cycles down to keep the temp constant and save energy.
The old beast was full of head knocking gas lines and registers mounted to low. We hired Olson's of Mt. Horeb to do the work. The first day was spent ripping out all the old furnace parts and setting the new unit outside etc. At the end of the day the guys showed us how horribly filled with dirt and debris the runs and returns were. They said we could work on cleaning them out that evening and that would help prevent our new hepa filter on the new unit from becoming immediately clogged. So we undertook the task that evening of cleaning all the returns and runs. It was not a task for the faint of heart! Runs were not to so horrible mostly dust and a few odd piece of things like curlers, change etc that had at one time been dropped down them. The returns were another story entirely. A heavy mat of dirt and dust filled with any number of goodies: sheets of newspaper, toys, marbles, change, fishing tackle, curlers, scrabble pieces etc. I used the shop vac and a garden hoe to scrap and scrub out the returns. It was a 4 hour+ job. Greg worked on disassembling the parts as I worked on the cleaning. As you can see by the photos it was quite disgusting. I thought when I had cleaned them out from the first floor it was bad(shown on an earlier blog) but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Well the second day the guys were back to finish the hook up and doing the rest of the plenum metal work. While disassembling the plenum two old pint type liquor bottles fell out. Now can you imagine why those were in there!? Left from prohibition maybe? Or the kids drinking and trying to not get caught? Who knows!? The mysteries never stop!! So we now have our new furnace; the ac worked wonderfully and recently we have turned on the heat and it is works great. We will see how this improves our energy bills and heating costs over the winter months.