Thursday, May 2, 2019

Adventures in Home Ownership - Paralyzed By Perfection

Since becoming a homeowner, I’ve come to realize why mom always made sure we turned everything off before we went outside to play; to cut back on the amount of money flying out of her wallet to pay the utility bills.

I think every home buyer has “a must have” and “a nice to have” list when searching for a home.  For us, it was a quiet neighborhood, preferably on a dead end, a garage, and a potential photography studio space.  That’s what Sarah and I found when we moved into our wonderful home in Bellingham, MA.  We absolutely love it here.

That said, there are always compromises when searching for that perfect home.  For us, our home had oil and septic.  Two things we really didn’t want, but the home met the rest of our criteria.  This past winter, while not a cold one, made us realize that oil is really not efficient, and tends to be expensive depending on the current demand for home heating oil.  Once winter was over, we decided that we need to find a more suitable way to heat our home efficiently while drastically reducing our utility bills; every home owners dream, right?

Luckily for us, my dad knows all the right trades people on top of being a plumber.  We discussed options, and laid out the plan.  At first, after doing a bit of research (weighing propane against oil), we were going to swap our current electric water heater (15 years old) with a “hybrid” water heater, and live with oil and the rest of our appliances as is, or until they need to be replaced.  A solid plan, or so I thought... 

During this time, I had put a stop on our automatic home oil delivery with every intention of switching to propane.  I had put in a call to Medway Oil and explained the situation, and was preparing to have us added back to their auto delivery schedule, when the nice receptionist quickly said, “Are you sure?  You should really talk to Jeffrey (the owner) first, I think that’d be best before making that decision.  He’s very knowledgeable when it comes to fuels for your home.”  Later that day, Jeffrey had called me and told me I was crazy for not switching to propane, and even crazier that I’m not jumping at the chance to make the change with my father being a plumber.  After some back and forth, I was back to my original plan; switching to propane we go.

For those of you who are reading this and don’t know me incredibly well, I’m an engineer.  I tend to over design and read into everything I’m about to invest in.  This “research” I do goes for everything, from my truck, to my house, to the golf gear I buy.  Needless to say, I threw my dad for a loop when I had decided to not go with his typical Navien solution.  Instead, I had designed a completely separate solution, complete with tankless water filtration (to cut back on scale).  I’ll be the first to tell you that my dad loathes having to do any work at my house; not because it’s a difficult house to work on (it’s actually relatively open and easy to swap just about anything), but because I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to anything.  I’ve been told, and I’ve witnessed it myself that my perfection can sometimes paralyze me, but it’s who I am.  It doesn’t mean I’m perfect with everything I do, it just means that I have a certain way I like things to look, or be installed, or utilized.  Needless to say, because of my customized design, we went without hot water or heat for (5) days.  Luckily the days weren’t that cool, and family close by allowed us to utilize their shower in the interim (Thanks Jay and Monika). 

Now that my post is a bit Tarantino’ed for you, I can share on the solution I ended up designing (with the help from my dad’s friend George).  We ended up installing a State ProLine XE Combi Boiler (propane) with a Watts OneFlow Anti-Scale System for Tankless Water Heaters.  The boiler does both heat and hot water.  The heating side (water) is fed into a heating coil into our First Co High Efficiency Air Handler.  For cooling, we went with a Goodman 13 SEER air condenser.  On top of this, we’ve also swapped our stove from electric to propane.

I share this simply because we’ve already seen a drastic reduction in our electricity bill, and thought others may want to learn a bit about how hydronic heating works, along with a possible solution.  I’ve come to learn there really isn’t a whole lot out there on the Interwebz on hydronic forced air heating since it’s a relatively new method for heating homes.  While I’m sure others have an opinion on how they choose to heat their home, this is my preferred method.  Not to mention the 95% AFUE my new tankless boiler is capable of.  By the way, now that my brain is on information overload for tankless solutions, please feel free to reach out to me and pick my brain.  I’m happy to provide any insight along with things I’ve learned during this process.  I may not have all the answers, but I know where and who to ask to get you the appropriate answer.

I know I typically don’t write long blog posts, but after all the long hours, the coordination, prepping and planning I have a list of people and businesses I want to thank for this efficiency change to our home (anyone will tell you and share this is no small feat by any means).

My Dad (CCH Plumbing and Heating) - Thanks for bearing with me for this design, working out the kinks, and the long hours.  Sarah, the kids, and I are beyond lucky to have you in our lives.

My Brother (Sean Horman) - Thanks for all the hours and time you put in to help with the install.  Again, not your’s and dad’s typical tankless install, so thanks for trucking through the design and helping me to figure out the best implementation plan.  It’s good to have another engineer in the family!

Medway Oil (Jeffrey Mushnick and his team) - Thank you for sharing your knowledge, guidance, and insight.  The Medway Oil team was an absolute pleasure to work with from removing the old propane tank, prepping for the new tanks, and the install.  After my experience, Medway Oil now has a lifelong customer!

Glen Stoddard (from Hunter William Carpentry) - Thanks for lending a hand, repairing the siding, and building the foundation for my upgrade.  The work you do is amazing, and we’ll continue to lean on you for projects to come.  You are my first recommendation when anyone asks for carpentry work!

George Cook (Cook Services HVAC) - Thanks for the insight and knowledge to HVAC systems, your recommendations, and the installation.  I can’t appreciate my dad enough for recommending someone of your talent, skill, and attention to detail.

Jose Echaniz - Thanks for lending a hand to make sure everything was wired for power appropriately, and tailoring the wiring to meet our desired needs.