I have a lot of respect for people that participate in any recreation of older time periods. It’s hard enough to immerse yourself into the mind of a 19th century soldier, but to dress in thick cotton garb and pretend you aren’t going to die of heat stroke takes some serious dedication! I speak from experience, too, as I used to perform in recreations of ancient medieval battles. I wore an eighty-pound suit of plate armor, which was tested and ready for being swung at with swords, maces and all kinds of nasty weapons that would ruin your day otherwise! I loved getting suited up and crossing swords with my friends, but I didn’t love the extreme heat exhaustion I felt after an hour of wearing the suit! Thankfully, we began to perform our recreations at an old ruined fort with tours frequently going through the ruins. A small air conditioned restroom was placed on the property by the historical society that keeps the land secured and safe from demolition, so I was able to rest inside that air conditioned space if I got too hot. The space used a ductless mini-split air conditioning system to keep cool, which I thought was awesome! The ductless system was just an outdoor air condenser and an indoor air handler, so there wasn’t very much involved in the unit that scared me away from trying to adjust the temperature up or down in the restroom. I enjoyed the ductless mini-split system so much, I decided to have one installed in my garage at home! Not that I walk around in a suit of armor at home, but it certainly helps to have that mini-split system when I’m working out in the garage.
When I moved to the midwest, it was because I wanted to get away from the cramped, crowded city that I was born and raised in. My friends thought I was crazy to say that this place would be my new home, and my parents were convinced that I’d be moving back in a matter of weeks. How wrong they were! Two years later and I’m still here, happy as can be in a place with four distinct seasons, low humidity, and plenty of room to breathe! The only thing that took some adjusting was how people heat and cool their homes around here. I live at the very top of the midwestern region of the country, so it’s a pretty cold place for about four months of the year. While it can get pretty hot in the summer, it gets way hotter down South. On the flipside, it’s far colder here in the winter than I’ve ever known before! Thankfully, I had the foresight to have radiant floors installed in my home during the summer. I had countless new friends and coworkers tell me that it’s the perfect heating system for someone like me, who was new to the bitter cold and would happily embrace it for a time while being just warm enough to be comfortable. They were right to assume this much, as I love the cold weather – but not enough to let my home turn into an igloo. The radiant heating system is exactly what I wanted from a heating system, as it supplies warm air through a vinyl flooring material that houses hot water pipes or electrical wire that generates heat. The heat naturally rises, so there’s no need for a duct system to circulate the warm air either! Like I said, it’s just what I wanted, and it will be just enough to get me through a few winters here until I get tired of the cold.
Why is it that every time I go to the hospital, doctor’s office or clinics in general, it’s always freezing inside the building? Just last week, I went to visit my brother who had his appendix removed. He was in recovery at the hospital, and doing great, though he did complain to me that he was feeling cold no matter what he did to warm up. I thought he might’ve just been feeling a little woozy from the anesthetic still wearing off, or that he might’ve just felt like complaining. Oh, how wrong I was! When I arrived to the floor his room was on at the hospital, I thought for sure the department had its own high-powered air conditioning system! The air was fairly dry too, but not to the point where the humidity was totally absent. Plus, the air smelled incredibly clean! The cold was the most glaring issue to my brother and I, and when I went to see him in his room, he was bundled in his hospital gown, several blankets and a knit cap on his head! Talk about dramatic. I went back out to the nurse at the front desk and asked why the air conditioning was on at such a high output, and the nurse simply laughed. She explained that the air has to be kept cold to reduce the chance of bacteria spreading around the hospital, and the air was being cleaned with several UV air purifiers installed around the floor. I didn’t know what UV air purifiers were until she told me, and now I think that’s just the coolest thing! I joked with the nurse about needing one for my own home to improve the indoor air quality, and she said she knew a guy.
When I was younger, my parents were trying to get my brother, two sisters and myself all interested and eager to go to church every Sunday. We were given bibles and expected to study them, though all of us can admit now that we used them as bookends more than reading material. We just had a hard time getting interested in the material, so we only learned when we went to church. That was a challenge in itself too – not due to anything the preacher or congregation was doing, but because it was always so hot! My mom used to say it was our souls telling us that we were going to burn for not taking church seriously – we all knew it was really because there was no air conditioning in the building whatsoever! It was an older church that had windows which could be propped open. During mass, they would shut the windows to ensure there were no distractions. That stunk, because that was our only way to have any cool air circulating through the church! There was no central A/C system, no window-mounted air conditioners, and no fans. It was impossible to stay focused during each sermon, because I was sweating so heavily that I was using my shirt sleeves to wipe sweat from my face! I would’ve happily went to church every day if it meant being in a building with excellent air conditioning, or some kind of air conditioning to begin with! Instead, I was stuck with having to use our gospel handbook as a makeshift fan. Something must’ve stuck from childhood though, as I now attend church with my wife – except these days, we’re members of a church that has incredible indoor air quality thanks to their central A/C system!
This week, I found the perfect solution to my air conditioning woes. I live in very hot, dry climate, so the weather is warm practically all year long. Unlike the south, where the heat is associated with humidity, dry hot air is almost painful to breathe in. The dry air also causes your lips to chap, and can leave you with a scratchy throat if you aren’t drinking water regularly. I was using a central air conditioning system for the longest time to keep my house cool, and while it worked well enough for me to tolerate the heat, it never did enough for me to be truly comfortable in my home! Finally, at the advice on my heating and air conditioning technician that services my home’s A/C system, I decided to invest in a whole-house fan. If you’ve never seen or heard of one, a whole-house fan is housed in the attic or highest point of a home, and rapidly pulls all heat inside of a house upwards and out of the house. In the process, the rapid pressure change causes cooler air from the outdoors to be pulled into the house through open windows, cracked doors, or any other path of egress for the air to move. My HVAC technician told me this was a golden approach to cooling the house, as it would “pre-cool” my home by removing much of the hot air before the A/C system turns on. With much of the warm air gone, the air conditioning equipment doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the house to my demanded temperature. It’s pretty incredible, if you ask me! The only thing I would be careful about is making sure the windows are open at home. If not, the pressure change in the house could cause smoke and debris to be pulled in from the fireplace, exhaust point over the stove, and other points in the house. This can make a mess, and bring carbon monoxide in as well! It’s best to just remember with a whole-house fan that you need to keep the windows open.
My sister and I have this long standing bet. We made it when we were just kids, but we swore an oath to keep this bet alive! The bet itself was simple: Whoever completed the trifecta – getting married, buying a house and having a baby – won the bet. The rules were simple, but as you might imagine, the process to win was not! I didn’t settle down to marry until I was 28 years old, and my sister didn’t own her first home until she was almost 35 years old! Needless to say, this bet was likely going to last our entire lifetime at the rate we were going. Plus, I think my sister may have made a poor choice with the house she bought. She bit off more than she could chew, as she purchased a “fixer-upper” that was likely more fit for being completely demolished and starting new! The roof needed to be redone, much of the flooring in the house was scuffed or had ugly blue carpets to remove, and don’t get me started on her heating and air conditioning systems! They were in terrible shape, as her air conditioner basically breathed warm air at even the coolest setting possible. Meanwhile, her heating system was useless if not for the functioning fireplace in her home. That fireplace was her breaking point, as she wanted a home with a fireplace more than anything else! It’s a good thing that fireplace doesn’t require a ton of upkeep either, because she’d have practically no heating or air conditioning system to speak of in that house otherwise. I’ve told her that she’d be better off just removing the entire HVAC system, keeping the ductwork in place, and installing new equipment. She could go cheap too, and install radiant floor heating in her home when the carpet is removed. Add to that a new central cooling system, and her house would look and feel tenfold better!
Two weeks ago, we had a big party to celebrate our home’s remodel finally being finished. Usually, we have a dinner party every week or so with at least a few friends. However, we couldn’t have anyone over for two months while we did our last major step of the home renovation. See, last winter our HVAC repair guy informed us that we would need to start looking into central heater systems, as our old oil furnace was on its last leg. To be honest, we were never a big fan of the furnace to begin with. Forced hot air is not at all an efficient system, it just happened to come with the house, and we loved this home enough to put up with it. But with the central heater out the door, it gave us the opportunity to put in an HVAC system that actually worked for us. So, we decided on heated floors. That meant tearing the ductwork out of the walls, and doing all new floors. But the floors were pretty dated, and removing ductwork meant raising ceilings–all things we were for. So, my husband and I went for it. At our party, everyone was shocked by how warm our house was, especially with the taller ceilings. The new laminate wood flooring and gorgeous tile is both beautiful and efficient. It was hilarious to see our middle-aged friends sitting on our floors, marvelling at how gentle yet pleasant the heat is. Everyone is happy to take their shoes off to go barefoot in our cozy home.
My parents and I live on opposite ends of the country, and we love to mock each other when we call or text. I’ll send my dad pictures of the fall foliage and screenshots of the weather app on my phone, showing the high for the day to only be 55. Then my dad will send me pictures of the beautiful green forest where he and my mother walk their dogs, and the weather app on his phone that says 85 degrees. The best part is when I get beach photos, and here it can be sleeting outside! While I love the south, I’m not sure I could live their all the time though. Sure, my heating bills are rough in the winter, but my parents have to turn their central air conditioning all year round! At least I only have to pay to operate my gas furnace for a few months out of the year, and gas is pretty cheap. Their air conditioning bill can get pretty bad, especially when August when her town is at the absolute hottest time of the year. The last time I went I actually had to retreat to central air conditioning because I was getting so overheated, which has never happened to me before. I am grateful though, because I get to visit them whenever I want. I can’t wait to go soak up the sun and go swimming in December, without worrying about freezing my butt off outside. I just have to remember to back plenty of shorts, and one cold outfit to fly home in.
Life in the northeast means the summers are brutal but short, and the winters seem to go on forever. Due to this weather pattern, most houses and apartments up here don’t have central air conditioning. It’s just not needed. Sometimes, folks will get a window AC unit just to use for the one week it gets about 80 degrees. But in most cases, my friends and I find that we just don’t need them. Consequently, we tend to forgo HVAC maintenance as well. The majority of places I’ve lived are much older, so you don’t have forced air. Not having a forced air heating and cooling system means no ductwork. So, what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, quite a bit. In the past few months, I’ve noticed our gas boiler getting louder and louder. It’s gotten to the point where it hurt my ears. At that point, I talked to my roommates and we agreed to call a heating and air conditioning contractor, since our landlord would not. The HVAC maintenance worker found the problem right away–we hadn’t cleaned the central heater filter. I wasn’t even aware furnaces and boilers had filters–I thought it was just an air conditioning or central air thing. It’s an older type of filter, so it has to be cleaned rather than replaced. The filter had gotten so clogged with debris that the boiler was having a hard time creating heat and hot water. Now that I know, we’ve made a schedule, so we’ll never forget to clean the furnace filter again.
My fiance and I have been secretly dreading winter prep this year. In the past, all we’ve had to do is make sure we have some road salt for our patio, clean the registers for the electric furnace, and put the shovels and snow brushes in our cars in case we a snow squall at work. But this year is the first winter in our beautiful old Colonial home. We purchased it in back in the spring, right after the snow melt, because the price had just gone down on the property again. Though we love this old house, we’re both well aware that an older home can come with a lot of work too. But to our pleasant surprise, it hasn’t been as hard as we imagined. My fiance tuned up the snow blower his parents gave us for our anniversary, and I went through the house checking for drafts. Despite the windows being original, the resealing the previous owners did two years has made them tighter than the windows in our last apartment. Even the doors aren’t drafty! I made sure to get some more rock salt, since we don’t just have a little porch to care for anymore, and scheduled an appointment with our HVAC contractor for a gas boiler tune-up. The heating and air conditioning company checked the water levels, made sure all the parts were clean and in great shape, and even checked out the pipes for the steam system. It turns out like our house, the gas boiler is ready to keep us warm and comfortable this winter.