House Renovation: Researching HVAC

furnace flame

A shot of the burners in our furnace.

The new Guest Renovation Blogger on Katy Elliott dot com is none other than the best boyfriend in the world, GreG.

Katy asked me to write some about our home projects. This came up recently when the pipes froze over the New Year Holiday. We had no water for almost a week. We’re tough, but even we need a shower once in a while. Our memberships at the YMCA came in extra handy. I must say, she has become more tolerant of my Home Depot shopping sprees since then. We have a few projects going on right now, slowly making progress, we are in no rush. Some of them she cares more about than others.

She suggested I write about a recent visit we had with an hvac consultant. This is who you call when you need a new furnace. HVAC stands for Heating, Venting, & Air Conditioning; it’s a fancy acronym for a plumber except they specialize in heating and cooling the air in your house. It’s probably one of the most technically diverse fields in the industry. They must be a capable electrician, plumber, pipe-fitter, tinner, roofer, and mason all in one. I left carpentry out to warn you, if you see an HVAC tech with a saw in hand, WATCH OUT! Your house is about to make a swiss cheese impression. Aside from a lack of carpentry skills, they also deal with some complex math and engineering problems. I found math equations for calculating the rate of heat loss in a house that require dozens of measurements and other factors. The size of the house matters but so does its insulation, orientation, location, etc, even the color can make a small difference. HVAC is hard and dirty work too, one reason they can charge so much.

Kate’s Mom had her furnace bite the dust a few weeks ago. Her house is heated with baseboard. This is known as a hydronic system in the biz. A crack formed in the boiler plate of the 20 year old furnace and water was leaking all over the basement floor so the whole thing had to be replaced. A simple job but the cost was shocking. The reality is, our currently f*ck up world of finance and interest and monthly payments makes us forget this is 33 bucks a month over the lifetime of the unit. I pay more than that for internet access. This business is recession proof because it always gets cold in the winter and people will need heat in their homes to survive, we won’t need internet access.

btw I will write about the actual visit next time.

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  1. If you get direct sun to the roof, you can install solar panels to warm your water (quick pay-back period). Also looking forward to hearing details on that proposed $25k "Green" unit you are considering.


  2. It is a picture of the gas burners in the furnace. That heats up the air that heats our house.