New homeowner looking for broad advice
Hi - tomorrow I'll be the owner of my first house. I'm looking for do's and don't's in terms of how to make sure the house is healthy and happy from an HVAC perspective. Also, I'm considering adding some form of air conditioning, and I'm looking for info on what my choices are, and what their relative costs are.
I definitely plan to hire out for even the most trivial tasks - I'm not handy at all.
Here's some basics about the house:
- It's in Redmond, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest
- It's on a hillside - the top floor faces uphill to the street, and the bottom floor is a walk-out basement into the backyard
- The basement is mostly-finished, lacking ceilings, drywall, and proper flooring, but has heating ducts, wall framing, and electric all done afaik. We'll have it finished it in the next year or so.
- The furnace is a high-efficiency gas furnace that is about five years old, and it was professionally serviced a few weeks ago.
- I have a LG LWHD8000RY6 window AC unit I used at a rental previously. Still works, as far as I know.
- All the windows in the house open sliding sideways instead of up and down, making installing a window unit more complicated and annoying, and frankly, beyond my abilities.
- The house was built in 1959, and each floor is 1,100 square feet, and there was a garage attached at some point after it was built.
- There is a ladder in the garage to get up into the attic, which is filled with blown in insulation.
- I've lived in the immediate area most of my life, and I doubt I'll move for at least a decade.
- The house is reasonably well insulated, and all the windows are ~10 year old and double pane.
How often should I have the furnace serviced?
What are my options in terms of having air conditioning? I think it would be great to have the whole house with AC, but I'm worried about how much more that would cost. What should I do with my window AC unit? Can I hire someone to build some kind of frame I can use to make it easier to put in the window, or should I should I get it installed in the wall somewhere? I think my wife and I would just pack in there the month of the year that it's hot.
What should I be doing, in general, if I want to save money on heating/cooling? What can I invest in soon that will pay off eventually in the future?
Should I be worried about the attic temperature in this area? It seems like people have fans up there to help lower the temperature. The house has a mesh-covered gap around most of it that allows for ventilation.
Kind of off topic for this forum, but is getting some kind of solar electricity generation system worth it financially in a 10 year time frame, given the current tax incentives, and the location?
All advice welcome - thanks!
We recommend a fall service yearly, change the filter regularly. I would call a few company's and get quotes on ac, that is usually free of charge and that may also point out other ways to save energy.
rather than cut a hole in the wall for the a/c unit, I'd
put it in the window with plywood from a/c to top of window.
the whole cutting a hole in the wall thing...when a/c goes out
the new one is always 1" to big or small.
in 1959 we didn't build with an eye towards energy efficiency.
nowdays we caulk and seal lots of areas that we didn't back then.
air sealing is an affordable improvement with a fast payback.
if house tight it is easier and more affordable to heat and cool.
having a blower door test to determine how much leakage
the house has is a good thing.
if you follow the rater/auditor around and make note
of leakage sites, then you will know what needs to
if you have ductwork for a furnace, you can probably add a/c. depends
on what you have. I always wonder about the cost effectiveness of
it with such a mild cooling season..not that I have any experience
with not needing a/c 9 months out of the year!
just as your house can be leaky, so can the ductwork. there are
testing methods for that also.
not sure if you basement folks insulate and seal ducts or not..
no basements here.
IMO mastic sealing ductwork so that the air you pay to
heat gets where it is going is a no brainer.
same for insulating ducts..keeps it close to the same temp at delivery
that it is leaving the unit.
both mastic sealing and insulating ducts might be regional...
if you can't diy, then have the person who will be doing the air sealing
work there when blower door & duct testing is done. that way
they can 'see' where the leaks are and discuss with person testing
best way to seal these areas.
to try to describe where to seal to someone who has never seen
the testing is like trying to push shaving cream back in the can.
once work is complete..have it tested again, with contractor
there to make note of any areas to be sealed better.
congrats on your new home.
best of luck.
The cure of the part should not be attempted without the cure of the whole. ~Plato