Although we opted to keep the air source heat pump at the Green on Gift house, we have completely updated the duct system. Here I walk you through the many improvements we made to the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems at the Green on Gift house.
The Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems at the Green on Gift house left much to be desired. Previously I discussed the Top Ten HVAC Problems, but in case that was a little abstract, here’s a video of me walking us through most them. All videos come from Tom Mills with Green Shortz. Part two showing the new duct system from Sosebee Services will be up soon!
One of the goals of the Green on Gift home is to minimize the amount of construction waste sent to the landfill. This has taken different forms throughout construction. To widen the master closet we had to move a structurally unnecessary beam. That beam found new life as the header for the closet opening (photos below). Other times, we simply used curbside recycling for construction material boxes and beverage containers.
Originally the wall between the hallway linen closet and master closet contained a structural beam. This beam was overkill for the structural requirements of this location.
The small hallway linen closet and master bedroom closet were combined to create one larger closet.
Okay, I’ll admit it. What we’re doing with the exterior walls may seem a little odd. Since the house is structural masonry there is no easy way to insulate the exterior walls, let alone add electrical outlets or light switches. We’ve opted to fur out the walls on the interior to provide space for insulation and utilities.
Framing these walls, however, posed an interesting problem. On the one hand we want to keep the new framing separate from the brick wall to prevent moisture wicking into the wood. We also want to use the smallest dimension lumber possible maximize the space for insulation in the walls and to stay within budget. We’re insulating the walls with spray polyurethane foam insulation (SPF), which is great at filling in small cracks and works well when the substrate is uneven (in this case a combination of plaster and exposed brick). It also provides some added strength to the wall by “gluing” the components together. SPF is a combination of two liquids that when combined rapidly expand, similar to shaving cream. Unlike shaving cream, it’s rather forceful and can actually bend, twist, and bow wood. So how do you install 2x3s approximately 1 inch off from a brick wall that will be insulated with spray foam?
A significant element of the Green on Gift renovation is the conversion of the enclosed porch into a second bathroom. At some point, a previous owner converted the back porch, accessible through the living room, into a storage room. They likely did this to increase the square footage of the house, but the transformation was incomplete–an exterior window remained looking into the second bedroom, and the floor became uneven over time.
Left: The original bedroom window was removed and the opening converted to a doorway. Right: The enclosed porch pre-renovation.
I decided to convert this unusual porch/storage room into an en-suite second bathroom. Early in the demo process, we created small holes to see if the walls were insulated. The wall on the left was, but the back wall was not, so both walls will be insulated with spray polyurethane foam insulation. Read more
To help reduce costs and get a better understanding of how the home was constructed, I opted to gut the house with myself and a cadre of great friends. We were able to peel back the layers to see how it was updated over the years, revealing a lot of shoddy craftsmanship and lessons in what not to do when renovating a home. Since the previous owner used the house as a low-cost rental, the maintenance and updates over the years were poorly implemented, to say the least.
My favorite example of this is the living room window. One of the great mysteries of the house is odd shape of the windows; they almost seem like afterthoughts, and the sizing isn’t consistent within the home. These non-standard sizes require custom windows, which the previous owner clearly did not want to pay for. Instead they simply installed one that was too small for the opening and blocked off the top with plywood and spray foam (photo below). In addition to looking cheap, this is not a durable solution since the spray foam will degrade over time from exposure to sunlight and rain.
Instead of ordering a custom replacement window, the previous owner installed one much too small for the opening and blocked off the top with plywood and spray foam (right window in photo).
Here’s the latest video explaining the big surprise we discovered in the walls… the Green on Gift home is constructed of structural brick! Please subscribe to the YouTube channel to get video updates.
I’m very excited to announce that Southeast Green has officially come on board as a media partner for Green on Gift. Southeast Green is the destination for green and sustainability news for the Southeastern US. In addition to reporting on the news, they also provide an online business directory, the Speaking of Green online radio show, blogs and other information. Over the years they have grown into an incredible resource and just announced more than 9.5 million page views in 2014!
Southeast Green will help us get the word out about this project and the many ways to make homes more green. We’re going to collaborate on articles and blog posts as well as promoting the new Green Shortz videos.
One of the goals of the Green on Gift project is to demonstrate some of the many ways to make a home more green. Since education is a personal and professional priority of mine, we’ve partnered with GreenShortz to produce a series of videos to help spread the word about the project.
The mission of GreenShortz is to promote incremental personal sustainability. Greenshortz host, Tom Mills, creates short videos about easy (and some not-so-easy) ways to be green. You can find his videos at www.GreenShortz.com. Tom is partnering with us to document the Green on Gift renovation. He’ll help create videos highlighting certain aspects of the project and profile both the technology and products that will help make my house a green home.