It’s a daunting task sifting through the photographic story of our daunting renovation. So let me bring you up to date with a snapshot of “the utility room” as it is at present.
Mountains of debris and materials surround the incomplete but functioning heating apparatus in the basement. The new steel beams stretch above and a Christmas tree of red heating pipes radiate from behind the old electric water heater which is currently keeping the house warm (with the occasional help from our as-yet still in-use wood-burning insert in the upstairs fireplace.)
The red pipes are stapled to the ceiling and, when filled with hot water, warm the main floor of the house. I’m not recommending this in most cases but in ours it worked. If you already have a system of hot air ducts and you want to go more efficient and stop burning fossil fuels, you’ll probably end up with a heat-pump of some kind and an air-handler (fan). Much easier.
The other water tank (to the right) is a new one and it supplies all our domestic hot water (DHW). It is designed to work with a solar hot water system so only the top half is electric. Without the solar system installed yet, it works hard and is unable to fill our large bathtub in one go (I talk about our bathing hardships in this post).
Between the tanks is a utility sink which is not hooked up yet.
In the foreground is various detritus from all the various sub-projects involved in a big renovation. It includes a stack of beautiful custom-made window-sills crafted by Ron’s friend Andy and a classic, incredibly heavy table saw which I bought from a friendly neighbour to replace my much newer one which we burned out and is, apparently, irreparable.
I have to thank Richard at MeadowRidge Plumbing and Gas again. He supplied all the pipe and let me borrow his special stapler to attach the pipes to the ceiling. His team designed and installed the Christmas tree, did all the connecting and made sure everything worked. I’ll be singing their praises again on this blog.
The big missing piece to this system is the solar storage tank. We haven’t worked out the details, but I’m expecting a fairly large tank on the left of the above photo. We were given two hydronic (hot water) solar panels and, dammit, we intend to use them.
With photo-voltaic (electricity-generating) solar panels dropping in cost so quickly, the most common advice now is to install those and use the electricity to heat your water and do everything else, too. Dave the father-in-law likes to remind people that electric water heaters are 100% efficient–meaning all the electrical energy goes into the water–unlike gas or oil ones.
Hydronic panels don’t need direct sunlight like PV panels do, but they have other drawbacks like heating too much water when you don’t need it. That’s why I’m imagining a large storage tank, but it’s also our plan to sink that heat into the basement floor concrete which is why we ran water pipes through the large basement slab. That concrete slab can accept and store a lot of heat during the day and release it through the night.
So, unfortunately as it stands, our electricity bill is pretty high since we are heating everything with two electric water heaters. We must accept this as short-term pain at this point in our journey. With higher incomes, we could install all the bells and whistles at once and show you the finished product like some HGTV show, but we can’t.
We can’t because for the first time in years, we can’t pay off our credit card every month. It’s a scary place to be. We don’t have the capital to move the project faster, and from what I hear on CBC, neither do most Canadians. If Canada is going to reduce energy consumption as we have committed to do, aren’t we going to have to change this situation?
I have a few ideas about that, but I’m going to have to find the time between work, kids and renovations to share them. Thanks for reading and supporting Hammond Forever House!
PS: if you’re curious about what the basement looked like before: