My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Keepin' cool in the heat

North Dakota has been in a drought all summer and along with the lack of rain, has been excessively hot temperatures, which are often accompanied by high humidity. Not a nice combination anywhere, but when you live in a 98-year-old house (on the National Historic Registry, no less) with no central air conditioning, this can be a downright disaster. We bought our house in 2009 and for the past three summers, have suffered through small to medium bouts of heat and humidity.

Finally, this year, we decided to do something about it. It wasn't going to be easy though, because with the old house, comes hot water heat (hot water runs through pipes in radiators throughout our house). I love our hot water heat: it's clean (no dog hair blows around), it heats up fast, and it heats pretty consistently throughout the house. Unfortunately, it means that we don't have vents and had not option of just slapping a central AC unit into the system.

We had various Heating and AC companies come out and we finally decided on a system where there are two interior AC units hanging on the wall.
One in the office.


And one in our bedroom.


And these are connected together to an outside compressor unit, which is so quiet that I often have to look at the blades in the fan to see if they're moving to make sure the thing is on and working.


These work great. Both units are upstairs and we keep them at 72 degrees and they are able to not only keep the upstairs nice and cool, the cool air sinks and keeps the main floor of the house cool enough that we put away our old portable window AC unit, which keeps the living room from looking so cluttered.

There are a few drawbacks to the system, which I feel weren't well explained to us ahead of time. One is that there is an external pump/water storage unit for the bedroom unit. I assume that this is because the two units are connected, with the office unit flowing directly outside. It's not too annoying, but when the unit is full, then the pump turns on to send the stored water out the pipes and so it randomly gurgles for a minute or so.


What probably bothers me more is the fact that it's just sitting out of the wall, in a fairly ugly fashion. Currently with my dresser in front of it, it's not so bad. If we ever move the dresser, I think we may have a carpenter build a little box/table thing to enclose it.


The other issue is that the water is piped out of the house in plastic tubes and the installation guys just left them to drip right at the base of our house's foundation. I noticed very quickly that the ground all around these tubes was really wet and I got concerned that it would eventually start leaking into the basement. So, me being the crafty girl that I am, rigged up a fairly ghetto gutter/log combination to drain the water away from the house.

 
It's been working well for the past two months and the dogs appear to leave it alone. I think eventually we'll have to figure out a more long-term solution, but for now, it keeps the house dry.

While this system wasn't cheap, I honestly don't know if we (or the dogs) would have survived this summer. It's been exceptionally hot, and this was a great investment in our quality of life. I would definitely recommend this as an option for anyone who has a hot water heating system.

2 comments:

Rosemary said...

Your temperatures are the same as the ones we are experiencing this summer and with the high humidity, I don't think you can survive without an air conditioner! Stay cool :)

Karen said...

Great job, Alycia! Glad to hear the AC units work so well. Having a cool home to retreat to when the outside temps are oppressive is so refreshing.

Hot water heat is wonderful; my inlaws had it and the house was so uniformly warm with no drafts.

How amazing that your home is on the National Register, too!