Living In The House: An Assessment So Far

The storage facility was emptied out this week and so we no longer are bearing the expense which is helpful because November is shaping up to be our most-broke month ever. Every expense that had been in stasis for months is coming due – almost-final bills from the builder, college tuition for two kids, pre-school tuition for another kid, lighting and electrical supplies (they were under a contingency for the build and we are buying them all up front), huge surprise tax bill, regular Stowe taxes, life insurance, car insurance and a host of other things. It’s pretty crazy.

We have spent the majority of our free time this week emptying boxes that we fetched from the storage facility and stored in our garage. Their numbers are dwindling but one sad thing that we’ve had to come to grips with is that our terrific collection of bowls has been lost somewhere during the move. We have been collecting bowls from East Fork for the last four years or so, buying them when they have “seconds” sales and special colors on offer. We even based the color of the walls in our library on one of theirs called “Night Swim”. Not only were we bummed out that we lost them because they were essentially irreplaceable but they are super expensive when you’re not buying them on sale. We had a total of three bowls in the house since we moved in and it just didn’t make sense to buy temporary bowls so we shelled out for the East Fork replacements. This all kind of goes with our philosophy that we want this house set up right the first time and it may cost a bit more at first but we’ll never have to think about it again.

Something that continues to be somewhat shocking is how the house handles noise. Because it is so tight and the walls are so thick, sound barely penetrates. A leading indicator of how well this insulation works is our dog, Orbit, who is a Corgi with huge ears and crazy hearing. In previous houses, he always seemed on edge due to ambient sounds outside, whether they be car noises, or neighbors mowing, etc. In this house, he hears nothing outside of our normal day-to-day noices so he seems very relaxed. Noises outside aren’t loud enough to each his over-sensitive ears. This applies to contractors putting in concrete forms right outside the library windows, cars in the driveway, other dogs in the neighborhood barking – these are things that would have made him go apeshit prior to this house. Now, nothing. Huge quality of life upgrade for everyone.

The lack of sound applies to sounds going outside of the house as well. We have a family of deer that come into the back yard and eat the grass fifteen feet away from the back porch. With Henry yelling and running around on the other side of the triple-pane glass, the deer don’t even stir.

So far, the loudest things in the house aren’t what you would expect. I guess it is probably ranked by cost too, with the cheapest thing making the most noise.

  • Water pump in mechanical room (for the water heater evaporation line)
  • Toilet seat (with that fancy bidet situation)
  • Water heater (generates noise and cold (and hot water obv))
  • Dishwasher (its pretty loud when its running, but not disturbingly so)

The weather has been pretty rainy since we got here in June. Sure there were some super stellar weeks in the summer months but there was also an unseasonably high amount of rain this year too. If it continues into the snow season we could be in for a big one.

One of the most challenging things about this house will be heating and cooling it effectively and efficiently. Balancing all of the houses heating sources seems like it will be difficult. I think we are close to being prepared. A project for next week is putting on the tractor’s tire chains. We also could use those stakes you put along your driveway to indicate the edges when plowing and some snow&ice melt but otherwise we are prepared for as much snow as Stowe wants to throw at us.

Speaking of weather, I’m finding that the house is very dependent on the weather in almost all respects which gives the house a kind of unpredictable feel, and not necessarily in a good way. If the sun streams into the south windows, the house can run for days without turning on the electrical heat pumps. We had four or five days straight where the sun would heat the house to 70-72F during the day and it would slowly drop through the night and end up at 68F by morning. These were full sun winter days and not quite mid-winter temperatures, although some of those nights were in the 20’s. That bodes well for those super crisp post-front days.

On cloudy cold days, however, I am currently keeping things comfortable by running the main floor heat pump at 69F. That easily heats the house to 69F downstairs and 72F upstairs. We are also running the bathroom ambient floor heat from 5:30AM to 10AM at 72F which gives those rooms a warmer feel and it keeps those floors warm for quite a while after the electricity stops.

I think the heat will continue to be a puzzle to solve for the whole year but once we have a solid base of how to handle things, it should be fine. I think the coldest room in the house might be the spare room but we put a baseboard electrical heater in there if it is needed. For the most part, the Zehnder moves the air around in the house pretty well. Also ambient heat sources like cooking and doing the laundry contribute to the overall heat profile of the house during the course of the week.

Our solar is generating more questions than answers right now. Now that it is up and working, we have two meters to figure out and the electric company website does quite a bit to muddy the water as well. I have an app for SolarEdge, the maker of the solar panels, which gives me some good read-outs on their effectiveness but I don’t know how it all rolls into the electric bill. I do know that the bill last month was astronomical because they were running industrial dehumidifiers for most of the month.

I doubt we will have a clear picture of our solar loads until the end of next summer. Until then, the amount of electricity we plan on using is a rough guess based on some modeling by Efficiency Vermont and our build/design teams.

I called late last week to see if the water treatment company could come any earlier to install our water softener. The answer was not only a “no”, but a “no” that me think our install date in late November was also in jeopardy. So that sucks.

The office is coming together slowly but surely. My wife is enjoying the setup and I have my synths set up and my gaming PC. The gaming PC is a few years old now but still plays most games fine but the synth should be fun to play with on snowy nights.

Furniture-wise, we are down to our last sofa delivery. It is due in Stowe this week and, once it is in place, all of the planned furniture purchases will be in the house and we should be pretty well furnished. That’s a huge relief because shipping and receiving stuff like this – fragile, easily-destroyed furniture being carried cross-country – stresses me the hell out.

Lastly, our lighting situation is still in limbo. There are some sconces being shipped, a replacement globe for the kitchen light and likely a few lingering items. No news on when they will arrive or get installed.

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