Living In The House Fully

The past few weeks have felt like we have moved past the “just moved into our new house” and into the phase where we are settling in and becoming more comfortable.

There are a few stumbling blocks when moving into a new house and I would add a few more to that list when moving into a passivehaus. The systems like the water heater, heating systems and general temperature and humidity control are always going to have a learning curve but in a passivehaus they take on a very important aspect in your daily life.

I remain slightly skeptical of how well the heating systems are going to handle the deepest winter here. So far, the house has performed well but we haven’t had a temperature much below 20F. We mostly keep the heat pump on “Heat” mode downstairs at 69F and it is more than enough to warm the first floor and keep the second floor around 71F. The humidity in the house has been fluctuating between 49% and 54%.

On sunny days I have been turning off the heat altogether since the sun will heat the house throughout the day well into the 70s. The evening will see a general cooling of the house, especially on colder nights, of 2-4 degrees. I think the lowest I’ve let it get down to is 67F which is generally what we’ll find after a chilly night and the temperature at 69F when we go to sleep. If it was a sunny day, the temperature usually runs a bit higher throughout the day. I think my new tack is going to be to turn the heat on when we go to bed set to 69F so it doesn’t dip too much while we sleep. It will probably save money over time because the heater won’t have to work so hard in the morning. That said, I don’t think they are working too hard currently and having one small heat pump vent heating the whole house is pretty remarkable.

But on a series of days when it is gloomy and rainy there is no sun to boost the heating efforts and, while things have so far been fine, when we have multiple days in the negative temps, it remains to be seen how the house will hold the heat or, rather, how effectively the heating systems will replace the heat loss.

This weekend we had our first fire in the Stuv fireplace. The first fire in a new fireplace always will have some off-gassing from the new paint and/or oil coated parts of the stove itself, but the overall function was beyond excellent. It pushed the heat into the room and burned the wood very efficiently. I would say we burned less than a dozen pieces of split firewood over the course of the day and, despite the heat pumps being off, the house was 71F in the main room and 75F upstairs.

The last remaining big piece of furniture, the sofa for the main room, arrives on Tuesday from California. It has been traveling the country since mid-October and the “final mile” truck should be unloading it mid-morning. Fingers crossed that it all goes well. Furniture delivery is one of the most stressful things I’ve had to deal with during this build and move process.

About 100 years ago I was in art school for fine arts-painting. I did a lot of paintings during those years, especially when I returned to college after a year-long hiatus, that end up speaking to folks still. They were strange formats, sometimes on hollow body wooden doors, or thick canvas. Over the years, the collection of these old paintings has dwindled but the few that made it here are getting hung where they might enhance the look of the place.

This horizontal painting really works well on the upstairs hall area. It echoes the window shapes across the room which are also long and horizontal. The light blasts through in the late morning and allows for some visual excavation of the layers I built up and having a dark counterpoint to the window is interesting. It seems like it was made to be in that spot so I’m happy we held on to it. That painting is around 20 years old which is slightly shocking.

We are supposed to get our first accumulation of snow this week. It might be an inch or so but I’ll be ready.

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