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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fan Fun with Ductwork in Our Old House

Before I start today's blog, I would like to give a big shout-out to our son Dan and his wife Heather on their 10th anniversary! They are the parents to our two wonderful grandchildren Allegra and Mason. We wish them a happy anniversary and hope they have a wonderful and exciting year ahead of camping and baseball and family events.

Okay, now on to my blog topic of the day.

Did you know that every time you have a 90-degree turn in your household heating or air conditioning ductwork, it can decrease your air flow by 33%? 

Our ductwork run that goes up to the second story in our master bedroom (and my sewing room), has THREE 90 degree turns. That means there's almost no air moving through that vent, even when the furnace or the central air conditioner is running. It's very weak compared to the other ductwork in the house.  We have tried turn down the air flow with the dampers in the other ducts somewhat, but that doesn't increase it up the one run to the master bedroom.  Ironically, that is also the longest and farthest run from the furnace blower. 

We don't notice it as much in the winter months, because heat rises up the stairwell in into our bedroom and we are quite comfortable. We turn down the heat at night to 50 degrees, and use an electric mattress pad heater. So no problem with the winter months. 

But in the summer months it's really hard to get the cool central air up into our bedroom. Especially in the evening and night during hot humid weather. The main floor is still cool from the air conditioning running all day which is where the thermostat is located. We just don't get enough cool air movement pushing up into our bedroom.

We have tried various fixes over the last five years:

First, we put a ceiling fan in the bedroom.  It moves the air, but it's HOT air. Compounded by the fact we don't have any cold returns on the second floor at all. The cool air from downstairs just doesn't get up to the second story too well.

Next, we put a window air conditioning unit up there to supplement the central air. Not only was it noisy but I didn't like the look of it on the outside front of the house. It only cooled the bedroom and we had to keep the door shut to the rest of the upstairs.  We had to fire it up about an hour before bedtime to cool off the room. And --- the rest of the upstairs is still hot and uncomfortable.

The third solution was to add a supplementary fan to our attic scuttle hole to help suck some of the hot air from along the ceiling out of the second story. Beyond that, in the attic we installed an attic vent fan to help expel it to the outside through the gable end grid. Although that helps some, it's still was not addressing the issue of not enough air blowing up through that duct to begin with. 

So we went on now to our newest solution and I think this one is a winner!

I read about these supplementary electric duct fans, and although Steve pooh-poohed my idea from the get-go, I persevered. I showed him plenty of information about how that duct to our master bedroom and sewing room is severely hampered because of the three 90 degree turns. There just isn't enough flow of air.  

He finally went along with my idea, after living here for 5 years with insufficient air conditioning going up to our bedroom.  YAY! by boosting the air flow to the upper floor, both of our open stairwells to the main floor will act as cold air returns. 

So we went to Menards and invested $28 for a duct fan booster unit and $22 for the supplementary pressure switch control box, I am willing to try for $50 to make a difference!!!

He had looked at the size of our duct downstairs and first thought it was 6in. So we bought the unit for a 6in.. We got home and realized, nope, the ductwork is bigger. So we went back and got the fan for the 8in. duct work. We came home and oops, again, wrong size, that one's too big!

Guess in 104 year-old homes, they had 7 inch duct work at that time????

Three times a charm! We went back and bought a unit that was adjustable between a 6 inch 7 inch or 8 inch ductwork. 

This can be installed and run continuously 24 hrs. a day.  But..... we would rather it kicks on and off with the central air when it blows.  Hmmmmmm

So they make this other piece to go along with it. It is a temperature sensitive switch controller unit. After the fan is inserted into the ductwork, you drill a hole about the size of a half-dollar into the ductwork and mount this box to it. As the furnace or AC blower air passes over that hole, it activates a switch that turns on the supplementary duct fan. Set it for cooling or heating and there is a dial to control the amount of time the fan runs with a high and low limit.

Now to start the installation:  here is the duct fan unit with a half circle of ductwork. That makes it adjustable from 6" to 8", of which we have 7".

The fan is installed right into the ductwork. He removed the right duct pipe from the basement to install the fan in the best position. First by using a template, (which Steve hates using templates), he drew in the rectangle that needed to be cut out of our existing ductwork. Using a pair of tin snips, he carefully cut away the rectangle needed from our existing ductwork.

The is the first of three 90 degree angles of ductwork to our bedroom.  The other two are enclosed in the walls and floor between the first and second stories.  The duct transitions from a 7" circle to a 14" wide rectangle to boot.  This is the best place to insert the new duct fan, as it is close to an electrical outlet in the basement.

Before Steve reassembled the ductwork back into place, he decided to vacuum out the duct with the shop vac. It wasn't too dirty, but he since he had it apart, he might as well do it at the same time. 

He reassembled the duct work into place,
now with a rectangular hole cut into the side.

Using real "duct tape" he sealed off any corrugated areas that also leak air flow. The new fan slides right in and four self-tapping sheet metal screws hold it securely into place. He sealed it around the edges with more duct tape as well.

Now to add the temperature pressure switch to the duct, it has to be on the far side after the fan and furnace, not before it.  He only needed to drill a half-dollar sized hole in to the duct with a hole saw.  The orange box needs to be screwed tight to the duct and they recommend either some sponge gasket tape or a circle of caulk (non-hardening) to seal from the flat surface of the orange box to the round surface of the duct exterior.   He installed it tight and screwed it into place and plugged it all in.  

We followed the instructions and set the low and high limits and turned on our AC central unit to test it out.

We now have
 a nice strong noticeable blast of cold air 
coming up into our master bedroom!!!!!   

It is getting up in the mid 80's today and humid, so it's a great to test it all out.  We closed up the house and pulled the shades for added comfort, as well as slid down the storm windows over the screens on all of the windows for more insulation layers.  It's been 2 hours and the upstairs is nice and cool in the bedroom at 70 degrees, 

By George, I think we got it! 


This morning, before it got too hot and humid, Steve and I went out to dig up some hostas.  Steve's brother Pete and wife Cindy built a new house. They are working on landscaping now, and would like any and all perennials we can split and share.  My hostas have gotten too large for their areas over the last five years, so they needed thinning out and splitting.  

We dug up 10 huge clumps of various types,
 and most of those can be split two or three times more.

I am running up to Menasha later today, so we loaded them into the car trunk and keeping them in the cool of the garage until I am ready to leave. They will have a busy memorial weekend getting them situated and planted in their new yard. 

It's now noon,
and the temps are up to 84
and humidity of  58%


On edit---- it's now after 8 p.m. I'm very pleased to say that the downstairs temperature is 72 and the upstairs temperature is only 74! Usually there is a 10 degree difference between the downstairs and the upstairs. So it appears this supplemental Duct Fan is really doing its job to circulate the air throughout the house and get the cool air upstairs where it's needed the most. $50 well spent!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Our Old House Project- Going from Green To Blue

Ahhhh  --- we are home for a week and getting a few things done on the house.  For my newest blog readers, we fondly refer to our 104 year old home as "Our Old House".  We decided this summer to spruce up the outside.

Long ago our house looked like this: 

When we bought it in 2012 it looked like this:
(vinyl siding was added in the 70's) 

We removed the heavy overgrown cedars to show 
the delicate custom fretwork lattice under the porch.
Some of the cedars broke in the first winter's snowstorm anyhow.

Then I painted up some of the trim GREEN in 2013 like this:

When the previous owners had the house resided with vinyl, they also did  the soffits and eaves.  The soffit material has a pattern of two smooth sections and then two textured sections.  For some reason, they put a piece of the vinyl soffit material along the front of the house as trim???  In 2013, I had painted the textured sections of this material with green just to cover up the dirty looking parts that trapped dirt. 

Next project in mind: Steve is going to tear it off and see what is going on underneath it.  We are thinking of adding some curly cue stuff or trim strips of color or whatever.  Still messing with photoshop on ideas.

Yesterday, I got out my gallon of Cabots Solid Colored Acrylic Stain.... it works so much better than paint on things like concrete or treated wood (or even aluminum like this trim)  It doesn't flake off like paint does. You really can't use it over paint, but you can use it over stain, which is what I used the first time when I did the green back in 2013.  (I did a gazebo with it back in 1987 and it still looks great, as well as the shutters on our log house in 1997)  It lasts a lot longer than paint.

Mind you, Steve HATES painting... whereas I love it.  So this is "my thing" and I only ask him to assist with the difficult or up high stuff.

I went to work on the front steps, which are concrete and then some of the trim along the edge of the porch flooring and three columns from when the house was originally an open porch. 

I didn't get up high on the ladder yet for the top three blocks, but I will do that when Steve gets home and can help me.  He will need to put up the ladder to remove that soffit material with the green squares anyhow. Going from Green To Blue!

Whoooo hoooooo am I blue??? I did wear a bit of the color here and there on my hands and arms.  Hahahah I had fun... I even did the little house numbers as well.  It was a nice cool day in the low 70's and I got double coats on everything.  I think it looks great, and we will be adding to the trim around the windows, perhaps with shutters or some bric a brac or maybe even some corbels around the diningroom bumpout.

I even painted the birdbath (WITH water in it!) 
and I joked to neighbors passing by:

"Since I bought this cute little Dutch Boy and Girl, 
now I have to paint the house to match!"

Next up on my list of ideas was to stain up a bunch of new strips of wood, some quarter round and some half round pieces.  I convinced Steve to get out the air compressor and nail gun to put some up on the front of the house along the bottom edge of the fretwork lattice.  Ahhhh  I think that looks good!   (It's a "test piece" for some of the trim I might want nailed up around the windows and in the gables....)

That was it for Tuesday... 
not too bad for one day's work, don't ya think?   


Now it was Wednesday!  The weatherman said that it would be nice in the 70's today, but the rest of the week will be muggy and higher 80's.  So if I want to get ANY more done, I better do it today!!!!

I had the paint department mix up a quart of matching paint to the same color of the solid colored stain.  Because this adorable little round picnic table and benches had been painted before, I was more confident using paint on this for a new color.  The table was red, and I bought it for a donation to the Wisconsin Sheltie Rescue Group a few years ago. I like it better than a rectangular picnic table with attached benches.  This one fits better in the corner by the back porch and the benches are positionable for comfortable seating while eating.

I had Steve spread out a tarp in the shade, but the sun was moving fast so I had better hop to it!   I set out an MP3 player with my soft celtic music and spent the whole morning changing my table from red to blue!  I did all of the legs first one coat, and then a second coat in that order.  Once the legs were all done, then I could do the edges and tops of each piece.

Ahhhhh I got them done before 11 a.m. and just in time because I was losing my shade! It looks a little lighter blue in the pic because of the sunshine, but it's the same colonial type blue color as on the front.

Once that was done, I still have paint on my brush.... I asked Steve to remove the triangles from the cross buck design from the two storm doors on the back of the house.  They are not my "favorite" feature, more of a ranch house design.  I would love to find two old fashioned wooden screen doors with some character and bric a brac to replace them with.  But then we would still need winter storm doors....   Steve said we could in the future keep that in mind.

I finished up the triangles and set them to dry... 
After that I painted the stairs to the back kitchen door as well. 
This is using the stain again, because that is what I used before 
on the bare treated wood that was here when we bought the house. 

Steve put the triangles on the doors while I took a shower 
(and a nap!) 

He also moved the picnic table back into place and set the benches around it. On top in the center goes my funky big coffee cup planter that I garbage picked last summer.  My jade plant wintered well indoors, and we have been bringing it out daily to acclimate it to outdoor temps again.  I even painted the filigree holder for the garden hose next to the back door to the basement.  Hey.. when I get a paint brush in my hand, there is no stopping me!  LOL

now that part of the house is done!  

except maybe some strips of color trim
or shutters around the windows? 

I am anxious to see what we are going to do next ????

Monday, May 21, 2018

Busy Weekend and May Showers are Bringing the May Flowers!!

ACK!  After the warm lovely week of Wisconsin weather during our vacation, this week has turned cold and wet and rainy.  Right now it's only 51 degrees and wet wet wet. It's been raining most of the afternoon.  We turned on the furnace and also Steve lit the gas fireplace to keep us cozy this evening and chase away the dampness.

I am thinking we're going to need another vacation again! Since we got home on Friday we have been busy busy busy.  Of course my Mr. Stevieo Zoom Zoom wanted to get absolutely everything unloaded from the motorhome within 1 hour of arriving home.  We were in a flurry of unpacking, hauling into the house, and putting away the leftover food from camping--- plus the newest groceries we picked up on the way home.  We had the washing machine going, ran to get the mail that was being held at the post office, and carried in my quilting supplies of the newest project I was working on.

After supper I baked a few dozen cookies so I could have a box full to bring to the museum Saturday morning. Steve got together a cooler full of water bottles. We had a bunch of teenagers coming from the local high school history class to help with a cleaning day at the Calumet County Historical Museum.

This is my favorite recipe from my friend Hilary:

I split the batch into three portions, 
and mixed one with chocolate chips, one with Easter M&M's 
and the final third with white chips and sprinkles! (the favorite by far) 

It was nice to sleep in our bed in the house, but it's actually the same memory foam mattress that we now have out in the motorhome. I am glad we upgraded to that, because now it's comfy sleeping no matter which one we are in. The dogs were excited to be home, with their familiar toys and dishes, and to sleep on the floor next to my side of the bed.

We were up early so we could get dressed and over to the museum by 8 a.m. The school kids were coming by 8:30 and we still had to unload cleaning equipment and the Shop-Vac and find out from the other volunteers what needed to be done.

The museum has these two large buildings and....

a log cabin. 

Steve and the guys just replaced the cedar shingle roof a few weeks ago.
They had a chance to show a few of the others 
what a good job they did! 

The kids came and we set to our tasks. The buildings are unheated over the winter and everything was covered in a layer of dust and (dead flies) that needed to be sucked up with the shop vacs. Brooms were flying around, cleaning rags were busy, and the guys handled all of the heavy stuff that needed to be moved and organized.

Steve worked with the guys mostly in the other building moving around some displays and used our little trailer to move an antique sleigh from one portion of the museum to another.

The Museum recently purchased some used display cases from a store in Manitowoc. So we had an opportunity to move around some items and get items enclosed in glassed-in areas for protection and preservation.  The girls did a great job arranging all of the new displays, plus learned about a few things in the process. It was fun! 

I was able to mess around with my Fiber Department of spinning wheels, shearing equipment, and various fiber tools.   I got two new display cases in this area to start to set up as well.  More stuff to come, but for now it is taking shape.

There was a man's wool military uniform that I was able to seal up inside of a plexiglass display unit so it will be protected now from any moths or bugs

We worked hard all morning, and by noon we were winding down and putting away our gear. It was time to head on home and get in some rest after such a productive morning. Both of us crawled into bed for a nice long afternoon nap. I think we really needed it!

Saturday night I buzzed around the house for a while "de-kidderizing" because on Sunday we were due to have three of the grandkids come to visit. I put away my sharp weaving tools and scissors and electronics as best I can. I baby-gate off the tv and stereo/dvd equipment.  Once that was done, I filled up a nice big bathtub full of bubbles and soaked away the evening aches and pains.

Since we were gone camping during Mother's Day, we insist that our children (who are all mothers or married to a mother) spend time with their own families. I know that in the next few weeks I will get together with each of them for our own personal Mother's Day celebration.

I got a lovely handmade card and beautiful photo in the mail from Allegra and Mason while we were gone, that is now hanging up on the fridge. We will see them soon at one of Mason's T-ball games, but it was rained out tonight.

We prepared some food in advance so all we had to do was bring it out when they were here to eat. We chopped up all the makings for tacos, guacamole and salsa, I had shredded chicken with taco seasoning I prepared in the electric pressure cooker. Everything was ready for the next day. Less kitchen time and more grandkid time!

Sunday was supposed to be dreary cloudy and cooler. So Steve and I figured out a couple projects to do with inside of the house with the kids. Imagine our delight when the sun poked out and it was getting warmer and warmer. It turned into an absolutely beautiful day!

Our daughter Erin and husband Waylen with three grandkids Chelsea, Clayton and Claire showed up at noon to spend the afternoon with us. Waylen and his buddy Jason wanted to go to an event, the annual Beer Fest taking place at the Calumet County fairgrounds. We have a microbrewery in town that sponsored this festival with hosting other microbreweries from the area. For a $40 ticket wristband you can sample as much as you wish of any beverage on tap.

We had a nice little lunch with the kids out on the front porch.  We left the grownups to eat at the diningroom table while the kids ate in the sunshine.  Little Claire, our youngest grandchild is now old enough to sit at the little table and chairs.  Chelsea and Clayton are now up to a larger table and stools.

Smart Finnegan knows exactly where to hang out
catching any dropped bits of chicken tacos! 

(Binney hides out in the corner until the grownups leave,
then she comes out to see Chelsea) 

We took the Little Red Wagon down to the hardware store. I wanted to get some geraniums and spikes for four of the flower pots around the house. We also needed a new bag of birdseed.  Loaded up little Claire so the kids could take turns pulling the wagon.  (I ended up pulling her back home!) 

 We did a little video clip of their walk:

We have such a cute little hardware store in our town, it even has a small Pet Department with fish, gerbils, lizards, and birds. The kids enjoyed looking around and their their favorite thing is to put a dime in the sample box and choose a piece of Brach's candies.  No hard candy for Claire... sigh.

We also went home with a great big purple ball
 for the dogs in the big backyard, 
because I think Claire took over the little blue ball? 

We kept the grandkids busy at the house with projects! Put to task with helping us to plant the geraniums and then help water all of the flowers around the house.

Grandpa even got into the act... we put in geraniums and spikes and ivy in the two new pots that I got last fall from Craigslist.  These are on each side of the garage door.

Then we put more geraniums and ivy and spikes in each of the big pots on the front steps too. Soon they will grow and bloom some more and the ivy will cascade over the edges of the pots.

We also planted my two Mothers Day gerbera daisies from Steve
and to top it off, my lilac bush is in full bloom! 

That lilac bush was pretty gnarly and twisted and overgrown when we bought the house 5 years ago.  With careful pruning each year and shaping it, a little more each year, now it's a nicely rounded shrub. It gets more and more blooms each spring!   I have started a white lilac out back, and hope it grows as well. 

The kids really enjoy doing the watering with the cans, drawing from the two rain barrels I have, one on the house and one on the garage.  Even Clayton, a kindergartener, understands the rain comes off the roof, through the gutter, down the pipe and into the barrel. He told me so!

The kids each brought me a hanging basket for Mother's Day, along with an assortment of their artwork for the refrigerator. Steve put up brackets on each side of the back door for the flower pots.

Clayton helped his grandpa with projects on the motorhome while Chelsea was was busy keeping little Claire occupied in the backyard. Erin and I relaxed in the sunshine for a while and just enjoyed unwinding.

They even planted the Easter Lily they gave me last month,
and each one earned a popsicle for their efforts!

After Erin retrieved the two guys from the Beer Fest (where they had a LOT of fun) it was time to have a quick dinner before heading on home.  Those stinker kids remembered these hot dog cutters that I had out in the motorhome.  So we got them out for some "play with their food" fun! 

Here is a silly video of them in use:

Erin loaded up the kids, 
the guys and headed on down our driveway.

As they rode past the house, Grandfaddah and I waved goodbye
from the front porch windows, as usual.  

It was a great day!