Basement renovation – part 3

The saga of this renovation continues to unfold slowly. Electrical work has taken forever and it almost felt like it would never end. We kept finding scary looking splices that were soldered and covered with electrical tape. Quite a few of them were not even inside junction boxes. Most of them were created from cutting old wires that were original to the house and installed without any slack. We had to add junction boxes and extra wire to bring everything up to modern standard. Besides correcting the splices, we also installed a gazillion electrical devices:

  • 22 recessed lights
  • 13 power outlets
  • 6 switches
  • 1 timer
  • 1 bathroom exhaust with light and heat
  • 1 heating panel
  • 1 thermostat
  • 1 telephone junction box
  • 2 ethernet outlets
  • 2 telephone outlets
  • 4 speaker outlets
  • 2 coaxial outlets
  • 1 smoke detector (hard wired)
  • 1 CO + smoke detector (hard wired)
  • 5 junction boxes
  • 25+ electrical boxes
  • 300+ feet Romex wire
  • ?? feet speaker / ethernet / telephone wires
  • countless wire nuts and staples

That’s not all the electrical work. We also hired an electrician to do a few things we were not comfortable doing ourselves. She took care of 1 splice, connected 3 circuits to the electrical panel, installed 3-way light switches, and a bunch of tidying-up around and inside the panel.

Continue reading “Basement renovation – part 3”

Basement renovation – part 2

The egress window project concluded in the first week of May – over 2 months since the contractor started the job in February. As I explained in the previous post, it’s complicated. The final outcome is remarkable. In addition to the window, the contractor also completed extra framing inside as I requested so we can install drywall and trim around it later. On the outside, I claimed credits for layers of paint and caulking along the concrete and trim, plus the replanting of sod around the window well.

We saved chunks of sod before the contractor dug the well and kept the sod in plastic bins outside. I thought it would be piece of cake to put the sod back in but it’s worse than a jigsaw puzzle because the window well sloped backward towards the house while the lawn needs to slope downward towards the streets. It ended up taking me hours playing with dirt, compost and sod. When the patchwork was done, I had to loosen the old lawn where the contractor had walked all over after the ground was fully soaked from heavy rain. The final step was spreading corn meal gluten to fertilize the lawn and stop weeds from germinating. When it was all said and done, I had a splitting headache!

Continue reading “Basement renovation – part 2”

Basement renovation – slow going

Hubby and I tore out the basement last fall after having to investigate a potential electrical problem with our stove. Two electricians’ visits later, we didn’t get any answers so we cut a bunch of holes in the ceiling of the study in the basement which is directly below the kitchen. We found a hidden junction box for the stove and the wiring connections didn’t look safe. We called back one of the electricians to take care of it.

Since we’ve already cut a bunch of holes in the ceiling, the next progression seemed to be a complete demolition. We filled up a 10-yard dumpster and there is still a bunch of crap leftover. Next up was a seismic upgrade and an egress window. The actual work didn’t start until late January after spending weeks figuring out a solution with the contractor for an egress window to go into an existing window opening. It ended up to be a T-shape design – a long fixed window at the top where two little windows used to be and a casement window at the bottom.

New windows

Continue reading “Basement renovation – slow going”

Oil furnace backdrafting problem solved

Last winter, we occasionally smelled diesel near the oil furnace in the basement. We first thought there was something wrong with the furnace. We had our furnace guy checked it out twice and a power vac company sucked out all the gunk in the furnace. The problem persisted. We finally got some clues to the cause of the problem from the chimney guy. He checked everything including the furnace flue which looks just fine. He then concluded that the issue might be backdrafting. That seems to make a lot of sense. The diesel smell appeared mostly on Sundays when we cook and do laundry at the same time. The downdraft in the kitchen and the dryer are sucking a lot of air out of the house. While I was looking for a solution, we opened the kitchen window whenever we turned on the downdraft.

By this fall, I felt like we really need to get to the bottom of this. I called a local HVAC company. They sent someone out for an inspection. After explaining the problem, the guy brought in a manometer to measure the air pressure in the house. Here are the results:

  • Baseline (all appliances and furnace are off): -1.3 Pa
  • Furnace blower: -0.3 Pa
  • Bathroom exhaust fan: -0.5 Pa
  • Dryer vent: -1.25 Pa
  • Downdraft: -3.0 Pa
  • Sum of all appliances would depressurize the house past -5.0 Pa.

Continue reading “Oil furnace backdrafting problem solved”

Data from Smart Meter

When local utilities started installing smart meters, many people got upset. I don’t really buy the health concerns while every other house in my neighborhood has a wifi network. And if you ever go to a coffee shop, you are most likely getting a blast of radiation from their wifi with that cup of joe. I would rather have a say on the reach of my neighbors’ wifi signal than on smart meters.

And then, there is the privacy issue. Does smart meter provide that much more advantage than a human meter reader? Manual reading of meters can be taken as frequently as smart meters if there is a video camera aiming at the meter all the time. Well, that would be a rather boring video and the YouTube hits would go nowhere. Another argument is related to the tracking of the residents’ activities. Aren’t we sharing all that on Twitter and Facebook? The utilities might know when I am not home but they won’t know what I had for lunch yesterday while a ton of people are sharing their lunches online. I suppose opting in to share is not the same as having the data to find out without you knowing. But smart meters are the small potatoes. Our emails and text messages are already being tracked by the giant data center in Utah. Wouldn’t you rather be protesting against the large scale data scooping than the small ones that track when we suck too much electricity?

Continue reading “Data from Smart Meter”