Progress report

It’s been a hectic ten days getting settled into our new home.  Today Miss D. and I both agreed that things have pretty much come together in terms of the living-room, kitchen and dining area.  Our bedroom’s about 80% organized, the spare room is ready for our first guests this weekend, and her and my offices are taking shape, although more slowly than the rest of the building.  We’ve paid more attention to common and entertainment areas, obviously.

My books are now largely unpacked and set up in the living-room.  After last year’s big weed-out I’ve got eighteen 3′ shelves of general non-fiction and reference, five of general fiction and four of science fiction.  I’ve got to assemble a new bookcase that arrived today, then my religious books will fill five 2′ shelves, and that’ll be everything.  It’s been a lot of work getting them all unpacked, but my idea back in Nashville to box them in their alphabetical order by author meant that unpacking and racking on this end went much more quickly and easily.  I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time (which hopefully won’t be anytime soon!).

I’ve been struck by how few new or new-ish books I have in my shelves.  For the past several years, if I’ve wanted something new I’ve tried to buy it in e-book format.  I now have several hundred books in my e-library;  they weigh nothing, are accessible on multiple devices whenever I need them, and when it comes to moving they don’t weigh a thing and don’t take up any space in the truck.  What’s not to like?  I’ve kept in paper mostly the older volumes that aren’t available in e-book format.  In some cases they are, but at a price that’s too high for my budget.  In such cases I’ll either keep the paper volume I have, or order a used copy for much less than the cost of any new edition.  However, I’ve made a new rule for myself.  My categories of books have to fit into the shelves I’ve allocated for them, without expansion.  If I get a new paper book and there isn’t space for it, another book has to go out.  No exceptions.  That’s the only way I’ll keep my library under control!

The garage is still half-full of boxes, but there are a lot less of them than there used to be.  We made a run to the local landfill yesterday to dump a pickup load of flattened cardboard boxes, bags of packing paper and other materials, and I daresay we’ll make another one within a week or two.  Now that the initial urgency is over I’ll tackle a box or two a day, and we’ll slowly but surely pare down the outstanding stuff over a couple of months.  Miss D. should be able to park her car in there by the end of this week.  I suspect my pickup may be a bit too big to squeeze in alongside her vehicle, even when the garage is otherwise empty, but we’ll see.  I’ll be selling my 5’x8′ enclosed cargo trailer, as I’ve nowhere to park it and I don’t want to pay monthly storage fees.  (If any of my readers in or near northern Texas need a small cargo trailer in good condition, with new tires and spare tire, for half the new price, and can come to collect it, drop me a line – my e-mail address is in the ‘About Me’ section of the sidebar.)

It looks as if repairs to our problematic HVAC system will be covered by the move-in insurance policy provided by the seller as part of buying the house.  That’s good news, as it would have been tricky to find so much money out of our own resources.  Upon investigation, it turns out that the entire housing development of which our home is a part was built with geothermal HVAC systems that are too small for the very hot weather conditions here during summer.  Most people seem to run one or two window A/C units to ease the load on their overburdened central systems.  We’re planning to do the same, and in due course, after I sell enough books to make it possible, we’ll consider upgrading or replacing the entire thing.  That won’t happen for a couple of years at least, though.

Phlegmmy is holding her annual blogger gathering, known as Phlegmfest, over this coming weekend.  Her guests start to arrive tomorrow (most of them also our friends and acquaintances), and we expect to accommodate anywhere from one to three of them.  The festivities will center on Old NFO‘s home;  it has the biggest and best-equipped kitchen of all our residences, so he’s been dragooned graciously volunteered his facilities.  We’ll provide some of the food, of course, preparing it here then carrying it over there to be devoured by the ravenous horde.  We’re looking forward to the festivities.



  1. It's gonna be interesting… And the unpacking takes a while! You made more progress than I did the first couple of weeks!

  2. Re the trialer: Look for a Boy Scout troop in the area. They might offer you less, but you could claim the difference on your taxes, I think.

  3. RE: air conditioning/heat pumps, etc. Geothermal heat pumps are a logical choice, but….when I looked at them a number of years ago I discovered that installing to "manufacturer's recommendations" would be a grevious error. Every technician I spoke with who had experience on geothermals said the same thing: manufacturers undersize the heatpump/ground link. Apparently, makers size on the basis of computations and the real world has other ideas. One mfg called for 300 ft per ton of 1 3/4" buried pipe loop, a local outfit that had installed a number of units, and serviced more, said "double that and go to 2". My property at the time didn't have the room for that much buried tubing, so i considered the idea of drilling a well and dropping the tubing into that. Two well drillers said they had done wells just for that purpose, and were called back less than two years later to drill a second well because the heat transfer through one wasn't enough.

    Before you invest heavily in window units, consider ductless split systems. Mitsubishi is the big player here, but there are several other companies with comparable units. The splits are much more efficient than window units, and in recent years the condenser units (the outside unit) have adopted variable speed compressors so they can handle up to 4 zones – meaning each of 4 rooms has a thermostatically controlled indoor unit, which can be either wall mounted or built into the ceiling and the compressor runs at a speed necessary to handle however many indoor units demand cooling simultaneously. This helps a lot with energy bills.

    I've specified a number of split systems as cooling for small to medium size computer rooms I've built over the years; heating isn't called for so my experience with split system heat pumps is limited, but for cooling I've been impressed. Computer room coolers usually run constantly – heat output is constant and very predictable, unlike human-occupied spaces, making system size planning pretty easy – and constant running is easier on equipment than lots of starts and stops.

    Splits are also easy to install (especially as a retrofit) because it's small diameter piping in the walls or attic, not large ductwork. One advantage is power outages – a small to medium size generator (<6K watts) is often enough to run a split system to cool several rooms, where a large whole house-size system would require a 20K or > generator.

    If I'm ever fortunate enough to build my own house, I'll spec gas (either natural gas or propane) with a backup wood stove or two for heating and a ductless split system or two for cooling.

  4. If those split systems use R-134a freon, absolutely no F'n way should they be mounted in the ceiling.

    It was discovered to be toxic when a leaking system, mounted in the ceiling of an overhead warehouse crane, killed several shifts of operators. Breathing the vapors destroys the liver, IIRC.

  5. They splits use 410a. I have a 100 year old home, with no/zero insulation. It's in south Texas. We had puddles of coolish air with window units, and the only warm spot in winter was over the stove.

    I put in a GREE minisplit. Over half the house is conditioned now, and is comfortable year round. It's an inverter style, that changes voltage based on demand. I think GREE makes 50% or more of the minisplits in the world. Big Chinese firm.

    This year, I'm doing the bedrooms with another smaller system. Oh, and the electric bill is half what it was with window units.

    Also, blow in insulation in the attic is easy fix for the heat issue in Texas. That's on the list this year too. I figure a foot deep would help since we are 12 miles from the sun….


  6. i am talking through my hat as i am ignorant but
    i have often wondered why the southwestern states don't use more solar panels.
    would a few of those roof mounted and tied down [high winds] be enough to power an air conditioning system?

    don't know about dallas [we lived near austin at one time] but it looks like an ideal place to have a garden and greenhouse.
    a few raised beds can look very nice and provide food, flowers, and hours of watching pleasure from hummingbirds and butterflies. something for the future?

  7. I had a GREE mini-split put in my shop when I had it built and I vouch for them. They're a little tricky to get used to because they operate differently than the old-style central air systems. The central air uses an on/off controller. The mini-splits run all the time and cycle between higher and lower cooling. The low cooling output temperature can be 10 degrees below the input, and the high cooling can be 30 degrees below input! Once you get the hang of setting it differently than the bang/bang (on/off) controls of the central air, it's great.

    The room is large, and the unit is mounted on the west wall, which means they (wall and A/C unit) get heated by the afternoon sun. So if the A/C is set for some convenient temperature, say 75, in the morning the room stays around that temperature. In the afternoon, that wall may heat up to 80 or so which forces the unit on and drops the temperature a couple of degrees. At the time of day when I'm willing to let it get a little warmer, to save energy, it gets cooler.

  8. Deborah, one problem with solar is hail. If you are east of Albuquerque, NM, hail is a very serious concern with many solar panels. Lack of water to clean off solar panels is another problem, and the dust can accumulate very quickly, reducing efficiency. In some places, there are also increasing concerns that the local fire departments will not be as aggressive fighting attic and roof fires because of the hazards associated with roof-mounted panels (the wiring, chemical releases, the glass). It depends on what kind of system, what kind of mount, what kind of hail protection . . . the costs can quickly outweigh the energy gains.


  9. LittleRed1 you uncovered a memory. In 1981, we took a field trip to an experimental solar steam generator. Texas Tech built a parabolic dish 0ut of 3 foot curved mirrors out near Crosbyton. They found that gluing about 3 inches of cardboard like corrugated paper on the back (like is in the middle of cardboard) made it almost indestructible. Our biggest guys hammered on it with all they had, and the hammer just bounced off. Not sure if the glass was tempered, but it was tough enough for big hail.

    The water went to the focus in a small pipe, but came out as steam at 1200 psi or so, and some ungodly temperature.

    I don't think you can do the same with solar panels, since the silicon wafers are on top….

    Thanks for that!!!

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