I can see the light at the end of the heating system tunnel!

Yesterday my heating crew finished all of the work in my house. I now have a fully functional heating system, an empty basement and a house that still has displaced furniture and clutter. Two out of three isn’t bad – I’ll be working on getting the house back together this weekend. I am so excited to have gotten the job done after all of the drama in getting the work done. The last piece is having the engineering company and the town in to inspect the job. Once I get the green light the heating guys get their check from the bank. I’m sure they are waiting on edge for their $11,000 because they damn well earned it.

Gas Tankless Heating and Hot Water SystemThe company that did my heating system conversion was Sensible Heating and Air Conditioning. I would HIGHLY recommend them to anyone looking for either maintenance on a current system or bigger work like the conversion or replacement like I did. We dealt with Mike, one of the two brothers that did the job. They were both incredibly friendly, neat and clean, and worked quickly. They went out of our way and went above and beyond what we ever could have expected. I had asked them to leave off the toe kick heater in the kitchen to bring the cost down $400, which allowed me to get the loan approval. They ended up installing a small section of baseboards anyway for no extra cost because he told my dad he didn’t feel right leaving me with nothing in the kitchen. On their website their tagline is “Quality Means Doing it Right When No One is Looking!” They definitely exemplified this through their work and the decisions they made while completing my upgrade. I am not an HVAC expert by any means, so I was honest with Mike telling him I know enough to know what I don’t know. This was one of those things. I told him I would rely on their expert decisions to do the right thing and that I wanted to trust them to tell me what I needed to do.

They were great. They confused the hell out of all of us because Mike is a twin, so Josh had to do a double take the first time since they were identical. The true test will be when the engineer comes to approve the work. As long as it looks good they get two thumbs up and will be highly recommended to everyone to meet needing work in this area of expertise. Fingers crossed!

-AB

The heat is on…well almost!

For the last couple of days I’ve had work men at the house installing my shiny new heating system! Josh is glad that he will be able to heat up the house pretty soon and I am glad to break free from the evil that is Petro. I managed to run out of oil 5 times last winter on their automatic deliveries. Absolutely ridiculous, I suggest staying as far away from them as possible.

Baseboard heater

Baseboards in the living room

My dad came up from New York to hang out at the house Wednesday and Thursday so Josh and I didn’t have to take off of work to be there with them. Today is Josh’s day of so he will be there while they finish the last stage of the job. I thought they would be starting downstairs and would install the heating unit first, then move on to the baseboards. I thought I was being helpful by cleaning up the basement first for them to start their work. I was wrong. They started upstairs and worked their way down. Dad, Josh and Eric had to move all of the stuff upstairs in a quick hurry so they could work. Oops. The first day they pretty much finished the second floor, yesterday they polished off the second floor and did most of the first floor, so today they will be finishing the last little pieces on the first floor and ending in the basement. They will most likely have to finish the rest of the work on Monday, so by then I will have a working system.

Baseboard heater

Baseboards in the kitchen

I decided to bite the bullet and spend a little extra money to get the tankless hot water/heating combo unit. My poor hot water tank has been doctored up so many times by Josh, my dad and my neighbor that I’m showering on borrowed time. I am incredibly lucky it lasted as long as it did. I’m also glad my heating system held on for as long as it did. I just prayed everyday that we wouldn’t go cold. Fortunately I will be good to go in just a couple more days and not have to stress about running out of oil this winter. Petro can suck it! I could not be anymore excited for November 1st when I get to happily submit my written cancellation note. I honestly would not wish them on my worst enemy. I’d rather have Ebola. They already took all of the radiators out of the house and I just love how much more room there is. So much more room for activities!

I guess you know your an adult when you are this excited about getting a new heating system in your house. I’m living the dream! As much as I complain and whine and spend more money than I’d like to on this god forsaken house, at the end of the day it’s mine. All of the effort, blood, sweat, tears, it’s mine. I lay in bed at night with Josh and Mara and smile knowing that I have a pretty great life. I have my health, my job, a house, my man, my dog and now heat. A simple life, but I love every minute of it.

-AB

Good news: I might not have to freeze this winter

If you haven’t already read about my heating system drama I suggest you check out my previous post. If you have read it then you are already up to speed.

After getting an estimate $7,000 over my previously selected estimate I was on the hunt for a new heating company. Saturday morning I had another company come out and survey the house to give me a new estimate. I laid out the bottom line, which he had to come in pretty damn close to $10,000 for me to consider him. If he could manage that he had the business. He also had to agree that 100% is paid in full AFTER the job is done and inspected. Of course he agreed. The man that came out was very nice, took his measurements, discussed my preferences and told me he would have me an estimate in a couple of days. He was even creative on ways to keep costs down for me understanding my predicament.

I had Josh call Monday to ask when we would receive the estimate and they said they were finishing up and would have it that night. While he was on the phone they gave him a nice run down of the cost which was coming in at $11,400. Not terrible, but not what I was hoping for. My pre-approval was for $9,100 and then I lay out the extra $1,000 that will come back to me in the form of a National Grid rebate. I emailed him back today and asked if we could remove he kick toe heater for the kitchen to save some more money. I am hoping that will bring the price down a bit more so I can afford the job. If not I guess I will need to work my butt off and sell a lot of extra wedding gowns to keep warm for the winter. I guess I could pull $2,300 out of thin air, right?

I was also supposed to have Sears coming for an estimate Wednesday at 7pm. I got a call today telling me they don’t actually have anyone working that late and that they could have someone come at 1pm instead. I told the guy that was ridiculous considering the woman offered me the time a couple of days ago and that I couldn’t do it anyway because I had to work. He told me that I could speak to a representative about the heating system and that they could just give me an estimate over the phone. I told him it couldn’t possibly be accurate but he insisted. So a “product specialist” got on the phone. As soon as I explained that that I wanted to do a combo tankless oil to gas conversion and baseboards he told me they don’t do baseboard installation. The reason I was in contact with Sears was because they called me after I submitted a job description on Home Advisor. They had a full description of the job, called me, said they would be a good fit and went ahead to schedule the appointment. I guess I would have been even more mad if the guy came to my house and told me they didn’t do baseboards at that point, so this guy saved me and the estimator a bigger headache. Still, I’m not happy with Sears.

Hopefully I get an answer from this other company soon and I will finally get the heating system I need.

-AB

Moving Day, Freezers and Cat Poop

I know I missed a couple days of posting, but for a good reason. This weekend was moving day for my brother. Tomorrow he starts school at New England Tech, so for the next 3 years he will be living with me. Moving him in brought me back to the good ol’ days of moving in and out of Bryant. Fortunately for him there was only one move in and there will only be one move out. I did it four times. Of course the other kicker is I’m a woman, so I had a hell of a lot more stuff than him to move. Guys are usually good with a toothbrush a couple outfits and their Xbox. I had two bins of shoes and 6 massive buckets of clothing alone. I will be the first one to acknowledge how ridiculous it was, but I digress. We spent the weekend building TV stands, closet racks, unpacking and making some space for his stuff around the house. 

We went to Home Depot to pick up another one since even Josh and I don’t have enough room in the freezer for our own stuff, let own Eric’s food. Sadly the people before us in the house left one behind that was absolutely disgusting and broken so it was useless. We put it out on the curb and within an hour a junker was buy to pick it up for scrap. We took a family trip to Depot and checked out the options for freezers. We decided to go with the nice 7 cu ft. GE. Considering there was only one other option for $450, there really wasn’t much of a choice. My basement stairs are also really tight so we are kind of limited in size of what we can even have anyway. We flagged down an associate after some time of trying to find someone and they proceeded to call in the forklift to get one down for us. We had to go through the whole charade of closing the aisle, getting the flags to direct the forklift, strapping in, blah, blah, blah. They finally got the freezer down and we left. I decided I wanted to move the new freezer to a different part of the basement, away from where the other one was, so a little cleaning and straightening up was in order first. 

Dad and I went down and started moving some things around. Since the house is under construction I have a lot of extra materials (wood, sheetrock, paneling, etc.) hanging around down there. Of course they were all piled right where I wanted the freezer to go. There was an unused side of the basement so we started moving all of the extra materials over to that side to get them out of the way. We realized that there was a pile of debris that we knew needed to be cleaned up first before we moved it over. Having an unfinished basement, the walls typically drop fine sand like particles from age and wear. Not uncommon. That is what seemed to be all over the floor so I grabbed the shop vac and started going to town. Dad got the broom and we were getting it all up. It wasn’t until I was sucking all of the crap up in the vacuum did I realize that the larger chunks were not actually rock, but were pieces of cat feces. And as you would know it, the wall erosion was not just that but a mix of cement dust AND cat litter. I nearly died. After some serious cursing and disgust we cleaned it all up and moved the construction materials over. The basement was looking pretty good.

We went back upstairs to unbox the freezer and get it down stairs since there was now a spot for it. Eric and Dad slide the box off, unwrapped what was left of the Styrofoam and plastic (some of it seemed to be missing) and took a look at the unit. The front had a huge dent and the entire back corner was crushed in and bent up. We were pissed. I called Home Depot and told them that we were just there, it took forever to get the unit and that we got all the way home to find out the unit was severely damaged. I told them we would be there in 20 minutes and they better have a new one waiting at the front door to exchange. We got the unit back in the van, back to Home Depot and sure enough the manager was waiting at the front doors with a new unit and a big apology. He was a very nice man so my intentions of going in there and raising the roof just didn’t seem right. He opened the box so we could inspect it. Everything looked good. While we were there we also exchanged a key they cut wrong and returned an unused roll of carpet padding. Dad and Eric loaded the freezer in the van and we were on our way again.

We got back home, unboxed the unit and dad and Eric took it downstairs. Being the stairs were so narrow they had to fight to get it down there. After some time, they got it downstairs. The only casualty was the light bulb in the stairwell. I am pretty sure dad has broken at least one light bulb in the house each time he has been there. Thank god Dollar Tree keeps me stocked on light bulbs for cheap. The freezer made it down. Dad and I straightened up the rest of the basement and discovered that behind the old freezer was another mound of cat poop, litter and concrete dust. Great. We decided to take a break and build a few things for Eric’s room. Mom and Eric went food shopping and we got Eric’s closet rack for his clothes built for him.

When Mom and Eric got home Mom and I went down in the basement to clean the rest of the cat poop. My mom took a quick look around and found even more under the stairs and behind the chimney. I nearly died again. All I kept doing was asking my mom how anyone could allow themselves to live like this. The people in the house before me were a middle aged couple with 6 kids, 8 cats and a dog. I met the husband at the closing, but the wife refused to show up. Now I wonder if it was because of embarrassment with the way they were selling this house. My neighbor filled me in on the number of kids and pets. Mind you, the house is a tiny two bedroom, one bathroom house. I have no idea how that many people and pets could have even lived in there to begin with. But I digress. I am not sure how many times I told my mom “I don’t get it” and asked her “why?” but eventually 6 shop vacs and the need to scrap of the petrified stuff with a shovel later we got everything cleaned up. For those of you who know my family I come from an OCD clean kind of house. My mom is a super cleaning lady and has been my whole life. I have of course followed in her insane footsteps and freak out more than a normal person would in situations like this. But I imagine for those who weren’t raised do OCD this would even be unacceptable. I was just horrified. I threw a few raspberry air fresheners in the basement and then called it a day. Now the basement really did look good.

How’s the freezer working you might ask? Great question. Apparently it doesn’t. We let the freezer sit for a bit since we tipped it, but after it sat for at least 15-20 hours we plugged it in. Not even the slightest bit of cool. It is now Tuesday morning and it is still not getting cold. If I get home from work today and the freezer is still not cold I Eric and I will go through the charades to take it back to Home Depot again. I have a bad feeling I will be moving some stuff tonight. 

So that was that. Eric is moved in, freezer number two doesn’t work and my house [should be] cat poop free. 

-AB

Who needs heat anyway?

In November 2014 I closed on my first house. At the age of 23, buying your first home all by yourself is a pretty big deal in my opinion. My parents raised me to be a strong, independent woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it. I feel like I’ve done pretty well for myself. Long story short on this house, I bought it on a short sale and knew I would need to do a lot of work myself t get it where I wanted it. I was up for the challenge. Growing up lower middle class my mom and dad always did their own home improvements and encouraged me to work with them and learn the valuable life skills. I wasn’t intimidated by he thought of manual labor. As any wise homeowner knows everything that can go wrong in the house will and no project is ever without a snowball effect. I will save some of the other stories for a [different] rainy day, today I want to complain – I mean, talk out – my mission to convert my heating system.

Right now we have an oil boiler with steam radiators. The house was originally built in 1870 so the radiators weren’t a huge surprise. I grew up in an oil house with baseboards so radiators aren’t my first choice. RI has a great program where an engineering company will come in and give you a free home energy audit and provide you with recommendations. If recommended and approved one of the program perks is a 0% financing loan for energy upgrades. For me this would cover a new heating system. My hot water heater was already gas fired so I decided I wanted to do the full conversion (especially after Petro screwed me over all last winter) and have a tankless water/heating combo unit and replace the radiators with baseboards.

I had the home energy audit done in February and was approved to pursue the loan in March. The first step was to get and select an estimate to apply for a loan amount. I had 5 different companies come in form estimates. There was one company in particular that impressed me with their reviews and I was extra interested in receiving an estimate from. The estimates from the other companies were ranging from $10k to $14k. About what I expected. My favorite company kept telling me they would get me that estimate “by tonight” and after a week and a half of nagging they told me they were having a hard time sending to my Gmail account. I gave them 4 other email addresses to try and never got a quote. So Josh and I selected the most inexpensive estimate and I started applying for loans. I applied to several loan companies and was denied because of a high debt to income ratio (thanks student loans and credit card debt).

Fast forward September, I finally found a lender that was happy to approve me. I emailed the company we originally selected and provided them with my pre-approval letter from my lending company. A couple days went by and I hadn’t heard anything so I had Josh give them a call. They told him that they would need 1/2 the money (about $5k) upfront. How the heat loan program works is that the company is required to complete the work first and then the engineering company comes in to inspect the work. If everything is done correctly the lending company will cut the company the check for the full amount. So the fact that they are asking for half the money upfront, this would mean that I would magically need to come up with $5k to give them, the lender would cut them the check at the end, and then they would give me my fronted money back.

Seeing as how I don’t have $5k to magically pull out of the sky to give them, I now have to find another company who will do the job for the same amount I was already approved for. I decided to contact my same favorites from March and give them the chance to actually give me a quote this time. They said they needed to come out to the house again to make sure they remembered the job correctly. Fine, that’s understandable. They came out Wednesday and met with Josh. Told be I would have an estimate by “that night.” Wednesday night came and went. Thursday. Didn’t answer my calls until Thursday afternoon. Owner said the guy would have an email to me by “that night” because they had to wait on estimates from their suppliers. Whatever. Thursday night comes and goes. Friday. My exact text to Josh this morning was “call these fuckers please.” A little while later I got an email with the long awaited estimate. I was feeling good. I opened the email.

$17,000. Seventeen thousand dollars. 

My chin hit the floor. That was $7,000 more than the original estimate we selected. I emailed him right back and told him that was outrageous and that he was $7,000 over my other guy. His response was that no one could possibly do the job well for that little. He said it was $4,000 for the boiler itself and 4 days of labor. Where I imagine the disconnect to be was that the other companies said that the job should only take 2 days, these guys were saying 4. I’m not sure why they were talking so much longer but apparently they needed more time than the other 5 companies to do the same job.

I kindly said thanks but no thanks and started emailing other people to come out and give estimates. I have a guy coming tomorrow at 9am and Sears coming Wednesday at 7pm. I am hoping that one of them will be able to spot around the $10k mark. Otherwise, who needs heat anyway? Nothing a few space heaters and a sweatshirt can’t help.

If anyone has any suggestions for Plumber/HVAC guys in the RI/Mass area please let me know because I am just a little bit desperate with the cold weather creeping up fast. Thanks!

-AB