Furnace hack

One of the most popular questions we get asked when people learn we live in a firehouse is “How bad is your heating/cooling bill?” While it’s certainly more than we paid in our former 1,800 square foot suburban house (way back when we lived in Kansas City), it’s actually on par with the bills we received when we rented a condo and a studio. Well… it was on par with that until the polar vortex hit St Louis. The January bill was a little cringe worthy.

Aaron decided it was time for a little furnace hack that will help the units run more efficiently in the winter and keep a few dollars in our pocket. Because this is a commercial space, all four of the furnaces pull a mix of indoor and outdoor air. This is a typical set up because it’s a commercial space and the assumption is that many people and germs will inhabit the space. Circulating germy air is no beuno.

Our situation is more residential so we don’t need that outside air to keep things healthy. And, as you can imagine, it takes a lot of energy to get single digit air up to 65 degrees. We opted for a permanent disconnect… even though the set up is somewhat temporary. Let me explain.

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Here’s one of the furnaces in the studio. The white part (on the right) extends to an exterior vent and draws in outside air. We needed to make that stop, but we didn’t have the time or appropriate weather to take out all the venting (hello 6 inches of snow that just blew into town).

As a temporary measure, Aaron removed part of the duct work and insulated it.

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He used a layer of rigid foam, fully taped to seal any gaps. That was followed by a layer of soft insulation.

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And then foil… We’re going very “boy scout” up in here. The foil is just a (cheap, temporary) barrier that keeps Aaron from forming sheet metal caps.

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Eventually we’ll pull the whole line out, cover and insulate the holes in the wall and cap the top of the indoor air intake with something a little more permanent. For now, we’re cozying up to the warmer temperatures in the studio and enjoying the fact that the furnaces (and our wallets) don’t need to work as hard to keep us warm.

How are you surviving this awful winter?

9 comments

  1. DessertForTwo

    I have wondered about your heating bill! Our house in KC was brand new with awesome insulation. Our STL home, not.so.much. We’re having our windows repaired and restored. We considered replacing them, but there’s just something wrong with putting new cheap vinyl windows on an 87-year old house, ya know?

  2. Pingback: How the firehouse got to us |
  3. David

    If you have the means, consider solar power. I live in a 2500 sq ft house and our electric bills plummeted. Last months bill was 2.81.

    • Heather

      That’s awesome! Having the means is definitely the key. At this point we’re sticking with the traditional set up, but once we get some of the living spaces finished we might consider alternative power.

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