Replacing the broken AC… and going all in on three new HVAC systems

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of our air conditioners bit the dust.


Of the four units on our roof, three of them are past their prime. (Hint: The three on the right.) The unit cooling the kitchen and future downstairs living/dining rooms wins the prize for going out first. Initially, we turned to the company that (used to) service our HVAC to get a new quote, but were frustrated by the salesman’s lack of interest. So Aaron decided to cast a wider net. He contacted several HVAC companies and decided to get quotes that would not only cover our one dead AC unit, but would give us options for replacing the whole system (AC and furnace) as well as replacing the two other older systems.

We reasoned that this would give us some leverage in the price. Also because the units are located on the roof, we would only need to pay to bring a crane out once (rather than each time a unit kicks the bucket.) A large scale replacement would also offer the biggest impact to our monthly heating/cooling bills.

Anton’s Air Conditioning & Heating made the list thanks to great reviews on Angie’s List. They were great to work with from the start. They did a thorough walk through and asked for measurements of the rooms to ensure they quoted the right systems for the space.

Their quote wasn’t the lowest that we received, but it was on the lower end of the scale. We also felt like the owner went above and beyond to give us the best price he could.

Ultimately, we purchased three Carrier Infinity 19VS central air conditioning units paired with Carrier Infinity 96 gas furnaces. That allowed us to replace the two furnaces in the studio:


And one of the upstairs units:


Anton’s scheduled our work quickly and sent extra installers to make the install as fast as possible. All of the material was delivered and then they got to work!


Paying for this once, instead of three times = winning.


The new furnaces are much smaller and SO much more efficient. The studio unit (pictured here) is 100,000 btu and is 96% efficient.


The other furnaces are 80,000 btu and also 96% efficient. The older models were only 90% efficient.


The AC’s (not pictured because we forgot to ask them to take one) were huge upgrades as well. The studio AC is 4 ton and the ones for the living spaces are 3 1/2 ton. Most impressively (per Aaron who, per usual, became an expert in the lingo) the AC units are 19 SEER (the measurement for efficiency… don’t worry I didn’t know that either) far surpassing the former units’ paltry 8 SEER.

We also added humidifiers, which should make a world of difference in the winter. (Three cheers for less static electricity!)


The high-efficiency units came with fancy thermostats. Besides being programmable, they control the humidity and connect to our wifi to tell us the outside temperature and weather.


So here’s my love letter to Anton’s. We’re avid DIYers, but ones that recognize that we need to outsource large or labor intensive projects. Because of that we’ve dealt with a number of contractors over the last 2 ½ years and have had mixed experiences across the board. We’ve had issues from communication to cleanliness and quality of work to can I say communication again, because OMG most contractors are SO bad at this. All of this is to say that we know what it’s like to work with bad and mediocre companies. That’s why our experience with Anton’s Air Conditioning & Heating stands out far above the rest and was hands down the best service we’ve received to date.

The team at Anton’s made every part of the buying process easy… neigh enjoyable. And if you’re going to give that much money to someone, you want to feel good about it. They helped arrange a fantastic financing plan and even completed much of the rebate paperwork for our local utilities.

The extra installers cut the install from around 3 days to 2. Ultimately they finished in just a day and a half despite the intermittent thunderstorms. If that was the sum of the story, we would be happy. What ticked us over into the love zone was the extra effort. On the first day of the install, the team stayed late to make sure our upstairs back quadrant (this covers our upstairs living room, where we spend most of our evening) was functional. They also added an overflow pan and water sensor to our upstairs furnace to guard against damage should the humidifier fail. And they cleaned up after themselves! When I asked Aaron if he had vacuumed the (slightly embarrassing) amount of dog hair in the living room he told me that the Anton’s crew cleaned a bunch before departing, including wet mopping most of the studio. Be still my heart.

So, Anton’s Air Conditioning & Heating – THANK YOU! Thanks for being great people and being  great at what you do.

Once Anton’s was done, there was still a little work left. The upstairs furnace and furnace closet lacked any kind of insulation or seal between that space and the attic space.


That jagged hole allowed attic air (not temperature regulated and definitely not clean) to flow into the living room.

Here’s a view from the neighboring closet. Aaron pulled down the drywall (it was just screwed in) to access the attic space.


We’re so glad he did because he also found a significant break in the HVAC line. That meant some of the air we were paying to cool/heat was leaking into the attic and some of the attic air was getting pumped throughout our second floor. No bueno.  He sealed the junction and every gap around the furnace room and attic before adding lots of insulation.

The new systems have been running  for a few weeks, and we are thrilled with change. Aaron has the thermostats programmed to spool up or down based on our routine and the house just feels more comfortable (cooler in this instance) throughout. I seriously had to grab a light blanket last night when we were on the couch. Plus (and this may be the absolute best thing to come out of all of this) the upstairs back quadrant furnace, which is in a closet RIGHT next to our couch, is SOOO much quieter. We’ve spent the last few years adjusting the volume of the TV up (WAY up) whenever the furnace kicked on. Now it’s so blissfully quiet and so peaceful.

Let’s get real

It’s been a little quiet around here because real life has taken over. Lately that means we’re funding repairs and replacements. Welcome to the un-glamorous part of home ownership.


First up: The basement is leaking AGAIN? Le sigh. Apparently the repair near the stairs didn’t do the job. In the midst of ALL the rain (seriously, can we share some of this with California?) we were left with a veritable waterfall.

The original repair came with a warranty. A few phone calls and the crew was back out for a one-day repair. So far, so good.


About the same time, we also noticed some water on the floor of the awesome bathroom. The very first thing we addressed when we bought the building was patching a seam in the roof. We thought that fix would last for a few more years, but our patch needed a patch.

Thankfully this was a relatively inexpensive and quick fix. But we’ve moved “replace the roof” up the list of renovations. Let the saving commence.


And because bad things come in threes, one of our air conditioners bit the dust. In case you’re not creepily tracking our HVAC situation, the firehouse is zoned in quadrants. That means 4 air conditioners and 4 furnaces. It’s a great set up because we can cool or heat the area we are using and dial back the other sections. It also helps keep our utilities in check. The downside is that we have FOUR systems to maintain and ultimately replace. A large chunk of Aaron’s time over the last week has been shuttling HVAC companies through the firehouse to get quotes. We have a solution that we are happy with and a company we’re excited to be working with… well, as excited as we can be considering what this costs. If all goes smoothly, we’ll have cool air pumping through our kitchen next week! I’ll share all of the details once the job is done.

In in the meantime, we’ll be hanging out in the cooler areas of the firehouse and celebrating America’s birthday. I hope you have a cool and safe holiday that is free of major home repairs!

Two years in

Are recaps annoying? If so, I won’t blame you for skipping this post. I’m doing this for me and for him.


Yeah, that guy. That guy who does amazing things around here. That guy who works tirelessly to make this place amazing. He rocks.

But sometimes he forgets (so do I). We forget how much we can do and do do in a year. So this post is a good time capsule of what the firehouse looks like RIGHT now, a sweet reminder of what changed in the last 365, and a peek into what we have in store for the coming year.


The front stayed pretty much the same all year.


But the back had a radical transformation! We finished the fence!



Then we spent more hours than I’d like to remember transforming the carport into the sexiest garage known to man.





We also realized we built something that basically resembled a courtyard and made it pretty!




First floor

The studio remains our most finished interior space… although it got a little junky this winter when we decided to bring the the trailer in to get it done.


The future living and dining rooms have descended into complete chaos thanks to the trailer work and lack of a workshop (more on that at the bottom of the post.)

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Rounding out the downstairs, the kitchen and the half bath remain the same, functional-but-not-pretty spaces.

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Painting the stairwell offers a nice visual transition from “construction zone” to “where we spend most of our time.”




It’s easy for us to forget that about a year ago the living room looked like this:


and then this…


before finally becoming a serene place to relax, complete with a new paint job, new lighting, some new furnishings, a bar cart and some art!


The captain’s bedroom also got upgraded from “theoretically a guest bedroom” to “actual place where people could sleep” thanks to the addition of a bed.


The hallway’s paint job straddled the “this year vs last year” line. It also got some sweet new art.



The rest of the upstairs rooms remained untouched this year.

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Despite our intentions to work on the workshop last year, we only got as far as framing out some of it.





Since this is a bit of a digital scrapbook post, it’s worth noting that we took a CRAZY AMAZING vacation to the Pacific Northwest in August and launched our print shop! Yay!


You made it this far?! Good job. Extra points if you are not related to us. Speaking of, if you are my parents and have some sort of bet going about what we’ll be tackling, time to lock in your wager and put your money where your mouth is.

So what’s next?
1. The trailer is moving closer and closer to the finish line each day. We owe you an update.
2. You know what goes great with a project? Another project. We decided to tackle the captain’s bedroom… and we owe you an update.
3. The workshop: It’s not anyone’s favorite project. We both just want it done, but we’re less excited about the actual doing. I can’t wait to get the tools off my floor.
4. The downstairs living room, dining room, half bath and entry cube are slated for a complete overhaul!! We have huge plans for these spaces! (And, of course, we need more white paint.)

Those are the definite projects and will probably last us most of the year. There’s still a chance we’ll tear in to the awesome bathroom to make it more functional or build out our wine cellar. Only time (money and energy) will tell.

Speaking of posts I do even if you don’t care about them. Does anyone like the updates to the master plan? Without YHL as a guiding force, I have no idea what blog audiences want to see.

Testing, testing

Lest you think all we’re doing is buying random antiques (exhibit A and B), I dug through my “to be posted” list and came up with this safety reminder. As with any “pre-owned home” that was built in the mid century, we had a few concerns about potentially hazardous materials lurking within. Three materials were causing us to worry a little.

Upstairs the original paint (see red and beige in the living room) made us wonder what kind of lead was within.


We also had a few asbestos concerns. The plaster in the upstairs living room:


And some original pipes in the basement:




Before diving into the upstairs living room overhaul, Aaron took to the internet and found a company that would economically test all of our materials. (We have since lost our reports and the name of the company… because renovations.) He grabbed a few samples of each area for testing.


A few weeks later we had our results. Paint in the living room:



Lead free!

Plaster in the living room:



Asbestos free!

And pipe wrap in the basement:



Womp, womp! We’ve got asbestos.

Honestly, this was the material we were most worried about. The good news is we have no plans to disturb these pipes, so we can coexist without fear. The bad news is that if those plans change, we’ll be in for a hefty asbestos removal bill.

At Home in the St Louis Post-Dispatch

Just popping by on a busy Memorial Day weekend to give a shout out to the St Louis Post-Dispatch for our feature in their Home & Away section in Sunday’s edition. It’s on stands now if you’re local and want to grab a copy. The link to the actual article isn’t online yet, but I’ll be back with an update when it is. [UPDATE] Here’s a link to the article.

We’ve been featured a few places, but this may be our favorite article so far. Susan, the writer, did a great job capturing quotes and taking note of some of the features and furnishings that we love the most. She also said some lovely things about Aaron’s DIY prowess. (I’m so proud of that man.)

Mojo had more than one cameo, which probably makes her more famous than us. She’s certainly cuter.


Photo by David Carson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

They also shot a bonus video in which we blabber on for two minutes when they only wanted one. #talkers Here we are trying not to look awkward.


Photo by David Carson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch