Thursday, December 27, 2012

Furnace Mystery

A long-time Dunwoody resident (aren't we all?) recently did the most peculiar and yet most Dunwoody-esque thing. While a full-time Dunwoody resident, this bloke, like many others 'round these parts, owns a second home as sort of a "vacation" home. Nothing unusual there. Well, this fall his furnace died. Nothing unusual there either.

Then it gets strange. Sure, the furnace was old, but it was reparable and at a cost of a several hundred dollars its service life may well have been extended a few more years. But instead of having the furnace fixed as most in Dunwoody will agree is the prudent course of action, this bloke had the whole thing ripped out and replaced. To the tune of several thousand dollars. How could someone smart enough to not just live but vote in our fair "City of Smarts" spend all that money while discarding a furnace that needed only a minor repair, that had served his needs in the past and promised to continue into the future?

This warranted a serious investigation.

The story is at least as peculiar as it is strange. The place this bloke bought five years ago was built in the mid eighties and the furnace was original. Something he described as not much different than the cursed furnace in "A Christmas Story" but lacking the character. Furthermore, the A/C which blew a mighty wind failed to blow a cold one. And this wind blew barely filtered air through leaky half-naked ducts compensating for those inadequacies by ensuring that the second floor was roasting whilst the main floor did a proper imitation of "The Mayor's Skating Rink". Year round. While built to code in the eighties, time, technology and building codes had relentlessly advanced.

So our bloke from Dunwoody decided to let the Past keep its own and move on to the new millennium.

He had the old HVAC system ripped out. Ducts, supply and return, were stripped, sealed and insulated. A modern zoning system was installed to properly address the all too often divergent needs of upstairs/downstairs. A real air filter. And, of course, a new furnace and A/C unit paired for maximum efficacy and sized based on up-to-date heat load calculations--real engineering--indicating that efficiency upgrades called for a smaller A/C unit than previously installed.

Z Wave aside, this project was not just about maximum efficiency, wiz-bang technology or catching the latest greenie trend. In fact, a lower-efficiency furnace was selected. Why? Because this bloke lives in a traditional "Williamsburg" style home (don't we all?) and a white pipe poking out the wall "just don't look right" and you cannot vent a high efficiency furnace through an existing terracotta chimney flue. While the desire to modernize was great, there was some serious consideration given to the heritage and character of the home and neighborhood.

But at the end of the day this bloke did something few others from Dunwoody would have done, especially for a secondary residence: he spent considerably more money to upgrade and modernize than would have been required to simply patch up the existing system.