...because home doesn't happen overnight.
11.18.11 / Mechanicalities

The mechanical closet at the Underdog is in the hallway that leads back to the bedrooms. Notice I said ‘closet’ not room.

It houses the furnace {shown} and water heater {not shown}. The closet is actually a little wider than the door opening and the water heater sits back in the left-hand corner. To take a picture of this teeny space, I have to stand in the bedroom across the hallway and I can’t get a shot of the water heater because that would require me going into the narrow hall for the angle needed but then I’m way too close. Are you following me? Basically, it’s a tiny closet off a very narrow hallway and it’s difficult to photograph. Take my word for it.

I shared the story of our craigslist heat pump back in June. {The Underdog came to us with no central air.} In case you missed it you can look back or just know that we paid $500 for the unit. Since then Handy Hubby has been busy installing the heat pump and wiring it to the furnace.

I’m not going to pretend I know what HH did. I have no idea. Luckily, HH has a buddy at work who has done DIY HVAC stuff before and he lent HH a hand with the hookup. What I can tell you is that HH ran copper pipes from the heat pump to the furnace. You can see the addition of two copper pipes near the bottom left-hand corner of the furnace just below where the panel would be.

The heat pump is located at the back of the house between the master bedroom and master bathroom windows.

If you look closely, you’ll see where those two aforementioned copper pipes come out at the back of the unit and run into the house.

It was a very happy day when HH came home from a long evening at the Underdog to announce, “The heat pump works!” Yep. My HH installed that sucker himself.  Well, okay, with the help of a friend. But still. Buying the craigslist unit for $500 and DIYing the install saved us about $2,000-$2,500!!!!!

And you know what that means. More money for pretty stuff. Cha-ching.

But, alas, this post isn’t about pretty things. It’s about the guts of the house…what makes it work…what makes it livable and comfortable to be in. And that stuff isn’t necessarily pretty. Unless you like cubes of steel and electrical components. To each his own.

So, back to the teeny mechanical closet we go.

While the water heater seems to be acting fine now, we’re sure it’s going to poop out at any moment. Probably the moment right after we move in. The water heater is ~10 years old. When HH got to thinking ahead, he realized that to replace the old water heater he’d have to remove the furnace due to the narrow access to the closet. Ugh. Not exactly ideal.

So, HH took the bull by the horns and opened up the mechanical room’s doorway to allow easier access to the water heater.

There’s that water heater I’ve been telling you about! The widened doorway gives HH direct access to the water heater. Normally, this is where I say ‘Yay!’ but there was one sliver of a problem.

Looking back to the first image…

…you’ll see that there was a single louvered door on the mechanical room. Now that the doorway is wider, HH had to look at pricing out bifold louvers. Bifold versus hinged because the hall is way too narrow to allow for a large door to swing out. And louvered versus solid to allow proper ventilation for the furnace.

You’d think that for such an eyesore those doors-that-can’t-make-up-their-minds-to-be-a-door-or-a-shutter would be cheap. Wrong. HH priced a set of bifold louvers for the mechanical room at $300. Neither of us wanted to spend $300 on something that we weren’t crazy about to begin with.

As luck would have it, on the way back to the Underdog from pricing out the doors at Home Depot HH spied something on the side of the road. Laid out with the trash were a set of louvered doors! Right on our street!

It was fate. HH didn’t think twice about hauling them back to the Underdog. While the measurements aren’t an exact fit our mechanical room, HH is certain he can make them work. And the price tag is hard to beat. You know what they say about one man’s trash… Here’s my ‘Yay!’ now.

So, that’s a lot of words about the smallest ‘room’ in our Underdog. While it isn’t much to look at, a room that houses a furnace and water heater is necessary. And making it work for us is just as important. When that old water heater comes out, I think HH is going to be patting himself on the back for opening up the doorway. If not, I will.

In other earth-shattering news, House*Tweaking turns 2 today! What a post for a blogiversary, right? I decided that two anniversaries in one week {our wedding anniversary + blogiversary = 2} were a bit much. So, next week will be the official blogiversary week. And it all kicks off with a profitable giveaway on Monday. In short, I’ve partnered with Apartment Guide to offer holiday decor ideas and seasonal organization solutions for apartment dwellers. Check in Monday for all the details!

For fun, I went back and read my very first H*T post. I noticed a few things:  1) No pictures. Rookie mistake.  2) My parentheses have turned into curly brackets…except when following a number. This is my own made-up rule.  3) I’m still not tech savvy.  4) ‘Hubby’ is now referred to as ‘Handy Hubby.’  5) Miraculously, H*T did keep me from wanting a third child. But my uterus had other plans.  6) Oprah ended her show this year.  7) This blog has fueled my hunger to read and write. It’s taught me new things – and not just about design – but life and myself in general. It’s been a wonderful outlet for the now more-than-a-zillion ideas whirling around in my head. And it’s most definitely been a great place to journal our home improvement projects…not that I ever imagined renovating a 1958 ranch named the Underdog would be a part of that.

Have a great pre-Turkey weekend!

images:  all Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



First – Happy Anniversary! Second – Love your blog and am really enjoying watching the transformation of the Underdog! Third – congrats on the new baby! and Finally – regarding the water heater – you may just be able to change out the heating element (sometimes they have 2 elements) and not change out the whole water heater – the elements should run you around $50 or less and Handy Hubby can probably do it himself – its really easy! So, more $$ for pretties! :)


Congrats on your blogiversary! Can’t wait for next week’s posts.


Happy Blogiversary! What a difference 2 years makes. Just goes to show, doesn’t it? If someone had told you 2 years ago where you’d be today, I betcha wouldn’t have believed them! Love your blog, its my favourite in a looooong list. Here’s to the next 2(0) :)


We have a heat pump, too, and it is located right outside of our house adjacent to the master bedroom (which is upstairs). Nobody told us that it is recommended NOT to put the heat pump next to a bedroom, because IT MAKES NOISE! It seemed to be not very loud, but if it is running in the middle of the night or early morning and there a re no other noises around, it is pretty loud, and also our bedroom wall conducted the sound. But there is insulation available which can be put inside so it absorbs sound. It helped a lot. Also if it is still too loud, there are metal hoods (probably with more insulation in it, but I am not sure about that) available that you can put over the entire thing and they absorb even more of the sound. They look like a UFO has landed in your backyard, but you get used to that. ;)
Just to let you know … also, the heat pump is of course louder during the winter, or it works more often, than during the summer months. All in all I think it is an efficient and eco-friendly heating system (which I would definitely recommend), I just wished somebody had told us before, because we would have had the chance to put it somewhere else.


Jule – Luckily, HH is a VERY heavy sleeper. Nothing wakes him up. I’m accustomed to sleeping with a fan, CPAP {HH has sleep apnea} and loud apartment furnace/AC unit running while I sleep so I think I’ll adapt. Thanks for the heads up!


So…I am geekily (is that even a word) excited about the little tweet on the side of your page that mentions painting the Underdog. I literally cannot wait to see!!!

Happy blogiversary and anniversary! I love checking in to see what you’re up to. That’s awesome that Handy Hubby installed the heat pump himself. My hubby installed our geothermal system himself, too. (http://ourhumbleabowed.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/our-past-four-years/) Yay for handy (and handsome) guys! Oh, if/when you’re ready to replace the water heater, I would highly recommend a Rinnai tankless heater. We’ve had ours for about six years now and LOVE it! No more cold showers. And, it would free up a lot of floor space in the cramped closet.

Anyway, thanks again for your fantastic blog!


Happy Blog Anniversary! It feels like you just hit the one year! I liked your little reminiscence of your first posts… so fun!


This level of DIY is amazing!! So for $500 you also got the inside coil as well and and HH installed it into the bottom of the air handler?

I have a heatpump and it’s my only source of heat with it’s electric backup, which I understand you will not have and will be using your gas furnace as the backup.

My experience in a 1956 house is ok, my unit is not in the best of shape and the insulation is not the best everywhere so that doesn’t help. But, I would get another one, even though I understand why people have trouble getting use to luke warm air coming out of the vents. I think you are going to be very happy especially with a gas backup and your superior insulation and it won’t be too loud, mine doesn’t bother me when I’m sleeping. It will startle you the first time it reverses to defrost though, but it doesn’t wake me up either for that:) A gas backup or oil backup even is optimal, but as I have neither in my house as there was never gas and oil was removed I just stick with the electric backup and try to not put the heat too high so it won’t come on. This means I can’t put any gas logs in my fireplace either, but that’s ok I’m kind of scared of gas.

People should remember for optimal efficiency not to request more than 2 degrees at a time(that is what mine is set for) or the electric backup will come on and eat electricity, it’s best to step up the heat. Also, for a programable thermostat on an electric backup unit you must get a heat pump version so that the thermostat is smart enough to know only to adjust the temperatue 2 degrees at a time in steps to again avoid the electric backup coming on just because you had it go from say 68 to 72 in one step.

Also, you can include an outdoor sensor which it sounds like you are doing for temperatue and in that case the heat pump will be using backup for more than 2 degrees requested as well as if the temperatue outside falls below what is efficient it will just switch to backup automatically for that as well. I do not believe I have one of these.

When that water heater goes, with gas, you can get a tankless and you are going to be the most efficient house around with that and a heat pump!


PS that 2 degrees step up goes for any backup coming on, but I’m assuming my electric backup is much more expensive than the gas backup, but it’s always more efficient to never have to use the backup at all.


Nice find! I am so excited for a paint, pillow, rug, ect. post!! How is your design class coming?


Happy blogiversary! Mine is relatively new (6 weeks today) but I’m enjoying learning the ropes. Also enjoying your updates and watching the Underdog’s progress.

I’m pretty sure HH rules! Doing your own HVAC is a huuge way to save cash in a remodel.


good call on widening the opening to the closet. Easy access to mechanicals makes much life easier in an emergency! here’s hoping the water heater lasts long enough to get you through the first 5 years at least….ours just expired after almost 20 years–at least it was an expense we expected when we bought the house. enjoy the heat pump–they are so great for air conditioning! is it just me, or does it look a little R2D2-like with those 4 chunky feet?!

happy blog-iversary, too! it’s so nice to how successful you’ve been at increasing your readership and developing your own personal writing and design style. wishing you continued success in year 3.


Just a note that I was very much the “Hold This” boy during this job. My buddy Scott, who Dana mentioned, was the brains behind the installation. He’s got quite a bit of HVAC experience. He was there with me every step of the way and even let me borrow some of his specialized tools. I learned quite a bit and think I could maybe tackle the next job on my own. It’s good to have friends. Thanks again, Scott!!


My dear, I believe you are what is called “in the flow”! So many things converging to contribute to a successful and happy life. Such fun to read about. And inspiring. Very happy for you and yours.

Wow I’m impressed your husband installed this! That is no small feat even with help. What type of engineer is he may I ask? Mechanical? Electrical? It’s hard to tell what is what in there but those lines should be insulated. Like everyone else said it’s not going to be quite in that location and in a small house it will affect a lot of rooms but you have to do what works right? So I’m curious where is your furnace then? In a nearby room or a crawlspace below? How did you reroute the ductwork main to this closet? Why not just add a cooling coil to the supply air ductwork of the furnace? That way you’d only have one unit to maintain and fix. And how do you plan to control the units…what temps are you converting from one to the other? Are you doing that manually or with some type of fancy thermostat? LOL sorry for all of the questions. Can you tell I’m an ME?


Congrats on taking on a heating DIY project.. they can definitely be tricky!