Heating Upgrades for the Victorian

We bought our Victorian just in time to experience the coldest winter here on record in Chicago. A pipe even burst in the basement! (Although to be fair, that happened to a lot of homes in the area. A pipe burst in our old house too, with which we had never experienced any heating problems.) After sealing our drafty windows with plastic sheeting the house stayed dramatically warmer, and we also had our old boiler serviced and bled the radiators. The house still struggled to stay in the mid to high 60s on the first floor though, while it was comfortably warm upstairs and hot all the way up on the third floor. So before another winter comes, we had some work done to the house’s heating system.

Old Boiler
Old Water Heater

The boiler still has some life left in it, but its chimney is in need of big repairs. We could have added a liner to prevent further corrosion, but the age and condition of the brick would have made it an expensive and difficult job. Another option for roughly the same cost was to replace the old boiler with a new model that was more energy-efficient and that could be vented out the side of the house, so that’s what we chose to do. We also replaced the water heater at the same time. There was a backdrafting issue identified during our house inspection, there wasn’t enough capacity for a house of this size, and the thing also had to be fixed twice in the last two months. Those three factors swayed us toward replacement. The water heater is now tied into our new boiler, so it’s piggybacking off of the radiator system for faster heating and more efficiency.

Ooh, get ready for some more Pinterest-worthy pictures!

New Boiler and Water Heater

So pretty, right? Our basement’s a gem.

And we’re down to a single gas meter! The Victorian was split into apartments in the 1930s (common in the depression era), and it was still a multi-family house until just before being sold. There remained both a residential and commercial account for gas, and getting them combined into one residential account (which has significantly lower rates) was a long process. Lots of red tape and hoops to jump through, and the expense of rerouting the pipes is the responsibility of the home owner. We started the process right away when we moved in a year ago, and it took a good ten months.

Then there’s the last of our heating system upgrades. We were cautioned against using the valves on our radiators because when they’re as old as ours, mineral build-up and corrosion can cause them to break with use. Hot water radiators are either on or off — there’s no middle adjustment — so ours were all on, all winter. That third floor was toasty. Now we’ve added thermostatic radiator valves to each of the six radiators on the third floor, and to two of them on the second floor (in rooms that were consistently warmer than the rest). They aren’t pretty, but they’ll automatically turn the radiators off when the room temperature is warm enough, so that the heat can be directed to where it’s needed instead. The valves are currently set at 68, but we’ll experiment to see what’s best when winter comes — they can all be individually adjusted.

Thermostatic Radiator Valves

Brandon and I can take consecutive showers now without running out of hot water, and between the new valves and the boiler, we should see more even and efficient heating this winter. That, and the elimination of the commercial account, will also bring lower heating bills. Working on the guts of the house doesn’t bring the prettiest pictures, but we’re glad to have had the work done.

Up to the Highest Heights

We do plenty of open-ended art projects around here. “Here are some watercolors; let’s paint!” Or “I brought home a big package of pipe cleaners. What should we make?” But the kids, Eleanor especially, really like having a project with step-by-step instructions to follow. I think they feel good about having made something themselves by following directions, so they love kits.

Kiwi Crate Craft Kit

I was given the opportunity to test out Kiwi Crate, a monthly subscription service, and I let E choose which craft we should try. They have different themes each month, like gardening, dinosaurs, and space, and Eleanor picked Fun with Flight because she wanted to make kites. Once she knew I’d ordered it, she asked “is it here yet?” every day until it arrived.

Eleanor and August

Each kit comes with all of the materials you need to make two or three projects (depending on which theme you choose), along with Kiwi Crate’s explore! magazine. Their monthly subscriptions start at $16.95/month with free shipping, and they also sell supplies like pipe cleaners, felt, and pom-poms, or party favors like capes, wands, and wings.

Making a Kiwi Crate Kite

Making a Kiwi Crate Kite

After finishing up her first kite, she and August both made rockets that launch with a rubber band. Kiwi Crate offers a “no fight” option with extra materials, so E and A were each able to make a happy-face kite and a grumpy one, and two different rockets. The both got the bonus paper flyers that were included and their own copies of the explore! magazine, too.

Making Kiwi Crate Rocket Ships

Kiwi Crate is offering a discount for my readers right now. Join their Time Traveler Series with projects to fall back in time! The promotional code excludes sibling add-ons, but you can save 25% on your first month subscription with code LOVELY25.

Making Kiwi Crate Rocket Ships

So cute. I love a good craft project that comes to my door, with all the guess-work and supply-shopping taken care of. And the kids loved making everything!

The 4-6 Weeks Project (Week One)

I did this project the last time I was pregnant, too. The idea is to take a daily photo in the 4-6 weeks before the new baby comes, celebrating our time together as a family of four, and eventually I’ll turn the series into a keepsake book for Eleanor and August. Last time I started 4 weeks from my due date, thinking I might go to 42 weeks like I did with Eleanor, but then August came a few days early. This time I’ve started 6 weeks out, and hopefully baby number three won’t turn this into The 8 Weeks Project!

{ Week OneWeek TwoWeek ThreeView All }

August 15

Six weeks from your new little brother’s due date. Six or so weeks from becoming a family of five. Eleanor, you talk about the baby constantly, offering to share your bed & getting excited about how we’ll have so much to do because we’ll get to teach him everything. August, you mostly just like to bonk into mama’s big belly!

August 16

You both had fun making these paper kitties before bed tonight, & then you tried to have a sleepover in August’s room (as we have been doing a lot lately while working on the hallway). It ended in tears with Eleanor back in her room after August told her she was “fired from making paper cats EVER EVER AGAIN.”

August 17

Eleanor, you carried a rock with you to meet Sir Topham Hatt at our first “Day Out with Thomas” two years ago. This year, you made it into what must now be a tradition, and August, you got in on it too. You guys rock.

August 18

After a Thomas-filled day yesterday, you both had renewed interest in your toy trains. We made a huge track on the floor of the newly opened-up hallway, adding bridges and making everything connect. It was so cute to hear the stories you make up for the different engines! Pretty sure there was a wedding involved at one point.

August 19

We have a desk in the playroom, but you both gravitate toward spreading everything out on the floor instead. Mama’s happy to oblige, even if it is getting harder for her to sit down there with you as her tummy grows!

August 20

When mama started this photo project, she hoped to get at least a few pictures with both of you in them. She thought it might not be easy, but really, you two are together more often than not. Eleanor and August: siblings and best buddies. And soon you’ll have another pal to play with!

August 21

August, ever since you were little, you’ve been into cars and trucks — basically, anything with wheels. Monster trucks have been a big hit for a long time now, and your love for them doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon. I wonder if your little brother will be the same way.

Page 10 of 634« First...«89101112»...Last »