Tales From The Ipe!

I sit by and watch the river flow. I sit by and watch the traffic go.

Page 2 of 162

The “Lounge” is almost done

The “Lounge” is almost done. Throw pillows coming this weekend or early next week. Still need to find window treatments.

HVAC Replacement Project – Phase 1 is 85% complete

Oooooh, is that…. air conditioning? What a nice feeling to walk upstairs and not crash into a heavy later of hot and humid air. First time in 2 two weeks.

It was a hot day so the technicians couldn’t finish the entire project. What’s left is to install the attic fan (“powered attic ventilator”), and to fish an additional Y2 wire down to our 2nd floor thermostat so you all can witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!  

Our new Trane XR17 condenser (1 of 2) is huge compared to the old equipment

I mean, two-stage condenser. Nah, I meant battle station. I hope we can get the other 15% completed next week. 

After that, Phase 2! 

Then the first monthly bill!

HVAC Project – Phase 1 began at 5:30 AM today

The technicians arrived at 5:30 AM this morning. Today’s weather forecast is a high of 94 degrees, and add 25 degrees to any attic. They wanted to start early to avoid as much of the heat as possible. If it gets too hot, they will postpone installing the attic fan for a later date. 

Works for me. It was hot last night!

Joel’s review of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

It’s been two months but I finally finished watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The 2016 film was adapted from the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a memoir by U.S. journalist Kim Barker about her experiences reporting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and published in 2011.

Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels produced the film, and Fey stars in the film as Kim Baker, a cable news producer who decodes to become a war reporter in 2002. She heads to Kabul, and slowly transforms while living in the “Ka-Bubble”. Living in guarded guest quarters, she meets various soldiers while being embedded, fraternizes with the various ex-pats and other journalists, and keeps searching for her next big story. 

The film is interesting to a degree, because you see Afghanistan as this entirely different world, and the American soldiers who were off living and fighting in this forgotten war that the American people lost interest in. I was interested in watching the Kim Baker character adjust to life in this crazy dangerous world as her normal office environment. The supporting cast is also interesting – Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Christopher Abbott, and Alfred Molina.

After finishing the film, I’m still not sure if there was a message or theme to the film. It helped you realize that Afghanistan the troops that America sent over were forgotten over time. It was a semi-interesting story about Kim Barker / Kim Baker in her time working in Kabul. The film also briefly touches upon life for women in Afghanistan, but very lightly. I don’t think there was an big message. At times it was serious, while at other times it was comedy. A little odd. It was a little all over the place. 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

Brief update on our HVAC woes

When we last saw our Dynamic Duo, Mr. Freeze had fiendishly aged and deteriorated the condenser fan for their upstairs HVAC. The Ipes were sweating it out upstairs, desperately researching options to fix the unit, replace one system for the cost of one Batmobile, or to replace the equipment for both zones (at the cost of two Batmobiles plus some new costumes.)

Would they find a solution before the Joker sweated the citizens of Gotham to the Oldies? Stay tuned!

We ended up having two companies come out to diagnose the issue over the past two weeks. Both companies determined the condenser fan for the upstairs system had died an ignominious death. Replacing it alone would be $800, and one tech also recommended replacing the starter unit for additional $200. Both firms recommended against repair, since both systems are 19 years old and way past their prime. That’s right – our two HVAC systems are original builder-grade from when the house was built. Most systems have an expected life span of about 15 years. While we would painfully pay for the $800- $1,000 break-fix repair, no guarantees that we wouldn’t need additional repairs. In fact, we could expect them.

Acknowledging that every HVAC company would prefer selling a $22,000 job versus a $1,000 job, I did my online research and speaking to friends. The online research confirmed that we were likely best to replace one or both systems if possible. In speaking to friends, the consensus was to replace both systems if possible. A number of our neighborhood friends had purchased homes all built around the same time, and their HVAC systems had all failed recently. Of course, many of them have single zones (one system for the entire house), while we have two zones.

As I’ve stated before, we’re in the house long-term, and we’re okay with home improvements that will benefit us for a long horizon. 18 or 19 year old systems past their prime are a veritable minefield, and neither of us wants to keep applying band-aids if we don’t have to. Finally, one of the companies was very willing to smooth out the financing process for us (always a plus) so that was a big help to have them work with us to find a solution.

So here’s what we’re getting done within the next few weeks:

  1. July 20th – Rip out old 2nd floor equipment and outside condenser, replace with new Trane XR17 3-ton two-stage condenser and a Trane XV80 variable-speed two-stage gas furnace. New systems have an up to 18 SEER rating, but improvement over the late 90’s equipment. We’re downsizing the 2nd floor furnace to 60,000 BTU unit, based on 2nd floor square footage and attic insulation. Interestingly enough, the old condenser was only 2.5 tons so we’re bumping that up to 3 tons.
  2. July 20th – Install a new attic fan to help cool down the attic, and keep the system from working too hard in the hot summer months.
  3. August 8th – Rip out old 1st floor / basement equipment and outside condenser, replace with new Trane XR17 3-ton two-stage condenser and a Trane XV80 two-stage variable-speed gas furnace. These also have an up to 18 SEER rating. The new furnace provides 100,000 BTUs, same as current.
  4. August 8th – Install three new vents in the basement so we can have hit or cold air as needed.
  5. August 8th – Move 1st floor thermostat to central location.

A keep element of the decision-making process was determining what kind of equipment we wanted. How efficient we wanted to be was based on how much we want to spend. After much research and discussion, we opted for variable fan speed blowers and two-stage AC condensers. Our current Honeywell Total Comfort thermostats support this, and our systems can run at lower speeds (with reduced energy usage) when possible.

Still, it’s a lot of money to spend at one time, but we’re also saving 10% by getting everything completed at one time. That’s hard to pass up. Tomorrow is the big day for phase one, and we can’t wait. It’s been so hot and humid in the house.

A 30 mile Saturday afternoon bike ride 

Not bad. Not bad at all. And it was fun too.

I think I found a good 4 bike rack for the Armada

I think I found an appropriate (albeit expensive) hitch-mounted bike rack that accommodates 4 bicycles (adult and children sizes), with security features, and tilts out of the way if you need to open the rear liftgate – the  Saris Freedom SuperClamp 4-Bike 

Key product features for us:

  • Streamlined, lightweight and rugged – carries up to 4 bikes of any type (190 lb total).
  • Dual hooks provide best-in-class security without touching the frame of your bike.
  • Tilting feature allows access to rear of vehicle, even when fully loaded.
  • Integrated locks for bikes and hitch.

Yes, a four bike rack. When we go on trips, we can’t take our bikes. When we went to Maryland earlier this year,we had to take my bike because that’s the only one with a bike rack.

For a long time, I had my eyes on a particular Thule model that also folded out of the way, but there are a number of customer complaints that the rack doesn’t lock into the hitch very securely, and needs to be pushed back in occasionally. Hmmm, no thanks. I want something that locks into place and won’t leave a trail of cherished bicycles along the highway.
This model retails for $799, but we have a Saris 3 bike rack for my car, and it’s fantastic. It’s a good brand with good quality behind it. And they’re all produced in Wisconsin!

Our next big road trip is end of August to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, so we’ve got a month to pull the funds together (after purchasing a new car AND new HVAC systems this week) to save up and purchase it. Josh and I plan to go bike riding along the beach at least once, and I expect to ride 2 or 3 times that week.

Our upstairs air conditioning is out and it is HOT

Last Thursday, I was wondering why the upstairs was so hot. I mean, 85 degrees Fahrenheit hot. To my surprise, the AC was running, but there was no cold air.


We’ve had two HVAC technicians come out, and they both say the condenser fan outside is shot. We’re looking at anywhere between $700 – $1000, but those companies  (and online advice) recommends that you don’t plunk down $1000 on a 19 year old system.

It’s been a week now, and we’re looking at various scenarios:

  1. The Cheapest Solution – break fix repair, hope nothing else breaks down for a while, kick the can down the road.
  2. The Semi-Expensive Solution – replace the equipment serving the upstairs for $7000 – $12,000, hope nothing in the downstairs system breaks.
  3. The Expensive Long-Term Solution – yup, you guessed it, replace both systems simultaneously.

I would either prefer the break fix (it’s the cheapest), or the total two system replacement. Is it weird that I would prefer the cheapest or most expensive options? I do, though. if we can reasonably finance it, we’ll be set with more efficient systems for the next 15 years.

At the moment, we’ve requested pricing, and hope to find financing for the total replacement. If not, break fix and fingers crossed.

Should know what we’re doing later this week. In the meantime, we’re huddle downstairs, kids slept in the basement, we have lots of fans running.

Near-final addition to the Lounge – the last painting

I mentioned last week that had tried out one painting, but ultimately didn’t “Love it!” so we returned it. We found this one instead, and everyone is in agreement that they love this one.

So that’s just about it for the Lounge. Well, nearly. Still need to order some throw pillows and price out window treatments, but we aren’t in a rush on those items. For now, the room is considered done.

Done-ish is more like it. I forgot to take a good picture of the entire room, so I’ll do that later.

We bid farewell to the Toyota Highlander and welcome the Nissan Armada

October 2008 – when we traded away my beloved 1999 Honda Accord, and we purchased our 2008 Toyota Highlander. It’s been nearly 9 years of driving (approx 182,500 miles) around the country. 

It’s an interesting ride:

After 182K miles, the car is showing its age. After a recent maintenance checkup, the Toyota mechanics said the engine repairs weren’t worth it. So we began a long search to find a new car for Namita. Needed a decent third row, comfortable, plenty of features for long trips, similar safety and convenience features found in my Maxima (K.I.T.T), and a tow hitch for a future 4-bike rack. 

We tried a LOT of cars. Josh and I even went to the April 2016 New York International Auto Show to perform early car research. We looked at the Acura MDX (briefly), the Acadia Denali (for a long time), the new Toyota Highlander, the Yukon, the Suburban, the Tahoe. Namita looked at more cars than she ever wanted to. In the end, we decided on the 2017 Nissan Armada Platinum. She loves the color, the features, and the ride. And I’m finally getting my big bike rack so the kids and I can go biking in exotic places.

Good bye, Highlander. You served us well these nine years as our kids grew up, and took us to many places. You survived flat tires, a major accident, and the Ipes.

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