Home Tech Upgrades 1/28/2013 6:41:00 PM

In a lot of ways, our new house is great-- it's much newer than our old place (built 1993 vs. 1968). However, at twenty years old, a number of components are due for an upgrade.

First and foremost, we had a water heater that was original equipment and it was loudly demanding retirement. Since it was going into our attic, and the thought of having 40 gallons of hot water overhead was sorta creepy, we felt justified in upgrading to a Rinnai tankless unit. It cost a bit more, but between utility company rebates ($600) and US government tax credit ($300) we figured that it was probably worth it. Our last (traditional-tank) heater cost nearly $2K installed (mostly due to work getting the location up to current code).

Next, we upgraded our downstairs thermostat to a 2nd-gen Nest unit.

It was a simple install, and while it's pricey, they claim it will save ~7-10% on our energy bills, which would pay for it in the first year. We'll see. If nothing else, it's way less ugly than the ancient Honeywell ChronoTherm III unit it replaced. The website and mobile apps are pretty neat, although they don't yet have a Windows Phone 8 app:

 

Lastly, I'm obsessed with lights.

I've been trying to hold off replacing all of our recessed lights until next winter, because LEDs are rapidly going up in brightness / efficiency and down in price, but I couldn't put it off for two locations: our fancy new master bathroom and in our stairwell. I'd been trying to make due with CFLs in the bathroom but they took too long to warm up and the existing trim was pretty ugly.

The bathroom installs were easy. The stairwell was another matter-- it's extremely hard to get up there (~12 feet over stairs, hard to place a ladder) and I never wanted to have to replace the light. Getting the lights installed in the bathroom was trivial, but the stairwell was another matter. It turns out that these cans were never supposed to be buried in insulation, but naturally the last owners dumped about a foot of loose insulation over them and that had ended up melting the thermocouple that was supposed to prevent fires for their old incandescent bulb. So, I spent a harrowing 40 minutes atop a 6" ladder stripping the wires out of the thermocouple and rewiring it into the new LED. Ultimately, I survived, and the light looks great. I put another LED in the entry as well for comparison purposes (the one over the stairs is 650 lumen while the entry is 575.)



Image upload resulThe most amazing bit of the LED lights is what they look like inside... I'm both amazed and certain that we're going to see much more interesting form-factors over the next few years...

 

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Eric More on LED lighting: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/business/leds-emerge-as-a-popular-green-lighting.html


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