Transom Window Over Powder Room Door

As previously discussed, our house is heated with two ductless mini-split heat pumps; one at the top of the stairwell to the second floor and the other in the main living area on the first floor.  To ensure that pressure is equalized between the rooms and conditioned air can freely moved into those rooms when the doors are closed, I installed transoms above the doors to the bedrooms and bathrooms.

At least for now, I don’t plan to install windows in the transoms over the bedrooms and 2nd floor bathrooms.  As I see it, this type of detail would be largely decorative, and would have almost no functional purpose.  Yes, there’s the issue of privacy (sound).  But in a 2000 square foot house with only two or three occupants, that just hasn’t proven to be an issue.

I did, however, recently finished installing the transom window over the powder room door on the first floor.  This is a necessity due to the proximity of the room to the main living area.  The room is actually off the front foyer.  But it’s still close enough to provide some potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable moments for guests.

It didn’t occur to me (until it came time to install it) that a properly installed transom window is in the same plane as the door below it.  Initially, I thought that I’d have the window open to the inside of the powder room.  But that wouldn’t have looked quite right because the door opens to the foyer, and therefore the window should do the same. At first I thought it might look odd with the window mechanism on the outside of the bathroom.  But looking at the final installation, I think the window and the mechanism add something interesting and unique to the foyer.

Also, as I understand it, ideally the window stiles should be the same width as the stiles on the door.  I cheated on this a bit because it seemed a bit “heavy” to me.

I laminated up two pieces of 3/4″ clear pine to make the frame.  That allowed me to end up with a thickness that matched the door (one and three-eights inch).

Both the construction and installation of the window are pretty straight-forward.  But the mechanism isn’t cheap, at just over $100.

IMG_1102 IMG_1101

First Year Electrical Usage and Charges

Since we’ve been living in our home for just over a year, I thought I’d post another perspective on our use of electricity; this one based on the billings from the electric company.  It doesn’t contain the detail that is achieved through the use of the eGauge tracker; only the gross kilowatt hours used each month. And unlike the eGauge tracker, the electric company totals do include the electricity that I used in my shop to build cabinetry, etc. over the past year, which skew the results slightly.  At any rate, here are the results for the first year:

Download (XLS, 39KB)

Raw Data on Electric Usage and Temperature/Humidity

In this post, I’m including links to files that contain the historical electrical and temperature/humidity data for our house from February 1, 2015 through the date of this post, October 23, 2015.  The data begins on February 1st because although I started recording in early December 2014, the heat pumps were not working correctly until late January.  My intent is to offer this data to anyone who desires to use it for analytical purposes.

The electrical data, which was recorded by an eGuage energy monitor, contains daily numbers for total electrical use, the first floor heat pump, the second floor heat pump, the combined total of the two heat pumps, the dryer, the water heater, the ERV, the well pump, and the family room, which basically includes the lights and TV in that room.

The temperature and humidity data was recorded by Hobo data loggers that were placed on each floor (basement, first floor and second floor), and outside on the north side of the house under the porch roof.

eGauge Data 2-1-15 thru 7-31-15

I will update this data on February 1st of next year.

In early December (once I have a complete year of eGuage data), I will post the yearly total electrical usage for the appliances and mechanicals that are listed above.  As I indicated, the heat pump data won’t be totally “accurate” (because they were “short cycling” until the end of January).  But the information should still provide a reasonable indication of how efficiently the house is operating.

An Alternative to Purchasing Blinds for Tilt-Turn Windows

The tilt-turn Intus windows that we installed in our house are excellent products.  They’re robust, airtight, and extremely efficient.  Nearly everyone who visits offers positive comments on them. However, from our perspective here in the U.S., they do have two drawbacks.

The first is that they open to the inside of the house, rather than to the outside, which could cause unanticipated problems.  For instance, a tilt-turn window over the kitchen sink our counter could be problematic.  It could be blocked (from opening) by the faucet, or it could interfere with a person who is standing at the sink and trying to access to the upper cabinets that are to the left or right of the sink.  Tilt-turn windows in other rooms could also be troubling if the homeowner doesn’t consider furniture placement and natural walkways.

Fortunately, this issue hasn’t been a problem for us.  Over the kitchen sink, we almost always use the “tilt” or venting option rather than opening the windows.  But I did take great care when installing the kitchen cabinet to ensure that the faucet does not interfere with the windows if we choose to open them.

IMG_1093 IMG_1092 IMG_1091

But the other issue…one that I didn’t give as much thought to…is providing privacy shades, particularly at night.  Tilt-turn windows require unique blinds. The blinds must be attached at both the top and bottom to keep them from swaying away from the window at the bottom when the window is tilted.  In addition, the blinds must be attached to the window, rather than the wall or trim surrounding the window.  Otherwise, it would be impossible to use the “turn” function to open the window or the tilt function to vent the window, when the blinds are “down.”

To my knowledge, only one U.S. company currently makes blinds for tilt-turn windows; RS-Sylco.  So the blinds can be purchased.  But there are two problems.  First, the blinds are far from cheap; typically in the area of $300-$500 per window.  That problem can be easily solved by those with enough money.  But then there’s still the second problem.

The tilt-turn blinds attach to the windows in two ways.  Either they can be attached directly to the glass with a special double-backed tape, or they can be attached to the frame that surrounds the glass by drilling holes and using screws.

I don’t like the idea of drilling holes into the window frame, so that option was out.  But I thought that the second option would do, particularly given that I only needed blinds on two windows (the second floor bathrooms).  But the problem is that our windows have a (simulated) divided light option, with the “mullions” adhered to the face of the glass. These mullions stick out about a quarter-inch, making it impossible to adhere the blinds to the glass.

Fortunately, after giving it a bit of thought, I was able to come up with an economical solution.  What I did was make a narrow frame out of poplar.  The frame is large enough to cover two-thirds of the window and is 1″ wide by 5/8″ thick (so as not to interfere with the window lever).  I gave the frame a beveled profile with a router to lighten it up a bit, mitered the corners, and assembled it with glue and small biscuits.  I then purchased a roll of shoji paper to use as the shading material, which I cut to size and stapled to the back of the frame.  There’s a lot of different shoji material out there.  I purchased mine from esojhi.   It has a durable laminated coating and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth without damage.

The shoji frames are incredibly light.  So I was able to attach them to the window frames using four one-inch squares of velcro fasteners, one in each corner.  The frames fill the need perfectly.  They move with the window, don’t permanently affect the glass or frame, and can be removed or replaced in seconds.

IMG_1089 IMG_1088


Thinking about using Home Depot (Cree) LED light bulbs? You might want to think again.

About a year ago, just before we moved in, I purchased about 100 Cree LED light bulbs from Home Depot.  I was surprised that the house used so many.  But regardless, ten of those bulbs are in our kitchen area, and those are the bulbs that get the most use.  Not a lot of use.  Just more use than any other bulbs in the house.  Anyway, since installing them, five of the ten have failed.  That’s also quite surprising, particularly when Cree claimed that the bulbs would last over 20 years.  Here’s what one of the burned out bulbs looks like:


Note the burned-out element.  First they start to flicker, and eventually they go dead.

Of course, I could send the bulbs back to Cree for “replacement or refund” (Cree’s option) (shipping is on us). Oh, and Cree may require a receipt, which of course I didn’t save.  Call me crazy, but I’ve started replacing the burned out bulbs with Cree’s new updated, slightly less energy efficient, 60 watt equivalent (10 watt actual), 27+ year LED bulb:


Home Depot still sells the old style bulb (not that I would buy any).  But for some unknown reason, they’re more than twice the $4 I paid for them last year.  This updated bulb currently runs just under $3.  I am also saving all of my receipts.  I will be paying a visit to the Manager of the local Home Depot store if they continue to fail. Maybe we do get what we pay for.