What A Mess!

We’re entering the homestretch of our HVAC retrofit here at Chestnut Hill, as we continue the work to install a modern geothermal heating and cooling system in our decidedly stubborn 70-year-old house.

Most of the major ductwork has been completed, but ensuring that air could move between the top and bottom floors of an old house meant sacrificing the closet in the downstairs bedroom, which is actually one of the few closets we have in the entire house. As you can see in the picture just above, the return duct is on the left, and the supply is on the right. That leaves about two feet of closet between the ducts and the door — which, I suppose, isn’t all that bad by closet standards. Look closely, and you can see where the shelves lining the walls were ripped out to make way for the ductwork.

The main unit will sit in the basement directly below this closet. We’ve been assured the system we’re installing is whisper quiet. We’ll see. They’re still working this week, finishing up the ductwork in the basement — including in the area where my new air conditioned and heated office will be — and, to our delight, disassembling the old boiler-based system we have squatting in a back room in our basement. I swear, after burning 70 years of fuel oil back there, it’s gotta be a Superfund site. I’ll be thrilled to get the huge 250-gallon holding tank out of there.

But the current mess in the house is nothing compared to the disarray seen to your left. That, my friends, is the well-drilling machinery that will drill two 300-foot wells in our backyard, which will supply the rock-steady temperatures that make a geothermal system work. The thing sits about thirty feet high (you can measure it against the two huge chestnut trees you can see in our backyard just behind it), and the 20-foot lengths of drill bit rotate in, revolver-style, to be screwed onto the end of each bit as it drills itself further into the ground. Yeah, it’s noisy.

As the drill moves into the ground, shale, bedrock and gunk come gushing out — which are then blown through the flexhose you see in the photo into an enormous bin for removal. While the system works well, our yard is already a mess of dust, clay, and mud. Fortunately, the lack of rain here has kept everything dry, so the yard’s not turning into a pigpen. There’s rain in the forecast for later this week, but the drilling is supposed to be completed by Tuesday. Let’s hope.

Messy? You bet. But worth it, if only to get off of the annual 1,100 Gallons of Heating Fuel addiction this house had. Feeling like the junkie who calls his dealer to announce he’s going cold turkey, I called our local fuel company this past weekend to tell them we wouldn’t be needing their services anymore.

“Right,” the woman on the phone said. “That’s what they all say. You’ll be back, you hear me? YOU’LL BE BA–“

I hung up on her, and went outside to look at my wells again, quivering.*

* Dramatization. Actual event may not have happened.

2 responses to “What A Mess!

  1. Josephine Damian

    If only you had one of those green house-remodel reality TV shows like Ed Begley, then we could all share in the experience.

    Cool that you get a sweet, new office out of it – but in the basement? Guess you won’t have any views to distract from the writing.

    One of these days I’m gonna be a rich writer and move to Virginia and you can show me the ropes on doing research at that that great big library you have access to. I would be in heaven if I had a place like that here.

    Is your Chaplin avatar a hint about your next book?


  2. Brian Jay Jones


    They just built one of those extreme makeover houses in our county. And it wasn’t ours.

    We’re doing a shuffle in our house, once we’re wired for AC/heat. The room that was my office will now become a gigantic walk-in closet, while my office will move to the previously yucky, underutilized basement. I’ll post pics when it’s all through.

    Nah, the Chaplin avatar isn’t a hint of things to come, just something I’m fond of. I do have a colleague at Arcade (and in the DC area) who just wrote a new bio of the Great Man, though, from a psychologist’s perspective. I’m looking forward to checking it out.