• Over the last few months, Historic Shed has been slowly adding products that complement our outbuildings in a new online store. Some of the products we have been using for quite some time on our buildings, like Abbey Trading's Heavy Duty Hinges, and others we have discovered through searches for our customers. I will be posting info about some of the other products in future posts, but today I want to write about something we are really excited to offer: a DIY Mini-Split HVAC system. When we design home offices, artists studios and cottages for customers, we are always asked about AC systems. In the past, we typically told them that a window/wall unit AC would be adequate to cool the space although they can be noisy and not always very energy efficient. Units in the $600-800 range are often large enough for many of the finished interior type buildings, but require that a hole be cut in the building wall or they take up precious window space. The other option we would mention is a ductless HVAC system, also know as a Mini-Split. The units are quieter, more efficient, and have a smaller, sleeker design that have minimal wall penetration; however, the price tag quoted was typically $3,000 or more from HVAC contractors for the unit plus installation. In spite of the cost, many of our customers opted for this system. Mini-Split systems consist of two main parts: a condenser unit that is located outside and an evaporator unit that mounts on the wall inside the building. The units do not require any ductwork and are either hardwired or plugged into a standard 120 outlet. Some systems can be used in multiple rooms, with one condenser serving up to 4 evaporator units, known as a multi-zone system. More typically, they serve a single open space, suited for many of our Historic Shed designs. About 6 months ago, we chanced upon a website touting a Mini-Split HVAC system by ClimateRight that claimed that anyone could install it. Curious, we read further and learned that the difference was that the system line-set came pre-charged and had an easy connection system that snaps right into the compressor. Since charging the system and making the condenser/ evaporator connection is the part of the installation that requires an HVAC technician, we were intrigued. Adding to the desirability was a low price of only $899 for the unit. Adding to the entertainment value, the company also makes AC units for doghouses. As it happens, we have a downstairs room in our house that is not connected to the main central AC system. We installed a wall unit AC about 8 years ago that was increasingly noisy, left the room feeling damp, had mildew growing in the filter and generally was just not up to the task of cooling the room anymore. We decided that the ClimateRight Mini-Split AC was perfect for a trial installation, although the room is a little bit larger volume (due to high ceilings) than the system is recommended for. After ordering, the unit sat in the box for a week or so before I got a call from Craig saying that he and Max, our 15 year old son, were installing the AC. I asked Max to take photos as they went since I wanted to document the process, but to no avail. This is what I came home to and the subsequent process: The whole family gathered around when we first turned the AC unit on and oohed and aahed. It is operated by a remote control and it cycled up just the way it was supposed to. It was worlds quieter than the wall unit and pretty soon we noticed that the room was much drier than it had been when the other unit was on. It's now been up for a couple of months and we leave it on all the time as it has a thermostat that . We have absolutely no problems with the unit, although we have not had to try the heat yet. The unit fan does stay on all the time, but since it is pretty quiet, it is actually less noticeable than if it cycled on and off. Since the ClimateRight Mini-Split DIY AC has passed our test for both installation ease and function, we now are pleased to offer it and 3 portable HVAC units also by ClimateRight that are suited to our Historic Shed projects. The first customer that purchased one and installed it themselves had this to say: "We installed it! Super easy. Idiot proof really and it works great!!! Thank you :) " Things to know: The ClimateRight Mini-Split system is designed for between 150 to 550 square feet (up to 4,000 cubic feet maximum). The system will automatically adjust to the requirements of your space size. It is a single zone system, so if you have multiple rooms that need to be cooled, it may not be right for you The system is portable, meaning you can disconnect it and reinstall it elsewhere if need be. 1200 BTU Cooling/ 14000 BTU Heating, 15 SEER Good for Home Offices, Studios, Cabins and Cottages, Tiny Houses or rooms where ductwork can't be installed easily There is FREE SHIPPING on any orders right now Historic Shed offers installation of any of the HVAC units we sell for any of our buildings if you aren't feeling very DIYish More information and specifications on the units can be found at: https://historicshed.com/store-4/hvac/ Some examples of Mini-Split AC units that have been installed in Historic Shed projects (various brands):  

  • Below is the slide show presentation Historic Shed president and historic preservation consultant, Jo-Anne Peck uses to talk about making your historic home more energy efficient without destroying its historic integrity. The presentation focuses on practical, affordable things that home owners can do without resorting to expensive high tech or invasive methods. The presentation is geared towards homes in Florida so focuses on keeping the cool air in. Improving the Energy Efficiency of Your Historic Florida Home from Preservation Resource, Inc./ Historic Shed  

  • We've been thrilled to get some press recently in some great magazines and blogs in the past couple of months. Here's some highlights: One of our sheds was selected for an article in the May/June issue of Fine Gardening on "Stylish Sheds". There was a feature article in the March issue of Coastal Contractor on our Ybor City Cottage project. We were interviewed for an article on Tiny Homes in the Sun Sentinel prior to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Miami Workshop in April. We were featured in the May issue of Lux Magazine in an article called "History in the Making". We wrote a guest blog post for Tiny House Blog on building small homes in historic districts that was picked up by Mint Magazine and quoted in "Growing Movement: Americans Buying More Tiny Houses (Under 500 Sq. Ft.) To Avoid Foreclosure". We were featured in the May/June issue of Florida Creative Living Magazine with a company history profile.

  • Historic Shed will be participating in two events next weekend. On Saturday, April 14th, 2012 we will be a featured speaker at the Tampa Preservation, Inc. Historic Homes Workshop. The annual event is free and offers 12 workshops geared towards historic homeowners that want to renovate their home in an architecturally and historically sensitive manner. The workshops will be run three at a time, so you will be able to attend up to four sessions during the day. Historic Shed's topic will be "Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Homes", focusing on practical, inexpensive ways to reduce energy use. Other speakers will discuss Wood Window Repair, Restoring Wood Floors, Researching You Home's History, Florida Friendly Landscaping and much more. For more information, please see the Tampa Preservation website. On Sunday, April 15th, Historic Shed will be a featured speaker during day 2 of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Miami. We will discuss Florida Building Codes in relation to small homes and cottages. These events are very informative and popular, so register soon if you are interested. We are looking forward to being a part of the event and meeting other tiny building aficionados, including author and workshop leader Derek "Deek" Diedricksen and Tiny House blogger Alex Pino. For more information  and to register see: http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/blog/3-guest-speakers-confirmed-for-the-miami-workshop. Tiny House Workshop press: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/entertainment/fl-tiny-houses-040812-20120406,0,2438495.story?page=1

  • Custom Shed

    For Earth Day I thought it would be good to extol the virtues of sheds in relation to being Green in a post (and I'm talking about more than painting it Kermit colored). A shed can add space to your home without requiring any demolition. No cutting through walls for access, ripping off a back porch or previous addition to make room for it. Just a brand new room, detached from the main house that can house anything from the lawn mower to weekend guests to your entire home office. Nothing goes to the landfill. A shed can be built with salvaged materials; anything from old stained glass windows to old pallets can be recycled to make a shed. Great creative when you build your extra room. A shed can drastically reduce commuting time and gas use. If you set your shed up for home office use you can walk to your backyard to go to work instead of wasting time idling in traffic each day. And the bonus of using a detached building for your office is that it doesn't take up any additional space in your house and easily keeps work life separate from home life. A shed is easy to condition. Because it's a small space, a shed heats or cools down very quickly when insulated and conditioned with a small ac unit or mini-split system for greater energy eficiency. Plus you may be encouraged on pleasant days to throw open the windows and not condition the space at all. A shed converted to a rental cottage increases community density, making the most of already developed land for additional residential units which means less sprawl. Using a shed for an outdoor kitchen, home office, or playroom can encourage you to get outside and putter around in a garden and enjoy the great outdoors. The more time you spend outdoors, the more you appreciate Mother Earth! We'd love to hear some others ideas on how a shed can help you live more Green!

  • If you search for green building devices on the internet, you will find a tremendous number of links for "gizmo green" gadgets. These are generally technology-based items that you can install in or on your existing home or entire systems used to build new "green" houses. While we applaud the changing mindset that takes sustainability into consideration, the public is constantly misinformed by manufacturers about the true green and sustainable value of many of these products, touting items that will end up in landfills several years down the road as they break down or become technologically obsolete. The practice is common enough to have garnered the term "greenwashing". As a result, we don't jump on the bandwagon of promoting many of these technology driven devices, with the exception of a few items such as instant hot water heaters, solar attic fans, energy efficient appliances and programmable thermostats that we feel have earned their place in our own projects.Being proponents of historic homes and traditional design in general, we instead choose a more tried and true method for living sustainably for our Favorite Green Building Device: the Porch. No manufacturer is out promoting the simple and attractive traditional shaded porch, so it does not get its fair share of green building credit, but porches can have such an impact on building energy savings (particularly here in Florida) that it amazes me whenever a new building publicized as "green" but has no porch shading any facade (but preferably the south) implemented into the design. Porches have been employed by generations to provide a cool space to sit out on hot days, capture breezes and shading the building interior. They are considered a passive solar technique; they require no additional energy input to operate but can cut cooling costs tremendously by reducing heat gain in the building interior. In addition, porches (when constructed properly) are easy to maintain, never become obsolete and enhance the architecture of your home as an added bonus.Other traditional Florida building techniques also come in a runner-ups in our list of Favorite Green Building Devices: operable window and doors with screens, wide overhanging eaves, and high ceilings.

  • We have become so reliant on air conditioning and heating that we sometimes forget to take advantage of the inherent good design found in our historic homes. As the weather gets more pleasant this fall, consider taking a few steps to operate your historic house more energy efficiently, and save some money in the process. The following are some ideas to consider:Unstick any windows that are painted shut. It is almost a universal trait of old homes to have at least one window that won't budge, but when more than half aren't functioning, it's time to take action. A web search for "windows painted shut" brings up countless websites with step-by-step instructions for loosening stuck windows, including HGTV and This Old House (they offer a video). Releasing a stuck window is not rocket science, but it generally requires some muscle and patience. Professional help can be called in, particularly if you need to reattach the counter weights; just beware of anyone telling you to replace your wood windows. There are good contractors in the area that can repair your windows, preserving the character and integrity of your home as well as keeping dollars in your pocket. Install wood framed screens on windows if they are missing. You are more likely to open those unstuck windows if you aren't worried about welts from mosquitoes. As a bonus, wood window screens add historic character and an additional accent color to the building exterior. Install wood screen doors on all exterior doors. Wood screen doors should be heavy duty since they open and close as often as the primary door; if the model you see is made with thin, finger-jointed wood or comes with a diagonal wire support, don't expect it to withstand Florida's climate for more than a season or two. Choose self closing spring hinges rather than ugly vacuum bars for a more authentic design for your historic home. Install awnings, operable shutters or blinds over openings on south and west elevations. When appropriate for your house style, they provide a nice architectural accent in addition to functioning as a shading device. Close shutters and blinds during the hottest parts of the day. Install ceiling fans and use in conjunction with open windows and doors. Install a solar powered ventilation fan in the attic to help remove excess heat. Turned on by a temperature sensor, this relatively inexpensive project will help reduce your cooling load next summer. Caulk or foam-seal penetrations into your house (where the cable enters, water lines penetrate, etc.) and install weather-stripping around windows and doors. Air infiltration is good when you can control it by opening windows and doors, but bad when the air you paid to heat or cool escapes. Insulate your attic space; most heat loss and gain comes through your roof. If you expose exterior wall framing during remodeling, install insulation as part of the project. Don't remove plaster walls just to insulate though; plaster is a surprisingly good insulator and reduces noise transmission from room to room. Plant some shade trees on the south and west sides of the house. Trees are a long term investment in the environment, providing cleaner air, habitat for wildlife, reducing soil erosion and sheltering from the sun. Your historic house has shown that it appeals to multiple generations already, so even though the trees you plant today may not have much effect on energy bills for a while, the next owners will thank you. Sit on your front porch rather than watch TV in the early evening a few nights a week. We tend to decorate our porches with inviting rocking chairs and beautiful potted flowers, but rarely take advantage of the peaceful atmosphere they provide. In addition to the pleasure of a cool, relaxing evening, you might find one of the other benefits of living in a historic home: friendly conversation with your neighbors.

  • Cooler weather has arrived in Florida; the kind of weather that makes you eager to turn off the AC and throw open windows and doors. However, the bugs come right in along with the cool air. The answer to this problem has been available for homeowners for quite a while now: screens. Unfortunately, many owners of historic homes no longer have their original window and door screens. Because window screens are easily removed when in need of repair, they usually get stacked in the garage and added to the bottom of the To Do List. Wood screen doors typically get removed directly to the trash. The result is both a loss of historic character and a loss of comfort and function.While the majority of wood window screens tend to be similar in design, the wood screen door has a greater degree of design variety to suit various architectural styles. The screen door also is subject to much more daily wear than the average window screen. Add Florida's high humidity and temperature fluctuations and you do have to spend some time thinking about screen doors if you want them to look appropriate and last for a reasonable amount of time.Although basic wood screen doors are available at local home improvement stores, they are rarely suited to historic homes or to Florida's climate. Many of the available screen doors are built of finger jointed, soft woods with narrow frames. The result is an oddly proportioned door that tends to sag and stick shortly after installation and rot within a season or two. They also are available only in stock sizes that often need to be modified in order to fit existing historic door openings. A better, longer lasting solution is to install a custom built screen door that is designed to complement the architectural style of the home and built of rot resistant materials using durable joinery techniques. Screen door styles range from simple rectangular frames suited to vernacular homes to ornate ginger-breaded doors for Victorian era homes. Several designs are available for the Craftsman-influenced and Mission style homes so common to Florida as well. Materials such as cypress and dense pine are suited for wood screen doors in Florida due to their rot resistance and dimensional stability. Strong joints, such as mortise and tenon connections add to the strength and durability of screen doors as well. Finished with period-appropriate hardware, a well designed and built wood screen door can add character to a historic home and serve as a welcome to Florida’s wonderful winter weather.