Air Source Heat Pump

We recently installed an air source heat pump to heat our house. If you heat yours with electricity from the grid, and if the structure isn’t divided into many small rooms, then a heat pump will cut your power consumption so dramatically that the whole $2500 installation pays for itself in two years. And power consumption equals environmental footprint.

It’s quite a fascinating technology, and friendly to the environment too as long as you don’t rupture a pipe and release circulation fluid. You know a fridge? An air source heat pump makes your house into a fridge turned inside out.

Heat is movement among molecules. At absolute zero, molecules are still and there is no heat. What a fridge does is it removes heat from the inside of the cabinet and deposits it outside, in effect heating your kitchen ever so slightly at the expense of the food-spoiling microbes’ comfort inside. A heat pump attempts to refrigerate the outside world, depositing the harvested heat inside your house. Whether the temperature’s freezing outside is irrelevant: as long as it’s not absolute zero out there (which is rare even in Stockholm, Sweden), you can get all the heat you need.

In the summer, you can shift the thing into reverse mode and use it as an air conditioner. I’m in awe!

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Walls Impede Wifi

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My experiments with the wifi installation in our house and the excellent Bredbandskollen TPTEST bandwidth tester (mainly for machines in Sweden) has taught me a few interesting things about wifi.

  • Your operating system may report the quality of the connection in percent or columns or somesuch. This is not directly proportional to the actual bandwidth you’re getting. One percentage estimate may correspond to a wide range of bandwidth figures.
  • The bandwidth of a wifi connection is extremely sensitive to obstacles such as walls, doors, even waste paper baskets.

I started with the access point sitting on the floor near the middle of our house, and got 7 Mbps. Then I moved it less than three meters onto the wall, thinking that a high placement would improve bandwidth. Instead it dropped to 3 Mbps. So I moved it onto the window ledge, one meter from its original placement, and got 9 Mbps. (Note that I get 11 Mbps when I use an ethernet cable instead of wifi.) None of the three placements has line-of-sight to my computer’s antenna.

Reminds me of the time when my work computer was off-line and I solved the problem by moving the system unit 15 cm.

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Finally On-Line Again

After a bit less than a month’s wait our new house is finally on-line! The winter of our off-line discontent dissolvèd made glorious broadband summer. So far only at 11 Mbps when we were promised at least 12, but the ADSL modem isn’t currently on the first phone socket, so I hope to eventually be able to squeeze some more bandwidth out of the setup.

I now face the slight problem of how our desktop machine will interface with the modem in the long term. I was planning on going wireless to eliminate cables, but so far the USB dongle I bought for the purpose isn’t working very well. When it works at all it’s only giving me 6 Mbps, and I don’t know if there’s a linux driver for it. But I’ll figure it out.

In other news, portly eunuch Shitty Arnie has taken a bad whipping from one of the other neighbourhood cats and walks with a limp. The psycho feline bit off two of the claws on Arnie’s right-hand hind paw! It’s a rough ‘hood, apparently. I have taken to throwing shoes at other cats who venture into our yard, just to give Shitty Arnie some breathing room. Alas, I have yet to hit one of the trespassers.

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Our Strange Entrances

i-0abed99bd3189f3660d675fec2db78da-houseplan.jpgThe houses in our new neighbourhood are clones of one basic design: an L-shaped single-story structure with a fenced yard inside the angle of the L. The main entrance (1) is on one of the L’s outer long walls. The grubby-boots entrance (2) is on the gable adjoining the wall with entrance 1. Finally, there’s an entrance from the yard (3) which in many cases is fitted to be unlocked only from the inside: it’s how the architect intended us to reach the yard from inside the house.

Our particular specimen of this design only has entrance 3, combining the functions of all three entrances from the original design. The house is sited in such a way that an entrance at 1 would have been inconvenient. Nor does there appear ever to have been an entrance A from that side of the house into the passage along that gable to the yard. We used to have an entrance 2, but the previous owner had it bricked up and instead installed a really glitzy bathroom in that corner of the building. So our house has kind of a strange layout: you have to enter the yard by the garden gate (B), and you have to enter the house right next to our dinner table (3). Then you have to cross the dining room to reach the coat hanger and the nearest toilet.

But I like to think that this freakish layout actually fits well at least with my own personality. When you enter my house for the first time, you will feel warmly welcomed into the heart of the place, and you will at the same time be a bit disorientated by its strangeness.

Aard’s Second Blogiversary

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Today marks Aard‘s second anniversary. I’m still having fun and hope you are too! Looking at October and November, the blog had about 950 unique readers daily and was ranked #24 out of 74 blogs on Sb. I recently updated the Best of Aard page for those of you who want to check out some past goodies.

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For much of these two years I have bragged in the left-hand side-bar that Aard had the highest Technorati rank among the net’s archaeology blogs. This is no longer so, and the main reason is that I have stopped hosting blog carnivals. Technorati ranks a blog according to the number and quality of other blogs that have linked to it recently. When you host a carnival you can ask the participants to link to it, which boosts your Technorati ranking. But I got tired of carnival admin. The Technorati ranking says nothing directly about daily traffic, which continues to rise at a healthy clip.

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As for life at Casa Rundkvist, we’re still not on-line which is really a drag. This is the reason that posting here has been erratic lately and I have been absent from the comments sections of my favourite blogs. We received an ADSL modem today, but the people who wiggle the lines in the phone station have been off on holidays and so the DSL light on the modem stubbornly refuses to light up. Blogging from my mom’s study, I can offer three pix of our surroundings, including the view from our kitchen window and the entrance to our yard.

Scavenging Furniture

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Very timely, a friend told me that his ex-employer is getting rid of furniture. We have enough for about 90 sqm, which leaves us with 24 sqm to furnish in the new house. So, I took the opportunity to grab a 1940s mahogany laminate table with six matching chairs and a 1990s Gärsnäs solid-birch sofa.

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High-Entropy Home Decoration

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Here are two snaps of my new home, taken just after breakfast today (the first bread I’ve baked in the house!). Both are taken toward the north: one from the kitchen door toward the dining room, the other standing just west of the dining room and looking down the length of the living room.

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Note:

  • Many Swedes hang a star-shaped lamp in their windows during December. It harks back to the star of Bethlehem but is really just a feeble attempt to alleviate seasonal affective disorder (cf. our celebration of St. Lucy).
  • The semi-assembled book case ended up like that because I haven’t found the steel rod thingies that support the shelves. They’re probably in one of the kids’ boxes since the book case was in the nursery before the move.
  • As can be seen faintly through the dining room window, the building’s exterior is pale grey calcium silicate brick. This funny material was en vogue for a brief period around 1970 and is for reasons unknown to me called mexitegel, “Mexican brick”, though it was made in Nericia, Sweden. It’s not considered good taste, but it’s very robust, taking on a slight rusty tinge with time. I’m not sure if that’s because iron leaches out of the brick or if red algae form a biofilm on it.

In other news, today is my third anniversary as a blogger. In October of 2005 my lovely journalist wife started a pseudonymous blog. I followed suit in December, my first entry discussing rape statistics because that’s what said wife was reporting on at the time. Ever since, I have blogged about once a day, and it’s one of my main hobbies.

New Place

I’m typing this on my smartphone while digesting an evening meal of ramen noodles, egg and Chinese Sauerkraut from the tin. I’m in our new house. It’s a mess, boxes everywhere. My wife is having a foot bath. Juniorette is playing with legos in her room. Both are singing in Mandarin.

Yesterday a crew of about fifteen friends & family moved our stuff here — many thanks guys! I am very proud to have so many good people in my life whom I can rely on.

Today my wife and I skipped work and spent the day getting things into order. I’ve done some washing and assembled two book cases and a high cupboard, so I guess a lot of the book boxes may get done quickly now.

Something that’s really struck me about our new place is the view. You can see the sky from every window and from some even a far horizon. Orion waved goodnight to me last night as I entered our main door, and this morning the Nacka radio masts’ pulsing lights greeted me when I got up in the morning darkness. Driving here is still an unfamiliar experience: all these low private houses with winter lamps in the windows, and at the end of the road one that’s ours.

Our move from a council tenement to an area of small houses nearby lowers the former area’s diversity in the sense that it just lost two middle-class people with desk jobs. As for ethnicity, our new area just got a little more integrated in the sense that it now has a few more non-Europid faces.

I feel a strange urge to buy a large pottery garden ornament. Not a gnome, more like an egg or sphere. Though my extra mom the interior designer tells me they have gone out of style.

Moving House

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After a bit more than seven and a half years, we’re leaving our apartment on Burbot Street and moving to a 114 sqm house on Shroud Street. Fisksätra’s four main housing areas have street names themed for fish, fishing gear, boat details and sea birds respectively. I’ve lived on Carp Bream Street and Grayling Street before. Spent most of my young manhood in those three apartments. And now Junior deserves a room of his own and my wife wants a corner for her easel and a few flower beds. Me, I want… I don’t actually want anything I haven’t already got (except a uni job). But I look forward to the novelty of unfamiliar surroundings. And some greenery outside the window. And a bird feeder!

Home Owner

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For the past ten years, I’ve lived with my family in rented apartments in a 1970s housing estate that covers the erstwhile infields of the poor tenant farm of Fisksätra. Yesterday, my wife and I signed a contract to buy a 114 sqm house on one of the surrounding hills, BÃ¥thöjden, “Boat Hill”!

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We need another bedroom for our 10-y-o, and we calculate that it won’t be all that much more expensive to pay a mortgage on the house than it would be to rent a four-roomer instead of our current three-roomer. The main proponents of buying a house have been my dad and my wife. My conditions were that I wouldn’t take on a monthly cost that would force me to abandon research and get a normal job, and I can’t be bothered to do any significant work on the structural upkeep of a house, nor to tend a garden. And our new house fits the bill: all in good condition, only a few small flower beds in its fenced courtyard. The lawns to one side are communal and cared for with money from the collective.

We’ll be moving no later than mid-December. Chances are I’ll return in my blogging to the subject of home-ownership over the following months.


In other news, I am very proud to announce that at least one of Aard’s regulars is a Booker-prize winner. Whuzzup, Keri!