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monsoon

Relocating to Charlotte?

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This is a thread where you can ask the people of Charlotte questions about relocating to the area. However before you do, please review the rules.

Welcome to Charlotte and UrbanPlanet.org

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Great idea and i am sure you will get people posting here or making individual posts in regards to this by accident.

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Hi, my family is moving to Charlotte this summer and we will need to buy some major home appliances, in particular a front loading washer and dryer, and also a tankless water heater. What stores are recommended for large home equipment purchases like that?

Also, does anyone know how difficult it is to replace an old tank water heater with the tankless? I don't mind taking a crack at it myself, but if there is substantial risk involved I'll just get someone else to do it. Thanks!

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rockwoo -- Prices in Plaza/Midwood are going to be similar to downtown as this neighborhood has long since been gentrified. If you are interested in being an urban pioneer and don't mind putting up with some crime and sketchy people you might want to look at Wesley Heights, Wilmore and Belmont. (be careful of unreasonable prices there too) Also, there several new developments announced in Noda that might be more up your alley. You might want to look at Steel Gardens. There is a thread here on it. Finally you might also look at something that will be going up along the new light rail line. Unfortunately prices are going up on the closer in places, but it probably doesn't make much difference. Being in walking distance of any of the stations will put you in close access to a lot of street level activity.

melk -- Most people in the Charlotte area buy appliances through national retailers like Best Buy, HHGregg, Circuit City, Costco, etc. You probably would want to shop the constant sales that go on at these places once you have picked out what you want. You can find higher end washers like Asko or Miele as speciality retailers in CLT but you will need to check the manufacturers websites for those locations. Good for you for choosing a front loader. The question about the tankless hot water heater really is a question on what you have now as it can be easy or difficult. Most people here use gas to heat hotwater which means you will have to deal with the gas lines. I would only change it out if the present heater is worn out.

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rockwoo,

I've been thinking of how to answer your questions. Its always hard to answer people's questions via a web forum as the limited exchange makes it hard to really put your finger on someone's expectations and point of view.

Since you said that you'll be moving from NYC then im going to assume that you may be under whelmed with the level of street activity in almost any sunbelt neighborhood. That being said, the streets in most of Charlotte's center city hoods are pedestrian friendly as most of these neighborhoods were in existence prior to WWII. You shouldn't have problems with a lack of sidewalks for the most part.

Plaza-Midwood is a tricky hood. It is still, like many center city neighborhoods, still in the process of its renaissance IMO. You have some completely restored areas of very nice old bungalows. However, you can within a distance of a few streets get relatively ghetto. It can be a mixed bag, which is in fact, what some people like about the neighborhood. IMO it is the most "bohemian" of the neighborhoods for lack of a better term with institutions like the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and further down central many various ethnic areas sporting lots of diverse dining (primarily Asian and Latin, these are also something you'll likely drive to because of distance). In its business district you could pick up a 250.00 pair of jeans and walk next door and get a tattoo. It has some great dining options and a few popular nightspots like Thomas St. Tavern and The Penguin. The Perch sketch comedy and CAST theatre are also in the neighborhood. There is also a full service Harris Teeter grocery store in the business district. Most of the shopping though is dominated by antique and vintage stores with other retailers thrown in for a little variety. However, the neighborhood is still primarily residential and pretty much all of that is via single family homes, older bungalows. I don't know the details of when the streetcar is scheduled to start through there but you should check out the transit threads to read about these things as they could considerably open you options of places to go without a car. Living in Charlotte without a car is sadly something few are able to do right now.

Have you considered SouthEnd? It certainly has more nightlife establishments and a little more shopping, tends to be a little more urban overall with more condos and apartments helping to add density. The old cotton mills also add a little flavor to the neighborhood in my opinion. The light rail is also currently under construction which will open up possibilities of getting around on foot to Uptown and other areas along the line. The big problem with SouthEnd for you may be having to drive to get groceries. Charlotte is currently underserved by urban grocery stores. They all love their parking lots. However, SouthEnd offers more dining, shopping, and basic service options than PM. If I were you I would at least check it out and the neighborhoods adjacent to it like Wilmore and Dilworth. SouthEnd is just now starting to turn the reatil corner IMO with the addition of stores like American Apparel and the other local clothing and furniture boutiques opening up.

Remember that no matter which hood you chose all are growing by leaps and bounds so if it isn't quite up to the energy level or amenity level you were hoping for it will likely be far better in only a year or two. Just review the neighborhood threads and look at the proposals online for these neighborhoods.

With a good realtor you'll will likely be able to get a good feel for PM, SouthEnd, Dilworth, Elizabeth, and Wilmore in a couple of days. Just make sure you get an agent that is accustomed to the center city instead of the burbs. The visitors center is Uptown and they may be able to give you a little more info on the individual neighborhoods history as well while your here.

Just some thoughts.

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I considered replacing my water heater with a tankless sysytem... but there are only a few brands of tankless sold around here, they're much more expensive than a tank, and most repair people around here are only familiar with tanks.

So I just replaced the dying heater with another [modern and more efficient] Rheem brand tank. My gas bill is around $25 a month in the summer, and I live by myself and use a gas dryer too. It's not that unreasonable.

Basically with an old building, it's easier to just replace what wears out, than make radical changes. I made the same decision when the furnace died. Getting a new gas furnace was less cost and hassle than converting to a heat pump.

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Thanks all, This is very helpful.

What's the best place to go to figure out the boundaries of neighborhoods like Wesley Heights, Wilmore, Southend and Belmont? This is what I've been relying on http://ww.charmeck.org/qol/cwac.htm, but since it's not labeled I spend a lot ot time clicking around trying to figure out what's what.

Diversity is appealing to me, so I guess sketchy sounds good if that's where you go to live in a diverse neighborhood that's pretty cheap.

Finding a good real estate agent to take me around sounds like the most productive way to find a place in a short time? And coming from NYC, do you pay fees to real estate agents? If so how much should I expect?

Are there coffee shops or other local places in some of these neighborhoods that would have bulletin boards with apartment listings?

Thanks again. It helps so much to talk to folks living in Charlotte about this stuff.

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Rockwoo, I have not lived in Charlotte for some 16 years now but as a Realtor in Massachusetts (not solicting your business or anyone's), your best source is to locate a Realtor that will represent you as a Buyer's Agent.

If NC is still the same, a Buyer's Agent will represent your interest and their commission is paid for by the Listing Agent. So, you should not have any out of pocket expense for the Realtor end of the deal.

Find a Buyer's Agent with the ABR Designation (Accredited Buyer's Agent).

You can search for ABR's in Charlotte (or anywhere for that matter) by going to this Real Estate Buyer's Agency Council

Be sure that either by written disclosure or via Buyer Agency Contract the the Realtor is representing you and not the seller. If you use a Seller's Agent, the Agent represents the best interest of the seller which means it their fiduciary duty to get the best price and terms for the Seller. So anything you disclose to a Seller's Agent is passed on to the Seller. So, you should never attend an open house and make an offer with the Seller's Agent. And never reveal to a Seller's Agent your motivation to purchase or your willingness to pay a certain price. Always, always work with the Buyer's Agent.

A Buyer's Agent owes you the following duties:

  • Obedience - to you lawful instruction

  • Loyalty - Your interests above their own

  • Disclosure - Disclose relevent and material facts

  • Confidentiality - Keep your secrets

  • Accounting - For your funds and deadlines

  • Reasonable care and diligence

A top notch Buyer's Agent should also perform a market analysis before you write an offer to make sure you are not overpaying for the property and also determine a negotiation strategy prior to the offer.

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Are there coffee shops or other local places in some of these neighborhoods that would have bulletin boards with apartment listings?

I know the Caribou Coffee on East Blvd. (Dilworth) has a big bulletin board full of local area adds for houses and such.

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In North Carolina, you don't have to sign a buyers agency agreement with a real estate agent. Many will push you to do this because it requires you to use them as a real estate agent for the term that it is in effect. The only time this will get you is if you decide to buy a house that is for sell by owner. If there is a buyers agency agreement, the real estate agent can demand that you pay them 3% commission, or whatever is in effect. Otherwise the seller always pays the real estate agent here.

From a practical point of view, there really isn't much difference between signing the agreement or not, most real estate agents will still show you around because they are going to get their money from the seller in any case. I would recommend not signing one until you get a better feel for the area.

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Single relo's are easy. Pick anywhere that's cheap and convenient (month-to-month or weekly rental), and leave most of your stuff behind in storage.

There are a couple of locations for a hotel chain called "Inn-Towne Suites" which is a about $200 a week and that's how I spent my first week here, as I explored Charlotte and priced around. There are also often people in the University area that need a roommate to "finish out a semester" so that's another way to do it.

It really does help to see for yourself what you like, and having a short term "hopping off point" is very useful.

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In North Carolina, you don't have to sign a buyers agency agreement with a real estate agent. Many will push you to do this because it requires you to use them as a real estate agent for the term that it is in effect. The only time this will get you is if you decide to buy a house that is for sell by owner. If there is a buyers agency agreement, the real estate agent can demand that you pay them 3% commission, or whatever is in effect. Otherwise the seller always pays the real estate agent here.

From a practical point of view, there really isn't much difference between signing the agreement or not, most real estate agents will still show you around because they are going to get their money from the seller in any case. I would recommend not signing one until you get a better feel for the area.

Also, there are 2 types of buyer's agents. One works exclusively with buyers and never works with sellers. The other is a seller's agent who may have buyer clients. The latter must still make the same commitments to the buyer client as the former. I always go with an exclusive. They of course have their biases, and I don't have any facts to indicate a difference between the 2 types. It's just a gut thing.

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Hi guys,

The house we bought is all eletric, no oil or gas lines.

The water heater is the original 40 gallon tank from 1968. So yeah, we want to replace it ;) I'll have to dig around and see how difficult an installation of a tankless system is.

Right now the house has a Heat Pump, and a central AC unit in the attic.

I don't know if that makes any difference, but it seems to me that it would... that the AC unit has to work a lot harder to make cold air while it's sitting up in the stuffy attic? Or does that not matter. I obviously have no idea how HVAC systems work...

I do plan on installing both an attic fan and a whole house fan, but I am wondering if it would be worth it to move the AC unit outside?

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It seems odd that you would have both a heat pump and a separate AC, as the heat pump also provides cooling in the summer. Anywhere that will be sufficiently warmed by the heat pump in the winter, will also be cooled by it in the winter.

Most likely it is your air handler in the attic. Moving it means you have to redo all of your ventilation ducts. This isn't a trivial job.

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Yes I guess it is the air handler in the attic. As I said I have very limited understanding of how HVAC systems work, Heat Pumps in particular. I'll be learning a lot it seems...

So the Heat Pump that is outside first heats or cools the surrounding air, then pumps it up into the attic, where it is then distributed throughout the house?

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So the Heat Pump that is outside first heats or cools the surrounding air, then pumps it up into the attic, where it is then distributed throughout the house?

Close. The actual air does not go outside. (at least on most units) There is a compressor outside where the gas in the coils is compressed. Then air is blown over it to cool it down. The gas is then sent back to the attic where it enters a set of coils that are in the path of the air flowing through the ventilation system. It expands there and cools off which provides air conditioning. Since a heat pump is nothing but a air conditionioner that works both ways, the cycle is reversed in the winter where the heat is pumped into the house instead of out.

Heat pumps in NC work pretty well until except for mid-December - mid March. During those months it can get cold enough where there isn't enough heat in the outside air for them to work. So instead there are electrical strips that come on and provide the heat. This is much less efficient and costs a fairly high amount to operate.

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Yes, I am familiar with electric baseboard heating - I had the misfortune of having it as my sole source of heat in a prior residence. That was my first (and last I had hoped) experience with electric baseboard heating - what a miserable winter that was.

Of course it now makes sense as to why the Seller's inisisted on not having to repair the baseboard heating units, which the home inspection had revealed to be non-functioning. Their argument was that it was a secondary heat source, and the main system (heat pump) worked fine.

So now it looks like we will either need to replace or repair the existing units on our dime or replace them all together with some other sort of heat source.

I'll have to take a closer look at Geo-Thermal heat pumps since my basic understanding of those is that once you dig to approx 8 feet, the ambient temperature is a relativley stable 55 degrees F. I wonder if such a system could be worked into the existing air handler / ducting.

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Yes. If I had to replace my heating system, I would definately consider a geothermal unit. Another bonus is they provide very cheap hot water which solves your 1968 boiler problem.

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The water heater is the original 40 gallon tank from 1968. So yeah, we want to replace it ;) I'll have to dig around and see how difficult an installation of a tankless system is.

Don't forget solar hot water heaters ... they are getting much more reasonable and I think can pay you back in 3-4 years. Probably similar in cost to the several tankless systems you would have to install in a typical american home.

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So if I were to replace my existing Heat Pump with a Geo-Thermal unit, it would also handle the heating of my water?

That really seems to be the way to go then, since it will be more efficient then the heat pump and take away the need for a seperate unit to heat the water.

Does anyone on the board have a geothermal unit? Or know any local places that sell/install them?

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I have not gotten as far as researching local places that sell them. If you find out anything please post it here.

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Ok, you've dragged me out of my complacent lurking existence with this thread.

I'll try to make #2 a wee bit more concise :)

I'm building a house and wanted very much to go with a geo HP. The cost/savings is good in many configurations, but in the end we couldn't make it work. I hope that by the time someone else is evaluating the choices these concerns will be irrelevant for them.

Here were our reasons:

1. We're building on a small infill lot with insufficient sq ft of area to put the loop in trenches given setback requirements. This means vertical bore holes (think well drilling, but with a loop of tubing inserted rather than a well casing and pump), which must be grouted. This is not cheap. This is one of the items that pushed the incremental cost of a geo unit to ~14k higher than a dual-fuel solution.

2. Limited selection of "certified" GSHP (ground source heat pump) installers who can handle the whole job. You will find many certified well drilling companies, but few HVAC companies that handle end-to-end jobs. The one we finally found that would work with our builder was pretty flakey - didn't meet their commitments, hard to track down, difficult to pin down on price. Didn't feel good about making a large commitment in going with them.

3. The load calculations are pretty critical to get an efficient system. This means that any concern about the contractor could mean significant issues later. Undersizing a unit will result in an obvious problem (can't keep cool in summer, can't get warm in winter), Oversized can cause problems too though, particularly with handling humidity.

You must also factor in the soil conditions, ground temp and water table into these calculations. Get a soil test, particularly where your loop won't be under the water table.

4. There are parallel/serial balancing issus and flow considerations specific to vertical/well loops to ensure the circulation pump flows water/coolant mix evenly through all loop tubing (to gain full heat transfer). Like the consideration above, this requires high confidence in the contractor which we didn't have.

There are some considerations for GSHP systems that I happened upon (all from a layperson, so don't take as fact):

- If you have lake frontage where you can drop a closed-loop for a GSHP, you could likely add a short term 2nd mortgage/HE Loan payment to pay for the system and still get a net savings based on the energy savings. I believe Duke permits this in their lakes.

- If you have sufficient open land to do a loop in trenches, particularly a non-slinky coil loop, the payoff is better. Trenching is very cheap compared with vertical/well drilling. Non-slinky loops (straight tubing rather than overlapping coils) get good heat transfer.

- You may see criticisms leveled at GSHP solutions from long ago (80s and 90s). These are most often related to open-loop systems which draw in well water and then discharge, rather than running a continuous closed loop. This resulted in corrosion and part/pump failure. With a modern closed-loop system this should not be an issue.

- Get a Desuperheater. This is the part that transfers heat from your inside air into your water heater during the summer (rather than dumping it outside in the ground). This is the part which can give you nearly free hot water for much of the year. Note that this doesn't _replace_ the water heater. It just provides the linkage to add heat to your water heater.

- Make sure you have ducting that will support a heat pump with the needed airflow. Putting a super-efficient HVAC system on crappy ducting will result in a much less efficient setup, and therefore a much longer payoff timeline.

If you are looking for installer information, check these sites:

Int'l Ground Source Heat Pump Assoc: http://www.igshpa.okstate.edu/geothermal/faq.htm

Industry Consortium: http://www.geoexchange.org/

Also, the sites for major manufacturers should be able to provide info about installers that have training to install their GSHP products (Trane, Waterfurnace, etc).

So, what did we do?

High efficiency ASHP units for upstairs and down, with a high efficiency gas furnace downstairs as the secondary heat source (rather than electric resistive heat strips). This, combined with an external thermostat will cause the gas heat to only be used below an external temp setpoint (such as 35deg), so that dynosaur heat is used as little as possible. Our house design works to take advantage of the convection of the furnace heat to the upstairs, which should minimize (or eliminate??) the heat strips from being used upstairs. Except perhaps for the coldest nights.

We're also focusing on insulation. This has a huge impact on effiency, and is actually a key EnergyStar consideration for a home. If you max out insulation, in fact, you will likely push out the payback timeline for a GSHP beyond the life of the system. We are focusing here, which will make an efficient setup even better.

Tankless WH

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One of the other items discussed as well has been tankless/demand water heaters. We found this a challenge as well, due to the limited flow rate provided for the temp change needed in the middle of winter. Check the ratings carefully and make sure you will have sufficient GPM for your input water. This means understanding the temp of your supply water (coming from a cold crawlspace, or the relative warmth of the ground), along with the GPM needed based on how water usage is in your household.

My research pointed away from demand for us, but would point to a demand WH for a retrofit in many cases. Particularly where the following are true:

- Your tank heater is not leaking, and is inside the heated home space (or warmer-than-ground-temp basement). In this case, keep it inline for the hot water prior to the demand heat pump. This will act as a tempering tank, ensuring that you're heating from a higher starting point, thus using less energy. You could also get a new tank to meet this need, but that could become cost prohibitive.

- Your supply gas line is large enough to meet the BTUH needs of the WH (doubtful), or can be easily upgraded. Gas tankless WHs with a supply sufficient for 3 or more users of hot water require a very fat pipe. If you have a small supply line to the house, or small supply from the meter to the current tank gas-fired WH, you may need to upgrade the lines.

- You have access to sufficient supply air and exhaust to meet the needs of the unit. Mounting on an outside wall for external venting would be ideal.

Also note that resistive electric tankless WHs are relatively inefficient and would only likely result in a net energy savings when hot water is rarely needed (such as a vacation home or cabin). Using one all the time would be unlikely to save money or energy.

Oh, and if you're getting a GSHP, don't get a tankless WH! :thumbsup:

There are also heat-pump water heaters, which are a great idea for homes where you have electric only and where the water heater can live in the heated home space (closet, util room, etc). It uses a refrigeration unit in reverse, removing heat from the air and putting it in the water (just like a GSHP in the winter). These aren't quite mainstream yet, but the technology is known and proven. They also have the advantage of being a single manufactured unit, rather than like a GSHP or typical split system ASHP where an on-site fabricator must do work on refrigerant lines. If you have a chance to install, can justify the cost, and meet the criteria this is a great way to go when tankless isn't a good choice.

----

I have some thoughts on other home building considerations, but I won't drag this thread any more OT than it probably is already.

Hope this provides food for thought.

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