Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A December to Remember

Well, we have been making a lot of progress. I feel like a candle with multiple wicks! However the progress helps me keep going. We worked on getting the gas lines all finished in the house. Worked on electrical equipment and wiring, the ventilation system, and plumbing. While dad and I were finishing up the air intake and exhaust for the water heater, mom sat in front of the fire and read a book :-)

We got the gas lines finished up, and I had my gas line inspection. The plumber that helped with the test, was impressed we were holding 70 pounds of pressure with the quality of the black iron piping he has been seeing. The inspector commented that he was bored since the pressure gauge was not moving any, and with that he signed off on my inspection.

We got the air intake for the water heater run out through the garage and connected out through the wall.

On the left is the air intake for the water heater, the other PVC vents the gases the batteries produce, and the black metal pipe is what the propane will flow through to the appliances in the house.

We got the last 4 panels mounted. I haven't had the chance to get them wired into the system yet.

We also got the fan mounted in the vent house, and the filters installed. It is hooked up to a breaker in the house, and if I want to bring in fresh air, I flip a switch, and it starts up. Last weekend we had it running for a while. It was 45 outside, and the air coming into the house was 52. The real test will be when it is freezing outside, and I want to bring in fresh air. Then I will see how well this will work.

I got the large wires running from the batteries to the power panel, "organized". The problem is when you have a wire that is too long, but you can't cut it, and it is very heavy, what do you do with it? Make modern art?

It looks like a mess, but I was very careful in how I routed them. Still, there is only so much you can do with them, they are quite unwieldy.

I got the permanent drainage installed for the underground conduits. The tubing drains to the floor drain off to the right. On the left I will be connecting other drain lines on from the heat recovery ventilator, and my water to air heat exchanger. I am not expecting condensation off the water to air heat exchanger until into the spring or summer when I plan to draw heat from the incoming air, and put it in the floor.

I also ran the drain for the air intake for the water heater. They want a drain so that any moisture that condenses in the air intake, has a way out other than through the combustion chamber.

Drains going to the floor drain, water heater gas line is connected, ready for gas.

After I passed my inspection, and had my valves installed and my water heater connected, I got a hold of the propane company, and got them to finish the gas line hookup. They literally hung the pressure regulator off the end of the pipe. Dad went out and supervised the final hookup.

While he was waiting for the propane guys to show up, and then after it as well, he and mom worked on running some of the plumbing line. They got the lines for the kitchen and the master bath run from the respective rooms, back to the utility room.

We got the rest of the conduit runs out in the garage put up. I have one conduit running into the utility room for the DC power for my pumps, and one for the AC that will go to the house breaker panel.

I wanted to have my plumbing lines well insulated. So I started to insulate the lines all the way from where they would come out of the manifolds, to where they would go to the fixtures.

This last weekend, we continued working on the plumbing.

We had to build an arrangement to turn off the well pump when my tank is full. We constructed a support structure for the switch and the float rod that goes into the tank and connects to the float.

 We got the plumbing from the water conditioner to the holding tank and through the pressure pump complete. I went ahead and powered up the well pump and pumped for a while.

Here you can see the arrangement of the holding tank, the pressure tanks, the water conditioner, and the water heater. I am filling up the one wall of my utility room very quickly.

My hope is that by the end of this week, I will have the pressure tanks plumbed in, and be able to have "running" water from a drain outlet off of them. Hopefully by the beginning of the year, I will be able to fire up the water heater.

Hope you all have a merry Christmas, and a happy and safe new year.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Growing solar

Well we have made some good progress. The solar array has been growing, and now has 10 panels on 5 racks, mounted and wired into the system. Mom has been helping dad and I get the panels attached to the racks. So here is how my array has grown.

Another thing we have been working on, is getting the vent house construction finished, and getting it installed. We were working outside well after dark  last night to get it in place. Yesterday earlier in the day we got it moved onto its footers. That was challenging all by itself.

You can see the pipes going from inside down to the pipes coming out of the ground. The frame inside, will hold a fan, and a set of filters that the air will pass through before going underground. This morning I got a picture of what it looks like with the sides and top on.

The top is hinged, and the front is removable. I still need to get the electrical box inside wired, and put in the fan and filters so I can push air into the house. But it is almost there.

We have also been working on getting the last pieces of pipe in place for the gas line before I get it inspected. We have it run out the house, and secured to the retaining wall.

Stainless steel and aluminum for supporting the galvanized pipe. Not real pretty, but functional. The gas company will hang their regulator off the end of the pipe, and tie into the gas line they left sticking through the wall. I am hoping that maybe I can have gas flowing into the house  sometime in the next couple weeks.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Nuclear powered Hobbit Hole

I finally got tapped into that big nuclear fusion reactor in the sky. My first solar panels are now connected into the system and charging the batteries.

Here is the first rack with its two panels

This morning I did not participate in Black Friday, I went to see a bright Friday shining on my panels. These two panels, under "ideal" (read, almost never going to happen) conditions, could generate about 520 watts. This morning, they were sending a little less than 400 watts into the batteries. The panels were generating just over 400 watts, and the charge controller was sending about 380 watts to the batteries. It was sending about 94% of the power from the panels to the batteries.

The charge controller is reporting sending 380 watts to the batteries

I watched the system and it took the batteries from about 90% full to 94% full by the time I had to leave around lunch time. It had put over a kilowatt hour back into the batteries, and was delivering 440 watts into the batteries at that time.

Tomorrow we are going to try to set up two more racks with another 4 panels. This should let me really charge the batteries and keep them charged without having to run the generator much, while we finish the construction work. I am hoping that within 2 or 3 weeks, I will have all the panels installed. But that will require some cooperation from the weather.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A little this, and a lot of that!

Many things have been happening, and it has been a little too busy and tiring, for me to get the chance to write. This will be more a photo montage, than a long written out explanation of what we are doing. So here we go:

Painting the utility room floor.


Finishing the duct runs to the dining room

Installing columns on the walls

 Finishing more duct work

Dropping the gas line to the water heater

 Running wiring (oh what a tangled web)

 Nestled under the green

 More wiring, I am labeling the wires to keep track of which is which.

Hydronic manifolds plumbed, and ready to finish connections to the tempering tank, which will maintain the proper temperature water for the floor.

Heat will be transfered to the tempering tank, from the water heater, which is a 96% efficient propane water heater.

 Laying out parts for the water supply manifolds.

Wiring the columns.

Quite a load ready to go. 2 solar panels in the bed of the truck, the rest of the parts of the vent house, and the aluminum for the 7 racks to hold all the solar panels.

Blocks set to support the vent house.

First rack assembled

Panels mounted on the rack

Well line plumbed through water conditioner.

Water supply manifolds assembled, and attached to the wall, ready to plumb.

 Finishing the conduit run, from the big junction box to...

The combiner box on the rack.

First panels are wired to the combiner, and power is now run all the way into the house from the panels.

Added a fuse and switch, to protect the batteries, and allow shutting off the battery power to the power panel completely.

Dad is framing up the roof for the vent house. He used metal braces that were used during the pouring of the walls for the house, to stiffen the roof framing without adding a lot of weight.