Trim Work Phase Two

The next trim project took four days. Scott and Robert worked on the “man” doors to the outside first. It was a bit of a scramble to get all the boards planed as they were needed. I planed the boards with an electric hand planer while the workers cut the logs in half and installed them as headers. The reused trim pieces that were long enough to trim the sides of the doors had almost all been used on the interior doors. We had six left for three doors. The door in the mud room entry got thicker trim cut from a 1×6 instead. Fortunately I had plenty of logs for the headers although they were all weathered.

Back door
Back door

Each door had the drywall edge sticking out past the door jamb. So each casing had to be shimmed out with a narrow piece of wood. The first day the three entry doors were trimmed. The second day they tackled the three patio doors. I filled in some spaces with foam and added a layer of SIGA tape around the wood.

Patio door trim
Patio door trim

Wider boards were used for trim between the doors bridging the whole space. The three log headers all met at the top over the trim. This disguised the drywall edge that stuck out over the door.

While Scott was finishing the patio doors, Robert worked on changing the hall closet door to a rustic solid door to match the others in the lower part of the house.

Storage closet door
Storage closet door

This one turned out really nicely. It used to bind but now it opens and closes smoothly and it matches the other doors.

The third day the large kitchen window was trimmed. It took a lot of figuring because the window had metal clips that held it in and they stuck out similar to the drywall but unevenly. So they cut narrow pieces and spaced the trim out the necessary distance. But it took all day to measure and cut each piece and install it.

Kitchen window
Kitchen window

The space was so wide they ripped 2×6’s to the right depth to fill in. Then used the planed edge trim inside and around the outside. Luckily I also had leftover 2×6 lumber.

Kitchen window trim
Kitchen window trim

The fourth day was a little shorter. They only returned to trim the master bedroom window. This window was similar to the kitchen window with spacers that bridged the metal clips. I also filled in any hollow areas with foam spray and taped the wood sides.
There was time left to work on the jammed door lock in one of the patio doors. Although the doors seem to be a little crooked in the frames they all open and close well now. And they appear to shut tightly. During the blower door test we only felt incoming air in one upper corner of the frame. That will be caulked.
In four days, four big projects were accomplished. And all the wood was reused from the original house. In this day of high lumber prices I’m so glad we salvaged and reused all the interior trim work.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Air Intrusion/Thermal Envelope, Construction, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Trim | Leave a comment

Disappointing Blower Door Test

Since working with the Metro Green Homes Tour I have met several people who have been active in sustainable and energy efficient housing for years. One of these new friends offered to come over with her equipment and do a blower door test.
We had a test in 2012 when we first started the remodel. Although not terrible it was 3250 cfm at 50 pascals, the typical blower door pressurization that sucks air from the house. At that pressurization the number of cfm that are pulled through the house measured by the air pressure device is used to determine the air tightness of the house. The motto is build it tight ventilate right.
Nancy K. set up her equipment to do the test. First a metal frame was assembled. It had latches to slide the pieces up and down and to the correct width for my door.

Blower door frame
Blower door frame

Then a nylon cover was draped over the frame and Velcro’d on.

Frame cover
Frame cover

The cover’s frame was set into the door and stretched to fit tightly then clamped in place. The large barrel fan was inserted into the circular opening and the tubing was connected to make the readings with the air meter.

Frame positioned in door
Frame positioned in door

When the meter reached 50 pascals of air pressure the reading of cfm passing through the fan was measured. The reading pulled air from within the house at a steady rate of about 2700 cfm.

Waiting for 50 pascal air measure
Waiting for 50 pascal air measure

Given that I had worked pretty hard to seal up the remodeled part of the house I was shocked that the cfm reading at 50 pascals was 2700 cfm. That’s only about a 17% improvement. New windows and doors and new insulation in the walls and ceiling with expensive air barrier membrane inside would expect a bigger gain in air tightness.
We went around the house looking for spiderwebs moving in the corners. We also felt for air intrusion. It turned out there is lots of air intrusion from the rooms I have not done. The most came from the foundation areas around the new windows and the rear of the utility room wherever pipes pierce the outer wall. And the garage door actually whistled as air came rushing in all around it.

Nancy could see how disappointed I was. Oh my, all the work done and money spent on our main living space only to be losing so much air through the older part of the house!
I fretted about it for a day then started making plans to seal up the rear of the house. No excuses. It has to be done. now that I have a friend with a blower door though I can improve and get another test before the LEED evaluation.

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Hired Help

I just could not seem to make progress on the house so we decided to hire some help. I found a recommended handyman service on a neighbors group and called. This was the third time I had tried to hire someone but the other times there was no interest. I met with Scott from Universal Service Solutions and he was interested in the work of trimming out the doors and windows. He brought his partner over and they discussed approaches to the custom work the windows and doors needed and scheduled to start the next week with a phase one job: all the interior doors. We set up in the garage with my table saw and their mitre saw.

Saws in garage
Saws in garage

This team was more than willing to tackle the more difficult job of trimming the doors with half log headers and reused trim. I had saved all the trim from the tear out. It’s a nice 2 1/8” x 1/2” rounded edge pine. I have a hand planer and was able to plane the finish side of each board while the guys worked on ripping the recycled logs.

Planer and boards for trim
Planer and boards for trim
Planed boards
Planed boards

The effect inside is exactly what I had hoped to see. The half logs vary in tone. Some are lighter and some are darker.

Trim on bedroom door
Trim on bedroom door

They were willing to add a shelf above the utility room door which was also out of reused wood. There were some oak accents in the house so this shelf is oak.

Utility Room trim with display shelf
Utility Room trim with display shelf

In some cases the trim had to be cut to fit around a narrower space like inside the bathroom.

Bathroom trim
Bathroom trim

Phase one was completed in three days and next we discussed phase two, which was a bigger project trimming the three outside doors, the three French doors, and hanging the matching closet door.

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We Get Green Building Visitors and Boiler Set Points

Believe it or not someone read this entire blog. I am amazed because it obviously takes a certain kind of interest to slog through over 630 posts with 9 years of projects. I received a letter from this gentleman and he lives in Parker, CO. About 30 miles away from us. He asked to visit the house and I called him back right away. I love the interest and talking about our renovation. We scheduled a visit for Saturday and he and his wife drove north to our house to see the Tesla Roof and the energy saving features.
Unfortunately my house is rather messy right now. As it is most of the time because I seldom expend energy cleaning up after myself. And I didn’t give myself enough time to straighten up. I know it gives a poor impression. But these visitors seemed to be more interested in a tour and questions about the renovations. We talked most about floor heave and the Wafflemat solution. Then there were questions about the concrete floor and radiant heat.
Some answers I did not know as the decisions were made years ago. For instance what is the set point for the radiant system? I know the Delta T is supposed to be about 20 degrees. The water returning from the system should be 20 degrees lower than the water that is heated to circulate. The design circulating temperature is calculated for zero degrees here in Colorado and that is modulated or changed up and down depending on the outdoor sensor temperature. That number is set in the boiler and I guessed it was about 110 degrees. But I was incorrect. It was set at the factory minimum of 86°. That is the maximum the boiler would operate at when the temperature was zero but I reset that to 100° when the outside temperature is -9 which is a more likely lowest point.

Minimum outdoor temperature
Minimum outdoor temperature
Maximum boiler temperature
Maximum boiler temperature

The lowest outside temperature sensor at which the minimum boiler heat will fire is the factory low of 60°. The low set point is 80°. That means when heat is called for the lowest temperature the boiler sends is 80°. I believe both high and low settings should return the 20° Delta T that is recommended.

Minimum outdoor temperature to provide heat.
Minimum outdoor temperature to provide heat.
Minimum boiler temperature
Minimum boiler temperature

I remember the floors require 86° at zero outdoor temperature so for warmer days that are not heated by the sun the boiler will send slightly lower temperature warm water. I’m not sure how efficient that is but return water temp in a condensing boiler should ideally be 80° or below and these settings should ensure that and maximum boiler efficiency.

Our visitors had very impressive backgrounds with multiple engineering degrees both civil and electrical and seemed more than capable of designing and building an energy efficient home.
The entire blog took two weeks to read and he had a fresher background in our house history than I do.
I hope they send updates as they make progress in their design and build.

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Tesla Roof Performance

The Tesla roof was up and running for part of the day on August 28th. It has been operating for almost three months. The app does not have a date to date feature so I downloaded performance for each full month, September and October.
The charts show the total KWh the house used each day in the first column of data, the second column is the total solar generated kWh. The Power wall numbers indicate extra power generated and stored, the positive numbers show the days where more power was stored than used, the negative more used than generated. The grid kWh’s were used from the grid when positive and when negative excess power was sent to the grid.

Tesla Roof Performance 9/21
Tesla Roof Performance 9/21

The average home use over the month of September was 41 kWh. The average electricity generated was almost the same at 40.99 so it would seem that the solar roof provided 100% of use in September. But the power wall contribution is negative for the month at 1.93 because the batteries fill each day and use 47% of the stored energy when solar does not meet the house use. The negative draw of the power walls is exactly what the grid contributed for the month, 1.93 kWh.

We would expect October to produce less electricity since the sun is lower and the roof is on the North side of the house.

Tesla Roof Performance 19/21
Tesla Roof Performance 19/21

The average use was 37 kWh and the average production was 27 kWh. So in October we produced 70% of our electricity use and the grid provided almost 30%. The power walls drew 1.83 kWh more than the change, that 5% is included in the 11 kWh drawn from the grid. One day seems to be an anomaly with the house using 133 kWh. I have no idea what happened that day that created that large increase.

My theory was that the power walls would charge with the sun only and return that power after the sun set. But it appears that they also charge from the grid. If a storm threatens they do not use power in the house but save it for a potential outage. The amount of power the walls use each day is a little more than used to charge them so it appears at least in the fall they do not contribute to a lower use of the grid.
I put all these averages into a circle graph that shows the relationship.

September solar performance
September solar performance
October solar performance
October solar performance

As winter approaches the solar roof will produce less power. I expect the numbers will again begin to climb slowly after the winter solstice.

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Niagara Stealth Toilet Maintenance

One of the Niagara toilets would not fill but just kept running so Dave took it apart.

Toilet disassembled
Toilet disassembled

Dave figured out the problem. He said most internet sites dealing with the tank not filling blame the flow valve. This (fixable) problem was in the dual flush mechanism.

In its normal, closed position, the push cap is up waiting for the command to flush. The middle piston connected to the lower piston/valve is down. When the flush button is pushed, the push cap goes down, raising the middle piston and the lower piston/valve. The lower valve opening allows the water to go out and flush.
When the button is released, the top piston, attached to the lower valve, depends on gravity to have it drop and close the valve.

Mechanism closed
Mechanism closed
Mechanism open
Mechanism open

Unfortunately there was mineral build up in the valve preventing the top piston’s fall. The valve stayed open and the tank could not fill. 

Mechanism stuck
Mechanism stuck

The fix was to soak the assembly in vinegar to clear out deposits that were keeping the valve from falling into place.

Vinegar soak
Vinegar soak

Quite a bit of mineral buildup was cleared from the valve.

Mineral deposits in the vinegar
Mineral deposits in the vinegar

Once the valve was fully cleared and slid up and down freely the problem was fixed and Dave reassembled the toilet.

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RV Inverter Wiring

RV Power System
RV Power System

This is a nice drawing of the RV power systems and what they run. It leaves out solar which has its own controller/charger that delivers solar power to the batteries. But it shows the function and position of an inverter. In the Class C RV the DC fuse panel and AC breaker box are in the same location but the functions are separate as in the drawing.
There can actually be two transfer switches. There is a power cord in an exterior cabinet that is either using shore power, i.e.plugged into a grid power outlet, or the generator to supply 120 volt power. In most Class C RV’s this transfer is manual. The power cord is either used at an outlet or plugged into the internal outlet powered from the generator. But it could be an automatic switch that senses which device is providing the power and automatically switches between them.

Transfer switch locations
Transfer switch locations

The second transfer switch senses whether power is coming from shore/generator or from the inverter. It is wired to provide power to the charger if it’s grid or generator sourced but not if it’s inverter sourced. That prevents a loop from battery to inverter to charger back to battery; the attempt to charge the batteries with their own power. In this transfer box both options are wired with AC type wiring, in this case #12/3 wire including a positive, negative, and ground.

Transfer switch wiring
Transfer switch wiring

This drawing shows how the wires are connected. Incoming power is either at 5/6 or 7/8. The charger/converter (from AC to DC) gets power if 5/6 are hot. The switch also provides power directly to the AC breaker box. If AC power is coming from the inverter at 7/8, the power still goes to the AC breaker box but not the charger. DC is provided directly from the batteries.
The 120 AC output from the inverter is wired to this transfer switch. AC wire does not lose current like DC wire does so regular household wiring is used. In this case #12 gauge. The inverter’s top output is 25 amps but the circuits it feeds are no more than 20 amps.

Go Power Transfer Switch
Go Power Transfer Switch

DC wire does lose current over distance so very thick wires are used to connect the batteries to the inverter. And distances should be as short as possible.

Inverter DC wire specification.
Inverter DC wire specification.

For distances from 3 to 10 ft the minimum wire size is #4/0. That is 0000 wire. The inverter is about 18”x 10”.

Inverter measurements
Inverter measurements

The closest storage area to the battery compartment in the RV that is large enough for the inverter was the dinette bench. There was already a wiring hole in the floor here because several DC wires feed the switches on the other side of the dinette bench.

Wires from battery box for inverter
Wires from battery box for inverter

I was not sure how much wire I needed to reach the battery compartment so I bought 10 ft of black and red. This was expensive wire, about $100. I opened the hole in the floor which was patched with spray foam and ran the wires to the battery compartment. The distance was only about 4’ so I needed far less wire.
I mounted the inverter in the dinette seat. There was not much room for the wires on each side so I removed it to wire the DC posts and the AC box and replaced it on the outside wall. It does not sit on the floor but has about an inch of clearance beneath it for cooling.

Samlex inverter in dinette bench close to batteries
Samlex inverter in dinette bench close to batteries

The ventilation for the inverter might need extra air and if I get temperature errors I will cut vents in the seat walls.
The battery box is getting very crowded at this point and the shunt post is just about full.

Thick 4/0 wire for alternator
Thick 4/0 wire for alternator

I brought the negative wire in from the opposite side from the positive and all the other wires to have more space for the connections.
The inverter has very little room in the dinette seat compartment so the separate remote was an excellent addition.

Samlex inverter remote control
Samlex inverter remote control

This remote turns the inverter on and off. It also has a display for the battery volts etc. It is wired from the inverter. I ran the wire through an existing hole under the refrigerator and up the stairwell side so it is conveniently near the door. Sometimes it is needed for the outside outlets. We only turn on the inverter if we need it.
I patched the floor holes with stainless steel wool that I used to close spaces in the siding to keep mice out. Then covered the steel wool with spray foam both above and under the RV. These RV power systems have been completed.

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RV Inverter

An inverter converts DC battery power to AC power. The RV uses 120 volt power to charge a computer, run small appliances like the microwave or the refrigerator instead of using gas. If the batteries have enough power an inverter can be used to supply 120v wattage to several of these appliances. If the batteries are not going to be recharged soon it may not be a good idea to start the inverter as it will run batteries down very quickly. Lithium batteries hold more power to run down as they can be discharged to about 10% power while lead acid batteries should only be discharged to 50%.

Capacity of lead acid vs lithium
Capacity of lead acid vs lithium

I installed 210 ah of lithium batteries. When fully charged they should provide 2200 watt hours of electricity before the voltage drops too low to run the inverter. I wanted an inverter capable of running the microwave for a few minutes. I decided on a Samlex as the brand is used for many RV’s and it was less expensive than the Victron. It is a pure sine inverter which is the best for electronic equipment.

Samlex PDT 3000 Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Samlex PST 3000 Pure Sine Wave Inverter

Although our microwave delivers 900 watts of power, it takes a little more than double that to run. The inverter is about 85% efficient so loses some watts converting 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC electricity. That 2200 watts minus 15% is 1870 watts that could possibly run the microwave for about an hour.

RV microwave
RV microwave

We don’t run the microwave that long so we can get plenty of warm up microwave time from a full battery bank. We also run the coffee pot and toaster in the morning. These two use about 1000 and 1200 watts. But they could be added to the microwave for 10 to 15 minutes before the battery voltage drops too far.
The advantage to adding an inverter to the electrical system is that these appliances can be run silently without the use of the generator. Later in the morning we can start the generator or let the solar panels recharge the batteries.
Another device that is necessary when adding an inverter is a transfer switch. This switch turns off power to the charger when the inverter is running. It lets the batteries run the 120 volt system without also trying to charge the batteries with the battery power. A waste of power and possibly dangerous.

Go Power Transfer Switch
Go Power Transfer Switch

The switch goes between the power to the charger on one line with the inverter on the other. It automatically switches depending on whether the 120 volt power is originating, either the generator/plug in or the inverter.

Transfer switch either charger or inverter
Transfer switch either charger or inverter
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RV Solar Wiring

Once the rack was finished and the panels installed I had to figure out the wiring from the roof to the equipment inside. One benefit of the Solarland panels is that they use thicker wire. They come with the MC4 solar connectors so I ordered #8 wire to attach to the solar controller. I had planned to use a combiner box on the roof to bring one wire down to the controller but I found Y connectors and wire that I used instead.

8 AWG wire with MC4 connectors
8 AWG wire with MC4 connectors
Panels wired with connectors
Panels wired with connectors

I had two panels instead of three but these connectors functioned the same as a combiner box allowing each panel to connect directly to the breaker box in parallel. Parallel connections double the wattage of the two panels, while connecting them to each other and then to the breaker box would double the voltage. The controller could accept either but I decided on parallel connections to increase the delivered wattage to 360 watts.
The common method for bringing the wires down into the RV is to snake them through the refrigerator vent. In order to get the vent lid to fit after I drilled a hole in the underlying screening I had to chop off what was the front and turn the cover around to have the cut off side face the rear. I patched the opening in the screen with eternabond tape. I ended up with the wires in the refrigerator vent compartment. They were not difficult to snake through the vent.

Wires in refrigerator vent cabinet
Wires in refrigerator vent cabinet

Once there I had to figure out how to get them to the rear compartment where I planned to install the equipment. The problem with drilling into the floor is that the fresh water tank is directly under the refrigerator. Luckily there was about an inch space between the tank and the wall.

Refrigerator vent compartment floor
Refrigerator vent compartment floor

I used a back scratcher to pull the wires into the compartment since my fingers didn’t fit.

Fishing wires from behind the water tank
Fishing wires from behind the water tank

But I had another issue with the breaker box. The small box is designed for two wires to be pulled into the box through one opening on each side. But I had increased the size of the battery wire to 2AWG. So I had to use a reducer to connect to the breaker and that took up the entire hole. My solution was to drill extra holes in the box. I drilled these on the side through the cover as I didn’t think there was enough room on the top and bottom. The breaker box was very full.

Fitting wires in breaker box
Fitting wires in breaker box
Victron Solar controller and Midnight solar baby box
Victron Solar controller and Midnight solar baby box

The #2 wire was also too thick for the controller so I used some jumper wires with shrink wrapped butt connectors. The breaker box wiring was time consuming. And the equipment was installed in a small space.

Equipment install in great water tank cabinet
Equipment install in fresh water tank cabinet

To connect the wires to the batteries, I had to snake the wire past the front of the water tank to the floor under the refrigerator where I drilled another hole to accommodate the black and red wires. These joined the others in the battery compartment. I used thicker wire because of the distance between the controller and the batteries. Normally #4 wire is used to connect the controller to the batteries but the DC current drop over the distance is less using thicker wire

Wires to and from the solar controller
Wires to and from the solar controller

The wiring of the breaker box and solar controller to the batteries was relatively straightforward. I just had to reason out the diagram. I had a 15 amp and 40 amp breaker. The 15 amp went on the panel side since my panels are rated at about 5 amps each. The 40 is on the 30 amp solar controller side. Northern Arizona Sun and Wind recommended these two breaker sizes for the smaller RV system.

Solar controller and breaker box wiring
Solar controller and breaker box wiring

Our first time camping with solar was in a lovely federal campground at Shadow Mountain Lake near Granby, Colorado. What a luxury to have power to charge the batteries without using the generator.

RV using solar panels wit no hookups
RV using solar panels with no hookups
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RV Solar Install

I had always wanted to install solar panels on our old RV but instead we used a portable 50 watt panel to boost the batteries when camping. I had the panel strapped behind the storage box we had at the rear of the RV. A bumpy road and incomplete strapping yielded a destroyed panel that we heard dragging behind the moving RV.
I purchased a 200 watt portable system but it did not seem to operate correctly. I never tracked down the problem. But with the new RV and the updated electrical system I was determined to add solar.
First I had to decide how to use the rooftop space and determine what would be the best fit. I looked at several 100 amp panels for their size but I was unsure about the typical tape and screws installation on the new roof.
I turned to the experts at Northern Arizona Sun and Wind to help research the choices. This company has been around for decades, I bought our first small system from them by stopping by their store in Prescott. It was a heady experience to run into experts who were so enthusiastic. They have always carried panels and equipment that held to their high standards. Plus they were having a sale. The panels in their RV kit were too large for my roof. I believe it was a 300 watt system but they have switched now to the Solarland 180 watt panels I bought instead. I also purchased the equipment in the kit but not the wiring. Now their kit matches the system I put together.
The PERC solar technology helps to increase the efficiency of the panels. Just by adding an extra layer to the cells this “rear cell” panel is 1% more efficient and produces 25% more electricity. Although solar degradation or the initial loss of rated power is a bigger issue with PERC the technology has improved that problem so these panels are taking over the market.
I also looked at Renogy and NewPowa monocrystaline 200 watt panels but at 65 inches long I didn’t think I had enough room for them. The Solarland panels are 60 inches long and about the same width.
I was not comfortable putting 12 screws per panel in the roof of the RV so I looked at various racking systems. Most were not wide enough to span the RV roof and were costly so I designed my own. The Winnebago RV build has a metal cage that supports the roof and siding.

Winnebago superstructure
Winnebago superstructure

The strongest part of the cage is the upper side rails. These are also reinforced with roof gutters attached to the top to catch rainwater from the roof.

Rack construction
Rack construction

I took advantage of these side rails to hold the stainless steel T and L brackets. I used galvanized angle steel with plenty of bolt holes to fasten the z brackets that hold the solar panels. I used stainless steel bolts and washers and locking nuts at all the attachment points. The stainless screws for the sides came with the z brackets.
The eight foot angle was not quite wide enough for the RV roof so the l brackets on each side were 3×6 with the longer end on top. There was enough flex in the mounted panel rack that I sought answers on the rv.net forum. There was a recommendation for wood blocks covered with carpet so I browsed Amazon for bed risers or similar and found bolt on adjustable furniture legs. These were just the right height with just the right amount of adjustment.

Solar panels in place
Solar panels in place

Because I used the racks horizontally I would have been able to fit longer panels. But it’s nice to have some space to step around them.

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What is Wrong with the ERV?

No air was coming through the vents. I noticed it getting stuffy when we kept the house closed up because of smoke from the huge wildfires in the west. I thought the filters just had to be replaced and the screens cleaned and it would work again. But it didn’t work! So I bought an air flow meter and tested the air coming out and going into the ERV. Although I am not sure the meter is accurate it appears to be exchanging air at 500 cfm which is what the manual would expect.

Meter Reading
Meter Reading

I took apart the ductwork where it had misaligned and reconnected it using screws and tape. I had used flex for some of the joints and the flex had allowed the unit to move about half past direct airflow.
I realized that the large 10” tee was drooping and I could not lift it back into position. So I decided to remove it. I’m in a very cramped space to get this done and the attic is hot. But I was able to remove the duct screws and tape and the large duct tee.

Offset ERV Tee
Offset ERV Duct Tee Location


Air was coming out of the duct just fine so it occurred to me to shorten the duct and see if I got airflow. I needed to purchase an 8” elbow and I also bought an 8” tee thinking it was shorter and I might be able to get it lined up better with the long duct but I did not end up using it.
But first I wanted to try the elbow alone. That meant I had to extend the existing duct about 12”.
I couldn’t stretch it but after I attached a new collar and the elbow and I screwed on the 10” to 8” adapter I was using the original flexible duct was long enough. Screwing all those pieces together and taping them in that tiny space was time consuming. I tested the airflow and it looks reasonable although seems like a lot of CFM loss for the approximately 8′ duct. The lower duct is about 14′.

Closest Duct Airflow
Closest Duct Airflow
Furthest Duct Airflow
Furthest Duct Airflow

I’m not sure if the airflow has slowed or if the filter pads and ductwork are more clogged but at least now ERV filtered air is cycling into the house again if not all the way to our bedroom.

I decided to purchase new air filters to replace some of the old ones I had been washing in the washing machine to clean them. But when I attempted to get in contact with the Ultimate Air company in Ohio the 800 number was disconnected and the direct number not taking voicemail.

I asked my original vendor, Todd Collins from AE Building Systems and he said sadly production was shut down due to Covid and he was not sure they would resume. The website does not say they are not available but the “contact us” forms yield no information. My info email was not answered. This is a really unhappy situation. It’s bad when a small United States manufacturer has to stop production and maybe even go out of business.

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Radon Fan #2

Since the new roof was going on it was time to put the hole in for the second radon fan. All this time the fan was in the garage but I was reluctant to try to cut a hole in the roof. I had the exhaust pipe capped in the attic. With the solar tiles going on it was now or never.
I had been working in the attic anyway to figure out the poor performance of the ERV so I thought that is better get that pipe in. In my mind it was a simple matter of continuing the 4” pvc radon pipe out the roof. Of course that was impossible because I hit a rafter going straight up. So I moved over a bit and hit another rafter. There were two rafters close together at the gable edge. I had to go to the store and get two 45° elbows to move the hole over to the other side. By the time I had those ready the roofers had torn off the old shingles. That was great but I had to have the hole ready for the membrane crew. I luckily was able to get the third hole in the right place and drilled through with a long bit. Then I went up on the roof to finish the hole and one of the roofers drilled it for me. He even borrowed a better drill to do it.
Then I stuck the pipe through the roof and of course it was slanted. I had glued the 2 45° elbows to go straight up through the roof. It didn’t occur to me that the pipe would exit at the angle of the roof. One of the roofers asked if I would straighten it and I said no. I don’t even know how. He said I had to hold a level up to it going through the roof. But then the hole saw would not have been large enough and anyway they fixed it or at least hid it with the vents they used.

White pvc pipe radon vent at an angle
White pvc pipe radon vent at an angle

I had to pull down a section of drywall to get the new hole drilled but that was easy since the drywall was overlapping at this point. Poor job up here because they didn’t want to do it.

Second radon fan installation
Second radon fan installation

I had barely enough room to install the fan inside instead of over the roof. The first fan was installed outside. Because the pipe was too close to the roof to fit the fan. Although a bit hard to see in this photo the crew painted the first fan and pipe black to match the roof. The fan is on the right next to the man working on the roof.

First radon fan is exterior. Painted to match roof.
First radon fan is exterior. Painted to match roof.


There are two Tesla vents on this section of roof. One is for the ERV exhaust and the other for the second radon fan.

Vents covered with Tesla materials
Vents covered with Tesla materials

The second radon fan is installed and wired. I designed the system based on some pretty comprehensive research and a case study so waiting so long for the second fan was probably not such a great idea. But there seems to be much disagreement about the dangers of in-home radon so at least we have had a partial system the whole time.

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Tesla Starts Early

The solar roof was originally scheduled to start on Sept 7th but the manager called and asked if they could start earlier and I said, “Sure!”. The first day another company tore off the old roof. I asked if they would quote a price to put on a rubber roof on the flat roof portion but they have not gotten back to me yet.
In the meantime the old roof came off very cleanly with the original deck still in quite good condition.

Old roofing scraped off
Old roofing scraped off

I chose to remove the aging skylights. They would have needed new trim to waterproof them and they were pretty much inoperable for ventilation and not screened.

Removing old skylights
Removing old skylights

It was also the opportunity to get rid of the old chimney and vents we were no longer using.

Old chimney was also removed.
Old chimney was also removed.

We thought it would be easiest to put the debris truck in the back but they preferred the front so they could toss the old roofing in from above.

Roof discarded in dump truck
Roof discarded in dump truck

As soon as the roof was off the Tesla crew began to put on the waterproof membrane layer.

Tesla underlayment on garage
Tesla underlayment on garage

A Tesla installation supervisor told me the underlayment was another Tesla product that was amazing as it can withstand stretching and shrinking. Plus being water and windproof. The membrane had an adhesive backing that was removed to place it. But it was also forgiving so it could be repositioned to help make it lay flat.

Underlayment is adhesive backing peels off
Underlayment has adhesive backing that peels off

By the end of the day the roof was completely “dried in”. So much was accomplished in one day.

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Recycled Rubber Patio

We were preparing for guests. That always helps make a dent in the to do list. The front patio was concrete that was jacked out when the house slab was removed. It had also heaved and settled so that it was badly cracked. After we cleared away the leftovers from deconstruction we spread gravel in the area.

Commercial Landscape Fabric
Commercial Landscape Fabric
Gravel on Patio
Gravel on Patio

There were two deals that determined what I would eventually do with that patio area. One was a craigslist offer for 1200 rubber octagon tiles for a very reasonable cost. I offered $200 and they were mine.

Landscape Rubber Stepping Stones
Landscape Rubber Stepping Stones
Rubber tiles in wood shed
Rubber tiles in wood shed

The other helpful acquisition was from a Repurposed Materials auction. I purchased 4 barrels of ground recycled rubber for $40. Unfortunately the rubber was so heavy that the barrels upended when we drug them off the truck.

Repurposed Ground Rubber Ad
Repurposed Ground Rubber Ad
Barrels of Ground Recycled Rubber
Barrels of Ground Recycled Rubber

My strong son helped me move and spread the ground rubber and had there been enough it would have been the perfect underlayment. But we were a bit short and some of the gravel was still uncovered.
We laid the large driveway membrane which is a large plastic mesh tarp that allows water to pass through.

Driveway membrane
Driveway membrane

Then I dry laid the tile. The instructions called for gluing it down with a special caulk. I have the caulk but I didn’t want to glue it in case it had to be relaid.

Laying the tile
Laying the tile

Although they seemed heavy I’m sure they were much lighter than any other type of tile. They were relatively easy to push close together. It only took me a couple of days to complete the main area. Because the guests were arriving soon I did not try to finish by cutting the edges to size. I’m not even sure how to cut the tiles.

Edges not cut to size
Edges not cut to size

So we placed the patio furniture on the rubber tiles and got ready for our guests. Some of the tiles are uneven due to gravel sticking up through the membrane but it is not so uneven to cause tripping.

Patio set up for guests
Patio set up for guests

Some of the patio furniture had not survived the winter so it went on the burn pile in back. What was left made a pleasant sitting area under the pergola and the big ash tree. And we enjoyed our guests. It’s a nice spot for a summer barbecue. There is a lot of space there and we can host a pretty big group.

Party time
Party time

I noticed one benefit for my toddler grandson. He fell on the tile and got right back up completely uninjured. I like the new patio.

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Tesla Called

Tesla finally called to schedule the solar roof installation. I was very excited. We have been working with Tesla since April of last year and I have been on the waiting list since June 1, 2017, the day President Trump announced we had to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and I was appalled. The project seems to be well managed with both a design contact and an installation contact. Another roofing company is managing the tear off but they are well coordinated with Tesla. Today the installation team arrived to uninstall the Tesla panels that were installed in 2018.

Existing Solar Panels
Existing Solar Panels
Tesla trucks arrive
Tesla trucks arrive

Unfortunately it started to rain just as the trucks arrived and when the workers were starting the removal it began to storm. There was marble sized hail and even a tornado warning. But the work went on.

Workers starting to uninstall
Workers starting to uninstall
Hail and thunderstorm
Hail and thunderstorm

Soon they were finished with all the panels safely removed and stored until we reinstall them at a later time. My son is interested in them so perhaps he will install them at his house.

Panels removed
Panels removed
Stored panels in tin shed
Stored panels in tin shed

The next step is the asphalt roof tear-off that should start August 25th, next Wednesday. I also asked the roof tear off company to quote a waterproof roof for the flat roof replacement. They do white EPDM and that is a synthetic rubber that will allow for a green roof installation some time in the future.

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Foundation Insulation Repair

We finally completed the third section of the foundation insulation on the south “Trombe wall”side of the house. Another project completed due to guests arriving. This was the third section and it was a bit more complicated due to the foundation underpinning that the previous owners had installed. More modern supports are turned like screws but these were pushed in with a hydraulic ram.

Push Piers
Push Piers
Pier Support
Pier Support

This type of underpinning is to shore up a sinking foundation and was an “expert’s” solution to the sinking slab. Of course I later found that the slab damage was due to the heaving soil inside the foundation and the foundation itself was a sturdy cassion type. So the steel posts did not solve the problem even though they were probably expensive.
The first part of this section of the foundation was finished in December before it got cold. The second part had the trench dug but there it sat for six months waiting for us to get back to the task. Preparing for our guests made it essential to smooth out the dirt piles in front of the house.

Piecing foundation insulation
Piecing foundation insulation

That meant digging out any dirt that had slid back into the hole and cutting more XPS blue board to replace the damaged insulation. On the far right is a bit of the wall that was already finished. The foundation had 2 layers of XPS so we just had to cut and fit the missing pieces. The 4” of XPS would be an R value of about 10 plus the foundation now has 2 inches of interior XPS and 8” of concrete for a total R value of about 16.
The insulation had to be pieced between the metal posts so it took some time to get it all cut. My son came over to help with the project which made the work go faster.
Once it was all pieced together it was time to cut the fiberglass corners for the cap. The fiberglass is recycled from the brewery where they were used to reinforce the corners of pallets of beer. I purchased them at an auction at my favorite recycle center Repurposed Materials.

Added fiberglass corner cap
Added fiberglass corner cap

I had to cut the fiberglass to span the metal flat tops of the posts in the ground. I used a handheld circular saw to cut the fiberglass. The caps had a bit cut from the edge too so that the fit against the top of the concrete wall and over the insulation protecting it from damage and creating a nice curb at the foundation edge.
Finally the dirt that had been piled up for months in front of the house filled in the trench and was smoothed out on front of the house.

Foundation trench refilled
Foundation trench refilled

The next step is cleaning up the wall and repairing the metal membrane. The wood may need another coat of matte black enamel paint. Then we will replace the Trombe wall glass.

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New Electrical System for the RV

I’ve always had trouble with sealed lead acid coach batteries dying after a season or two. The new RV came with two wet lead acid 67 AH marine batteries that were pretty much shot. So I did some research and decided to make the expensive jump to lithium batteries.

This project required a lot of new equipment. Not only the two 105 AH LION Safari lithium batteries with the built in BMS but the new charger/converter, the DC to DC charger, a 30 amp transfer switch, a surge protector, and then for good measure a 3000 watt inverter.

I bought the LION batteries because two of them fit in the under stair battery compartment. Many 100 amp lithium batteries are 13 inches long and the compartment is only 12 inches. I saw these were for sale previous years at Costco but they were not being offered when I looked. I ordered them from another company but it turned out they were not in stock and they were waiting for a shipment from the manufacturer. In the meantime they came back to Costco so I cancelled the first order and bought the two with the special price of $799 each for two. They arrived almost immediately and I started buying the other components.

After much research on rv.net and other sites I decided to buy the new Progressive Dynamics 60 amp converter/charger to replace the WFCO 55 amp that came with the unit. This is the new version from the company and it has two stages, a bulk stage of 14.6 appropriate for lithium batteries and a float stage for when the batteries read full.

Progressive Dynamics 9160L
Progressive Dynamics 9160L

I removed the WFCO under the distribution panel but I installed a Progressive Industries surge protector there instead and installed the charger closer to the batteries. The refrigerator is located next to the entry in this 25b and the batteries are in the entry step. I learned there was enough space under the refrigerator by reading the answers to someone’s question about the location of the water tank. Of course using this area was no easy task with the tiny spaces to run wiring and place the new unit. I put it in and took it out multiple times before I was able to close it up and install the ventilation grate. In fact I completely installed the first unit only to have it not operate. It was an Amazon warehouse item and I think it was broken. So I returned it and bought a new one that did work.

Removing old WFCO charger
Removing old WFCO charger
Surge protector in old charger space
Surge protector in old charger space
Wiring the Progressive Dynamics 9160L
Wiring the Progressive Dynamics 9160L
Placing the new charger under the refrigerator
Placing the new charger under the refrigerator
Finished with vent and Battery Monitor
Finished with vent and Battery Monitor

The charger is wired with #2 wire and I bought the flexible type because I had to run them under the RV through a hole I drilled in the floor and over to the battery box. The charger connections are for #4 wire. I thought I would have to use pigtails between the #4 and #2 but someone on rv.net suggested wire reducers that clamped the wire to a rigid connector that fit in the #4 clamp on the charger. You can see them in the charger wiring photo.
The battery monitor wiring and the ground for the whole unit also go through that hole in the floor. I was out of room for the inverter remote wires and had to drill a new hole next to the first one. I also decided to go up the wall between the entry and the refrigerator for the wired remote so I would not have to bend over to turn on the inverter. I started a hole under the refrigerator and hit styrofoam so I moved it over to the wood.

Wiring for Inverter remote also battery monitor
Wiring for Inverter remote also battery monitor

The two new batteries were shorter than the battery box so I had enough room for the wiring and the DC to DC charger that is supposed to provide the correct voltage to the batteries while also protecting the truck alternator from burning out. Although most commentors say burning out a modern inverter is unlikely, the DC to DC charger still modulates the charge to the lithiums so that they get the proper charge routine.

Wiring for DC to DC charger
Wiring for DC to DC charger

The solenoid and incoming power are connected in the smaller box in the step. I had to drill a hole through the metal to insert the positive wire and connect it to the ANL fuse. I also had to run a wire (yellow) from the solenoid ignition signal connection to the charger as this tells the charger to operate. It won’t run without this signal. In this photo the battery studs are clearly visible. I removed the battery tie down and replaced it with the battery shipping foam.

It took me several weeks to figure out the components and how they should be wired. I downloaded several articles and diagrams to help me understand what was going on. In the beginning I used this one to get a general idea of the system.

Concept Drawing of System
Concept Drawing of System

The diagram is missing a DC to DC charger but it seems it might be a lead acid system. It also helped to download the Winnebago wiring diagrams so I could tell which wires were performing which tasks. In the battery box I had to figure out which connection was the incoming power to attach the DC to DC wiring and where the solenoid got the signal from the ignition to turn on alternator charging.

Winnebago battery wiring
Winnebago battery wiring

The instructions for the devices were pretty straightforward although I watched You Tube videos of people discussing a new charger install and took screen shots of the steps to remind me of the process.

After finishing the wiring for the chargers, the next step was installing the inverter. When I had all the recommended #00/2 wiring installed, the first inverter I ordered was damaged. I tried Amazon Warehouse again to save money but it was not a tested unit and just looked good to the eye. I had to spring for a full price unit and send that one back. Maybe I have learned my lesson about used electronics.

DC to DC charger with 00/2 wiring for the inverter
DC to DC charger with 00/2 wiring for the inverter

The battery wiring is rather crowded with the 00/2 gauge wiring on the smart shunt and the battery. The smart shunt is a Victron bluetooth battery monitor so it is not such a big deal that the monitor is below the refrigerator, I can connect to it with my smart phone. I put the inverter remote control in a higher position. The inverter is in the dinette seat literally next to the battery box in the step. The wired remote is in the entry at eye level from the steps.

Inverter installed
Inverter installed
Inverter remote control at entry
Inverter remote control at entry

After I had all the new equipment wired I installed a Renogy 30 amp transfer switch. Luckily there was room for the transfer switch in the basement compartment where there is other wiring and plumbing. It is right next to the distribution box under the bed. I already had a hole drilled through the distribution box into this compartment for the charger wiring. When I put in the transfer switch I had to remove the wiring in the distribution box and lengthen the wire from the surge protector to reach the new transfer switch. I also had to rewire the extension cord that I used to plug in the new charger/converter to the transfer switch. Because the switch connector only took one wire, I cut a short pigtail for the charger cord. Then the transfer switch was wired back into the the main power breaker. This removed the charger from its normal breaker and essentially put it on the main breaker. Now the refrigerator is on the old breaker by itself.

Surge protector wiring
Surge protector wiring

I had a difficult time understanding how the switch would work for the inverter instead of working between the generator and shore power which is one of the main applications. I have always used the manual method to make this switch. When we unplug from shore power we plug into the generator power outlet in the external power compartment. I could put in a separate transfer switch for this but I don’t think we need it.

This diagram helped me understand how to wire the transfer switch for the inverter. Both the shore power which is also the generator and the charger power are on the same side of the switch. This means that the charger will only run when getting power from either source. When the inverter runs it should not also be trying to charge the batteries. That is an endless loop that won’t go anywhere. It will deplete the batteries rather than charge them.

Transfer switch wiring
Transfer switch wiring

Figuring this out was rather complicated but it was also fun to read the manuals, study the diagrams and then look at my notes to digest the information and understand it. I’m hoping this equipment lasts for the life of the RV.

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To Build a Detached Garage

We have decided to clean up our property and empty our attached two car garage by building a large RV garage to the side of the house. We thought we had a contractor willing to build it but he changed his business emphasis and is no longer interested. I contacted a garage building company and I was supposed to have an onsite visit but they stood me up and did not call to reschedule.

On the advice of our first contractor, I had engineering plans drawn by a local certified engineer. It was a bit of a struggle to get completed plans from the vendor. I sent money and waited asking several times for the drawings. I understood there were to be drawings sufficient to get a building permit, however, that was not the case. He only did structural engineering.

The first set of plans seemed to be copied straight from a generic document, even stating that the garage was attached to the house. I was very disappointed. I pointed out the errors and the plans were redrawn, but I had to pay more money as the first arrangement was only for the foundation apparently and I wanted a plan for the entire building.

Redlined Garage Foundation Plan 2020
Redlined Garage Foundation Plan 2020

I waited again and eventually got plans that did not represent the sketches I had sent for the building measurements. Again I made corrections and waited and waited for the plans. When I got them the walls were limited to 10 ft tall. Of course that was incorrect since they needed to be tall enough to support a 12′ high garage door. That meant back to the drawing board and additional time to change the taller structure to engineered studs.

Dibble 10 ft garage wall
Dibble 10 ft garage wall

I didn’t hear anything for a month and then after some prodding and excuses that the original plans were lost in a software upgrade. Really? Then that pdf’s had to be created. Yes, print as pdf and save? I was a bit annoyed. In the end after five months of struggle I did receive a pdf of a structural plan for a garage and I still had to draw my own architectural plan.

However by this time lumber had quadruped in cost. It hit a peak in May, 2021 and although the wholesale cost has dropped, boards are still much more expensive than last year when I started this project. So for now I can’t find anyone to build it and it may be much more expensive than original estimates.

I decided to look into metal garages in the same general layout. First I contacted a local company in Denver but they don’t erect the buildings and they could not provide a shed design. I also drew up plans on another site that appears to both manufacture and put together these barns/garages. I have not pursued it by contacting the company. We are too busy right now.

Busy having fun anyway.

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New RV Cross Country

We took the new RV to Indiana in early April to meet the buyers and enjoy our friends and a final work session on the house. The early April weather is very changeable and there was a late snow across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. It was not the most pleasant driving but the new RV performed well on the road. And the extra bed in the back made for a comfy trip with plenty of napping to keep on the road for a long haul. We drove 12 hours the first day and 8 the second.

Driving in snow
Driving in snow

We arrived at the house just before the snow started. It was amazing. The house was warm and none of the plumbing leaked. We were able to turn on the refrigerator and water and make the bed and get a nice long rest.
Indiana is gorgeous in April. The redbuds and dogwoods were in bloom and the green was bursting from the woods and meadows. The snow came and dulled it for a little while but it melted and didn’t even destroy the flowering trees.

Arrival photo
Arrival photo
An hour later
An hour later

Our biggest project was replacing windows. We had purchased the windows during our last visit but ran out of time to install them. So the window area was blocked with old insulation and drywall and left for the winter. The new windows were about a half inch taller than the old so the side trim did not fit well. Did not have time to get new boards so the new owners will fix that. Also didn’t finish some trim. There are always unfinished projects there.

Before replacement
Before replacement
New windows installed
New windows installed

Friends came to visit us since it was a goodbye to the homestead for the last time. We hiked up past the pond to the corner mark on the property. These marks were redone by the loggers just a few years ago. Of course we had to apply a good coating of DEET insect repellent for the hike to ward off the many ticks and chiggers and other nasty bugs in the woods.

We say goodbye to the land
We say goodbye to the land

We spent two weeks going through the last of our possessions there and recycling lots of memories, discarding trash, and sending some items to Goodwill. We sanded drywall, painted and fixed a problem with the new furnace drainage. And had lovely visits with our Indiana friends, promising that we would visit again even without the farm to return to. Then it was over and time to come home. I stuffed the RV with items I wanted to keep. We took it a bit easier on the way home. Stopped to see my second cousin and visited Hermann, MO a very pretty town on the Missouri river and stopped near Kansas City for a visit with a high school friend who I had not seen in 30 years. Then we booked it home in 8 hours. It was a great trip despite its rather sad goodbyes. The two weeks in Indiana had added lots more green to the landscape.

Goodbye Indiana Home
Goodbye Indiana Home

So ends the chapter of all the wonderful years building that house and developing that homestead. It’s time. We are entering our 7th decade and have to be able to let go of some things. Our mini homestead in Colorado provides us plenty of projects. And we have grandchildren nearby to watch as they grow. We are so fortunate.

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All Fun and No Work

I’m not sure how to transition the blog from working on the house to working on other projects. I guess not working on the house either means no posts or off topic posts.

One step in the LEED certification process is an evaluation of the built home. Of course the original plans really don’t include the energy efficient upgrades because the architect did not specify them. So I’m not sure if EnergyLogic has enough information to do the analysis. They think that the architect’s plans will help but I only have pdf copies and a printed copy. They emailed the architect asking for the plan files. But I have not heard whether they received them. I sent details about the floor and walls and windows but I have not heard whether that information was helpful or not.

Instead of working on the house as the spring winter weather dragged on I planned a huge RV project. At least it seems like that now. After the battery test and the good performance, we went camping and tried it out on the new trolling motor and inflatable boat.

Trolling motor

We went out several times using the lithium batteries and they stayed at 100% the entire time. Of course lithium batteries are designed to stay at full power for most of discharge. They can be used to 80% or about 10.5 volts without damage or reducing their life. Still witnessing the performance during our outing was exciting. And the boating was a nice addition to our camping outing.

It was awkward to have the battery box so close to the motor though. I am going to extend the battery cables from the motor so the box can go in the middle or at the bow. Although it made a nice seat for a 2 year old. Using a motor is much more fun than rowing.

Learning to steer the boat
Learning to steer the boat
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