Annual Garage Clean Out

Each fall it is time to empty the garage enough to store the car out of the snow and park the mower inside too. This year we did not beat the first snow as it came in October. But we knew our time was limited and the weather was perfect this week.
We have so many tools now that we needed extra space in the garage. With the walls up and painted it was time to move most of the furniture and the boxes of stored home goods into the house.

Boxes and furniture in garage

Boxes and furniture in garage

At least a quarter of the garage was packed with furniture and boxes. We brought in most of the household items but left the books packed away. Also we are not ready to move into the master bedroom so we put some furniture in there but stored several other pieces in the extra bedroom.

Dressers and secretary in extra bedroom

Dressers and secretary in extra bedroom

Dave’s office will be in the room we are in now so we also left his desk in the garage.

Garage boxes mostly cleared out

Garage boxes mostly cleared out

A few pieces of furniture went into the master bedroom and the second large bookcase was moved into the living room.

Antique dresser in master bedroom

Antique dresser in master bedroom

The boxes have taken over the living room!

Boxes near second bookshelf

Boxes near second bookshelf

Boxes near kitchen are mostly kitchen items

Boxes near kitchen are mostly kitchen items

There are boxes with good china and with steel pans, boxes of decorations like pottery and glassware. It will be interesting to unpack and see these items that have been out of circulation for so many years.

Boxes in living room

Boxes in living room

We had to bring in the acrylic stucco that I purchased so that it won’t freeze. So we hauled in the 5 gallon buckets and made a workbench with an old door that I got for free.

Workbench made with old door and buckets of stucco

Workbench made with old door and buckets of stucco

The large tools and tool shelves were brought back into the garage so things got a bit crowded again.

Tools shelves and table tools back in the garage

Tools shelves and table tools back in the garage

But now there is room for the car in the garage and room for the riding mower.

Room for the car in the garage

Room for the car in the garage

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Maintenance and Repair, Tools | 1 Comment

Solar Inspiration

At the Solar Decathlon information booths I signed up for consultations with three solar panel install companies. The one that represents Tesla products, and in fact will be changing their name to Tesla, is Solar City. I have looked at the specifications of their Panasonic panels and Powerwall and I was sold. When the representative came for his sales pitch he found he didn’t have to be very forceful as I had already determined that this was the company whose products I was most interested in purchasing.

Since I already signed up for the Tesla solar roof, I knew that there were some superior products available from this company. I’m pretty sure the Tesla roof would not be a great match for our mostly north facing and flat south facing roof. We have basically one roof area that would efficiently host solar panels and that is over the garage. So I signed up for a smaller solar panel production at 3.9 KW. We use approximately 9.5 KWh last year. So the new system will only meet about 46% of our energy use. Since we live in Colorado, an area that has high solar gain, it makes good sense to add solar.

I should have added solar two years ago when Xcel was offering rebates, but at that time it was difficult to get into the limited amount of money they were dedicating to solar and the products were less robust. Our system will still qualify for a federal tax rebate of 30%.

We will have to wait for a Powerwall because Elon Musk sent his entire existing production to Puerto Rico for disaster relief. That generous use of these solar battery backup systems made me more than willing to wait for a power wall myself.

The panels used will be Tesla’s version of the Panasonic 325 watt solar panel, one of the most efficient on the market.

Panasonic-VBHN325SA16

Panasonic-VBHN325SA16

Energy Sage created this graph of the relative efficiencies of current solar panels by manufacturer.

Solar Panel Efficiencies

Solar Panel Efficiencies

My system will be 12 of these panels that will fit on our garage roof. We will also have a grid tie inverter, probably Power One as that is another Tesla owned company (formerly Aurora) and a Tesla Powerwall battery backup.

Tesla Powerwall technical specs

Tesla Powerwall technical specs

Solar City like all the installers handles the entire process from site survey which we had yesterday, to engineering plan, to building permit, to Xcel energy application to final install and warranty. The warranty on the system production is for 20 years and on the battery backup is 10 years.

I’m excited about adding solar even though my challenge was originally to be Platinum LEED without the additional cost of a photovoltaic system. Being in contact with those who have the systems made me want to add one to our energy efficiency goals.

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Solar Decathlon!

I spent one day at the 2017 Solar Decathlon at the Panasonic building near the airport in Denver. John Avenson hosted a booth at the Solar Decathlon for the Passive House Institute and included the various energy efficiency non profit groups in Colorado. He also represented the Colorado Renewable Energy Society local chapter of the national group that put on the conference, the American Solar Energy Society, and the Colorado Springs EV Club . He invited me to come and spend some volunteer hours at the booth and I did. John is amazingly dedicated to sharing energy efficiency with others and I worked to get people to stop for some solar wisdom. But I also took some time to visit most of the solar homes built for the Decathlon competition.

The houses are built by college students using the latest technologies and vie for points in architecture, water conservation, energy use and production, marketing, market potential, engineering, communications, appliances, health and comfort and home life. The home with the highest points in all categories wins the competition.

Walking through the houses I was looking for energy saving ideas, unique building materials and style. The homes were 2 bedrooms with bath, living room and kitchen facilities. They were very nice. The completed homes are donated to Habitat for Humanity in Denver this year. My favorites were the UC Davis home with its homemade furniture from beetle killed pine and its demo system showing household water use in led dots. Another favorite was the Silo house by Missouri S&T, a modern farmhouse style with a very interesting grey water filtering system. I didn’t get to all the houses though, including the winning house built by the Swiss team! It is possible to walk through every house virtually with Youtube videos.

A few of my favorite things:

Modern Farm House

Modern Farm House

Pre cast concrete house

Pre cast concrete house

Interior wiring chase

Interior wiring chase

Modular hand built furniture

Modular hand built furniture

Tesla power wall battery backup

Tesla power wall battery backup

JLM wall mount battery backup

JLM wall mount battery backup

Heat pump and ERV

Heat pump and ERV

Gosun solar grill

Gosun solar grill

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Poster Presentation at the National Solar Energy Conference in Denver

It was a busy week. From the NREL talk to the Solar Decathlon, I spent a good deal of time sharing our LEED project. I was one of 33 poster presenters at the solar conference.

Conference goers looking at my poster

Conference goers looking at my poster

It was great to see the young people especially sharing their research projects and data. One of my favorites was a research proposal to study wind catchers made of tensile materials to improve ventilation and cooling in hot arid climates.

Tensile wind catcher

Tensile wind catcher

Several homeowners also had posters of their projects like me.

New Jersey Solar Home

New Jersey Solar Home

A solar architect who has been designing solar homes for over 30 years had a poster displaying the tools she uses to plan for building energy efficiency.

Solar Architect's Energy Use Tools

Solar Architect’s Energy Use Tools

I brought the video I made for NREL and played it in a loop on the photo frame.

Solar conference posters

Solar conference posters

I also brought along the signs from the solar house tour and several conference attendees took time to read some of them.

Signs from open house near poster

Signs from open house near poster

I enjoyed a day at the conference, attending sessions and viewing demonstrations. The solar cooker information was really inspiring. Organizations are working to bring low cost solar cookers to those who spend a good deal of the day collecting material for fires to cook with. Solar cookers cuts that time dramatically and gives women especially more time to apply their other skills. Of course there were fancier cookers available too. This was one of my favorites.

Fancy Solar Cooker

Fancy Solar Cooker

And the solar chef uses a concentrator to aim heat at a cast iron pan then removes it to cook on it. Kind of amazing to observe.

Solar Chef

Solar Chef

There were three concentrators in all and three cooking stations.

Solar Cooker Concentrators

Solar Cooker Concentrators

At one session I learned that there is a local company that sells solar hot tub covers. The collectors are passive and have some black and some reflective areas of the polycarbonate PV panel to prevent over heating. They use a small 12v fan to transfer heat from under the panels to the surface of the water in the tub. They advertise that they can save about half the heating costs for a hot tub depending on location and shading. I’m pursuing purchase of one of these covers.

Aztech Solar Hot Tub Cover

Aztech Solar Hot Tub Cover

It was an exciting and interesting day and I met several people who were passionate about solar power, including a very nice young woman from South Korea working on a project to bring solar power to Jeju Island a resort area where my daughter in law’s sister lives. More power to them all!

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Passive Solar Open House

The Green Homes Solar Tour was a great success at my house anyway. We had many visitors though I did not count, nor did I take photos. One of our volunteer docents took this photo though!

Solar House Tour

Solar House Tour

It was fun to share the house and the LEED features with so many interested people. I was especially glad that Vera, the original home owner, and her friend Carol visited the house because Vera has not see the house for a couple of years. So much more is done. Carol was often in the house when their kids were growing up. So they have good memories that lend a happy ambiance to the house I think.

I had several signs that were posted all around the house to share the technologies we used. Also had samples of some of the materials used in the construction.

Utility room signs

Utility room signs

It was fun to answer questions and explain some of the features of the house. When I was occupied some visitors could just wander around and read the signs. I had a whole wall dedicated to LEED including my checklist!

Signs on post in living room

Signs on post in living room

Dave had a good time too explaining the greenhouses, the negarim soil mounds, his giant solar cooker and the slip form construction for the garden wall. Luckily it was a lovely day so people could walk around both inside and outside. I was losing my voice by the end of the day. Haven’t talked all day for quite some time. My biggest regret is not being able to see the other houses on the tour!

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Preparing for an NREL Lunch Talk

Our house is going to be on the 2017 Denver Solar Home Tour on October 7th! I’m very excited about it because we have attended Solar Home tours in both Arizona and here. Having a home that can be included in one is a dream come true.

Metro Denver Home Tour Logo

Metro Denver Home Tour

As part of the tour promotion I was invited to speak at NREL’s lunch series on October 3rd. So I have been preparing for both events. I have printed several signs with explanations of the various systems and technologies used in the home that I plan to post throughout the house for the tour. I will use them as notes for the presentation at NREL.
I made a slide show in Photos on my Mac and then exported that to iMovie to add an introduction and conclusion. I was able to also add a timeline as the events are displayed to help viewers visualize the time frame of the different stages of the construction. The result is about a 19 minute video slideshow with a timeline to show during the presentation.
The talk is about the major remodel stages since we found the property in foreclosure in 2011. The home was built in 1984 with the help of then current research at SERI. The Solar Energy Research Institute began in 1973 and opened in Golden Colorado in 1977. The institute was named the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in 1991. I’m speaking about the systems that were replaced or repaired to upgrade the home to LEED standards.
The presentation was a great deal of fun. There were several good questions about materials and methods used. I had a wonderful time. Dave came too and talked a bit afterward about his greenhouses and solar ovens.

NREL Presentation

NREL Presentation


The video was a quick look at the whole project. Quite a few topics were introduced in a short time.
Video on NREL Screen

Video on NREL Screen


I’ve printed out the LEED Operation and Training Manual as it is an important piece of documentation for the LEED requirements. It also addresses each of the systems of the home.

The exposure of the home to the public is also a LEED requirement. This will be a tour and another presentation that are documented as completed requirements.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Green Building Interests, LEED Project | 1 Comment

Problem with Hoppe Three Point Lock on ThermaTru Door

One of the sets of french doors was stuck closed. It appeared that the three point lock was stuck at the top of the door keeping it from opening. I thought I was going to have to take the door pins out to remove the door and fix the lock. That did not turn out to be the case though.

Instead I searched for information and on a couple of building forums I found folks with similar problems. Although the lock itself could have been broken, and I took it apart to see if I could pull the shoot bolt down from inside the lock. Unlike the Pella locks, this one did not have a manual release for the shoot bolt. But it also appeared that the lock itself was not broken. The mechanism was turning and the shoot bolt was moving. Just not enough to open the door.

On closer inspection I noticed that the door jamb was sitting right on top of the door. Another installation problem I supposed. I also read that when drywall is connected to the jamb, cracking and pulling the jamb out of place can happen. It is considered a poor job. But the drywall was not connected to the jamb at all.

I ended up using long enough 2 x 2 and 1 x 2’s to lever up under the door jamb to release the retracted bolt end. Once the door was opened, I had some thoughts about how to keep the frame from descending onto the door.

I consulted some older photos of the construction and could see the gap between the frame and the header.

Door jamb header gap

Door jamb header gap


I wanted to avoid extra nails or screws in the jamb so I just decided to take out the short screws in the metal guide for the shoot bolts and used longer screws to pull the jamb up into the header more tightly.

I also did the middle door but the end door did not have the same problem so I left it alone for now. Again the installation seems to be problematic. But luckily I have the time and inclination to figure out a fix for these issues so far.

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Guests! An Ebay Scam and ERV Maintenance

We have had the pleasure of several recent guests who have stayed in the new master bedroom and bath. The new curtains have made the space more private and it has proved to be great to have another bathroom with more people in the house. Everyone seems to enjoy the space and the fancy Haiku fan.

My granddaughter took the first bath in the new tub today. She loved it. It is pretty tall and big but she could handle it. I was impressed by how long the water in the tub stayed warm. I left the water in and only had to add a bit more hot to take a bath myself. It has been years since my last bath in the steam spa I installed in the Arizona house! It did not keep water warm like this tub does though. The water was still warm when I drained it.

Unfortunately the sprayer did not work. I may have installed the back flow preventer backwards! I’ll have to take it apart and figure that out. But the shelf came in handy. Not sure if I want to get a tub spanning shelf or  build a little storage cabinet to hide shampoo and soap. Always looking for ideas.

First Bath in New Tub

First Bath in New Tub

Only small tasks have been accomplished in the last few weeks. Some have been just decorating, arranging, and making space for guest items. Plumbing connections have stayed tight, although the bed railing suffered a little bit from use and had to be reinforced with more nails from the nail gun.

I’ve cleaned up a few more of the track lights that were left hanging from the track during the drywall phase. It seems like so many of them that I just take them a few at a time. I have to take them down, clean the drywall paste and some paint off them and the bulbs, and then be sure they are dry to reassemble.

I was scammed on eBay. I should have known better. I was told the eBay payment did not go through and to cancel and pay another invoice. That happened once before because the user had changed email addresses but the second invoice was also eBay. This time I did not notice it was not through eBay and paid it. So the seller absconded with the money from both eBay and PayPal. I have been asking for a refund but neither company has returned an answer on my request. This is the first time in six years of using eBay regularly so I suppose I just got lax in my due diligence. I’m feeling stupid about it. UPDATE: PayPal honored their online purchase warranty and refunded the total that I paid for the Nest thermostat. So happy with buying with PayPal. I had a return they helped negotiate too and got a refund on that amount. I’m happy I used PayPal.

I was buying another Nest thermostat for the master bedroom. Somewhere I have a couple of expensive Honeywell thermostats but for the life of me I don’t know where. They would have been packed up for drywall and I can’t find them. So with buying the Haiku fan, I thought another Nest would be good. This is the third, so we are only using one of the original programmable Honeywell thermostats now. The Ebay price was good for a third generation thermostat but not great with the extra shipping charge. I wish I had gone for a few more dollars now with shipping included. Although I got a shipped email, it was not tracked and I waited the entire shipping estimate of time before becoming concerned. Then I got an email saying the seller had withdrawn the item and from Ebay. Oh oh. So I went though the eBay stuff about contacting the seller and then Ebay. The problem was that the seller showed my original purchase from eBay as refunded because they charged me directly through PayPal. Ebay says only to pay through them and this is why.

Having no response from the seller, I went to PayPal a few days later and registered there for recompense, but although the case was still pending after their 48 hour limit, eventually PayPal refunded the purchase. So disappointing but of course I am also at fault in this one since paying outside of Ebay is not permitted. I just did not notice.

At any rate I bought another Nest on Ebay and installed it today. I had a bit of trouble getting it to access the modem and had to restart the modem but it finally took. Then the family room thermostat seemed to go off the network and I had to restart it. I found out how by following the directions on the troubleshooting page that I was directed to from the application. It showed online at the thermostat but not in the application.

The weather here has gone from 80-90 degree days to the 40’s. We don’t need heat yet as the house has been staying at about 72 degrees. I also have the ventilation system running full time. I turned off the econocool mode which lets cooler air into the house at night.

I just changed the filters for the new season. The filters are pie shaped and ordered directly from the Ultimate Air company. The wheel that holds the filters does not have to be removed when they are changed. When the metal screens are out the wheel is accessible and I also washed the filter holder from each side with a bit of spray cleaner and a rag.

ERV Filter Pies

ERV Filter Pies

I wondered if I could wash and reuse the old filter material but it is not recommended. It seems like it would work because the material is quite sturdy. I would rinse out the black dirt and then machine wash and dry. I don’t want compromised filters in the system though. I read that they can be vacuumed but these were far too dirty to just vacuum dust out. I also washed out the dirt from the metal filters on each side. This is about the third or fourth time I have washed them. It is a pretty easy project.

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Family Room Bathroom Vanity Sink

It is a granite sink on a heavy and thick granite slab. I originally had the sink sitting on the logs of the vanity stand but with the addition of the slab I needed to figure out how to hold up the sink for the drain connections. I noticed sink rings as a plumbing supply for basin sinks that apparently do this, but a small ring would not work with a large rectangular sink. So I ordered a stainless steel tray in a brass color to set the sink upon.

I cut a hole in the tray and it lets the sink sit up about 3/4″ above the granite.

Tray Cut Out

Tray To Cut Out

Tray Mount

Tray Mount

I did not run across instructions to secure the sink to the vanity top after using a ring so I used a ring clamp on a rubber sleeve to keep the sink from lifting from the surface of the countertop.

Clamp to secure sink

Clamp to secure sink

With the sink installed I needed a box to mount the wall faucet. I saw the idea of building a box on another website. It was a bit difficult to figure out where to mount the faucet valve inside the box. I put in two cross pieces and then chose the lower one with the pipe about even with the valve. I realized that made the font too close to the sink. So I moved the valve up and changed the outlet pipe straight across from the faucet mixing pipe.

Three walls and a cover

Three walls and a cover

Then I used the hand sander to sand all the surfaces with four different grid sandpapers. I applied two coats of Waterlox and let them dry and the box was fitted behind the sink.

Sanding and Waterlox

Sanding and Waterlox


I want to use pine logs as trim in the house and I started with this box. The faucet is mounted at the right height over the sink. The valve is a little too low because it does not clear the sink rim but it can be shut off in either the hot or cold positions so I’m leaving it for now.

Box behind sink

Wall faucet mounted in box behind sink

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Another Leak Fixed

The Victorian style sink I’m using in the master bathroom was in the shed when my daugher and her husband bought their new house. There were a pair of them. I told her I wanted them and they said sure. Even after storing outdoors for three years, I cleaned off the old caulk and the sink is in great condition. With the powder coated metal vanity, it is a Victorian/Industrial style. Eclectic!

Victorian sink

Victorian sink

The bathroom sink faucet was purchased from eBay and either it was missing parts or I lost them. I didn’t have the below sink tightener and I had to improvise, although it is not tight enough and I ordered a Toto sink version that looks like the original and I should be able to tighten it completely.

I used an old bent up chrome supply trim and cut it to fit around the pipes with my Dremel tool and drilled a hole for the threaded rod. In order to get the fastener below the tight pipes, I used a section of drain pipe.

Improvised faucet fastener

Improvised faucet fastener

The supply pipes are so close to the threaded rod that holds the faucet that while I was tightening the bolt, I was loosening the copper pipe. It was just enough to have it start leaking. Unfortunately, I thought the leak was at the shark bite connector. So after lots of hemming and hawing around at the hardware store, I brought home a compression fitting that I didn’t end up needing. But the discovery of the leak meant I had to take the whole faucet out to tighten the pipes to the faucet.

Source of the leak

Source of the leak

The copper pipes have a threaded end and a small gasket to keep them from leaking. It is kind of nice because they could be replaced if they become too damaged. If I could find the parts. So the faucet leak was fixed and the faucet put back into place.

Faucet in place

Faucet in place

I also removed the toilet AGAIN. Although the foam gasket allowed me to install and remove it several times, it also worried me that the flange was over a part of the drain area. If waste was restricted there it would be a mess to take care of later so I decided to cut a portion of the flange away to allow for a more open waste area.

Cut opening in toilet ring flange

Cut opening in toilet ring flange

Then one more time, I had to align the toilet over the bolts just right to set it. I fiddled with the bolts two or three times before I got it right. I also noticed that the bolts I used are kind of short and really are meant to be broken off. So there is a stripped area on the bolts that was keeping me from tightening the toilet. I struggled with that for awhile until I realized washers would move the nut up enough to use the normal threads. Sometimes it takes awhile to really see a problem that is occurring.

Final toilet install

Final toilet install

So these two pieces are now ready for my sister’s visit this week! I wanted them done for visitors in late August but DIY often takes a longer time than planned.

Two piece bath ensemble

Two piece bath ensemble

And thinking to figure out what I could use for storage underneath I checked out craigslist and found a brown former medical cart that I liked and took a ride over today to buy it. It just feels good to add this touch.

Storage cart under sink cabinet

Storage cart under sink cabinet

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Leak Central

It seems like no matter what I’m installing in the master bath, I’m having an issue with leaks. I had to install an offset toilet drain because the original drain position did not account for the extra insulation we decided to use on the wall. I installed the toilet as usual but the wax ring didn’t cover the rim of the toilet flange well enough and the toilet leaked at the floor when it was flushed.

First install--leaked

First install–leaked

I un-installed the toilet and had to clean off all the yucky wax from the ring. It didn’t look like it was on crooked but it was flatter on one side. So I decided to try a non-wax ring. The plumbing inspector had recommended them when he learned I had radiant heating pipes. Although hot water radiant does not get hot enough to melt wax, nevertheless, he gave me the idea. So I bought a foam rubber type of toilet ring. But I also tried a new type of bolts that really didn’t work for me so I took that toilet off and on the foam ring about three times.

Sani-seal waxless toilet gasket

Sani-seal waxless toilet gasket

The bolts were “zero cut” and I liked the flat bolt covers.

Zero cut toilet bolts

Zero cut toilet bolts

But I could not get them to tighten enough to hold down the toilet. They kept slipping and turning under the rim. I finally gave up and went back to old fashioned bolts.
I also had a difficult time finding the shorter bolts in the foam ring. They came with plastic locaters but I promptly broke one trying to locate it with the heavy toilet.

Multiple tries to set toilet on bolts

Multiple tries to set toilet on bolts

It was the Sani-Seal gasket that allowed me to place and lift the toilet multiple times. The gasket comes with a rubber “throat” that goes into the pipe. I hope since the pipe is offset, that the rubber flap won’t restrict the flush.

Foam and rubber toilet ring

Foam and rubber toilet ring

After I switched back to the long bolts, I was able to tighten them and get the toilet re-installed without leaks.
Next try the sink. Hmmm.

 

 

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Master Bath Decorative Trim Tile

I noticed these decorative tiles on Craigslist in early 2016 and they were reasonably priced leftovers. They were not far away and I bought them. I love these thick relief tiles with the western animal scenes and I had just enough from the purchase to trim over the tub and sink in the master bathroom. I paid $40 for them. Normally these tiles would cost at least $15 each.

Decorative Tiles

Decorative Tiles


First I caulked behind and around the sides of the beam. There are two coats of Waterlox which turned the wood rather dark so it is a great contrast with the white tile.
Caulking the edges of the beam

Caulking the edges of the beam


I had to caulk the back of the beam because there was about a 1/4″ gap and I needed to have a surface to rest the tile on.
Full beam caulked for tile

Full beam caulked for tile


The white tiles lined up to the exact width of the beam using 1/4″ tile spacers.
Decorative tile with spacers

Decorative tile with spacers


The remaining three tiles also fit perfectly over the sink tile with two of the brown animal tiles. The third one unfortunately got a corner broken off, but it was not needed for the space. I used tile adhesive for the wall tiles, back buttering each tile, as it is easier to apply than mortar.
Gluing the sink tiles

Gluing the sink tiles


The decorative tile over the sink with the five animal relief tiles are mounted with sideways 1/4″ spacers or about an 1/8″ space between the tiles.
Master bath sink tile

Master bath sink tile


The next step will be applying the epoxy grout to this half of the bathroom. Then it will be ready for fixtures.

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Haiku Energy Star Ceiling Fan

I have already replaced the craigslist ceiling fan that I installed for my brother’s visit. There is a LEED requirement to install Energy Star ceiling fans and I was hoping to find a deal on a Haiku L series for the master bedroom. The Craigslist fan only had one speed because it did not have a pull chain or a remote. Soon after I installed it I found an L series in an eBay ad. I made an offer that seemed reasonable given that a new fan from the company is $575 with free shipping and a new fan from Amazon is $600 in black. However the company site does not offer the dark brown blades and Amazon charges $675 for the black/cocoa combination. I saved about $250.

Ebay ad for Haiku fan

Ebay ad for Haiku fan

The ad didn’t show all the components but it listed them as included. The only thing not listed was the wifi module but one did come with the fan. I read a review that explained fans from the manufacturer do not include the wifi module unless the Sense Me wall control is ordered but fans from Amazon do include the wifi module.

Box contents

Box contents

The Haiku L series is not an Energy Star “most efficient” for 2017, however it is among the top performers on the Energy Star list. It comes in just under the other Haiku models H and I and there are only four other 52″ fans that have a medium speed of more than 400.

Haiku Fan Efficiency

Haiku Fan Efficiency

That puts it at about four times the 2012 Energy Star standard. At low speed it is just under 4 times the base for energy star efficiency. The Energy Guide lists the fan at 17.7 watts per cfm at high speed. Airflow at high speed is 5276 cfm. It is also the most energy efficient fan rated with an LED light. The light efficiency is 105, the highest of the LED fixtures. It is rated at 20 watts.
The fan took some time to put together but the instructions were clear and the only part that didn’t work for me right away was a plug for the light diffuser that needed to show up in the canopy for the diffuser ring to plug into and snap on. I had to undo the screws a couple of times to get the plug lined up correctly. It seemed odd that the screws in the canopy were square end screws instead of phillips. All the tools for installation were included with the fan so I used the allen wrench provided but they were more difficult to align and install. It must be some security issue.
For our ceiling height and angle, I used the longer of the two rods provided with the fan. There is a choice of hanging rod, either 6″ or 11″. The fan was much lighter than the romanesque one. At only 11 lbs. I was able to lift the fan body into the hanger myself. Wiring was very simple except that I have two hot wires and two switches to control a separate fan and light. But the electronics control the light on the Haiku so only one switch is needed and I just capped off the extra wire.

Fan at rest

Fan at rest

Once it was installed, I used the remote immediately to start the fan and turn on the light in both dim and bright modes. Both the fan speed and light brightness are variable with plus and minus buttons to set them.
The modern style looks fine with the ranch style furniture. I like the airfoil design and the fan is very quiet except for the noise of the air movement on high. I turned the speed down and the high speed is probably not ever necessary in our bedroom.

Airfoil blades

Airfoil blades

I installed the Haiku OS app and was able to update the firmware right away. Then I worked with some of the settings. I can also pair it with the Nest thermostat and the Amazon Echo to give it speech commands to turn on and set up the light and the fan.
The fan is extremely quiet except for the rush of air on high speed. I have used the “Whoosh” setting that varies the speed of the fan for a more natural breeze feeling. I’m impressed with the fan and don’t mind all the plastic parts. These are made in Kentucky which seems like an anomaly among such products and another great feature.

Fan in Motion

Fan in Motion

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Master Bath Medicine Cabinet

I wanted a space left open in the drywall to reuse one of the original medicine cabinets in the master bathroom. The wall had to be built out due to the plumbing run below and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to install a recessed cabinet. The drywall installer offered to put in the cabinet for me. But the problem was that he lined it up with the 2 x 4’s instead of the finished drywall.

Drywall space for medicine cabinet

Drywall space for medicine cabinet


There was a half hearted attempt to keep the cabinet clean and the texture got sprayed inside the box. So it was streaked with white even after cleaning it. Because the cabinet was recessed 1/2″ there would be a gap between the box and the cabinet facing. So I had to remove it and reinstall another box from the original house. It was identical to the first and I didn’t have plans to use both so I didn’t have to use the dirty box.
Cutting the cabinet out of the drywalled area was difficult however.
Cutting out the cabinet

Cutting out the cabinet


It was screwed in at the top and bottom corners and I had to use the multitool with a metal blade to cut through the screws. I finally was able to pull it out though and after cleaning up the inside of the wall, I put the clean one into the space. It had to be flush to the outside edge of the drywall but I just used the nail gun to fix the top and bottom into place after shimming it level.
Then the face trim that also holds the door with the mirror was screwed into the box.
New cabinet installed flush

New cabinet installed flush


The new cabinet was cleaned up a bit and the mirror washed and it looks like the authentic rustic style I am working to create.
Cabinet with tile

Cabinet with tile


Not a major task but really good to get it finished and checked off the summer list.

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Granite Slab Cut

It was a perfect late summer day. My brother and his wife were visiting from the Chicago area and he always enjoys completing a house project. I have had a heavy piece of granite by the side of the front door for two years and really wanted to get it cut to fit the vanity in the family room bathroom. I just had to ask John if he would help with the cuts and the project was started.

Moving the granite slab

Moving the granite slab

We put the granite on the rolling carts that I bought as solar heater stands. They have proved to be great as work tables. I have a granite wet saw from work I did in Arizona. It is a 4″ saw blade and just deep enough to cut the thick granite slab.

Granite cut on rolling cart

Granite cut on rolling cart

There was mesh on the back of the slab that helped hold the cut sections together and we sliced through this with a razor blade and then a serrated knife to separate the cut pieces.
I decided to cut the slab to fit all the way to the wall on the left side of the vanity stand and just over the edge of the stand in the front and on the right side.

Cutting the slab

Cutting the slab

Once the slab was cut it was not quite as heavy to carry in and place on the vanity stand.

Carrying in the slab

Carrying in the slab

The slab was placed on the vanity and shifted a bit to fit. Some shimming could still be done. It is heavy enough to sit on the stand without adhesive and the granite sink will sit on top of the slab.

John placing the slab

John placing the slab

I ordered a few diamond core bits to cut a hole for the sink drain and the water pipes. Now it shouldn’t be long until the sink is installed on this vanity top.

Family room bathroom vanity granite

Family room bathroom vanity granite

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Tilting the Tub

The phrase “tilting at windmills” comes to mind after multiple attempts to fix the leaking tub drain. The solution seemed elusive for a long time. We had to tilt up the tub on its side to get to the drain. For some reason I was convinced that the piping under the tub was the cause of the leak. Especially after tightening the metal washer on the drain part as far as Dave’s strength could do it. I even replaced the plumbers putty once the leaking drain was disassembled. But I concentrated on the piping below the drain believing that the tub shoe was not able to get tight enough because the drain threads did not extend below the tub bottom.

Tilted tub with tub shoe drain

Tilted tub with tub shoe drain

My first attempt was to extend the tub shoe below the bottom of the tub.

Extended tub drain

Extended tub drain

The new configuration leaked as much as old. Plus it was so long that I lost the slope of 1/4″ to a foot of drain.

Leaking drain with extended pipe

Leaking drain with extended pipe

So I thought to try a shorter extension pipe and a regular 90 degree angle. In theory it would gain a 1/2″ of space underneath. In practice the slope was still gone.

Ninety degree elbow below drain

Ninety degree elbow below drain

I gave up on extending the drain and decided to try replacing the plumbers putty under the lip of the drain and at the rubber washer underneath with 100% silicone caulk. That was finally the solution to stop the leak. I did try the extended pipe one more time but could not get it tight enough to allow for the required slope. I even put the tub up on 1/2″ plywood to gain a bit of height. But I finally gave up and went back to the tub shoe connector.
I spent quite a bit of time trying to find another tub shoe since I had cut the pipe and the shorter pipe required a straight connector that made the pipe a bit wider just under the tub. My hunt for this usually common part was unsuccessful. Home Depot, Lowes, Ferguson Plumbing. Nobody had the full size pipe for under a tub. Amazon had a non-prime offering where the shipping was almost 8 times the cost of the part! I could only find kits that included an overflow and that type of drain pipe is a different width from regular schedule 40 plastic pipe.

Tub Shoe

Tub Shoe


I gave up and used the one I had with the connector that made the pipe wider, but with the silicone on the drain itself, the shoe did not leak anymore and the fact that it could be tighter no longer mattered. Whew!
No leaks now

No leaks now

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More Tile

Unfortunately the tub drain still leaks but I decided to tile the second half of the bathroom instead of taking it apart again first.

Rows of tile in master bath

Rows of tile in master bath

The wall near the sink plumbing was not square. Squaring the tile with the brick wall meant cutting partially diagonal tiles to fill the narrow space.

Back edge of tile to fill in

Back edge of tile to fill in

I think the sink and the wall tile will camouflage this area though.

Slanted narrow tiles

Slanted narrow tiles


I had extra mortar when I finished the tile in the bathroom so I started the tiling on the edge of the slab.This area is xps foam with an air barrier made of painted roofing tape. I used Kerdi membrane narrow banding mortared to the top of the air barrier. and I laid tile over that. I will use the epoxy grout here. The grout was specifically purchased for this border as I read that it is a good grout to use over foam.

Tile at front door

Tile at front door

When I turned the corner I did not recognize that I hadn’t laid the Kerdi there yet. So several tiles were installed without the Kerdi then I finished using up the mortar laying a strip of Kerdi again. I will be able to see if there is a difference in performance for the area that is missing the Kerdi underlayment.

Air lock entry tile at edge of slab

Air lock entry tile at edge of slab


It will be a big job to lay these tiles all around the border of the slab where it meets the foundation wall. But it was worth it to have the foam insulate the sides of the slab all the way to the top.

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Finding a Ceiling Fan

I saved a relatively new ceiling fan from the Arizona house. Before we sold it the real estate agent recommended that I replace the old antique brass fans with something more modern, i.e. oil rubbed bronze. But I could not find the box with the fan inside it until I went through every box in storage in our garage. I finally found the fan body although not the light cover or the blades.
I also wanted to find the copper light fixture I saved for the dining room but did not see it in any box out there. Climbing over boxes and furniture was quite a sweaty and dusty feat and I would love to bring things in and find places for everything before winter arrives. I did find the lamps and candle pieces to a wrought iron chandelier I also saved so installed that in the dining room instead.

Dining Room Chandelier

Dining Room Chandelier

Even though I didn’t have blades or the light cover for the fan, I forged ahead hanging it in the master bedroom. I went to the Restore and bought a $2 light cover that fit and I ordered fan blades from eBay although they were not wide enough. I couldn’t find the blades to the living room fan either and bought new ones that did fit that fan so I thought I could do it again. Nope.
The master bedroom has a bit of a slant to the ceiling and the fan is a ceiling hugger so it installed at an angle.

Hugger Ceiling Fan

Hugger Ceiling Fan

I was willing to accept this for the time being but also looked on craigslist for a possible cheap replacement and found this one not too far from home. The seller took $30.

 

Craigslist Ad for Fan

Craigslist Ad for Fan

I picked the fan up and installed it right away. I was not happy with the tiny halogen light bulbs that the light kit used so I cannibalized the hugger fan light kit for the medium bulb holders and screwed them into the new fan’s light fixture. Then I could use a couple of LED bulbs in the reassembled light.
The fan has an interesting shape. It reminds me of a Romanesque style with the edging.

Rustic Venetian Style

Rustic Venetian Style

It hangs from a ball fitting so the slight angle of the ceiling still allows the fan to hang straight.

Fan in Master Bedroom

Fan in Master Bedroom

I believe the fan was meant to be controlled by remote as it has no pull chains to set fan speed. Only one speed, but it is quiet and does not wobble. It is a DLG model from 2003/2004 but I can’t find any information regarding the model number, except that maybe it was a Home Depot brand.
The fan’s light is a reasonable brightness for the space, however, the smoked glass shade gives off less light than the white one I bought at the Restore.

Master Bedroom Ceiling Fan with Light

Master Bedroom Ceiling Fan with Light

I also looked for a new more energy efficient fan and found the one I really want for the room. It is a Haiku from Big Ass Fans and is lightyears beyond the efficiency of most ceiling fans. The least expensive model is about $600 though and that is a bit pricey.

Haiku L Series Fan with Light

Haiku L Series Fan with Light

I’m very tempted to order one except that I would prefer the wood look blades to the all black fan and that combination is almost $100 more expensive in the L series and even more in the H or I series. I’ll have to think about it. But it would sure be great for LEED energy efficiency.

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It’s Curtains

I have several bolts of cotton/polyester and vinyl material that I purchased at auction from Repurposed Materials. I had in mind that I would sew window quilts because the house originally had them as extra window insulation. I also wanted to have plenty of material to sew outdoor cushions and to cover the dining room chairs, etc. Believe me I have more than enough!

We are having guests next week and now that the master bedroom is set up, I am going to have them stay there. However the bedroom does not yet have a door and the room faces the street and I thought they might be self conscious to sleep without privacy.  I decided to use the material I have to make a few curtains. I started with some rough burlap like material, but I was not too fond of the flaws in the weave. It is a cool material just not for curtains. I put a piece over an outdoor chair and found it is waterproof!

I switched to a roll labeled pack cloth. From the way this material behaves I believe it has a lot of cotton in it. It is a heavy shirting type of material in a bright white and I think it made really nice weight curtains. I have a relatively new sewing machine, a Singer Quantum Stylist 9960. It is a very nice machine and has several stitches to choose from. I even experimented with some of the decorative stitches but the curtains seem too large to decorate with the small stitches. With the family room furniture in place, I was able to use the new table as a sewing table.

Sewing machine

Sewing machine

Basically I wanted something simple that I could hang from shower rods. I bought some snap together cut out rings for the window curtains.

Window Curtains

Window Curtains

I had some clip on rings that I used for the outside door curtain. I just hung this one from four small brads nailed into the trim above the window pane.

Curtain on outside door

Curtain on outside door

I bought more rings to hang a curtain at the interior door to the bedroom too. One of the hardest parts was ironing all that cotton! It required a hot steam iron and elbow grease.

Ironing cotton!

Ironing cotton!

The material is 56″ wide so one width worked fine for this doorway.

Privacy curtain closed

Privacy curtain closed

The rings allow the curtains to open and close quite easily.

Privacy curtain opened

Privacy curtain opened

I will add a curtain to the family room bathroom too. That makes it easier for guests to use.

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Tub Leaks!

The master bath tub had a couple of leaky places. The plumbing under the tiled step was oozing water and the drain was leaking worse.

Drain leak

Drain leak

The faucet hookup was leaking at the brass elbow couplings. These were too close together to tighten properly as the elbows touched when they were being tightened. I wanted the connections to be stable but decided to change from brass to shark bites because they rotate easily and I could connect two elbows side by side. That meant taking the whole assembly apart and removing the brass elbows and connecting pipes.
Luckily the tub supply has shut off valves installed and shark bites that make it easy to move piping out of the way. There is a fancy water balancing valve installed for this faucet. It was required by the plumbing inspector although the whole house water is tempered so that it would not be hot enough to scald anyone. The water balancing valve prevents that by tempering the water if another faucet in the house pulls hot or cold away from the faucet. The valve is impressive although it is behind the access door and not in plain sight.

Tub faucet piping cover

Tub faucet piping cover

The replacement shark bites were relatively easy to install and I used copper instead of Pex to stabilize the hot and cold “arms” that connect to the chrome stand pipes.

Chrome standing pipe connection

Chrome standing pipe connection

The chrome had been scratched badly when I got it and the scratched part is under the step now so it doesn’t show. I used drop eared Sharkbite elbows even though I didn’t end up fastening them down, they have little legs that help stabilize the connections.

Drop Ear Sharkbite Elbow

Drop Ear Sharkbite Elbow


The rest of the supply piping went back into place relatively easily and I replaced the access door cover.
Tub faucet supply piping

Tub faucet supply piping


The faucet is now installed so that it does not leak.
Reinstalled tub faucet

Reinstalled tub faucet


Notice the can of Waterlox on the mantle shelf–still need to apply that. Also I need to tackle the tub drain leak which may prove more difficult than the faucet due to accessibility.

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