Solar Install Scheduled!

Our Solar City/Tesla installation has been scheduled for mid March! I was surprised it would take that long to get a crew and materials together to do the installation but at least we are now on the schedule. I asked for a newer install date if at all possible and they will give us a call if there is a cancellation. Probably not but that is a possibility.
The current federal government majority is not very supportive of alternative energy so they have proposed to cut out the tax incentive we were counting on for this install. The last information I read (today) is that these credits will stay until they phase out themselves in 2020.
The progress on our install has been interesting. The initial plan was very short on information. This was all, a diagram and list of types of equipment and where located. No details!

Solar City Engineering Plan

Solar City Engineering Plan

I don’t think this drawing is very true to the building elevation though as this is the architect’s drawing of the same roof area. But I suppose it is close enough. The central third of the house is about three degrees from true south so the garage roof is a bit east of south.

Dibble Res Roof

Dibble Res Roof

I suppose most consumers are not that interested in the details. I contacted the sales rep and he took some time to put together a complete list of components for the system! I was very impressed with the service.

Solar City Parts List

Solar City Parts List

About the same time as I received this list, the building permit plans had been submitted and approved. They were posted for my address at the city building department and had much more detail. In addition to the site plan there is a side elevation.

Tesla SOLAR PLAN Side View

Tesla SOLAR PLAN Side View

Another page has the electrical diagram.

Tesla SOLAR PLAN Electrical Diagram

Tesla SOLAR PLAN Electrical Diagram

A whole page of electrical calculations is included in this plan for the building permit.

Tesla SOLAR PLAN Calculations

Tesla SOLAR PLAN Calculations

Plus there are product sheets for the Delta Inverter, the Tesla solar panels, the ZS rail system, the Powerwall, and the Millbank power connectors. The building permit document is a much more satisfying proposal but it took me a month to realize it was posted and approved. Another document is a seven page engineering report with figures on the roof load due to the addition of the PV modules and tie down system. Nice to see this work from the Tesla engineers.

I noticed the permit had been issued as of November 9th, and a couple of emails from the product rep were not specific about the date of the install. I called the company directly and they noted that the paperwork was in order but had been delayed by extra information requested internally and the job could now be scheduled. So I’m glad that I went ahead and called since we still have to wait three months for the install.

After installation, the inspector has to give his stamp of approval and then the power company can take up to six weeks to basically turn on the system. Then Tesla will walk us through turning it on from our end. What a long process!

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Happy 2nd Birthday Grandson!

We visited Oakland, California for a big birthday bash for our grandson. We were excited about decorating for his theme of “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go”. My sister and brother came to the party too. My brother all the way from the Chicago area.
These were all the decorations we brought with us!

Preparation for big birthday bash

Preparation for big birthday bash

My sister in California also made fancy banners to say Happy Birthday and to hang around the room.

Happy Birthday Banners

Happy Birthday Banners

And my son made a cool race track for the kids out of pool noodles.

Pool noodle race track

Pool noodle race track

The Lowly Worms were great party favors and the goldbug hunt was quite successful too.

Lowly Worms in favor bags

Lowly Worms in favor bags


All the extra characters for the Brio wooden train set were a big hit. Several kids stopped by this table to play with it.
Busytown Train

Busytown Train


We drew goldbugs on the toddlers hands with non-toxic white board markers and yellow body paint.
Body paint goldbugs

Body paint goldbugs


We had as much fun as the kids! They had a ride-on vehicle race and it was so silly! The little ones hardly knew to go around the track. But they were so cute. They were awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes of Busytown plush characters.
I’m so glad we could celebrate this amazing birthday for our sweet grandson with the family.

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Foundation Insulation

We had some warm December weather and Dave thought he could do another outdoor project so he started digging the trench to repair and replace the foundation insulation.

Digging the trench

Digging the trench

Although we thought the white insulation was EPS with its lower insulating value, it turned out the insulation is blue XPS, just faded to white where it was exposed. That means instead of an exterior foundation R value of about 12 it is closer to an R-20. Combined with the R-15 interior XPS the total foundation protection is R-35 or about the same as the walls.
After the trench was dug to the level of undamaged insulation, or about 10 inches deep, I cut out the broken and chewed away insulation and replaced it with new XPS. I also extended the insulation to the top of the foundation for the full 4″ of XPS at that level.

Applying pink XPS insulation

Applying pink XPS insulation

After fixing the insulation against the foundation with liquid nails, it was covered with the fiberglass packing corners from Repurposed Materials. I had to cut away the edge of the wooden sill under the block wall to fit the corners and to cut away any rotted wood. Then I treated the remaining wood with preservative.

Applying fiberglass corners

Applying fiberglass corners


I was able to use power cement nails to fasten the fiberglass to the concrete sill in some places but in others the concrete crumbled so I used pieces of rebar as I did under the french door sills to hold the fiberglass against the foundation. Then the cracks between fiberglass pieces were filled with dark brown caulk.
Fiberglass covered insulation

Fiberglass covered insulation


We were able to get the job done just in time for much colder weather. We just have to fill in the trench when we return from our grandson’s second birthday party!

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Schluter Kerdi Shower

Schluter Kerdi is a thin waterprrof membrane that feels like a thick paper with a fleece side that gets embedded in mortar and what must be a polymer infused side that is waterproof. The directions say to make the mortar thinner than usual but still able to hold a notch. I had pretty soupy mortar but it did hold a light ridge when spread.

Soupy mortar mix

Soupy mortar mix

On day one I had enough mortar for two shower walls. The shower is eight feet tall and will have a small ledge against the back where the insulation at the foundation wall is a bit wider than the outside 2 x 6 walls.
I cut full size sheets for the walls. Mortaring the bottom half first and installing the sheet and then holding that up with 2 x 4’s while I mortared the top half. That way the mortar did not get too dry for the membrane to hold.

Half wall with upper half mortared

Half wall with upper half mortared

I was supposed to use a 1/4″ notched trowel to spread the mortar but I have misplaced my tiling tools so I just used a new drywall paste spreader. It turned out the fleece absorbed the mortar with spaces between globs of mortar so it didn’t seem to be a problem. I smoothed out the membrane with the same rubber knife that I used to spread the epoxy bar coating on the cabinets. It really worked well to remove any bubbles under the membrane.

Membrane smoothed with rubber putty knife

Membrane smoothed with rubber putty knife

I installed the rear wall first with the membrane centered on the wall. The membrane was unwieldy and it went on a bit crooked but not enough to worry about. I will draw level lines to lay the tile. I had to cut a longer piece to cover the ledges from the foundation insulation. It is all in one piece though so no need to overlap.

Rear wall installed

Rear wall installed

The membrane was installed right over the two wall niches. Later it was cut away to the edges of the niches.

Membrane over niche openings

Membrane over niche openings

Day two had the plumbing wall piece installed. The sides of the shower were narrow enough that the membrane was able to tuck into the corners and overlap the back wall membrane by the required two inches. Once the walls were covered and the niches trimmed with a razor knife, it was time to install the plumbing gaskets. The 3/4″ pipe gasket fit perfectly but the gasket for the shower control was too large for the valve opening so the alternative was to cut an extra piece of membrane with a hole to cover the piping. Later it will be caulked with the special Schluter caulk.

Membrane shower pipe gasket

Membrane shower pipe gasket

Handmade shower control gasket

Handmade shower control gasket

The Kerdi in the shower went in over Denshield fiberglass drywall although the specifications say that regular drywall can be used the paperless drywall is required by LEED. The space between the sheets were not taped and some of the screws were a bit crooked but the mortar covered these imperfections and the sides of the shower are very smooth and should be easier to tile than cement board with treated seams.

Membrane finished

Membrane finished

I played around the plan for the tile layout. I’m used tan 6 x 6 tiles for trim on each end of the shower and they will go around the niches to make a finished edge. The bottom of the niches will be the dark brown trim tiles and I think the rear of the niches will be the wood round tiles. The floor will be the wood rounds and I would like to tile a strip of them up the plumbing wall. My niece says it is called a waterfall design. The rest will be the dark brown tile and the ledge is cut from the leftover family room bathroom granite.

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Thanksgiving!

Oven Use on Thanksgiving

Oven Use on Thanksgiving

We roasted a turkey for Thanksgiving and I had the Effergy monitor on the oven electrical line and found that it uses up to 4KW during use.

Turkey 2017

Turkey 2017

My sister visited and set a beautiful table with my mother’s fancy china and silverware.

Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Table

My granddaughter colored all the place settings with a little of my sister’s help. They were lovely. They told the ancient lore about acorns leading to long life and tiny acorns were attached to them.

Place setting

Place setting

I spent most of my sister’s visit working on crafts for my grandson’s second birthday party in December. His theme is Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, which is his favorite book. I sewed Richard Scarry Lowly Worms out of 100% merino wool felt and stuffed with organic cotton. These are for California kids whose parents care about this kind of thing.

Partial Lowly Worms

Partial Lowly Worms

It was also much nicer working with quality materials. I made several patterns and had to make my Lowlies kind of short and fat to get them turned out.

Lowly samples

Lowly samples

My sister and daughter helped stuff and stitch them up and stitch on the hats. I made the tassels out of yellow yarn and embroidered the mouths. The eyes are childproof too.

Finished Lowlies

Finished Lowlies

I also made a few stuffed goldbugs out of left over yellow jersey from sewing a Little Prince costume.

Stuffed Goldbug

Stuffed Goldbug

We had the idea to find Lowly throughout the party set up like he appears in the pages of the Richard Scarry books. There was a sample of a wooden Lowly online and I thought it was cute. For little ones they had to be rather sizable so I bought 3″ wooden pegs. Then painted them with non-toxic tempera paint.

Painted peg Lowlies

Painted peg Lowlies

They are decorated with non-toxic expo whiteboard markers and finished with cutting board wax. These are all natural materials and therefore not dangerous for little ones. My grandson will be two and his guests are about the same age and older.

The Lowly Worm troops are finished with the cutting board wax and ready for the party.

Goldbugs ready to party

Goldbugs ready to party

 

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Exterior Door Trim

I finally let the trim on the front door get so badly peeled and chipped that I had to paint it before winter set in. The sad truth is that something went terribly wrong when we had these doors painted by the Alpen company. We paid about $600 per door for the matching paint job and they were chipping and peeling from the start. When I complained they required that I prep for siding, finish overhangs and the patio before correcting it. The doors were re-painted six months later by another duo of spray painters who were supposed to sand them and then paint again. But their sanding job was minimal and it was not long before the new coat of paint was peeling off too.

Front Door Trim Paint

Front Door Trim Paint

I knew I wanted to repaint but we were working on other tasks so it was put off for two years. First it was important to get down to bare wood as there was something really wrong with the primer coat that seemed to be creating the peeling. For that task I used a rubber toothed scrubber attachment for the grinder to quickly chip off the paint. Using it on the trim for one door wore out the tips.

Rubber toothed paint stripper

Rubber toothed paint stripper


Then I sanded it all with my multitool with the sanding attachment and 60 grit sandpaper. That took off the extra paint reasonable quickly.
Sanded door trim

Sanded door trim


I had a gallon of brown low VOC Diamond Vogel exterior paint that I bought from a craigslist seller for $5 and when I finally got around to painting this door I had to buy some exterior primer as what was left from the house was interior only. After priming, I painted two coats of exterior brown. The paint was an excellent match.
Exterior brown door trim

Exterior brown door trim


This door trim was painted just in time for Thanksgiving guests.

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Koffee Korner

We kept the plumbing location from the old kitchen sink even though we had moved the wall. Originally I thought we might install an outdoor sink near this water supply. But as the house progressed I thought a bar sink would be fun on this short dining room wall.

Dining Wall Plumbing

Dining Wall Plumbing

I really like copper accents and I made the bar sink out of a copper tray that I had purchased at Target some years ago. It is a unique shape and fits on a tall plant stand I also had in Arizona. In order to make the tray into a sink, I had to be sure it held water, then cut a 1 3/4″ hole in the middle of the bottom. I measured the diagonals to get the center point and used a punch to mark the center of the circle. Then I used a diamond covered hole saw that I bought to make holes in granite. First I tried a regular hole saw and it didn’t work, in fact skipped around and scratched the surface. I had the sink clamped to a few 2×4’s and plywood to hold up the center as I cut.

The copper faucet is from our Arizona house. It was replaced under warranty because it rusted inside. I cleaned out the rust and some of the interior metal broke out with it, but the rusted part was a brace that was around the copper internal pipes and I am still able to use the faucet. Moen charged a hefty shipping charge to replace the faucet, it was about $60. So I don’t feel too guilty in keeping and reusing the original faucet.

I wanted to recess the faucet into the wall and for that I found that the second oak medicine cabinet from the demolish was a nice fit. So I drilled a hole for the faucet into the bottom of the oak box and cut the drywall to fit. Just like the Schluter shower niches, I installed side pieces of wood to the interior 2 x 4’s to nail the box to and fit it into the wall.

Bar Sink

Bar Sink

I had a leak in the faucet so I took it all apart but the leak was from the hose sprayer spout so I found a rubber washer to install there and it stopped leaking. Then of course I had to put the faucet back in the oak niche. But before nightfall we had an exciting bar sink installed. I’m still working on hiding the plumbing though.

I bought a wrought iron shelf at the ReStore for $5 and i thought it would make a good cup rack. The set of shelves that holds the coffee maker, the filters and coffee grinder was $30 from Amazon. Kokopelli is from Arizona too and he beckons all to enjoy the brew. The finishing touch will be a Coffee sign to post above the shelf.

Coffee Arrow Sign

Coffee Arrow Sign

I hope that the setup is practical enough to use on a regular basis. It is a little tight but clears a lot of counter and shelf space in the kitchen.

Koffee Korner

Koffee Korner

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First Two Doors

We brought in the two small closet doors because they were in the way in the garage. Well, they were in the way in the house too. I found these doors on Craigslist about 18 months ago. They were only $20 each and are brand new hollow core wood veneer prehung doors. It so happened that both the pantry and the vacuum closet in the family room required 18″ doors and we measured and built the openings to fit these doors.
With my 20 watt finish nail gun (Christmas present last year) it was quick work to level the doors in the openings and nail them in.

Dewalt finishing nailer

Dewalt finishing nailer

I fitted a door on the vacuum closet first. I had to remove the plastic braces and bolt holding the door shut and used some spacers to insert it level into the framed space.

Vacuum closet door

Vacuum closet door

Next I tackled the pantry closet door. Unfortunately this one was framed a bit crooked and I nailed in the door without seeing that it was off level. I had to cut the nails with the multitool and then cut the jamb at the bottom to get it to fit level in the framing.

Cut off casing to fit opening

Cut off casing to fit opening

The trim should cover the gap that was needed to level the top of the door.

Uneven framing

Uneven framing

And now the pantry door is installed although it does not fit as well as the vacuum closet door, the door wants to pop out of the jamb too easily. I double checked the levelness of the frame and it is true. It appeared that the hinges were not fully set on the door so I took it off and trimmed a bit more wood from the mortises. It is better but still requires firmness in closing.

Pantry door

Pantry door

Ideally we would use door trim something like this cabinet I saw on craigslist. We like the rustic look.

Nice door trim

Nice door trim

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Fire Alarms

I finally got the fire alarms installed after having the item on multiple lists since the electrical was finished. I’m trying to check off all the requirements for our final inspection.

LEED requires that we have a carbon monoxide alarm near the entry from the garage because the garage is attached. I purchased combination fire and carbon monoxide alarms that are interconnected throughout the house so that if one sounds the others do also. There is one in the entry to fulfill this requirement.

Each bedroom needs an alarm according to code. This requirement changed a bit during our project because originally we were told we needed an alarm within 15 ft. of the bedroom entries and one in the master bedroom. So we wired one between the bedroom doors in the hallway. Now that they are required inside the bedrooms, the hall alarm loses its function. However, the alarms in the bedrooms do not have to be wired alarms. I thought I had a couple of battery powered alarms from a previous project but I could only find one. So I ordered a second one today for the other bedroom.

Although we don’t really need the alarm in the hall now, the drywallers covered that fire alarm electrical box. They also covered the box on the dining room ceiling. The electricians didn’t extend the boxes for the depth of the drywall so it was easy to cover them. I will need to find the boxes and cut open the ceiling to install the alarms.

Hall Fire alarm before drywall

Hall Fire alarm before drywall

Rear Hall Drywalled Ceiling

Rear Hall Drywalled Ceiling

Someone mentioned that the dining room alarm might be too close to the kitchen and could result in nuisance alarms from cooking. But I think having the covered boxes is actually a fire hazard so I better install the extra alarms. I ordered five alarms and I have installed four but six were wired. Luckily Ebay still has the same model and I can get another one. There is one in the family room, in the master bedroom, in between the living room and the hallway, and in the entry.

I was also worried that perhaps the electricians didn’t include the third wire to connect the fire alarms on the circuit so that they were in sync. I didn’t remember specifying that to them, but they did include the third wire in each box.

Fire alarm box with third wire

Fire alarm box with third wire

The alarms are interconnected so that when one is triggered, the others repeat the same information. The voice announcement helps recognize which alarm is going off.

Voice Fire Alarm

Voice Fire Alarm

This is a video of the fire alarm sound which echoes from one alarm to the other.
Video of the fire alarm sound

I will need a sixth alarm to finish the project. I think I had not counted on the bedroom hallway alarm when the inspector told me we needed one within fifteen feet of the bedroom doors. But for now it is not obvious that more work needs to be done!

UPDATE: The alarms were delivered and now are installed. With the before and after photos I was able to cut the ceiling quite close to the boxes. Where the cuts went beyond the alarm plate I used painters caulk to fill in the space.

Cut ceiling for alarm box

Cut ceiling for alarm box

Patched ceiling at alarm

Patched ceiling at alarm

This was the last of the electrical installs for the final inspection. Although I did get a Sense Me switch for the Haiku fan and installed that too.

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Adding a Shower Light

The family room shower is big and it was dark inside. It really needed a light but I didn’t specify one in the electrical drawings so I had to add it as a retrofit.
The light I bought came with an incandescent bulb so I also ordered a GU10 LED bulb for it. The light is really white compared to the bathroom lights.

Shower light and switch

Shower light and switch

I bought a Globe 4″ recessed chrome light rated for shower use because I could not find a brushed brass fixture. I tried to buy a 4″ antique brass trim that was supposed to fit 4″ can lights but the diameter was already 4″ so it didn’t fit my light. It was a bit too dark in tone anyway.

4 inch pot light for shower

4 inch pot light for shower

The chrome blends in with the current unpainted ceiling. I cut the hole a bit too big and it took me several tries before I realized I had to push the arms that hold the can out over the drywall from the inside of the can and snap them into place. I finally figured it out though. It looks like the can might have to be lowered for the light to be snug in the can when there is tile between the can and the light baffle and trim.

Chrome shower light

Chrome shower light

The wiring was not too difficult because we have a junction box for several circuits in the attic area so I just had to fish the wires from the switch to the junction box and from the switch to the light.

Wiring path for shower light wire

Wiring path for shower light wire

As part of this project Dave and I labeled all the circuits in the attic junction box. Now we know what is going through there. I added the wiring to the same circuit that will control the ERV and is the circuit to the Master Bath and the post where the modem is located. It is circuit 17.
It has taken months to accurately label the electric circuits. The electricians only partially labeled them and left me a scribbled list! I think this is the most detailed description of the circuits in both the inside and outside boxes.

Electric Circuits

Electric Circuits

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Radon Proof Sump Cover

When we demoed the slab floor we saw that drain pipes were connected from the outside perimeter foundation of the house into the sump tank.

Exterior pipes into sump tank

Exterior pipes into sump tank

We seldom saw water in the sump tank so we were not sure the system worked, but we left it as originally designed as we think it supplements the drainage around the foundation perimeter. But the sump cover was loosely laid and the holes in it were raggedly cut and open.

Sump cover and Boiler drainage

Sump cover and Boiler drainage

Having that hole in the utility room is not good for Radon infiltration. I knew we needed sealed radon cover but the covers made for radon were too large for the space. So I ordered a sealed cover with a few extra fittings for our existing pipes.

Structural Foam Sump Cover

Structural Foam Sump Cover

Unlike the photo, the holes in the cover I received were both sized for 2″ pipe with a third hole for the sump pump wire plug. Our sump pump had a one inch pipe but unfortunately when I was working on the system, I discovered that the pump is clogged or broken and does not pump water anymore.
In order to fit the cover over the sump hole, I had to cut the plastic corregated pipe down to the concrete level. I was reluctant to try to bolt the cover directly to the concrete because the cover was so close to the edge of the hole that the concrete would just crumble. So I got the idea of attaching a ring around the tank. I cut the ring from 1/2″ plywood.

Plywood set up to cut round hole

Plywood set up to cut round hole

I marked the hole with a nail and a piece of wood and cut both an inside and outside circle.

Inside and outside circle cut with jigsaw

Inside and outside circle cut with jigsaw

Unfortunately I had cut the inner circle exactly the size of the tank so of course it didn’t fit. Luckily I had cut it wide enough that I could take out a second circle and end up with a ring of the right size.

Second circle cut to fit

Second circle cut to fit

I used Liquid Nails again to glue the circle of wood to the concrete around the sump tank. Then I weighted it down with some boxes at hand and waited for the glue to dry.

Plywood ring glued around tank

Plywood ring glued around tank

Then I used concrete caulk to seal the inside and outside of the plywood ring to the concrete.

Tank caulked inside and outside plywood ring

Tank caulked inside and outside plywood ring

Next I had to prepare the cover. To seal up the larger openings, I ordered a sample kit of neoprene materials in 4″x 4″ size and a couple of plugs for the pipes I have running into the sump. One is the 3/4″ overflow for the boiler, and the other is the 1/2″ condensate drain. Ideally we would have a pump in the hole but I vacuumed out the water that was in the tank and noticed enough silt on the bottom that it may have clogged the sump pump which I bought for clear water only. I just put a neoprene patch between the bolted on hole gasket and the cover.

Neoprene patch over one of the 2" holes

Neoprene patch over one of the 2″ holes

I decided to try to mount a smaller gasket inside the second 2″ hole. I ordered some 3″ plastic covers and drilled a hole in one to pop in the 3/4″ rubber gasket. I used the adhesive neoprene sample to seal the plastic cover to the hole.

Adhesive neoprene

Adhesive neoprene

I used a spade hole bit to cut a hole in the cover and neoprene layer to make a hole for the gasket and then I used extra flat neoprene tape to reinforce the gasket in the hole.

Gasket in plastic lid

Gasket in plastic lid

The rubber gasket material that came with the cover was stretched around the outside
edge of the bottom of the cover to make a seal when it is screwed on. I also made an extra 1/2″ hole in the cord plug and temporarily plugged the cord hole.

The cover was ready to be fitted to the sump tank. To fit the cover, I made sure the pipes could be inserted before I screwed it down. Without the pump piping, I only had the boiler overflow and the condensate drain to fit into gaskets.

Cover screwed on with condensate and overflow pipes

Cover screwed on with condensate and overflow pipes

Until I replace or fix the pump for the tank the tank cover is finished. It is sealed so that any radon gas that gathers in the tank will not be released into the house.

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Ladder Pot Hanger Shelf

I have two of these old kiva ladders. They are popular in the Southwest and I like the look of them made out of logs and leather straps. I needed to use the 12′ ladder to help hang this ladder for the kitchen shelf and pot rack I had in mind.

Rods installed in the ceiling

Rods installed in the ceiling

I had a bit of trouble deciding how to connect the shelf to the ceiling. We had plenty of wood crosspieces in the ceiling to hang hooks for chain, but I was worried chain would sway too much under use. So I found threaded screw in rod holders and threaded rods that seemed to be more sturdy. I would have used iron pipes and iron pipe flanges but I couldn’t find a suitable angle piece to mount them from the pitched ceiling.

Twelve foot ladder to help hang shelf

Twelve foot ladder to help hang shelf

I found eye bolts that would hold the iron pipes under each side of the ladder. I used rod connectors to add the eye bolts to the ends of the rods.  I cut the taller rods to make them even with the shorter ones. I had figured I wanted the ladder about 65 inches from the ceiling at the tall end and 45″ at the shorter end. With eye bolts all one size I ended up with an uneven ladder. So I exchanged two of the 8″ bolts for two 4″ and the sides were even.

First Hanging

First Hanging

I had the pipes to connect the front and the back pipes. So I threaded them together to create a large rectangle to hold up the ladder and its shelf.

Added side bars

Added side bars

With the side bars I supposed it would be the right height to hang pots from.

Ladder pot hanging shelf

Ladder pot hanging shelf

When the metal S hooks arrived to hang the pots, the cast iron pans hung down too low and Dave hit his head on them. I discovered I could use the space between the pipe and the ladder as a rack though. So I used the hooks to hang some utensils that are too large for a drawer.

Pot rack and hooks

Pot rack and hooks

I have several misplaced holes in the ceiling that have to be caulked and painted but the pot rack is finished.

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A Fall List?

It’s a little late in the fall to post a new list of tasks for the house, but I have been working from a list and I think I should share it. First, a review of the summer list. I believe more items were crossed off this list than many of the previous lists! Good progress for summer and beginning of fall.

1. Move more furniture back into the house to clear up working space in the garage.
Before the drywall the furniture in the family room was sitting on the foam area that needs to be prepped for tile.
Should I move it back and then have to move it to do the tiling or should I do the tiling first? I will have to move the furniture out of the way to finish the tiling on the perimeter of the house.
2. Set up master bath.
This requires finishing the wall paint job, I did clean the medicine cabinet but I might need to just remove it and reset it.

3. Paint master bath brick wall.
4. Remove and reset medicine cabinet in master bath.
5. Lay tile in master bath.
6. Hook up tub drain and faucet.
7. Find ceiling fan and install in master bedroom.
8. Install header over window in master bedroom. Seal with polyiso and siga membrane.
9. Bring the doors and trim wood into the garage for storage.
10. Install more light fixtures.
11. Finish family room outlets.
12. Arrange furniture in family room.
13. Install family room bathroom sink and new faucet.
14. Install safety bar by guest toilet for Mom.
15. Put rug in second bedroom and place futon against wall with pillows. Changed this plan when we needed the space to store the dressers.
16. Reinstall trombe wall glass and solar panel.
17. Hook up mini split air conditioner. Cannot hold pressure in mini split lines. They must have a leak.  Have to redo the flare joints and try again.

The list I have been working on is smaller in scope than the summer list. With house tours, presentations, and the solar conference I have been very busy.

  1. Electrical covers in family room closet and others
  2. Add track lights.
  3. Clean out garage and rearrange tools for winter.
  4. Install ERV vent covers and returns.
  5. Vacuum ERV vent shaft
  6. Clean beam
  7. Fix track lights in living room, family room, dining room
  8. Move furniture etc into house
  9. Unpack boxes moved into house.
  10. Install fire alarms
  11. Put Kerdi in master bath shower. Rear wall 9ft.
  12. Hang storage box/shelves over tub
  13. Grout tile over tub
  14. Install tile on perimeter of house floor
  15. Fix kitchen sink drain
  16. Install new spa pump and motor.
  17. Close hot tub siding
  18. Tile entry to family room bath
  19. Install coffee bar sink and faucet in dining room
  20. Hang pot ladder in kitchen
  21. Install shower light in family bathroom shower
  22. Install niche in family bathroom shower
  23. Install bench in family bathroom shower
  24. Cut granite for shower ledge/bench
  25. Install radon cover on sump tank

The summer list came closest to getting completed perhaps because I have a better idea of how much I can get done. Hope to also make that kind of progress on this new list. Since I have been working on it several of these tasks have been completed already.

I’m also considering what needs to be done to get the building permit finished. I believe that is only the final electrical, plumbing, structural, and HVAC. I think the HVAC and structural, are completed. The fire alarms need to be installed for the electrical and I need to finish the showers and the sink in the dining room to finish the plumbing. So those should be the priority.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Planning | Comments Off on A Fall List?

Unpacking!

Being surrounded by boxes is no fun. So I started unpacking right away. All this finery that was in storage for so many years, and we are just now seeing it back in the house! As I unpacked the boxes, they began to pile up. So Dave emptied them of packing material and flattened them and took them to be recycled.

Boxes Being Emptied

Boxes Being Emptied

I took over a bookcase with the china and other breakable treasures. The china was from my mom and I only had it a few years before we moved. But after I brought it back from my mom’s house I got rid of the chipped pieces (it was shipped and some pieces got damaged) and replaced them from online sources. So the set is complete for twelve. I’m excited to use it this Thanksgiving.

Bookcase to china cupboard

Bookcase to china cupboard

I found a place for most of the contents of the boxes, but a few small items don’t have homes yet. I sorted them on the half wall to the kitchen.

Small decorations and treasures

Small decorations and treasures

My granddaughter was visiting and had fun looking over the treasures. Some of them she borrowed to take home and some became hers! And after the first load of boxes, there were plenty for a second load.

Empty boxes

Empty boxes

I put together all of the antique kitchenware that had been in different places at our other houses. It is quite a collection.

Antique Kitchenware Collection

Antique Kitchenware Collection

Happily the boxes that were brought in are all unpacked or they are going back out to the garage. Some of the boxes had my mom’s old photos and some of her every day dishes that I don’t have room to display. I did not bring in our photos in frames to hang on the walls or display around the house.

The many boxes of books that I saved from our library are still in the garage too. I did a major weeding of our books before we moved. Now that I used the bookcases for other things though, I’ll eventually have to find other shelves for the books. Dave will have his office in our current bedroom and there will be bookshelves. We have bookshelves in the guest room and maybe if I run out of space I’ll have to weed out some books again.

Posted in Moving | Comments Off on Unpacking!

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 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.

Posted in Solar | Comments Off on Solar Inspiration

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

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Green Building Interests, Solar | Comments Off on Solar Decathlon!

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!

Posted in Green Building Interests, LEED Project | Comments Off on Poster Presentation at the National Solar Energy Conference in Denver

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!

Posted in Green Building Interests, LEED Project, Solar | 1 Comment

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 Green Building Interests, LEED Project | 1 Comment