Central Vac Install

The new central vac was installed today and I spent all day on an incorrect piping system that I had to change based on this diagram.

Vac Line

Vac Line

The very first pipe I put in was a three way Y directed vertically at the vac input. That meant half of the piping at that point would be subject to dirt falling into it due to gravity. The supply pipe takeoffs must be horizontal. So I had a heck of a time re-figuring the piping to fit.

Three way Y fitting

Three way Y fitting

I took out the Y fitting and replaced it with a wide 90 degree so I had to attach all three of the lines to that. The main truck line is a vertical going up to the garage attic and the ventilation chase, the airlock entry pipe joins the mail line through a bend in the pipe and then the garage outlet is a 90 degree to the back wall.

New Piping

New Piping

This new piping arrangement makes the dirt entry either from a horizontal pipe or from above. That was the rule–no vertical dirt entry tees.

I think the machine looks pretty impressive installed in the garage. The top pipe attached to the muffler is the exhaust.

Central Vac Installed

Central Vac Installed

Then I slept on it and decided that the 45 degree angle would also allow dirt to fall backwards into the pipe so I changed it again to all horizontal pipes where the dirt enters.

New piping with 90 degree angles

New piping with 90 degree angles

But I had to use a short 90 degree elbow instead of a sweep to fit the pipe in the existing space. So it still breaks a rule. I sent the photos to the company to ask which one would be the best. I’m hoping I hear back from them after the weekend.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Central Vacuum | Leave a comment

Electrician’s Discussion

We met today to discuss the changes needed in the electrical work. The inspector gave us a 2 hour time frame and came about 10 minutes after it was over. So the project manager and I had a nice chat in the living room for two hours while waiting.
While we were waiting I went over what I understood the inspector to say at the inspection and I was mostly on target with a few mistakes and omissions. Here is the list as I remember it after listening again.

1. Some studs have holes for the wire that are closer than 1 1/4″ to the edge of the stud and these need metal plates. (I counted about 16 places.)
2. Where wires are within a 1 1/2″ chase they need to be stapled 1 1/4″ away from the studs. Using a different kind of staple will take care of that. (2 places in master bedroom/bath)
3. Where wires are exposed in the ceiling they will have to be changed to steel armored and must run 1 1/4″ away from the furring strips. Screwing through to the stud with a different kind of clip will take care of that. Boxes will have to be changed to accept the metal clamp connectors for these wires. (There are four ceiling fixtures and one outlet supply line that need to be replaced.)
4. The wood boiler supply wire will need to be placed in armored cable.
5. The wire mold stubs will need wiring ends. Home Depot does not carry these so I ordered two from Amazon.
6. In the ceiling chase, the wires that touch the old gas pipe need to be separated from the pipe with ties and insulation.

Otherwise the inspector said that they were a good company and it looked like a good job. Just a few things that they don’t run into every day that can’t pass. So with some electrical talk going on about NM wire and P Clips or whatever, they were able to come to a decision.

I really didn’t want the guy who had argued with me back so I asked the project manager if I could get the work done by the guy who came just one day whose work looked nice and neat. He said he would send the same helper with him. I may have to wait longer for this team but he will call me tomorrow to let me know what their schedule will be.

I need to be ready for drywall and get that put in soon as the electrical inspector can’t do the final inspection until it is drywalled and painted. So I better get moving on the membrane and the ventilation chase so it is ready for drywall.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical | Leave a comment

Central Vac Arrives

I’m unaccountably excited about the new Central Vac. I don’t like cleaning at all. It seems like such a relentless and thankless task and I’m wired to want to do something more permanent I guess. But installing the vacuum is exciting. Something I knew nothing about and now have some idea how and why to use this fancy machine.

I bought the scratch and dent model so looked it over carefully for any damage. Not that I wasn’t expecting a dent here or there or some scratched paint, but whatever the imperfection I really couldn’t tell. The machine is impressive too.

Aspria Central Vac Front

Aspria Central Vac Front

Aspria Vac Back

Aspria Vac Back

It is kind of beautiful in a robotic sort of way and all the attachments and installation bits are intriguing. I’m really looking forward to the install. If we can just get past the electrical inspection!

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Appliances, Central Vacuum | Leave a comment

Failed Miserably!

We failed the electrical inspection! Sad to say the inspector was not happy with so many things he requested a meeting with the contractor that will happen in a couple of days. So I had a feeling about those workers! With such a particular job it would have been good to have the best they have. So we will revisit the installation.

None of this wiring in the ceiling will pass. It must be back 1 1/4″ from the surface or in conduit.

Wiring in Ceiling

Wiring in Ceiling

Several of the mid wall holes are not centered so need metal plates. The wiring in my 2 x 2 wall is stapled too close to the surface too.

The small lengths of wire mold that were installed for the track lights do not have end caps that the inspector said they need.

The corner where the fireplace will be enclosed is not built so the inspector can’t pass it for inspection as it is. Again the wire would need to be in conduit.

I guess I am not actually upset about this delay. We have taken this long to complete the project for sure. It is just that I think the workers didn’t care about this project and did sloppy work wanting to argue with me instead of find solutions. That was the hard part for me. I care so much about it that having someone else come in and assume the system is wrong because they have not seen it before is depressing.

I think I’ll request a different crew for the fixes. One last day a new guy showed up and wired the wood boiler electrical box and the work just appears so much neater. Maybe I’ll ask for him.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical | Leave a comment

A Few More Electrical Details

The electricians asked if I would cover the wiring in the attic to protect it from the drywall installation. I said sure. They also requested that I provide a chase in the kitchen corner and I thought I had that solved but they proceeded to add wiring without moving it down into my chase so I had to redo that plan. Finally we needed the framing for the stone pillar so that the electrical box can be roughed in there.

I got to work on covering the wiring in the attic. I knew I would put a plywood box over the wiring and that I would frame it with 1 x 2’s and 1 x 4’s. It was relatively easy, once I moved some of the wiring down to make room for the frame. I also put the membrane up on the wall first and screwed the frame to that below the outside wall. You would think they would have thought ahead about the box so that the wires would be loose enough to stretch to the adjoining walls and also lay them flat against the beam but I had to pull several staples to reorganize wires to reach the wall or to lay flat under the cover and staple them in a row instead of willy nilly.

Wiring Cover in Attic

Wiring Cover in Attic

I was kind of upset that the wiring for the kitchen light switch was installed above the cove molding chase that I showed the electricians after they wired the half wall for outlets. I had to redesign the solution for that corner and it made me mad that they completely forgot or paid no attention to that solution by not stretching the new wires to the floor where the cove was going to be installed. They just laid them across the corner about mid wall.

Once I figured out how to redesign the corner I was less upset as the new design provides some stability to the half wall. I just installed two triangle areas at the floor and the top of the wall to be covered in wall board. I may have to cut out a slice to fit the corner of the cabinet back against the wall though. This would not have been an issue with the first design.

Corner for wiring chase

Corner for wiring chase

Figuring out these angles took me awhile as I wanted the triangles as close to the wall ends as possible.

Corner triangle at floor level

Corner triangle at floor level

While I was working on these two projects, Dave was building the wood framing for the pillar. I am very happy with the result. It will look great covered in the faux stone siding that I bought on Craigslist. And there is plenty of room for an outlet on the post.

Living Room Pillar

Living Room Pillar

With these projects finished I believe we are ready for the rough electrical inspection tomorrow.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical | Leave a comment

Central Vacuum System

LEED allows one point for installing a central vacuum system to improve air quality within the home. Central vacuums must have HEPA filtration and exhaust to the outdoors to meet this requirement. There are at least three different types or categories of central vacuum. Many do not need to be exhausted but some allow for exhaust if desired. Many have a HEPA filtration system and some do not but a HEPA filter can be attached at additional expense. Cyclonic vacuums require exhaust and they are more expensive. Bagless models are popular but these makes emptying the dirt more difficult. Since the vacuum chamber only needs to be emptied about two or three times a year, I decided the cost of bags is negligible.

There are several brands of central vacuum, although I read that several are made by the same manufacturers just branded differently.

Central Vacuum Brands

Central Vacuum Brands

Another list of brands at ThinkVacuums.com

More Central Vac Brands

More Central Vac Brands

This site has a pretty good explanation of the various types of vacuums; bagged, filtered, and cyclonic.

These are the diagrams used to explain the differences.

Bagged Vacuums

Bagged Vacuums

These have a motor and a catch chamber lined with a bag.

Filtered or Inverted bag vacuums

Filtered or Inverted bag Vacuums

These have the motor and a filter, either a washable or self cleaning or disposable cartridge, that keeps the debris from flowing into the motor. A Hybrid filtered system can be used with a bag or without.

Cyclonic Vacuums

Cyclonic Vacuums

This seems to be the controversial design. The air movement separates the debris from the air and protects the motor as in this diagram. These must be vented to the outdoors.

Vacuums can also have more than one motor and the motor can be separate from the containment tub. They can be made of metal or plastic and have varying warranties for motors, parts and cases.

Comparison points include the type, the physical size of the units, the “air watts” or total suck rating, the air lift, which is another measure of suck, and the CFM’s cubic feet per minute of air for the fans. Motors can be one, two or three stage which is basically the number of blades on the fans. A larger diameter motor is considered better and the units I studied had motors between 5.7 and 8.2 inches. Many of the components are made in China although assembled in the US or Canada. Ametek-Lamb motors are made in Ohio.

The number of square feet the vacuum will cover is an unreliable measure and at any rate the advice I read was to double your house square footage and then get a larger rated unit. I had to check if the filtration type was HEPA, and finally sound ratings in decibels will help determine which unit would be the quietest to use.

I had to put several system units on a spreadsheet comparing these qualities. Finding all the data on each required lots of searching.  Of course I wanted the highest combination of features for the most reasonable price. I found it at an independent brand not mentioned above. Aspria Systems has several models of central vacuums and the Duragetec had the best combination of features for the price on my spreadsheet so I ordered the Hybrid model as a scratch and dent to save another $100. This vacuum includes Hepa filtration and can be vented which works for the LEED requirements.

Aspria Duragetec Hybrid CPU8429HQ

Aspria Duragetec Hybrid CPU8429HQ

Aspria Systems (formerly VacDepot) also had the least expensive prices on attachments and supplies. I had already ordered pipe and a connection kit but I added some electrified inlets and two hose systems with attachments for different parts of the house.

Now I am researching the best design for piping and locations for the inlets. I’ll have low pile oriental carpets in the family room and living room so I want electrified inlets in those locations. I’m planning a vac pan (a device that allows sweeping dirt into the inlet)  in the kitchen and a hybrid inlet/pan in the entry. I’m hoping I can fit an inlet over the crawlspace too although the path could be tricky and it is the furthest away from the unit. I don’t want to do all that work only to have poor suction in that part of the house. I can use a long hose instead. The pipe will go in the ventilation duct chase and I think most of the inlets will be inside closets where I will store the attachments. I’m looking forward to this convenience in the house, something I never would have installed if not suggested by LEED.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Central Vacuum | Leave a comment

Service Chase Rules

We chose to create an expensive air barrier inside the house with Siga Majpell, a breathable membrane that forms an air barrier while allowing for the drying of the interior of the wall or ceiling should they get moisture inside. To protect the membrane from most penetrations and also to allow for a nailer for the drywall that is firmly screwed through the 1 1/2 inch polyiso insulation layer on the ceiling, we installed 1×4 battens similar to these pictured on a Green Building Advisor posting. These battens also create a service chase for wiring in the ceiling.

Ceiling Service Chase

Sample Ceiling Service Chase

I think because I allowed the garage wall to be wired internally the principle of no penetrations did not set well with the workers. The electrician commented several times that he wished all the insulation and membrane were not “in the way”.

Garage Wall Wiring

Garage wall used for wiring before membrane is installed.

For a narrow outside wall near the master bedroom outside door we had to install an outlet to meet code. That was also the most convenient spot for the outside light switch. I chose to fur out the wall to a 1 x 2 depth to avoid penetrating the membrane. The project manager was OK with that plan to install the outlet and switch in front of the membrane.
Imagine my surprise when the electricians cut the membrane and pulled out insulation to install the boxes in that wall!

Cut Membrane

Cut Membrane

When I told the electrician that the membrane could not be cut, he argued that the size of the box was a certain cubic inches and had to be used. I said no, the membrane could not be cut. It was a difficult thing to have the argument and it made both of us upset. But I said we could ask the project manager. He was called and he came over to investigate and told them they could use a different kind of box in that wall. So they took out their boxes and I repaired the membrane overnight.

Membrane Repaired

Insulation replaced and membrane repaired

I also sealed the outside light wire through the membrane again, this time from the edge.

Outside Light Penetration

Outside Light Penetration

The electricians were then able to use a different kind of box to stay within the service chase. It was not pleasant but isn’t the customer always right?

New Boxes

New Boxes

I found that in the article about the service chase another builder was frustrated by the trade workers. His answer was to forget using a service chase in the future.

I spent the majority of the building phase biting my nails and micromanaging all the trades to ensure they didn’t compromise the layer. Now it’s time to constantly annoy the occupants… for years and years.

I disagree that as occupants we will continually be annoyed by the service chase though. Instead we will enjoy the benefits of a well sealed home with very few service penetrations.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Air Intrusion/Thermal Envelope, Electrical | Leave a comment

Electricians Are Here

We are not going to miss the wiring hanging over our heads in the kitchen.

Temporary Wiring in Kitchen

Temporary Wiring in Kitchen

Now we have a junction box for the old wiring and new wires run to meet code for outlets and appliance power.

Electricians installing Junction Box

Electricians installing Junction Box

The first task they had was running down all the existing circuits.

Circuit List

Circuit List

They found some that we were not able to find!
Then they began installing the new outlet boxes. These were the very first ones.

Outlet Box over Kitchen Counter

Outlet Box over Kitchen Counter

Next they ran the new wire in the walls.

Wiring from Junction Box to Kitchen and Utility Room

Wiring from Junction Box to Kitchen and Utility Room

They are also running any existing wire in good shape to this junction box. Some existing wires extend all the way to the master bedroom where they will junction them for that side of the remodel.

Existing wires to Junction Box

Existing wires to Junction Box

I compromised on my NO ELECTRICAL PENETRATION IN OUTSIDE WALL policy and the wiring on the garage side is in the wall. That is not as bad as an outside wall since it is protected by the garage which is insulated. I will have to seal around the boxes and inside them with the vapor barrier and caulk.

Garage Wall Wiring

Garage Wall Wiring

The electricians expect to be working all next week which would make it a 10 day job. I’m looking forward to having this step completed and inspected and signed off.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical | Comments Off on Electricians Are Here

Coolness

I had to give up on the chiller again. I had repiped through the heat exchanger with a single path for the return water to pick up the coolness but the chiller could not reduce the temperature in the floor piping. It could do a fine job on its own loop without pumping the floor water through the heat exchanger, but the temperature of the water in both loops went up to about 73 when cooling the floor. That temperature did nothing to cool the house during the day.

Heat Exchanger Piping for Chiller

Heat Exchanger Piping for Chiller

Chiller setting without floor cooling

Chiller setting without floor cooling

So when my cousin was visiting I opened the windows at night and let the fans blow in cool Colorado night air. But during the day that was not enough.

Fan in Window

Fan in Window

The electrician asked me to clear out the utility room to make it easier for them to run wires there. So I took out the storage tank for the wood boiler and disassembled the chiller and removed it too. Before my brother and sister-in-law arrived I also installed the evaporative cooler in a front door. This is exactly the spot we had it installed in previous summers but we had a window then.

Evap Cooler installed in Door

Evap Cooler installed in Door

Evap Cooler Outside

Evap Cooler Outside

No more running around opening and closing windows each morning and evening! We open the windows opposite of the cooler and leave them open. The cooler keeps the indoors about mid 70’s even on the hottest days. I do turn it to low at night. One morning we woke up and it was 65 degrees in the house. It needs to run on the high speed during the day though.
These things works so well. Too bad I have to put a hole in the house if I want to install one that we don’t remove in the winter.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Radiant Cooling, Ventilation | Comments Off on Coolness

RecoupAerator!

Between visits I contacted Todd at AE Building Systems to finally purchase the Energy Recover Ventilator. I had long ago planned to install this device to meet the LEED requirements for air exchange in our well sealed house. Todd had one in stock and I drove over to pick it up that day. The Ultimate Air RecouperAerator is considered the most energy efficient ERV built in the US.  I bought the 200DX model which is the larger of two that they now manufacture.

Since we are expecting the electricians next week I wanted to be sure they were aware of the size and electrical requirements for the ventilator and for the radon fan in the small attic. They will be installing a junction box in the same little attic area so it will help to see what else goes up there.

Ultimate Air RecoupAerator

Ultimate Air RecoupAerator Unpacked

ERV Side without Cover

ERV Side without Cover

I took advantage of my brother’s visit to have him help lift the 72 pound unit up into the attic area. Two of the rubber feet fell off as we jockeyed it around but they do slip back on.

John with Ventilator in Attic

John placing the ventilator in attic

I have the ducting plan and will build a chase for the ductwork to distribute the fresh air and exhaust the stale air. This must be done before the drywall is installed.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Ventilation | Comments Off on RecoupAerator!