New RV Cross Country

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

Driving in snow
Driving in snow

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

Arrival photo
Arrival photo
An hour later
An hour later

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

Before replacement
Before replacement
New windows installed
New windows installed

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

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

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

Goodbye Indiana Home
Goodbye Indiana Home

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

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All Fun and No Work

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

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

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

Trolling motor

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

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

Learning to steer the boat
Learning to steer the boat
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Lithium Battery Test

I was told that the advertised amp hours on a lithium battery was a bit of a stretch and that the batteries would not deliver what they were rated for. So this called for a test. My son found a testing strategy and I employed it on the batteries in the new trolling motor battery box.

Battery Test Setup
Battery Test Setup

I used a 75 watt light bulb plugged into a small inverter with a clock radio plugged into the same circuit. The batteries started at 13.4 amps and ran the inverter until they registered 10.9 amps. That took about 19 hours. I tested the draw at about 2.5 amps.

The three lithium batteries in the box are rated at 20 amp hours each. If I was drawing a full 60 amp hours at 2.5 amps it should have taken about 24 hours of power. I must assume that some power is lost in the wiring too. So I got 47.5 amp hours from my battery box. That is about 80% of the rated power. I need to recharge the batteries to completely full and test again. It appears they would still run the 40 amp trolling motor for at least an hour out on the water.

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Family Fun in Florida

My son got an unexpected vacation from work and the family really wanted to visit the beach. I floated the idea of staying at a Fort Myers beach so we could visit my brother and my cousin and my aunt who is now the only living sibling of my mother. We had a fantastic time even though we were sad to learn our other set of in-laws could not join us due to a sick pet. We had rented a 3 bedroom cottage using airbnb and rented a tricycle for the week and a pontoon boat for one day. The weather was perfect all week too.

Sunny skies
Sunny skies

We spent many mornings and afternoons at the beach. For a spring break week it was not crowded down by the mid-island housing area. We practically had the beach to ourselves!

Sand play
Sand play

My brother and family joined us for the boating day and it was so much fun to visit and chug over to the Lover’s Key beach together. Our street shared a boat dock so we were able to stop there to have a bbq.

Boat dock
Boat dock
Driving the boat
Driving the boat

The family took some side trips too. We stopped at the Ding Darling nature preserve on Sanibel Island and learned about three types of Mangroves that establish new islands in the bays. We also took in a little local wildlife admiring several small lizards there. My granddaughter was fascinated with the pink flamingos so we stopped at the Everglades Wonder Garden in Bonita Springs on our last day. They were magnificent and the alligators were fun to feed too.

Lizard at Sanibel
Lizard at Sanibel
Flamingos
Flamingos

Despite all the fun around us the kids were able to enjoy the simple pleasure of a packing box.

Fun with a box
Fun with a box

We also connected with a friend from long ago and she was the same in so many ways. Time does not really change us! This family time was precious and lovely. We returned exhausted though. After a day of rest we were ready to get back to our projects.

Family
Family
Waiting to board the plane
Waiting to board the plane
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Modifying the RV for Travel

Over the last two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time moving the camping equipment from the old RV to the new one and installing storage upgrades to fit the family. It has been so much fun to set up a new RV! The first project was installing a Closet Maid double shelf under the kitchen cabinet. The new RV has no counter space to keep these appliances so I installed this. It barely clears the faucet but its securely screwed into the closet wall, the back and later I bolted the top to the cabinet. The RV moves a lot so it needs to be secure. Bungie cords attached to hooks in the back and pieces of styrofoam hold the appliances in place. The paper towel holder is a special type that doesn’t unroll during travel.

Cabinet over sink
Cabinet over sink

The new RV has quite a bit more wall space than the old one. So I thought of ways to use it for storage. When we walk in the door this line of hooks will hold backpacks and jackets. We also needed a place to store shoes. Hiking and beach wear can be messy. Its best to keep shoes at the door. I needed to find something narrower than a standard shoe rack and these file folder systems fit perfectly. The baskets can even be labeled. There are two sets, each screwed at the top and bottom to keep them from moving. Notice there are two file folders in the open shelf above the door. This is a good spot for items needed when leaving the RV like keys, umbrellas, maps, etc. The baskets will keep items in place. Not in the photo but the broom is now clamped next to the fire extinguisher and handy for cleaning the all vinyl floor which is so much nicer than the carpet in the old RV.

Hooks for coats and backpacks
Hooks for coats and backpacks
File rack shoe holder
File rack shoe holder

My grandson noticed right away that there were no cup holders in the new RV. I said don’t worry I already ordered them. The table doesn’t have built in holders so I put two there and one at each end of the couch.

Foldable cup holders
Foldable cup holders

I decided to keep our practically brand new 12/120 volt RV TV. Hookups for another TV were already located in the bedroom area. I just needed to buy a locking articulating arm as a mount for it. I also bought several of the narrow file folder baskets and added one here for the remote and extra movie storage.

Locking TV mount and file folder basket
Locking TV mount and file folder basket

In the overhead bed there are a few changes too. Normally if I sleep up there I charge my phone so I added a USB outlet light combination in place of the light up there.

Wiring a new USB Charging overhead light
Wiring a new USB Charging overhead light
New light installed
New light installed

I was also worried about sleeping feet and the TV on the wall so I placed a corner cabinet sideways against the wall. I had to trim the last two boards to fit under the TV. I’m less sure about this mod. It should help to keep the mattress topper from shifting under the TV but the spaces are a bit small for storage needs. Maybe it’s a mini book shelf.

Corner cabinet to protect TV
Corner cabinet to protect TV
Mattress topper in overhead
Mattress topper in overhead

It was interesting that the former owners did not need many of the daily accessories of life. They must have traveled much lighter than we do. There was a lack of usable cabinet space. I added storage to several areas. In the bathroom cabinet I used clear acrylic shelves with small lips to hold in the items during travel.

Bathroom cabinet with tall shelves
Bathroom cabinet with tall shelves
Bathroom cabinet with extra shelves
Bathroom cabinet with extra shelves

In the bathroom a wine bottle holder provides storage for extra towels. It is hung over the shower wall but also velcroed to the glass so it holds steady when we are under way. One of the file folders is under the mirror for our toiletry boxes. Unfortunately I hit the mirror when I was driving the screw holder into the wall and cracked it. Later I might replace it with a mirrored medicine cabinet.

Wine rack for bathroom towels and toiletry basket
Wine rack for bathroom towels and toiletry basket

I converted the shirt cabinet next to the refrigerator into a pantry with a roll out shelving unit that will work well for dry food containers and canned items. The system is mounted on double 2 x 4’s screwed into the bottom of the cabinet because the lip was so deep. But there is still room on the side for long skinny items like cookie sheets or a cutting board.

Narrow cabinet pull out installed
Narrow cabinet pull out installed
Narrow cabinet pull out
Narrow cabinet pull out

There was no towel bar in the bathroom or kitchen. I found out that the bathroom wall space was limited by the shower door needing enough clearance to open, but an 18″ bar fit there. The kitchen bar mounted inside the under sink cabinet door is similar to the one in the old RV.

Bathroom towel bar
Bathroom towel bar
Kitchen towel bar
Kitchen towel bar

I had to find a new spot for the hat storage ribbon from the old RV where the closet door is longer and wider than this one. So I moved it to the bathroom door. I just velcroed the bottom since its not long enough for the full door. These hooks can store flip flops too if necessary. Some sturdy bamboo corner shelves were added to the kitchen cabinet. I moved the tension rods from the old RV.

Hat storage from old RV
Hat storage from old RV
Extra kitchen cabinet shelves
Extra kitchen cabinet shelves

In the kitchen we like to cook in a 12 volt crock pot while we are traveling so I wired an extra 12 volt/usb outlet under the kitchen cabinet pig tailing off the light over the sink.

Wiring for 12 volt/USB outlet
Wiring for 12 volt/USB outlet
New kitchen 12 volt/USB outlet
New kitchen 12 volt/USB outlet

The new stove top did not have a cover. I think the original cover was glass according to the specifications and it probably got broken so I ordered a metal one like in the old RV. I looks great and gives us some working space when the stove is not being used. Notice the new cup holder next to the couch too. The sinks in the new RV are equal in size while our old sinks had one larger and one smaller. The old dish drainer fit the larger one so I hunted and hunted for a stainless steel dish drainer to fit the new sink. This is a partial sink dish drainer with a collapsible colander underneath for extra cups etc.

New stove cover
New stove cover
Cover opened
Cover opened
Sink dish drainer
Sink dish drainer

I have several more projects I’d like to finish before we take it on its maiden voyage. I think we will drive to Indiana later in April. Sadly we may have sold the farm there and we need to meet with the potential buyers.

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New RV; New Projects

Before we moved to Colorado and started remodeling the new house for LEED certification we bought a 2002 Itasca 22E Class C recreational vehicle. We acquired it and the very end of 2009 as it’s third owner. We had so many wonderful trips in the old RV, visiting parks, getting away to hike on weekends when we were still employed, and taking grandkids around the country.

But now that we have three growing grandkids and two older ones who visit occasionally it seemed to be time to replace our older unit with a newer one. I did plenty of research on various models and found that it is unusual to have both a couch and dinette in a shorter RV model. This layout has served us well allowing for several passengers and sleeping spaces. In fact the Itasca model we own has a different layout from the new one of the same size.

I also wanted the Winnebago quality roof since they use domed fiberglass instead of TPO or rubber. Some other brands use fiberglass and some Winnie’s now come without the fiberglass roof but the model I narrowed my search to was the Minnie Winnie or Itasca 25B with the fiberglass roof. This unit has a couch and dinette and overhead bed just like our Itasca. But it also has a corner bed in the back. It adds 4 feet to the length at 26’2″ instead of 22′. That seemed like a good trade off for more sleeping and storage space for the family. We were absolutely not interested in slide outs that add space while parked. They can be difficult to maintain and are heavy so they limit passengers and gear. This unit has the smaller, E350 chassis just like our old RV but it is not hesitant on the road as the Ford engine is legendary for its longevity and performance.

2003 Itasca Floorplan
2003 Itasca Floorplan
2018 Minnie Winnie Floorplan
2018 Minnie Winnie Floorplan

I had half heartedly looked at Craigslist and RV Trader for this model thinking the purchase was in some distant future but sometimes there is serendipity in life. I happened to look at RV Trader and a seller in Colorado Springs about 90 minutes from here had posted for sale just one day before, a newer model for a price we were willing to consider.

The next day I drove down to look at the rig and it was immaculate inside. A couple had it for a little over two years and although it had over 50,000 miles on it and our old Itasca only has 58,000, I was sure it was what we were looking for. We are the RV’s third owner. I found out from its documentation that it was manufactured for Apollo, an RV rental agency which is the reason it has more than the average number of miles for its age. The owners bought it with almost 35,000 miles which is a common sale mileage for some rental equipment dealers.

I could have held out for a few more options. We are tired of the time it takes to level when we camp so thought our next RV would have auto leveling and this one does not. I was actually hoping for a protected dump valve not one that is just under the sidewall and this model doesn’t have that. Not the kind of thing you learn from a brochure. A full fiberglass cap is an option that this one does not have and they are nice for reducing exterior caulking maintenance.

I offered to buy it on the spot and they asked for a little more so it was sold. The couple was very accommodating and in order to transfer title at our bank with the check in hand they drove it all the way up here for us. I’m absolutely thrilled to have the newer bigger RV. As soon as I organize the storage for all the equipment from the older RV I will clean it up and put it on Craigslist. I’m guessing it will sell quickly.

Winnie 25b Exterior
2018 Winnie 25b Exterior

The new RV will probably have a few things that don’t work correctly and there are several useful modifications that I will want to make but the basic unit is exactly what we need for our growing family; a wonderful distraction.

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Moving Up to LEED 4.1

LEED for Home v4 logo

All of the documentation on our LEED project so far has been to fulfill the requirements of LEED for Homes 2009. Although I have another year to qualify under the old system, I’ve contacted Energy Logic to finish up the project this year and Aaron, my new rater has recommended we work through 4.1 instead. Some of the qualifications have changed but several stay the same.

It is overwhelming in some sense to move to a new certification because all of my documentation is aligned to the old standards. Some credits have changed radically and some of the items on the old checklist have been dropped completely.

I’m working on a new documentation page to align this project to the newest LEED requirements and point system. I found a great course at the Green Home Institute website. The introductory course is free just click on the modules about mid page.

There is a resource page that is helpful for USGBC publications that can also help. I’m still reading the USGBC documents about the newer versions. Luckily the first part of the checklist is very similar to the old list; starting with the Design Charrette. The category name has changed from Integrated Project Design to Integrative Process. The charrette is a full day program to combine the talents and ideas of at least three building professionals. The requirement for a LEED AP was moved to a different category.

Training of the installation contractor has been moved to this category and I hope my training will be sufficient to gain this point. I know I had to watch the contractors I hired to maintain thermal envelope integrity as they were mostly unable to fathom why the interior air barrier could not be cut. I also trained with HVAC professionals for the installation of our Challenger Combo boiler/instant hot water heater.

So for the Integrative Process category it looks like we earn 2 points out of 3 in the new version. Solar orientation, durability management, and innovation and regional priorities have all been moved to other sections. The points compilation has changed drastically. I believe it is supposed to be a more simplified system. There were 11 points available when this was a larger category.

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Rolling Case for Trolling Motor

The new trolling motor needed a case so that it could be stored and transported more easily. I thought I might use the Sailrite sewing machine and some vinyl to make one but first I thought I should look for a suitable example. I found a very expensive bag and it reminded me of a guitar case so I started shopping for instrument cases but they were not wide enough. Then I looked for long duffle bags, preferably with wheels. One of the long duffle bags with wheels was for a pop up shelter.

Commercial motor storage bag
Commercial motor storage bag

Unfortunately a less expensive pop up shelter we had was ruined in a wind storm. But I had not discarded the case! So I just happened to have a tall wheeled duffle bag on hand. First I removed the sewn in labels from the original pop up shelter. A few of the ragged threads are visible before I picked them out.

Old pop up duffle for trolling motor
Old pop up duffle for trolling motor

I was able to open the top seam so that the handle of the motor could protrude and I set the bottom of the motor into a cut piece of styrofoam from the shipping box fitted to the bottom fin.

Then I used the Sailrite machine to sew a small bag for the propeller and attached it to the duffle bag. I had a scrap piece of sunbrella fabric and I doubled it to provide a little padding. I also hemmed the open seam at the motor handle.

Attached bag for propeller
Attached bag for propeller

The finished bag has carry handles and wheels and will be great for moving the motor.

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Cold Weather Call for Heat but No Boiler Firing

I realized when the temperature got down to zero and hung around in the low single digits that the heating zone in the rear of the house was acting strangely. The thermostat would call for heat but the boiler would not fire. If the boiler had fired for a different zone when it was satisfied and up to temp the boiler would not stay fired to heat the rear zone.
The first troubleshooting recommendation I found was to be sure the zone valve end switch was being depressed. This is what makes the boiler fire. If the two end switch wires are “jumped” i.e. connected together then the end switch is bypassed and the boiler should fire. I connected the red wires but the boiler didn’t fire.

End switch wiring
End switch wiring

I also opened two zone valves and compared the working zone to the problem one and they both functioned. The end switch is depressed when the zone opens to deliver hot water to the zone.

Honeywell zone valve end switch
Honeywell zone valve end switch

Since the zone valve was operating normally I had to move on to other troubleshooting research. I observed that although the boiler was not firing or staying lit when another zone finished that the temperature in the boiler immediately went up very high and only slowly went down. And the circulating pump was on but no water was pumping.

Boiler firing.
Boiler firing.
Boiler circulating at high temperature
Boiler circulating at high temperature
Circulating pump running but no water is pumping.
Circulating pump running but no water is pumping.

Apparently this “overheating” happens when there is a block in the zone piping. I didn’t know what could have happened to the zone but I had to quit for the evening.

As I slept I must have been pondering the problem because as soon as I awoke I realized what the problem was!

This rear zone uses the original radiators in the two back bedrooms. Last year when the bathroom was remodeled I decided to eliminate the bathroom radiator. I was planning to replace the radiator with radiant pex under the floor. I have plenty of pex and even bought more from Repurposed Materials for the eventual extra garage floor. But I never got to this project!

Old bathroom radiator
Old bathroom radiator
Disconnected pipes
Disconnected pipes

I realized I had disconnected the pipes to the old radiator and plugged each side so the zone would not leak. I did not realize that I had interrupted the hot water return so that the water that was heating the rear zone was going to the end of the pipe and not returning to the boiler.

Of course the pipes were still full of water and the zone had to be drained completely. I shut off the boiler and the valves that shut off both the delivery and return of the water. Then I took two buckets into the crawl space and removed the sharkbite plugs. I was amazed how much water drained from the pipes. It was a messy job. I filled buckets and Dave retrieved them and dumped the water.

Then I was able to install an elbow and slip repair sharkbite fitting. When I turned the water back on and opened the valves I had a leak!

Connected pipes
Connected pipes

Luckily I was just able to knock the elbow that was leaking on the rest of the way and stop the leak. I use a rubber hammer to push the sharkbites on all the way if they don’t just slide in properly.

I also used a slip repair connector for the first time. The slip repair sharkbite is a bit longer than a normal straight connector. It can repair pipes that have no clearance and close 2″ of gap. The slip side goes on the existing pipe and is pushed in further than normal. Then the repair side is cut to the end of the slip fitting and the pipe is marked for the depth of a normal sharkbite fitting. The difficult part is sliding the slip fitting over to that mark to close up the opening. I ended up striking the clip that presses down to slip the fitting with my rubber hammer to get it to the mark.

I just happened to have both of these in the garage that I had bought for another project and hadn’t used. Lucky me.

Once the pipes were connected and there were no leaks, I was able to run the zone water into the drain in the utility room floor until all the air was expelled from the zone. I turned the boiler back on and the thermostat was turned back up and the boiler fired and the zone began to be warm again.

It took weather at zero degrees for me to realize there was a problem with the rear zone heat. Now I just wish I didn’t have a frozen pipe in the master bathroom!

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Battery Box for Trolling Motor

It’s winter and outdoor projects are limited. As soon as it turned the new year I made a reservation to camp for the Fourth of July. Camping is very popular in Colorado and it is difficult to get into a summer campsite. I know the Fourth of July is very crowded but it is also a good time for family being together especially at a lake.

Last summer I purchased an inexpensive Intex raft for our camping fun at the lake. We went out in it a couple of times but found rowing it to be more exercise than I could handle. This was mostly due to the chop in the lake which is unavoidable with summer motor boat traffic.

Chop from Motor Boats
Chop from Motor Boats

I looked at trolling motors but many were sold out for the year or the cost was high. I vowed to return to the project in winter when demand would be lower. Right after the new year I read reviews and recommendations for trolling motors. Then I calculated the thrust that was needed for our little boat. We could have used a 30 lb thrust motor but I opted for the larger 46 lb thrust from Newport Vessels. The extra thrust uses more battery power but will also move faster through rougher water.

Newport Vessels Trolling Motor
Newport Vessels Trolling Motor

But the electric trolling motor requires a battery system to run. The 46 lb motor uses 40 amps or 480 watts at full power. It can run for approximately an hour using a 40 amp hour rated battery since it is not used at full speed the entire time. Even though lithium batteries are not recommended for trolling motors because they maintain higher voltage through the use period I knew that the entire boat with floor, motor and batteries would begin to get really heavy to carry from the camp site to the lake. The difference in weight between the lithium batteries and lead acid is extreme. A 55 amp hour lead acid battery weighs about 45 lbs and a 20 amp LiFePo4 battery weighs 5.4 lbs. Although lithium batteries are usually much more expensive than a marine battery, I was able to buy three 20 amp hour LiFePo4 batteries for around $200.

LiFePo4 20 amp batteries
LiFePo4 20 amp batteries

I knew about wiring batteries in parallel from using 12 volt battery banks in the RV. So I purchased a couple of cables and terminal ends. The screws that came with the batteries were too short for two cable ends together so I bought some stainless machine screws at the hardware store. I also bought lock washers for all the screws.

Box for Assembly
Box for Assembly

Next I selected a box for the battery system. The first box I ordered was not as large as the published measurements and the batteries didn’t fit. Then I bought an inexpensive tool box from harbor freight, but it didn’t appear to be sturdy enough. Finally I found this deeper box that was also wide enough for the batteries.

Batteries in Box
Batteries in Box

After these basic purchases the costs began to add up. The lithium batteries require a special charger, then I wanted to be able to charge the rechargeable air pump on board if needed so why not add a 12 volt charging port? We might need USB ports. What self-respecting Intex inflatable boat would be without them? And finally the meter that comes on the motor does not accurately read the remaining power in the batteries so I needed a special meter too. Ten terminal lugs were not enough for all the cables I had to make. I upgraded the 50 amp fuse to a switch type, added a cut off switch, then decided to change the inappropriate battery meter on the socket panel to install an Anderson Powerpole socket. Lots of supplies were needed that I didn’t have on hand like extra power pole plugs, and a crimper. Then I found the cut off switch needed 3/8″ lugs so ordered those and decided to run the neutrals to a separate junction block and I bought screw on covered battery terminals.

Sample battery box
Sample battery box

I looked at several sample battery box builds. I found that most information about these boxes was on YouTube videos. I am not fond of videos because they often have a very slow presentation of the information. I scrub through them and find the part I’m interested in takes longer to find than the amount of information I get. I prefer text and photo examples. Much quicker access to the information I want. I did watch a couple of videos and the one modification I would have liked to have made was to install a trolling motor plug instead of the terminal posts.

The socket panel came with separate wires for each function and each red had a nice 10 amp fuse and holder. But the example wiring was to wire all the plugs to the switch, which made more sense. I tried to use the terminal ends that came with the hot wiring but I could not get good connections so I had to use some terminal ends that came with another device. I just used the three separate wires for the neutrals.

Socket panel wiring
Socket panel wiring

I had to build a wire for the Anderson Powerpole plugs however and that required learning how to crimp wires for the sockets. I had several mistakes using the crimper and the advertised “click” seemed to be elusive but finally I got the hang of it and was able to wire the two sockets. I also had to purchase more 1/4″ terminal ends for this light weight wire.

Under the hood—Shut off and terminals
Under the hood—Shut off and terminals
Lid wiring with negatives installed
Lid wiring with negatives installed

I tried placing the batteries in a separate tray but that raised them just enough that the inset tray would not fit so instead I surrounded the batteries with the dense foam that came in the smaller box. I had decided to keep the smaller box for a power tool.

The lid has all the wiring connections for use. The two large wires attach to the 50 amp breaker on the positive side and the shut off switch on the negative.

Lid with circuit breaker and shutoff switch
Lid with circuit breaker and shutoff switch

I had to wait for the larger lug nuts and that is when I decided to add a negative terminal block for all the negatives I was connecting. Plus I ordered more large size heat shrink. So the updated wiring includes a negative terminal and a bit of wire management.

Lid and tray with cable management
Lid and tray with cable management

I had to move the wires out of the way so the handle indent fit over the tray handle for a tighter fit. Notice the zip ties that keep the heavily wired lid attached to the box.

I guessed the final weight was about 30 lbs but I was over. It is only 24.2 lbs. That is pretty good for all it contains and I will be able to haul it with the boat and motor.

Total Weight: 22.4 lbs
Total Weight: 24.2 lbs

And it can charge through the Anderson power pole connectors and runs the trolling motor!

Charging through the power pole connection
Charging through the power pole connection
Motor running with battery box
Motor running with battery box

Ready for summer!

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Incomplete Sailrite Sewing Project

I started a new vinyl cover for a spa section which broke my Singer 9960 sewing machine. I sent it out for repair and it is not yet ready. But I purchased a really heavy duty expensive Sailrite zig zag sewing machine. Based on reviews and a thorough search for a used machine or a clone that sounded reputable. I decided on a new machine with a 5 year warranty and renowned support.

I was able to sew the rest of the vinyl cover easily with the new machine. I planned to install a zipper in just one end instead of the whole length of the cover. After it was installed I realized that was a mistake because I could not fit the section into the case through that zipper.

I had to remove the zipper and since I didn’t figure out immediately how to put in a longer zipper I decided just to see if it would cover the section and work correctly. Even though the cover is a bit over-sized I had a difficult time pushing the styrofoam into the cover. That meant I didn’t want to take it off and figure out how to install a zipper to round the corners of the casing. So for the winter I just duct taped the end of the cover!

Taped end of spa section cover
Taped end of spa section cover

Now it is much more sturdy than the plastic bags I had covering the styrofoam. But the heat of the hot tub means the vinyl stretches and hangs down about six inches under the cover. That is why the factory vinyl cover is made so tightly. Manufacturers must heat up the whole assembly to insert the styrofoam into the tighter cover. The brown cover is the factory made one.

Loose spa section cover.
Loose spa section cover.

I attached a flap to go over the crack between the pieces but I hemmed it on the wrong side. Not that professional for sure. Nevertheless, the looser cover seems to be working out. I need to make the cover for the end piece next. It would be good to add a skirt to cover the edge of the cover and spa. maybe I can hem it on the correct side next time.
I have multiple rolls of vinyl fabric that I bought at a repurposed materials auction. Originally my plan was to sew new seasonal awnings for the solar overhang. That is still my plan. Now I have the machine to do it.

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Hoppe Lock Jam

We first had this problem when one of the doors was new. There is a piece on the three point lock that is called a mishandling device. This is a latch that releases the top and bottom throw bolts that make up two of the lock points with the deadbolt being the third.

The problem is that over time the mishandling devices gets stuck in the strike plate and the door will not open. The mishandling device #342 also called a lockout device in this diagram from the Hoppe patent.

Hoppe Lock Figure 16 334 Device
Hoppe Lock Figure 16 334 Device

When this device is pressed in, the handle can throw the top and bottom point locks and the deadbolt can be locked. It is included to prevent the deadbolt from striking the door jamb in a locked position.

Thus, when the lockout device 334 is engaged with (e.g. abuts with) the lock point actuation slide 324 in this manner, actuation of the deadbolt 310 and the auxiliary lock bolts to the locked/extended state is prevented.

also 

The lockout device 334, when in the lockout state, prevents actuation of the deadbolt 310 and the auxiliary lock bolts. This protects the secondary door component 106 as well as the multi-point locking arrangement from damage to a user trying to close the hinged panel 104 relative to the secondary door component 106 with the deadbolt 310 and auxiliary lock bolts in an extended state.

Patent Grant 10760303

The patent states that this device is meant to be held in by the strike plate when the door is closed. It allows the top and bottom shoot bolts to be engaged but when I cut it off and substitute a small bottle cork the shoot bolts operate correctly when the handle is lifted.

The lockout device 334 includes a contact end 342 that is configured to contact a strike plate 144 (FIG. 1) or other portion of the secondary door component 106 (e.g. a door jamb) when the hinged panel 104 is in a closed position. While it is typically understood that the strike plate is a separate component secured to the doorjamb, for simplicity of explanation, the door jamb or strike plate may be referred to generically as a strike plate. 

Also

As noted previously, strike plate 144 may be the same strike plate that defines an opening for receiving the deadbolt 110 or a separate strike plate or a portion of the secondary door component as mentioned above.

Patent Grant 10760303

The patent does not show the correct alignment of the strike plate or the number of holes required.

Hoppe Lock Figure 1 Door Jamb
Hoppe Lock Figure 1

I tried resetting the strike plate so that the cut outs were not opposite the device. I tried filling the strike plate opening with a wood block. But these options did not work so when the mishandling device gets stuck in the strike plate now I just cut it off and hold it in the locking position with a small bottle cork.

Altered lock with cork instead of mishandling device
Altered lock with cork instead of mishandling device
Strike plate shows damage where device was stuck
Strike plate shows damage where device was stuck

It appears that the strike plate is the wrong one or it is incorrectly installed by the Therma-Tru door assembler. However when I tried to move the strike plate so the mishandling device fully met the metal I was unable to line up the deadbolt.

These doors have been a headache in general and of course its either because they were installed incorrectly or the house is shifting but the front door warped and it has had to be reframed a couple of times and several of the doors have shifted so that they cannot be opened easily. Also the paint job was terrible and it has peeled twice. For the expense I wish I had purchased foreign made doors from Alpen.

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Door Lock Issues

When we returned from Indiana, our key did not work in the front lock. The mechanism would not turn. Fortunately one of the patio doors is keyed the same and we were able to get into the house without breaking anything. With the Thanksgiving holiday we didn’t try to fix the lock but decided to think about rekeying the locks to one key. In order to do that we had to remove the Hoppe lockset.

Unfortunately the cylinder was stuck in the lock and no matter how many screws we removed disassembling the entire lock, the cylinder would not release. I researched how to release it and none of the tricks I read worked.

First consulted the Hoppe site for troubleshooting the product. The advice amounted to just call a locksmith. Why do they even bother? Next I watched the video about removing the lockset which was much more detailed, however the cylinder is supposed to slide out when the key reaches a certain point inside the lock. Our thumb turn didn’t line up the cylinder to release it and the key was not working.

The written Hoppe instructions for the insertion and removal of the cylinder seemed to be a simple step by step but I never figured it out. Now that I am reviewing this information though I think I might be able to try again.

  • Loosen setscrew (C) on knob using the allen wrench provided.
     
  • Remove knob (D) from body of cylinder (B).
     
  • The drive tab (J) must be aligned with the cylinder to install the cylinder into the lock mechanism. If the tab cannot be rotated to this position, push the pin (E) down with the ring wrench (F) included to disengage the stops and turn the cylinder shaft (B) until the drive tab (J) is aligned with the cylinder (G).
     
  • Holding in this position, insert the cylinder body into door so the tab on the cylinder is inside of the lock.
     
  • Rotate the shaft (B) that the thumb turn attaches to so that the top of the post moves toward the edge of the door or insert the key (A) into the cylinder and rotate so the top of the key moves towards the edge of the door (H). This will extend the deadbolt. If the post or key is rotated the wrong direction, it will rotate approximately 120 degrees and lock up where it cannot be rotated in either direction. If this happens, push the pin (E) down with the ring wrench (F) included to disengage the stops and turn the key (A) in the opposite direction until the deadbolt extends.
     
  • Fix knob (D) horizontally on cylinder shaft (B) with setscrew hole (C) downwards.
     
  • Tighten setscrew (C). Install cylinder screw.

I found a DIY site describing the problem I was having. But the advice was to tap the cylinder and the key with a hammer and I didn’t have a working key. Then I read about a key stuck in a lock and that euro type cylinder not sliding out. The recommendations were to use WD-40 and wiggle the key. Plus there were other ideas that had merit.

I used WD-40 and wiggled the key that now would slide in and out of the cylinder just fine. It also locked and unlocked the door. But it would not release the cylinder. So we gave up. The entire 3 point system was reinstalled with some difficulty by Dave so I’m not sure how it was done. But the lock is working again and maybe we will try to slide the cylinder out another day.

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Indiana House

We spent the first two weeks of November at our Indiana house. It’s lovely out in the Indiana forest and the house needed attention.
In early September I went to Indiana and had to work on taking out moldy drywall and fixing the plumbing. I also replaced the front porch deck.

Dave and I both went this time so much more was accomplished. We needed to replace the back deck boards. These were more of the sanded oak boards that our friends the Halla’s gave us. They had prepped them years ago but never used them.

New back deck
New back deck and fixed railing

We went through most of the junk we had stored at the house and discarded it.

Dumpster full
Dumpster full

I stained and replaced trim in areas that were damaged or never completed. I used oak molding to match what we already had. Some of the original molding is just square boards, some I cut on the table saw with rounded edges. The new stuff is pretty too.

Stained trim and removed old light
Stained trim and removed old light
New door trim
New door trim
Trim install and new light
Trim install and new light

I fixed a toilet that didn’t flush. Dave fixed the deck railings and rebuilt support for the recreation room stairs. He also patched several pieces of drywall that had been removed. We had a productive trip and were happy to have some socially distant dinners and outings with our Indiana friends.

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New Sailrite LSZ-1 Sewing Machine

It has arrived! It shipped faster than I expected. The packaging was very secure and it is amazingly heavy and built like a Mack Truck as they say.

Basic machine set up
Basic machine set up

The underside of the machine is also very stout!

Heavy duty mechanism
Heavy duty mechanism

The machine came very well packaged in boxes within boxes.

Ultrafeed outer box
Ultrafeed outer box
Inner boxes
Inner boxes

And packed in styrofoam in the innermost box.

Styrofoam packing
Styrofoam packing

Such care and detail made setting up the machine fun and interesting. I had already watched the assembly video and several other videos on the Sailrite site. But I also paid attention to the included assembly pamphlet.

This basic version comes without a light but I think I might install a strip of LED lights under the body as shown in many Facebook ads. (They know I like to sew I guess.)

It also came with several tools but funny enough not a screwdriver short enough to tighten the hinges in the basic platform.

Accessories for the machine
Accessories for the machine

This machine reminds me of the Kenmore I had for many years from my mother in law. I didn’t move it to Arizona and missed having that machine. That one was not cast iron but it was heavy duty and I did a lot of sewing with it.

One thing I’m having trouble getting used to is that the foot lever is located on top of the machine. I keep reaching back behind the machine to use it and have to stop and reach above.

I have purchased one improvement so far. A magnetic guide bar comes with the Plus version of the machine. I thought it looked like a handy tool to help maintain seam width. The Sailrite version is very expensive–$32 without shipping.

 Magnetic Sewing Guide bottom
Magnetic Sewing Guide bottom
Sewing Guide in Use
Sewing Guide in Use

I wondered if just a plain magnet would work. But while shopping for one I came across this wooden magnetic knife bar for less than $7 that I should be able to shape for the task. Actually I should be able to make two of them from this one bar. In case I lose one.

Magnetic wooden knife bar
Magnetic wooden knife bar

It certainly has strong enough magnets to afix to the sewing machine. But it will work better cut down and slotted to fit over the needle plate.

Alternate magnetic guide bar
Alternate magnetic guide bar

The machine came with heavy #20 needles and I have some Coats and Clark outdoor thread but in order to do more domestic sewing I’ll have to buy the specific needles the machine uses, 135-17, in smaller sizes. I can’t use the Singer machine needles in this machine.
I’m excited to get started on the vinyl project that broke my Singer 9960.

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First Trombé Wall Glass

The trombé wall has been missing its glass ever since the new windows were installed. The original Trombé wall had solar glass that was just glued to a wood frame and trimmed on top of the glass.

Trombe Wall in 2011
Trombe Wall in 2011

The bottom trim boards were rotting and the glass was slipping out of the frames. Some of the glass pieces were missing.

Original Trombe Wall Construction
Original Trombe Wall Construction

The glass was removed and so was the rotted wood.

Trombe Glass Removed in 2015
Trombe Glass Removed in 2015

Eventually I re-insulated the front of the foundation wall and covered the insulation with a fiberglass cap.

It took some time to plan how to replace the glass and rebuild the Trombé wall. When I saw lattice edges at a Repurposed Materials auction I thought they would make good frames for replacement glass in the Trombé wall. I also was on the lookout for sliding glass door panels to replace the missing glass. I found several for sale on craigslist and bought them although sometimes these can be found as give-aways.

I researched the installation of fixed glass panes and found a good article on Inspectopedia with instructions for using glazing tape and neoprene setting blocks. I ordered each of these items from Amazon.

I have a 4 x 8′ plywood table top on the patio so I was able to put together the window frame on a nice working surface. First I split a double pane window with a utility knife. Then I cleaned the pane of glass and measured for the frame. Once the frame was cut I used alcohol on the window edge and then applied the glazing tape.

Cutting the window frame
Cutting the window frame

I had to cut the side pieces more than once because I neglected to allow for the width of the neoprene blocks that the glass sits on to allow for expansion in the frame.

Setting the neoprene blocks
Setting the neoprene blocks

I used a bit of crazy glue to keep the blocks in place when putting the frame on the window. Next I peeled back the coating on the glazing tape and placed the frame around the window. The glazing tape didn’t hold the frame because there was too much room in the groove. But I was able to glue the corners together. I used a new tool to hold the corners while gluing.

Collins Miter Spring Pliers
Collins Miter Spring Pliers

I read about these clamps for holding picture frame ends while fastening them and they were recommended. The set is really lightweight metal and at almost $30 were overpriced but the clamps did work and I’m not sure how else I would have clamped these large pieces.

Once the frame was glued it was still loose around the pane of glass so I read about caulks and glazing compound. Although glazing caulks are supposedly easier to use, glazing compound, especially oil based compound has a longer life up to a hundred years! When I turned the window over, the weight of the glass stuck to the glazing tape and I used the compound to fill the outside edges. I found the compound relatively easy to work with but I am not a perfectionist. I had to order online to get the larger size container and the oil based compound. It cleans up with mineral spirits and takes quite a long time to dry.

Glazing the outside edges
Glazing the outside edges

The compound was not all the way dry after it sat through several very cold days and nights and six inches of snowfall. But I wanted to install this window so I could start on the next one. I measured the black framing on the wall and found the bottom 2 x 2 was a bit short. My solution was to cut a double lattice edge on one side of the channel and screw it to the bottom of the black framing. Then I cleaned both sides of the window with window cleaner and soft rags.

I had some ethernabond double stick tape that I applied to the repainted and repaired black framing. I used 1″ L-shaped brackets to hold the frame while it was being placed on the tape. With Dave’s help we got the window attached to the black wall framing.

Firt trombe wall glass installed
Firt trombe wall glass installed

When it seemed to be holding, I caulked all around the outside of the frame. The top and bottom of the frame needed caulking rope because they didn’t contact along the whole width of the frame. I used an entire 10 oz tube of Dap waterproof exterior door and window caulk and there are a few gaps along the bottom.

Window frame caulked
Window frame caulked

Now that I have a procedure I hope the rest of the glazing is installed soon.

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The Wrong Tool

Unfortunately I tried to use my Singer 9960 sewing machine to sew a spa cover with vinyl. I didn’t stop the first time the machine jammed. Just cleared the jamb and continued. Then it jammed again and I could not continue. The needle and foot stopped moving. So it had to go in for repair and I’m pretty sure it will be expensive.
At first the stitching went fine.

Singer 9960 computerized machine

I used clips instead of pins and a size 18 needle with Coats and Clark outdoor thread.

Beginning to stitch

I also used a walking foot which is an attachment that has feed teeth above the material to help pull heavy and slick material through the needle.

Holding the vinyl flat

I was able to sew the long flat seams but the boxed end was too much for the machine. After it went in for repair I tried to find a machine that was up to the job. The Sailrite machines were given the best reviews. There are competitors like the TuffSew and the Barracuda. Some of these cost much less but among successes were many negative experiences. So I scoured eBay for options. I looked at the competition and at the Sailrite machines. I bid on an old Ultrafeed LS-1 and won it but found the listing didn’t include information about missing parts. I was fortunate the seller refunded the money.

The machine was missing the bobbin plate and although the seller tested that the foot worked it was hard to tell if other parts were missing too.

Ebay auction Ultrafeed LS-1 original 2000-2006
Ebay auction Ultrafeed LS-1 original 2000-2006

This ancient machine with shipping would cost half of a new one! The history of Sailrite machines explains that the tooling of the metal case was rough so they switched to a new company in 2007. I could tell this machine was that first version by the label.

Old Sailrite casting
Old Sailrite casting

After this experience I bid on a newer LSZ-1 (zigzag) Premium model with several included notions like thread and basting tape.

Ebay auction LSZ-1 Premium package w/notions
Ebay auction LSZ-1 Premium package w/notions

My bid was quickly surpassed and it currently stands at $1315 plus $60 shipping with 3 1/2 days to go. Granted the thread is expensive at about $140 a spool for the Tenara brand. But this premium package is $1395 brand new with a 5 year warranty.
So I decided to purchase the Basic package of the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 which is the blue zigzag capable machine. The red machine is straight stitch only. I opted not to pay extra for a case or heavy duty wheel because this machine itself is very powerful. The basic version comes with a wooden base.

New Sailrite portable sewing machines
New Sailrite portable sewing machines

Although the website indicated that machines were being built and might be delayed, my machine shipped right away and is due In a couple of days. How exciting.

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Filters and Boiler Maintenance

Fall is falling and some quick chores were completed. We have a Campbell filter on the whole house water supply. It takes a double charcoal filter and it relatively easy to change as long as the water turn off is not stuck and I have the right tools to open the filter.

Campbell Water Filter
Campbell Water Filter

The other replaceable filter I use is for calcium deposits and I have one at the cold water entry to the Challenger boiler/water heater.

Aqua Pure Scale Inhibitor
Aqua Pure Scale Inhibitor

These filters are expensive so I don’t change them as often as I probably should but it makes sense before the new heating season. I should also install one going into the boiler but it is only on the hot water side. Those pipes are smaller too so more subject to calcification.

I also did some fall maintenance on the Challenger combo boiler. The condensate drain has to be cleaned out and the exhaust tube is disassembled in order to remove it. I cleaned the water reservoir with vinegar and got out a lot of soot. I also cleaned the inside of the boiler and reassembled it.

Challenger Flue pipe removal
Challenger Flue pipe removal
Challenger Condensate pan
Challenger Condensate pan

More intensive maintenance would involve flushing the boiler with vinegar water using a separate pump. Also checking the ignitor for deposits and setting the correct spark plug gap. And opening the body to check the heat exchanger for dirt. That is more work than I seem to fit into my schedule. It’s hard to believe we have been using this boiler for seven years.

I won’t need to turn the heat on for several more weeks. The house stays so warm that we can go below freezing outside and still be comfortable. I’m glad to be getting prepared for a new season though.

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Packing the Pool

I also packed the pool up for the winter. We had fun using it this summer with its jerry-rigged solar heater.

Swimming!
Swimming!
Cool in the pool
Cool in the pool
Pool play
Pool play

But after reading the advice for and against I decided to take it down for the winter. We were plagued by small leaks all summer so I am hoping they can be found or I will replace the pool liner or maybe the whole pool. Would love an in-ground pool. But we have more important goals these days.
I tried four different pumps to drain the pool. A small water transfer pump worked for awhile but it got fouled. Then I tried my larger water transfer pump but it wouldn’t work. Then a smaller pool pump but that didn’t turn on. Then I tried a sump pump and that worked well. I got the last of the water out with the shop vac. I scraped up the extra chemicals which I think was pool stabilizer and saved it for next year.

Draining pool with undissolved chemicals
Draining pool with undissolved chemicals

It took several days to empty the pool and since it is very prone to collapse in high winds, I took half of it down.

Partial breakdown
Partial breakdown

Then I started cleaning the bottom and eventually took the other half down and cleaned and after I was sure it was completely dry, I rolled it up. Also rolled up the new solar cover (the original one disintegrated) and the tarp cover and put the equipment parts in a storage bin.

Cleaning the pool
Cleaning the pool

The equipment was very heavy so my son helped haul it all into the blue shed to store it for the winter. Just in time because it’s getting cooler and very windy. Now I have to winterize the RV.

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Fixed the Spa

Swimming grandson
Swimming grandson

We are finally enjoying the spa again. It broke on January first and here we are in fall and it is back online.

After installing the new Megatrol equipment, I had to wait for the new controller to get the spa put back together. I ordered a completely waterproof unit this time. The new one is a little larger than the old one. I spread silicone liberally beneath the edges and carved enough of the fiberglass off so that the new unit fit.

Waterproof Controller
Waterproof Controller
Installed new controller
Installed new controller

I actually faced the new unit into the spa because we most often set it while inside the spa. But I noticed a new function in the electronics is to reverse the reading so it is easy to manage from either side.

Next the spa needed a thorough cleaning. I took two days to clean it out because I get tired faster these days.

Cleaned spa except for the bottom
Cleaned except for the bottom
Cleaning the bottom
Cleaning the bottom

I ordered water to fill the tub so that I would not have to wait for the well to fill it or risk running out of water. That was the first time it was filled for this fix.

Unfortunately after a few days I noticed that the temperature had dropped and I was not getting a wifi signal from that unit. The circuit breaker had tripped and perhaps that was a good thing as the water had drained out almost completely.

Almost empty spa
Almost empty spa

So I had to refill the spa with the hose from the well. I started filling it from the house hose before I found the leak and Dave found it while I was doing something else because he noticed water leaking from the house hose spigot. It was the Ozone purifier that disconnected. I must not have tightened the clamp enough.

Ozone venturi connection
Ozone venturi connection

Fortunately that was an easy fix. I had fixed another leak with Plumbing Goop. One of the jets was dripping water and I didn’t want to disconnect it and redo it. So I stopped the leak with Goop.

Leaking jet
Leaking jet

The controller has an LED panel to show that the functions are working. Here the lights show; A = 120V Power Supply to Terminal Block, B = 240V Power Supply to Terminal Block, C = Low Pump “ON”. No light on D means High Pump is not “ON”. Also the two bottom lights mean; I = Heater 1 “ON” and J = Heater 2 “ON”. It is a lot easier to see these lights at night.

Operation Lights
Operation Lights

And I added the fancy wifi interface for the control panel last Christmas just before the old control system broke. Thankfully it was one component that was not destroyed by the bad wiring. It is really great to be able to control the spa from anywhere and check its temperature.

Wifi Screen on iPhone
Wifi Screen on iPhone

This screen shows that the system is filtering. It will also show the current temperature at the heater. I have set a delay of 60 minutes between temperature checks after the system reaches temperature. That is when it reads ECON. I can also monitor the temperature with an Acurite remote water sensor. So for now we can enjoy relaxing in the exercise spa with the family.

Relaxing granddaughter
Relaxing granddaughter
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