German Distractions

While visiting the family in Germany I helped put together furniture that they purchased second hand through the German eBay that functioned more like Craigslist here. They bought loft beds for the kids, and Ikea like slat beds called “lattenrost”. Since German apartment bedrooms typically have no clothes closets, they bought large wardrobes. This one has several shelves, two hanging areas and six large drawers below. It is pine and quite nice. And it fit the space exactly.

Stolberg Castle from Hospital Window

Stolberg Castle from Hospital Window


They purchased oak dining room furniture with a breakfront, and a lovely handmade wood (cherry I think) buffet that was actually free! Also a couch and chairs and coffee tables for the living room area. They rented a large van and some work colleagues helped move the furniture up those three long flights of stairs!
Ikea is popular there and the closest store is about 40 minutes away in the Netherlands. We drove over and it was fun to see a foreign Ikea-with a mirror image layout of the one in Tempe, AZ that I used to live near. We bought linens and a couple mattresses and a light fixture. I installed a few light fixtures as most of the rooms had only bare bulbs hanging from cords.
New light fixtures

New light fixtures


We didn’t really do much touring. But we had some lovely treats. My Son-in-law loves early morning walks to the bakery to buy German rolls and pastries. We had fresh rolls every morning!
Breakfast Croissant

Breakfast Croissant


The family is also very fond of the ice cream shops. We stopped by more than once for this delicacy. I guess it helps the businesses that apartment refrigerators don’t always have freezers.
Ice cream shop

Ice cream shop


The grocery store sold these yummy German pretzels and German flag sour fruit gummies that my granddaughter loves.
German Pretzel and Flag Sour Gummy

German Pretzel and Flag Sour Gummy


We had a couple meals at traditional German restaurants. I had snitzel a couple different ways.
Traditional German Restaurant

Traditional German Restaurant


For a slight variation, we stopped at a Bavarian beer garden and restaurant that had a little playground for kids and a bicycle tire vending machine!
Bavarian Restaurant

Bavarian Restaurant


In downtown Wurselen we went out to a Turkish restaurant that had an interesting menu. They serve hamburgers and fries but ketchup costs extra in Germany! Right outside the restaurant was the World Cup banner and we were treated to a long line of honking cars the night Germany won a game.
Wurselen World Cup Banner

Wurselen World Cup Banner


One rather exciting development was an emergency hospitalization for another bowel attack! So I got to experience a German hospital in Stolberg. It was very pleasant and the staff were all wonderful and were kind about the language barrier, sending me staff who could speak English. My son in law is also fluent and got me admitted and paid the fees upfront for me so that my insurance claim can pay later. One difference was that the patients wore their own clothes including nightshirts and day clothes and instead of going to the room on a gurney, I was placed on a bed that was my hospital bed. When I left, they took the bed out of the room and probably sanitized it. There were rows of beds in a storage area each covered in plastic waiting for patients. There were three beds at one time in my room and then two ladies went home and another came. The view from my window, and I was at the window was beautiful. I was looking at the Stolberg Castle!
Stolberg Castle from Hospital Window

Stolberg Castle from Hospital Window


Aachen was once the capital of the Roman Empire and the seat of government for Charlemagne. We took time out to go to the Aachen Thermal Baths and enjoy some soaking and horsing around in the pools.
Charlemagne art at the thermal baths

Charlemagne art at the thermal baths


The kids scout troop meets at the old fort and city wall. There are not separate boy and girl scouts. But they are divided by age.
Old city fort and wall

Old city fort and wall


The kids also were admitted to their school as guests for a couple of weeks before the session ended. They got to experience the German school that they will be enrolled in next term. They enjoyed going to class and meeting German kids and teachers.
Kids' Grammar School

Kids’ Grammar School


After a few extra days to recover from hospitalization, I was winging my way home and stayed awake for 23 full hours of travel. It was a movie marathon trip because I was able to watch several movies on the airplanes. But like many travelers I came home and got sick. I went to urgent care at home and got treated for strep so feeling good a day or so after that. Thank goodness for antibiotics.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Distractions, Local Products, Reduce Reuse Recycle | Leave a comment

Germany!

In a strange turn of events, my daughter and her family, including my two wonderful grandchildren, have moved to Germany for a few years for her husband’s job! We moved close to them when we retired and although we like it here we surely will miss them terribly. They had to empty their house and store what they could. Their house is rented and they will hopefully be returning when this adventure is over.

In the meantime as soon as I learned they were leaving I made plans to visit and hopefully help them settle in. The job is in Aachen, Germany just over the border from Belgium and the Netherlands. So it was most convenient to fly into Brussels for my visit.

Getting close to Brussels

Getting close to Brussels

I flew to Atlanta in about 3 hours and then took an 8 hour flight to Brussels. After landing and deplaning, we had a long line to go through immigration to get passports stamped.

Immigration Line

Immigration Line

The family was staying in a beautiful old home in Stolberg that had been renovated but still had obvious signs of retrofit including a very old plumbing installation.

Stolberg House

Stolberg House

It also had many beautiful details. But buying an 1980’s house and updating and buying a 1800’s house and updating are two very different challenges.

Ornate oak door with wrought iron inset

Ornate oak door with wrought iron inset

One of the most interesting features was what they called a shelf toilet. No longer much in use, the Germans and other Europeans had a toilet that held water in the front instead of the back and only enough to cover a small hole. Waste is deposited on a shelf and flushed clear (mostly) by a rush of water at the flush. All toilets seemed to be dual flush and this model seemed to use little water. But the necessity of using a brush to clean up required more flushes.

German Shelf Toilet

German Shelf Toilet

Stolberg was about 20 minutes from Aachen and the family wanted to be closer to the city and jobs, so their apartment is in Wurselen. It is very spacious for a European apartment and has two floors but the entry is on the third floor of the building. The hallway stairs are granite and the railing wrought iron. Each flight of stairs curves in the middle. It also has a parking space in an underground garage, a storage room and a designated washing machine spot in a shared laundry room.

Third floor apartment

Third floor apartment

It has a wing with two bedrooms and a full bath, an entry with a half bath, a large room that the family will use for dining as it is off a small kitchen. Many German apartments don’t have kitchen cabinets and appliances, but this one did. Unfortunately the refrigerator is quite small and does not have a freezer compartment. But they will probably add a bit larger refrigerator to supplement the existing one. There is a room off the dining room that will be used as a kid bedroom. Upstairs there is a large loft area that they plan to use for a living room and a huge walk in storage closet at one end. It has hot water heat that appears to be controlled at the radiators.

Loft Area

Loft Area

There is also a very large bedroom upstairs that they will use for office and guest bedroom space. There are three decks, two smaller off the kitchen and entry and one larger with doors from the main room and the master bedroom.

Larger deck

Larger deck

The temperatures were in the 90’s while I was visiting which is high for Germany but with the windows open the apartment benefitted from a lovely breeze throughout. Like almost all German windows and doors they were the tilt and turn variety with no screens. But they allowed for the great ventilation.

German Tilt and Turn Windows

German Tilt and Turn Windows


The apartment is lovely and light-filled and spacious and seems like a happy place.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Distractions, Moving | Leave a comment

One Day, Two Mirrors

It is past time to have moved everything that is destined for the house into the house. These mirrors needed to come in and claim their space.

I had the big couch against the long wall in the living room but the size the hickory mirror seemed off balance.

Long couch along wall

Long couch along wall

So the couch and loveseat traded places and the mirror centers over the loveseat perfectly.

Hickory mirror over loveseat

Hickory mirror over loveseat

I used the Ramjet nail sink to attach the mirror to the concrete wall. The first short nail rammed all the way into the wall and I couldn’t extract it. I just used a longer nail in about the same spot.
The second mirror was my grandmother’s. She had it in her hallway and I’m pretty sure it came from her old house. Maybe even her parent’s house. It is ornate and I had it in my more ornate living room in Arizona. Here in Colorado it seemed perfect for over the Victorian tub. This one is hung on two screws driven into plastic drywall sleeves.

Grandmother’s mirror over Victorian stele tub.

Grandmother’s mirror over Victorian style tub.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Design Style, Moving | Comments Off on One Day, Two Mirrors

Cleaning out the Garage

Unfortunately the charge cord that came with the JuiceBox is only 20 ft. long. And the 30 amp outlet is in the storage cabinet at the far end from the garage door. That means that the car has to be at least partially in the garage for the new charger to reach the charging port. And being in the throes of renovation for so long means I have tons of materials stacked in the garage and projects and tools that have not been organized for some time. So even though it is not fall, it was time to tackle the messy garage.

Too many boxes and tools

Too many boxes and tools

There are materials and supplies I want to keep protected in the garage. Some projects are finished and yet there are left over materials. I’m trying to get those out of the way.

Stuff that still needs garage protection

Stuff that still needs garage protection

I managed to reorganize, bring a few more boxes of photos and art work into the house, and empty and repack a few boxes. We brought in two large mirrors that I want to hang now. I’m missing the third. Can’t imagine where it went. And I swept out the dirt from this spring’s wind storms. I put casters on the tall shelves so that we can move them out of the way when we need to use the miter saw. I’m planning to put them on the table saw and joiner too.

Reorganized corner

Reorganized corner

I got a good sized parking space cleared out for the car.

Room for the car

Room for the car

But it is a really tight fit, so I will move more stuff around to get space on this side of the car.

A bit too tight

A bit too tight

The charger has been wonderful. I can add 10 miles to the electric range in just over an hour. I haven’t had a chance to run the Volt out of electric miles again so I don’t yet know how long a full charge will take with the JuiceBox.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Maintenance and Repair | Comments Off on Cleaning out the Garage

Installing a JuiceBox 220v 40 Pro Charger

Juice Box installed Horizontally

JuiceBox installed Horizontally

I decided to upgrade to a Level 2, 220v EV charger in order to charge faster during the highest solar production time of day. After researching various options, it appeared the JuiceBox delivered the most bang for the buck. Some caution against over-installing amperage capability as this one does for our Volt, but others seem to think that the higher capacity delivers the least resistance for a quick charge. Of course I love the app and wifi capability too. The JuiceBox is made by Emotorworks and they provide plenty of documentation and great support which makes it much easier for the do it yourself person.

We had most of the house rewired in the summer of 2016. They updated several of the circuit breakers and most of the circuits in the house. But they didn’t touch the 220v 30 amp outlet in the garage.

This outlet was an old style “welder” 30 amp configuration.

Old style 5 30 straight plug

When I took it apart I pulled enough wire down to see that it was labeled #8 wire. So that allowed me to upgrade the circuit to 40 amps. I used a circuit breaker that the electricians left in the box–they had pulled out a 40 amp during their work and replaced it with a 30 amp.

Circuit box with 40 amp installed

Circuit box with 40 amp installed–lower left

The EV charger draws up to 40 amps of charge on a 50 amp breaker, but I only had the wire size for a 40 amp. The breaker is supposed to be 125% of the constant draw amperage. So it is OK in this instance to put in a 40 amp breaker for a 30 amp outlet. The 2014 Volt only charges at a maximum of 15 amps but it limits its input internally. I upgraded the outlet to the new 14-30 type.

I had a little trouble getting all the circuit breakers seated. I had to pull some out to make room for the 40 amp and then didn’t realize that two double breakers could not go next to each other. A google search let me know to drop the breaker down one slot and I finally got everything seated. Of course I had the main breaker off during these changes.

The original wiring did not have much slack in the box, so installing the new outlet was a gyration of cable and screwdriver but I got it connected and back into the box.

Tight wiring connections to outlet

Tight wiring connections to outlet

I ordered an extension cord “dogbone” from Emotorwerks but decided to buy an adapter from Amazon because they took so long to ship my order. I guess I’ll have duplicate hookups. Just in case.

In the JuiceNet app I added my car type, and set the time zone. It also allowed me to enter my address and set the maximum charging amps. I set this to 24 amps on the advice of the emotorworks representative who also said the horizontal installation was OK. I had a shelf above the outlet and not enough room to install the bracket vertically with the size of the attached cord.

Juice Net Settings

Juice Net Settings

Juice Box on Standby

Juice Box on Standby

Of course I’m expecting this setup to work flawlessly with our solar photovoltaic system.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical, Solar | Comments Off on Installing a JuiceBox 220v 40 Pro Charger

Solar Powered Volt

Way back in 2003 we bought the first model of hybrid Honda Civic sold in the US. It was the only car we would ever buy that was featured in a car show! It was a 2003 model but it was available in summer of 2002 which is when we bought it. I actually wanted a Prius but the sales guy in Tempe, AZ didn’t want to sell me one. He insisted that no shop would know how to work on them and told us it didn’t qualify for the energy saving car rebates available in Arizona at the time. (Which turned out to be a political scam by a representative who owned a propane conversion shop.) So I went to the Honda dealer and they were happy to sell me the hybrid car! We loved the new technology.

Honda power plant

Honda hybrid power plant-red band is the electric motor

It was only electric assist and the batteries were completely charged by the engine and the breaking action. No plug. It would be years before plug in hybrids were available.We sold the car when we moved to Colorado with well over 100,000 miles on it.

Our kids beat us to the punch buying a plug in hybrid Volt in 2014. Theirs is also this pearlized white color with the black interior.

Chev Volt 2014 with remote

Chev Volt 2014 with remote

This car has two electric motors and its EV range is higher than other plug in hybrids. But it is difficult to see what is under the hood with a large internal cover over the “works”.

Chev Volt 2014 engine

Chev Volt 2014 engine

Now that they went to Germany we purchased the car from them and I’ve been having a lovely time learning how to use its gadgets. I had to sign up for On Star to get access to some of the wifi features. Apparently these continue even after the free period for the other services. I also signed up for a free period for SiriusXM. It includes some navigation features I believe.

The app is called eChevrolet. I opened an account and registered our Volt. Once the On Star was turned on, the app made more sense having information about charging and other monitoring details. The app tells if the car is charging and the approximate time that the charge will be complete. It tells us that we need an oil change and that one tire is low. The tire seems to have a slow leak but Dave couldn’t find it.

EChevrolet Car Status

EChevrolet Car Status

Tire pressure and oil change indicator

Tire pressure and oil change indicator

When charging during the day, the house electricity use goes up about 1Kwh. It takes about 12 to 13 hours for a full charge. I drove it once past the 43 mile solar capacity and the switch over to engine power is seamless. The battery continues to assist when it is charged a bit by slowing down or braking. This is called series hybrid when the engine takes over, and parallel hybrid when the engine and batteries operate together.

The solar power that the car takes while charging would normally go to the grid or to the power wall battery. I don’t mind taking from the grid to charge the car. But it seems that to use the solar most efficiently we need to be able to charge it more quickly while the sun is at its peak. So I bought a Level 2, 220 volt, Juice Box 40 Pro with wifi and I’m installing it.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Solar | Comments Off on Solar Powered Volt

Books Unpacked

As part of the move the kids returned a couple of large bookshelves that they had brought from our Indiana house when they moved to Colorado. I had used our enclosed bookshelves to display my mom’s china and silver and other keepsakes so I was wondering where I was going to put the many boxes of book still packed in the garage. It is a good thing that we inherited these big bookshelves from our kids move.

Big and tall bookshelf

Big and tall bookshelf

When we moved from Arizona most of our books were donated. That is why it was amazing to me that we still have so many. I kept hardbacks and how to books and homesteading and well, too many I guess. But they are now all safely ensconced on shelves.

Filled bookshelf

Filled bookshelf

This opened up some space in the garage but it is still very crowded in there due to the extra building materials I have gathered for the finish work inside.

 

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Moving | Comments Off on Books Unpacked

Moved To Germany!

We had a busy May helping our daughter and her family move to Germany for her husband’s work assignment. They had to completely empty their house to rent it as they decided to keep it while they are abroad.

Empty house

Empty house

Dave and I worked on home and garden projects to get their house in tip top shape. I replaced the tile in their main bathroom because when I did the job a few years ago, I didn’t mastic down the backer board and the grout was starting to crack. We just took the whole thing out and did it again.

Dave did some painting and some yard work. I installed fancy magnetic door bumpers. We didn’t do much packing for them though. Dave took a few loads to the Goodwill and I was happy to take toys for my grandson and some keepsakes.

They had a shed built at our place to store stuff that didn’t have to be climate controlled and they rented an indoor storage garage for stuff that did. Most of their furniture was sold or given away. It was a huge undertaking.

We had a going away party for the family along with a birthday party for my daughter.at the end of May. They left on the 28th and we are kind of in shock. We moved to Colorado mainly to be near them and our sweet grandkids and now they will be gone for a couple of years!

Birthday-Going away party

Birthday-Going away party

Good thing we like Colorado. And we like our house and garden projects. My son and his family are thinking of moving here so maybe we will have grandchildren here again some time next year.

Since it was my mom’s 97th birthday, we also celebrated her and last week my sister came to visit us to continue that celebration. We had a nice visit and took mom to Celestial Seasonings to enjoy the tour and sample teas. Mom is in a wheelchair but likes to get out and see new things.

Birthday at Das Meyer bakery

Birthday at Das Meyer bakery

 

So I’m finally ready to get back to work on the house!

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Distractions | Comments Off on Moved To Germany!

Tesla Solar First Month Report

On the occasion of our first utility bill after adding solar, we found a significant reduction in the cost of the electricity we consumed from the grid. As the Tesla engineers predicted the solar provided about half of our electricity use.

Comparison First Solar Month

Comparison First Solar Month

As a former research person, I love data and the solar application and Xcel downloads feed my avocation.

Tesla App Graph First Month

Tesla App Graph First Month

This graph illustrates the total power used in blue, the amount of solar produced in yellow, the solar used from the power wall above the zero line and the solar fed to the power wall below. The amount of grid power used above and the amount of solar power fed to the grid below. We have not altered our power usage except that with warmer temperatures the hot tub heaters are less active. But it has also been cloudy much of the time and it is amazing how much power we actually get on cloudy days.

The Solar City app provides slightly different data. This is the solar production graph for a very cloudy and rainy day.

Solar City App graph

Solar City App graph

Since we usually get about 50-60% of our electricity from solar, it is really exciting when we have a 100% solar day. This graph shows that it is a combination of the direct solar power and the battery power wall charging then taking over when the solar is not producing enough to run the house. It is likely that a day like this also fed power back to the grid.

First 100% solar day

First 100% solar day

This is another graph from the Tesla app showing the electricity usage and solar production. There was no extra for the grid this day. The spikes in blue are the peak electrical use with the hot tub running. The solar day is moderate but the green below the line is the power wall being charged for later use. The power wall in green takes over when the sun is not producing or producing enough to power the house until the batteries are reduced to 47% then the power is fully from the grid.

Single solar day

Single solar day

I created this graph from the data downloaded from Xcel in the billing report. I have a record of all energy use from 2012 when we bought the house to the present. This is the comparison between the 2017 May usage and the 2018 Kwh from the grid. Although the use is less than half, the bill was a bit more than half due to the taxes vs. the per Kwh cost. So using less energy costs a little bit more–about 11 cents per Kwh instead of 10 cents.

Grid Use before and after solar

Grid Use before and after solar

We signed up to receive a check from Xcel at the end of the year for the electricity we feed to the grid. They will use an average time of use cost instead of the time of use price at production. I think that will result in a better return but it is hard to say.

Tesla App Data

Tesla App Data

The Tesla app graph showed that we fed 150 Kwh into the system the first month. If we are recompensed at 5 cents per Kwh that would be about $7.50 back on the cost for electricity this month. I can’t find a public notice of the payback for electricity fed to the grid from Xcel. They only state it is an average cost. So apparently they charge between 4.6 and 7.57 cents per Kwh but they were hoping to lower the cost per Kwh by charging for grid use which was rejected by Colorado in 2016. Obviously that would not be good for solar customers since they have to have grid use to sell excess power back to the company and the electricity would be worth less. But the compromise was to introduce Time of Use rates which will be higher for high use time periods. This seems better for solar producers who will benefit from higher rates during summer days for instance.

We did not purchase solar for the payback as much as for the energy efficiency it provides and the great boost to our LEED platinum application. It appears from the first month it has been a success.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, LEED Project, Monitoring, Solar | Comments Off on Tesla Solar First Month Report

More ERV Controls

I spent another day on ERV controls. It is unbelievable that these controls are taking so much time. I was gratified that I finally got the variable speeds to work with the Lutron Caseta wifi dimmer and the GRX-TVI control box. I decided to hook the Nest back up to the boost control on the ERV circuit board and to hook up the Dehumidistat for the family room bathroom.

Both of these are attached to the boost and to the line input.

ERV Boost Wiring

ERV Boost Wiring

It is obvious here that the two controls should be wired in parallel, but I tried wiring them to the same input and output. The dehumidistat works great but the Nest has a wiring error. So I will have to separate those wires and follow the instructions.
The next connection I spent time on was the control for the furnace fan. Unfortunately I couldn’t understand the instructions for using the Nest to control a dehumidifier with typical furnace controls. I found instructions last year to use a separate relay. But I didn’t see why the Nest couldn’t just use the furnace blower connections directly.

Furnace Air Handler to ERV Wiring

Furnace Air Handler to ERV Wiring

Since I have radiant heat, I don’t have the furnace control board illustrated in the relay diagram. So it made sense to me that I could hook up the fan wire and a common directly to the furnace air handler connections and skip the relay.

Nest with Relay

Nest with Relay

But when I removed the jumpers (JP6 and JP7), all the other controls stopped working and the Nest fan setting didn’t run the ERV. Then I noticed in the printed manual, an extra jumper setting for a furnace air handler.

Printed manual jumper setting

Printed manual jumper setting

Despite the fact that I had removed the furnace air handler wires from the board, I reconnected them to try this extra setting. This was time consuming because the wire screws don’t seem to hold the wires very well, and I had to try several times to get a tight connection. Moving this jumper J6 to position 1 didn’t change the outcome. So I removed the wires, probably for the third time and replaced the JP6 and JP7. I thought I moved J6 back but when the ERV tried to run with the Lutron switch it stopped immediately. I rechecked the jumpers and when I reset J6 the ERV was able to run again. J6 is described in my printed manual as a control to set the furnace tie in to a minimum of 70 cfm in position 1, but in the electronic manual, J6 sets the wheel options for the heat wheel rotation. Two different functions for the same jumper can’t be right. I’ll have to call support to figure this one out.
When I was finished for the day I had accomplished hooking up the dehumidistat and getting it to control the ERV. This was a very simple connection according to the Honeywell 8908D manual. But it took me most of the day to end up with one more working control.

Dehumidistat to ERV Wiring

Dehumidistat to ERV Wiring

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical, Ventilation | Comments Off on More ERV Controls

New Toilets

I was tired of looking at and trying to clean the old biscuit colored toilet in the back bathroom. It flushed fine with its 1.6 gallon flush–a water saver in its day. But the tank and the bowl were stained with rust and calcium deposits that even scrubbing with a pumice stick did not help. The glaze was probably scraped right off the bowl.

Old toilet

Old toilet

I had some trouble finding the dual flush .5/.95 Stealth toilet that I used in the master bath so I decided to buy two. Originally I was going to use a round toilet bowl to replace the round bowl. But I bought one on eBay and it broke in shipping.

Broken toilet bowl

Broken toilet bowl

I realized the round bowl was not comfort height so I ordered an elongated to replace it. It is annoying that the dual flush tank and bowl have to be ordered separately and do not come as a set. This bowl is stamped with the .08 gallon flush for the single flush tank but it also is used with the dual flush tank or at least it has the same model number.

Elongated bowl

Replacing this toilet was very easy. The bolts came apart without a struggle and the water valve didn’t leak. I cleaned up the old wax and the dirt around the toilet line without too much trouble and was ready to set the new bowl.
I bought reusable rubber toilet seals again because I’ll probably want to remove the toilet later and they are so much cleaner than wax. I just reused the old bolts and caps.

Bowl set over bolts and tightened

Bowl set over bolts and tightened

The tank has an integrated gasket that fits on the toilet bowl and then the tank is tightened to the rear of the bowl.

Tank set on bowl and tightened

Tank set on bowl and tightened

Since the toilet is taller than the one it replaced, I had to go over to the hardware store and get a longer 16″ water line.
I connected the new line, turned on the water valve, and with no leaks the toilet was installed. I caulked the bottom edge with biscuit colored caulk to blend in with the floor. We bought a hard closing white wood toilet seat and it was inexpensive and easy to install.

Toilet installed

Toilet installed

I bought a second toilet for the family room bathroom where the 1/1.6 dual flush toilet cracked at the bottom. That one was not sealed with caulk and the inspector said it had to be to pass inspection. Next I’ll change that one for a new Stealth.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Bathrooms, LEED Project, Plumbing | Comments Off on New Toilets

UltimateAir ERV WiFi Control

It has been just over a year since I last tried to hook up the ERV to a WiFi dimmer. But with my son’s advice and encouragement the deed was finally accomplished.
He designed a circuit for me to convert PWM (pulse width modulation, a common control for LED lighting) output to analog which the ERV requires, The LED driver that used PWM was powered only by 24 volt and I didn’t have a dimmer that worked with low voltage, although there may be one out there for outdoor lighting.
I thought the Lutron system I tried may use PWM instead of analog like the LED dimmer. The ERV requires analog 0-10 volt.  But when I referred back to the documentation it said the output was analog.

Last year I purchased and tried the large GRX-TVI control box and a Lutron Caseta Pro dimmer with the Caseta bridge to make the ERV a wifi variably controlled system. I found the Lutron devices because I was looking for an analog dimmer system that controlled a motor as in the ERV. This system had an option to control a motor. In this chart the motor is an icon. The Caseta Pro is paired with the TVI to output 120v-277v with 0-10v control. The GRX-TVI and the Caseta Pro are magnetic low voltage devices.

Lutron Load Interfaces

Lutron Load Interfaces

Although after these devices didn’t control the ERV as I expected, I assumed that due to the magnetic low voltage and source and sink requirements the 0-10v output was not compatible with the ERV. I was wrong.

After the GRX-TVI experiment, I tried an Insteon dimmer switch, dimming ballast and wifi bridge, but I couldn’t even get the dimming ballast to output variable power at the 120 volt side much less the 0-10 analog side. So that was a big disappointment too. But after I got encouragement I tried again, plus this has been on my to do list for a long time.

The GRX-TVI documentation has a number of wiring diagrams that all make use of 120 power output. The wiring I tried failed to run the ERV with the outgoing signal. It could be that I had wired the GRX-TVI with the bridge wire to the switched output as shown in their documentation.

GRX-TVI Wiring Diagram With Dimmer and switch

GRX-TVI Wiring Diagram With Dimmer and switch

When I rethought the design I realized there was no need for the switched output. So I set it up as in this diagram.

GRX-TVI Wiring Diagram With Dimmer

GRX-TVI Wiring Diagram With Dimmer

The Caseta Pro comes with four wires and has a large range of applications but this one is quite simple. The blue wire is capped, the red wire is the dimming signal and the black is power from the distribution panel. The GRX-TVI diagram is clearly labeled for the incoming wiring. Power is black, neutral is white and the dimming signal is red.

Caseta Pro Dimmer Single wiring diagram

Caseta Pro Dimmer Single wiring diagram

It didn’t take long to hook up the switch and box again. And I tested the output with the dimmer switch before hooking it up to the ERV. It showed a nice variable signal on the volt meter. And lo and behold, it controls the ERV!

GRX-TVI Control Box

GRX-TVI Control Box-notice the red wire was extended with black

To use the 0-10 control on the ERV instead of the manual variable switch that comes with a unit–both cannot be used at once–I had to make a couple of jumper changes on the ERV control board. The manual switch is removed.

Recouperator 0-10v Jumper Changes

Recouperator 0-10v Jumper Changes

Next it was just a matter of updating the bridge software, it was a year old after all, and adding the switch to the wifi network. Now the ERV is controlled both by the physical switch on the wall, and the phone application.

Caseta Wall Switch

Caseta Wall Switch

Lutron Application-no icon for motors

Lutron Application-no icon for motors

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical, Ventilation | Comments Off on UltimateAir ERV WiFi Control

Solar is Up! Day One

Yesterday the Xcel technician stopped by about 4 PM to install the solar meter. That completed the setup for our solar system.

Xcel technician installing meter

Xcel technician installing meter

She gave me a hang tag that said the system was ready to bring online!

Xcel ready hangtag

Xcel ready hangtag

After she left I called Tesla support to get directions to turn on the system. It was so windy outside that my phone lost connection! But after calling back I just went out and did the checks with the phone left inside. Basically I had to be sure the system circuit breakers were on and then turn on the Eaton shut off box and then the inverter. It takes about 10 minutes for the inverter to come online. Then I reported the production numbers to the support rep. Next the Powerwall switch was turned on and we were in business.
The system showed the Powerwall was down to 0%. So the power initially went towards charging that back up.

Powerwall at 0%

Powerwall at 0%

The power diagram shows the house being powered by the grid as the batteries are charged by the panels.

Initial power flow

Initial power flow

In the last hours of daylight the Powerwall charged up to 2%. I was hoping for a nice sunny day to see what the system could do and we got it. By mid morning the panels were producing enough to charge the batteries and power the house.

Excess power to battery

Excess power to battery

By afternoon the Powerwall was completely charged. Then excess power from the panels began to feed grid.

Power to the grid

Power to the grid

As the sun began to wane the Powerwall began to supplement the panels.

Then at night, the panels shut down and the Powerwall batteries take over.

The Powerwall will not go below the set reserve which is about 50% for our system. Then the grid will provide power until the sun charges the panels in the morning!
This is a great day in the life of a LEED hopeful home.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical, Energy Efficiency, Solar | Comments Off on Solar is Up! Day One

If It’s On A List, Then It Must Get Done

Sooner or later the list must get done. It is past time to come up with a Spring list and I’m looking at the items that I have paid no attention to for a season and feeling like I had better get them done.

These two items have been hanging out on the list for a few seasons. Since we had the drywall started last April and painted in May, cleaning up should have happened by now right? I guess since it is overhead it was not right in front of my face it didn’t happen.

  • Vacuum ERV vent shaft (replace vacuum bag)
  • Clean beam

I stuck a bucket under the kitchen sink drain because it was leaking and over time it just stopped.

  • Fix kitchen sink drain

I suppose it got gunked up? Otherwise I actually did these items.

  • Grout tile over tub
  • Install bench in family bathroom shower
  • Schluter in family room bathroom shower
  • Replace filters on house water system
  • Install airlock entry door

I suppose these were half done since one shower is completed and the second one started. One door is hung. I used extra mortar to prep the perimeter of the concrete floor with Kerdi.

  • Level shower floors
  • Get showers tiled
  • Hang doors in the master bathroom and bedroom closet
  • Install tile on perimeter of house floor

Although it has to be done again, the inspector came over for a final which was great.

  • Get final inspection

And now on to the items that didn’t get done at all.

  • Install corian on top of vent shaft
  • Make corian tub tray for master bathroom
  • Wire thermostat and dimmer switch to ERV
  • Install new calcium filter on boiler supply
  • Install new TDS monitor on water supply
  • Foam gap at floor in storage closet

My son gave me a circuit design that might fix the issues I’m having with the ERV analog control and I’m working on that.
I have resolved to not add any new items to the list. Today I rewired the light in the kitchen and that was not on a list. I notice that I didn’t post anything about this project when I did it.

Kitchen Hanging Light

Kitchen Hanging Light

The decorative top piece was missing at the time and I found it a few months ago. I decided since I had the ladder out vacuuming the vent shaft I might as well fix the light. Of course the top piece had to have the wire threaded through it and I had to take the whole light down to do that. But now it has the “mountain” theme.

I bought this bronzed copper light in Arizona for $20 because it was missing a lamp shade. I looked and looked but could not find the exact shade so I replaced them with galvanized animal feed bowls for about $6. It was pretty hard to drill the holes in the center of the metal for the wiring to the light bulbs. So they are a little off center but I like the result.

Kitchen light with trim

Kitchen light with trim


Now back to the list…

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Kitchen, Maintenance and Repair, Planning | Comments Off on If It’s On A List, Then It Must Get Done

Painted Garage Door

I  was surprised that our garage door was so shy. I had to look long and hard for any photos of the door before it was painted. This is how it looked when we bought the house. There was always a patch where perhaps a lock was moved.

Garage Door in 2011

Garage Door in 2011

By 2016 the door paint had deteriorated and in 2017 I bought some paint on craigslist that was about the same color.

Garage Door in 2016

Garage Door in 2016

When Spencer and Dave used the door for a baseball backstop this year though, Dave ended up patching several indentations and then painted it.

The paint has a bit more red in it than the original but it is very good paint (low VOC) and looks pretty good.

Newly painted garage door

Newly painted garage door

Next I have to change the weather stripping at the bottom and spray foam some of the large cracks at the sides.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Maintenance and Repair, Reduce Reuse Recycle | Comments Off on Painted Garage Door

Rustic Bathroom Door

We are having guests at the end of the week. I thought it would be great to have a real door on the master bathroom now that the shower is also completed. I even used the shower before our trip to try it out. I hung a piece of heavy duty vinyl material that I bought at auction from repurposed materials for a shower curtain. Today I hung one half of the rustic bifold doors that I bought on craigslist.

Rustic bifold doors

Rustic bifold doors

These doors are part of a vision that I have been working on for years now. They were purchased about the time I bought the vanity for this bathroom more than two years ago now. I guess time goes fast when you are having fun, or slowly when you are working on such a large project.
I used new pine door jamb pieces and stops for this door. It was a bit tricky because it is an angled doorway. I leveled the side jamb pieces both vertically and horizontally and squared them to one another. The door was fit exactly into the opening with the jamb shimmed to fit the door. The door is not shutting level though. It may be warped from two years of being moved around in various storage areas. Or it may have been a bit warped when I bought them. Who know?
I used gate hinges to hang the doors, leaving the original bifold hinges in between the panels. These doors are meant to run in a track but I was hoping to use them free form. I thought I might hang one on each side of the door, but I didn’t want to have the door open in front of the light switches, so I hung them together.

Gate hinge on angled door

Gate hinge on angled door

Without the track it is difficult to get the door placed exactly in the jambs to close it. Plus the top of the open side leans out a bit. So my solution was to place stops at the top and bottom of the door and use a sliding bolt to hold the closed door in place. It worked reasonably well but will need some tweaking.
The outside of the door needs a finish applied. But Dave particularly likes the look of this z bracing on doors.

Rustic doors with z bracing

Rustic doors with z bracing

It is not too difficult to open the door and fold it beside the entry wall that holds the plumbing access for the tub. I will use the second set of doors for the walk in closet, eventually.

Open bifold bathroom doors

Open bifold bathroom doors

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Bathrooms, Trim | Comments Off on Rustic Bathroom Door

Winter Tent Worked

I was distracted from building projects by preparing for our spring trip to the Grand Canyon with the family. We have a small RV that fits us and the grandkids just fine but the rest of the family did not have a good tent to stay warm overnight. So I put together a winter tent system and I’m pleased to report that it worked fine.

I set up the tent at home just before we left without staking it completely and we had to disassemble it in a big windstorm that gusted up to 20 mph. The blocky style definitely doesn’t do well in high winds but nothing broke which was good. I packed the large tent in the RV closet and we had to store coats and clothes in the shower.

Tent set up at home

Tent set up at home

The Grand Canyon was a perfect meet up place for spring break. It was magnificent and amazing to share with our kids and grandkids. One son lives in the Phoenix area so he was able to drive up in a few hours, another lives in California but visited his in-laws in Irvine first so their drive was about 8 hours and we took three days to arrive with the older grandkids. Their parents came a day later and only stopped for one night. We all arrived happy and safely.

Monument Valley camp

Monument Valley camp

The Grand Canyon was beautiful and awesome as always. The weather during the day was perfect. Clear and in the high 40’s and 50’s. But the nights were cold. The first night was coldest at only 22 degrees.

Grand Canyon view

Grand Canyon view

We stopped to show off the Watchtower to the grandkids and then went to the campsite. I started unpacking the tent and could not find the inner tent pieces in the RV closet. I thought I had forgotten the major part of the tent but started putting together the outer walls and roof of the canopy. Luckily I had that and the groundcloth laid before it started to snow! It was beautiful and it didn’t stick, but it was chilly.
While I was working on the outer tent, I remembered that the main duffle was in the loft bed area. It was too big for the closet! So I was glad that I had the whole tent after all. I hung the tent inside the canopy walls and put up the nylon ceiling. Then I moved in the double cot and the roll up metal table to hold the Mr. Buddy propane heater and I warmed up the tent for the family. I brought a CO2 monitor just to be safe.

Tent at the campsite

Tent at the campsite


The grandkids and their parents filled the winterized tent. But we didn’t fill the RV the first night and the guys who took the other family tent were freezing in their summer tent! So the next couple of nights we slept another person in the RV but still didn’t fit a couple of the guys. They put up a smaller tent and used two sleeping bags together and wore long underwear to bed. But the nights were still pretty cold for them.
The heated tent was quite comfortable though and most of the family was warm and cozy. Unfortunately despite these luxuries, I had a bad cold and was not able to sit around the campfire making s’mores or do much hiking. But I could babysit my youngest grandson in the RV which was wonderful!
The return trip was great too. The parents left a day early and took much of the winter tent back in their car and we stopped with the grandkids at Four Corners National Monument which is a cool geographical location with lots of lovely Native American art for sale.
Four Corners, four states

Four Corners, four states


We were home in time for the Easter Dinner that the parents cooked for us. Yum.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Distractions | Comments Off on Winter Tent Worked

Passed the Final Inspection

April Fools!  But we did have the inspector come out at the end of February and we are very close. We had three things that needed to be done to pass: first, finish the showers; second, caulk around the bathroom toilet; and third, fix the bathroom GFCI outlets.

Inspection Report for Building Permit

Inspection Report for Building Permit

Fortunately the solar installers found that it was just a circuit breaker for the GFCI outlets and turned them back on. Unfortunately they didn’t know which circuit did the trick.

We also didn’t pass the solar system electrical inspection. The plans called for a 150 amp breaker to the whole house panel. But the installers did not replace the original 100 amp breaker. The next day the installer returned to replace the breaker and the wire to the house panel and the work was approved.

Solar Install Inspection Report

Solar Install Inspection Report

 

 

 

 

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical, Inspections, Plumbing | Comments Off on Passed the Final Inspection

Solar System Commissioned

Commissioning was basically a test of functions. I had the Tesla app open on my phone so I could follow along with the tests. The commissioning was early in the morning so the system was not yet producing full power.
With the grid turned off, solar was powering the house.

Solar to the house

Solar to the house

When house usage was lower than production, solar powered both the house and charged the battery.
Solar to battery and house

Turning off solar and grid powered the house from the battery.

Battery to the house

Battery to the house

And when the grid was turned back on, the house was powered by the grid while solar charged the battery.

Solar to battery Grid to house

Solar to battery Grid to house

Before the installer left he set the battery charge to 50% which meant the battery would take all the solar power until it is 50% charged and then solar will feed power to the house and excess to the battery. He said that is typical.
The inverter displays the amount of power it is converting to AC. So I took a photo of it too.

Inverter power status

Inverter power status

The saddest part was turning off the solar system to await inspection and the power company thay has to come out and install the grid feed meter before the system can be used.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical, Monitoring, Solar | Comments Off on Solar System Commissioned

Tesla Solar!

The solar photovoltaics were installed yesterday and “commissioned” today. I’m thrilled. This seems like another major step in the process of putting together a truly energy efficient home. And it is another case of purchasing a complete system with installation included.
The electrical connections happened first. Two installers came in a Solar City, doing business as Tesla truck. They had the power wall onboard and the outside electrical boxes including the inverter. First to go in was the Powerwall battery backup. It was unpacked, a bracket installed on the wall and then it was hung on the bracket.

Powerwall box

Powerwall box

Powerwall in truck

Powerwall in truck

Installing bracket

Installing bracket

Battery powerwall in place

Battery powerwall in place

The Powerwall needed side ventilation because the shelving unit was a bit too narrow so I cut an opening on the side of the cabinet. I also had to move an electrical outlet that was in the middle of the mounting area.
The installers then moved outside to install the several electrical boxes and the inverter that came with the system. They also made the connections between the outside panel and the solar equipment and connected the main sub panel to the backup system.

Installing electrical boxes

Installing electrical boxes

Late in the afternoon the truck with the panels and another install team arrived.

Solar panels arrive

Solar panels arrive

Solar panel specs

There were five men on the panel install part of the job. The mounting brackets went in very quickly and in a couple of hours the panels were connected to the brackets on the roof.

Installing mounting braces

Installing mounting braces

Panels go up and connections made

A special boot was used under a panel to run wiring through the roof into the garage attic. Then a penetration was made above the equipment behind the garage into the wall just below the attic ceiling and the wires were brought to the breaker boxes. After the wiring between the panels and the electrical controls were made the job was finished for the day.
The lineup of control boxes behind the garage is impressive.

Inverter and power boxes

Inverter and power boxes


I’m also impressed with the amazing usable 13.5 Kwh storage battery that is the Tesla Powerwall. There is a battery disconnect installed above the power wall.
Powerwall and interior disconnect

Powerwall and interior disconnect

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Electrical, Energy Efficiency, Solar | Comments Off on Tesla Solar!