We like to visit our son in Arizona at least once a year. Last year was exciting because he and his fiancée got married at a beautiful outdoor wedding in late February. This year we are visiting again in February. We left home during balmy winter temperatures in the 50’s but drove all day to escape the approaching snowstorm. When we finally arrived in Bernadillo, New Mexico we were a day early so paid for two nights. There we found that the 12 volt water pump connected to the indoor water tank was not working. It tried to pump but just ran with no water going through.
The pump is known to have a problem with water flow when the internal check valve freezes so I disconnected it to see if it could be fixed.
The pump was held to the floor by 4 screws and connected to DC with a wiring clip so it was easy to remove.
Once it was out I watched a video describing the repair. There were eight screws that held the pump together.
It would have been easier to hold the pump to remove the screws with the filter taken off. But I didn’t realize that until I got into the disassembly.
The pump had three layers inside: the cover, the diaphragm and the casing.
As expected the check valve inside was stuck. But unlike the video I could not get the inner part loose. I removed the screws that held the part and popped off the check valve but I was unable to get the pieces apart.
I pounded on the inner part with a screwdriver and hammer and I found a plastic knob that fit so that I could distribute the force evenly to the inner part and hammered on that but it would not budge.
I even soaked the part in Pepsi hoping that the acid would dissolve whatever was holding it together but even that did not work.
We drove to Albuquerque to buy a new pump so we didn’t spend the second night at Bernadillo after all. We would be going in the wrong direction away from our route so we might as well keep on driving from Albuquerque. Instead we stopped at Caballo Lake near Las Cruces, New Mexico where I installed the new pump. I had to clip the old pump wires and connecting clip to install on the new pump. Fortunately Amazon carried the check valve for the 4008 pump for only $15. So I had it sent to my son’s house and I will be able to repair it and have a spare pump.
When I realized the boiler’s condensate filter was gunked up it was reasonable to clean it out and replace the filter medium. I was mistaken to believe the filter used plain limestone. When it came as a powder I had to return it and order the brand name filler from Supplyhouse.
The condensate had disintegrated the medium and clogged the drain. It was very black and the plastic filter needed scrubbing. I didn’t scrub the pipe but ran hot water and dish soap through it.
The original stuff was stone-like but the new improved stuff is round balls.
The old medium was very old. I had never changed it since it was installed about 10 years ago. The new stuff said it should be changed yearly. I tested the ph of the draining condensate in the pail and it was not very acidic. About 6-7 on the scale. That is almost neutral. So that is probably why it lasted as long as it did. It is meant to keep acidic water out of the drains. I have it draining into the sump hole that is sealed from radon gas intrusion. I never have to pump it out. It gets absorbed by the soil.
I don’t think I’ll have to replace it every year but I better keep an eye on it. Don’t want a clog to back CO gas into the house. I’ll watch for the media turning black again. It is tucked behind the other boiler pipes so I need to pay better attention.
Nice to know our CO alarms are working well though.
We woke up after a below zero night to the carbon monoxide alarms in the morning. Even though it was below zero I turned off the boiler function and opened the back door to let in fresh air. The alarms turned off. We were able to keep the hot water function on without the carbon monoxide leak. Last time this happened I was able to clean out the condensate trap and lower the water pressure and the problem went away for a couple of weeks. That was a spell of below zero weather too. So there seems to be an issue only when the boiler is running close to capacity. Sometime this season the fan began to whine when the boiler was running to provide heat. So my guess was that the fan is not operating fully to keep up with the exhaust that is created. We checked the flue and that is not blocked and I checked the power to the fan and that was correct. But when I turned the boiler on the #5 error flashed.
This error says the condensate is blocked or the gas pressure is not correct. Since I got it after I cleaned out the condensate trap again and since the gas pressure has no other issues in the house I was even more convinced it was the fan. I spent a lot of the day trying to decide whether to replace the fan or the entire boiler. The fan costs over $500. The existing boiler cost about $2800 in 11/2012 but I didn’t install it until about 3/2013. I have read that a condensing gas boiler has a service life of about 7-10 years. So we may be close to the end of this one’s operating years. But we don’t run it very hard with the lovely passive solar windows and Trombe wall.
Of course I want the latest clean energy and efficiency for a replacement. I first researched cold weather hydronic heat pumps. The newest technology uses carbon dioxide as the refrigerant. Trane Mitsubishi released a combi CO2 version last year but it is labeled commercial and the smallest version is 150,000 btu. I can’t tell if it is sold anywhere. I could buy a SanCO2 hot water heater from ECO2 in Michigan that uses CO2 for about $5500. It has a 40 gallon tank with a air to hydronic heat pump hot water heater that can deliver 69 gallons of 145° water in the first hour. But it is rated at 15,000 btu/hr which is pretty undersized for a boiler. Even if I could figure out the heat exchange piping.
My conclusion was that the air to hydronic technology would have to use R410 refrigerant. I didn’t find much that didn’t need an electric heat strip for really cold weather. And these heat pumps don’t operate well for temporary loads. Despite the problems with gas pollution I’m reluctant to switch to electric heat. Maybe I need to do more research.
In the meantime I could purchase one of several other small combi gas boiler/water heaters. There is a Rheem at Home Depot but it is twice the depth of our current Triangle Tube which is no longer made. There are models by Noritz, Weil-MacLain, Lochinvar, and Bosch, Rinaii, and Laars. All available from Supplyhouse where I bought the Challenger. They are all at least 95% efficient.
The Bosch 4000 is 82,000 btu for heat and 150,000 btu for hot water for 4 g/m at 67° rise. Has internal primary pump. The box is 18.1“ x 27.6” x 11.6“. The Bosch Greenstar 100 is 83,000 btu/hr and 2.6 g/m and advertises 96% efficient up to 98% for low fire although its still rated 95%. About 17“ x 33” x 14”. The Weil-McClain AB-120 delivers 111,000 btu/hr and 3 gal per minute at 70° rise in temperature. With an internal primary pump, it’s box is x 16.54”x 27.56”x 12.60”. Laars FT is 129,000 btu/hr and 3.2 g/m at 70° rise. Probably too much heat for us, it’s 17 3/8”x 29” x 15 1/2”. Lochinvar Noble is 102,000 btu/hr and has two pumps. Delivers 2.6 g/m at 77° rise. It’s big at 17 1/4” x 32.5” x 18”. Another option is the Noritz 180, 100,000 btu/hr and 4.9 g/m at 70° rise. 18.5”x 27” x 12.8” There are several Viessman and Rinaii models on back order or out if stock too. The Rheem at Home Depot is the cheapest at $1800. Rated at 100,000 btu and 4.6 g/m at 70° rise. No internal pump and 17.3”x 28.7”x 14.8”.
The models I’m considering in order of cost are the Rheem, Noritz, Weil-McClain, Bosch 4000 and Bosch Greenstar 100. Our current boiler is 17 1/4” x 25” x 9 3/8”. It is the CC105 model rated at 92,000 btu at 94% efficiency. Hot water production is about 2.7 g/m at 70° rise. It has always been large enough for our use. I’m concerned about the larger boxes. Although it appears most of these eliminate my primary loop and pump with an internal pump. If I just replace the fan I can put off this decision with so many variables.
But wait! I was saved from making this decision by realizing it was the condensate neutralizer filter that was clogged! I disconnected the drain hose and used a bucket to collect the condensate. Although it was not below zero the boiler did not release CO while running. I tested it with an electronic gas detector. I was surprised by how much condensate drained from the heater. The bucket filled to the pipe in just two days during colder weather.
I ordered new filter media from Supplyhouse. I added another project to get the free shipping. I need to isolate the fireplace boiler from the gas boiler because I found that with the gas boiler off the warm water did not circulate through the primary loop and I didn’t have this emergency source of radiant heat although the ambient heat still helped.
Maybe by the time we actually need a replacement for the Triangle Tube Challenger Combi boiler there will be better heat pump options on the market.
Even before I gave up on the old dishwasher I started shopping for a replacement. I was even considering a drawer dishwasher like the one I once installed for my son and his wife in California. The kitchen counter we have is shallow because the rear is connected with logs. It only has about 18” of clear space in front of the logs and only 12” of clearance between the two horizontal rear logs. There is not enough room to install a 24” deep dishwasher unless I cut into a support log. Plus I would have to build the cabinet around it. I liked that this model is energy efficient at only 151 kWh a year and very quiet at 45db but the 7 place setting space could have been too small for us since we are used to two layers. The cost was $900 and the install seemed too difficult. Our broken SPT was an 18” portable that I had altered to connect directly to water and drain. We bought it used in 2014. A replacement SPT in stainless had a little better Energy Star estimate than our old one at 265 kWh a year vs 295 kWh a year. But it cost just over $700. I did not have the option of waiting for a Craigslist bargain either. I almost ordered a GE portable for about $70 less until I realized it was too tall to fit under our counter. The built in units would fit better, were more reasonably priced and had a wider selection. But they had insulation over the top and sides requiring a cabinet of some kind. Unlike the others though the Avanti had enclosed sides. It had a little better Energy Star rating than a couple of the others at 250 kWh vs 265 kWh and a sound rating of 53db just one db less. But it cost $150 less and I would not have to void the warranty by cutting off the portable hose. Plus it was less than 33” tall and would fit under the counter.
The dishwasher did not have easily adjustable legs so I decided to mount it on a small platform. I had an old cabinet door that was just the right height with the oak veneer shelf from the tv cabinet as a top. These gave a nice tight fit under the cabinet to stay level and not rock while running.
The install was practically the same except the supply hose was the size of a washing machine hose which I had on hand. That replaced the sharkbite and pex connections from the water softener. I got the new dishwasher installed the day before we left for a winter vacation in Florida visiting my brother and his wife.
I ordered a new pump and it was not the right fit but it had the same type of magnetic motor. The motor on the original pump slipped right off but the new one was enclosed in plastic. So I cut off the motor. Then slipped it on the old housing and it worked!
Then I put the machine back together. A rinse cycle with the new pump showed the repair worked.
Unfortunately water leaked heavily from under the machine. I took off the bottom again and tightened all the new clamps and made sure the original pump was tight. The problem seemed to be the sump assembly. The machine leaked water if I just poured it into the sump area. So I ordered a new sump gasket which was a Danby part but hard to find. Shipping cost more than the part.
In the meantime I put it back together again and tried to run it again. It seemed the leak was better at least. But it would not run. Instead the dreaded flashing 888 indicated something was wrong with the control board. It could just have been a fuse but it could mean more expensive parts with no guarantee it would be fixed.
We came home from vacation to no heat. The boiler was firing but the Grundflos secondary pump was not running to distribute it through the radiant pipes. The first thing I did was turn off the heat function of the boiler so it would not overheat the primary pump. I had changed the wiring for the pumps several times. I tried wiring both the primary and secondary pumps to come on separately, but I had pressure issues and I burned out the secondary Taco 011 pump so I wired them in series for the valve controller to turn them both on at once. When I replaced the Taco with the Grundflos pump they were wired separately again. The final wiring that seemed to work was to install an outlet that only came on when the valve controller called for heat. That separated the wiring for the pumps and connected the secondary pump to its own electrical box.
When I saw the pump was not displaying information and it did not respond to pressing buttons, I assumed it was burned out. I tested the outlet and saw there was power so I was set to order a replacement when I decided to plug it in another outlet. It came right on. So the pump was fine but the outlet was having a problem. One side was dead but the other was OK. I plugged the pump back in but the outlet gave a pop and blew the circuit. I was too tired to investigate further so we had no heat overnight. Luckily we are solar heated so our inside temperature stayed comfortable.
It was cloudy and cold the next day so the house was getting chilly. I let the pump run since the pipes were warm but the valve controller is connected to the blown circuit and I could not just disconnect the wiring to turn it back on. The boiler was not getting a call for heat from the non-functioning zone controller. So I opened the outlet box and looked for the problem.
It was obvious that the ground wire had shorted! There was too much ground wire in the box and it was a piece of old wire I had reused so the ground was not insulated. I solved the problem by cutting the ground shorter and not grounding it to the box. The shorter wire was pushed to the rear of the box. I’m not sure why the wiring was loose enough for the outlet to move and touch the wire. But it obviously happened especially when I blew the circuit by pushing on the outlet with the pump plug.
Once I got the wiring properly out of the way I reinstalled the outlet and reconnected it to the valve controller. The first time one of the white wires was loose on the valve controller and I was getting only 54 volts at the outlet. I switched off the breaker again and found the loose wire. Finally when I reconnected that wire and reset the circuit the power to the valve controller was restored. The boiler was getting a signal when there was a call for heat. I plugged in the Grundfos pump and everything worked again. We had the house nice and toasty in a couple of hours.
We took a trip to our grandson’s birthday celebration at Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs. The place was fully booked. I found out they have 300 rooms! We were in one of 42 suites with kid cabin a darling section of the room with bunk bed cots for the kids with their own TV. They loved it. We really enjoyed the swim park. Their favorite activity was swimming underwater! (And the slides of course) They are fish! We all had a great time.
We went from the first to the third of January and came home to a broken dishwasher and the secondary boiler pump not working. The dishwasher had an E1 error code but even though the manual says it means not enough water flow it is one of only two possible error codes so can mean anything. At first I assumed it was the water inlet valve again. So I just ordered one without looking at the machine. But no it was letting water in, just not pumping it out. I tried the rinse cycle without the food filter in case that was blocking it but the water stayed in the bottom after the motor ran to pump water out with no success and the E1 code displayed. The first troubleshooting step for draining problems was to check that the drain pipe was not clogged. Of course having modified the dishwasher from portable to installed I had several pipes to disconnect to check it. Naturally the drains I put together in the utility room for the dishwasher, the flush water from the water treatment and the utility sink are complex. I used a couple of dishwasher drain pipes one on each side of the main pipe and the trap for the utility sink also drains plus there is an air admittance valve and an air gap for the dishwasher drain.
I tried separating the pipes behind the utility sink but nothing budged. I had to disconnect the sink and move it out of the way enough to step behind it. Then I had to cut off the pipe and reconnect it after draining it. The entire system is held up by the tub drain and air gap so it all fell apart and I had to reconnect all of them. They are put together with screw-on compression waste fittings. Getting the pipes apart and reconnecting them just to find they were not clogged was difficult. Of course I ended up with dirty trap water in my face too. At least the hot water heater was working for my shower!
Obviously the next step was to replace the drain pump. I saw that I could order a new one quite cheaply so the next day I disconnected the dishwasher and took off the rear panel. Then we turned it upside down. It was too heavy to do it by myself so Dave helped. A bottom cover was held on by four small screws and it came off easily. I had to remove the pump to match it to the new order.
I watched a few you tube videos. One that specifically covered the SPT dishwasher. Although it was labeled pump removal it was actually showing the removal of the motor. I figured that out after I found the pump on ours. Another helpful resource was a repair manual for Frigidaire portable dishwashers. The Frigidaire has more error codes and even a service mode to help troubleshoot. But I found the information about the layout of parts and replacing the pump very helpful.
In our dishwasher the parts were laid out a bit differently but basically were the same.
I noted the power connections with a photo. Then took off the motor to the pump. I wanted to be sure they were reconnected properly.
The motor was connected with two plastic clamps so it was easy to remove. The pump was connected with two bolts and I had trouble figuring that out. After seeing the video of the motor removal I went ahead and disconnected the clamps that held the sump with the pump connected to it. After removing the hoses and an electrical connection, the sump twisted off. I figured it was a good thing to check to see how it operated with the drain filters which were already removed from the inside. After I removed the sump it was easy to get to the bolt underneath the pump and disconnect it.
I could not find the exact pump of course. The dishwasher is old enough that the pump has been replaced with newer models. So I had to measure it to find the closest match I could on Amazon. Fortunately there is a great deal of description for these pumps. I was not able to find a .5 amp pump though so the closest in size was a .8 amp pump. I’m going to assume that it will work until I find out differently.
Until the pump arrives in a couple of days, the dishwasher sits upside down in the kitchen and all dishes have to be washed by hand.
We were jarred awake by our carbon monoxide alarms when the temperature was eighteen below zero. We immediately opened a living room and back hall door and let fresh air flow. We tried leaving the boiler on but when the alarm went off again I turned off the boiler completely. Of course our house is so warm the loss of the boiler was not too impactful. Even opening the doors did not reduce the inside temperature by much. That is the benefit of solar and lots of thermal mass. I learned another advantage to the combination water heater and boiler. The boiler on the Challenger can easily be set to be off while the water heater is still on. Later in the day I set it to domestic hot water only. The water heater did not leak carbon monoxide. I tested the boiler with a gas sensor that I have for the RV.
I inspected the boiler later in the day and realized the condensate drain was pretty dirty. The troubleshooting chart said to be sure the exhaust and the exhaust fans were working which seemed to be the case. The boiler fan is making a whining noise when the boiler temperature is very high. The modulating temperature setting will react to really cold weather by heating the water more. I changed the top water temperature to 170 degrees from the default 186. The default water heater temperature is 140 degrees but the pump stops running at 120 degrees plus we have a whole house temperature regulator.
When I removed the boiler cover which only requires removing two screws, I cleaned the inside of the boiler and blew on the fan motor, then disassembled the condensate pan and cleaned it thoroughly and reinstalled the pan. This is the process that I go through when starting the boiler each winter. But apparently the condensate had built up more char than previous years. I unplugged the fan motor and ensured that it was getting appropriate power too.
When I put it back together there was an E5 error message. The error chart says to check the condensate vent and gas valve. I had just cleaned the condensate drain and tested to be sure the drain pipe was clear. So that error confused me and I did a lot of online research regarding malfunctions and fixes. These were all copied from internet help sites.
Triangle Tube Challenger Troubleshooting
Blower replacement check power inputs 120v and 20-32 v Dc. Blue and red wires to check DC, Black and white for 120v.
Check flue back pressure switch
The unit was failing because it wasn’t getting spark, (you should see spark thru the flame window or you can hear it clicking) It would spark properly when the boiler was cool, but after warm up it failed to provide spark and would display error # 4, let it cool off and it would spark as it should. This is why the boiler would seem to work well on low demand days in the beginning of the season, but would fail during high demand days. Changed the ignition transformer assembly #CCRKIT28 (which provides the spark) unit seems to be fine.
E-04 Failure to Ignite After Five Trials?
This will break down into three categories. 1) Is there fire occurring, but not proving? 2) Is the unit not producing fire at all? 3) Fire is established but after a short time (30 seconds)
If we are producing fire but not proving, this is a condition of lacking ground or a defective flame signal. The unit MUST have a dedicated power supply from the incoming distribution electrical panel, with a full sized uninterrupted ground. Be sure to remove the igniter and clean it. If more than 2 years old it would be prudent to replace it. Also check the condition of the orange ignition wire, make sure it has good connections on both the igniter and the ignition transformer. Insure that the wire is not touching any metal. The flame signal is determined by the ignition transformer. Since we cannot establish a flame, we cannot read the flame signal; therefore check the ignition transformer once again being sure of the condition of the connector on the wires.
If we are not producing any flame, then we are missing one of the three ingredients needed for fire. Ignition, Fuel, and Oxygen. We will attach our manometer to the inlet port on the gas valve; we should have Approximately 6” of pressure for Nat. gas, Approximately 11” for L.P. We should be able to see the spark generated when the unit goes into ignition through the inspection mirror attached to the left side of the heat exchanger. It is normally very visible. Removing the exhaust pipe from the condensate pan to increase the airflow from the blower. If we ignite then, we are restricted either in the exhaust pipe, or in the heat exchanger. Examine the exhaust pipe and remove the plate from the aluminum block and examine the flue ways for cleanliness. During the testing with the exhaust pipe there should be a strong order of gas coming from the outlet, if not, with the unit re-assembled, place your manometer on the outlet port of the gas valve. During pre-purge there should be a ½ inch of negative pressure developed. When the ignition cycle begins, the negative pressure should disappear, if it does not it is a defective gas valve.
If the unit lights, proves but when the blower begins to slow, the burner goes out. There we have a combustion issue that will require the use of the combustion analyzer. Make sure that at a forced high fire, we have an O2 level of 4.3% and when forced to low fire does not change more than 0.2%.
After all this research which took a couple of hours. I was prepared to open the boiler again and troubleshoot. However it was such a simple fix that I could have forgone the research. Much of it did not really apply to the problem the boiler was having. I also watched videos about replacing the fan in case the fan was not operating at full potential so I know what to look for if the fan breaks.
Removing the condensate pan and water filter requires loosening the vent pipe and turning the pan enough for it to get free from the bottom of the boiler casing. Although it is not shown here reassembly means locking the pan back into place and retightening the vent pipe retaining ring. When I opened the boiler case I immediately saw that I had neglected to retighten the ring. It was leaking and that was the error. While it was open I also noted that the fan was operating when the boiler was on.
As a side note the next night the Kidde Fire/Carbon Monoxide alarm woke us with a low battery alarm. We had sleeping guests so the alarm was very annoying and new batteries did not stop it. I ended up removing the whole alarm but reconnecting the red wire that links the alarms together. The next morning checking the glitch in the battery replacement I learned that the alarm has to be disconnected from power either by unplugging or shutting off the breaker, the alarm status removed by holding down the reset button and then the new batteries inserted and power restored. Nice to know if I remember it next time. I do replace the batteries about once a year and have seen battery replacement issues before but somehow the alarm sounding seemed to use up the batteries in that unit faster.
The machine is their LZ-1 model and the original motor was strong enough but the speed control was fast and faster. For heavy materials it was difficult to sew slowly enough to keep stitches even. Sailrite started offering an upgraded motor about a year ago. I was reluctant to purchase a $325 motor for the machine that already cost about $1000. But a Black Friday sale for $50 less got me. I ordered and installed the new WorkerB motor and it provides a wonderful control that was lacking before.
The new motor is larger than the old and came with an adjustable high speed control box. So the top speed can be set to about halfway or anywhere in between and limit the machine speed to less than its potential. The pulley sizes are different so there is a new flywheel and belt. There are instructions on the Sailrite website for the install and a very helpful video. It took less than an hour to remove the old motor and install the new. Once the motor and pulleys are on the belt tension is adjusted. This part uses judgement but there was a very clear example in the video for setting the correct tension.
I also purchased the extra light that plugs into the control and is mounted inside the foot mechanism’s cover. I had an led strip attached to the underside of the machine but the light directly over the needle is a good idea.
To test out the new motor I quickly sewed together a simple cover for the machine. I used some drapery material that came with the header boards of the window shades I bought through Craigslist. The material actually washed in the washing machine just fine. The patterning was a bit slipshod. I wrapped the material over the top and cut that shape and around the machine for length. One seam in the side and sewn around the top. I used the half flat fell seam that Sailrite demonstrates and I used on the grill cover.
I didn’t add piping or handles or a pocket like the Sailrite example. This made it a quick project and enough to be happy I added the new motor upgrade.
Here’s a twist for my blog topics. I have never been much of a crafter. I’m more likely to build something or even sew something. But my sister gave me a Cricut Explore machine and I have been learning how to use it. She visited for the holiday so I wanted to create a project with the machine. I’ve been buying reusable napkins for celebrations like birthday parties. It may not be much of a reduction in materials but at least uses fewer throw away paper products. All of the materials for these napkins I already had on hand. I was using up some scraps and materials that I purchased for former projects. There are some tricks to the tools the Cricut has for creating designs. I pretty much mastered lettering for birthday party and holiday iron ons. A text box comes in with all the letters in a group but in order to move each letter the text must be selected and ungrouped. In a script font it’s best for each letter to touch the next. Then once the letters are perfectly placed they are grouped again by selecting them all with a box drawn by the cursor and the weld tool will make the letters flow together and uneditable so it stays together. In this case I wanted the T attached to the rest of the word so I used hearts to combine them. The other two hearts were for balance.
A page of these words was created in the Design Space application to cut out a dozen from iron on Cricut material. I learned that once the page layout is created it is best to select them all and use the attach tool otherwise the Cricut may move them all over the cut page.
I have a heat press for the iron on material. When transferring to multiple items it works better than an iron. The correct temperature can be set and a timer stops the heat after the necessary duration.
We made a dozen napkins for our dinner then thought about custom napkin rings. I had never used the Cricut drawing pen function before. The Cricut allows for layers in an image to be treated differently. Normally svg type files are used for this but I have been unsuccessful saving png to svg’s that work in layers on the Cricut. It occurred to me that I could use the same image twice. One as just the outline to be cut and the other on top of it to be drawn. I erased the inside lines on one image to create just the outline to be cut and imported both images.
Selecting each image as a layer in the Cricut design space allowed me to mark one as Draw and the other as Cut. Then I put several on one page and used off white card stock to draw them and cut them out.
We cut the inner roll from the Cricut iron on material into 1/2″ rounds to attach the ribbon and turkeys. I have glue dots which work better for easy stick ons than hot glue. Cricut makes these projects fun and relatively easy and there is always something more to learn to use on the machine. We had these customized napkins for our Thanksgiving dinner.
We did a second Cricut craft while my sister was visiting. She suggested I make a luggage tag for each member of our family who will be visiting during the Christmas vacation. We are taking a short trip together and it will be fun to have a small memento. We found some simple ornaments at Target for $1 each and I labeled them with Cricut adhesive vinyl cut outs. I didn’t keep the letters even when sticking them onto the metal. I should have used the vinyl transfer paper that Cricut suggests for projects like this. Next time I may remember.
Some of the plastic lattice trim around the Trombe wall glazing has been curling away from the house from the intense heat from the sun. I don’t think I used enough nails to tie it to the boards behind it. More nails seem to take care of the gaps. Although I was working on a siding project at the back door, I thought I would just use the nail gun to tack the trim down a little more. Of course I had just tacked the side of a window making sure the gun was pointed away from the glass. But when I moved down to the next window I did not alter the angle of the nails. I heard it before I saw it. Crack and the entire window broke into a million tiny pieces which is what tempered glass does. In minutes most of the window fell to the ground.
Being distracted in this way of course just led to more repairs. The snow has come and the back door siding did not get finished. But the glass was replaced while the weather was still favorable. I cleared all the glass out of the channel with a flat head screwdriver. It fell out easily when poked. Dave swept most of the glass from below where it had fallen.
Then I removed the side and bottom pieces of the frame from the wall. They were stuck on with black butyl tape which in the heat of the sun was not that difficult to pry away from the wall and scrape off. I had hoped I could slide the new pane into the top and side frame pieces but the hooks at the bottom were in the way. I just decided to remove the hooks. Then it was still too tight a fit with the center trim piece so we removed that too. It was just nailed in and after those nails were pulled from the trim piece we could reuse it. That gave us enough space on one side and the bottom to reinstall the glass.
However without the hooks at the bottom of the frame the window has to be held from slipping down by spacers underneath. I used scrap 2×4 and longer pieces as levers. But will have to replace those with plastic wood that will not rot. I was just really happy that we were able to replace the broken glass. The decision to use just one pane of the old double pane glass meant we had several panes left over to replace broken ones. I don’t have firm numbers but the glazing on the Trombe wall has increased the heat we are experiencing inside. As the temperatures are in the 20’s and 30’s the heat set to 60 nighttime and 65 daytime is not turning on. While the windows were still open and I could run a temp sensor to this inside meter the temperature under the glass got hot immediately with temps up to 130°. The inside wall heated up above the room’s temperature. It actually rose into the 80’s. As the room temperature fell with the outdoor temperatures the wall lost very little heat. I need a wireless temperature sensor to record what is happening now that it is cold outside.
We were on the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour this year! We had a nice crowd visiting the house and while I showed them around inside, Dave showed them the Tesla roof and his greenhouses and urbanite retaining walls outside. We had some great volunteers who helped us greet visitors and participate in the tour too.
We had been on the tour in 2017 and any repeat visitors were glad to see the progress we have made since then. I had saved all the signs from the 2017 tour and made several more to point out new features. There were over 75 labeled features and over 30 signs to explain the energy saving ideas that we have used. All the signs helped people just go through themselves instead of waiting for my explanations. These were a few of the signs.
We were excited to see people who were interested in many of the ideas we had implemented. When I explained the Trombe wall and the fireplace boiler I realized these were not likely to be copied by anyone except if they were pursuing an Earthship. Today the Passive House movement really emphasizes tight construction and lots of insulation instead. The program from USGBC that I followed (LEED) currently has a larger implementation worldwide and emphasizes a whole house approach with points for healthy living features like fresh air, transportation, neighborhood amenities, water conservation, and energy efficiency as well as tightness and insulation standards.
By the end of the day I had a scratchy throat due to constant talking. But a little lemonade at the expo later that evening really helped. I visited the vendor tables and enjoyed listening to the experts in installation and design. Especially this radiant heat expert.
This year the home owners were thanks with Sustainability plaques or glass globes etched with the earth. A nice thank-you from New Energy Colorado.
I really enjoyed sharing our home and I’m looking forward to seeing more houses next year.
It is fall and the weather is perfect for outside projects. Some years we enjoy fall weather all the way to December so a long fall is really helpful.
After several days of rest, reading and writing after our tour day I was drawn outside for projects. The main portion of the patio was laid last summer. But I didn’t have time to cut the edge tiles to fit. Before the home tour we moved old pieces of solar glass left over from the broken Trombe wall off the patio. It left a messy area that needed to be cleaned up so as I worked to clean it I decided I might as well fill it with tiles before it got dirty again.
I have been working on organizing the garage and need to get the table saw out of the way before it’s time to park a car in the garage this winter. Right now I have it in the middle to be accessible for projects. The rubber tile edging for the patio needed each piece custom cut and fitted. These are recycled rubber tiles that I bought from a Craigslist ad. They are too wide to use the mitre saw to cut (I tried that first) so I changed the blade on the table saw. I had two new blades for the job. One was a narrow tooth blade that can cut aluminum and plastic. I tried that and it just burned through the rubber. The second was a narrow kerf finish cut blade and that worked perfectly. The cuts across the 12 inch tiles kicked back in the middle of the tile. The solution was to turn the tile over and cut from the other side. The blade skimmed through the rest as I pinched the first cut together. It took three days of effort to cut and place the 92 edge tiles. Every day was in the low 70’s by 10 AM. Perfect weather.
The first section was at the wall edge that had the most mud and leaf debris. Before the tour Dave vacuumed the patio with the large leaf vacuum. I swept the edge areas and then used the wet/dry vac to pick up the rest of the debris. Then each spot for a tile was measured and cut to fit.
I didn’t cut off the black driveway mesh underlayment until I laid the tile so it is a bit ragged. Here is another section on the North side next to the herb garden edge that was getting cleaned up for the tile.
The East edge doesn’t have a tile or wall edge but it was still fairly easy to fit the edge tiles. I did have to cut away some unused irrigation hose that poked up above the ground and some electric wire that was no longer in use to have the tiles lay flat in the corner. I have a walkway made from the plastic fence edging from Repurposed Materials that provides secure footing up to the flagstone path. I just laid the edge of that over the edge of the tiles.
The rest of the tile fits the South wall of the patio/pergola area. Several of the tiles had slipped away from the main patio enough to fill with dirt and debris between the tiles. So I removed those tiles and cleaned up around them too. Then they fit more tightly into the patio and I could cut the edge tiles more accurately.
I found that the fine rubber dust was clinging to my arms and face and it was important to wear a mask to keep that gunk out of my nasal passage and lungs! I still have some cleanup to do under the saw.
While I was out finishing the patio edges I re-stacked the faux stone on the edge of the garage wall that lost its stucco when the old front walk and partial wall was torn out. I had it stacked up in the past but it got knocked over. I’ll try to do a better job fitting the stone when I finally install it. I’m thinking of using outdoor cement adhesive caulk instead of mortar to keep it looking like dry stacked stone. This height just about covers all the damaged wall edge.
This summer was the culmination of ten years of work on the house. We had to push to finish the major LEED features of the remodel because we had an end of June deadline for evaluation under LEED 2009 version 3. But we switched to LEED version 4.1 anyway because it was a free upgrade and obviously easier for Energy Logic, the company that evaluated us. Their expertise had kept up with the times.
Our formal award of LEED Platinum happened at the end of June but our project is still underway. Looking back it was a summer of repairs. The spa controls burned out and when I replaced them a pipe junction broke and the blower leak never did stop despite various fixes. We got the new spa cover but never received the cover lifter. Of course the cover is not functioning with no water in the spa. We took a few trips in the RV and had some issues. In March we ran into a concrete pole and scraped the side. We waited for the repair shop from shortly after we returned home until after our RV trip to Indiana. That was mid-August.
The RV air conditioner also stopped working and I have warranty insurance with a $500 deductible. It cost $600 to find out that it was a wiring issue in the thermostat and the shop replaced it with a lower quality version without bluetooth. We left for a three week trip to Indiana and I didnt realize at first that it was the wrong thermostat. I complained when we returned home but they couldn’t connect me to the account person I used. I called with messages but didn’t hear back. Apparently they never sent the paperwork to the insurance either but I realized $160 of the charge was for a ”courtesy inspection” which probably was not covered by the policy. So the work didn’t meet the deductible after all.
I finally realized it would be easier to just replace the thermostat with the upgrade myself. In the meantime I learned about the air conditioner capacitors and a slow start capacitor I may install in the future. It takes the drag off the air conditioner startup that requires more watts than the running motor so that the inverter could run the air while driving. But the inverter stopped working on our way home from Indiana. I removed it while we took the RV to the body shop and realized that the power cord lug was so loose it blew the fuse. I bought a new tool to fix that.
We visited our daughter and family in Germany and got to see their new home in Wurselen in late August. I left the off set toilet in the master bath mostly installed after the seal broke and sewer gas was leaking into the house. I still need to apply the base caulk.
Most of September I spent working on small trim and paint jobs and I fixed the Old Hickory couch support in the house and re-covered some kitchen chairs getting ready for the solar home tour.
Now the summer is over and the tour is over and there are a few weeks of lovely weather ahead of another trip to Indiana for a wedding. So I have a list of things to get done!
The edging of the patio blocks was left undone because every block has to be cut and fitted.
The back door siding was never finished and the weather has stripped the area of its air barrier membrane. There is a small piece of siding left for it.
The garage will remain cedar but it was only partially painted. I ordered Vermont Natural coatings paint but the wood has to be power washed first.
The patio door trim is peeling and needs to be scraped, the wood filled and repainted.
The reused baseboard needs to be washed and painted and installed.
Some areas of the house still need wood and log trim.
The workshop in the garage needs to be cleared to park a car for the winter.
The spa piping needs to be fixed and piping for thermal solar installed at the same time.
I’d like to set up the solar water heater collectors.
There are more projects left from the summer list but I’m relegating the indoor tasks to the winter list. These outdoor projects are the next steps. They should keep me busy for awhile.
This is a big deal at least for the committee that puts it together. We work from January through November to offer the tour to the public on the National Solar Tour day, the first Saturday in October. The tour is sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society and the New Energy Colorado orgaization.
Organizing the tour involves finding green home owners willing to have their houses open to the public on tour day; having sponsors and vendors who support the tour with ads and vendor tables; advertising the tour in newspapers, the radio and community bulletins; working with social media accounts to spread the word; designing flyers and logos; setting up ticket sales and attendance; recruiting and organizing volunteers to be docents at the homes and registration; interviewing owners and taking photos of the homes; writing and publishing a full color booklet with the featured homes, green home information and sponsor ads and creating a large paper map of the home locations.
There is a volunteer organizational meeting the Thursday evening before the tour to hand out materials and assign tasks for the day of the tour. We serve pizza and snacks and drinks. After the tour there is a two hour expo in the registration hall with food and music and vendors and the radio broadcasters from the local ”Fixit” show. And there is a lecture series in weeks leading up to the tour day.
All registrants also receive a monthly newsletter from Solar Citisuns, a user group sponsored by New Energy Colorado.
The 27th annual tour was a success with over 250 participants. It’s an honor to serve on the committee with an amazing group of energy efficiency experts. Next month we get busy reviewing this tour and improving the tour for next year.
Another good question, this one from our volunteer guide, was about the specifics of our radiant hot water and domestic hot water piping. Could I provide a diagram about how it all worked together? I had never put both systems on the same diagram. I started with the diagrams I had of the fireplace/gas boiler interaction. This is the logic of how the fireplace boiler operates to send warmed water to the heat exchanger to transfer heat to the gas boiler water.
The fireplace boiler water forms a closed loop separate from the gas boiler water in the radiant system. The fireplace water has some steel pipes while the rest is all pex, copper, or stainless steel. The steel pipes degrade the water so the stainless steel heat exchanger keeps the water systems apart and both boilers are piped to transfer the heat from the fireplace water to the gas heated water.
The gas boiler water is always routed through the heat exchanger even when there is not a fire. The return water should be at least 20 degrees cooler than the water that is sent to the flooring so the extra trip through the exchanger helps cool that water and improve the boiler’s condensing efficiency.
When there is a fire, the return water picks up heat from the fireplace boiler water and is warm enough to circulate through the boiler and on to the radiant pipes. I noticed that the previous fireplace boiler diagrams all had the storage tank which I removed some time ago. This is the diagram with the piping going directly to the heat exchanger.
There is an unfortunate error in this diagram. The expansion tanks are shown on the cold side of the pipes when of course they are on the hot side as they are meant to expand as the water in the pipes expands with heat.
I noticed that and fixed it when I was adding the domestic hot water loop to the old diagram. I made a few other changes to show the household hot water path and explained that when the boiler functions as an instant hot water heater the radiant heat is off while the water is being heated for household use. If needed, it automatically turns back on when water is no longer flowing through the separate pipes inside the boiler that heat our hot water.
This diagram also shows that the return radiant pipe water is connected to the primary loop and not to the secondary loop as in the old diagram. In the primary loop on the gas water boiler the water just circulates into and out of the boiler. It is the required primary loop size for the dual loop system to function. The secondary loop pump pulls the heated water from the primary loop and circulates it to the valves that are controlled by the thermostats and the valve controller electronics. In this diagram I include the hot water entering the distribution valves and returning to the boiler to pick up more heat. When the room is warm enough the boiler and the pumps will shut down. So one thermostat must always call for heat when the fireplace boiler is on. That is not difficult as the radiator fed bedrooms over the crawlspace of the house are usually colder than the slab area. So we send the heat there by turning up that thermostat over 70°.
Cold water that is heated for use in the house is piped to a separate loop in the gas boiler. This is an open system not a closed loop like the radiant piping. Water flows freely from the well pressure tank into the boiler. There is a hot water recirculation pump that pulls water from the pressure tank through the loop in the floor that is the “trunk” of our hot water system before we open a faucet. The water then flows through the gas boiler’s instant hot water piping and back to the hot water pipes.
The recirculation pump runs for 15 minutes after being signaled on by a remote control. But it also has a built in thermostat (thermo sensor) that shuts it off at 120°. If within the 15 minutes the temperature drops below 120° then the pump turns on again. So from the first signal to turn on the entire trunk is heated within in a couple of minutes and it won’t begin to lose heat for 15 minutes when the circulating pump turns off because of the 15 minute timer. The “twigs” in the diagram below are the shorter lengths of pipe that feed the faucets from the nearby trunk flow. Only the cold water in these short pipes needs to be replaced by hot when the faucets turn on. This wastes as little water as possible before the warm water leaves the faucets. The boiler keeps heating household water until the faucet or appliance is turned off. The dishwasher has its own hot water heat function that boosts the heat from the boiler and we usually wash clothes in cold water.
The Triangle Tube Challenger Combi boiler that we installed in 2012 is a very efficient use of gas to run our household heat and hot water. Right now the push is to eliminate gas use at the home level and electrify homes including electric induction stoves and cold weather heat pumps. It is something we will think about when our boiler stops being repairable. But we use much less gas for heat, cooking and hot water than an average Colorado home uses just for heat (Electric heat converted to therms). The figures were from a Colorado Extension report.
I spoke with a vendor at the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour Expo who used to sell the Challenger boilers but said his customers had reliability issues. I was hopeful that would only be true if the boilers were not maintained or fed the specific water ph and mineral content that was specified as we do. We have not had the problems but we do flush the boiler and the pipes every couple of years and we make sure the pipes have no air in them before the boiler is turned on for the year. The water is within the recommended ph and is treated for mineral content and carbon filtered. The calcium is suspended in the water with an electronic magnetic filter that keeps the molecules from clinging tightly together so less likely to be deposited in the boiler or pipes. So far that has kept the boiler reliable for us. I’ve read that the lifetime expectation for these boilers is 15-25 years so maybe in 5-10 more years it will have to be replaced. By then I hope there will be a much more energy efficient alternative.
We had a wonderful offer to help spread the word about the tour this year from Joan Gregerson, a local real estate agent who is savvy about energy efficiency in buildings. She recruited a few volunteers as home tour guides and developed some graphics for ads. Joan also produces The Denver Green Living Channel, a video blog about homes and energy efficiency that features efforts by leaders, businesses and organizations in our area of Colorado.
She provided an opportunity to help advertise the upcoming Denver Metro Green Homes tour. She interviewed me about the tour and aired a video tour of my home that I narrated. Posted at:
Thanks to Joan and several other media and press outlets contacted by our public relations committee members, we had over 250 participants in this year’s tour.
We were on the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour last Saturday. It occurs each year on the first Saturday of October which is the National Solar tour day. We were a site to see the Tesla Solar roof and our Powerwalls as well as other energy saving ideas that helped us earn LEED Platinum certification. Visitors asked us if the roof was worth the money it cost. I explained yes by asking what else is this expensive? Typically a higher end new car costs in the vicinity of our roof but our roof pays us back for the next 25 years at least while the new car just costs more money.
My second consideration was that our roof was 17 years old and had been through several hailstorms. It was time to replace the roof. A typical shingle roof would have cost say $8 a square foot, some are cheaper some more expensive. But a class 4 hailproof dimensional shingle would cost about $15 a square foot and solar panels cost about $10 a square foot, although panels are typically rated by watts not size. The Tesla roof is made of tempered glass tiles and designed to look like slate. An even higher end slate roof would cost $20-$25 per square foot and up. The cost for both a new high quality roof and 16 kw of panels would add up quickly.
Higher wattage panels are larger than lower wattage panels but take better advantage of space available. They require a long lasting roof installed under them or you risk having to remove the panels, install a new roof, and have the panels re-installed on the new roof. Tesla tiles each cost more for the solar than their plain roof tiles, but the average cost per square foot was estimated at $20 to install them. Installation on a complex roof might cost more.
Tesla solar roof tiles are rated as 72.67 watts. The tiles are fewer watts per square foot than the 400 watt panels but not by much. I can’t install solar panels to the extent that they can be integrated on our roof. They can’t be mounted all the way to the peak or around protrusions. Plus estimates of the actual cost per solar watt installed is about $1.80 for the Tesla roof tiles and the typical installed panel cost per watt is currently about $3 in Colorado. So it makes good sense to install as many of the solar tiles as possible. In Colorado that’s up to two times the yearly amount consumed by the customer for grid-tied systems. The solar tiles unlike the filler tiles, are not only an excellent roof but produce power so are much more valuable. A large area of our south facing roof is flat or nearly flat shown as light gray in the diagram. The garage roof points south and a small area points east but the rest of the roof faces north.
Our roof is slightly over 16,000 watts. it includes all the wiring and inverters to run our system. It would take 40 400 watt panels costing about $48,000 without the extra equipment to get that much power! So the articles that I read that say you can get cheaper solar and a new roof do not seem to make financial sense. Certainly you cannot get a slate quality roof and a full solar grid-tied system any cheaper.
I may have been one of the lucky ones who actually had a Tesla solar roof installed. During my research for this article I read that installation has been halted. No official reason but the guess is a shortage of the solar glass tiles and a booming business in panel installs. Our roof is version 3 and an updated version 3.5 is being developed.
My conclusion is that there is resistance to new ideas. Only when early adopters, and like the Tesla cars they are consumers with more money, start to spend on a new idea does it become mainstream. When we first bought a Honda hybrid in 2002 the articles about the cars discouraged purchasing the new technology. No shops can repair them, never save in gas enough for the additional cost, technology not sufficiently proven. Yet the same writers thought nothing of recommending the latest expensive bells and whistles on non-hybrid cars. Paying for those fancy technologies were what they knew. Luckily the car buying public ignored them and the cars became popular. I suspect the same will happen with solar roofs.
I was advertising the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. Our house is on the tour again this year. We had our house on the tour in 2017 when we were about halfway finished installing LEED requirements and attempting to earn points for the Platinum level certificate. This year we are again on the tour having earned enough points for Platinum certification and to achieve Net Zero status.
After our house was on the tour I became involved with the planning committee. I have been working to coordinate volunteers and provide the materials and information they need to be docents for the homes on the tour. They assist the homeowners to direct guests to the energy efficient features of the homes.
I was available for the interview spot on KLVZ radio 810 AM today. I spoke with Adam from Bestway Insulation who hosts the “Fixit” show, letting homeowners know about improving their homes. Adam’s mom, Debbie, alternates hosting the show on many Saturdays and is the owner of the Bestway Insulation company.
I downloaded the station app and recorded the show when it repeated today. Then it was not straightforward how to export the recording to a music file. I finally found the share button on the file and saved it as a wav file because I read it preserves the best qualuty audio. I imported the file into iTunes and had iTunes create the mpg for export to other players.
Now I just have to be ready for the volunteer orientation on Thursday and the tour next Saturday.
The woman who heads up the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour also works with organizations in Chaffee County to organize a green homes tour near Salida and Buena Vista. She recruits members of the Denver team to spend a beautiful weekend in the mountains helping with the tour and this is the second year Dave and I have taken the opportunity.
We have a lot of storage space in the RV and John Avenson puts together a fascinating display of various energy saving ideas for homeowners. We carried the supplies in the RV storage areas and inside. We were pretty full of stuff!
This display was set up at the Farmer’s Market in Salida this year and the individuals who attended the house tour stopped by to pick up the information about the tour addresses. This year we also had an online registration to sign up and get the addresses through tickets. It was a bit more difficult to get the information out using the program than we thought. But it helped to try it at the smaller tour before our big tour October 1st.
There were five homes to tour this year. The brochure gave a little information about each home.
This was one of the homes that was featured this year.
About 85 people registered for the free tour. It was a beautiful day with several other events happening at the same time in the area. The team felt the tour was a success.