Last Push before LEED Rating

We returned from our camping trip late Tuesday and I had about two days to finish several projects for the LEED final rating appointment on Friday. It was not easy to prioritize. I found an article that mentioned the 10 biggest issues passing a LEED rating. I had already had a blower door test to find some of the worst air leaks and had applied foam and insulation to the areas we discovered. I also bought extra door weatherstripping but only had applied it to one of the doors! The biggest project before the rating had been installing the glass on the Trombe wall so it would provide more radiant heat to the uninsulated block wall.

1. Manual J Equipment Sizing Calculations. I thought I had this covered. Even though I did the calculations at the start of the project and could not know all the final design details, it came pretty close.

2. Duct Leakage. No HVAC ducts but the ERV ducts were giving me problems. This turned out to take the most time to solve.

3. Air Flow ERV airflow was less than design. I had shortened the pipes to get the fresh air moving.

4. Air Filters Good here, have MERV 12 in the ERV and Radiant heat does not use air filters.

5. Bath and Kitchen Fan Exhaust. Good here too. Great Panasonic Whisper Green fans in two bathrooms, ERV in the other.

6. Ventilation and Exhaust Controls. The bathrooms have the humidstat controls that work wonderfully.

7. Air Sealing. This was a big concern so I did what I could to reduce places I knew about. It wasn’t enough.

8. Insulation. Had additional insulation blown into the rear of the house and had already passed the big insulation inspection.

9. Project Team Communication. The most difficult thing was being sure the vendors followed the requirements and design of a LEED home. But most of that was done years ago.

10. Documents and Submittals. A huge job and one that I have spent hours completing. But I’m pretty sure I can deliver any documentation that is required.

It was obvious to me from the list that my ERV needed the most attention as well as any extra sealing I could do. So I took those last two days to concentrate on improving the ERV ducting and air flow. I had purchased a vent fan that had a speed control and was not high wattage (46w on high). So I was determined to add it to the ducting system.

AC Infinity Duct Fan
AC Infinity Duct Fan

The long arm of vent on the right side of the layout had been disconnected and that junction is where I installed the fan.

Duct Layout
Duct Layout

The day was warm and working in a small space in the attic was tight The pipe on the left is the central vacuum run. Also notice the mini-split refrigerant pipes and the electric junction box. The ERV is on the right side of the radon pipe. Lots of stuff in a small space. I took out the temporary elbow and reinstalled a duct tee so that the air could feed both arms of duct on the right hand side of the diagram.

Had to squeeze between the radon pipe and the wall to connect pipes.
I had to squeeze between the radon pipe and the wall to connect pipes.

It was much easier to take a ladder to the top of the refrigerator to reach the duct there. That is how I installed the duct fan. And I ran the wiring through to the attic space. The fan had a plug and the controller was on the electric cord. It was easy to connect. I’m running the fan on medium. This was another big job that took most of two days.

Easier to reach the duct from the top of the refrigerator
Easier to reach the duct from the top of the refrigerator

It was still hot when I taped the joints of the solar tube in the rear bathroom attic and relaid the insulation there to get better coverage around the tube. It was miserably hot in the attic but the tasks did not take long.

The next day in late May, the rater was scheduled to arrived and it turned cold and snowed. He came about 2 pm so I had installed the weatherstripping on the doors that morning. The night before I got an email with several questions about points that I was pursuing. I had the documentation and just had to spend time attaching it to the email. I lost three points I had hoped to gain, first because the mudroom shoe storage and bench were not considered permanent. I quickly built the little bench I had planned to build for months over the plumbing in the mud room corner. Then I cleared off a shelf for shoes in the closet but I’m pretty sure I still won’t get that point.

Small shoe removal bench
Small shoe removal bench

The other point I seem to have lost is EPA certification for the boiler fireplace. It has EU certification and it is an imported stove so I thought that would count. There is a disclaimer for foreign applicants that if the US regulations don’t apply those of the country of origin of similar type would count instead. The EPA did not have a category for wood stove boilers and they were exempted at the time I installed the stove. But the letter of the law is EPA. Rats another point that I needed and tried to gain. Apparently we don’t get a point for planting a tree for shade either because there are already trees? I dont understand that but our aspen may not have made it this winter anyway.

So the final rating day came at last. Dave bought me a special t-shirt for my birthday that I almost forgot to put on. The rater was far too young to really appreciate the humor, although he had heard of Green Acres.

Green Acres Shack
Green Acres Shack
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas on Green Acres
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas on Green Acres

The rater was very nice and even complimented some of my work. But the blower door test was a big disappointment. Since late November when Nancy did a blower door and got 2700 cfm/50 I had worked to tighten the house in places we found that day. But it wasn’t enough. The rater got a low of 1900 cfm/50. Technically that does not pass Energy Star requirements. But he said a remodel might be different. They are much more difficult to reduce. Our chimney was leaking air at an astonishing rate and despite my application of foam there were still leaks at some windows and doors. The energy audit in 2012 started at 3250 cfm/50. He said that was a huge reduction so I might be OK because of all the other work I have done.

I completed the forms for Energy Star HVAC efficiency and water management and sent them back. So now I wait to hear the verdict. I’m sure it takes a lot of time to enter all the information on the USGBC site. Then the organization needs time to evaluate all of it. I have my fingers crossed and will continue to work on the tightness of the house even though it won’t affect this rating.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Air Intrusion/Thermal Envelope, LEED Project, Maintenance and Repair, Ventilation | Leave a comment

Birthday Camping

We had a nice vacation taking the grandkids camping at Boyd Lake for my birthday! I had a few things to do on the RV to get ready. Much of the clean up of the mud room was undone when I unloaded several boxes from the wedding trip in February. So it goes.

I also had to fix the light strip that fell off during that trip. I used 3M tape to put the strip holder back up and found that the strip had broken so only a few of the lights were working. I ordered a replacement strip to put on someday.

Fixing the light strip
Fixing the light strip

I had to dewinterize and fill fresh water. The hot water heater drain valve was open and it took me awhile to find that. Of course it needed a good cleaning as well and all the sheets and comforter duvets were washed and dried. Its fun to get ready to camp though. I repacked with chairs and canopy and new sand toys. We also brought inflatable floats but that was wishful thinking.

Packing the RV
Packing the RV

Although the weather was warm the lake had not been refilled. So the beach was quite a bit further from the water than I had envisioned. We played in the sand but the beach playground was a big draw. It was about 1/4 mile away from our campsite. Kids liked the wagon ride.

Ready to ride to the playground
Ready to ride to the playground

We had a lovely campout and really enjoy taking a break in the RV. The wind was calm so we could even have a campfire! And of course the fireside treat of s’mores.

Fireside
Fireside
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Last Four Windows are Trimmed

It was an exciting day, all the windows and doors in our house have trim! The handymen returned to finish the windows. Each window is slightly askew so measuring and cutting each board had to be precise.
The handymen started at the rear bedroom and worked forwards.

Rear Bedroom.
Rear Bedroom.

The long window in the rear bedroom was trimmed at the bottom edge with a rougher board because we ran out of longer trim boards. Unfortunately it split on one end and I did not have another 80″ trim piece to replace it with so I tried to glue and renail it. Maybe I will replace it with a purchased trim board eventually. I hate to say I had to buy a board though!

The ”escape” window in the middle bedroom was complicated by the lower area concrete that was a different width. We decided to just eliminate the bottom trim board and used a board that had a bit of a decorative edge.

Middle bedroom
Middle bedroom

I also found a shelf board that had a nice natural edge for the bathroom and we decided to make it a bit more of a ledge, but the installers cut it first not thinking about the overhang. So the sides don’t match a lower trim board like on the other windows so they just left it off. I think I’ll have to remove the board and cut it to the same width in order to trim the bottom. The unfinished look of the side trim bothers me.

Master Bathroom
Master Bathroom

The last window was in the family room. I could hardly believe the windows were all finally trimmed. Of course there is still so much more to do.

Family Room
Family Room

But it’s a milestone! I couldn’t have done it without the handymen. Thanks to Scott and Robert!

Unlimited Service Solutions Handymen
Unlimited Service Solutions Handymen
Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Construction, Trim | Leave a comment

New Patio Furniture

Last fall we realized that the free wicker furniture I picked up several years ago was getting too fragile to use. This type of furniture was not even meant for outdoor use but we got it from people who used it outside and we continued to use it outside.

Old rattan patio furniture
Old rattan patio furniture

I moved the old oak bench out to the patio early this spring when I was trying to organize the garage. So when I looked for new patio furniture I was looking for something that would complement the lines of the bench.

I chose a couple of sets of chairs and a long low couch/daybed in rot resistant mahogany. The brand claimed that the wood was legally harvested. This type of mahogany is considered a sustainable hardwood second only to teak for duribility in outdoor furniture.

I neglected to change the shipping address on my Overstock account so the furniture arrived at my son’s house. I went over and dragged it into their garage and later took the truck over to pick it up.

I was not ready to put it together so I covered it with a tarp and left it there for a few weeks. Finally the weather began to cooperate and I opened a couple of boxes and bolted the seat to the back and put on the legs and arms. I temporarily left the plastic covers on the cushions.

Oak bench with first new pieces
Oak bench with first new pieces

The black circular thing is an outdoor gas fire ring that I need to convert from natural to propane gas. I bought the kit but I have to get some time to figure out the conversion. This fire ring I bought from a craigslist ad and it had never been used.
This morning my grandson enjoyed helping me put the last two chairs together. I got out the old cushions that desperately need to be washed or recovered and we are now ready for guests!

New patio furniture
New patio furniture

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Plant Loss and Re-plant

Two of the xeriscape plants we planted for the front walk border survived for two years. Just two. That is a sad loss. Probably not enough watering to keep them going in their second year when they were supposed to be established.

What survived? I believe a blue penstemon and a Rocky Mountain Blazing Star which was not even on our receipt and must have been a substitution.

Penstemon Blue Buckle
Penstemon Blue Buckle
Rocky Mtn Blazing Star
Rocky Mtn Blazing Star

This spring I am trying a different approach. I planted herbs in the border. These are all plants that rabbits are supposed to avoid.

Herb border
Herb border

Herbs Planted in Order from Daffodil

Sage Bergerten (2)

Thyme?

English Lavender

Rosemary (2)

Lavender

Purple Sage (2)

Blazing Star native perennial that lived

Lavender

Oregano

Mother of Thyme

Lavender

Mother of Thyme

Lemon Balm

The next day I mulched the plants with real cedar mulch.

Cedar mulch
Cedar mulch

In the driveway side bed I also planted four strawberry plants and mulched them but some leaves are turning brown and I don’t know that they will survive. Some of these herbs may overwinter if they are protected. I’ll have to look into that in the fall.

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Original Carpet Recycled

Early in the Deconstruction I searched for a way to recycle all the materials we were replacing in the house. Only the family room was carpeted. I was able to find a carpet recycler in Denver to get the large room of carpeting recycled.

One room was carpeted
One room was carpeted

I removed the carpet and the tack strips and rolled up the carpet to take it to the recycler.

Recycled Carpet
Recycled Carpet

At the recycler there was carpet in large piles and mine was just added to the pile. The man who worked there showed me that the carpets were shredded and then the shredded fibers were reused in carpet manufacturing.

Carpet Shredder
Carpet Shredder

I searched the blog but apparently in the early days I didn’t write about every step. Turns out this one is an important step to show since carpet is one of the four waste streams that I used.

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A-B Polyurethane Spray Insulation

It seemed that the best way to insulate the rear wall of the utility room would be spray on insulation. Most of the wall is below grade so I knew it was insulated on the exterior but the top 11” is at least partly above grade. This area is closed in with plywood and it was leaking a lot of cold air when I had the blower door test done.

Leaking air was especially bad around the pipes that went through the ceiling. I wanted to fill these holes and also cover the styrofoam above the concrete side walls and the plywood behind the pipes and boiler on the back wall with a layer of spray on insulation.

As an experiment I bought two kinds of two component spray foam canisters. this type of foam is better than single component cans for sealing large gaps and has a higher R value. Both of the brands I ordered are rated as low GWP (global warming potential) with no harmful CFCs (chloroflourocarbons). The Dap Touch and Seal brand was a little less expensive and claimed a sprayed volune of 15 board ft the other was Froth-Pak, at 12 board ft. Both are high expanding low pressure closed cell foam with about a 6 R value and are fire resistant. It took a few months before I got around to this project. I ordered the foam in January. Cleaning up from the disconnected dryer vent was the first unanticipated step to spraying the upper sides and back of the utility room.

Unfortunately the Dap brand canisters were held together by delicate plastic straps that split from the triggers when I accidentally dropped them. Holding the plastic connection up was supposed to hold both triggers in an open position, instead when the plastic broke off the triggers didn’t work. I even had Dave try to squeeze the triggers for me but the mixture went as far as the nozzle and no further. How disappointing.

Dap Touch n Seal
Dap Touch n Seal
Froth-Pak
Froth-Pak

The next day I unpacked the Froth-Pak box. The whole system was better quality and better thought out. The bottles screwed into a dual cap piece and had a shoulder harness. They were designed to empty upside down. There were three nozzles in hard clear plastic instead of two soft plastic nozzles. The directions were clearer calling for the bottles to be well shaken. The handle was the only spray controller unlike Dap that required both the triggers on the bottles and the hand sprayer. I was elated when the mixture actually sprayed out of the nozzle.

Spreading it evenly was another matter.

Clumping foam
Clumping foam

The more I tried to fill the holes the more foam dripped down away from the hole. I ended up with quite a clumpy mess. And the bottles emptied way before I got the wall sprayed.

Uneven spray
Uneven spray

Since I had a lot left to seal I went to work on the Dap kit after learning from the Froth Pak.

Re-engineered Dap bottles
Re-engineered Dap bottles
Pvc scrap 2x2 cut to hold both triggers in place
Pvc scrap 2×2 cut to hold both triggers in place

I taped the bottles together so they resembled the Froth Pak set-up. Then I taped a small piece of 2×2 between the triggers. I had to notch the edges so the triggers would not rotate away. I cleaned the foam from the soft plastic nozzles to reuse them. Then I shook the bottles and held them upside down and squeezed the triggers together while holding the spray gun handle down. The foam left the nozzle!

This foam seemed more liquid than the Froth-Pak but I was able to fill the gap at the top of the plywood.

Sealing with the Dap foam
Sealing with the Dap foam

I pushed the foam as far into the corners as I could. As I filled the upper holes the foam seemed liquidy and wanted to drip even more than the Froth-Pak.

Drippy foam
Drippy foam

When the Dap foam no longer sprayed out it seemed the bottles still held some liquid but I think one side ran out before the other. I could not tell that there were 3 more board ft in the Dap bottles although they were taller. I was just glad I was able to use most of it and did not have a total loss of $50.

The upper corner still felt cold so I added some leftover rock wool to the space. I will have to open a new package to fill the other side. But I hope I sealed it enough to help with the blower door results.

Rock wool insulation after edge sealing
Rock wool insulation after edge sealing

The foam is too difficult to control to spray behind the pipes on the rear wall. I ordered more Froth-Pak but plan to use it in the crawlspace.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Air Intrusion/Thermal Envelope, Maintenance and Repair | Comments Off on A-B Polyurethane Spray Insulation

Dryer Vent Debacle

My next project was to close the leaky area in the utility room. I started by cleaning off dust and taping the Siga membrane to the back header.

Loose ceiling membrane
Loose ceiling membrane

I had expected to get the drywall fixed on the ceiling but the drywall guy said it wasn’t worth it. Too much work for small fix. I bought spray on insulation for this area.

Taping the membrane
Taping the membrane

There was a lot of air coming from behind the washer and dryer. These machines are really heavy and Dave helped me push them out enough to get behind them. To my dismay I found the dryer vent pipe was disconnected at the ceiling! I had disconnected it at the dryer to clean it out but was surprised there was little to nothing in the pipe. I went out to the roof and took off the vent cover and put the snake inside but it stopped only 3 or 4 feet into the pipe. That’s when I found that the vent was completely disconnected and the whole area coated with dryer lint! That was bad news.

Disconnected dryer vent
Disconnected dryer vent

At first I could not figure out how to get high enough to push the vent back in. The six foot ladder was too long and wide to fit through the gap between the wall and the machines. Overnight I remembered I had a foldable ladder from the old RV. It folds vertically so I could get it into position and then open it. Then I had to get my legs over the 3’ high gas pipe and squeeze between the air conditioner lines and the wall. I had barely enough space to drill a new hole to put in one screw and retape the joint. Then the next pipe joint came apart too. It had been held with just tape. I also drilled a hole for one screw in that joint, retaped and secured it with a pipe ring clamp.

Reconnected dryer vent.
Reconnected dryer vent.

I didn’t think to take a closer photo, I was too cramped. And I had to vacuum all the dryer dust from inside the little alcove. It coated the drywall below and above and on the walls. Luckily my son-in-law left an ancient but small shop vac that worked perfectly for this.

Reconnected and reinforced. Note stainless braided hoses.
Reconnected and reinforced. Note stainless braided hoses.

Then I stretched the pipe to connect to the dryer again and reinforced that connection with a little more vent tape. Now I can address the actual task at hand back there-to eliminate drafts. It is such a slow process.

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Trombe Wall Panel Failure

We were out of town for about two weeks visiting our daughter and family in Germany. While we were gone there were several days of high winds. Since I left the Trombe glass panels stuck on with just the butyl tape and no trim we returned to find one panel on the ground. Miraculously unbroken.

Fallen Pane
Fallen Pane

The bottom frame piece fell out of the L hooks and turned 90 degrees.

Bottom channel sideways
Bottom channel was sideways

After straightening the bottom frame piece, I applied more butyl tape and we lifted the frame back into place. Then I nailed on a trim piece to hold it. I went to the other windows that were not trimmed and pushed them back into place where the butyl was loose. But I was not exaggerating about the wind.

Very windy in the last couple of weeks
Very windy in the last couple of weeks

That evening I saw another pane had fallen!

Casualty number two
Casualty number two

The next day, with more butyl tape and straightening the frame and we lifted this one back into place too. But I realized that trim was absolutely needed to keep the windows from falling and possibly breaking.

Reinstalled and trim to hold it on one side
Reinstalled and trim to hold it on one side

At first I thought of some gray bamboo trim I have that is meant for interior floor transitions. I bought a few boxes of it from Repurposed Materials. But not only was it difficult to use the trim nail gun to nail it to the wall but it chipped badly from the nails.

I also have a big pile of PVC lattice edging that I bought from Repurposed Materials. They are in all colors but the dark brown matched the front the best. As I was using this for the framing and then for the trim I realized that this is the color that has the fewest pieces. So I’m using practically every last one. I suppose that is good because I need to use up materials I have around the place.

Also repaired and reinstalled
Also repaired and reinstalled with edging between frames

There were just a few double sided trim pieces in this color and I realized I could cut off one of the edges and have an overlapping piece to hold the panels. That meant I could replace the bamboo that was not working with the PVC. The big problem was not having enough. I decided I could use other colors if I ran out. I used a little bit of gray instead of brown for the West side window. Then I cut several overlapping trim pieces and fit them beside the outside edges of the panes. I used the multitool to cut these and it worked perfectly although the blades got dull quickly.

Trimmed on the sides needs top trim
Trimmed on the sides needs top trim

Then I bridged the pieces between the frames with the double edge piece by cutting the two edges apart creating a nice 2″ wide top trim.

Nothing is easy about this project though. The siding has the waterway drainage layer so it overlays the panels and the tops of the windows. The cut logs I thought I would use for the top trim don’t hide the edge of the siding. I wanted to continue to use PVC around these windows except for the header logs so the work stalled while I drove to Home Depot for a solution.

I returned with some 12′ white pvc quarter round. I was worried about nailing into the fiberglass window frames so I used 3m tape to hold the quarter round into place and I screwed log headers above the windows. These match the interior of the house.

Log Headers
Log Headers

The last piece to replace was the long narrow area that did not fit standard patio door size glass. I tried to buy twin wall polycarbonate from Home Depot but they had their coloplast plastic cardboard marked as polycarbonate. So I decided to check Colorado Plastics in Louisville. I was able to get a piece cut to the correct measurements for about the same price as a sheet from Home Depot (if they had the right product). It was ready in a couple of days and I picked it up.

I made the same frame from the brown lattice edge pieces that I made for the glass windows. Then I installed the L shaped hooks and used the butyl tape to hold the panel in place. I still need to trim this window and put headers on the second section but I’m not going to be evaluated on headers or trim so I moved to working inside again.

Installed polycarbonate twinwall panel
Installed polycarbonate twinwall panel
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Yuck, It Smells Terrible

We first noticed that sewer gas was seeping into the house when my friend did a blower door test in December. The smell was from the master bathroom and it would come and go. I never could tell which fixture had a leak. It didn’t smell worse by the toilet or in the tub or sink drains. I couldn’t smell it more in the shower.

Most of the time if I smelled it I could just turn on the bathroom fan and it would dissipate but I knew it was a problem. Finally the smell got worse and worse and I could not clear it with just the bathroom fan. I would have to discover what was going on. At first I suspected the tub drain but the tub seemed to drain without issues and without bubbling. The toilet however began to bubble whenever it was flushed and with that little detail the internet suggested that the vent or the sewer line was clogged.

There were no problems with the other bathrooms so the problem was definitely with the master bath sewer line. When we returned from our trip to see our daughter in Germany the smell was bad. My granddaughter had to use the bathroom and she curled up her nose and complained about the stink. I told her I knew there was a problem and was taking care of it.

It was so windy I was afraid to use the ladder to get on the roof so I waited until the winds had died down. There is a vent on the roof that could have been clogged. I dropped a plumbing snake down the vent and pushed against some obstruction. I’m not sure what I was hitting but it didn’t keep the snake from getting down into the sewer drain. But then at about 12 ft. deep I hit dirty water. I know that water should not be sitting in the drain like that. It meant I had to call in the professionals.

One of the advantages of belonging to the Facebook neighborhood group is that folks ask for recommendations for home improvement and repair projects. That is how I found the handymen I have used and so I looked there for a sewer company. The first one I called was a small time business owner and out on a job so he didn’t return my call after about two hours. He did finally text me to explain and offer help in the future after I called and said I had found another resource.

The folks who came out were actually another small business. Triple S Sanitary Sewer Services. This is the truck that was parked in my driveway and two men discussed the problem with me. Fortunately they were good listeners. We looked at the access to the sewer at the problem site. It actually didn’t smell really bad by the time they came. I showed them the actual pipe layout from a blog post.

Sewer Service Truck

They wanted to use the sewer cleaning equipment but given that the access in the bathroom was tight and the roof vent was accessible, they decided to use the scope to see where the issue actually was. The scope did hit a clog but it was a soft clog, just a bunch of toilet paper or perhaps a paper towel that might have gotten flushed by accident maybe by a grandkid but maybe not. (Littles will sometimes try to flush away unusual items luckily it was not a toy!) The scope was actually a good enough battering ram and the clog moved along with a few extra toilet flushes to help.

They were able to get the scope all the way to the septic tank and let me watch as they pulled it out. The sewer is not the best view of this house. There was residual black stuff in there. Yuck. But they told me it was just normal. There were a couple of places that the pipe had sunk a little bit. I told them I was worried there was a bigger problem due to the expansive soil but they said it looked good. The problem is when the water flow fills the pipe over 50%. That means the slope has been compromised. I hope that never happens!

I would recommend the company to anyone else who needed sewer services. I just have to let the Facebook group know.

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Trombe Wall Glass Install

The trombe wall in the front of our house was a classic non-vented passive solar installation. We removed the glass in 2015 because it was in the way when the new windows were installed.

Unglazed Trombe Wall
Unglazed Trombe Wall

This was the second time I tackled installing new (used) glass. Back then I used double sided roofing tape and although it was very sticky it did not hold the glass when the bottom frame slipped off the L brackets and rested on the ground. I was able to shove it back up and support it with 2×2’s and there it stayed until making a final push to LEED certification required that I remove it and finish the installation.

I prepped the wall by repainting all the 2×4 framing with flat black enamel paint. (Low VOC) The second wall had no bottom plate because the original was rotted. I screwed PVC 2×2’s to the bottom of the side 2×4’s and spray painted them black. I had already repaired the membrane where it was torn by regluing it to the cement block with contact cement. Then I washed the membrane with Dawn and warm water.

I had decided to use single pane glass. This was based on research by Peter Ellis who analyzed the data from a New Mexico experiment in the 70’s comparing single pane with double pane results. That study also concluded that non-vented walls performed better than vented walls. The problem with double pane is that the seal between the panes cracks with movement and the glass gets moisture inside. That would cut down on the solar radiance. So I cut apart double pane windows to salvage the single pane safety glass. The glass panes were very dirty from sitting outside. I changed the water and washed them twice. I only worked on one a day and had to pause when the weather was too cold.

The double pane windows were purchased used through Craigslist. The pvc framing was also bought as salvage from Repurposed Materials. It is lattice edging and makes a nice decking as well as framing for quarter inch panels.

My brother suggested that I should use butyl rubber tape instead of double sided roofing tape. In the past it was used to install car windows and it is still used for RV windows. When it came time to try again I ordered several 33’ rolls in a one inch width.

Butyl Putty Tape

I folded most of the tape over to half because the glass had about a half inch overlap on the 2×4 frames.

I also ordered J hooks instead of L brackets.

Squared J hooks

These were stronger than the L brackets I used before and held the bottom frame piece of the window. I had glued the corners of the first frame but the glue was messsy and did not hold up. I did not use any glue the second time I tried the install. I leveled the hooks with the bottom frame screwing them into the board. Then the butyl tape was stuck on the frame and the bottom pvc frame piece laid on the hooks and pressed into the tape.

Construction method to hold glass
Construction method to hold glass

Next I assembled the frame using the double sided glazing tape. I again just used butt joints. I taped the butyl around the 2×4 frame but covered the tape with the protective paper until just before Dave and I could lift the pane and its frame into the bottom frame piece that was secured to the base. Then we just gently pressed the frame into the tape and the windows held!

First panel re-installed
First panel re-installed

I braced the panel overnight while the putty sealed. I found that the openings varied in size across the expanse and sometimes the 2×4’s were not flush so I used shims to level the surface. Later I just used extra folded butyl tape to level gaps. Unfortunately there were two nonstandard sized pieces of glass and both were missing. I’m not sure how I will fill this one under the dining room window.

No horizontal pane
No horizontal pane

I tried to buy a clear lexan multiwall panel to cut for this space but Home Depot pulled white corregated plastic. They said sorry it was misbarcoded! They did not have the lexan. Now I’ll try to order it. I can always return it if they get the wrong item.

In the second spot that was missing a glass pane I am using a 24v solar panel. I bought it through craigslist from a solar installer who resells removed panels. It was almost exactly the right size. But when I tried to put it in place it was 1/8” too tall. So it is installed at a slight angle and is resting on scrap pvc 2×2’s. I want to set up a small solar powered fountain with this panel. It will be easy to remove or replace it if necessary.

Panels installed with solar panel
Window panels with solar panel

The next step is to install trim which is a little tricky with the varying heights, widths and depths of the window frames. I will use as many pvc edges as possible since I have so many.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Construction, Maintenance and Repair, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Solar, Trombe Wall | Comments Off on Trombe Wall Glass Install

Drywall Touchups

We called our favorite drywall guy, Hector, to return and touch up the drywall. He has been very successful the last five years and we were glad he came back to do more work at our house. We had the walls in the back drilled to blow in insulation. Then the drywall plugs were inserted. But the drywall was not really finished enough and it needed to have the texture applied to match the rest of the walls. When Hector visited I asked him about finishing the upper windows with drywall and he also did the rear bedroom upper window.

Finished rear bedroom window and patches
Finished rear bedroom window and patches

He and his helper drywalled all the upper windows.

Unfinished window trim
Unfinished window trim
Finished window trim and sealed skylight
Finished window trim and sealed skylight

I also asked him to insulate and seal the openings where the skylights had been. There was one in the family room and one in the middle bedroom. It was one of the most important finishing jobs. We chose to remove the old skylights when the new Tesla roof was installed. They were out of date and leaky. The voids were filled with two layers of roxul insulation and 2″ of blue XPS foam insulation because I didn’t have more of the recycled poliiso. The 2” blue foam was a craigslist find that i have used to repair the insulation at the house foundation. Then the air barrier was stapled in and the edges taped.

Finishing the middle bedroom window and patches and sealing the former skylight
Finishing the middle bedroom window and patches and sealing the former skylight

Two of the shower edges also needed to be finished. When he originally did the drywall I didn’t know how the tile would be installed so he left these areas unfinished but we didn’t have enough tile for these areas so I had him finish the edges with drywall.

Unfinished Master Bath Shower Edge
Unfinished Master Bath Shower Edge
Finishing the shower edge
Finishing the shower edge

The unfinished edge in the family room bathroom also was drywalled.

Unfinished family room bath edge
Unfinished family room bath edge
Finished family room bath edge
Finished family room bath edge

The upper windows were a bit of a pain to get to but Hector’s worker was light enough to work from the metal light shelf. Where he ended up crawling along to do the installs.

Finishing the living room upper windows
Finishing the living room upper windows

Seems like baby steps in a long process with many twists and turns but it’s wonderful to have kind and capable workers help out.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Air Intrusion/Thermal Envelope, Construction, Maintenance and Repair, Reduce Reuse Recycle | Comments Off on Drywall Touchups

Vinyl Grill Cover

Dave got a new grill for his birthday last year. It came with a grill cover but that cover kept blowing off and eventually ripped. Our area of Colorado can be very windy. This year there were some record high winds. So he asked me to sew a new grill cover.

I was happy to have another sewing project to use the vinyl that I bought at Repurposed Materials. I have several bolts of vinyl and white material. So its good to have a project that can use both the vinyl and the industrial walking foot Sailrite LZ-1 sewing machine.

First I took apart the old cover and looked at how it was put together. Basically one piece of plastic material from front to back and then added sides. I decided not to use it as the pattern but cut a more tailored pattern from plain interfacing. This can be pinned together to build a custom fit.

Pattern mock-up using interfacing
Pattern mock-up using interfacing

I unpinned the interfacing and used the pieces to cut the vinyl. Even vinyl can shrink so I washed it in the washing machine but hung it to dry.

Washed vinyl
Washed vinyl

The vinyl is a heavy duty weight so I needed to use the Sailrite sewing machine. But first I oiled it because it needs frequent oiling unlike my home machine, it’s supposed to be oiled before every major project.

I asked for advice on the Facebook user group for Sailrite machines. I was trying to decide on the seam finish. Although there were several suggestions, the easiest was the single or semi flat fell seam. I watched the Sailrite video to see the directions for this seam. They make everything look easy.

The seam is just sewn as normal right side to right side. Then the seam is spread to one side. It is pressed by hand into place. I have a roller to help spread and flatten the seam. Then the seam allowance is sewn again over the seam allowance to one side of the original seam about 1/4” away.

This was a pretty easy seam to sew. I used special vinyl seam tape for the curved edges but not for the straight. The seam tape pulled away from the vinyl too easily. I had good luck with the edge clips by themselves. Vinyl cannot be pinned.

Partial vinyl cover
Partial vinyl cover

After each section was sewn I took it out to see the fit and double check the measurements of the next piece.

Adding the side table
Adding the side table

It was the most difficult to create the corners. I ended up sewing darts in the front corners. The right side fit better than the left.

Fitted cover before hemming
Fitted cover before hemming

The old cover cinched with a cord and pull tab but the vinyl was too heavy to use that so I just hemmed it.

Finished cover hemmed.
Finished cover hemmed.

Last week was windy. One day it gusted up to 25mph but the cover stayed on. If the wind does not blow it off and tear it that means success.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Sewing | Comments Off on Vinyl Grill Cover

RV Flat Tire Saga

We experienced a flat tire on our first day of RV travel to our son’s wedding. We have had Good Sam Roadside since we first owned an RV in 2009. Once before I called them for an overheating issue in Kansas and the service station man was very nice. He brought oil and checked things out but it was ok. He suspected the very hot day. It was over 100 degrees. After a rest we were able to continue without issue.
At first I just thought the tire was low so tried to refill it with our air compressor. But when that didn’t happen Dave suggested calling Roadside. It was getting late in the day on Saturday. However the dispatcher was able to find a technician to bring out a new tire. He was working in his headlights and the cold to remove the old tire from the rim manually and install the new. He said we had run it flat so it was ruined. He also said the valve was loose.

The Good Sam Agent had told me to take a photo of the DOT code and the tread but did not mention retaining the tire to prove a roadside hazard caused the flat. He also didn’t mention the other number I had to call for tire coverage. That is a separate insurance number. I did not keep the bad tire for their inspection. I dont think that’s practical because the RV was packed for travel. I just didn’t know the very restrictive rules on coverage and I could not find them online. It was there but I was reading the wrong brochure. My insurance card said Platinum but actually I had Platinum Plus. So although I argued that there was no way to keep the tire the service guy did not point out a road hazard caused the flat and only road hazards are covered by the insurance. Run flat afterwards? It’s your problem.
Our old RV had a spare tire mounted on the back that we never used. Naturally once we no longer had a spare we needed one.

The best part of the story is that a new tire was installed and we were on our way in the morning. It was very disappointing though and I’m not confident we will ever use the tire insurance with the built in loopholes. Roadside is worth the cost but tire coverage is not.

Good Sam Tire Service receipt
Good Sam Tire Service

Posted in Maintenance and Repair, RV Camping | Comments Off on RV Flat Tire Saga

Tesla Called Again

My Tesla team watches and maintains the solar roof without me having to do it too. Winter has been hard on production. Mine was so low it concerned them enough to make an appoinment to send a team to check on our equipment. It turns out that a north facing system is not very practical in winter. All the inverters and other equipment were operational but there was snow on the roof and only 16 degrees when they arrived. Obviously production was low.
Additionally they found that snow and ice were piled up where the roof meets the ground. One whole series is not producing. I am expecting production to soar once its spring. The sun will rise over the peak of the roof and the panels will get sun all day most days.

No solar-no wonder Roof covered with snow
No solar-no wonder
Posted in Maintenance and Repair, Solar | Comments Off on Tesla Called Again

Bestway Cellulose Insulation

The back area of the house was not on the original gut remodel list. But several upgrades have been made. The crawl space was conditioned early in our thermal envelope work. Completed Crawlspace! The attic above was layered with all the extra fiberglass that was still in good condition when taken from the slab area deconstruction. The entire hallway is included in the original reinsulation with Roxul rockwool because the roof extended that far. The bathroom was remodeled so the rear wall was reinsulated.

Hall Fire alarm before drywall
Hall before drywall

But we did not want to remove and replace all the drywall to reinsulate the rear. We were willing to hire a level 2 thermographer to document the existing insulation which we knew to be fiberglass batt fill same as the rest of the house. I knew the corners were colder from my own thermography so eventually after I had heard so many good things about Bestway Insulation and their dense pack cellulose, I decided to have the rear of the house reinsulated. This will eliminate the need for a thermographer who has completed level 2 training and has been impossible to find.

The Bestway crew arrived with their truck in mid-January during a relatively warm spell.

Bestway truck at the back door
Bestway truck at the back door

The process was to drill hose nozzle sized holes in the drywall and pump the cellulose into the wall cavities. We were fortunate because the wall cavities were not blocked so one hole sufficed for the whole cavity.

Dense packing with hose
Dense packing with hose

The design of the house is a bit unusual regarding outside walls. There are half walls over the buried concrete walls and these are deeeper than 6”, there is a clerestory wall but only to the attic area and there is one full wall in the end bedroom.

The holes in all these areas were sealed with foam to maintain the vapor barrier and then patched with drywall.

Sealing and replacing drywall cuts
Sealing and replacing drywall cuts

Both the walls and the ceiling were insulated in the “Red” middle bedroom and just the walls in the end bedroom because there is attic above. Then there was a lot of vacuuming to clean up the spilled insulation. But the workers both removed and returned boxes to the shelves which was appreciated.

Drywall cuts replaced
Drywall cuts replaced

I took a couple of Flir thermal images with the new insulation and a very cold 13 degree temperature outside. Although there are lighter and darker areas in the thermal photo indicating difference in temperature, there is only a difference of near 7 degrees from point to point measured. The room temperature at the thermostat was 64 degrees.

Annotated Flir image after dense pack
Annotated Flir image after dense pack
Flir image after dense pack
Flir image after dense pack

I had a before photo of this spot but unfortunately didn’t annotate it. This is from October of 2015 just after the new windows were installed.

Attic Wall Leak
Red bedroom temp difference at back wall

Having the insulation reinforced with dense pack seemed like a good next step. I would also like to replace the radiators in this part of the house with underfloor radiant. I have plenty of HePex pipe left for this project just need to get to it eventually.

Posted in Air Intrusion/Thermal Envelope, LEED Project | Comments Off on Bestway Cellulose Insulation

RV Laundry Closet

We had a long trip planned to Arizona for our son’s wedding. In order to bring all the decorations we were hoping to use and the materials for the chuppah, and to be able to be there for an extended time before and after the date we had decided months before to go in the RV. I reserved a two week spot at a small rv park located between the condo and the wedding venue. Then I prepped the RV for a long trip. We had the truck checked out mechanically and besides fixing the rear brakes we had a suspension upgrade.

Several larger RV’s that are prepped for longer trips have washing machines included. Usually in a special closet built for them. Sometimes they are an all in one washer/condensing dryer although condensing dryers are notoriously slow to dry clothes. Some are the typical stacked apartment units that run the dryer on 110 volts.

I looked online at small washing machines for what seemed like months. I found several types of small washers. There were twintub types that washed on one side and spun about half a load at a time on the other. There were machines that had an insertable spinner that washed first then after removing the clothes spun again a smaller amount of each wet load. A few actually spun the same load after washing. These were often labeled all in one machines. But most of these were not automatic. The water had to be filled and drained, once for wash, then for rinse, then spin. Some specified only cold water. These machines could be very small holding only a few lightweight items or a bit larger usually measured from 2-17 lbs in clothes instead of volume. Full automatic was another category with cycles like larger machines that ran wash, rinse, spin all at once. These machines are larger from about 1-3 cu ft.

Portable washers Types
Portable washers

I was searching for the most automatic machine I could that would also fit in the RV closet.
The inside of the closet is 16”w x 23”d but the door opening was only 15 5/8 inches. Except for the tiniest, most machines of all types were too big in at least one dimension for the closet.
I read that Laundry Alternative made the best stand alone clothes spinner. They also made a very nice all automatic machine for sale on Amazon that was too large for the closet.

But when I searched the products on the web site I found exactly what I wanted. This machine had the crucial measurement to fit inside the closet.

Washer measurements
Washer measurements

But it also had many features that none of the other machines I researched had. Instead of 2-3 wash cycles it has 10. Two actually heat the water in the machine and the diaper cycle not only heats the water very hot but does two rinses. At the end of each type of cycle the washer spins to a very effective damp dry.

Ten cycles including internal water heaterYea
Ten cycles including internal water heater

Another feature I like is the double lid system. The inner lid latches in place on the internal tub and the larger lid closes over that helping to insure no water is spilled.

Dual lid system
Dual lid system

This is a 1 cu ft capacity washer rated at 7 lbs of wash dry weight. That is about a quarter of a regular load at home. I filled the tub with a quarter of the dirty clothes in our folding laundry bag and did four loads. It was very easy to tell when the inner tub was full. I also washed a set of sheets and also the towels but I used the rv park washer for the mattress pad. The machine runs at only 32 db, astonishingly quiet.
I had to order a set of faucet adapters to get the right combination for the hose to attach to the RV kitchen sink. I also extended the hose a little bit with a 12” piece I had saved from an old RV water filter. The hose is equipped with a fast connect coupling, I leave that on the faucet and hookup is fast and easy.

Laundry closet set up
Laundry closet set up

One item bought in preperation for using the washing machine on the road was not necessary this trip because we had full hookups, a sewer, water, and electrical connection at oir campsite. The washing machine uses about 10-15 gallons of water for a load. The gray tank holds 26 gallons. That would require a place to put extra water until it could be dumped properly in the disposal. A famous product for this is the Barker ”Blueboy” now known simply as the Barker tote.

I bought ours from Camping World because I had a coupon. Unfortunately I tried the largest size since it could hold both tanks of waste water but it was so big I could not handle it myself. I returned it and bought the next smaller size. 32 gallons instead of 42 gallons. I investigated a few ideas to carry the tank. Originally I wanted to put it in the basement storage but it was too large. I found a bumper bracket instead also from Camping World

Bumper mount for tank
Bumper mount for tank

The bumper on the RV had been replaced with a welded steel version that is stronger than the original so I was not worried that it could not carry 37 extra pounds. The tank is strapped to the metal arms.

Medium size Barker waste water tank
Medium size Barker waste water tank

This tank works like a wagon to haul waste water to the dump station. It can even be towed.
The piece de resistance is the small electric dryer that fits in the storage area. We dont have to hang our wet clothes or even beach towels if we have power-generator or plug in. The inverter probably would not handle it.

Small dryer in storage area
Small dryer in storage area

I bought this dryer several years ago hoping to mount it behind our smaller RV but never tackled the project.
The washing machine is a welcome upgrade because I didn’t have to haul the clothes anywhere and could do other projects while it was washing.

Washing clothes in the RV
Washing clothes in the RV
Posted in Appliances, RV Camping | Comments Off on RV Laundry Closet

I Build a Chuppah

Of course any project no matter how unfamiliar can be tackled with online directions. I used this plan.

Chuppah how to
Chuppah how to

But of course I made some modifications. My son was a bit repelled by the idea of buckets plus they are expensive. I already knew about cloth planters so I ordered two kinds. These are very inexpensive a set of six 7 gallon “grow bags” was about $20. I also ordered 5 gallon bags but decided the taller bags would be more sturdy. Plus the yellow/tan color matched one of the wedding colors. I lined the ”buckets” with pickling bags made of a heavy duty plastic.

Sample cloth planting buckets
Sample cloth planting buckets

There were many beautiful chuppas online to emulate. This was the design that caught our eye.

Inspiration

I was planning to use some antique organdy I separated from an old bedspread with the eyelet pieces as the roof. But I found out that a tallit, a sacred Jewish cloth is used instead. Rachel, our bride, was using her grandfather’s. We drove our RV out so we had plenty of room for materiaIs. The posts were loaded in the cab-over as well as boxes of accessories like candles and craft supplies. I brought a couple of bolts of white material I had bought at a repurposed materials auction. I used lenths of the lighter weight material.

I didn’t start the buckets or pole construction until we got to Mesa’s warmer climate. Instead of using all cement, I layered sand and cement. I was intending to just buy the 4” plastic pipe in Mesa when I saw there was a shortage of the drain pipe. So I brought the length that I had. I brought several power tools too: the impact drill, the heavy 1/2 inch power drill with the cement mixing paddle, the multi tool saw, and the electric staple gun.

Bottom layer is sand
Bottom layer is sand

I cut the pipe lengths with the multitool. I figured that layering sand and cement would make the buckets lighter than all cement and easier to move. Sand is also cheaper than cement. I started with a layer of sand because I reasoned that I could shift that layer to help even the buckets on uneven ground. I bought a 5 gallon bucket to mix a layer of cement at a time and alternated about an inch of concrete with about an inch of sand.

Ready for cement
Ready for cement

The buckets seemed sturdy enough to hold the poles at a little more than half full. I used 1 3/4 bags of cement and 1 1/2 bags of sand. the top pieces were rails from a recycled log bed and were exactly the right length to build a 7’ x 7’ x 7’ chuppah for good luck. Each end was held at the top by one long screw so easy to put together and take apart.

Working to set up
Working to set up

One of the poles was a little too thick for the pipe so I trimmed it with the multitool saw until it fit. At the venue we would turn the poles until they appeared straight and used cardboard to shim a couple in the pipes. Next I cut the pieces of material for the drape and purchased two lovely bouganvillea plants as decor. I had two grow bags left to cover the black pots.

Trial set up at RV Park
Trial set up at RV Park

Unfortunately the white material was kind of dirty so we decided to wash it at the hotel. But we didnt have time to iron it. Better clean than flat I guess.

Set up at venue
Set up at venue

Certainly not obviously wrinkled from a distance and the chuppah was just what we had in mind. The wedding couple were very happy with it.

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Fireplace Boiler Working as Designed

Although we seldom have a fire in the wood boiler we seldom have very cold snowy weather. At least not as much as I expected. But occasionally it gets down to zero and negative temperatures. Then it feels right to put a fire in the stove and enjoy the ambiance and extra heat.
I have explained the workings of the boiler in the past. The fun part is that it still works flawlessly.

Cheery warm fire in fireplace
Cheery warm fire in fireplace

First the primary boiler pump is turned on then the fire is lit. When the circulating water in the stove reaches a warm enough temperature the second pump turns on and sends the water to the heat exchanger. I increase the thermostat temperature in the back of the house so there is a call for heat and the system pumps turn on. But the fire warmed water circulates without the boiler igniting because the water is already warm enough. A thing of beauty considering how long it took me to figure out the installation.

What I love is that we are getting heat from the boiler without using gas. That means we are gaining way more from our fireplace than most.

Boiler not firing due to temperature reached
Boiler not firing due to temperature reached
Boiler code #6 temperature reached
Boiler code #6 temperature reached
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Resetting the Reset Boiler Set Points

Back when we had visitors I reconsidered the boiler set points and thought I was setting the boiler to perform more closely to typical conditions.
As it got colder this winter it appeared that the settings were keeping the boiler temperatures too low so that it was taking longer to get the house warm.
I went back to the original settings. This is the factory setting and it appears to be better than raising the maximum heat and lowering the outside temperature. Not intuitive to me but the proof is in a warm house with warm floors.

Challenger Combi factory settings
Challenger Combi factory settings
Posted in Fireplace Boiler, Maintenance and Repair | Comments Off on Resetting the Reset Boiler Set Points