Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Venting (Photo)

There are many things on this house that I'm doing for the first time. One of these is a complete drain-waste-vent (DWV). The drain-waste part isn't that difficult to understand conceptually. After all, as we all know shit flows downhill. But figuring out how to get the vents back to the main stack so that I didn't have to put another hole in the roof was a challenge.

I called for a preliminary inspection before I glued the whole thing together. Matt was nice enough to come out even though it's not routine to inspect unfinished work. He told me my "wet vent" plan wasn't going to fly even though my piping is all well oversized.

It is one of the advantages of a small house. Using the largest possible piping doesn't cost much when the run is only 7'.

I redid the venting, but I didn't like the result after I glued it up. 4" pipe turns out to be tricky because when it is dry-fit it will often not fully seat in the fitting. Even so, it's really hard to take apart. However, once glued, the unset glue acts like a lubricant letting the parts fully engage. Unfortunately this tight fit means that the dimensions shrink. It's easy to lose a half inch or more once the glue goes in. This caused me no end of problems.

Likewise getting all the angles right. It's not so easy in 3D. Understanding that a 45 degree angle pipe needs another 45 degrees to change direction to 90 degrees isn't hard. But what if that 45 degrees is dropping out of the cieling pointing NNE mating to a pipe running east with a 45 degree bend to the south but canted 45 degrees up? The best answer I found is to buy a whole lot of 22, 45, and 90 degree bends and return the ones you don't use.

My first DWV

The photo shows the completed and entire DWV for the house. The bath was deliberately backed up against the kitchen sink to minimize plumbing and to make the hot water run as short as possible.

I did have to redo the water closet (WC a.k.a. toilet, crapper, shitter, can, head, etc.) and sink portion for the reasons cited above and because I wasn't satisfied that it was an elegant enough solution.

Next hot and cold water.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Solar Story

Part of the plan for the house is a small solar array (1500 W). You might think, as I did, that with the solar industry over 25 years old, that getting the exact product one wants would be easy. It is not. There are few vendors of small systems (sub 2500W) that will sell power back to the utility (grid-tie) and at the same time offer battery backup. I had placed an order for such a product from Xantrex (yet another Canadian company). The grid-tie part was to ship in August, but August brought only an announcement that they had decided not to make the product after all.

This left Outback Power Systems of Washington with the right products. They are a private and relatively new company. There website is horribly out of date, and they seem like the kind of garage company that could fold any minute.

I held off waiting to see if any new products or mergers would be announced. So yesterday I placed the order for an Outback system. I only need the inverter and some mounting equipment. I have had the solar panels for nearly two years now.

Night Shift

By 6pm it is pitch black outside. Clouds or mist routinely obscure the moon. It is dark, cold and quiet in the house. Through the plumbing that I'm working on I can hear the haunting drips in the septic tank. Like listening to the bowels of a cavern from its entrance. I have set a tarp out to collect rainwater and direct it into the empty tank. Even though the tank is concrete I got conflicting reports as to whether or not it would pop up out of the ground: a boat floating in a sea of mud. To be safe I'm directing water into the 1000 gallon tank.

Now that the house is essentially water tight, I thought I would be working late into the night on various aspects of the interior. This as proven not to be the case. By 7 or 8 pm I am done for the night. 500 watts of light (actually a 65W fluourescent) is just not enough to keep me from wanting to hibernate. By contrast, I could stay up to the wee hours working on this computer. When it comes to physical labor, I am definitely diurnal.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

First Light (Photos)

Seven of the eleven windows are now installed. Along with the four skylights, it makes the interior light and open even on a gray day. This is just as I expected based on my obseration that it's not so dark and gloomy even on a rainy day in Oregon, it's only dark and gloomy inside homes where the windows are small and/or shaded by deep eaves. Once the large clerestory windows go in, it should be even more compelling.

Work on the roof is paused while I have some custom made flashing made up for the skylights. The flashing that we received from the metal roof company was not adequate. These parts might be ready at the end of this week.

The chimney is poking up above the roof line. Soon there may be heat, something I have not experienced in the past two years except in brief visits to other's homes.

I have settled on the tile for the house, having found an exdellent supplier in Portland called Pratt and Larson. Great showroom, nice people, excellent products, and some products that are close to affordable. But tiling is only in my dreams right now.

In the meanwhile, with the number one priority on hold, the subs have begun on the porch. I'm gluing up the drain-waste-vent line into its final tentacular configuration. We have been blessed with dry weather for over two weeks now. This can only mean that when the roof is ready to be applied it will rain cats and dogs for several months.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A Farmer Is...

A farmer is many things, but often a mechanic. I got the parts for my tractor back. A rebuilt steering valve and one new fuel injector (of three that were cleaned and tested). My compact little tractor is compact in every way including how every aspect of this bulldog of a machine is crammed together. His name is "Tommy," so dubbed by his previous owners, to which I have appended, "Mow".

Early yesterday morning, in the still frigid hour before the mists had lifted and the sun was only a faint hope, I took my bucket of parts and set up a crude table under the roof of the open shed that Tommy Mow calls home. Everything was cold. Stuff that started out warm, like my tools, my hands and my feet, quickly numbed in the water logged air. As my fingers stiffened, getting the small nuts in place proved increasingly a challenge. Nothing is as cold as cold steel.

I managed to snuggle the 3 injectors into their holes, holding back the wiring harness like holding back some large artery during surgery. Once installed, the fuel hoses were clamped back in place.

Next it was on to the steering valve. The name belies its size and especially it's heft. Weighing in at some 20 pounds of delicate hydraulic valve, it is disguised as layers of steel arranged in plates like a Masterlock, yet not bigger than a large cinnamon roll. Protruding from one end is the steering column. And therein lies the challenge of extricating it or placing it back inside the dash. The instuctions call for removing the engine drive shaft to give it room to drop out, but I'd discovered that by removing a couple of dashboard wiring harnesses, and pushing the dash back, I could get it out without the complication of messing with the drive shaft.

I guess there is one other thing to relate. All Deere hydraulic equipment manuals have the picture of a finger being injected by a high-pressure break in the hydraulic line. Accompanying the image is a statement, "Escaping fluid under pressure can penetrate the skin causing serious injury. If an accident occurs, see a doctor immediately. Any fluid injected into the skin must be surgically removed within a few hours or gangrene may result. Doctors unfamiliar with this type of injury may call the Deere & Co. Medical Department in Moline, Illinois." No number is given.

Putting it back proved more challenging than removing it. I had to hold the entire, chilled weight with one arm, push the dash back with the other, and carefully thread the whole mess up through the dashboard. Once in, it sat precariously, suspended only by the threads of four bolts, while I got a nut threaded on. The front two nuts were no problem, but I could hardly get my fingers in to put the back ones on, finally getting the last one to thread by shear luck.

Once securely in place, hooking up the four hydraulic lines to its base was an equal challenge. When disassembling it, two of the compression fittings had turned the tubes they fit around into water slides and plunged down the lines and under the chassis somewhere. I'm a bit slow, so it wasn't until after this happened again that I got the bright idea to put a zip-tie around the line, below the nut so that it could only fall a short way.

I started by retrieving the two lost nuts and securing them with zip-ties. Then one by one I followed the sequence of placing a small o-ring in the downfacing side of the fitting. Then carefully so as not to dislodge the o-ring, I moved the hydraulic line over, and hand threaded the nut.

The quarters were close. In fact, I had purchased a whole set of wrenches to do this work. Truth be told, this is the main benefit of doing your own repairs, buying new tools. Among the new tools was a set of "stubbies." Special, short versions of wrenches for exactly this situation.

It is important to have the right wrenches. There is a lot of sharp, cold steel around. A wrench slipping under pressure could cause a nasty injury.

The four lines hooked up, I put enough screws back in to hold the battery tray and started it up to check for leaks. After a few turns of the motor it came to life. It sounded great, the new injector making a big difference. No leaks in the hydraulics. I raised the bucket without fluid spraying everywhere. I increase the rpm and repeated the motion. Still good. I buttoned up the rest, putting the muffler, air cleaner, and other parts back on and finally buttoning up the side panels.

I proudly rode my rejuvinated tractor down the road to the new house. Far from being a real farmer, but closer anyhow.