November 23/24, 2013
Clearing the Solar Panels and Hooking up the Boiler
Ken is back from El Salvador and Hanna is super happy about that. He has to be back in the city for his travel group presentations on Monday and Tuesday, but the thought of a weekend in the city is too much for us. Saturday morning we pack up the fur kids and head for the Ponderosa.
The house, with windows and doors, is there to greet us.
The shop is cold and the solar panels are covered with snow. Very glad we installed the wood burning stove this year as we don’t have to count on the boiler to heat the place up. After we get a roaring fire going, the next job is clearing the solar panels.
Now that the solar panels are up on the shop roof, clearing them is not an easy task. We had discussed options but had not come up with a plan. Ken attempts to clear them by using a ladder and a broom. He manages to get most of the snow off; however, he can’t reach the very top.
Saturday was cold and windy, but overnight the wind shifted to the south and Sunday morning is windy but warmer. Maybe a little too warm – it started to rain. We had freezing rain in the morning turning everything into a sheet of ice, including the windows.
Sunday afternoon is bright and sunny. A wonderful blessing, as we were beginning got wonder about the drive back to the city. The sun also brought a great opportunity to clear the solar panels. Ken had enough of the ladder so we moved the scaffolding over to the shop and set it up as a platform to work from. After much deliberation, we decided that what we really need is something like a roof rake with a long handle. We searched and found a rubber broom (about ten years ago they were the big thing at the exhibitions). We never found it very useful and it was tucked away in a corner. We fashioned a connection to a paint roller extension and Ken was in solar panel clearing business. The sun helped out by melting the ice layer and Ken was able to clear the panels off totally.
Last year, when the boiler was set up for the first time, we removed our wood stove for the shop and used the Selkirk chimney for the boiler. However, the boiler never really drew well as the chimney was seven inches but the boiler was eight inches.
This year, we decided to re-install the wood stove. We only used the boiler when the solar panels were producing energy. In December and January, that didn’t leave much heating time. This, coupled with days without any sun, made for many chilly days, and nights, for Ken. The wood stove is wonderful. No power is required to run it and it also provides cooking space. After a being outside, there is nothing like sitting around the wood stove and warming up.
Earlier this fall, we installed the new eight inch chimney for the boiler and hooked the wood stove back up to the seven inch chimney. Sunday, we hooked the boiler up to the new chimney. It took some figuring but we got it done and it operates much better with the larger chimney.
The boiler is a Newmac combination boiler – wood fired with a diesel backup. It is an indoor boiler and is large enough to provide heat for the shop and house. We built an addition to the shop for it, dubbed the boiler room, and attached a woodshed. So in the dead of winter, there is no need to go outside for wood. The woodshed holds about six cords of wood.
The shop has in-floor radiant heat with a few radiators upstairs for heat. The downstairs gets toasty, especially with the boiler room next door. The upstairs is cooler. The garage, attached to the shop, has in-floor heating as well. When building the shop we didn’t put a layer of styrofoam under the pad, so the shop does not heat up or hold heat that well. We did not make the same mistake twice. When we built the garage addition, we added a two-inch layer of rigid styrofoam under the pad and it holds heat so much better, even with the double garage doors.
The house will have in-floor heating on the main floor. Next summer, we will lay down the piping and cover it with gypcrete, a light weight cement. This should provide a good thermal mass to retain the heat. The basement ceiling will be well insulated as the basement is unheated. There will also be a wood stove in the kitchen for supplemental heat and cooking. This winter, the house is unheated, except for passive heat through the windows. I would really like to get the cook stove installed but we still haven’t found the one we want. Anyone have any suggestions?