Monday, December 31, 2012

Extension gutter finished

31 Dec 2012: Windy and blustery conditions, always threatening to rain (and did occasionally), and I completely finished the slating on the East wall, so I hope I won't have to bore you with it again. The only bit remaining is the slating below the large south window.

This is near the final stage of getting the gutter up. The hopper is attached to an aluminium bracket that I designed and made from bits in my metal scrap box. I wanted the fixing to be as discrete as possible, and it is held into the wall with an anchor bolt.

Here is a closeup of the hopper bracket, (right) and i also had to make a thin suspender (left) that can hold the downpipe bracket, that can fit behind the slate. This is the first fix of the gutter (photo taken in daylight), but sadly, the downpipe turned out to be not quite vertical. Therefore I had to take all the upper corner slates off again and shift the metal suspender 10mm to the left. It is now vertical - done in the dark!

Hooray, this is the very LAST slate on the East wall, that tucks neatly under the aluminium verge. 

December '12 Reports

31 Dec 2012: It's the end of the month and the end of the year, and there's no shortage of programmes on TV to remind us about the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics and the US Election. Those three have turned out quite well. One thing has hasn't been good is the weather, with repeated floods in the UK, days and weeks of grey days and drizzle from March to December. In the US, there were unprecedented high summer temperatures. Annual figures by 30 December were:

  • House annual 5,438, biennial 5,067 kWh.
  • GSHP annual 3,450, biennial 3,069 kWh. Yet again, this uncanny figure of 2,000 so nearly separating the house and GSHP - indicates a great consistency of our 'lifestyle' consumption through lighting and cooking. Considering we have built an extension and used a lot of power tools, I would have expected the margin to be higher.
  • PV annual 3,037, biennial 3,207 kWh. Boo! I wish we had more sunshine!
  • So, on the Net Zero calculation, we are still 138kWh to the good, biennially.
  • Sunbox annual 2,439, biennial 2,739 kWh. Hoping for better in 2013, especially now that the new sunbox is added.
  • Ground Temperature - 10.7ºC . The graph shape looks like it has levelled out, but I am sure there will be some lower figures before the trend is strongly upwards.

25 Dec 2012: The house electricity meter has just gone past 40,000 kWh (since the meter was installed in 2007) so it made me reflect on the figures for the last 5-6 years, based on the figure I expect it to show on 31 December.
    Averaged over 71 months since the heat pump was installed in 2007, the consumption has averaged 18.6 kWh/day. The important thing for this project is that in the 38 months until April 2010, the average daily consumption was 22.8 kWh/day, but in 33 months from April 2010 to end-of-2012, the average daily consumption has been 13.15 kWh/day.

23 Dec 2012: The UK has been soaked with rain much of the week, and many places are having floods. The hill behind our house is very muddy, but fortunately, there is an earth bank to deflect water down the road instead of into our garden! There's been no world news of note! Well, not much. There was continuing discussion about the shooting at Sandy Hook and the evil NRA saying that there should be armed guards at every school in the USA... and I try not to mention football, unless it is extremely noteworthy: Chelsea beat Aston Villa by an unprecedented score of 8-0 (AV had beaten Liverpool the week before) but what made it most remarkable was that every goal was scored by a different person, and none of these was Mata, one of the regular scorers for Chelsea. How does that rate statistically? House-wise, things are looking up because the biennial figures are shedding some cold weather of 2010. December 2012 has been very mild thermally despite the rainfall.
  • House annual 5,409, biennial 5,079 kWh.
  • GSHP annual 3,426, biennial 3,091 kWh.
  • PV annual 3,039, biennial 3,208 kWh.
  • So, on the Net Zero calculation, we are still 117kWh to the good, biennially.
  • Sunbox annual 2,443, biennial 2,734 kWh 
  • Ground Temperature - 10.7ºC . It's gone below 11.0ºC, but that is expected at this stage of December.
17 Dec 2012: The Sunbox 4 is working now (the one with the metal radiators), but it's too late to report a difference. I cant insulate the pipes until I am sure they are not leaking, and some of the joints need to be undone and have additional PTFE tape or some sealing paste on the joints. The annual figures are so close to the ones last week (with a tiny improvement) that its not worth printing them, except to say that the deep Ground temperature is holding good at just 11.0ºC, now better than the same time last year.
     In the rest of the world, the news has been dominated by the school suicide shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and predictably, the first thought for some American crazies was to suggest that it was organised by Obama so he could bring in tougher gun laws. Actually, he has relaxed some gun laws during his time, and many gun laws are applied by the states. Other fundamentalist crazies are suggesting that the children are lucky because 'they are with Jesus' and publish unctuous pictures of that exact idea (including them, Jesus and the teacher who died). The shooter's mother was an end-of-the-worlder who stockpiled guns and food, and was deservedly the first to be shot. All other news have been reduced in impact by this: In Afganistan and Pakistan, more people than that die every week in suicide bombings, drone attacks or exploding landmines. Who cares what the quarrelsome Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are doing in such a week? Kenneth Kendall (the BBC's first TV newsreader) died at a grand old age. Bradley Wiggins (Tour de France winner) won the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

10 Dec 2012: I have not been maintaining my weekly reports for a while, it was becoming too onerous and I was also pre-occupied with getting the extension built. But perhaps another reason was that the news wasn't good with the lousy summer that we have had. So much Rain!! (i.e. so little Sun!)
    However, we are having a very mild December so far, and the decline has levelled off. A notable variation in seasonal weather can make almost a thousand kilowatt hours difference between one year and another - put the very warm 2011 and the very rainy 2012 together and you have quite a notable difference. I've also started recording the biennial average as this is more useful for avoiding panic!
  • House annual 5,411, biennial 5,130 kWh.
  • GSHP annual 3,427, biennial 3,141 kWh.
  • PV annual 3,039, biennial 3,203 kWh.
  • Sunbox annual 2,425, biennial 2,717 kWh 
  • Ground Temperature - 11.0ºC - I am surprised and happy it is still as good as this. 
Based on this, the PV biennial is still better than the GSHP biennial - so still Net-Zero! I also notice that the difference between the House and GSHP is still faithfully about 2,000 kWh.
   What else has happened in the world? Well, a dog learnt to drive in New Zealand, Princess Kate is expecting a baby or two (and the poor hospital nurse died after she was pranked by two Australian jokers on radio), Barack Obama won the US Election a month ago. Patrick Moore (astronomer), Clive Dunn (Corporal Jones) and Dave Brubeck (Jazz musician Take Five), Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian architect) died, all at a grand old age. A couple of months back, the Beatles and the Stones had their fiftieth anniversaries, and the BBC celebrated its 90th anniversary. Baumgartner jumped out of a balloon to skydive at more than the speed of sound (but in a vacuum there is no sound), Hurricane Sandy caused great damage to New York, but still americans don't believe in Climate Change.

Slating on the EAST wall

30 Dec 2012: Sunny day, so a good one to be out and doing things. I had my grown up children and their partners staying for three days, so could not do much in the morning, but in the afternoon, I got some courses of slate up, and nearly finished, as darkness fell. This wall has been left to last because it is the one that has a gutter going across the wall, and the down pipe will discharge into the white gutter on the right. After dark, I made an aluminium bracket that will hold the discharge hopper - will be fastened to the brick wall.

Slating has been slow because the surface areas are small, and so many slates are custom-cut to fit all those edges and openings! The corner quoins are 3D, in out in out, and each edge slate requires additional toothed outline along the left hand edge.

The carpet tiles are an ideal way to prevent the ladder ends from scratching the surface of the slates.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Slating West wall completed

28 Dec 2012: I've been working on the gutter and the west wall slating, and have got most of it finished. The gutter only needs to be led to the conservatory gutter and it is finished. The West Wall slating is now completel 

Mounting detail for the gutter corner, which will be using self tapping screws.

Mounting detail for the east wall gutter-end, also using self tapping screws into the metal angle. There is a short fall of about 3cm over the length of 3.6 metres.

Progress on the west wall slating. Every slate has to be individually tailored at this stage. Measure, return to garage to cut, then return to wall to mount, then measure for the next one….

Here is the first slate angled to fit the verge. Many more to do!As daylight falls, I'm getting this job finished - no tea or biscuits until it is done (after dark). In case of any accident, there is a blue safety rope if I fall off the ladder.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Energy comparison Net Zero

26 Dec 2012: I have been making a graph comparing annual energy figures, and I cannot understand why I didn't do it before - it makes a good illustration of the 'struggle' to maintain Net-Zero levels. The Blue (house) and the Red (GSHP) lines match each other closely, with a consistent 2,000kWh difference (lighting, cooking, power). I have had those two on graph for a long time. The new feature is the inclusion of the yellow line for the PV roof.

The important comparison is of the Red (GSHP) and the Yellow (PV) lines. The GSHP curve fell substantially after the solar charging was installed, and levelled off at a figure close to the PV energy generation. The sunny year of 2011 caused them to diverge significantly, finishing with a credit difference of 900 kWh (2,550 to 3,450). The rainy grey weather of 2012 has lowered the yellow and raised the red line, so for the current 12 month period, we have a 300 kWh deficit and are not Net-Zero (3,430 to 3,030).
    The biennial figure is more benevolent, so taking the figures for the last two years, we are Net-Zero with figures of 3,100 for the GSHP and 3,200 for the PV.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More slating externally

23 Dec 2012: Happy Festivus! After 72 hours of almost continuous rain, the weather was good on Sunday and I made good progress with slating on the south wall, getting it all finished. 

East corner, about an hour before being finished: the vertical corner looks 'open', but there is an aluminium angle section about to go in there, riveted to the aluminium tabs. The angle will also be the fixing location for the gutter. I really want the gutter to be up and working because the exposed timber parts are very damp in all this rain, when rain is free to drop off the roof onto the ground, and the ground line needs protection.

The slating is not quite finished in the foreground and it is finished in the left hand panel, but later, I noticed that there is one defective slate half way up the window on the left side, so had to spend nearly an hour taking slates off above the defective one, to replace it. That's the rule with slating: everything above has to come off!

Plumbing note: The Sunbox is now working, although we are waiting for some sunshine. On this day of sun, it was turned off because I need to check the joints in the loft. I have been afflicted with leaks in some of the compression joints in the loft, but the joints in the Sunbox here seem all to be dry, for which I am very grateful!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Article submitted to CIBSE for April 2013

19 Dec 2012: I have submitted an article to CIBSE for their CIBSE/ASHRAE Technical Symposium in Liverpool April 2013.
19 Dec 2012: This is a first version for checking, and I shall probably be asked to make a number of modifications before submitting a final version in Spring 2013. I will also have to do a Powerpoint version of its main points for a 20 minute presentation in April. It covers the thermal modelling project of last summer, and has an update to cover the ETFE and the roof mounted sunbox.

14 Feb 2013: I have now Resubmitted a corrected and updated version, and this is now correctly referenced below:

Peveril house with scaffolding removed

16 Dec 2012: We can now get some decent daylight into the house again, and it looks better! The camera here is held extremely high, but from normal eye-level, the entire extension is below the top line of the garden fence. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peveril Circuit Diagram Dec 2012

18 Dec 2012: This is an up to date image of the circuitry in the Peveril Solar house, with three methods of collection, the Surya Sunbox 3 and 4, plus the vacuum tubes. Each collector has a subcircuit with its own thermal controller, energy meter, pump and expansion vessel. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Expansion tank for the roof sunbox

10 Dec '12: This 8-litre expansion vessel has now been added. It should be enough to protect this small subloop in case the subloop valves are closed.
    I've noticed that the roof sunbox is completely covered with Frost in the early mornings. It is facing up to the night sky, and there is no residual heat from anything. It was about 2 degrees colder than the wall mounted sunbox when I connected up the thermostat-controller. I guess there is a small amount of heat coming through our well insulated wall, enough to reduce frost in the wall mounted sunbox. Being an enclosed space, in effect a double skin facade over that small area of 5 sqm, it must slightly reduce our heatloss. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Plumbing for Roof Sunbox finished

9 Dec 2012: I made the final connections for the plumbing on the external part Saturday Night, and modified them slightly on Sunday Morning. Very Nottingham…. Then the top surface polycarbonate had to be fitted and I got Henry and Joe (visiting for a concert in the Arena, Nottingham) to lift the polycarbonate into place. 
Before starting with the top surface, Henry and Joe inspected the ETFE panels on the main Sunbox. These are heavy with raindrops, but many of the droplets are on the inside. With an inflated panel, there is a supply of fresh dry air in the cavity all the time. In this case, the cavity is sealed and any vapour in there is showing as condensation at the moment - condensing on the coolest surface which is where the recent rain has fallen. Never mind, I am happy with the improved solar capture for these fronts. Even though the raindrops might stop some transmission, the overall productivity of the panels is increased nearly twofold.The roof Sunbox now has the top lid on, and I have emailed the scaffolder to take the tubes and boards down.
This is the plumbing at the lower end, it is the supply pipe entry. Glycol enters at the lowest point, and if there is any thermal energy in the radiators, the liquid is drawn from the upper radiator. The drain cock makes it easier in future to drain down if I have to.The upper plumbing, as I left it on Saturday night, but on Sunday morning, I realised that the 90º bend was unnecessary (with this wonderful flexible pipe connection) so I connected the supply pipe (right) directly to the copper as I had done earlier with the return pipe (on the left).
Since the photo was taken, I have also comprehensively insulated around these pipes and restored the aluminium duct cover.
  I had an email from Stephen F, who has visited my house in the summer. He commented that the flexible pipes have a small internal diameter and could constrict flow, and if there were particles in the circuit, they might cause a clot. I replied with my various reasons for using the flexible pipes.
1. There is some thermal movement in the radiators, so flexible connections remove risk of copper pipes pulling out of joints, and also, with uncertainty about the precise final location of the sunbox on the roof, the flexible joints allow me to make small adjustments.
2. Some constriction of flow is useful to stop the Sunbox 3 pump accidentally pushing liquid through the Sunbox 4 circuit. The pump on the Sunbox 4 will be able to push through the narrow pipes.
3. We have a strainer in the loop next to the GSHP, so any particles get trapped in one location, making it easier for them to be removed at service intervals.
4. Narrow pipes (15mm) allow the warmed liquid to be carried away more quickly instead of sitting in fatter (28mm pipes) losing heat before being delivered to the ground loop.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sunbox radiators installed

5 December 2012: I have managed to lift the two black radiators into position, and need just a couple of brass fittings to make them fully plumbed in. 

Got one in - it's set on special brackets at the edges and a supporting rib down the centre.Second one is in! this is progress!
Now the linking pipe is in. It is too short to be affected by thermal expansion.The problem is how to fix the top end. i don't have exactly the right brass, but also have to drill a hole in the timber frame to bring the flexible pipes through.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

NiCad Battery is charged and working!

4 December 2012: NiCad Battery is charged and working!

The Battery pack has been charging all night and three of the four lights on the car charger are on, indicating that the battery is 75% full. I've taken advice on this and it seems that the car charger will never show FULL because NiCads behave differently from lead-acid. The car charger shows an LED light for 25%, 50% and 75% and 100% full. The lead-acid car battery would float up to just over 12 volts when it was full and that would tell the smart charger to stop charging (or go onto trickle only). With my rows of ten 1.2 volt units, these rows rise to just under or exactly 12 volts, so the car-charger doesnt think it is full and keeps pushing. I shall have to learn to charge only up to the 75% light in future. Dedicated NiCAD chargers for things like torch batteries or my cordless drill are designed for the job and know what to go up to. One solution would be to reconfigure the battery with the cells arranged in lines of eleven, i.e. 13.2 volts per line. The other thing is to leave it as it is, and watch how it performs. The wooden box they are in is perfect for lines of 10, very difficult for lines of 11. The PV panel will be connected eventually, and that is unlikely to overcharge it, with a 160 amp-hour capacity.
   The battery pack is now disconnected from the charger, and is running all the electrical systems in the loft, including energy meter and pumps. I shall keep an eye on it and check voltage daily. I will run an extension lead down into the house with a very clearly labelled socket, and put some items in the house onto the battery.

6th Dec PostScript: I am a bit disappointed. I left it on charge for a couple of days using a car charger. Then took it off and left it to run a few things, total of only about 50 watts. Using an inverter. Perhaps the inverter drains too much power. Only ran things for a day. Doesnt look good. :(

7 Dec Post Post script: Sometimes one has to recognise when an idea is not so good. Methinks I should have used a Lead Acid battery, at lease it would behave in a predictable way with a conventional car charger. I will persist with this a little longer. I shall not install the PV roof panel, or at least if I do it will be without the benefit of scaffolding, and may be done in the summer. The scaffolding charges would have been enough to pay for the lead-acid battery by now. 

Surya-4 Sunbox plumbing complete in the loft

3 December 2012: This was a day of work, and the plumbing in the loft is nearly complete for both the Sunboxes. Insulation, expansion tank and control systems are now needed.

The first part of the Return pipe is in size and it has a valve at the end so this part will be water tight. The cut pipe on the right is waiting to have a new Tee piece inserted.Work continued in the loft to get the Flow pipe installed, and this is also sealed with a lever ball valve. Therefore we were able to refill the system with coolant and get the Sunbox working again, to take advantage of some nice winter sunshine during the afternoon.
Now the additional pipes are added (beyond the lever ball valve) for the Flow and Return. The target is those pipes at the far end with the airlock removers. The pipes in the foreground are sloping downwards (at about 1:100) to allow air to rise along the pipe. At the mid point, there is a slight bend upwards towards the airlock remover in the far distance.The final 15mm connections are made, ensuring always that there is a natural route back to the airlock preventer. The indoor work is completed.
Down below, in the Utility room, I am making a start on the control system. I am using an identical controller to the AKA used in the first Sunbox, but I still have plenty of remembering to do to wire it in. More cable needs to be threaded through the house from the Utility to the furthest end of the loft, and down to the new Sunbox.Douglas came round to help get more slating done, and the amount in this photo was done by morning coffee - 2 weeks ago, this much took almost a day. By lunchtime, Douglas had used up all the battens and done most of that wall.

A view of the new plumbing arrangement, well fixed to the wall on a plywood backing, giving options for fixing clips at the optimum locations.
    Next task is to do the plumbing for the radiators in the actual Sunbox. I need some daylight for that!

10 Dec 2012 Postscript: I have bought an 8 litre expansion tank as I have realised that there is a chance that the Surya-4 loop could be closed off with the yellow valves but could be subject to thermal expansion if the sun shines. Each part of the loop must be able to expand safely. This is something I did not understand in the early days which is why I had a leak in the Sunbox circuit in March 2012.

16 Dec 2012 Postscript: Down in the Utility room, the AKA Thermo-controller is now wired in, along the the double-2-way light switch that provides the Override and Kill functions. 

Energy levels in the ground

2 Dec 2012: The ground temperature is doing quite well considering how grim the summer was - it is still 11ºC…. I usually test on a Sunday night at midnight, and we have been lucky with some sunny Sundays, even if mid week was raining. The ground temperature graph from August 2009 to the start of December 2012 shows how consistent the temperature has been since the Sunbox was installed, despite the variations in climate. Ground deep down below is not really affected by annual temporary climatic variations, the difference to the temperature is made by the amount of energy that the house demands of the heat pump, i.e. the house demand is governed by the weather, and if it is cold, the house demands more!

Ground Temperatures Aug'09-Nov'12

Energy levels over three years in a sequential line. In both the above graphs, the downward 'blip' which occurred when the Sunbox was out of action for a month in Mar-April 2012 is very visible.
Energy Levels in the 3 years, overlaid for comparison.

These are derived from my ArchiCAD thermal model written during summer 2012.
Each year is colour coded. These do show the variations in weather during the three years. As I look at the colours, I can recall the weather.
  • The Red line is 2009, prior to the Sunbox installation - the curve follows a familiar shape, but consistently lower than in the later years. The autumn was a fairly gentle slide into winter.
  • The Black line is 2010, the year of 'two winters' - which started with a very cold January and spring (snow and freezing temperatures) and in the same year we had the coldest December on record - so there is a steep fall in the last month. We had a reasonably sunny summer, so the energy level was lifted as soon as the Sunbox was operating in March April 2010.
  • The Blue line was 2011 which was thermally mild all through the cold seasons and with a fine summer. It did not begin to get cold until mid December. 
  • The Yellow line is 2012, the current year and this started with a high energy level thanks to 2011's weather. Weeks and months of grey conditions and rain resulted in a faster withdrawal of energy and a reduced solar capture, so the energy level reverted to that of 2010, with minor variations - we had an earlier summer peak, and a flatter decline because the recent autumn weather has been rainy but not cold. For a month of the spring, the Sunbox was not working due to a leak, and I had to go to New York for a time, and leave it not working (system now has an additional expansion tank added!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Loft Plumbing for the new Sunbox

2 Dec 2012: I just have to get on with this, so plumbing work in the loft is well under way. With the hindsight gained from the previous sun box in 2010, I hope to make this better organised and more maintainable in service.
I am very conscious of the risk of airlocks. With check valves you need to consider airlocks on either side of the valve. The pipes have to slope slightly upwards towards an airlock releaser.The flow is going to have most of the 'business' - the pump, check valve and energy meter, and I am leaving reasonable space between each one.
I am trying to use compression fittings as much as possible, but in some cases you have to solder. I used to think that soldering would be easier, but it is not, compression fittings are easier to seal. If a soldered joint leaks, you have major problems once there is liquid in the pipe.It was a cold day, but very sunny and the liquid temperature was good, feeding thermal energy down below - somehow, the ground temperature is still holding good, at 11.0ºC or more.
It is important that all building work is properly supervised, and I have a helper who administrates quality control. Even if he doesn't quite follow, it is enjoyable to get such sunshine in winter.OK…. the big CUT! this is quite a move, cutting into a pipe that has done such an excellent job for nearly three years. Let's hope I don't make a complete mess of it!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Floor Tiling and Sunbox mounting

29 November 2012: Chris and Alan (McCabe and Huddleston Builders) came for another day's work putting down the floor tiles. The extension screed was levelled based on the middle of the floor, but we see that the original tiler ramped the tiles slightly towards the skirting so new tiles could not cleanly butt up to the existing edge. 

Chris and Alan have to cut back the first line of tiles, and we ordered enough tiles to do this. (Great Builder's Bum, Chris!)First, they had to cut out the tiles which were slightly sloping, and they used an angle grinder along the joints, then levered up the tiles. Very dusty!
Chris applying the adhesiveAlan working the tiles up to the skirting
Its looking good now and after the tiles have set, they will be grouted.There is a niche waiting for something to fill it...
While I had some muscle on site, I got Chris and Alan to shift the Sunbox container to the correct position on the roof. This required some modification to the scaffolding.Then we lifted the two metal radiators up. They weren't so difficult to lift, but it helps to have two strong guys to do it, and we didn't have to modify the scaffold.
Up goes the first one, and Chris lifted it over the handrail.Here, it was lifted below the handrail and was a lot easier to raise.

Now the box is laid on the roof, I have some work to do!

Roped down in case the wind gets up! Hasn't yet, but it's damn cold and not going to be fun plumbing out there. But we have had sunshine for a couple of days.

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