Saturday, August 18, 2012

Circulation pump problem

Recently the circuit breaker for the circulation pump circuit started tripping...the blown circuit also supported the domestic hot water recirc pump, which is how I noticed something was wrong (no immediate hot water for my morning shower).   

Fortunately I was able to get a service person from Northwest Mechanical out to the house on a Saturday (for a modest additional fee).   I was concerned that the tech might have difficulty with the complexity of our heating\cooling system, but that turned out not to be a problem - Joel knew exactly what he was looking at and figured out very quickly what the problem was.  The Grundfos pump for the buffer tank in our heating\cooling system, was oriented such that condensation was collecting in the cover plate (facing downwards); that small puddle of water eventually caused the short-circuit.   Took only half an hour to diagnose the problem, remove\replace the pump, and we were back in business.    It was a pleasure watching an experienced tradesman at work. 

One more quick note:   the original installer of our HVAC system (Mitchell Mechanical) appears to have gone out of business - I am glad we still have an experienced hydronic heating\cooling company here in the Pacific NW in case something goes wrong.   

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Don't neglect your gutters

I hate gutters. Yes, they're a very important part of your house, keeping all that water drained away from your foundation, etc. It just seems they're so "cheap" when compared to the rest of the house (even considering what they do), and something always seems to go wrong with them. In addition, I really don't like climbing around on roofs.

The first year or so in our house, I never even looked at the gutters - they just worked. At some point I started noticing that during heavy rains, we were getting overflow leakage at several spots. I finally got my ladder out last weekend and checked it out. Oops - major cloggage! The amount of leaves didn't look bad at first glance, but I've discovered that it doesn't take many to block the flow. In addition, there was a buildup of shingle granules that wasn't helping either. I've read that new shingles will stop shedding so much after the first year (I hope so). Anyway, I unclogged and cleaned out all of the first story gutters using a ladder from the ground (avoiding that trip up to the roof :)). It's simply amazing how well gutters work when they're cleared out.

Thinking about this some more: the obvious reason I don't want to go on the roof is for fear of falling (duh). It turns out that there are safety systems that that use various roof brackets to allow you to better hold on, or better yet, securely attach yourself to a roof. I've looked into the permanent roof anchors from Miller Fall Protection and they look like a robust product (I'm sure there are others). You have to install many of them though (say, one every 4-6 feet), in order to avoid any sideways sheer loads, and there's always the worry about creating new leaks.

Anyway...this morning I got up up on the second story roof today with the best of intentions, thinking that I would just force myself to get the job done and save myself some bucks. After about five minutes I decided that such heights are not for me, and the savings aren't worth the risk - I'll be calling a contractor this next week some time. :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One year wrapup: yard and landscaping

Heh - this will be a short post, because basically we haven't yet DONE any landscaping or other yard work. Too busy with other stuff and also don't feel like spending any real money on cosmetics when we live way out here in the woods. But I do want to comment on a few things.

As you may recall, our yard was left as bare dirt with just a protective covering of straw around the perimeter of the house. That straw has worked great and has lasted much longer than I would have expected - I should get more. The rest of the yard has degenerated into a mess of tiny tree sprouts, moss, and weeds :(. We made a brief effort last fall to weed some of the yard and quickly gave it up as a back-killing effort. More advanced methods are called for, methinks. I don't want to get deep into it though until we finalize a full-up landscaping plan, which we're not ready to do just yet.

Our driveway developed some deep rutted areas after several months of use. Some were deep enough that low-slung cars might have bottomed out. We hired a local contractor to come in to grade\level the driveway and add recycled asphalt. Wow, huge difference! :)

Both Paul (our general contractor) and Brad (the clearing\grading guy) warned me not to landscape too soon, since the earth would need time to settle and this might disrupt any landscaping efforts. This was good advice, there have developed several low areas in the yard which tend to collect water during rainfalls. The driveway immediately in front of the garage also drains very poorly. I have begun to research French drains and am thinking of a summer project to install a system of them around the house to drain everything away to the low end (southwest corner).

With all of the damp areas around this house, bugs have been a bit of a problem. Sitting out on the back porch when it gets dark, on warm nights, is not a good idea. I researched around for bug control products and found a couple of basic ideas: bug zapper lights, and propane-powered bug traps. I went with a Blue Rhino SV 5100 mosquito trap and hooked it up directly to the house propane (no need to refill bottles :)). You can read about them on Amazon and other places, but basically they need to run continuously for weeks and weeks in order to cut into the population and birth rate of the bugs. Mine has only been running for a couple of weeks. So we will see how this thing does - the trap is full of tiny mosquitos, but I suspect\hope it will do better when the weather warms up.

Living in the forest, it's a good idea to be prepared for fallen trees as a result of windstorms. This past winter was no exception - a couple of trees over by the well were pushed over (nearly hit my son's car). Fortunately I bought myself a Stihl MS-290 Farm Boss chainsaw last fall. I've never had one of these before, but you better believe I'm careful with it. It came in handy for the two downed trees, and I've also been using it clear some other small areas. I gotta say, swinging a chainsaw is hard work for this poor desk jockey - a few hours of that and my arms want to fall off. :)