Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some Progress, Mostly Not Noticable

The reason I've not been posting is that not much is happening on our job. The project manager who didn't do anything for 2 1/2 months disappeared, taking "leave of absence" for stress. The guy who took over project management, Paul one of the co-founders of the combined green architectural/construction firm we are using, now has 5 jobs in total, including three that the former project manager dumped on him, and he's pretty swamped. Today during a meeting I asked him when the 200 amp electrical service was going and he said: "What 200 amp service?" Bad sign. It seems other customers were complaining too, and the whole situation was almost a duplicate of the case last summer with the solar thermal installation and the incompetent plumber.

Anyway, I've been encouraged by the reports I'm getting, though of course it will be even nicer to see some work actually being completed. Paul and his assistant Christine put out the solar for bid, three bids came back. One is a roofer who "is interested in getting into the solar business". Hmm. Am I "interested in acting as a training site for a reduced fee"? This is a question I need to ponder. The solar company who put our system up in 2004 punctured the roof in at least 3 places, two of which we only discovered recently after the roofer on the current job did a leak test. The third place was an ongoing battle getting the previous roofer to fix, he finally fixed it this spring but in the quickest and least likely to last way possible: he sprayed polyurthane foam over the roof in the area of the leak. We had extensive mold damage in one closet and had to tear out the drywall, treat the mold with chlorine bleach, and redo the insulation on the ceiling, put back the drywall and paint. At least this current solar installer is also a roofer, so he will probably do a good job on the roof. But whether he'll do a good job on the solar design is another question.

We also finalized the location of the HRV vents. This was a long and complicated process, since I was interested in getting  exhaust vents high in the central hallway, which has 20 foot ceilings. The idea is to draw down the stale heated air that rises to the cathedral ceiling, extract the heat,  and recirculate fresh heated air in the lower part of the house. We ended up adding two ventilation chases, one in the back bedroom and one in the front bedroom closet, that will exhaust air from near the cathedral ceiling in the hall. We also had to move the HRV on the east side of the house into the chase under the roof above the master bedroom. If you recall, our HRV system consists of two independent HRV units, one on the east side of the house and one on the west. The west side is simple: just install in the attic. But we never really figured out what to  do  with the east side. Forrest, our architect, thinks we can keep the noise down by hanging the HRV from  wires so that the vibrations are not transferred to the building structure, keeping the master bedroom vibration free. We will see.

Forrest finally convinced me that the electric on-demand backup  should be installed in a newly constructed overhead closet above the upstairs bathroom door. He told me a while back that NREL recommends backup hot water heaters for solar to be installed above the actual solar storage tank, but he never told me why. While traveling in Europe, it suddenly occurred to me one day that this was probably because  the  hot water from the solar tank would rise into the connection  pipe with the backup water heater, eliminating the short gout of cold water that would hit the on-demand heater if it were below the solar tank. This would thereby ensure that the on-demand heater doesn't switch on and then quickly off  when the hot water is drawn out of that solar tank. I was holding out for putting it in the mechanical closet where the current gas-fired tank backup heater is.

Paul keeps discovering stuff that the now-departed project manager forgot to do. Apparently, he never wrote anything down. The electrical service upgrade is just the tip of the iceberg. But slowly, Paul and Christine seem to be getting the job in hand. Although it has been really hot this week - actually, the first long stretch of hot weather we have had all this summer - colder and rainier times are coming. If the work is not complete by Halloween, so that we can move back in, we are going to have to work out some way of keeping part of the patio outside our bedroom door dry so we can  continue to live partially outside. Right now, we are living in our master bedroom suite, with a long walk around the building to get into the kitchen through the garage.

1 comment:

  1. You don't have to be a big organization or a company to enjoy the fruits of solar power.

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