heat tape weather
Tuesday, December 13 2005
The outdoor temperature was down near zero Fahrenheit this morning and that was cold enough to keep the solar system from working this morning, despite the clear blue skies, brilliant sun, and 150 degree temperatures in the panel itself. At this point the solution isn't more antifreeze, since I'm not really worried about the pipes actually bursting, and to appreciably raise the concentration of Propylene Gycol would require a massive undertaking. So instead I decided I should run some electrical heater wire along the hoses that connect the house to the panel. I could make it so these wires heat the hoses in the hour before solar sufficiency on sunny mornings when temperatures are lower than fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. It's another layer of complexity to an increasingly complicated system, but I'm finding that articulating all the nuances of a working system is proving to be a reasonably satisfying form of entertainment.
On the way back from a housecall in Rhinebeck I bought a 24 foot long reel of electric heat tape, which uses approximately 600 watts to do its thing. The plan was to install it inside the aluminum foil duct carrying the insulated hoses to the roof and hope the duct itself would be enough to concentrate the heat around the hoses which, though insulated, are not well insulated. Obviously it would have been better to run the tape under the insulation, but that would have required tearing out the old insulation and making a big mess. Also, I wanted the tape to heat both hoses, not just one. Of the two, the hose carrying water to the panel seemed the most important, since it also carried the force of the pump. Once water pressure could be applied to the panel it would force water into whatever frozen blockages lay in its way on the way back down, eventually thawing out a channel. It wouldn't matter how big the channel was initially, because the warm water coming through would quickly clean out the entire bore of the hose.
This evening Gretchen and I watched The 40 Year Old Virgin and we both thought it was great, though it ran a little too long. I especially liked the realism at beginning, when our 40 year old virgin protagonist is riding his bicycle home from a night of playing poker with the guys at work. "Bags of sand!" he disgustedly shouted, referring to the telling description he'd used to for the breasts of a hypothetical woman he'd lamely tried to claim he'd had sex with. We all know the way embarrassment can haunt us years after saying something stupid, and here that haunting was, still in its acute phase. I also liked the refreshing way the electronics store work environment was depicted, as a semi-lawless place, where just about anything might be shown on the wall of televisions during business hours, though it was usually a concert DVD of Michæl McDonald, white-haired former singer of the Doobie Brothers whose voice makes you want to spit out the gum you're not chewing. The boss of the electronics store is not your typical romantic comedy boss either; she's an attractive, somewhat oversexed older woman with an irreverent streak and it's clear that she knows everything her employees are pulling behind her back, but she doesn't really care just so long as they keep the products moving.
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