a second hot water heater for the cabin
Saturday, May 21 2022
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
This morning I made myself a french press of coffee and sizzled up some faux bacon with onions and mushrooms (for making a tomato-less BLT using some mayonnaise that was still somehow good despite having spent weeks in a refrigerator that was turned off).
Next I turned my attention to unloading more of the cargo from the Forester. I'd gotten the bicycles and rocking chair off it last evening, so now the main thing to unload was that Ruud-brand heat-pump-based hot water heater. I backed the Forester up to the bilco doors in the back and easily managed to get the water heater out and standing on the ground. Now the challenge was to get that roughly two-hundred pound heater safely down the steps. Using carpet fragments and a tarp to cover the rough surfaces, I managed to get the heater balanced on the top step. I then put some plywood on the steps to make slide and arranged a bunch of pillows and a dog bed at the bottom to lessen the damage should that heater get away from me.
It was possible that I could've gotten under that heater and slowly guided it down the steps to the bottom. But what if it was too heavy and decided I was no obstacle. I'd be squished like a bug. That's not a risk that it makes any sense to take unless one is desperate. But I wasn't; I had an idea that placed me in no risk at all. I tied a tightened a strap aound the heater just below a pipe penetration and then attached a rope to that strap. The other end of that rope went to a loop on the back of the Forester. With just a little slack in the rope, I eased the heater down the steps so until the rope was tight, supported only by the Forester. Now all I had to do was slowly back the Forester up. I did this in three or four short legs, always checking on the heater to see if it was about to rub on something hard or get hung up on something. Doing this, I guided the heater all the way to the bottom. Then it was just a simple matter to untie the rope, undo the strap, stand the heater up, and walk it over to its new home in the northeast corner of the basement.
After that, the only major thing needing unloading was the bluestone I'd brought. But if I can load the pieces with just my arms, I can unload them too.
Next I turned my attention to the erosion problem along the north edge of the septic field, where the sandy fill had developed a series of small gullies. I'd stopped all these gullies up last weekend with clumps of moss and the root balls of ferns. But evidently there had been torrential rains since then, which had created a new series of gullies, some of which were like mini gorges as much as a foot deep but only two or three inches wide. Many of these routed completely around the nascent gullies I'd stopped up last weekend. So today gathered five buckets of rooted vegetation from various places. The first such bucket was up the driveway some distance, which I made the mistake of walking to barefoot (my feet being still tender from winter, they didn't appreciate walking on gravel). Later, though, I went on a drive along Woodworth Lake Road and randomly took chunks of moss and even some jack-in-the-pulpits from various places. I got a fifth bucket from down the woodland slope west of the cabin. I managed to plug the headwaters of most of the new gullies this way, but to properly address this problem would require hours of work.
After noting all the solar energy going to waste due to the fully-charged battery and no car in need of charging, I took note of all the things I would be needing to get the Ruud hot water heater working. This included various copper fittings, soldering supplies, and plastic pex tubing, but no wire; I already had more than 50 feet of 10/3 romex). I then set out without the dogs to buy these things at the Ace Noble hardware store in Johnstown. The day had turned into something of a scorcher, with temperatures even at the cabin expected to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and I'd discovered on the drive here last evening that our the air conditioning on the Forester is not working. So that was why I didn't bring the dogs.
As often happens at Ace Noble, one of the employees became my personal shopper as I went around grabbing a great diversity of things (including all the plumbing I'd written down). Additional things included another bag of thinset mortar, a hummingbird feeder, a small manual bicycle pump (to make the two bikes now at the cabin rideable), and a big flower pot. As I kept adding to my list, the employee was surprised by the diversity of projects this suggested.
My next stop was Parker's Flowers, the only greenhouse I know about near the cabin. Today I bought a couple pepper plants (a habañero and a Trinidad scorpion pepper), another basil, and an oregano. Parker's was busy today, and I spent a long time waiting in line with my few plants while people in front of me with wagons full of ugly flowers made their purchases. One old man had a red cap on that read "Drain the Swamp." I wondered what had interested him back before Fox News destroyed his brain.
I wasn't happy with the flower pot selection at Ace Noble, so I went out of my way to go to Walmart. You'd think they have everything there, but it turns out their flower pot selection is somehow even worse than Ace Noble. The thing I most wanted was the kind of pot that goes on top of deck railing, and they most certainly didn't have that. Evidently that sort of thing can only be bought at a Home Depot of a Lowes.
I bought yet another Impossible Whopper (with just one order of fries) so I wouldn't have to thing about preparing food for awhile. Then, on the way through Gloversville, I stopped at the True Value hardware store to buy yet another somewhat-unsatisfactory flower pot as well as a largish plastic bin I figured I could use to solar-heat water. But ideally it would have to be black, so after loading those things in my car, I returned to the store and bought two cans of flat black spray paint.
Back at the cabin, I immediately began the work of connecting the Ruud water heater to the household plumbing. Part of what needed to happen was that I had to install a valve and a T-fitting into the existing plumbing installed by Little John the Stoner Plumber so I that I could block water backflowing into the Navien boiler, whose hot water function hasn't worked since it was destroyed by expanding ice over the winter. To to this, I had to cut out a piece of copper pipe in a cramped place where a pipe cutter couldn't operate. This forceed me to use a series of imperfect tools such as a cheap hacksaw, a reciprocating saw, and a Dremel with a cutting wheel. Then I had to make sure that I wasn't soldering too close to Little John's fittings, all of which use ProPress crimped copper technology. (These contain rubber gaskets that cannot be exposed to too much heat, meaning soldering near them is best avoided.) Once I had that installed, a side benefit was that now I had a way to drain a low section of pipe that had been undrainable.
After attaching that part to the hot water output of the Ruud water heater, I could then attach the input to the cold water supply. By this point I was running out of pex L-fittings and had to resort to a T-fitting with one of the three legs plugged.
The installation today made it so water can be heated by either the Navien boiler or the Ruud hot water heater, but not both in series. Eventually I'd like to make it so they can be connected in series, but to do that will require reworking a bit more of Little John's work.
With the plumbing all installed, I could now turn on the water and check for leaks. Mercifully, there were none.
As evening approached, I took a break from my heater installation to walk down to the lake. I tried to get the dogs to come, but neither of them did. At the lake, I paddled around some in a kayak while drinking a beer and observing two different beavers, the smaller of which was swimming around with something in his or her mouth. The other one would surface occasionally and smack the water with her tail to express her irritation with me (I assumed this was Madyson, the beaver I'd met last weekend).
After I returned to the dock site, I dragged the sixteen-foot-long main length of the dock out into the water and then propped it up with stones to get it close to where it will end up being. To finalize this position, I could've installed two fat pipes int the pipe clamps at the dock's two end-corners. But this would've required a wrench, and it was already too gloomy to find things in my dock-area supply cache. So called it a night and returned to the cabin to resume my hot water heater installation.
For the next couple hours, I did the work of running the fat 10/3 romex from the circuit breaker box (at the northwest corner of the basement) to the Ruud heater at the northeast corner. Every floor joist had to be penetrated, though fortunately for the first third or so of the basement I could go through existing holes. Towards the end there, I had to be very careful with my drill to avoid drilling into existing plumbing.
Once I installed a big 30 amp by 240 volt circuit breaker, I could turn on the Ruud. It came to life and soon was heating water. Distressingly, it was using over 5 kilowatts (more than half of the rated output of the SolArk inverter) to heat the water even when I was in "heat pump mode." Evidently it insists of using resistive heating when the water to heat is below a certain temperature, though this heating water that way is something I never want to do. Indeed, I'd actually considered disconnecting the resistive heating element before installing the heater (and didn't carry through on it for fear the heater would detect the absence of a resistive heating element as a shutdown-requiring error condition).
Once the tank of water was above a certain temperature, the Ruud only consumed about 500 watts of power as did its final heating using just its heat pump. Hopefully that will be the only form of heating our use cases will require.
All that time spent down in the basement (where temperatures are still in the 50s) made it so that I missed out on most of the tropical heat wave happening outside and in the rest of the house.
Satisfied with the day's work, I drank a couple gin and tonics and eventually fell asleep out on the couch. Having been bored by my antics hours before, the dogs had all gone off to the biggest of the first floor bedrooms and climbed into bed.
Additional erosion around the plants I'd planted last weekend. Those deep gullies are all less than a week old.
Click to enlarge.
Glassy water in the Woodworth Lake outflow bay, looking towards the line of rocky islands diving the bay from the main body of the lake.
Click to enlarge.
A beaver swimming around with something in his or her mouth.
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