Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   dividing a heating zone
Saturday, October 22 2022
I hadn't gone to the cabin this weekend because I'd scheduled a big landlording chore for this weekend. The plan was to cobble together another heating zone at the brick mansion on Downs Street so that the tenant in apartment 1L would finally have his own thermostat and not be dependent on the settings at 1R (whose tenant is often off at her nursing job). But before going off to do all that, Gretchen and I had our first relaxed Saturday in Hurley in months (the last time I'd been "relaxing" in Hurley on a Saturday was back in early May when I had covid). It was cool enough to start a fire in the woodstove, and I made french presses of both real coffee and decaf. I even thawed out some Trader Joes crumpets, though the butter I put on mine had gone a bit rancid (but not too rancid to eat!) so I ended up having a big butter fire in the woodstove. I also wrote today's seven-letter New York Times Spelling Bee on a piece of cardboard just like I do at the cabin. I noted at some point that this was our first Saturday at home in Hurley since Gretchen's political work managed to get the nearby bus turnaround shut down as a de facto gun range, and the silence was glorious.

On the way to Downs Street, I stopped for some last-minute supplies at Herzogs in Uptown. Mostly what I wanted was a couple additional 3/4 inch 90 degree copper elbow fittings, but while there I also got a combo wirebrush tool designed for all wirebrushing operations that plumbers do to fittings before soldering for both 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch fittings. I'd also worried that my particular torch nozzle might not produce enough heat to effective solder large fitttings (I'd be installing several 1.25 inch fittings). So I also sprung for a fancy $60 one that claimed to be good for "big fittings." If I had no leaks on the pressurization of my new plumbing, that would be worth hundreds of dollars, so viewed in that context, $60 was cheap.
The first thing I did in the Downs Street basement was to hook up a hose it run it own the window so I could begin draining the first floor zone completely. Since this zone contained eight or nine cast iron radiators and pipes that routinely exceeded two inches in diameter, that was going to take hours. Fortunately, there were valves to isolate the zone from the boiler itself and the other zones. No water actually came out of that hose, though, until I created a way for air to enter the zone from the top. I did this by removing an air vent from the hallway radiator. [I would later learn there is a special tool for this vent called a "radiator key," but I had no such key or suitable tool top. So instead I used a wrench to remove the entire vent itself.]
While increasingly-dark anærobic water streamed leisurely out of the hose in the yard, I started assembling some of the plumbing and soldering it together nearby (also outside). This was so I could see better, the air would be fresher, and so there would be no fire hazard. As I added the two Honeywell motorized zone valves to my creation, I only soldered in the brass valve bodies themselves so there would be no danger of causing heat damage to the gaskets, sealing ball, or the motors. I wanted to work as cautiously as possible so there would be no defects to fix, as a defect would likely require me to spend hours draining the whole system yet again.
As I was finishing up the assembly and soldering of the valve complex, the last of the zone's water (which was now black and oily) glugged out of the hose. There was still a fair amount of undrained plumbing below that level, but at least all the radiators were empty. So I then cut through the pipe leaving the zone's circulator pump, and at that point much of the low-level water in the zone came gushing out, but I was able to catch most of it in a bucket. Some went on the floor, but didn't get close to anything that might've been damaged, and I was able to sponge most of this up with a piece of paper towel squeezed out multiple times.
I didn't have a pipe cutter big enough to cut through the fat 1.25 inch pipe in an adjacent room where the starting point of the new zone was to begin. But I'd planned ahead enough to bring a reciprocating saw for that one job. Once that was severed and cleaned up, I could block the end of one zone with a cap and begin the other zone with a run of 3/4 inch pipe back to my new valve assembly near the boiler. This ended up requiring about 25 feet of 3/4 inch pipe, and I'd planned well enough ahead to have 35 feet on hand.
Once I had everything soldered together, I reassembled the zone valves and then cautiously began refilling the system. As I did so, I inspected all the new solder joints for leaks. But I'd worked hard to make sure those joints were good and they all proved solid. So I went upstairs and let air out of the hallway radiator so it could fill back up. All the other radiators in the newly-divided zones were inside the two first floor apartments, and I wasn't sure how best to bleed the air out of them so I left that for tomorrow. Their radiators probably wouldn't work very well until I'd bled them of their air, but it had been gloriously warm sunny day, so I figured they'd be okay.
One other thing I did at Downs Street was to get the measurements of a window that had broken in the 2nd floor apartment. R, the male half of the couple living there, has been fighting cancer for three or four years now and he's not looking very good. He met me at the door with a mask on, and I'd been conscious enough of his precarious health to have one on my face as well.

By about 6:00pm I was hungry and exhausted, so I decided to push the wiring phase of the project off to tomorrow. On the drive home, I drank a celebratory road beer (a Lagunitas Maximus; 9% alcohol!). Back at the house, I ate some cannabis and watched the two final episodes of Bad Vegan all by myself, since I had the feeling maybe Gretchen didn't want to watch any more. Today she'd driven down to Manhattan to attend a Brandi Carlile show at Madison Square Garden and wouldn't be getting home until 3:00am tomorrow.

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