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Old 04-07-2012, 06:41 AM   #10061
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Ouch, that's a lot of mileage in a short time.
It's the 100 mi per day round trip commute.
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Old 04-07-2012, 12:46 PM   #10062
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Uncovered the swamp cooler, and fired it up. Only 1 cracked water line outside, must have left a little water in it and froze. For the Eastern folks here is a link to swamp coolers, hint we don't keep alligator-on-a-stick in there.

Evaporative cooler - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 04-07-2012, 02:41 PM   #10063
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I'm meeting a neighbor at 4 PM to convene a post-mortem on repair his water heater.

I can't remember how old it is, but I suspect it's pushing 20 years. A couple years ago we replaced a burned-out element-- how many times have you seen that happen on its own, not as a result of a manufacturer's defect or a plumber error? Now he's seeing the same symptoms again. Maybe it's the other element, but I suspect the new one was subject to the same conditions that killed the old one.

I'd have to refresh my memory, but I believe that back then I hesitated to replace the anode rod because of the accumulated rust around the bolt head. Which probably means all that's left of his anode rod... is the bolt head.

I'm trying to persuade him to go solar water heater. Around here the electric water heater is one-quarter to one-third of an electric bill. (For those homes with no air conditioning.) Solar water costs ~$6600 installed, and over the next year of $4500+ in rebates & tax credits it drops to just over $2000. He has two teenage daughters so his payback on that $2K is probably at the short end of 3-8 years.

Our mutual friend a couple blocks up the street also has a dying water heater, and I've been trying to persuade her to go solar water for years. I've been jonesing for a modern solar water heater & controller. (My 2005 design is functional but flawed, and our used-tank hardware is developing age-related issues.) Maybe if the neighbor decides to go solar we can negotiate an installer's threefer discount on the tanks.

Hawaii Energy, Conservation and Efficiency Program | Water Heating
State by state - Solar Water Heater Rebate

But he's worried about his employer, he doesn't want to cash in any of his assets, he just wants enough hot water for his family to be happy...

Quote:
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It's the 100 mi per day round trip commute.
Ouch ouch!
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Old 04-07-2012, 02:53 PM   #10064
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Nords, if you lived here the Electric Coop would give you a free water heater, I use propane. My neighbor got 2 from the Coop, one for each end of his home.
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Old 04-07-2012, 05:23 PM   #10065
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Today it was a perfect Spring day in Seattle. Went for a walk/hike with a group in an area east of Seattle called Issaquah Highlands. Got great views of the Olympic Mountains (and Seattle see the Space Needle on the right side of the first photo) and Mount Baker.

-- Rita
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Old 04-07-2012, 05:36 PM   #10066
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Did our usual errands today. Saw one sign with Saturday spelled as Saterday, and two signs in which people had put the letter N backwards. Spelling is one thing but if people don't even know their letters, they need to go back to kindergarten.

Also saw two people who left their motors running while filling tires with air or slowly perusing a garage sale.

Then I got back and found that although Isi had said I could send in my soda siphon and have it replaced for $20, they had sent it back to me and said they couldn't repair it.

I wonder if medical marijuana would make these things not bother me.
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Old 04-07-2012, 05:57 PM   #10067
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Changed the oil & filter on DW's car.

Sliced up a gigunda stick of pepperoni with the meat slicing machine (cheaper than buying it presliced and I get to decide how thick the slices are).

Went for a short 40-mile motorcycle ride just 'cause it's a nice day and it's sin to not ride on a nice day.

Went to a model train club show just to see what was there. I'm not into model railroading but it's neat to see what other people do with it. Talking with a guy there, he invited me to see his 1/4 scale backyard layout and I'm just gonna have to see that! I've seen pictures of them but never one in real life.

Took a few pictures and sent them to the club with permission to use them on their web site if they want.
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Old 04-07-2012, 08:26 PM   #10068
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Heh heh heh.... Who would have thunk a photo of two round things toroids would get the geeks so excited?

Right after I proudly shared that handy work, I went back to work on the circuit, and immediately found myself in pain. These modern MOSFETs had nanosecond switching speeds, and my gosh, EMI galore. I should have taken shots of the o'scope screen to show signals ringing up to tens of megahurts megaHertz. And if I said the synchronous rectifier also suffered "shoot-through", someone here might also appreciate the problem.

I went to bed at 12:30AM that night, then woke up at 3:30AM, tossed and turned, then decided to go back to work. Finally fixed the problem by next day afternoon by slowing down the switching edge speed, but I guess I could lose a few % in conversion efficiency. Also fixed the "shoot-through" problem by changing the design to add some delay between on/off edges of the two totem-pole MOSFETs.

Cannot test at full-load yet, as I do not have a 200W power supply, and also a suitable load. Will have to pack up the circuit to bring it out to the MH to use the real solar panel and the battery bank.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Major Tom View Post
... Please let us know how the charge controller works out. You're going to be using it with about 100-200W of panels IIRC?
I will not know until I test at full load. Maybe the thing will just blow up in smoke. What I now fear is that it works now, but then fails later while I am on the trip. OMG! What am I getting myself into? I have done many things, but am not a power circuit designer. I studied the problem, and decided to prove to myself that it was something I could do. Talk about knowing enough to be dangerous.

The design is a bit tougher than usual, because the wonderful 215W solar panel I bought used is not the usual type for 12V battery charging. Its output voltage is as high as 48V, and it must be converted down. So, the circuit has to handle the high input voltage of 48V and also the high output current of up to 18A. And if one builds a DC/DC converter, might as well go the extra length to do MPPT function. And then, if one puts in a microcontroller, might as well do the battery monitor function too.

I am still stuck at at the basic DC/DC converter function. The rest is all in firmware anyhow, and will be more enjoyable, I hope.

Another sad thing. One of my scopes, a Tektronix 7633, failed in the middle of all this. When I am all done with this solar thinggy, that's the next thing to fix. May need a scope to fix a scope, of course. Well, its bigger brother, a 7704A still works.

Anyhow, it's too early to declare success. I have gone too far to quit now, but you can see that I have had 2nd thoughts. This is not what ER is supposed to be, I don't think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
Solar water costs ~$6600 installed...
In the early 80s, back when solar water was in vogue, I bought and installed one myself. It has been a while, so I do not remember the exact cost, but I think the panel, pump, and controller were less than $1K (no pipe cost, no labor). Wonder why it costs so much now.
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Old 04-07-2012, 09:42 PM   #10069
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Sent my federal taxes yesterday and took my state taxes to the PO this morning. Went to a wedding today. My DD's brother-in-law, who is in the Army, was married. He flew from TX to Pittsburgh PA and got in at midnight Thursday and leaves tomorrow to go back to TX. She is staying here since she is going to WVU and her mother's cancer came out of remission. He graduates from his advanced Arabic training early July and will be stationed in GA, so he will be closer. I came home and took a nap, something that I hardly ever do. Then after checking ingredients for tomorrow's brunch, went to the grocery store. Just finished sweeping and mopping floors. I am done for today.
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Old 04-08-2012, 02:16 AM   #10070
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Well, it was almost a post-mortem. Definitely last rites.

The water heater is a "six-year model" purchased in 1999. The plumber replaced the lower burned-out element in 2002 "under warranty". We replaced it again in 2010. Guess which one was burned out today.

A good element has low resistance (~13 ohms) and is not grounded to the tank. Usually a burned-out element has low resistance but is grounded to the tank. (That's what we had in 2010.) This time the element had infinite resistance... as in no continuity across its terminals.

Last time we just unscrewed the old element and screwed in the new one. This time I got about a quarter turn on the element when water started squirting out. (Hint for new water-heater repair technicians: heater elements go in drywells. "Dry" as in "no water".) So I screwed the element firmly back in and declared "job over".

My neighbor wanted to see the carcass, so we drained the tank and yanked out the element. The water corroded through the drywell, soaked the element, shorted it, and then corroded it. It was probably a few weeks before he noticed that he had a lot less hot water than usual.

I asked him when he'd last replaced the anode rod. He replied "Anode rod?" Now we know what corroded after the anode rod was all gone... most likely the weld joint around the lower element drywell.

We refilled the water heater, set the upper element from 120 degrees to 140 degrees, and turned it back on. He's good as long as he doesn't use more than about 20-25 gallons of hot water at a time. And as long as the upper element holds out.

I was smart enough not to get talked into examining the anode rod. If I tried to take it out of the tank after 13 years of corrosion I'd probably break the tank before I broke loose the threads. When the new heater's installed then I'll show him what's left of the anode rod.

Just go buy a new water heater, right? Not so fast.

The best answer is to go solar but the neighbor wants to re-roof the house. The roof's 23 years old, so it's wise for him to do this before the hurricane does it for him. Once the new roof is on then he can put in a solar water heating system. And as long as he's doing a new roof, maybe he should add in some attic solar exhaust fans plus some radiant insulation.

Now an $11 heater element has turned into a $15K+ re-roofing and solar water project. His spouse is not going to be cooperative. So he's going to balk on buying a new water heater until they finish the roof/solar water discussion. Eventually she'll get tired of lukewarm showers. I predict at least six months of drama.

In a totally unrelated coincidence, a roofer is coming to our house next week to give us an estimate for a silicon coating on our front lanai roof. Now I'm introducing the roofer to two of our neighbors, and possibly a third...

Quote:
Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
In the early 80s, back when solar water was in vogue, I bought and installed one myself. It has been a while, so I do not remember the exact cost, but I think the panel, pump, and controller were less than $1K (no pipe cost, no labor). Wonder why it costs so much now.
We built ours in 2005 for just over $1000. But that required a lot of used parts (like used panels, a used pump, and a used water heater). I think I bought 60-80 feet of copper piping to wind up through the attic to the roof (and back down again). The controller was the most expensive part because I didn't want to wind toroids all day...

Today's panels are mostly copper, which has become stupid expensive. I don't know if the piping from the heater to the roof can be plumbed in with PEX because the water gets as high as 175 degrees (limited by the controller). We went with soldered copper.

Aside from the price of copper, most of today's expense is the installation labor. Apparently they want properly-trained guys drilling holes into a perfectly good roof to screw 100-pound panels on there.
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Old 04-08-2012, 09:04 AM   #10071
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He is lucky to have you as a neighbor and get the benefit or your advice.

Can your neighbor pick up a gently used electric hot water heater on craigslist to hold him over until he can decide yeah or neah on the bigger roof/solar project? Or just learn to take very quick showers!!

When we bought our summer home it had a small 10 gal electric hot water heater since it was just a seasonal property and we quickly learned that taking a quick hot shower was better than a longer shower with a cold water rinse.
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:29 AM   #10072
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Heh heh heh.... Who would have thunk a photo of two round things toroids would get the geeks so excited?

.... What I now fear is that it works now, but then fails later while I am on the trip. OMG! What am I getting myself into? I have done many things, but am not a power circuit designer.
Yes, there are a few circuits around the house and car that I've thought of doing. Like you, as much for the challenge and 'fun' as the benefit. But in each case, the risk of a later failure was worse than any benefit I might get. And those were simple circuits, but yet, a bad solder joint, defective component, or some stress that I overlooked might doom it. Without a peer review of the design, hot/cold testing, and a full range of operating conditions to test it over, my confidence isn't as high as I'd like. A power circuit like that has lots of ways to go wrong (I think, I'm not a power designer either).


RE: Solar water costs ~$6600 installed...
Quote:
In the early 80s, back when solar water was in vogue, I bought and installed one myself. It has been a while, so I do not remember the exact cost, but I think the panel, pump, and controller were less than $1K (no pipe cost, no labor). Wonder why it costs so much now.
And I bet people back then were saying - "If everyone started buying these, prices would come way down and performance would improve, you know, like computers!"

-ERD50
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:53 AM   #10073
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Last time we just unscrewed the old element and screwed in the new one. This time I got about a quarter turn on the element when water started squirting out. (Hint for new water-heater repair technicians: heater elements go in drywells. "Dry" as in "no water".) So I screwed the element firmly back in and declared "job over". ...
? I've never heard/seen of a home electric water heater that used a 'drywell' - every replacement heating element I've seen in the stores was of the 'immersion' type. Those will definitely leak if you don't drain the tank before removing them.

Most of my experience is with gas water heaters though, but a little googling only came up with the immersion type, like this:

Element Installation Instructions
Whirlpool Water Heaters



And the first step in replacing the element is turn off power, water, and drain the tank. And warnings like:

Quote:
Tank must be properly filled with water and free of air before applying electric power to prevent element damage.
Drywell types may exist, but they don't appear to be common, and any new water heater repair technicians better be aware of the difference.

-ERD50
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Old 04-08-2012, 01:35 PM   #10074
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Had a plumbing false alarm. DW reported water under the washing machine. Took the front off and couldn't determine a leak source, and then a little more investigation found a bottle of bleach that had tipped over and was dripping. The liquid had gone under the washing machine to simulate a leak.

Unfortunately, this resulted in a bleached spot on the knee of my jeans.
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Old 04-08-2012, 02:11 PM   #10075
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This morning at breakfast in the coffee shop, that we'd cycled to, we decided to have fish for the evening meal. A few minutes ago DW went into the freezer and the conversation went like this (I was on my laptop browsing ER.org).



DW: "Hey, Barramundi for tea?"

Me: "That sounds great?"

DW: "What sounds great?"

Me: "Could you repeat the question".

DW: "Hake or Barramundi for tea?"
.
.
.
.

We seem to have a lot of conversations like this these days.
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Old 04-08-2012, 03:01 PM   #10076
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Unfortunately, this resulted in a bleached spot on the knee of my jeans.
Consider it as an enhancement. Some people pay good money for jeans finished that way.
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Old 04-08-2012, 06:41 PM   #10077
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End of day two babysitting twin six-year old nephews. Hyperactive, non-stop talking, yelling, arguing, typical kids and my nerves are fried.

Unfortunately I'm not retired so will go to work tomorrow with no mental break...pity party over.
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Old 04-08-2012, 08:25 PM   #10078
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Today, my daughter invited us out for lunch. She just had another transfer/promotion in just 2 years with her present employer, and a total of 20% raise since she started. It was relaxing sitting out in the patio of the restaurant, enjoying the weather while sipping some Sangria.

I usually do not have such a heavy lunch, so took a nap when we got home. Then, woke up, did a bit more work on my solar panel project**, and now resting and contemplating the meaning of life and ER. You see, I got an email from the people for whom I did a short project late last year. As expected, they are happy with the results, and now talk about up-scoping it to a larger project, with my share of work in the couple of thousand hours. I think to do the whole thing that I proposed would have taken longer than that, so will have to negotiate.

I will have to really think about whether to accept this. It's not a dream job, I no longer can think of any job as such, but it may be a fun one, and pays well. My wife is still taking turn to take care of her infirm father, so I cannot travel much unless I go alone. Looks like just another year of w*rk for me. But heck, I already work myself to death doing personal projects for little return anyway, while waiting for my sweetheart to be free so we can travel to Alaska and Siberia the world.

** About the MPPT charger project, I will not bore you anymore with the details until I get either some definite progress or throw in the towel. But I will keep you informed.
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Old 04-08-2012, 09:01 PM   #10079
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A dozen of doughnuts and my family tonight at Krispy Keene.

Easter candy and doughnuts.
Now for coma.
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Old 04-09-2012, 07:38 AM   #10080
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As I shuffled past the half bath this morning on the way to make coffee, I heard the distinct sound of dripping water - a lot of dripping water. The floor of the bathroom was very wet and it was coming from the back of the toilet tank. After a minute or two of blurry-eyed investigation, I discovered a crack in the tank (see photo).

Last evening we did hear an unusual noise from that part of the house and thought something fell from a shelf in the closet or utility room. It wasn't loud enough to be alarming and I was too lazy to investigate.

I am so thankful this happened while we were home. I'll never leave on a trip again without turning off the well pump as a flood prevention measure.

I'm off to buy a new toilet...
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