Keeping Warm: Another Adventure

Reese and I are working on the basement wood furnace. We pulled-apart the mishmash ( 5″ to 6″ to 8″ + 3 elbows, and shoved diagonally into the chimney).

We’re repurposing some brand-new 6″ pipe that was on another unused wood stove in the concrete-floored part of the basement. There’s also enough pieces and elbows to make a correct connection, though I plan to get a 6″ wall plate interface to the chimney itself.

That unused stove had a “halo” of pipes around it. Somebody took a “T” above the top-mounted exhaust, and made a horizontal circle surrounding a chimney. There are four elbows, two T’s, and nine straight pieces all supported by little wires attached to the basement ceiling.

Then, at some point, the industrious builder noticed that the chimney did not go all the way through the roof, but stopped in the attic – as the top had crumbled at some point in the distant past.

Back to the furnace…Examining the “real” chimney, I see pretty light creosote, overall, and most of that in the section where the pipe intersected the bricks.

I think it wasn’t used much, because there was a  ton of ash in the 2′ horizontal pipe section that exited immediately out of the stove. There was almost no creosote on the pipes going to the chimney, however. There was little more than 1.5 – 2.0 inches of air for the flow, with all the clogging debris.

The reason why the pipes were in such disarray was probably because of the initial 5″ x 24″ pipe is too long. They then used all kinds of parts and elbows to make it kinda-sorta fit.

We cleaned out a huge amount of ash from the stove, and it looks to be pretty solid. The intake is obviously new, so that’s ok. The other ducts look serviceable for now as well.

The current plan is to cut the 5″ pipe down to 12″ long, then use a 5″ -to-6″ adapter, then use the myriad 6″ pieces and adjustable elbows to make a reasonable straight-shot to the chimney.

With all the brand-new stove pipe ( there are literally dozens of pieces – primarily 6″ ), one has to wonder why the furnace piping was such a mess. But, the predecessors clearly didn’t like 90-degree angles, or doing anything approaching “code.”

The impetus for this was the -13F temperature last night which knocked out the water heater, again. The house itself is fairly comfortable with the pellet stove going full blast, and the kerosene space heater in the living room.

The furnace history is that it was removed from another house about 4 or 5 years ago, and put in this basement. Somebody made a concrete pad for it to sit on.

It has a configuration I’d never seen before. The entire stove is inside of a box, with five holes: front door, back exhaust pipe, intake on left side, and two top circles for adding ducts.

It’s not clear if the house has a furnace before or not. The intake grate at the front door is cast iron, but the other three appear to be of newer vintage.

I’m uncomfortable with running the furnace in the basement because I can’t see what’s happening. I’ve run two other stoves – and had two chimney fires, and one “creosote incident” where an inversion layer or something caused a backup, filling the house with a strong wood creosote smell. That can be dangerous, apparently.

Anyway, the older cast-iron stove ( Vermont Castings “Defiant” ) needed a fair amount of futzing and stuff, with its 8″ single-walled pipe ( and 2 fires ). This stove has a bigger box, and should be harder to keep lit adequately.

Tomorrow we’ll borrow some shears to trim the 5″ pipe, and create a straight-run into the chimney. We’ll also clean the chimney while we’re at it. The safest thing to do would be to line it with stainless steel – but we’re fresh out of the $1,500 or so that would cost.

We’ll fire it up, and see how it works. It should be a nice alternative in case of power outages, though getting wood into the basement will be “interesting.”

Posted in The Previous Owner is Trying to Kill Me | Leave a comment

The Government Won’t Mind if You Freeze To Death

Last night reached 5F ( -15C ). This drafty old house was definitely uncomfortable. I haven’t installed the pellet stove, so we have four kerosene space heaters, and three electric space heaters to keep the temperature bearable.

Now, you may think that kerosene space heaters are incredibly primitive technologically. Smelly, dangerous ( in several ways ), and, well, just a pain. That certainly was what I thought when I first discovered them two winters ago.

However, my opinion is now quite the opposite on all points. Well, except for them being a pain. They definitely require lots of futzing with, and such. However, there was no viable alternative in the condo when the power went out. The condo association basically outlawed any heaters that were not vented propane heaters ( such as Rinnai ). Rinnai heaters are wonderful. They work well, are quiet, and fairly efficient.

Alas, propane is extremely expensive for heat, and the heaters require electricity to run. Every single winter since we’ve been in New Hampshire, we’ve lost electricity in the winter time. Two years ago, the power was out for four days. Two years before that, we lost electricity for six days!

Generators are an option, but there are several problems with them. Keeping the pellet stove running on a generator is a separate pain. Plus, they’re expensive. A completely non-electric option seemed necessary.

First, let’s dispel the notion that kerosene is “primitive.” Yes, kerosene has been used for lighting, heating, and cooking since the last half of the 19th century. The greatest environmentalist of all time – John D. Rockefeller – single-handedly saved the whale species when he supplied kerosene to the US market starting around 1870. The price went down 80% in just a few years, and completely displaced the dominant whale-oil lantern that had been in use for a couple of centuries. ( it was cheaper )

In 1892, kerosene stoves appeared on the market. Many wood-burning stoves were retrofitted to use kerosene, which was much easier to maintain than wood, and safer and cleaner than coal.

In 1901, Rockefeller financed a new company to produce space heaters that ran on kerosene. The company was called “Perfection” and it was so efficient that entire swaths of forest were saved from being turned into firewood. Millions of Perfection heaters were sold in the US at a time when the population was a third of our current count.

Kerosene space heaters started to fade after WWII as a primary heat source after single-dwelling furnaces became viable for middle class america. Brief flirtations with various electric and gas central heat systems became standard for the fifty year construction boom after the war.

But, in Japan, kerosene grew to be a primary heat source for the small houses and apartments common to that country. With typical Japanese ingenuity they completely reworked them into an extremely sophisticated – and extremely safe – alternative for space heaters.

Among many other innovations, they created catalytic heaters for more efficient and less odorous heat. Their safety increased with the introduction of tip-over sensors that automatically shut down the heater if it was jarred or knocked over. They broadened the footprint to make them super-stable, and included fuel gauges to help fill them rapidly. In later models, they even had a system that required the user to NEVER pour kerosene – just take the tank to the local fuel station, and automatic machines would fill the tank itself. No smell, no fuss.

OK, enough history. Fast forward to a couple of years ago. I bought a Kero-Sun Omni 15 heater from a craigslist ad for $25. It’s a small heater – about 8,500 BTU. It came with a 5-gallon blue jug. I turned it on, and was rewarded a malodorous black cloud. The partially-combusted odor is, indeed, pretty nasty.

But, after about five minutes, no smell, and glorious dry heat wafted from the top. This particular heater can go 24 hours on 1.5 gallons of fuel. I was very happy, but needed something bigger for emergencies.

Then, I really lucked out – I bought what would turn out to be possibly the best kerosene heater ever designed – the Toyostove DC-100. This heater has both the catalytic element AND a radiant element. For $75, the guy thought he suckered me, but we both came out ahead.

The Toyostove is my favorite heater. The radiant and convection heat is terrific. Its workmanship is exceptional, and a beauty to behold. Mechanically, it’s flawless.

Next, I scored a [basically] free Duraheat 2304. I bought it for $20 – and it came with two blue jugs – which normally cost $10 each. One jug had $20 worth of kerosene in it already.

Duraheat is available every winter from Home Depot ( and possibly Lowes ). It’s a Chinese knock-off of a Japanese original. You can tell it’s cheaply made – the safety shut-off doesn’t really work on mine, and changing its wick is a real trial. But, the price was right – and it does get hot. ( I’m in the Barnroom right now, and it’s toasty with the Duraheat ).

OK, you have way more info about kerosene than you’ve ever cared about, what does that have to do with the government and freezing to death?

I’ll tell you.

First, the government’s main purpose is to collect taxes, fees, and fines. That way, it has money to continue to collect taxes, fees, and fines. One such tax is on fuels that are used by trucks and cars on roads and highways.

You may know about “farm diesel” which is diesel that has red dye added to it. Otherwise, it’s supposed to be identical to truck diesel. Ostensibly, if somebody looks at your fuel, and can see any trace of red, then they know you haven’t paid your taxes on it, and they fine the bejesus out of you.

According to wikipedia, the road tax is 24.4 cents-per-gallon tax on diesel. States add more on top of that, so you can expect the total tax load to be 50-75 cents, per gallon. You can see why farmers prefer to use red diesel to run their equipment. You can also see why a trucker, who takes 200 gallons at a single stop, would like to save $100-$150 per tankful.

But, among other things diesel, well, isn’t exactly the same. There is more than one “grade” of diesel. Most of what is sold is #2. However, #2 has a bad habit of turning into jello when it gets cold. For a hundred years, truckers ( and refiners ) solved that problem by mixing it with diesel #1 ( which is also known as – “kerosene” ).

Theoretically, kerosene should be cheaper since it doesn’t have the taxes on it. In point of fact, kerosene is a more refined product, and costs more to produce. There isn’t a whole lot of savings per gallon. The ratio of #1 to #2 was something like 3:1. Proportionally, maybe 50 gallons of that trucker’s tank was kerosene, and only during the coldest part of the winter ( maybe two-three months ), and even then only in the northern regions.

The government saw that, and squealed like a stuck revenuer. No road taxes were being paid on ( perhaps ) 5% of the fuel going into trucks, and that simply would not do. So, Clinton signed a bill requiring that red dye be added to kerosene, too.

Now, I’m all for lower taxes and stuff. Getting kerosene for 75 cents a gallon less has an appeal. When I went to a pump for the first time, I was quite happy to get red-dye kerosene – even though it cost about 75 cents more per gallon than fully-taxed road diesel!

I put it into my Omni 15, my DC-100, and my Duraheat.

That’s when the problems started. The flames on the heaters diminished rapidly, and inside of two tankfuls, they were giving out 1/4 of their rated BTUs. They also began to smell. Kerosene heaters basically have one mode of operation: full blast. The heat of the flame is what fully combusts the carbon chains, and prevents odors. If the flame is not high enough – you get odors.

Not good.

I won’t bore your already-tested patience with all the things I tried to get these heaters to work. These included wick changes, methanol additives, isopropyl ( 91% ) cleanings, burning wicks dry ( only on fiberglass wicks ), etc., etc.. It was a pain.

However, I noticed that if I purchased Kleen-Strip kerosene from Home Depot none of these problems occurred. That stuff is fantastic!

It’s also more than $8.00 per gallon! Waaay too expensive for mere mortals to afford. Also, the supply was iffy. Home Depot sold out of kerosene in early February, and did not restock it until December.

Using dyed kerosene, I had to replace the wicks too often, and the heat was less, and the odors more. Kerosene had become unviable except for emergencies.

The problem is that the dyed kero clogged the wicks of modern heaters. The DC-100 is the worst. It has a very tall flame – over six inches – and is very sensitive. Its wicks cost $15 a pop, and would last, perhaps, a week on the dyed stuff.

Nevertheless, when we moved here, I knew we needed all the help we could get. Previous visitors had remarked about how it was impossible to get warm in the place. I’d seen the hollow walls on the first floor, and there are drafts everywhere. Cold also seems to emanate from the floor.

I bought a bunch of wicks from milesstair.com ( awesome place! ), and resigned myself to futzing around with the heaters until I got the pellet stove going. On Mr.Stairs’ site, I noticed that the little Omni-15 could take both a modern fiberglass wick OR a ( cheaper ) all-cotton wick. On a lark, I bought one of each, and installed the all-cotton wick first.

The first firings of the three heaters, I used the fancy Klean-strip clear kerosene. They performed perfectly. Not surprising, actually.

But, I don’t have $8 / gallon to blow on that, so I refilled the Omni and the Duraheat with dyed kerosene, reserving the best stuff for the DC-100.

Imagine my surprise, when I noticed that the Omni-15 performed perfectly with the cotton wick! I mean, it was on, 24 hours / day for two weeks without changing the wick! I trimmed the wick ( about 1/8th inch ), and cleaned it twice, and it just chugged right along.

I asked Mr. Stair about that, and he told me that the Omni-15 was a different kind of heater. Basically, these are called “flame-spreader” style heaters, as opposed to the newer Japanese-style catalytic heaters. I investigated, and found out about the “Perfection” heater sold since 1901, and basically unchanged until they went out of business in the early 1980s.

These heaters used – all cotton wicks, just like the Omni-15.

After getting permission from she-who-must-be-obeyed to spend $$ on a FOURTH kerosene heater – I scored a Perfection model 735 on ebay. With shipping, a total of $150. Not cheap, but comparable to a brand-new Duraheat from Home Depot.

It is in beautiful condition, and I immediately filled it with clear kerosene, and fired it up. It worked perfectly.

Then, I filled it up with dyed kerosene. It worked perfectly. I refilled it. Again. Again. And again. NO difference in flame height. Cleaning the flame spreader, and a 1/8th inch wick trim, and the heater is performing at 100%! Holy crap, it eats dyed kerosene! And – it’s pretty attractive, too.

Dyed kerosene has killed the kerosene heater market in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Massachusetts outlawed kerosene space heaters ( some towns in NH have outlawed them, too – such as New London ). Home Depot is glad to sell the heaters – and the outrageously expensive $8  / gallon clear kerosene, and even the blue jugs for $11+ / each.

But, as soon as the average joe fills up with dyed kerosene, and their heater “dies,” he gives up, and tries to sell his mostly-worthless $150 heater on craigslist. I see dozens of ads every week for them. Remember – I got mine for free, when I took the jugs off his hands!

Final – notes.

My guess is that the clogging problem is where the cotton “sock” in the lower portion of the wick interfaces with the fiberglass at the top of the wick.

I base this with a side-by-side comparison on my Omni-15. Last year, I started with a cotton wick, and replaced it with a fiberglass wick. At the time, I didn’t realize there was any difference.

I was dismayed at the performance problems – and charring problems. It was in direct contrast to my initial pleasurable experiences.

By replacing the fiberglass wick this year with the all-cotton wick, and resuming excellent performance, all other things being equal – the wick made the difference, obviously.

The Perfection heater, with its standard all-cotton wick was affirmation that the fiberglass is the problem with dyed kerosene. I realize that my sample size is incredibly small ( four heaters, two of each kind ).

Mr. Stairs is less convinced, and his experience is far vaster than my own. Take my observations with a grain of salt.

I also have developed tricks to keep the Duraheat going longer, too ( never burn dry, keep fuel topped-off, leave off for 12-24 hours with full tank, etc. ). However, the DC-100 is simply too finicky to abide by anything other than pure clear kerosene.

I now enjoy kerosene heat again. It’s effective, and at $4 / gallon, it’s cost-effective. Plus, it’s insurance against a power outage.

However, government’s insatiable appetite for money has destroyed a safe and cost-effective heat source for emergency use. Owners buy the heaters, get frustrated by their expense and unreliable performance, and look for alternatives – which simply do not exist.

Fireplaces are far more dangerous, and usually less effective. Try going outside to fetch wood after an ice-storm has covered the ground an inch thick. If you’re an elderly person, a fall may mean death in any number of ways.

A wood stove is effective, especially a modern model – but they cost a thousand dollars and up, and again, you have to fetch wood.

Unvented propane space heaters give off considerably more carbon-monoxide than kerosene. Primary heat from them are effective, but after you get your CO headache, you’re turned-off. And you absolutely DO NOT want to run one of those all night! Propane can leak and explode. Kerosene won’t catch fire even if  you throw a match on it!

We all know that sitting in a car with the heater on is a bad idea, too.

I would submit that a kerosene heater is the only reasonable heater for those who do not have a working woodstove, and far safer and more effective than a fireplace.

If you live up north, and have winter power outages, then I suggest you pick up an old Perfection heater, and learn how to use it.

It could save your life – and your house.

Posted in Uncategorized, What Were They Thinking??? | Leave a comment

Now I’m in Hot Water

I actually wrote this a while back in a letter to my ( older-and-smarter ) brother. I paste it largely intact, minus the profanity…

OK, so you want you should have hot water at this place, so far…..

1) I picked the one ( of three ) hot water heater that was last used, and decided to try it again.  It needed venting, so I found the one-and-only place to vent it ( as I didn’t want to have to cut into the granite foundation ). Built a wall to route the well-water to it; bought a circle-thingie, and started looking for a vent. Problem: can’t retrofit a vent onto a water heater. They either don’t exist, or cost $600.

2) OK, um, let’s use that fancy on-demand water heater. It needs to be vented, too. Hmm, no place to vent it using the chimney ( already strangled with pipes ), so, park IT next to the basement window where you were going to use the conventional water heater.

3) trace hot and cold, look for two spots in the maze.

4) There’s a “horizontal venting kit” for the water heater! Oh joy!

5) Oh frack, it’s $385. Uh. Wow, somebody in Iowa has one for $125 on ebay. Great!

6) A 10′ run of mostly-horizontal exhaust pipe looks like a nightmare to connect – will touch numerous PVC pipes as it has to go through “The Maze”…

7) OK, let’s put it in the laundry room, on the wall, just like the instructions say it can.

8) Fellow who lived here last said the on-demand water heater sucked, barely warmed water at all.

9) Nevertheless, reroute 1/2″ copper coming from edge of foundation. Called propane company. Guy comes out and turns very pale. Among other things, the last people had built an underground, heavily insulated, and sealed box, then put four 25-lb propane tanks in it, and hooked them up via three 2-way splitters into the 1/2″ copper pipe under the house. ( how about THAT for a run-on sentence? ) Explosion waiting to happen. Line MUST be cut, wouldn’t consider even driving onto the property.

10) Crap, OK, prepare to dig. Read instructions for water heater – requires 3/4″, NOT 1/2″. Much less 1/2″ with a 50′ run. No wonder the water was 40F. ( The longer the pipe, the less pressure available at the heater )

11) Drive to Lowes and Home Depot. They laugh, 3/4″ copper? Ain’t no such thing. YOU NEED IRON PIPE!

12) Verified with propane guy. MUST be iron pipe.

13) Uh, OK, read on internet about iron pipe. Doesn’t seem so bad. Sketch out design, including outlets for dryer and stove, though those will be capped-off for now.

14) Make four trips ( 60 miles round-trip ) to Lowes to get pieces-parts.

15) Assemble rather complicated 3-D pipe structure that will utilize the only basement window.

16) Drill hole at very edge of wall upward into laundry room. ) @$%(*%(#%#!!! Upstairs, the hole is 10″ from wall. House sticks out like 2 feet over foundation, and the gas pipes are no where NEAR any walls. Explore options. None. Oh well. Keep going.

17) Hmm, OK, there’s an old disconnected power line utilizing a hole exactly where we need one. Cut the wires. ZAP! Oh FRACK!, the line had power! What the hell???

18) Look at fuse box, I had PERSONALLY REMOVED the main fuses at the top ( four in all ). But, there’s still power. Hmm. Look at brand-new circuit-breaker box next to it. Wait, what are those green wires snaking around behind the two boxes? FRACK! IT’S #8 SOLID-CORE WIRES, CONNECTING THE HOT SIDE OF THE CIRCUIT BREAKER BOX TO THE HOUSE-SIDE OF THE FUSE BOX!! COMPLETELY BYPASSING ***BOTH*** CIRCUIT BREAKERS AND FUSES! FRACK FRACK FRACK!

19) I cut main wires from top of fuse box. Check house – now no kitchen light, no laundry room light. Misc other fixtures not working. But hey, at least it’s not using 80 year old, rubber-coated cloth wire, right?

20) Demonstrating how to check a plug to youngest kid with plug-in gizmo with three lights. Stuck it in ancient bake-lite 2 prong plug in dining room. “This will not have any lights, since it’s disconnected from power.” A dim light indicates “Missing ground” – What the frack? Break out Fluke meter – it has 52 Volts AC?!!

21) Check miscellaneous plugs and light fixtures. About 1/2 have 52 volts. THE MORONS HAVE CROSS-WIRED THE NEW POWER TO THE OLD POWER SOMEWHERE. ( long expletive goes here )

After that relaxing detour…

22) Go to Lowes for iron pipe elbows and stuff to put pipe closer to wall. Propane guy looks at setup and expresses concern that shoving an appliance toward wall may compromise connection. Won’t hook it up in that configuration.

23) OK, I have to build a little miniature barrier / wall to prevent that scenario. I find scrap wood ( 2 x 8 x 5 ), and go to it. Lots of measuring and stuff.

24) Take break to install the vent hood outside. Go to Canaan hardware store for 16″ long 1/2″ drill bit. Use template to cut holes. No reciprocating saw, so use Fein Multimaster to make cuts.

25) Did you know that horse-hair plaster trashes the Multmaster’s primary bit? It does. Drat. OK, well, I’m through the plaster anyway, let’s go outside and stand 12′ in the air and mosquitos ( worse than Louisiana ), and start cutting.

26) The clapboards are nailed to 150 year-old 2x8s. VERY strong. Absolutely no insulation, though, completely hollow walls. Lovely. The half-circle saw bit on the Fein works pretty well, but I can’t get all the way through – too thick. Work about four hours on that stupid hole.

27) It’s important to drop each tool at least once. I dropped the Multimaster below, and it shattered the very-nice wood-cutting bit. )%)(#%*)(#*%#()#)%

28) Trip to Canaan Hardware store for hand-saw. Another 90 minutes to saw out square, and hammer and chisel. IT FITS! HOORAY! ( ignore the extra 1/4″ gap inside. )

29) Another couple hours to remove pieces of clapboard to help vent fit more-or-less flush, using completely inappropriate Fein bit to skim thin slivers of wood off the edges.

30) Take two days off to fight numerous emergencies with two clients.

31) The inside of the vent is totally naked, and gaping inside. Looks very unstable. Go to Lowes – no idea. Go to Home Depot. Guy in exhaust-fan aisle just happens to be a “pro” and he fishes out a plate that will fit over the inside of the vent. Bosch charges $385 for a vent that has no inside connections AT ALL??? Jerks.

32) Fair amount of finagling, and I have decent-looking trim. Look at the vent install manual, because there is NO SHEET METAL ON THE STUPID SQUIRREL CAGE to attach it to anything. $385 – and no attachment points???

33) One picture – poorly done – says to use the plumbers’ support tape ( metal with holes ) underneath a floor joist. WTF?? Only stabilizing connection will be the little screws on the circular fan exhaust. Otherwise, the powered vent is just hanging there???? And how effing ugly is that? An 18″ cable hanging from the god-awful ceiling? This is embarrassing. Bosch should be ashamed.

34) One little blurb said vent could be “on a shelf.” Hmm. OK, how the hell to do that?

35) Canaan HWS for L-shaped bracket. Hmm. Looks like it’s strong enough. But, I don’t trust the plaster, so I cut out a block of wood, and pre-drill holes and stuff. Canaan HWS for bolts, nuts, and washers. Drill bunches of holes, attach large wood block behind the plaster, sit it on shelf. FRACK- very wobbly, as expected. Hmmm. I need something spongy to absorb vibration, AND tie this to the shelf.

36) Canaan HWS is closed, drive to Lebanon ( 60 mile round trip ), to HD for “spongy material” – orange aprons are clueless. I wander around, looking for “spongy material” thinking perhaps the sponge is my own brain. On exhaust-pipe alley, I settle on some hotwater pipe insulation material. I also get a can of spray-foam “fire blocker” insulation stuff, with a vague idea of spraying the vent-hood into place.

37) Jerry-rig the powered vent with spongy-material and a cable-tie. Actually looks intentional.

38) OK, FINALLY ready to mount water heater on the wall. Looking for studs…stud-finder is very confused. I already know where two studs are from where I cut giant hole for vent. BUT – they’re not really right for mounting, because too far to right. I need another stud to left. Measure distance between left sides of studs..hm 22 inches. OK, then go over 22 inches – and – nope, no stud. Where is it? Oh, in corner, about 26″ away. *old houses* *sigh*

39) Heater is on wall! YEAH!

40) Looking at instructions, all kinds of extra inter-connects and crap are needed. Whole parts-kit to modify the damned thing.

41) An hour later, can’t figure directions out. Call Bosch tech support. Wait an hour. Finally get a human. “Oh yeah, everybody gets stuck there….”

42) Assembling twist elbow to vent…this I’ve done before. No problems.

43) Floorplate / protection support done. Mounting on floor. Cut holes for CVPC pipe connections. DONE. About 2 dozen trips up and down stairs in basement to get to skilsaw and drills and stuff. Family exercise program…

44) Flare fittings on 1/2″ stove line with flare gizmo tool. Hmm, that wasn’t hard.

45) Attach valve on 1/2″ line, and 8′ section with capped “T” connector. Where the *)$U#)%($*# Can I fit this?? I have to thread The Maze, and attach to floor support – which also has half-dozen RUBBER-COVERED-CLOTH insulated wires of various thicknesses. Connected to SHINY LIGHT – right there. Um. OK. Notice that there is a very thick wire going toward kitchen…trace it there. Lovely. The 240 VAC stove connector ( brand new ) is connected to this ancient wire.

Kill me now.

46) Compromise by canting stove vector off into a gap between joists. It’s capped off anyhow. Tighten various connections. Hmm. One doesn’t feel right. This was a used connection I stole from old 1/2″ – oh well, it’s on the other side of the valve, let’s hope it’s ok. Flares are supposed to be reusable.

47) Nail copper to 1x3s. Numerous cuts to give gaps for various wires hanging all over the freaking place.

48) Now comes the fun part – cutting water pipes in the maze to insert cvpc into them somehow.

I’ve missed a few steps – such as finding a flexible propane connector that has 3/4″ connectors ( instead of 1/2″ ubiquitous ones ) – that took a trip to the HD in Lebanon, after Lowes & HD in Tilton did not have anything. That was lucky.

Yellow pipe-goop sucks. I’d rather use tape, not sure I’m allowed to, though. I’ll find out, since I used tape on the dryer stub-out, since I’ll need to remove that pretty soon when I move the dryer in.

This whole thing has been a nightmare. I wouldn’t mind the challenge except that I’m getting craploads of pressure from the women-folk to get it done, AND I keep having to stop and fight fires for paying customers.

I’ve stayed up all-night 4 nights in the last two weeks, trying to finish up all my chores. I got yelled at last night at 3am because the drilling was making that irritating whining sound at 100DB.

===End of Letter===

It’s now been four months, and the hot water is great. It gets hot enough to burn even the lady-folk. There was a glitch on the first day when it quit working. I had to take it apart to find out that a bit of sand had clogged the miniature hydro-electric generator that ran the heater’s piezo-starter and electronics. So, I had to install a water filter.

It’s been great ever since.

Other notes include

I cut out about 40′ of hot water pipe. The new heater is much closer to where the water is going to be used.

We have two spare water heaters. Now I’m an “expert” and may help install one of them into another place for an economically challenged person.

When they tested my iron pipe and copper construction, I was pretty nervous. I haven’t been that nervous since I had taken a rating exam in the Navy in the 1980s.

The next major project is to get modern wiring and plugs onto the west side of the house…

Posted in All Wet but No Water | Leave a comment

Kitsch Has Been in Style for 2,000 Years

Renovating an old house is like treasure hunting, with all of the pitfalls, traps, and bugs along the way. And, about the same possibility of finding an actual treasure.

We just discovered something really odd here – a floor covering printed to look like a Persian rug.

A piece of cheap – uh, not plastic, but “something” artificial – designed to look like something expensive, but surely completely unable to fool anybody for more than 3/4 of a second.

Reminds me of an iTunes University course I took on Ancient Roman architecture. The Yale professor spent quite a few lectures on “Roman Wall Painting” – which at first I thought was completely silly.

To the left is an early version, called the “First Style” of Roman Wall Painting, and it imitates Greek walls, apparently. The Romans had a serious inferiority complex with regards to Greece ( kind of like the US has a complex relating to Europe ), and they were always trying to out-Greek their friends and neighbors. Even Caesars would steal marble columns and blocks from Greece to build up Rome’s own monuments.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the artist has tried to make the various panels look like marble, oak, granite, and so on. The real materials, obviously, would be very expensive for the middle class Roman.

As the wall-painting became more sophisticated, I started to respect it quite a bit. Following the first style, three more increasingly sophisticated versions became popular. They are all obviously fake, yet I have to admit they’re more interesting than a flat wall, with perhaps a picture of Granny centered on it. It’s a kind of Roman kitsch that shows people are fundamentally the same now as they were then.

It should be noted that the vaunted “perspective” which is supposed to have started during the Renaissance, is clearly evident in ancient Rome. The proportions are pretty good, with angles and curves showing a clear knowledge of vanishing points, and so on.

Roman fresco from Boscoreale, 43-30 BCE.

A fake-of-a-fake floor covering is in the same spirit as the Romans’ faux marble and fake statues ( and fake courtyards, and fake entire-buildings, even fake weather systems ).

I remember going to “Caesar’s Palace” in Las Vegas, and having nothing but disdain for the obviously fake wall-paintings of pastures and fields and Roman ruins. I figured it was just 100% Las Vegas pretend. Glitzy but ultimately extremely superficial.

Little did I realize that what they painted is exactly the cheap stuff actual Romans would put on their own dining room walls!

I wonder if the modern painters knew that? Or is this kind of dime-store knockoff, which Vegas is known for, is just an expression of certain genes?

What is even more shocking to me, is that this thing may have a value as an antique. I wonder if I can take this to Antiques Road Show?

Posted in Style Never Goes out of Style | Leave a comment

A New form of Cellulose Insulation

We moved here about three months ago – a “skanky” farm house built in 1858. It sits on one side of a fabulous parcel of somewhere north of 200 acres. When we arrived, we knew we’d have to fix the place up to make it modern – what we didn’t expect was the extent to which just about every previous repair and restoration was, how to say it, “interesting” in many intense ways.

The first job was to get hot water – I’ll relate that tale in another post. Suffice it to say here, that it took six weeks and a ton more work than expected. The good side is that now I’m the “expert” on propane installations amongst all my friends. I don’t know whether to be scared or merely highly concerned.

We registered this site a couple of months ago, but just were too busy to actually start writing about the follies. Today – that changed. I simply could not resist any longer.

The previous inhabitants of this house are trying to kill me.

The immediate impetus that lifted finger to keyboard was the mistake I made pulling a board off a wall in what we call the “Barn Room.”

I expected there to be standard cellulose blown-in insulation. I was aggrieved because I thought I would have to work around this insulation to put in eight electrical sockets, and three ethernet panels, as there are no sockets here at all. The normal hollow walls found in the other parts of the house make installation of wiring relatively simple. I wanted to see what I was in for.

I was NOT prepared for what I found.

Here is what the wall on this side looks like Barn Room Insulation

- just a bunch of 1×6 slats screwed into the studs. There are gaps everywhere, and no attempt was made to make them flush at any of the intersections with other walls.

It should be noted that there are no less than four different sizes of slats on the walls – not including the old wall on one side, which has vertical slats instead of the horizontal used by the previous inhabitant.

Notice the careful use of grocery shopping bags to stuff hollows above the door at the ceiling? The picture does not show the bulging-out below the ceiling, and above the door height.

I removed a slat, and this is what I found, I couldn’t have been more surprised if Jimmy Hoffa had been in there:

I guess you could say it is a form of cellulose insulation – just not particularly highly processed. I cannot imagine anything being more flammable except perhaps lightly shredded newspaper. This stuff is even worse, though, as it makes for lots of nooks and crannies for bugs and vermin to crawl around within – while at the same time giving absolutely no R-Value benefits at all.

I mean, seriously, somebody had to dump a whole bunch of tree debris in between these walls? We’re not talking finely-shredded or even chunky chips. What we have here are pieces of tree bark, sizing up to several inches long.

Figuring, perhaps, this was a new “green” insulation, I pulled out a piece about six inches long and placed a match to it. It went up with gratifying swiftness, including a bit of bubbling as the sap caught fire.

In the boy scouts, this stuff would be revered as a sure-fire [sic] way to get your Firem’n Chit with a single match.

I’m afraid to find out what’s on the other wall. But, I cannot in good conscience put anything remotely electrical inside these until I verify they’re at least as safe as, say, a gas can in an airtight box…

Posted in The Previous Owner is Trying to Kill Me, What Were They Thinking??? | Leave a comment