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Monday, March 31, 2008

Take one freebie hot water heater

Under construction[Posted by risa]

The weather kept me indoors much of the last three days. I took Friday for vacation, and spent much of it touching up interior paint, including patching cracks in the trompe 'œil floor, which has stood up surprisingly well considering. This part of the house was constructed using very cheap materials and had when we got it, angels help us, a flat roof (in permanent monsoon country). The water got in -- still does, in spite of the sloped roof we cobbled on -- and got underneath the vinyl tiles, swelled the chipboard underlayment, breaking tiles left and right. Back in the early nineties, with no money to actually fix the floor, I had the bright idea to pull up the worst tiles, fill all the holes with driveway patch, paint the whole room white, then, using the edges of the remaining tiles as guidelines, hand-paint fake terracotta tiles over the white throughout, covering it all with polyurethane at the end. Visitors have often assumed that it was in fact terracotta, which has been kind of gratifying.

Saturday and Sunday, there were enough breaks in the weather for me to take my flats of tomatoes and pok choy out for a sun break, cut some bean poles, cover the future potato patch with black plastic to kill the sod, and start work on the solar hot water heater.

This is intended to be an almost-no-investment project.

Take one freebie hot water heater, peel back half the outer skin, remove the insulation from that half, paint the exposed tank surface black, lay it on a pallet in a sunny spot, attach a couple of garden hose spigots, frame the tank in with old recycled fence boards or whatever, insulate the frame box, and cover with a freebie window. I have yet to scrounge up the needed insulation, but the system is almost ready to put into service. A washing-machine hose will go from the wellhead valve (which is inside the little house in the picture) to the inlet bibb, then a hose from the outlet bibb will run twenty-five feet over to a bibb in an elbow underneath the second bathroom. Hot water will then run from both the electric tank and the solar tank in winter, or we can cut off the hot water tank and its valve in summer, using the solar system alone. To increase summer capacity, one simply runs the washing machine hose into more and more loops of sun-exposed black hose before tying into the tank.

Beloved, a bit tired from mucking out the barn, made appropriate noises about the project, but reserved her highest praise for the sheet of black plastic over the future potato patch. We like hot water, but food we really like.


Oh! And then I brought in the flats, just as a few snowflakes began to fall. And we had hot chocolate by the fire.



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