Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tilting front and soffits for glassy boxes

Jan 30: Still waiting for the Glycol, I am trying to find other things to do to complete the work in other ways. Saturday, Forest were playing away (lost 1-0 to Derby) so I had an afternoon on the scaffolding.
  We now have neat tilting soffits (bottom panels) to the boxes so that I can experiment with the airflow, balancing them with the tilting rooflets. The tilt is controlled with wingnuts. This will also make maintenance easier as it's a means of reaching inside to the lower hosing. In fact, they can be reached from the bedroom windows.
   I have also made Hinges from aluminium flat and stainless steel bolts, a tophung detail, enabling the front panels to be unscrewed from the sidepanels and safely hinged forward for more serious maintenance access. The tilting may never have to happen, but it will be vital if there is a glycol leak, or faulty jubilee clip - and will save on having to put up fresh scaffolding. the photo shows the detail. I wish I had made the rooflets 10mm longer at each end to form a small overhang.
 I have left the white Plastic covering on the polycarbonate because I dont want the space inside to overheat while the black panels only have air in them - and I feel it will be a proper 'ritual' to strip off the plastic sheeting when liquid flows.
   The original Plumber for my heatpump (who also installed our underfloor heating) rung up Friday, so we will try to get him to do the final heatpump connections and glycol filling.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Adding the roofs to Polycarbonate boxes

24 Jan 2010: the Boxes are now nearly finished although they do not have bottom panels. I am not sure if they will ever have those. If they can't be operated or modified without scaffolding, I need to devise a detail, or go without them. (of course they can be operated just by opening the bedroom window and reaching up..... silly me!)
      I now have working tilting rooflets. These can be operated from inside the loft. There is something poignant about building these, as Luke'n'Soph helped me work out how they would be tilted using aluminium rods, and I feel that they have to be included even if they don't get used.
  A friend asked me if they are programmable or manual. Well, they only need to be changed as I see fit, eg open in height of summer and fully closed Oct-April. I dont yet know how open they will need to be, or how hot the panels inside will get (I can detect with a handheld infrared thermometer) or measuring the temp of the return glycol. The intermediate settings are for experimentation. This is the most open they can be, but if fully open, they would hold raindrops and get dust deposition. Even if they are changed, it would be once every three months.
25 Jan: I have now bought extra bolts and aluminium plates to make the front panels hinge. I guess there might be a need to do maintenance from a ladder, so it's not a good idea to make the polycarbonate panels so they are fixed, and have to be lowered or raised from a ladder. This would be impossible, even with two people. New scaffolding would be needed every time.
So, I shall design a top hung hinging detail to the side panels so that the two front faces can be unscrewed at the front and swung out for inspection purposes, eg to check leaks from hoses, jubilee clip corrosion, cracks in the black panels, or any other possible problem.
  All my experience with Meccano 50 years ago has been VERY helpful! There is so much you can do with Bolts, Washers, Brackets, Angles and Flats!

Tragedy intervenes


24 Jan: Following my 'good day' of last Sunday, 0530 am, we had a terrible phone call from my daughter in Aswan to say that her husband Luke, our beloved son-in-law, was drowned in a nocturnal felucca boat capsize in the Nile during a freak electric thunderstorm. It puts everything into perspective.


So it has been difficult to make progress, but I have discovered that time spent on the scaffold or drilling aluminium in the garage has had a therapeutic effect.
If there was a deity who could talk or listen, what bargain would one strike to reverse time and change the result?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Polycarbonate panels up!

17 Jan: Got the polycarbonate panels up to the scaffolding and on to the wall.... although the little 'roof flaps' are still in the garage. That's good progress for a day, in the short hours of daylight.  There is no photo of the finished work as it was dark when I finished, and there is no moonlight either.

I had help from Dr Wu Yupeng from the Built Environment, and that was mainly for lifting the heavy panels. I had to take some brackets off the rails for drilling as it is far too difficult to drill in situ - breaking drill bits mainly and no space for the drill  body. The chuck has broken on the Press Drill, so I have to get that fixed and use a hand drill until then. We dropped one of the panels when it was half way up, but it is so solid but flexible, and well framed in aluminium that it suffered no more than a bit of mud.

Having exhausted the Faculty stores of all their suitable screws, I found all the screws (and more) I needed at Screwfix for less than a cup of coffee!

Friday, January 8, 2010

List of remaining tasks

The remaining tasks are:

1. Get the Polycarbonate boxes assembled and up on the wall to surround the panels. [done]
1a. Include the 'flipping lids' and their control levers. [done]
1b. Modify the boxes so that the front panels can be tophung hinged forwards, from a ladder. [done]
1c. Add in flipping bottom panels of the glassy boxes. [done]

2. Get the Glycol (50 litres of premix are on their way), and the replacement energy-flowmeter. [done]


3. Install the thermal flowmeter and tighten up all compression joints. [done]
3a.  ...and get a plumber to make the three final connections to the heatpump, moving the glycol tank to the loft. [done]


4. Charge up the system with the new glycol, and run it to check for leaks in the copper and the hosing plumbing. [done]
5. Insulation - this is very very important, cold pipes in a house can drip with condensation if not very well insulated. the system must not be run for any length of time without insulation. [done]


6. Install thermocouples and thermostatic switches to turn the pump on automatically when the air temperature near the panels is warmer than the ground temperature. Initially, I will run it manually with a simple on off switch. [done]


7. If all is working externally and not leaking, take down the scaffolding. [done]
8. Continue recording and publishing data - thermal and electrical, fit a datalogger. [done]
9. Monitor condensation risk [doing]


10. Develop graphs etc to compare performance of heatpump with earlier performance.


11. Experiment later in the spring and summer with ventilation settings for the polycarbonate boxes, but start with them closed during the winter months.


12. Write a User's manual, so this system can continue to be operated even if I fall under a bus.


13. Search for another heatpump user, so that a comparator can possibly be installed in their house!

On other parts of project:

1. Make planning application to extend the existing permission, to allow me to have 3 tracking PV solar panels on the south wall.   [done]

17 Jan: Got number one on the list done, the polycarbonate panel up to the scaffolding and on to the wall.... although the little roofs are still in the garage. That's good progress for a day, in the short hours of daylight.

Modular plumbing - for future expansion

The Plumbing is finished above the ground floor, apart from tightening up the compression joints in my 'Modular Zone', the 1.1m long section containing flowmeter pump, and now there are tees allowing me to add in the Thermal Battery or a water tank at a future date. (I nickname this "my personal Hadron Collider"... it seems like it...)
To be honest, I have become a lot more aware of Air source heatpumps recently, and realise that the thermal battery is far more relevant to them than to a ground source heatpump. As the circuit is presently routing glycol from the Pump to the Battery / Solar panels, down to the Earth and back to the Pump, the battery would not really store heat usefully because the earth is so much bigger. It could only be useful if we could modify the plumbing so that  the pump could go to the battery directly.
Solar earth charging would be a good way to dump excessive heat from a hot water tank in summer that is powered by a flatplate solar panel, because normally they get so much heat that they find themselves in stasis much of the time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Progress over the vacation : Plumbing nearly finished

The indoor plumbing is largely done now, although I worry a lot about trailing cold pipes through the house, and the risk of condensation. I was a millimetre away from making a decision to run the pipes externally down the wall of the house (in an enclosed weatherproof duct).  Its going to be essential to insulate with great care, even to winding insulation bandage around some of these fittings such as the flowmeter.

The next phase will be to install the Glycol, for which I will be patient until 50 litres of mix arrives from Ice Energy. They will also send an improved flowmeter. The one in the photo simply measures cubic metres. Ice Energy are offering a thermal flowmeter that measures the combination of volume and temperature, thus evaluating the kilowatt hours passing through.
The assembly in the photograph is not yet screwed tight, it is loosely assembled just to work out the pipe lengths. It is designed so that it is modular, i.e. it can be rebuilt in case I decide to include the Phase change spheres in a thermal battery (or to use a water tank). In fact this isn't final, I might NOW put in an additional set of Tees and two more lever ball valves just to make future fitting easier. I would need a large drip tray under the assembly as there is bound to be drips where metal parts of the pumps and meter are exposed.
This is far more difficult than hot water plumbing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snow fallen all around


All around us is a winter wonderland, and the children are out on the hill behind with toboggans. Our panels being lifted 50mm above the roof surface, there is no house heat to melt the snow, although their slippy surface cause the snow to slide down, thankfully. And the sun is out now.
 If a part of the panel is covered or shaded it ceases to be effective and can act as a resistance to the entire array. With this amount of snow, we are only getting enough power to work 2 light bulbs!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The new year

Emperor Scaffolding have very kindly extended the period for me to wait till the glycol is in the system so that I dont have to re-erect just because of one leak. I realised how important this is when inspecting the panels on Monday, and discovering a loose piece of hosing that would have leaked badly if not discovered. So now, all the hosing is complete, and if it wasn't for the glassy boxes, that part of the work would be finished.

And meanwhile I had a new year visit from a friend Adrian Harms who helped me think out a better method for getting the pipes to the ground floor, past our underfloor heated timber first floor, right next to the manifold - this is busier than Clapham Junction, so many pipes all set in sand in a 25mm space! So I have fashioned an aluminium frame (my favourite DIY material now!) to keep the water heating pipes well away from the very cold copper pipes that will go to the heatpump.

I have also got additional aluminium sections that will allow me to complete work on the glassy boxes.

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