Monday, May 27, 2013

Work on the Surya3 panels - tee-pieces

26 May 2013: I have finally made a start on the re-plumbing of the panels (where the leak is occurring). I am glad I didn't start earlier in the week and then have the strong windy conditions of last Friday. Unfortunately, the system is missing several days of good sunshine, but that is all greater incentive to get on with the task. 



The first ETFE panel is lifted off and stowed carefully to one side.

Both ETFE panels are off and I can see where the leak is coming from. The 40mm compression joint was good for a year, but then it began to leak from one joint. This was a bit of 'working on the cheap' that worked OK for a year, but has now cost me a lot in wasted glycol, scaffolding, time, worry and lost sunny days.

Waste pipes are normally dry, i.e. the liquid flushes away and are not really good for a permanently filled pipe with occasional pumping or thermal pressures. I should have done more research on other piping solutions.
Here is the junction with all pipes taken out, and I need to insert a replacement Tee-piece.Unfortunately, the Plasson connector will not fit and gave me some hours of despair. I even considered taking the entire system down and relying only on the new roof mounted panel. 

When the panels were originally built (with a Plasson fitting) it was difficult then, but with all the polycarbonate casing and the metal, it is now quite impossible to get a Plasson back in. Taking the system down is inconceivable not just because of the holes that would be left in our wall, but because it it my research topic and the main purpose of this blog! It is proven to reduce the consumption of the heat pump, so it needs to continue working!

I spoke to a near-neighbour, Chris Bright, who also happens to be an engineer at Rolls Royce, and he suggested that there were other tee-pieces that I could find that would be good enough. I kicked myself for not having tried harder a year ago when I had weakly assumed that the compression waste fitting would be good enough.



This item is a 'rubber' tee piece that can be pushed into position, but needs a rigid pipe connector to the panels either side. Also, I don't need directionality of flow, nor a doubling of the number of jubilee clips.



This above is the ideal solution. With a 'male' tee-piece, I can have one flexible 40mm hosing connection to each of the panels at the side - fewer jubilee clips and reduced opportunities for future leaks.

By the way, it is only about three pounds! I have ordered one of these by post, and it'll arrive during the week. There is a local company, Tennant Rubber, who have a vast variety of rubber and plastic hose types, and I can choose more of what I used before, of the more flexible type.

May 2013 Reports

26 May 2013: Work has started on the replacement of the leaky fitting in the Surya3 sunbox, and after some bleak despair for a while (imagining taking the whole system off the wall and depending merely on the roof mounted Surya4 sunbox), I found a solution. This is to buy a non-Plasson tee-piece connected with strong rubber hosing, which is explained in another article. The weather has been very cold and windy, ending in a wonderfully warm and sunny weekend!
  • House annual 5,474, biennial 5,214 kWh. Annual dropping very slowly. 
  • GSHP annual 3,460, biennial 3,205 kWh. Ditto..
  • PV annual 3,029, biennial 3,147 kWh. Oh dear... not good enough.
  • Sunbox annual 2,743, biennial 2,693 kWh. Just as it is getting better, I have to turn it off :( This number will continue to fall until I get the plumbing fixed.
  • Ground Temperature 12.2ºC. This demonstrates the value of the Sunbox system. With almost no GSHP activity, but with no solar input either, the temperature of the deep earth has declined slightly. 
World News?.... Too much! Well Yahoo bought Tumblr for an amazing amount of money (the struggle against the power of Google). The British government is over the rack about gay marriage and civil partnerships, and it is amazing how politicized this has suddenly become, with cabinet ministers suddenly taking sides. In some cities of Europe, including London, there were Anti-Gay-Marriage demonstrations at the weekend, which looked more like right wing rallies. There were car-bombs in Iraq and Afganistan, but this happens so often, that I could write it every week. There were sad pictures of the beautiful aircraft carrier Ark Royal being towed out of Southampton Water, to be towed to Turkey for scrap (why not sold to another country's navy?) UK does not have one now, there are two being built at vast cost. Surely, this 25 yr old ship can be used for a bit longer?
  The biggest news story of the week was the tornado in Moore, south of Oklahoma City, the strongest ever recorded. This was incredibly wide and destructive, leaving a swathe of flattened buildings. A school was destroyed (with people in it) and Republican cutbacks in spending mean that new schools do not have tornado shelters, even though this is in 'Tornado Alley'. Some of the houses in the path were trailer homes, all swept away.
 In Newark near Nottingham, a terrace house disappeared in a gas explosion, severely damaging the other houses in the terrace. I cannot imagine how the idea of piping pressurised inflammable gas into houses can possibly pass any test of 'Health and Safety', but that is how the majority of British houses are heated and cooked in. A man aged 80 scaled Mount Everest, nearly on the 60th anniversary of the first climb by Hilary and Tenzing, and there is a problem of congestion at the summit with people waiting hours in the cold for their turn to climb the last few metres - a summit ladder is to be installed to help the climbers get down faster. A tiger mauled its keeper in a small zoo, as if the keeper wanted to be attacked, walking into the enclosure without safety precautions. Bayern Munchen finally won the European Champions League having been beaten by Chelsea last year - they are Europe's best team with 24 Bundesliga wins out of 28 games and a goal difference of 80 - a remarkable record.
 The other big news story of the week was the attacking of a soldier, Lee Rigby, in Woolwich by two Nigerian muslims - they first ran him down with a car, then chopped him up with machetes, then remained calmly there for 15 minutes chatting to passers by (with mobile phone cameras). When the police arrived, they charged the police cars and got their legs shot. They are currently in hospital being questioned.
  
19 May 2013: The Surya system has definitely been leaking, I can see the drips. The scaffolder had to be called, and the system switched off, to reduce more loss of glycol and wasteful pump actions. However, metering has to go on, and let's hope that when the repairs are done, we have a good summer.
  • House annual 5,482, biennial 5,213 kWh. Annual dropping slowly. 
  • GSHP annual 3,467, biennial 3,206 kWh. Ditto..
  • PV annual 3,070, biennial 3,156 kWh. 
  • Sunbox annual 2,845, biennial 2,723 kWh. Just as it is getting better, I have to turn it off :(
  • Ground Temperature 12.5ºC
World news - what a very busy week! Angelina Jolie shocked the world by writing an article saying that she had a pre-emptive double mastectomy in January, because she inherited a cancer gene which had killed her mother. There was a major story in Oxford of a gang of asian men who had been grooming poor white girls for group sex, and the court case was revealing all the details - most are astonished at how the girls never told their parents, or were disbelieved. In Belize, an ancient pyramid that pre-dates the Mayans was bulldozed by a greedy contractor for roadstone, and he was only stopped when there was a small stump remaining. What a tragic loss. Chelsea beat Porto to win the Europa Cup, rounding off Rafa Benitez' caretaker management. That's two European cups in sequential seasons with caretakers. Saturday, we had the Eurovision Song Contest, and for the first time, I actually sat down and took notes about each song, and tried to vote based on the notes. Denmark won!  I liked lots of the entries, especially the crazy Romanian one (Count Dracula with male soprano), and the Netherlands (girl in a wetsuit with a nice song). Anish Kapoor opened an exhibition in Berlin with a lot of new work. Space station captain Chris Hadfield published a wonderful takeoff of Space Oddity (by David Bowie), with him singing in the weightless space with a floating guitar, to which David Bowie himself sent an appreciative tweet. David Beckham announced his retirement at the end of the season. Sir Alex Ferguson had his 1500th and final game with Manchester United, and rather amazingly, it ended 5-5 in a thrilling game with West Brom, the highest score draw in Premier league history. 

12 May 2013: Overcast and rainy week, with a few bright spells, but cold. I have worries about the system, does it have a leak? Before I had the last leak, I was topping it up frequently. I wish I had transparent pipes or some way of knowing if airlocks are somewhere. Oh, Plumbing anxieties...
   Looking at the figures below, things change slowly because in Summer, the numbers are so small - a wet week or hot spell is hardly noticed, whereas small fluctuations are highly noticed in winter where a single day's metered consumption is equivalent to more than a week in summer.
  • House annual 5,507, biennial 5,210 kWh. Annual dropping. 
  • GSHP annual 3,488, biennial 3,203 kWh. Ditto..
  • PV annual 3,053, biennial 3,163 kWh. 
  • Sunbox annual 2,909, biennial 2,743 kWh. Getting better...
  • Ground Temperature 12.4ºC. Same as last week.
World News.... So much again this week. Three girls were found in a house in Cleveland, Ohio, who had been locked up by the cruel kidnapper for 10 years. The black neighbour who found them wanted the reward money to go towards the girls, and the US right wing shock jocks were finding way to spin the story publicising that he had a prison term 30 years ago, as if that had anything to do with rescuing trapped people from a house.
Andrew Simpson's catamaran

   A sad death that occurred this week is that of Andrew Simpson the British olympic gold medal winning yachtsman, drowned in San Francisco Bay while practising for the America's Cup. He knew my son-in law Luke and son Henry. A Lymington sailing boy, same big man personality, big hair, big smile, dying in the same way as Luke, very very poignant for my two children. In the same week, a Sky executive died in a speedboat accident in Cornwall, when he family were thrown into the water while speeding in the boat, and it went into circles and mowed them down. I saw exactly the same thing happen in 2007 in Southampton water. Sorry, in both cases, the driver should have been wearing the 'Kill-Cord' that would cut the engine to idling if the driver is pulled away from the wheel. Talking of 'Boats behaving Badly', a cruise-ship in Genova Harbour went out of control and demolished the control tower of the harbour. 
  A major news story in England was the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Although I am a Forest fan, I recognise him as the greatest ever club manager. I remember his team coming to Forest and whacking us 8-1 in the days of Cantona and Sjolskaer. 38 trophies in 26 years, and nobody will ever equal his achievement (the present football world is too fickle for anybody to survive 26 years as manager). His final home game was a major celebration, beating Swansea 2-1, and he has planned a smooth transfer to the next manager, David Moyes. By comparison, the neighbours, Manchester City lost the FA Cup to relegation doomed Wigan, and are likely to sack Roberto Mancini who has brought them an unprecedented level of success in just two years.
  In Parliament, it was the Queen's speech, and one of the items of note was to be more support for home carers - which might be just in time for my family. Pakistan also had elections, which were marred by Taliban attacks and by Imran Khan falling from a scissor lift, but former prime minister Sharif has been restored with a healthy portion of the vote. 
  Good news from Bangladesh, a young woman Reshma Begum was rescued after 17 days buried in the remains of the collapsed 8-storey factory plaza, who had survived on biscuits and a bit of bottled water. Unimaginable! Elsewhere, there was a bomb in a town on the Turkish-Syrian border, and in New Orleans, un-known gunmen opened up on people and children in a Mothers' day march. 


5 May 2013: It's been a sunny week, with some good solar harvesting, warm temperatures and almost no load on the Heat Pump. Living on my own for a while, the Hot Water consumption is reduced. For the Peveril Solar house, annual figures are improving.
  • House annual 5,519, biennial 5,210 kWh. Annual dropping nicely.
  • GSHP annual 3,508, biennial 3,204 kWh. Ditto..
  • PV annual 3,055, biennial 3,164 kWh. Annual tipped over 3,000 at last!
  • Sunbox annual 2,873, biennial 2,752 kWh. 
  • Ground Temperature 12.4ºC. Stabilised above 12! Not going below until Autumn, I hope!
World news? Every week is busy, and it is amazing how major news stories get forgotten later, so it's lucky I take notes. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands finally stepped down in a quiet ceremonial, handing over the monarchy to the new King Willem-Alexander. CO2 levels in the atmosphere topped 400ppm parts per million for the first time in 3 million years, so we are moving into new territory - the last time this happened, there was no arctic ice and the sea levels were tens of metres higher. Expect more erratic weather in future.

The EU Parliament passed a law to ban certain insecticides that are killing the bee population - people are at last realising that the unthanked buzzy background activity that bees do in pollenation is in fact essential to agriculture and the ecosystem. Typically, the British government opposed this vote because it's hurting the big chemical companies who are too lazy to find substitutes. There was a large explosion in Prague, but it seems to have been a gas explosion rather than terrorism. The Hillman Imp had its 50th anniversary (in 1961 my Dad had a Hillman Minx and my first experience of driving was on a sandy beach in Aden in that Hillman, at the age of 13).
    England had a large raft of County Council elections, and although there was some good news with Tories losing many seats, it was countered by the bad news of an almost equal number of seats being won by UKIP who had come from a position of zero seats, with 25% of the vote. Quite how county councils can engineer a withdrawal from Europe is not clear, and it is more often that local government benefits from EU grants. Nottinghamshire County Council changed hands by one seat, by about 9 votes, it seems. Finally, in this round up, there was a huge explosion at a military base in North Damascus blown up by Israel, that set off an additional underground explosion (munitions dump) that seemed more like an earthquake.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Scaffolding up again

20 May 2013: My friendly scaffolder, Richard Pearson, turned up again to put some scaffolding up the south wall. It's a bit more difficult now with the extension taking up the ground space, but he managed to build a bridge across the extension.

It's a busy time at the University at the moment, but I can't leave it there too long, there is sunshine coming and I want to get the whole system working again.


Friday, May 17, 2013

The leak! Drip drip right above the bedroom window



It's quite clear where the leak is coming from, drip drip onto the roof below, right next to the bedroom window.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Leaks again - more scaffolding needed

40mm Plasson 90 Deg Tee 7040
14 May 2013: We have had some very good weeks with the Surya panels, and burst through the 3,000 kWh/year barrier. However, in the last few days things have gone wrong again. I recognise the symptoms - the top up bottle needing daily refills and then the liquid disappearing, and audible bubbles in the system in the mornings. the flow rate in the pipes has fallen from its regular 0.5 m3/hour to almost nothing. Fortunately the weather has been cold and rainy for a while, I am worried about another heatwave over heating the panels.
   I suspect the tee piece in the Surya panels and I curse my naivete in thinking that using 40mm compression waste fittings would be a permanent solution. They were easier to fit and have been good for a year (since April 2012), but perhaps it was not robust enough for more than a year.
There is visible staining where the
wind has blown glycol onto the wall
   I spoke to my colleague Dr Chris Wood and he said that he had always doubted the wisdom of using the waste fitting and advised me to get the real thing which should be the Plasson fitting that I originally had. He also advised me to check that the pump spindles were not seized (which I did, and they are no seized).
  The original tee-piece was damaged by the vacuum tube installers inflating the circuit pressure with a pump, and by my not having an extra expansion vessel to absorb this. There are now two additional red expansion vessels on the circuit. We had some very hot days a week or two ago, and that may have caused the waste fitting to leak.
  I have to bite this bullet, get the scaffolding up, take off the ETFE fronts, and replace that Tee-piece.
  There is a source of Plasson fittings in Nottingham. I cannot understand the disparity in prices, some places change only about 15 pounds, others about 35 pounds... I'm going to the local stockist, Wilson Hall, in Netherfield.

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