Poison Oak – a month progression

Me having poison oak over the course of a month or so

Hotspring Spa Tips

Check if a ACE chlorine generating cell is working: Turn on boost or change the usage level to force it to try to start. Unscrew cell from filter and pull up out of filter, if bubbles are coming out then the cell is working.

Check if main filter needs cleaning: Take out the cell, take the cap off of another filter and hover it over the top of the main filter – if it gets sucked down the filters should be cleaned.

Surfing Lesson in Kauai

Well I finally decided to give surfing a shot ‘for reals’ and it went pretty well, definitely fun!  My shoulders are a bit sore but good times for sure.  Went with Hawaian Surfing Adventures and had a private lesson with Uncle Mitch who was a real cool old school Hawaiian guy.




Solar Hot Water

I recently finished the first phase of my solar hot water project and now get most of my domestic hot water from the sun.  Good times!

I followed the plan from BuildItSolar $1000 Solar Water Heater, modified to suit my situation and needs.

I wanted to do radiant floor heating on my ground floor so I have about 3 times the square footage of collector and a larger storage tank.


I built one panel almost exactly like the one from BuildItSolar, then while searching for keep copper pipe on craigslist (tip: do a search then click the rss icon in your url bar, which adds a rss feed of the search results to your feed reader or email client, at which point you see all the new results as they come in) and I found someone selling an old school set of commercial collectors.  There were three, 3’x8′, metal and glass collectors, model Colt Inc. C-141C (only identification on them) that were being used to heat an old hot tub.  Anyway the seller claimed they worked fine and didn’t leak – so at $200 bucks it was a good deal for me.  The three 3×8 panels give 72 sf and the 4×8 I built gives 32 sf, so I nominally have 104 sf of collector area.

Mounting the Collector

The collector is mounted on my carport roof.  4 pads of pressure treated 2×6 where put onto the roof with roofing compound and appropriately long lag bolts into the supporting beams of the roof.  A 4×4 was run from one end to the other as the base.  For my home built collector with it’s wooden frame I just used gate hinges to attach it to the 4×4 (replacing one of the screws with a lag bolt for extra support) The commercial collectors came on a piece of angle bar with some hinges that we managed to get to work with some slight fiddling.  I didn’t actually solder the three commercial collectors together, instead I spaced them apart by 8 inches and used hotwater discharge hose and hose clamps between them (with a little silicon caulk between the hose and the metal) so that if the collectors did have issues, or if I need to re-roof or do work up there it will be much easier to move the collectors. (Thus far it is working fine, zero leaks, but I’ll see how they hold up)  To raise the collectors up and down we came up with a cool solution of using 4 scaffold jacks with swivel bases.  The top end of the collectors are attached to a 4×4, and from there on each a scaffold jack has it’s base lag bolted to the 4×4 and the screw portion hangs down.  On the mounting pad another scaffold jack is attached with the screw portion pointing up – a piece of appropriately heavy pipe is put between them.  Each scaffold jack gives 18″ worth of movement, so total there is three feet worth of extension and all you have to do is turn the adjustment screws.  Worked out quite well and is easy to move up and down (though you have alternate legs every few inches of adjustment so as to not get things to cockeyed)



The tank is similar to the BuiltItSolar $1k tank, but a bit larger and I doubled up the 2x4s both top and bottom.  Used nail plates and several large nails through them.  For the lid I have tank liner, then 2″ insulation (which extends out over the 2×4) then 1/2″ plywood.  When I put in the tank insulation I made sure that it stuck up ever so slightly above the top of the tank, with the idea that that lid would rest on that – then I used long coated deck screws to tighten the lid down onto the tank, which seemed to cinch everything together nice and tight.  For the piping going into the tank I had it go between the lid and the tank edge insulation – I marked where it would be going through on the lid edge, then took off the lid and smashed the insulation down with a hammer, which just gave the piping enough space to fit in there (with the appropriate use of clamps and deck screws) so it seems like a real tight fit.  Nominally the exterior is 56″ x 48″ and this leads to a total of 213 gallons of storage capacity.  I also put 3″ foam I had laying around on the top of the lid and some of the left over 2″ foam around the sides of the tank.


The main heat exchanger is a 300′ loop of 1″ PEX, connected to the water system with CPVC for abut 6 feet of valves and elbows then to the copper line with sharkbite.  I did it that way to minimize install time as working with CPVC is really extremely easy vs trying to solder under the house up next to the joists and vents, etc.  I initially had the tie in come down from the ceiling and go in / out of the tank, but I noticed that at least on the outlet site I was leaking heat up the pipe pretty far, so I changed it so the tie in comes down from the ceiling to below the waterline in the tank then backup, this seems to prevent any convection from sending heat up the pipes.  I used a Wilo Star S 21BFX pump which seems to work well on the middle pump setting.  (The system has fairly high head as the collectors are on the carport roof and pump and tank are under my house) I used CPVC for the runs to and from the collector, again for the ease of use.  The outlet from the collector has about 15 feet of copper on it though.  I transition from copper to the CPVC using discharge hose and pipe clamps so that there will be some flexibility in the system when I change the angle.




I used a Thermal Leak Detector to check how the tank was doing thermally (seemed good and at $34 bucks those are handy to have around.)

For tank monitoring I have a La Crosse weather station, for which you can by an optional wireless sensor which includes a probe that will do up to 140 degrees F.   I dropped that in the tank and now I can tell you exactly what the tank temp is up in my office (114.6 after several partially cloudy and cloudy days.) I actually have my tank set to 150F, so it just stops at 140, but it’s good enough for me, as most of the time I use enough of the tank heat to keep it under 140.


The system seems to ‘flap’ a bit, where it will turn on to heat for a few minutes, then turn off, then a few minutes later turn on again.  If I had to guess I would say it has to do with sensor placement at the collector side, but I haven’t had a chance to play around with it yet.

There is a slight plastic smell to the water from the shower, seems to be slowly fading over time but it was a little annoying to me (my wife didn’t seem to notice)  I don’t know if that is the 300′ PEX, or the short run of CPVC and CPVC glue.


Still have the radiant heat flooring to put in.  I have all the pieces for that, just need to find some time this summer to do it.  I guess my one slight concern is the pump I have for it is a cheap iron circulation pump, and I was wondering if that will cause any problems other than just not lasting super long.  Guess I should hit up the internet and work that out.

Palin Voodoo Doll

Just in time for the debates, have yourself a chuckle at palinvoodoo.com’s Sarah Palin Voodoo doll.
Speaking of politics, I really need to stop watching the news because the GOP’s general horribleness frightens and angers me to no end.

Whirled Corpse Craft

Whirled is just what it sounds like,
an online “world” har har – oh my side! Written in Flash, and thus
very accessible from all the major browsers and computer platforms.
Part casual gaming, part social networking, part creators pallet –
it is really quit unique and has an array of wildly different things
to do. I personally was highly entertained by a little game called
“Corpse Craft” whose game play is described as: “Build an army of
re-animated corpses to destroy your foes in this puzzle-action
hybrid.” Which is quite apt. The art is great, the story and
game play entertaining. You play a game of ‘implode’ or ‘collapse’
or whatever else you want to call it on the bottom of the screen.
As you destroy groups of similarly colored blocks you increase the
number of resource blocks of the same color. You spend those
resources to launch different types of re-animated corpses across the
screen. The different corpses have different abilities that you are
trying to use to destroy your opponents corpse re-animation factory
on the other side of the screen, who of course is sending re-animated
corpses to try and destroy you. It starts off quit easy and gets
much harder for the last few levels. Regardless quite fun and
doesn’t take ages to get through.

Marin Century Ride – 2008 106 miles on a bike – are you crazy?

So I did the Marin Century ride today, which was quite an event. The
longest ride I had done before was 45 miles up to the top of Mount
Tam, so this was a change! Mostly it is just a long time to be
riding a bike. There are several large hills on the route as you
can see on
the map
and there was a bit of a cross wind and head wind from time to time.
But, overall the weather was quite good. Sunny with a cool breeze
most of the day as we were near the coast. The early morning views
of valleys with clinging pieces of fog were classically Californian
coast. There were 4 rest stops on the route, all with lots of good
food and drink and restrooms. I had lunch part 1 at the second rest
stop and lunch part 2 at the third rest stop. After about 60 miles
my ass was starting to hurt – not surprisingly it continued to hurt
more for the rest of the ride. My left calf threatened cramp up but
never did. My right knee got a bit twingy after 80 miles and around
95 started to hurt if I put much force on it, so I mostly used my
left leg to get me up the last big hill then coasted the rest of the
way in. I thought it was interesting that I wasn’t really slowed
down by my cardio or my length strength but more due to the rest of
me wearing out. That is to be expected I think since I didn’t build
up slowly to a 100 miles. The book The Complete Book
of Long-Distance Cycling was pretty handy tool for figuring out
what I needed to do to train, but I only had 6 weeks and there is
only so much one can do. Oh and my right big toe had the outside
edge go numb, but it’s done that ever since that fateful backpacking
trip in ’98 so I was expecting it. I wore a lot of sunscreen but
got a little bit burned on the back of my calves as the sun shifted
around. I also had some king of bug fly into my shirt and get
caught which involved me then pulling over and frantically trying to
let said bug out as I could hear it buzzing around under my jersey.
Eventually I got it to fly out of my sleeve! The total route was
106 miles with 6250′ of elevation. From start to finish was about 9
hours for me. I was on my bike for 7 hours and 15 minutes, so
lunch, rest stops, and bug removal definitely took up some time. My
average speed was 14.3 MPH while I was on my bike. Definitely nice
that they had a good spread of food when I finished (including free
hagen-daz ice cream!) I certainly slept well that night. :)