Bad water heater, deer hunting, and wood furnace update

I’ll start with the wood furnace: I’ve been burning wood for just over a month now and I think the propane furnace kicked on once during that time (and at that, its because I needed to change the schedule a bit to give myself more time in the morning to get the fire going). I am estimating I’ll use 240-300 gallons per year with water heating, clothes drying, and cooking, so the 60% left in my tank will last easily to the summer time so I can fill up when propane is cheaper. That saved me the $60 to lock in rates plus the multiple fills of propane (it would normally be filled twice totalling around 700 gallons over the winter). Its a good thing too because at the end of October I noticed my hot water was awful brown / red looking. Hot water on the left, cold water on the right. Yikes! Given that the water heater is original to the house (circa 2000) its probably time for a new water heater. So its a good thing I’ll be saving $1000+ on propane since thats about what I’ll be spending on a new water heater.



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Wood furnace barometric damper issues and thoughts

So in my last post I mentioned needing a barometric damper and having some issues. This post will go through those issues experienced with the Vogelzang barometric damper sold at menards but it looks EXACTLY like this US Stove barometric damper on Amazon. It is so bad I’d be embarassed to sell the product or make the product.

But, before I get into that; if you have a wood furnace (not a stove, but a furnace that can use a digital thermostat) you likely need a barometric damper to prevent an over-fire condition. Stoves have a spring controller that will shut the damper automatically as it heats up and it can shut it enough to be safe. Another thing to make note of is that the barometric damper needs to be installed level, both the pins need to be horizontally level, but the face of it needs to be vertically level! The vertical thing is either not mentioned or easily missed in many places talking about barometric dampers. I made the mistake on my first attempt and it can cause issues (either damper won’t close all the way or it will be harder for it to open), though I’m pretty [… click to continue reading this post]

First week burning wood

I have a good week under my belt burning wood and it is definitely a learning curve (and I still have a ways to go as it’ll change as the weather gets colder). First, I am glad I got the manometer so I can see what my draft is. A manometer uses pressure and/or suction to tell you what the pressure difference is visually using a liquid in a tube to show you the measurement. I am using this Dwyer manometer along with an insertion tip (this one, but I’ll be honest that I am not sure if it is the right one or not as it was a BEAR to get the tubing on the tip, I think it is meant for the next size up but I made it work). I can easily see if I am getting my minimum .04″ of draft or exceeding the .08″ max draft; I leave it hooked up all the time right now. Without running a barometric damper I was easily hitting .08″ when the furnace first fired up and .11-.12″ with the damper open and fire raging. Running at that level for extended times is either not safe or will make [… click to continue reading this post]

Wood stove inspection passed – and thoughts on duct work

So this weekend I finished up a few things (wall stud installation, trimming one spot in the roof that didn’t quite meet the 2″ clearance) in preparation for my first/final inspection on the wood furnace installation. The inspection was pretty quick and simple. I think it helped that I was quite knowledgeable about all the specs, clearances, requirements, etc so the inspector did not have to ask a lot of questions. I knew the things he’d look for so I pointed them out to him in order. I passed with flying colors and have my first burn going right now. I disconnected the ducts since the first firing is pretty stinky for maybe 30-60 minutes while the paint cures. I also had my manometer hooked up to the chimney so I could check the draft, a good thing since while the load was burning at full load I was in excess of 0.1″ water column, which exceeds the manufacturers limits. Only with the manometer was I able to tell that and see that I needed to adjust the barometric damper to get it in spec. I have this pressure tip, though I’m not POSITIVE it is the right one. It [… click to continue reading this post]

Working on wood furnace install

I got my mechanical permit last week to install my wood stove last week (some things you can hide, but adding a chimney on the roof I figured could be pretty easily detected, especially with the software many places use to determine if there are any changes to a property). So, I have started the install and it is going pretty well. I had to make a few changes from what I thought and would have preferred, but overall its not too bad. I wanted to use one side of the closet, but I forgot to account for the 8-10″ of overhang of the floor joists on the basement wall, so when all the clearances would have been taken into account it actually would have been a couple feet into the closet. So, I put the stove on the other side to use the other corner of the closet.

The chimney installation itself has been fairly easy, if you are the DIY type and take on home projects you can feel pretty secure you can do it. If you’ve never done anything construction/remodel/repair related though it probably isn’t recommended to start. One of the harder things to figure out was [… click to continue reading this post]

Rethinking my position on a wood splitter

I haven’t purchased one yet, but I am starting to rethink my position on not getting a wood splitter soon. Originally I thought “why pay that money to be lazy and not work out / get in better shape”. Makes sense right? I’m not old, I’m not decrepit, I am just a bit out of shape. Well, I also am quite busy with work, and the time outside of work is filled with family time, fun time, and household responsibility time. I was thinking how I am gone for work (between work and commute) 50-55 hours per week. While we normally don’t go to sleep until 10-11, the latter part of that time is never going to really be used for much other than watching TV with the wife. So realistically, I have from 6-9pm on week days, then I have Saturday and Sunday. If I figure the weekend as 12 hours each (really its less on Sunday since church ends up blocking out a chunk of time), I have 15 hours through the week and 20-24 hours on the weekend as usable time that has to be split with family, fun, projects, and responsibilities (and eating dinner, etc). That [… click to continue reading this post]

Most recent project – basement partition

I thought originally this was going to bea winter project. After all, it is indoors and works when weather isn’t otherwise cooperating. Well, that did not happen. So despite the weather being pretty good these days, I decided I needed to finally get a partition put up in the basement. The reason for this has several aspects to it: keep the cat from puking all over my side, keep kids out (other people’s kids when we have visitors, I trust my kids around guns and they don’t bother my stuff), and also to give a bit more security and privacy to my guns and accessories. I am thinking here of when I have the building inspector come when I install the wood furnace come this fall (which I have wood from last year, but I am way behind schedule on wood this year having only done maybe 1/2 of a cord split and another 1/2-1 cord dropped and cut to length).

There was already a perfect spot for the wall where they put in a beam (and took out a temporary wall during construction), so I made that the dividing line. I put in a wall that was a bit [… click to continue reading this post]

Plants taking hold in the yard and stacking firewood

I have not started anything for a garden this year. Last year I had very discouraging results with really NOTHING producing even though I planted all manner of things that were well started indoors. So I haven’t really been in the mood to put a ton of effort into the garden when I’ve had other stuff going on. I’ve been busy getting back into shooting and making the shooting range has led to me being busy cutting and splitting firewood. I have probably 2-3 cords chopped, split, and stacked so far with a few more downed trees to take care of (smaller ones, so maybe another 1/2 cord).

I have been researching what wood burning appliance I want to put in the house. This was a very mild winter and we used 800 gallons of propane all year including water heating, clothes drying, and cooking, around $1200 at pretty low prices. Even at that, and if I were to BUY my wood, I could still save $300 a year. I was wanting an outdoor wood boiler for several reasons. I wouldn’t have to worry about the pain or ugliness of a chimney. Plus, I would be able to keep all [… click to continue reading this post]

Clearing trees for mini-orchard

A month or so ago I posted that I got a score on some fruit trees. I am needing to get them in the ground in the next few weeks now that the leaves are mostly falling off. When the leaves fall off, the roots will still grow quite a bit, thats why fall fertilizing your grass is the recommended method (if you do at all, which I don’t). So, I really need to be thinking about WHERE I am going to put these trees. If I put them near the house (which would be great!) irrigation would be easy, but I don’t have any spots with decent sun. I’d need to clear out some of the larger trees that provide some shade on my house, which I don’t really want to do. When (if?) I get central AC in this house it won’t be AS big a deal, but still is nice to have a pretty shady area in the summer time. Nowhere else on my property really has good sun exposure either.

I have a small clearing where previous owners had a small fire pit, it is about 200′ back from the house. Probably a bit far to [… click to continue reading this post]

A good, and productive weekend (and house project completion list)

So this past weekend was both fun and productive (not at the same time though). I got a few projects done as well as got some relaxation in next to a fire roasting marshmallows with the family. One of the projects I got done was putting up gutter guards, Menards had the cheap vinyl ones for free after rebate, so I got enough to cover the house. It does not take many leaves to completely clog up the gutters in a heavy rain. They should be OKAY come fall, but I know they won’t be sufficient come spring with the oak fronds coming down. I needed something to get me by in the mean time, the goal is to get the nice stainless and aluminum mesh covered ones. I am hoping that they go on sale at some point, $8 for 3′ will cost me about $250 to cover the gutter I have. I figured with the free ones that they are better than nothing, and all I would be out was sales tax and some time.

I have been using Google Keep to make check lists of projects that need done or have been done. This also has the [… click to continue reading this post]

So easy to learn these days

Tomorrow is my last day of the week, then I have a couple days of vacation, during which my family will be traveling to MO to visit my parents. It promises to be a busy weekend splitting up two travel days and two weekend days between my mom’s house and my dad’s house. The part I’m not looking forward to is trying to fit in working on my car on one end or the other of the trip. Earlier this week I noticed my floorboard was wet, and it had been slick for about a week. The wetness smelled rubbery, so I looked under the dash and saw a slow leak on my clutch pedal. A quick google search of “ford focus leaking clutch fluid” told me I needed to replace my master cylinder for the clutch. I have actually replaced my clutch on this car, so I knew the “clutch fluid” was brake fluid, but I still have a lot to learn about cars.

When I was in my teens my dad would work on his vehicles periodically. I always wondered how he learned how to do such things. By now I have done quite a few things on [… click to continue reading this post]

Sweet battery organizer

Here is my video review of a pretty sweet, yet quite affordable battery organizer. It comes with hardware to mount it on the wall fairly securely. The hardware is SUPER cheap, but adequate. I wanted to test what came in the package so I used their low quality drywall anchors so I could do a thorough review. If you drill the holes the right size it is extremely sturdy! If you want more peace of mind then you can use your own drywall anchors, you will need three.

This is a picture / link to it on amazon:

The review portion is only a couple minutes long, after that is installation in case anybody isn’t familiar with how to install drywall anchors. The only down side of this thing is that the instructions were junk.

I’ve had this thing for a couple of weeks now and it is awesome. I keep my battery charger over in the same area, so when batteries are charged I move them up to the organizer and there is no question what is charged vs not charged. I highly recommend this, I spent I think $12 or $13 on [… click to continue reading this post]

Household organization – awesome shelves!

I admit it, I am pretty terrible when it comes to organization. I (and my wife on my behalf) will be the first to admit it. It is one of the issues with being a guy, we are involved in such a variety of different hobbies and household tasks that we have 20 different unrelated types of tools and parts. It is exasperated when you are young because you work and struggle to afford a few hundred dollars over a few years to accumulate the tools and components you need now or will need in the future, but who can afford hundreds of dollars worth of shelving? It takes somebody a lot more organized than me to be able to consistently put everything back in its place.

I am currently investing in good shelving that I will be able to take with us when we move. In fact, preparing to move is one of the reasons I went ahead and got some of the shelving. The particular shelving I’m using is here, it is modular shelving similar to the warehouse type shelving you see around. I got it because it is 6′ tall, a good fit in our drop ceiling [… click to continue reading this post]

Transitioning to rechargeable batteries

I recently have ordered another battery charger and a battery storage rack, reviews / posts coming on those in the near future. It made me think about my transition to rechargeable batteries and how far things have come. When I was in high school I spent nearly $100 on some NiCd rechargeables because I was into flashlights that really sucked down the juice. I really didn’t need to buy them though, and ultimately I regretted the decision. Those batteries did not have a great capacity and the charger was not very good. I do not know how long the batteries lasted, though I do know that they ultimately ended up in the trash.

Come college, now NiMH was available and brought higher capacity at a lower price. Chargers no longer took 4 hours, you could get a 1 hour charger that charged each cell seperately, something that was valuable to me. You see, if you have a device that uses an odd number of cells it makes it hard to recharge on a dumb charger. A dumb charger charges cells in pairs, you HAVE to have two in there, and if there is any difference in the capacity you can [… click to continue reading this post]

Greenworks electric snow blower review – video

(Click for the full post to see the embedded video) (Be sure to read the full post for updates and hints)

Here, I am reviewing the Greenworks 12 amp 20″ electric snow blower (link to it on amazon). I have had this since last year and I am happy with my purchase so far. I have used it a few times. When there is less than 3″ of snow or so I prefer to use a shovel, but when there is 3-8″ this electric snow blower works great. It cant be super wet, so you do have to get out there when the snow is fresh and hasn’t been driven over or trampled. Up here in NW Indiana if we get a monster snow I do have to go out in the middle as the thing can only handle 8-10″ or so, and even then only if it is pretty fluffy. Still, well worth the trade offs. $166 new and it was still considerably cheaper than a used gas one, minus the headache involved. I wanted something I knew my wife could operate with no help, something she could maneuver, and that wouldn’t take up a lot of room [… click to continue reading this post]

Video – how to make your vacuum suck (hair removal)

Click the title to go to the article so that the embedded video will show.[/embed]

This household chore is one that doesn’t take too long and will actually save you time in the long run. In the video I show you the buildup that can be caused by hair wrapping around the bristles and how easy it is to remove. About 1-2 times per year at about 5 minutes each time (30 or so when you are recording a video with multiple takes 😉 ) it will make your vacuum perform like new as far as picking stuff up from the carpet. Typically when you notice it doesn’t seem to do quite as good a job as you remember its a good idea to flip it over and take a look at the bristles. Other potentials may be a filled bag/clogged filter causing a loss in suction, a clog in the hoses/pipes, or a number of other causes.

Winterize your lawnmower or other small engines – video and blog

Today we are winterizing the lawn mower. This easy, quick task saves a lot of frustration come spring.

The basic steps are:

Empty your lawnmower of fuel. Not just empty the tank, but run it dry Remove the bowl from the carb Empty the bowl of fuel and clean any gunk out If you are trying to fix, clean the gunk out extra well. Then poke a wire into the nozzle / venturi / whatever it is called. Both sideways and up and down. This is where tiny pieces of debris will get stuck and keep your lawnmower from running well. If it will start on ether and then die you are short on fuel. If there is fuel to the bowl, then its probably the nozzle. If no fuel gets to the bowl check between the carb and the fuel tank Make sure your rubber gasket is in good shape. Mine was falling apart, so I’ll get a new one. I googled “briggs and stratton fuel bowl gasket” and found several places. There are different types, so chances are I will just take the old one with me to the hardware store After everything is clean of debris, [… click to continue reading this post]

No video this weekend

I was hoping to do a video this weekend, but it isn’t shaping up like that is going to happen. My wife and kids are out of town this weekend so I have been working on getting stuff done around the house. Generally, that type of stuff would make great videos. However, my first project was working in the bathroom. The old linoleum there was peeling up around the corners and just looked bad in general. I started ripping it up and the underlayment was in terrible shape. So a couple nights was spent removing all that (3 layers of linoleum and 2 layers of underlayment!), cutting the plywood from around the edges, etc. Fortunately, the subfloor was in good shape. So I have spent a while cutting a new 1/2″ underlayment to fit in the bathroom, which is small and jagged, so getting the various pieces to fit has been a chore. I probably should have just cut it into 4 pieces or so, but I got it in in one piece. I am putting vinyl tile down and a new toilet, and this project has taken considerably longer than I anticipated. But, they bathroom will look much nicer [… click to continue reading this post]