Category Archives: HVAC

Weekends of projects

In addition to building the desks for his office, with help from Jacquela, Steven has been punching out multiple projects over several weekends.

In the laundry/utility room, Steven mounted two old Ikea cabinets to the wall, cut and painted a shelf to run between the two cabinets, along with a hanging rod. The rolling laundry carts that Jacquela ordered arrived; she assembled one, Steven assembled two -- and organization began to arrive.
In the laundry/utility room, Steven mounted two old Ikea cabinets to the wall, cut and painted a shelf to run between the two cabinets, along with a hanging rod. The rolling laundry carts that Jacquela ordered arrived; she assembled one, Steven assembled two — and organization began to arrive.
Also in the laundry room, Steven ordered and installed the "FloodStop." This electronic device comes with a sensor to put under the washing machine. If it gets wet, it sounds a loud alarm and shuts off water to the washing machine by closing two electronic valves. Why do this? The washing machine is located on the second floor -- and a leak will cascade through the walls and floor to flood the first floor of the house.
Also in the laundry room, Steven ordered and installed the “FloodStop.” This electronic device comes with a sensor to put under the washing machine. If it gets wet, it sounds a loud alarm and shuts off water to the washing machine by closing two electronic valves. Why do this? The washing machine is located on the second floor — and a leak will cascade through the walls and floor to flood the first floor of the house.
The FloodStop sensor is the circuit board in the pan under the washing machine. There's also a "waterbug," the white device partially obscured by the gray overfill hose; this connects to the house alarm system. As a result, there are now TWO systems to warn against washer leaks. Belt. Suspenders.
The FloodStop sensor is the circuit board in the pan under the washing machine. There’s also a “waterbug,” the white device partially obscured by the gray overfill hose; this connects to the house alarm system. As a result, there are now TWO systems to warn against washer leaks. Belt. Suspenders.
The two electronically-controlled valves that shut off water to the washing machine if the FloodStop sensor gets wet. This was a relatively simple install in a very cramped space, even with the washing machine pulled away from the wall.
The two electronically-controlled valves that shut off water to the washing machine if the FloodStop sensor gets wet. This was a relatively simple install in a very cramped space, even with the washing machine pulled away from the wall.
Over several weekends, Steven unpacked old Ikea cabinets from Jacquela's craft room at Sea Eagle, mounting them to the walls in her craft room at Emerald Hill. The rolling cabinets on the floor are still wrapped in plastic, so Jacquela has been using the floor and nearly every surface for her projects.
Over several weekends, Steven unpacked old Ikea cabinets from Jacquela’s craft room at Sea Eagle, mounting them to the walls in her craft room at Emerald Hill. The rolling cabinets on the floor are still wrapped in plastic, so Jacquela has been using the floor and nearly every surface for her projects.
Two hard drives in the Network-Attached Storage devices in the electronics closet failed in the past two months. Highly unusual. Steven believes it is trapped heat -- there's no place for the hot air from the electronics to exist the closet, unless we leave the door cracked open, creating a walking hazard in the central hall upstairs. Steven installed two vents -- one at the top of the closet, one at the bottom. Hot air rises and drafts. The lower vent pulls in cooler air from Jacquela's hobby room next door. The upper vent moves the hot air out of the closet into the hobby room, which is connected to the HVAC system. The hard drives in the closet are now running two to five degrees cooler. This will be watched ...
Two hard drives in the Network-Attached Storage devices in the electronics closet failed in the past two months. Highly unusual. Steven believes it is trapped heat — there’s no place for the hot air from the electronics to exit the closet, unless we leave the door cracked open, creating a walking hazard in the central hall upstairs. Steven installed two vents — one at the top of the closet, one at the bottom. Hot air rises and drafts. The lower vent pulls in cooler air from Jacquela’s hobby room next door. The upper vent moves the hot air out of the closet into the hobby room. The HVAC system takes care of ventilating the hobby room. The hard drives in the closet are now running two to five degrees cooler. This will be watched … And, yes, Steven has to still organize all the network cables.
Out in the garage, the "wet wall" behind the utility sink that the plumbers have not yet installed is nearly complete. Steven cut and glued a sheet of plastic to the wall with Jacquela's help. He cut waterproof PVC "plastic lumber" to size and the glued and nailed the baseboard, stiles and top rail into place, puttied over the nail holes, sealed the joints with silicone. All that's left is a little sanding and painting. And then the plumbers can come back in to install the water and drain lines, and the sink.
Out in the garage, the “wet wall” behind the utility sink that the plumbers have not yet installed is nearly complete. Steven cut and glued a sheet of plastic to the wall with Jacquela’s help. He cut waterproof PVC “plastic lumber” to size and the glued and nailed the baseboard, stiles and top rail into place, puttied over the nail holes, sealed the joints with silicone. All that’s left is a little sanding and painting. And then the plumbers can come back in to install the water and drain lines, and the sink.
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Working the pile

Day 4 at Emerald Hill, currently renamed “Boxland.” We’re working down the pile of to-do.

Above, with help from Chris at Time Warner, the downstairs and upstairs TVs are now operational. Upstairs, we needed component cables — and Chris tweaked the cable box. Downstairs, the Denon amplifier needed a complete system reboot to wipe Sea Eagle from memory. With that, Steven and Chris built new HDMI settings for video and audio via HDMI, with cable box connected in to amp and amp connected out to Panasonic TV. This process is not plug and play. Read the manual, even if it is written in English as a third language. Closed course, professional drivers only. Just in time to watch primary results …

Rene from El Sol Logistics delivered the hanging bags of clothes that somehow stayed with the moving vans — so Steven’s business slacks and shirts are now recovered. Then El Sol transmitted the bill for the rest of the move, after the deposit is deducted. Yich.

But … Rene did take away some of the flattened boxes for re-use by the next family that El Sol moves.

We switched on the air conditioning last night. First time. Ever. There’s record heat in Austin — 91 degrees. Stupifying.

Outside, Victor and Ramon are shoveling down off the driveway the really good black dirt   piled up when Gilsa and Ranserve dug out the foundation for the new garage bay. Here's Ramon late in the afternoon shade, spading deliberately in the record March heat -- 91 degrees.
Outside, Victor and Ramon are shoveling down off the driveway the really good black dirt piled up when Gilsa and Ranserve dug out the foundation for the new garage bay. Here’s Ramon late in the afternoon shade, spading deliberately in the record March heat — 91 degrees.
The dirt comes off the pile in the driveway where we hope to someday park, and is transported by wheelbarrow to the front of the house. Victor and Ramon are building beds around the oaks that will someday receive flowers or ornamental grasses or some other deer-resistant plants. Mulched heavily, the beds cut by nearly a third the front lawn that must be watered and mowed -- which might be worth a point on the Green Build application.
The dirt comes off the pile in the driveway where we hope to someday park, and is transported by wheelbarrow to the front of the house. Victor and Ramon are building beds around the oaks that will someday receive flowers or ornamental grasses or some other deer-resistant plants. Mulched heavily, the beds cut by nearly a third the front lawn that must be watered and mowed — which might be worth a point on the Green Build application.
More of the front of Emerald Hill, with the new bed, with dirt in transport. It's also that time of year that the oaks drop their leaves. Victor blew and raked the leaves into the beds, under the dirt, where the leaves will decompose into fertilizer.
More of the front of Emerald Hill, with the new bed, with dirt in transport. It’s also that time of year that the oaks drop their leaves. Victor blew and raked the leaves into the beds, under the dirt, where the leaves will decompose into fertilizer.
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T minus 8 days

Steven brought the Schlage Connect smart lock online for the first time, programming in new entry codes. Jadin tested hers — and then threatened to lock Dad out of the house …

Austin Air connected the component devices for the make-up air system to the exhaust hood in the kitchen. Odell reports the electricians will connect all this to power sometime Thursday.
Austin Air connected the component devices for the make-up air system to the exhaust hood in the kitchen. Odell reports the electricians will connect all this to power sometime Thursday.

Climbing a ladder, Steven twisted and locked the Engenius Wireless Access Points into position in the library ceiling downstairs and upstairs hallway. In the electronics closet upstairs, Steven unpacked the Power-over-Ethernet switch, pulled three Ethernet cables out of his bag of network cables, plugged everything up — and the WAPs lit up with power, looking for signal. There are several hours of configuration and testing ahead …

In the mudroom, yesterday, Odell opened up the wall and relocated the drain line into proper position, directly underneath where the drain will mount in the sink.
In the mudroom, yesterday, Odell opened up the wall and relocated the drain line into proper position, directly underneath where the drain will mount in the sink.

Today, Odell returned to the mudroom with several pipe fittings, working on proper installation of the T-trap for the mudroom sink. He got everything snugged up, with no leaks after wrapping the threads with tape. Then he took it all apart, putting up the parts for final installation after the drywall team patches the wall …

Odell also pulled out his metal detector and went in search of the control wire for the sprinkler system. Kevin dug this out before the garage slab was poured. Someone cut the wire that was coiled near the formwork. Odell did not find the wire today. More spelunking to come …

The painters continue to tweak the ceilings, walls, baseboards, trim ...
The painters continue to tweak the ceilings, walls, baseboards, trim …
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Make-up air system

We are working to qualify Emerald Hill for, potentially, four stars in the the Austin Green Build program. It requires a make-up air system — when the exhaust hood over the cooktop is pulling fumes out of the house from the cooktop, the make-up system replenishes by pulling outside air into the house.

Above, the duct and motor and control unit for the make-up air system installed in the attic over the garage, connected to a duct run that penetrates the drywall to reach the kitchen.

This is the intake vent for the make-up air system, installed under the eave on the outside of the garage.
This is the intake vent for the make-up air system, installed under the eave on the outside of the garage.
This is the vent in the kitchen, over the side door, that delivers replacement air to the kitchen when the exhaust fan runs.
This is the vent in the kitchen, over the side door, that delivers replacement air to the kitchen when the exhaust fan runs.
Autin Air removed the chimney shroud above the exhaust hood. Components for the make-up air system are waiting behind the blue tape for installation.
Autin Air removed the chimney shroud above the exhaust hood. Components for the make-up air system are waiting behind the blue tape for installation.
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Intense Friday

This day began with Odell and Steven in the mudroom bath at 8 am, talking through how to correct issues with the sink drain. We conclude that the P-trap comes off, the drain line in the wall needs to shift x inches left — and, after this surgery is performed, a T-trap will mount perpendicular and plumb correctly under the sink drain.

The Time Warner techies arrived about 815 am — first Erich, then Cory, then a team in hard hats to string wire from the telephone poles, then a supervisor. Everyone parked their own trucks, with orange cones. Steven should have charged for parking.¬†They wrapped about 130 pm with TV, phone and, most important, Internet up and running — even WiFi. This milestone enables Steven to work at the house without tethering to his phone.

Steven dropped Jadin at school about 845 am.

Steve the electrician arrived to install the whole-house and telephone/cable surge suppressors. The whole-house unit was a 15-minute slam dunk on the exterior of the back wall of the garage. Done. The tele/cable suppressor required research, with Steven struggling to learn more electrical science. We convened a conference — Steven, Steve, Erich and Cory — on the driveway, alongside one of the Time Warner trucks. Erich and Cory advised that the tele/cable suppressor is not needed, because the Time Warner equipment comes with suppression/protection built in. Steven decides: He will return the tele/cable suppressor for a refund.

The HVAC team arrived from Austin Air to determine how and where to install the make-up air system demanded by the Austin Green Build program. This has to be wired to operate when the exhaust hood in the kitchen switches on — the exhaust system blows out, the make-up air system brings in replacement air. The system requires ducting, and a motor to pull in outside air and blow it into the kitchen. Planning is critical — where to put all of this stuff in a house that is nearly complete? They worked at first with Cris and Odell from Ranserve, then roped Steven into the conversation. Everyone climbed up into the attic over the garage to map out one route into the kitchen. Cris sketched the install on the back of piece of drywall leaning against a garage wall. Then we shifted into the kitchen to look at where the duct might mount — near the kitchen-side door. Then we explored a second option — cutting open the kitchen ceiling to route the motor and duct into the cavity under the roof eaves. This second route would leave a huge grille in the kitchen ceiling visible from everywhere. The better location is over the door. With that decided, Cris cut open a section of mudroom ceiling between the garage and the kitchen — see photo above — to confirm that we can route the duct intake at the eave outside the garage, into the garage attic, connect to the motor when it is installed in the attic, run duct above the mudroom, through the framing between the mudroom and kitchen, to the grille above the kitchen-side door.

Why was all this not done when the house was gutted down to studs?

Brett Grinkmeyer arrived to conduct the architectural inspection required when Ranserve requests a draw payment. Steven and Brett barely got time to speak, because it was time for Time Warner to sit Steven down on the upstairs hall floor, laptop propped on boxes, to configure the network, create a Time Warner customer account complete with passwords, sign off on the install.

Victor Martinez arrived to discuss landscaping — using the dirt piled up on the driveway and mulch piled between the trees to fill in around the concrete pavers and spaces made bare of grass by nine months of construction. Steven requests a plan he can submit to Austin Green Build — and a budget.

At 2 pm, approximately, Odell returned from an offsite meeting to review the mudroom plumbing — he thinks he has it figured out; it will require opening up a wall to shift the drain pipe to the proper location. And the routing solution for the make-up air system. And the rough plan for the week ahead.

Steven called Kristin at Harway to ask why the cooktop does not fit absolutely flush to the quartz countertop. There’s a gap about 1/16th inch between the induction cooktop and the quartz countertop — guaranteed to trap food and spills. Late in the day, Kristin responds by email to report she will visit to inspect.

230 pm — lunch break.

Steven comes back from lunch at 3 pm to discover Bassam working on the kitchen cabinets.

At 330, Lance from Time Warner calls to close out the install ticket.

At 345, Steven departs to pick up Jadin from school.

Observation — at several times today, especially in the morning, the questions were firing in, one on top of the other, stacking up over Newark. Each issue required thought and discussion — where to put the tele-cable surge suppressor, for example — it can’t mount outdoors, so why does it mate to the whole-house suppressor that does mount outdoors, is it needed? How to address the drain for the mudroom sink — that took at least an hour, on and off, back and forth, testing ideas, researching options. It was intense. Everything was way above Steven’s pay grade — he’s not a plumber, not an electrician, not an HVAC installer, not a cable tech, not a cabinetmaker, not a landscaper. Steven misses Ron, who seemed able to work through any stress, calmly, expertly, guiding with advice. In his first 48 hours on the job, Odell is quickly coming up to speed. But, damn, we have not had a day like this in a long time — not since Steven and Ron climbed into the 120-degree attic to unravel the botched HVAC ducting.

 

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Notes, 25 Feb. 2019 / Pushing back the move-in date

Ron Dahlke is officially placed on medical leave by Ranserve. More details to come.

Above, meet Odell Grant from Ranserve, stepping in to serve as site supervisor as we push to complete the house and move in. Odell is wondering why that hand-made aluminum pan, roughly and not well built, was installed as a drip pan under the tankless water heater, suspended from the copper piping by thin rusted wire. Steven and Jacquela do not approve of this attempt to meet City of Austin codes that require the drip pans. Steven today ordered two replacements from Amazon — one for upstairs, one for down.

Austin Air yesterday completed the startup of the HVAC system. We have heat and air conditioning at Emerald Hill for the first time. The gas furnace is powered up. The condensor could make cold air if we asked it.

The gas meter is hooked up, which is why the furnace and tankless units are able to generate heat and hot water, respectively. But ... there is a distinct smell of escaping gas when Steven took this photo. Odell immediately called the plumbers.
The gas meter is hooked up, which is why the furnace and tankless units are able to generate heat and hot water, respectively. But … there is a distinct smell of escaping gas when Steven took this photo. Odell immediately called the plumbers.

Odell and Steven walked and talked Emerald Hill for about two hours, building a punch list for Odell to work through. He’s helicoptered in to pick up where Ron left off. Deep breath.

About 145 pm Odell reported that the tempered glass needed for the tall window at Jadin’s bedroom will not arrive until Tuesday next week, 1 March. The inspector requires we replace the conventional glass with tempered because a closet door opens toward the window. Safety.

As a result, Odell advises that we push back the move-in date, which was scheduled for Wednesday, 2 March. Steven called Rene de Anda at El Sol Logistics, the moving company. The move is now scheduled for Friday, 11 March.

Cris from Ranserve is working all over the house as Odell and Steven walk and talk. Here, in the master bedroom, Cris is patching the ceiling where we shifted the fan to center of the bed, instead of in the center of the room.
Cris from Ranserve is working all over the house as Odell and Steven walk and talk. Here, in the master bedroom, Cris is patching the ceiling where we shifted the fan to center of the bed, instead of in the center of the room.

Steven ordered Internet, TV and phone services from Time Warner; installation is scheduled for Friday, 26 February.

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Small steps forward

Ron handed the house over to the painters and one of the HVAC installers.

Above, Benito spends his days working methodically around Emerald Hill, room by room, baseboard by baseboard, wall by wall, hunting down nail holes to fill with putty, paint runs to sand and refinish, scuffed up drywall to touch up. Here he is in the kitchen, working in the cubby that will be home to the refrigerator.

DJ from Elite Air Conditioning arrived with baffles, bulbs and grilles for bathroom ventilation. Here he hooks the grille to the exhaust fan in the ceiling of the laundry room -- after first installing the fan module and motor.
DJ from Elite Air Conditioning arrived with baffles, bulbs and grilles for bathroom ventilation. Here he hooks the grille to the exhaust fan in the ceiling of the laundry room — after first installing the fan module and motor.
In the master shower, DJ installed the Panasonic LED light kit and grille.
In the master shower, DJ installed the Panasonic LED light kit and grille.
This is the LED light that DJ will install in the water closet of the master bath. This LED uses a GU-10 base with two pins. The fins on the side are heat sinks.
This is the LED light that DJ will install in the water closet of the master bath. This LED uses a GU-10 base with two pins. The fins on the side are heat sinks.
JD and his successful install of the GU-10 LED.
JD and his successful install of the GU-10 LED.

With Jacquela’s approval, Steven today ordered shades for the windows in the office, master bedroom and library.

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“Forged by miniature unicorns in the Hall of Greatness wearing golden fleece”

A significant milestone toward completion of Emerald Hill … Greg from Austin Air today initiated the HVAC startup. He described the system as “forged by miniature unicorns in the Hall of Greatness wearing golden fleece.” They wear fleece to keep warm when the AC kicks in.

A switch in the attic is shutting off the system. The electricians will have to investigate.

Above, the master thermometer worked through initial self-testing and diagnostics, making it as far as 2011 before the errant switch shut everything down.

Greg starts to install the thermostat in Steven's office.
Greg starts to install the thermostat in Steven’s office.
One of three satellite thermometers -- this one in the hallway upstairs. The second unit is located in the master bedroom, which operates as its own zone, and the third in the office, which is also its own zone.
One of three satellite thermometers — this one in the hallway upstairs. The second unit is located in the master bedroom, which operates as its own zone, and the third in the office, which is also its own zone.
In the attic, Greg ensures that the four-inch filter can be removed for servicing. Austin Green Build thought the low roof line would interfere.
In the attic, Greg ensures that the four-inch filter can be removed for servicing. Austin Green Build thought the low roof line would interfere.
The master thermostat, beginning to report diagnostic data.
The master thermostat, beginning to report diagnostic data.
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Carrier’s Puron-powered engine

The condenser that powers the HVAC system arrived on site early today and is already hooked to the copper piping.

The electricans have to wire it up.

We are that close to being able to turn on the heat in winter, air conditioning the other 10 months of the Austin year …

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HVAC audit version 3

Ron Dahlke and Steven climbed up into the attic to audit the third iteration of the HVAC duct install.

We discovered one large tear …

DSC_4222and a couple of small nicks. Ron will call the HVAC company to execute repairs.

Several of the hanger straps are too tight — and in several places ducts are still squeezed past collar ties in the roof, restricting airflow.

One example of a duct choked by a collar tie.
One example of a duct choked by a collar tie.
A second example of a collar tie choking a duct.
A second example of a collar tie choking a duct.

 

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