Tag Archives: hvac

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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“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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Notes, 14 Oct. 2015

Steven …

  • Worked this morning on possible tile choices for the red backsplash that Jacquela wants behind the cooktop in the kitchen. ProSource promises samples by the afternoon. Steven picked these up and delivered them to Emerald Hill. Jacquela put the five samples into order of preference. Steven now gets to work on pricing options with Renee at ProSource.
  • Spoke with Chris Henderson at Austin Air, talking through installation of the HVAC condenser, tax credits and rebates, qualifying the system for the Austin Energy Green Building Program, thermostat options, updates to the Manual J.
  • Ordered the cooktop from Kristin at Harway — Wolf 36-inch induction cooktop, CI365C/B.
  • Scheduled final review of lighting selections for Saturday with Tracy at Lights Fantastic.
  • Ron suggested that we try to restore the existing garage door instead of replacing it. Steven scheduled an inspection by Cowart Garage Doors.
  • Woke up this morning to a cold shower. Circuit breaker tripped on the new water heater at Sea Eagle View, shutting down the programmer. Why? Electricians and plumbers advise observing this over the next day or three to see if it repeats.

At Emerald Hill, the tilers applied the first coat of waterproofing to the backer board in the master shower. The product is called “Red Guard” but they used the blue version.

DSC_4735

 

 

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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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HVAC change

Mark Rehberg called this morning. Early. Ranserve fired the HVAC installer. Everything at Emerald Hill will be removed. Mark will bring in a new installer. We start over.

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If it runs like a duct, Steven does not approve

Ron Dahlke and Steven scheduled this morning to audit the duct work in the attic.

Steven does not approve.

When the ducts were first roughed in a couple of weeks back, Steven identified and discussed with Ron several tangled ducts and errors that required correction. Ron and Mark Rehberg reviewed Steven’s notes, discussed the issues with Ross Britton, the HVAC consultant. Steven is told that Ross concurred with Steven’s assessment, and ordered up corrections by Elite, the HVAC installer.

That was then. Today is the first chance to stick our noses into the attic — and come away knowing that Elite has a lot more to fix — a second time.

At 4 pm, Ron reports he met today with Kyle from Elite — and Elite is coming back Thursday for a third attempt.

Above, one of the ducts in the attic is ripped open. Why didn’t Elite spot this and fix it?

At what will be the attic hatch, Ron is looking at a duct strangled by the black hanger. That will choke airflow and affect efficiency. Behind Ron's head, three duct runs are stacked one atop the other. With the result that the bottom duct is crushed. That bottom duct is apparently the duct that feeds the kitchen and office, by routing through the chase in the master bath. Steven suggests this duct should be relocated to the east side of the attic, where there is a clear run straight from the plenum to the chase. That will eliminate the compression behind Ron's head, open up space for the ducts behind Ron's head by removing one of the three runs, and improve airflow to the kitchen and office. It's obvious. Why didn't Elite plan and do this?
At what will be the attic hatch, Ron is looking at a duct strangled by the black hanger. That will choke airflow and affect efficiency. Behind Ron’s head, three duct runs are stacked one atop the other. With the result that the bottom duct is crushed. That bottom duct is apparently the duct that feeds the kitchen and office, by routing through the chase in the master bath. Steven suggests this duct should be relocated to the east side of the attic, where there is a clear run straight from the plenum to the chase. That will eliminate the compression behind Ron’s head, open up space for the ducts behind Ron’s head by removing one of the three runs, and improve airflow to the kitchen and office. It’s obvious. Why didn’t Elite plan and do this?
At left, two return ducts knot around each other. Why? Then the lower duct is pulled up to the peak of the attic, crammed into the narrow space created by the horizontal collar ties, and choked four times as it travels across four collar ties. Why? And, in this position, the insulation installers will never be able to blow foam against the roof to properly insulate the house. The solution is to untie the knot, extend the duct run to the right side of the attic in this photo, rest the duct against the ceiling rafters, let it travel out to the north side of the attic, relaxed, improving airflow and efficiency. Why didn't Elite think of and do this?
At left, two return ducts knot around each other. Why? Then the lower duct is pulled up to the peak of the attic, crammed into the narrow space created by the horizontal collar ties, and choked four times as it travels across four collar ties. Why? And, in this position, the insulation installers will never be able to blow foam against the roof to properly insulate the house. The solution is to untie the knot, extend the duct run to the right side of the attic in this photo, rest the duct against the ceiling rafters, let it travel out to the north side of the attic, relaxed, improving airflow and efficiency. Why didn’t Elite think of and do this?
Here's a better shot of the duct crammed into the collar ties and choked.
Here’s another shot of the duct crammed into the collar ties and choked — with a second duct also jammed up tight into the same limited space. Why? When there’s so many better ways to run both ducts, relaxed, in wide-open attic space to the right of this photo.
Here's the same duct run from 180 degrees opposite, looking back at the knot, choked at each collar tie and black hanger strap.
Here’s the same duct run from 180 degrees opposite, looking back at the knot, choked at each collar tie and black hanger strap.
The black strap hangers choke the ducts in several locations into 90 degree turns that will restrict airflow if not corrected.
The black strap hangers choke the ducts in several locations into 90 degree turns that will restrict airflow if not corrected.
This is one of several spaghetti bowls -- duct wrapped around duct squeezed past another duct wrapped around another duct. Why? There are so many better, more logical, simpler ways to run each duct from A to B. All it takes is someone humming a song from Sesame Street -- around around around around over and under and through -- to know what to not do with duct work.
This is one of several spaghetti bowls — duct wrapped around duct squeezed past another duct wrapped around another duct. Why? There are so many better, more logical, simpler ways to run each duct from A to B. All it takes is someone humming a song from Sesame Street — “around around around around over and under and through” — to know what to not do with duct work.

There are other fixes required to exhaust vents that circle 180 degrees, then split, and then each split circles back 180 degrees to end up reversing the original airflow — when relocating the split six feet would result in two straight runs. That’s all the thought and planning needed.

Steven will not approve the HVAC install until all the fixes are completed and he again audits the work.

All this is based on hard-won and unfortunate experience at Sea Eagle, where Steven learned from Carrier as it ripped out and replaced air handlers, condensers and ducts that added up to 30 pages of repair orders. Steven is adamant about not repeating history. Those lessons do not make Steven an HVAC expert. Those lessons do not make Steven an HVAC engineer. Or installer. But what’s wrong is obvious and must be addressed before Steven signs off on the HVAC system.

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