Thursday, April 27, 2017

Repairing an Ecofan Revisited - Reviewing the Replacement Motor Kit

So, as you know, I took a crack at getting our stovetop fan to run a little more energetically a few months ago.  Unfortunately, the fan has continued to underwhelm with its' performance - so I decided it was time to replace the motor.

A bit of online research revealed that here in Canada, by a fair stretch the best place to purchase a replacement motor is Home Hardware.  While it is available from Amazon, it isn't nearly as good a price - and I was able to pick it up directly from Home Hardware on a trip to the city.

So after the fan cooled off yesterday, I assembled what I thought were the appropriate tools, and my backup photographer (Kenny) began snapping away.

Soldering iron, new motor kit, fan, and some solder.

Luckily the kit comes with a tiny hex key to remove the fan blade.

What trickery is this?  A connector for the motor?  I trotted out the soldering iron and solder for naught?

The fan blade removed.  It was later scrubbed in the sink to thoroughly remove the dust.

Out with the old.  They sent new screws with the new motor, but that was unneeded.

And in with the new.

Plugging in the connector was surprisingly challenging.  Not much slack in the wires.

Note the fine hex wrench/allen key in the lower left of the picture.

It was faster to hand tighten the screws until they were snug before using the screwdriver.  American Philips screws suck.

Fan blade back in place.
I am very happy to report that she's spinning fast and furious now!  If only we weren't being subjected to another blast of winter at the moment...  :'(  Donna may not get back home to us for TWO consecutive nights.  What will we do with ourselves?!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Straightening up the Woodshed - Creative Repurposing.

As the winter progressed, I began to notice that the woodshed had a slight lean to it.  I believe I'm the only one who noticed, but putting a level on it eventually revealed that the top had twisted about two inches out of square.

Hard to see, but the top is a bit to the right of the bottom.  Also very pleased to see that there are still more than two rows of dry wood left at the tail end of the burning season!
I think that this was mostly a natural development based on subtleties that I couldn't possibly comprehend.  It could also be suggested that the pile of wood on the outside of that corner had perhaps shifted it.  I had already had difficulties with that outside pile being self-supporting.

I was having a hard time picturing a way to straighten it up.  The side that needed the bracing was also the side that had my doorway in it, and most of Grandpa's suggestions, as well as my own ponderings, pictured a diagonal brace from the top corner of one wall to the opposite lower corner of the same wall - this would have the brace passing through the door frame.

I could have put in a shorter brace starting at the door, but I figured that this would have little power to resist the lean.
Helping to clear the work area.
More clearing.
Then I began thinking in terms of metal brackets, and my mind expanded.  Cheaper than brackets were regular old measuring squares from the local "economy" tools shop - Tool Town!

I drilled out several new holes in the squares on the cabin deck, and then used the ATV's winch to pull the corner back straight.

A good drill bit makes a world of difference.

First check to see how bad things are.
Now a bit of creaky pulling.  Don't stand under it right now!
Checking again.  Looks good!
With a bit of finagling, I was able to put the squares in opposite corners of the shed without too much fuss, and then released the winch cable.

Fastening the squares in place.
The woodshed settled back slightly, but I can see that it is now probably only about an inch out of square.  I feel that's likely acceptable for a woodshed, and also likely more square than the cabin!

Bottom left checking in - looks good!
Top right checking in - a-ok here!
I think I am also seeing a similar twist in the perpendicular plane - so I'll likely buy up a few more cheap squares to use as brackets.  No sense in letting such a clever idea go to waste!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Red Squirrel

On a lark, I hung up one of those seed bells to see what sort of birds we could attract this spring.

So far, we have had a good share of black-eyed juncos.  But our most entertaining guest was a fearless red squirrel that managed to pull down the bell and feast for a few days on the resulting rain of seeds.
To the victor goes the spoils.
There's little debate on how cute this fellow is.
As cute as any hamster or gerbil.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Overwintering Goldfish in a Northern Ontario Pond

Whelp, I was intending to install a bubbler in our pond similar to the one I have put in our well.  Unfortunately my shipping times from my Chinese distributor of electronics have grown noticeably over the past year, and by the time both the solar panel and the bubbler arrived, the pond had frozen over.  I wrote off my fish and figured I would redo the system this year.

As the ice melted this spring, I was chagrined to note two fish belly up.  Grandpa later reported that he had managed to fish (pardon the pun) them out and as he reached for a third, it swam away from him!

Of course, this was before his cataract surgery, so I took the report with a grain of salt.  Imagine my surprise when Kenny later confirmed that he saw a swimming fish too!

At last, I confirmed it with my own eyes - and not just one, but TWO fish to boot!

Awesomely, our family photographer managed to capture our survivors - amazing to think that they were buried under inches of ice for four months and managed to stick it out.

Not one, but TWO fish out of our original fifteen!
I still plan on adding the bubbler for increased comfort and survivability, as well as perhaps adding another bag of goldfish in the next little while.  I wonder though, will the big fish eat the little ones?  Are goldfish a bit cannibalistic?  I thought I saw some of the bigger ones chasing the smaller ones last summer already.

Also making an appearance in our pond this year - at least three very noisy frogs!  I wonder if one of them is grumpy frog.


Can you find the frog in this picture?

Or is this one easier to spot?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Enclosing the Stove Pipe

A couple of times this year we have caught the distinct smell of smoke after closing up the stove airtight.  It's been very distressing to me, already having a bit of a lung condition to deal with.  I also generally don't like when important things aren't performing as they should.  I have been trying to study some Stoic philosophy though, so perhaps I need to be more pragmatic about things.

In any case, I tried consulting with Thunder Bay Fireplaces again about the situation, and together we fleshed out the notion that the cabin is perhaps still SO draughty that it is sucking smoke out of the stove before it has a chance to go up the chimney, at least when the stove is fairly closed up and not producing huge draught of its own.

I happened to describe one spot in the cabin I already knew to be subject to air leakage issues - that leaky chimney boot.  That's when together we brainstormed up the notion of enclosing the insulated chimney pipe up in the attic.  I had stuffed some Roxul into the chimney boot, but this is a theoretical no-no.  So to maintain proper installation, the next best thing will be to put the chimney in that area into its own air-tight room.

I've been sick for the past five weeks or so - I caught a terrible cold and/or sinus infection that made me fear for my ability to take on even the simplest of tasks - I was wheezing and coughing and it was all I could do to catch my breath at times.  So this process is only about half finished so far, but I wanted to get an update onto the blog.

As of this writing, I have managed to put up the two walls perpendicular to the existing outside wall.  The final wall will be a bit more of a challenge - it isn't any sort of regular shape really - it will have to match the contour of the roof.

Once the walls are finished, I will line them with closed cell foam, and then spray foam around the edges of that to seal it up air tight.  I'll also spray foam around the edges of the walls themselves as they will butt up against the existing spray foam, which isn't a flat surface either.

You can barely make out the tall wall to the left of the stove pipe.

You can see the studs of the tall wall, and a view of the short wall from here.

I've learned to always try to wear lung protection nowadays.

A better view of the short wall?

This is my non-kosher seal to try to slow down heat loss.  Not so effective.  I'll remove all this once I box in the pipe.

I'll lay pieces of closed cell foam here and seal it with spray foam.  Then I think I may actually lay more Roxul on top of the closed cell foam for even better insulation from below.  I can put a number of inches of insulation up that boot.

Good view of the short wall.  You can see I'm just using 2x3 studs.

And you can see the rough connection at the top of the large wall, I'll just seal that with spray foam.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Addendum to Acrylic Storm Windows

I am generally pleased with the performance of the acrylic as storm windows.  One issue that arose shortly afterwards was that the inward air pressure caused the tape on them to pull free down the centre and they began to bulge into the room.

After a short while it became apparent that I wouldn't be able to push the tape back against the door panels and I started to puzzle out a way to return the acrylic to a more vertical orientation for both aesthetic as well as long term structural reasons.
You can see how much they are sagging out from the door.
I decided that likely a nice piece of wide aluminum flat stock would be able to be wedged into the door frame top to bottom, holding the edges of the acrylic in place, and covering the gap between them.
And without the tape it's even more pronounced.
Kenny and I hit up Lowes a few days ago and eventually found our way to the flat stock supplies.

Unfortunately, as soon as I lifted a 7' section, I realized that it had no more integrity than the acrylic sheet did.

A square cross-section was much, much stiffer, but would have been hard to incorporate into any sort of "smooth" finish to the project.

Just as I was about to give up on that avenue, I saw that there was a fine "channel" designed to edge plywood - but it could just as easily edge my acrylic!  I bought two pieces and headed for home.

Today I cut it down to 74 1/2" so that it would fit perfectly between the top and bottom of my door frames.

I managed to get it on one piece, and hoped that taping over it to the other piece of acrylic would provide enough support, but was quickly dissuaded of that notion.
The near side has channel, but it's not enough to support both panels.
I installed the second piece on the second piece of acrylic and then put two runs of tape over top to hold them in place and create an air seal.

Straight as an arrow now!
So far, they look much neater and hopefully this will prevent the acrylic from taking on any long-term sag.

Much more neat and tidy looking!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Scrambled Eggs in the Rice Cooker

Just another quick post/tip for interested parties...

I really enjoy cooking slowly with things like the rice cooker or slow cooker - you don't have to give much supervision, and they turn out nearly perfect every time.


One super easy meal that is even Kenny approved is scrambled eggs - and they are dead easy to make in the rice cooker.  Myself, I like to wrap them in a tortilla to eat them, but Kenny is happy to use a regular old fork.

Just combine all the ingredients that you like in your scrambled eggs, pour them into the cooker and click it onto "cook".

Lots of sun = easy living.
It will click back to "warm" after a bit, when the outer layer of eggs have curdled.  You then lift the lid, stir it all up again, and then click on "cook" again.

A few more goes like this, and then they are done - never burned - and at any point you can just let them coast on "warm" until you either serve them, or need to stir them again.

One other tip I have learned through much trial and error - one tablespoon of milk for each egg gives them the perfect fluffiness!

A little parmesan, some leftover bell peppers, my home-grown alfalfa sprouts and diced ham.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Batteries Reach Float!

Mark it on your calendars!  Our batteries actually reached float on February 18th, 2017!

Oh happy day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Acrylic Storm Windows on the Patio Doors

I recently got a chance to do some computer work for Surecraft Plastics again and it was a great excuse to pick up some much larger pieces of acrylic to try to make a better "storm" window for the patio doors.

I even was able to get them to notch the panels for where the handle went - that was awesome!

First up we removed the old plastic film I had installed.  It was ugly, and the tape left a nasty residue.  We did our best to clean this off with some Goo-Gone/Goof-Off type material, I assume it's just concentrated acetone?  It was easy to get loopy from the fumes, so I'd suggest using it in a ventilated area if possible.

The original plastic film.  You can see some distortion here.
The notched piece for the door.  Complete with protective coating.
Starting with the removable caulk.
A good workout for both of us!
Trying to get a good, square fit.
A bit of painters tape and an old credit card to hold it in place.
A good look at the removable caulk through the acrylic.
Then we fitted in the larger sheets of acrylic, and tried to hold them in place with a combination of painter's tape and unused points cards.  I tried to press them against the frame to get them to stick to the removable caulk, but they sagged away quickly and it was a challenge to get it to work.  I didn't see it being a treat to do each window like this every fall.

After a day or two the acrylic was still in place, but sagging badly and exhibiting huge leaks around the edges where the caulking had allowed it to completely peel away.

I decided upon reflection that it could be improved and simplified by trying to fit the acrylic inside the frame of the patio doors, and then caulking over these edges where the caulk no longer had to provide structural support.

Kenny and I removed the panels, and with some difficulty tried to remove the caulk.  It was fine in some spots, but wouldn't come off in others.  I remeasured the panels to fit the new, smaller requirements, and tried to cut off the areas that were the worst for removing the caulk.

You can still see some of the "removable" caulk that just wouldn't come off.


Working around the handle.
Oh noes!  Lots of chips along the edge when I cut it down.  At least it should be hidden behind the frame...
I put the panels back into place, and added judicious amounts of painters tape, trying to avoid having to use the caulk again, as I am no longer convinced that it is either easy or complete in its removal.

This actually looks better than just the caulking, or so I think...
Big green lines, but they're neat, and hopefully easily removable?
Top corner looks okay.
This is where the panel sags inward at the moment, you can see that in the curve of the tape.
I did put back the silica gel pack to help ensure that no moisture would fog up the place.

Now it remains to be seen how it performs when there is a wind that creates large pressure differences, or just when we get another cold snap - we are predicted mild weather for the next week or so!


Of course, a tiny fleck of tape left on the far side of the acrylic.  Sigh.  Wabi-sabi.