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.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Repairing an Ecofan

When we were first in the yurts, as fall deepened and we realized that the woodstove was not doing a very good job of heating the main yurt, let alone the back yurt, one of our first attempts at improvement was to purchase an "ecofan" - a small fan attached to a motor powered by a thermocouple wedged between a heavy steel base and a large heat sink.

While this was an improvement, at the time it wasn't enough to make the yurts comfortable by any reasonable stretch.  But that's another story.

When we moved into the cabin and began using the Baker's Choice woodstove, we brought it with us and it has been doing good duty moving a bit of the heat around the cabin these past three years.  It is often a good temperature indicator for the stove - we can tell just by how quickly it spins whether or not we have a good fire on.

Unfortunately a few days ago, I noticed that it spun up well, but then slowed down soon after, even though our stove top thermometer continued to show the stove warming up.

Over the next few days it began to behave erratically, not spinning at all, or spinning slowly, in spite of consistently warm fires.

At last I decided to try refurbishing it slightly.

The patient on the operating table.
Two screws to be removed.  Luckily I have a tiny ratchet set that should suffice.
First I removed the top heat sink.

The thermocouple exposed.
This allowed me to lift off the thermocouple.  I was surprised to discover that there was no thermal compound either above or below the thermocouple.  Thermal compound, or paste, is commonly found between computer chips and their heat sinks to ensure a good contact between the two metals.

No compound to be seen here either.
I put a dab of paste on top, and a little on the bottom.

Rats, not quite in the centre!
That's better!
And not bad looking front to back either.  :)  You can see a bit of the thermal paste squeezing out from the edges.
Placing it back on the stove, I was at first worried as nothing happened for a few minutes.  But then suddenly the fan kicked in and returned to a medium pace.

I checked it with an RPM meter and would guess that it's rotating at about 240 RPM.  Not sure if this is good or not; it doesn't seem as fast as previously, but at least it is consistent.  Hopefully it continues to work, even if it is in a reduced state.

Almost enough spin to be political!


After two days, I can report that it is still working, but I'd have to say definitely with a reduced speed.  Not enough to replace the fan altogether, but enough that I'll have to adjust my temperature vs. RPM estimates.