All posts by Seamus Sheehy

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) Selection- Part 1

HRV OPTIONS

There are two types of HRV units that I came across -Heat (HRV) or Energy (ERV). The ERV is used principally for recovering humidity  and heat. I selected a HRV unit,

Size Matters

When selecting a HRV unit it appears that one of the biggest mistakes is to select a unit that is too small but still satisfies the current regulations. What appears to happen in the competitive world of quotations is that a unit that just ticks the box comes in as the best price.

In selecting a unit for our home I selected a unit that has a manufacturers capacity of 542m3/h where the floor area of our house is 205 m2. Currently the unit is running at 31% of its capacity and it is maintaining a CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) level of around 700 ppm when the four of us occupy it . I use a stand alone CO2 sensor to measure the CO2 in different rooms. (I have not commissioned the unit yet as the internal doors/glazing are not installed).  

Another advantage of selecting a larger unit is that it can run more efficiently at lower speeds and generates less noise through the ducts or from the unit itself.

Some of the options from the manufacturer Airflow (my unit is the third from the right).

HRV passive house
A choice from one particular manufacturer.

September 2018 performance (with no heating switched on yet).

The graph below gives an idea of how the HRV works when managing heat from the house and supplying fresh air. For the coldest days of the year so far (2 degrees at night-in September) I put the unit into summer bypass mode the next morning (take in outside air directly and pump it around the house) because the sun was shining that day. The winter sun is lower in the sky so solar gain increases in the winter (when the sun shines). The house is made of timber/glulam construction. The main thermal mass is the concrete floor at the moment soon to be covered by a 32 mm thick wooden floor so the response times of house I suspect will change. The floor and wall temperatures are approximately 22 degrees Celsius.

HRV Software review and Control.

Example above of HRV in use in our home.

Sample Data in our home using Google Fusion to visualise the HRV data for a week in October. (see link below)

  • One can select the chart tab and visualise the graph.
  • Use the bottom graph to zoom in.
  • The data is from the 21 October to the 28 October 2018.
  • One storage heater rated at 1.7kwh was used for 5.5 hours a day off peak.
  • The storage heater was switched off for one day on the 23rd October.
  • The graph starts at midnight on the 21 October.
  • Each ref reading is every 10 minutes.
  • The CO2 reading vary between 480ppm and 700ppm when fully occupied.

https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?docid=14U8eXcMzhritW7dQTPSuBEIYNhyDcayGJUlnuLyi

Filters

All HRV units contain a maintainable part called filters. They have a number of functions.

  • Clean the air being pumped into the house, and
  • Keep the internal components such as fans, ducts and HRV housing clean.

One typically finds one coarse filter and one fine filter on the air supply into the house and a coarse filter on the extract air from the house before the extract fan. The coarse filter is typically a G4 and the fine filter is a F7 (Pollen filter). I installed a 400mm x 400mm  G4 coarse filter at the duct inlet so that I could keep the main supply duct clean. It is a bit more effort to maintain this but it will hopefully minimise the maintenance of the duct.

To be continued………

 

Air tightness Test-Passive House 0.22ACH

Self Build air tightness test -0.22ach with a volume of 603 m3 @ 50 pascals. 

When one is building to a performance standard the day of reckoning is the airtight test. The reason for this is that when one is pumping fresh air into the house using a Heat Recovery System, rather than relying on simple multiple holes in the wall, it becomes important to control where the fresh air is coming from and where the heat is going.

Airtight Test
Airtight Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

If air is leaking in or out around windows /doors/walls or other gaps in the building fabric then heat is lost and moisture problems in the form of mould can arise or else give rise to damage to the building fabric.

The pressure 50 pascals equates to a 20 mile per hour wind which is not too untypical in Ireland. So if one opts for the Irish  building standard (a minimum standard) this equates to the air in the house changing/leaking 7 times a hour when a wind blows at 20 miles per hour. No wonder people block up the hole in the wall vents .

  • The current Irish building standard  require 7 air changes  per hour (ach) also called leakage at 50 pascals  typically with no heat recovery system As a guidance heat recovery manufactures recommend 3 Air leakages per hour to ensure that the heat recovery system can push fresh air into the house and recover heat leaving the house through its own system rather than through gaps in the building fabric.
  • The passive house standard for a new house requires 0.6 Air changes per hour (ach) at 50 pascals to ensure the heat recovery system works efficiently, ensure that occupants receive the correct amount of fresh air and minimise building fabric damage.

The passive house test differs from the Irish test because it must include pressurisation and depressurisation and use the volume as set out per Vn50 (EN13829).

The Test

Gavin O Shea from Greenbuild was hired for the job.  He is certified/audited by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI).

The preparation for this entailed sealing all cable ducts and the inlet and outlet pipes for the Heat Recovery System. One also ensures that the shower and sink outlet traps are full of water. The overflow outlet for two water tanks were not sealed off. I did consider a duck valve but it was not in place at the time of the test.

Air Tight Test
Airtight Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The test using the Irish method gave a result of 0.181 m3
/(hr.m2).

Gavin O Shea calculated that the equivalent size hole that equates to a result of 0.22 ach is approximately 65.25 cm2 (@50Pa) or a hole 81mm x 81mm if all of the leaks present in the dwelling were concentrated into one hole. That is about a tenth of an A4 sheet of paper.

The results of the air tight test can also help determine the selection of the  Heat Recovery System. If the airtight test is lower then more options are available when selecting a unit.

From my research a passive house standard Heat Recovery Unit will cost more because it needs to be independently tested by the Passive House Institute using their test method. Heat Recovery manufactures have also the burden of putting the unit through national tests or international tests with the end result being the customer pays more.  One has also the option to select a non passive house certified unit for a passive house but when calculating the performance value one needs to account for this in the PHPP software with a 12% reduction below the manufacturers performance claim.

If one wants to view certified Heat Recovery Units one can find and sort them at the following link.  One can see for example at this link the capacity (Column- Air Flow Range) that these units have as it is important to select a unit that is oversized for your particular self build. I would compare it to selecting a mini car to tow a caravan up a hill compared to using a larger car. The small car will struggle from an efficiency and noise point of view while the larger car will be quieter and more efficient at the require flow rates.  I will do a separate post on how I selected our Heat Recovery Unit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plumbing Update

Water Switch On.

I finally switched on the water supply to the house and then checked the compression connections on the gravity based system for leaks. The reason for using the gravity based system was to keep everything as simple as possible,  consume the lowest amount of energy and have a system that would be low in maintenance cost.  All the joint connections were brass compression fittings and I used a pipe called  “qual-pex” .  I insulated the cold and  hot water pipes for both the rainwater and the calorifier tank.

Gravity Tank 

I installed a  separate gravity tank for the toilets that will be fed from the rainwater tank in the garden eventually. I need to design a control unit to pump rainwater when required and operate from the mains to flush out the gravity tank at regular intervals. At the moment it is connected to the fresh water supply for testing.  This tank was mounted 2.71 metres above floor level.  Nylon washers were placed inside and outside of the tank brass connections fittings.

Storage Tank Connections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What worked for me in relation to the toilets was an 1/2 inch pipe that ran a distance of 15 metres approximately with a storage tank base to floor height of 2.71 meters and this enabled the cistern to fill in approximately 1 minute 45 seconds.

Lessons Learned

  • When tightening compression fittings- a good bit of advice is always leave room for an extra turn on the thread. In this way if there is a leak one can tighten the compression joint further.
  • On the calorifier connections use Jet Blue Plus paste or similar paste and check it is suitable for potable water.
  • The longest run was approximately 20 meters of 1/2 qual-pex and this  supplies enough pressure for a “natural” water flow at the furthest away sink outlet-I also removed the filter in the outlet of the tap to further increase the water flow.
  • Certain isolation On-Off valves have bore diameters that are smaller than the diameter of the pipe bore further reducing the capacity of the water flow. Visually check before purchase.
  • Check that the taps and shower fittings are designed for a gravity system. I used a tap that had a minimum operating pressure of 0.1 bar from the Grohe range (1 metre height of water is = 0.1 bar).
  • I was unaware of what an air lock can look like . In one case no water flowed and in another case I had a constant trickle of water with no air gurgling. To get rid of the air lock I used a small 5 litre pressure sprayer with a silicone hose on the end.Pressure Sprayer

 

 

 

  • Use copper inserts instead of nylon on “qual-pex” when trying to get gravity to work in your favour . They have a wider bore (see below).
Qual-Pex Inserts Copper and Plastic
Copper versus Plastic Inserts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toilet Cistern

As most of the inlet valves on toilet cisterns are now designed for high pressure they come with a restriction devices and sometimes a filter. For use on the gravity system I removed these.

I plan to filter the water at the feed end of the water supply.  Both the toilet storage tank and the calorifier storage tank (supply’s the hot water) are within the thermal envelope. This means that the tanks will not freeze but this brings other issues to be dealt with, such as noise from filling and potential condensation. I installed rockwool insulation around the tank to minimise temperature differences of the indoor air and reduce the noise of water filling the tank as I have no attic space.

The original toilet had a bottom inlet valve made with plastic threads which proved difficult to install.

Cistern Inlet Valve

 

I did have problems with the original cistern valve where I cross threaded the plastic connection (which resulted in a leak) as one finds that space is limited under a toilet/cistern (see below).

Toilet Cistern with Penny valve for turning water off and on at the toilet.
Toilet Cistern Connection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another problem I had was I could not get it to operate correctly from the gravity tank. To solve the above I replaced the inlet valve with a Jollyfill telescopic Wirquin brass inlet valve and removed the high pressure device.

Wirquin Bottom Inlet Valve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I installed  the inlet valve the connection leaked between the rubber seal and cistern. I removed it and placed silicone above the rubber seal. The silicone cured the problem.

Shower

The gravity flow rate proved too low for the shower valve temperature control to work so plan B was acted on. I installed a 1.5 Bar 250w pump to raise the flow rate.

It is a Salamander RP50PT pump (45.5 dBA) . It cost €200 including postage. I am impressed with the low non-intrusive noise it generates. It comes with small sound isolating pads. One can roughly equate a 3dBA increase with twice the loudness.

Another factor to take into account when selecting  and sizing a pump for one, two or three shower units is that the power usage approximately doubles when one selects a 0.5 bar increase for this range of pumps.  So If one is sizing for the use of 3 showers being on at the same time (using one 3 bar pump) and only one  shower is on then one will be using 1000 watts of power most of the time . I feel it is more energy efficient to install separate pumps and in this way one uses the least amount of energy most of the time and the pump will also be quieter as noise increases also with each 0.5 bar of pressure.

Shower Pump
Salamander

 

Painting

Research

Having carried out some DIY painting in the past I decided this time I would invest in good tools as this was going to be the biggest job to date. This first entailed selecting a brand whose painting equipment is rated highly.  I selected tools from the Wooster product range.

There are a few essential tools.
    • The Pole (I selected a 4 to 8 foot adjustable pole called the Wooster Sherlock GT extension pole ). This tool has a few good features such as snap on paint roller head, an extension that snaps in set positions, a tool to fit screw type paint rollers. A substantial rubber hand grip that made the job easier . The highest point of our ceilings are 3.6 metres and this version allowed me to reach the ceilings directly from the floor. Narrow hallways that are less than the length of the pole plus the roller would make it difficult to use this pole length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Rollers– I selected a 3/8 inch nap (pile depth)  for the plasterboard because of its smooth surface and I tried a 9 and 14 inch roller called the pro-doo-z. The Nap determines the amount of paint applied and the paint texture of the wall surface . The 3/8 inch gives a fine finish. If one used a 1/2 inch nap the roller can hold more paint but the texture is different. After trying the 9 inch and 14 inch roller my preference was to use the 14 inch roller as I found it easier, faster and more stable because it is supported at both ends (see below). I would be tempted to try the contract rollers that are supposed to be faster the next time but the finish may not be the same. One can select the right roller from the web site link Wooster Rollers. 
        • Cutting In– A very useful and time saving tool was the Wooster hand-held Pelican kettle .
          Pelican Kettle

          It is available with liners to make it easy to change colours.  It has a section to hold a cutting in brush and a mechanism to hold a small roller. Both of these are necessary in order to end up with the same wall surface texture as the main roller for example around switches and sockets. I used non diluted paint for the cutting in process. One needs a mini roller also for the Pelican holder.

        • Brush– The cutting in brush I used was the Silver tip wooster 2 inch model. I never owned a high quality brush before and it is working out great.
        • Tray/Kettle-I tried the Tray and the Kettle. My preference is the 25 litre Kettle with replaceable liners. I initially bought a Kettle with no liners and the washing out of the tray or kettle at the end of a days painting is time consuming and  non environmental as one must wash the inside completely . Comparing this to using a liner that one can dispose of in the bin. I know at the end of the day it all is non environmental but using plastic liners keeps everything clean and saves time.
        • Safety Glasses and peaked cap -While painting the ceiling it is a vital item.
        • Fresh Air– While the paint is wet the smell is stronger so ensure that your rooms are very well vented. As I am painting in the winter the house temperature has dropped to approximately 9 degrees.
        • Paint-I used Dulux paint as it has a good reputation for quality.
        • Cling Film-In order to keep the brushes and rollers clean I wrapped them in clingfilm overnight. The roller lasted a week and I did not notice any problems even with this amount of time . One just took of the clingfilm and started again with no cleaning required. It also reduces waste.

Technique I used for painting

First Coat– For the first coat on the plasterboard I mixed the paint to a 3 to 1 ratio  (one litre of water to 3 litres of paint) as advised.  By diluting the paint for the first coat it is supposed to allow the paint to get a good bond with the paper finish on the plasterboard. I did not use the traditional wet plaster method on the walls. The paint also needs to be mixed in a separate container. One requires a 1 litre container to carry out the measuring. I experimented with a lower ratio of water and I could not see much of a difference with the Dulux matt white paint on the bare plasterboard only that with two paint coats undiluted the finish looked better . If the walls were wet plastered in the traditional way then the water mix appears to be vital.

I started out using the paint brush and mini roller for the first cutting in but later on I just used the paint brush for the first cut and then used the paint brush and mini roller for the second cut in order to finish with the same texture as the 14 inch roller.

Self Build Painting
14 Inch Roller

After watching numerous methods and comparing the comments I think the following is the best I have come across to date  and having used the ideas it it all makes sense. With Youtube I found one has to watch about ten videos and then decide who is doing it right. Below may help.

https://youtu.be/v61PVzLNemk

Imperfections .

When the first coat of paint is applied it often identifies small imperfections in the plastering. When this happens let the paint dry and fill the imperfection with USG or Gyproc ready made joint filler. When this has fully dried sand it by hand and repaint it with a few coats. This method worked for me.

 

Plaster Board Finish

Wall Finishing and Fire Compartmentalisation

Sanding

The golden rule is-avoid sanding as much as possible by ensuring that the knife finish is smooth at the edges and as close to a final finish as possible.  If one had to do this manually with a sanding block and pole it would be a tough job.

Thankfully over the years people have been improving the tools. I was lucky enough that the builder loaned me his sanding machine.  I just needed a hoover to manage the dust which was picked up free on the free cycle web site. The sanding machine looks like the following:

Sanding Machine
Flex WS 702VEA

Even though the above Flex machine makes the job easier and faster it still is a physical job especially when working overhead.  The hoover was not designed for the above but it worked out OK once the bag and filters were cleaned regularly.

I would suggest safety glasses when working overhead and a face mask at all times.

Technique for Sanding Used

The joints had a second coat of plaster and then a touch up coat was used to remove any edges and at the same time look for and fix any imperfections on the butt finishes (where two boards are joined with no taper edge) or tapered edges. USG 3 Sheetrock (see previous blog) was used for the second and third touch up coat.   I would not recommend the Gyproc joint filler for the second and third coat as it is primarily used for the first coat and it does a great job. When dry the finish is very hard and it would be difficult to sand. There is a Gyproc pro finisher but I found the Sheetrock product very economical and easy to work with for the second and third coat compared to other options.

I used a 150 grit sand paper on the Flex machine and left it at speed 4.   I was expecting that the sand paper would get blocked up but this did not happen. I was advised and found it very important to sand the edges of the joints and ensure that one does not stay too long on the edges as the paper on the plaster board could be damaged.  A light sand in the centre of the joint is how I finished each joint.

Sanding Joint Filler
Edge Sanding of Plasterboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also found it necessary to manually inspect the wall after the electric sander as one is too far away from the wall with the sander to spot imperfections. I made up a hand sanding block for this with a wood fibre board angled to get into corners.

Home Made Sanding Block

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The angled  wood fibre board worked out better for me than dedicated sanding blocks and I used a pre-used sanding disc from the electric sander.

Self Build
Wood Fibre Board as a sanding block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plasterboard Corners

I experimented with the wall corner finishes on whether a sharp edge or rounded corners worked out better. The sharp edges looked like that shown in the top image below and the rounded corner is the image below that. If I was doing it all again I would use the rounded corners as I feel it looks better.

Plasterboard corner finish straight edge. Note dust still on one wall.

 

 

Rounded Corner

Fire Compartmentalisation

Typically with internal wooden stud walls there may be gaps between rooms at floor level or vertically. For this reason one may want to ensure that fire compartmentalisation is addressed (a previous blog covered this in detail). In order to do this I have chosen a B1 rated fire foam for the floor gaps. It also has a secondary benefit of reducing sound travel between rooms at these gaps. The foam I used was Olive PU-476.  The price varies and the best value I found in Ireland was at National Seal Systems in Dublin. I also bought intumescent water based fire sealer for small gaps around the edges of the distribution board and vertical uprights where one partition  meets another.

Self Build

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plaster Board Update

Plastering – Taping and Jointing. Tools and Lessons Learnt.

I finally completed installation of the plasterboard with the help of the mechanical plasterboard lifter and I have now just started taping and jointing. I decided on the international method of finishing the plasterboard rather than the Irish method ( see previous blog https://selfbuild.blog/2016/07/10/plaster-board-plan/) . If one is determined to use the traditional Irish method of wet plastering the whole wall I would still tape the joints with paper tape rather than the nylon/plastic mesh. The paper tape ensures the fire proof rating and from my research it is a stronger joint.

Below is an image of what it looks like when one applies the first joint filler tape coat. There are two to three more coats of plaster filler/compound required to hide the joints completely and some sanding.

Joint Taping
taping joints

I tried different methods and tools such as using a hawk instead of a mud pan to hold the plaster. For me the 12 inch mud pan worked out the best .

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tape dispenser is more important than I thought. The unit I purchased was a good design on paper but not very practical. If I was purchasing a unit again I would go for the steel design . The current model I am using is as shown below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For ones own safety one must be able to roll the paper up  after taping the joint as the hanging paper can  become a trip hazard when moving around.  I would try this steel one instead if I was starting again (see below).

 

 

 

Another item is a glove for the knife hand. If one is working with the filler for a few days I have found it to be very rough on the hands. Over time the skin will toughen up I suppose.

Beads

There are two main types for corner beads used for edge finishing . The steel micro edging (first image below) or the paper tape reinforced with steel (second image). I found it easier to use the steel micro edging rather than the  reinforced tape edging. I tried a few methods of attaching the mesh and I settled for first applying the compound and using a few stainless steel staples(the standard ones are not stainless steel) to fix it securely while applying a finishing coat to fully bed it in. Note-ensure that one fully cleans the stapler after doing this.

 

 

 

 

The steel micro edging I feel is a better method to finish an edge and it is easier to sand and clean when applying wet filler.

Another idea that I did not get to try but it looks interesting is the use of pre-formed corner / edges  using plasterboard. This avoids the use of beads and it is called the ZaapSystem from Prodar.

The reinforced tape comes into its own when one needs to tape two walls that meet with slight angles. The price of this varies from €15 to €30 for the same length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fillers

I tried different fillers/joint compounds . Gyproc dry wall filler (it comes in a bag and is quick setting ). One mixes it with water and it requires the use an electric mixer to prepare it. This bag works out fairly economical but the time spent mixing, the dust, washing out the bucket every hour or so is very time consuming. Another disadvantage is that it sets very fast and is very hard to sand afterwards. The colour is also a disadvantage as it does not blend well with the plasterboard. An advantage is that it works out well when fixing the steel micro mesh.

The next product I tried is the Gyproc bucket version (pre-mixed) 15 litre. This is easy to work with but again it is a white finish which will make it harder to blend into the wall and will require more painting. It is also very expensive.

The best product I found and the most economical for the joint is supplied by Greenspan called USG plus 3 (it is an American product) and it comes in a 17 litre tub. It has the best colour blend for the board, it gives a finer finish, and is easy to sand. It does require a small amount of water to be added to make it extra easy to work with (this makes it go a bit further).

 

 

 

 

Tips

  • When applying filler near floor level increase the width of the filler to ensure that any skirting board lies flush against the plasterboard.

 

 

 

    • Use paper rather than plastic mesh for a stronger and fire safe joint.
    • Practise filing joints in a non critical area such as behind future wardrobes, en-suite or storage room etc.
    • Have a rag /clothe clipped to your belt to wipe away any dried plaster pieces before they get caught in the fresh new compound and leave streaks.
    • Use the 4 inch knife to remove any dried plaster compound or for checking  screw heights. The other knives need to be protected from any edge damage or you will get streaking.
    • If the corner is less than 90 degrees I found it difficult to get a clean edge as there was limited space. In this case I made a finishing tool cut to the angle of the wall and ceiling with a rigid plastic cover to give a smooth surface.
Plastering
Corner Plaster finishing
  • I found it helpful to have the 4 inch knife stuck to the pan with a magnet. It saves some time bending down or climbing down the ladder to get it when using  two other knifes. I typically would have the 6 inch knife for finishing edges and either the 10 inch or 12 inch for finishing butt or tapered joints. The 10 inch stayed in the back pocket .
4 inch Knife stuck to pan
Magnet on pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Fully clean the knifes and dry them at the end of the day.
  • You will notice the difference between good quality knives and low cost knives.
  • If a knife should get damaged by a screw head I used a sharpening stone to repair it.

plastering repair

 

 

 

 

 

  • In order to minimise sanding sometimes it is better to re-apply another filler coat to get a perfect finish.
  • For corners I found it easier to use a corner knife (90 degree angle) and feather the edges with the 10 inch knife.
  • Use the 4 inch knife to clean away any small hardened plaster bumps before starting  the second coat.

Renovation Work

Self Build-Renovating an old house

I came across information over the years that may help the self builder when it comes to retrofits (doing up an existing dwelling).

This is probably the most challenging of self builds as the options are few when it comes to insulating a house that was never designed to be insulated.

The other problem for the self builder is how well were the houses built in the first place -are the construction details good?. If they are good then it may be an easy step (it is evident that today there are problems with new builds. Could it have been any different in the past?)-for example were the cavities clean, state of repair of pointing, brickwork etc., .

A Guide to doing it right

The document below is a very good guideline on renovating an old building correctly when it has solid walls.

a-bristolians-guide-to-solid-wall-insulation

Check for any newer versions at their web site.

I extracted a sample of the contents from the above guide by way of example.

good-practice
Solid Wall Insulation
poor-practice
Solid Wall Insulation Poor Practice

External Insulation and Cavity Wall Insulation

It is worth reading  what has gone wrong and can go wrong with this recent report below on two methods of insulation carried out on as upgrades –Post Installation Performance of Cavity Wall & External Wall Insulation.

Internal Insulation

The other method of internal wall dry lining insulation can be fully reviewed at this web site.

Top Tips from the same author above

It also needs to be realised that by adding insulation to a wall that was not designed for insulation can make the house colder if the solution is not correct, structurally damage the wall over time or cause mould on the inside that may affect your health. The above report goes through this.

Objective

The above will hopefully guide the self builder away from the problems and find the correct solution.

One needs to fully understand that one needs to choose the most robust solution that can withstand something going wrong. 

 

Possible Products 

Some of these products may be safer to use when it comes to old buildings . Some require extra measures to ensure they keep the building dry and you warm.

Diasen Thermal Plaster and its use can be seen at this link Diathonite Evolution internal wall insulation

Calsitherm Climate Board

Multipor products

TecTem from Knauf and idea on prices

Perlite

E-LINE NATURAL HYBRID

Pavadry

Foamglass

Cellulose

Rockwool

Hot Water Tank

Mains Water Plumbing

The hot water tank is a 300 litre stainless steel tank. Stainless steel is better at reducing stratification (minimising mixing) because it conducts less heat compared to copper. Different grades of stainless steel exist for different types of water (hard/soft). One also needs to check the type of welds used on the tank as some can not cope with certain water types.

The tank was modified to allow me to connect the solar PV water heating system (previous blog) in the future using thermosyphonic action i.e. hot water is lighter than cold water so it naturally flows from the top of the tank to the bottom (Reducing the need for pumps). The DC power from the solar panels will be connected to electric heating elements. As the solar power varies the heating elements will adjust the output power through a control unit I am developing.

Self Build Design
Self Build Design

IfI install a solar hot water system or another method in the future this will be done with a plate heat exchanger rather than a coil. I installed extra connections on the tank for this reason. The reason for the heat exchanger is that the tank will heat from the top down. A plate heat exchanger looks like the following

plate-heat-exchanger
Plate Heat Exchanger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If one opts for a coil it creates turbulence while heating the tank.  I found it difficult to find a tank manufacturer who will install the correct surface area of a coil for a climate like Ireland. I feel most are designed for hot countries like Spain where the sun shines and stays shining. If one opts for a coil rather than a plate heat exchanger one requires a large coil surface area to ensure that most of the solar energy transferred in the least amount of time and the temperature returned to the hot water solar panel is at a minimum. In this way the hot water solar panel can operate at its maximum efficiency.

 

Plumbing Design

Mains Water Plumbing

Initially when researching the options available to plumb the house I came across two  main methods- Pressurised/Closed or Gravity/Open. I settled for a gravity based system because of the simplicity, DIY, reduced parts and maintainability. If one can increase the height of the gravity tank the pressure will increase at the taps.

Below is a video of what a pressurised/closed system can do (if it goes wrong and probably very rarely). When I was researching pressurised systems I felt that there seemed to be different ways of designing these and providing the necessary safety levels. I do not like systems where there are potentially hidden failures (when a safety device is supposed to work and does not).

Showers

I also was hoping to use gravity to supply the showers but it is becoming more difficult to find a good choice of shower valves and shower heads that work on low pressure .  The way around this to keep things simple is to install a shower pump in a central location for two of the showers (see below). One can then use a shower head that helps control the flow rate and keep the water use to a minimum.

For one of the showers I already have a shower valve and head that works well on gravity so I will plumb this separately directly from the tank (shower 3 in the layout below).

Design

The plumbing layout for the house is shown below. (The toilets are fed from a separate gravity tank supplied by the rainwater harvesting system as shown on a previous blog.)

Plumbing
Gravity Fed Design

Materials

I am using Qual-Pex for the plumbing in the house. It varies in price so it is a good idea to shop around (The 1/2 inch varies from €70 to €200 for the same pipe). I ended up using 200 metres  of 1/2 inch and nearly 50 metres of 3/4 inch and 25 meters of the 1 inch.

The overflow from the tank needs to be well secured or finished in copper to ensure that if the tank overheats the pipe will not sag/bend or cause a restriction.

The brass fittings are cheaper than the quick connect so I will use these. One needs a good plastic pipe cutter as using a hacksaw is not feasible. I used a Ridgid brand plastic pipe cutter and I am very happy with the quality.

With a plumbing design one needs to ensure that the size of pipes are no bigger than they need to be. One reason for this is that the volume of water in the pipe will cool down and one has to wait for this to run through fully before getting hot water at the correct temperature.

I calculated that  10 meters of 1/2 inch pipe holds approximately 1 litre of water and 10 meters of 3/4 inch holds 2.3 litres. This gives one an idea if a solution is required and the wait time.

The cold water pipes will be insulated as I am concerned that condensation could occur on the surface of the pipe.

I also tried to ensure that the number of connections/joints are kept to a minimum and I tried to place these only at accessible points.

Logistics of getting hot Water to the furthest points.

The kitchen sink hot water supply is too far from the tank so I may develop an on demand system that ensures hot water is available once certain taps are used rather flushing semi warm water down the drain and a one or two minute wait for hot water. Installing instantaneous heaters is not economical.

This on demand system is used in the USA for closed systems and two companies have developed a solution. One is http://www.gothotwater.com/on-demand-water-heater and http://www.taco-hvac.com/media/09.16.14_HotLinkCutSheet_100-93.pdf. The first solution costs around $660 -too expensive.

A way to solve this is only use one 12 volt pump and have a valve at each sink position. This pump will then feed into the gravity header tank rather than the hot water tank (I need to check the regulations) . I want to keep the plumbing connections and electrical devices to a minimum. The power to operate this can be a small solar panel charging a battery.

The plan is to develop a solution around the following -Measure the hot pipe feed temperature, Detect if the tap is going to be used and link this to controlling the pump and valve.

The only item that needs to be purchased is a 12 volt pump and a 12 volt valve and develop the control unit to suit the Irish regulations. I have started on the design of this. In the meantime I will install a third pipe in the bathroom and kitchen for the final solution.

 

 

 

Window Blinds

Window Blinds

I have been looking for a simple cost efficient way of installing blinds on some of the bedroom windows. The windows are nearly 3 metres above the ground and 2.1 metres wide. I did not want a manual method of using long cords hanging down to the floor level because of the child safety risk.

The blinds only purpose is to block out summer light at night. There are solutions for the outside which are the norm across Europe but these I deem too complex. These same units have multiple purposes such as security, provide darkness and reducing solar gain. The simplest to maintain I feel are shown below from one of the following suppliers . The units will not be used every day (unnecessary in the winter) so they should be reliable. The prices start at around 80 Euro.

For the above I have installed cables to supply power rather than use the solar option. These cables can then be fed from one central point with the appropriate voltage from say a battery charged by solar. I also installed the wiring so that a manual switch can be installed rather than using a mobile phone.

What will be important for the above is to find a blind mechanism that is smooth and reliable. Some of the online prices for these appear to be around €90 for 2.1 meter wide and 1 meter long.

If one wants to go the traditional way then the video below may be helpful. When I priced internal motorised blinds in Ireland they were costing around €400 each.