Tuesday, May 26, 2015

(May 25) North Wall Sided

What a wet weekend! Rained on and off for the past 3 days over the Memorial Day holiday. We found a new product at our local Home Depot, Beetle Kill Pine tongue & groove planks. We'd been debating for the last 3 months what to cover the North wall with - wood, flooring, ceramic, wall paper, brick. When we saw the blue stained pine, we immediately knew. Turns out that some HD stores had been carrying this for the past year but it was new to our area. They had just put out the initial load the day before so I was the first that got to rifle through it all looking for the choice boards. I ended up with 25 out of the 80 or so that I went through choosing those that were straight (a must!) and had interesting color/wood patterns.

Beetle Kill Pine planks. 

We used some ceramic tiles we had laying around to space off of the floor a bit and checked for level every couple of rows. Putting this on the wall was MUCH easier than the ceiling had been. I'm also glad the ceiling came in 12' lengths so we didn't have to deal with splicing in 2 planks per row. The Beetle Kill only came in 8'. We tried a couple of experiments using the table saw and a (my lack of) skill saw. Our 10 year old mitre saw had several key components broken off of it so it was out of the question. The challenge is to get 2 boards mitered so that you don't see a huge gap. After an hour of frustration, we headed to Greenville to find a new saw. This would be my early birthday present. :) After shopping at several stores, we chose the Hitachi 12" sliding compound miter. It felt very rugged. The slides were smooth and tight. It also had a nice thin laser that by the way matches beautifully with the cut! All of this and it was $200 less than the DeWalt. I've owned the DeWalt 12" model. I hope the thief who took it is enjoying it because I really like this Hitachi better! We hooked up our vacuum cleaner to the dust collector port since we were going to be cutting inside for 2 days. It did a great job and was actually pretty quiet. The only down side to it all was that our generator wouldn't handle the saw, the vacuum and the air conditioner all at the same time. We would cut for a while and then take a break and run the AC.

Happy Birthday to me! 

The new saw did great! Nice clean cuts that melted right into the next board. We were off and running. We left some room for swelling on at the ends just to make sure though I don't think they'll be moving much. I can't imagine it would ever get any more humid than it is right now! This weekend, we were closing in on 30" of rain this year. In retrospect, we only got 29" last year. It's also expected to rain for most of the next 10 days. I'm sure glad we chose high ground to put the house on! I did have to rip a couple of boards to put a one inch piece at the ceiling line. We'll top it off with some cove or crown molding next week. I think we were as thrilled to actually be done with the wall lights. We've hung them and taken them down a half a dozen times over the past year as we worked on the walls. It's good to have them hanging permanently! They looked great against the pine. We're pretty happy with the choice.

North wall just before we completed. Camera doesn't really pick up the blue tint in the wood in such low light. 

 The wildlife was thrilled that we were there for a long weekend. We put up a new feeder on the window just in time for the 3 days of rain. It stayed busy from sun rise to sun set. :) The raccoons weren't too happy that I've been taking the bird feeder up at night but they had plenty of corn to eat. Creek was too flooded to get to the back of the property to feed the deer. We'll see what it looks like next week.

On Monday, we started working on framing some windows. We brought our router out and are working on this pattern that I found on YouTube. I think it will look really nice with rest of the interior. :) Ironic that the trim is going to cost more than the windows themselves.

Screen Shot from YouTube Video on Craftsman Style Windows

We cut and routed the pieces for one window but didn't have time to put it together. We needed to get out before the next storm hit. Literally, we pulled out seconds before it cut loose. I should have stopped and taken a video of the dam at Lake Tawakoni. Waves were actually washing over the top of it. Winds of 70 mph were shoving my Blazer into the next lane. There were 4 or 5 trees that blew over and blocked the highway on the way to Wills Point. We probably got another 3" of rain over the next hour. Quite a storm!

Friday, May 15, 2015

(May 15) I Love Our New Electric Company!

Just got off the phone with the electric company that services our new property, Farmers Electric Coop. Over the past couple of months, dealing with everyone from customer service to engineers, to warehouse personnel, I have been very pleased. They have been super helpful in setting up new service and helping us plan our installation. We have settled the matter. We're going to have electric service run to our Tiny House and have decided to eat the expense of having the line buried instead of running overhead lines between poles. Besides the fact that I can't stand the look of overhead lines, they wanted us to cut a number of treed to widen the drive way to accommodate their trucks. Not going to happen!

I choked at the quote of an extra $4,000 to bury the line but feel it's worth it in the long run. Also confirmed that they won't allow us to run any additional pipes in the same trench as their wire. We had wanted to run a water line from the meter at the front of the property at the same time but that was a no go. They said we could do as we pleased with the trench after our meter, but not until that point. So - they're going to run high voltage (7200v) primary line underground to a ground mounted transformer just shy of the house. Then, we'll have an electrician complete the line from the transformer to the house. The electric company will provide us with a meter box and a meter but we'll have to install a pole to mount the meter and a 200 amp disconnect.

The best news of the entire process was finding out that they have a rebate program for a number of efficiency and alternative energy upgrades. The 2 that we are jumping on are a $1,000 rebate for purchasing solar panels ($2/watt) and a $100 rebate for purchasing LED light bulbs. WOW! A free $1,000 to spend on solar PV. No restrictions on brand, where you bought them, whether you also apply for the federal 30% tax rebate. Just "Here, spend a $1,000 and we'll pay you back!" They don't even have to be hooked up to our house. We can install them and feed the electricity to a secondary building like a shed or a barn. Very flexible and what a deal. With the federal rebates, this means that I could purchase $1,500 dollars worth of equipment, get a 30% fed rebate of $450 and a $1,000 rebate from Farmers EC leaving a net cost of $50.

Farmers also allows net-metering but does not allow for credit production, meaning that you can make as much electricity as you use but they won't pay you for any excess. You just donate that to the coop. The good news is that as a member of the coop, we get excess profits returned at the end of the year in the form of a credit that typically means a free month or 2 of usage. They also will not apply solar production to their $15/mo account fee. I can keep adding panels until we match peak usage and from that point on, we'll have a $15 electric bill. I can deal with that over having to manage and replace off-grid batteries. I have our generator and a handful of deep cell batteries wired into the system to handle any outages so I feel well prepared as we move forward on this.

Now to the task of choosing PV solar panels. I don't want to waste my money on overpriced products but I want to purchase from a company that actually has a chance of being there if and when I need something replaced under warranty. They can all state 25 year warranties but you realize that the 25 years is assuming that someone answers the phone 2 decades from now. A lot of companies have gone out of business in the last 10 years and certainly a lot more will be falling off the radar. The good news is that there are a number of sources that are now at or below a dollar per watt for nice panels. That will leave me plenty of cash to spend on a nice pure sine inverter. I've got until the end of 2015 to qualify for the Farmers rebate and federal rebates don't end until 2016. We'll need to lots of planning to make the best of this and will likely end up buying more than the 500 watts that maxes out the local rebate. I'll post an update as we go! :)

Other rebates that Farmers is offering until the end of the year that we will likely not take advantage of are:
Central AC Tune-Up
Purchase of new Heat Pump AC (2 ton unit or larger)
Purchase of new High Efficiency Electric Water Heater
Installation of Solar Screens (I object to their not offering rebates on window tint. It's much better in most cases than screens. I know - I sell and install both!)
Installation of Wind Generator (we'll examine this again and might put up a small system just to experiment with but we're so heavily wooded that there's rarely any breeze available at a height lower than 60')

Definitely worth calling your electric company or checking their website to see if anything is offered! No sense in passing on free money! :)

(May 15) Update after the rains

Just had to come out to the property after the torrential rains we've had over the past couple of weeks. Happy to report that other than a wet driveway, everything was in great shape out at the property. Creek is full! Neighbor's ponds are full! But, no leaks and no downed trees. I also needed to pick up my camp stove as we are cooking for a friend's wedding in next couple of days. We decided to practice again last night as we were prepping. It's actually a lot of work to get ready to feed 120 people! :)

These were actually great. Little burger sliders with fresh veggies and Honey Wheat buns. The cold beer and margaritas helped a little too! :) 

Stopped to take a picture of this Blue Tailed Skink by Tiny House. First we've seen out here. Varieties range from Australia to all of North and South America. Nature gets the best colors! 

Wanted to also send out a big "Thanks" to Diane at Master Lock. We had a lock fail this week and she was very helpful and courteous in processing the order for a replacement, free of charge. We've always liked Master Lock and this reinforces that loyalty. They actually put in an order for production of a new lock that matches our key since we purchased a 4 pack of locks a couple of years ago and didn't want to have to carry 2 sets of keys. I love it when companies get Customer Service right! I don't mind that products occasionally fail. I just want to know that the company will stand behind them.

Monday, May 4, 2015

(May 4) Kitchen Sink Installed

Well, it was a good weekend. Not incredibly productive, but pretty relaxing. We did get the kitchen sink installed. We still have to mount the cabinet to the wall and cut the drain hole in floor for the sink but at least the sink is in. The plumbing kit that we got from HD was a bit short to connect both sinks together so we'll have to find an extension. We also used the adhesive strip that came with the sink from IKEA to seal the edge to the countertop. Next time, we'll be using plumbers putty. We'll wait until the cabinet's secure to put the end supports on the countertop. Can't wait to see what it all looks like with the fridge and stove installed!

Kitchen sink and Elfa drawers.

Solid core door. I forgot how heavy real doors are! 
We pulled out the bathroom door to begin planning for installation. We were originally going to put it on the interior of the bathroom but decided that it would look much better on the outside and be more functional as we need access to the shelves in the bathroom on a regular basis. If it were on the inside, we would have to open the door to enter the bathroom. Close the door to get to the shelves. Open the door to get back out of bathroom. Mounted on the outside, we will likely leave it open except when guests are here. Neither of us are very modest! :) We'll use some Oak to mount the rail to. With hardware, the door will be about 70+ lbs. I just want to make sure it's well secured. 

We picked up a Barn Door kit from HD and can't wait to get it installed. The heavy black steel will look great against the natural honey color of the wood. 

Kim chose a clear polyurethane finish for the door. Just a clear coat that should let the natural grain of the wood come through well. Kim's going to try some sample coats on some wood we have at home as a test run before we approach the door. We also got our interior paint, a white eggshell finish with a slight gray tint. I think it'll make the black sofa really stand out. 

On the natural side of things, we established several bird feeders right outside of our South living room windows. What a mistake. We must have sat there 3-4 hours on Saturday just watching the swarms of birds. We identified a couple that we had not seen before - a male and female Summer Tanager. They really add some color to the landscape. We also had numerous woodpeckers, cardinals, hummingbirds, doves and chickadees visiting. It was a good wildlife day except that the raccoon ate almost a full feeder full of sunflower seed. We will have to find a solution to limit him to the corn we put out for him and the deer.

Female Summer Tanager

Male Summer Tanager

Red-Bellied Woodpecker that kept drinking out of the hummingbird feeder! We put out water but he must like the sugar. His favorite foods are peanuts and suet. He and his mate spent all day at at the feeders.