Sunday, April 24, 2016

(Apr 24) Tiny House Village at Earth Day Texas 2016

EarthDay Texas 2016.  Huge crowds to see the 9 tiny houses on display.  BA Norgard with her home A Bed Over My Head, organized a Tiny Village for the event.  Come back tomorrow.  I'll add links to their websites.  Rushing off for the final day of volunteering for crowd control!  :)  - Jay and Kim

Monday, April 18, 2016

(Apr 18) Busy Spring - Siding, Interior Trim and Solar Inverters

Sorry it's been a while since I've updated everyone. We've had a crazy busy Spring so far. There was an onslaught of window tint jobs (Kim and I do architectural window tinting on the side. It really helps fund our Tiny House build.) that filled our weekends for the last couple of months. Last year, our first job of the season wasn't until May. People typically wait until it starts getting really hot before they break down and spend the money. Not the case this year. The economy is better than we've seen in a long time. Lots of new businesses opening and lots of businesses renovating businesses. Unemployment at an all time low and people are spending money again. Things just keep moving up year after year. Good to see!

Teriyaki Salmon from Hashi, a Japanese restaurant we tinted earlier this Spring. Great food!!

Great eel and shrimp rolls, covered in Panko and sesame. Truly some of the best sushi we've ever had. 

We've also had a lot of family "experiences" over the last couple of months. One daughter broke her foot in multiple places and had to have surgery. She missed 2 months of work but is back on her feet now a little at a time 4 months later. At the same time, another daughter was hospitalized for seizures and was unable to keep any food or drink down. Turns out she has multiple ulcers. She had lost 70 lbs over the past 6 months while multiple doctors kept telling her she just needed to eat more. Grrrr. She's doing much better and is actually able to eat regularly. She had one spell when she was hospitalized that she had not eaten a meal in 13 days.

My parents and my sister came up from the coast and stayed about a week with us. It was so good to see them all and have most of the family over. Their radiator had cracked on the trip up and I drove about 250 miles south to help them limp it up here. Thanks to my younger sister for helping me change the radiator on dad's Dodge/Cummins truck. She had lost her husband this winter to Hep C. :( They had been separated for some time but were still close.) I think the trip out of town did her some good.

It was raining one weekend so we decided not to go work on the Tiny. We got bored and decided to start remodeling my youngest daughter's bathroom. She still lives at home while going to college for the next couple of years. She did a great job at demoing the room down to the studs although she was a bit nervous having to use a cut-off tool to get the bathtub out.

Stripped the bathroom down to the studs. Tub was stuck so we had to cut it out! That was a fun day. 

Got the new tub and new toilet installed. 

I also helped her change the struts on her car one day. I'm really proud of her in that she's pretty fearless at taking on new challenges.

Sabrina, changing struts on her Mazda, something most 18 year old girls haven't experienced!

We have managed to squeeze in some work days on our Tiny. For the first time, I'm actually pretty excited about our punch list to get the house finished. We've gotten trim put up inside as well as some baseboards. We've also finished all of the Hardi siding and battens on the outside as well as most of the exterior window trim. We still have a some roof trim and gutters to install as well as painting the exterior. On the inside, we need to trim the door and the rest of the windows. We're also trying to finalize our choice for kitchen backsplash. The bottom line though, we're down to a manageable list. For the past year, it hasn't seemed like we were ever going to finish. Now, our target is the end of next month. :) It's a great feeling! I'm still in awe sometimes when we stop to take a break and take in all that we've accomplished. Not perfect but not bad for a couple of old people that had never even built a doghouse.

Broom/Vacuum closet we installed earlier this winter

We realized the broom closet we installed this winter had been put flush against the wall without a baseboard down. This meant that once the baseboard went down, we would not be able to open the door. So, we build a small base for it so the door will now clear. Just one of those times that you get so excited to make some progress that you really don't think it through. We were short on time when we installed the base so we'll end up having to paint it in place another day. Another reason I love the vinyl flooring! If you make a mistake (ie spill a gallon of paint on it!), it cleans right up. Good stuff!

Broom Closet on footing with baseboard installed

We got stuck inside this past weekend due to rain so we made some progress in finishing up some trim that had been on the list for a long time. We also bought the lumber to trim the door but we couldn't get a break in the rain long enough to carry it down the 700 feet of driveway. I really didn't want it getting soaked and then warping. It'll hold until next time. Still on the list - finish the soffit on North side, put up remaining trim on the roof, paint the exterior. It'll be a busy couple of weeks.

Trim put up along the ceiling/wall line

South Wall soffit, siding and battens

North siding and battens. Still need to finish the soffit.

East wall soffit, siding and battens installed

West wall complete with soffit, siding and battens. Yes, we need to take down the Christmas lights!

Planted some flowers and herbs. Hope the animals leave them alone for a while! :) 

We got our inverters in and installed on our solar array. I finally decided to go with Enphase micro-inverters. I couldn't find a single large inverter that I was happy with that I could afford. The Enphase units were $150 ea while a single large inverter was in the $1,500 range. I didn't like the idea of putting all of our investment into one piece of equipment that only carried a 2-year warranty. The Enphase units have a 25-year warranty, same as the solar panels. They also allow for MPPT management which will keep the array pumping out the maximum power available through shady conditions. I used a Midnite Solar AC Disconnect box. This lets me shut down the whole system with one easy switch and offers combining features if I install another array. Basically, each panel feeds into it's own inverter. There's a proprietary cable that Enphase makes that ties all of the AC lines coming out of the inverters into one trunk cable which you feed to a breaker in the disconnect box. Then, you have a simple 240v connection that you can wire back to your bi-directional meter. Connection for all of this was really simple. The panels plug straight into the inverters. The inverters plug into the trunk cable. You terminate the trunk cable on one end for safety and wire the other into the breaker on the disconnect. I really want to thank Daniel at EcoDirect for taking the time to help me put the order for our equipment together. He was very patient and thorough.

Solar array with inverters installed

Here are some links that will be helpful for those looking to put up their own solar arrays:

Enphase Microinverter

Enphase Trunk Cable

Midnite Solar AC Disconnect

 I will also be adding a Kilowatt Meter inline. This will allow me to measure the output of the array. It won't be as fancy as the Enphase control module that monitors each inverter's performance, but it also only costs $60 instead of $500. When you're only making $15-$20 worth of electricity per month, it doesn't make sense to buy something that's going to eat up an additional 2 years worth of production. I need to have the electric company change out our meter for one that accepts incoming electricity. After that, we should be ready to wire the system to the grid. It'll be really cool watching my meter run backwards! Being a grid-tie system, the inverters don't produce any AC electricity unless they sense live electricity from the grid. That way, you don't send juice down the line while someone is working on a transformer. Otherwise, they're pumping clean, free power (after I paid for all of the equipment) into the grid for the next 25-30 years. Good to be part of the solution!

We've started doing some rose gardening. Just 4 bushes to start off with. So far, we've had some beautiful flowers come off. Can't wait for them to mature completely. I'll be so excited when we have enough water at Point to start doing some gardening on a large scale out there!

In the middle of all of this, I damaged my spine. (Couldn't have been from all of the work!) Just below the 5th Lumbar, you can see where the discs separated. I was pretty miserable for a while but some good chiropractic work had me back up and going after a couple of weeks. Luckily no surgery needed and no long-term damage that we know of. I'm being much more careful about how I lift things that I shouldn't now. LOL

Wild pigs out at Point are getting braver and braver. We are now seeing evidence of rooting in the yard around the house and this weekend, for the first time, we saw them out in the middle of the day, less than 100' from the house. About 20 pigs in this sounder. For the most part, they're really skittish and ran off as soon as they spotted us. On the other hand, there were several times that we were walking through the woods where we could hear one (sounded large but don't they all when you can't see them!) growling and grunting at us. They just seem to be getting braver. Maybe it's just the mating season that's got them a little riled. I'll definitely be carrying a rifle or pistol when I make treks to the back half of the property from now on. Don't want to get caught too far from the house with no protection.

Hope to see many of you out at EarthDay in Dallas this weekend. We'll have 10 Tiny Houses (on wheels) on display there from across the country. My wife and I will be there as well as many from the Dallas/Fort Worth Tiny House Enthusiasts group. We hope to see you there! If you're not from the DFW area, please look for events in your local towns. Together, we can all make a difference!

BA Norgard at EarthDay Texas 2015. She'll be joined by 10 other Tiny's this year to make a Tiny Village! :)