Wednesday, October 29, 2014

About To Leap Off The Grid!

We are just a couple connections away from running on sun power!

This past weekend, Dan and I spent two full days carefully reviewing, prepping, assembling, and installing our solar power system. All that remains to be done is to ground a few different items in our "power center", install the Tri-metric battery monitor, and then actually connect the line leading from the house up to the panels.

We had a fair mix of plain old labor (digging trenches and yanking wire through conduit) and the more cerebral challenges of making sure we understood and replicated the many schematics and diagrams that came with all of our parts and pieces.


We are both beyond excited to finally get this system up and running, but certainly did not want to rush through anything. With great hesitation, we packed up and put everything away for the weekend around 4pm on Sunday. After all, when you work full time, your weekend should have at least a couple hours of down time right? Not to mention my body needed a break. 

Now THAT is a tiny space.

I spent the better part of this weekend folded up inside our utility closet. Dan's a lot bigger than me, and I did the bulk of the homework on this stuff, so I wedged myself in there to put all the pieces together. When I get locked into a project- everything else seems to fall away. My awareness hones to a pinpoint, and suddenly I am unaware of anything else....like sound, temperature, physical sensation, passage of time and so on. At some point, my legs had gone numb, and when I crawled out of that little space at the end of the day I nearly fell over! My muscles had cramped into that position, so for a few entertaining minutes, I hobbled around half hunched over like a 90 year old lady.



**Note- I began writing this post's draft before receiving some very sad news. My uncle passed away late Sunday.  For anyone who may have known Paul Belhumeur and would like to pay respects, we welcome you to his services on Thursday October 30th. More information is here. **


As a result, this post will remain brief. I had plans to begin laying out the details of our system in a two or three part series, but my mind and energy are elsewhere. I will begin doing so with the next post. 

Please send love, prayers, warmth, hugs, or any kind of support to my family- if you would.

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If you plan on leaving your panels mounted but not yet connected-
tape the ends of the cables! Some sort of flying insect decided to lay larvae
in our male MC4 connector ends. Not fun to clean out.


He's such a hard worker :)


Lightning arrester...

Wiring the combiner box...


Lightning arrester wired.

Time to wire these panels together!

Mounted the combiner box.



Feeding wires through the conduit.

Finishing up the wiring of the panels into the combiner box. 


Working on the e-panel wiring.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Annnnnd We're Back!

One of many TH inspired pieces of decor. :)
What an amazing whirlwind!

The past couple weeks have been jam-packed with wonderfulness. Major milestones, long time friends uniting, and more. As many of you know- Dan and I GOT MARRIED on the 10th! Wooo!
It was nothing short of surreal. Every bit of it was perfect- (well I was a little late and had to rush through photos, but I have every confidence that the photographer got some great stuff!) everyone could not stop gushing about the decor, the ceremony, and I must say- I felt like some kind of celebrity. :) I was greeted with gasps as people saw me for the first time- and that elevated me to a level somewhere well beyond bliss. I wanted to look unforgettable that day, as I married the most amazing man I've ever known, and I think that was accomplished. ;)


One of the outdoor bouquets. 

Another milestone that kind of got glossed over in the chaos- October 1st marked one full year of living in the Pod! It's hard for us to believe most days. It still feels like we just got ourselves moved in. Even a year later, we are still working out different details. Where to best store things, how to manage the mess (I think we need to invoke a no shoes policy) and of course, we are still working on that dang siding. It has taken a backseat over the past few months, but we need to do something to protect and seal it before winter! 
A phone camera shot from later in the night- I'm sporting my reception dress here. 


Another, slightly less related event, after returning from my wedding, I also went back to work at our brand new office building and I LOVE IT. Not only did they purchase and renovate (not wreck) a building, but the place, like all our other offices is beautiful, inspiring, and full of art. But that's not even the best part! With this new building, they are putting their green initiative into full swing. 




No trash cans at every desk! No throw away containers in the cafeteria! Centralized recycling stations every 15 desks or so. And an AWESOME fitness center! There are some whiners already. God forbid you have to get up and walk 20 feet or so to throw something away. We all need to move more! It makes sense! Our brains, our bodies, all work better when we move more throughout the day. Not to mention we are choosing to be responsible and respectful of the ONLY HOME WE HAVE. I hope all the initiatives stick.










EEEEEEEE!!!



REAL DISHES- no more plastic salad containers!


Okay, so maybe this conference isn't so bad. Roof top pool!
I am writing to you all, as I sit in my hotel in Phoenix. Yes, not even a week after being wed, I am off on a four day conference. I thought it would be fine, and in reality it is- I'll live, but being away from my hubby the very next weekend kind of sucks. And I lose a weekend of working on house stuff.  (I left early Saturday morning.)




You can see the top right corner still unsanded.
The whole wall looked like that. :/
But Dan is still home and was very enthused about putting in some serious hours while I was away. We have plenty to do- no surprise there. We have to clean up the siding that has been weather beaten and started to gray over the last couple months. It's been a sore spot for us both, each time we pull into our driveway and see the once pretty blonde siding all mucky and black/gray. Over Saturday and Sunday, Dan was able to sand the full end wall of our house. I am elated. It was weighing on us both, and I can't wait to get home and see it myself!

Perhaps a more immediate need is to install the direct vent propane heater we recently purchased. Since we are moving to solar power, electric heat in the winter is a definite no go. There is less sun, less power, and it just wouldn't make any sense! We hee'd and haw'd over propane versus a wood stove, and although we both really love and prefer the wood stove, we had to be sensible. First- the TRULY American companies I found that produce quality stoves in a size we can use are all back ordered until the spring- second, any stoves that were available required safety dimensions that just would not work for us. If the stove has to be at least 3 feet from everything, it would be smack in the middle of our main floor! Nope. 


The second aspect of wood stoves for tiny houses is the fact that they are a lot of work. Not just cutting, splitting, and hauling wood into the house or cleaning up the ash on a regular basis, but the fact that a stove that small can only hold so much wood. Finding the perfect placement of the flue can help with how fast the wood burns, but lets face it, if you have two tiny logs that are 15 inches long, they will only burn for so long.  We would need to be able to tend the stove every hour at least, and since we both have full time schedules, that's not a possibility. I grew up with wood heat and loved it. The kind of heat produced from wood stoves is unparalleled, and I like that it was very DRY heat. We are worried about the moisture loads we dealt with last year (only two or three instances) and the idea of wood heat drying that place right out was nice. But then I thought about our lungs. My parents had two huge humidifiers going at all times, and even a cast iron kettle full of water on top of the stove. We have neither the space nor the power considerations to handle this....so propane it is.



We still have not given up on the idea- maybe later on, if we find a great stove that can hold its own throughout the day, or one of us can be around or close enough to stop in and tend the stove, we would consider it. 

Next up after the stove install is solar power. We have set the panels to the correct angle, collected all the parts we need (I hope), dug the trench for the power line leading up to the house, and now we just need to suck it up and hook it up. I will be reviewing the schematics when I have free moments throughout this week.

Well that's all for now! I have to get ready for day two of the conference, but I promise we will get back in the swing of regular posts!

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

CHECK OUT OUR SPOT ON CUSTOMMADE.COM!!!

WE ARE SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS!!!

The article and video are finally here folks! Check out our interview and showcase of our home over at custommade.com!

The photos and video Danny took are amazing. They did the most fabulous job splicing together the highlights of our interview, making us sound so smart! haha Anyways! That is all! Check it out people!!!! WOOOOO!!!



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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Surprises Are Awesome

"It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop." -Confucius

Those are words I need to repeat over and over these days. Life is a whirlwind as we count down to the big day, and of course, the weather is turning, which adds another level of urgency to our house projects. Another quick post today- just to keep everyone updated!

This past weekend held a couple of wonderful surprises. First, a surprise bridal shower! If not for a little toddler explaining to me that "the bridal shower is supposed to be a secret", I would have been completely bowled over--but even knowing it was going to happen didn't prepare me for the event. I wasn't expecting the sheer number of ladies that came together to celebrate with me. I am truly humbled,  and over-whelmed with gratitude, warmth, and love. I have a wonderful family, and soon I will be joining one just as lovely. Judy, Beth, and Julia- thank you so much for all the work you put in! It was evident that this day was thought over time and again. There were so many little details that truly made it a day unique to me- including cute little quiz poems and a gluten free cake! YUM! To everyone who came- THANK YOU, THANK YOU! The support and love I felt in that room was amazing. I will cherish that day forever. :)

SO many ladies! :) Thank you!!

The second surprise was actually getting some work done on the solar panels. HA! On Saturday, about mid-morning I said, "I'd be happy if we just got the grass cut back and one row of panels taken off the racking." Setting us up for a small, non-intimidating goal seems to be the key to our success lately. After we ran a few errands in town, and grabbed a few supplies- including the large guage wire and conduit we need for our solar, then we came back and got started.

Don't let it fool you- that thing is evil.

Dan whacked back all the grass growing in front of our first row, and then also cleared a path for where our conduit will be put in the ground. Meanwhile, I faced one of my fears and did some poison ivy clean up. Nightmarish visions of me covered in blisters coming down the aisle kept my eyes sharp. I wore latex gloves over work gloves and had long pants and sleeves to help too. I plucked quite a pile and managed to clear out most of the ivy that had grown into the space of our panels. There is still some under the row we need to continue working on, but I wasn't about to work in an area that required crawling. NO THANK YOU. I will wait until the panels are out of my way!

 We then removed the first set of panels. It went pretty quick, so we decided to make the cuts we needed to the racking. We made our marks on each side of each post, double checking to make sure they lined up on either side, and then Dan carefully cut the lines using a skill saw. 

On Sunday, after my wonderful shower, I was feeling pretty amped and decided I wanted to keep going with what we started Saturday. I quickly changed into pants and headed back out. We cut the pieces we needed to mount on the new angle, and then replaced the lengthwise boards that were there to begin with. After securing all that, we put our panels back up. It felt SO GOOD to see one row finally fixed. We decided to take the panels off the second row too.

Dan took the length wise boards off and now, we just need to mark and cut the posts and both sets will have the right angle! Woohoo! Also- as for the solar parts saga, I got sick of waiting for someone else to do their job basically, so I called the corporate headquarters of the company that made specific said part. It was a breath of fresh air to hear someone say, "Oh, I'm sorry that this happened! It should not have taken so long for that. What is your address, I will mail it out today." They didn't ask for any proof of purchase, any account number, they just HELPED ME. That part arrived today and now we can put the whole thing together.


One of Dan's friends has a brother who is an electrical engineer, and the two might be coming over to help us next weekend! I was beginning to think that sun power wasn't going to happen until after the wedding, but now it's looking like there might be a shot!! WOOO!

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That angle looks better!

.........

YAY!!!








Thursday, September 4, 2014

Progress: An Inch at a Time

Our activity over the next month will undoubtedly be minimal as we close in on the big day.

That being said, I will try my best to keep in touch and keep posting! They might be micro-posts in comparison to our usual content, but hey! We're still here- still doing the tiny house thang- we just need to divert more attention elsewhere for the time being.

Sooo- Dan's truck broke down Saturday morning, and he started his first day at RIC this week. We scrambled around to make arrangements for another car in the meantime, a tow, getting ahold of the mechanic on a holiday weekend, making sure his parking pass deal wouldn't get screwed up, and so on. Needless to say, that threw a big ol' wrench into plans we had for the weekend. I never realized just how much we use his truck when it comes to hauling basic stuff around. Collecting more pallets, getting long pieces of lumber at the store, hauling power tools from one site to the next...not to mention just not having your own set of wheels. We often split up duties, one of us will run off and do this, while the other goes there and does that. Not this weekend! So we re-adjusted.



 Among many other wedding things, we were able to mark the new/correct angle for our panels on the racking. After seeing how much we have to lop off- we were happy to learn that we can still use our racking. There are only a certain number of holes on the back side of our panels and we needed to make sure we could still fasten onto the racking at those distances. We came up with a new way to mount them once all the cuts have been made.



I'm not even sure I want to say- "We hope to work on the panels this weekend"- but I guess I just did! Progress seems to be crawling while time is flying. We are making a point to stay positive each day. We've jump started our super healthy eating once again, back to meditating, got all of our favorite supplements back on the shelf, and feeling pretty good each day. We want to look our best for the big day! And we really needed to quit it with all the take-out. It was beginning to be more of a problem than a convenience. We were feeling groggy, sluggish, cranky. It's amazing how much food can affect you. Eat garbage, feel like garbage.



Anyways! We plan to take it all in baby steps, but we really hope to take the panels off one rack and get the rack cut. Then, if there's more time in the weekend, we will try to re-mount!

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