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DayCreek Journal

October 15, 2000

Ladybugs Crash Solar Panel Raising Party

Pictured here, left to right are Dean, Vic and Gary.

The weather couldn't have been better for Saturday's solar collector raising party. Temperatures were in the low 70's with bright sunshine. The only damper on the day was the hoards of Cajun, Asian ladybugs that were everywhere. There were thousands and thousands of them. I have never seen so many ladybugs over the last week. They got so bad that I had to use a shop vac out to suck up between 200 and 300 ladybugs that found there way into the cabin. But, on to the good stuff...

First, a very special thanks to all that turned out for the party. My brother-in-laws Jon and Vic, my brother Jim and his family, my friend Gary, Dean who helped install trusses last year and his brother Curt and his uncle Fred. And of course, my wife, Jo. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The ten collectors that had to be installed were split up into two groups of five. If you recall, there were five manufactured by one company and the five manufactured by another. Each with their own quirks.

I discovered a major problem with one of the sets late Friday afternoon. The brackets would not slide onto the sides of the panels, only the tops and bottoms. Since the collectors needed to be mounted on the bottoms and the sides, this caused a serious problem. The only way to slide the brackets on was to remove enough of the rail so that the bracket could sit flush with the side and mesh with the rails. (It's just like a zipper needing a starting point in order to zip.)

So here I am hours away from raising the collectors with five of them without side brackets. I ended up buying a bunch of grinding wheels Friday night and as soon as it was daylight on Saturday I was grinding the sides of the collectors. I started using a grinding wheel attached to a drill and quickly learned why they sell grinders for grinding wheels. The Rpm's were too low to do much good. Jo came to the rescue and ran over to the local Menards in town to buy me a grinder. Two hours later, the collectors had brackets!

Vic frantically tries to take the collectors apart after Gary somehow got stuck inside of a collector. Can you guess what company Vic works for?

Everyone showed up on time and we started raising the collectors at 11 AM. With four people per collector, the collectors got hoisted up on the frames with ease. Then it came time to bolt them down. The first five collectors had side brackets that had a lot to be desired. The only way to mount the bracket to the frame was to predrill the holes and the only way to know where to drill the holes were to set the collector in place, mark the hole, drill and then reinstall the collector.

After doing this a number of times, Gary and Vic became experts at estimating where the drill holes were to go and blindly drilled the holes. And they got them right each time! (If I ever need a hole drilled again, I know who I'm going to ask.)

The second set (the ones that I had to grind the rails) were a breeze Within an hour they were done. We were amazed how fast the collectors can be raised when all of the planets just align perfectly.

Success! After a long hard day installing collectors and fighting off ladybugs, it's time for a cold one. Left to Right: My friend Gary, yours truly, my brother Jim and two of my favorite brother-in-laws Jon and Vic.

Finally, all of the pipe unions were tightened securely and both sets of collectors were pressure tested without any leaks. We celebrated with a few beers and lots of smiles. Again, I could not have done it without the help of family and friends. It's a great feeling to finally have the collectors up on the frames and I owe it all to those who helped. Family and friends came in from the Chicago area and as far away as Kansas City to help and I can't thank them enough for their efforts.

The next few weeks will have me busy digging trenches, burying tubing and finishing up the mechanics of the system. Stay tuned for the details as we get closer to turning on the heat from the sun.