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DayCreek Journal

December 23 , 2012

Happy Winter Solstice


Snowy Cordwood Houseá
View of our house and garage/workshop. (Click on the above image for a larger view.).

It's been a bittersweet celebration of the holiday season this year. Let us never forget the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Trying to comprehend how someone can do something as despicable as they did is a lesson in futility. The question on my mind is what we will do as a society to prevent this from ever occurring again. Personally I feel the answer to this is not just one thing. You can't blame it all on guns, violence in the media, mental illness, violent computer games, drugs, gangs or family values but they ALL need to be looked at with a magnifying lens.

Solar Problem #1:
Closer to home, it's been busy as usual. This autumn I had to replace one of the two solar PV inverters. The Xantrex Suntie inverters that were purchased at a substantial discount back in 2004 did a fantastic job, but one of them started acting flaky in October. It's efficiency suddenly dropped to about 50% from around 93%.

Unfortunately, Xantrex was bought out by Square D and Square D was bought by Schneider Electric. I had no luck trying to get it fixed as it is no longer supported anymore and finally gave up and replaced it with a Sunnyboy inverter.

I do wonder if either box elder bugs or Asian beetles caused the demise of the inverter. Although I have tried my best to keep them out of the inverter cabinet, a few still manage to get in. One could have shorted out the inverter, although I have not found any trace of that. It could just be that the inverter got old.

As it stands now, (1) Xantrex Suntie 2500 inverter is still in operation along with (1) brand new Sunnyboy 2000HF. The Sunnyboy 2000HF does run at a higher voltage, so I had to rewire the panels to bring up the voltage. The Sunnyboy also uses different software to report statistics and I'm trying to come up with a meaningful way of reporting both inverter's statistics on the website, but that's a project for 2013. At present, only the Suntie's data is being recorded.

Solar Problem #2:
Another problem that I had this autumn is with the solar heating system. The solar heating system has (3) air evacuators located in various high points within the huge loop to remove air bubbles from the glycol solution. Unfortunately these air evacuators have a history of leaking fluid and after a few years of service, I had to add a few gallons of fluid and recharge the system.

Recharging the system requires getting out a jet pump and a big tub to circulate the fluid, remove air bubbles and re-pressurize the system. Since I have been down this road before, it wasn't too much of a I thought.

Before I went away for the weekend, I tested the solar heating system and the backup radiant floor heating system—both seemed to work fine until it got cold enough in the house that the backup boiler system kicked in. On that Sunday evening I checked on the temperature stats inside the house and found that the temperature in the house continued to drop while the boiler temperature was sky-rocketing! Temperatures at the boiler were getting close to 200°F!!!

Of course this occurred at the most inopportune time as it had just finished snowing 6 inches. I frantically called my neighbors that Sunday evening asking if they could run up to the house to shut down the boiler. (I had visions of a relief valve blowing glycol solution all over the house!)

Thankfully my neighbor plowed his way up my driveway at 9pm on Sunday and got in the house to see what was going on. He confirmed that the boiler was EXTREMELY HOT. Luckily, it tripped into a fault mode and prevented a pressure release or worse yet an explosion.

I had him shut of the power to the boiler and I returned on Monday morning to see what caused the problem. I had my suspicions that it was an air bubble trapped in the boiler loop and sure enough that's what had happened. The boiler loop has it's own air evacuator but this one requires you to loosen the cap on top of the unit and also twist the evacuator itself in order to release the air.

That's all it took to fix the problem along with resetting the boiler. All is well now. It's amazing how an air bubble can cause so much grief!

I am so VERY thankful for having GREAT NEIGHBORS. Thank you so very much Bill and Mandi!

As a final commentary to the solar problems, we have had many years without problems from both the solar electric and solar heating systems, but don't be fooled into thinking that they will run indefinitely. Things do wear out over time no matter what type of renewable energy system you install, crap will happen.

That's about it for this go-around. Have a Safe and Peaceful Holiday Season and Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year!.

-- Alan Stankevitz


Happy Winter Solstice!