A few weeks ago we ordered some Flor for our bedroom. It’s a rug system composed of a series of Flor “tiles” that are each 19.7" x 19.7". They show up in what look like oversized pizza boxes. The tiles are joined together underneath, at the corners, using thin adhesive discs. The carpet fibers are embedded in a rubbery substrate, which means you can cut the tiles however you want without worrying about a frayed edge (you can see we edged our rug using half-tiles that I cut with a carpet knife), and it’s a soft enough material that the rug doesn’t move around even on a slippery faux-wood floor like we have in the bedroom. Best of all, if something happens to the carpet in a particular place, the affected tile can be lifted out from the rug, cleaned or replaced, and fitted back into place. The carpeting in the Akasofu Building where I used to work was of a similar design, but Flor is primarily intended for non-commercial uses.
We ordered something they call “Tonal Vision”, which is a combination of three different styles of tile, each style in two different colors. It comes in red, cream, or blue. I’m glad we chose this option because we can see the differences between three of the styles they sell. “Solid Ground” is very low and soft, with almost no texture at all, and has a slightly beveled edge. The beveled edge would make more sense for a continuous carpet in this style, but it’s such a minor feature that you don’t really notice it when combined with tiles of different colors and textures. “Toy Poodle” is most similar to a normal rug, and “House Pet” has a really interesting, tactile texture like the scrubby side of a scrubby sponge. The six colors do go together quite well, but we’ve discovered that Solid Ground seems to attract dog hair, and because these tiles are so smooth, and are both lightly colored, it’s pretty obvious. We haven’t tried our carpet sweeper on it yet, but hopefully it’ll be able to pick up most of the dirt that’s on the surface of the Flor.
I’m really happy with the way it turned out, and I expect we’ll be buying more of it when we’ve come up with a decorating plan for the other rooms in the house.
When we first moved into our new house I was pleased that the system for keeping the water and waste water lines running in winter was based on circulating warmed glycol, rather than electrical heat tape. Heat tape is known to fail without warning, and sometimes even shorts out and starts a fire.
Unfortunately, the setup is quite peculiar. We’ve got a small heating-oil-fired boiler (the white box on the left of the photo) that heats an internal five gallon water tank. A circulating pump from this tank runs into a plate heat exchanger with the hot water on one side and circulating glycol on the other. A second circulating pump circulates glycol out to the water tank, and back around to the discharge pipe running to the sewage treatment plant. With the boiler set around 165°F, the glycol stays between 80–100°F, depending on the temperature outside. The guy who built the place also ran lines to all the bedrooms and the living room so that hot water or glycol could be used to heat the house, rather than using the small, self-contained Monitor heater we’re using now.
There are a couple problems with this system. In order for the boiler to keep the glycol warm enough via the exchanger, the water temperature has to be quite a bit warmer than is usual for a domestic hot water supply. That’s dangerous for someone not familiar with how hot the water will be when it comes out of the tap, and it’s not all that efficient to keep the hot water at such a high temperature. It also seems like this high temperature is necessary to provide for enough hot water that a normal-length shower will stay warm throughout. And there’s no way the boiler would be up to the task of heating radiators throughout the house, in addition to what it’s doing now.
But the more immediate problem is that the glycol lines were accidentally cut and then improperly repaired before we moved in. We were told that the repair was successful, but when the temperature got cold this winter, glycol started leaking out of the repair. Since the glycol lines are plastic, there’s no way to fix the leak during winter. And even when the lines aren’t leaking at low temperatures, air is slowly drawn into the lines through the same faulty repair. After a couple months, the amount of air in the circulating lines is large enough that the lines become really noisy.
The way to get all the air out of the lines is to recharge the glycol, a procedure I performed for the third time this weekend. This involves connecting a transfer pump to the two sides of the circulating loop with a bucket of glycol in the middle. The procedure is to hook up the transfer pump, turn off the circulating pump, turn on the transfer pump, open the system and allow the transfer pump to circulate glycol for fifteen or twenty minutes until the air has been removed. Then close the return side of the glycol lines and allow a bit of pressure to develop before closing the supply side and turning off the transfer pump. Since the system doesn’t need any pressure at all to operate, the last step before turning on the circulating pump is to carefully open one side of the glycol system and allow most of the pressure in the system to force out the remaining glycol. It’s possible that leaving pressure in the lines might force a bit of glycol out of the leak, rather than allowing air into the system, but I’d rather recharge the lines every couple months than deal with a glycol spill.
This weekend is the Home Show, where a bunch of vendors get together in the Carlson Center and show off their products. I’m hoping we can get some suggestions and ideas from people about a better setup for the house. I have a feeling that a larger boiler, combined with a small hot water storage tank might be a better system. The boiler would be heating water or glycol for the outdoor lines, water for radiators in the house, as well as keeping the hot water storage tank warm for our hot water supply. The space we have available (in the photo) isn’t very large, so we may need to build a small bump out on the back of the house to accommodate the new equipment. Anyway, I’m hoping we can come up with something and maybe even get it installed this summer so we can go through next winter without worrying about what will happen when our small boiler fails (which it did at one point this winter).
We had an interesting visitor this afternoon when I came home from work. The sun had already set and all I had was by little digital camera, but the photos show a three-toed woodpecker on a dead tree near the house. It was banging away for at least twenty minutes before I went inside.
It (he) had a bright yellow cap, which is sort of visible in the photos, and you can see the barring on the back which distinguishes him from a black-backed woodpecker. Very cool.
I took Nika out on the Creek today to see how far we could get on the ice. All of the open water on our property had frozen more than a week ago and we’d noticed bicycle tracks and footprints in the snow, so I figured it was probably safe to walk on. Plus I wanted to see where the bicyclist was coming from. The photo on the right shows our bridge and the house from down on the Creek, and the photo at the bottom of the post is a Google Earth view of the GPS track we walked. The red dot is our house, and the blue dot is where we got off the Creek.
I would have kept going on the frozen Creek, but there was a small dam at that point and I could hear running water just below the surface. Just past the dam was a hole in the ice with water running underneath and I didn’t want to take a chance of falling in or having Nika break through the ice. It turns out that were we went back up onto land is a section of trail between two roads that were originally supposed to intersect. At least that’s how it looks on the map.
The bicyclist is using this trail, the Creek, and our road to travel between the two roads that don’t intersect, which is pretty clever and is probably several miles shorter than where they’d have to go to get around the break.
Garmin hasn’t come up with the software for my GPS for Linux or OS X, but gpsbabel lets me download the data from the GPS and will also convert it into a KML file I can view in Google Earth. It works really well, except that in our area Google Earth isn’t perfectly geolocated, so the GPS track isn’t lined up with the satellite topography shown. The commands are:
$ gpsbabel -t -w -i garmin -f usb: \ -o garmin_txt,date="YYYY-MM-DD",datum="WGS84",dist=s,prec=6,time="HH:mm:ss" \ -F out.txt $ gpsbabel -t -w \ -i garmin_txt,date="YYYY-MM-DD",datum="WGS84",dist=s,prec=6,time="HH:mm:ss" \ -f out.txt -o kml -F out.kml
You could take the GPS data directly to KML format but it’s handy to have the text version first so it can be edited before generating the KML file. The -w flag to gpsbabel causes it to download all the waypoints from the GPS, and I usually want just the waypoints relevant to the current track (the -t flag). The text file makes it easy to remove the waypoints you don’t need.
We finally started getting some of our winter snow. It started yesterday morning, and it’s been snowing pretty hard ever since then. By midnight yesterday we’d gotten an inch and a half, according to the Weather Service, and I’d guess we now have four to five inches on the ground.
Earlier in the year we went to a garage sale and scored a snow thrower for cheap. Today was my first opportunity to see if it actually worked. As promised, it started right up, and did a great job moving snow around. Unfortunately, the snow isn’t packed down much at all, and so it was perfectly happy to pick up and fling frozen dirt and gravel from the driveway. I think it might be a good idea to drive on top of the snow for awhile, and start using the snow thrower once there’s a better base underneath it.
The water delivery guy said that he used to “plow” his two mile long driveway by running his snow thrower out on one tire track, and then back on the other track. Driving over the cleared areas caused the berm in the middle to get spread out evenly over the driveway, resulting in a nice flat surface. I doubt if I’m going to go the 1.2 miles from our house to the nearest plowed road, but I might try this on the worst section of it. Or the worst section of it that’s close to our house, since there are so many bad areas…
Nika enjoys hanging out in the snow, and since she’s black, she’s really good at demonstrating how hard it’s snowing outside. This isn’t the greatest photograph, since I took it through the sliding glass door, but after I let her in, I was just about to snap a photo when she shook all the snow off on my slippers. Thanks Nika!