Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wood Stove Insert

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I bought a wood stove and was optimistic that it would heat up the house, but was surprised on how well it did.  I bought a Jøtul C 550 Rockland model, with one of the drivers being the energy tax credit, and all the wood I have access to.  The brand generally had good reviews and it was more contemporary than most and would match the rest of the room.

Jotul 550 Stove

I was able to heat the house without running the gas furnace, on some very cold days.  Takes a while to get the room/house warm, but once it gets warm it stays and the heat rises to the 2nd floor, so the 2nd zone isn’t used when the stove is running.   The walls are cinder block and the main living space is very open, so air flows very well.

I was curious on how to optimize and instrument the stove.  Also, had a few too many days off around the holidays.  Started with measuring temperature of the room, the furnace duct (to know when it was on), and under the stove.  The white cord on the left is a temperature sensor (HA7 1 wire controller), and used to generate a chart below, of the air temperature under the stove.  The temperature at the top of the stove is about 575 F, at 8pm, and the room temperature was rising about a degree, every 6 minutes.  The stove temperature exceeded the 1-wire specs, so I bought an infared thermometer for about $40 from Harbor Freight, and put the ha7 sensor on the intake side.

The one thing that doesn’t work well is the blower auto control.  Seems to be a consistent gripe from other customers.  The blower on this model has a manual, off, and auto setting.  The auto setting is supposed to turn the blower on when the stove is hot, and off when it cools.   There’s a switch on a heat sheild on the bottom of the stove and I can measure the stove temperature to over 500, and the switch temperature to over 120F, and the blower doesn’t always turn on.  Seems like more ash, insulates the bottom, and affects the switch, and even without ash, it’s not reliable.  Ordered a few similar switches and some thermal silicone to see if I can get it to work more reliably.  For now I use the manual setting.  As an aside, I measured the blower to burn about 70 Watts using a TED 5000.

The other  variables are around the wood.  Specifically, the type of wood and moisture content. Lots of content on the web, and the basic concept is that dry firewood has a 15-20% moisture content.   In ideal conditions, as the fire heats up, the resin mixes with air and becomes combustable, generating more heat.  If there’s higher water content in the wood, the water gets mixed in with the resin and instead of adding to heat, it prevents the combustion, which is bad for allot of reasons (less heat, creosote, soot, etc..).  Tried to find a reliable DIY way to measure moisture, and many expensive tools are just glorified ohm meters.  One approach is to cut a 1 in piece of wood, measure the weight, then dry it in an oven at 215-217F.  after the weight stops dropping (~12 hours), measure the change in weight. That delta is the removed water.  Percent moisture content in the original sample content would be:

(original weight – dry weight) /  dry weight

Kitchen oven doesn’t get much use, but using this approach is interesting, but too much work.  Decided getting a moisture meter from home depot.  Ordered it online, and will see how consistent it is with some of the wood piles.

Next time I get some time off, I’ll collect some more data…..


Saturday, March 7th, 2009

It’s amazing that it stayed between 65-70 today.  Temperature fluctuated 60 degrees in the past 4 days.


artichokes anyone?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009


Got another 3 cases delivered today.  Guessing these will be here for a while.  May stop the recurring comments that there’s no food in my kitchen. gone crazy

Monday, February 16th, 2009
late night purchase I probably didn't need

late night purchase I probably didn't need

I thought I calmed down with my frivolous Internet purchases,  but there’s still some issues.    I got a shipping confirmation from Amazon last week that showed I ordered 2 cases of artichokes.  I remembered coming across a deal at and for $14/case, how could I skip it :)  in order to get free shipping I needed to be above $25 so I apparently ordered 2.  If I had any clue what do do with canned artichokes, this may not have been a bad purchase.  I made the mistake of telling Kent about my purchase and he thought it was so funny that he had another $100 worth ordered and sent to me.  Got my first shipment today.  Any suggestions on what to do with these?

gas bill

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

I noticed my gas bill is about $300 month lately, and tried to understand it.  I have 2 zones in the house, and on weekdays run the downstairs from 7pm through 10pm  at 64 degrees, and the upstairs at 62 degrees from 10pm through 7 am.  The rest of the time the thermostats are set to 53 degrees.  Might sound very cold, but with the upstairs zone, I have 2 vents in my bedroom, and if the door is closed 62 degrees in the hallway is at least 67 in the room.  the gas bill seems high.  I had bought these probes over the summer, and meant to do something with them at the beach house, to make sure things didn’t freeze, and maybe try to understand how tenants used the air conditioning. in any case here’s a 24 hour snapshot of temperatures.  the first chart is the outside temperature, and you can see it’s been a cold day.
outside temperature
The interesting thing with the vent temperature is that it’s going on 3 hours before the setting.  The setting was 64 at 7pm and the system is trying to make sure the temperature gets there at 7pm, so the heat is on at 4pm.
vent temperature
This is the den temperature, which is probably the coldest room in the house.
temperature inside the den
I was thinking the thermostat was more like the old style clock type, where you could put a peg in the clock to switch from one temperature, to another at a fixed time, instead this system is too smart and I thinking running longer than I need it.


Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Haven’t posted anything in a while,  and that’s probably a good thing.  The number of embarrassing incidents are slowing down.  Did sign up for facebook around the holidays and it is interesting.  I’m communicating with people I haven’t thought about or talked to since high school.  The “wall” concept where everything you say is available for many to see, reminds me allot of the CB radios many years ago. you’d have a conversation, but anybody could hear it, if they wanted. we got a couple inches of snow last week, and it was the first test of my tractor and plow.  Bought a used simplicity tractor from a friends cousin.  It’s build in the 70’s but still runs very well.  did the flat part of the driveway without a problem and started plowing the 130 foot section that is on a hill and ends at route 206 (highway).  going down the driveway worked as I hoped.  tried to back up and the wheels just spun.    my only option to to get out and push, while the tractor was in reverse.  worked ok, until the tractor got some footing and started to take off.  luckily it only went about 5 feet and got stuck in the snow.   for a second, I thought I’d be chasing it all they way up the driveway and trying to catch it before it hit the glass door of the garage…. 

first day with the chain saw and I end up in the emergency room

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

There are 2 large dead trees next to my driveway, one is probably around 70 feet tall, and estimates to take them down are close to $2k.  not where I’d like to spend my money and I’ve been asking friends and others for ideas.    Besides those trees, there’s allot of dead trees, and small trees on the property that need to be pruned, or cut down.  I went to Sears and bought a chain saw. More than one friend has made it clear that I shouldn’t own a chain saw.   I’m not the most coordinated person, and something that can rip through a limb, or cause something to fall on my head isn’t something they think I should have easy access.  Despite the warnings I bought one at Sears.  Played in the garage for a while, and broke it… went back to sears and exchanged for the same one, and I was ready to go.   I was able to push down a dead tree that was about 20 feet tall and used the chainsaw to cut it up.  all went fine.   started cutting up other downed trees, with the expectation that i could use the wood in my chimenea, or  in the fireplace when it starts getting cold.   as I’m cutting up a small tree (4 inch diameter), there’s a swarm of small bees stinging my legs and the back of my neck.  I’ve had really bad reactions as a kid, and guess this wasn’t a good thing….    went to the Princeton hospital for some shots and a prescription.

To back up a little, I get to the emergency room, some swelling, but no real bad symptoms.  They take me right away and I’m sitting in a room with all the instruments.  Decided I should call someone, in the rare case it gets bad, at least someone will know I’m there.  My sister is a nurse, and I was hesitant, but called anyway.  As I’m sitting in the room, she’s asking what they did, which was nothing, but take some information (at this point).  she proceeds to explain all the real bad possibilities of what can happen if they leave me sit.  My tongue could swell, and I could have a tube shoved down my throat, and many more possible bad things.  I get off the phone, and can start seeing some hives. her talk got me a little nervous (for nothing).

Nurse and doctor came in, one quick shot, and some purple pills and I was fine.  Kept me for 1/2 hour, the let me now.  In parallel, my sister was making calls and getting in the car to drive the hour to come down.  not sure how it became a crisis, but I made it through.

First full week and I locked myself out

Monday, July 7th, 2008

First week went ok. Spent any free time at the old place, getting ready for a tenant, moving in on the 7th. Was finding more and more stuff to move and clean. In the new place, I was scared about the valves and equipment in the pool area, but found a really good service shop (valley pools) in hamilton. Even though the guy didn’t have time to come out, he asked that I take pictures and he’d walked me through it. I brought a water sample and after 2 bags of some shock treatment, and firing up the heater, the pool was good to go.

My parents and sister were over saturday enjoying pool, and pool table, while helping me get things put away all day. Dad made a sign for the driveway, and I’m no longer driving past the entrance, going home.

On Sunday, I got up and walked from the kitchen to the sun room. The door automatically closed behind me and I was locked out. I’m now in the sun room, in my boxers, and a t-shirt, no shoes, and no keys, phones, or anything else. Do a quick walk around the house and realized I’m really screwed. was able to get into the garage, and made a skirt out of the material you put between the ground and mulch, along with some packing tape. That was version 2 of cover up. My first was a hefty bag, that ended up looking like a cretan vraka.

sample cretan vraka (cretan vraka)

So now my only choice is to stand on Route 206 and try to flag someone down, that can call the police to help me get a locksmith. There’s allot of traffic, but no one was stopping for me. From the garage, I found a big box, and some spraypaint. Created a sign “Locked out, Please call police”. It wasn’t readable, and I couldn’t hold it up well.

locked out sign

Luckily, someone finally saw me and assumed I was having some type of trouble. They let me use their cell to call the local police. The patrolman showed up and could only offer to use a crow bar on the door. We agreed that wasn’t a good option, and he said he’d try to get a dispatcher to call a locksmith. Said someone would be on their way, but no eta, and he left. He was very professional, and could have easily made fun of me, but didn’t. I was going to send a rant with my seatbelt ticket from a few weeks ago. Now thinking of paying it and adding a tip.

With some time on my hands, I started thinking, and decided to take my drill and try to drill through the keyhole of one of the locks and see if I could get it. Worse case I’d ruin a lock. Sure enough that worked. Called the locksmith, and it was a consortium of companies. I was still in the queue to be dispatched, so if my McGyver skills didn’t work I would have been out there a while.

I now have a key hidden outside and spare clothes in the garage.


Moved in

Monday, July 7th, 2008

I’m settled into the new house.  Been a chaotic couple of weeks.  There was way more in my old place than I estimated.  Me and my friends are getting older, so the thought of rounding everyone up to move didn’t sound good.  I decided to get some laborors from Princeton for young blood, and a couple friends from work offered to help out. 

Sunday was the big move day, and I rented a u-haul truck.  Below is Steve’s description.   It’s funnier if you hear my dad tell it, especially how he tried to get people’s attention by whistling, but his false teeth made that impossible.  Only damage was a tool chest, which is well worth the entertainment I got from it.

——-  from email message
We spent 2hrs loading the u-haul to the gills. Meticulously packing it with great care. When finished, fred and I jumped in the cab and fired it up. Pulled away from petes house enroute to his new home.

Suddenly, I see petes dad running down the street after us out of the corner of my eye. We hear a small crash and I ask “fred what he thought it might be “. He replied, ” nothing, probably just the cargo moving around a bit”. I agreed with his analysis and continued onto witherspoon street. We were just happy and comfortable to be in the air conditioned truck.

I look in the mirror and still see petes dad running ( now with more urgency). Now I’m concerned. I see in the over sized side mirror what looks like a large black juke box laying in the center of the road. It was pete’s large tool chest!!!!  The friggin door to the u-haul was left open!!!!  Tools scattered all over. Total chaos began. Fred runs into the street, pete bangs a u turn to assist, pete’ dad just can’t believe what he just saw. Steve was fending off questions from princeton police while blocking traffic.

In the end all was well. And thankfully nobody was hurt or arrested. This is an episode that will live long in our thursday night discussions. 

Seatbelt ticket

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

I’ll preface this post with agreement that I’m really bad when it comes to putting my seat belt on when driving, typing on my blackberry, or using the cell phone (lost both blue tooth headsets).   I am trying to get better about it, but it’s far from an automatic thing for me to put my seat belt on.

I had the day off on Friday and was getting ready for my move.  Tried to run some errands and turned a bucket of change into $128 at the bank. Was surprised it totaled that much. As I’m leaving the parking lot, there’s construction at the intersection.   I put on my seat belt, as I turn onto the highway and a 1/4 mile further an officer in the road, flagged me into a parking lot.  Asked me if  I just put my belt on, and in a weak moment, I answered yes.  He wrote me up for $46 ticket, emphasizing it wasn’t a moving violation, only an equipment ticket, and that they were stopping all people without seat belts, or talking on cell phones today.   It will make me be a little more careful, but I’ll kick myself, every time I think about this and responding “yes” to if I just put the belt on.

House is supposed to close this week.  Got a nasty certified letter from the sellers attorney today saying if closing doesn’t happen by the end of the month, I think I responsible for all costs, including his family’s breakfast bills. Been a painful process, where you can’t control things and it’s still mostly a stacks of paper driven transaction.

Went to a Pearl Jam concert in Camden last night, and even though I only recognized 1/2 the songs the venue was very good.  We weren’t that close, but could see the band well, and the acoustics were very good.  Had dinner in philly and took the ferry over.  worked out really well, and I may have been hesitant to go to Camden, in the past, but would definitely go again and recommend it.