PROGRESS NOTES

 

I will post a visual journal of how the project is going, in a variety of phases.  This page has several sections: from the very beginning, the preparation of the land, house construction, water well design, septic system installation, electrical design, plumbing installation and the erection of my tower and its appendages.  You can read from the top down and see the chronological journey, or click on the following headers to jump to a specific section on the page. 

 

Sections:

Beginning

Land Preparation  

House Construction 

Water Well  

Septic

Electrical

Plumbing 

Tower

Temporary Accommodations

 

Also you can click HERE to jump to the Latest Update no matter in what section is it found.

The Latest Update is from 5/26/2014

 

The Beginning:

 

This began in April 2012 with a land survey of my 10 acre plot and several trips just walking (and hiking up the hills) and laying out plans in my head.  Those thoughts eventually got translated to Visio drawings, then to County Planning and Zoning drawings and applications.

 

Basically, here is a Google Earth View of the Property with Boundary and Dimensions:

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And another Google Earth photo showing elevations – this is really the edge of the foothills.  Approximately 3 acres is Silver Sage and the other 7 acres is Pinion Pine trees.

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Going out and walking the land – a walking it a  - led to this basic plot layout which was eventually submitted to the County for my Road Access Permit and my Minor Development Building Permit (both of which have been granted).

 

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Land Preparation

 

Then the work began with actually clearing the silver sagebrush to make a driveway and roughing in the leveling for the plot for the house to sit.

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My Buddy Chuck from COS behind the controls in the little skid.

 

Then when the 2 Cargo Containers arrive… we had problems, Houston.

Seems the driveway was a tad too small for access with the truck.

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But Healdworks, Inc. came equipped, and offloaded a John Deer 210 for some dirt work. 

How many people can say they once had a John Deer parked in their bedroom?

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So the Driveway was expanded to allow room for the truck to make the wide turn.

This has the added benefit of clearing the space where I intend to put my entry gate.

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With some help from the tractor to get going up the hill.

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But, unfortunately, this is as far as it got – too much sand and not enough horsepower to get the 10,000 pound high cube up the driveway.

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So we parked them both and make plans for bigger toys to accomplish the deed.

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That next step was accomplished with the help of a much larger CAT front-end loader unit. 

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The crew from Healdworks arrived with it and began to finalize the leveling of the plot.

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Allowing for the first cube to be set in place and double checked for level

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Then the second cube was pulled along side on the pad

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Where it was rough aligned

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Then scooted carefully up next to the first and checked again for plumb in all directions

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And finally welded together at the corners to secure it for initial construction inside and out.

 

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House Construction:

 

Here is the back view of the house, looking from the Pop-Up in the rear.

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From the “front yard” toward the house

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And the first time to “park” at the house after initial setup of the containers.

As noted in the “PLANS” section, the terrain caused me to move the Parking Area from the front of the house to the end as shown here where I parked this day for the first time.

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Of course, I supervised… even got out my own shovel to lean on…

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With the pad level and the containers set, the real work now begins…

Which has required that I pack up all my power and other tools from storage (wow, how many years have they been there…) and get everything set up here at the Ranch.  

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That’s about 2/3 of my tools; the rest will have to follow on a subsequent trip.

With good security of the containers now in place, I can build a small workshop and really accelerate the project.

 

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New Year brings new plans and opportunities!  With most of the “real” winter behind us and only the sporadic wet Spring snow that comes and goes in 2 days, it was time to start up the project again.  I really only have about 4-1/2 to 5 months in the year when I can do outside projects or things that the weather can deter, and at this stage that’s about everything. 

I made a visit to the project in April and surveyed how things had fared since my last visit the week before Christmas when I shot some snow pics of the place.  The sky was overcast and the north wind was cold; it was in the upper 40’s but quite chilly for a guy who did not wear a jacket.  The top of Mount Blanca was engulfed in a huge blizzard, and most of the mountain peaks at or above 10,000 feet were still beautifully capped in snow.  But at 8,300 feet elevation on the Turbo Ranch, no snow found even in the shade of the Pinion Pines.  It appeared that my tire tracks were the last ones on the driveway from December, nothing at the Camper or the Cubes appeared to have been touched.  There were virtually enumerable little mounds of deer droppings, all appearing quite fresh and their footprints were everywhere.

For the benefit of those of us who are visual instead of visionary, I did some reasonably accurate measuring and marking on the outside where I will install the doors and windows.  This helps me (and you) have a better grasp of how these 2 shipping containers will become my home in just a matter of months

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The end will be the open Dining Room and Living Room (as noted in the final plan at the bottom of the webpage PLANS) and will have a pair of windows looking out to the carport on the end, as well as one facing the front of the house.  Those, along with the front door, kitchen and bathroom windows, and the bedroom window that will look out onto the front deck, can be better visualized from this picture.  Not shown is the back door from the utility room out the other end of the back cube.

While I actually did measure these locations, the wind was hampering any really straight lines with the can of spray paint… but you can get the drift from this how the doors and windows will be placed.  That is my next step in eating this elephant, followed then by inside flooring; then some of the other sections below can begin to be scheduled.

Remember, the purpose of the cubes were to jump start getting me some “bones” of the project in the dry; once I insulate and put steel siding on the outside and frame, insulate and drywall the inside you will have to be told that it all started with a shipping container instead of being stick-built.

 

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With summer of 2013 in full force, I realized that I’ve been busy with other projects and left this one on the back burner, so I took the Independence Day Weekend to take another bit out of this elephant.   I thought a simple front door would be a great start, so here I cut the opening, which only took about 20 minutes and 5 Sawzall blades after cutting the 4 corners with a 4” hand grinder. 

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The only real challenge was the bottom of the opening which extended into the bottom frame below the corrugation, which is constructed of ¼” steel and was a slow cut.

And then I framed the door on the floor and just set it up in place and screwed from the back side into the frame.

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It is starting to look more like a house- and the windows will be even easier since they only involve the thinner corrugated metal.

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I planned to frame the windows on the ground and just cut out the side of the container to match the dimension of the frame. I wanted to get all them at the same time, and pre-build all of them in the frame here in town in my shop (better electricity here...) and then just take them out and install them all in one day… 

But “the best laid plans of mice and men” hit on the project… after I realized that all my tools were no longer in town but out at the Ranch.

So, I loaded up the rest of the doors and windows and headed to the Ranch to work.

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I managed to only get 1 window installed before the rains hit and stopped the project.  

But I will detail how that window went in, since all of the windows and doors go in the same way.  Then the update will be just finished pictures of the rest of the window and door project.

First the measurements are made inside and the corners cut with the 4” hand grinder.  That becomes the starting point for the straight Sawzall cuts along the top and sides.   I have tested with both the Sawzall and the Hand Grinder, and it’s about the same cost and time, so I will probably alternate between the two tools in cutting the holes in the corrugation.  Aside from the obvious loud noise, cutting the windows is, as expected, quite easy.  This one took less than 10 minutes, as will most all of the window openings.

 

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Once the cutout is made, I circle the opening with 3/16” holes that will be the screws from the back side to hold in the window in its frame.

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Then the window is framed with a box of 2x6’s on the back side and the face screwed through the nailer of the window into that box frame.  That box becomes the inside window frame to which the trim will attach later.   Then that entire assembly is actually set in place

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and secured from the inside.

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I also have the Double French Patio Door assembly (an upgraded plan from just a window in the bedroom) as well as the back door assembly, but ran out of framing material to get them both ready for installation. 

The project picked up on Labor Day Weekend ’13 and saw the rest of the windows installed as well as the pass through between the cubes in the kitchen and for the door to the bathroom from the study/guest room.  Being solo on this trip, the patio door assembly was too large for me to man handle alone; so it, the back door and the dining room / living room 10’ walk through will have to be done on a subsequent trip.

But the process of cutting out the 4 windows and setting them in place took all of 2 hours, about twice as fast as I had guessed.

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The two on the end look great, and are within about ½” in height of each other – since I was really guessing on the internal measurements, that turned out just fine for me. Come to find out, the two containers are just off about ½” from being exactly level with each other at this end.

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The front Dining room window and the kitchen and bath windows all went in as planned, the tops of them all are supposed to be in line with the top of the front door; and they came out pretty close.

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The cubes are starting to look more like a house how.

The Front Yard look now shows where the patio door will go and complete the front view. 

If you are wondering, that small 6’ or so tree in front of the Patio door has to go; I’m going to try and transplant it to another location since it is such a nice healthy young pine.

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The living room view ready for the large cut out into the dining room on the left.

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The long view from the bath through the kitchen to the dining room, ready for that cut out on the right into the living room.

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Then the floor will start going down… as seen in this shot there will be furring strips on 16” centers for the subfloor to go onto, with Styrofoam insulation between and a vapor barrier on top under the ¾” subfloor material.

With colder weather setting in (it was in the upper 30’s at night) this is probably the last weekend of the season to camp over night; but with plenty of inside work to do I can now plan a full winter of day projects at the site. My aim to be “livable” by end of Summer ’14 is looking like a reality.

The following weekend I made a Day Trip to work on that big opening; and made some progress and found some problems that will have to be addressed.  Namely, there is a main stacking support beam about 4’ from the end which was used to allow these containers to stack a dozen high on a transport ship and have all the weight properly distributed.  That happens to fall directly in the middle of this proposed opening and will have to be removed.  Chuck welded a plate on the roof above it and I will put a number of long bolts through both sides before I remove it, so there will be no structural limitations with it gone, but that process may be a big ordeal.

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As you see, it is a box beam about 2’x10’ and the full height of the container; and twice the metal thickness as the corrugation material, making it a real challenge to cut with the tools I have on hand. I will cut the rest of the wall out leaving this in place, and then I will have some work room around it to decide how it can be removed.  I’m not the first guy to cut up a container, so this is not a big deal; just something I did not really expect and will have to examine it and get the revelation on how to cut it out is all.

I did start the cutout up to that support post, and got 3/4 of it done before it started raining and I had to bring the generator inside. I was also about out of cutting material and energy, so I just swept the floor while it rained and called it a day.

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Another half an hour and I’ll have about 6-7 feet of this opening done.

Another day…  

…which was a day trip in early October.  Curiosity was getting the best of me, and I’d found some “EP” 4-1/2” cutting discs that I was anxious to try and see if they were really “Extended Performance” and worth the extra $1/ea that I paid for them.   We had some blowing snow in the northern mountains close to home, and I was curious if any had accumulated in the southern mountains near the Ranch. 

No snow on the mountains or around the Ranch, but it was in the 40’s and quite windy which made for a pretty comfortable working environment.  Just open the back door and crank the gen set, open a front window and plenty of breeze drafting through the house to keep the sweat to a bare minimum.  Also, as I continue to open up more of the house the air flow is tons better inside.

Using just 2 of the new “EP” cutting wheels, I finished the opening that was started above in about 10 minutes and walked through from the living room to the dining room for the first time. 

Wow, it’s really opening up living space.

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View from Kitchen toward Dining Room.

Especially on the living room side – this will be a great space for our comfort.

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View from Study/Spare Room into Living Room

I cut up to the stacking beam, and then worked on cleaning out the other side to the end wall and got about 3/4 finished before I ran out of supplies and energy.

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That footer will be the kicker – it is double walled from the stacking beam to the end – and will require some creative cutting or I’ll have to bring in the “blue wrench” and just blow it out with a torch.

 

..or maybe not.

The floor also slopes ever so slightly at each of the container, so some leveling will have to be done to make the subfloor smooth across this gap between cubes. From there I will start laying subfloor and get ready to stand up walls.

That is, after this opening is sealed up from the elements so the rain stays out while I’m working on getting a roof designed.

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… which was accomplished on a Day trip in January of ’14. I laid 2x6’s over that crack on the roof between the containers and glued them down with some nice liquid adhesion product (not certain the brand).  I have some pix but was not able to download them just yet, so the photo update will have to come later.  The label said the glue would adhere wood to metal as long as the temperature was 40 degrees or above; while the air temp was in the 30’s it was very sunny and not very windy and the surface of the roof was well above the 40 degree rating, so I have full confidence it will seal cleanly.  I have been back since and confirmed that it seems to have done its job well, having added some good spray foam in the crack from the inside making it about 99% “in the dry” except for some occasional leaks from heavy rain and heavy winds – a rarity in the SLV, honestly.

I have purchased and delivered the metal siding for the outside, it is now stacked in the living room ready for that phase of the project. With the crack on the roof sealed, no more snow accumulation should be happening inside, so I can also work on the subfloor once the stacking beam is cut out and that opening is done. 

Having “slept on” the issue of that beam, I decided to tackle it myself again before calling in the big guns with the blue wrenches (torch); so finding a nice 7”hand grinder on sale at Harbor Freight I came one March morning with determination to beat that beam once and for all.  Sure enough, in about an hour I had the bottom half of the remaining beam down flush with the floor.

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From the back corner of the living room toward the dining room view now…

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As you can see, they build these containers to withstand a full load over thousands of miles, this is not cheap steel. 

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And now I can work on finishing that subfloor across that and complete the 11x17 dining room area.

 

 

I have hired a septic contractor who also runs an excavating service, he will be doing some more landscaping work around the house as well as some driveway work while he’s installing the septic system.  With the Fall ’13 rains, a small portion of the drive has been pretty badly washed and needs some re-working to prevent future similar issues. 

After a couple of weeks of real sub-zero temps, including daily highs, the weather broke for a weekend and I had the chance to deliver a trailer load of 2-by’s and 1-1/2” Styrofoam panels.   Sunny and 35 was comfortable unloading and trying my hand at starting the outside fir strips for the siding.

That began by making a jig (so it all matched) to mark all the locations for the fir strips on the inside of the container, where I can work in spite of any weather outside, which included this day.  A portion of those holes looked like this:

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The SW wall of the living room marked and drilled for outside fir strip attachment.

I was determined to not open the back door to roll out the generator, so I used a hand saw to cut the 2x3’s and worked until both battery packs in my cordless drill / screw gun died.  I was tired by then anyway ..LOL

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View from the front yard of the SW corner ready for Styrofoam panels between the fir strips, vapor barrier plastic under that, then the 3x10’ vertical steel siding panels attached.

With the wind and cold as it is in Springtime, the work trips now are mainly to deliver materials and work inside.  So here is now the subfloor is going down.  I began by laying out the fir strips on the floor, on 16 inch centers, glued and screwed to the container floor.

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Then 1 -1/2” Styrofoam is cut to fit between the fir strips and ¾” subfloor is glued and screwed to the strips.

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I worked until both I and the cordless drill ran out of energy, but this is the concept of how the subfloor will go in and it, honestly, goes pretty fast once you get started.  I will work back from here through the kitchen and bath all the way to the corner of the bedroom, then come back and circle around through the living room to the utility at the back door. By that time, maybe I will have figured out how to cut the rest of that support beam out of the way. 

As an aside, I was by myself on this run and had several 4x8 sheets of the ¾” subfloor to unload and get inside; so I got creative and built myself a handle to screw onto each sheet to comfortably carry them inside.

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Maybe my years of reading “Wordless Workshop” in the back of Popular Science magazine came in handy, huh?

 

It was time for a progress weekend, and this one is the best yet.  Lots of work got done and a new phase in the project moves forward.

First, I took 20 min and killed that pesky beam once and for all and cleared out the Dining room area.  20140425_180506c.jpg

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I had acquired a 10” cutoff wheel for my large hand grinder (which required removing the 7” cutting wheel safety shield – I believe in living dangerously!) which took to this project extremely fast and efficiently.  Except for a damaged bottom rung on the ladder when one of the beams fell after being cut, we all escaped (mostly) unharmed.  Talk about feeling accomplished… 

I put down floor joists and laid subfloor to get a feel for the way it will all end up looking. 

This is the 11x17 Dining Room area viewed from the kitchen sink as it goes toward looking more like a room and less like a shipping container.

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Outside, I also got some much needed dirt work done; the driveway had washed out last fall and that is now all repaired and the drainage redirected away from the drive to prevent a repeat of the episode if it ever rains here again <g>. 

This also included some much needed work expanding the width of the parking area for the carport and creating a more natural slope into the front yard.

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It also meant time for another phase in the house project – adding my third container for the utility room and adding a fourth container at an undisclosed location back up in the woods for my “hideaway” workshop. 

They arrived in fashion on a semi trailer (which tilts and sets them softly on the ground for unloading- uber cool to watch).

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These are only 20ft containers, since they are just additions to the project. 

A space was cleared out behind the house to add one of them

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Which was then set into place

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And looks like this once completed.

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It will be welded to the other container and then dirt replaced around it for water runoff control.

The second one made its voyage into the woods as well.

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Fun to watch a professional with really big toys at work…

I also got a local PO box and am getting things in order for permanent residency this year. 

I think it’s exciting!!

 

 

 

THE LATEST

 

 

SO another good weekend of work, and things are starting to move like I want – at least at a pace I like, that being “Turbo-Speed”.  HA!

 

I finished the fir strips on the outside for almost half of the house, until I ran out of Styrofoam boards at least, and I ran out of steam myself.

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And then got the foam insulation and house-wrap on it and ready for the siding.

 

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As already noted, the siding is laying in the living room floor (all 52 sheets of 3’x10’ steel) so that will start soon and go really quickly once we get going with it.

 

The ‘perk test’ for the septic install is this week, so the front is smoothed out and ready for them to come do that soil test and then get the 1,250 gallon tank and the lateral lines run from it – I’m told all of which is a 2 day job.

 

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I’ll be out next weekend with some help (High School guys from church earning money for a missions trip) and will get all of those limbs that I cut off 2 summers ago that are strewn everywhere – like in this pic above under that big pinion tree in front of the deck - all in one place for me to start getting firewood ready for the coming winter.  With an extra set of hands, I’ll also get the double French doors installed from the Master onto the front deck, since that is too big and cumbersome for me to maneuver all by myself.

THAT will be a fun weekend (for me) and I’ll post some fun pix.

 

… and it continues!

 

 

 

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Septic system

 

The septic system comes before the water well is done: While that was not my initial plan, but it worked out that way with the guy I hired to do dirt excavation for me also being in the septic business – got a discount on the work that way.  I also wanted to get all of the rough dirt work and landscaping pretty much done before the water well went in, that way I already know the grade and slope of the land, placement of the utility cube, etc. and will try and get the well as convenient to that as practical.  So the permitting process got initiated by my contractor, and it turns out that a County official comes and does the soil test for the state permit to be issued – a process that has ended up taking almost a month.

 

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Water well

 

The Water Well will be high on the priority list, since it is a necessity of life without which we cannot survive, and one that I cannot physically make myself.  It will come very early in the process so as to get that important and single most expensive step out of the way.  I have been in contact with several companies in the area and have 2 bids already; I will seek more before moving forward on this phase of the project.  It seems there is a large difference in what one company charges over another and the “devil is in the details” as they all have a different offering of products and services.  Making an accurate comparison is a challenge, and will take some more research to have an idea of who is really offering the best deal. 

I have a location spotted about 20 feet up behind the house, which is about 10 ft in elevation above that of the house, adding some gravity to the feed from the well and giving excellent pressure at the taps inside.  I will have a small well house with the submersible pump and pressure vessel at the head of the well, then 1 inch buried PVC to the house for distribution.  At least that is my plan for now – subject to change as we move closer to getting it installed based on the circumstances that arise.  In other words, I’ll just wing it and think on my feet as usual.. LOL!

 

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Electrical

 

With my background in Electronics Engineering, this is the part of the project about which I am most fascinated.  That’s the primary reason that “Off the Grid” is was my #1 priority in finding a piece of property to use for this project.  I also tend to over-think this area more than anything else, simply because I see so many different options for nearly every aspect of the design.  But I will outline my thoughts and plans here and document the actual construction of the Electrical system for the house. 

I began with work on a pretty accurate determination of the amount of power actually needed to run the house off the grid.  While I relish the thought of being disconnected from the control of the Public Utility Companies, I do not feel it necessary to deprive myself of the comforts and conveniences that make up the quality of life to which I am accustomed.  To that end, I plan to have:

-       Full Size Refrigerator (At least 10 cubic foot)

-       Chest Freezer

-       Microwave Oven  (minimum 700w Cooking Power)

-       Usual Small Kitchen Appliances (Blender, Mixer, etc)

-       A complete TV & Entertainment Center (my current 47” flat screen)

-       Complete Office with computers and Internet Connection

 

All of which will be “normal” appliances and equipment, not any special or unusual type.  In my mind, that only means that I have to provide the proper amount of electrical power to accomplish the use of these normal items. 

But just how much? 

That became the question of the hour; so, to answer it more accurately I began to tabulate the electrical needs for my house.  That meant I needed to know the “real” amount of power being used by all of those items, not the amount listed on their respective manufacturer’s label.

So I built this device to be able to correctly measure how much power is being used by various items in my house now; assuming the exact same items or those of similar nature will be employed at my Ranch home. 

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This is just a short piece of electrical wire – and I chose the flat type from an old extension cord so I could more easily separate the hot lead out – with a male and female at each end to insert into the power cord for my various electrical items.   You note it has the hot lead (typically black as it was in this cord) looped outside so my clamp on ammeter can attach and accurately monitor the power being used by the load.  Taking the ammeter reading and multiplying by the measured AC voltage at the socket gives me the exact amount of watts being used. 

For example, my little microwave oven – a 700w model for $60 from Wal-Mart – running on High drew exactly 10.05A of power.  Taking the 124 volts measured at the plug gives me 1,246 watts which I will round to 1250 for purposes of totaling my household needs. That data will help me determine the size of power inverter needed to take my 12v DC and make 120v AC for this appliance, as well as calculating the amount of incoming power (solar, wind, etc) and the amount of storage space (batteries) desired for longer term use of electricity in my house.

So I do the same process for the key items I want in the house at the Ranch and then total up my inverted watts needed and decide how to divide that among multiple circuits and companion DC power inverter units. Then adding the DC items power needs to that I can obtain a total needs for the house in watts.

Here is my test list and results:

Refrigerator (my current one)

            Current Measured:   1.4           

Watts Calculated  175              

Total Daily Use:  1000  (6 hr/day run time)

 

Freezer  (my current one)

            Current Measured:   1.4           

Watts Calculated:  175 

Total Daily Use: 1000  (6 hr/day run time)

 

Washing Machine

            Current Measured:   11.8         

Watts Calculated  1480

Total Daily Use:  740  (one 30 min cycle)

 

Microwave (700w model)

            Current Measured:  10.05         

Watts Calculated:  1250           

Total Daily Use:   625  (30 min/day)

 

Pop Up Toaster  (2-Slice)

            Current Measured:   6.28         

Watts Calculated:  800 

Total Daily Use:  200  (15 min/day)

 

Vacuum Sealer

            Current Measured:  1.15         

Watts Calculated:  150 

Total Daily Use:  negligible

 

Blender

            Current Measured:   1.7           

Watts Calculated;  220 

Total Daily Use:  negligible

 

Hand Mixer

            Current Measured:   0.62        

Watts Calculated:  80               

Total Daily Use:   negligible

 

Crock Pot

            Current Measured:      1.25     

            Watts Calculated:  160 

Total Daily Use:  960  (6 hr/day)

 

Electric Griddle

            Current Measured:  11.28       

            Watts Calculated:  1400           

Total Daily Use:  700  (30 min/day)

 

Entertainment Center (TV, satellite box, FM tuner, Surround Sound system, Internet boxes)

            Current Measured:   1.48         

Watts Calculated:  200 

Total Daily Use:  1000  (5 hr/day)

 

Computer Desk #1 (Computer, 3 monitors, scanner, webcam, calculator)

            Current Measured:    1.32       

Watts Calculated:  170 

Total Daily Use:  1360  (8 hr/day)

 

Computer Desk #2 (Laser Printer, Shredder, etc.)

            Current Measured:   6.58         

Watts Calculated:   850

Total Daily Use:  1700   (2 hr/day)

 

Bedroom Charge Center (Cellphones, Razor, Tablets, Digital Alarm Clock, etc)

            Current Measured:   0.31         

Watts Calculated:   40              

Total Daily Use:  1000  (continual)

 

Vacuum Cleaner

            Current Measured:   5.83         

Watts Calculated: 750              

Total Daily Use:  150   (12 min/day)

 

MAXIMUM HOUSEHOLD TOTAL:                      10,500

 

Extra Usage:    

Submersible Well Pump                                             

3,100  (1HP pump with 20% run cycle)

 

Household Lighting (DC)                                               

500  (4 hour lighting usage per day)

 

Exterior Lighting (DC)                                                   

400 (2 hour lighting usage per day)

 

Air Circulation – heat or cool (DC)                                 

500  (2-3 hour per day)

           

 

MAXIMUM TOTAL WATTS NEEDED IN ANY TYPICAL DAY:                  15,000

 

 

In reality, only about 5,000 watts of that total are what I would consider “critical” and the rest is more “discretionary” watt usage.  Assuming about half of the discretionary power would be used on a typical day, I will need to produce 10,000 watts per day to meet the average electrical needs of the household, and then have storage capacity for several days of that amount to maintain uninterrupted power service in all typical weather changes. 

 

The sun index for this part of the state is an average of 6 hours per day; some longer some shorter depending on the time of year and weather conditions.  Using that as an average, I need to have the ability to generate 1700 watts per hour, combined from my solar and wind systems.  Then I need long-term storage of 30,000-40,000 watts for security during non-typical weather events.  Obviously, in severe weather situations we can be more watt-conscious and conserve our stored power, and in any really long-term power shortage I always have my backup generator to kick in and operate systems and charge battery banks.  But, that 10,000 watt figure will be the basis for my system design.

 

To accomplish this, I intend to utilize a 2kw Solar Array supplemented by 2kw of Wind Power.  Between the two of these sources, as well as my backup generator as a last line of defense, there should be no shortage of power for a comfortable level of living.   I have researched batteries and feel that an initial setup of 8 batteries in a series-parallel configuration (using 6v deep cycle batteries) will get me going; then add additional sets of 8 batteries as finances allow and usage demands.  Eventually I expect to have 32 batteries in use by the time I move to the house for permanent living, giving me 56 Kw of storage power; that could be as much as 10 days of power with zero replenishment from outside sources.

 

Research has led me to understand that I have the ability to build my own Solar power system from parts; that may not be true of everyone but my decades of work in Electronics Engineering equip me to assemble and wire the Solar system from DIY parts.  You only need to do an online search to find the individual cells (usually 3”x6”) that go together to create the individual panels.  While most pre-assembled Solar panels cost in the $2 per watt range, a DIY panel can be built for ¼ that cost, typically.  As I gather the materials and get going, I’ll document some of that work here. 

 

On the other hand, I do not feel that I posses the mechanical skills to build a successful DIY wind turbine, certainly with the economical cost of the smaller units at this time.  I also feel strongly about spreading out my risk, and will have 3 small turbines instead of one larger one.  This not only provides some redundancy in the event of a mechanical or electrical failure of one of the units, but lets me keep spare parts on hand more readily.   The “Tower” section on this page shows where I intend to place 2 of the Wind Turbines, and the 3rd will likely be in close proximity to my Solar Array on the East end of the house pad.  Again, as that moves forward I will document it here.

 

 

 

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Plumbing

 

The internal plumbing for the house will begin as soon as the well is in place and working.  With my years of being Dad’s handyman, I have been exposed to a wide variety of plumbing projects, and the world is replete with DIY books on plumbing to assist even the most mechanically challenged individual with those activities.  I have been studying the use of alternate plumbing schemes – specifically the PEX tubing; but the specifications on the product set a recommended maximum operating temperature of 120 degrees, making me uneasy about using it for piping hot water around my house.  I tend to think that I will stick with PVC and CPVC for cold and hot water distribution.  Since the pipes will run in the ceiling of the house, insulation to prevent from freezing will be much easier; I just need to provide for a method of draining the pipes in the interim while I am not living there full time for protection during long winter spells.

In my research, I’ve found some very affordable and workable Propane powered on-demand water heating systems designed for RV and small cabin use that should be perfect for this project.  I also intend to install some piping inside my wood stove through which I can circulate water to heat it in absence of the availability of Propane.

 

 

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Tower

 

The tower has to go up – at least the base section – as soon as work begins to the outside of the house.  This is mainly because the land goes up hill very quickly behind the house; almost a full 3 feet immediately behind it and sloping up from there.  So before any landscaping is done to the rear of the house, that base tower section has to be set and attached to the back of the house.  After that, I can stack sections and guy it up to the finished height of 50 feet.

As this front view of the house shows, the tower will have a lower section, the top of which will have the 2 extension arms with wind turbines, then a telescoped section to the top with other antennas installed.  Being a licensed Ham radio operator, you can expect that I’ll have at least some sort of antenna to provide me sufficient communications in time of any real emergency situation.

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE THE FULL PDF DRAWING

 

 

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Temporary Accommodations

 

Knowing that this project will take several years to finish, and to get the house in a weekend-livable situation will still take a couple of years up front, I felt it wise to have a temporary accommodation on the site:

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I found the old 1974 Pop-Up on Craig’s list at a yard sale for $600.  Cleaned it up enough for just one more trip across LaVeta Pass and into the San Luis Valley where it may sit until it is chopped up for firewood some cold winter night.   But it will serve as a mild-weather weekend spot while the big project with the Container renovations are taking place. I spent 2 weekends in it until the snow started falling in the Fall of 2012 and about 6 nights in the Summer of 2013; all of which is an awesome reminder of why I am moving to this place permanently soon: the starry nights in the Valley are breathtaking.  Also the quietness of the remote area is broken only by the sounds of Nature; which is mostly the packs of coyotes that roam the flatlands, though I’m told that in the foothills there is also the occasional Mountain Lion or Black bear.  My entire property is replete with… residual markings… of deer and elk.  See more details on that subject on the RESOURCES page under THE AREA.

My little weekend getaway spot is now augmented with a nice swing that neatly disassembles and the Pop Up folds down for long term absence from the area (as noted above, it’s not that I do not go often, I just do not stay while the temps are in the sub-zero ranges!)  I have a working wash sink and a Porta-Potty making it a comfortable weekend getaway space.

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And the story goes on…

 

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