The Beast Within

beast 0919
The new beast in our garage. ignore the Recla metal pile in front, but do admire the glowy blue box that’s telling me something — I just don’t know what.

We have a giant beast in our garage. Actually, we have several, one of them an extremely noisy commercial freezer, but most of them have lived in our garage for a long time and are thus familiar. This is a new beast, stealthy and possibly seductive but so far not unfriendly.

At the design end, we opted for the most expensive installation of a heating system we could manage: under-floor, propelled by a gas boiler. In the long run, though, this should be the most cost-effective means of heating the house. We are only getting ready to test this all out, although some people have been taking an early preview.

Some people, who shall be nameless, who get cold easily, particularly in their extremities, lost every pair of slippers they own in the move. There are still plenty of boxes in the garage, but they’ve now been sorted into piles and none of them look likely to contain footwear. There are lots more in the storage shed, most of them inaccessible. In the meantime, no slippers.

Our new house is segmented into three zones for heating, so Zone 1, where some people with no slippers spend a lot of time, has been set to 69 degrees for some time (although for reasons I don’t understand, every time I look at the temperature in the thermostat in the morning, it reads 67). But while we’re still overheating into the high 70s by mid-afternoon, it’s about time to bring the rest of the house on-line.

I brought to the project a programmable thermostat that I found while packing, and it got attached to Zone 2 (the Good Room). I don’t know about under-floor heating, but my understanding of in-floor heating is that it takes such a long time to heat the mass of the concrete floor that you’re probably better off just setting a single temperature and leaving it, or at least planning hours ahead of when you’ll want heat.

Bill and Carol Bennett, who live in a Dusty-built house with a crawl space and under-floor heat, said they just set their thermostat to 68 and leave it, year-round. I’ve always slept in a house where the heat gets turned down to 60 starting around 10 p.m., so we’ll see how this goes. And I’m remembering that Dusty said our house will take a year to “tune” and have the crawl space adjust to temperature.

In the meantime, I need to make better acquaintance with the new resident in the garage.

Pat of Pat’s Screen Printing was very good about naming all her pieces of equipment (Rotary Ann, Gort, Max), and we have continued this tradition, although I’m generally bad about referring to items by their names (Hagrid, Ms. Hirple, Orwell, Ruby Electra, Grace — because someone said she looked so slick, but that reference was lost on all the young people in the shop), but our garage beast has no name.

taco 0919I haven’t really studied him (or her) yet, I realized this morning as I noticed for the first time that one piece, telling me things about our zones, is branded “Taco.” And I only noticed the Energy Star sticker a couple of days ago, showing that we are near the highest end of most efficient boilers.

It has been on my list of Dusty questions for several weeks now to ask why sometimes the boiler shows no light and other times it glows blue and then pink (or pink and then blue). I can look at the glowy screen and see that it is “modulating,” but do I know what that means?

I did, while practicing photojournalism for today’s entry, also notice for the first time a very thick instruction book tucked back behind copper pipes. I can add it to my reading list of Instruction Manuals Across The House. For the record, none of that reading has been started yet.

(Also for the record, Lynn and I watched an interesting National Geographic program last night on the archaeological search for King Solomon’s mines, which featured a lot of discussion about copper mining and smelting near Petra, Jordan. In attempting to smelt copper, which needs to get to 1,200 degrees F, three archaeologists blew into long narrow tubes for two continuous hours to get three pea-sized dribs of metal. I would have passed out after about two minutes and been an abject failure as a copper smelter in antiquity.)

We got two utility bills in yesterday’s mail. One of them was our first gas bill, which was $38 and showed usage of 45 ccf (no idea what that is: cubic something). I’m not really used to seeing usage when it’s been as warm as it has, but then I had to remember that we now have gas appliances: our range, and the nameless guy in the garage, who also heats our water (not fast enough for some people, but I imagine it’s quite cold coming straight out of the ground).

The other was our first electric bill since they switched us over to a net meter. I don’t really understand what that means either. I mean, I thought I understood the term “net metering” where you get credit for the solar power you’ve produced that propels your meter backwards, but I don’t know why GCEA puts in a special “net meter.” The city never did that for the solar panels at Pat’s, and on sunny Sundays when no one was in the building, I could watch that dial move backwards.

But whatever it is, we got a net meter installed, and it operated for 35 days and then GCEA sent us a bill. It’s about the same amount as the gas bill, but all of it for their “service fee,” a set monthly fee to cover the cooperative’s fixed costs. Otherwise, our meter read “99933” (from a starting point of 0) and we have “banked” 67 kilowatts of electricity. That’s pretty good, huh?

I could tell you how much solar we’re producing, or direct you to where you could see this for yourself, except that Lena from the solar company, who finally got here last week (and I finally paid her the final installment, so we were both slacking), set up the system whereby I can monitor the happenings from my computer, but she did not, as she said she would, send me the link I need on Friday. I should probably follow up.

And I should quit reveling in utilities and see if I can utilize myself in a more productive fashion. I leave those of you lost by the Grace Slick reference with a live definition:



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