First 2020 house update

1 02 2020

Another year, another decade…….. will Australia run out of domestic oil this year? Watch this space I guess. I haven’t blogged here in ages, largely sick of repeating myself all the time, and it’s been pretty busy here, trying to get this darn house done so I can get back to some serious food production. Since the bushfires, breaking my ribs, and the erection of the roof starting a building frenzy, the market garden has been thoroughly ignored, and we’re no longer food self sufficient I hate to admit…… In my defense, there’s been real progress all the same. Like running water…!

Setting up the tank pads was more work than anticipated (isn’t it always..?) and after having some great visitors from Queensland, one of whom is a builder, I was thankfully talked out of building another concrete pad and retaining wall, even though I had all the necessary left over blocks to do so. This one only needed to be 600mm high, so didn’t need the high strength of the wall at the other end of the house.The result is a timber one Charles the French wwoofer and I have now built.

A few days later, our new custom made 18,000 litres stainless steel water tanks arrived… they’re custom made because a standard 3 sheet high tank would not fit under the gutters; but because we were buying two, they cut the third sheet in half, putting one of those halves on each tank. The eastern tank even has a firefighting hose attachment in case the fire brigade need our water. We chose SS because we could afford it; it’s fireproof, should outlast us and our kids, and I detest plastic and plastic liners. As it is I’m resigned to using plastic pipes to connect the two tanks together and to the house, there’s no other way…….

The place still looks like a building site…… because it is.

The resulting running water is much appreciated, let me tell you……. Now for running hot water…! Which brings me to the AGA.

AGAs are, I’m reliably informed, loose bits of cast iron flying in tight formation! Having now put one mostly together, I don’t know how I ever managed to shift the last one in one piece without crashing it……. All the parts inside, and trust me, they’re heavy, sit on ‘tripods’ made of threaded rods or trunions that can be turned to adjust the height and level of everything. I discovered, from communicating through a facebook group of AGA aficionados that the top oven adjustment can be reached from the roof of the bottom oven. Better still, this retired AGA engineer told me to remove the original slotted screws and replace them with Allen keyed ones…. it does pay to know someone who knows more than you!

Anyhow, the stove was rebuilt to the stage a wetback could be designed by yours truly. Armed with scrap cardboard, scissors, lots of tape, and four hours (no less!) I carefully made a model of what I wanted Pete the blacksmith to duplicate in stainless steel……. Making a 3D model of a curved and sloping box that had to fit withing constrained positions turned out trickier than I thought. Again! I actually impressed Pete, especially when he brought the beast home and it fitted perfectly.

Pete measuring the mounting tabs before completing all welding……

While in Hobart, I had a win at Tradelink who actually managed to find me 32mm to 25mm adaptors with compression fittings, and even an expensive 25mm Italian made non return flap valve to stop the thermosyphon running backwards when the stove is cold…… Now all I have to do is bore two 50mm holes through the 200mm reinforced concrete block wall behind the AGA to connect it all to the new hot water system, and THAT, my friends I’m not expecting to be a walk in the park…….. but I love a challenge!

The only other major news is that the back wall has been finally waterproofed with bitumen paint so that it can be insulated, and then backfilled. This is the last step in ensuring the house reaches its full thermal performance capability……

Yep……. STILL looks like a building site.



5 responses

1 02 2020
D R Tod

Congratulations Mike! What an amazing effort but you’re getting there! Food will follow!!

1 02 2020

Well done, you’re getting there. We did this 25 years ago, so we were lucky to get an old IXL wood stove with water jacket that another couple in town were pulling out of an old house. We also didn’t have running water for 6months. I learnt to respect water in that time, so much that even in two droughts since that time we have never run out. I’ve kept the value of how precious water, hot and cold, is in my life.

2 02 2020

Thanks….. while we were carting water to the house, we lived on 30L/day……. we had showers in the shed every other day, but even then that would have only amounted to only another 20 or 30 L/day. I’m always amused at water restrictions like 120L/day per person…!

5 02 2020
Bruce Teakle

Good to hear your house is progressing Mike! I’m curious about your inclusion of a non-return valve in your hot water. We have a wetback in our Rayburn wood stove, thermosyphoning to a tank in the loft above. It doesn’t need a non-return valve as the tank is high enough above – you can feel the pipes to see how the heat travels. However we do have reverse thermosyphoning in our solar collector for the same tank (at night), because the evacuated tube manifold is above the bottom of the tank. I’ve wondered about putting in a non-return valve for the solar, but I’ve been worried about whether the thermosyphon pressure will be enough to overcome the resistance of the valve. I’m keen to hear how you go.

27 08 2021

VERY late reply, sorry Bruce, but to cut to the chase it couldn’t work any better…..

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