Team Seacats

Archive for October, 2011

Garage Mahal Update

by on Oct.20, 2011, under Garage Mahal

????????It’s no secret I stay pretty busy – this time of year is crazy.  However, I have managed to clear a couple of weekends lately to dedicate myself to the garage and progress is being made…the list of major items is down to 1.5 (run compressed air distribution lines and button up the heat pump installation).  I have a dream to be in the upstairs portion by 2012.  This will be a quick update on a couple of projects that are completed or nearly completed.

I had left the old shop opening a little rough from the old days when I cut the window opening down to the floor before anything was built of the garage. This opening was pretty rough and slightly too narrow for the door I had planned to install here.  The opening where the window was also turned out not be plumb and so I had to cut an inch out and square up the opening…that is SUCH a messy job since the block in this structure is real cinder block that used coal cinders as filler in the concrete…the dust is black as night.  I also had left the block at the top of the opening to support the top plate and ceiling joists and gable end of the roof structure and that needed to be removed so the top of the opening could be made higher and the support structure more permanent.  Strangely, my ceiling joists are running in the wrong direction over the workshop – parallel to the ridge line in the roof.  I needed to be conservative with the bracing to make sure nothing moved because I couldn’t really depend on what was and what wasn’t load bearing since it was screwy.  The interior of the shop also has a stucco finish so I had to learn a little about that too:

Old picture showing the first cutting of the new opening

the new header installed and braced. I had to install bracing in a series of successive steps (prior to this, the braces were on the interior of the shop to the ceiling to carry the joist load…which was odd because the ceiling structure wasn’t built correctly in the old shop for some reason).

The new stucco. I stapled wire mesh to the face of the wood header and troweled two layers of morter mix / stucco. The texture is a little different than the original walls – but it’s plenty close enough.

I eventually decided to forgo the use of a door here and will just trim out the opening as a pass through. The shop is pretty small and it would be inconvenient to have this door in place. However, I had kinda liked the thought of having the compressor behind a closed door so you could have a conversation while it ran. Maybe I can box it in and insulate it if I can give it some good ventilation with a fan on a relay or something.  Or, perhaps, I’ll change my mind and put that door in later.

Up next was some more work on the heat pumps. I had several insulation contractors provide quotes and one of them got pretty uppity with me about my self-installation heat pumps.  I later discovered that his company also does heat/air – so he was apparently taking my degree of do-it-myself personally.    He also quizzed me relentlessly on the sizing of the units…who did your load calcs, how many people did you include in your calcs…or did you ignore the fact that people affect the loads?, etc. etc.   I was genuinely getting close to asking him to leave but I kept my cool because I didn’t want to do insulation and he seemed to come from a pretty successful outfit.  I explained that I used a high end software package to calculate heat loss and so forth…he continued to try to poke holes in my efforts. I walked him around the side of the building and showed him the installation of the outdoor units and his attitude shifted pretty quickly and he started asking me details about my installation, not out of spite this time, but (I think) genuine interest.   I sensed him reverting back to a diminutive tone when he grinned sheepishly and started to ask what I planned to do with two dryer vents (in a sarcastic tone) – but before he finished the last word, his voice trailed off as it dawned on him that I was using those to cleanly snake the linesets into the interior wall structure and I think he was genuinely impressed. I probably should have asked him to leave anyway – his quote was 3 times the price of the three others and he stubbornly refused to insulate the floor between the garage and upstairs and kept repeating that I didn’t need to insulate that.  I guess he wasn’t listening to me when I kept repeating that the downstairs area will not be heated and cooled all the time.

Through all that, however, he did make me start to question my load calcs so I ran through them again later. I had about 12% capacity remaining with the outdoor temps at 95 degrees…and it happened to be over 100 for several days at that time. I started to think that perhaps I had gotten a little overzealous with trying to size the units exactly right and didn’t include enough safety factor…a dirty air filter or anything that might cause a slight loss of efficiency might leave me with a cooling/heating system that can’t keep up.  For the garage, I had accepted that the heating system would not be able to overcome the heat loss through the slab to maintain an indoor temp of 74 when the outdoor temperature was below freezing (which would be fine…I just plan for the system to dust off the cold downstairs)…but if I was going to start making changes, I might as well be warm (or cool) everywhere I might possibly want to be…..so I bought two new 1.5 ton heat pumps – this time with a 21.5 SEER rating (practically the best efficiency you can get without resorting to exotic technology).  Thankfully, they mounted to my existing mounts with only a minor adjustment.

 one of the line sets prior to wrapping with vinyl bundling tape (yes…all 50 feet of it – and all I could find was 2 inch bundling tape!)

 the openings in the top plate to get the linesets into the floor structure

Linesets in the wall and snaked to their end destinations in the attic over the old shop!/p

The new 1.5ton heat pumps with linesets ready to flare and attach/p

A really nicely aligned and cleanly flaired tubing connection…except for forgetting to slide the nut onto the pipe prior to flairing the tubing, this was perfect!  I had to cut it off and flair it again.

Another good looking flare, thankfully, with the nut pre-installed this time.

Installation finished with aluminum tape to protect the foam line insulation from the UV / weather (and it looks all cryogenic and stuff).  I still need to finish up the upper unit and I’ll be finished out here.

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