What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quick Plumbing Update

As of tomorrow it will be two weeks that the patio has been dug up with a hole about the size of a grave. The good news is everything appears to be draining fine. The bad news is our plumber is on holidays so we still have the hole. He is supposed to come out the first of the week. So there's where we sit with out plumbing problem. I'll update more as soon as the plumbing is being worked on. In the meantime tomorrow I will post how we finished off the down draft vent.

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why Install a Broan® EcoVent?

Broan® EcoVent
August 16, 2009

One question immediately arises with the final installation of our Jenn-Air® down draft system and that is why use a Broan® EcoVent? In the winter of 2006 we installed our Jenn-Ai® slide in range (more on my range here) with down draft system in our previous house then moved it here in June of 2007. At the same time we installed our front loaders in the old house in February 2007 and also moved them here. All three appliances are high efficiency appliances but what we noticed as a flaw was the venting on both the dryer and the range. Both had regular vent covers. Cold air despite everything we did came back up through the vent! I actually resorted to placing a folded up towel over the down draft grate of the range.

When we moved here we looked for an eco-friendly, energy efficiency dryer vent (more here) and found it in the Broan® EcoVent. This is a Canadian made vent cover designed for Canadian winters. It is larger than regular vents because it is insulated preventing cold transfer. It has a unique floating ball check valve that prevents back draft as well as insects entering and the design also prevents rodents from getting in. It definitely solved our dryer vent problems. I decided I wanted this vent for the Jenn-Air® down draft even though it meant reducing the air flow from 5" to 4". The problem is and there has been complaints over the vent cover meant for the Jenn-Air® down draft ranges which includes both back draft and rodents getting in. We live on water front property so rodents are a huge concern! We also live in Canada so cold back drafts is a major concern in terms of energy efficiency. Reducing the air flow but using an energy efficient vent cover made a lot of sense. First the reduction would actually create a stronger flow of air from the range increasing it's efficiency. Second using this vent cover virtually eliminates the back draft and rodent problems making this vent cover an extremely eco-friendly choice for the down draft system. It meets all of our needs as well as providing energy efficiency!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hooking Up the Down Draft

We moved here in the spring of 2007. I have a down draft Jenn-Air® slide-in range with down draft system (more here). Hooking up the down draft in our previous house was as simple as attaching the down draft to the floor the going through the outside vinyl sided wall. It took minimal effort and about an hours worth of time. Here it was a different story. The house is earth bermed with the lower, main living level mainly below ground. That meant the vent had to go through a cement foundation wall that was about 12" thick and on the only on ground level. So the vent would span from the lowest level exiting on the ground level. This past weekend we decided to hook-up the down draft after securing the necessary equipment to do so. It was a DIY project.

down draft 1 to 4Our first step was work in the walk-in pantry that is below the only room on the ground level which is a large entrance. We marked out the area in the pantry where the vent would be going through then carefully dug around to make sure there were no wires (1). Next we used a 4" cement drill bit (2) and marked on the outside (3) where we would be drilling. We decided drilling from the outside in would be a lot less mess indoors and it would keep the noise for the most part out of the house.

The drill bit was attached (4) to the heavy duty drill then we started drilling. I'm telling you drilling through cement is very loud, dusty work and slow going work. You definitely need ear plugs and don't push the drill. Let the drill do the work for you without forcing it.

down draft 5 to 8The drill went through the cement foundation wall (5) in about 4 inch segments. This actually took a lot more time than expected as you just can't rush the drill. Once the drill hit that mark my husband wacked out the plug (7) with a hammer and huge screwdriver. We ended up with 3 full sections of plugs plus a small one. They looked like the big beads the Flinstones might have worn! Then he drilled further until he finally broke through (6). Breaking through really meant we were able to free the hole of any debris and not actually drilling completely through. Had we drilled completely through we would have had quite the mess in the pantry! At the end of Thursday night we were left with a nice hole in our foundation that spanned from the outside into the pantry. We stuffed the hole with an old towel and called it a night. My husband was sore and achy from running the drill and it was getting hot an humid out so we figured on finishing the hook-up over the weekend.

down draft 9 to 11We had all the materials ready for the hook-up that included rigid ducting, flexible ducting, elbows, a reducer, eco-friendly vent cover and metal duct tape (9). The first step was to install the eco-friendly vent cover on the exteriour (10) in the duct lined hole (11). This is a special Canadian made vent cover that is heavily insulated and saves energy (more here). I should mention when doing this type of DIY project go as energy efficient and eco-friendly as possible even if it costs a bit more. The vent cover is not only heavily insulated but during insulation a heavy application of caulking is applied assuring no air leaks later. The insulation and automatic valve closure via a specialized floating ball means there will be no transfer of cold air into the interiour of the house during the cold weather. The automatic valve also ensures that rodents and insects even if they somehow got through the vent grate system would not be able to get into the vent pipe itself.

down draft 12 to 15The down draft system of a Jenn-Air® is an extremely powerful venting system. The main blower that moves the air to the outdoors is attached to the floor (12) which means moving these types of stoves is not quite all that easy. The back of the down draft (13) is the main area of interest. A short flexible metal hose runs from the air intake to the down draft exhaust (not shown but basically in line with the plug in 12). A rigid duct pipe runs from the outside vent (14) to the down draft exhaust (15). Each bend is carefully sealed with metal duct tape to keep the velocity in the duct.

The actual opening of the Jenn-Air® down draft (13) is 5" but we used an adaptor to reduce that to 4" for two reasons. First we wanted to us the high efficiency vent cover by Braun which in our climate saves a lot of money and second by reducing the duct size we increased the velocity of air being expelled so increased the efficiency. Unlike a dryer vent there is no concern over lint build-up either so the ducting should stay relatively clean.

Once everything was hooked up we gave the down draft a test run. Oh my, it was wonderful! Surprisingly it was a lot quieter than the last installation and in fact is barely noticeable when turned on. The stove is now 100% fully functional. I am a very happy camper!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Plumbing Problems

We have had on and off plumbing problems since buying this house. We actually are dealing with two drainage systems possibly three, faulty design for both and roots. The first system is the municipal sewage system. The two bathrooms and laundry room drain into the municipal sewage system. Shortly after moving in we discovered a problem with this system which we thought was fixed until another problem appeared the following spring that involved using a porta-john and digging up the neighbours' yard. That ended up being a rooting problem so once the roots were removed that system has been working fine. During the second repair we installed additional drain clean-outs for that system and the system that drains into the natural water body. Ground water, rain water and the kitchen grey water drains into this natural drain system. This means we have to be careful to use a no or low phosphate dish and dishwasher detergent as well as scrap plates before washing either by hand or in the dishwasher. Before you ask, yes this is a perfectly legal, acceptable and common drainage system here. Now we know there is a septic system that we suspect may still be in use for rain water drainage but we haven't found it yet.

plumbing problemsJust outside of the kitchen patio doors there is a pit, brown circular object at beginning of the arrow. Water from the kitchen, rain water and two drains from the patio (one pictured end of arrow) (1) drain into this and from there travel down another solid pipe to the natural water way. We suspected a blockage of this solid pipe that forced water up and back into the house. The only solution was digging up the patio.

We discovered a corrugated drainage pipe that was obviously bowed (2) and (3) so now things got interesting. When the solid pipe was snaked, the snake went through the 'Y' joint instead and snaked the corrugated pipe instead of the smooth pipe. We do not know and the plumber can't figure out why the corrugated pipe is there in the first place unless it was a shoddy repair. At the same time we found the solid pipe (4) that had obviously been patched at some point. The end solution is we are tying all of the drainage pipes together in one solid fashion so nothing can get inside the pipes. The pit is going to be replaced with a clean-out. What we will end up with is a solid plumbing system into the natural system with 3 clean-outs covering all bases.

sludgePictured is the machine our plumber uses to snake the drains. A large coiled, flexible metal rod attaches to the front. It is then fed into the drain and the machine is turned on forcibly clearing any blockage. Additional rods are added as required. When the blockage is cleared is shows as a thick, black and very smelly sludge. In a normal system you would not see this as it would go directly into the sewage system. In our case we could both see and smell it!

Once we got the blockage cleared we discovered another problem. The pipe end in the pit (1) was more than half blocked with cement reducing the diameter considerably which reduces the flow of water from the pit. This creates a greater chance of water backing up into the house. Then when the blockage was cleared it was obvious the patch in the solid pipe wasn't sealed. So we are replacing the solid pipe from the pit that will no longer be a pit to the connection of the first patio drain.

The majority of the work happened Tuesday afternoon. The good news is there is no flooding in the house. It has drained and dried up. The trench my husband dug has also mostly dried. As you can see from the bottom picture the water coming out of the drainage pipe has cleared considerably. The bad news is the plumber wants to leave the open trench as is for at least one week before hooking things up properly. That means we are left with a nice trench, piles of bricks and a pile of dirt for the next week.

Garden Gnome