Posted in Fail, Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Plans, Stubbornness, Successes

Yet Another Greenhouse Furnace Post

This is getting excessive!

So last year I realized that the greenhouse I was working in was a poor choice and I switched over to the smaller greenhouse attached to the chicken coop.

This was a GOOD IDEA! The plants have lived out here all winter and have been happy, which means I have been happy!

This makes me SO Happy!

The furnace was pretty reliable… until a couple of weeks ago.

And then it died. First I thought that maybe the oil filter and screen needed to be replaced. I did that – no luck. So I tried taking it apart since I figured that I hadn’t cleaned the oil nozzle in the three (almost) years we have been here and I had no idea what the previous owners did. It was not pretty:

New nozzle, with filthy electrodes!

I replaced the nozzle but not the electrodes since they didn’t have the correct ones at the plumbing supply store. Mainly, because, as I learned by googling the serial number I finally found it after cleaning off layer and layer and layers of gunk, this furnace is from 1957 and the company which made this furnace, International Heaters of Utica, went out of business and it is close to impossible to find any information about this furnace.

And then I tried to restart the damn and this thing BLEW UP – like literally sparks flying, thank goodness for circuit breakers that trip when things catch themselves on fire – blew up.

You can’t really see where it blew up (kind of at the bottom where I cut off all those fabric coated wires) but trust me – it was scary.

So this limit switch is busted, I don’t know where one finds a new one for a 62 year old furnace, and I AM FED UP.

So I have decided that once I have two fully functioning legs I am going to attempt to move one of the other five, non-sixty year-old furnaces from one of the less useful greenhouses into this one and all will be well.

In the meantime Spring is almost here which means it hasn’t gotten too cold and this has actually been keeping the greenhouse warm at night:

Yes – there is actually a fireplace insert under all those cinder blocks

This old fireplace insert the previous owners left on the porch which I moved into the greenhouse a couple months ago with the help of E, a willing friend, the tractor, and taking down one of the greenhouse walls (don’t worry – I put it back up). The cinder blocks are piled up all around it and filled with stones and it all makes a pretty decent heat sink. For now….

Posted in Greenhouse, Plans, Technology

Technology in the Greenhouse!

I’m really excited about this thing! It’s a cool sensor that you just stick on the wall and it tracks the temperature and humidity. I’ve been wanting something that does this so I can see how well the furnace is working in the greenhouse. I have a high/low thermometer, but I wanted something that would keep a better history of temperature changes.

So I got this: http://www.sensorpush.com

It’s pretty awesome and I really like seeing the temperature fluctuations during the day. I can also tell how often the furnace is cycling on and off over the night. Hopefully I’ll be able to use this to tell how well some of my heating ideas are working. I already have the layers inflated and a new pond is in the works. It’s also possible there will be fifty bales of straw here shortly…

Posted in Building, Farm Truck, Greenhouse, Successes

Back in Business! (some successes)

I am happy to report – There’s a lot of things that have gone well around here lately!

  • The truck has working four wheel drive! (I tested it in the snow even!)
  • The compost pulley is in working condition and has only strewn pineapple bits over the driveway once in it’s fully functional form.
  • I made an amazing seed spreadsheet to keep track of my apparently 140 varieties of seeds I am hoarding
  • E and I moved some cabinets from the laundry room to the kitchen (reuse!) and they are still attached to the wall right where we hung them!
  • The furnace in the greenhouse is still functional and we had 250 gallons of oil delivered so it should be working for a while. (though I will mention the thing that did not go well – we put the snow plow thing on the front of the glorified lawn mower and it did not go well at all; because it is a lawn mower and that is all it does – mow the lawn. So E and I spent a good three days chipping ice out of the driveway so the oil truck could get down to the greenhouse. Note to self: shovel snow right away!)
  • We got a 78 record and played it successfully on the Victrola! (we also played a 33 and got to hear Dancing Queen sung by the Chipmunks!)img_1457
  • The new bedroom is almost done. E has done an awesome job on the walls
  • I fixed a hole near the inflator in the greenhouse and hooked up a new vent to use air from outside to inflate between the two layers of poly. (outside air is preferable since it reduces condensation between the layers)

    img_1591
    Yes that is a pie tin vent opening – recycling!

     

 

That’s all I can remember right now – but hopefully there will be many more this spring!

Posted in Greenhouse, Successes

It’s Alive and Out of Control

That is some pretty slick styling on the greenhouse heater, huh?

And I am happy to report that is a working greenhouse heater at that! This one required a bit of fiddling with the wires to bypass the thermostat, but it’s alive! I did also get to do some excellent reading about cad cell relays and oil fired heating controls – you know, just some light bedtime reading.

This greenhouse is much smaller than the original one, probably about half the size. It heats up incredibly quickly.

 

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This took only ten minutes or so!

But this excellently working heater is uncontrollable because the old thermostat was busted, the one I pulled out of a different greenhouse was also mostly busted, and the one I bought from Home Depot was apparently a bunch of random bits of busted thermostats all shoved in a box (we definitely should have listened to the cashier and grabbed a new, non-opened one).

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Do you like my little alligator clamp jumper?

 

So tomorrow I will get thermostat number four and try to tame the Utica International wild beast of a heater which lives in the greenhouse. Wish me luck!

 

Posted in Fail, Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Plans

Giving Up (for now)

It’s over. I’m done.

Well for now. I went to bed the other night doing a happy dance because I was convinced I had fixed the greenhouse furnace. Now I’m doing a sad waltz because I did not really fix it. Exhibit:

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I did get it up to a balmy 70 degrees in there, but sometime during the night the safety system kicked in and it shut down, dipping to a frigid 28. I suspect there is probably something impeding the oil flow and causing the safety to trigger when there isn’t enough fuel for combustion. Suspect:

img_1028

This old ass oil filter is probably the main culprit here. Other possibilities are an issue with the actual igniter or the thermostat. But, that is for another time, because I have given up.

I have come to the conclusion that the greenhouse I chose to start in is becoming a poorer and poorer choice. It is in the shade way too much and is giant. I was looking around the other greenhouses and realized that the one that is behind the barn and has the chicken coop in it was warmer even with the door open than the one I was working in. Case closed.

So I moved all the sad plants into the sunroom:

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And together we shall be sad until spring.

 

Posted in Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Successes

Oil Furnace Roller-Coaster (aka – IT’S ALIVE! part 2)

E and I were away for a week and I had high hopes for the furnace to continue working during this time, especially since the high last Friday here was 23 degrees! Well we came back to this:

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SAD PLANTS!!!!

Turns out the furnace at some point stopped working and I have been on a whirlwind of ups and down the entire day. Let me walk you through it:

DOWN: The furnace stopped working and it was cold and my plants are SAD!

UP: It seems likely the furnace lasted for a bit since the low recorded by my thermometer was only 28 degrees (the low outside was around 17 degrees). Also, most of my plants (minus that super sad avocado above) seemed to be alright. I suspect the furnace was fine until it ran out of oil sometime during the week I was gone.

DOWN: I’m pretty sure the furnace ran out of oil and I thought I put 5 gallons of diesel in right before we left. This will cost a fortune to heat!

UP: Wait – I go get diesel and my gas can is only 2.5 gallons! Maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought!

DOWN: I put the new 2.5 gallons of diesel in the tank and press the restart. And no heat. The furnace turns on, I can sort of hear a spraying noise, and then the safety kicks in and the whole thing shuts down. Fuck!

UP: I am determined to fix this! While looking up YouTube videos about fixing furnaces I see something about bleeding your furnace if it runs dry. This seems very likely the issue since I’m pretty positive it ran out of oil (diesel is oil minus the red dye). I gather tools and prepare for battle with this fucker:

img_1017.png First I forget that the heater has to be on for this to work and think that maybe there is a total clog somewhere since I have removed the entire bleeder valve and there no oil to be seen… But luckily I remember! Air and oil sputters out. I try to restart…

DOWN: It does not start. I bleed it more. More air and oil. More oil. Now just oil. A steady of oil.

UP: IT’S ALIVE!!!!

UP: img_1016-2.jpg

Almost 60 degrees now (plus my really janky thermostat which definitely needs to be replaced – that’s for another time though)

And there you have it, my personal emotional roller-coaster courtesy of Siebring HeatMaster Oil Furnaces and Beckett AFG Oil Burners.

Posted in Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Plans

False Starts

Yeah, yeah – that is not a pretty picture. But it is an important picture. Or, more like, it was an important picture.

I was trying out starting some seeds in the greenhouse in not-quite dead of winter, but in the pretty fricking cold (hello high of 23 degrees!) start of winter. I planted a flat of seeds in an old flat of dead squash babies that were cruelly murdered in the spring of their lifetime by an dead irrigation system battery. I planted some tomatoes and some parthenocarpic squash (which are pretty cool, like baby-Jesus squash they don’t need to be fertilized to grow, or wait maybe that’s Mary – whatever, I’m Jewish). Anyway, these squash are perfect for the greenhouse since they can produce fruit without pollination and the status of bees and other pollinators in the greenhouse is questionable.img_0642

And then a little tiny mouse came along and ate all the seeds before they could even have a chance.

Lesson learned – DON’T SET FLATS OF SEEDS ON THE GROUND!

will try again later….

Posted in Greenhouse, Plans, Successes

It’s ALIVE!

Big news from last week! The greenhouse furnace is operational! I had to jerry-rig the wiring because Bernavel had to disconnect it when he hooked up the rest of the electricity in the greenhouse. I figured that since it’s unlikely I will need the fan in the winter, that I could just connect it to the fan wiring. So once that was done I flipped the switch and WE HAVE HEAT!

The furnace fired up pretty easily. I should probably install it on a new breaker and the thermostat is a little busted, but this was in a 42 degree night!img_0876

So I’m hoping that this will get us through the winter since I was having doubts and thoughts that maybe I was just going to have to bring my plants in the house for the winter. I’m very excited and now have plans to grow ALL THE PLANTS!

Posted in Greenhouse, Plans

Blowing Up the Greenhouse

I had been using a blower we found in the greenhouse to get the fire in our wood-stove roaring, but then I realized that it already had a purpose! In the greenhouse! To keep the greenhouse warm in the winter I want to both absorb as much heat during the day and store it in things such as the pond and other high thermal mass materials and also insulate the greenhouse at night to keep in as much of the heat as possible. Our greenhouses are double glazed, meaning they have two layers of the plastic sheeting that covers the outside. Apparently this is actually a great way to insulate a greenhouse, and if you can get a nice amount of air between these two layers, then all the better. So we are trying out blowing up the greenhouse.img_0606

It is apparent from the holes that were already present in the inner layer of glazing and the fact that there are blowers in every greenhouse, that this was something the previous owners already were already doing. Hopefully this means that it will work!

I’ve been doing a ton of research about heating and insulating the greenhouses. This post from Midwest Permaculture seems awesome and has great information about things such as TMV and R values of different materials which is super useful.

THERMAL MASS VALUE BTU/Sq. Ft./degree F.

  • Water  63
  • Steel  59
  • Stone  35
  • Concrete  35
  • Brick  24
  • Sand  22
  • Earth  20
  • Wood  10.6

 

R-Value Measurements (hr°Fsq.ft/BTU)

  • Fiberglass glazing- single layer  R = .83
  • Glass double layer  R = 1.5 – 2.0
  • Polyethylene Double 6mil film  R = 1.7
  • Glass triple layer 1 / 4 “ air space  R = 2.13
  • Polycarbonate 16mm triple wall  R = 2.5
  • Polystyrene (styrofoam) 1 inch thick  R = 4.0

 

I need to check them out some more and read up on Midwest Permaculture

And then there’s always THIS