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:
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:
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!!!!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
I know, I know, that is a thing of beauty! But seriously, that is the beginning of my pond in the greenhouse. Water has one of the highest capacities to hold heat of pretty any much material on Earth so it is a great way to keep a greenhouse warm at night when the sun isn’t shining and you haven’t figured out how the furnaces work and don’t really want to. So I made a pond – I dug a bit, I used approximately fifteen tons of cinder blocks (or at least that is how my back feels), I got a pond liner, and I filled it with some water.
And now I have to undo all of that.
Silly me figured that the location I was building it was a good one since it was close to the electrical outlets my dad put in (thanks Bernavel!), and I will need a pump in the pond to keep the water moving and fulfill my dreams of some crazy pond-based irrigation system.
(And yeah I know – that is a super sweet phone charger/speaker set up there. Also the outlets point down to avoid any water situations, but don’t worry – they are GFCI. Safety First!)
But when the outlets were installed it was about mid-summer and that general area was plenty sunny. Now that it’s mid-fall that area is not so sunny. There are some pretty large pine trees close enough to the greenhouse on the southern side that it blocks some of the midday sun in part of the greenhouse. This is not an ideally situated greenhouse – if I were starting from scratch I would have oriented the greenhouse perpendicular to where it is now and set it further back from the trees, thus allowing the most sun absorption during the day. But you get what you get.
And what I got is a pond that is currently in the shade the better part of the day at the time of year when I need it most to retain heat.
- Observe, then build. It would have been nice if I hadn’t been so dead set on putting the pond right near the outlet and actually realized that the sun was going to shift.
- The sun moves! East/West and North/South. (I mean, yes, I obviously knew that, but when you are dependent on the sun for more than a pretty sunset over the city skyline it because a little more apparent)
- Cinder blocks are heavy! But I used them because I have a ton of them and they are actually pretty useful. Next iteration of the pond I will probably dig down further into the ground and only use one layer of blocks around the edges.
And so the pond will be moved. Luckily I didn’t fill it all the way since I was going more for “proof of concept” and conceptually it is a pond in its ability to hold water – cold water.
(Note: it did drop below freezing last night and the low in the greenhouse was only 38 degrees. I’m not sure if the pond had anything to do with that, but at least my plants are still alive)
That’s me with our ’99 Ford Ranger we got as a farm truck. Promptly after acquiring it E and knocked off one side mirror and got it stuck in the mud on the back part of the property – for two weeks! I spent a good five days attempting to dig it out of the mud, literally covered in so much mud I looked like a swamp beast. Finally we gave in and called a tow truck. The first guy took one look at where it was stuck and told me that his truck would get stuck in the mud before he could even get to where our truck was. Luckily our neighbor down the street who runs the auto body shop in town said that he could get it out once he fixed his tractor and got his brush-hog attached. E and I had to head to a wedding out of town, but when we came back, there it was, the Ranger, sitting in the driveway covered in mud.
I figure this is a fitting beginning for the Jugtown story or whatever this blog will end up being. I imagine trial and error, lots of errors, will play a large part in our Jugtown story. For example – now I now that I should never attempt to drive the truck back in that part of the property EVER! (seriously it is a swamp and if I had gotten five feet further I would have run smack into a raised wooden pathway and probably busted up the truck even more). Anyone who knows me will tell you that I take everything as a dare, telling me not to do something just makes me want to do it even more. I also will rarely take other people’s advice on what or how something should be done. It’s probably not the greatest character trait, but it does make me willing to try things others would probably not. A certain amount of foolishness (or gung-ho-ness if you’re feeling generous) is necessary for a lot of the things I want to do or have done in life. I have plans, BIG PLANS.