Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The city inspector came by today for the final inspection and we passed!  He's calling the utility to tell them to swap out the meter.  That's the final step and then we're done with this project.

Solar: Testing the System

Monday, September 29, 2014

Safety switch off.  Breakers on. 
Inverters on. Optimizers paired. 
Sun shining.
Panels producing. 
We produced energy for the first time today.  Even if it was just for a short time while we tested the system in prep for the inspection tomorrow.
Wow, it really works!

Indian Summer is Here!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's late September and it should be cool sweatshirt and shorts weather.  Summer isn't ready to go yet, I guess, because it's still sunny and in the 80's.  While we were out working on the final wiring on the panels, I snagged these pics of my girls out and about enjoying the local flora and soaking up some sun.

And Then There Were Three

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our chicken snacker has struck again and two more chickens are missing.  This time, I found a small hole dug under the boards and a pair of chicken feet in the chicken run.  Just the feet!
And some telltale evidence on the step to the coop leading to where the fiend enjoyed his dinner. 
This means war.

Solar: Final Wiring is Done

Monday, September 22, 2014

We're almost ready for inspection.  We started tonight with 2 strings of panels.  After connecting each string together, for each string we have the positive wire from the first optimizer and the negative wire from the last optimizer that are hanging free.  Using cable extenders, we ran these up the supports to the back of the array and then down into the junction box in the picture.  NOTE:  We taped the connectors of the extender cable to the connectors on the optimizer wires temporarily.  If we had connected them permanently, we would have had electricity running through them while we were making the final connections in the box.

It's extremely important that you keep track of which wire is which at this point.  If you click to biggify the picture, you'll see some tiny little labels that read "1" and "2".  We also used tape every few feet as we ran the wires to make sure we didn't get anything mixed up.  All wires went down and then back up into the box - this is called forming a "drip loop" and it's designed to funnel water away from the box and down the wires where it will drip off onto the ground.  By the way, this is an outdoor rated NEMA box that is designed to be outside all the time and has a waterproof cover.

Once all the wires were in the box, the connections are easy.  Ground from the array goes to ground from the house.  Red wire from String 1 goes to red wire from Inverter 1, black wire from String 1 goes to black wire from Inverter 1.  Repeat for String 2 and Inverter 2. 

With the junction box all done, we needed to make that final connection permanent on those extender cables by removing the temporary tape and connecting them with a snap. 
With that, the wiring is all done.  Just some final labeling to do and we'll be ready for inspection.  But J. is leaving tomorrow morning and will be gone all week, so it will have to wait until after he's back.
I'm getting so excited to have this project finally done!

Solar: Optimizers and Panel Wiring

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The SolarEdge system is nice in that the microinverters (SolarEdge calls them "optimizers") only output 1 volt each when the inverter is shut down.  I'm not saying you wouldn't get a nice shock if you put your tongue on the wires, but it's not going to kill you.  So it's nice and safe to work around.
Today, we worked on getting all the array wiring hooked up.  Each panel gets an optimizer installed on it.  You can mount them on the racking, but we chose to mount them in one of the pre-drilled holes on the panels.  Since we have 32 panels, we had to mount 32 optimizers. 

 Each optimizer has 4 wires coming out of it:  the 2 short wires receive the wires from the panel to which the optimizer is attached (one positive and one negative).  The longer wires are used to connect the optimizers together in a "string".  Our design called for 2 strings of 16 panels each, where String 1 will connect in to Inverter 1 and String 2 goes to Inverter 2.  Starting with the first panel, you connect the negative wire from optimizer 1 to the positive wire on the second optimizer.  Rinse and repeat until they are all tied together.  These wires use MC4 connectors, which are the standard for solar installations.  They just click together and it's failsafe, since one end is a male end and other female.  There's no way, really, to connect the wrong wires together.
Since we know that each optimizer outputs 1 volt, then we can easily use a voltmeter to test each string of panels to make sure everything is working properly.  With 16 panels, we should get 16 volts. Looks like it's working!

We used special clips called SunRunner clips to organize the wiring under the panels and make it nice and neat.  If you click and biggify the picture aove, you can see some of these clips to the right of the voltmeter as well as the MC4 connectors.
Finally, we needed to drive the ground rod and then run the ground wire across the front of the panel.  There's a special connector on each support that holds the ground wire tight as it runs across the array.  Using a neighbor's Hilti, we drove the rod down in the ground and then connected the solid copper ground wire to the rod with an acorn clamp.  From there, stranded copper ran from the ground and into a junction box where it will then go into the conduit and into the house.
We just have to finish up that junction box wiring and then we're pretty much ready for the city to inspect everything.  I'll show you that tomorrow.

Solar: Wiring Inside the House

Saturday, September 20, 2014

7 hours of hard work between Tony and J. and the wiring inside the house is all done and up to NEC 2011 electrical code. 

I want to give a shout out to Tony for all the help he has given us.  I wanted to give him some free advertising, but he just informed me this afternoon as he was leaving that he's giving up his own business because he "can't make a living at it with all the taxes, healthcare, etc.".   Politics aside, that's a damn shame. Luckily, he's landed a really good job and will be taken care of.

Again, if you are thinking about doing a solar project, I highly recommend finding an electrician that has done it before and is willing to work with you on a consulting basis. 

Solar: Mounting the Inverters

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tomorrow, Tony, our Master-Electrician-on-retainer will be here to help us do the final wiring in the house so that we can get it inspected next week before J. leaves for a conference in Kentucky on Tuesday.

So we had some prep to do before Tony gets here.  Perhaps the biggest thing on the list was clearing out the space in the basement where the inverters are going.  We'd been storing tools in that room, so they all had to be relocated.  Then we had to run some 2x4's from floor to ceiling where they screwed into the joists and then a leftover piece of plywood from the laundry room reno is what our two SolarEdge SE6000-US inverters are mounted to.

Installation requirements are that the two inverters have to be mounted at a minimum of 4 inches apart so any heat can dissipate.  As you can see in the picture, we have plenty of room so there will be a "combiner box" between the two inverters where the output wires from the inverters join together and then run to the main panel. 

My back is STILL screwed up, so J. did all of this by himself tonight while I sat on the couch with the dogs and watched reruns of Renovation Realities.  I would rather have been helping than dealing with this back pain.  It's really starting to get old.

Solar: Pulling Wire Through Conduit

Thursday, September 18, 2014

After our defeat last night at the hands of some stubborn wire, we decided to bring out some bigger guns.  Not only did J. pick up some wire lubricant to make those wires slide through the conduit more easily, but he also snagged a chain hoist from Harbor Freight.  Rather than break our backs, we'll let a tool do the hard work!

The deck is right above where we're pulling the wire, so he attached the hoist to the underside of the desk.  You can see that in the pictures above.  The green rope is what we are pulling through the conduit, and the wires are attached to the end of that rope.

With me lubing the wires and feeding them, and J. pulling on the other end, the wires were going through slowly.  Every couple of feet, J. had to stop and reposition the rope on the hoist.  We could gauge how far we were by how much rope was out of the conduit and, at about 2/3 of the way, I hear J. yell.  Running as fast as I could with this bad back, I found him lying on his back on the ground.  The rope had broken.

Fortunately, it broke outside the conduit and there was enough that we could continue to pull on.  But that could have been disastrous!  Had it broken in the conduit, we could have had to pull the wires out backwards and start all over.

Well, as you can see in that second picture, we finally have SUCCESS!  Right as it was starting to get dark, the wires emerged from the conduit.  We pulled it another 10 feet or so and called it quits for the evening.

This part of the project was pretty stressful and I think there are several lessons that we learned during this whole process.  I'd like to share them here and maybe save someone some frustration.

Lessons Learned:
  1. Always use bigger conduit than you need.  We went by the solar company's specifications but going bigger doesn't violate electrical codes.  It will only make your life easier.
  2. Minimize the number of angles.  We had some bends in the conduit and then a 90 degree long angle near the house.  The rule of thumb is that you shouldn't have more than two 90's and every bend or angle is going to make it harder to pull the wires through due to the friction.
  3. Invest in a bottle of wire lubricant and lube, lube, lube.  It's messy, but the stuff evaporates later on.
  4. Don't tape the wires together before you pull them! The tape will snag on the conduit as you pull it.
Up next for the solar project:  mounting the inverters and final wiring.  We're getting so close!

Popping a Gasket

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Time to get back to that solar project!    Here's where we are: 

  • We've got a 109 foot piece of 1" conduit running between the solar array and the house and it's now buried as deep as 24 inches.  
  • Each string of panels will have a red (positive) and black (negative) wire that has to run back to its respective inverter.  So we need to pull 4 colored 8-gauge THWN wires through that conduit, as well as 6-gauge stranded copper ground wire.
  • Our fish tape is only 100 feet long so it's not long enough.

So how the heck do we get all that wire pulled that far?   The answer is to use a rope.

This is where having an electrician to call is useful.  Believe it or not, a Shop Vac is again the tool of choice.  Just tie a piece of plastic in the shape of a parachute and then tie that to some very light twine or string.  We tried sucking it through from one of the other and that didn't work but blowing it from one to the other worked like a charm.  I have to confess that I didn't think it would work, so color me wrong!

Once we had the string running through the conduit, we did a mini celebration dance and then taped  a heavy duty rope to it and pulled the rope through.  The wires were then attached to the rope with a liberal amount of duct tape and we pulled and we pulled and we pulled.  We nearly gave ourselves aneurysms from all the pulling. 

But I think we had gotten the wire maybe a 1/4 of the way to the house and we were stuck.  In the dark at 10 p.m. and working by flashlight amidst the mosquitoes, we finally gave up.

We are going to figure this out one way or another!  (And J. is going to take my suggestion and go get some wire lubricant tomorrow.)

"New" Old Butcherblock Countertop

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Time for confession....I have a butcher block fetish.  You know those big ol' butcher blocks on fat legs?  The ones they used to use in actual butcher shops?  I drool over them.  But they're super expensive and H.E.A.V.Y. 

I think I mentioned that we've been working on a very slow project to renovate our laundry room.  We painted and put in the new cabinets this week and now we're ready for a countertop.  There's a new Ikea opening in Kansas City next month and I was thinking about buying one of their 1.25" thick maple countertops for $170. But then I happened across a guy not far from where I work that was selling used butcher block countertops from a professional kitchen.  These babies are 2.25" think hard rock maple with knife marks, gouges and even someone's declaration of love for someone with the initials "RH".  Was it worth the extra $30 for these thicker countertops with more character?  The question didn't even need to be asked.

We dragged the 8 foot piece home (yes, it's heavy!) and into the garage where I proceeded to sand and sand and sand and sand and sand some more to get the original finish off.  I wasn't trying to get rid of the defects.  Rather, I just wanted to get it to where it might take some reddish-brown stain since the natural maple color really doesn't match anything in our house.  And, since it's going into our laundry room, putting stain and polyurethane on it is OK.  Just don't do that if you're planning to put it into a kitchen or place food on it!

We must have burned up 2 saw blades and nearly caught the thing on fire when tried to cut it to length.  Hard rock maple is just that...hard!

Anyway, I think the final result turned out pretty nice.  That's two coats of Minwax Red Mahogany and three coats of poly.  And I finally got that butcher block that I've always wanted.

Happy late birthday to me!

A Fiend In Our Midst

Saturday, September 06, 2014

I went out on the daily "check on the chickens" run this morning, only to find the signs of a massacre.  My first clue was an overabundance of flies near the door and the fact that no chickens were in the chicken run.  A peek under the coop revealed a very dead, disemboweled chicken.
I'll spare you the gory pictures. 
A quick count of the chickens revealed that a second chicken is missing and presumed killed in action.  We are now down to 5 left from our original 9. 
Having seen a possum the other night in my headlights when we got home, I have a sneaking suspicion that he's the fiend that perpetrated this. 
I can't tell you how angry, frustrated, disappointed, mad, ticked, upset...you get the idea...I was when I found this.  I've been wondering why there have been so many feathers and why they had stopped laying, thinking they are finally slowing down since they are close to 4 years old.  Seriously, it looks like a chicken exploded in the coop but, big idiot that I am, I thought they were just molting again.  If someone or something was terrorizing me at night, I guess I wouldn't feel like doing my job either!
My back is still screwed up to the point that I can't bend over without pain, so J. put some boards up to block anything from coming under the coop and into the chicken yard.  Let's cross our fingers that this works until we can rig up something more permanent.

Transplanting Blackberries

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A couple of days ago, we dug the huge trench to bury the wiring from the solar array to the house.  That trench went right past the "blackberry jungle", which is the affectionate name that J. has given our backyard now that our Triple Crown blackberries are attempting to take it over.  Some of the canes on these plants were over 12 feet long and, as they outgrew our measly trellis and arched over, they dug into the ground below the raised bed and started sprouting babies. 

The trencher had to go through there, so I had about 15 or so plants that I had to evaluate for whether they should be saved or not.  We really want to move the bulk of the blackberries up to the new lots and expand the number that we have, so it makes sense that we move them.  Unfortunately, I didn't have 15 pots and couldn't save them all, but I did manage to save over half.

Unfortunately, this isn't the best time to be transplanting these beauties since it's really stinkin' hot.  I'm really worried that they wilt from the combination of distress from being dug up and the heat if I put them in direct sunlight, so they're resting in the shade of the house for now.  Cool weather can't be far off and we'll transplant them to their final resting spot on the vacant lots once it's here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...