Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Still warm inside

After 6 straight days without sun and the window open during a hurricane, the inside temperature is still 10 degrees higher than outside. I am pretty pleased with the performance so far.  The real test will come when it freezes outside.

The outer shell does leak in several places, but I am hoping that I can get the inner film layer to divert the water down where I will collect it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't worry, the dome has weathered the storm!

Early inspection this morning has showed no damage. Last night, when the wind was raging from the Northeast, the north vent blew open.  I will need to tie them down somehow.  I thought about doing it yesterday, but I figured I would let it go to see what happens.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Adding to the inner film layer

Not much going on.  I have been working on other projects.  Slowly (when the sun isn't out and it's cool enough to work inside) I have been stapling up more anti-condensate thermal reflective film on the inside.  Sorry no pictures, they don't show much.

I have also planted some fall crops.  Beets, lettuce, parsnips, carrots, radish from seed.  I'm not expecting much.  Light levels are getting low.  We'll see what happens.

The hurricane approaches!

I hope my dome doesn't roll away.  The eye of the storm might pass right over my town!  Apparently this hurricane is unprecedented for several reasons: path, temperature, time-of-year, maybe more.  People around here are pretty freaked out.  The home centers are packed worse than I've ever seen.  Here in southeastern PA, we have always bragged about our weather.  No extremes.  No fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, cyclones, droughts, blizzards, poisonous animals, mudslides, you get the idea.  We do have all of these, of course, but nothing extreme enough to worry about.  Ice storms can leave us without electricity because trees fall on the power lines, but that's usually the worst of it.  But now we have a hurricane about to make landfall in New Jersey?!?  Unbelievable.  Nobody is really sure what will happen, and you can't really trust the news because they always scream crisis, but the general consensus is that it's going to be bad.

The preparations I have made for the dome are to shut the valve on the rain collection system.  I didn't even have to do that.  Basically, there are no preparations to make.  I am a bit concerned that the film covering will blow off.  We will see.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Adding some more insulation

Don't  worry I haven't forgotten to update!  I am at that point where I am waiting to get paid again.  I have started adding the inner layer of greenhouse film, but going has been slow.  It is just too hot to work in there right now!  I also added some more Reflectix to the north side.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New rain barrel ideas

Check out the additions I made to my My $40 DIY Rain Barrel Design page, including an enclosure that looks like an outhouse and a 275 gallon rain collector under the garage.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I am thinking about an experimental green roof.

I am trying to do something useful over the doorway.  So far I have put down plywood and laid some rubber roofing (pond liner) on top.  I would love to build some walls around it and throw some compost up there.  Any thoughts out there?

Built a better pond filter yesterday

Update 3/29/14:  I figured I would add some more details to this post.  It is amazing how many people are looking at my filter!  It cost me about $20 (not including pump) and works perfectly. Granted, I did have most of the items laying around, but you might too!  Another advantage is that the PVC is not cemented together. I just cleaned the filter out after a year, but it could have gone much longer without clogging. Cleaning took 10 minutes.  The water is crystal clear!
1 bucket (minimum 5-gallon, but you can go bigger if you want)
About 4 feet of 1/2" PVC (again, for large ponds/pumps, go with 3/4 or 1" pipe)
2 PVC elbows non-threaded
1 PVC elbow female threaded on one end
1 PVC Tee non-threaded
1 connector male thread/hose bib to match your hose
teflon tape for taping threads
1 PVC straight connector (for outlet tube)
length of hose (I used old garden hose 5/8"id)
1 hose clamp
Stiff screen or mesh (I used 1/2" mesh)
Thin window screen (optional, depending on media used)
Bio-filter balls, lava rock, or both (I had and used both)
Silicone or gutter caulk for outlet hole

Take a 5 gallon bucket, some 1/2 inch PVC and fittings and assembled as you see below.

Cut a hole in the side about 4" from the top and inserted the outlet tube.  The straight connector (under the screen cover in the pic) helps form the seal.

Using gutter caulk or silicone, seal the outlet tube well.

The idea is to make the water cyclone in the bottom.  It keeps the inlet clean as it pushes the water up through the filter.  Use a mesh that is strong enough to hold your filtering media up off the bottom of the bucket.

I added a few bio bags from the fish store. I don't know if they help, but I'm sure they can't hurt. One of them I pulled directly out of my fish tank in my house.  The thought is that some of the beneficial bacteria that keeps the little fish tank clean will help the pond.

Fill with bio-media.

Attach hose and clamp.  Turn it on and check for leaks.  I don't care as much about how it looks as I do about safety and water retention, so I just hang the edge of the filter over the edge of the pond.  That way if the outlet tube ever leaks it will just drip back into the pond.  

Notice this filter has no lid and is not pressurized.  It does not need to be.  The filter has never clogged or overflowed.  It has worked flawlessly. 

The only negative about this filter is that it's an eyesore!
I thought that if I wanted to improve the look I could put a decorative barrel over the entire filter, but that's for another day!

Feel free to comment with questions or design ideas...

Air is moving nicely through the sub system

When the sun came out I stuck my face to the end of one tube and found that air is moving quite fast through the system.  Now I just need a thermometer with some temp sensors to stick down there and test.

Some finishing touches on the fan intake

I found this square drain that can hold a 4" tube pretty snug:

Then I cut out the grate and the inner ring to maximize air flow: 

Then I caulked the edge and screwed to my fan housing, then attached the intake tube and ran the tube up to the ceiling where the hottest air is.

I am being careful to block off the ends of the tube so no critters get in there and make nests!  I wouldn't want to have to get a snake to clean them out, so here is my 1/2" mesh end cap.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The subterranean system is running!

First I started hanging the Reflectix (semi-rigid bubble wrap insulation) above the pond:

Then I hung the 5w panel:

Finally I ran the wiring and connected:
Air is slowly moving out the end of the longest tube, so I would consider it a success for now.

I really have no way of testing the effectiveness of this system.  I is pretty much just a good theory that pumping heated air underground during the day will radiate up at night.  I guess I could disconnect and test the nighttime temps with and without the fan running, and maybe I will do that when it gets really cold...

Lettuce and spinach doing great

The spinach outside hasn't done much at all, but the plants in the greenhouse will soon be ready for harvest.  Not bad for a few weeks!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Building the housing for the fan

I figured the easiest way to fit the square fan to the round tube would be with plywood.  I am sandwiching the fan in between several layers, with caulk in between each layer to seal out air.

Here are the four sections I plan to use.  I first cut out the holes with a saber saw, then I cut the four pieces apart.  It's easier to saw the holes out when you can clamp them to something.

And here it is nearly assembled.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I got my 5w solar panel in the mail today!

This is the exciting stuff.  I picked up a 4" fan that can push 72 cfm for $14.00 at Radio Shack.  The solar panel cost 19.99 on Amazon with free shipping.  Can I heat my greenhouse indefinitely for $35.00 using the power of the sun and the earth?  We're going to find out very soon.  I have quite a few steps before I can get these installed.  I need to test the fan and panel and build a housing to fit to the duct work.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I found this cheap vent today

It's amazing how I have walked down this aisle and never noticed this excellent auto open/close vent.  It's made for a foundation, but could be adapted for any number of uses.  I just might have to cut a hole in my wall and put this in, just because it's under $17.00!  Anyway, I hope this helps.

It has a screen, screws for mounting in a rough-cut hole, and a nice plastic face cap for a clean look and easy insulation. It opens at 70 and closes at 40, which I don't love, but it might be perfect for someone else looking to just keep from overheating.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

10 degree differential

is the average between outside and inside. Today the high was 52 and the greenhouse stayed a steady 63.  It felt great inside.  Granted, a front blew through yesterday and brought Fridays 80 degree weather way down.  But still very encouraging to know that it can handle a 24 hour dip in the weather. Very high humidity, but the tropical plants seem to be loving it.  We still have yet to get our first frost, and that will be the real test.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Going to hunt for some plants tomorrow

Every year my friends and I go camping in a particular swamp in the poconos.  It is loaded with aquatic plant life, and I am going to try bringing some home and keeping them alive.  In the past, any attempts I have made at keeping  plants from this area alive have failed quickly, and I'm not sure it can be done.  But I will keep trying!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Learned some more about mushroom compost today

Today I got to speak with Mike McGrath.  He took my call and explained all about mushroom soil.  Apparently, in addition to making sure the compost is aged for about a year, you should find out the pH of the compost and also learn if it was sterilized  at the farm by formaldehyde or by steam.  Also, if you want it to be best for organic gardening, try to buy it from a source that does organic mushroom farming.  So, again, there are no simple answers and all mushroom soil is not the same.  But the impression I got is that it is always going to be a good soil additive.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Temperature this morning

outside was 46 degrees, inside was 50 at 6:00am.  I still have a lot of work to do though!  I just picked up a 4" DC fan at Radio Shack of all places.  72 CFM for 4.57 watts!  I just ordered a 5w solar panel on Amazon and it should be here in a few days. So I need to come up with some kind of housing for the fan and mount it to the  PVC tubing.