Sunday, October 19, 2014

Upgrading the Sauna Stove

As part of the overall upgrades on the sauna, I wanted to switch out the concrete board I had originally used to "frame" the sauna stove on the inside and outside of the log walls.

When I first installed the sauna stove and concrete board, I thought that it would be a nice, permanent solution.  As the year progressed though, the board began to crumble around the edges and screw holes.  It also developed a network of spiderweb type cracks across it and it became clear that the heat was not kind to such a thin sheet.

After my experience with having the axle custom made at Rudnicki Industrial, I felt more confident in asking the dumb questions of people clearly smarter than me.  I headed back there and spoke to J! about replacing the concrete board with some sheet steel.  I wasn't interested in it being a fancy thing, just functional (functional IS beautiful to me...)

He suggested that for something of that nature, I would be better served by visiting Nu-Tech metals down in the city and speaking with M!.

Kenny and me, on my next trip to town, visited there and managed to catch M! in.  He looked over our plans and thought they were doable.  It did max out my budget ($200 - the amount I had mentally prepared myself for as a worst-case scenario).  I agreed though, and he said he could have it done in a day or two.

Returning promptly at 8am two days later, I was delighted to see the finished product.  Exactly as I had described!

Yesterday, I carried it to the sauna around lunch to begin the retrofit.  I carefully removed all the paving stones and cleaned the loose mortar off.  I also removed the side supports as I anticipated the steel to hold the stones in place.  This also made space for the bolts linking the inside and outside plates together.

After I set the inside plate in place, I repacked some mineral wool insulation around the paving stones (not shown).  A perfect fit!

With Donna and Kenny  helping out tremendously, we managed to line up the bolts and get the outer plate installed just perfectly.

I had to expand the holes on the lower inside plate slightly, but that was very minor compared to just how badly I feared things could have gone.

I tightened down all the bolts, and things looked great to me.  We'll see what sort of patina the steel plates take on over time.  I also have to see how much heat gets transferred from the stove to the plate and then on to the wall.  I don't want it to become a hazard.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Ladder for the Sauna

Having the water tanks in the loft of the sauna has been working rather well for us - at least, during the portions of the year where we can keep them from freezing up.

Having them up there has made it a bit challenging to examine them for leaks or cleanliness.

For most of the summer I had put off checking on them.  I didn't notice any water except when we overpumped the tanks, in which case the water just dripped right through the ceiling.

My ladders were always in use elsewhere.  Finally I decided to mount a permanent ladder in the sauna.  This ladder could also double as a drying rack for towels or fundoshi.

With a pair of 2x6 cedar beams, and an 8' hardwood dowel, I was able to churn out a really nice looking ladder in the span of an afternoon.

Grandpa donated six tiny L brackets, and I soon had it mounted.  I didn't run the ladder right to the floor, so it is suspended from the wall.  I must confess that it still makes me nervous to climb it - my imagination is able to graphically picture the ladder coming away from the wall and sending me crashing down.

So far, it has performed perfectly though.  And it looks really nice to boot!  The sauna is really coming along.  Stay tuned for more tweaks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Things That go BEEP in the Night - A Refrigerator on Solar Power

Having an upright refrigerator with freezer compartment sure has been a nice addition to the cabin.

While the previously created downright fridge (as compared to an upright fridge ;)) that I created by converting our chest freezer to a refrigerator worked very well for us for almost two years, we had to admit that it was getting tiresome always having to reach DOWN into it to retrieve items.  Especially when they began to be piled two or three deep.

We researched at great length before finally settling on a special order Danby from Walmart.



Upon closer examination, I noted that this Danby  model appears identical to the Home Depot Magic Chef design that was cheaper and more readily available.  Oh well.

The big downside to this new fridge is the amount of startup current it wants to draw.  When the batteries are completely full it is just testing the limits of my inverter.  After the sun goes down though, it doesn't take long before the startup of the fridge causes the inverter to alarm with a low voltage (or perhaps overcurrent - it happens so quickly that I still haven't seen the exact code).

This is surprising, considering we have what I assume to be a large enough battery bank.

My first solution was to plug the fridge in via a long extension cord.  This reduces the current available to it.  It only helped delay the alarm somewhat, and isn't considered safe by all but the most daring of adventurers.

Now I'm going to have to get more creative.  Unfortunately I can no longer find a manufacturer of a soft-start outlet.   I will likely next try to increase the size of my battery cables to the inverter.  Hopefully this will make more current available when required.  I just worry about the amount of current that may have to travel through the bottleneck of my 100A fuse or my 100A meter shunt.