John F

Home Improvements

The Solar Photovoltaic System

For in depth details about the design and more, check out the solar page. The PV system is a solar system JB designed to cover 120% of our current electric use. The reasoning behind the 120% is our consideration for the future purchase of an electric car or electric hot water heater. In the long term, it may turn out that we may need double or triple the existing solar system to cover all our needs. It is a roof mounted system with (12) 240 watt Aleo Bosch Panels that I sourced from work. They are damaged units (the pallet fell off the back of a truck). Despite this, their condition is exceptional and I have had no problems with their proper operation. The inverter is a Power-One aurora 3000. The system has been in operation for almost 16 Months. It has in some months produced more than double our consumption, but this is due to its commission in April and the 14 degree angle the panels are set at. The winter months will tell how well the system is performing in comparision to our electric bill.

*UPDATE* 2/13/2014: We purchased a hot water heater that is electric. A 50 ga. unit was installed. The result load as of 2/13/2014 was much less than expected. Given the rather frugal water used by my wife and me, it is expected that our 2.88 kw system will meet our general electrical hot water use. Currently, the only non electical sourced utilities are gas heating through radiant, and gas cooking. There is concern that going all electric may require the main service panel to be upgraded from a 150 to a 200A panel.

The Cistern

When we arrived at our new home, we were more interested in moving in than watering the nonexistent plants in November. After closer inpection, it was found that the existing pump was not only improperly plumbed, but ignited when connected to power. After nearly two years, we have finally replaced the pump, plumbing and added the missing check valve. The unit works well for the faucet and we are finally lowering the water level of the 500 gallon tank. Part of the next step is to dig up and replace all the broken irrigation lines that have frozen and broken.

*UPDATE* 2/22/2014: The frozen PVC has been dug up and replaced, the electric valve is in order as well. The next step is to plug or limit the output of the hose ends as right now it is pretty spectacular watching the mess that is made when the system is turned on.


The house came with some rather funky dark green formica countertops. We had these replaced with tea leaf Quartz countertops. The reason for quartz is the lack of pores found in surfaces like marble that can contain bacteria and molds, but like marble is very heat resistant.


In our area, there is a building code that requires the house to have insulation in the exterior walls and between the garage and the house. We added additional insualtion to the garage outer walls to trap the heat from our warm vehicles in the evening. We also isolated the hot water heater and boiler from the garage to reduce the losses from their chimeny. The units are plumbed with recovery air for combustion from outside.


The flooring in the living room/dining area was switched from carpet to a nice oak laminate flooring. This was down for the asthetic affect as well as the ability to use the space for dancing!


The original space that now is the patio consisted of a grouping of desperate weeds and dirt. Our spring project in 2013 was to make this a space that we could enjoy. We accomplished this by adding fill material and 16" brick. The finished result was a 600 square foot patio that has a grill chairs and table.

Temperature Sensing

Using an arduino board, I was able to monitor the temperatures at each thermostat in the house as well as the garage and outside. From this I was able to learn that the garage needs more insulation and also a barrier between the garage and the vents for the boiler and water heater. This is causing the garage to drop temperatures very rapidly at night.

*UPDATE* 2/13/2014: After a review period that included multiple below zero nights, the garage resultant temperature is consistantly near 32F on cold nights.

Solar Hot Water Heating with PV