email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Boat Canopy Design - Again!

Finally, I think I got it right. I became concerned about "snow-load", so I decided to add two additional long secondary ridge poles to the top for stability. Fortunately the extra .5" tees (H) and crosses (I) parts were available locally!

Here is the final design.  Enlarge the pictures (click or double-click), cuz not all shows at normal view.

The rear view above doesn't mean much except that the sides are straight up and the top is arched.  The top view shows the connections (identified by letters) of the arched roof (much stronger than angled roofs).

This shows the side view and the quantities of pipes and fittings required (by letter and shape of fitting).  I'm doing that for those who are not familiar with the available fittings (as I was not when I started this project).

I am working out the order of construction.  I think it best to construct the top first.  You want to make sure to get all the cross-pieces square to each other, so constructing it on a flat surface like a garage floor or patio is probably best.  If you construct it on a nice flat basement floor, you probably won't be able to get it out... ;)

Since the top (with the cross-braces connecting the arches) is self sturdy, it seems easier to construct the bottom later, as a good top will automatically lead to a solid straight base.

OK, off to work out the order of construction...

Monday, October 12, 2009

PVC Parts Arrived Today!

Hurray! The specialty parts from Creative Shelters arrived today. This is the stuff for the "boatport" (movable carport for a boat) I want to construct. I feel like I've been on "hold" all week waiting for the stuff!

And I've been re-considering the design. I still need all the parts I ordered, I just want to add 2 more side poles on the top for improved rigidity (locally-available fittings). I'm probably "over-engineering" this (something my friends say I am notorious for), but better safe than sorry (and nothing I build ever falls apart). I heard on the radio yesterday that my area is forecast to have a harsher than usual Winter and I am concerned about snow load. So while the roof was going to be arched with a single ridge pole, I am adding 2 halfway down. It will be clearer when I take pictures.

The first thing I'm going to do is lay out all the fittings on the garage floor to make sure I have what I need. Second thing is to confirm the amount of PVC pipe I need. I haven't bought that yet. I need the trailer to haul the 10' pipes in, and it was full of brush until earlier today.

Then, I think I should build the fittings. That sounds odd, but I have a lot of places where I need to connect 2 fittings with a short bit of pipe (like a 45 degree elbow to a cross piece or tee) to make a customized single fitting. They don't make 5-way fittings with a 45 degree elbow and a "1.25 to .75 inch" bushing attached, LOL! I have a strange design that may be quite useful to others when I am done.

When the roof is constructed, THEN I'll know exactly what size the support structure needs to be. The roof is much more complex than the bottom. Well, I'd hate to build the support structure first and then try to fit the top on badly...

Note: I have no business relationship with Creative Shelters other than "customer". I just found them to be a good retail online place to get all the odd parts I needed for this project.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Heat Pump Works!

OK. It seems like the heat pump guys finally got the thermostat to communicate with the heat pump. It wasn't easy, though.

At first, they insisted on trying their standard thermostat with their standard heat pump for 3 days in a row and it didn't work. The 4th day, the same repair guy arrived with a 2nd repair guy who claimed to have had these problems before and solved them. I was getting pretty tired of all the failed attempts and told them that they either fixed the problem or haul the unit away, reimburse me the whole cost, and I would call another company. Not to my surprise, that seemed to have an effect...

1. I had looked up the Ruud brand of heat pumps on the internet last night and they are not the best. Well, I had heard of them for years and thought they were good. I only chose them because it was so hot in July when the York unit failed, because York said "2 days" and Ruud said "1 hour". At the time, I was desperate; it was 95 in the house!

2. I hoped they (Ruud) would take the unit away so I could change my mind and get a Trane.

3. I didn't think that a different thermostat would solve the problem.

Well, damn, they seem to have fixed the problem with a different brand of thermostat! And while I an not a thermostat expert, I listen carefully and learn well...

We know we see integer degrees on our thermostats. We see 71 or 72 or whatever. It seems that thermostats don't actually function in those terms. They can measure full degrees in full whole numbers (71, 72) or half numbers (71.5) and that is promammable. They thought that might be the problem for over an hour. IOW, the problem might be that that the thermostat was reading full degrees when it should be reading half degrees (something about both heating and cooling reading the same units that caused the problem). But changing that didn't solve the problem anyway.

Finally, they just hooked a different brand thermostat in and it worked perfectly right from the start!

Can you believe that? They fought with a thermostat they knew they were having troubles with and that wouldn't work for three days (they had tried 4 new thermostats). Sure, they wasted their time at it, but they wasted MY TIME, too. The time while they worked and the time I waited. I figure I spent 20 hours this week either waiting for them to arrive or watching them while they were here.

The good news is, that after 3 days, the system seems to be working properly, I have gotten used to the thermostat controls, and the whole house breaker has not tripped once (isn't that curious). That whole house breaker box problem started when the heat pump went bad and ended the day it was fixed (so far). That the heat pump guys say it couldn't be their fault means nothing to me. I'll take coincidence on this matter.

I am quite certain that, somewhere, there are people with the bad combination of the particular thermostat with the particular heat pump from this company who DON'T know their heat pump shouldn't be running all the time and wondering why their electric bill is high.

When I suggested to the repair guys that they should have the company backtrack these situations, they just laughed while walking out the door. A case of "not their problem", I suppose).

Well, mine is fixed... Maybe I should only care about that. But I don't... I think I will email the Jiffy company (the installers) and raise the issue.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Electrical Troubles - Part 2

The adventure continues! The heat pump is still not working right. It seemed to be working correctly yesterday when the repair guy left, but that was because the conditions that we now realize trigger the problem didn't occur again until nighttime. This morning I took detailed notes.

The heat pump is set on the "heat" setting (yes, "heat pumps" cool also). I set it at 71 F degrees. When the temperature drops 2 degrees, it starts heating again. By design, hen it reaches 71, it stops and waits for the house to cool 2 degrees again. It takes about 15 minutes to raise the heat to 71 again.

The problem with my unit is that, for reasons unknown, as soon as the heat cycle warms the house to 71, the cooling cycle kicks on and cools the house down. When it reaches the 2 degrees below the setting (71), the heat cycle kicks in again. Endless loop, forcing the unit to operate constantly.

So the repair guy was back again today and worked 2 1/2 hours trying to fix the problem. He replaced the thermostat twice (new units, not "used"), rewired the entire installed heat pump, and the same problem occurs. He swears he has used the same thermostat with the same heat pump many times without problems.

The evil thermostat (with the lid up to show the controls):

Late in the effort, another repair guy called him saying he HAS had problems with those thermostats and that heat pump. So tomorrow, they are BOTH coming out (with a different type of thermostat) and attempt to solve the problem.

I bet a different thermostat doesn't solve the problem. I think there is something internally wrong with the heat pump itself and that they are going to have to replace the whole unit!

And I'll bet that some of their customers have the same problem I do and don't realize it is a problem. They just get used to having the heat pump running all the time and wonder why their electric bill is so high!

I'm glad I'm retired. If I was having to take time off work for this nonsense, I'd be getting seriously upset.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Electrical Troubles

Grr! On July 28 this year, my heat pump failed. It was SO hot in the house! I called a couple of repair places, but they said "two days". I was dismayed. I found a listing that said "24 hour service, no additional charge". Great. I called and they were there in an hour! Their conclusion was that the unit had been hit by an electrical charge, the compressor was fried, and there was probably damage to other circuits that they couldn't test without a working compressor (which would cost about 1/2 the cost of replacing the whole unit. They could do the replacement the next morning.

Well, there HAD been a tremendous lightening crash directly overhead the night before. I jumped 3 feet, and all the cats were puffed up like big tribbles! So there was some logic to their conclusion. The replacement cost was about what I guessed, and I know the Ruud brand. I accepted.

Sure enough, they arrived in mid-morning and completed the replacement in 2 hours. Everything worked immediately, and they even converted the battery-powered thermostat to AC "as a favor". That may or not have been a mistake, but it seemed like such a minor thing at the time.

Some odd things followed. My oven clock suddenly started gaining 15 minutes per hour, and my M/V turntable turned at a different speed (I know because I heat my morning green tea water 1:30 minutes every time and for years it stopped in exactly the same position). Suddenly it didn't, and randomly positioned. Trivial, but weird.

Fast-forward to Oct 1st last week. I turned on the heat cycle for the first time, and it worked fine. 4 times in the next 5 days, the main house circuit breaker tripped. The 1st time, I assumed it was the whole neighborhood. But going outside, I realized it was only my house! I found the main breaker tripped and reset it. The next 3 times it was really annoying. I had my power company out Saturday morning to check their incoming line. They found no problems and suggested the main breaker on my end had to be replaced.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I noticed that my heat pump (on "heat") was running continuously. And then I discovered that sometimes it was putting out warm air and sometimes cool air. Without ever seeming to turn off in between. Weird (and possibly expensive).

But when the main breaker (whole circuit box) tripped while I was taking a shower and covered with lather, I was compelled to act. Well, you shower in the dark if you want. ;) I called an electrician this morning (and he arrived in an hour!). After 30 minutes of diagnostics on the circuit box, he couldn't find any problem with it. I mentioned the heat pump problem. He wouldn't try to repair it himself, but he said it appeared to be locked on A/C but also intermittently producing emergency resistance heat. He left saying he would try to find a main breaker replacement part (it's old) and call with a price. But he said I needed to call the heat pump company because it wasn't working properly.

So I did, and they arrived after 3 hours (these fast response times are amazing). The service guy checked the inside unit, outside unit, and found some wiring oddities which he fixed. When he reset the thermostat, he was surprised that the problem remained. He spent more diagnosing the system to no avail, then went and checked the thermostat. He used some different instruments and said it wasn't working right. He went and rewired the heat pump as it was originally, then tested the thermostat again. Same problem. I agreed to have the thermostat replaced. He said converting it to AC was a mistake and changed it back to battery power.

Without him changing any wiring or parts afterwords, the new thermostat made everything work perfectly. However, he pointed out that nothing in the entire heat pump system should have been able to trip the main house breaker switch! In other words, the maximum surge draw of the heat pump even with problems is only 26 amps and I had 60 to spare (plus I had not been drawing half the capacity at any time). So basically, he said the heat pump was fixed but he couldn't think of any connection between that problem and the main breaker tripping.

So I still wait for the main power breaker to trip again at any time... If the first electrician calls with a reasonable cost of replacing the main breaker, I will just have it done. Getting caught in pitch black with soap in your eyes is not much fun, after all...

Why don't I ever have any "normal" problems? Everything that I can't fix myself is admittedly "weird" to the professionals who come. Maybe I just fix the routine problems. Or maybe it's just "mean ETs". LOL!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Boat Canopy Design

I think I have it figured out now. I needed basic frame strength (cubes) plus top support (arches with a ridgepole) for shedding rain and snow. And a sturdy cover.

Got them all figured out now!

The canopy is designed to be separate from the boat. I park the boat and just pull the canopy over it. No trying to back it into a small shelter in the dark. Making the canopy as small and unintrusive as possible.

The base is made of 1.25" PVC pipe. The bottom of the base is like a sled; only a crosspiece at the back bottom. Above the boat, there are crosspieces for rigidity and strength. Those crosspieces above the boat are 6" higher than the highest part of the boat for safe clearance.

The top of the canopy frame is made from .5" PVC pipe and fittings so it can be bent into an arch. Arches are strong and so can be made from easily bendable smaller PVC pipe. And I have an idea that will help support the tarp cover that I will mention later.

The design:

Dimensions of this canopy vary by boat. I need 5' high crosspieces at the top of the base to clear my 54" pedestal seats above ground. As they say, "Your requirements may vary".

Mine will be 20' long and 7' wide and about 7' tall. The 20' length will protect the boat and trailer (the trailer spare tire, winch, and hitch will last longer when sheltered). Adjust yours as needed. It's the fittings that are the tricky part unless you don't care if the structure is 10" tall!

And finding the fittings is the hardest part. I've spent weeks searching local and internet sources for all the right fittings. Rule #1: No one offers them all! So this design is one that offers one internet source for "odd fittings" and the rest really are locally available. Indeed, the design was forced by what I could get locally and from only one internet source.

The base is made of 2 parallel pipes with one cross piece at the back. This is because the whole structure is designed to be pulled over the boat and trailer wherever it is parked. The uprights from the bottom pipes and the crosspieces above the boat will make it a rigid structure.

At the point above the boat, the structure changes from 1.25" PVC pipe to .5" PVC pipe. And that's where it changes from squares to arches.

The tops of the base have 45 degree elbows (with a reducing bushing) in them. The top of the arch will have .5" cross pieces aligned as a ridgepole. From each crosspiece there will be a half arch .5" pipe into the reducing bushing.

The frame top will be covered with plastic snow fence for support of the tarp cover (and I am ordering a 12' x 20" heavy duty UV resistant tarp for only $42). The snow fence and tarp will be firmly attached to the PVC frame, not the trailer, so no boat attachments will be required. I will, however, put an eyebolt through the PVC frame on each side to attach it to the boat with a bungee cord. The boat is simply an anchor in this case. That way, it can't be blown off by wind.

My material list (letters relate to the above diagram):

A. .5" Cross - 3 each
B. 1.25" Tee - 6 each
C. 1.25" 5 Way - 6 each
D. 1.25" 3 Way - 2 each
E. Caps (not needed) - Forget that one unless you can't find some parts and need a cap for a part with an extra outlet)
F. .5" Tee - 2 each
G. 1.25" 90 degree Elbow - 2 each
H. 1.25" 4 Way - 4 each

C and H also require a 45 degree Elbow and a 1.25" to .5" Bushing - 10 each

And I think I need thirteen 10' 1.25" PVC pipes and six 10' .5" PVC pipes.

If anyone detects an error in design, please let me know ASAP!

I've bought all the fittings I can locally and ordered the other parts online (Creative Shelters). When everything arrives, I'll figure out what order to assemble the parts in, and report on that later.

I will, of course, take many pictures during construction! You can't believe how relieved I am to have finally solved the design issues. It was quite a challenge, as PVC fittings are limited in both design and availability! I could have easily done it with a 45 degree roof, but that was just too tall. I had a vision of a better way and I found it! The design aspect was half the "fun"... You wouldn't believe how many sheets of graph paper I used just getting THIS far. LOL!

When it is completed, I will probably rewrite the whole post for better clarity and add pictures, but this is the best I can do until I've actually built the thing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

AHAH, The Boat Canopy Problem Solved.

I've figured it out! Using available parts...

1. I didn't like the straight up sides and 45 degree roof because it was too tall.
2. I didn't like hoop supports because there was no top ridgepole connecting them and that was weak.
3. I didn't the gable design because it was too wide at the bottom.
4. I didn't like the tee design, because while it gave me a lower roof angle, the front an back were weird and it required way too many cuts and connectors.

So it FINALLY hit me like a cold wet fist in the dark of an alley (oh wait, that's a detective story). Seriously, I suddenly realized I could build a straight up frame to the height of the boat and THEN put in hoops on top into 45 degree elbows. I haven't seen THAT on any website. I'm sure someone has done that somewhere, but I haven't seen it anywhere.

So 1.25" pipe uprights on a sled base (no ground level cross-supports), 45 degree elbows on top with cross supports above the boat, and then 3/4" hoops over those. The 3/4" pipe will just stay in the 1.25" slip connections by torque! I'll use some solvent in there too. And my good idea is that the hoops won't just go from side to side unsupported, they will go into cross pieces ("Xs") as "half hoops" and the Xs will connect to a ridgepole!

That brings the height down to about 6', only 2' higher than the boat. And to give the top greater strength, I will attach plastic snow fence over it to support the poly tarp!

Yee Hah!

I have to rush off to sketch it on graph paper and list the parts and pipes I need! And its all available locally! I knew I would figure it out eventually...