Monday, February 18, 2013

Chapter 32...Kitchen Counter And Solar Rack

Off Grid...Chapter 32

Week of 10-13-08

Good morning everyone! I'll start out by saying Thank you all for your encouragement and loyalty. Mike really thanks everyone because if it wasn't for all of you and this story, I probably wouldn't have taken a single picture. Before this story I didn't even have a camera. Time to get started. We have a good story and lots of pictures today.

Monday 10-13-08
We made "another" trip to Lowe's. We picked up the counter top for the kitchen, our bathroom faucet(the first one didn't fit), more ceiling tile, and the ceiling tile grids. We had quite a load going home.

We got everything home and into the house. We are storing our excess materials in the second bedroom. This way we will have indoor projects to do when the weather isn't so nice out.

This is what my counter top looks like.

We decided to go with a pre-made formica top because of the ease. It was also in stock. I think it looks very neat and clean.

Mike installed the faucet in the bathroom vanity and now we have a functional bathroom. (broken link)

And. (broken link)

Tuesday 10-14
Today it's time to work on the kitchen counter tops, yeah!! We bought 2 ten foot angled formica tops. We have to cut the first one down to 9 feet. We have to be very careful because Formica can chip when you cut it.

First we laid the top upside down across the saw horses. Then we placed a piece of straight wood on the counter to use as a guide for the circular saw.

Mike is screwing the guide in place after we took the measurements.

Next I hold the top in place While Mike makes the first cut using a fine tooth finish blade on his Skil Saw. It's a success "no chips". We put the first piece on top of the cabinets.

Now it's time to cut the space out for the kitchen sink. Again, we have to be very careful not to chip the formica. Mike measures the opening and then tapes off what he is going to cut to protect the top.
He uses a hole saw to cut out 4 holes in the corners where the sink will go. This is so he can get the blade from the saws all in to start cutting in the corners. After he makes the cut big enough he uses his circular saw to finish the cuts.

Next we measure the other side of the counter top and cut it down to 5 feet. Now we have to connect the 2 counters together on an angle. Using the saw horses and some boxes stacked on the floor, we lay the counter on top the way it is supposed to be on top of the cabinets.

Then we glued the seam and while I held that tight Mike went underneath and bolted the seam together. Once everything was glued and bolted we "very carefully" lifted the entire counter and put it in place on top of the cabinets. I cleaned the excess glue and now we just have to put a few screws in to hold it in place. That's one thing nice about formica, once it is in, you are done.

Now we are able to install the kitchen sink and faucet. Mike is underneath the sink clipping it in.

The sink is in and the counter top is done.

I think it looks great and I can't wait to use my new kitchen. Woo Hoo!

Today was a really good day but very time consuming. We had to be so careful when we made the cuts in the formica. One mistake and we would have had to buy another 10 foot section. Mike did a good job.

Mike also ordered another water pump to replace the one that arrived broken. We also found out that our furniture will be delivered on Saturday, yeah!

Wednesday 10-15
This morning we got another and hopefully our last propane delivery for the motorhome. If all goes well we will move into the house sometime next week.

After the delivery truck left. Johnny from the gas company showed up to hook up our water heater. He couldn't do it the last time he was here because we didn't have the roof vent in. While he was here Mike asked him about the Bosch tankless water heaters. Johnny said we made the right choice by going with a standard water heater. He said there are a lot of problems with some of the tankless water heaters because they can't get the water hot enough. Anyway that's another opinion about tankless water heaters from our gas man. So if any of you decide to go with a tankless water heater do lots of research.

Mike has figured out how we are going to mount our next 6 solar panels. We went to town to pick up the lumber to make our mount. We spent about $80.00 on 3 10ft 4x4's, 3 8ft 4x4's, and 2 2x8x14ft pressure treated boards.
If we ordered a solar mount from any of the solar catalogs it would have cost us at least $700.00 plus the cost of the poles.

We got home and started digging. Oh joy!

We measured and dug the first 3 back poles about 3 1/2 feet into the ground.

Mike is banging the poles in a little more.

We also had to take out our original wind generator, you know after we cemented the pole in the ground.

After the poles are in the ground we leveled the 14 foot cross board and screwed it in place.

We will finish the rest tomorrow.

Thursday 10-16
We started our day by digging the holes for the front 3 poles. We are trying not to make a mess so we put a tarp next our hole for the dirt and we cut out the curlex so we can dig a neat hole.

Now we have all 6 poles in the ground and we decided to lower the back cross board so the panels aren't so high. We also installed the lower cross board.

Then Mike cut the tops of the poles down using a chainsaw while I held the tops.

We attached L brackets to the solar panels, lifted them up, and screwed them to our rack at a 15 degree angle. Our first panel is installed.

Once we had a system it went very smoothly but we did work until dark. 

We got all 6 solar panels mounted onto our new rack. Now Mike has to wire the panels into the house.

This is the first part of our "off grid" modifications. We realized that our original 6 panels and smaller wind generator weren't producing enough electric to keep our battery bank fully charged. As we keep making modifications we will keep you updated on the changes and how they are working for us. This is a big learning experience.
Friday 10-17
Thankfully we got all the panels up yesterday because we had a rainy day. We couldn't get any work done outside.

I went to town and did some errands while Mike organized his building. While I was in town I ran into the UPS man so I picked up our water pump. I'm sure the driver was very happy he didn't have to go up our driveway.

When I got home Mike went down to the house and installed and tested the new water pump. So far so good. We did a little more cleaning and organizing for the rest of the day.

Saturday 10-18
Today is the "big day". Our furniture is supposed to be delivered this morning. Mike and I are really nervous because we don't know if the truck is going to make it up our driveway. We have a plan in case the truck doesn't make it (we always do). We will just have to unload everything into the barn, check it all, and Mike and I will have to bring the furniture up one piece at a time on the trailer. I really hope it doesn't come to that because I don't think Mike and I can lift some of the furniture.

We did as much prep work as we can. Mike spent about 45 minutes grading every bump in the driveway. He really wants to make sure the truck makes it up our driveway.

I look out the window and I see Mike parking the tractor. That means the delivery truck is here. Oh I am so nervous. Mike and I both stand at the top of the hill and watch the driver coming up to the top. The driver is going too slow ans sure enough he comes to a stop (oh no) and starts backing down the driveway.

This is our nightmare and it is not looking good. Mike goes down with the tractor to see if he can do anything. Both men get out of the truck and go to the back. Mike blades the spot where they got stuck and comes back to the top. He told me "they shifted the furniture so most of the weight is over the rear wheels".

Ok, they are starting up the driveway again. Oh god, I can't watch. C'mon C'mon. After an agonizing minute or so they make it. Woo Hoo. Oh happy day! It's happy dance time.

Everything looks great. Soon Mike and I will be moving in. We helped the movers. While they brought the furniture down to the house we helped untaped everything and folded up the blankets. They were very careful with everything.

After they left we started moving things into the house. Woo Hoo. Now we are on it!

Mike also installed a couple of ceiling lights. This is a temporary set up because as you all know we didn't do the ceiling yet.

Ah light. Now we can see.

I know it seems like we do things out of order but there really is a method to our madness. We have to beat the cold weather and get out of the motorhome and into the house. We will do the ceiling, trim and most of the finish work when we are in the house. If we hadn't done it this way we would probably still be in the mh when the snow comes and that would be really bad.

Sunday 10-19
Today was a crazy day. We woke up and there was frost on the ground. This is not good. We are running out of time. We have to get out of the motorhome and winterize it. Mike started off by filling the mh with 15 gallons of diesel so we can use the generator. Then he filled our water tank which he does every couple of days.

Then he started working on the wiring for the solar panels. Each of the 6 panels has 2 wires, one positive and one negative. First he has to extend these wires, tie them neatly together, and then use a bracket to screw them to our mount. Then all the wires have to be connected to the outdoor combiner box.

Here is the combiner box.

All the wires.

The first 3 are done.

All 6 are done.

Now Mike has to connect all of these to the combiner box but we don't have the connectors.

This is what our new solar mount and panels look like.

While Mike was working on that I did the usual cleaning and laundry. I also started packing, for the big move LOL. Then I started bringing stuff down to the house. Here are some pictures of our furniture.

This is our bedroom set. We have to get a mattress this week.

And our armories. Mike "loves" armories so I agreed that we could each get one instead of building a closet.

This is our dining room table.

Our media chairs.
And the little table for my laptop. Now Mike and I can be next to each other when I'm online. What a pair we are. He'll have his headphones on watching TV and I'll be online or reading. After all these years he still wants to be close to me.

We ordered 2 more chairs, 2 tables, and a matching sofa table for the living room but they aren't in yet. Mike and I will have to pick them up from the warehouse when they arrive.

We also cleaned up the building and loaded a bunch of stuff onto the trailer to store in the barn.

The last of the yard work for the year also got done today. We graded, raked, and shoveled rocky dirt into the bucket of the tractor from the "other" side of the house. Then I seeded that hill, rolled the curlex out on the hill next to the block, and stapled it in place. This should hold the hill until the grass grows in.

Then we got the extension cord, hoses, and pressure washer out. Mike started pressure washing the side of the house. 

I finished that side and the back of the house. Then Mike took over again and finished the side with all the solar stuff.

We are preparing the house so I can get a final coat of paint on this week. I am going to paint and Mike has to finish all the wiring.

We moved more stuff into the house and Mike finished caulking in the bathroom.

We are really going to push hard this week so we can be moved into and living in the house by the end of the week. Then we need a couple of days off, yeah right.

That was a recap of our week. I hope you all enjoyed the story.

Lisa and Mike


  1. Well not sure what your gas guy was talking about. We have had our Bosch on demand water heater for about 5 years now and no issues with not getting enough hot water. Friend has had his about the same time. His is a little newer as I had mine for a couple years before I got it installed. Ours is NG not propane so not sure if that is an issue or not. We would not hesitate to install another one. No elec to use it and no standing pilot light either to waste gas. Bones (from BWH forum)

    1. Thank you for writing in.

      I have heard both good and bad about Tankless water heaters. We even reconsidered installing one last year. Mike decided against it because it has too many working parts and he likes to be in control of all things. We came up with a new solution that suits us well. We even have a spare one if something does goes wrong. I will post about it sometime in Chapter 150 or so. I hope you will stick around to read about it.:)

  2. A friend of ours put in one of the tankless heaters too and it's been a nightmare. I babysat for them a month or so ago and mid shower the water went from hot to ice. They said it happens a lot. When you run out of gas, that's it. It's not a slow fade to colder water. Theirs has been such a nightmare that they're thinking of putting the electric heater back in. We'd thought of going with the tankless but after seeing their problems we're sticking with our electric.

    1. We came up with a great solution for us. We are now using a 16 gallon Atwood propane water heater. Mike got the idea from our motorhome. It is just big enough for the two of us and we can turn it on and off. We shut it off after the dinner dishes are done and it goes on the next morning:)

  3. Heck ... I was holding my breath as the delivery truck was chugging up the hill. Dang!! LOL :)