Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Beast Saves the Day

Yesterday was day two of the heat pump/air handler installation and electric upgrade. By the end of today, we should have our new system up and running.

The upgrade from 100 amp service to 200 amp service is complete, and the new breaker box is much better than the old system of two ancient breaker boxes and one (even more ancient) fuse box. I'll post some pictures of that later.

We had some excitement yesterday morning when the electrician got here. For some reason I had the mindset that the electrician would get here, shut off the power to the house for about an hour, then finish upgrading our service and turn the power back on. If I had really thought about all the work he was doing, I would have realized how silly that was. But I didn't think about it that much.

So I was a little surprised when I got a call from Niki around 9:00 yesterday morning, telling me that the electrician had just shut off the power and it was going to be off all day. It was 30 degrees when we found this out. Fortunately, the radiators retain their heat for quite a while after The Beast shuts off, so I knew we were okay for at least an hour or two. But with the workmen needing to go in and out of the house constantly, it was just a matter of time before thing started getting chilly.

After briefly considering a triplet exodus to Niki's house, I decided to do something I'd had in the back of my head for a while. Rex (a friend of mine from work) and I went to the house and set up what you see below.

2008 10 28 01

It's a battery and an inverter spliced into the AC wires for the boiler. We had heat for the whole day -- in fact, even as I write this The Beast is still hooked up to that battery.

I would wager that there are very few houses in Wichita that could be heated for several days with a battery as the source of electricity. But The Beast is a gas boiler (originally coal, but it was converted), and the heat is circulated through the house by gravity: the steam rises in the pipes, and when it cools off in the radiators it turns to water (called condensate), which flows down the return pipes. There are no blowers or pumps. The only need for AC power is to open and close the valve when the thermostat tells it to. When we set this up at 11:00 yesterday morning, the battery had 12.05 volts. I just checked it again this morning, and it has 11.98. With a fully-charged deep-cycle battery, we could probably heat the house for a few days without power. Nice to know!

We had more excitement last night when we tried to turn on lights upstairs. I'll write more about that when I have time, but I have to say that Tracy Electric did an impressive job late last night, and they promised to replace anything that might have been damaged.


RovingWeaver said...

Okay, THAT is just incredibly cool.

Daddy Scotty said...

Way to go James. Brings new meaning to Battery Backup. Hope things are fixed now.

Scott H.

Logan said...

frickin' Maguyver