Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Saturday, September 10, 2016

New Appliances (And All That Entails)

Posted by: Rick

This post is at risk of becoming a rambling mess. But, I'll do my best.

First, we've been neglecting the blog for the past week or so. Not because we don't want you to keep up with our adventures, but because we've been busy, busy, busy.

We cut wood on Labor Day, but did not make as much progress as we hoped. It seems the "sawing" part was becoming more and more difficult. 

On Tuesday, we took Destin to the vet to get his rabies shot, and had to leave him there for a while so they could work that last minute request into their schedule. We drove in separately, me in Big Red and Lynne in Lex because Big Red was headed in to service (again).

On the way, I stopped at the Saw Shop at Heggie Logging Company to drop off a chain saw chain to be sharpened. I figured that might be the problem with our sawing troubles. Sure enough, John took one look at the chain and decided I needed some serious saw maintenance lessons. John kindly and patiently showed me why my saw was not cutting very well, and why, when it did cut, the cut was not straight but rather curved downward through the wood. (One side of the chain is more worn than the other and not all the cutting teeth are the same size and sharpness.) The chain was in serious need of reconditioning. He went on to show me the proper way to sharpen the cutting teeth (which I pretty much had down), but also how to test the height of the rakers and file them to the right height. I'm not going to go into how a chain saw works, so you can look up these terms on Wikipedia. John also showed me how to change a chain. (I actually have a new chain that I've never used.) Later, when we finally got home, I put the new chain on the saw, and wow! does that make a difference. I think sawing will go back to being fun now. I left the old chain with John to be reconditioned and I'll pick it up in a few days (and take him the chain from my second saw).

So, back to our Tuesday: dropped off dog, learned a lot about chain saws, dropped off Big Red to get the blower controls fixed, shopped at WalMart, picked up the dog, took the dog to ACE Hardware to pick up some paint for the shed, and came home. It was a longish day and Destin got some experience riding in the truck. He really likes it when we pass by cows.

Wednesday, we got up at 5:00 a.m. and headed out to pick up our new refrigerator and stove at a propane supply place in Longmont, Colorado. Destin went with us. We had hooked up to a borrowed trailer the night before, so we got away from the house about 5:40. It was just a little less than 3 hours to make the drive. We got the new appliances loaded in the trailer and headed back. I decided to take back roads rather than go all the way back out to I25 and up to Owl Canyon Road where we could cut over to Highway 287. Let's just say that a tall refrigerator, tied down to a short trailer on some of the more "curvy" back roads led to a few moments of panic (only if I looked in the rear view mirror). But we made it home okay.

A long day, but we still needed to unload the appliances and get them inside in case it rained. That was a bit of a challenge, but between Lynne, me, a hand cart and some ramps that I borrowed, we got it done. Destin was one pooped pup.

Why new appliances? We were really tired of cooking on our antique Amana range. The burners (of which only 3 of 4 worked) had two settings: high and off. And, we need a second refrigerator. So, the idea was to get a new range and refrigerator, put them in the cabin, put the old refrigerator out in the shed as a second fridge, and donate the Amana range to a charity that can fix it up and use it.

We did a lot of research on propane appliances and decided to get the new ones from Unique, a Canadian company that provides high-end off-grid appliances. We could only get them from dealers in the US and the two closest were in Rawlins, WY or Longmont, CO. Obviously, we went the Longmont, CO route.

On Thursday, Tim from Suburban Propane in Laramie came up to install a new 500 gallon propane tank and plumb it to the propane generator. (Yeah, we are still working on getting it fully commissioned.) While here, he helped us install the new appliances. The range went in reasonably well. It "just fits" and I think I need to plane the sides of the cabinets some to get it further back by about 1 inch. And, it works great. I think we will love it. The refrigerator is another story. We got it hooked up, and while it is a bit taller and deeper than our old one, it fits okay. The problem is that we simply could NOT get it to light.

To light a propane fridge, you need to press on a button that allows the flow of a small amount of propane to a starter burner (a pilot light, of sorts). Then, you press another button at the same time that creates a spark to ignite that propane. As long as you hold in the first button, it will burn. As it burns it heats up a sensor that eventually will open the flow of the main propane source allowing the fridge to work. Well, on ours, that sensor must not be working. No matter how long we held in the button, when we let go the pilot light would go out. 

Since the fridge can also work on electricity, we plugged it in and started cooling it off that way. (All our food was in a huge cooler we have.)

When I woke up on Friday morning, I was a bit shocked to see that the batteries were down by almost 300 amp-hours. Normally, they are down about 100 amp-hours from overnight. (For the geeks, that is 300 Ah at about 25 volts average, so roughly 7.5 killowatt-hours.) They got (almost) a full charge on Friday while we were at a dog show in Greeley, Colorado. 

While at that dog show on Friday (and that is a whole different post, but the third day with Destin on-the-road), I called Unique and eventually spoke with their support guy, Tim. He seemed to think I am suffering from a problem they've seen before that could be the result of poor grounding, or insufficient microvoltage to the whatchamacallit, or a a bad thermocouple, ... He sent me "detailed" troubleshooting and repair instructions by email that I was able to study once we got home. 

Hmmm, seems I have to tip the refrigerator on its side to get access to all the gadgets I'm supposed to fart with. Emptying the fridge again is not a big deal. But, the propane tubing isn't long enough to allow this. So, I'd need to disconnect the propane supply, tip the fridge on its side. Fart around with various components looking for shorts and microvolts, etc. Then, I guess, tip it back up, reconnect the propane, check for leaks, etc., and try to start it again. Whoa! I think I need professional help! Not sure where that is going to come from. I wrote Tim at Unique an email expressing my frustration. And, I'll call Suburban Propane's Tim on Monday and beg for help.

Meantime, that fridge is sucking electricity like crazy. 

Could just run the generator, right? But, it is still not fully hooked up. So, we are praying for long, sunny days and conserving as much as possible.

I'll update this post in the future to complete the story.

Meantime, here is what our new appliance look like (mostly) installed. The fridge still has protective film on it and I don't want to take that off until I'm done tipping it over.

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    Posted to: ‘Off-the-Grid is Now Off-the-Air’ by Alica Humphryson on 03/06/2018

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