Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cool Heat

Yes, even a fireplace can be good for the environment. And although I risk losing all reader interest by writing it, here is the scoop on why the new fireplace at Wimberley is way ahead of conventional units in terms of performance, efficiency, and pollution. And of course, way ahead in terms of the newly un-fashionable carbon emissions and global warming.

1- Closed system; no combustion air from living space. Know the basics of fire? Fuel, spark, and combustion air. That last part, combustion air- know where that comes from in a conventional fireplace? Your lovely fireplace sucks it in from every opening in your home's exterior, and since you tend to have fires when it is very cold outside, it is sucking in very cold air. Actually making most of your house colder, not warmer. The Wimberley fireplace's combustion area is completely sealed off from the room, and intakes combustion air directly from the outside. Say goodbye to cold drafts and high heating costs.

2- Clear ceramic, not glass. This cool new stuff is what seals the combustion chamber from the room. It transmits radiant heat better than glass, so the fireplace warms you more. And it reflects less light, so you can look at a fire and swear there is nothing between you and it, but reach your hand toward it and it bumps into the ceramic.

3- Burns "cleaner" gas. Since it burns gas, not logs, there are no huge particulate emissions like a wood burning fireplace produces. Of course, even burning gas does some damage to the environment, but since it is efficiently heating your house you are reducing the damage done by your home heating system.

4-Blower to distribute heat further. Behind the metal enclosure there is an air space "loop", and a blower which circulates air over the hot metal surface and throws the heated air further into the room.

This photo shows the fireplace just after I installed it, but the ceramic front, gas line, blower electricity, hearth, mantel, and limestone surround are not it. More photos to come when all that is done, hopefully in time for the cold winter weather!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rocky Road

For several months I've been hiring this family of mostly high-school workers to help out with Wimberley landscaping projects. "Help out" in this case basically means doing everything that I don't want to do. Which is just about everything not involving a chainsaw.

Hundreds of man-hours later, our acreage is actually starting to look like a civilized place rather than the lunar landscape it once resembled. This first photo shows the guys hauling about 400 pounds of rocks about 400 feet to create the circular wall shown in the second photo. Not quite 400 trips to do it, but I'm sure it felt like 400 to them. Oh, forgot to mention that they had to DIG UP many of those rocks from other parts of our property. Nasty.

They've built several such walls around the property with the good, flat stones. They haul the not-so-good ones (anything that can't be easily stacked) to our property border to create a sort of mounded fence line, shown in the last photo.

Not a fun job, but these rock-steady (ugh) guys are happy for the work. They can't imagine how happy I am to NOT be doing it by myself.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Stripped Clean

My last posting on the garage foundation showed formwork and rebar done, ready to receive concrete. Since I was doing the actual concrete pour alone, my hands were a bit too busy to take photographs of that event. But here is the result, the first photo showing the concrete just after form removal.

The second photo shows the new concrete at the left of the picture after backfilling with crushed limestone. That area between the two concrete foundations is the parking area for two cars, with a storage room/workshop to be built over the slab on the right.

Funny how the concrete foundations process works; you work hard to make everything perfect, plumb, free of voids... and then you cover most of it up, never to be seen again. Unless it is done WRONG, of course, in which case you'll be seeing much more of it than in your worst nightmare.

This last photo shows Buzz the wonder car perched on top of the parking area before any of the new concrete was done. No real reason for this photo being here, other than Buzz loves the publicity. And I love the smug irony of building a house using a 50 MPG hybrid for most of the material hauling, when suburban America is searching for their next monster SUV so they can pretend like they'll actually every go off road... Oops, better put the environmental wacko persona back in the closet before things get ugly...