Monday, January 6, 2014

Bed Rock: Design

Efficiency is logic, but life is experimentation.  In the Spring, I rented a bedroom with no heat or electricity, with the intention of retrofitting before winter.  For well over a decade I have rented spaces that are antiquated, where winters are uncomfortable, drafty, expensive.  Renting is great, convenient, except when you want to fix the problems you face with an old house.  The following post describes my design process for my curious heated concrete bed project.

In a heat transfer course, circa 2004, Dr. Ray Francis used some math to demonstrate how much more effective and energy efficient radiant heating is compared with forced air heating systems.  Despite my intense interest in hydronic heating, I have been distanced from such systems due to socioeconomic realities.  Hydronic heating installations are often motivated by comfort, and its owners are often faced with more pressing matters than fussing over energy savings-so we don't hear about it.  Often the capital cost of hydronic heating yields long payback periods on energy savings, and prevents installation by lay persons.  The parts involved with heating and circulating liquid phase water seem relatively simple, and I suspect the lacking demand within the hydronic marketplace is the major expense of such installations.  My unique living situation has afforded me a golden opportunity to create an experimental hydronic heating system, and to learn by doing.

While I mixed concrete, Pa helped
with his garage and trowel
In my research, I discovered a product called warmboard, which I found exciting for the growing popularity of hydronic heating retrofits and new installs.  There was a lot of temptation to utilize a single 4'x8' warmboard as my radiator.  Warmboard countered my inital design concept of a "thermal mass" of rock.  Warmboard's website informed me that a hydronic system with a continuous heat supply operates more efficiently with a conductive (thin metal surface) radiator than with the more classical thermal mass (big warm rock) radiator.  While exploring such concepts I gathered that an intermittent heat supply, as in solar heating, is best coupled with a "thermal mass" radiator.  My first installation will employ a constant heat source, but will only cover 1/3 of the rooms total floor space.  Because my installation is not permanent, and heat source flexibility has exciting future applications (van heater, garden greenhouse/sauna, next dwelling, etc), I opted for a thermal mass radiator design.  The slab was poured in three sections for mobility.  The mass came in around 600 lb.  The top surface is close to 25 SQ FT.  Unlike typical flooring slab radiators, my slab is suspended 1 inch from the floor.  The initial purpose of suspending was for leveling of the three distinct slabs.   I intend to sleep on this surface, which will limit the slab's room heating capacity by being insulated with bedding.  A serendipitous benefit of suspending the slab may be additional room heating via convection from the bottom surface.

This component needed to be custom crafted, and the construction method was adopted from the growing popularity of concrete countertops.  The hardware store stocks a 90 lb premix concrete bag for this purpose, Maximizer 5500+.  This mix is a high bulk (low density) concrete, which is less ideal for thermal conductivity, but helps reduce the load on the building structure, vehicle, and handlers of this material.  The final thickness came in at 2.25", to which I would design another .25 or .5 inch next time for wire mesh wiggle room (wire mesh comes from a roll, and isn't flat).  I laid the mold on a sheet of plastic laminated, 1/8" masonite, to obtain a smooth surface finish.  In addition to smoothness, I was pleasantly surprised with some curious bubble formations, due to water creeping into the laminate.

One beautiful aspect of hydronic heating is that a wide variety of fuel systems can be applied by simply re-plumbing the system (fuel oil, gas, electricity, solar, geothermal, automobile coolant, etc.).  Someday, I want to utilize solar energy to heat my residence via hydronics, but for now, the convenient, experimental fuel delivery method will be coal fired electricity.  I did look into solar energy availability on SLC's solar map, and didn't find much potential in the immediate region of my heating needs.  The big decision here was tankless vs tank heater.  Conceptually, a thermal mass (big warm rock) hydronic system serves as a storage tank for heat, and the tank-ed water heater is somewhat redundant and highly space consuming.  Space savings, and the option to use energy saving 220V power supply pushed this decision in the direction of a tankless heater.  I imagine a hybrid solar-house powered hydronic heating system could certainly benefit from utilizing a tank-ed hot water heater for the built in energy storage capacity.

To transfer the heat within a hydronic heating system, water circulation is critical.  The use of water as an energy carrier conserves a great deal of space and energy as compared with forced air heating systems.  For space, compare cross sections of 1/2" water hose to 1ft square aluminum air ducting.  For energy, pumping water slowly (2GPM) through a hose is dwarfed by the energy demand of blowers conveying hot air rapidly through heating ducts.  Because my slab radiator is smaller than most, I carefully selected a hydronic circulation pump.  The selection was Tyco's smallest (006) closed loop hydronic pump for the interest of proper flow rate and noise minimization.  Taco pumps have a reputation for being remarkably quiet, but an improperly designed conveyance system can produce noise via fluid flow.  An incredibly helpful resource in this project has been  Utilizing this source, and Taco's published pump curves, I was able to construct a graph, and select a design that employs an appropriate fluid velocity to minimize air bubble formation, air bubble growth, fluid noise, all while optimizing heat transfer rates.

PEX (cross "X" linked Poly Ethylene) seems to be the unanimous choice of transport media for most plumbing needs, but there is a specific PEX designed for hydronic heating-Oxygen barrier PEX.  Apparently oxygen can penetrate standard pex hose, and this can cause problems in a closed loop heating system (bubbles, rust, grit, concrete degradation etc).  The smallest oxygen barrier PEX tubing available is of a 1/2" diameter, but all my other plumbing fittings (pump, air eliminator, pressure relief, etc.) use 3/4" fittings.  An air eliminator was installed to keep the air bubbles and oxygen and rust to a minimum.  I anticipate draining, flushing, relocating and/or modifying this experimental system frequently, so threaded steel gas pipe was used for plumbing connections.  The equilibrium flow rate is anticipated to be on the higher end of ideal (2-4 GPM) for my 1/2" pex system, so I've added a globe valve after the pump to help increase the resistance, and limit flow rate.

Much of this project's design parameters came from  To validate my parameters, and monitor my system controls, I'll need to make some measurements-flow rate and heat input should help.  Two analog temperature gauges will monitor intake and discharge temperatures for a heat balance from the heat source.  Flow measurement will be gathered indirectly from pump curves, using two analog pressure gauge measurements before and after the pump.   

Sunday, January 5, 2014


If I can actually post this report today, I will have fulfilled my goal of a blog post every month, bonus points if it seems interesting.  As an update on the Diesel Rescue, I have successfully solved the major mechanical issues which kept the car on the Subaru Dealership's lot for 7 months.  Everybody wants this car; my roommates think it is cute, it holds the highway nicely, starts in any weather, and holds promise of being fuel efficient, with a really long range.  Now that the major surgery has been completed, I'll be chipping away at maintenance items and smaller repair details.  Look out world, I am now powered by DIESEL!

OCCUPATION.....I am growing restless and tired of applying to jobs with no response, and my perceived lack of progress has been a drag.  Idle job searching must not get in the way of REAL progress. This week my projects are getting more attention, and I am learning skills, exploring technologies & conserving energy.  The state of Colorado is wiling to re-instate my expired municipal wastewater operator license, but I'll need to act soon on some training, and paperwork-which I do intend to do.  I am still looking for water treatment & engineering work, but am less willing to sacrifice constructive project time to applying for jobs of mediocre interest.  Gaps in claimable income happen, and I'm not sure why people don't deserve a break from careering once in a decade.  I believe a portfolio of what I have accomplished in my free time (my friends tell me quite a lot-by the way) is far cooler than a lame story describing how I sat home all winter, looking for a jobs on the internet, and finding out which employers didn't want to hire me.  This week I added thousands of dollars in value to an amazing piece of German engineering-nobody can convince me I'm not of some use.  I appreciate all the help I've been getting from workforce services, but I am struggling to believe that jobs materialize by simply forcing a habit of applying to 4 every calendar week and annoying HR professionals.  

The TDI project is steady state, and with electricity in supply to my hydronic heating system, I'll be plumbing it all together this week.  Next on deck is some experimentation with composite bicycle rims, for which a friend has some work space available in his art studio warehouse.  I will either re-invent the wheel, or repeat some poor design choices, but curiosity is pulling hard, and I must obey.  The worst I can do is make an un-dent-able set of wheels for my bicycle(s), or enter a niche bicycle rim marketplace.

I've been talking with a friend lately, who also has some passion for cultural change pertaining to improving the human condition amid fear of Armageddon's doorstep.  This friend has recently moved away from activism, much to my relief.  My view has been expressed: complaining, protesting, blaming organizations, wealthy individuals, for our collective problems is in fact, wasting life.  Ultimately, progress is about communication, and sharing concepts, ideas, and sharing is not best accomplished by shouting with outstretched and pointed fingers.  Attention Deficit Disorder seems to dominate the contemporary mind-scape, and it takes a lot of work to compete for a piece of the contemporary, twitter-infected mind.  I have a hunch that art will be a critical conduit for such communication, and I want to promote artists who can keep a level head, continue marching forward, and continue creating.  Perhaps this will mean I have to act on conveying some of the zany philosophical contortions I entertain myself with while coping with contemporary issues...maybe they are more than just personal entertainment?  I'll try to be open to sharing this stuff here, often it is elusive, like a forgotten deep slumber's dream.

BODY:  The chi has been disrupted this fall, but the knee is improving-and it is coming back.  Pedaling the bicycle seems to be irritating, but walking is the special medicine.

PAIRING:  Utah made national news for legalizing same-sex marriages, gay rights issues presently have a lot of attention.  I have gay friends, neighbors, etc, and I want to be happy for all these people who's intimate relationships have been limited for so long.  Sincerity is empty without honestly, and I lack the emotional hardware for such enthusiasm, so please don't be offended.  I have never experienced a lasting (longer than 3 months) intimate pairing, and have many disappointing intimate experiences in my emotional baggage.  No matter what kind of sexual habits a person develops, I have always struggled with the concept of emotional, intimate pairing.  There must be a lot of acting, pretending, etc, because I will never be convinced two distinct humans can share the same emotions even half of the time, or why this should be an expectation of a 'normal', functional human.  For lacking attention to detail or articulation, my friends think I am inept at love or relationships...How then would I have friends?  Now that Gay couples are on the level, what about the un-paired population?  Will y'all respect our independence and stop trying to 'fix' us?  There you have it, something inter
esting blogged during the month of January!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Diesel Powered Ranting

There are many animal and pet stewards in my life and often I hear about "rescues", which, for all intensive purposes are discarded pets who are intercepted by their rescuer on their way to being euthanized. While I love the company of pets, I'm not one to accept the responsibility or ethical conundrum of captivating a animal for my own emotional needs. However, very recently I adopted a "rescue"'s this cute 2002 GLS Black New Beetle, Mk4 chassis 1.9L TDI. Since towing my rescue home from the shelter, I've been scouring the Google for help understanding its unique issues. The best information came from, so I created an account, and found myself ranting in my description box. It seems there are few folks who can appreciate my built up frustration around the inanimate object we know as the spark plug. It all came out in my profile description, as follows.

My name is Evan, and I am an economically hatched Do It Yourselfer, who shouted out an immense "I told you so!", when Audi's TDI began dominating the LeMans. In the US, affordable diesel cars are rare, my first was a '77 rabbit without power brakes-scary driving among autos with modern braking. It blew up in 2006, after who knows how many hundred thousand mile odometer rollovers. After 4 years on new spark plugs and wires, my Ford van recently dropped a cylinder and I removed the front seat, coolant, and AC hoses to diagnose and replace the spark ignition coil after 140,000 miles. Any truck produced in 1996 could and should have had a diesel engine! Maybe glow plug repairs are just as annoying, but the control system and diagnostic process is far less delicate than spark ignition systems.

One hundred years ago, making an ICE with adequate compression may have been difficult. A century ago, the Wright brothers were 'wright' to choose a spark plug engine for restrictions of reliability and weight, to propel their prototype airplane. We have learned, tested, proven a lot since the time of the Wright brothers, today Cessna is converting to compression ignition, before most US passenger automobiles have even caught the clue.

It seems capitalism likes disposable goods, and planned obsolescence, quantity over quality. Arguably, technology benefits from high turnover and iterative prototypes are appropriate. In the US auto industry, there are certain norms in production of scale, which change often, without improvement, and seem just plain stupidly wasteful to me. From the perspective of lacking diesel transit engines, I've been one who's view of the planned obsolescence trend, is misplaced and ugly. Here are some reasons I feel this way.

1 Most of the world's imperative automobiles (trucks, busses, trains, tractors, airplanes, etc) have a LONG history of diesel and/or compression ignition technology. If the compression cycle were not efficient, powerful, cost effective, and reliable, why would these critical vehicles use it?

2 The LeMans has long been dominated by the compression cycle. High performance and competition has proven compression ignition superior. Ever hear of a fuel injected gasoline automobile engine? Turbo? Can you guess where these technological developments were first tested? the diesel compression cycle!!

3 Ethanol is not going to fuel the US-and as a fuel additive, is arguably decaying critical rubber components; o-rings, seals, diaphragms, gaskets, hoses, etc. of the "obsoete" automobiles still rolling. Maybe there is a spark plug argument for abundant, clean burning, extended engine life, CNG fuel, but the range is sill limited, requiring two fuel tanks anyways. Diesel engines, especially utilizing computer control systems, can probably adapt to mixtures of CNG, propane, H2, biogas, and liquid fuels just as well.

4 Few new autos produced for the European, and third world are designed with spark plugs. The rest of the world cannot be wrong.

5 Diesel is the safest, lowest cost (US gasoline prices are a thermodynamic/political lie), lowest overall energy/environmental impact transportation fuel-period.

5 Diesel emissions used to be less desirable than gasoline emissions, but that is no longer as true. Inner city smog is mostly attributed to inefficient forced air climate control systems for buildings, and less on automobiles. Automobile sourced smog problems need to first be addressed on a social, cultural, human plane before we praise more electric hybrid spark plug automobiles, which have a larger manufacturing footprint than the diesel REAL Hummer. Americans are fat, sit down too long, have too little free time, and drive too much....bicycles in the city? Proper outdoor clothing?......Anyone?

What is a little more settleable/filterable dust particles, as compared to the un-separable excess of damaging chemical compounds discharged by spark plug engines? Compared with gasoline emissions, diesel emissions seem a much easier problem to solve. Why can't the US remove the band aid (spark plugs) already? Please, somebody provide me an answer, a clue. Spark plug lobbyists?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lost your mind?...Pull out the Mind Map.

Cyber space, hello long lost friend, therapist, and emotional shock absorber.  It would appear I have been absent minded lately.  While intending to explore and check my balance with the Aryu-Vedic system map,  I got distracted by downloading a simple organizational tool called Labryinth mind-mapping.  In the image above, I've published my map for today.  It seems interesting the way I have categorized terms.  I'll bet each person would arrange this map uniquely, if this were presented as a word bank puzzle.  My random smattering ended up taking a human-oid form containing 5 limbs.  My rusty expressive skills have cluttered my draft box of blog postings.  I have noted a similar expressive constipation in my daily life.  I just injured my knee and experienced a bit of medical drama, and hope to be stabilizing on a verdict of no surgery.  I prepared myself mentally for letting go of my super-duper mountain bike to help compensate for surgical, and posssible lost compensation costs.  This would be a situation for which Uncle Sam's social security system affords no assistance.  With recent lifestyle changes, selling the mountain bike doesn't seem irrational-I don't get too many occasions to ride more than 20mi of dirt anymore.  Usually, I find myself most enthused about mountain biking while visiting friends in places where I cannot easily facilitate taking the super-duper bike.  I do live ridiculously close to world class mountain biking trails in Park City though. 

In other news, I am living with 3 women & a girl-dog in a friend's western SLC, attached meat locker.  My next pressing housing challenge will be implementing a way to heat my sleeping space, which excites in me an opportunity to experiment with hydronic heating, and report my experiment on this here blog.  My parents have recently moved to a location that is more accessible to me, and I look forward to parental visits free of trans-continental, holiday, airline voyages.  This week Salt Lake City will be counting bicycle traffic as part of an annual survey.  I am pleased to be volunteering 3 hours of street corner bicycle counting, which will be directly applied to the allocation of bicycle infrastructure efforts in my town.  Work will be changing home bases, so it's goodbye to the University of Utah campus very soon, and hello to industrial zoning.  Bye for now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Duuuude, Siiiiiick

As I reluctantly chew and swallow raw garlic to keep the nasal juices moving, a free minute arrives, introspection is back. Five days prior to my cold virus infection, I ran into my art student friend Ed, and we celebrated the completion of his semester with a stroll for some sodies. While talking with Ed, I felt somehow out of balance. As we passed by the new-to-me writing center at the Library, Ed volunteered an encouraging comment about my writing skills, and suggested I drop by there and check it. Too late it was that evening, but I was poignantly reminded how little I have been writing lately. I aim at 2 personal blog entries and one mandatory contribution to each month. This month has seen neither. Normally, cold's don't phase me, I'm able to push them out of my way......Ding, a lack of creative outlet/expression---->this what has caused my cold. This post was going to end as a scornful self indulgent rant about being sick and being an American-esque, full time, perpetually moving basket of to-do-list anxiety. Alas, the segue has arrived; a TED talk from Danny Hillis back in '94, but new to me tonight. Check out Danny's pocket containing 100 million business cards! (time 8-ish minutes)

Tonight is my first time watching TED talks, and I feel satisfactorily connected with all the examples of scientists bringing sci/tech back to the human experience. Mid-way along in my engineering BS, I feared I'd never fit in with many of my peers. Many of the the cash-blind, bean-counting cream of my academic crop were 100% satisfied getting an A in physics with no real appreciation for general relativity. My takeaway summary from this TED talk is that writing/language (RNA, DNA) is the basis of evolution, hence survival. This is demonstrated beautifully by this cold virus overcoming me in my time of lacking creativity/self expression (via writing). The brain is amazingly powerful and guiding, it can even train itself. Why do we put chemicals in its way?

A TED search for Yoga brought this fun factoid, not sure where from, but I believe it, and the existence of the Samsquanch.

Recently scientists have discovered that cells in human body change depending on how they are stretched. They have shown that if you pull a stem cell in one way it starts developing into a brain cell; stretch it in other ways and a muscle or a bone cell results ! And the most far reaching consequence of this stretching is for cancer cells. Change their mechanical stress and they start behaving like normal cells!

The Yogic exercises of stretching the nerves and toning the nervous system that ultimately affect the cells mechanically can therefore affect the body in a very positive way at the cellular level.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I think of my friends who enjoy their respective worlds of aesthetic explorations, discoveries.  Classically, we might call such characters artists.  Though life has many forms of art, of craft, of discipline, we seem to designate true artists as those whose discipline seems detached from practical realities of life.  We don't call Leonardo Divinci a purely artistic character, because his discipline was mixed with science, and his work has significance in the material world.  Living out one's creativity is art, whether applied to material existence or beyond.    

When I first arrived in Salt Lake City (October 2010), I lacked direction, motivation.  At this point in life I had a nice nest egg saved from my hard work as an operator.  For the first time in my adult life I had freedom, a little power.  I was overwhelmed in choice, possibility, and lacked the impetus, wisdom do direct it, to decide, to commit.  One thing was certain-like a border collie in a box, I would not keep my sanity as a plant operator forever.  I moved to Salt Lake City to follow and perpetuate my folly, as a skier and bicyclist, and city dweller.  

Perfection is a life without desire, but perfection is also something beyond material existence and function.  In the grips of my real, material existence, I desire the ability to create, the artistic existence, and I took some time in SLC to absorb the appropriate vehicle(s).  Few of the standard options seemed to suit me.  The obvious road for a US born scientist with bachelor's degree and lack of occupation is more college.  Do more roads solve the problems of roads?-NO-without a map you are still just lost.  It all seemed too rehearsed, consequence based, if A, then B, and B is expected to make your life perfect - typical American Dream Bull$h1t-too elegantly deflated by Walter White in Breaking Bad.

To some extent, "Life is what happens while making other plans", and the only thing predictable about life is unpredictability.  To live life strictly by consequence, is to own fully all affects on your ego's winnings and losses, to undermine the contributions & influences of others.  Ignoring the inherent randomness of nature and of your own life is a falsehood-as is the "Merican dream".  If I'm going to grad school, there's going to be a reason beyond me borrowing into my own need for collecting more decoration, despite a general lack of vocation.  

Engineering is the path that had seemed the best fit for me as a high school graduate...I lacked enthusiasm for the path of college, the smart kids in high school were perplexed, their parents pissed.  Because I loved my parents, I did college.  After the academics and professionals had their way with me, the discipline of engineering had become plug and chug, cut and paste, I's dotted, T's crossed, paycheck deposited, repeat- largely stripped of its creative appeal.  A once admirable profession had seemed tainted by financial expectations-greedy limitations, desk work, cubicles.  The work of interest to me (appropriate technology), for better or worse is largely controlled by politics-hence greed, and self defeating waste.  Not finding suitable work in regimented production or government research, 5 hard years of my early 20's were for naught, my heart had become severely jaded.       

My first month in Salt Lake City,  I naturally fell in with some kindred characters involved in the world of urban bicycling and non-profiteering.  I watched a video called the 337 project, and it struck me hard, in my moment of new town, lonely introspection.    The film documented a community art project in a to-be-demolished Salt Lake City building.  From this moment on, I felt a renewed openness to my engineering creativity.  I began climbing out of the hole of self doubt, denial of character, which I had been blindly digging for many years.

In early adulthood, I learned to despise the competitive greed machine that is Capitalism.  After college, I was disappointed by the snail pace of bureaucratic science research-driven by people liking the steady, routine lifestyle.  My middle path right now seems to be the creative, inventive, adaptive environment that is a start-up science-technology company.  Arriving at this viewpoint has certainly been an artistic journey. 

The inspiration for this post comes from the repeated questions from industry people wanting to know what kind of money I make, friends and family urging me to somehow take control of my interests in the company before it takes off without me-yet another construct of irrational fear.  I work hard, and am generally a talented, capable person.  Many people feel this isn't enough to satisfy a person's ego, and that people like me are entitled to wealth and influence.  To that, I can rant in defense of my philosophy, explain to you how small-minded and impatient you are, or I can simply agree to living the life of the artist.  Like most great artists, you'll call me crazy now, and eccentric if I become wealthy.  I will still be me.

 Dang, this blog is all about work lately.  Maybe I can add some color and document some play soon.  My big brother just ordered a new mountain bike......               

Thursday, August 16, 2012

From the REV: Traditional Modernism

All materials I in
Recently, counter to commonly defined associations to the word, I've realized I am in fact very traditional.  Despite all the modern technologies, conveniences (necessities) I utilize as a contemporary living citizen and scientist of the USA, my most grounding, sincere of activities are in fact very old relative to humanity.  Human powered transport (backcountry ski design has recently been advancing in a direction towards the earliest skis in China) Yoga, microbiology, plumbing, beekeeping are among the oldest of activities adopted by humans.   There is a certain smug 'coolness' or 'hip' designation associated with contemporary alternative lifestyles-I think this aura comes less from fad and fashion and more from a sensed security in striving for culture which has sustained, survived the tests of time.  The word tradition is oft associated with religious organizations, but in truth, most present day religious organizations are recent additions to human civilization.  Association of today's religious organizations with the term tradition, must come not from reference in linear human history, but rather adhesion to linear thinking, or a reluctance to recognize or embrace cycles of change.  (ironically, the most quoted biblical phrase-that I recognize-is the Serenity Prayer) Jesus, Judiasm, even Hinduism, Sanskrit, and much of our dirt, are young relative to the adoption of Yoga and plumbing by human history.  No matter who you are, where you live, or what you believe in, there is wisdom in discriminating that which is new, that which is changing, and that which has not changed.  When our personalities and lifestyles embrace elements from each category.  This is balance and presence.

NOTE:  Evan is an ordained Reverend, whom writes under the pen name REV, when spiritual matters are discussed.  This pen name is adopted as a professional courtesy (attention grabber, whistle blowing mockery) to the dualistic personalities of many 'traditional' mistries.  Evan is a spirit of the United States, whom adheres to religious freedom and a fiscal separation of church and state.  REV believes tax exempt US religious organizations should be bound by the same audits and standards of any other US 501C3 non-profit organization.  REV is not a tax exempt entity, and reserves the right to express political opinions, according to 501C3 policy.