Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

Starting Our Lighting Control System

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The lighting control system is a critical component in reducing our energy needs.  We’re installing Schneider Electric’s Clipsal C-Bus system, which is the most advanced and robust lighting control system that we could find.

Although the basic infrastructure has been in place for some time, Bryan started assembling the components and connecting the data network.  Oh, we’re also building a small data center …

East Mechanical Room

The East Mechanical room houses the electrical distribution panels for the East side of the house as well as the Network Gateway East, which is a 12U network rack and is on the backbone to the Network Gateway West.  The electricity generated from half of our photovoltaic system enter the 200 amp panel in the East Mechanical room, which is ‘live’ today.

East Storage Room

Three of the six lighting control panels are located in the East Storage room.  Bryan installed the network connection from the Ethernet to the C-Bus network in one of the three lighting control panels.

Each room that houses lighting control panels also includes a junction box for the C-Bus network.  These junction boxes allow multiple C-Bus connectors to be joined such that only one C-Bus network cable goes into each lighting control panel.

West Mechanical Room

The West Mechanical room houses the two electrical distribution panels on the West side of the house.  As well, all the geothermal and hydronic heating/cooling equipment will be located in the West Mechanical room.

Air Handler Room

The Air Handler Room, which is on the West side of the building, houses two more lighting control panels.  As well, it has a junction box for the C-Bus network backbone, which is connected to the C-Bus network junction boxes in the East Storage room and the Upper Laundry room.

Network Gateway West

We have two network gateways, which are connected on a high-speed backbone.  We installed a temporary 12U rack for the equipment that will, ultimately, comprise the Network Gateway West.

The temporary rack has a Motorola cable modem (for Comcast), a Luxul 2300 HBR router and a gigabit switch.  Bryan bought an APC PDU, which will become our permanent source of power from the 100 amp panel located in the West Mechanical room.


Three lighting control panels in the East Storage room. The initial panel is on the right, and has the network interface (Ethernet and C-Bus) and a 12-channel relay.


Close up of the initial lighting control panel. The Ethernet and C-Bus network cables are coming through the bottom of the panel.


We put the C-Bus network junction up high as it will only need to be accessible if there is a physical network failure. You can see that we are using pink CAT5e cable for the C-Bus network and yellow CAT5e as redundant cabling.


Most of our network cabling is run through flexible orange 'smurf' conduit although some of the cabling runs free outside the conduit.


The East Mechanical room is cleaned up and all the electric distribution panels are covered and secured. The 200 amp panel on the left is 'live' as half of our photovoltaic system is connected in this panel.


Update on Our Lighting

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Today, we addressed the collars on the Lucifer lights around the exterior of the house.  Also, Bryan saw some interesting electric car charging stations over at the Netflix buildings on Winchester Boulevard.

Lucifer Lights

We’re putting in Lucifer lights in the roof overhangs around the perimeter of the house.  These lights are part of our comprehensive lighting plan, which Randall Whitehead designed for us.  We love the flush mount of Lucifer and the clean, minimalist look.

Each of the lights are in IC-rated housings.  The IC rating means that the housings can be in contact with the insulation.  Since the overhangs are outside our thermal envelope, we can recess the lights into the SIP roof.

We ordered the housings with 1-1/2 inch collars on the housings and it looks like these collars are too long.  Bill Anderson is our contact person at Lighting Advantage Lighting Technologies and he will ensure that we have the correct collars for our lights.  Since there are 29 recessed lights around the exterior that we have received and 34 recessed lights inside the house still to order, we can get the correct collars.


The Lucifer Lighting housing in the SIP. Note how the collar may be too long when the OSB replaced and the 5/8-inch reclaimed Redwood is in place.


Housing with the collar on ...


And, without the collar. We can get the correct size collars and simply replace the existing collars that are too long.







Picking Up Our Pink CAT5 and Priming the FSC Siding

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

We moved forward on several fronts today … nothing completed but solid progress.

Submitting a Draft Document to the City of Monte Sereno

The first task of the day was to drop off our documentation to the City of Monte Sereno.  Bryan handed two copies to Howard Bell, the Building Official, who stamped them as ‘Received’ and said he would review the documnet.  Howard will be in a class all day tomorrow so Bryan will follow up directly with Brian Loventhal (as one copy was for Brian).

The deadline of September 29 is looming …

Picking Up Our Pink CAT5

While we don’t need to use pink CAT5 for our C-Bus network, we thought it would be a nice touch to follow the Australian code for lighting controls.  In Australia, pink CAT5 is mandated by the building code.

Bryan picked up 2,000 feet of pink CAT5, which had been ordered through ADI in Santa Clara.  Armed with the pink CAT5 and the ferrules that arrived on September 23, we have all the materials to rough in the lighting control system.  OK, we still need the final lighting design …

Working on the Lighting Design

Bryan is still working on the documentation of the lights in the house.  After the design session with Randall Whitehead last week in San Francisco, Bryan documented most of the decisions.  He needs to finish it off and get the list of lights out to the suppliers.

When going through the Artemide showroom on August 30, 2011, we discovered the Artemide’s Mouette lights, which look like airplane wings or birds in flight.  We couldn’t think where they could ‘fit’ in our home.  On the weekend, when going to the Artemide catalog again, we started to visualize how there could be a series of three individual lights that would like like they were emerging from the lower level (basement) and exiting through the clerestory windows in the atrium.

Bryan gave Scott Andersen and Sue Therrien, who are visiting us on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the address of the Artemide showroom in San Francisco so they can see the lights and then help with the design.

Time to focus on this one …

Priming the FSC Siding

Al started priming the FSC siding yesterday and then Al, Dan and Nep were cutting and installing it.  Al decided it would be more efficient if he and Nep primed all of the siding.  Then, they ccould all work together on getting the siding installed.  Especially since another box of Cor-A-Vent should be delivered tomorrow.

Dan got another couple sheets of siding up today.  These were some of the most difficult sheets of siding as they require holes for the electric receptacles and the air vents.

Lots to do tomorrow.

Especially since Scott and Sue arrive on Friday!

Photo from the Artemide catalog showing the Mouette lights in the San Francisco Airport (SFO). These lamps are very cool ...

Another photo from the Artemide catague showing the asymetric Mouette lamps. Note the glass bridge in this photo.

Our pink CAT% matches the smaller loop of pink CAT5, which was included in our light switches. We can now start wiring the switches together.

Bryan picked up another 5 gallon pail of tinted primer as the FSC siding is soaking up the primer!

Al primes another sheet of FSC siding ...


We're using all stainless steel nails on the exterior so we don't run the risk of seeing nay corrosion caused by nails.


The primed, back and front, FSC siding installed on the West side of the house.

The West wall is looking great after the inital pieces of siding have been installed.


Buttoning Up the Ladder in the Vertical Culvert

Friday, September 16th, 2011

We can stroke this one off the list – the ladder inside the vertical culvert is done.  Bryan was at the bottom of the vertical culvert on December 8, 2010.  It feels good to get this element of the project completed.  Finally.

As well, we finished off the solar installation and now we need to get connected to the grid.

Excellent progress …

The ladder and safety post are now mounted securely inside the vertical culvert.

View from the bottom of the vertical culvert (17 feet to the surface).

We put a wooden plywood deck inside the vertical culvert so we could add the electrical and other components safely and quickly.

The cast aluminum ring and manhole cover fit nicely over the vertical culvert.

Panels inside the East Mechanical room ...


Panel open with spacers over deadfront, with labeling. Ready for inspection ...


Our solar permit, which needs to be signed off and closed.

Although we are connected to the grid, this permit should be closed.


Installing Our Sequoia Central Vacuum

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Bryan had picked up the Sequoia Vacuum SV-700 unit today and positioned it in the garage.

Initially, we didn’t think that a central vacuum was important. The more we started the learn about the value of indoor air quality, the more we understood the importance of a central vacuum with an external exhaust.

Then, of course, we dug into the cyclonic vs. filter system and determined that we wanted to keep the outside of our house clean.

While evaluating central vacuum systems, we found that the leader in central vacuum systems is Sequoia Vacuum Systems, which is located in Menlo Park, just the other side of Palo Alto.  Earlier, we had worked on installing the collection pipes for the central vacuum system.

IAQ 8.2 Indoor Contaminant Control (1 point each, maximum 2 points).
Select from the following measures:
a) Design and install permanent walk-off mats at each entry that are at least 4 feet in length and allow accessibility for cleaning (e.g., grating with catch basin).
b) Design a shoe removal and storage space near the primary entryway, separated from living areas. This space may not have wall-to-wall carpeting, and it must be large enough to accommodate a bench and at least two pairs of shoes per bedroom.
c) Install a central vacuum system with exhaust to the outdoors. Ensure that the exhaust is not near any ventilation air intake.

Sequoia Vacuum System's SV-700 unit installed in our garage.

Inspecting Our Photovoltaic Solar Panel Installation

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

The City of Monte Sereno reviewed our photovoltaic solar panel installation and signed off on all the components that Real Goods Solar are responsible for.  The one remaining component is a cover for the 200 amp electrical panel in the East Mechanical room.

Although the cover is required, there is no current flowing through our electrical system as we are not connected to ‘the grid’.

We were honored to have Bob Sobota and Eufermiro Cariaga from Schneider Electric, and Jim Laberty of Lighting Systems tour our project site today.  Bryan met Bob Sobota when Bryan attended the C-Bus training course in Palm Desert in March 2011; Bryan had hosted Jim’s visits to our project site previously, and it was Eric Westphal and Jim that recommended that we engage Randall Whitehead Lighting Solutions to design the lighting throughout the house.  Eufermiro and Bryan met for the first time today.

Bob works in the lighting controls division and Eufermiro is in the Juno Lighting Group.  Jim Laberty is the local distributor for both C-Bus lighting controls and Juno lighting.

Changing Our System to 100% Micro-Inverters

Solar photovoltaic panel installations are new and evolving.  One of the technology elements that is continuing to evolve is the inverter.  Usually, an entire array of panels (or string of arrays of panels) are connected to a single inverter.  The inverter takes the DC and converts it to AC.

For our installation, we changed the design from a mix of one string inverter (for 32 panels) and 16 micro-inverters, to 48 micro-inverters.  Changing to all micro-inverters reduces the conductors (wiring), increases the efficiency of the electricity generation, and increases the safety of the overall system.

One of the challenges with micro-inverters is that not many people understand how these systems work.  Liam Ryan, from Real Goods Solar, explained the details to Bryan.

Before Operating, Micro-Inverters Require a Connection to the Grid

Generally, when solar photovoltaic panels are exposed to sunlight they produce electricity.  The panels create direct current (DC) electricity and that flows to the inverter.  In the case of a micro-inverter, the transmission of DC is only a couple of feet as the micro-inverter is mounted to the panel.  The micro-inverter then creates alternating current (AC) which is connected to the building’s electrical system.

Enphase micro-inverters are ‘UL-listed’ as they have been certified (tested and approved) by Underwriters Laboratories.  Products certified by Underwriters Laboratories are identied with a UL Mark.  According to Underwriters Laboratories’ web site:

The UL Mark on a product means that UL has tested and evaluated representative samples of that product and determined that they meet UL requirements. Under a variety of programs products are periodically checked by UL at the manufacturing facility to make sure they continue to meet UL requirements. The UL Marks may be only used on or in connection with products certified by UL and under the terms of written agreement with UL. In addition to these marks, UL also provides access to the marks required in a number of other key world markets.

Liam explained that the Enphase micro-inverters in our system cannot convert the DC current to AC unless the micro-inverter has recognized the 60 Hz wave form has been stable for five minutes.  The 60 Hz wave form is present in the electrical grid throughout the U.S. and Canada.  Thus, the micro-inverter cannot create AC current unless our system is connected to the grid.

In addition, Liam explained that the micro-inverters will stop creating AC current immediately upon losing recognition of the 60 Hz wave form.  The software in the Enphase micro-inverters is what recognizes the 60 Hz wave forms and then controls the output.

Underwriters Laboratories has certified the Enphase micro-inverters that we are using.

Consequently, although we have our entire solar photovoltaic system built, installed and inspected, we cannot create electricity until we are connected to the grid.  There is no electricity present in our system.

Roseanne Prevost-Morgan and Matt Knobbe of Real Goods Solar dropped by our site to take a quick look at the installation. Bryan, of course, took their picture on the Upper Flat roof.