The aquaponics trial system

December 1st, 2012

I may have been banned from building it until the house is done, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it or collecting bits and pieces as they come along.

While doing the negotiating on the solar panels and electrical control gear for the house I purchased the panels and electrical control gear for the aquaponics set up as well. The shed will run an identical control set up except it will be 12 volt based rather than the 24 volt of the house system. 2kw in panels, control gear and an 1100Ah 12 volt battery bank has cost us under $5700. We will eventually plug in a couple of wind turbines to this system as well giving us ample power to expand the operation as we need to.

Most of the components of this shed will be running 12 volt.

Update on costs

November 30th, 2012

I’ve spent the past week negotiating on pricing for the off grid power system. I’ve picked up 2.5kW of 24V solar panels from Low Energy Developments in Melbourne for a very nice price.

Coleman Air based in the USA are sending out all of the electrical control gear to run the panels as well as allow input of wind turbines. Components with the capability of this gear are not available in Australia as the renewables sector has been unfairly skewed to solar, where the ridiculous incentives and rebates were offered.

One example of the capability of the Coleman Air equipment is their charge controller. It will take any mix of power input (of the same DC voltage) to a total of 10kW, charge the batteries to optimum capacity then dump the excess power generated to just about anything I like. Try and find a controller here that comes even close to the capacity alone and you’ll be pulling hair in no time. Since his gear is so damn cheap I’ve ordered everything but the copper wire to get the system running.

Once we have sourced the wind turbines I anticipate we’ll have a 4.5kW system leaving plenty of reserve should we need more panels or turbines in the future to meet power requirements. Ideally I would like to have enough capability so we are not needing to use a genset to charge the batteries.

Since all the pricing of this gear was more than acceptable I have also grabbed 2kW of panels and all the control gear for the aquaponics shed as well.

I still need to source wind turbines, batteries and an inverter for the house system plus purchase the steel to make the mounting racks for the solar panels and the copper to wire it all together. I’m anticipating this to run another $14k which will give us a functioning system for less than connecting power to the house.

And as a bonus to all that there will be no more f#*%ing power bills.

By the way, do you enjoy paying through the nose for your power? Blame the neighbours with the 5kW grid feed systems getting 60 cents a kW for feed in. Then blame the government who forces power companies to buy that power being fed in as part of their renewables targets. Can you see where the unreasonable power price increases have come from?

Ironically since those incentives have collapsed solar panels are now reasonably priced.

So, on to the figures:
Low Energy Developments for the panels, freight and insurance – $2375 (house only)
Coleman Air for charge controller, rectifiers, ammeter/voltmeter, switches, breakers and blocking diodes – $1781.53 (house only)
Bunnings for primer/sealer/bonder – $271
United Fasteners for fixings for the windows – $167.27

Total project spend is now at $306,085.78
House only is now $92,133.28
Cost per square metre is now $319.91

Priming the timbers

November 17th, 2012

This is one of those jobs that most people would say really doesn’t need to be done and it is a total pain in the backside, but it should help the colour coat that goes on to the verandah remain sound for 15-20 years. I’ve used Dulux 1 Step acrylic sealer, primer and bonder to protect the seasoned treated pine from moisture. It’s being brushed on to make sure the coat gets into all the knots and irregularities of the wood. Even though it is dressed all round (DAR) it still is far from smooth.

All up there is over 600 metres of timber to be primed and top coated before it will be turned into the verandah. It is much easier to paint wood at waist level on level ground than try and do the job perched on a ladder once it is completed. We’ll just touch up the cuts as the timber is cut to length.

The colour coat will be Taubmans Endure with their new nanoguard technology. I’ve been extremely impressed with how the painted portions of the power room self clean, and appear to stay clean.

Pics 1 & 2 below show about 3/4 of that timber primed and ready for the topcoats. That’s our 14×9 metre aquaponics shed on the other side of it. I’ve been banned from playing with that until the house is habitable.

Third pic is a set of shutters that have since been slit into 150mm sections for the filling of the voids in the last row of blocks. I needed the angle iron on these to be able to clamp wood to position the threaded rods for the verandah fixing accurately in the voids before filling.

Update on costs

November 3rd, 2012

We’ve had our biggest single purchase since the slab was laid – Bianco for timber and associated hardware for the verandah – $3451.72

Total project spend is now at  $301,490.98
House only is now $87,538.48
Cost per square metre is now $303.95

Moving right along

November 3rd, 2012

The verandah, windows and doors are next on the to do list.

Work on all the recycled Jarrah and Kauri has begun with the first step being to properly de-nail the wood before it is passed through a planer to bring it all to the same dimensions.

We have already worked out how we want the windows to look for the different openings and once all has been planed to size the router will then cop a beating as the hardwood is machined to the profiles required for each of the openings.

Across the front of the house I can manufacture all the doors and windows bar the kitchen window and leave them safely stored here until needed. Once that is complete production will move on site with the front door frame and windows for the kitchen, craft room, walk in robe and wet areas being built to suit the openings in the walls to ensure best fit. The french doors for the master bedroom and the large set of doors for the dining area will be assembled on site as they will be too large and heavy to move safely if in one piece.

Once everything has been fitted all of the sashes will be removed and brought “back to town” to have a glazier fit the toughened glass required under the BAL 12.5 rating we have for our site.

I have ordered the verandah timber and hardware fixings from Bianco and they are scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday.

The verandah is going to be built differently to what most people are used to seeing. The purlins (roof sheets fix to purlins) will be fixed between rafters (rafters are the structural support for the purlins) rather than run across the top. This will reduce the overall profile height of the verandah as well as ensuring there are no “safe” spots for birds to sit and shelter while they crap all over the path below.

I’ve decided to do this with joist hangers rather than skew nailing as the hangers will provide greater strength (for walking on for example) and increase rigidity overall. All of the timber will be cut roughly to size and primed then painted before it is taken to the block to build the verandah.

And here it is

October 29th, 2012

And finally….

October 27th, 2012

The last of the blocks for the external walls has been set and poured.

It’s great to have the true hard graft out of the way before the heat of summer kicks in. Now that it is completed lockup should be achieved before New Year. 2013 for those asking which one….

Special thank you to my father-in-law Roger who decided to take on the tough task of running the trommel and keeping the dirt supplies up for me. That was without doubt the dirtiest job on site and certainly the most taxing on the body.

Many thanks to my Dad for time spent grabbing odds and sods for me and helping where and when he was able to on site.

Thanks to Elise for prepared meals ready to take up to the block and keeping things organised and moving along at home.

Finally a big thank you to my Mum for looking after our son and making the time spent by Elise and myself possible.

Update on costs

October 20th, 2012

Bianco for white cement – $690.81
Senturion Steel for galvanised steel for framing fixing to threaded rods – $228.80
Adelaide Rural and Salvage for recycled jarah and kauri for windows and doors – $976

Total project spend is now at $298,040.26
House only is now $84,087.76
Cost per square metre is now $291.97

In the coming weeks

October 20th, 2012

Once all the sections are at that final layer there is one tedious job that will need to be completed – levelling all sections of the wall. I have a rotary laser to do this with and essentially I will find the lowest point then carve a 100mm channel into the remaining sections until there is a level plane for the top plate (90x45mm) to sit.

The 25 holes for the verandah pads will be dug shortly and the concrete will need to be mixed, poured and levelled and given 4 weeks to fully cure before we can start fixing the stirrups to these pads for the verandah poles.

Once this concrete has been poured the remaining gaps between the blocks will be filled with a section of threaded rod bent at 90 degrees to both protrude from the wall and up through where the top plate will sit. This will be the fixing point for the 3/4 return verandah. I’ve left this step until after the wall plate levelling is complete so we are not mixing, pouring and then paring away more earthen concrete than we need to.

From there the verandah will be built to the house as the clearance between the eaves and verandah will preclude a drill being used to fix off the verandah roof sheets.

Our first real tradie since the plumber will then be employed to assist and oversee building and cladding of the roof and the internal wall frames. All of this work is pencilled for completion by New Year.

Nearing the end……

October 20th, 2012

We’re past 90% now and the next few days will see the worst of the back breaking work completed.

The three pics above are a close up panorama of the house from the top of the drive. The tallest of these is at the finished height of 9 blocks.

Pic 4 above is from the front gate. Pic 5 shows the crane with the boom balance point now moved to extend its’ reach. A simple crate with rock acts as ballast, if we need to lift anything over about 60kg then we add more ballast to balance the crane. Pic 6 is the method of forming the lintel voids in the wall I devised. This shot shows the machined wood internals and the simple MDF sheeting externals.

Pic 7 is the insert ready to go into the mix. I fix them together with common sticky tape which holds together nicely and allows for simply cutting the tape as in Pic 8 to allow the internal wood to be removed. The MDF is then simply pulled inwards of the remaining void and we’re left with a nice clean resting point for the lintel as in Pic 9

Pic 10 shows the reach the crane now has to be able to lift molds into place to complete the ninth layer. In the foreground there are walls at level 7 on the left and finished height on the right. I’ve been trying to maximise the components I have to be able to set and pour maximum blocks for a days’ work which means not everything is done sequentially.

Pic 11 shows the foreground “skinny walls” at level 8 with 2 of the columns in the back ground at level 9. Pic 12 is looking down the back wall and shows the slightest of deviations from a perfectly straight wall. That deviation is over 30 metres and I’m quite happy we got it as straight as it is. Pic 13 is the front columns of the house and again, almost perfectly straight over the 30 metres. You can also see in that shot where we’ve used the imbeded threaded rods to fix “X” supports to to brace the walls. There have been several storm events where neighbours have recorded 90kph+ winds and the braces have held the walls very well under those stresses.

Pics 13, 14 and 15 are again comparisons over time of the same corner as the building develops.