Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

A few photos of things I'm thankful for this week 

1 - The Aurora: I fired up the sauna at my dad's house after dinner last night. The sky was only glowing a little when we finished, but Corrie and I stayed up a bit longer and about midnight the Aurora became pretty active. 
The Big Dipper over my dad's shop
There were a few bursts of red. I just barely caught this one. 

The Black Friday crowds in Tok! (Corrie standing very still watching the Aurora)

2 - Empty roads and someone to share them with: I drove up to Fairbanks with Corrie on Sunday afternoon. It's a beautiful drive on a clear day, but it was still nice driving and talking through the snowy night. Wednesday night we drove on to Tok on more empty, snow-covered roads.
Snow building up on the back of Corrie's car. 

3 - Sun Light: It's only a couple hundred miles north, but the sun is noticeably lower in the sky in Fairbanks than it is in Anchorage this time of year.
"High Noon" in Fairbanks
"High Noon" in Tok today
The sun shining on the trees at the north end of the yard
 4 - Wood stoves: After going outside at 30 below zero to take those pictures in the shorts I've been wearing I decided my dad's wood stove should really be on the list.
A warm house and nearly unlimited hot water

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Home Energy Efficiency

I spent many evenings and a few weekends during the extended fall upgrading the insulation on the house with my sister Liz. 
The house was built in 1972.
An inch of poorly installed fiberglass (R-3 at best) was considered good enough for below grade walls then... 
While we had access to the block we sealed all the joints and painted it with concrete sealant.
I also filled the joint between the framed wall and the plate on top the block with foam.
We had to adjust the layout of the heating pipe to make room for more insulation.
- Thanks Dad.
I insulated the top plate as well as the face of the wall.
2" of R Max insulation is R-13. It also seals the wall much better than fiberglass. I taped all the joints and spray foamed any visible gaps. 
Liz and her friend Tom ready to insulate the attic
Blowing in cellulose in the rain is several kinds of fun.
There was insulation flowing up that hose.
We now have R-45+ in the attic instead of R-15.
The first time it got below 20 degrees my new frost plug heater started to leak and a frost plug heater that leaks when it's cold is a bit of a problem...
It took two late nights, but I got it fixed. 
The finished basement wall is noticeably warmer to the touch. 
Of all  the things I found during the project this may be the most baffling.
Three 6' heating fins to warm the floor under the entryway and no insulation on the concrete block wall.
It was effectively R-0 between the warmest place of the house and the frozen ground outside...
On the night before it snowed I used some scraps to build a rack under the shed rafters.

I still have a couple more rooms to insulate and a new boiler to install. I'm hoping all the improvements will cut the heating bill by 50-75% this winter. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


The temperature has been hovering around zero for a few days. The ice on Campbell creek is already thick enough to support my weight along the edges. It's kind of neat to see the creek freezing from one days lunch to the next.

In related new, I'll be testing the oil pan and block heaters I installed on my truck tomorrow morning

Monday, November 18, 2013


I drove down to Kenai with Corrie for the weekend. Corrie was invited to a program at the Challenger Learning Center there and I volunteered to go for a drive. I didn't have a lot to do in town, but it was a peaceful weekend with time to think and beautiful views of the mountains across the Cook Inlet.
This view can be yours for the low low price of $349,000!
I drove around a bit on sunday looking for a good place to take photos over the bluff. I drove down "Cook Inlet View Dr" and "Panorama Ave" but I couldn't actually find a place without houses in the way. Eventually I found a house for sale and was able to take a few photos while looking at the house...

Panoramic view
Mt Redoubt
Sunset on the beach.
The sand on the beach was actually frozen solid. I can't recall ever going to the beach in any of my previous winters here.

Monday, November 11, 2013


After a fall that never seemed to end, winter finally arrived in Anchorage Sunday night with 6-8 inches of snow in a few hours. Even when it's well below freezing, I don't feel like it's winter until I'm walking through snow. These pictures are from the trail along campbell creek I walked at lunch.

These worked well today, but were a bit warm. They are rated for -76 F. I'm kind of hoping I'll get to test that...

The long extension of fall did provide time for major house improvements. I was going to post those pictures, but then it snowed and I got distracted...