1.5 gpm showerheads

I’ve been meaning to post an update for a while, but just haven’t had the time. There are currently six showers that are used by the campground. Initially, I assumed that these were all 2.5 gpm showerheads as is the current standard. During mornings when the campground is very full, there has been an issue with hot water running out after the first group of showers. This is a ton of water use as the water heater is an 80 gallon commerical propane unit fed by a solar pre-heater system. By installing some lower flow shower heads I thought we could decrease hot water use while allowing everyone to wash off with hot water instead of the initial group.

We purchased three 1.5 gpm water amplifying showerheads manufactured by Delta to replace some of the 2.5 gpm units. I was a bit nervous that these units would not feel like a 2.5 gpm shower; however, I was happily proven wrong. Delta seems to have done a great job with these and they seem to feel about the same as a 2.5 gpm shower. When we started to pull off the old showerheads I noticed that some didn’t have the 2.5 gpm marking on them. Using the bucket and stopwatch method it was determined that they were in fact using between 4 and 5 gpm! No wonder we were running out of hot water so quickly! In turned out that three of the showerheads were these water hogs while three were regular 2.5 gmp units. You can guess which three I replaced.

We now have three 2.5 gpm showers and three 1.5 gpm showers rather than three 2.5 gpm and three 5 gpm! This should decrease hot water use substantially while improving the average shower quality for our guests. Now we just need to pick up three more of the ultra low flow units so all six can use minimal water an energy.

one of the new 1.5 gpm water amplifying showerheads

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new well

About a year ago we installed a new well to supply the entire campground’s water. I wouldn’t normally consider installing a new well an energy conservation upgrade, but in our case it was due to the poor condition of the old well. The inside of the casing of the existing well was severely deteriorated causing large amounts of rust to flake off and fall to the bottom. These rust flakes would continually become clogged in the intake of the pump, forcing the pump to work much harder. The system was not able to keep up with demand, and during the summer when the campground was full the pump would run continuously instead of cycling to maintain pressure in three 40 gallon tanks. System performance all around was very poor, having low water pressure throughout the campground while using excess electricity.

The new system works much better and consists of a Franklin Electric variable speed pump and control unit. The three 40 gallon pressure tanks were replaced with a single 5 gallon unit that fits inside the well casing. The variable speed drive allows the system to function properly using a small pressure tank without excessive pump cycling on and off compared to a simple 1 speed pump. Another benefit is the elimination of an above ground “pumphouse” where the pressure tanks are normally housed. An building above ground for the pressure tanks has to be heated, where contrarily a system like ours eliminates this building in turn saving the energy that would be needed to heat it during the winter.

The new well and Franklin-Electric Subdrive 100 control unit.

The new water system provides guests with much better water pressure while saving energy by having a properly functioning pump and eliminating the need for a heated structure to house the pressure tanks.

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attic door insulation

The swing down door with the access ladder to the attic is constructed out of 1/2″ plywood and was not insulated. This means there was a 30″ x 50″ “hole” in the attic insulation. I decided that attaching rigid insulation to the door was an easy solution that would improve the situation. We had a sheet of 1″ rigid styrofoam on hand. This has an R value of about 5. It was a pretty straightforward process of cutting the insulation with a knife and gluing it to the attic door with construction adhesive.

Rigid insulation cut and glued to attic door while allowing clearance for the ladder to function properly.

1″ was the max thickness of insulation that would fit between the ladder and door. Ideally, polyiso insulation with R 8 per inch would have been used, but I had the extruded polystyrene on hand. The next step will be to fashion some sort of insulated door in the attic that can be closed before putting the ladder up. This would allow for a lot more insulation to be added as this is still a weak spot in the overall attic insulation.

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attic insulation

I finished adding some insulation to the attic today. The attic above the heated apartment is insulated with old gray fiberglass batts partially covered with 1/2″ plywood. The plywood provides a surface that allow the attic to be used for storage. After climbing around up there and checking things out I determined that many of the batts were cut too short and didn’t go all the way to the wall. There were also areas along each side of the attic between the joists and exterior wall that had not been insulated at all. Gaps and and thin spots in the insulation were common along the exterior edges, while the insulation under the plywood seemed to be in pretty good shape. All of these areas of thin and no insulation can drastically reduce the overall insulating capability of the attic floor.

The local building supply carried bags of loose fill fiberglass that is generally used for blow in applications. One bag of densely packed fiberglass was $26. I figured one bag would be plenty to fix the issues in the attic and would be a really inexpensive way to reduce the heating bill. I had never dealt with loose fill fiberglass and was amazed at how much volume is achieved when removing the insulation from the tightly wrapped package and tearing it into small pieces as instructed. There was more than enough insulation to finish the job; in fact I only used about half the bag or $13 worth of insulation.

Uninsulated area between floor joists and wall studs.

New insulation between floor joists and wall studs, and filling in gaps in existing insulation.

Insulation as shown above was added around the entire perimeter of the attic where needed. It was amazing at how many small gaps there were in existing insulation. I determined that the total volume of insulation added is the equivalent of what would have covered the entire attic floor with just over 1″ of new insulation. This is roughly like adding R 3 to the attic, a very modest gain. However, it may be more beneficial than the R 3 estimate would suggest because small uninsulated sections can significantly reduce the overall insulating ability.

The total insulation on the floor of the attic is still only about R 20. There is insulation in the rafters that someone installed for an unknown reason. This insulation is basically worthless because the attic is vented to the outside on the gable ends, so any heat making it into the attic can just flow with the air out these vents. Now that the existing insulation is in order, the next step is to add more. R 20 in the attic is very low for a cold climate, if the attic was not floored with plywood and used for storage it would be really easy to blow in another 12″ of loose fill fiberglass or cellulose. However, framing in a new floor on top of the old and filling it with a second layer of insulation is probably the best answer. I’m thinking 2×4′s with polyiso.

Insulation was added where some batts of the old were cut short.

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interior storm window

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve window efficiency is the build an interior storm window. The frame is made out of 1x2s and covered with flexible plastic on both sides to create a trapped air space in the middle. The total cost for this window was $5 or $6. It is amazing the difference that can be felt when just standing next to the uncovered and then covered window in cold weather. When uncovered you can feel the cold coming off of the window. I think that this simple frame about doubles the R value of the existing single pane window. This is the next window to be replaced with a vinyl frame double pane unit.

Interior storm window made of 1x2s and flexible plastic sheeting.

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vinyl windows

The windows in the main building are all single pane glass with aluminum frames. This is basically the worst type of window to have in conditioned spaces. Eventually, we plan to replace all of the windows in the building, but first we decided to replace the windows in the heated living quarters above the office. One window was replaced about a week ago, and the second we replaced today. The new windows are nothing fancy and are definitely not the very best you can buy. Standard vinyl frame windows with gas filled double pane glass. They are however, much much better than the terrible windows they replaced. It would be nice to use the very best windows, but with the sheer amount of work that needs to be done at the campground we have to try and get the most bang for the buck. Now only one more relatively small window to replace in the apartment-then many many more in the part of the building just kept above freezing in the winter.

One of the old single pane aluminum frame windows.

One of the two new vinyl double pane windows.

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exterior door

All of the exterior doors in the main office/apartment building are actually not exterior if that can possibly make any sense. They all lead to the outside, but are in fact hollow core uninsulated interior doors.  We replaced the first of the doors that leads to the heated living quarters with a new insulated metal door yesterday. The weatherstripping on the old door was in poor condition with small cracks of light from the outside visible when the door was closed. The top half of the new door is double pane glass that lets in light to a poorly lit staircase. Having the staircase lit with natural light will allow the stair lights left off during the day, while having significantly more light. The glass should also allow a modest amount of solar heat gain during the afternoon.

The old hollow core interior grade door being used on the exterior.

The new door has a lot higher R value, lets in usable light, and also looks better.

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