Category Archives: Do It Yourself

Installing a Propane Wall Heater

HeatStar R10LP Propane Heater

Some Much Needed Backup Heat

Even with a 12,000 BTU Mini Split Unit installed in our Cabin we have experienced some spotty outages with our local electric cooperative and numerous power surges.  With the winter months upon us we decided it would be to our better judgement to install a propane heater to add an additional heat source in case our power went out for an extended period of time.

A few months back we made a daily trip  to Spencer, Tennesseee to order and purchase a wood stove chimney kit from from an Amish Gentleman named Ervin. Ervin makes them in his backyard shop and does quality work  given the measurements and sizes that we needed.  However, we eventually decided to save the wood stove and parts for our future add-on addition later.

We decided to install the propane heater in the photo above  to use as back-up when the power went out and on extremely cold days when our mini split just wouldn’t keep up.

What Parts Do I Need?

Well,  Propane heaters cant work without fuel… It seems our local Liquid Propane Suppliers wanted us to get a minimum of at least #250 Pound tank with fuel which would be anywhere between $600 -$800 in Propane and then another $200+ to install the line and make the connections.  With that kind of expense we decided to purchase our own tanks and have them filled.  We could also get a better price per gallon having our own tanks filled.  Commercially, suppliers will either provide or lease you a bulk tank in order to sell you more fuel.   There are smaller tanks available in either #100, #40, or #20 pound tanks for purchase from retail stores that have them.

A co-worker of mine gave us a #40 pound tank that  he wasn’t using and wanted out of the way.  We decided to purchase another #40 pound tank at our local Tractor Supply and have them filled while there.  Here is the Manchester #40 Propane Tank that we purchased in addition to the #40 tank my co worker gave us for FREE. (You can also find a picture of the tanks below)  We could have easily gone with two #100  pound tanks but decided that the heater would only have occasional use and wouldn’t be constantly demanding propane.

Note: I did transport my #40 pound tanks home in our utility trailer in an upright position.  Many places will not allow you to transport filled propane tanks in an enclosed vehicle and especially if they are laying down. Here is a good How To on transporting them.

Regulator

Depending on the size and manufacturer of your Propane Heater be sure to review the Operator and Instructions Manual included with your Heater for the compatible regulator type and size.   Here is an example of what to look for in your instruction manual:

Most Heaters are not provided with a Regulator and you will have to purchase one on on your own.  For an explanation of How  Regulators work click HERE! This will explain why its important to have the right size and type of regulator.  Our Particular heater purchase called for a regulator with a maximum Pressure setting of:

Pressure Regulator Setting  :  10 Inches of Water

Inlet Gas Pressure ( Maximum)  14 Inches of Water

Inlet Gas Pressure (Minimum)     11 Inches of Water

All of these should be listed on the Regulator Packaging for compatibility with your heater or compatible model numbers with your heater. Your Regulator should match these numbers for your heater in pressure or your heater may not work properly.

Service Lines

In order for your heater to operate from your fuel source to the heater, you will need the proper lines between both to supply your heater. Most common is the use of copper lines with flared fittings.

LP Pre Made Lines with attached Fittings for easy connections

As an alternative with occasional use and a shorter run between the tanks and appliance you can use pre-made rubber Liquid Propane lines suitable for use with Liquid Propane gas HERE  These work great for less the cost than copper tubing and fittings.   For a more permanent solution and alot of use I would recommend Copper lines and fittings.  Most major LP gas suppliers and regulations require a 10 foot minimum distance between the tank and dwelling.  Your local Codes will also dictate a minimum distance and connection.

I chose the pre made lines with the attached fittings for ease and the shorter distance i had between the tank and the appliance.

Dual Tank Hookup Kits

Due to having two LP tanks on hand, I decided to go with this handy dual tank hook-up kit I also found at Tractor Supply.  I had both tanks connected safely together in less than 5 minutes.

Liquid Propane Gas Valve

I installed this 1/2″ Liquid Propane Gas Valve which you can find HERE

Our Heater was provided with a 3/8″ gas inlet located on the bottom of the heater which you can see here. The heater also came with a 3/8″ FIP elbow provided with male and female ends as you can see below:

The LP gas inlet in the above photo is shown on the bottom corner of our heater.  The 3/8″ elbow also pictured screws into the threads to adjust where you want your gas line to run. Be sure when connecting all joints with gas line piping to use a compatible pipe thread sealant made especially for gases.   Thread tape for Gas will usually be sold with an Orange Cap and Orange colored tape.  This is double layered and only used for gas and oil applications.  You can also purchase a tube of RectorSeal 5 Pipe Thread Sealant for gas applications.

As illustrated in the above image I used the Gas threading tape to connect the 3/8″ elbow provided with the heater to the bottom of the heater.  I also purchased a 1 1/2″ length of 3/8″ Black Iron pipe and attached it  to the elbow with the sealant tape.  On the end to the right, I replaced that flair fitting (for copper tubing) with a Black Iron 3/8″ to 1/2″ Reducer.  If using metal piping its usually better to use Black Iron as it is more compatible with gases if not using the appropriate copper.  I think that Black Iron threaded piping gives a better and safer connection when dealing with gases.  Its also harder to jar your connections loose as opposed to using copper which can be easily bent and create a hazardous gas leak.

My reducer looks like this…..Be Sure its compatible with any type of Gas Application

At the 1/2″ end of the Reducer I added a 1/2″ Brass Pipe Nipple ( Any length you need for your particular project) In my case I used a 1 1/2 inch long brass nipple to connect to the gas valve from the reducer.

 

As can be seen in the photo above I connected from the reducer on the right using the brass nipple into the gas valve by threading it in ( using gas threading sealant). To the left on the opposite side of the gas valve, I added a 1/2″ Close Nipple, another 1/2″ x 3/8″ close nipple ( Black Iron or Brass)  into a Brass 1/2″ x 3/8 Reducer, another 3/8″ Close nipple and connected to the black LP Gas line coming from the tanks outside.  It made it very easy to connect to the gas valve with the 3/8″ connector already made into the hose line from outside.  Be sure to make all connections with the Gas Thread tape or Sealant. Your Gas Valve should be located inside next to your heater or appliance. This will allow you to stop the flow of gas going to the appliance in an emergency or a gas leak at the appliance.

 

Before making the gas line connections to the outside tanks, the unit came with a mounting bracket and hardware for either mounting to the wall ( As i did) or with floor stands provided for floor applications.   When mounting to the wall or the floor be sure to follow the Manufacturers recommendation for acceptable clearances around all sides of your heater.   I chose the wall mount on my particular project.

Connecting Your Tanks

As you can see in the photo above I connected both #40 pound LP tanks using the Double Tank Connection Kit I provided a link to previously.  Many of the threads going into the Tanks will screw in counterclockwise instead of clockwise.  Disconnecting the lines from the tanks unscrew in reverse.  One line will simply screw into the second tank ( as above) then connect to the end of the Brass Tee as pictured on the tank in the foreground. In the middle of the Tee will be the tank connection which will thread into the tank counterclockwise again.  Your regulator will screw into the opposite end of the Tee as pictured.  The remainder is your line going through the wall to your appliance.   Again, be sure to use Orange Thread tape or Sealant at all connections to prevent any leaks.  Propane is very explosive if not used properly.

 

Now What?

Before installing any gas line ( whether Propane or Natural Gas) be sure you follow all safety precautions and know what you are doing.  I would recommend a Trained Professional to install Natural Gas applications as their regulators are much more complex than Liquid Propane.   Almost all Natural Gas lines are run by a Local Utility and they require you to have one of their installers perform the work.  Tapping into a Natural Gas line without authorization is a criminal offense in almost all states.

It is also beneficial to check with your local authorities to learn the requirements (if any) for installing LP Gas tanks for residential or commercial use.

Once you have connected your appliance to the outdoor tanks its now time to test to be sure you don’t have any leaks and your appliance is working properly.

Testing For Leaks

Once all connections are made you can turn on the gas at the tanks by opening the valves located on the top of your tanks.  Open them slowly and listen for any sounds of a leak. If you do STOP!!!  Close the valves slowly and repair the leak.

If no leak at the valves allow enough time for the gas to enter the lines going to the appliance.  In the meantime, keep your gas valve inside near the appliance closed.

You can use a mixture of water and dish detergent to spray on all connections and joints. If you don’t have a spray bottle you can use a sponge and apply the water mixture on each joint.  If you see Bubbles forming, STOP!! and have the leak repaired where you see  it bubble. This is a sign that you have a leak.  Again, shut off the gas before making any repairs.

 

You can now open the gas valve and repeat the same steps between the gas valve and the appliance.  Follow Manufacturers Instructions to bleed air from the lines and lighting your pilot light.

 

Follow ALL Safety Precautions when installing or Servicing Liquid Propane…If not, this will happen!

 

If you should have any questions or comments about this article we would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to share your experiences or comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Install a Mini Split : A DIY Guide

The Big Question is…..Where Have I been?

Since moving into our Cabin we have found a steady list of projects that need to be completed to make it more livable and comfortable, and get ready for the coming winter months. Besides working a part time job – which feels like full-time – I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I would like to my Blog!

Since today is a rainy day- and I need to get to work in a couple of hours, I’ll get started on my much needed catching up. Continue reading How to Install a Mini Split : A DIY Guide

Using Salvaged or Reclaimed Materials – Setting Up A PSO?

The first question I am sure you are now asking is – WHAT THE HECK IS A PSO?

A PSO is nothing more than a Pure Salvage Outpost – Just a place that you can collect and store salvaged or reclaimed material to help others build their small house or cabin on their own land.  Many people prefer the Big House with a Mortgage with all those bells and whistles screaming at the neighbors to Look at Me!  This lifestyle of living small isn’t for everyone as much as living in a large house with immaculate landscaping isn’t something many minimalist want either.  Regardless of who you are,  choose what makes you Happy! Continue reading Using Salvaged or Reclaimed Materials – Setting Up A PSO?

PEX Plumbing Kit- My Personal Experience

When we were planning our Shed to House Conversion it was a necessity to have running water. We decided that we would use PEX Plumbing over conventional PVC for the ease of its use and affordability. While in the process of shopping for supplies and the items that we would need, I came across a Pex Plumbing Kit that gave me everything I wanted in one place without having to shop around for the various parts. Continue reading PEX Plumbing Kit- My Personal Experience

We Finally Made the move….and then….

Finally, the Move ——-

After many months of planning and a  few delays we finally made our move from the suburbia of the Gulf Coast of Florida to our new homestead in the mountains of Tennessee.

What a ride it has been and one of many reasons why I haven’t been able to post an update since we moved.  Now that many rainy days have come it has given me the opportunity get Up-To-Date..

During the first week of January we rented a Penske truck and loaded all of the belongings that we wanted to take with us. In our attempts to be as minimal as possible we still ended up with a truck full.  Many of our  things we donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill that we really didn’t want or just decided against taking it with us.  We did have  things that time just didn’t give us the pleasure of doing anything with or getting rid of. With those things we made the decision to deal with it later, either by trying to sell it in Tennessee or donating to worthy causes.

With over 700 miles and a full day of traveling we finally made it to our rental cabin that we would be living in while we finished our own small cabin.   Between our efforts to settle in, arranging for mail delivery, our cabin shell delivery, frigid days and snowy nights it took a couple of weeks just to get the hang of things.  Our cabin shell was finally delivered at the end of January and we immediately began buying materials and starting  on the interior construction phase of our homesteading reality. Continue reading We Finally Made the move….and then….

And, The Big Sky Saga continues…..Our Latest Homestead Adventure

Sometimes with our Homesteading , crazy things get in the way and slow you down. Over the past couple of months we have experienced just that! Our goal has been to continue our dream of having our own little private place to call home in the mountains of Tennessee. We gave you the lowdown on our progress to get our land cleared and the septic tank installed. I had hoped (before now) to give you the latest on our water line and electric install, but, crazy things just get in the way. Continue reading And, The Big Sky Saga continues…..Our Latest Homestead Adventure

Installing Our Homestead Septic System

Again we made our annual trip to our property in Tennessee although this time it would be different for us.  It was time to clear the property and install the septic system. We needed to be there to decide what areas we wanted cleared of underbrush,many small saplings, and a couple of dead trees.

After arriving on a rainy Monday afternoon  in Livingston we had lunch at a local downtown diner. It was a great little spot with an adjoining antique shop. You can find more about that on  Cheri’s Blog.

Early Tuesday morning we met with our Contractor, Benton Tucker with Tucker Farms LLC and his associate Jason Huggins at another local diner for breakfast. These guys made us feel welcomed and happy to do business with them.  During breakfast and between a few laughs we explained what we were looking for and decided to head out to the property and create a plan for tomorrows work.  We needed to decide where to clear for the septic system according to the Inspectors permit we had received. The permits will usually give you some idea of where the Inspector conducted the percolation test on the property and where the tank and drain field would need to be.  It was also important in knowing where we would be able to place our future home, placing utilities, driveways, gardens and other outbuildings we may have later. We walked the property with Benton and Jason while they provided some expertise and valuable insights of things we could consider. At the end of our walk we knew we would have a much better idea and vision once their equipment was on-site and the clearing began.

On Wednesday morning, after a short delay due to a flat tire on one of their trailers they arrived and began work immediately. Jason began work with the Forestry Mulcher clearing some of the property. This would allow us to get in much easier beyond the underbrush and briars. It would also help in clearing for the septic system.

Excavator digging Hole for Septic Tank after property is cleared

We were fortunate enough that Benton had already contacted the State Inspector to come out and inspect the installation and hopefully give us a completion permit.  The Inspector arrived much earlier than planned and decided to hang out with us for awhile while the digging and measuring continued and wait for the septic tank to arrive.

We had purchased a 1000 gallon Low Boy concrete septic tank for the system with a gravel- less drain field system approved by the State Environmental Health Inspector. These tanks need to be buried on site at least 6 feet in depth and level. That is normally the depth of these tanks. It will provide that the tank is level and will drain properly. For accuracy, our Contractor used a transit to measure the depths while being dug by the excavator. The top of the tank being close to ground level also provides easy access to the tank when its time to pump it out to remove waste. The Inspector informed me that our tank would more than likely only need to be pumped out once every 10 years or so. Much of that depends on use.

Now the septic tank is ready to lower into the ground..

Around noon the truck with the septic system arrived on-site and the work began to lower it into place and make sure it was level.  Once the tank was in place it was now time for the excavator operated by Cody ( another Tucker Farms Equipment Operator) to dig another trench for the drain field piping and gravel-less pipe. The permit called for 110 feet of gravel-less pipe which would stretch across the front of the property. This will allow any liquids accumulated in the septic tank to flow through the pipe to the drain field and be absorbed into the ground.  The piping and the ground will filter the liquids and pretty well render it harmless. In the below photograph you can see the gravel- less pipe in the foreground. It is nothing more than flexible perforated piping wrapped in a mesh sleeve and then outer wrapped in black plastic. Gravel-less pipe replaces the need to haul in gravel to put in the trench for the absorption process in waste treatment.  It seems to be much quicker and less expensive than a several hundred dollar truck load of gravel.

Installing Tank

Once the tank was installed in the ground they began digging the trench for the drain field piping.  In our case the trench needed to be 110 feet long and a few feet deep.  This would eventually tie into the septic tank by a section of PVC pipe to the drain field. This allows the liquids to reach the drain field for absorption. Many times the drain fields are commonly called leech fields.

Drain field trenching begins
Up close view of the trench

Once the trench is completely dug the tree roots will be removed to make installing the piping easier and clear of debris. They removed those with a cordless sawzall. Some prefer to simply remove them with a pair of loppers.

Once the system is in the ground you will need a local Health Department Inspector to come out and inspect the installation to make sure it meets code and will work properly. After it is inspected and passes, the Contractors will then cover it up. The Inspector would then give us a Certificate of Completion for our records and it meets code. We will also need this Certificate for the Electrical Permit.

 

The installation is complete!

Now that our septic system is installed it is important to remember that in many locales it is required to have septic systems installed by a Licensed Contractor in your particular state. Many of these same locations require you to have an approved method of disposing of waste, especially human waste.   The reason is simply that disposing of waste improperly allows the ground water ( aquifers)to be contaminated with human waste. Many aquifers are our main source of drinking water who use wells for water sources. Home made septic systems don’t always purify our drinking water. Many locales also allow approved composting toilets for disposal as long as running water is available to you.

You can be sure that if you are ever found in violation with a home made system you can face heavy fines and penalties.  Please do the right thing and install an approved septic system. Our health depends on it!

  • Check your local codes or with your local Health Department to find out what is approved and not approved in your area.

 

By the way, our water meter was installed this past week much to our surprise!

Utility Company installing our water meter

Be sure to visit Cheri’s Blog to read her take on our complete trip to our Homestead and things we did on our down time.

 

 

 

How To – Do you test for lead in your Homestead?

3M Lead test kit found in most big box home improvement stores

On our recent visit to our property in Tennessee earlier this month, we decided to grab a bite to eat downtown while waiting for our check-in at our rented apartment. We will get to the apartment accommodations ( they were outstanding) in a later post.

We found this quaint little restaurant tucked away inside a shared antique store ( Antique Market) with many vintage items to choose from including this great deal pictured.  It’s called the Apple Dish Restaurant located at 114 N. Court Square in downtown Livingston, Tennessee.  They have a small Facebook presence but no website. We wish they did!  It’s definitely a DO NOT MISS for a reasonably priced and great lunch and antiques.

Why Test for Lead?

Lead can be in many items in your homestead from piping, insulation, drywall and many plastic items, believe it or not.  It can also contaminate many cooking items, especially cast iron and metal. We found this gem ( pictured above) that my wife purchased as an early birthday gift for me.  After checking with my cast iron cooking resource we discovered by the appearance and Gate mark on the piece  that it was a pre-1900 cast iron bean pot.

As old as it is, it’s usually a good idea to check for lead before using it. Since the early days many homesteaders and gun enthusiasts used these to melt lead for ammunition and other items. Ammunition was and is the most popular. If you are like many of us, you don’t want lead in your food.

As an added gift, My wife picked up this lead test kit from our local Lowes Home Improvement store.  I decided immediately to give it a try.

How to Test for Lead–

These kits cost around $10.00 and come with two small vials of the test chemicals in each packet.  The kits includes instructions for testing many items including plastic, painted items, metals and alloys, copper pipe and drywall. You will need to scrape and clean an area to be tested. Its okay to leave some dust as the test will detect lead in the dust also.

The instructions tell you to remove a test vial, crush each end marked A and B. This will release the test chemicals in each side of the tube and combine them for the testing. Shake the tube twice to mix the chemicals. The contents will turn yellow.  Squeeze the tube until the cotton swab on the end turns yellow.

Once this step is completed rub the swab on the area to be tested for about 30 seconds. If the end of the cotton swab turns RED OR PINK their is Lead present.  I chose to test the bottom inside of the pot as this would be the area most likely to have any lead residue. Fortunately, my test did not turn red or pink, which was great news!

The kit will also include a small cardboard panel with circles on it. Each of these circles contain lead. After completing the lead test on the items tested, place the swab in one of the circles and move it around inside the circle. If the circle doesn’t turn red or pink, this indicates that your test was performed correctly and no presence of lead.

It is a relatively easy test to perform and give you some peace of mind about ingesting any lead.

Be sure to follow along as i am still working on our Blog post from our recent Homestead visit and the work completed.

 

Our Adventure is about to begin…..

The Road leading to our Property

 

In a couple of weeks we will make our annual trek to our property in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.  For many of you following my Blog, Cheri and I will finally begin the process of clearing our property for our future homestead, and installing the necessary utilities that we will most certainly need.

It’s been close to a two year process in getting this far and we aren’t about to stop now.  In my previous Blog Post about our plans Here , I provided my insights in what we needed to do next.  With many ups and downs, and obstacles to overcome we are finally ready to get started.

During our few days there I will share with you our step by step process of how its coming along and hopefully have some pictures or videos to share.  We will see how good the internet speed really is in those mountains –

Please feel free to follow Cheri’s Blog for updates on our adventure at cheriannjones

She would love to have you follow along with her latest updates on our project and plans.