Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Doors: Some (or Much) Assembly Required

 Fifteen years into my service as business Attic Access, in metro Portland, Oregon, I find myself in a binge of calls for broken attic ladders made in Southeast USA, where fixing is the best response.

This now-repaired attic ladder, lightly used and perhaps thirty years old, was found dysfunctional at both limit arms, as I call them. The upper pivots were very loose, with springs and arms jammed akimbo; cleverness demanded to deploy or stow. It is now better-than-new and should live on another thirty years and more. With sturdy limit arms, longevity may come of care to not let step section hinges come apart with lost nuts and bolts.

Here is one of the flimsy mild-steel upper pivot cups from a much newer Werner WH3008 ladder that I demolished for recycling of the metal. The factory-installed limit arms were ruined when big rivets serving  as the upper pivots, ripped out. Functional replacement arms could not be found. The ladder would not have failed if the pivots had been strong lag screws binding to the ladder rough frame. The manufacturer sought simplest construction (the dumb rivets protruding here), installation-ready out of the shipping packaging. The installer overlooked the need to set long lag screws into the two holes not riveted to the ladder frame. The ladder frame then would measurably flex from heavy loads every time the ladder was operated, contributing to the pivot-rivet failure. 

Competent installers of ordinary doors have learned that lesser loads, even just the weight of a door, can not be supported by the door frame. Door loads are transmitted through the hinges, wanting to twist the frame. At every hinge, an appropriate screw to the flimsy 1x ladder frame, must be replaced with a screw binding to the much stronger, heavily nailed-in rough frame. 

The many-tricks in correct installation of an ordinary prefit door are well taught by trade show master presenter Gary Katz, The Katz Roadshow. I am a very uncommon resource, in offering useful techniques for the installation of an attic ladder, more tricky in its need to bear the very large loads of a person's weight and carried objects. Lesson One: Never rely on the ladder frame to bear the loads, despite claims of rated load-carrying. 

So, a ladder manufacturer will do well to include many installation steps that directly apply carried loads to the rough frame. Clearly describe them. Don't pretend that any uninstructed person with a saw, hammer and nails, can get the job done, with a rube helper, in a half hour. I fully disassemble a ladder for installation, safely and better, working alone. I sometimes extract the door from the frame. Arms and springs initially loose, are installed on the job. It takes a full day, and more, with needs of patching that often dictate the door removability.

With an attic ladder or any door, assembly is required.

In the ladder now to be repaired, study the failed upper pivots of the limit arms.

3/8" x 3 1/2" lag screws and large 3/8" washers replace a badly worn assortment of short machine bolts, a  bushing,  a couple of 3/8" nuts and a variety of washers loose and tilted at center of the cup mount.

Two 1/4" x 2 1/2" lag screws at each cup replace assorted wood and machine screws bound only to the 1x4 ladder frame, nuts falling the the floor when released.

All of this failed experimentation and years of frustration with the ladder would have been avoided if, from the beginning, at ladder installation, the springs, arms and cups had been packaged loosely, for assembly required of the installer, with lag screws as chosen now, binding to the rough frame. Choose drill sizes for the lag screws, that are not too large. Find the screw hole locations in the ladder frame clearly labeled.

I made poor choices too, in reliance on fasteners from a nearby Home Depot. 3/8" x 1 1/2" coarse-thread hex bolts should have been 2" instead, permitting a washer  outside the arm and under a lock nut, at each side of the arm lower pivots. Home Depot is not a full-selection hardware store. They do not offer lock nuts for these coarse-thread bolts. 

Find the lock nuts at an Ace Hardware. Then regret my choice of bolts. This lock nut is safely engaged on a 1 1/2" bolt, but just barely.

I learn, and I share my learning.

A Safety Pole and More:

Having offered a simple repair, I shall avoid offering other services.

This is my job-in-process at late-December 2022, with a safety pole always included. A safety pole is a selected pretty 2x4 rock-solidly bridged between floor joists and roof joists with three or more hand grips, and with power and lighting control attached.

A lighted switch

One or two sturdy handles in-reach while not hanging onto the safety pole.

The work of a competent installer can include much custom assembly specifically suited to the unique opportunities in any home.

Safety is priceless, and affordable.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Interrupted Energy Savings With My Rheem Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

Rheem Professional Prestige
Pro Terra Hybrid Electric Water Heater
PROPH65 T2 RH375-50
S/N Q 272 026 175
Publicizing defect of year-2020 Control Board Part Number AP21386 Rev 00 and, perhaps, associated thermistors. Offering hope of the durability of replacement Control Board Part Number AP22260 and replacement thermistors Part Number SP20845.

Electricity usage in my rental home has spiked since April, 2022. A problem was evident to me in charting the April billing. Quite amazingly a problem was suggested in early-June by my electricity provider, Pacific Power!. Electricity usage had been down 40% for fourteen months since HPWH installation in February, 2021.

For three months, all of the savings were cancelled, running on resistance heaters with periodic automatic attempts to revert to Heat Pump Mode. Now-repaired and seeming to run reliably 100% in Heat Pump Mode, I hope the charting of electricity usage will again inspire others to replace their ordinary electric or gas water heaters,

Here is the chart at 12/2/2022:

And here is monthly tracking by Pacific power, leading them to again notify excessive usage.

With the notice of excessive usage, Pacific Power offered this conservation advisory:

All that is potentially helpful is a table at page 4 of 15:

I am overdue to find savings in a HVAC heat pump, and that is not a factor in excessive usage now, except that we must not resume usage of a window air conditioner next Summer. Renters have never used electric space heaters.

Counseled by Rheem, we viewed the condenser plates, finding normal dry conditions; no icing. The HPWH smoothly running in Heat Pump mode chilling the garage, is then dismissed of involvement in unusual draw of electricity except that, maybe someone is taking really-long showers.

We tripped the circuit breaker feeding a proper cable underground to a Shed on 12/4/2022 for whatever reason, as the least bothersome next step. Daily usage did not change. We are wanting again the energy-conserving usage for same months a year ago, for the month of November 2021: 431 KWH, 13 KWH per day, $51 billed, instead of that for
November 2022:  954 KWH, 28 KWH per day, $99 billed.

Something is still very much amiss.

Rating my interaction with Pacific Power, I suggested that they should care to know what is happening. I had asked: Could I log demand on each circuit breaker? Answer: No. 

I am not keeping up an Excel chart of July 2022 over smaller time scale, that better illustrates history associated with the Heat Pump Water Heater:

Now return to the naive beginning of this post:

New renters were unaware the unit was running in Electric mode,The garage was not being nicely refrigerated in Summer heat. Quiet in the garage was not alarming.

Half-way through a three month incident I was at last painfully aware, and driven to find a repair. I was the installer. The unit was sold to me by General Pacific, Inc. a large supplier of parts for industrial electrical equipment to Bonneville Power Administration and also a low-cost supplier of heat pumps and more to area weatherization contractors. I buy and install many  Panasonic bath fans, with pricing 30% below that at Home Depot. The Rheem HPWH was a one-off for myself.

Who to I call? I talked with a competent plumber at Portland's "Water Heater King" store where I am a good customer, and learned there are large problems with the Control Board, being resolved by Rheem at no cost. Just call the Rheem heat pump service people in Montgomery Alabama, at 800-995-0982 weekday daytime hours. Get parts and do the repair myself. The parts offered are the Control Board, Part Number  AP22260, and three identical Thermistor Kits, Part Number SP20845. 

Thermistors? They are supposed to be ultra rugged. How could they fail? I would try just replacing the Control Board. Still, get a look at the thermistors. Detach power leads and detach the tank lid with its ten screws,

See little resemblance to a GEN 5 THERMISTOR REPLACEMENT diagram among materials emailed by Rheem. The work area is on the far side opposite the Control Board. The tank cylindrical wall is very much in the way. Cylindrical foam insulating jackets held by many zip ties must be removed and are found bonded to thermistors by gooey thick adhesive wrap.

A Rheem YouTube video will be shared days later but will be of little help:

Rheem hybrid thermistor access

Go ahead now to replace the Control Board. It is all of the black expensive-looking control interface and display, up-front as I oriented the tank. Pry off a cover. Remove two screws. Extend many leadwires to view connections at the backside.

View the backside of the replacement board. I will hold the boards side-by side and move connectors one at a time.

Wires as found with a minimum of crossings.. Swapped leads may not be as neat.

Back together and seeming to be solidly in Heat Pump mode. Next morning though, I will be called by a Rheem technician, advising for the first time that the thermistors must be replaced. Some unique identifier associated by a past alarm, causes thermistor rejection ever-after, regardless of control board replacement. Something like that. All advice is verbal. Each new conversation is with a different Rheem call center person, trained with a different set of knowledge.

First swap the thermistor easiest to reach, "Suction," on yellow leads.

Higher up on the same pipe, swap a thermistor from blue leads, Discharge.

Each thermistor kit has three new clips to choose from. Learn that the clip removal or attachment is thus with a twist.

Gray leads, Evaporator.

Repair completed. I had worked atop a piece of 3/4" plywood resting on the tank cylinder wall and the heat exchanger, doing no harm. The work areas are inconveniently close to the cylinder wall and the heat exchanger. It was never intended that a home owner would do this. I could not replace the six cable ties I cut. In the factory, this tidy assembly might have been completed before the tank cylinder was applied. The odd object at right hand is my banged-up work light propped at the tank wall edge.

I am offended by large pieces of gummy material, two pieces four inches square, not the same as butyl strips about one inch square applied in the factory to better couple a thermistor to adjacent tube surface temperature.  The huge squares are not scored for separation to useful size.

At two places on each thermistor kit box, there is warning in effect to not touch the dangerous gum. I will treat the nasty squares as needing professional disposal. Not in my trash. I will mail them to Rheem, with complaint, as a pdf printing of this blog post.

What does the warning mean? is vague here. Is risk only with ingesting or chewing the gum? I won't touch it.

If thermistors are a repair item, the factory wrap of tubes and thermistor should be a thick fabric with velcro strips. No foam tubing and zip ties. Surely there are incidents of disastrously cutting a leadwire somewhere, reaching blindly with sharp snips. 

Avoid any need of cancer-causing gum.

Study the principal guide for consumers here, 

Use & Care Manual

Rheem AP21681 Rev 02

Rheem randomly sent this PDF as an email attachment,  following one phone conversation. Now a Google search brings nine results, none the guide. Therefore, I store a copy in Google My Drive:

 Rheem AP21681 Rev 02

The troubleshooting and repair parts listings did not imagine the control board failures now occurring. Nothing I have done here is mentioned.

It is odious that one offered solution here while under warranty, is free replacement of the entire HPWH. There's a lot of bad carbon in that. Repairs must be offered at no cost for at least twenty years, the least lifetime I think is reasonable for a water heater. The consumer trust thus guarded is essential to needed adoption of a HPWH, in every home, well-subsidized again in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,

I await honest statements from Rheem about what is happening. Why the thermistor swaps? Is there a better solution in circuit board recognition of sensors surely still good, avoiding replacements.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Removing a Bad-Idea Whole House Fan

Here is the beginning of another story of turning neglected and dangerous attic space into something efficient, beautiful and wonderfully useful. In this beginning, we discovered that the attic was stinky in dry and cold conditions, November 2021. Blame this on a dead whole-house fan, and two bath fans not directed through-roof.

This is the attic before improvement, standing with good headroom just beyond a second-floor hallway access with a covering of bare drywall.  Floor framing is 2x8 with fairly-regular @24" spacing. House well-built in 1982.

Getting around in the attic was risky walking a plank, as with a shaky length of 2x8 leading to the whole-house fan, that intermittently was "winter-weatherized" by tossing-on a piece of R11 kraft-faced fiberglass insulation.

More often than not, there is nothing to grab if you lose balance.

The whole-house fan shutters were leaky all-around. 

From below, shutters of the dead fan were tolerated as interesting in a grand stairwell ceiling.

Here are barely-safe work conditions with an installed attic ladder. I have good lighting and connection to house power. Remove the fan and temporarily cover the opening.

A careful patching plan is needed where working over a stairwell.

The tilt-in patch was partially secured with reach-out from the steps railing.

To complete the setting of the patch, work from plywood clamped to on-flat 2x4s and the stair railings. Cutting-in the fan thirty or forty years ago, was a lot easier.

Still to do: increase attic ventilation, and dry out the attic.

And here is the finished attic, brightly lighted and clean, well-loaded with stored items, and still with immense space available. Be grateful for headroom afforded with a still-walkable 5:12 roof pitch.

1/2" plywood covers a central rectangle 20 ft by 32 ft. An undecked periphery about 5 ft wide all around is the preferred zone for wiring and fans. New bath fans are served by new short steel ducts directed through-roof. Want R49 periphery insulation to tuck in and be slightly thicker than the R49 decked area.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Electricity Savings With A Heat Pump Water Heater

I am eager to share proof of projected 40% electricity savings, in replacement of an ordinary resistance electric water heater, with a beautiful heat pump water heater, HPWH. The installation was reported in post an exemplary heat pump water heater.


I have the unusual resource of a chart going back 22 years. This chart through December 2021  includes a full year since the water heater replacement. Savings are very evident, seeming to be the expected 40%:

From 2012 to 2018, there was remarkably little need of electricity, me living alone. Demand might have been met with a modest photovoltaic array but for neighboring trees to South, and adverse West facing of the major roof surface. For the past four years, occupancy and electricity demand have doubled, with two wonderful renters in this 1955 home now fully weatherized and modern, radon-free. It is a rare rental opportunity, managed with some originality. All utility costs are auto-paid by me. The renters pay a fixed total of $200 per month for electricity, natural gas, water/ sewer and trash/ recycling, balanced annually against actual payments. Where I see the costs and share pain, I am moved to do all possible to reduce costs; thus the HPWH.

I believe charts showing control of somewhat-voluntary expenses, can be rewarding and inspiring. And, yes, they can be dispiriting if not achieved. We wonder why monthly utility bills include charts such as this of the October 2021 electricity bill:

There are many variables of weather, behavior and occupancy, in monthly bars. Why a December spike? Visitors? October comparisons pre- and post-HPWH 278 kwh vs 390 kwh, a drop of 29%, is as expected, but probably under-states actual savings accumulated. Is that really 40%, as hoped?  Sometimes the trends in this bar charting, are concrete.

From my Excel file:

See annual savings of about : ($680 - $460.)  $220, a 32% reduction of annual total dollars. With $220 per year savings, $18 per month on average, the material total cost of $577 (plus my free labor) is repaid in fhree years. If the water heater serves twenty years, the present value of the annual savings, applying my Perpetuity Math, is $24,000. What a good deal!

In January 2022, find the deal quite diminished for a new investor. My $399 purchase in November 2020 was of: Rheem Professional Prestige ProTerra Hybrid Electric Water Heater PROPH65 T2 RH375-SO
Offered today at homedepot,com, $1199 after $500 discount:
 Local distributor General Pacific offers this unit is $1658 minus $500 = $1158, not a compellingly better deal. Equivalent models from Rheem and from AO Smith, cost the same,

Energy Trust of Oregon in its public web site doesn't bother to promote the heat pump water heaters it subsidizes with public funds, while subsidizing flimsy LED light bulbs with far less savings potential, I think the HPWH promotion is very muddled probably not working, The better bargain two years ago was a missed opportunity too, I suppose. We should be moving these by hundreds of thousands, involving DIY home owners as well as contractor allies of Energy Trust..Maybe slow motion is a factor in ballooning  cost.

Failed promotion of heat pump water heaters is a big disappointment to me as an advocate of affordable rental living (my house as exemplary). I am so happy for what I have done. Who else even thinks of this?

Here post updates of the monthly electricity usage tracking, ever more clearly the dramatic savings with the HPWH. Hot water is much more nearly "free", not proportional to the number of house residents, perhaps more free than with some rooftop solar collector, that would be badly oriented, shaded by a neighboring tall Douglas Fir. 

For a house that could "go solar", a heat pump water heater must be key in being solar-ready.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Local-Option Energy Codes are not the best or only tool for meeting municipal carbon goals through residential energy conservation.

 I found this message in news feed 6/9/2021, from group Onward Oregon:

Tell your legislators to support 100% clean energy and stronger local energy efficiency standards

A message from our friends at Climate Solutions:

House Bills 2021 and 2398 are concrete steps we can take to reduce air pollution, address the climate crisis, and help protect our state's beauty and livability for decades to come.


Please urge your state legislators to prioritize climate action by passing House Bills 2021 and 2398 this year!

Bill; 2398 action touted at the  link is mainly the adoption of Reach Code

Relating to building codes; declaring an emergency.

Adds Reach Code to state building code as specialty code and gives power of administration and interpretation of Reach Code to Director of Department of Consumer and Business Services. Requires director of Department of Consumer and Business Services] to follow same process in adopting or amending Reach Code that director follows in developing residential and commercial building codes and to ensure that statewide Reach Code mandates achievement of not more than 90 percent of site energy use that other statewide residential and commercial building codes require. Requires director to adopt Reach Code not later than October 31, 2021, and at same time director adopts corresponding residential specialty code or corresponding structural specialty code, updating Reach Code at least every three years. Permits municipality to adopt Reach Code and require adherence to code as minimum construction standard and method within municipality's jurisdiction notwithstanding requirement that state building code be uniform and applicable to all municipalities in state. Provides that municipality's adoption of Reach Code is not amendment to state building code and does not require approval of director. Provides that municipality that does not adopt Reach Code does not need to enforce Reach Code within municipality's jurisdiction. Declares emergency, effective July 1, 2021.

Learn about Reach Code at the following links:

Good heat pump water heaters are further supported. There is modest improvement of exterior wall insulation, with 2x4 framing allowed. There is no change of attic insulation required.

Where my interest is in the achievable improvement of existing homes, I am disappointed in this push upon me to support legislation. Building codes apply only to new homes prior to first occupancy. And, yet, outdated and interfering Plumbing Codes are addressed in municipal permitting of the HPWH opportunity. We must not let permitting delay, or even halt, energy conservation.

I believe this is feel-good action to do something for residential energy conservation, to be credited to municipal goals in carbon reduction, via easy change of building codes.A simple "Reach Code" is the largest break from statewide codes that might get past opposition. The goal isn't really-better building code. It is the allowance at all, of local options.

Local option is not limited to code adoption. Much more can be achieved toward municipal goals by actually directly inspiring prospective new-home owners, and especially, existing-home owners through financing benefits that might be offered with burgeoning public-bank deposits of the revenue of existing  accepted, carbon taxes. In Oregon, these taxes include mainly our Public Purpose fund take of 3% on residential and commercial energy consumption in the form of electricity and natural gas. In City of Portland, largest corporation profits are now subject to a 1% carbon tax on profits. All of this existing carbon tax is spent-down every year with little benefit to consumers and to green jobs workers in clean energy.

My wishful thinking upon proper use of carbon tax revenue as funding of beneficial  loans-only from perpetual and growing funds. is addressed here:

Good Things: Oregon Carbon Taxes and an Oregon State Bank

Improvements in my thinking are overdue.  They might grow through beginning at last, of legislative action. The first needed action is a constitutional amendment to undo a still-in-effect absurd badly-spelled 1880 Oregon Constitution prohibition upon a State Bank.

Article X!, Section 1. Prohibition of state banks.

The Legislative Assembly shall not have the

power to establish, or incorporate any bank

or banking company, or monied [sic] institution

whatever; nor shall any bank company,

or instition [sic] exist in the State, with the

privilege of making, issuing, or putting in

circulation, any bill, check, certificate,

prommisory [sic] note, or other paper, or the

paper of any bank company, or person, to

circulate as money. —

Note: The semicolon appearing in the signed Constitution

after the word “whatever” in section 1 was not

in the original draft reported to and adopted by the

convention and is not part of the Constitution. State v.

H.S. & L.A., 8 Or. 396, 401 (1880).

The public surely supports repeal of this prohibition. Let's get that done.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Success: Passive Control of Radon in My Single-Family House

My House lies along the path of Missoula Floods erosion of land about 110,000 years ago, in a dramatic stage of erosion that formed The Columbia River Gorge,

Concentrated glacial deposits are associated  with higher concentration of radon release from soil.

The Oregon Health Authority warns of high radon levels in homes of East Portland:

For too many years of my life, I was aware of radon levels persistently above ten picocuries per liter in my home. EPA recommends: Fix your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.

A Citizen's Guide to Radon - US EPA

I have at last achieved the needed fix, by novel means employing the natural drive of chimney effect. I think this is a really big deal. By my example, every home could be fixed with modest up-front cost and without any operating cost or degraded home value by zip  code or neighborhood. This must be good news, not bad, for all of us, including abatement contractors. 


My quest for passive control of radon began with fitting two 4" warm air pipes sealed full-length, between my crawl space and my attic. There is excess space in a bathroom wet wall; put some of that to use. There will be significant chimney-effect drive of air flow when the pipe(s) are completed through-roof.

I expected to make this work someday, avoiding a radon pump if possible. How big is the needed pipe? Maybe 6" diameter?  The two 4" pipes equal one 6" pipe, and that much fits in the wall. If one is enough, the other might serve as an ample  wiring conduit between crawl space and attic. 

Minimize wet wall thickness above a tiled shelf. With an epoxied-on copper band, avoid reliance on caulk in sealing the new tub behind backer board and tile. Read more about the tub install in this blog post of October 2013: Insulate Exterior Wall of a Bathtub or Shower

For years then, the pipes did nothing, not connected through-roof and not collecting from the soil of the crawl space. House radon levels were unchanged.

(August 2019)

Dig this trench in the dry, hard dirt of my crawl space.

Hereafter I will own an over-abundance of these tubs. I disposed this many tubs of dirt, a carload, twice.

Use landscape cloth to separate collection ducting from the dirt.

The gravel fill is crushed quarter-minus.

At both bottom and top of 4" ducting, engage 4" warm air pipes with a spun-aluminum roof penetration adapter. In the crawl space the adapter flat face is upward. A wide circle of two-sided butyl tape bonds the adapter to the Americover Goldentouch 16 mm scrim-reinforced plastic sheeting, the central element of my conditioned crawlspace. On the roof, the adapter makes a better water barrier under an additional layer of shingles. A roof cap just blocks rainfall.

Here is another use of rope-form putty weatherstripping.

There has been a large binge of benefit from the clean ground cover for plumbing, wiring and heating of the grand kitchen remodel off in the far distance at left here. 

At last, it makes sense to complete the roof penetration  of the radon ducting.

Here are several months of observations by the renters of my house. Please see this report and other album pages that support and go beyond, the content of this blog post:

Stack-effect drive is proven to be ample in summertime conditions with a path having very small flow resistence.. At, find a calculator of natural draft, working whenever the outside temperature is less than temperature in the radon-suction stack, as occurring most of the time, through all seasons. In the calculator try a 6 meter closed-column height, and a temperature difference of 40 °C (-20 to +20°C)... Result: 0.4" wc.

A typical Fantech fan at noisy maximum power not-wanted, delivers 0.9" wc.

It is easy to see that natural drive should work

(April, 2021)

Work near the radon vent to add some ceiling LED lights in the living room.See that extensive flooring is an asset to ceiling access, not an obstacle.