Plumbing Parts a Plenty

So the stoves in place the solar panels are on the roof the bath taps and shower are all in situation so all one needs to do now is connect all the bits to Richard (the thermal store).
The bits include a large expansion ballon, a 300 liter domestic hot water tank with twin solar coils and an immersion slot, domestic hot water manifold, domestic cold water manifold, underfloor heating manifold and pump, Ladomat valve/pump on back of warmsler range
circulation and control unit for the solar panels, circulation pump and manifolds for other central heating parts such as therma skirt and bathroom radiator.

Here is a small selection of some of the parts before we started

And that lot was only a fraction of it and so I can heartily recommend using a buyer when you have major project. I used TEKNOS ENERGIES SARL who worked with the designer (Rick) and compiled the main list of components required. WE still had to make several trips to the plumbers merchant but that is to be expected in a project like this.
Andrew (from Teknos) is an avid fan of alternative energy and has been on the fringes of our project since day one and it was he who introduced me to Rick who finally pulled all the parts together.
It is pretty apparent that Richard is nearly twice as big as it needs to be for house our size but us purchasing that model was as result of flawed advice at the start. Nothing wrong with having a thermal store as they make perfect sense but the bigger they are the bigger the appliances you need to run them.
What we don’t want is fucking great ugly log burner in the lounge that would have to be run every day as well as the warmsler to really “charge” up the size thermal store we have. We are looking for something a bit more aesthetically pleasing than a huge black high kilowatt (25+) burner in front of our picture window. It doesnt help that I only installed 22mm copper pipe that leads under the floor to the lounge and the warmsler which is one of those easy to make mistakes when you are years ahead of fitting any stoves and are nota professional plumber or builder. It is a minor irritation but one lives and learns.
What we will probably do is drop down a size with the thermal store (to either 1400 liters or 1000 liters) in this house later this year before the autumn and install Richard into the 2nd project with a gasification wood boiler.
Fitting one of those magnificently efficient ways of burning wood (up to 98% efficiency) into here now (which would only have to be loaded and burned once every couple of days to charge Richard) is not really justifiable considering it is only MrsB and I 95% of the time and half of that time I am at sea.
The system we have (albeit with a smaller thermal store) when fully tuned and set up is easy as peasy to run with it basically being “put logs on fire and hot water and heating comes out of the other end”.
During the summer when you have no fires the solar array is more than adequate to provide all hot water needs. Apart from humping the logs the whole thing runs automatically with thermostat controlled pumps and circulation and the reheating and redirection of excess heat into the thermal store to be used later when required.
I guess it is bit pricey to set up with all the equipment to purchase but now is the time to do it while I am still earning as my pension provision is poor I don’t want to be face with huge energy bills once retired and with this the only bill I will have is one for wood.

Some people would prefer to have the money in the bank and pay year in year out for ever increasing energy costs whereas I prefer to have the hardware installed now with the prospect of very small bills by comparison from now on and in the future. I am well chuffed that from now on every time the sun shines we are receiving energy in the form of hot water, and likewise every time we burn a log not only does it warm the room or cook a pie or heat the kettle it also gets stored for later use in the underfloor heating or radiators in the night. I would rather have that than concern myself that some thieving asshole banker might lose all my money or that I will have to be at the mercy of the power companies and profit led pricing policies.

I may have already mentioned it but number two project is being designed and built completely off gird so whoever buys it will never have utility bill

Here is the warmsler with its gubbins all fitted at the back

Here is richard the thermal store getting dressed up, fist with the solar panels and controller connected

And then more and more bits added

Here on the back wall you can see the domestic hot and cold water manifolds so you can isolate any specific hot or cold water supply to change out an item or add new etc

Hee is the two loops of underfloor heating complete with pump and thermostat however I am going to plum in a bypass to thermostat as it doesn’t seem to let the water through hot enough to really give the floor some warmth. It is still early days and there are many tweaks to perform such as fitting a time to the electric immersion element that is in Richard so that if we decide to bugger off for a week or three we can let the electric give the tank a quick squirt of heat in the night and then the UFH in the lounge should be just enough to prevent freezing through the house should cold snap prevail in our absence.

This one shows the domestic hot water manifolds more clearly and on the ceiling you can see the first of the central heating manifolds that operate the therma skirt towel rail and more to be added as we go along.

It all probably looks complicated and bit of a mess but when we have finished plumbing in all the bits the tanks will be enclosed in their own room with a couple of big porthole style windows giving it a ships engine room feel.

This has been a far more expensive plumbing heating set up than I first imagined and some would say that it would be easier to just have very basic system without all the whistle and bells, and there maybe some merit to that viewpoint, however I wanted to reduce our dependency on the energy companies and solar water heating does that, likewise so does having a wood fueled heating system, so does having a thermal store to hold onto that energy that otherwise would be wasted and use it later in the night to maintain warmth to the house.
The Warmsler is a mighty beast and we will learn to drive it properly however it isn’t powerful enough to fully charge the thermal store on its own and we dont want a bloody great big ugly wood burner in the backtofront room in front of the big window preferring something more aesthetically pleasing as opposed to huge kilowatt effective. With that in mind we will probably retrofit a wood fueled gasificatiopn boiler in the utility room that would need to be filled with logs (about a wheelborrow full) and lit once every couple of days to make sure that the thermal store is really charged with heat and leaving the Warmsler in the kitchen to be more cooking and ambient heat and top up for the thermal store. The log burner in the backtofront room would be just for when we used that room although it wold have back boiler and send some heat to the thermal store every time it was lit.

I have learned many valuable lessons from this and they will be heeded in project two for instance the entire downstairs will be UFH and there will be heating built into any interior walls I have to construct.
I would go for the same size Thermal store but get a wood fueled gasification boiler big enough to charge it fully from day one and I would site it either outside or near the door to the utility room so wood transport is easy.
That would also enable the stove for the kitchen not to be the sole or main source of heat.
I would purpose build the area for this lot to go in with ease of access in mind and I would make sure I pre-laid and pre-insulated all runs of pipe work for domestic hot water and any upstairs central heating.

OK that’s it for a while until I get home and start in the next round of filling in the gaps.

I welcome any comments or questions on what we have done so far

Love and peace

Kitchen Worktops

We designed the kitchen cooking area to be much like a ships galley, where most things are on hand and easily accessible and the cooking area / sink etc are all just a step or two away from each other. We wanted plenty of available worktop preparation area both around the cooker and also between the cooker and the sink, our other design feature is that we wanted open accessible shelving for foodstuffs, herbs and spices and gadgets/ equipment etc.
The island was designed with the installation of an under the counter commercial style stainless steel fridge that is about twice the size of a normal under the counter domestic fridge. That has been installed and is running well. The only issue with it is that it is deep so we are searching for the right sized plastic type baskets to make access / storage and segregation easier.

We opted for an under-counter electric fan oven/ grill because all the (bottled) gas ovens we have used have been pretty shite and difficult to vary or maintain temperature. I took the advice of some pro chefs/cook we know who said “gas range and electric oven” was the way to go.
Where the oven is to be situated means that when the door was open it would block access in and out of the galley area but then we found a rather natty little number by Neff that the door opens and then slides under the oven. We are well chuffed with it and it is easy to operate. That said there are several functions and as all our ovens before this have been On or Off and temp setting having range of features to play with is great but we will have to learn how to get the best out of each cooking procedure. Luckily it has an extensive and easy to understand instruction booklet.

Door shut

and door open which just slides underneath Tra La

We selected a 5 ring gas (bottled) hob with the one large ring on the side so you can still get pots on all the others. WE chose Neff again as it had excellent reviews and ticked all the right boxes boxes for us in terms of size, appearance and quality.

The work tops themselves took us a couple of years of um-ing and ahh-ing and looking at different types and styles and comparing our own experience with others. Due to its durability and easy to clean functionality (and is regular feature in any seriouis commercial professional kitchen I had always leaned towards stainless steel, although MrsB, quite rightly, was concerned that it may look too industrial and out of place in a country cottage kitchen. As we explored and researched other different ones (granite wood re-constituted stone, melamine, etc etc we slowly but surely eliminated all other contenders and came back to stainless but we wanted bespoke tops with splash backs and over-hangs.
It took some time to find the right fabricator but finally settle on Complete Catering Contracts ( based in Hastings. They were helpful beyond the call of duty and kept in good contact and produced the goods on time (a day ahead of schedule)
The tops themselves were well made and fitted well and we are very happy with the result
What we did was to build the framework for the kitchen tops and then fit 18mm marine ply tops. WE cut out exact;y where the hob hole was to go and used 4 x 2 wood attached to the surface where the splash backs were to bend up against.

Here is the carcass

here with the marine ply top cut to size with hob hole and the 4 x 2 inm place for the splash back positions. You can see the island template made as well

Then it just needed some liaising with Complete catering and soem notes written on the templates

Then pack them off with the courier (in Brittany I use the Red Van Man who is superb.

Then off they went across the sea to return three weeks later and with a bit of “you lift and I’ll grunt” No your way” No my way” and a mad dash by MrsB not to be in the photo they were in place.

Get the kettle on

We still have the finishing to do around the edge of the splash-backs and the til;ing to do on the walls of the island and various other bits and pieces but now they are in place we are rather chuffed with how good they look and how the overall dynamic will be when all the finishing touches are put in place.

Love and Peace

The Stairway Window

The plan has always been to have an internal window on the halfway platform of the stairs where they go up in the lounge and past the old doorway into the kitchen, with the idea being to nick light from each room and share it to each room as the day changes.
It is single piece of laminated toughened 8mm glass and works a treat and wqe are well chuffed with the end result

Looking through from the kitchen (being scrutinised by Minnie) you can see the wine rack which is about 30 clay land drain pipes short of completion (Mr Hymas can you source any more?)

Here are couple of detail shots of the lovely old chunky oak that make up the supports.

That’s another long awaited job complete in the touches and features that go to make up Chez Bentley

Love and peace

A Separate Bog Is A Must.

Aye Aye M’hearties,
I cant be doing with a bog in the bathroom, never understood it and never liked it.
Of course when they started cramming more and more houses (or investment opportunities as they became known) into smaller and smaller footprints in the desperate scramble for profit as opposed to building proper, usable, livable, family homes people began to accept the bog crammed in to a corner of the bathroom.
There is nothing worse for anyone when deciding to have luxurious bath or refreshing shower only to walk into the bathroom and be confronted by the hideous odour of someone inconsiderate bastard’s food ghosts lingering in the air.
It is uncivilised, uncouth and uncalled for, especially if you have the space to create a separate small room specifically for the evacuation of bowels and bladders.
I have seen pictures of recent renovations where despite an apparent abundance of space they have still mindlessly shoved the kharzy in with the bath and shower, when for want of bit of forethought and better planning they wouldn’t have to shower or bath engulfed in the stench of someone else’s shite, nor would they have to postpone their eagerly awaited cleansing process whilst the air becomes breathable again.

I just wanted to get that off my chest before I showed you the rather natty old school cistern we have bought for the upstairs bog and the genuine old school (and I mean genuine old “school” as in like they used to be at school) bog.

here is the cistern in polished steel genuine article with new parts to make it work smoothly

Once sited in place we work out the beds and stuff and make template in plastic to required length etc and they also replicate it in the brass or copper gush pipe. It will look marvelous.

Now a good mate of ours on a renovation in the UK found a toilet that wa designed to have no seat but I found it a bit slippery and occasionally cold and I remember thinking that it would be great to find one of those bogs with the wooden half bits like they used to have at school where there is no need for a seat and no cold shock when you sit down.
Well joy of joys because Mongers ( they of the art deco tap fame, also had that style of bog in stock along with the polished steel cisterns.

Happy days I will update when they are fitted in place and give a detailed and graphic description of resting your bum cheeks on a bit of warm teak before discharging ballast.

Arf arf


The Bathroom is functioning

Ahoy! There M’hearties,
The bathroom sprang to life as well this time home.

Here is the shower gubbins in place with just one chrome 90 bend short of perfection

It is a fair torrential downpour of a shower and well worth the wait for it to come on line. Those of you who marveled at and reveled in the experience of the simplicity yet effectiveness of the “shed shower” will be in awe of the new Bentley shower. It is mighty and the attachment part is like setting off a fire hose.
here are some detail shots

Then comes the bath with its refurbished 1930 art-deco hexagonal taps and shower head and a very happy MrsB in the first bath
I found the taps in a brilliant site called Mongers ( absolutel;y lovel;y chap that runs it and they have some amazing stuff for sale.

some detail shots

Then there is the very efficient Oxford radiator and towel rail from Victoria Plumbing, Stands about 1500 high and produces loads of heat.

Then there is the sink unit in place with its more madern tap set up. Will get better pics of that once the plumbing kit has been stashed away ha ha

So there it is so far with just the airing cupboard to build and some tiddyvating to do and we are in business.

Love and peace

The Modern Marvel of Therma-Skirt

Aye Aye Landlubbers
“Therma-Skirt!!!” I hear you ask, “what could it possibly be?”
Well it is the same size as, and looks exactly like skirting board, but it is in fact a radiator that works as low as 35 to 45 degrees that goes all round the room at floor level gently delivering its heat to the entire room.
No more fannying about with gert big ugly (or even pretty) radiators clogging up wall and floor space, because this stuff is all round the room and you can have furniture against it without blocking the majority of the heat.
It ain’t cheap but it is very very good at what it does and because it works at a much lower temperature than normal central heating there are energy cost savings to be made.
Fitting is a doddle
First of all apply a line of heat reflective insulation tape.

Then make a level line at the appropriate height and screw in the securing clips

and then clip on the Therma-Skirt making sure to use the push fit corner connectors

You choose where it comes into the room via the piping and it just push fits together. The corner finish is “OK’, perhaps not as nice as mitered skirting but not really noticeable after a while. It comes with a coloured rubber grommet sealing thing for the top to get neat finish with the wall and there is a cable run beneath it so you can retro fit electric or speaker cables should you so wish.

This is a section side on, with the plastic protective coat half peeled off. You can see the two oval tubes (16mm) that the water runs round.

and in this one you can see how it clips on to the clips you put on the wall.

and here is the cable run that clips or slides in and has already proved useful (again you can see the peel off protective coating)

All in all we are well chuffed with it and our only complaint would be that when it first comes on it does “crack” a bit but then again so do some radiators. It is bit pricey but the way it delivers the heat makes it worth while in my opinion and we will be fitting some other bits where some discreet heat may be required but we don’t want the bulk of a radiator. (oh!! and we have a bit of straight level wall to put it on ha ha )

Love and peace

How the back has changed.

Well M’hearties, it all started 8 years ago and round the back looked like this

But we had a vision so at the end of 2008 it looked like this

By the end of 2009 it looked like this and we called this the “slumdog millionaire phase”

And by 2010 it looked like this, whihc we called the “Swiss chalet stage”

Then came the windows upstairs and the downstairs ones as well

and in the eyebrows

That is how it has been for a couple of years now and this is what it looked like when we cleared the space in anticipation of the window/door delivery.

so imagine our excitement as the lorry turned up carrying the new window and door

Then it was case of carrying them round the back

We had already cut in the air feed channel for the fire that will eventually go in the lounge and also laid wood effect tiles as a threshold for the window/door to sit on.
This took a bit of tweaking to get the concrete base level

So then it was case of edging the framework into position however a few days before we had decided to check the measurements against the hole to discover with some horror that we had ordered it 10 cms to wide for the gap. Despite measuring it 10 timers and double checking we had done it correctly during the ordering process a 6 was mistaken for a 5 and there it was.
Luckily we have over 200mm of oak uprights to play with and the multi talented saviour of my leave “Andrew” used a chain saw to cut a channel out of the back of the oak frame so the metal window frame would slot straight in. WE chose powder coated aluminium frame as it is at the back of the house and has a 3.8 meter span under an oak beam which is bound to saga bit. WE are hoping that the metal uprights will help support that beam. WE have decided that as a belt and braces approach we will probably fit a couple of ornate steel upright columns to stand in-front of the made window uprights to act as extra support for the beam above although we are not 100% sure we need it. (watch this space)

Framework in place

There it is with the windows in although this photo doesn’t do it justice as it has a couple of acro-props in place just as a safety measure at this time but it gives you an idea, the key thing is that we are now secure and weather proof for the first time.

More to follow shortly
Love and Peace

What’s in The Box???

Oh I say I wonder what it could be in these two large packages

Well that’s right!!!


It is the Warmsler 1100 in Burnt Sienna ready for fitting into its new pride of place in the kitchen. First we had to make level plinth on the granite fire site. WE did this by knocking up some temporaray shuttering and using a concrete mix then a self leveling screed / tile glue mix as the top level coat.
The plastic pipe you can see sticking out is the direct air feed from outside to keep the draughts down inside. Once it has dried we fitted a piece of zinc over the top to prevent the surface fomr chipping or gouging when we slid the 250 KG + stove into position

There it is in place (with a temp emergency overflow in red)

We have bit of fine tuning to do on the flue thermostat and lot of learning to do on how to drive it properly and how cook on it but it is already a most warmly (geddit??) welcome addition to the Bentley household.

Next Installment is another significant leap forward in the renovation and that is the fitting of the big back windows and doors.

Love and peace

Fitting the Solar Panels and Why.

Aye Aye land lubbers, I will start off the next round of installments with a simple statement that you are free to argue with if you so wish, “No house with a south facing roof should be without solar panels for heating water” to add to that statement “No new house (south facing roof) should be allowed to be built without solar panels for water”.
OK! so there is the expense (not huge) of fitting them initially but after that approx 75% of your hot water needs for the year are covered. Heating water is the most expensive thing we do so it makes sense to me to have it for free once you have installed the kit.
There are of course the naysayers who whine on about payback periods and other such rubbish and who seem to operate under the short term thinking delusion that it is better to keep the money in the bank and use it to pay for oil or electric or gas to heat the water.
I call it short term delusion because electric oil and gas are only going to ever become more expensive whereas the sun will always shine enough to provide plenty of hot water.
The other argument people use is that if you sell your house other people will get the benefit of the panels, all I can say is that if making a profit on everything you do is how your mind works and what taints your regard to the well being of future generations, then best you keep your precious money in the bank. That said if you think that creating and hoarding wealth is more important than the environment then try holding your breath while you count your money. So speaks someone who works in the industry of exploiting oil and gas so I see how they operate and what damage they do and how they manipulate the market conditions to suit their profit sheet so I also see how something as simple and affordable as solar water chips away at their power.
Ahhhh I’m glad I have unloaded that because I have heard varying degrees of complete bollocks from some quarters justifying their decision not to install solar when the benefits are so obvious, or it could just be me justifying our decision to fit solar as we believe it is worth the effort and cost long term.
So enough of my tree hugging hippy rhetoric lets get cracking with the process of fitting them.
The type we were recommended to choose by our designer were the evacuated tube type. Basically it is a thin sealed copper tube slightly fatter at one end (about as thick as your thumb and about 10cms long) with water in it. Thie tube is inside a black glass tube, which is in side a clear glass tube and between the two is a vacuum. The suns rays (infrared I think) pass through the vacumm and heat up the black glass tube which in turn heats up the copper tube sending all the heat to the fat end which is placed in a heat collector and which takes the heat and transfers it via pipeline to your hot water tank. The vacuum between the black glass and the clear glass prevents any radiant heat form escaping.

They look like this and are 1.85 meters long and about 7 to 8 cms thick. ( I will verify dimensions later)

To give you an idea Andrew from Tecknos (the excellent company who acted as our buying agent and who introduced me to the system designer who put together our heating system) delivered the tubes and collectors to us, and as a demonstration suggested we take one from the box and stand outside with it while we had a coffee. The tube was cold as was the copper end you can see in the photos and yet after 15 minutes standing outside holding the tube by hand in a bit of watery December sunshine the copper end was too hot to touch.

I assumed that large swathes of the roof had to be de-tiled in order to fit the frame but it couldn’t have been easier as the framework that supports the collectors and tubes it is held to the chevrons by 6 stainless steel straps that require two tiles to be lifted for each strap and then re-laid over the strap.

Here you can see a collector with the stainless straps on top of it, each of the collectors holds 30 tubes giving me a nominal kilowattage of 15 to 20 KW I think although I will have to check my figures on that.

With abit of careful lining up the stainless straps are installed and the collector hung from them. Then the rest of the frame is built in place and it is ready to receive the tubes. Here you can see me in my sling almost fizzling on the spot with frustration about not being able to be up the ladder with the guys. Luckily for me two very able, competent and skillful blokes (Micheal and Andrew) were on hand to help and I would suggest that three people does make the fitting of the tubes less risky (in terms of damage to the tubes) and much quicker.

So here we are with both collectors in place

Here is the first tube going in,

It simply slides into a rubber grommet in the collector with the fat copper end sitting snug against the internal heat collector.
It is a bit fiddly slipping the first couple in until you get the feel of it and a rhythm going, but once you get the hang of lubricating properly while getting the position correct, before you know it you are plunging them in to the hilt in a festival of double entendres and schoolboy giggles.

And they they are in place with the copper pipe and sensors all connected and insulated and then covered in protective silver tape.

The internal workings are to follow after the story of the Warmsler 1100 arrival in the Bentley family

Love and Peace