Nori Lamphere

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since Nov 16, 2010
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Onalaska, WA
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Recent posts by Nori Lamphere

I know this thread is old . . .

Given I have friends in Texas who deal with season flooding I'm voting with those who say don't build in the swale. (someone want to tell me why 'swale' isn't in the dictionary here?)

Consider this. Move the setting of the house to the hilltop. Provide good insulation and adequate overhang. Use ground tubes for thermal heating/cooling. With the natural rise the buried tubes would do a very good job of cooling and providing fresh air.

I remember reading about a house in Texas that had PAHS. The site had really good photos and diagrams. Here's the original paper on PAHS by John Hait
4 years ago
In rereading my post I need to note a clarification. My stand pipe dam is porous. It keeps the media back but allows the water through.
4 years ago
Black tubing works fine. Algae can't grow without light so opaque tubing solves the problem.

You can't use a standpipe without a dribble hole. You'll end up with standing water and the growth won't do as well.

Here's a picture of the test setup of my flood and drain system and the proven setup used for cleaning the guppy tank. Nothing is fastened permanently. I have rubber bulkhead fittings which allow me to draw the tubing out of the fittings if I have to disassemble the system. These work well in the fairly thick wall of the pipe.

Flood and drain trial

Here are the things I learned.

The drain stand tube must be clear of all grow medium and exposed to light. This prevents the plants from overcoming the stand pipe and choking off the water flow. It also prevents the medium from washing out of one bed into the next and ultimately into your fish tank. I have a temporary dam installed at the stand tube end 2" short of the stand tube. This lets me visually check the dribble holes to ensure they stay free from blockage. If the water flow isn't correctly adjusted it will make surge/gurgle noises. This is only an issue if the noise bothers you. Adjusting the in-flow solves this problem.

The top of my stand pipe end is cut at an angle. I'm sure I had a reason for this but it doesn't instantly come to mind.

The grow medium MUST be ph neutral. Anything else cannot be moderated, causes plant damage, inhibits growth and causes damage to the fish. When you start up the system make SURE you check ph frequently. I use oyster shell to moderate the ph until it settles and if left in the system does no damage. I line the bottom of the plant bed with oyster shell before adding the plants and then the media. Oyster shell is not a universal fix. The ph of our water here is below five (rainwater). The oyster shell brings it up gently and naturally to 7.4. Ph greater than eight requires a completely different approach. I can't help you there.

Put a screen over the end of the feed tube coming from the pump to prevent medium from getting sucked into the tube and blocking the flow when the pump shuts off.

Supplement your feeding with liquid kelp. The fish alone cannot provide all the nutrient needed. Without the added nutrition I got white fly infestation. I got my best growth and fruit when I started adding kelp.

My inside guppy tank does not provide enough nutrient to produce fruit. My outside tank with a mess of goldies and the addition of kelp does just fine.

I know there's a ton of other stuff I should be telling you but it hasn't floated to the surface.

4 years ago
You might consider another system altogether rather than the autosiphon. It would take little to convert your system.

Drill a couple small dribble holes in the tubes just before they exit out the bottom of your beds.

Cut the tubes off at the height you want the water to reach in the beds. This setup may require something to hold the medium back to prevent the medium from being washed out the tubing and to prevent the roots from blocking the dribble holes.

Put a timer on your pump. Run the pump for 15 minutes very hour and a half (adjust as suits your plants, your climate). Once the pump shuts off the beds drain via the dribble holes.

This is the setup I have in the house cleaning my husband's guppy tank. It works flawlessly with no fuss, no auto siphon, no mess AND it saves on electricity because the pump doesn't run continuously. The plants are big and awesome. I'll snap some pics for you tomorrow.
4 years ago
Once the beds are filled and functioning, if the system works the way you expect it to over the course of a summer, let us know. From experience here's what I see as being issues with your system.

Once you have nutrient in the tank (fish or additive) your clear lines will fill with algae growth. You might get a whole summer out of one set of plastic tubes but the flow will be drastically reduced.

Keeping the feed ends of the tubes inside the beds clear will be problematic. They will fill with bedding medium, roots, particulate . . . and getting to them to solve the problem will be an issue Once your flow outflow is sufficiently reduced your beds will overflow.

While the bell system may have issues, it does have the advantage of being proven. I ran my small original bed in the sun porch all last summer. I had to pull the siphon twice to cut roots away to keep it functioning. My system isn't glued, but is held together by pressure so it was easy to do. This summer I'll wrap the riser in landscape cloth to stop the root incursion. The zucchini I grew were awesome. The tomatoes I grew the year before were equally awesome.

This is the system I built about six years ago I still use it. During the summer growing season it sits over the top of a rubbermaid watering trough with nice big goldies in it. Last summer I grew zucchini and it produced them faster than I could eat them. The year before I grew tomatoes which were delish.
4 years ago
Ernie, I sent you an e . . . do you want me to bring the gas hot water heater tank to the workshop?  Also, how much time is there for going over our personal projects?  I'm thinking if you're doing a complete build there won't be much time.  I ask because I have a sawdust burner I want to bring if you think there will be time.  It's a "just for fun" thing.

9 years ago
I think it's very doable.  I've been thinking about it for a while.

If, instead of thinking how to turn a sawdust stove into a rocket mass heater, I turned it around and worked through turning a rocket mass heater into a sawdust stove.

Using a water heater tank as the core, it would be possible to put a layer of insulation on it, though it wouldn't have to be very thick as the sawdust does the insulating during the burn right down to nearly the end.
9 years ago
That's a cooking stove, not a heater.  A heater has a radiating tank and a stove pipe.  A cooking stove is just a can packed with sawdust with legs or set on bricks and a flue down the center and through the bottom.  There's usually offsets at the top for holding the pan up so the heat can rise around the pan.
9 years ago
I'm trying one of these.  I've got my 55 gallon drum with snap ring lid.  I had some trouble finding a 30 gallon drum so am using the top half-minus of a water heater tank.  I think I've got everything I need.  I'm doing this a bit outside the box as I'm having the ash drawer and drawer sleeve (not using a false bottom) made at the local sheet metal shop.  I'll run everything up and have our son tack weld the sleeve onto the bottom of the barrel.

I opted to go with a sleeve instead of a false bottom because it will help preheat the air for the burn.  In theory . . . but then you know what they say about theories.

The smaller diameter of the water heater tank will allow me to insulate the burn tank.  I see this as a plus.

10 years ago

Ernie Wisner wrote:
Tin all of the heat risers are insulated. on any working stove i have seen. if the heat riser is not insulated the temps equalize (at times) and you get a space full of smoke. the system depends on a temperature difference.

Proof, proof, proof!  With pictures!
10 years ago