Unboxing our new off grid water heater

This past week I have been busy installing our new off grid tankless propane water heater.  The tankless propane water heater we had before was only a temporary fix that lasted 5 years.  I never intended on using it for so long, but other needs on the homestead kept taking priority.   We are finally replacing our camping style tankless, propane, water heater, Ecotemp L5 with a new tankless gas water heater the Excel Pro NATURAL GAS 6.6 GPM.  The Excel Unit is powered by our invertor.  It doesn’t take too much electricity when sitting idle, but it does have a phantom load. This unit is way more cost effective than a standard electric water heater. And for us, it is a good alternative to the more expensive units on the market.

But, before you decide to run out and purchase one, I would wait until I test this unit out first.  After seeing two separate negative reviews on Amazon concerning the product, I am waiting to give it my complete confidence.  I had never installed a unit like this before, so the video shows my excitement for the unboxing, but I did not notice the problems with the instructions until the next day and several of the parts as I started to get involved with the install.  As far as my excitement goes, I was very tired and just finishing up the school year.  This is my excited but exhausted look at the same time.

When our propane unit died, my wife and I continued to use our wood cook stove hot water system.  I would heat the wood cook stove an hour before bed and shut the dampers down.  When I awoke the next money, I would open up the dampers, feed the stove, and the water was ready for a hot shower within 15 minutes.

I finally began install on the propane unit Tuesday, the day my contract for teaching ended for the year. I believe I did the unboxing on Monday night after I finished my grades, cleaning my teaching area, and mowing the lawn for the 1st time of the season.  I have been wanting to install a larger propane tankless water heater for years that would supply hot water to every faucet in the house during the late spring, summer, and early fall months.  Before we only had hot water from May – October from a single spigot in the home, located in the shower. During those months, we filled pots of hot water and walked them to the kitchen sink for dishes.  We didn’t mind so much as long as we had a hot shower any morning we wanted one.  Before we purchased our camping style propane unit, we showered at my work during off hours or stood buck-naked in a large pail in the kitchen and sponged bathed.  This was obviously before we adopted our son.

The Excel Pro Natural Gas 6.6 GPM Tankless Gas Water Heater… So far, it has been a bargain, but the jury is still out on it’s overall performance. It works great and hot water is now at every faucet in the home, just as if we were using our wood cook stove water heater system but without the heat.

So far, our new tankless water heater is working fine.  It is, however, off gassing a propane smell.  I am currently working on tracking it done and may possibly have to make another trip to a big box hardware supply store and replace the connector on the unit with a better one.  For now, I am seeing if my fix worked.

I will upload sections of the install over the course of the next few weeks.  I don’t want to bore anyone, but some of you who may consider purchasing a unit like this may appreciate the info.  Personally, this was my first install, like so many other things I do on the homestead.  I think it went rather smoothly with only a few setbacks and extra trips to the hardware store.

Thanks for joining us.  If you have a tankless water heater that you installed and did a blog or vlog about it, please provide the link in the comments below.  The more information out there, the less confusing it will be for others on how to do this without having to call a plumber and paying a $75 or higher hourly rate.

I would also like to make it clear, that my wife and I do not receive or ask for endorsements when we describe products on our website.  We, like everyone else, search the Internet looking for deals and buy what we can afford.  Once the unit checks out, we will probably place it on our Amazon Store, but if you want a better buy, you should go direct to the company.  I will supply all this information as well as the cost at the end of this short series.

Thanks for visiting Living a Sustainable Dream, being a part of our online community, following, subscribing, liking, and commenting.


Homestead Tractor Walk Around

In this quick video, I am doing a walk around our tractor.   I even added some scenes of the tractor in use as I describe each function and implement we have.

The school year is coming to a close and my schedule has become a challenge.  My wife has done an excellent job stepping in for me to maintain the blog site regularly while I grade papers, finish lesson plans, help hire a new teacher, prepare a graduation speech, and trying not to think about the dunk tank I will be sitting in during the last day of school.  That’s the beginning of the list.  Unfortunately, I have had zero time allotted for planning the shop.

Our next project after I return from a trip to celebrate a niece’s graduation this weekend is to install a new tankless propane water heater.  Our temporary hot water heater has finally ended it’s five year temporary status.  More on that later.

Remember, if you haven’t signed up for our homestead business, Pauper’s Candle Company’s free monthly drawing starting this June, do so.  Anyone signed up can be a winner, even if you are outside the United States.  We are really excited to ship our candles outside the US and see how far they will travel.  Don’t worry, we won’t rig the monthly drawing; we are using a computer program or a random drawing from a hat.  Sign up here to win.

Macbeth, Mud Bogging our Driveway, and the Solution

Strange title I know.  My wife and I wanted to communicate the craziness of mud season in Northern Idaho.  I decided that reading the “Tomorrow Speech” from Macbeth was a great way to express our mud bogging adventure. “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…” If I can’t laugh at myself then I really have no right to laugh at anyone else.  Especially, this time, it feels like I played the fool part well.

Last year, we decided to finally gravel our driveway. In the second scene of the video, with a few cuts, it pretty much expresses about 2-5 weeks of our excursion out of our driveway each day.  After five years, we had enough and decided to take our savings for the future shop and drop it into road fabric and rock for the road.  We no longer wanted to mud bog and hike the quarter of a mile in and out.  The amazing part is the main dirt road seemed to be established enough to drive on during the worst parts of the season, until this year.

To get to the paved  county maintained road, we have to drive about a mile of dirt road, a quarter of that being our driveway and easement.  This year’s late snow storms somehow created a long extended break up transition to spring.    Break up is when the ground’s frost layer some times 6 inches to about two ft deep, depending on the season, begins to melt on the surface.  The ice layer underneath however stays frozen acting as a barrier preventing the ground to absorb moisture.  The ground on the surface begins to melt and become saturated with water creating a slurry of mud.  As it warms, the mud gets thicker and thicker, but is held in place by the frozen layer still deep in the ground.  Once the frozen layer melts completely, the water can drain into the ground.  Sometimes pockets of the frozen ground melt due to sun exposure through the trees causing deep treacherous potholes to form that can bottom out the vehicle and wreak havoc on the suspension system.  The only sound way to avoid this is to use road fabric and a thick base of rock.

During the last scene of the video, in which we drive down the easement, I explain how much a quarter of a mile driveway cost us.  The road fabric, 2.5″ to minus rock bed, and the smoother 3/4″ rock for the driveway with about 8-10 inches depth cost us close to $6,000.00.

The tale told by an idiot, which is me, seems to be all this planning to save ourselves from the poorly established driveway and easement was moot since the road for the 1st time in 4 or five years went to mud, and we still had to mud bog in and out of the road this year.  The only answer is to place road fabric on the road and rock and gravel it all the way to the main paved road.  Alas, we are one of the newest neighbors on this road, and none of the other neighbors cares enough to fix it and will do nothing about it.  We have one neighbor using his tractor to level the road, but there are many others who have tractors and never lend a hand.   That neighbor is planning to build a different access off their property, so when I get good enough at driving our tractor, I will be left in charge of road duty for the 3/4 a mile to get out.  For years the neighbors have thrown rock on the road, but without road fabric to lock it in place, the next bad mud season the rock just disappears.

How to start a generator when the pull rope breaks

Earlier this year, our generator pull start rope broke as well as the spring with the starter recoil assembly. We were left in a terrible position, but had enough power to ration until the new part arrived.  The new part broke in the 1st pull.  If not for the advice of a few subscribers, we would have to not been able to start the generator when we needed it again.  This is the day we needed power for our home and homestead business, and if I could not get the power on we were going to have to drop over a $1,000.00 to get the right size generator for our home.  This was my  first attempt at pull starting the generator with a regular 1/4″ rope on the outside of the bell housing leading to the crank shaft.

A big thank you to those who follow this blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for the advice and how to do this safely.

What led to this is the inability to find a new starter recoil assembly that will fit the generator I have.  It appears every part on the market advertised to fit the RIDGID 6800G does not actually fit the machine.  There is not enough clearance for the pull start spindle and the bell housing on the crank shaft.  It will install, but the motion of the bell housing once started will wreck the spring, which prevents the rope from ever retracting again. Whoever designed the replacement part did not consider this, and it is a failed attempt at a one size fits all part.  Unfortunately, anyone owning the generator RIDGID 6800G will one day have to face this problem.  Our machine lasted 6 years before this occurred.

There are options though before considering throwing your perfectly viable machine away because of this $30 part mix-up.  A person may be able to find a different bell housing and attach it to the crankshaft.  The bell housing and starter recoil assembly of a more reliable brand may work on the RIDGID, but this may take a little engineering.  I have not tried this yet, and I am honestly waiting to put money into our barn build this summer.  We have plenty of solar energy now keeping us going.

If there is no such hope for our generator and I have to purchase another back up electrical system.  I am debating two courses of action and both involve my new tractor.  I either plan to build or purchase a manufactured generator that will work on our tractor’s PTO.  I could generate a lot more power using the diesel engine than I did with the gasoline stand alone generator.  The fuel being diesel will will not need fuel additives to keep from going bad.  I could also use the farm grade dyed diesel which isn’t taxed as heavily as diesel used for driving.  I knew when we purchased the tractor, it would become a major part of our homestead, and it may become our main back up source of electricity as well.  Perhaps, I could convert to electric chainsaws and use the tractor’s generator to fetch our firewood.  The potential is endless.

Best Gas Can on the Market

For the past several years, I have been nursing our plastic gas cans and even hunting for used gas cans at second hand stores and garage sales.  I cannot express the frustration I have encountered with these worthless new gas cans; the nozzles are pure junk, made so cheaply they break and you can’t get your gas out of the can, so you have to resort to purchasing an adapter nozzle or even using a funnel. The new gas cans also don’t have vent holes that allow air to enter the can so the fuel is able to leave the can in a steady stream.

Those of you who follow this blog outside the United States are you finding the same poorly made fuel cans dominating the shelves in your stores as well?

If it wasn’t for a neighbor who used to race dune buggies, I would have never known about the VP Racing fuel cans.  They have a vent hole that allows gas to leave in a steady stream.  However, you have to create your own nozzle for a few dollars more that will fit into the lid of the can.  I only have one nozzle attached to one lid and trade lids between my 4 gas cans.

The upside and downside to the VP cans is they pour super fast when the vent hole is open.  I generally only crack the vent hole open to get a steady pour, but not something that will rush out of the can and over flow my small engine’s fuel tank.  The second downside and upside is they are heavy when filled. They can also handle about 6 gallons easily, but that extra storage comes with more weight to bear while trying to pour the fuel into a small gas tank. I am debating purchasing an extra tank just to fill only part way and transfer fuel from the other tanks so I can make filling our small engines’ gas tanks less of a chore.

Once upon a time, regular fuel cans came with easy to pour nozzles and vent holes before government legislation through lobbying got involved.  It saddens me to think a company can lobby government officials to pass legislation that benefits their patents and product by forcing better made products off the shelves in stores.  In the spirit of capitalism, this would never happen.  The United States isn’t what it use to be as far as allowing companies with the best designed products to compete on the store shelves.  Customers would have never chosen the poorly made environmentally “challenged” regulated fuel cans if the regular fuel cans were on the shelves.

If you are interested in investing in an easy to pour fuel can, you would be wise to invest in the VP Racing fuel can.  It’s a little more expensive, but when you have to buy the $10 nozzle kit to replace on the environ-“mentally challenged” cans, you’re very close in price.  Here’s the link at our “a store“.

The Importance of the type of fuel to use in your small engines

The other caveat I discuss in the video is the need for non ethanol gas in your yard machines and other small engines you may use.  The non ethanol gas has a longer life span than ethanol gas.  If you have an engine that will sit for more than 30 days, including vehicles, outboard motors, lawnmowers, generators, chainsaws, snow blowers, etc. then you need to use the more expensive non ethanol gasoline.  After 30 days, and sometimes even less if the machine is warmed up by the sun or hot days, the alcohol in the fuel will begin evaporate leaving water and other additives behind.  This expired fuel will gum up (tarnish) the small holes in the carburetor of your engine causing the need to rebuild and clean the carburetor before the engine can run properly.  By adding fuel stabilizer and possibly fuel additives that remove water you can possibly save the carburetor, but that won’t fix the spoiled fuel that has been sitting and spoiling in the carburetor while in storage.  To be safe, it is best to add the fuel stabilizer before placing the engine into storage for more than 30 days and run the engine for a minimum of 5 minutes with the treated stabilized fuel throughout the system.

If I had known this one simple preventative measure it would have saved me a carburetor rebuild in my 1968 Chevy pickup years ago.



A simple trick to improve gear shaft and axle performance: Snow Thrower Maintenance

Thank you for joining us at Living a Sustainable Dream, I hope this post will assist you if you have a snow thrower.  If you have no interest in ever owning one, let alone have a snowy enough climate to justify its purchase, that’s okay.  If there is one thing everyone can take from this post, it would be to read your manuals and keep them stored in a singular place for your equipment such as a lawnmower or a weed wacker.  If you do this, you will be able to perform the correct maintenance when necessary and possibly prevent equipment failure in the future.

Even though most of the snow is now gone, we have a few videos that we still need to post to complete our Snow Thrower Maintenance Playlist.  This post explains a simple maintenance schedule to improve your snow thrower’s performance and extend its life.  I was unaware of this until the auger shaft replacement I had to make early this year.  While searching the manual for a how-to instruction on removing the auger shaft [non existent in the manual], I discovered some strongly suggestive maintenance I had ignored these past 4 years.

The axle and gear shaft need to be lubricated every 25 hours of operation.  When I purchased the snow thrower, I skimmed the manual and didn’t pay any particular attention to the necessary scheduled maintenance.  I realize the importance and wish I had created a maintenance schedule of my own to adhere.  I am already beginning to create such a schedule and can’t wait until we finish a shop in which to conduct this regular maintenance on our equipment.

Our next post will be this Saturday and I will be discussing the best 5 gallon fuel cans on the market for the price as well as storing small engine equipment for a long period of time without running it.

We haven’t chosen a tractor name, so far, the family is split on Wiley and Klyde.

The Tractor has Arrived

Our new tractor has arrived and we’ve already made some use of it by moving several dead rooted up stumps and a large burned up log left by the previous owner.  What would have taken days and several weeks of back and knee recovery was done in a matter of a few minutes.  Just yesterday morning, it was time to swap out the snow tires. I put our large Suburban tires onto a pallet, moved them to our Suburban, and fork lift them to a height easy enough to slide the tires into the back. On a different day last week, I took the tractor to the west side of our home and smoothed out the weeded rough area to extend the yard.  What would take me days, is taking me minutes, and my back doesn’t hurt at the end of each day.

The video I created has nothing to do with the work I did.  Instead, I created a short 2 minute film celebrating that we finally purchased a tractor for our homestead.  I keyed it up to some inspirational music that I liked and filmed a typical “sunny” morning, waking up to a new homestead tractor.  I enjoyed doing all the cuts and film editing while placing “orange” everyday items throughout the film to lead up to the reveal at the end.   It was our only full sunny day this week.  It truly was a beautiful morning and was lots of fun to shoot.

I am so far very happy with our decision, I just wish the weather this week cooperated more, so I could begin gathering firewood.  It looks like the last few months of the school year I will be working two jobs full-time before summer break, one as a teacher and the other as a forest manager on the property.  During my sleep or shower time, I will have to plan the pole barn we are building.

So far, our name suggestions are: Surely, Klyde, and Wiley. There is still time to chime in and my wife and I are now split of 2 different names, our son may have to be the tie-breaker.