Monday, March 25, 2013

Thermal Expansion Tank

What the heck is a thermal expansion tank, and why would I ever need one?  That's certainly what I was wondering... and didn't know anyone that has one in their house.  After reading online, I figured we probably did need one.

We've got some nasty water hammer that we haven't been able to resolve.  After testing the water pressure, we realized the pressure reducing valve wasn't working (probably 1950's original), so we were getting whatever 100+ psi the City was providing us.  That could obviously cause some issues, so we added another PRV.  Dialed down to 45psi, that still didn't seem to do the trick - the water hammer remained.  We figured it was just poor pipe supports.

Finally, I wondered why, shortly after a shower (especially), the water pressure seemed SUPER strong and would lessen after just a few seconds.  It seemed to be getting worse recently, so I read some more online.  Apparently, with the working PRV, the heated water after, say, using the shower, has no where to go (heated water expands)... hence the increased pressure.  A pressure tester on the system revealed we had as much as 180 psi in our system!  Yikes!!!  I am amazed that our whole water system didn't explode... and that the pressure release valve on the hot water heater didn't appear to be working (note to self, still check that).

Anyway, I installed the thermal expansion tank and pressurized it to 50psi.  It works beautifully.  The water hammer is still there, but much reduced.  Now to install some more water hammer arrestors and hope that helps as well.  I'm just trying to avoid having to deal with all the spiders and nastiness under the house to install better pipe supports which is probably the real problem.

Here's the new thermal expansion tank, sitting happy just past the PRV.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Real BBQ

Oh no, I've got another hobby... as if I have the time to entertain another one.  At least this one doesn't cost too much and doesn't take too much time.  Real BBQ - low and slow - is just too good to avoid.  The justification is, we have to eat anyway, right?!  Megan was kind enough to get me a propane vertical cabinet smoker for Christmas - little did she know she was going to fuel yet another hobby.  On 2/24/13 I did my first real long cook with this smoker.  It takes dedication (or insanity) to commit to a full packer brisket cooked low and slow.  We found a relatively (9#) small brisket at Smart and Final.

I woke up on a Sunday morning at 5am to fire up the smoker, trim and rub the brisket, and got it on the smoker at 5:40.  Throughout the 12 hour cook, I learned a few things to improve on next time.  1. I picked-up another back-up propane tank, 2. I bought a better in-door thermometer (so I don't have to keep opening the door, dropping temps, just to check the temp), and 3. Just a little hotter might not be so bad.

The brisket could have used more time - maybe another hour.  The thermometer in the door is useless.  I used a remote thermometer and it seemed to consistently read low by about 40 degrees.  I also had a thermometer inside that I feel is very reliable - but needing to open the door to check it creates problems by cooling things down frequently.  Still, everything turned out pretty darn good.  It all could have been a little better, but I'd say it was good for a first major run at it.  The best part were the burnt ends finished in the oven - wow - beef candy!

Here is the day's timetable (smoker temps), followed by a progression of the cook:

5:40 - Brisket on at 220*
6:40 - add more wood @ 220*
8:15 - add water @ 200*
10:15 - add water @ 240*
11:30 (photo) - add pork belly & tri-tip, water, wood @ 240*
1:00 (photo) - add water, add wood @ 220*
2:00 - probe check, not close @ 240*
3:00 (photo) - add water, probe check not close @ 240*
4:00 - took off pork belly and tri-tip, add water @ 240*
5:45 - took off brisket @ 185* (oops, ran out of propane)

I'll let the progression of photos speak for themselves.