Setting up the heating/cooling system

Last week and into this week we’ve been getting some things in place for our heating and cooling system. You might remember our somewhat complicated system: solar thermal panels on the roof of the annex heat up the water in tanks (also in the annex), and that water runs via pex tubing under our floors to provide radiant heat in the winter. In the summer, the panels are, for the most part, covered, and the water in the tanks is cooled during the night for daytime use. Our back-up system for a couple of months aof the year is an Altherma heat pump. Perhaps you’re familiar with the diagram below:

Heating cooling system

The radiant tubing is under our floor, the panels are on the roof, and now we are getting ready to get some water into the tanks. We found our 2 insulated tanks on They are pretty sound, but need a little patching, so this week Dormouse (the metal fabricating company that built our stairway from our old steam pipes) has been working on the patches. Here’s some work they were doing on Wednesday.

Plugging holes in tanks

In addition, we are beginning to frame out the insulated wall that will surround these tanks. We’re calling this area ‘tank town’ because Woody Melcher came up with an ingenious way to hide the tanks by making the area look like a little town. The design hides our annex bathroom and provides lockers for the people working in the building.


Currently the frame looks like this:

Framing tank town

As part of the design, we need things like lockers, so in keeping with our mission to buy used items, we’ve been looking around for some. This past week a group went over to the Detroit Public Schools warehouse and found a treasure trove of used items, including lockers, like the ones pictured below.


We’ve also been working on the bathrooms and shower room, putting in light fixtures and tile. Here is some of the tile work that was done in the shower earlier this week.

Shower with tile

On a final note, our work in the alley is proving to be sound. Yesterday, you may remember that it rained all day. Detroit’s alley’s, especially, have problems with water puddling up and sitting. As I made my way from the car to the Green Garage, I dodged some pretty intense bodies of water, but when I got to the alley, this is how it looked:


All of that water ended up doing what we wanted it to do: it fed the growing plants that line the alley. I didn’t hear the rush of water into the sewer; in fact, I saw no stream heading there. Success!

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