Origo Heat Pal 5000 Review

I recently subscribed to Tiny House Magazine on my iPad and was reading the article on an alcohol based stove/oven combo made by a Swedish company Origo.

I have propane for my hot water heater, but I would like to avoid using it if possible.  I will be looking at a solar hot water heater in the future and if that works out I could eliminate the need for propane except for cooking.  After reading the article on this alcohol stove I think that’s the ticket to eliminate the use of propane for cooking.

Alcohol fuel has the benefit of clean burning and being renewable.  It is also possible to distill your own should it become scarce.  You will never be able to make your own propane.  Alcohol is not under pressure and a leak wont blow up your house.  Alcohol does not produce carbon monoxide that will kill you like propane (big plus).  The downside is that alcohol packs less of a punch (BTU’s) compared to propane and is a bit more expensive.

Storage life of alcohol is on par with propane except you don’t need special pressure vessel.  Stored in sealed 1 gallon metal cans the shelf life is many years and you can store as much or as little as you like.  The limit to propane is about 500 gallons as the tanks get pretty large and expensive.

As an experiment I bought a Origo Heat Pal 5000 off eBay for about $70.  This unit contains the same single alcohol burner that is used in all Origo stoves/ovens.  I wanted to get a sense of how well they work and how much performance will be sacrificed to go alcohol.

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The unit arrived undamaged which is not surprising since the design is really really simple.  There is a heat shield on top to prevent accidentaly dropping something directly on to the burner when using the device as a heater.

Removing the heat shield reveals a typical cook top suitable for heating a pot of something.  I’m not sure a standard frying pan would fit as the walls around the burner are very high.  Removing the burner reveals the heart of the stove which is a stainless steel canister that holds the alcohol fuel.  This canister is packed with a fiber of some kind that absorbs the fuel.  You can actually turn the canister upside down and no fuel leaks out.

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I filled the stove with denatured alcohol from home depot and fired the unit up.  Using a long butane lighter I stuck it thru holes in the cook top and it lit right up.  Heat is controlled with a simple and ingenious mechanism that slides a plate over the top of the alcohol canister partially or fully obscuring it (which extinguished the flame).

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I placed a pot of water that was a double helping of oatmeal to see how long it would take to boil.  About 8 minutes later I had a pot of violently boiling water.  I would say that this was about 20-30% longer than the small gas powerd hotplate that I currently use.

Heating

The heat pal is designed to be used as a small heater.  I ran it for about 2 hours one morning to take the morning chill off the cabin after the stove burned down.  Typically the cabin would be about 50 degrees by morning.  The morning I tried the Heatpal it stayed above 60.  Its not going to replace your wood stove but does make a nice little space heater.

Conclusion

The origo cook tops provide adequate heat for most cooking you just need to be a little patient.  I have zero issues leaving one running overnight as a heat source.  I like the fact that the fuel is renewable and very safe.  I also like the fact that I can store as much fuel as I like without the expense of a tank (unlike propane).

I will be looking for an Origo 6000 cooktop/oven combo to outfit my bodega with.  If you know anyone with a used one, drop me a line.

Note: It looks like the HeatPal 5000 has been replaced with the HeatPal 5100.  Looks to be a similar design and I would expect similar performance.  eBay is probably your best bet if you want a HeatPal 5000.

Plumbing Rough-In Complete

Lots of activity this weekend.  The plumbing rough-in is 100% complete and the electrical is moving along nicely.  Today I will report on the plumbing and my next post will show the electrical work.

Rough Plumbing

Friday I spent the day watching over the plumbers.  I’m glad I spent a bunch of time prepping for the plumbers or it would have turned out much worse.  I ended up losing my built-in medicine cabinet, part of a closet, and one cabinet has a pipe going thru it.

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photoYup, that hole in the roof is a bit ragged…easy foam will be required!

The closet I expected to lose a bit of space to pipes so I’m not that upset about it.  The Medicine chest was lost because the plumbing code says that there needs to be a “future vent”….I guess the future of that vent will be spent where my medicine cabinet would be.

The pipe thru the other kitchen cabinet didn’t need to be there and will be “relocated”.  I had not counted on needing to vent the laundry box but it needs to be vented or the sink will suck all the water out of the laundry trap and the house will stink.  I’m just going to move it under the cabinet…no big deal…looks like there is room to squeeze it in there.

I did manage to screw up the hole in the roof which needed to be a 3 inch pipe and I only cut the hole for a 2 inch pipe.  Worse still, I installed a 2 inch boot which needed to be cut out and replaced.  The replacement boot is mostly held on with Lexel and a couple nails.  Not the installation I wanted but I doubt it will leak

Plumbing Inspection

There were three things that needed to be done to inspect the plumbing:

1) The stack gets plugged  at the bottom with an air bladder device and filled with water.  I have no water in the house yet so I had to lug a 30 gallon drum filled with pond water to accomplish this task.

2) The water pipes are tied together and pressurized to 120PSI.

3) The gas pipe is plugged on the end and pressurized to 3PSI.

If no joints leak from the stack pipes and the pressures stay constant in the other pipes, then they pass.  The inspector also looks at the pipes and locations to make sure everything that’s required has been installed.  There are some critical heights that need to be adhered to or bad things can happen if a drain plugs up.

The inspector came by this morning and signed off without finding any issues.  I took the time to get advice on the placement of the propane tank and a few other things.  I probably won’t see him again until the final inspection.
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Hose to pump water into the stack

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Ajax supervising the water pump as the stack fills

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Shower controls plumbed with PEX piping

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Here you can see the vent pipe that was run thru the cabinet space.  I’m going to run it thru where the medicine chest would have been.

More Framing and Some Electrical Work

I woke up this morning sore and cold because it was 11 degrees outside.  There are only two more days till spring it should not be this cold.  I spent the weekend cleaning, framing, and wiring the bodega.

Cleaning

The loft of the Bodega made a nice place to store stuff that I need to get out of the way.  Unfortunately, it turned into s building material scrap yard and I spent a couple hours relocating things.  I don’t know how roofers sling bundles of shingles around all day…I moved five bundles and felt like I was ready for the old folks home.

I also took the time to sort out tools that would no longer be needed.  Basically every tool I owned was stacked in piles all over the place.  I wish I was one of those people that had a small set of tools that fit in a small box.  Fact is that sometimes you just need the right tool for the job and that means you will have a bunch of tool boxes.  This is especially true when you do everything yourself.  You find that a framing hammer is not great for fine woodworking etc etc.

Framing

With junk and tools removed I had a nice clean slate to finish framing the upstairs closets and kitchen cabinets.

The upstairs closets will make use of the small triangle in the eaves of the house.  One trick I am playing is to use the space under the floor as part of the closet.  This gives me 7.5 inches of height at the back of the closet and 3’8″ at the front.  I will be installing some pull out drawers that use the space under your feet.

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I had a revelation this weekend.  Climbing up the front of the loft is easy, but getting down is not.  You need to take a leap of faith and swing over the edge to get down.  Its hard to explain, but its not comfortable.  As I finished up the first closet I looked at my ladder poking up thru the floor and decided that I was going to build the access to the loft thru the floor rather than the front.  With the proper sized ladder and hand holds I think it will be more practical.

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My decision on the loft ladder led me to make the second closet a bit smaller and leave a small landing area to be used for odds and ends.

Kitchen Cabinets

In my last post I had started the ends of the cabinets and realized that I had a floor issue.  This week I pulled up a section of the floor and installed some shims to bring it to within 1/8 inch of being level.  I took up that 1/8 inch with some small shims under the cabinet frame.  The idea was to split the difference between the floor and cabinet to make it look less noticeable.

I installed some cross members to enclose the bottom and it now looks like a cabinet.  I will have a small issue getting a full size sink to fit.  I think I’m going to be an inch or two narrow for the sink bowl to slide in.  I have some additional members to attach to the front to create the toe area.  Its likely that these members will end up being trimmed with a jigsaw to make the sink fit.

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Electrical

I attached my load center and another panel which will contain the charge controller and pump controller (bottom).  I was able to squeeze in 2 inches of foam behind the panel so it wont end up too cold there.

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With that out of the way, I began drilling holes to run wires.  Since I will be using fiberglass I don’t want wires running in the middle of the bay.  I figured that the best way was to drill holes at the very bottom of the bay….WRONG!  Well not wrong but it was a major pain in the ass since there are nails there.  After hitting a couple your drill bit is toast.  I wouldn’t change the way i’m doing it, but in the future I won’t be using three nails in the bottom plate.

I managed to run the circuits in one wall and started on the counter wall.  I’m using 10 gauge wire which is a real bitch especially when its cold.  You just need to be patient and eventually it goes where it supposed to.

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Something to note. These single gang crappy plastic boxes do not come with a integral strain relief.  You must add a staple within 8 inches of the box to meet code.  The double gang plastic boxes do have a strain relief that breaks off if you breathe on it (did I say 10 gauge wire is a bitch to work with?).  I suggest that you strip off the insulation before jamming it into the box…seems to be easier and less wear on the box.

Electrical Part 2

In this post I will discuss the layout of the receptacles and lights.

Correction

In my last post the schematic lists a Square D H361RB disconnect.  I have switched to a H362RB which is a 60 amp unit and will offer more flexibility in the future should I decide to add a small inverter for the washing machine.

Receptacles

I have selected a dual receptacle that is typically used for 250V circuits.  It is a NEMA 6-20P style receptacle.  The ones I purchased are made by Morris and are part number 82205.

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The one feature I really like on these units is the wire attachment method.  Most receptacles and switches you make a wire loop and attach it to the screw terminal.  Another common method, you strip the end of the wire and stick it in a hole that contains a spring loaded clamp.  I hate the spring loaded clamps because I think they wear out over time and get loose.  Screw terminals work but you need to make the loop, screw it down, and make it look good.

These Morris receptacles have the hole in the back where you tighten down the screw to clamp the wire in place.  Its the best of both attachment methods in my opinion.  Since I will be working with 10 gauge romex in this application the easier you can make it the better.

Switches

First of all, you can’t use normal switches in my application.  Wall switches are rated for AC only and will quickly burn out when switching larger DC loads.  For small loads they may work just fine for a while depending on the quality of the switch.

I have selected a switch made by Leviton part number 12021-2l.  This is a DC rated (up to 24V) switch that can switch 3 amps.  This is more than enough current for lights and other small DC appliances.

Technically, these switches are not rated for the the amount of power that each of my branch circuits can produce which is 20 amps.  It seems that NEC 404.14 only requires that the switches must be rated for the loads they are used to switch.  Since I will be using them to switch lights that are about 1/2 amp, I’m sure they will work just fine in my application.

Receptacle spacing

When installing receptacles there is a rule in the NEC that makes you put outlets within 6ft of an appliance.  If you had a lamp with a 6ft cord there should be no place in the room where that cord would not reach a receptacle.

Required Circuits

The NEC requires certain circuits in a dwelling unit.  THe kitchen needs to have 2 that supply only the receptacles, lights must be on a different circuit.  The laundry room and bathroom should have a circuit each.  The laundry circuit should not run anything except the stuff in the laundry room.  My bathroom circuit runs the lights and receptacles in the bath.  The laundry circuit runs the hot water heater and washing machine which are located in the same cubby.

Wiring

Since I am using 12VDC to run everything, the voltage loss in the wiring is a concern.  I will be using 10 gauge wire for everything to keep the voltage loss to less than .6V @15 amps on the longest run.  I will never run 15 amps on any of these circuits so this is really a worst case number.

Misc

There is a charge controller and other instrumentation that I will be installing. The charge controller positive lead is looped thru the main disconnect so that the batteries will stop charging when the disconnect is opened.  The well control box will be connected to one of my circuits and the other side run down to the pump.  I will mount the charge controller and well controller in a load center box that has had the innards removed.  Turns out load center boxes are cheap compared to NEMA 1 boxes and they have a nice little door on the front where I can hide any lights or switches I might decide to add.

Weekend

This weekend I plan to engage in a ton of wiring work and finish up some minor framing details in the cabinets and closets.  I also need to de-clutter the place as its gotten full of tools and other stuff that is not needed going forward.

Electrical Plans: Part 1

Today I will share the electrical design for the Bodega.  As you might have read in the past, it will be 100 percent off grid and most everything will run from 12vDC.  I will probably do a series of posts on the design since there is a lot to go over.  I will start by saying that I take no responsibility if you copy my design and burn your house down (or electrocute yourself).  The following 2 pics are the schematic diagram and the layout for electrical boxes:

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Circuit Description

Life begins in the battery box where a pair of very large batteries (300AH+) will deliver 12V to a disconnect.  The batteries will be housed in some kind of box that will be vented to the outside so that hydrogen gas does not build up.  I will either put the batteries in the loft in plastic battery boxes or in a job box outside the house.  If its outside the house I will omit the hydrogen vent as job boxes are pretty well ventilated.

The disconnect will be a 3 pole unit rated at 60 amps that can switch 600VDC.  Beware not all disconnects are DC rated.  You will find that the DC rated ones are quite expensive ($250-$350).  The unit I have selected contains fuse holders more about that in a bit.  The three poles of the disconnect will switch two wires connected to the positive side of the battery and the charge circuit (charge controller).  When the disconnect is OFF everything will really be off.

The ground rod will be connected to the negative of the battery inside the disconnect.  The metal parts of all electrical devices will connect here along with the negative terminal of all lights receptacles etc.  I reserve the right to move this connection to inside the load center if I discover something in the code that requires it (I’m thinking it might…more research to do).

The load center is a Square D QO series that contains 6 breakers.  No main breaker is required on panels with 6 or less breakers.  The circuit breakers will be 20 amp QO series which are DC rated to 48 volts.  On gotcha is that their DC interrupting rating (AIC) is only 5000 amps.  Code requires that you place a fuse in series that provides a larger interrupting capacity (cant remember what value right now).  The disconnect I picked has slots for class R fuses which provides the required level of protection.

The last interesting bit is the charge controller which is shown for reference only since I have not picked an actual unit yet.  They all have about the same wiring configuration so whats shown is correct.

Next post

I will write more on the electrical design…

Prepping for Plumbing

Finally a nice weekend to get some work done.  The outside air temp was nearly 50 degrees and due to my stellar insulation job the inside temp was colder.  This weekend I worked to get the place ready for rough plumbing and electrical.

I’ll add some pics to this post….my phone battery died….check back later!

Water Heater

I purchased an EZ Tankless hot water heater which is a MA approved direct vent model that runs on LPG.  It’s a sealed unit that does not use combustion air from the house.  Instead, it uses a unique pipe within a pipe system where fresh air comes in from the outside pipe and exhaust leaves the center pipe.  This preheats the air and cools the exhaust.

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The instructions tell you how much room to leave around it and how far the exhaust port must be from a window and other vents.  In my case I need to maintain 12 inches from the loft window.

I started by installing 4 inches of foam left over from the outside in the water heater bay.  On top of that a 2×3 fits nicely to hold the insulation in place and provide a mount for the heater.

I used a 4.25 inch hole saw to make a hole for the pipe.  Even though the instructions say no special clearances are needed for the pipe, I lined the hole with a sheet metal thimble and put some metal plates on either side of the wall.  The seams of the pipe get sealed with HVAC metal tape.  A couple of deck screws attach the unit (which is not that heavy) to the wall

Drains

A mistake I made was not cutting the holes around my drains big enough.  I ended up using the 4 inch hole saw to open up the shower and toilet holes.  A tip for using a hole saw on an existing hole:  Use the saw to cut a hole scrap plywood.  Attach the plywood scrap to the deck with screws and use it to guide the saw.  Rather than guiding the blade from the center drill, you guide it from the outside.

Shower

I bought a Kohler shower kit from the Depot and installed the temperature control in the shower unit.  Since the shower unit is so small, I decided to place it off-center which hopefully will make it less likely to poke you when showering.

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The shower head I mounted in the ceiling a little towards the wall rather than the middle.  You dont want water spraying on the opening too much.

Laundry

I bought a laundry box to make life easier.  Its plastic and pretty flimsy (like everything these days) but I think it will work.  I used some fender washers and deck screws to attach it to the framing members rather than the included bracket which were shit.

Misc

With all the big stuff out-of-the-way, I marked up the floor and installed scrap plywood in the places where piping would be coming and going.  I don’t want the plumber making it up as he goes.

Kitchen cabinets

I began framing the kitchen cabinets as a bonus task this weekend and discovered that my building is not as square and flat as I thought.  It seems that the slab is 1/2 inch higher in the middle than the sides.  This translates into my kitchen cabinets touching the floor on one end and being 1/2 inch up on the other.

I also discovered that the floor above is a bit out of level.  I spent a bit of time getting a reference lines that I could work off of.  This kind of thing is fairly common, you just need to plan ahead so no one notices when the project is finished.

After a bit of wrangling I got the upper cabinets framed and a the two ends of the lower cabinet assembled.  I ran out of lumber and will try to finish up after work this week.

Whats Next?

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Subfloor Installation

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This weekend I completed installation of the subfloor and installed the wall between the shower and laundry cubby.  I also completed the rough framing for the bathroom wall that contains the pocket door.

Subfloor

You don’t want to install plywood or OSB directly on top of a concrete slab.  If you spill something, the moisture won’t get out easily.  If there is any moisture in the slab it will stay there and start a mold farm in extreme conditions.

When I ordered my framing lumber I had them include some 1×6 pressure treated boards that I could attach to the slab floor.  My lumber yard only had 1×6 material, but others carry 1×4 which will save you some money.  Some people will use pressure treated plywood sheets for a subfloor, but I think that’s a bad idea since you eliminate the air space. You want air under there to carry away moisture.

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ACQ

When you are working with pressure treated lumber it contains a preservative alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ).  This stuff eats metal fasteners that are not coated with something.  Hot dipped galvanized nails, stainless steel, or epoxy coated screws need to be used with pressure treated lumber.

The ramset nails I needed to use (1.5 inch) do not come in a ACQ compatible version.  They do make 2.5 inch coated nails for use with 2X sill plates.  When I tried to use them I could not drive them in far enough with a single shot and they really beat up the concrete when you drive them in more than an inch.  I made the executive decision to use construction adhesive and 1.5 inch uncoated ramset fasteners.  This is not a critical load bearing application and even if the pins dissolve to nothing in 10 years, the adhesive and weight of the floor will keep everything in place.

Shower Partition

The bathroom is 5’3.5″ wide and the shower needs to be at least 30 inches wide when finished.  Plumbing code requires that you have 900 square inches of finished floor in a shower and it needs to fit a 30 inch diameter beach ball (or barrel).  The standard width of a washing machine is 27 inches so the laundry cubby must accommodate that.

I could have framed out a 2×3 wall which would be 4 inches thick when finished.  This would have made my laundry cubby too small for a standard sized washing machine.  The only options were to make the partition thinner or move the bathroom wall by an inch or so.  In tiny home construction inches count so I decided to make the shower partition thinner.  This is a really picky thing but why make my kitchen 2 inches narrower when I don’t have to.

My solution was to use 2 pieces of Advantech OSB flooring glued and screwed together to form a 1.5 inch thick wall.  This wall is fastened on three sides directly to the framing to make it stiff.  The front will be trimmed out with a piece of hardwood glued and screwed to provide even more stiffness.  The finished wall will be 2.5 inches thick (1/4″ Tile -> 1/2″ Cement Board -> 3/4″ OSB -> 3/4″ OSB -> 1/4″ finish plywood).

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Down Under

Under the laundry cubby is a hole that will contain the water tank.  I am using a Wellmate WM-10LP which is 24 inches across and 28 inches tall.  It will hold 34 gallons of water and supply about 10 before the pump begins to run.  The bottom of this hole was still dirt and needed a bit of cement to complete the job.

Before adding cement, I dug a small hole and filled it with a bag of river rocks.  On top of that I added a 4 inch plastic drain.  I have no worry about groundwater coming up, but I would like any water that collects in this hole to drain off so I don’t get alligators living down there.  This drain should be able to handle a small amount of water that may drip off the tank during service or winterization.

With the drain installed, I mixed up a bag of Quickcrete with very little water and formed the concrete pan in a way that forces the water towards the drain.  Turns out that the bottom walls of the slab were not well filled with concrete when the slab was poured.  To make the job look a bit more professional I will mix up a bag of mortar and clean things up just a bit.

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Next Steps

I need to get ready for the plumber.  I will be setting up plywood guides to indicate where I want pipes to be placed.  I will be hanging the hot water heater, shower valve, laundry box, etc.  I will also be starting to frame up the kitchen cabinets and vanity….no off the shelf cabinets for me!