In about mid-april the rough plumbing started going in. We had already picked out all our fixtures as early as November the year before. It was installed by Chris from Apex Plumbing and Heating, who we hired for the plumbing and the heat pump.
Chris from Apex installing PEX water lines
It was an easy choice to go with plastic PEX lines over copper water lines. The price on copper lines is much higher than plastic and is more labour intensive to install as well. The only copper in the plumbing are the last few feet in the showers.
All in all there are thirteen fixtures in a three-piece bathroom upstairs, a five-piece (double sinks) bathroom on the lower floor, garden hose tap, kitchen sink, laundry and water heater.
Laundry area plumbing
Along the back wall of the house is where to largest mass of pipes is and while it looked very comfortable at first by the time the ducts, refrigerant lines were installed it was a whole lot more crowded.
Fighting for space
The main cleanouts are easily accessed from the utility room.
In the upper washroom there was some creative routing of the waste and vents due to the location of a large floor beam below. We were able to poke up through the floor because of the 1 1/2″ concrete topping which will go on. The wall-hung vanity will cover the rest and unless you kneel down you will never see anything.
Something we were concerned about from the start was penetrations through the metal roof. The plumber suggested extending the vent stack through the wall, which would save the roof. It is an unusual thing to do, but the inspector allowed due to it being done in the alpine areas of the ski resort close to town. In this picture the black pipe is the vent pipe and the silver is the exit for the range hood.
There were some large runs in the joist spaces due to the upper washroom being located on the other side of the house as compared to the lower, but there was enough space in the joist to run the lines comfortably with sufficient fall.
After the rough plumbing was installed and approved there was some quiet time in May when not much was happening. I had to take some time to go into the office as we had a busy period which required my presence.
In the beginning of June I received my homeowners electrical permit. I took the decision to do the wiring myself after receiving some, what I thought, was fairly high quotes. I was confident with research and asking questions I could do it.
Second bedroom during wiring
I had family members help with the installing the boxes and pulling the wires. It made pretty quick work having all the help.
If I were to do it again, I would have worked backwards laying out the circuits in the rooms before doing the home runs. In a lot of places the home run went to the light switch, with the though that from there it could easily branch to the lights and the receptacles. After receiving an education in box fill rules that was out, so some of the wires had to be repulled or rerouted.
One morning when we got to the house we noticed the sheet metal worker had been there and his ducts was occupying one of the joist bays we had run the wires through. Luckily we had left enough slack in the ends that it could easily be move to the neighbouring one.
Busy joist space
Lots of wires and utilities share space in one of the joist bays. You can see recessed lights, a box for the smoke alarm, plumbing and central vacuum lines.
Recessed lights and smoke alarm
The water heater gets a 10-2 line and the heat pump gets a 6-2 line. It will run concealed in the dropped ceiling and connect to the heat pump from the ceiling through a piece of flexible metal conduit. I will have to strip the sheathing off of the cable and punch a hole in the metal cabinet of the heat pump. The interior part of the heat pump contains electrical backup elements, thus the need for wire capable of 60 Amps. The exterior part gets 10 gauge wiring.
Water heater and heat pump wiring
The worst part was pulling the wire through the SIP panels. In many situations we had no choice but to cut an access in the panels to either get past slightly misaligned studs, or turning between horizontal and vertical wire chases. In the picture below the wire for the kitchen counter outlets come from the studs on the right side, get drilled through the stud, access holes cut on both sides of the panel stud before being run to the metal electrical box. From here we needed to drill down to the lower horizontal wire chase. For this I used a 1″, 5′ long flexible drill bit. It went better than expected, creating a vertical chase where there was only solid foam before. At the lower horizontal chase another access hole was cut and the wire run below the window before turning up to the outlet through yet another access hole.
Similar things happened around the doors leading to the deck. Here we are jumping between two vertical wire chases. The red wire is leading to a future infrared patio heater in the covered part of the deck.
Snaking through the SIPs panels
With all the wires coming towards the panel from all directions I had to try and bring them all somewhat neatly to it, but in the end it turned into a bit of rats nest at the top of the panel as they didn’t really end up entering where I imagined. Leading up to this point I went over every wire, making sure they were all properly stapled, separated from ducts by insulation and untwisting wires until my wrists ached. This took much longer than the actual wire pulling as I was working alone.
Rats nest at panel
The panel itself was part of a Siemens “Xpresspack” being sold at Home Depot for $270. It included a 40 space 200A panel and 15 breakers, including one arc-fault breaker that usually sells alone for $75. Compared to the price from the electrical supply house of $200 for the panel and no breakers it was a good deal. I also got 10% off for whinging a bit.
I enlisted the electrician who does work for the plumber and he did a great job on the panel. There are a lot of circuits and I will have to replace some of the full size 15A breakers with tandem breakers which only take up half the space.
Usually when doing an underground service entrance you bury armoured ACWU90 or TECK90 cable. But I had installed the conduit leading to the meter pole, so I bought a length of cheaper RW90 which we pulled through almost 100′ of conduit. I think if I had installed 2″ rather than 3″ conduit the pull would have been much harder but it only took us two hours to get all three conductors through with my brother in-law feeding from inside the house while I pulled in the other end.
With all the branch circuits ran I went through the process of adding all the grounds and pigtails in the boxes. To make it easier to twist the wirenuts I put a deep 5/8″ socket on my drill and tightened the nuts that way. Perfect results every time.
After finishing the high voltage wiring I moved on to the low voltage. In a previous post I have gone over what I hoped to accomplish. The only difference was that it did not seem to make much sense to fill the conduits at this time, so I ran them empty, and they are my future upgrade insurance.
In the image below you can see the typical setup, it consists of a low-voltage bracket with blue ENT going to it, to the side the two Cat6 and RG6 come up, I have put the ends into the conduit so it will stay protected and out of the way. Next are the LV (low voltage) brackets for the distributed audio system. Not knowing what kind I would be installing I have provided a home run of two 14AWG speaker wire, a Cat6 and a two conductor 18 gauge electrical wire.
The speaker wire home runs first go to the lower box to allow for local override and then to the upper box, which will be the main controls and from there to the speaker locations. This setup can be found in all the bedrooms, the lower bathroom as well as the livingroom with speakers located in the livingroom and kitchen.
Because the speakers on the main floor will be going into the attic they needed sealed and insulated surrounds. I used some left over 2″ styrofoam and some canned expanding foam to make some insulated boxes.
When it was (finally, after a month and a half) time for inspection the inspector came, spent all of 10 minutes looking around, unscrewed a couple of pigtails, asked some questions and left. I passed, “subject to” I add some additional support behind the range and dryer boxes.
I have not done the final tally of the costs yet, but I reckon about 40 to 50% savings over hiring an electrician. And their quotes did not include the low voltage wiring, and probably less circuits.
At the time I was running the electrical wires, Mike from MB Sheet Metal installed the ductwork for the heat pump and the HRV.
The heat pump is a 2.5 ton, 15 SEER/8.2 HSPF units from Payne. With our insulation values it probably won’t see a whole lot of use even in the deep winter time.
The Heat pump, interior side
The exterior condenser sits a bit away from the house.
Heat pump, exterior side
The ductwork consist of a large rectangular trunk running across the back wall of the house, with 6″ diameter round ducts to the registers in the rooms.
Larger duct runs
I was expecting to do a lot of bulkhead building, which originally was one of the reasons we built the basement with 9′ ceilings. But the only parts which required boxing in was above the doorways to the two front bedrooms. I credit the sheet metal guy to putting some thought into the runs.
Boxed in ducts
The ducts were run at the same time as the electrical wiring, so in some spots things got close. I used some styrofoam insulation to keep the wires away from the ducts.
Because the house is built very tight, we need a way to bring stale air out and bring fresh air in. In many houses this happens as a side-effect of standard construction which leave air leaking in and out of the house, replenishing the fresh air.
In our case we decided to install an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator). The HRV draws stale air from the house, in our case from the bathrooms and kitchen, replacing our bathroom fan while at the same time drawing fresh air from the outside. The two airflows run through a heat exchange core warming up the fresh air before it gets distributed through the ductwork. This was you can recover a significant amount of heat which would otherwise be vented outside and need to be replenished with the heat pump.
In our case the HRV will be connected to humidistats and have 20min “boost” buttons to clear the air when needed.
The HRV should only be used in the wintertime when the humidity inside is higher than the outside. In the summertime you might end up drawing in more humid air than you expel and have the opposite to the desired effect. In the summertime we will open the windows.
In the living room we have cross ventilation. By opening the windows on opposite sides of the vaulted ceiling we can create a stack effect and ventilate that way.
Those are more or less the “guts” of the house. At this time I also thought it might be a good idea to have the building inspector approve the framing, which he did without caveats. The next thing will be insulation and vapour barrier on the inside as well as cladding on the exterior.