Category Archives: Construction

I regularly encounter interesting math, particularly geometry, in my woodworking and remodeling projects.

Air Conditioning Load of a Group of People

I was reading an article about HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) calculations in the Journal of Light Construction that had a quote I found interesting. It said that

… 17 extra occupants added more than a half ton of cooling load. Continue reading

 
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Short-Term Solution for Furnace Condensate Freezing Problem

Minnesotan's have endured a cold winter with relatively little snow, a situation that causes the ground to freeze deeper than expected. In northern Minnesota, we plan for 60 inches of frost depth, but this year the frost has gone much deeper. For those cabins with condensing furnaces, this extra frost depth has resulted in many frozen septic lines. This winter, I have frozen both my cabin and garage septic lines. Continue reading

 
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Cabin Is Complete

My cabin construction project is now complete. My wife and I are now beginning to furnish our new home, which will take some time. I continue to work on the garage construction myself, which will take until sometime in May to finish. Overall, our planning was good and there were no major surprises. The one area of difficulty that I did not fully appreciate is the remoteness of the site. Before you go to the site, you need to plan out every possible tool or part that you will need while there. Continue reading

 
Posted in Construction, Personal | 10 Comments

Electrical Conduit Math

As I have mentioned in other posts, I am building a large garage in northern Minnesota (Figure 1). I would show you some pictures of the interior, but I have promised my son that I will not post anything that could ruin his surprise when he sees it in April.  As part of this construction effort, I am using quite a bit of electrical conduit. Conduit consists of metal pipes (often called EMT) through which the wires pass and it must be bent to go around any barriers it encounters. Conduit is a very efficient way to wire a working area because it directly attaches to the wall and does requires opening holes in drywall and  repairing the damage. Conduit can also be updated and modified easily by running new/additional wires through it. Continue reading

 
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Dealing with Furnace Condensate At Low Temperatures

While working on my retirement home and workshop in northern Minnesota, I have noticed that my furnace is generating between five and seven gallons of condensate per day. The furnace is on quite often this time of year because the outside temperature is running about -30°F (-35°C). I currently pipe the condensate over to a floor drain, which is connected to my septic system. Continue reading

 
Posted in Construction, General Science | 11 Comments

Change in US House Square Footage Over Time

My wife and I are about half-way through the construction of a 2100 square foot home in northern Minnesota. This weekend, my neighbors and I were talking about the area of houses being built today, and no one in the conversation had any data. I grabbed my computer, jumped on the Internet, and very quickly found data from the Census Department that answered my question. Like most census information, the data is in the form of screwy tables that need to be parsed to get into a form that can easily be plotted. This exercise gave me another excellent example to use when I train staff on the use of Excel's Get and Transform tool. Figure 1 was the result of my search. For those who are interested, my workbook is here. Continue reading

 
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Insulation Opportunity Costs

I have had a number of discussions with coworkers about the different types of wall insulation – some of these discussions have been documented in previous blog posts (e.g. here , here, here). There exists wide cost and performance disparities between the different wall insulation technologies. With respect to cost, I view fiberglass batts as a low-cost insulation option and the spray foams (open and closed cell) as high-cost options. All the options have their advantages and disadvantages. Fine Homebuilding Magazine (August/September 2017) has an excellent article by Martin Holladay provides an excellent spreadsheet-like analysis that illustrates the trade-offs between open and closed-cell foam nicely. My goal in this post is to go through the computational details of his analysis and to discuss his approach to choosing the best insulation for your application. Continue reading

 
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CO2 Generation By Fuel Per Million BTUs of Heat

My year-round cabin in northern Minnesota needs a furnace, and a furnace needs fuel. My fuel options are fairly limited – fuel oil, liquid natural gas, or propane. I ended up choosing propane because the local propane gas supplier has a reputation for being reliable. While researching the fuels, I became curious about the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere by the different fuel options for given amount of heat. Continue reading

 
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My New Cabin Construction

A number of folks have asked that I post pictures of my cabin construction project. The project actually consists of two separate activities: a large garage (started last fall) and a two-story cabin. I will start posting photos here as things progress. Continue reading

 
Posted in Construction, Personal | 9 Comments

Effect of Earth's Curvature on Suspension Bridge Dimensions

I have received a number of questions recently on how the curvature of the Earth affects building construction. In general, the effects of the Earth's curvature are ignorable because most man-made construction is on too small of a scale to notice the effects of the Earth's curvature. One well documented exception is the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, whose design took into account that the bridge towers are 1 5/8 inch farther apart at the top than at the bottom. In this post, I will show how to compute this value. Continue reading

 
Posted in Construction, General Science | 12 Comments