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Posts Tagged ‘bungalow houses’

“Our Architects are Bungalow Experts” (Part II)

December 21st, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

Earlier this month, I did a blog on the sweet little GVT #114 that Dale found in Manheim, Pennsylvania.

After that blog appeared, Dale was kind enough to send along two more photos of GVT Modern Home #114. I’ve never seen one in real life, but apparently this was a fairly popular house!

Thanks to Dale for the wonderful photos!

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Want to read the earlier blog on GVT #114? Click here.

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As seen in the 1913 catalog.

As seen in the 1913 catalog.

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I love this text.

I love this text: "The ultra of beauty in design."

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Some of these kit homes are a misery to identify, but #114 has many unique features.

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Heres the #114 that Dale found in Manheim, PA.

Here's the #114 that Dale found in Manheim, PA.

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Dale found these in Davenport, Iowa.

Dale found this one in Davenport, Iowa.

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This was

This #114 was also found in Davenport, Iowa (home of Gordon Van Tine).

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Want to read the earlier blog on Wardway #114? Click here.

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“Our Architects Are Bungalow Experts!”

December 2nd, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

Gordon Van Tine homes are not as well known as Sears, but they were a substantial competitor in the mail-order house business.

GVT was founded in 1866 (as a lumber supply company) and evolved into a mail-order house company about 1909 (according to GVT expert, Dale Wolicki).

By contrast, Richard Warren Sears didn’t start selling watches until 1886! Sears issued their first building materials catalog in 1895, and their first house catalog came out in 1908.

Gordon Van Tine was based in Davenport, Iowa, but they had mills in Mississippi and Washington State.

Another little interesting tidbit: Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes, but all their orders were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine. In fact (unlike Sears), GVT handled all the details for Wardway Homes, from architectural design to catalog printing to order fulfillment.

Sears hired a staff of architects to create their house designs, as did Gordon Van Tine. Montgomery Wards hired Gordon Van Tine!

And the best part - according to the advertisement for the GVT #114, the architects at GVT were “bungalow experts”!

Several years ago, Dale sent me this picture of a GVT #114, which he found in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until I started studying the very early GVT catalogs, that I actually placed the model that Dale had discovered.

We know that there were at least two of these houses built (testimonial shows one in Iowa), but it’d be fun to know if there are more than two!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for scanning the 1913 and 1916 GVT catalog!

And thanks to Dale for sharing his photos!

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“]I love these old advertisements. This is from the 1913 catalog.

This graphic (1913) explains why kit homes were typically located within 1-2 miles of railroad tracks. The logistics of moving a house from here to there typically involved a vehicle with 1-2 horsepower (as shown above).

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“]”]And GVT started when Lincoln was a young man...

And GVT first started doing business when "Lincoln was president..." (1929 catalog)

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Model #114 as seen in the 1913 GVT catalog.

Model #114 as seen in the 1913 GVT catalog.

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Good

I love this part: "Our architects are bungalow experts." Were they also foursquare experts? Colonial experts? Neo-tudor experts? Or just devout "bungalow experts"?

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Intriguing little house, isnt it?

Intriguing little house, isn't it? Notice the windows on the side and front, with the diamond muntins in the horizontal window that traverse the smaller windows. Nice feature, and makes it easier to identify.

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Flo

Only two bedrooms (as designed) with a small den on the front of the house.

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And here it is in Manheim, Pennsylvania on North Hazel Street.

And here it is in Manheim, Pennsylvania on North Hazel Street. The dormers have been enlarged, perhaps to create better light and livable space on the second floor. The house has had some other modifications, but the question is, were these changes done when the house was built? I think that's the most likely scenario. Picture is copyright 2009, Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you look at the house from a side street, you can see that unusual window on the side.

If you look at the house from a side street, you can see that unusual window on the side.

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And theres another GVT #114 in Iowa!

And there's another GVT #114 in Iowa!

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To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for scanning the 1913 and 1916 GVT catalog!

And thanks to Dale for sharing his photos!

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Hospitality Seats

November 30th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

The Dutch Colonial has always been a favorite of mine. I’m not sure I can easily define why I love this house, but one of the reasons is the little extras - cut-out shutters, gambrel roof, plenty of windows, and best of all, those cute little benches by the front door.

And until last week, I didn’t realize those cute little bench have a name.

My buddy Bill Inge loaned me “Builders’ Woodwork” (1927, Smith & Wyman) and it was within its pages that I found the “Hospitality Seats.”

Enjoy the many photos below!

To read about breakfast nooks (first cousin to the Hospitality Seats), click here.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing his books with me!

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It was inside

It was within the pages of this 1927 book that I found "Hospitality Seats."

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And how

On page 311 of "Builders' Woodwork," there were two versions of the "Hospitality Seats" offered! The good news is, they will "harmonize with almost any type of architecture." They were offered with many different cut-outs, too.

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house house house house

Close-up of the hospitality benches with a tree cut-out on its base.

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house house to

These are nice too, but does that "S" mean it's a Sears House? (Just kidding.)

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Sears House house

The Sears Puritan came with two "Hospitality Seats" on the front porch (1928 catalog).

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house house house

They are pretty darn cute!

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more more more

Apparently, the Glen Falls (Sears Home) offers 50% less hospitality than the Puritan. The one bench looks a little lonely out there (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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Martha 1921

Apparently, there's even less hospitality with the Sears "Martha Washington." You wouldn't even make it to the front porch if you were visiting folks in this house (1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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bench

At least it's under a tree.

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house house Carstine

The Homebuilders' catalog features many houses with Hospitality Seats. Shown here is "The Carstine" (1927 Homebuilders' Catalog).

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callao house

The "Callao" (1927 Homebuilders) has a pergola *and* two benches!

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Colinton

Apparently if you have a non-traditional Dutch Colonial you get only one bench (The Colinton, 1927).

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FUnky Cleo

But if your Dutch Colonial is really ugly, you get the ugly benches to match (The Cleo).

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house house

This was the lone non-Dutch Colonial house I found with hospitality seats. These front porch benches do seem to be the province of the Dutch Colonial! (1927 Homebuilders' Catalog.)

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To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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Eighty Percent of the People Who Think They Have a Sears House Are Wrong.

June 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Yes, that’s a true fact.

Back in the day, I actually kept track of such numbers, and back in the day, I found that about 80% of the people who thought they had a Sears kit home were wrong.

Eighty percent.

Typically, these folks did in fact have a kit home, but it turned out to be a kit home from another company.

I doubt that there’s an adult alive today that hasn’t heard of Sears and Roebuck, but how many people have heard of Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Sterling, Harris Brothers or Lewis Manufacturing? How many people know that Montgomery Ward sold kit homes in the early 1900s?

So while the legend of a “kit house” might survive through the generations, the facts of the story often get confused.

Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) actually sold more kit homes than Sears, and was in business far long than Sears, but still, when it comes to kit homes, people assume that all kit homes came from Sears. (Aladdin started selling mail-order kit homes in 1906 and stopped in 1981. Sears started in 1908 and stopped in 1940.)

Which leads me to the topic of today’s blog.

Last week, friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker discovered a blog about a “Sears House” in Melbourne, Florida. Rachel took one look at the house featured in the blog and realized, it was not a Sears House, but rather, a kit home sold by Gordon Van Tine.

To read the blog, click here.

In the blog, the house in Melbourne is misidentified as a Sears Gordon, but (thanks to researchers Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker), we now know that this is a physical impossibility.

After doing some digging, Rachel and Mark found that the little Cape Cod style house was not only present, but occupied when the 1930 Census was conducted.

So this “Ready-Cut” house was already built and occupied in 1930. But the Sears Gordon did not appear in the Sears Modern Homes catalog until Spring 1931. And then there’s the fact that the Sears Gordon really doesn’t look much like the little house in Melbourne.

Again, this is a very common mistake.

And there’s another piece to this story. Rachel, who’s quite adept at finding kit homes via Google Maps, found that to the left of the little Cape Cod is another Gordon Van Tine house (Model #530). And to the right is a Gordon Van Tine Model #613, with a Gordon Van Tine garage!

There’s a story there, but what is it? How did three Gordon Van Tine homes end up in one cluster?

Based on my experience, it was probably a family enterprise. This was pretty common.

If you have any information to the back story of these three Gordon Van Tine houses, please oh please leave a comment below!

To read the original blog featuring this subject house, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

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The auditors website shows the little cape cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

The auditor's website has a photo showing the little Cape Cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

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GVT 620

The catalog page for the GVT 620 (1927). Hmmm, it looks a lot like the house above!

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The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little cape cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little Cape Cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

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A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the

A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the left is the Melbourne house and the house on the right is the Sears Gordon.

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Ooh, now thats a nice match!

Ooh, now that's a nice match! Why, those two houses look just alike!

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In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, Proof of the Pudding, and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, youll see its a spot-on match!

In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, "Proof of the Pudding," and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, you'll see it's a spot-on match!

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And just a couple weeks ago, I saw the GVT #620 on an episode of Undercover Boss.

And just a couple weeks ago, I spotted a GVT #620 on an episode of "Undercover Boss."

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But wait, theres more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

But wait, there's more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

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Oh yeah!

The double dormers make this house easy to spot. Gordon Van Tine Model #530 sits to the immediate left of the house featured in the blog (GVT #620). Photo is from auditor's website.

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And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 next door to the #530!

And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 to the right of the GVT #620.

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Wow

So how did Palmetto Street in Melbourne end up with a Gordon Van Tine #613 (shown above), a number #530 (with the double dormers) and a #620 (with the triple dormers)? And why isn't there a house in this cluster with just ONE dormer? Photo is from auditor's website.

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house house

As mentioned above, misidentifying Sears Homes is a very common mistake. Last month in Staunton, Virginia, the owners of the home above were quite certain this was a Sears kit home. In fact, it turned out to be a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. And a lovely match, at that!

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The owners of that house in Staunton were THRILLED to learn the true facts about their house, and it’s my hope the owner of the GVT #620 will be equally thrilled to learn the true facts about her beloved home in Melbourne.

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To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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Some People Can Just Watch TV…

May 23rd, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

But I’m not one of them.

Since 1981, I’ve worked for myself, owning a series of small businesses, some of which have been successful and some of which have not.  Currently, I only have one small business (”Gentle Beam Publications”) which publishes a handful of my own titles (such as “The Houses That Sears Built”).

All of which goes to explain why my #1 favorite show on Prime-Time TV is Undercover Boss.

Thursday afternoon, I finally got around to watching an episode which aired sometime earlier in the month (episode: “Epic Employees”), when I saw a house in the background that caught my eye. I hit the pause button on the DVR and took a closer look.

Next, I pulled out an old GVT catalog and thumbed through it, looking for the cute little house with the clipped gables and three dormers.

Sure enough, I was right. The house on Undercover Boss was a Gordon Van Tine kit home, Model #620.

For several months, I’d been hoping to find this model, as I’ve never seen one, and there it was. On TELEVISION!

Do you have a GVT Model #620 in your neighborhood? If so, please send me a photo!

And please do tell me, what is it like to be able to watch TV without studying all the houses in the background?  :)

To read the next splendiferous blog, click here.

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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house house house

The house shown in this scene from "Undercover Boss" is actually a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. What's it like to watch television without studying all the houses in the background? I do wonder about that sometimes. Strikes me as a little boring, actually!

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house house

Close-up of the cute little house with the three dormers.

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house

After seeing the house on television, I pulled up this image of GVT #620 (1927 catalog)!

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house house

It was a darling little house with a good floor plan.

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house

Note the three windows on the one side and the bay window on the side.

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house

No doubt, it's the GVT #620 in the background. If you look close, you'll see the edge of the bay window with a shed dormer (just above the gray hair). What a fine little house!

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According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVTs Proof of the Pudding), theres a #612 in

According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVT's "Proof of the Pudding"), there's a #620 in Palisades, NJ. And in this testimonial, they even give us an address!

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And

And here's another GVT 620. This one is in Peshastin, Washington.

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house house

The #620 in Peshastin was built by F. H. Tompkins.

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Do you live near Peshastin or Palisades? If so, I’d love a photo!

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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado (Part II)

December 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about the Sears Avondale in Greeley, Colorado. When that blog was posted, I had nothing more than vintage photos of this house, built by Winfred H. Senier.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums of the Greeley Preservation Historic Office, I now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier’s fine old Avondale (shown below).

Take a look at the original vintage photo below from the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. If you look closely, you’ll see Winfred’s wife (May) sitting on the front porch and old Winfred on the porch wall.

To read the prior blog, click here.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Noothing like old photos

This photo first appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's a great photo and you can see that - when built in 1910 or 1911, Mr. Senier's house had stained glass windows. This was an upgrade, and it's likely that the home's interior had some fancy upgrades as well.

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obi

Sharon Dunn (reporter for the Greeley Tribune) forwarded me Winfred's obit, which showed that Mr. Senier raised Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. Above is a photo of Winfred and May, and two of their dogs (about 1910 or 1911).

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Is this a Shire horse?

Is this a Shire horse? Or is this just "Pumpkin" the friendly horse who helped build the house?

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Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. In 1919, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home, and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see tha

Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. Years after the house was built, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home (with mature landscaping), and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see that the vegetation has grown up a bit! And there's Winfred and May on the front porch (still).

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1910

The Sears Avondale was first offered in the 1909 Sears Modern Homes catalog. When was Mr. Senier's house built? Well, most likely it was between 1909 - 1911. I'd love to know for sure.

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Avondale was a heck of a house

The Avondale was one of Sears nicer homes. It was spacious and fancy. The house in Greeley is probably one of the first Avondales built in the country.

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Floorplan

Look at the dimensions of the living and dining rooms. It was a very spacious house.

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Showed up at the fair in 1911

In this colorized card, you can see the stained-glass windows on the house. There are four. Two flanking the fireplace and two on the home's front.

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Interior

Another postcard shows the interior of the Sears Avondale.

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Thanks to Betsy Kellam, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Seniers Avondale.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier's Avondale. Still looks a little lonely out there in Greeley. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Its still standing but needs a smidge of paint.

It's still standing but needs a smidge of paint. Given the fact that's it's 100 years old, it's in remarkably good condition. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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If you look at the roof lines and thee porch, you can see that the house is still square and straight and true. Mr. Senier and Sears did a fine job with this house. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house

Mr. Senier died 67 years ago, but the house that he built for his family lives on. What a remarkable testimony to the quality of Sears kit homes. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone.

Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Thanks to Sharon Dunn (Greeley Tribune) for sending me Mr. Senier’s obituary. If you have any interest in Colorado history, this obit is a fascinating read. Mr. Senier was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, two original Greeley pioneers. Winifred Senier (the Avondale builder) had only one child (a daughter), but apparently his one daughter had eight children, all of whom lived in Greeley.

W. H. Senier Dies Thursday (December 4, 1945).


Winfred Howell Senier, who for 35 years operated a stock farm east of Greeley, died early Tuesday morning at the Weld County hospital after an illness of a year and a half. He had been a patient at the hospital only a few days.

He was 73 years old. Mr. Senier was a breeder of Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, Greeley pioneers, his mother being Eva Camp, daughter of a Union Colony member.

Mr. Senier was born in Covington, Ga., and came to Greeley with his parents when he was six years old.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. May Porter Senier, and one son, Archie Camp Senier, eight grand-children and one great grandchild, Richard Glen Senier.

His grand-children are Pfc. Winfred E. Senier of Fort Lewis, Wash.; Pfc. Robert John Senier of Lamar; ARM 1/c Woodrow E. Senier of Bakersfield, Calif.; WT 1/c William A. Senior [sic] awaiting discharge from the army following overseas duty; Gloria May, June Alice, Buddy and Doral Senier, all of Greeley.

One sister, Mrs. Jeanette Noxon of Greeley, also survives.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker for their indefatiguable efforts in researching this house in Greeley, and thanks to Betsy Kellums for the wonderful photos!

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To read more about the house in Greeley, click here.

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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado

December 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 9 comments

Updated! To see the newest blog with contemporary photos of this house, click here!!

More than a year ago, I posted a blog about a Sears Avondale/Hawthorne in Greeley, Colorado.

Since then, several folks have left comments, and thanks to their efforts, the house has been found.  :)

And that’s remarkable for two reasons.

One, Sears Homes aren’t that common in the “Far West” (as that area was known in the early 1900s), and two, Sears offered 370 models but the Avondale/Hawthorne was one of the fancier homes.

To read the original blog, click here.

Text continues below the pictures.

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Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying this photo. It originally appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I erroneously identified a house in McHenry Illinois as the house in Greeley.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying this photo. It originally appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. In an earlier blog, I erroneously identified the house in McHenry Illinois as the house in Greeley. This is the correct photo (as you can see in the caption). Best of all, it shows Mr. Senier's wife, horse and two dogs. Digging through old census records, Rachel also discovered that the husband's name is Winfred and the wife's name is May. Rachel was not able to discern the name of the horse and dogs. Let's call them "Teddy" and "Freddy" (dogs) and "Pumpkin" (horsie). Actually, I'm not sure if that's Winfred sitting on the rail. Whomever it is seems to be wearing a bowler hat.

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Is the house in Greeley an Avondale or a Hawthorne? Rachel Shoemaker pointed out that its a Hawthorne, and she is right.

Mr. Senier and family built the Avondale in Greeley. Not a bad house for $2,176.

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The Hawthorne, as seen in 1916.

The Hawthorne, as seen in 1916. This was very similar to the Avondale, but the Hawthorne had a second floor and the side walls were higher (creating more space upstairs).

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The comments that followed the original blog have been hugely helpful, so I’m reprinting them here.

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Rachel

Rachel is an indefatigable researcher.

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And Rachel is right. I had the houses in Greeley, CO and Illinois mixed up.

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And then the intrepid researchers found info on that Greeley House.

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And then around the 5th, Mark (who also left a comment on December 5th) sent me this email:

I found a page that mentions the Senior name on a map from 1915. There is a plot of land on the map that is just outside of Greeley in the area around the Greeley / Weld county airport. I think the map calls it Camp Senier.

Maybe this is the area the house is in if it still exist. If it’s not there then maybe its somewhere between the camp and the rail line to the west.

Using Google Maps, Mark ultimately found Milford Howell Senier’s “Avondale” at about 120 East 4th Street Road in Greeley.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Mark for finding this old Avondale. What an impressive bunch of research!!!

Now I need some photos of this wonderful house in Greeley!  :)

If you’re in the area and can get a photo, please leave me a comment below!

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part V)

November 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

One of the most interesting features  of Ham Radio is that its operators are expected to have access to alternative energy sources during times of regional or national emergency.

After all, what good is it to have a Ham Radio if you can’t use it when the power goes out?

For as many years as I can remember, I have been utterly fascinated by alternative energy sources. Capturing a tiny drop of the sun’s massive nuclear-reactive power (386 billion billion megaWatts) is a  fascinating concept.

After several tours of Mike Neal’s very own “Radio Shack,” and after receiving several helpful tutorials on this topic from Mr. Neal (and lots of specific guidance), I was ready to take the plunge.

My “solar project” started in earnest about a month ago when Mike sent me an email to let me know that Harbor Freight was having a sale on solar panels. This was the very set that Mike had at his house and he said it was “a good solar set-up for the money.”

With a $30 coupon (gifted to me from a fellow Ham), I got the $229 solar panels for $159. (The original price for the panels was $229, with a sale price of $189. The $30 coupon got me to $159.)

Because I’m highly allergic to crowds and shopping areas and loud noises and small children and fluorescent lights, I paid the extra six bucks to have the unit shipped directly to my house. It was well worth it.

It took about 12 hours to install the whole rig, and my oh my, it was a fun project. And watching those photovoltaic cells turn the sunlight into electricity is every bit as fascinating as I’d thought it would be.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d recommend that every homeowner in America have a set of these on their roof. It was a great learning experience. And I’ve shared all the nitty-gritty details below.

To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of this series.

House shed

The little shed in our back yard is now electrified, thanks to these three solar panels on the roof. Each panel produces 15 watts, for a total of 45 watts.

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solar thunder

I'm not sure why a corporation would adopt the name "THUNDERBOLT" for their solar products. Nonetheless, it's a sound value and seems to be a well-made product.

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Solar panels

The solar panels were set on a 2x4 which was fastened with screws into the roof and painted flat black. The PVC frame was secured to the 2x4 with 3/4" metal pipe clamps. This will enables us to change the angle of the panels (for winter and summer) without any major disassembling.

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house house house

This shot shows the panels and 2x4 more closely. In a mere 12 hours, the solar panels have already been assaulted by both birds (far left) and pine straw (bottom).

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Thinking about how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking.

Figuring out how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking. In the end, I decided to drill a hole (3/4") through the 2x4 (and the roofing sheathing below). I reasoned that it'd be easier to patch a clean hole through a piece of lumber rather than trying to patch a hole in an irregular surface (such as an old roofing shingle).

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solar

Using stretchy weatherproofing tape (which probably has a much better name), I bound those three wires (from the three solar panels) together and fed them through the hole into the shed's interior. I purposefully used a lot of tape so it would fill the 3/4" hole. For the tiny gaps that remained, I used a compound putty substance (again, don't know the name but it looks a lot like Silly Putty). Back in the day, a contractor friend told me it was called "Dum Dum" because you use it to patch a dumb mistake. However, I'd like to point out that it should be called "Smart Smart" in this particular application.

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Inside,

Inside, the wires drop down from above and into the controller (right side on the shelf above the battery). From there, the wires go into the 12-volt deep cycle Marine battery. Another set of wires carries the power from the battery back to the inverter (left side on the shelf). The inverter turns the 12-volt current into 120 volts (for household use).

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The

The controller that came with the solar panels is quite impressive. The digital display is large and easy to read, and reports on the battery power (12.4 volts shown here). For $159, it's a pretty fancy set-up and a darn good deal.

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Another nice bonus that came with this set are these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed.

Another nice bonus that came with this set are two of these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed. They plug into the front of the controller (as shown in the picture of the controller above).

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The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for  $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

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Part of the problem I encountered was that, despite my reading and studying, I didnt understand a whole lot about how these things work.

Part of the problem I encountered whilst doing this project was, despite my reading and studying, I didn't understand a whole lot about how all these things work together. I asked Mike Neal, "What's the difference between a 200-watt inverter and a 750-watt inverter?" Fact is, a 200-watt inverter was whole lot cheaper. Mike explained, "Think of the battery as a bucket full of water. You can draw that water out with a swizzle stick or a milk-shake straw. The 200-watt inverter is a swizzle stick. The 750-watt inverter is a milk-shake straw."

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The

The other helper in this project was my wonderful neighbor, Mike Mancini. I told him that I needed a deep-cycle marine battery and he got me a good deal on one at a local marine parts supply company. Plus, he gave me a ride out to the place and then hefted it out of his truck and out to my shed. This battery weighs about 50 pounds. I set it up on cinder blocks to make it easier to access, and I put the OSB down because I'd heard that batteries might discharge if placed directly atop masonry.

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Fie dollahs

You may notice the fine-looking wires shown in the picture above (of the battery). I bought these booster cables at General Dollar Store and paid $5 for the whole affair. I then cut the wires off from the clips and used them for the controller-to-battery run and the battery-to-inverter run. It's 10-gauge stranded copper wire.

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The

The last part of the project required anchoring the panels to the roof. In that the panels sit so high above the roof, they'll become a dandy sail in strong winds. Our solution was to tether the pvc frame to the opposite side of the shed. For the tether, I used 10-gauge stranded copper grounding wire. May seem like a waste, but I recently bought a spool of it to ground a couple antennas and masts and such. Seems I had about 400 feet left over from those other projects.

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Solar

Close-up of the tether on the PVC frame. It's not super taut, but it doesn't need to be. It's anchored into the steep side of the shed roof with an eye-bolt.

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Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such aas the many tall trees in our yard,

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such as the big old tall trees in our yard. After the "Solar System" was all set up, we were both AMAZED and pleased to see that it started charging immediately. What was so amazing? It was a dark, cold, gloomy overcast day. I can hardly wait to see how it does with a little sunlight!

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Total cost of the entire project:

Solar Panels - $159 plus $6 shipping (and tax)

Interstate battery - $114

750-watt inverter - $39

Battery terminals - $8

Wiring - $5  (thanks Dollar General!)

Incidentals - about $20 (zip ties, pipe clamps, tape)

Total investment:  $351

Entertainment value: Endless!  :)

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To learn more about why Ham Radio is so relevant and important TODAY, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

If you wish to contact Rosemary, please leave a comment below.

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One Chilly Kilbourne in West Virginia

October 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

My friend Ersela lives in a part of West Virginia that is currently getting hammered by an especially chilly version of Hurricane Sandy. Thus far, almost two feet of wet snow has fallen on her beautiful Kilbourne.

Here in Norfolk (where I live), “Sandy” only hit us with a glancing blow. We had minor power outages, some wind (gusts up to 75 mph) and some rain (about six inches locally), and some tidal flooding (about seven feet above normal) but we got off light. And we know it.

And frankly, coastal storms are just part of living on the Eastern Seaboard. We get Nor’Easters on a regular basis. In fact, the Nor’Easter of 2009 caused Hampton Roads about as much trouble as Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to Ersela, we have other family in West Virginia, and many of them live in Elkins. The entire town of Elkins is also inundated with snow. The town has lost power, and roofs are starting to collapse under the weight of the thick, wet blanket of snow.

But West Virginians are a tough breed. Most of the ones that I’ve met are true-blue “preppers.” Many (if not most) households in West Virginia have a heat source independent of traditional central heating systems, such as wood stoves or coal stoves. When the lights go out, the heat stays on.

Gosh I love West Virginia!  :)

Many thanks to Ersela for allowing me to publish these photos.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Erselas home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this Kilbourne was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Ersela's home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this "Kilbourne" was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful home. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful Kilbourne. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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COmfy

I can personally attest to the delights of sitting on the homey porch of the Kilbourne.

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homey porch

"Many have remarked about the 'homey porch.'" Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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tornade

Years ago, a tornado went through this area and did some damage to the house, and took out two small windows flanking the fireplace. In this photo, you can see that the windows have been bricked up. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

From the 1928 catalog.

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house

Here's a picture from the Sears Modern Homes catalog showing two children getting ready to blow up a Sears Kilbourne off in the distance. Or that's what it looks like to be. Looks like "Sis" has her hand on the plunger and Big Brother is just waiting for the Big BOOM!

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second

The second floor has an odd arrangement. Two dormers are dedicated to closet space.

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house

The Kilbourne had an "expandable" attic, which explains the five/eight room option.

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My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, Naturally, unaccented English.

My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, "Naturally, unaccented English."

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To learn more about West Virginia, click here.

To read more about the kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

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