Move Complete! (almost)

The move to a new web hosting platform has been completed, unfortunately a few things got changed through the process. All blog post featured photos were removed and the ability to zoom photos by clicking on them has been lost. This is easily fixed but requires me to go back through the old posts and update them. What fun 🙂

Why we moved – the site was originally hosted on wordpress.com which is a great place to get a blog started. Unfortunately to do any real customization you have to upgrade to their business plan, and even then they really restrict what you can do. This has some good, it is a very controlled environment and helps avoid making mistakes. They also take care of a lot of the site security. Once your first year is up there is no more discount, they wanted $300 to renew for another year. That’s waaaay too much for a hobby blog.

I moved the site to siteground.com and paid for 3 years of hosting up front at a total of $140, around $47 per year. Much better! It was more work getting things worked out but I also have a lot more flexibility such as file access (FTP), email, and I can pretty much do anything with WordPress.

Later this week I’ll post a property update and get back on track with regular posts. I’ll also be going back and fixing the earlier posts as time allows. Good stuff coming up!

Big Dog Alpha MP Mower Warning

Mowing Three Acre Paradise can be a challenge, there are over 400 trees here so a zero turn mower is the logical choice. When shopping for a mower in 2015 I came across the Big Dog brand at a local dealer, these are manufactured by the same company that makes Hustler mowers which have a good reputation. Many of the parts are interchangeable so I don’t know if the Hustler brand has this same problem.

Like many zero turn mowers, this one is steered using two levers which you push forward or pull back. One lever controls the right drive wheel and the other controls the left. These mowers are fairly fast and are able to turn without moving forward, that’s where they get the name zero turn. For steering around a lot of trees this is a great design.

The problem I had recently is that one of the control arms came disconnected from the pump that controls the drive wheel. This happened as I was approaching a tree, when I went to steer there was no response and I hit the tree straight on (I was only a few feet from it so there was no time to do anything else).  Here’s a picture of the part that came unattached:

Big Dog Alpha MP drive lever warning

The problem I have with this is two fold. First, the only thing holding this on was an E clip which vibrated itself out or maybe got pushed out by some debris. In my opinion this should have been held on more securely with something like a washer and split pin (cotter pin).

Big Dog Alpha MP fastener

The second issue I have with this is that the pump did not return to the neutral position. When the arm disconnected, there should have been a spring that brought the lever on the pump back to center.

Here’s the arm reconnected with an E clip. Sometime in the future I’ll remove the arm again and drill a hole in it so I can add a split pin.

Big Dog Alpha MP control arm reattached

Why such a big deal? When I mow there are plenty of other places where this could have come out a lot worse. I could have ended up in the pond and caused a lot of damage to the mower, in the street while a car or truck was driving by and been hit (the road I mow by has a 45 MPH speed limit), or by the bike path when a bicycle or pedestrian was nearby. A lot of people mow in similar areas so this is not unique. As it is, the only real damage was to the front of the mower:

Big Dog Alpha MP tree damage

Keep in mind this is a 2015 model, not some 10-15 year old worn out mower. It currently has just under 124 hours of use.

Big Dog Alpha MP danger

If you are considering purchasing a Big Dog Alpha MP then I’d suggest you look at this to see if the design has been changed (and Hustler mowers). It’s a simple thing but could have really bad consequences.

Now, back to our usual programming. Stay tuned for an update on activities at Three Acre Paradise 🙂

EZ Life Tip 3: Spice Up Your Life

Dated spices

EZ Life Tip 3 is a very easy one to set up and start using right away.

Keep a sharpie or other permanent marker near where you store your spices. Any time you buy a new spice write the month and year on it, now you know exactly how long you have had it and have an idea when to replace it. EZ enough?

The general recommendations for freshness is four years for whole spices and two years for ground, blends may not last as long as they are only as good as the first ingredient to lose potency. The best way to tell if it needs replacement is by color and smell.

Average Shelf Life:

  • Ground Spices- 2-3 years
  • Whole Spices – 3-4 years
  • Seasoning Blends – 1-2 years

 

 

Growing Here: Pigeon Peas

Pigeon peas are a great fit at Three Acre Paradise, besides being an edible legume they are a fast growing perennial and can provide quick shade for more delicate plants.

Description

Pigeon peas are a fast growing perennial legume that have many uses in a food forest or permaculture environment. Pigeon peas have been used as a protein rich food source for humans for at least 3,500 years and are popular in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They are also very drought tolerant and can provide a heavy harvest for three to five years.

Pigeon peas 3 months

Uses

Food Source: Pigeon peas are protein rich and can be used as a green vegetable pea, dried, or made into flour. 

Animal Fodder: The leaves, seeds, pods and the remnants of seed processing are used to feed many kinds of livestock.

Improving Soil: Since they are a legume Pigeon peas provide nitrogen fixing for soil. This can be accomplished by simply pruning the plant and dropping the cuttings on the ground. The deep tap root helps break up hard soils and pull nutrients from deep down and the plant can provide shade and a wind break for smaller plants.

Pigeon peas 6 months

Growing Pigeon Peas

Pigeon pea plants can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 15 and can grow up to 12 feet tall. The plants deep tap root can grow to up to six feet in length which helps the plant to locate water. For the first few months after germination the growth is slow but speeds up as the plant gets established. Most Pigeon pea cultivars are a short day plant blooming when nights are long. For best results start plants directly in ground although they can be started in pots and transplanted later.

Propagation

Pigeon peas are easily propagated with dried seeds. They are not very picky about planting depth or soil type.

Pigeon peas 9 months

Pigeon Peas at Three Acre Paradise

Currently there is one area where Pigeon peas are growing at Three Acre Paradise. There are two plants that have grown to about ten feet high and wide. There were several other areas where they were planted but they were damaged by animals and did not recover. Next spring I will be starting two new areas and they will be better protected against damage.

The pictures in this post are of the same plants over a several month period.

Wikipedia Page for Pigeon Peas

EZ Life Tip 2: Touch Up, What a Pain(t)

A fresh coat of paint can make a room look great but over time the smudges, nicks, and scratches can take their toll. We get a lot of compliments on our house at Three Acre Paradise, one of my secret weapons to keep the house looking good is to go around and touch up the paint blemishes a couple of times a year.

Here’s a couple of ways to make this easier. First, when you paint a room always reserve a small amount of the paint in a little container and write on the container what it is. One of the best containers to use is the ones home stores sell paint samples in.

EZ Life paint sample

If you don’t have any of these then you can use just about any plastic container that seals good. The one below can be bought at dollar stores, they are about a dollar for a four pack.

EZ Life paint in cheap container

What makes these so convenient? You don’t have to deal with a big can of paint. You can shake these before opening so you don’t have to worry about stirring, they are easy to carry around, and they are easy to reseal. They also hold enough paint for a lot of touching up, I’ve had a few that I’ve used for the last three years and haven’t had to refill.

Second touch up tip, keep a small brush with the paint samples. Don’t cheap out on the brush, I like the Purdy brand brushes and keep a 1 1/2 inch brush for this purpose. It’s small enough to be easily cleaned and dries quickly. Keep the paints and brush together in a box so you can just grab and go.

Third, use good paint. I use Sherwin Williams but any good brand will do. Quality paint is worth it, it will take less coats to get a good finish and it will resist dirt better. Take pictures of the mixing labels so if you have to have a new batch made up you will have this for reference and write on the cans what rooms they are for.

Fourth and final tip, keep a map of the paint and codes for your home. When our house was built I created this paint map and update it as we make changes. You can click on the image to zoom in.

EZ Life paint map

Touch up can be quick and easy (and painless) using these tips and will keep your home looking fresh for years to come. Got any touch up tips you’d like to share? If so, please post it as a comment below.

Link: Purdy brand paint brushes on Amazon

Hungry Hungry Chickens

Two important things to know about chickens: they eat a lot, and they are messy eaters. I don’t think chickens really like to eat something until they’ve dropped it in the dirt, stepped on it, then pooped on it. Store bought feeders work very well in this sense, they are easy to spill and the chickens can drop dirt right into the feeder (or poop in it) if they choose.

There’s a bunch of DIY chicken feeder plans on the internet so I used that as a starting point. A couple of other design goals of mine were to ensure the food stays dry and have enough capacity to where I could ignore them (go on vacation) for four or five days without worrying about them. I take no credit for this design, it just seemed like the right one for my application. The feeder is made from PVC pipe (easy) and is pretty easily adaptable for any coop. I made two feeders so several birds at a time could eat.

The first step is to cut a rounded taper on a four inch PVC tee joint. This was done freehand by marking a pattern with a marker, cut it out with an oscillating tool, then using a file and sandpaper to smooth it out.

PVC tee joint for chicken feeder

Here’s another view of the curve, it doesn’t have to be perfect, this is just to keep the food dry and allow the chicken to stick their head in. The bottom of the PVC tee will be blocked off and the food will drop in from the top.

PVC tee joint prepared for chicken feeder

The plastic plug I made for the bottom was cut from a bucket lid, it will be held in place with a PVC reducer. It’s not shown in this post but I ended up drilling small holes in the bottom cap to allow food dust to fall through. If you don’t do that it can get a little messy over time with food dust buildup.

PVC end cap for chicken feeder

Here’s the plastic cap placed into the bottom of the PVC tee, it should be a pretty snug fit.

Test fit plastic cap for chicken feeder

I press fit the PVC reducer to hold the plastic bottom in place. None of the feeder parts had to be glued. Once installed the feeder will be resting on this bottom part so everything will be fine just press fit together, it also allows you to make changes later which I had to do.

PVC reducer to hold chicken feeder bottom.

Here’s the bottom cap from the chickens point of view. As mentioned before, one of my revisions was to drill small holes in here to allow food dust to drop out.

Looking at chicken feeder bottom - chicken view

Here’s a top view looking down into the PVC tee towards the bottom.

Plastic bottom of chicken feeder - top view

Next we are going to make a funnel, this is for the food that will drop into the bottom part we just made. This funnel will control the amount of food that is available to the chicken and may have to be modified for your feed type. I use pellet food, if you use crumbles then a smaller funnel may work better so the food doesn’t free flow too easily.

I initially used a two inch funnel. This was later changed to an inch and a half, the two inch allowed too much food into the lower area and the chickens managed to scatter it around the outside of the feeder. You want just enough dropping in so they can get to it but not so much that they can fling it around.

For a two inch funnel you need a PVC three inch to two inch adapter and a short piece of two inch pipe. To figure the pipe length just place the reducer into the top of the lower assembly and measure from the feeder bottom to the PVC reducer. Once the small pipe is cut, cut out a notch in it like the picture below ( I started with a one inch cut). This will all make sense in a minute.

PVC food funnel for chicken feeder

Place the short piece of PVC into the reducer like shown below:

PVC funnel assembly for chicken feeder

The drop the whole thing into the feeder bottom assembly:

Placing funnel into chicken feeder lower assembly

And this is what it should look like from the chickens point of view:

Chicken feeder funnel installed

Now you need to test the funnel assembly with your food type. Fill the top of the PVC tee with the type of chicken feed you use.

Testing chicken feeder

From the chicken point of view, the food should be available but not spilling out too much. I’d err on the side of not much food rather than too much, as long as the chicken can reach in and get a piece from the funnel that is good enough. The food does not have to spill out, the chicken will makethat happen.

My current funnel is smaller than this original one, I changed the reducer and short pipe to an inch and a half (from two inches).

Food test for PVC chicken feeder

With the hard part over, now all you need to do is cut an upright pipe to the height you want (mine are about forty inches) and put some sort of cap on. I used a threaded coupling to make filling easy and to keep water and bugs out.

PVC chicken feeders with uprights

There’s dozens of ways to mount these and you could also put a bend near the top so you can fill them from outside the coop. I went with inside coop feeding to ensure water stays out of the food.

The mounts I made were two boards in a L shape with a cutout for the pipe. The bottom mount also has a lower lip to support the feeders and I used pipe strap to secure the feeders to the mounts. Here’s the boards for the mounts after cutting and staining.

Chicken feeder mounts

I painted the outside of the feeders green but left the inside unpainted. Here’s how they look after mounting, you can see part of the automatic watering system to the left. I’ll cover that feature in a future post.

Chicken feeders mounted

Another view:

DIY chicken feeders completed

Here’s a list of materials required (not including the mounts):

  • 4″ PVC tee
  • 4″ to 3″ PVC adapter (holds bottom in)
  • Plastic piece for bottom, I cut mine from a bucket lid
  • 3″ to 2″ PVC reducer for funnel (later changed to 3″ to 1.5″ reducer)
  • short piece of 2″ PVC pipe for funnel (later changed to 1.5″ PVC pipe)
  • 4″ PVC for upright, whatever length you want
  • 4″ PVC threaded coupling for top
  • 4″ threaded cap for top

I’d suggest test fitting it all together while in the store to make sure you have the right parts. I’ve had these in place now for about a year and they are working great (after the few small modifications).

For the lazy, you can spend twice as much and get a feeder half the size.

If you are new to the site, here’s links to the chicken coop build:

And stay tuned, this Thursday I’ll be posting another one of my EX Life Tips!

Growing Here: Comfrey (Bocking 14)

If you are a regular here at Three Acre Paradise you may notice I’ve removed the “Whats Growing Here” list, this is being replaced with these every other Thursday posts. This will make it a lot easier for me to keep up with the constant changes here. You can view all of the new “Growing Here” posts directly from the menu at the top of the screen. One other change is that all the images I use will be directly from the plants growing here at the time of the post. With that said, here’s all about Comfrey.

Description

Comfrey is an easy to care for perennial plant and is classified as a herb. Comfrey can grow quite tall and prolific, for that reason there are several varieties bred as to not take over your garden area. The main uses for Comfrey is as a medicinal plant and to improve soil but it can also be used as a feed supplement for animals.

Larger Comfrey Russian Bocking 14

The most popular varieties of Comfrey are True Comfrey, Bocking 4, and Bocking 14.

True Comfrey can propagate through seed and can quickly take over a garden area. I don’t have any personal experience with this but from what I have read it is very difficult to control and get rid of.

The Bocking 4 variety has sterile seeds so it will not spread nearly as rapid as the True Comfrey. This variety is most popular as feed for animals.

Bocking 14 is the variety currently growing at Three Acre Paradise. This variety also has sterile seeds and is the most popular for home gardeners. The remainder of this post will refer to the Bocking 14 variety only.

Uses

Medicinal: The Comfrey leaf has a long and well documented history of healing wounds and broken bones. Yes, that’s right, when applied to the skin externally it is said to be able to speed up the healing of broken bones. I don’t personally have experience with that but I have used it in two other occasions. The first time was a puncture wound, this was on a knuckle and wouldn’t stop bleeding. It wasn’t deep enough to warrant a medical visit and the wound was clean, I applied a Comfrey leaf to it and the bleeding stopped within about three minutes.

The second time was about a week ago, I got stepped into a red ant mound and ended up with around 5 stings on my ankle. I took a Comfrey leaf, rolled it between my hands to release it’s juices, then used my sock to hold it in place over the stings. After about a half hour I replaced the leaf with a freash one and left that in place for about an hour. The Comfrey removed all evidence of being stung. Typically it would swell up, fill with puss, and itch for a few days, in this case it was done and over with.

Comfrey contains allantoin which is known to aid granulation and cell formation. This is where a lot of its healing power comes from. Comfrey is also used to make creams, oils, and tinctures  but should not be taken internally.

Animal Fodder: Comfrey is a fast growing plant that is high in protein and makes an excellent food source for chickens, cows, goats, and pigs. It is best to plant the Comfrey away from where the animals feed and take the leaves to them so they do not decimate the crop.

Building Soil: Comfrey has long tap roots that can bring up minerals from deep in the ground. Some of the ways to use Comfrey are in a chop and drop manner, left to grow around fruit trees, or you can make a compost tea from the leaves. Comfrey is high in potassium which banana plants need in abundance when fruiting, I’m going to plant some around my banana circles this year.

Growing Comfrey

Comfrey is hardy from zones 4 – 9, and will grow in full or partial sun. Comfrey may be started in a pot but for best results should be relocated in the ground as soon as possible due to the deep root system. Comfrey can be grown in hard, compact soils and will help break these up. Plants can get large and should be spaced two feet apart. Comfrey will go dormant in the winter and re-emerge once the weather warms up. Comfrey generally does not have any problems with pests or disease. Soil should be neutral to acidic, range of 6.0 – 7.0 is ideal.

Propagation

Smaller Comfrey Russian Bocking 14

The Bocking 14 variety does not produce viable seeds so propagation is done with root or stem cuttings. It is very easy, just dig up the plant and cut the root into little pieces and plant them. When using small root cuttings it may take two years for the plant to really take off, a transplanted stem will do the same in just one year. If you till an area where Comfrey is growing it will chop the roots into little pieces and you will end up with more plants, the best way to remove it from an area is to pull the plants up whole.

Comfrey at Three Acre Paradise

There are currently three very small patches of Comfrey at Three Acre Paradise (photos in this post), I have recently placed an order for more of the Bocking 14 variety. These will be placed around some of the banana plants to see if it helps with fruit production. I’m also considering planting some True Comfrey in the back of the property that is reserved for wildlife, it can grow unrestrained there and may be beneficial to the local animal population.

Wikipedia Page for Comfrey

 

 

 

 

 

EZ Life Tip 1: Stop Calling Me!

EZ Life Tips will be posted every other week on Thursdays (or Friday in case of holidays), these tips include money saving ideas and things you can do to make everyday life just a little bit better. Alternate Thursdays will be plant focused posts that go in depth on things that are growing at Three Acre Paradise, other posts will continue as usual.

This first tip is a bit specific, it only applies to iPhone users but if anyone who has an Android phone knows of a similar functionality please let me know. I’ve been inundated with telemarketing calls lately, it’s gotten so bad that I don’t answer my phone unless I recognize the caller. Sound familiar? Blocking these calls does no good, telemarketers are spoofing random numbers. Spoofing is making the call look like it came from a number that it did not (see this FCC link for more information). In fact, they may even be using your number to call other people! I’ve had more than one person call me and tell me to stop calling them, I try to explain to them what spoofing is but they don’t want to hear it and hang up.

Can you do anything about this? Well you can’t block the phone numbers since they can spoof new ones but you can prevent unknown numbers from ringing your iPhone. They can still call and leave messages but at least you won’t be disturbed. How can you accomplish this? By enabling Do Not Disturb mode.

To turn this on, go to your Settings then to the Do Not Disturb option (click each picture for full size view):

Iphone settings - Do Not Disturb

Next, turn on Do Not Disturb. Also turn on the Allow Calls From option and select Favorites.

Iphone do not disturb and allow favorites

Now this will make it so all unknown numbers will not ring your phone but calls from anyone in your favorites can get through. Unfortunately this also blocks ALL texts from making an alert but we can get around this. First, scroll down further and set Auto-Reply To to No One.

Iphone auto reply to no one

Now, to enable a person to be able to text (and alert) you, go edit that Contact and go to the section called Text Tone.

Iphone contact text tone

Turn the Emergency Bypass for this contact on and save it. When they text you the alert will now sound even when the Do Not Disturb is turned on.

Iphone contact emergency bypass

There you have it! When any of the people in your favorites calls you your phone will ring or vibrate, all other calls will remain silent. Anyone with the Emergency Bypass will be able to text you and you will get the alert, all others will remain silent. It really doesn’t take very long to set this all up, for me there’s only about a dozen people I had to add to favorites and edit their contact info.

I hope this makes someone’s life a little easier. See you with another tip in two weeks!

 

Whats up?

You know what takes a lot of time for little return? Editing old blog posts. I’ve spent a lot of time optimizing old posts based to improve search results and make them more pleasing to read. One example of the changes I’ve been making, all pictures will be able to be clicked to get high res versions. I haven’t finished updating all the previous posts yet but should be done in the next few weeks. None of the written content is being changed, just picture information and some housekeeping to reduce the size of things.

In the meantime, there’s a lot happening here. In this post I’ll highlight some of the things going on and in future posts I’ll dig into the projects with more detail.

Aquaponic System #2

Aquaponic system parts

What? I know if you’ve been following this blog you may be asking why would I build a second system when the first one has not produces as good as other gardening methods. The answer is simple, it was free. This shows the value of letting everyone you know that you are interested in things like this, a friend got in touch with me and asked if I wanted the system (thanks Kim!).

Whats my plans for this? I haven’t completely decided yet but here’s one idea. I may add the fish tank and one more media bed to my current system, this would expant the plant beds and I’d use the second fish tank to raise coy (existing tank is tilapia). The other beds would be used as wicking beds and tied into the pond to see how good this works. Anyone else have other ideas?

Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit

This dragon fruit bunch is doing fantastic. The other ones are doing OK but not nearly as good as this one. This is the growth after just one year, I haven’t seen any flowers yet but I’m hoping this happens soon.

Dragon fruit buds

It may be hard to see in the picture but there are little buds appearing all over the dragon fruit at the top. There are also some buds starting on the lower parts so within a few months this will be much thicker with branches. All this and I’ve already harvested some sections off for propagation!

Chaya

Chaya plant

Just like the dragon fruit, I’ve got Chaya growing all over the place and some of it is doing great. This plant is about six to seven feet tall and has been harvested heavily for eating and propagation. I’ll be doing a more detailed post on Chaya in the near future.

Duckweed

Duckweed in aquaponics

I converted my aquaponics raft bed to grow duckweed and it is also doing well. I use this as fish food for the aquaponics system and the pond. There were a few slight modification I had to make to the bed for this.

Aquaponics fill pipe

Duckweed likes very still water so I extended the fill pipe to go under the water. Previously it dripped into the bed and made a lot of water disturbance.

Aquaponics drainpipe modification

The drain pipe also had to be changed so the duckweed doesn’t just flow out of the tank. I created an inverted “U” for the drain and drilled a couple of small holes hear the top. The water now enters from about two inches below the water line but the small holes keep it from turning into a siphon.

New Planting Area

Mulch bed plant area

Ever notice how great things grow in a mulch bed? I have two macro bins (citrus bins) that I use for mulch and compost and there is always something trying to grow in them. Now I have a third mulch area but this one is on the ground. I toss all kinds of things in here just to see how it does but to get things started there is some daikon radish in there now. I call it my commando garden and it will be interesting to watch.

Pigeon Peas

Large pigeon pea plants

I’ve highlighted the pigeon pea plants before, they now have flowers and will be fruiting soon. This is pretty exciting as these things are huge! Last year I got maybe a dozed pea pods, this year there will probably be hundreds, if not thousands. Bring on the recipes! This plant is about ten feet high and fifteen feet wide.

What Else?

The house water here is on a well and we have had some problems with it, I’ve been rebuilding and improving the filtration system and that will be the subject of an upcoming post. After that is done, I’ll be starting the fence for the rest of the property.

Beginning this week there will be a post done every Thursday and I’ll be alternating between highlighting a plant growing here and some tips I’ve found to make life easier. These should be a lot of fun and these will be in addition to the regular posts. The plant highlights will also link to the “Whats Growing Here” informational pages but will have more detail specific to the actual plants on site.

See you on Thursday!

Generator Transfer Switch Installation

Today we take a step away from the garden to install a generator transfer switch in the house. In the three years that we have lived at Three Acre Paradise we have only lost power once for an extended period of time (around 18 ours) but in previous residences I’ve been without power for up to three weeks. We do have a grid tied solar power system here but if the grid goes down the solar system also shuts down as a safety measure. There is a way to back feed a generator to the house which works fine but it is more difficult to set up and has many other disadvantages.

A generator manual transfer switch is an less expensive alternative to a whole house generator. In the future I plan on adding a battery backup to the solar system so it can run off grid so in the meantime I don’t want to spend the money on a whole house generator. The transfer switch allows me to quickly switch selected circuits over to alternative power (portable generator or battery bank & inverter) while the rest of the house is still tied to the grid. On nice thing about this is that when grid power does come back on it will be obvious (other circuits will power on) and I can switch back very easily.

Here is the panel I bought:

Relaince Pro/Tran2 panel

After a bit of research I found that Reliance panels are rated very well and for my purposes a 10 circuit 30 amp panel is needed. When sizing a panel you have to add up all the loads you would like to run (amps) and figure out how many circuit breakers these are spread across. I could actually get by with a 20 amp panel but I needed at least 9 circuits to cover all wants. All lights in the house are LED (make this your first step – it’s cheaper to conserve) so the lighting draw is very low but spread out throughout the house and a lot of circuits.

In addition to the panel, I got a flush mount kit to make the installation look clean. Here’s Amazon links to both items:

I wanted to mount the transfer switch next to the main circuit breaker panel for ease of access. Here’s a lifepro tip: if you build a home take a TON of pictures during construction. The most important ones are when all the wall framing is up, wiring is in, but insulation has not been put in yet. This gives you an x-ray view into your walls, and as you can see here it came in very handy.

Xray view of wall

This is the view behind my main breaker panel. I can’t put the transfer switch to the left of the panel due to a doorway. To the right, I can see there is a cross brace (blue) and some studs backing an interior wall (red). I’ll have to put the panel low and deal with the wall backing when I get the hole cut.

The first thing I did was cut a large hole in an area I know is clear, from here I can reach my hand in and determine where that horizontal cross brace is (blue from above).

First hole cut in wall

With that in mind, I traced an outline for the box making sure it was far enough away from the circuit panel so that I could get the flush mount kit flange installed as well.

Box outline and hole cut

Here’s the wall after the hole was cut. This picture is actually from a few steps later where I made notches around the outside corners for the flush mount kit as you will see in the next few steps. The studs for the inside bracing can be seen here running right down the middle.

Wall interior

I still wasn’t sure how good the fit would be so this is the moment of truth:

Test fit of Reliance Pro/Tran2

Pretty good! The knockout for the wires can be seen here and it lined up between the drywall and studs. The mounting tabs for the flush mount kit stand out just a little bit due to the boards on the back, but the studs will provide a secure place to screw the box to.

Here’s a closer look at the mounting tabs, they are out just about a quarter of an inch. I need them flush with the drywall for the best fit.

Closeup of bracket ears

The mounting tabs are not part of the main box, rather they are an “L” bracket screwed onto the side. To move the tabs back I simply extended the holes on the brackets to allow them to slide back a little further. This was nice as it did not require any modifications to the main box.

At this point I got tired of dealing with all the wires dangling in the way so I took out the switch assembly.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 gutted

To get the transfer switch wiring to the main breaker panel I had to cut through a wall stud. I got lucky as the breaker panel had a knockout in the right place, if it hadn’t then I would have had to cut a hole in the metal.

Conduit path cut

Once the hole was cut I did a test fit of the conduit and cut it to length. This flex conduit was included in the Reliance Pro/Tran2 310C kit.

Conduit test fit

The transfer switch box is now ready for mounting, I screwed it directly to the studs behind the box. It is VERY secure.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 cabinet mounted

Since I moved the bracket for the flush mount kit back, the trim panel now bumps into a couple of screws on the main box. A metal nibbler took care of this.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 flush mount kit K2F10 notched

Next step is to put the switches back in and run the wiring. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 mounted with K2F10 flush mount kit

There was no way that was going to work. I’ve run plenty of wires through conduit and I tried all the tricks. I used wire lube, tried running them one at a time, tried pulling through as a bunch. That ninety degree bend is a challenge so there’s only one way I could think of to get it done:

Running wires for Reliance Pro/Tran2 310C

Yup, I took everything back apart and ran the wires before putting the whole assembly back in the wall. The ninety degree bend (elbow) on the conduit could be taken apart so I ran the wires first, then bent them and assembled all the conduit pieces. A bit of a pain in the neck but in the end this was the most difficult part of the whole process.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 310C mounted

Now the switch is back in place and all the wires are run to the breaker panel.

Here you can see a closeup of how tight the wires are coming through the conduit. One rule when working with conduit and wiring, whatever conduit you think you need go ahead and bump it up one size. Unfortunately this one came this way so I just used what they provided.

Generator panel conduit detail

At this point I’ve got the transfer switch mount completed and I’m ready to wire the breaker panel. I had to wait until I could shut the power off at the main breaker outside the house and I had to remember to shut down the solar inverters as they also provide power to the panel.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 ready to wire

Here’s the start of the wiring, I did the only 240v circuit first and tested it before doing the others. This circuit powers the water pump for our well. This transfer switch allows for up to two 240v circuits but I only needed one. Each 240v requires two switches, this left me with eight switches for the rest of the house.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 wiring started

I tried to balance the remaining circuits across the legs equally (each 120v branch is a leg, combined they make a 240v circuit). This helps get maximum use from the generator. For example, we have two refrigerators so I put each on a different leg. The rest of the circuits are pretty light draw (mostly lighting) so they were just balanced across.

List of circuits

Here is a picture of the panel all wired up, I took the opportunity to move a few breakers around as part of this process.

Reliance Pro/Tran2 wiring complete

The final product all buttoned up.

gen-panel-23

I chose to put the power inlet right on the panel rather than run a power inlet box outside. My reasoning is that during a storm I can use a battery bank (a couple of deep cycle batteries or golf cart batteries) with an inverter to keep some lights, tv, and refrigerator running. Once the storm passes I just run a cord outside to a generator.

Anything I would do different? No, I’m happy with how this turned out. I run an annual test of my generators (at the start of hurricane season) and this will make that easier and more accurate as I can easily put the real load in place. If battery prices come down in the next few years than maybe a triplet of Tesla Powerwalls will make this unnecessary but it will still be there for backup in case they fail.

 

Installing a transfer switch is not hard but unless you are a serious DIY’er like myself then I would just hire an electrician to do it. Buy the parts yourself and it shouldn’t take them more than a couple of hours.

Until next time, stay warm and lighted!