Ask This Old House | Patch Lawn, Toilet, Off-Grid (S16 E4) | FULL EPISODE

today on ask this old house swapping out a toilet can be easy and can often be done with just one or two tools if you do a lot of it you actually use something like this a turkey baster which gets you right down to the bottom make sure it's not the same turkey base you use for thanksgiving and there used to be a swing set back here that killed all the grass i'll make it green again can new technology allow us to live off the grid in an efficient way and still have all the comforts of a modern home i'm headed to south carolina to find out when i think of off the grid houses though i'm not thinking of this i mean this is grand this is luxurious how many square feet there's 6 800 square feet wow hi there i'm kevin o'connor and welcome back to ask this old house where if you've got questions about your house we'd love to hear from you so keep those emails coming and we have gotten a ton of them on toilets so richard is actually going to show us how to install a toilet with all of the steps a through z hey good morning guys hey kevin ross richard hey look at this thing come on in here yeah 100 solar panels right here crazy cool full self-contained courses oh richard toilets a to z installation toilets a tuesday am i am i first you are up first well you and the toilet are up first you're going away yeah you're going i'm on it okay go on i didn't see the sheet i didn't know i was at first so i i i need five more minutes you need some time at the toilet i do i don't so tommy's down the other end seriously look it's five ten minutes tommy richard needs five minutes with this toilet so i hope you're ready for the viewer tip i'm gonna save them again i guess so all right so this is actually a pretty good viewer's tip i mean think about it if you're working in your workshop and your garage you're always trying to find out where you put your tape measures this is true it happens you need to have a designated spot okay all right so jamie from tennessee sent he says with an electrical cover for a two gang box a magnet and some glue take your tape measure remove your belt clip and glue the magnet to the side of the tape measure so wherever the plate's mounted your tape always has a hole yeah that is pretty clever yeah you know and i was thinking about it i actually like the belt clip so i don't think i would want to take that off so i would probably take the the magnet and glue it to the face of the tape measure that way i have the best of both worlds that is pretty good too okay well jamie thank you for sending in that tip and because of that we are going to send you an ask this old house t-shirt and if anyone else out there has a tip for us we'd love to hear from you send us an email not bad okay i think you give him enough time he's sleeping down there i don't think that's sleeping [Music] hey roger thanks for coming well it's really a nice spot you have here how long have you been in the house just since november you survived the winter yeah but now that it's springtime we want to get out here and start using the yard most of the yard was pretty nice except for this huge muddy patch here yeah what's this all about so the people before us had a big swing set for their kids but there's a public playground just a block and a half away so we had them take the playground and now we're left with this so as i look at it here it looks like they took artificial turf and unrolled it on top of real turf yeah not a good idea no and so we didn't want to just sprinkle seeds and you know have it wind up looking like a bad toupee a bad toupee yeah i get it well there's a lot we can do here to fix this lawn and make it look really nice i'm kind of excited because there is some good loam here to work with we don't have to truck in a bunch of stuff great but there are some humps and bumps in the backyard and i'd like to try to smooth those out a little bit at the same time we're here great first thing we got to do is get this artificial turf out of here you want to grab the other end perfect let me know when you're ready one two three go the soil in here is really compact so we're going to use this mini gas tiller to loosen it up well it's really starting to look good what a difference huh now even though we leveled it off as good as we could we're still a little low in spots i want to add some material but i'm not going to add just loam i'm going to add compost to it this is great stuff i use it for everything i plant perennials vegetable gardens and trees that's micronutrients in there and it really promotes growth in the plants and it helps aerate the soil so it doesn't compact real hard like this did all right so i'm going to dump it you spread it you ready you ready want to tackle all your home improvement projects with confidence join this old house insider a new streaming service from this old house the iconic emmy-winning series that inspired a generation of home enthusiasts stream over 1 000 episodes of this old house and ask this old house commercial free watch it all in the this old house app and join live online q and a's with our experts best of all you can try insider free for seven days to join go to once we have a layer of compost down i'm going to run the tiller over it again to mix it in with the existing soil why don't you come behind me and rake it out smooth with our area all nice and smooth we are ready to put down seed awesome now when people think of a lawn they think of it as one type of grass it's really not it's made up of three types here in new england bluegrass rye and fescue and the reason we do that we use a blend as if a disease ever got in your lawn it would only kill out one type of seed you'd still have some lawn left if it was all one type could wipe out the whole thing the other is we have a lot of different environmental conditions here to deal with one being sunlight bluegrass likes a lot of sun rye and fescue they'll tolerate a little bit of shade this is the cheapest part of the whole operation we've done today so we're going to make sure there's plenty of seed going in this lawn go all the way into the back okay now just work back and forth see how it makes the seed disappear oh yeah it's just getting a nice little layer of soil on top of it to help it germinate if you see any bumps or anything just smooth them out now we're going to put down a starter fertilizer the starter fertilizer is high in phosphorus and that promotes root growth it also has two percent that's a chemical that keeps crabgrass from germinating and overtaking our newly seeded lawn so with our patch all set we're going to do something called top dressing the lawn we're going to take this compost and spread it on top of your lawn about a half an inch to an inch thick just take the rake and rake it right out yeah front side of the rake yeah okay and this is going to help us fill in any holes in the lawn but it's also going to help the lawn grow and this isn't smothering the one not at all this is actually helping the lawn in a week or two you're gonna come out here and you're gonna be amazed at how green it looks excellent now we're gonna put some seed down on the area that we just skimmed with compost we don't need to put it down as heavy because it's not a new patch we're just filling in some holes and once the seeds raked in we'll come by with the same starter fertilizer we used before now the secret to getting this grassy to pop is to keep it moist you don't want to soak it down and turn it into mud so you're probably going to come out here twice a day and water it a little bit each time but with the spring rains we have now you may not have to water mother nature may help you with that great once it starts growing it's going to pop up in seven to ten days and you can see these little tiny pieces of grass coming up keep watering it for a while when it gets to three inches tall you're gonna cut it back to two inches great i can't wait to see it well when it comes up send me a picture will do roger thank you so much for all your help [Music] hey i said five minutes oh now you're waiting on me i see you're not prepared all right i'm ready now okay i thought we would talk about doing a pretty basic plumbing job which is to replace a toilet which is i think something most people would want to avoid that don't want to work around the toilet so we thought maybe we'll do a little toilet 101 generally you might be able to get away with only one tool an adjustable open wrench or some sort of pliers to break the connection okay so first step is to get the water out of the toilet so on the left hand side either out of the floor or the wall there's a cold water supply you're going to turn the shutoff valve clockwise sometimes it's just a quarter of a turn other times you have to turn it multiple times till it's off all right good now we got to get the water out of the tank and bowl just take the cover off with me okay this is the tank that's the bowl sometimes people get that confused so now we flush it and the tank is actually draining into the bowl all right bowl out and you'll notice i'm holding this up i want to get every bit of the water out of that i can by gravity but it's not going to let all of it out of the tank there's always going to be some in the bottom so for that we've got to work another way we can use a small cup or a sponge and this is perfectly clean water people should not be afraid of this if you do a lot of it you actually use something like this a turkey baster which gets you right down to the bottom simplifies it make sure it's not the same turkey base you use for thanksgiving thanksgiving so all right so tank is done we got to do the same thing at the bowl here okay here you go i'll give you that you want the collapse is kind of clean water okay okay so now we've got the water out of the tank in the bowl now we have to break a few more connections one of them is the water connection you can break the cold water supply right here sometimes it's pretty hand tight okay a little bit of water not too much all right so now we have two more connections the closet bolts which hold the toilet down to the flange now this is a brass connection and hopefully it will come another one over here yeah once you get that one thank you okay nut and washer off great so now step right up here and i'm going to show you the proper way to lift hook your hands right here be straight back and straight up so it comes off the bolts and then just step it back on to plywood or newspaper because it gets wax old wax on the bottom no all right oh lovely isn't that nice that's just wax so don't don't be freaked out so now oh here oh now you get me right okay i said just clean it up you could wear gloves if you're doing this at home this one's a clean one yeah just because we're demoing it it normally would be this around there okay there you go all right so this is our closet flange it's really important that this flange is is whole like it is right here and also that it's attached down into the building itself so you see the stainless screws here here here and here down into the meat of the subfloor below the tile okay so that'll hold the flange to the building and then the other part of the connection is to make sure the toilet is held to the flange so it's flange of building toilet to flange right so they make a special bolt right here called a closet bolt you'll see that it keys right in right here and you bring it to the center point right here and these these little plastic holders will hold it at the right position put that one in okay key it in okay so those bolts are in place right there so now we've got the flange attached to the building the bolts ready to go let's get this out of the way and now we need to make a water and airtight seal to the bottom of the toilet so this is now replacing the rat the wax that's right this has been the time-honored wax seal that sits right down here this is one that i i tend to favor which is a little thicker but also has a horn to direct the water down away from where that top connection is all right so now let's put this back in position this can be the hardest part of the show sometimes now push it down wiggle wiggle push it on the ring and i just push your weight down push your weight down and it'll make that nice tight so you can actually feel it so we want to cover these bolts when we're done so the manufacturer makes a bolt cap and this is the base so that goes on first then there's a bronze washer that's plated that goes right over the top and once you put that nut on right there we're going to tighten a little bit from each side and bring it down uniformly down onto that wax here we don't want to over tighten on one side and then crack the toilet potentially okay one more snug there all right so now they make these stand proud because they don't know how deep below the flange will be so look what happens it's just too tall so these bolts are made that you could snap them off you see there's a little ridge right there but this is the best way to get it off and so you just cut what you want to do is be careful not to let the blade the hacksaw blade or this little jab saw scratch the vitreous china so this is a soft brass material so i can actually just okay so now pop the cap on push it down straight down from the top and it should snap there you go yep all right toilet's secure now we can remake the water connection let's snug it up okay let's turn it back on okay there she is filling it up once you grab the tank cover okay right so this was important to know if you ever were changing out a new toilet for the old one or if you had a symptom of a leak from below the toilet and the wax seal was gone beautiful you know richard it was worth the wait [Music] as recently as 150 years ago practically every house in america was off the grid this is how you got your water [Music] this was your sewer and where's your lighting and heating coming from you're looking at it modern houses like these are connected to a variety of systems there are pipes that carry gas and water into the house and there's also a pipe that carries waste out of the house to the sewer line here in the street and these houses are wired to the local electric company to the cable provider and to the phone company can new technology allow us to live off the grid in an efficient way and still have all the comforts of a modern home well i'm headed to south carolina to find out good morning ross good morning ralph welcome to our home in pickens south carolina what a beautiful place what a beautiful house thank you when i think of off the grid houses though i'm not thinking of this i mean this is grand this is luxurious how many square feet there's 6 800 square feet wow this house was built 15 years ago this house has always been off the grid as far as water and sewer but now my wife and i have decided to take it completely off the grid now i've been in the air conditioning business for 50 years there's technologies available commercially that will allow us to do that gotcha so you're taking commercial technologies applying it to a residential house this is not off the grid yet you guys are transitioning we're transitioning we're about halfway through right now got it well i'd love to see the technology can we check it out i would love for you to see it all right let's go [Music] so how is ralph moving the 6800 square foot house completely off the grid for starters he's getting his electricity from renewable sources when it's completed this solar array will have 144 photovoltaic panels and provide 40 kilowatts of power a wind turbine will generate electricity at night or on cloudy days a battery bank will store unused power for lighting and appliances but the solar array also powers these chillers which as a system are more efficient to run than a conventional air conditioning unit but think of the insanity of how that equipment operates okay it takes heat from your house and then exhausts it outside okay and and and it's wasted what we're able to do is to capture that heat we we pull the heat from the house and we put it into a tank for hot water make it available for the household hot water for the swimming pool for whatever you'd like to have and also in the winter we're able to pull heat out of the air even as low as 20 below zero and move it into the structure or into a storage tank and then the magic of this i assume is that you're not making heat you're moving heat we're moving heat and where do you store that heat well we have some tanks i'd like to show you all right love that ross this is where the hot and cold glycol come up okay these tanks are actually buried about four feet in the ground and i've got one open over here for you to take a look at okay okay what's inside these tanks is is hundreds of feet of poly tubing or pecks okay this tank is normally filled with water and we use it to store heat we'll bring the excess heat or any heat that's produced with the pv through the chiller we'll bring it in here and we'll store a tank of hot water so essentially what we have here is a thermal battery rather than a battery that stores electrons we have a battery that's storing btus and what are you going to use that hot water for uh for how for comfort heating okay for our household hot water or swimming whatever anything you want to use the hot water for got it got it but you're also doing this with the coal tank right that's correct what we do with the coal tank is the cold glycol comes in goes through the tubes and will make a 500 pound block ice really inside that's right we'll use that tank at night for to keep the house cool so even when the sun's not shining you're not running your equipment you're a chiller it's completely you have a block of ice to pull all that cooling energy from absolutely wow that's fascinating stuff well ralph i love to hear the fact that you're going off grid one of the things that's surprising to me is that the technology you're using here today is actually old technology it's been used for 30 years in commercial buildings so why has it been a slow adoption for residential use well commercial and residential has always been built differently okay commercial rates are rates that have peak and time of use components okay there are times of day where businesses or commercial applications pay more for their power than they do at others and it could affect their power structure for the whole month and so what commercial has been done for a long long time is they've used eye storage they make ice at night and then during the day during the peak demand hours they'll melt the ice to keep the buildings cold rather than run the compressors got it so you're saying because they're storing this ice during off-peak hours when they're not paying as much for electricity they can actually use that ice storage to then recool the building during the next day when they don't have to run the chillers or the compressors that's correct these same time of use charges these peak charges are coming to residential applications got it and the really cool benefit of this is that because you're being able to store energy you actually can offset how much how many more power plants go up and the peak charge on the grid yes you can avoid building any new power plants you go to distribute what's called distributed energy okay and you put photovoltaic out or fuel cells all over okay and you avoid any new power plants you work with what you've got because what we've got is plenty to go forward if it's used wisely awesome awesome well thank you ralph for the tour thank you so much thank you wow the future is bright huh 6 800 square feet a pool a farm that is seriously over the top there's a lot going on there that's true but you think about the traditional house in america that has cooling right you have an outdoor unit a condenser and you have an indoor unit right and you have a set of refrigeration lines between the two right that's cooling the house you're actually moving heat from inside to outside rejecting it to the air okay the difference here is that we're using a chiller yeah so what what exactly is the difference between a chiller and an air conditioner yeah so the chiller is going to heat and cool water right or glycol so instead of refrigeration lines moving between the house and the outside unit we have water lines and so i can create a hot tank i can create a coal tank so i can do simultaneous heating and cooling i can store it you know for later use and you get the storage because of the liquid in other words he had a tank that was ice you can only have that with a liquid that's how he's storing cold that's right he's got another tank where he heats the water that's storing the heat the key point is the water i can store that energy and i can use it at later points in time right okay and water is the ultimate transfer medium nothing nothing's better you know this this thing ties into the dream that i've had for a long time in this country the big house and the pool yeah that's right no actually a scalable and really usable btu battery you know not everybody's going to have that kind of land where you can bury tanks outside so the idea is to have a super insulated tank that would have handles on it you could get it in through a building through a doorway it would have a heat exchanger coil inside it and it would be modular you could tie them together tie them together like you would batteries and then all of a sudden when you're making heat you can just store it and then all of a sudden once you've stored energy in this tank or these series of tanks you can come out of it and go out to make hot water for your faucets heat the building with a little bit of radiant and stuff like that and it's really the future we've got to find a way to keep moving heat not trying to make heat right well i mean it is cool to see this future to think that something like that could be possible is that a pun cool and scaled down too to make it sort of you know affordable for most people all right well good story thank you for bringing it to us if you've got questions we'd love to answer them so keep your emails coming until next time i'm kevin o'connor i'm rich chris i'm roster theory for ask this old house i'm surrounded by trees [Music] next time on ask this old house swapping out a radiator isn't too difficult but there are some tricks to getting it exactly right okay that should do it if you work outside there's one piece of safety gear you need to have in your toolbox and i'll show you why it's important i noticed that there are some cracks in the mortar and some of it's missing entirely repointing brick can be easy i'm going to milwaukee to show you how to do it thanks for watching this whole house has got a video for just about every home 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