Sharing sustainable ideas from around the world since 2008
Category: Sustainable Homes and Living
This is all about the fun ways we can create our home spaces. Thankfully, a lot of us are starting to think more about smaller homes again, or even multi-generational homes.
Whether you are building, renovating, remodelling, or making your home more energy efficient, lets explore the ways that we can all make better use of our spaces in a way that reduces our footprint on the planet.
As well, many of us are trying to live with less impact on the earth, as people need to be thinking about 50 generations down the road, not just the next election. Tell us how you are making changes in your lifestyle, for a better world.
David has designed and built a very nice solar water heating system for his energy efficient home. It is a drainback system that uses an EPDM lined, non-pressurized wood tank for heat storage.
Some of the highlights of Dave’s system…
Tank design suitable for limited height crawlspaces.
Nice tank frame design using half lap joints for the corners
Used new old-stock commercial collectors at a very good price
Efficient heat exchanger installation
Using used and recycled materials kept the cost of the system down
David with his three drainback collectors
David’s system consists of three collectors mounted vertically on the south wall of his house. The heat storage tank for the system is in the crawl space under the collectors. Its a drainback system, so for freeze protection, the water in the collectors drains back to the heat storage tank when the pump turns off.
The collectors were obtained on Craig’s list as “new old-stock” for a very good price.
The heat storage tank is a non-presurized, wood framed, insulated with polyiso rigid foam, and then lined with an EPDM liner – this is a design that has been used on quite a few Build It Solar projects, and works well.
David with heat storage tank in his 29 inch deep crawl space.
The heat exchanger uses a 300 ft coil of pex pipe that has been used successfully on several Build-It-Solar projects. The scheme that Dave used to support the pipe coil and space the coils out is very nicely done and likely provides a worthwhile gain in heat transfer efficiency. One nice thing about this style of heat exchanger is that it stores several gallons of fully preheated water right in the coil.
PEX coil heat exchanger with nice coil separation and support scheme.
In the early 1970s, Ralph Tait had an idea. So he went into his garage in Bend, Oregon and began tinkering. Several weeks and a few blisters later, he emerged with a revolutionary design for the first A-frame pop-up camper.
It was sensible. It was different. And it was light enough to be towed with just about any vehicle. Friends wanted one. Family wanted one. Friends of family wanted one. As word of mouth spread, Ralph found himself making more campers out of his garage. That’s when Ralph’s sons had their own bright idea. Why not turn this hobby into a real business?
The family moved to Pennsylvania and began making Aliner campers. Two brothers would build one. The third brother would hitch it to the family station wagon and drive across the country until he sold it. When he returned, the brothers would have another Aliner waiting. After years of hard work and several hundred thousand miles on the poor station wagon, the family retired in 2007. Today we continue to build every Aliner with the same quality, craftsmanship and pride as Ralph and his sons did for over 30 years.
Set up and tear down of an Aliner travel trailer in less than 2 minutes
I recently got the chance to see a very innovative solar home being built near Bridger Montana by Andrew Ray of Rational Design/Build.
Andrew (and his frequent conspirator Clint Wicks of CW2 Construction) have been building homes for fifteen years, with Andrew getting his start with Steve Loken in Missoula. But, this time its a really special home in that its for his own family. He is a very innovative builder and careful planner, and on this home he has taken out all the stops and included all of the best energy efficiency, solar, and material saving features he has used and studied over the years. Its a fascinating home.
Low Thermal Mass Sunspace (LTMS) — provides high solar fraction solar space heating with better control and more efficiency that conventional passive solar heating.
The Low Thermal Mass Sunspace provides 213 sqft of glazing optimized for solar space heating.
Inside-out Mooney Wall — provides an R34 with near zero thermal bridging. A low cost, high performance wall. The walls are also very efficiently framed with continuous top of wall header and with metal bracing in lieu of sheathing.
The inside-out Mooney Wall with metal bracing instead of sheathing, and continuous top header.
Crawl Space Plenum — serves as a well sealed plenum to distribute the heat from the Low Thermal Mass Sunspace and the wood burner to the house. It is constructed from Insulated Concrete Forms with a unique integrated footer design that requires no forms.
Sealed crawl space that serves as plenum to distribute solar heat from LTMS
The house uses many innovative techniques to minimize material use and labor. There are only eight sheets of OSB used in the entire home!
Note the minimal framing that reduces material use and thermal bridging.
While the home has about half the heat loss of an conventional construction home, the cost is no greater than conventional construction.
I just want to give people a heads up on some excellent DIY renewable energy workshops provided by Ian Woofenden.
These workshops cover practical, standalone systems on solar electric, solar thermal, wind power, small hydro power and energy efficiency.
Ian’s workshops are known for a practical and realistic approach to DIY renewable energy — they are based on Ian’s decades of real experience in designing, building and consulting on actual systems. Expect to leave one of Ian’s workshops with actual hands on knowledge and experience that will get you ready to build a practical system of your own. Just as important, the workshops will provide you with the knowledge and tools to determine if a renewable energy system is a good choice for your situation.
Ian is also a senior editor and author for Home Power Magazine — search their archives for his many hands on, practical and honest renewable energy project articles.
Ian’s next workshop will be in Costa Rica and will be on Solar Electricity for the Developing World. This is the overview for the up coming workshop:
“Learn about solar electricity for the developing world in the developing world! This workshop provides an introduction to stand-alone solar-electric (PV) system design and installation, with a focus on small, rural systems. The workshop combines classroom sessions with a strong emphasis on real-world projects in the community, along with hands-on labs. You will have the opportunity to understand, design, and install lighting and cell-phone-charging systems that can dramatically improve the living conditions of the local people. This is an experiential program, with a real-world focus. Come and learn the basics of simple, stand-alone solar-electic systems for rural people by doing, sharing, and experiencing on projects in the developing world.” You can find out more about this and his past and planned workshops at his website Renewable Reality.
Thanks to Ian for providing these excellent workshops. Gary
Mike and Nancy have come up with this unique and very efficient camping arrangement. They pull a tear drop trailer behind their Honda Insight hybrid. They achieve an amazing 35 mpg and have full sleeping and cooking facilities — they even have a shower!
Honda Insight and Little Guy teardrop trailer.
The Honda Insight is a standard 2001 with the addition of a custom trailer hitch made by Mike. A transmission cooler has also been added.
The teardrop trailer is a “Little Guy” that provides a full sized bed for two and a small kitchen accessed via the back hatch on the trailer as is usual for teardrop trailers. The Little Guy weighs only about 500 lbs.
They have even added a solar heated shower enclosure they can set up to take hot showers.
Shower enclosure with pressure tank water system.
Without the trailer attached, the Insight gets 50+ mpg and with the teardrop trailer attached and going the full speed limit plus it gets 35 mpg — pretty amazing for a full function RV.
The Little Guy teardrop and added Air Cond and Heating unit.
While Honda does not advise towing with the Insight, Mike says it works well and has not seen any adverse effects.
The developers of a new KickStarter project called FlipFlic gave me a heads up about their idea. I was impressed with their design’s simplicity, cleanness, low price and its potential to save energy and increase convenience and decided to pass the idea on here.
FlipFlic is a Smartphone controlled device that automatically opens or closes blinds based on the time of day, or temperature, or light level.
Some of the nice features:
Easy to install.
Blind open/close can be based on time of day, temperature, or light levels.
The FlipFlic compact motor unit replaces the existing wand on the blinds.
It is solar powered, so no batteries to replace or wires to run.
Use your Smartphone to set up the times, temperatures, or light levels that control the opening and closing of the blinds.
The initial offering works with either horizontal or vertical slat style blinds. Kseniia tells me that the team has it in their plans to develop version that will also work with cellular shades, which, I think, offers an even greater potential for energy saving due to the greater insulating value of these blinds.
The BCSEA Board is pleased to announce that we have confirmed Ali Grovue as our permanent Executive Director.
Ali joined the BCSEA Board in 2013, which she stepped down from this spring when she was asked to become our Interim Executive Director. Ali has done an outstanding job in leading and assisting the organization to transition to a new strategic and operations plan which we formally approved earlier this week (stay tuned!). We are very happy that she has decided to stay to implement our new direction.
We are very grateful to all those who applied and we are encouraging many of them to participate in the work of BCSEA in other ways.
The Board wishes to thank those members of staff and chapters who participated in both the strategic planning and the selection process. We are confident under Ms. Grovue’s leadership BCSEA is well equipped to move forward.