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A 2 Year Update on Gordon’s Unique Khanh Solar Water Heating Collector

A couple of years ago Gordon did a solar water heating collector for his home that uses the Khanh design.

This design improves the performance of conventional water heating collector by extending the area of the collector to include an air heating collector that warms the area around the water heating collector to reduce heat losses from the water heating collector.

The design is explained in detail in Shurcliff’s book: New Inventions in Low-Cost Solar Heating

Gordon’s original article on his implementation of the design along with construction details is here..

Its been two years and Gordon has a good report on the things that worked and the things that did not work so well and had to be fixed or improved.

The report covers: performance, a new differential controller, pumps, backup water heaters, and some plumbing issues…. 

All good stuff to know if you plan to use this design.

Gary
March 31, 2013

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Rain Water Collection — Year Two Update — Freeze Problem

Our 2200 gallon rain water collection system has been working well, but we did have a freeze damage problem this winter.

The full rain water system is described here…

This winter the first flow diverter reservoir managed to fill up with water and freeze over the winter.  The expanding ice did an impressive job of breaking the large PVC pipe that serves as the reservoir.  The valve at the bottom of the reservoir was open for the winter, but must have plugged up and allowed water to accumulate.

Freezing water breaks the pipe that serves as first flow diverter.

For now, I’ve just removed the first flow reservoir where it threads into the collection plumbing and put a threaded PVC plug in to make the system functional, but with no first flow diverter.  Will need to work out a better system that is less subject to freeze damage.

A PVC threaded plug replaces first flow reservoir for now.

More details on the 2nd year of operation here…

Gary

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Renewable Energy Magazine Article on DIY Renewable Energy

Richard Crume’s latest blog for Renewable Energy Magazine is about the DIY area of renewable energy.  I’m happy to say the article features Build-It-Solar.

Richard describes some of the rewards of doing DIY renewable energy projects, and some of the achievements of the the DIY crowd.

One of the Richard’s projects that is featured on our Solar Homes section is this article describing the this very energy efficient and very nice to live in house they built.

Gary

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Adding Glazing to the Off The Shelf Solar Water Heating System Collector

This is an update on the project to develop a simple, efficient, low cost and reliable DIY solar water heating system that is easy to install because it uses all off the shelf parts.

The system uses an unglazed pool heating collector because it is inexpensive, easy to install, and allows the system to qualify for the federal tax rebate.  The performance of this collector is good for warm and moderate climates, but falls down during the winter in cold climates.

This update covers adding glazing to the pool heating collector to improve its performance when when its cold and for part sun conditions.

The pool heating collector with glazing.

The glazing used is SunTuf corrugated polycarbonate, which was chosen because it is tough, long lived, readily available (eg Home Depot), and has a high service temperature.  The glazing is supported by a simple frame that just plunks down over the collector — the weight of the glazing assembly is supported by the collector manifold, and the glazing assembly is held down by a couple of straps in the same way the the collector itself is held down.  The whole glazing assembly for the 4 by 10 ft collector is light weight and can be handled by one person.

The glazing includes some openings at the bottom and at the top that allow a controlled amount of air to circulate between the glazing and the absorber.  This is to mellow out the temperature that the collector gets to if the collector is stagnated (no water flow).   The idea is to keep this air flow small enough to not significantly effect collector performance, while at the same time keeping stagnation temperatures within bounds.

The link below gives all the details on the construction.

The performance of the system is definitely improved with the glazing in place.  For some conditions that are typical of moderate to cold climates, the improvement is of the order of 50% in heat output.
The link below gives complete performance details, and compares the performance of the glazed and unglazed pool heating collector to commercial flat plate and evac tube collectors on both heat output and heat output per dollar of collector cost.

Comparing efficiency of several collectors to our collector.

All the details on the updated collector with glazing...

The main page for the Off The Shelf DIY Solar Water Heating System….

Comments, suggestions, questions are most welcome.

Gary
March 17,2013

Posted on

Adding Glazing to the Off The Shelf Solar Water Heating System Collector

This is an update on the project to develop a simple, efficient, low cost and reliable DIY solar water heating system that is easy to install because it uses all off the shelf parts.

The system uses an unglazed pool heating collector because it is inexpensive, easy to install, and allows the system to qualify for the federal tax rebate.  The performance of this collector is good for warm and moderate climates, but falls down during the winter in cold climates.

This update covers adding glazing to the pool heating collector to improve its performance when when its cold and for part sun conditions.

The pool heating collector with glazing.

The glazing used is SunTuf corrugated polycarbonate, which was chosen because it is tough, long lived, readily available (eg Home Depot), and has a high service temperature.  The glazing is supported by a simple frame that just plunks down over the collector — the weight of the glazing assembly is supported by the collector manifold, and the glazing assembly is held down by a couple of straps in the same way the the collector itself is held down.  The whole glazing assembly for the 4 by 10 ft collector is light weight and can be handled by one person.

The glazing includes some openings at the bottom and at the top that allow a controlled amount of air to circulate between the glazing and the absorber.  This is to mellow out the temperature that the collector gets to if the collector is stagnated (no water flow).   The idea is to keep this air flow small enough to not significantly effect collector performance, while at the same time keeping stagnation temperatures within bounds.

The link below gives all the details on the construction.

The performance of the system is definitely improved with the glazing in place.  For some conditions that are typical of moderate to cold climates, the improvement is of the order of 50% in heat output.
The link below gives complete performance details, and compares the performance of the glazed and unglazed pool heating collector to commercial flat plate and evac tube collectors on both heat output and heat output per dollar of collector cost.

Comparing efficiency of several collectors to our collector.

All the details on the updated collector with glazing...

The main page for the Off The Shelf DIY Solar Water Heating System….

Comments, suggestions, questions are most welcome.

Gary
March 17,2013

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Relationships: The Art of Tiny Living

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Lots of folks talk about utility and organization of physical space when it comes to living the tiny life. This is absolutely essential to creating a home that truly meets our essential need for shelter but I’ve found less conversations when it comes to balancing the emotional and mental aspect of relationships in a small space. I thought it might be helpful to discuss the ways that Cedric and I have been learning to navigate tiny living and ensuring the health and stability of our long-term, romantic relationship.

Designing private and communal space.

When designing La Casita, privacy was a big issue. We were trying to figure out how in the world we were going to create communal and private space in such a tiny structure! Cedric and I both believe it’s essential to have these designated areas to sustain a healthy relationship. At first, we tried to build two separate rooms downstairs but there was so much wasted space in the design we ended up tearing it all out and starting over! It was a tough decision but ultimately the best one.

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In our original plans we had an open loft space but after realizing we weren’t going to be able to separate the space downstairs, we decided the loft would be closed off. This has done wonders for our need for alone time. When one of us is in the loft, it feels like a completely isolated, cozy place that you can relax, read, work, meditate, write letters or take a nap. When one person is downstairs and one up, you get a feeling of separation that allows us to recharge and, in the case of a disagreement or high emotions, a sanctuary to cool off.

Open, honest communication.

Before Cedric and I moved in to La Casita, we decided to take a workshop on Non-Violent Communication.  Non-Violent Communication is a method developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg that focuses on reconnecting ourselves with our compassionate nature, even under the most trying of circumstances. It implements a non-judgmental, non-accusatory structure of expressing feelings and needs. You can’t hide from issues in anvc home the size of many people’s garden sheds! It’s absolutely impossible and if you try, conflict will quickly escalate. Cedric and I are constantly working on hearing each other compassionately and meeting each other’s needs and it is not without challenges but I’ve found that living the tiny life benefits our relationship in that we can’t let things fester. We have to face the issues that crop up.  Working on our relationship this way creates a continued emotional closeness necessary to living in such close physical proximity.

Patience and Cooperation.

I thought I had patience before moving in to a tiny house. I worked with preschool children so I understood the importance of patience and cooperation. While my experience in childcare certainly helped, it’s different with your partner in 100 sq. feet! Our home is narrow and we often have to squeeze past each other to get to the bathroom or sink. I would have to say that width is something I would like more of! We have to wait to put on shoes, hang up coats, climb the ladder, get in to bed, get out of bed, get dressed, use the sink and prepare meals. It takes continued cooperation to live in such a confined space and makes bumping elbows inevitable. Although, I do love the fact that no matter where one of us is in the house, we can pass each other items with relative ease. It’s really convenient when nearly everything is within arms length!

Continue reading Relationships: The Art of Tiny Living

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Tiny Living: City Vs. Country

When it comes to living the tiny life which is better? The city life or the country life? With the ability to move your home the possibilities are endless. Having recently made the switch from urban to rural tiny lifestyle, we’re assessing the transition. Here are some advantages and disadvantages we’ve experienced in La Casita.

The majority of folks I’ve talked to who live in a tiny house do so for economic reasons as well as ecological ones. Those were the big motivating factors for Cedric and I. Living lighter on the earth is of great interest to us as is meeting our needs with less money so our recent move got me thinking: is living the tiny life in the country greener and more economically sound than living in the city? In the city we rode our bikes to work, the americanogrocery store, the bowling alley, restaurants and most of our friends’ houses. Now that we’ve moved to a more rural area I find I’m driving a lot more. I definitely feel dependent on our vehicle rather than my bike. For me, living the tiny life isn’t just about houses, it’s my intention in everyday experiences. Being dependent on a car does not satisfy my need for a more intentional, regenerative existence.

There’s also the added expense of car dependency. Gas is more costly here than down south. Plus, with winter still in full swing we had had to buy a set of studded tires so we could get out of our driveway!  We’re both feeling as though it takes a lot more stuff to live the country life in the north than it did the city life in the south.

P1000287When it comes to aesthetics living rural has living urban beat-even in the winter! Life out in the country is proving exceptionally beautiful and much more quiet than our life in Charleston. There’s also a lot more privacy. Walking out the door in the city often met with someone staring at the house and wanting to know more about it. I loved talking with passer-bys but when you’re getting stared at on the regular, it starts to feel invasive. Plus, being packed in next to other houses does not provide the most scenic view. Here in Vermont we look out to the woods and up to a mountain and at night the stars are stunning. I’m definitely sleeping better at night without my next door neighbors yelling and drinking in to the wee hours of the evening!

Air and water quality are other big factors. In Charleston, we lived by the highway and after one year there is noticeable exhaust and street crust on our house. It’s disgusting to think that that’s not only sticking to our lovely Cyprus siding but also our lungs. It’s going to take a good bit of work to sand off the black dust and re-oil the house. Even if we had lived in the greenest area of Charleston, it’s a port city and air and water quality are not great. There’s fluoride and chlorine but out on the mountain we have crisp, clean spring water and excellent air quality with little industrial or transport pollutants in the air. Building a tiny house was definitely about living a healthier lifestyle and it feels much more so here in the country than it ever did in the city.

P1000256Living in a tiny house requires the ability to move out beyond its walls on a regular basis in order to maintain emotional balance. In the city this often meant hopping on a bike and going to the park. In the country it means stepping out the front door and taking a walk through the woods. Both satisfy the need for spaciousness that Cedric, me and our pup Asher often crave living in a tiny house. We seem to be able to take care of this need equally well whether in the city or the country, it’s just a matter of preference. Asher, however, definitely prefers the woods to the city and we are more relaxed now that we don’t have to worry about cars. I have to admit I am worried some animal might mistake him for a tasty rabbit, especially when coyotes are howling nearby!

Besides quality of life, the other advantages and disadvantages pertain to anyone trying to make the decision to live rural or urban. The city is more convenient in terms of job density and meeting daily needs although for tiny houses it can prove more difficult when it comes to zoning. After one year in Charleston, a city zoning official came through our neighborhood looking for us. We moved just in time but I can’t say I was surprised when my neighbor called to tell me the city had come searching. We’d been waiting for it.  Rural areas tend to have less stringent codes when it comes to building so for a tiny house dweller it can prove less stressful.

DSCN3040The most exciting thing for me living rural is a big garden. In the city we had limited space to grow.  Although, you could argue that in cities vertical gardening and creative use of space can greatly increase your growing power. I’ve certainly seen some very clever ways that people use small spaces to grow quite a bit of plants!  In the country,  we have acres to work with and providing ourselves with the bulk of our summer food is looking like a reality. That’s something we were not able to accomplish in the city and we’re looking forward to the challenge of growing on a larger scale.

No matter where you end up, every locale will have it challenges and rewards. When it comes to the city vs. country debate it’s a highly personal choice. It’s important to assess your needs and the best way those needs can be met by your home and its location. I’m enjoying living life more remotely but I can appreciate the aspects of city living as well. Ultimately, our home has proven itself a wonderful space whether in an urban setting or a rural setting and to me that flexibility is the key to a positive tiny house experience.

Your Turn!

  • Are you a country mouse or a city mouse?
  • What advantages or disadvantages do you experience in rural or urban living?
  • What challenges have you faced living the tiny life in the city and/or country?