This is a chronicle of my efforts to build a "Green" home - one that uses less energy, has better indoor air quality, uses less water, and hopefully someday produces energy. We have used trees taken right from the site, metal roofing from a manufacturer down the street, and a local manufacturer/installer of cellulose insulation, in an effort to keep the materials local, recylced, and Green. So far we are quite pleased, and it is still a work in progress.

Monday, July 21, 2008

To Save the Planet, Get Rid of Compact Fluorescent light bulbs!

What? Everybody says CFL's are the greenest thing since Al Gore ran over Kermit with his Prius. But Compact fluorescents are NOT the greenest bulb out there, they just beat incandescent A-Lamps by a long way. Those long, 1" diameter T-8's with an electronic ballast are *twice* as efficient as a compact fluorescent. You can also get a smaller, 5/8" diameter T-5, which is also very efficient and fits nicely under a cabinet. Here is a picture of both in action, in a wall-mounted indirect configuration. Light the walls, then the room looks bright. Both of these light fixtures are very, very simple: just a strip of wood hiding a very basic, but high quality, strip light. These are NOT shop lights from the discount aisle at the hardware store, they have an electronic ballast and can match almost anything out there in efficiency. For about $18 a pop. Here is a link to the kind that I ordered. The undercabinet lights were also quite inexpensive, but good quality. Here is a detail of both kinds of light fixtures:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Compost Toilet News

We've just finished installing our compost toilet. I've been making 50 gallon drum compost toilets for people for years, this one is one of the best and simplest. It uses a 30 gallon drum, which is a bit lighter and less cumbersome than the standard 50 gallon barrel. I have a complete writeup of how to make one on my 50 gallon drum compost toilet page

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Concrete Stain Complete

We have completed the concrete stain, using Iron Sulphate. We did have some problems with the sealer we chose. Read all the details on my concrete stain page.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Floor Plans Online

  • First Floor Plan

  • Second Floor Plan

  • Loft Plan

  • Sections

  • some more Sections

  • South Elevation

  • Reflected Cieling Plan

  • Solar really works

    Here's proof: It's 16°F outside, and by 2 in the afternoon it is 66.5°F inside. This is with no heat whatsoever (OK, I was running a radio) for several days, except the sun shining in the windows. My contractor, Robyn Magner, had told me it would be 50 degrees inside without any heat - he was wrong! It's a lot warmer than that.

    In my present house, I worry if the power goes out, because the house will eventually freeze. In the new house, if the power goes out I'll have to put on an extra pair of socks. So far, the computer model predicts that the new house will use 60% less energy than a conventional house of the same footprint, this really looks like we're on track to achieve that goal.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Fall Colors

    Finally the siding is complete, the roof and windows are complete. The rest of the work occurs inside, except for some yard work.


    We went crazy with caulking. Before the insulation went in, we caulked all the cracks from the inside - framing around windows, horizontal cracks in exterior sheathing. We stoppered penetrations in the top plates for electrical wires with expanding foam. We caulked the exterior sheathing at all top and bottom plates. We shot insulation into crevices that the cellulose insulators would not be able to get to. Infiltration is one of the largest heat leaks in a house. With the Tyvek house wrap on the outside, the extra layer of foam, and the attention to detail on caulking and weatherstripping, this house should be as tight as a drum. Here is Qhyrrae, hitting a horizaontal joint on an exterior wall.


    Snow, anyone? We are insulating with blown cellulose, R21 in the walls, (plus exterior foam to reach R26) and R60 in the cielings. They blow it at the walls, with an adhesive and a slight amount of water. The insulation sticks to the walls, then they take a handheld machine powered by an electric drill and grind off the excess. They suck up all the waste off the floor, and blow it into another wall.

    The ceilings are blown on top of a screen, which is then covered by sheetrock later.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Rebuilding Solar Collectors

    I have three used solar water heater panels, obtained from my Father-in-law who used to sell them. These three orphans were in bad shape. One of them had been allowed to freeze and burst, another had a big gash in the copper absorber plate, and the insulation had deteriorated in them. A wonderful Sunday afternoon project! Soldering up the bad spots, I've painted the collector absorber plates with black barbeque paint from the hardware store, and I'll add some fiberglass insulation to the backside to make them more efficient, glue on the tempered glass cover plates with silicone rubber caulk, and voila!: free hot water. They'll attach directly to the metal roof with S-5 Standing Seam roof connectors. The house is already roughed-in with two 3/4" PEX pipes to the roof, which will be insulated (PEX doesn't hold up in sunlight if it isn't covered). The system will be pumped by an ingenious little DC pump called the EL-SID. EL-SID PUMP This pump uses a 10 watt solar electric panel for it's control system. If there is enough sun to make juice to run the pump, then there is enough sun to make solar water heat. No thermostats, differential controllers, or fancy electronics. If there is half enough sun, then the pump runs at half speed, slower water has more time to pick up solar heat. There is only one moving part, the impeller. There are no brushes, commutators, bearings, shaft seals, and other stuff to fail. This is the most ingenious pump I've ever seen.

    Everything goes up on the roof in a month or two, when the main construction is winding down.

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    So what's so Green about this house?

    Comments below describe some of the "Green" features

    Third Floor Takes Shape

    Here are a few shots as the third floor begins to take shape. There are two small lofts on the third floor, big enough for a nephew to sleep in or for use as a meditation or reading room.

    South View

    Just like Iwo Jima

    Just like Iwo Jima Again

    Wall in Place

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