Friday, December 28, 2007

Reflections posted

I was in the process of posting some reflections on our home when I asked my husband for some references. He promptly jumped in and wrote his thoughts which I have published on the right. Just click on the Scribd to enlarge. I think he said it all - at least from the "construction" side.

Supplementing the Sun

There are so many factors involved in the amount of supplemental (or central) heat necessary for any passive solar home - especially one of bermed construction that I wouldn't even consider trying to recommend any. However, here are my thoughts after being in our house for a year.
1 - Design We opted for a modified design (usually for full passive value, you would build in modules with all rooms open to the sun and each other). You can see from our design that we placed baths and laundry behind a hallway as a personal preference. The shower bath therefore is the coolest location in the house and I like to supplement it for those early morning showers.
2 - Building style - insulation, amount of thermal mass concrete, amount of windows, sides bermed, preparation of the slab (see previous posts during construction).
All of these add to the retained heat .
3 - Window treatments - we do not yet have any insulated window treatments to withhold the heat during the night. We may add these later.
4 - Resale - it can be very difficult to get a mortgage for a house without central heat. We never use our radiant heating system though and at times feel it was wasted money.
5 - Type of wood stove. We chose a Tulikivi (because I fell in love at first site). It gives a slow radiant heat - no major hot spots and is great for our living area. We could have also installed a small wood stove in the back of the house and probably only supplemented with wood.

So, in our situation, we do need our Tulikivi. Only for the times that we have more than one day without sun. If during those dreary weeks we wish to have the bedroom and shower room above 64 or so, we also need additional heat at the west side of the house. Do we need or use the radiant heating system - no.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

68 - possible?

Had a question from a reader yesterday that I would like to answer here:
I live in NH and would like to know if it is possible to have a bermed home that stays around 68 degrees with simple supplemental heat.

My thoughts after living in ours for a year:
Yes, of course it depends on two things - the amount of sun and your interpretation of supplemental heat. We find that if we get even two hours of sun in a day, the temp will remain a comfortable mid-sixties through the nights with no additional heat. We may even be a bit over-glazed and it will get up to the 80s until we open the windows (regardless of the outside temps - have had them open with single digits), Our supplemental heat sources consist of the soapstone Tulikivi and stand alone electric heater. Although we have radiant istalled, it is much cheaper to run electric for several hours than to pay for propane.

There is so much more to this answer - it could be a thesis. I would appreciate any further questions or comments.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Cookies

David is the winter cook this year. I posted about his dutch oven heritage bread last week. Well today, he was into cookies (while the storm swirled outside). We now have Ginger Snaps and Oatmeal Raisin -- ymmm.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trashing the earth?

I just watched a great video around our use of STUFF - I suggest you take a look and pass on this resource.

interactive site:

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

How can you help?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Conversation with interested reader

1. Have you continued to have a good experience with the house? Absolutely - I would never live in a "standard" house again!
2. Have you found that you are using significantly less fuel to heat your home while still remaining comfortable (of course, I can use significantly less fuel in my 190 year old house, but I have been VERY cold!)? We only use wood and a few hours of an electric space heater in the back bathroom. And the Tulikivi only needs to be fired once or twice a day which cuts way down on the amount of wood (and time).
3. Have you resolved the condensation issue? It is much better this winter - the only condensation we have had so far is a small amount on the windows if someone showers at night. No longer an issue.
4. Have you had any problems with leaking? No
5. Do you find that the windows drain a lot of heat at night during cold weather? And do you feel that you need to remedy this with insulated blinds or drapes? Are the windows double-glazed or triple-glazed? The windows are double - actually they are replacement panes for sliding doors. They obviously cool at night, but the concrete holds so much heat that we haven't seen much. We have installed some bamboo blinds for the intense sun on sunny days which makes it nearly impossible to read or work on the computer.
6. How comfortable is the house in the summer? Its fine. Did it get very hot? Not really - we have two attic fans during the day. At night we run the exhaust fans installed periodically through the house to bring in the cool air. Living in the foothills - there was only 1 night that I can recall last summer being overly warm at night.
7. Who was your contractor? A local builder - individual, not a firm. Did he have experience with building this type of home? None Who designed your house? We did.
8. Are you considering including your house in one of the solar home tours? Perhaps when it is finished.
9. And finally, would you do it all over again? Absolutely If so, what would you do differently? That's a hard one as we really love it. Ask me in another year or so.

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