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The Insulation Post: Outside The Prefab Net Zero House, It Plummeted To Eleven. Eleven Degrees.

It plummeted to eleven degrees outside the net zero prefab SIP house last night.

And we're on a windy hill so... I... I just can't imagine what it was. I don't want to, honestly, as we still have not installed our off grid systems that would ordinarily keep us comfortable during these frigid temperatures.
Even with the kit house built of structural insulated panels, there is more you can do as a consumer to insulate and make your own house kit more tight... I encourage you to do so.
(And you will really appreciate those extra efficient touches in this weather!)

I previously mentioned how you can also order foam from the factory to put UNDER and AROUND your foundation:
"Insulating your home is not just about the SIPs panels that come with our Green Modern Kits SIPs house kit.

As the weather turns cooler, think of being outside on a frosty day:
Bundled up with a hat, scarf, nice warm coat... and...
No shoes? Bare legs?!?
Think of the exposed skin losing heat as it gets sucked away in the wind and cold...

Your house is like that too- despite the SIP insulating properties to ensure your home is tight, don't forget to add insulating foam underneath (and around) the foundation!"
We will start wrapping the exterior foam around the foundation next (we already added it below the foundation before we poured the concrete), but first we are sealing around the doors and windows (vs. paying someone to do so).

Each of Green Modern Kits / Green Cottage Kits / Green Cabin Kits' prefab house kits are different, and on this passive solar net zero casa ti there are a few areas that your contractor builds in that were too narrow for a SIP: obviously around windows and doors (to leave room for  framing); but on the north windows there is some higher framing to connect the SIP panels above the window, and between each clerestory window.

(Reference this picture, above - the vertical white to the right window Handsome Husband has just added foam to, and is now measuring between the next clerestory to cut his next piece of foam to add and therefore insulate between the windows that are not SIP. You / your contractor may choose to insulate there another way if you prefer.)

Still without systems, the net zero prefab house has been amazingly comfortable throughout the seasons... until now.
In Virginia, these extreme teen temperatures are not encountered often.  Until our off grid systems are installed, we are now relying on portable temporary heat to help the passive solar house kit maintain a comfortable level once the sun goes down and the temperatures plummet to such an extreme. 

We arrived mid-day Saturday to the interior of the prefab house kit reading 50. Outside, it was in the 20's. (The high was 28. And it was windy - gusts of 30mph. Mmmmmmmmmmmm, niiiice.)

Regardless of having no systems yet installed, having the energy efficient shelter of the prefab house kit shell has enabled our family to be on the land in January for the first time ever. Before, we would wait out mid-December through March... and only imagine what the land and community was like during that time. We are grateful to be there now even in these frosty conditions, and excited to see how cozy it will be once we hook up the solar / radiant heat / rainwater collection / etc.!

We met with Mr. H., the carpenter who will be building the interior walls now that Ron is retired.  When I explained our desire to not use dry wall and that we will instead reuse VMI's basketball court where possible, then that the house is off grid, then our general "pay as you go" philosophy and ended with,
"Maybe we're The Crazy Family in the area..."
He responded assuredly, "I always say, 'The customer is always right.' "
[Waaaaaaaaaait a second!
; ) ]

We also have news on the wood stove issue:
The one we purchased was not certified for residential homes but a garage and so it was returned.

Dejected (and knowing there is a perfectly good unused residential wood stove sitting in my parent's basement three minutes away from our house in Richmond that has now been promised to my dear brother who lives on the border of South Carolina... here I will end those mentions... just remember we were with our children in eleven degrees this weekend...), after spending the week making phone calls in a rural area trying to get someone (anyone?) to install my now imaginary wood stove... the phone rang.

"Hey. I hear y'all are having some issues with heat."

Early in my life, I learned a valuable lesson: Be a good friend, have good friends.
My. Friends. Are. Awesome.
Shawn Stanley offered up a cool, mod fireplace (still making those phone calls about installation).
We dragged it out to the prefab house kit and daaaaaaaaaanged if it didn't look perfect inside.
(Note: I am still looking for an installer. What is great about this fireplace is not just the coolio design aspect but that a conventional regular-sized wood stove would easily overheat the efficient, small footprint house once the radiant heat, etc. is working! Keep your fingers crossed. We shall see.)
[Should I insert ominous laughter now or be positive? I will do both. : ) ]

Regardless, with the portable heat we turned on after dark we were able, without systems, in freakin' dire temperatures, to get the house from it's natural passive solar 54 at dusk to 63. With a 15,000 btu heater. Outside at dusk it was... 20ish? (High was 28 that day. And at dusk it plummeted outdoors to 10, 11ish degrees.)

When we awoke, we could see our breath: it was 49 degrees.
At first, losing that much in one evening (about 1 degree per hour) shocked us.
Until we saw what the outside temperature had become.
With no systems installed. 
And not finished insulating the crevices.
Handsome Husband makes a good point: "Inside, it's uncomfortable. But what this proves is that you can survive, without systems, without freezing, in dire conditions. Outside? You're dead."
Ok, ok, but what about art?

So... I warmed up, drank some coffee... and then... I hung some art.
It's crooked.
That's ok. I'm also leaving it in the plastic it arrived in from the framing shop.

Y'know, (scoffs) 'cause at least I know that we're in a construction zone. ; )

(Contractors take a look at 0:45 and 1:20ish in this clip...)

To further vex Handsome Husband, I hung some old cuckoo clocks. They turned out to unexpectedly work. Which... shockingly... thrilled him!

[Cuckoo ... we are...]

I tried to throw a clean sheet over the Danish day bed to give it a crisp modern look, but somehow all the dogs and chillunz associated it immediately with "A Great Place To Nap And Jump!"

With the southern sunbeams shining invitingly directly on the frickin' day bed, I can't say I blame 'em...

Really, it took me about 24 hours of repeatedly re-attempting crisp hospital corners and re-smoothing it until I finally realized how futile it was and gave up.

Here, I finally hung some art as well, solidifying the reading corner (where you can then stretch out in the sun on that day bed to read)... and leaving the art in the pouches it arrived in to protect it from construction dust.

It's rewarding to be out there despite the cold, alternating relaxing with progressing on the prefab house kit even before the professionals return to finish the next phase of the net zero prefab green home.

In about two weeks the interior walls will begin to be built (yet leaving one side open so the electrician and plumber have access without having to redo anything).

In the meantime I am calling and calling around trying to find someone to come speak to us about installing the modern fireplace in the energy efficient green home (an issue, as a SIPs house has some considerations - as always, air exchange and proper ventilation are important...).  But that fireplace, if installed, will provide good heat as back up, yet without over heating the energy efficient and tight house kit.

Really, I just want to be hot and cozy even without systems installed... is that too much to ask when temperatures are in the teens? ; )

...Stay Tuned. We'll be out again this week in the net zero prefab green home... still with no systems!

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At 1/12/10, 3:55 PM , Blogger Free in Christ said...

Congrats on the inside temps on such COLD days/nights.

At 1/12/10, 5:22 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Thank you! We are grateful.

We were at first so surprised by the drop from 62 to 47 but then when we really realized how dire it was outside... !

(And the house is in the highest point in the county, if you can imagine the WINDs...! Brrrrrr!)

At 1/12/10, 9:45 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

By the way, thank you for leaving your footprint here- I followed your links to Granny Miller and then Dolly Freed. Very much appreciated that.


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