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9/9/13

Net Zero Modern Prefab House Lists Annual Solar Off Grid System Maintenance And Gets An Off Grid Livestock Well!

Enough lollygagging, y'all, it's fall, get back to work! It's been a big work week at our prefab home : The off grid well, and pneumatic well pump, were installed at the modern prefab house!

It had been a long time coming, delayed by rain repeatedly over the summer, but now there is a livestock well ready and waiting to bring the horses home.

As you know, our net zero prefab house is powered by an *undersized* solar system, as we thought we'd be moving here years down the road when technology was greatly improved and more affordable. So for "weekend use" we invested in a minimal "cabin sized" solar system.  A year and a half ago Handsome Husband switched jobs, and the Down The Road Plan suddenly became Reality Off Grid With A Small Solar Array.

So there's no way I was going to tie in the livestock well to our existing solar power.  I consulted the Amish, and here's what we did for our own pneumatic well solution: A pump from the Amish, an air compresser, a hole in the ground that produces water, and a generator.

We thoroughly enjoyed the employees of Hensley Well Drilling- they were not just interested in our own zero energy home but are avidly trying to achieve better energy efficiency and sustainability in their own families; Adam Hensley is a close follower of Joel Salatin in his own livestock management.  I highly recommend Hensley Well Drilling if you live in the Charlotte County / Appomattox / Clarksville / South Boston area.

They were interested in our prefab's energy efficiency, the passive solar functionality of the home, whether we had radiant heat in the slab (we do), and all our off grid gadgets, including the solar cooker I was using to warm up lunch and cook potatoes for dinner that night.
We gave them a tour, and enjoyed speaking with them about how we use the latest technology combined with timeless tools to live comfortably, off grid.

If you missed it, here's a little last minute tour I did two weeks ago of the interior of the prefab:

Off Grid Well Costs
If you think estimating building an off grid prefab house is perplexing (it's not, your most accurate quote is from local contractors bidding on the job, who know the finite costs of material and labor for your area...)... TRY DIGGING A WELL.
*Ring ring*... *Ring ring*...
(I like the old fashioned 1940s phones, indulge me in my ring tone...)
"Hello?"
"Hello, Missus Well Driller, I would like to have a well dug. How much will that cost?"
"I have no idea."
"Excuse me, ma'am?!? Are you certain you have experience?!?"
"We have been in business over thirty years. But as for your fixed costs, we have no idea. We could dig dig dig on your land to Kingdom Come and *still* might not find water."

Contractors can estimate out fixed material and labor costs to build your home. WELLS ARE UNKNOWN.
"It costs $X to drill per hour, and $X per foot for materials..."
NO ONE knows when water is reached. Get ready to spend a bundle.
 


Here is what it cost to drill our own well:

What might it cost you? I have no idea.

Installing the pump was a separate invoice- here's our own costs for materials and labor to install the pneumatic pump (which we had already purchased, it cost $400 from an Amish neighbor).  We purchased the air compressor (Hitachi producing 135psi with a 4 gallon tank) and already had the generator.

At 410' we were drawing 2 gallons a minute; we could drill deeper but for our own conservative water needs that is plenty. We spoke about how the "average huge suburban home" aims for 5 gal/min., but that's to accommodate so much waste.

The Amish well pump was installed, connected to a simple, simple air pump, to run on our portable generator.  Not an ideal longterm solution but it will work to fill up horse troughs of water for the first years. (Don't forget our prefab home uses rainwater collection and a cistern, so alllllll this trouble is for livestock, and a backup in case the cistern runs dry.)

 
 

For those of you that wonder, here are the installation instructions that came with the Amish pump:

Landscape Design And Sleek Modern Considerations After A Well Installation:
In the drilling of the well, granite dust and mud now overrun a good corner of the homesite...
Again: R.I.P. grass. *Sob*
As they drill, I'm thinking,
"Wow, look at all of that gloppy muck spreading out..."
#Foreshadowing
Well on the far left, prefab on the right,
and lots of ick and muck in between.

The childrenz and animals are tracking that concrete-like muck into my newly clean prefab, honeychiles, so yes, I am dust-challenged in housekeeping, again. *Sob*
And where do they all gravitate to play? Ugh.

Not only do I have the well mess to clean up, once it (slowly) dries (in about a week, *sob*, before we can attempt to cart out this horrendous gritty mess)... But there is also the matter of the well pump cover.
THIS. Is the well cover.

It is not sleek.
Modern.
Or Charming.
Let's face it: It is ugly as hell.
Should we name it Cousin It?
"Cousiiiiiiiiiiin It, come downstairs to discuss your fuuuuuuuuture..."

Off Grid Prefab House Maintenance
It's September. That means back to work, folks, and making sure we're ready to sail this prefab house through winter comfortably, efficiently, successfully. Here is the maintenance schedule for our off-grid prefab house:

Annually:
- Wipe down solar panels and solar evacuated tubes
- Have a chimney sweep clean the chimney
- Check and replace the water filters (one string-wound, one charcoal)

Here's how we exchanged the filter in the RWT ultraviolet water disinfection system:

Semi-Annually:
- Adjust the solar panels to the seasonal direction (perked up in the winter half, lowered due to the sun being in the zenith during the summer).

Monthly:
- Battery bank: Equalize the bank (Charge controllers do this for you at request, essentially you wait for a day when the bank is fully charged and you have a sunny day ahead and you overcharge the batteries intentionally - well, the charge controller does this for you within safe limits but it keeps the bank's memory balanced and at high peak.)
- Battery bank: (We really love to nurture our battery bank, one of the most expensive assets in an off-grid house...) Once the bank is equalized check and top off fluid with distilled water if you have lead acid batteries like we and most other off-gridders do. Use the Hydrometer to determine the charge level and log it so that you can spot decreasing performance as time goes by.
- Rain water filter: Wash the filter, you don't want to be caught with a clogged filter and hence NO WATER going into your cistern when it rains.
- Fire wood: always look for downed trees and cut them up, store them marking their harvest year, they should dry for 2 years before using them

Irregularly:
- When should the solar loop antifreeze be exchanged?

Speaking of firewood... There was a dead tree Handsome Husband finally took down that had been leaning dangerously close to the prefab house. "Can you spot me?" I: "Ehrm. I can *watch you* but do you know what you are doing and where that tree will fall????"
*PHEW* It all ended well, and fell exactly as he planned.
 
 

If this post isn't busy enough for you, yet, Handsome Husband ALSO bush hogged the field, and began installing (finally!) plywood on the ceiling of the prefab house's great room.
We spent the weekend on a high scaffold, nail-gunning plywood to the ceiling of the prefab. I am deathly afraid of heights. Pray, please. Oh, my, goooooooooooosh. I AM GOING TO DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE. [Handsome Husband: "Are you done now?"]
  
 
Aside From All The Chores, We DID Also Have Fun.
Equine therapy after tons of work.


Last night, Handsome Husband and I stumbled through the dark to lie, sprawled on the circular seating around the off grid prefab, staring at the stars, the GALAXIES above. It was a beautiful night.

Maybe tonight we'll see even more... We'll be lookin' fer ya, LADEE!
May luck... be... a LADEE.

LADEE Ready for Launch! NASA is making final preparations to launch a moon probe tonight at 11:27 p.m. EDT from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Watch it live at: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
From http://www.nasa.gov

The small car-sized LADEE is a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky. A thorough understanding of these characteristics of our nearest celestial neighbor will help researchers understand other bodies in the solar system, such as large asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets.

For more information about the LADEE mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ladee.


Reading Club:
  • No article link, but this haunts me, something I saw at the library this week: A very frustrated mom: "My kids get home at 4, the library closes at 5, we live twenty miles away... how can they do homework?!?" #RuralInternetDivide #NoComputersForThePoor
  • Could old payphones be turned into electric car charging stations... theatlanticcities.com/technology/201…
  • That Rafael Viñoly building in London that melted some guy's Jaguar? That's not Viñoly's first fryscraper. bit.ly/14qtzL1 >>Maybe they could turn it into a ginormous solar cooker! Cafeteria, here, lol, or at least use the solar somehow...!
  • The scientists and startups converting waste water into clean energy: ow.ly/otjf5

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