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2/3/14

Passive Solar Prefab House Enters The Vortex, Again!

It might have polar vortexed again (is that really now a verb?), but at this point we didn't care, after the initial wariness, being Southerners and not used to that polar vortex whatnot:
We were snug in the passive solar off grid modern prefab!  
Sledding chickens.
#FutureOlympics?

Hey, I even made a video I was so excited about it snowing again. So, our takeaway from these non-traditional Arctic temperatures these past weeks is that the *standard* SIP package, not even the thicker SIP panels we recommend for more severe / northern climates, got us through, easy, in unexpected plummeting temperatures vs. Virginia's normal four season climate.
Take a look, below!

It was consistently in the teens, it had snowed again. Blah blah BLAH. In the off grid prefab house we were schooling, working, cooking up a storm, and plenty, plenty warm. Cozy, thanks to the energy efficient prefab house, off one antique cook stove, with not even the radiant heat in the slab hooked up. Just the solar, just the SIP. No generator. No... nothing, aside from our dinky, beloved, antique cook stove.

"Feels like 6..." Eep! ...Meh.
 
 
 
Running around on the pond,
which drove the dogs mad with worry...
After a morning of sledding
and sliding around on the pond,
I was ready for the frozen kids' return with
hot pancakes and steaming apple cider!
 
Indoor temp... 70.
It might be cold OUTSIDE,
but inside the prefab house we are hot!
Solar batteries are plenty charged...
Makin' pizza...
Passive solar rays...
Chestnuts! Fresh out of the cook stove! Mmmm!

It's bad enough he steals my cook stove logs.
But then he starts TOSSING them into the air,
next to all the glassed mid-century modern...
Windows are going to break. Again.

Our solar battery bank Tri-metric battery monitor indicated that, although temperatures were in the low teens, the sunny skies had us charging at our usual happy rate.
Gaining 25.9...

"This whole polar vortex thing is totally underrated..." I began to think, WHEN...
Oddly, I noticed the Xantrex monitor, which I had been told to not pay attention to, had its battery bar descending... descending.
Huh.

At some point, I heard a *beep!* then a disembodied female computer voice flatly stated, "Smoke alarm. Batteries."

What the heck?!?

I called Handsome Husband.
"Do a forcible restart to power cycle the inverter."

I did. The bar of the Xantrex filled, but not where it usually stood.
*What the heck.*

And then, we realized: The solar might be charging, it might be madly cozy inside the prefab, but THE BATTERIES WERE STORED OUTSIDE IN THE POLAR VORTEX! We think they had kind of frozen!!!!
 

Local code wanted them stored outside.
Where we store the batteries outside of the prefab.
Yes we will be insulating this!

So we, at the time, headed to the closest hardware store and got a storage box, hello, we live in Virginia, it was no big deal or consideration about the *batteries* in our climate, put the batteries safely inside, the electrician connected them to the solar systems and we forgot all about it, except for the monthly maintenance check.

And now here we were in a polar vortex with icy batteries!
Terrible!
We called the solar distributor, who specializes in off grid homes. "Oh, well we will research this with you once you can callibrate the batteries, but in the meantime just use your generator to recharge them."

Um. No, we have no generator, when I say we are off grid we are TOTALLY off grid / no backup for the solar!

**For those of you that need to know, take note on an INDOOR combustion closet for such systems storage I documented awhile back.**

But not terrible. In the off grid prefab house we were warm, the sun was shining, even this solar battery drama was a bit of... "Meh."

As the day progressed, the batteries warmed, the bar jumped back to where it usually is, and stayed.

We are in touch with the solar distributor to research this further, I will post what we find.
In the meantime we ate our way through the crisis.
Kiddos: "We are eating like KINGS
through this polar vortex!"
Collards, cube steak, onion gravy.
Don't say I didn't feed you.
Snow, accumulating...


Reading Club:
I was so thrilled to hear of Linda Liukas and her book, "Hello Ruby." As a fellow tech gal, in looking at her *beautiful* illustrations and teaching, THIS is the book you are going to want to give out at baby showers for future youngsters. Creative smart people like Linda are who I want living in our prefab homes. Linda, I applaud you!!!! Plus I have a mad crush on Finland, and your story ties truly into your cultural heritage of great architecture, technology, and MOOMIN!


Speaking of code...
Homeschool:
This probably wouldn't go over so well
in real school...

I had noticed Pip 1 frequently takes over the computer from Pip 2 who is happy to then curl up against him, share an earbud, and watch while HE codes on scratch.

'Chiles, I am not raising a girl who doesn't know how to code. T'ain't gonna happen. 

So I came up with a creative way to get her more involved in programming, without expending energy myself, and that throws in a few other lessons, for both of them.
Tonight I proposed...

1. She hires Pip 1 to teach her code. He got ALL excited, dreaming of YouTube tutorials he could make, teaching. (He really wants to make YouTube tutorials. Maybe I will let him.)
2. Well, she has no money, so I am the bank. They both went, "Yay!"
3. What that means is, SHE's the client. YOU, Pip 1, are the service provider, I'M the bank that approves your projects.

This way HE gets experience as a project manager, a teacher, and dealing with clients who want to draw flying unicorns instead of tanks. He will need to practice LEARNING TO LISTEN.
SHE learns to code but also lays out the project directives.
I oversee it, making sure he doesn't just pull the computer from her and start coding.

She rushes to me, with a little bucket from her play cook stove.
"I have 75 cents. I'm saving up for a horse. BUT I DO have back up..." And she skips off, again... "...HERE I have CASH that I got for Christmas and birthdays."

"Save your money for a horse. I'm the Business Bank and I will grant you an education loan to learn code."

So on Mondays, SHE comes to me to show me what she has learned in programming in the last week. I will be impressed, and will then, as the bank, hand her over $1.25 (it's 25 cents a lesson I am paying), which then she gives to her tutor, Pip 1.

I think it's good to teach people to.. teach people. HE teaches her, then SHE teaches me what they've been up to all week!

And I... get to be lazy.

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