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2/15/16

Off Grid Modern Prefab Talks Conscious Vs Easy Off Grid That's Easy. But With More Work. Confusing... But Not.

It has been a FRIGID week at the off grid prefab house! But we, of course, inside the energy efficient SIP house, are toasty, often overly so!

I also have some prefab project updates in coming weeks, fyi. It has been a learning experience to see the West Coast Dogtrot Mod inch towards fruition with zoning and then contractor procurements... I am hoping to share an actual under construction photos soon!

Others also step towards reality. A client meets with the Texas distributor today, but that build date will not be until spring/summer 2017.

It will be an interesting spring. But first, let's wrap up winter!
Last week I discussed some of my water concerns, this week, I want to talk about an off grid water JOY!
At our modern off grid prefab house, we have solar hot water tubes combined with a tankless water heater to boost the temperature when the solar hot water tubes just can't get hot enough. It works great spring through fall! Water is piping hot!

BUT. It wasn't cutting it over winter. When the solar hot water tubes only got to 40, that means the tankless water heater couldn't boost the temperature enough.
To say the least.

Pretty much every other off grid house, as "off grid" as they appear, seems to depend a heck of a lot on...
PROPANE.
I really, really, *really* don't want to depend upon fossil fuels, y'know? So in winter I had been quietly limping along with super-quick lukewarm showers.

Handsome Husband was dismissive: "Well that's just living off grid."
I refuse to accept this! I refuse to accept that off grid should be uncomfortable.
I demand a hot shower!
He: "Well we'll just have to go to propane, then."
Well heck no maybe we won't, mister. MAYBE we can come up with an affordable, independent, better solution. MAYBE we can keep an open mind and find alternative, easy means to heat winter showers.
ENJOY off grid living,
it should be comforting not uncomfortable.

I believe that off grid living should be more conscious, the concession: allowing that it can be a little more work, just like sailing a sailboat vs. a motorboat- you trim the sails, adjust your
course for wind...

Just as I embrace sailing, I embrace the extra, conscious steps that keep my off grid house humming.

Running pipes from hot water heated via our already-running cookstove (although, if we were starting out fresh and not with an already-poured concrete slab this would be a great solution! So keep that in mind if you're thinking of building off grid in the future!) was not possible without getting really ugly.

I like good ugly, not clunky bad ugly.

Eventually I discovered, after research, The Big Kahuna Portable Shower.
Yes I mentioned that we had received it a few blog posts back. 
Yes I told you all about it. BUT it was only this week when we actually had time to hook the danged thing up.

Immediately I saw:
  • Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh HOT WATER!!!! Hot hot hot water at exactly the temperature I wanted not "eh, this will have  do I guess..."!
  • The average shower water consumption is 2-5 gallons per minute! This shower seems to use much less! Yes I take quick showers but not really - I was so happy to have a HOT shower I lingered, yet never used close to the 4 gallons I put in! I'm thinking I used 2-3 gallons, MAX.
The shower nozzle it comes with turns off when you're not pushing down the button. We remedied that by attaching it to our "permanent" shower nozzle pipe with a metal band looped around it- so when you pull the nozzle towards you, it frees the button hence turning the water off, when you push the nozzle into the band, it presses down the button and so the water stays on.

An even better, more permanent solution is to just feed the water hose in to the pipe. But, knowing us, that will probably take three years before we get around to doing that...

HOLD YER HORSES! HANDSOME HUSBAND FED IN THE WATER INTO OUR EXISTING PIPES THIS WEEKEND! It works just as whenever you turn on hot and cold water in our shower! HAAAAAAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
Often it's the most simple things that can give great pleasure.
Living off grid, little simple things like building a wood shed or having easy piping hot water for winter showers can, as I mentioned, make a huge difference in our ease and comfort.
I see an analogy here. 
There's a big cultural difference between sailors and boaters. 
Raised a sailor, I am proud to sail off grid and not be a guzzling spewing burping oily propane boater.
From this summer:
This sailboat uses its engine sparingly to get underway,
when necessary;
not to... sail.
And these Pips understand the journey.

So, yeah. Don't knock on my off grid winter hot water shower. It's efficient, affordable, and works wonderfully

Anyhoo, The Pips, In This Frigid Weather, Were... Outdoors.
It was frigid. They just donned silk bandanas and tucked in gloves and socks to check the Arctic wind chill.
Pip 2 spent the day building this "hotel"and is trying to persuade her brother to be "staff."
Future architect? CEO? An excellent organizer o' chickens and siblings.

If we weren't so cozy and comfortable in the off grid prefab house, this weather would have been miserable, and certainly dangerous.
I just stretched out in my lounge chair with a steaming cup of tea, computer and books within reach, and enjoyed the view.

On a "Trip To Town" with some Amish friends earlier this week, we headed to the hardware store where my friend was looking at paint colors to brighten her kitchen. I picked up a pocket infrared thermometer and have been playing with it since!

I purchased it to gauge the water temperature for when we heat shower water on the cook stove. It worked great! Then I played with determining how hot the main room is (with the cook stove) vs. the bedrooms. And how hot the top of the cook stove pipe is. And what the temperature of the glass front door is. And windows...

We had a blower door test done when we first built the modern prefab house

But with this inexpensive pocket infrared thermometer, I feel good that I have something I can "spot check" anything I like to confirm it's all still energy efficient and working well. 
I always worry what the
ring around the roiling pipe o' wood stove reads...
this eases my mind.

Checkin' glass... years later, just to see...

I checked cracks, crevices, windows, doors...
Result: Years later, I LOVE THE ENERGY EFFICENCY
OF THIS PREFAB MODERN HOUSE!

I just walk around snapping my laser beam out at everything... analyzing readings... 
OK FINE it's fun.

These windows and doors have gotten a lot of wear and tear since we moved in.
Need to repaint that door frame in spring!
And maybe even...
WASH WINDOWS!
Eh, naaaaah. Ok maybe.

As you suspect, we're ROUGH on everything. So it's a great opportunity to just... spot check... and... shoot laser beamsAnd continue to shore up this homestead to help comfort, hopefully years down the road, next generations.
But Back To Water! 
Here's This Week's Off Grid Farm Project! 
Ice In The Livestock Trough!
Oh, geez. Not working so well.
I was all excited about recycling trash along roads
for a cool equine experiment!

I have been trying to come up with a remedy to breaking ice so much over winter in the livestock trough. On frigid weeks like this, I am taking a shovel, breaking ice, shoveling it out up to four times a day! 

For the chickens, a simple Christmas-lights-in-a-cookie-tin heater has been working great! But when I tried to find a similar solution for the horses, a heater that turns on and off via temperature, it quickly (no surprise) began to deplete our battery bank. Oh well... 

There is a great post on insulated solar water tanks here that I know would work great. but you know what? I already have a loooooong list of projects and just don't want to take this one on right now.

So I tried the salt-water-in-a-milk-jug thingamabob.

It was disastrous. Although she disdainfully left the small soda bottle alone, my playful, curious horse picked out the milk jug each day. Lids were dispatched with, leaving beheaded jugs, and often stomped, for good measure.

My friend C., fyi for those that have equines, opined that the reason the milk jugs were getting taken out and not the small soda bottle was because she could get a grip on them vs. small soda bottles we picked up along the road (yeah! cleaning up the road for reuse!) were more like "bobbing for apples" and she didn't want to submerge to get them.

BUT I HAVE SOME TRICKS TO PLAY BACK ON THAT HORSE!
I got a new huge juice jug and another small soda bottle to add with the original one, but this time upended the bottles.
Come evening the temperatures dipped into the teens.
We awoke to SNOW. EVERYWHERE.
On the right: Cozy warm off grid prefab house!
On the left: Equines goin', "WHATCHOO DOIN'???"
And no juice jug.
But in the water, WITH NO ICE covered with just a layer of slush from the snow, bobbed two soda bottles.


No juice jug?!? But: two soda bottles bobbing in ice-free water. 
My horse and I both won.

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3 Comments:

At 2/15/16, 11:19 AM , Blogger Jeffrey Metzger said...

We'd love to see some floorpans of the West Coast Dogtrot Mod!

 
At 2/15/16, 1:15 PM , Blogger Copeland Casati said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/15/16, 2:55 PM , Blogger Copeland Casati said...

You can see some more on the West Coast Dogtrot Mod, here:
http://prefab-green-home.greenmodernkits.com/search/label/
Prefab%20House%20Project%20R1%20Residential%20Outside%20Of%20San%20Francisco
?updated-max=2015-11-30T13:17:00-05:00&
max-results=20&start=1&by-date=false#.VsIVUvkrLIU

I even made a label for it for future updates:
http://prefab-green-home.greenmodernkits.com/search/label/Prefab%20House%20Project
%20R1%20Residential%20Outside%20Of%20San%20Francisco#.VsIV0fkrLIU

Hope that helps!

 

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