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4/25/16

Net Zero Passive Solar Off Grid Prefab House Thinks Passive House And Fencing

We're all very, very busy at the off grid prefab house...

Passive solar net zero off grid prefab house.

We do not have a Passive House (or Passiv Haus); we have a well-insulated passive solar, net zero, off grid house

But the literature for Passive House follows my own experiences in our own off grid prefab house that is passive solar with the "standard" insulation (vs. thicker insulation you can opt for if you live in a more extreme climate).

Today it's 87. Inside my passive solar prefab house right now, mid-afternoon, it's 70 and I haven't turned on cooling fans, haven't opened clerestory windows (to let the rising hot air out), haven't turned on the HRV more than the regular times to increase the fresh air exchange.
This article emphasizes the importance of passive solar, passive solar orientation, the windows chosen... all which greatly affect house temperatures and which were considered in the design of our own passive solar prefab house designs.

Last year, Lloyd Alter wrote a great article, "Our society is built around air conditioning now, but we can still try to use less of it."
"...encouraging people to live without air conditioning is less relevant with the increasing popularity of super-insulated homes like the Passive House, which don’t need much air conditioning at all; it doesn’t take much to get them cool and keep it there."

Like a Passive House, if we did want to install a small air conditioning unit, we could cool the house quickly, and keep it cool, easy, because of the energy efficient insulation of the SIP (structural insulated panels). Again, from Lloyd Alter's article:
"...Fortunately, if you apply the passive strategies first, the active heating and cooling components become really dinky and inexpensive; Alex heats and cools his super-insulated house with an off-the-shelf mini-split air source heat pump.
...
 The climate is changing and just making it hotter and harder to live without AC."


Like our own passive solar prefab homes built to be extremely energy efficient by design and materials like SIP (structural insulated panels), this passive solar article outlines some of the most common myths we, too, encounter
Myth #1: Too expensive
"...The truth is counterintuitive: If you include operating costs in the equation, Passive House emerges as the most affordable way to construct any building.
Here’s the math: Passive House walls and windows cost more than code construction, while Passive House heating systems cost less. On balance, Passive House construction costs up to 10% more than code. (Costs for land, carrying and marketing remain unchanged.) Upon completion, Passive House buildings require an average of 90% less heating energy than code buildings.
Amortize the one-time construction premium over the life of a mortgage, subtract the annual savings on utility bills, and most Passive House owners save money every single year."
Similarly, contractors often say SIP are too expensive and that they can stick build more cheaply. But then you have to factor in not just the framing, but the team to install insulation (and more often than not it's not installed correctly)...

Quickly the costs of operating an energy efficient, solid SIP product saves money, accrued annually...

Myth #10: Net zero is better
"Absolutely: Net-zero energy is better than 90% less heating energy. And net positive buildings, such as those built to the Living Building standard, are better still. But because generating energy on-site demands additional systems, the price of clawing back that last 10% can double the cost of construction. "
As we are an off grid, net zero prefab house, my thoughts on this are that when going net zero / passive house, each case needs to consider each line item to best meet the individual family's needs.

I also wouldn't overspend on and oversize systems. My philosophy is size your systems for moderate needs then... make do. As I often point out, on cloudy weeks our family doesn't expend as much energy; in drought, we watch our water- we are mindful of our consumption. I don't think that's a bad thing, in fact, I think it's great.

At the off grid house, our social life has come to a stop: the fencing project at the off grid prefab's homestead continues another week, and will last at least one more. But it's so worth it...

So, yep, we're on deadline. Fencing fencing fencing fencing but: moments of play.
Horses do love to play... and this one, as if he wasn't vain enough, has discovered: windows are reflective.
Many friends are gathering with loved ones for Passover. I am thinking of you, and for no reason thought this picture I just took was somehow relevant- the joyous cleansing of a child's dance in the rain.


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4/18/16

Modern Prefab House Continues To Fence And Frolic

With spring, the off grid modern prefab house needs hardly any effort. There is no cook stove to start, no wood to bring in... beautiful weather... time to frolic!

The whippoorwill have returned, and sing. It is always my favorite song.


So... if I had to give top pieces of advice for someone thinking about going off grid... as I step out of the shower, readying for church, here is what I would say:
In the solar water collectors, it's hot!
In the tank... not so much.


Do not oversize your hot water tank. In our solar hot water collectors, the temperature is, with spring's approach, now hot, hot, hot! But because we oversized our hot water tank (thinking: family!), the temperature I have to bathe with is... 80.

I *could* let the tankless water heater kick in, but I hate using it, off grid-
it wastes perfectly potable water waiting for it to turn on (even when catching that excess in a watering can), draws energy, and has quite a load, so annoys me every time I use it.

Thankfully, I am in this dilemma only briefly in spring and fall. But: now you know. Don't do it.
I have just taken a cool shower, pulled on tights, and am sitting here with dripping wet hair when Handsome Husband says, "Hey, let's instead keep working on the fencing!"
I'm going to kill him.
So off we go, to fence.

BUT: IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN, NOW, because our existing, smaller pasture is eaten down and...
Pip 2 is getting a Project Pony!

Yes, our cowgirl friend C. has recently acquired a pony that hasn't been ridden or messed with in over a year, and, due to its size, can not be ridden by adults. What she needs is some little girl...
...to Little Girl-ify this pony.

Looks like they are well on their way, even on Day 1.
He was brushed.
And braided.
And ridden.
And jumped.
And loved on, and loved on, and loved on.

The beauty of Projects is that you help a horse (or pony), you learn, you share what you learned with the pony, then they get to be matched with their perfect forever home.  NICE!

The weekend began with opera and then we dumped the Pips onto unsuspecting grandparents and high-tailed it back to the country CHILD FREE.
"Hey, let's run in to the city and dump the kids!"
"OKAY!"

Our romantic child-free weekend involved more fencing, gatherin' provisions, and sharing the road with THIS GUY.
Yep, just trotting down Main Street...

Handsome Husband LOVES to do errands as much as I abhor them.
And only Handsome Husband can make driving around the country with bags of trash romantic. He inhales and remarks, "Ahhhhh it eez just like a Southern European city, on a summer's day..."
ITALY, I FEEL YA.

Also: y'all. There is nothing like listening to a German belt out Big Green Tractor at the top of top of his lungs.,.
He: "Ahhhhh, ERRANDS!"
I: "Kill me."
We continue to work on fencing this week, and I am hoping it will be over soon. Once we finish bracing corners, we string wire, gates, and can finally bring the horses in! They will be so glad.
Hope y'all have a good one.

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4/11/16

Off Grid Modern Prefab House Continues Spring With Solar, Sun and Snow and Chicks!

Solar panel adjustments.
Pip 2 is taking my picture while they're doing all the hard work!

At the off grid modern prefab house, it was time to lower the solar panels for the season.
In fall, we raise the panels to best face the lower winter sun; in spring, they are lowered to better catch the rays of the sun's higher position.

The passive solar design of our off grid modern home is always easily seen, indoors, even on cloudy days: 
And so the week continued.

Good morning. Here's one way to wake up, here:
'Round these parts, you've got to stay on yer toes, because spring in Virginia can be squirrely.
Ah, spring! One minute you're mesmerized as a new Momma Hen teaches her babies to scratch...
...and the next, it's snowing.
Then it's beautiful...
...and then it hails.
Stormy...
...lovely. Geez.

With this fickle weather, we're enjoying the last of cook stove season...
And, being rural, had the occasional country traffic jam:
Here I am stuck in Mad'ville traffic AGAIN!

But it t'ain't no thang, we're all headed to the same place:
THE ANNUAL AMISH AUCTION!
Following photos by my friend C!
 
With the weekend socializing done, the remaining hours were for work.
After weeks of working on it, Handsome Husband got the new tractor to run!
What'z up with our family having ginormous dogs yet eensy tractors? All our farmer friends are amused. : )
After a walk, Pip 2 returned with fiddlehead ferns which she promptly put on the kitchen counter with an expectant look, so fiddleheads were incorporated into what I was already cooking for dinner, with great success.
Sweet potatoes, fiddleheads, steak with roasted onions, and
cucumber salad. It was a late late dinner so the
picture didn't turn out great but it was delicious!

Recipes:
  • Sweet Potatoes With Fiddleheads: Bake sweet potatoes until done, then slice 1/2" thick and lightly fry in a tasty grease like chicken grease (left over from when I made fried chicken this week!). Sautee well fiddleheads in butter, serve alongside or on top of sweet potatoes.
  • Cucumber Salad: Layer: thinly sliced cukes, drizzle with onion slices, raw sugar, rice vinegar, Amish hot relish, salt, pepper in a non-reactive container. Seal and gently toss, then let set at least 2 hours, tossing gently every now & then.
  • Another Kale Salad: The next day, shred kale, toss in any remaining sweet potato slices, now diced, a perfectly ripe avocado, and homemade thousand island. I'd even top with roughly chopped almonds or sunflower seeds if I had thought of it, but I hadn't had my coffee yet, and I'm probably the only one here that thinks this is a perfect breakfast. Homemade Thousand Island: I mix mayo, ketchup, sriracha or Amish hot relish, and lots and lots of minced Amish sweet pickles (which come with onions in them too).
  • Easy Fried Chicken: You know what's great in which to fry chicken? COCONUT OIL. So mix up a batter of eggs, salt, pepper, flour, & sriracha with enough milk until it's the right consistency, dip in chicken pieces, and fry away.

    I served it up with collards (cooked with pieces of a neighbor's ham), fresh bread, and really good butter.
Reading Club:
  • The Curse of the Bradford Pear
    "...No two Bradford pears will ever reproduce among themselves, but they do cross pollinate with every other pear tree out there, including the Cleveland Select pear trees that were meant to be the salvation of flowering pears everywhere.
    ...
    Because of the cross pollination problem, pear trees have now proliferated exponentially across our environment. And, to make matters worse, the evil offspring has reverted to the ancient Chinese Callery pears which form impenetrable thorny thickets that choke out the life out of pines, dogwoods, maples, redbuds, oaks, hickories, etc."
Hope y'all have a great week.

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