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Discussion in 'Home Power and Microgeneration' started by HelloCatty, Dec 29, 2003.

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  1. HelloCatty

    HelloCatty Guest


    My wife and I are looking far off into the future when we can afford
    to build a home. We both are tired of tossing money out the window
    for electricity and are very interested in some alternative styles
    that would be easier to build ourselves and more energy efficient.

    We have read a few books and are considering many styles and building
    materials. We have been looking on the web, but much of the info
    available is from companies who all think their product is the
    be-all-end-all of materials.

    So far it seems that a straw or tire house would be best as far as
    that is concerned, but I was wondering if there were any general ideas
    out there? Any books that would be good to read? Currently reading
    "The Natural House."

    My wife also got me a solar power kit and a wind kit that I will
    tinker with to try and get on top of my electricity game - fun.

    One more question I just thought of - how does radiant floor heating
    compare to conventional central air or a wood/pellet stove? I am
    thinking about hoising designs and one of my favorites involves a
    stone fireplace in the center of a room both for heating and
    aesthetics - is this something that is feasible?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. George Ghio

    George Ghio Guest

    Do a search for 'The Maine Wood Heat Co.' The have plans for the heater
    you are after. It is a Contra Flow Masonary Heater.

  3. Guest

    SIP (structural insulated panel) houses seem promising. Or lower-tech
    9" I-joists used as studs with loose-fill cellulose insulation. Straw
    and tires seem messy and fussy, vs bolting or screwing uniform things
    together. You might make a strawbale mold and encase each bale in a thin
    layer of concrete, or make an earthship with tensile vertical tire walls
    that curve inward instead of outward...
    Bad. Natural fibers, soothing colors, feng shui and NO METAL BEDSPRINGS since
    they will interfere with the earth's magnetic field and make you Very Sick.
    Better to study Ohm's law for heatflow in a high-school physics book.
    Very comfy, people say. You might have a radiant floor with a woodstove
    in the basement.
    Inefficient. The stone stores heat, so the house can't get very cool
    at night and it can overheat on warm day... more wood is required. And
    mass near the firebox cools combustion, making the process less efficient,
    and the fire would transfer heat more efficiently to the mass with less
    combustion airflow and a lower vs "higher burn rate," as advertised in some
    masonry designs. A low-mass fireplace can be more efficient, especially
    with forced draft and a counterflow chimney heat exchanger.

    Then again, wood pollutes, and it's ongoing work, vs a solar heating system.

  4. SQLit

    SQLit Guest

    Acquire a Whole Earth Catalog, do some reading. You will find that the types
    of homes your planning will need to be built where there are at least no or
    understanding inspections. Anything away from main stream will be hard to
    build in a urban setting.

    Also find the Zome works in Alberquque NM. lots of interesting stuff there
    as well.
    Mother Earth news is my last recommendation.

    I am sure others will have good ideas as well. Good luck
  5. Bob

    Bob Guest

    Try "The Real Goods Independent Builder" by Sam Clark, sub-titled "Designing
    & Building A House Your Own Way". Also indispensible for ideas is the "Real
    Goods Solar Living Source Book". Both of these are filled with many ideas
    and opinions from people who have actually done the work.
    Very early on in my own planning/thinking stage (which I am still in :), I
    became enamored with the idea of the so-called Cordwood Masonry method. Some
    of the best reading here are 2 books by Rob Roy; "Cordwood Building, The
    State of the Art" and "The Sauna". Though lately my wife and I have been
    favoring straw bale (which means that this will be the method that we use,
    says wifey ;-), and my recommendation here is to read "Serious Straw Bale, A
    Home Construction Guide for All Climates" by Paul Lacinski and Michel
    Bergeron. Most, if not all, of these books are available through , although I picked up most of these at Barnes and
    Noble . (note-a lot of people do not like
    Real Goods as they are on the expensive end, but it is hard to beat their
    knowledge. Do your own research on pricing. YMMV)

    Ideas, thoughts, and ramblings;
    Tire houses - Con - will look like a pile of tires. I have never seen
    pictures of any that I would want to live in (aesthetics at work here).
    Though you could go to the trouble and hassle of covering the exterior.
    Finishing off the interior is a given, why smell old tires all the time?
    Pro - base materials are very cheap and help use up a "resource" that is
    otherwise hard to dispose of. Just think about all the piles of tires
    created every year! Also a very good thermal mass setup, though my readings
    indicate better in a warm/hot climate than in the snow belt.
    Traditional log wall - Con - minimal insulation value (that can be upped by
    building an insulated cavity on the interior finished with a false wall).
    Wall protection from the weather is very important. Very expensive method,
    both in dollars and resources (all those nice, long straight logs are
    getting harder to come by). These days is becoming harder to
    "do-it-yourself", with many companies only offering a "we build it for you"
    aproach. Also very intensive, ongoing maintenance required to keep air
    infiltration down, also wood usually requires painting or other protecting
    covering, harder to paint than a flat wall. Pro - looks "way cool"
    (aesthetics again). Who hasn't wanted, at some point, to live in an
    honest-to-god log cabin?
    Cordwood - Con - air infiltration will be a problem to be worked on at some
    point during the life span of the building with ongoing inspections. Also a
    bit picky on the construction end, making sure that wall go up straight,
    protecting the walls from the weather during and after construction, can be
    very labor intensive (dealing with all that masonry, don't you know). Pro -
    Once the log ends age in the weather, looks a "lot" like a stone wall from
    the end of your driveway. Great thermal mass to reduce temperature swings.
    Can acquire your base materials cheap or free for the hauling. Most of the
    construction can be done by just 1 or 2 people (roof being the biggest
    requirement for more). No painting of walls!
    Rammed earth - Con - not a do-it-yourself method. Contractor built with
    heavy earth moving machinery = expensive. Does not, "supposedly", work well
    with all soil types. And again, protecting the wall from the weather after
    construction. Pro - can look like just about any house style that you want,
    from adobe built Spanish Mission on up to ultra-modern. Absolutely great
    thermal mass. Very well insulated from exterior sound. Best cost
    effectiveness is using soil from on-site.
    Straw bale - Con - protecting the wall during and after construction
    (again!). Possibility of having trouble locating proper bales, for building,
    in your area. Ongoing, regular insection/maintenance to check for cracks and
    to keep the exterior wall sealed from moisture. Pro - Like rammed earth, can
    be made to look like just about anything you desire. High insulative value
    from the thick straw wall. Except as noted about cracks, very minimal
    maintenance, can be easily "washed" for coloring. Very quiet, insulated from
    exterior noises, and good sound absorbing (unless you go for dead flat
    walls) on the interior. Like cordwood, most of the construction can be done
    by just a few people, although this method will work with a larger crew
    which means wall go up and are finished faster.

    Might want to look into the so called "Russian stove". One of the best for
    looks are the models available from , but like so many other
    things, they are about the most expensive. Russian stoves can also be site
    built by a mason.

    Have fun and build well
  6. Gung Ho

    Gung Ho Guest


    "Climatic Building Design, Energy-Efficient Building Principles and
    Practice" by Donald Watson & Kenneth Labs, McGraw-Hill.

    Seriously consider using lots of thermal mass and insulating well with Low-E
    triple glazing. Don't cheap out here.

    I am really partial to the "Blue-max" type wall systems. We also used a
    "Hambro Floor System" which is a concrete flooring system. It will give you
    mass as well as a good basis for radiant heating.

    When we built we originally considered in floor heating. We were steered
    away from it by an HVAC contractor friend who warned of the long term
    maintenance/repair costs.

    Also consider a ground source heat pump as they can be very economical to
    run. Not very economical to purchase however.

  7. HelloCatty

    HelloCatty Guest

    Havnt heard of SIP before - I will look into it. Straw and tires are
    fussy, but they also seem relatively inexpensive and environmentally
    sound, which I am also interested in. I like the idea of the
    earthship but I am not that interested in the design or the humidity
    involved with living in one. I have been thinking about a modified
    version with the greenhouse portion seperated from the main house.
    I like the book - it is somewhat touchy-feely, but no mention of
    feng-shui or magnets or metal bedsprings at all. Ohm's law is
    stimulating reading I am sure, but I don't plan on revisitting a high
    school text to learn about it. Any suggestions as to a practical
    source for that or any other books?
    Wood does pollute, though I am sure that solar heating is not
    maintenance free and I don't mind chopping wood. A solar heating
    system, I have seen solar radiant heating systems that seem like they
    would work, but lots of effort had to go into them and it seemed like
    the houses were built around them. Any thoughts?

    And even if the wood stove/fireplace isnt used for heating alone, it
    could augment any system I would imagine, and there is something
    soothing and romantic sitting in front of a warm fire on a cold night
    that I want.
  8. Bob

    Bob Guest

    I'm curious about something here. What long term maintenance/repair costs
    did your HVAC friend warn of? Were you looking at in floor electric
    resistance? Or Hot water tubing? With the current state-of-the-art in
    radiant floor heating, I have heard little negative on these systems. And
    most of what I have heard has been more related to the heat source and
    valves for hot water. As this is the type of system that I am considering I
    would appreciate finding out what kept you away from this type of heating.

  9. Jeff

    Jeff Guest

    I've heard nothing bad about the plastic pipes in the floor, and there are
    usually backup pipes, with multiple zones. Everyone I know loves them. The
    maintenance is the same for any oil fired boiler (heat pumps are just
    starting to catch on around here). The infloor heating is expensive to
  10. Moojundai

    Moojundai Guest

    Tire house?

    I have allways liked the strawbale building idea, but is a house made of
    tires enviromentaly a good idea?
    Isn't it a bad idea to dig old rubber down, and won't it polute the soil?

    I'm sure that isn't legal in my country (Denmark, europe), were tires are
    heavely ekstra taxed and collected.

    Besides that it doesn't look as bad as it sounds
  11. Bob Peterson

    Bob Peterson Guest

    old tires are often claimed to be something usable for building things due
    to their lack of suitability for much else.
  12. News

    News Guest

    Why are you installing an expensive radiant floor system? Sounds an
    expensive way to do it. If the SIPs are sized accordingly, which can give a
    full air-tight house and superinsulation, you will not require a full
    heating system. Supplementary heating can be from a heat recovery and
    ventilation system with duct battery backup.
  13. Bob Peterson

    Bob Peterson Guest

    Radiant floor heating is also very comfortable.
  14. News

    News Guest

    If designed and fitted properly with appropriate controls. Otherwise they
    can be a nighmare as they are slow to respond. People I know who have it
    had to open the windows over Christmas when around freezing outside, when
    they had lots of people in the house visiting. It just did not respond
    quickly enough to all the extra heat from the people inside. They paid to
    heat the freezing outside air.

    I would advise people to double check the design and the minor details of
    the system, because if you screw up there is no turning back, resulting in a
    very expensive mistake.
  15. News

    News Guest

    Heat pumps during the depths of winter at times cannot provide high enough
    water temperatures. Radiant floor heating is a good match for the heat
    pump. Here in the UK it is more cost effective to have a high efficiency
    LPG, or even oil, condensing boiler running the low temp underfloor pipes.
    The capital cost is far, far less than a heat pump, and the running costs
    are about the same. Mains pipe natural gas condensing boilers are better,
    but not in remote locations of the grid.
  16. News

    News Guest

    Sometimes cost does have to put to one side. LPG is fine.
  17. Jason Jones

    Jason Jones Guest

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