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Home buiding
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kelly    Posted 06-01-2003 at 19:11:10       [Reply]  [No Email]
We are getting ready to build a home and we want to make it as energy efficient as possible. Does anyone know of any great resources for us to look at?

screaminghollow    Posted 06-03-2003 at 06:48:36       [Reply]  [No Email]
One of the problems with the super energy deals is cost. Cutting edge technology often requires hard to find and expensive hardware. I first read about solar shingles forty years ago. The cost is just now down to the point of being about three times the cost of a conventional roof. Back in the early 70's there was the "envelope" house. All of about ten of them are still in existence. then there's always the new "tried and true" like building with thermal mass walls, etc. An acquaintance of mine has a neat house with closet lights that go on and off when you open and close the door. He has big windows on the south side of the house and a large overhang on the roof so the summer sun doesn't come in the windows. He put a circulator fan in the second floor to draw warm air from the attic in the spring and fall day times and sends it through the air ducts into the house. In the summer, it reverses and draws air through the cool basement, up through the house and pushes the warm air from the upper level of the house into the attic to expell the really hot air. Unfortunately, they just discovered that for the years he had this set up, he was drawing warm air out of the attic which is full of asbestos laden vermiculite insulation.
When the plastic residential pipe first came out, there were claims that chemicals would leach out of the pipe and cause cancer. So far there's no evidence that those claims were true. I guess my point is that there are some really good ideas out there, but the house should be viewed as a system, in which many of the parts depend on others. There are builders around here who use some new flexible tubing instead of conventional copper or pvc pipe. One of my carpenter buddies tells me that rodents sometimes get into walls and chew holes in the flexible tubing. My wife and I have been looking around at designs and systems for about six years and want to build too. Good Luck!

Paula    Posted 06-03-2003 at 07:13:51       [Reply]  [Send Email]

Researching building an energy smart house is an
excercise in frustration. As you say the technology is
either prohibitively expensive or there is some massive
drawback to it (like rammed earth homes and radon
emmissions). On top of that, municipal building codes
aren't always flexible or forward thinking enough to
allow you some of these technologies.

Interestingly enough, in the duplex I recently sold I was
able to cut my energy usage in half (on your regular
R19 seive walls, average blown insulation attic space
1100sqft duplex). I did so by using rubber-backed
insulating drapes on my windows, 40watt bulbs in my
sockets, turning lights off in rooms not being used,
running the 'fan' on the heat pump on extremely cold
days so the house heat wouldn't stratify, closing the
drapes during the hottest parts of the day on the west
facing windows.

After experiencing that, and adding it to the new
construction mix, the extent of my energy wise additions
to the new house are:
open floorplan
south facing glazing with 2' overhang
minimal north facing glazing.
ceiling fans
6" slab with laminate instead of carpetting.
good east/west cross ventilation
wooded lot (deciduous trees).
Front loading washing machine
Fisher and Paykel 1/2 load dishwashers (OMG they
cost money!)


Ludwig    Posted 06-04-2003 at 07:38:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
You might check out the staber washer too. Low energy, low water usage. Expensive, but repairable if/when it breaksdown.
On my list would also be a gas stove, electric is such a pig.
We've got almost all our bulbs as compact flourescents now. The only ones that aren't are in the bathroom and over the stove. The prices are really down, I can get them here for about $2 and considering they outlive regular bulbs about 5 times they really save both in energy and replacement. I think ours are 15 watts apiece.

Paula    Posted 06-04-2003 at 09:49:21       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Defintely using flourescent lights in the new house, and
gas (LPG) for cooking. I completely forgot: I"m also
installing a tankless water heater (either SETI or
Takagi) instead of a hot water tank. Electric tankless
runs about $600.00, gas tankless runs about $1600.00.
As someone once said: having a hot water tank
(conventional) is like keeping your car in the drive way
with the engine idling just in case you need to drive it.

Laura Treat    Posted 06-29-2003 at 21:16:40       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I am in the process of building a house, and have put alot of thought into the energy efficiency. Using a timer for the hot water heater can save a significant amount of money. You just set it to go off and come on at times you need it. Also, a programmable thermostat can save you tons. You can program most of them by the time of the day, and the day of the week, to run at higher or lower temps when you are away from home, or during the night.

Paula    Posted 06-02-2003 at 05:20:46       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I like the Real Goods publications alot. I recently (last
year) went through the process or researching and
designing my own space. I read on a few things,

1. Passive solar homes ( I think the real goods book
was actually called the Passive Solar home).

2. Use of energy and insulation. Important because
there are real drawbacks to some of these green
building technologies (like superinsulated, tight homes
have such poor air quality that you have to install an
HRV to turn over the air in the house).

3. Building materials (one book was called the Natural

4. Design. IMPORTANT if you're not going to hire an
architect. Sarah Susanka (architect) series; The Not So
Big House, Designing the Not So Big House. Good
examples. "A Pattern Language" is essential IMO so
you can creat flow and locate spaces correctly.

There are a lot of energy efficient designs and concepts
out there. I'd say from my experience that "THEORISTS
ARE GENERALLY FULL OF SHIT" in that they have
great ideas that are impractical when applied to the real
world in general. For example - bank loans, appraisal
of design, etc are real issues. So if want to build a
strawbale house, make sure it will fly with your financial
institution (unless you got your own money).

Google or Yahoo key words like Solar, Passive Solar,
Passive Solar Design, etc. Do a lot of research - don't
stint on research. Go to home shows or the like.

I found the experience enlightening and fun for the
most part.

Good luck,

walt    Posted 06-02-2003 at 04:38:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
Here in Tn, the electric companies have an "Energy Right" building program. Builders are certified. Check with your local electric company.

DeadCarp    Posted 06-01-2003 at 19:33:14       [Reply]  [No Email]
Not specifically but try Google searches for terms like alternative homes, building materials, lifestyles, off-grid etc.
And since it's still your choice, be REAL fussy about amount & size of windows and the direction your house will be facing. Consider the comfort priorities - whether you fel it's important to sleep cool, wake up to a warm room, have a sunny porch or what. Our living room has the big windows and it faces southeast, so we get that nice free heat and light til about noon, then more shade as things warm up. Just enough windows on the north side for emergency escapes. We're lucky to have big shade trees around too. We HAVE thought about setting a house back into a hillside to cut wind chill and add thermal mass, then you have to pay more attention to moisture and snowdrifts. Have fun! :)

kelly    Posted 06-06-2003 at 04:57:29       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks everyone!

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