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Blister 10-09-2008 02:57 PM

Some Stuff we're doing for EF.
 
We've been trying to do various things here at the house to save energy. We actually had to refinance the house to do the most major improvements but managed to do it with less than $5,000 tacked on to the total, leaving us $17,000 to pay after interest @ $220 a month.

The first two things we did is skirt the mobile home and add coolseal to the roof. At that point we stopped running the central AC unit and began using a window unit (1020w/9a) and a fan to direct the cooler air wherever we are in the living room with no air cooling rooms we don't spend time in. Before we did these things, the central AC unit ran all day long and the house never got below 85 degrees (we live in the SE U.S.). The bill was around $230 dollars a month. This dropped the bill to around $160-$180.

We had already done the basics like replacing carbon filament bulbs with incandescents (compact florescents don't fit in sockets). Closing vents in unused rooms (ineffective), hooking all electronics to a kill switch to eliminate electric usage in the unit when turned off and turning off the hot water heater all but 3 hours a day.

The major project that's current is the homebrew exxon tarp (front porch):

http://img388.imageshack.us/my.php?image=0002195xk4.jpg

This was almost a MUST. When I put the mobile home in this spot, we weren't able to place it in a direction that would make it solar passive without using up valuable space in the yard. We have a little livestock so that was a consideration. With the mobile home running NE to SE instead of E to W, the sun heated and entire side (72' of aluminum) right along with the roof. That porch will eliminate around 90% of direct sunlight on the outer walls, saving cooling costs even more. Never mind the date in the photo, the camera has permanently reset itself. The photo was taken last week.

I need a few more bags of concrete before I put the metal on the roof and that will be cool sealed as well.

Another thing I have been considering is using the pond in back for cooling instead of the window unit. This will require more money but if I can plan it well enough and come up with the materials, it like the porch, wont have construction costs because we'll do it ourselves. The pond is VERY close to the house.

http://img528.imageshack.us/my.php?i...disk913xe9.jpg

If you garden, you might want to consider hydroponics to save on the water used for irrigation and to save labor for other more important things:

http://img510.imageshack.us/my.php?image=1413nd5.jpg

Don't get me wrong, there's still work there but no tilling or weeding. 100lbs of cucumbers came from this home built system every two weeks in summer. lol. Eat up.

The next project is a combination grill, rocket stove, hot water heater. The housing will be made of a portland cement insulator using vermiculite as the aggregate. In the exhaust vent, I want to coil 50' of copper tubing hooked directly to a magnetic drive pump to charge the tubing and pump the water into the tank unless the regular water pressure is slow enough to let the water heat properly. I want also to build a larger hot water tank so this will only need to be used for hot water every 5 or 6 days. I'm thinking 100+ gallons since there are only two of us here. The current hot water heater is 30 gallons. Stock for mobile homes these days.

Eventually, I hope to enclose the porch with strawbale walls, move the mobile home out and finish construction of a complete strawbale home. Maybe one day it'll be possible.

Daox 10-09-2008 03:31 PM

Looks like a good list you got going on. :thumbup:

I would recommend heading over to EcoRenovator.org to get some other ideas on what can be done.

conradpdx 10-10-2008 01:50 AM

depending on your soil type you may wish to check out Cal-Earth - Photo Gallery Super adobe could be a lot cheaper and easier to design (though a bit more physical work) than strawbale.

Not to come down on strawbale, I've been following thier progress for over 15 years now, but I think there are better but less "sexy" methods to building shelters than the 1st little pig method.

<edit> though I gotta admit I'm a bit envious. I'm too much of a city slicker, but I'd love to live in a building code free zone to carry out my mad little experiments.

Blister 10-11-2008 11:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by conradpdx (Post 66362)
depending on your soil type you may wish to check out Cal-Earth - Photo Gallery Super adobe could be a lot cheaper and easier to design (though a bit more physical work) than strawbale.

Not to come down on strawbale, I've been following thier progress for over 15 years now, but I think there are better but less "sexy" methods to building shelters than the 1st little pig method.

<edit> though I gotta admit I'm a bit envious. I'm too much of a city slicker, but I'd love to live in a building code free zone to carry out my mad little experiments.

We have considered many, many alternative construction methods along with costs, dangers, time in (DIY only so education/experience is key), strength, versatility and efficiency. With cost being at the very forefront of our considerations, strawbale construction is by far the best bang for our buck. There are also abundant sources of information to back up safety and structural integrity claims for local building inspectors if you live an area where they'll actually listen to you. Since the post and beam structure to accommodate an in-fill bale wall style is 90% complete and the materials are locally available, it's pretty much a done deal. Everything from the strawbales to the mortar mix are available right here within a 60 mile radius.

Thanks for the information though. I'm going to check it out anyway just because I do that sort of stuff. lol

conradpdx 10-11-2008 09:52 PM

I should amend my above post, cause this last spring Portland added strawbale (infill and compressed load bearing) to the building code. Guess really I just gotta convince the wife to tear this house down (haha---that'll never happen she loves this dump).

<edit> You might find it helpful in dealing with the local authorities to arm yourself with this:

http://www.strawbale.com/pdf/oregon_building_code.pdf

It's a copy of our strawbale addition to the state code.

Blister 10-12-2008 09:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by conradpdx (Post 66693)
I should amend my above post, cause this last spring Portland added strawbale (infill and compressed load bearing) to the building code. Guess really I just gotta convince the wife to tear this house down (haha---that'll never happen she loves this dump).

<edit> You might find it helpful in dealing with the local authorities to arm yourself with this:

http://www.strawbale.com/pdf/oregon_building_code.pdf

It's a copy of our strawbale addition to the state code.

Cool. Thanks a lot CPDX. That WILL help. The codes from another 5 states I either have to dig up myself or buy in a package along with data from the canadian govt concerning fire resistance. When I approach these guys, I need enough info to (stealthily of course) make them look like idiots for NOT allowing me to go strawbale and that will definitely help.

It'll also give me an idea of what the codes in those states are demanding so I can get a better idea of materials that I may not have planned for. I appreciate that.

conradpdx 10-12-2008 09:46 AM

I think you'll find this to be one of the more comprehensive codes. I'm not 100% upto date on whats going on through the rest of the nation/Canada, but this the first code to allow load bearing bales that I've seen.

Just to give some back up info. Oregon is a IBC state (International Building Code) so most of our codes are through the IBC. The IBC is respected throughout the world for it's work and standards. And strawbale has hit the big time with IBC amendments in this part of the country. Oregon has earthquakes, lots of rain (west of the Cascades), high dessert (east of the cascades), and along the coast storms that rival hurricanes in wind speed. All in all, we pretty much get in just about everything here in this state that mother nature can dish in one place or another. Because of all this I was actually amazed that it was endorsed statewide, I kinda figured that it be left to the local governments to decide.

Good luck with it and keep us updated... (Start a blog and do it well and you could probably start your own specialized contracting company...especially if you bend the code enforcers in your area.)

conradpdx 10-12-2008 10:01 AM

A lot of times alot of that information you seek can be found for free over the internet. Seems like a dumb thing to say on the surface, but better searching can often dig up info that you didn't think you could find with broader searches. Also know what gov agencies hold the information you need. The city and state auditors often have a lot of the information you wouldn't think they have. Infact, I found the strawbale code while looking for the code for egress standards for a basement bedroom.

For example, for fire rated testing. Find an group that did the test, see if you can find the company that ran the test. For things like fire safety you need independent testers, then go to the testers web site and search that site for the info. If you can find anything published on that site, try asking them for it. What do they care, unless they have a contract for hold that info in secret, they've been paid for there work. It helps if you can get the name of the individuals that did the testing and speak/email them directly. The person at the info. desk might not even know what your talking about.

Even if you don't have a hard copy of the info. on hand. If you have the information on the test and the testing company, you can still refer to them. Building boards and inspectors just wanna make sure their butts are covered. If it truly looks like you know what you're talking about and can seem to be able bookmark your information, then they'll likely give you what you want. Make sure if you go this route that you have phone numbers and names. Inspectors will often talk with other inspectors even if they wont talk with you.

Always be nice and respectful to these people, even if they seem not interested or you don't get what you want immediately. As a structural steel welder I work with alot of inspectors and I can't tell how much easier my job is because I've work for years in establishing a reputation with the inspectors as being polite and doing good work. They trust me, and will often sign off on things not 100% done. I've never allowed myself to get mad at a single one of them even though at times I've wanted to toss a few of them off the building. They'll even listen to me when I disagree with them on unclear prints, or other issues that might come up.

DON"T make them feel stupid. They really don't like that, especially by someone not in the trades---casue trust me they aren't and if you ever have a code problem this factor alone can be difference between s/he telling you whats wrong and how to fix it, or them just blankly refusing your work with no info (They don't have to tell you what does and doesn't pass, they can also word things in their reports that are nearly undecipherable). Instead present it to them as a learning experience. Tell them it's the future and they're getting a leg up on others in their field locally for when this becomes more standard. Talk about the environmental aspects energy savings etc. They are in the business of buildings and find this stuff as interesting as you do, perhaps even more so.

More importantly. Ask them questions (even if you know the answers already). Most of them do know their stuff, and you can learn a lot from these people. They just need to be stroked a little.

You gotta remember these people are berated by people trying to cut corners and get away with as little as possible. If you give the impression that you want to do the job right no matter what it takes they'll like you, and help you as much as possible.

If you've never been to one of their (the local building boards) public meetings I'd recommend going to a few and just watching. First they aren't well attended so they'll probably recognize you when you do appear before them for your house. And you'll also get an understanding of some of the bs they gotta suffer on a daily basis.

Blister 10-12-2008 10:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by conradpdx (Post 66737)
Good luck with it and keep us updated... (Start a blog and do it well and you could probably start your own specialized contracting company...especially if you bend the code enforcers in your area.)

You know, with such a lack of work around the area I'm in, I have already seriously considered that... Building strawbale structures as a niche market income but folks are hard to sway around this area.

I remember when I started growing vegetables hydroponically, I showed the system I built to about a thousand people over 5 years and offered to show them how to do it also, for free... and no one came back. rofl. It was very discouraging since the vegi's were awesome and the system didn't look bad at all.

It's a closed loop NFT system which causes me not to have to dump the nutrient solution so there's really no damaging waste, faster fruit production and 75% less work. There is the initial cost in materials which was around $300-$350 but it doesn't have to be as large as mine to see good results. Anyway, a lot of people are stuck in their ways and no one wanted any part of it except one guy who went off on his own. He started growing strawberries but failed and quit. I would have quit six times over if I quit at a failure with that thing. lol. I considered every season a failure because I couldn't turn anyone else on to the idea. It sure did beat dumping thousands of gallons of my drinking water on the ground along with hundreds of pounds of chemical fertilizer. I'm not what some consider "green" but that seemed so wasteful when another option is there.

I've mentioned strawbales to people here before and it's like they don't even hear what I'm saying... Go figure. I'm from SW florida originally and I saw what hurricane andrew did to homestead fl back in 91-92. It flattened every wood framed home within a 15 mile radius of landfall and that's all we have here in GA... wood frame and mobile homes. Although it's not exceptionally windy here, we've taken some wind damage the last few years (not us personally but in town) and it gets pretty hot here. Strawbales make perfect sense to me in this environment.

instarx 12-20-2008 10:17 AM

How about a plant-wall? Ivy or even runner beans growing up a trellis on the side of the house will shade it in summer and still allow solar insolation in the winter (at least the beans will, some Ivy's are evergreen). Of course being in GA you could just plant Kudzu! ha, ha.


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