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Old 06-27-2012, 10:01 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by TheMarkofPolo View Post
I recommend going to their project section: Sustainable Green Buildings: Current Projects & Events | Learn More

There are photos from projects around the world. Unfortunately, many of the link names and photo details don't match (Corner Cottage project goes to the Fife, Scotland photos for example).
I would say that links on that page are seriously messed up, now if houses are built as well as that web page, that is impression what page visitors might get and that can't be good for business.

I wonder how they deal with humidity and radon, then those rubber tires are something you don't want to live next to as even they are old, they still emit those nasty vapors, rubber is decomposing all the time, given enough time it becomes brittle, that is because stuff they are made is releasing those vapors:
Toxic Vapors Emitted From New Tires | eHow.com
Sand etc is not blocking any vapors, might slow down, but really does not stop, that is case with radon too, it is gas that comes from ground, not all areas here are radon areas, but at every area building must meet radon specifications, which can be more or less demanding depending from the area.

Usually this is done so that underside of a house is ventilated to outside and below insulation of floor there is vapor sealing.

We have cellars here that use same principle as earthships, earth keeping them from freezing, like caves etc, temperature is nicely below +5C whole year, quite damp places, that require gravity based ventilation to control that dampness.


Then there is law about indoor air, air needs to be replaced 12 times in a day, yes, that is madness, but that is what new buildings must comply with, that is difficult to achieve without ventilation by electric fans, that run constantly.

Our wind average is below 4m/s here, so wind power is not very plausible , sun is not shining at winter, so no electricity from sun either, which sucks.

Then there is challenge of rain water, rain water is lacking minerals so it is considered to be not so good for drinking, 2nd problem is with bird poo and I guess that is related with salmonella etc, but water collected from roof of house should not be drank as it might contain that, it is however ok to use in garden etc where I use it.

Wastewater is regulated also, none of that is allowed to let into nature, there is regulations how efficiently that should be processed until it can be released and that is probably cleaner than many places have their drinking water. I don't know what is english term for most common system, but it is field where there are different kind of gravel etc and is based on bacteria and filtering so it cleans water in multiple stage process. There are also machines for the job, but those are expensive to use and not very popular.

There is very little freedom left in building, that sucks too.

But I consider those regulations bit artificial impossibles, but perhaps good to know that here all housing is rather green compared to many other places, I know that in central europe it is not rare to release waste water directly to river, here you would get fines from such.

As during summertime we can get below 500 hours of sunshine (whole summer and at mid summer sun is set only for hour or two), that means also that because of cloudy rainy weathers there is limit how much sunshine you can actually store, 150kWh/square meter is maximum during June and July, that is in a month and it is less with other months, total around 5-6 months depending bit from location is what you can get usable solar power maybe something below 500kWh in total per square meter and it can be lot less when there is cloudy summer like what we have now, today max temp +13C, no sun again.

So there is limit how much earthmass you can heat with sun, it might be less than what you would need to get over that long winter time when you need heating, considerably longer.

This sawdust insulated house of mine is however rather good in there that sun is heating this rather well, which cuts months from heating bill, also at autumn that large concrete base heats month or two so I don't need heating until october/november. Even it is now very cold for summer, this well designed system seem to keep indoor temps at tolerable level without heating.

Also extra insulation I put to upstairs bedroom seem to work well enough, I keep around +10C at downstairs as I don't use that much and that keeps upstairs heated too for most of winter.

There are trees so that it will not be awful hot when sun happens to be visible but there is not so much shade that it would cause problem with sun heating the house at spring as leafs are not on those trees.

This house does not meet modern regulations but as this is old enough it does not need to.

Our lapland is special case then, from November to March there is no sun at all, it just does not rise, huge amount of snow and very very cold, even during the summer it is not very warm, even sun does not set at all, just goes quite low and it is very cloudy naturally, to build zero energy house there would be silly, midday is not much different from midnight, so lights are constantly needed, man was never meant to be in these conditions.

edit: This is what I'm curious about, put such containers under ground and use vacuum pipe solar collectors to store heat in them, still cost would be quite a bit, but maybe possible to get such price that it is possible to invest to enough large to collect energy for winter, one could up solar collector capacity with poper storage so that even at poor summer there would be plenty of heat collected, also no need to build new house or anything of such drastic
http://www.ecogeek.org/power-storage...r-renewable-en

Kind of similar idea to store heat into ground, but for me this technology looks more feasible even at very extreme conditions.

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Old 07-01-2012, 07:38 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I like the idea of an earthship and I would be interested in seeing one here in the Phoenix area, but I would like a concise explanation of the systems. I found that website to be difficult to read.
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Old 07-02-2012, 12:47 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Oh yes, they address the potential problems with using recycled tires as building materials...

It's difficult detailing the systems of an earthship concisely because the designs have changed (improved) over the last 30 years, and because earthship design varies from region to region, climate to climate, and budget to budget.

In general they focus FIRST on the owner's desire to conserve. Water, electricity, natural gas, etc. must be used minimally or these systems would require more contingency plans. For example, water is supplied by snowmelt and rainwater falling upon the Earthship roof. The water is filtered for sinks/showers and stored in a cistern. Water can be purified further for drinking. The greywater from the sinks/showers goes through the interior plant cells and into the toilets. The blackwater goes to a septic system outside. The cistern is designed to hold enough water at all times, given conservative use. (You run out of water...you've got to truck it in from Taos.)

Heating/cooling. The thermal attributes of the building materials used creates a more stable temperature regime in the home. Less heating/cooling needed in the first place. The natural circulation system (vent tubes bring in cool air through soil berm and tire wall, warm air escapes through ceiling-mounted vents) brings in cooler air and reduces the need for cooling. During the winter, the lower angle of the sun brings more light directly into the earthship, helping heat the house instantly while allowing heat to be stored in the thick floor and walls. The heat is reradiated throughout the night. There is less need for heat. Additional heat CAN be provided by natural gas/propane heating, but the system doesn't solely rely on it. (The propane tank is used for the oven/stove and cooking in the home I stayed in.) Of course, the natural gas can also be used to assist in generating hot water when the solar hot water heaters aren't enough. No 30 minute showers!

Electricity. Without the heating/cooling load showing up on the utility bill, and with natural lighting negating unnecessary light use, electricity will primarily be needed for the refrigerator, nighttime lighting, TV, laptop, some kitchen appliances. At that, the fridge is DC and energy efficient, the lights are CFLs, the TV is LED, and all other appliances used should be efficient. With a small electrical load, fewer solar panels and mini wind turbines are needed. If you MUST have a microwave, plasma screen, 100 watt light bulbs on during the day when your not in the room, you'll have to pay for it with a larger solar array or by being tethered to the grid.

Xist, I doubt that cleared it up. You might search for some short videos on earthship design or look up the documentary Garbage Warriors.
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Old 07-02-2012, 01:09 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Thanks for posting your experience... very interesting!!
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Old 07-02-2012, 01:55 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Well, I appreciate you sharing your experience with us. I guess that I will look for something specific to Phoenix.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-03-2012, 12:40 AM   #16 (permalink)
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That is good to know that tires do not pose a problem, that is why things need to be posted up, to find what one by himself can't find, let that be idea or info

We here have possibility to buy WC units that use natural process to make waste to dirt, ahem, I'm bit of loss of words here, but black stuff you put flower pots, earth, dirt, no electricity needed, it is all natural process, one could get away without needed of septic tank completely. Here is link to english pages of one local manufacturer for more information, it should not be difficult to make one by yourself too (mostly models for summer house are those without need of electricity) BIOLAN - DRY TOILETS

Grey water infiltration field is then only required by the law, but if one lives near water, then those are not allowed to be filtered by field and you need non leaking container of sufficient size.

Idea is to get rid of the water from toilet mostly, with no need for any tank to be emptied costs would be nearly the same as with everything going to septic tank, only thing is that there is no need to pay annual fees, one would need to pay all that in advance. Infiltration field needs renewing every now and then and that makes some costs + some labour is needed to empty non smelling, hmm, I think it was soil(?) from composting wc unit.

After 2014 you really can't have septic tank system here as it is considered leaking to ground, only container without possibility to leak outside or infiltration field or electric/chemical purifier system and infiltration field, any system not using electricity is best.

I think that earthship can be made to work in here too, but it would require some means to have electricity stored for dark months as there is no any sensible way to produce it unless one lives near stream.

Computer is one that uses most electricity, well almost par with cooking here, that is if you exclude heating out. If I would have income other than working from home with computer, then I guess I could store all needed electricity so that even very small wind turbine (works from with very low winds) might be enough, but as I need computer and as with developing tasks it needs to be rather powerful, I'm doomed when living here.

To be 20 years younger and I would book flight to some other place where one actually could produce electricity with PV panels all year
Oh, that might make well possible to live without working at all too, to be able grow food all year, now that would certainly be something awesome :P
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Old 07-03-2012, 02:25 PM   #17 (permalink)
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jtbo -

Someone once said something to the effect of "If you think you can or if you think you can't, you are right."

I am sure if you really wanted to move somewhere with more sun and with warmer weather, you would be able to do it.

And there are other ways to generate electricity efficiently besides sunshine. As you mentioned, there is wind. Of course that is not always available. Another option that seems as if it could serve a dual purpose is biogas / syngas generation. This approach burns organic material (wood, for instance) under controlled conditions, with the byproduct being a flammable gas (syngas). The heat from the burning could be used to warm the home, and the syngas can be used to fuel an ICE or gas turbine generator.

One summer I went to visit my cousin living in Sweden near 65* latitude and I understand what you mean about the summer sun... it seems like the sun is a heavy ball that can't make it up into the sky... it climbs so slowly in the mornings and then drops slowly in the afternoon but never goes all the way down. To me, it seemed like it was always either time to have breakfast or time to have dinner... never time to sleep or time to do work.

Even so, I think there are options...
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Old 07-03-2012, 05:57 PM   #18 (permalink)
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jtbo -

Someone once said something to the effect of "If you think you can or if you think you can't, you are right."

I am sure if you really wanted to move somewhere with more sun and with warmer weather, you would be able to do it.

And there are other ways to generate electricity efficiently besides sunshine. As you mentioned, there is wind. Of course that is not always available. Another option that seems as if it could serve a dual purpose is biogas / syngas generation. This approach burns organic material (wood, for instance) under controlled conditions, with the byproduct being a flammable gas (syngas). The heat from the burning could be used to warm the home, and the syngas can be used to fuel an ICE or gas turbine generator.

One summer I went to visit my cousin living in Sweden near 65* latitude and I understand what you mean about the summer sun... it seems like the sun is a heavy ball that can't make it up into the sky... it climbs so slowly in the mornings and then drops slowly in the afternoon but never goes all the way down. To me, it seemed like it was always either time to have breakfast or time to have dinner... never time to sleep or time to do work.

Even so, I think there are options...
I agree that there are always options, here wood is most likely to be best option. During WW2 here people did not have gasoline, not much cars either, that few were took to military use during the war of course. Then even military had shortage of fuel, so they started to build devices to cars which burned wood and produced gas to run the car, which I believe is what you mentioned as getting biogas from wood with controlled burn. Direct translation is wood gas, wiki has this to say about that:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_gas

Moving to warmer country just would require some financial level which is impossible to gain for me any more because of health, but what I can do is to minimize need to use money and maintain somewhat decent level of living despite very small amount of work that I'm able to do.

Indeed, our bright day must be tad dim for other places, I shoot photos as a hobby and even at bright summer day I can't find need to go to ISO200 if using 300mm setting of lens, also I have not found enough bright day to use my 1500mm lens yet, there is light, some places even lot of it, but it is perhaps not nearly as bright as at some other places of earth.

At October sun can't get above trees any longer on my yard, mostly of course because trees are very tall around the yard, but it is huge difference to summer and change is relatively quick too.

It is not only electricity that it affects to, also how sun's energy can be stored to soil is somewhat limited, this year it was 5. month that snow melted away from my memory, it is not unheard of to get snow already at 10. month, but after 9. month sun has no longer power to charge soil with solar energy.
This then leads to very limited energy capacity that could be stored with soil in earthship to be used to keep place warm, even there is sun energy available at end of 3. month it takes usually month or even bit more to get all snow melted and after that it takes weeks to soil to dry until it starts to warm up again properly.

We have also now new regulations of fireplace efficiency, I think it should be over 85% with new fireplaces used for heating. Don't know if wood gas would be better total efficiency than such fireplaces. For me something around 2-3 cubic meters of wood would be plenty for year's heating if I would have such fireplace, maybe some day.

What I think is that with older house with proper setup one could maintain such low level of consumption that demolishing old house and building earth ship might not be much more ecological.
Of course when building new anyway, then earthship or other building using similar general ideas might be good.

Same is often with cars, swapping engine and drivetrain might provide more ecological solution than getting new car, when one accounts whole chain from digging up the minerals and all those effects to nature.
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Old 07-03-2012, 11:18 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Yes, you are right about the wood gas; that is what I was talking about; further information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasifier. I don't know how your lawmakers would rate the efficiency of such a device since it generates heat for you while also creating fuel for you which you can then use to generate more heat or electricity.

I think it would be a mistake to think that without the sun, the thermal mass would have no benefit. If it is cold outside, you will need to heat your home. The insulation that you have in your home right now is intended to prevent (as best as possible) the heat from 'leaking out' of your home. Once the heater is turned off, the existing heat will slowly leak out of the home, which is a complete loss. The idea of thermal mass is to store heat. So if you are heating your home, you are also heating the thermal mass. Once the heater is turned off, the thermal mass releases the heat back into the home, so all that energy used to heat the home is not completely lost. In this example, no sun comes into the picture, but the function is the same.

With the Earthship, the design is intended to take any advantage of the sun that is possible. The thermal mass works no matter what, but if you can face all windows toward the sun so that you can take advantage of what little warmth it has to offer in the summer months, then you are ahead by that small fraction.

Of course, a thin earth wall will not help you as much as a thick earth wall... especially in a climate like yours where you have snow on the ground for so many months... but 2 or 3 meters of earth would keep you well insulated from that. With the Earthship design, the window side is multiple layers... outside windows and doors with multi pane glass, an air space, and then inside windows and doors with multi pane glass... so the insulating ability of the window side is significantly better than most standard houses which have only one multi-pane window between the outside temperature and the inside.

My point here is that I believe based on the Earthship design, it is a significant improvement in efficiency even in your climate, even without strong sun available nearly every day, compared to the standard construction approaches available in most areas.

I do understand what you mean about deciding to adjust the house for better efficiency or demolishing it and rebuilding. It can really be a difficult decision, especially if you also have to work to get income and if you have no other place to live. In my case, I think my house needs to be demolished because the amount of effort to improve the efficiency would be much greater than simply rebuilding (I would probably reuse many of the materials in the new home). But I would need to find a place to live during the build so that I can continue to work since the build will probably take ~2 years.
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Old 07-04-2012, 04:25 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I have heat element windows, 3 glasses, two innermost are sealed and have argon gas between them, which makes them quite superior compared to windows that have only air between them.

Windows are typically around 10-20% from heat loss, but if there are large window surfaces that will be easily higher number, at old days people put small windows to houses as it was common to have only 2 glasses, now I have heat element windows that are small in size as those old windows, which makes heat loss from windows relatively small.


Now there are many better materials than sand for insulation, rockwool is one of the best, but at old ages peat has been used and straw is rather good too.

2 meters is not quite enough of sand, sand ground is frozen to 1.5 meters deep during winter and that is with nearly infinite land mass, at southern part of country much less of course, but to get it insulate, not loose heat one would need to have it enough thick that walls are not needed to heat by interior air.

Rockwool is just something that probably can't be used well in earthship kind of design, humidity issues can be problematic.

I use 100mm at kitchen door which leads to warehouse that is not insulated. there is thick frost between door and insulation, humidity from inside air freezes to surface of door, there is +10C in kitchen during winter time, between door and insulation it can be as cold as -20C during coldest days and that is just 100mm insulation, putting 200mm to walls and 400mm to top (50% heat loss is from top) would almost remove need to heat housing.

Here many builds today passive heating houses, those are heated by waste heat from electronics, cooking and humans, very little if any heating is required, kind of similar to earthship, but still bit different, those seem to work rather well here:
Passive house - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There is also link at beginning of that article to passive solar building design and in references earthship is also mentioned, so there are similarities, but I think that modern methods excel at situations where solar energy is limited as you can get away without any solar heat at all if needed. Ideas itself are very workable, but for me using sand as insulation/heating battery is bit problematic at extreme conditions.

At some point wooden outer layer needs to be replaced in my house at that time it will be easy to add enough insulation to outer walls to make house to be passive heated model as even now I'm reaching low energy model levels, but it will take some time, until then I'm rather happy to have 1/4 of total energy consumption compared to many newer houses.
I consume less than half of water compared to typical value, also I produce hardly any waste as I choose what I buy so that I don't need to put anything to waste bin and so on, not really eco minded, but just using common sense instead of running after desires.

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