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Passive solar house in Maine

Post in 'The Green Room' started by begreen, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  2. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    That is interesting. I wished I knew more about passive design.

    I would love to build my retirement home. Passive engineering would definitely be incorporated, along with PV and of course...some sort of wood burning appliance. I'm thinking about 1600 sqft.
    scooby074 likes this.
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You and me both.
  4. Chain

    Chain Feeling the Heat

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    The two of you and me.......I'd build a passive solar with PV, geothermal, micro-wind turbine, and a pellet stove with radiant floor heated by a natural gas or propane boiler). In a perfect world of course. Overkill I know, but it'd be cool to have all these systems incorporated into a retirement home of about 1800 sq. ft with 1,000 ft. of mostly private lake front on a lake in the Adirondacks (preferably 4th Lake in Eagle Bay, NY). Now I just need to win the lottery to make it all a reality.
    scooby074 and ScotO like this.
  5. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    Me, too. When I was dreaming of winning the Powerball lottery (hard to do without a ticket, though) that would be one of the first things on my wish list.
  6. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    There is lot of design info on near net zero energy homes. Add in cheap solar PV and grid tie net metering and its within reach of most homes. I would probably opt for a somewhat less expensive build but make darn sure its detailed right and put in a ground source heat pump with a wood stove. When a modern wood boiler with storage is installed by a contractor, I would expect tis getting in the range of a professionally installed ground source.

    If I had only known then what I know now I could have put pex in all my utility trenchs and I probably have enough that transfer for at least a ton or two.
  7. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Christmas makes a person think of how fortunate we are even if not having that ultimate dream home. We have excellent passive solar with our 1956 single story lake home 60 ft off the water and facing SW, 1500 sq ft + full basement, but only 430 ft of lake shore + undevelopable lake shore extending in both directions beyond that, and no development behind the house and the access road. Our lot itself is moderately cleared for only about 40 ft in front of the house, but well occupied with trees and shrubs in that space so that the house is barely visible from the water while still providing us with a great view. The rest of the property is heavily wooded and shrubbed.

    A single wood stove in the living room heats the entire house, even when the temps drop well into the -30'sF and the northwest winds roar down from our friendly Canada neighbor. 100% wood heat and gravity septic system means that power outages are of little concern. During outages we have a small generator to kick in the well pump as needed and if the outage is long enough the generator can maintain the refrigerator, freezer, a few lights, and for luxury the circuit that powers the computer, TV, satellite system, and surround sound audio. I don't think we would change a thing even if we won the lottery, which isn't likely to happen because we don't buy lottery tickets. Instead we have invested the money that we would have used to buy lottery tickets, and that account now is in the $$$ millions. LOL.

    I hope you win the lottery or even better, live your dream now as best you can. Happy Holidays!
    wannabegreener likes this.
  8. Douglas Fox

    Douglas Fox New Member

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    Happy you like the site! Here's a preview of a post upcoming: On Dec 21 we turned off all heat to the building. Last night (1/1/2013) it was minus 14 F here. No room in TerraHaus dropped below 50 degrees. The main room has not dropped below 60. Incidentally, I have to throw out 10 days of data because yesterday morning I found out that a student left a window tilted open four inches! (Thus explaining the 45 degree lows in that room that I couldn't figure out.)
  9. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Welcome to the site, Douglas. Keep the info coming. This is good stuff.
  10. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Indeed, welcome. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this facility.
  11. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    The ZIP OSB sheathing is made by the mill my Dad works at. J.M. Huber in Easton, Maine.

    The state of Alaska has pushed hard for energy efficient design in new construction (and upgrading old construction). A good deal of the basic construction on that house is similar to construction here.
  12. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    The state of Maine has pushed "energy efficiency" to the point of idiocy in the new statewide code that went into effect two years ago. To the point where it would take somewhere around a century to even consider recouping the additional costs, never mind that now, because the buildings are so buttoned up, you are blowing a ton of heat outside to get code required air changes...
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  13. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    Is that supposed to be a serious discussion point or just a rant?
    Your last statement does not make any sense whatsoever. A house that is not "buttoned up" will at least lose the same amount of heat and probably more to exchange its air. The amount of heat loss will be determined by the difference in temperatures. Plus, modern air-tight houses usually have an active air-exchange system that recovers the heat that would otherwise be lost.
  14. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Yep, Grisu I was gonna ask if they forbid HRV's in Maine? That's really the only way you can dump "a ton of heat". Pretty standard up here that all new homes have an HRV. Heck I install one on a major reno. Not code required but smart from an energy usage pov.
  15. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    What I am saying is, that under the new code I have to build to, I have seen the average project cost rise 10-15% easily. If it's LEEDS certified, add 20%. any energy savings that these buildings accrue will never be recovered during their service life.

    You misunderstand what I am saying... Under this particular code, you spend an inordinate amount of time and $ to keep the heat in the building... and then you take and blow outside a large chunk of that saved heat via the ERV's, which, in maine have to exhaust at 50F or so to keep from freezing the coils when it's -25F.

    Since the adoption of the MUBEC... In a commercial setting has meant upsizing the boiler(s)... in a pre-MUBEC building that would require 350k btu/hr.... the post MUBEC version would get a 450K boiler... Seems rather counter-intuitive to me.
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  16. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    I am all about saving energy, but this *particular* code has some big problems that basically just massively drive up costs and you don't really gain anything.
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Where is the math for this? The service life of a house can and should be at least 50 years and preferably 100 years. If it costs $200K to build, or $240K LEEDS certified, but saves $2K/yr in heating costs (which will certainly go up) then over 20 yrs the additional insulation is paid for. This doesn't cover cooling benefits, noise reduction or resale value which come with this certification.
  18. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    a modern house sheathed with OSB and vinyl siding won't last 50 years... it's not gonna happen.

    I don't build houses anymore... There hasn't been any money in it for the last 5 years. Every commercial property I have built since the adoption of the code has been LEEDS certified.... the largest project was 17 million... LEEDS added 1.5 million to the cost, required an additional 50hp added to the boilers, and an additional 200 amps of 480V 3 phase service... with a design life of 35 years.

    With the onset of these codes I fear a repeat of the late 1970's... where "the latest and greatest" created a lot of toxic buildings...
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  19. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Actually I can see Bret's point (partially), increasing eff does increase costs to a point. Dependant upon code & other variables. However these are offset by increased fuel savings & are in most cases paid for over time to say nothing of the value of decreased emissions or the value of increased occupant comfort.

    Where our huge downfall in north america comes from is our throw away attitude when it comes to structures. As in Bret's post above where the building has a design life of 35 years. This is where we & the construction industries fall flat on our faces. Why build when the intent is to tear it down in 35 years? Where is the forward thinking & planning in that? Was any thought given in that situation to designing a building envelope that would be easy & practical to renovate for future use? Or in simple terms being a little more open ended in our building planning process, trying to imagine future uses for that structure if we only intend to occupy it for 35 years?

    What has really rubbed me the wrong way about all of this for a long while is the fact that we seldom take the time to do any of this. As an example my ready mixed concrete association tells me that I can expect a service life of 500 - 700 years from modern concrete mixes when used in building foundations where they are protected to a large degree from the elements, no or little acid rain here. Why the heck dont we attempt at the very least to design & build structures capable of at least half of that on a regular basis? Buildings that have a solid foundation & envelope but that are easily (as it was planned for) renovated at a later date.

    Ok time for me to get off my soapbox or this is going to becme a book. My basic point is that we often build with the intent of throwing it away, that's gotta change. Tough to justify an ROI on anything if you intend to trash it in relatively short order.
  20. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    I kind of like the ones built into the hillside with earth berm sides and back and 95% of the glass in the front south side.
  21. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    FC... it all boils down to cost... when I started in this industry in 1989.... the standard sheathing was 5/8 plywood on the walls and 3/4 plywood on the roof.... now it's 7/16 OSB everywhere... 5/8 OSB on the roof if you're lucky. these buildings will not make it 150 years like my house has...

    The only place I get to "build for the ages" is when we do work for the local water dept... the last building I swear I could touch off a grenade inside it and all it would do is blow out a couple of windows...

    I love to do work in the old mills (well except for that whole lead/asbestos/god knows what else "thing").... massive old structures... no construction joints... and hardly a crack anywhere.. on a granite foundation.

    My irritation with LEEDS is "if this building is so efficient, why are we increasing it's energy input?"
  22. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Yes I hear you Bret. Been in the industry since the 70's & yes a standard home of say the 50's is so much better built than todays "developer special" which as you say focuses on cost as well as being rapidly repeatable. It does seem counter intuative but sometimes (most times) increased energy is needed upfront to realize energy savings over the life of the structure. SIPS would be a good example for the residential market, more expensive & energy intensive upfront but with a 6" SIP that performs at R44 in my climate the extra costs are recovered. Same goes for most/all of the energy savers in modern construction. You pay up front to save over time. With energy costs that are likely to only go up it should be a positive ROI choice. Yes I hear & understand this stuff can be a real PITA for folks who were taught to just build it right in the first place. FWIW I think we will eventually get to what Germany has, where a structure based on classification, usage & location can consume X btu's sq/ft. How you get there is more open ended & that's good but you must get there. LEEDS & other systems can box one in rather than encouraging them to open endedly problem solve with a firm goal in mind. Such as X btu's sq/ft. One thing is for sure you cant get bored in our industry as the landscape changes pretty fast.
  23. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    Under the 2 year old MUBEC... R50 is the minimum for the roof and R23 for the walls.... R50 is a nightmare to achieve in a commercial building... architects have it in their head that pre-insulated panels (with poly-iso) are the answer... UGH...

    I built a 17 million dollar 25,000 sq-ft LEEDS building that looked like an Agway building had sex with a Frigidaire.... I felt sick every time I pulled into the driveway...
  24. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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  25. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    frustration doesn't even begin to describe it...

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