Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Progress....

Summer vacation is over and the kids are attending their new school.  Since we haven't moved yet, our morning routine consists of getting up early and driving the boys to the new house where they are picked up by the school bus to ride with our new neighborhood's children. That gives Paul and I, well mostly Paul, an early start on the day's projects like painting or working on his solar hot water system.
Painting the staircase stringers


Since the envelope of a Passive house is tightly sealed, creating a healthy indoor air environment is very important.  We have focused on no or low VOC paints, stains, and clear coatings for the walls and wood work.  Paul found an interesting product from Vermont Natural Coatings for the wood doors and trim. http://www.vermontnaturalcoatings.com/ This low VOC product uses whey protein, a natural byproduct of cheese making and renewable resource, in place of chemicals commonly used in other finishes like benzene and formaldehyde. As Paul and I primed and painted the stringers and risers for the staircase with low VOC paints, we commented on how the paint smelled like Wrigley's spearmint gum. A far cry from the last time I painted an apartment in NYC in the 1990's and was practically asphyxiated by the fumes. I'm so glad that environmental health awareness is improving.


Another milestone was reached two days ago when CL&P came to connect the power to the house.  We have been running power from a temporary box at the street but now we can plug a drill or a saw, even a light into an outlet in the house. Shortly the solar array will be completed and connected. A special 2 way meter will then be installed to  monitor our production and usage of electricity.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

The kitchen cabinets have been installed and the templating date for the stone counter tops is scheduled for next week. The bathroom tile is being installed and it looks beautiful.

I took another bold step today and scheduled an appointment for an estimate by a moving company and a potential moving date.  I'm not telling what the date is yet, Murphy's law.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Solar Panels Here and There

Most of the PV panels are up
A large part of our energy efficient home design is related to solar energy.  Passive, photovoltaic, and solar thermal.  Our high efficiency European windows located on the south side of the house help with the passive part.  We are in the process installing the other two.  We have contracted with Aegis Solar to purchase and install a 10.8kW array of photovoltaic panels on the south side of the roof which will generate about 12,500 kWh of electricity per year.  Folks often ask if we will be "off the grid".  The answer is no. The simpler and less expensive way to set up a solar PV system is with a grid-tied system.  We are connected to the electric grid, selling CL&P the power we generate and buying from them what we need to use. We estimate our annual electricity consumption to be around 8,000 kWh per year (which at this time is a very rough guess).  We should generate more electricity than we use for the house each year and have enough leftover power an electric car.

The other solar component is a DIY solar thermal hot water system. Paul researched online others who have made similar systems and shared their designs and ideas at builditsolar.com. Paul's system is taken from the design at builditsolar.com. It's a drainback system with a 16' x 8' collector mounted on the ground behind the garage and a 230 gallon home-made tank in the basement.

Paul surveying his work on the frame of the collector
Tank in the basement

We hope that this system will provide most of our hot water during the year.  It remains to be seen exactly how much it will produce.

We spent several hours wrestling PEX tubing into a three layered coil
for the heat exchange element which will be submerged in the tank.

The competed coil

Other areas of progress; The interior walls are up, closed and primed. Wood flooring that acclimated in the space over the holiday weekend has been installed. Kitchen cabinetry will be delivered this week and the bathroom tile has arrived. 

All of the ventilation hoses haves been attached to the ERV.

The exterior siding is mostly finished with a beautiful cedar ceiling on the front and screened porches.  The septic system has been installed.

The garage door is installed and preliminary grading and landscaping is underway.

I mentioned in a prior post about the illusion of time during construction.  We've hit a period of fast forward where the interior is quickly changing the look from a construction zone to a home.  A warm beautiful home.