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Old 02-19-2008, 10:27 AM
 
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Since the expansion of this forum encompasses so much more and appears to have a good number of technology oriented folks, I figured I would ask members about one of their most important investments, their home.

I'm curious as to ideas, photo's, links to ways to improve the efficiency of both new and existing homes. While "green" homes have been around for quite a while, I would love to see how technology has entered into the equation and melded low tech with high tech and resulted in a smaller environmental footprint as well as a lowered energy need.

I am currently looking at one particular aspect of the home which is the heating and cooling needs. Obviously the best way is to have a tighter and better insulated home that needs less energy to keep the interior environment comfortable but in addition, one of the largest energy sinks is the heating and cooling.

I noticed many schools in Florida employ a chilled water-electric heat combo that is quite cost effective and allows for temp adjustment in the individual rooms.

A commercial ice maker similar to those in hotels produces ice that is contained in a buried concrete vault. The melting water is then pumped through a series of small coils in fan powered boxes in each room to meet cooling requirements. Heating requirements are met via an electric heating coil (not so efficient) The water is then recycled, filtered and sent back to the ice maker which uses a high efficiency compressor.

While the cost of the equipment for such a system are quite a bit more than a standard central air unit in most homes, the energy requirements to cool a given space are far superior in addition to being able to control temps in each room.

I have seen heating systems that employ a domestic hot water heater that provides the hot water for a heating coil but not sure if it is as efficient or cost effective doubling the plumbing.
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Old 02-19-2008, 10:45 AM
 
Location: South Central PA
1,562 posts, read 3,905,257 times
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I looked for solar power for purely selling to utilities and here it was gonna take like 10-20 years to pay off the cost of the system with the most efficient use of tax subsidies included.

However, it's more economical to use it as a substitute of electricity usage than for sale. Example: It's more cost effective to pay off a 5% loan than put that money in the bank at 2.5%
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Old 02-19-2008, 10:10 PM
 
11,127 posts, read 12,680,183 times
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I have a neighbor who was an engineer for General Dynamics back some years and who along with his wife built their own modest home using primarily material from their own land (22 acres)

They are not on the power grid and use solar and wind power to take care of all their needs. They also keep an old car motor and homemade generator in case of emergency. However their energy requirements are rather low as they have only one TV a computer, washing machine, stove, and refrigerator, and the rest is primarily low voltage lighting.

To look at their home you would never know it was made from what was available on their own land as it is rustic but quite stunning and very well done.

I would never want to go to this extreme, but it would be nice to have a 1200-1600 sq ft home that used less than a 1000 a year in energy cost and still remain comfy. I believe it can be done without breaking the bank and if a person plans to live at that residence for a long period of time it can be quite cost effective.
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Old 02-19-2008, 10:30 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
1,368 posts, read 5,976,865 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TnHilltopper View Post
Since the expansion of this forum encompasses so much more and appears to have a good number of technology oriented folks, I figured I would ask members about one of their most important investments, their home.

I'm curious as to ideas, photo's, links to ways to improve the efficiency of both new and existing homes. While "green" homes have been around for quite a while, I would love to see how technology has entered into the equation and melded low tech with high tech and resulted in a smaller environmental footprint as well as a lowered energy need.

I am currently looking at one particular aspect of the home which is the heating and cooling needs. Obviously the best way is to have a tighter and better insulated home that needs less energy to keep the interior environment comfortable but in addition, one of the largest energy sinks is the heating and cooling.

I noticed many schools in Florida employ a chilled water-electric heat combo that is quite cost effective and allows for temp adjustment in the individual rooms.

A commercial ice maker similar to those in hotels produces ice that is contained in a buried concrete vault. The melting water is then pumped through a series of small coils in fan powered boxes in each room to meet cooling requirements. Heating requirements are met via an electric heating coil (not so efficient) The water is then recycled, filtered and sent back to the ice maker which uses a high efficiency compressor.

While the cost of the equipment for such a system are quite a bit more than a standard central air unit in most homes, the energy requirements to cool a given space are far superior in addition to being able to control temps in each room.

I have seen heating systems that employ a domestic hot water heater that provides the hot water for a heating coil but not sure if it is as efficient or cost effective doubling the plumbing.
My family owns a cabin up in Eastern WA, that is fully self-sufficient (provided the well isn't dry and the pipes aren't frozen )

So, building from that, we have a large library of things that work with making houses green. Btw, these books date back from the 70s and 80s. So, this 'idea' of green is far from new.

A lot of the stuff really has to be decided on while you're planning a house, and worked into the design.

One of the major ways to use heat was an idea that the southern wall had porous rock or some other substance in it, and so it would warm during the day, and at night, you'd open vents and the heat would release into the house, keeping it warm. there were some variations that used beds under the house, just like your example above. and the beauty of this, is that it can store either cool or warm air, depending on how its set up.
Rooftop water heaters are also a way to improve efficency. Basically its just black, pressurized pipe up top with water inside. As the pipe heats up, so does the water. Again, you can use this in a cold air environment to cool a house by letting cool water go down under the house and cools down rocks. At day, you can release that cold air. This is all very vague because the books are at my cabin, and not in front of me. But, that should give you enough to start a google search..

In regards to 'technology' and things you can do... Most energy companies will do a test on your house, and determine where its sucking cold air in for you. One of my coworkers said he dropped his energy bill like $20/mo after closing an attic draft.

So, the simple things:
replacing regular lightbulbs with Fluorescents or even better=LED bulbs (quite expensive)
Windows: Double paned glass, a lot of older homes are built with single pane, which allows a LOT of heat transfer.
Insulation: insulate your roof and under the house if at all possible. Lots of heat is lost through these two areas. Oh, and some houses were built without exterior insulation in the walls. Also useful, and the walls aren't that hard to do.


Turn off the water when you're done. Turn off lights as you leave the room.
Check your water heater and house heating systems, these should receive some sort of regular maintenance. An inefficient heater will cause a huge spike in energy bills.

Choosing energy efficient appliances, etc makes a difference.

In solar or wind power, etc, another poster mentioned a large upfront cost. While this is true, a homeowner's mortgage is what? 20-30 year loan? So, if it pays itself off in 15 years... thats 5-15 years of profit for you.

I think that if you shop wisely, take the tax/government subsidies, and do minor things to make your home more energy efficient, you'll see it pay off in a much shorter period of time. I also think that depending on your environment (High sun, good south exposure), you'll have more success than someone in say Seattle, who lives on the north side of a hill. So, its all about location.

I bet you could see a pretty dramatic drop in monthly energy costs for an investment as little as $300.
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Old 02-19-2008, 10:33 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
1,368 posts, read 5,976,865 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TnHilltopper View Post
I have a neighbor who was an engineer for General Dynamics back some years and who along with his wife built their own modest home using primarily material from their own land (22 acres)

They are not on the power grid and use solar and wind power to take care of all their needs. They also keep an old car motor and homemade generator in case of emergency. However their energy requirements are rather low as they have only one TV a computer, washing machine, stove, and refrigerator, and the rest is primarily low voltage lighting.

To look at their home you would never know it was made from what was available on their own land as it is rustic but quite stunning and very well done.

I would never want to go to this extreme, but it would be nice to have a 1200-1600 sq ft home that used less than a 1000 a year in energy cost and still remain comfy. I believe it can be done without breaking the bank and if a person plans to live at that residence for a long period of time it can be quite cost effective.
Indeed. One of the big things to take into consideration. Solar panels store energy in DC power. You lose a LOT of power in the DC to AC conversion.

So, combine Solar panels with a bank of good DC batteries, and fill your home with DC appliances (Washer/Dryer/Fridge/some PCs) and DC lighting, and have only a few AC outlets and a converter, you'll be more efficient than the average person running entirely AC off DC panels.


Wind power is something to look into, and another is a waterwheel if you have access to water all year round and there aren't any restrictions.

But a backup generator is always a good idea.
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Old 02-20-2008, 09:07 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
17,870 posts, read 54,168,671 times
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I think those circulating water units actually use a brine mixture to allow for lower temperatures. Cooling coils have to be fairly cold to properly dehumidify the air while cooling it. The storage tanks allow for load shifting, which is buying power at a lower rate during overnight hours when the peak generation is not pressed into service. The idea is a good one that has been around for many years in malls and other commercial construction.

What really lowers the environmental footprint are the new upscale manufactured homes. Ours has R38 ceiling, R-19 walls, R-11 floor, double pane windows, glass storm doors, and draft seals in places you would never even think to put them. There are no drafts, even in high winds, and the house is almost eerily quiet. Heat and cooling is via a heat pump and fireplace. With over 2,000 square feet of space, we can keep the heat pump from kicking on in 20 degree weather using just a fire in the (obviously inefficient) fireplace. Our water use dropped dramatically from our previous residence because of high-efficiency appliances and low-flo showerheads and water-saving toilets. How did this energy-efficiency come about? The manufacturer teamed up with researchers at a state university to improve their product. Since the number of plans are limited, and each one is optimized, the result is just about optimal. Construction on an indoor factory floor from mass shipments of materials allows tighter tolerances and even a reduction in energy spent getting those materials.
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:28 AM
 
28,242 posts, read 39,901,543 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harry chickpea View Post
I think those circulating water units actually use a brine mixture to allow for lower temperatures. Cooling coils have to be fairly cold to properly dehumidify the air while cooling it. The storage tanks allow for load shifting, which is buying power at a lower rate during overnight hours when the peak generation is not pressed into service. The idea is a good one that has been around for many years in malls and other commercial construction.

What really lowers the environmental footprint are the new upscale manufactured homes. Ours has R38 ceiling, R-19 walls, R-11 floor, double pane windows, glass storm doors, and draft seals in places you would never even think to put them. There are no drafts, even in high winds, and the house is almost eerily quiet. Heat and cooling is via a heat pump and fireplace. With over 2,000 square feet of space, we can keep the heat pump from kicking on in 20 degree weather using just a fire in the (obviously inefficient) fireplace. Our water use dropped dramatically from our previous residence because of high-efficiency appliances and low-flo showerheads and water-saving toilets. How did this energy-efficiency come about? The manufacturer teamed up with researchers at a state university to improve their product. Since the number of plans are limited, and each one is optimized, the result is just about optimal. Construction on an indoor factory floor from mass shipments of materials allows tighter tolerances and even a reduction in energy spent getting those materials.
So give it up: Who built the house?
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:41 AM
 
28,242 posts, read 39,901,543 times
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I wish my memory was better.

I saw a couple of shows on TV that had some interesting ideas. I came in partway through on both, so I'm even more vague on the particulars.

In one a man was running a refrigerator using sound. As a test he took what looked like a piece of copper tubing about a foot long that was capped. He heated up the capped end until it started making sound. He then used that principle to create cold air which ran a refrigerator. He gave the host of the show beer from the fridge. I think it was the show where a group is traveling around the country in a "green bus" and looking for energy alternatives. In fact, I think both of these were on that show. Wish I remembered more of the process...

In another a man made changes to walk-in freezers by adding vents and a fan in the roof. Places where it was installed were reporting huge yearly savings in energy costs.

I will go snooping and see if I can find references.

As an example of solar: In our first house I added two home made solar panels on the south face. They were at ground level, not slanted and behind two full grown Green Ash trees. Central Iowa.

Made of plywood, a corrugated metal sheet painted black. Each was 4' x 8' and they were connected to create a single unit. Cold air came in one end and warm air was forced into the house through the kick plate under the kitchen sink. The fan was controlled by a thermostat that came on when the internal temp was 105 degrees. About as simple as it gets.

This unit would run about 4 hours on a sunny winter day. It pumped enough warm air into the house (1700 sq ft) to keep the furnace from running.
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:53 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
17,870 posts, read 54,168,671 times
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"So give it up: Who built the house?"

Deer Valley in Guin AL. We actually were allowed on the floor while the home was being built, so we were able to satisfy ourselves that it was being done properly and our custom changes were being incorporated. There were a few fixes that had to be done on site, but those were mostly cosmetic.
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Old 02-20-2008, 12:35 PM
 
11,127 posts, read 12,680,183 times
Reputation: 3676
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tek_Freek View Post
As an example of solar: In our first house I added two home made solar panels on the south face. They were at ground level, not slanted and behind two full grown Green Ash trees. Central Iowa.

Made of plywood, a corrugated metal sheet painted black. Each was 4' x 8' and they were connected to create a single unit. Cold air came in one end and warm air was forced into the house through the kick plate under the kitchen sink. The fan was controlled by a thermostat that came on when the internal temp was 105 degrees. About as simple as it gets.

This unit would run about 4 hours on a sunny winter day. It pumped enough warm air into the house (1700 sq ft) to keep the furnace from running.
Awesome idea and as in most cases, the more simple the better. Don't have any pictures of your design by any chance? Although the concept seems easy enough.

Small things such as this are the kind of ideas I enjoy exploring.
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