Thursday, December 17, 2009

1 Year Report on Gordon's Deep Energy Retrofit

A few months ago, Gordon and Sue sent in a very complete description of their project to completely remodel a poorly insulated and drafty schoolhouse for their residence.  There goal was to bring it up close to Passive House Institute standards.  Through a combination of an external Larsen Frame insulation scheme, added sun space, much sealing, excellent windows, and passive solar gain additions, they have achieved their goal.
The new sunspace added as part of the retrofit.

Gordon sent in the report after one year.  It covers performance to date (very good), and some fixes they have made to some problems that have come to light while living in the new home.

The very detailed report on the original project, including report, many pictures, and thermal analysis spreadsheet...

The 1 year update report, including performance to date, problem fixing, and updated thermal analysis spreadsheet...

This is the most carefully planned and executed energy retrofit I have seen, and it's really nice to see it living up to expectations.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Storage Tank Kit for DIYers & DIY Solar Kits In General

The Softank is a kit for a 200 gallon water tank for heat storage.  The kit includes the parts that would be somewhat difficult for a DIYer to find or fabricate like the liner and the outer structural support cylinder.  The person building the tank buys the insulation locally, supplies some labor, and saves some money.

Details here...

Note: Heat exchanger not included with tank kit.

I like the Softank kit, but what I like even more is the idea that kits like this could be offered to home owners who want to build solar water or space heating systems.  These kits could bring building such a system to people with modest DIY skills, and also increase the likelihood of a successful build.  

Kits of this kind could include the difficult to obtain and difficult to make parts, while allowing the DIYer to buy readily available parts locally.  This approach avoids shipping large and fragile finished items like collectors, and would save the hassles, expense and CO2 emissions associated with truck shipping finished items.

Well designed kits and good instructions could greatly increase the chances of building a successful system -- even for not so experienced DIYers.

With commercial solar water heating systems selling for north of $8000, there is plenty of room for kit makers to earn a good profit and also save home owners lots of money.  A great opportunity for some new businesses!  How about it entrepreneurs?


Monday, December 7, 2009

THREE new Owner Built Solar Space Heating Systems

This has been a good week for new solar space heating systems sent in to Build-It-Solar!
Thanks very much to the Eric, Al, and Tom for describing there well designed and built systems. 
These are all large collector systems that can do significant solar heating -- lots to learn from the detailed descriptions of these systems.

The 1st is Eric's space heating and hot tub heating system that uses 300 sqft of water heating solar collectors, and has both a solar and boiler heat source.

The 2nd is Al's space heating collector that is primarily a solar air heating collector, but also has a smaller water heating capability integrated in the same collector.

The 3rd is Tom's new 330 sqft solar space heating system.  This system uses Tom's 3rd generation design for the copper tube, aluminum fin collectors.  This installment covers the design, build and install for the collectors.  The next will cover heat storage, plumbing, and controls.

See below for summaries, and the links for very detailed descriptions.

Al's Hybrid Air and Water Heating Collector
This is a very nicely done collector of about 100 sqft.  It is a space heating collector that primarily heats air that is circulated directly into the house.  But, it also has a smaller water heating capability that is used to store some heat for use during the night.

Its a nice looking collector that is well integrated with the house.

Since the collector area is about 15% of the house floor area, the collector will often generate more heat that can be immediately used on a sunny day, so it makes sense to add the limited water heating capability to store some heat for use later in the evening.

All the design and construction details from Al here...

Eric's Space Heating, Water Heating, Hot Tub Heating Solar System
This is a very nicely designed and built system from Eric -- a fellow Bozeman resident.
The system uses about 320 sqft of commercially made water heating collectors as its main heat source.  The collected solar heat is used for 1) space heating, 2) domestic water heating, and 3) hot tub heating.  The system also integrates a boiler as the secondary heat source.  


This is a pretty complicated system in that it heats floor space, a hot tub, and domestic water, and includes both a solar and boiler heat source into the same system. 
This is a difficult set of things to do, but Eric pulls it off with a pretty simple system.  Maybe the fact that he is in the HVAC business and specializes in solar system helps :)

All the details on Eric's system...

Tom's Large Solar Space Heating System
Tom's new space heating system uses 330 sqft of the aluminum fin/copper tube collector design.  This is about Tom's 3rd generation build of this type of collector, and he has a very refined design.   The collectors are mounted in a good looking common housing, and glazed with twinwall polycarbonate glazing.  Performance should be very good.


All the details on Tom's System...

Much more on Solar Space Heating Systems...


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Two Good Rainwater Harvesting Tank Ideas

Here are a couple nice ideas for tanks for rain water harvesting -- they are kind of at opposite extremes, but both well designed, interesting, and different than the usual rain water harvesting tanks you see.

The WooTank Two
This is a very nice tank design from Nathan.  The tank has an natural looking external frame made from 2 by lumber -- it looks great and would fit in very well with most landscaping schemes.  While Nathan painted his, you could stain it.  Nathan actually uses the tank as a large fish tank, but I think it would also work well for rain water catchment.  A tank like this can also be used as thermal mass to regulate and store heat from a greenhouse/sunspace, as Nathan shows in this earlier article... (pdf)


The tank walls are plywood.  The bottom is formed by concrete backer board that sits right on a thin layer of gravel over undisturbed dirt.  The tank liner is a single piece, EPDM rubber.  I think that this design is durable, efficient, inexpensive to build, and looks really good in the landscape.  All the details on the WooTank

Thanks very much to Nathan for writing this up and sending it in!


The FatBoy Water Wall Tank
This is another interesting rain harvesting tank.  If you are looking for something different than the usual cylindrical poly tanks, this might be for you.  They have a interesting , sculpted look.  Its a commercially available tank, and there are said to be several thousand installed.

Each tank holds 650 gallons and several can be stacked together.  I suppose they could even be used inside the house for thermal mass -- as in a thermal mass water wall...


Much more information on water conservation, rain water harvesting, grey water reuse,...


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