Friday, April 3, 2015

A Unique Straw Bale Arch Home Design

I really like this new straw bale home design by Brian Waite.  Its not very often you see a completely new home design that is energy  efficient, sustainable, AND well suited to being built by the home owner, but this one is all of the above.

Brian's new design straw bale home prototype

The design uses a number of identical prebuilt arches for the main structure of the house. The arches are spaced one straw bale apart so that the bales can be stacked between the arches with no trimming.

Arches being set up.
 The arches are light enough to be erected by one person with the aid of a hand winch.  In fact, the entire house was built by Brain with only common tools.

Straw bales install snugly between arches.

 The straw bales are stacked from the floor up to the peak in one continuous stack.

Because the arches provide all of the structural support for the roof, all of the interior walls (if used) are non-structural and would be easy to move over time.

The house has a  number of other unique features, including a means to secure the straw bales without settling, and a passive vent system that keeps the straw bales dry.

Another unique feature that Brain is testing is a quad glazed window design that is made from two standard double glazed glass units.

Quad glazed window made from two standard double glazed units.

 It seems to me that this is a simple design that is well suited to owner builders while offering an R value up toward US 6.

All the details here...

I want to thank Doug alerting me to this fine new design.

April 3, 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Kume Shade: Simple, Homemade, Low-cost Insulating Curtains

The Kume "family" in Chile has come up with a new design for thermal shades that I think is very interesting and may be a good solution for you if  you are looking for thermal shades.

The Kume shade if various states of rollup
The Kume shades fit in the window frame and roll up to stow in a built in catch at the top -- the rollup only takes a few seconds.

The shades use four layers to provide better insulating value.

Layer 1 is a front insulating (and decorative) material, 2 is a moisture barrier, 3 and 4 are wood batten spacers, and 5 is the back insulation panel.

IR picture shows the Kume shade in action

The shade materials are relatively cheap and the shade is easy to build.  The instructions are very complete.
Good, detailed build instructions

The room facing layer can be a decorative insulating fabric, so the shades can be very nice looking.

One thing this shade appears to address is the problem of condensation on the window and frame that can occur the room air is humid, the outside temperature is cold, and the shade does not prevent room air from circulating behind the shade.  This design's combination of fabric that seals against the window frame and a moisture barrier address this problem.

I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who build these shades on how well they do.

The Kume "family" is a group of friends and relatives living in Chile who are working together on projects that will have a positive effect on climate change.

For complete details on the design and build ...

For lots more on other thermal shade and window insulating techniques...

March 7, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Large DIY Serpentine Drainback Solar Space Heating Project

Tim, Doug, and Will provide a very detailed description of a unique solar space heating system along with quite a bit of design information.

The system uses solar to heat water, which is in turn used for space heating in a radiant floor system. One of the most unique features of the system is that the drain back solar collector uses serpentine path absorbers rather than the usual vertical riser tubes. This arrangement allows the entire south face of the building to be used as a collector, right up to the peak of the roof. In addition to providing more collector area and more heat, it has a very nice look.

View of the full wall drain back collector.

The absorber uses a serpentine arrangement of tubes to carry heat from the absorber to the tank rather than the more usual vertical riser tube arrangement.  This allows the absorber to cover the entire wall all the way up to the peak.  This makes for a very nice looking full glazed wall.

Shows the serpentine absorber being fitted to the wall.  

The entire south wall is glazed with greenhouse style twinwall polycarbonate.  The full glazed wall makes for a very nice looking collector.

Full wall collector with glazing in place.

The system also uses a unique heat storage tank design that is partitioned into a warmer and a cooler section.  The collector circuit pulls water from the cold side of the tank and returns it to the warm side, and the radiant floor circuit pulls water from the warm side of the tank and returns it to the cooler side.  The idea is to allow the collector to run cooler, and therefore more efficiently.

The partitioned solar heat storage tank under construction.

January 19, 2015

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