Monthly Archives: January 2009

Solar Pioneer: Dr. Harry Thomason


His “Solaris #1” house is listed at wikipedia as one of the most important solar homes.

Long Interview

A list of his solar patents at

Nice article from Solar Today 2003 about the Thomason trickle-collector building at the US/Canada border in Richford, VT

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Cold Climate Heat Pumps

Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, and Daikin have been making cold-climate mini-split air-source heat pumps for years… check them out! Imagine cutting your electric heating bill in 3 or 4! The Fujitsu 9RLQ is the most efficient that I am aware of (if you have a superinsulated home w/ low heat needs and it’s big enough)


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The Long Tail… Chillout Techno style…

So, this same exercise would work when listening to music on ANY radio station, but here’s what happens when I hear an especially cool track on SOMA.FM “Groove Salad” on my PC…

I type in something like this into google toolbar: mp3 [artist] [title] and voila, I am suddenly at the page where I can buy the song for $0.99. Often the album is a few or many years old, not even in print any more, and (besides MP3) only available by 3rd party sellers for a LOT of money. So that artists/labels can sell old stuff via MP3 is pretty interesting.

I think there might be something similar right on their playlist page. And one could add a custom bookmarklet or add a custom “search engine” to the search engine toolbar in Firefox.


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Tiny Houses…

The “Tiny House” movement is interesting, but three observations:

1. What about people trying this with not just solo or as a couple,
but with a family of 2 or 3 kids as well!

2. It’s not that different than:
– living in small spaces in city apartments
– RV “fulltiming with kids”
– families that decide to go off and sail for a year

3. Climate. A tiny space is maybe fine with more temperate
climates, but would be more of a challenge in very hot/humid
or cold climates (e.g. New England has some of both) because…
a) harder to use the great outdoors as additional living space.
b) insulation is maybe not top priority in these setups and then
c) it’s uncomfortable (sitting close to a cold window) and d) it
might be expensive to heat/cool (though unlikely since the
space is so so so small) so any lack of insulation is offset by
the small size and the body heat (no joke!) and appliances residual
heat. d) doing laundry in winter with no indoor space at all — I know
it’s doable, but…

4. I work at home and so will J eventually. So add sqft for a small office.

Basically, my sense is that it’s not all that easy… it’s easy
to find comments on RV fulltiming, but then add in kids!

I think we would fill half a tiny house with just camping gear and skiing gear and luggage.

Our Tiny House Experiment

I like the idea of Peter King in VT that it’s easy/cheap to build a tiny house,
so why not try it out in the backyard. No risk.

This book (Little House on a Small Planet) is an interesting read/browse
I am noticing saying much of what I have been thinking re. Comparing self to the Jones (also read “Milllionaire Next Door” for more on that!). But this negative review
also resonates (1. for temperate climates, 2. for people who don’t mind having little private space, etc.)

Anyway, interesting things to consider. I think a good middle ground for the bad-weather in New England, and living
with kids… is a small house ala 1950’s — 350 sqft per person roughly… so that’s 1400 sqft for 4 people.

More some other time…

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Prius Traction Control System (TSC) in snow…

The Prius TRAC system apparently cannot be turned off completely as can be with our Saab 9-5’s system.
In some conditions, the car stops completely! This has never happened to me while driving our Saab, but sometimes I need to turn it off for a moment to get unstuck on a slippery/snowy driveway.

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A passive house / passivhaus in the USA

It’s in Illinois…

roof: 16 inch TJI * R-3.6 = R-57.6 exactly. And I think people often say it’s R-3.7 or R-3.8
wall: 12 inch TJI plus 2″ EPS rigid foam (R-12.5?) = approximately R-56 too.
slab: 14″ of EPS = 14 * 5 = R-70 roughly…

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passivhaus in R-values we can understand in the USA

In the US we still use usually use miles, pounds, gallons and R-values instead of metric. Passivhaus standards are in metric and often say something like “low U-values, typically in the 0.10 to 0.15 W/(m².K) range”. OK, we know U = 1/R. And then we just need to convert from metric.

So… 1 K·m²/W ≈ 5.67446 ft²·°F·h/Btu.

So first 0.10 U is 10 R (in metric). Then convert to USA R-value is 10 * 5.67446 = 56.7.

So there you have it. Passivhaus should have R-56.7 on all 6-sides ideally.

This is a little diffferent than the recommended R-40 wall, R-60 roof, R-15 underslab that “Superinsulation”
experts like to have.

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