Monthly Archives: August 2010

The (small) insulated life…

What people don’t tell you about living in a small house:

1. If it’s really a small(ish) house, you have maybe taken one approach of reducing hallways for the most part. That’s great! But it also has (at least) two side-effects. Cases where this wasted space is handy:

1a. Loops due to extra rooms or hallways that serve no real purpose. Kids LOVE LOVE LOVE running around in loops. Go outside you say? fine. But small inside loops are tons of fun.

1b. OK, so no hallway means that your kids are maybe playing on the floor immediately next to that closed basement door you are about to open.
Or front door. Or might be a bathroom if you have built a bathroom really small too (or live in Europe) and so have a bathroom door which opens
outwards. Look out! This morning I pretty carefully opened the basement door (my office is in the basement) but still managed to scrape up my two-year-old’s hand who was for some reason right by the door rolling around.

OK, I guess I am stopping at #1. That’s all I wanted to say right now. Oh, I will just add that it seems to me like a perfect compromise of small and open but a little bit of hallway is the American split-level ranch (the kind where you enter at mid-floor and go up a half flight to the 1st floor and down half flight to the basement, which is actually only half buried. Pretty ideal layout except for the lack of a mudroom by the front door. And maybe building a 2 floor home on slab is cheaper and more environmental, but I think the ranch may be the winner in not seeming so big… massing ala “The Face of Home” by Jeremiah Eck and “The Not So Big House” by Sarah Susanka. Good split/ranch upgrade ideas from a free PDF from Robert Gerloff. Go get it!

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mobile internet will take over

The writing is on the wall… I am just going to put out there that I bet that in 5 years, many many many more people are going to use the internet/web/etc via phone/tablet/smartphone (whatever you want to call it) rather than laptop or desktop. Those things are going to go away and we are eventually going to transition back to more differentiated products. So maybe you will need a “normal” Windows or Mac or linux machine with full on keyboard, etc for writing and “spreadsheeting”, but for shopping/emails/facebook/MP3 listening/photo taking/editing/organizing/video game playing etc…. those machines are not important. A smartphone is fine. Or will be.

And in 10 years, none of this may matter. By that point the important skills may be local local local: farming, canning, sewing, piano playing, etc.

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Our house sends me emails

Our house sends me emails (at my request) like this:

Hi Erik,

Your ‘Hot Water’ circuit has been drawing power longer than your specified threshold of 10 minutes. You may want to check for appliances or devices on that circuit that may have been left on unintentionally.

Here’s How – no I am not kidding! And I bet this will be common in 10 years. “Washing machine done!” “You left the stove on!” etc. Actually, those are the only 2 interesting ones I can think of, but I suppose there are others I haven’t considered.

The one flaw with the eMonitor (as I see it) is that it requires a subscription past the initial included period and I am typically allergic to subscription services. Other than that (and the need for the coming Volt-Amp vs Watt upgrade/fix), it’s very cool.

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Nick Pine on Solar Siding

“… I’m an EE who likes to heat houses with solar air heaters (eg Dynaglass
“solar siding”) and/or low-mass sunspaces (eg 4’x8′ 10 mil HP92W 20-year flat $1/ft^2 polycarbonate film pillows sealed with silicone caulk and gently
inflated with welding argon, via a tire Schraeder valve), with a 1000 Btu/h-F
car radiator or a MagicAire SHW 2347 duct heat exchanger that turns hot sunspace air into 140 F water in an unpressurized tank that stores enough heat for 5 cloudy days, with a 1″x300′ NSF 125 psi HDPE or PEX 13-gallon pressurized pipe coil with a 2 minute time constant in the tank to preheat water for showers.

On a cloudy day, 2 2-watt motorized dampers would let the radiator heat house air with the tank. I stop simulating with TMY2 hourly weather data when a house design wouldn’t need any space heating fuel in a TMY2 year, on paper.

Did you consider heating your house with a low-mass sunspace? You might add one now, as you age, with less relish for wood cutting.


Ignoring direct gain, 86K/413 = 208 ft^2 of glazing could heat the house, eg an 8’x32′ low-mass sunspace wall with 2 4’x8′ pillows in 2×6 structural frames for endwalls and an 8’x32′ R1 corrugated Dynaglass polycarbonate roof over 8 4’x8′ polycarb pillows.”

See original discussion at the SolarHeat Yahoo Group message 21787

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, passive house, solar, superinsulation, zero energy home

Naomi Aldort on Getting out of the way

“Contrary to common belief, children feel more loved and self-assured when we do not intervene in their activities. Not only do they remain secure in our love and support when we refrain from intervening, but they need us to protect them from these intrusions, which can interfere with their progress, self-reliance, and emotional well-being. ”

— Naomi Aldort, Author “Raising our Children, Raising Ourselves, LINK

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The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living

Sorry, couldn’t resist the corny title. Today finally begins our journey into sensor-rama here at the Haugsjaa Homestead. Our (probably) zero-energy house is being studied/monitored/picked-apart by the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (Fraunhofer CSE)

Here’s what they’ve got going…
– 1 onset weather station measuring outside temp, humidity and solar insolation
– 2 onset loggers measuring inside temp and humidity AND CO2 levels (bedroom and living room)
– 3 onset loggers measuring inside temp and humidity (basement, bathroom, attic room)
– a 4-channel logger measuring temps in 4 different spots in our HRV unit (heat recovery ventilation)

This in addition to logging:
– full energy use (everything including hot water and HVAC runs on electricity) so we know EVERYTHING

– full PV info at

I hope someone learns something from all of this! I assume they will!

Go Fraunhofer! Go house?


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75% of Americans want a carbon cap, but…

“national polls say that 75% of American voters want Congress to legislate a carbon cap, but the Senate instead has caved to the coal and oil businesses.”


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