The WSU Extension Carbon Masters Class of Fall 2010 ended yesterday. The training included the development of an outreach project. As an engineer, I am not good at outreach, so my approach is to lead by example, to modify my home with a minimum upfront expense, and maximum use of DIY projects. Call it "Climate change activism, an engineer's approach", or something like that. The focus of the projects would be to save money by saving energy, because saving appeals to everyone, even climate skeptics. The project presentation appears very technical, but by detailing every step of my projects, I hope to make visitors say "I want to do that!" and help them do so.
I will be using a lot of resources from builditsolar.com by Gary Reysa, I highly recommend that you browse his fantastic website. This is an encyclopedia of solar DIY how-to. One of my earlier projects is actually linked to his greywater section.
To avoid lengthy reading, and also because I still have a lot of planning, calculation, research and design to do, I will post the whole project by chapters, one chapter every few days as I figure out the details.
Today I will lay out the different projects included in my outreach plan, so here we start:
Chapter 1: Assessement of our home energy use.
We moved in in February 2010, and we have now enough data to assess our energy usage. First step will be to get that data from PUD and log it into this website. I hope to also do some analysis as to where we can make changes with quickest payback. Consequently, the following chapters content and their order may change.
Chapter 2: Greywater system.
This system was already running in my previous home, and is described in this site (and linked to from builditsolar.com) at:
[ My Greywater System ].
Our new home presents some challenges regarding the implementation of the surge tank (below ground), the reedbeds will need to be frost protected (the previous reedbed died during the 2008 blizzard). Re-installation will require some re-design as well.
Chapter 3: Rainwater System.
This too was running in our previous home, the rainwater was used to flush the toilet. The system included a first flush diverter that worked very well until the 2008 blizzard cracked it (frost damage). Some lesson learned and consequent redesign required! Installation more challenging due to house setup, but a lot more roof area, increasing potential.
Chapter 3: Test of a Radiant Hydronic Wall.
I will remodel a room in our basement, that is unused at the moment. This is the coldest room of our home, and is a prime candidate to test a more efficient heating system. I will try a radiant wall, as described in builditsolar.com. The heating fluid will be electrically heated initially, to prove the concept of the radiant wall.
Chapter 4: $1K solar hot water system.
Following builditsolar.com multiple examples, I will build a solar collector and storage tank to heat water. The collector will initially heat the room modified in chapter 3, then the size of the collector will be increase as more exterior walls are converted to radiant, in order to keep the system as balanced as can be while it is been installed.
Chapter 5: Solar Hot Water
The electric hot water heater will be downsized, and a solar hot water tank will be installed upstream, so that the hot water is pre-heated by the solar system. The hot water tank will use the excess heat from the hydronic system. A hot tub will be connected to the hydronic system as well, in order to dissipate the extra heat and avoid damage from excessive water temperatures.
Chapter 6: Super-insulation.
All exterior walls of the house will be thickened. The radiant walls modified in the previous chapter already received extra insulation. This chapter will be about adding that same extra insulation to the remaining non-radiant exterior walls, so that the whole house shell has been upgraded. Attic insulation may also receive extra insulation if needed. Not much can be done to the slab though.
Chapter 7. Controlled ventilation.
Closely following insulation improvements, controlled ventilation will provide fresh air, avoid back-draft from the wood stoves, and reclaim the heat from the exhaust stalled air.
Chapter 8: Drain water heat recovery.
I will design a system replicating the GFX, to reclaim heat of the waste water from showers and other warm water users. This chapter will require careful design and assessement, as I am not sure the amount of energy reclaimed is worth the material to reclaim it.
Chapter 9: It never ends.
There is always improvements possible. Here are a few...
After at least one year of rainwater usage, it will be a good time to analyze the water, and determine if it is suitable for higher "grade" of use, such as laundry. The greywater system will also be assessed after one year of use. If the reedbeds filter the water sufficiently so that it can be stored for 24 hours or so, then the greywater may be used for toilet flushing, freeing more rainwater for laundry, or showers, or any suitable use. Our rainwater would be used 2 times before ending in the sceptic system.
The wood stoves may be connected to the hydronic system, to distribute their heat though the house. Not an easy task.
A photovoltaic system may be installed using laminates, that I would assemble to make solar panels. On top of the low cost of laminates (~$1 to $1.5 per watt), they may qualify for maximum payback from PUD (manufactured in WA?).
Chapter 10. Getting them to come.
As our micro-farm develops, we hope to have more traffic to our home. The glaring solar collector and blooming reedbeds should raise curiosity. That is when the real outreach will start.
What about codes and regulations? Each project will be done following as closely as possible existing regulations, If regulations don't exist yet, then best practices will apply. It is possible some of these projects will be scrapped due to impossibility to meet codes. I welcome all advises on this important matter.
Disclaimer: Don't try that at home!
To be continued...