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EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #11 
After a very long and deep thought process I have finally decided to build a hydronic solar thermal system for my new house. I calculated that the 130 square foot array will cost me $1100 to build. The tank, pumps and piping would normally more than double the cost of this project but I already have all of that stuff and it sure isn't staying in my current house.

I'm planning a copper/aluminum absorber with the pre-made absorber fins bought from U.P. Solar Solutions. I will buy the oversize fins and the modified Vise Grips that they sell in order to get the 90% fin wrap over the copper tube.

The array will be on the South wall of the second story of the house. It's the maximum practical it can be on that wall, taking into account the location of the windows and the nominal sizing of building materials. It will drain back into the 250 gallon SofTank that will provide space heating and a DHW pre-heat via a large pex heat exchanger.

[LARGE] 
I wasn't going to build a solar system at first but since I already have half of the system sitting idle in the basement that would otherwise go to waste I decided to go ahead with it. Despite the numerous difficulties I had with my patio-mounted pex-al-pex collectors, I was very happy with the energy savings when they were operational. The price of electricity is scheduled to double in the next couple of years so a new solar system would be increasingly worthwhile. There's also no denying the happiness that comes from a tank full of free solar hot water.

Construction of the collectors will start very soon.

Lance in Newfoundland

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 “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.” 
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EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #12 
Yeah straw is what I meant to say... as in straw-bale insulation. Although it's an option to use straw I'm going to go with dense pack cellulose since it's readily available and can be considered the fire-stop between the two floors. Without the cellulose my house wouldn't meet current fire codes because of the open cavity between the first and second floor.

Lance in Newfoundland

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 “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.” 
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EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #13 
I brought home most of the materials I need for building the collector array that will go on the back of my new house. I'm hoping to get started with the build sometime this week. Not sure if I should update my progress on this thread or start a new one.

This time, my trusty sidekick, Francheska has agreed to help me. She's now five years old and can grasp the ideas a little better than before. I see a good handywoman in the making.

[LARGE] 
Time to dust off the ol' table saw... here we go again [biggrin]

Lance in Newfoundland




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 “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.” 
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SolarInterested

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Reply with quote  #14 
Good stuff Lance. I'd vote for a separate topic for the new collector.
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EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #15 
Here's a video tour of the property that I shot today. You'll have to bear with me as I'm incredibly camera shy. Hopefully I'll keep the videos coming as the project moves forward and I start becoming incrementally more comfortable in front of a lens.



Lance in Newfoundland



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 “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.” 
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EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #16 
Now that I finally received a joist layout plan from the truss company I was able to finish modeling the exterior wall assembly and hash out some useful heat load calculations. The design heat load for the house is actually a bit less than expected even though I was fairly conservative with the calculations.

I crunched the numbers manually at first and then later entered them into the "Home Heat Loss Calculator" found on the builditsolar.com website. The two results agree nicely and since the builditsolar calculator tables the values in a neat and organized way I'll display them here:



[LARGE] 

Rather than calculate each individual wall as a thermally uniform structure, I broke the framing system down into four separate sub-structures and added up the square footage of each across the entire house. The R value of each component in the sub-structure was added up and the sum was used in the heat loss calculation for that sub-structure.

For example:

  • Stud - This is where each pair of exterior wall studs are located with a 4.25 inch gap of cellulose insulation in between them.
  • Rim Joist - This is the location of the rim joist in between the first and second stories. Because the rim joist only sits on the inside wall there is 7.75 inches of cellulose insulation between the joist and the exterior sheathing.
  • Headers - This is the location of the headers above window and door openings. The interior wall typically has two headers while the exterior typically has one, creating a 8.25 inch thick layer of insulation between the two.
  • Full R - This is an area with no framing, just an interrupted 11.25 inch thick layer of insulation.


[LARGE]
This is a framing section showing examples of the four substructures mentioned above.

Windows were broken down into north and south facing ones (both of which have different R values) and the doors were broken into glass doors (the front door and patio door are mostly glass) and foam core doors (side entrance and sunspace).

Infiltration was set to a value of 0.167 ACH or 40.8 CFM. This may seem very low but it's the required ventilation rate for my size house and number of occupants based on ASHRAE 62.2 standards. Because I'm not using an air exchanger and instead going with exhaust only ventilation, any incidental air leakage is part of the required ventilation and is quite welcome, rather than considered a problem.



[LARGE] 
As you can see my design heat load for the house (with an interior temp of 20C and exterior temp of -18C) is 13 081 BTU/hr or 3833 watts. That's roughly equal to 7.15 BTU/sqft/hr. I did the garage calculations separately and added the total heat loads together at the bottom of the page.

The good news is that both the house and garage should use a maximum of 21 343 BTU/hr (6255 watts) to stay warm on the coldest January night - a heat load that is achievable with even a modest sized water heater (in a combined space/DHW role) as the heat source.

The bad news is that my hydronic radiant space heating system is mainly there as a technicality to meet building code requirements and as a backup for my wood stove, which I'm planning on using as my primary heat source. Even though my design heat load is 13 081 BTU/hr I will rarely ever see temperatures as low as -18C. A more typical winter temperature would be -10C to -5C, bringing the heat load well below the minimum output of most wood stoves. It's a first-world problem I know but it could prove difficult to find a stove that can put out such low amounts of heat without causing dangerous creosote buildup, especially since the stove should be sized to heat the house alone since there's no practical way to get that heat into the garage.



[LARGE] 
Here are the heat load calculation inputs for the garage. The garage is a not as well insulated as the house and has different construction. I allowed for a high amount of air leakage because of the two garage doors which are typically drafty and hard to seal.



[LARGE]
This photo shows some of the garage construction. As you can see there is a fair amount of thermal bridging around window and door openings as well as at the top and bottom plates. Even though the studs are staggered the overall wall thickness is not as much as in the house.



[LARGE] 
And finally, the heat loss results for the garage. As expected, the design heat load is quite a bit more than the house at 13.97 BTU/sqft/hr. Perhaps the air leakage rate will be a bit less than expected and will bring that figure down a bit. Also, in the calculations for both the house and the garage, it is assumed that there's no heat loss through the common wall between them, as they are both at the same temperature.

More details on the framing coming soon.

Lance in Newfoundland





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 “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.” 
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EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #17 
[LARGE]
Now that I was able to get some time to figure out the framing for the sunspace I created a complete model of the rear of the house. Not too bad looking if I don't say so myself [smile]



[LARGE]
The house is accurately (within a couple of feet) geo-located on Google Earth. Playing with the ever useful shadow tool on SketchUp allows me to see how the sun shines on my model at different times of day or year. Here is the inside of the house at noon on December 21st. The sun shines right in through the windows and across my nice solar absorbing concrete floor.



[LARGE]
On June 21st however, the sun doesn't even penetrate past the window sills. The casement windows are oriented to scoop up the summer prevailing winds and channel them across the open floor plan. it should be a nice cool house in the summer.



[LARGE]
As expected, the sunspace is filled with sunlight on the winter solstice as well. Insulated on all sides, it should be an ideal place to relax and grow year 'round greens.

Lance in Newfoundland

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 “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.” 
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EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #18 
I just edited the first post in this thread to include some pictures and an overview of the house design. It's meant to serve as an introduction to anyone who sees this thread for the first time and reads from the beginning.

With the start of construction around the corner it's looking good so far. I've managed to figure out the details of the foundation myself and they're going to the engineer for approval on Friday.

A lot of the elements in the house have been planned down to a very fine detail such as the placement of lights and switches, location of ductwork, routing of pipes, cabling, etc.

I have the project registered with the Canadian Green Building Council for the LEED certification program. I had some correspondence with my local LEED provider and it's looking like we're going to get platinum certified. If so, this will be the first building in the province to do so.

In the meantime, I have some 3D pictures that may be interesting...

[LARGE]
Here we have the main open living area on the south side of the house.



[LARGE]
The living area features a nice wood stove, open staircase, built-in dining booth and a nice size kitchen with a walk-in pantry.



[LARGE]
Upstairs has some detailed planning done in both of the bathrooms as well as the laundry room.



[LARGE]
In the master bathroom, I'm planning on making this two tier vanity top over the tub deck. It should increase the functionality of the space while saving floor area and making it more interesting.

Heating, plumbing and ventilation details coming soon.

Lance in Newfoundland

 

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gbwillson

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Reply with quote  #19 
Looking good Lance!

Are there any tax breaks for having the home LEED Certified?

Greg in MN
EcoMotive

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Reply with quote  #20 
I don't believe there's any tax breaks available in this province. There may be in others.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador in general is not a very friendly place for energy efficient, green or alternative building practices. A new law was passed a couple of years ago making it illegal to generate your own power from PV or wind and tie it into the grid.

There was recently an attempt to build this province's first net-zero energy house. Despite the initial fanfare and media attention it failed when they hit the barrier of not being allowed to install their PV panels. It was built just a few minute's drive from where I live, and less than a kilometer from my new building site. I attended the open house that they held just before the drywall installation and had a chance to see the super-insulated double wall construction. At that time the builders were unaware of the PV issue and were still expecting to achieve net-zero.

The legislation was put there to ensure that the residents here are forced to buy electricity from the new hydroelectric generating station that's currently under construction, instead of producing their own.

Lance in Newfoundland

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 “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.” 
Greek philosopher Aeschylus


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