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Sunrise

Sunrise

So far so good! As the owner-builder, I’m fairly well satisfied with the cold weather performance of the house.  But I’m getting ahead of the full story.  Let’s begin with the warm weather performance.  In the 2 summers that I have occupied this place, the inside temperature has never gone above 77º F or 25º C. Yes, there have been some low 93º F/ 34º C summer days, but the house stayed on the warm side and never got uncomfortably hot.  With awning windows, all I did was crack them open at night, watching the cool evening breezes waft inward and move out much of that hot air.  This also cooled down the thermal mass inherent in the double drywall layers.

feeding my friends

feeding my friends

The generous 24” overhang keeps out much of that hot summer sun.  No, it’s not perfect as once the sun begins its southerly trek the path of direct radiation into the depths of the house increases in late Aug. and early Sept., when we can still get some hot afternoon temperatures.  I always sleep with the bedroom casement window open on the north side of the house and a great deal of cool air comes up from the 30′ gorge behind and below.  I can recall many a time when I rented in New Minas, or lived in the townhouse in Courtenay, even back in the ON Brighton house, throwing off the covers in the ‘muddle’ of the night and reaching for a single sheet for covering.  I still sleep with the full goose down duvet year ‘round.

late spring 2011

Oh yea, you need a number.  The Energuide rating # is 84.  That’s out of a potential top value of 100.  Alan Stewart of Stewart’s Organics Farm  http://www.stewartsorganicfarm.com/ and owner of Sustainable Housing in Wolfville, NS  http://www.sustainablehousing.ca/ did the energy audit and valuation.  He told me that his firm has never done a passive house with as high a rating as this one, unless they also included some active features, perhaps solar hot water.  This is not the place to go into amortization of active features.  Find that elsewhere in this blog.

Big Red knew about the panes of glass, so I was no pain to him.

Big Red knew about the panes of glass, so I was no pain to him.

And yet, the Energuide rating only tells part of the story.  As I keyboard this in mid January of 2013, it has been mild and sunny these past 3 days, with the snake hovering a tick below or, slightly above freeze.  I have not had to put on the wood stove at night nor in the morning.  Neither have I turned up the electric thermostat for the 3kW inline duct heater.

3kW inline duct heater

On nights that are mild overnight, the house will drop between 1º— 1.5º F.  On cold nights such as -9C/24º F to -17º C/0º F, the inside house temperature can drop between 2º — 3º F.  That’s not too shabby!  In my estimation, the principle reason for this is the expanse of glass.  Let’s face it a triple glazed, argon filled window, with hard E coating on panes 3 & 5 respectively, only measures an *average* R value of 8, as opposed to the surrounding walls, that are nearly 3X the NS building code insulated to an R value of 60.

Adjustable fresh air inlet for wood stove and drier.

I have also found that since I am the only occupant in this place, it’s easier to heat if I keep the HRV on recirculate nearly  100% of the time.  As you can see from the de-humidistat reading of 41%, that’s low.  The air quality is always fresh and if I happen to char a piece of toast, it’s an easy fix, swinging the HRV into vent mode. 41% is much below a level where interior moisture would condense on windows.  There is a little condensation at the extremes of the building, such as the workshop and master bedroom.  Not enough to cause any staining and beside, I’ve yet to complete the window sills and aprons in that area.  Even doing laundry, soaking in the tub or taking a shower, only raises the relative humidity in the building by between 2— 3 %.

Jøtul wood stove alight

Jøtul wood stove alight

Most of humidity rise comes from my constant movement back and forth through the unconditioned area of the garage en route to the workshop.  Also, whereas I was instructed to get a fresh air intake duct for the Jøtul woodstove, I was later instructed that airtight stoves don’t really appreciate ice cold air for combustion temperatures, as that can lower stack (chimney) temperatures, which could possibly lead to creosote formation and a potential chimney fire. I always burn very hot upon initial start-up and keep the stack hot throughout much of the burn.  The #3 Jøtul also is in possession of that company’s best draft even without access to a Guinness. ():>)

HRV & inline duct heater controls.

HRV & inline duct heater controls.

Keeping the HRV control set at recirculate, also aids when I do use the inline electric duct heater as it is baseline at maintaining 20º C when the wind blows.  I use the lowest speed to keep air rush noise down to a minimum.  The heating/distribution system would have benefited from oversized duct work, say 7″ instead of the installed code standard of 5″.

nearly completed woodshop

nearly completed woodshop

I attended an annual general meeting of Solar NS in 2009, where the presenter, Shawna Henderson of  Bfree Homes, suggested that in future, the Energuide Rating number would become the most significant factor in buying and selling a new house.  The rating would become a huge determinant of why a given property should command its asking price.  Earlier in the blog I had the idea I would shoot for 100.  As I got deeper into the project, I realized that 100 was not feasible, as the amortization period for many of these current active devices were beyond reach for ordinary mortals and their income.

ceiling recirculation opening

An enlarged duct system would have permitted a larger volume of air without the necessity of faster fan speed.  Also, a larger volumetric as differentiated from a larger velocity fan system, would have been superior as well.  All of this technology while not new, is still a learning curve experience for installers and owner-builders, such as yours truly.  Even locating the recirculation opening back to the HRV for the wood stove more centrally on the hallway ceiling,  would have benefited picking up extra heat

Shop air inlet with blast gate

Shop air inlet with blast gate

Suffice to say, one may sit directly beside any exterior window in this house, no matter how cold it is outside and not feel drafts or cool air moving on the outstretched skin of a bare forearm. As I have written elsewhere in this blog, this is the type of building where one puts all the available funds up front in the beginning.

Shop air exhaust

Shop air exhaust beside air cleaner for wood dust with blast gate

Humans are in for some indecisive and uncertain future events, as to loosely paraphrase George Monbiot of the UK Guardian newspaper, what we are facing is climate breakdown and not merely climate change. If we started building more sustainable housing will this help?  Hopefully yes, but probably not much.  Dr. Guy McPherson, an environmental professor emeritus from AZ state U, whose blog Nature Bats Last;   http://guymcpherson.com/2013/01/climate-change-summary-and-update/has stated that the only way we can stop or reverse these serious climate processes, is for the complete collapse of western civilization.  Hmmmmm!  Don’t stop reading here and don’t shoot the messenger either.

A 15 min. hike up the mtn. from my door.

What left is there to write about? I began with a summary of the government rating and performance of this relatively new building.  I end on a frustrating note of alarm.  In my entire life I have had optimism and demonstrated that we can live our dreams.  Yes, I’ve been stymied on a few occasions, but I remain resilient and undeterred.  I’ll end this latest tome on a spiritual note: I believe that The Universe, God, did not evolve the human to a point where after all of the travels it’s all over for this species.  Like the end of the Mayan calendar, Earth has entered a new cycle of growth in all areas but the one which can no longer be sustained, namely, economic growth based on the old paradigm of growth in the money supply.  It’s a small planet with now over 7 billion souls walking upright and continuing to burn fossil fuels.  This must end soon, very soon.  I spent 3 months in China this time last year and I have seen first hand what the tremendous assault to our natural world is through the burning of enormous quantities of coal.  Not to mention the dirt, filth and polluted air, water and food supplies.  Perhaps those last 3 are incidental.  Who knows?

Sleep well my veggie dirt

Sleep well my veggie dirt

Those readers who believe that we have been visited from elsewhere in The Universe, by other much more advanced beings, with superior technology, cannot depend upon them for rescue, especially when powerful governments have systematically and  covertly shot them down when they materialize from their anti-gravity, extra dimensional reality.  Yes, these are interesting times as the ancient Chinese expression goes.
Still here after all these years.

Still here after all these years.

I always appreciate your comments and upload all that are relevant and contribute to the continuing conversation.  If you’ve made it thus far, thank you for reading as it has been my pleasure to do this.  Later I’ll journal about my garlic adventures.

I Am, John Otvos aka jayöh.

PS: This just in; the NS Power adjusted 2013 /Mo. electricity rate for this home is $74.  So far this 2012/13 season, I have burned about 1/2 bush cord of branch wood, mostly poplar and birch with some maple.

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