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Old 01-04-12, 02:12 PM   #7
MN Renovator
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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herlichka, Sinking the house is probably a bad idea now that I think of it and Daox brought up the front door which I didn't think about. I don't think I'd raise grade. The thought was to reduce the need for insulation by having the ground shield the house against the temperature extremes. In the end, finding a builder to do this in an attractive way, or even a water-safe way may be extremely difficult.

Daox, I'm not sure if I would go with SHW. This summer I managed 4 therms of gas for two differnt months usage between the hot water and stove. I take showers and cook stuff so I'd imagine that if I had SHW, I'd actually have to use more water than I do for it to be worth it. I think that for the limited roof space that I'd rather have as much PV I can have up there which would have the added benefit of blocking sun from the roof which would be light in color and no asphalt shingles. I'm not looking to go with spendy panels to get higher output per panel but something on the affordable side from a reputable company who has a warranty worth something. It looks like a 2 to 3kw setup would balance my electrical usage but with more insulation and properly placed windows. I forgot to mention that I wanted a 2kw-3kw system. Ideally I'd probably put as much up there that I can fit, if somehow 4kw of panels managed to work, I'd be happy too if I'm on-grid and feed back and cash in the excess.

Piwoslaw, Soil might not be an insulator but the slab and walls of my basement are warmer than the upstairs of my house right now so I'd imagine that the soil temperature would save some energy in the winter and more energy in the summer since the exterior exposure wouldn't be the outside temperature. The solar gain is going to be whatever size glass I install. If the southern wall is 5 feet tall and the window is 4 feet tall and as wide as that side of the house then I'd imagine that there would be plenty of solar gain.

Ryland, I've found that the only weather I can open my windows in my climate is in the seasons where my electric bill is not dominated by the air conditioner because of the humidity. In the summer we sometimes get nice cool 60 degree nights but those are the nights where the dew point during the day was above the indoor temperature so opening the windows would raise the humidity quite a bit. I probably won't open windows too much and so a large picture window with two smaller side windows would probably do the trick. I've been reading that triple pane windows don't save much over double pane windows with a large enough gap because triple pane windows don't have a large enough gap between the panes to insulate as well as someone would think. I'll buy the windows based on the U-factor and in the end will probably get triple pane. I'm assuming triple pane doesn't affect the solar gain, does it? I want the southern windows to pull in the heat and in the summer have a proper overhang to block the sun. At the MN state fair this year there was a display showing passive house design, they used a ground tempering and since Minnesota needs it, the setup had a condenser to cool the incoming air. I think the building's entire air conditioning setup may have been to cool the incoming air exchange. What R value is a 20" straw bale wall assembly? I've been doing my own insulation in my house, and still working on a few details but I will be finished up once I can crawl in the 27" high upper attic without freezing. My current house has two steps to go up to get in. I like it because the ground level is the kitchen and living room and if I have someone over in a wheelchair it is much to not have to climb them up or down in a split-level house setting where the door greets you with a choice of stairs up and down. Some day I will convince my family to have grandma over at my place so we don't have to carry her up and down stairs. I could even make a simple plywood ramp too.

AC_Hacker, Most of what I saw about insulation was either learned searching for it, seeing it on the Building Science articles Building Science Information from this site, and quite of bit of the actual numbers and quantities came from members this site or a few of the energy auditors that are also in HVAC at the hvac-talk site. It just bugs me that I can't post there without my thread being closed because of their no DIY policy even though I wasn't saying anything about installing my own equipment. For what it's worth, this spring I'll be putting in a good half dozen or so fruit trees, 4 apple trees, 2 pear trees of different varieties. I never thought about nut trees, I don't know which ones would survive here but I'll take a look in spring. I like the idea of having food trees because they take nearly no effort once they are established to get food from them.

I like the idea of a 'core room' The problem with that idea is if the house is small, putting a room in the middle with no exterior walls might not really work. I think a good idea would be to have the master walk-in closet with a door seperating the outside from the inside and not intentionally conditioning that walk-in closet. I've seen zero energy houses that use a closed off area for entry ways that aren't conditioned and have the interior of those insulated from the outside as well as between that entry room and the outside. I don't think I need to go to that extreme since I don't ever leave the door open long at all and it adds sq ft and construction costs. If the inside is insulated enough such as 12" of cellulose I'd imagine its going to be quiet inside. Once I air sealed my bedroom I could crank my laptop volume as loud as it would go, which is fairly loud and couldn't tell there was music playing outside. I put the laptop downstairs where I hadn't air sealed yet and I could name the music that was playing on random. One thing I'd like to mention though is avoiding hallways. My plan is to not use them, if the house is designed without hallways and having the rooms on the outer walls then the only thing that resembles a hallway would be any stairs separating levels.
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