Welcome to the Freeville Earthship, located outside of Ithaca, NY! Please feel free to explore our site for thousands of pictures and in-depth posts about our process building an earthship.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Technical Update

Hello all...Chad here... I wanted to give a little update on some of the performance aspects since people have been requesting it....and I'm waiting for spackle to dry anyway.

Our ship is located 1,050 ft about sea level.  Taos, NM is about 7,000ft and their winters get a lot colder than ours, sometime 30-40 below 0F.  Not bad for the desert!  The low this winter so far has been about 6 degrees F. here and we've only had about 1 foot of snow at once on our roof...it's not uncommon to have 2-3 feet at once on the ground here.   We have to brush snow off of the solar panels but if the sun comes out it melts right off, which is nice because it saves us a trip up on the roof.

  Although we still have not completely sealed the inner living space off from the greenhouse it has not gotten below 55 F inside (which is impossible to do I believe).   We have a temporary small wood stove inside to heat the kitchen/living room space up to 70F.  This is our only heat source, which I have been told is "bad-ass." The greenhouse ceiling has not been insulated yet but it has not dropped below 40-45 F out there.  The citrus trees don't seem to mind the low temps.  We're looking forward to seeing the performance next winter after we insulate everything and build the wood-fired oven that will circulate hot water under the back hallway granite floor...and cook pizzas in the process.

Our big challenge is condensation in the greenhouse, which will hopefully get better once we insulate the ceiling.  Water constantly runs down the windows - the colder outside, the worse it is.  It's really bad when Courtney uses the dryer because the vent has an elbow in the greenhouse and vents out the roof, and when that humid air exits and condenses, it falls back down and leaks into the greenhouse.  Luckily we don't have that ceiling in yet or there would be extensive water damage.  The bigger culprit is the hundreds of gallons of greywater that's running through the planter cell out there.  My friend suggested putting down plastic over the soil.  Not a bad idea.  We run a dehumidifier but only when we have surplus charge or I plug it right into the generator...

...Which leads me to the next thing - power.  We had Renovous Energy in Ithaca come install an outlet so we can plug our generator directly into the charge controller/battery bank.  This has helped as our 12-235W panels aren't cutting it for us at night.  Its just too cloudy in the winter here in Ithaca, NY.  We go 5-6 days sometimes with no sun, but we do generate some power on cloudy days.  We do laundry, dishes, and vacuum when it is sunny...which is fine, but its hard for us to do much at night, relying on what the battery bank has stored up during the day.  I feel bad for the chickens out in the coup.  I want to turn the heat lamp on all of the time but I have to be selective.  I'd really like to put up a vertical-axis wind turbine because they look cool but I've heard they aren't built well and efficiently yet and aren't worth it. A wind supplement seems like the best answer, but the generator will have to do for now Nov-Feb.

Our drinking water, which lands on our roof and funnels into underground storage tanks, is about as unconventional as you can get.  Between acid rain and bird sharts, I was curious about what we were drinking, so I decided to get a $150 water analysis from a local lab - Community Science Institute.  We went all out - metals and everything, even though our metal roof (Metal Sales - ProPanel II) is supposedly certified lead free.  As you can see, we're well below all allowed levels (so take that County Health Department! Actually, take that all-places-in-the-world-where-it-is-illegal-to-harvest-rainwater!!  Let the people drink the rain!)  I can't wait to brew beer with it!  HOLD ON...you just noticed that we have a colony of coliform, didn't you?  Well, the truth is, 99% of real-estate transactions wouldn't happen here if the homeowners didn't dump a bottle of bleach down their well casing.  One of my last residences had 23 colonies/100ml without bleach, and with the rainwater collected on our earthship, we only had 1.  If we bleached our water supply it'd kill our plants.  So, as it turns out, it's safe to drink filtered rainwater (see previous posts of our filter system).  If you're one of the sorry bastards in PA and the other Frack-loving states with drinking water wells, you're welcome to try our rainwater...it tastes better than toluene.

Lets see, what else...  I can never thank the Dryden Code Enforcement Office enough.  We got lucky with them and I think they'd admit the fact that earthships are built better and stronger than most of the other mass-produced crap out there.  They really liked Mike and the Earthship crew too!  

Our initial insurance underwriters, NYCM ended up dropping our coverage after seeing pictures of our place.  Apparently it's "too progressive" for them.  You know, the types of houses where pipes will never freeze and the risk of fire is near zero...way too risky.  Our new insurance company, Security Mutual doesn't mind - as long as we don't get a trampoline.  They were $100 a year cheaper than NYCM anyway!

More in the spring....

1 comment :

  1. Awesome update, thanks so much; great to hear about the triumphs and challenges!