Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Solar Homes Tour

The first weekend in October, we went on a Solar Homes Tour in Blount county. There are tours all over the country that weekend, but this was the only one in Alabama.

The the tour has been getting more and more popular each year. They had to split our group into two since it was so large. Our half started at the modified yurt.

Outside of the yurt, with solar panel.

Inside the yurt. (There was a lot of glare and contrast in this picture and the next. I tried to correct for it, but as a result, ended up with a few dark blotches where they shouldn't be.)

It's open on the top. The theory is that the warm air rises and can escape. I imagine it's closed in winter. It's not difficult to heat in Alabama... cooling is the main problem.

Where the walls meet the roof.

They stressed that incorporating passive solar principles is the most important thing to do. Basically that means you design the house to take the most advantage of the sun, before you ever spend a dime on technology like solar panels. One of the ideas was to grow grapes (or something similar) over the windows for shade in the summer.

The same idea, at a different house. I think I'd prefer blinds though, so you could still look out the window if you needed to.

Some interesting space-saving stairs at the same house.

Most of the houses were heated with wood-burning stoves.

This was a ridgetop underground house. It's open on two sides and underground on the others. I think this one was my favorite of the ones we saw. We missed seeing the last house on the tour though, which was supposedly the best. (It was running late and I had to be somewhere else.)

Colorful bumper of one of the tour guides. I so wanted a Prius when I bought my car 5 years ago but hubby was vehemently against it. (He worried about repair issues.) Click for a larger image.

A stray dog came along with our group.

Zorak wanted to come too!


pablo said...

So many good photos.
- Do they tie the roof of the yurt to the walls? What's that rope for?
- I would guess that one consequence of growing vines over your windows is a lot of bugs in the house.
- What kind of firewood is that in the shed. Looks like hedge/Osage Orange to me.

bill said...

Cool stairs. But what if you are left-footed?

Rurality said...

Pablo... something like that. They explained it, but I'll admit that I'm quite the architectural dummy. The windows are open all the time so even with sceens I imagine there's bugs anyway. Bugs are kind of a fact of life around here, if you live near the woods. I'm not sure of the type of wood, but I doubt it's Osage Orange since there's very little of that growing here. (I'm just full of info, eh?)

Bill, in that case you'd probably have to go up backwards. :)

Oh I forgot the best part. The yurt has a composting toilet. An outdoor composting toilet. An outdoor composting toilet with no door! I'm not really sure if that is my style. :)

roger said...

an outhouse is a low tech composting toilet. i suppose you mean something arranged so the compost is available to use.

any ideas that you can use at your house?

Rexroth's Daughter said...

At our old house in Santa Cruz we covered one of our south facing windows (also street-facing) with a Cecil Bruner (sp?) rose. It gave us some privacy and cut the heat pouring through that window. The really cool part is that a bird built its nest in it, and we could watch it while we were doing the dishes!

I'm interested in composting toilets, but what's with "no door." I'm not so sure that would enhance the experience, in fact, I'd go so far to say-- No Way!

megabethcom said...

My house sits on a crawl space, at the bottom of a forested hill, and apparently has poor exterior wall insulation. It is cool in the summer and FREEEEEEZING cold in the winter. Maybe the wood-burning stoves would be helpful. And I bet having the house partially underground helps in both temperature extremes.

I like the Prius too... the problem I have heard about with any hybrid is the replacement expense of batteries. I am not sure how long they last but their life is finite.

happyandblue2 said...

Great pictures. I always enjoy seeing how weirdos live,tee,hee..

Floridacracker said...

Space Ghost Rules! Is it bad that I didn't have to click on the link to find out who Zorak is? I love cartoons...

Did you try the funky stairs? I wonder how they feel. I've seen plans for those before, but never got to tread on any.

Rurality said...

DPR, there's no hole in the ground as is typical with an outhouse. And believe it or not there was no smell. You poured sawdust on top of, um, things. And either they were morally opposed to TP or they were out. Really, really not my style I must say. But interesting, and an experience. :)

When we build I think we will try to go with passive solar... to put windows where they will get winter sun and not let in the summer heat. I've got a lot of reading up to do.

Yeah RD, no door! Just three sides and a big open spot to watch the woods from I guess. In the winter seems like it would get awfully cold. But maybe they just use it in the summer and have another place indoors, I'm not sure.

I keep reminding myself that my mother used an outhouse during her formative years... no running water and no electricity either. Life has certainly changed a lot during that relatively short time.

SM, yep cold air sinks! Yes on the underground part... Plus there was a lot of stone, and a soapstone fireplace. The theory was that it absorbed heat during the winter days, and released it at night.

The people did say that they'd had a little trouble with their Prius (Priii? They had two I think), but that Toyota had fixed everything for free.

H&B, people who ride bikes everywhere probably shouldn't throw stones, LOL!

FC, I'm glad somebody shares my love of Space Ghost & Zorak! :) No the stairs were blocked off so I couldn't try them. The guy said he'd lived on a boat for some years, and got the idea from that.

Ontario Wanderer said...

Lots of great ideas on your tour! The underground house idea is probably the best. One of our neighbours heats his underground house for the cost of less than $5 per Canadian winter and that was for fuel for his chain saw. Of course one does need to have their own wood and time available, etc.

Hick said...

I've been over here three times now trying to download all your beautiful pictures. Finally got them all (I hate dial-up).

I watched a Discovery Special some time ago about some gal who lived in a Yurt. That was the first time I ever heard of them. Pretty cool, but I'll take my traditional house. We have doors to our bathrooms and compost is for the compost pile. But, we do have a septic tank which is pretty much like a composter.

TurtleHeart said...

Ooo, interesting tour! I'd love to have gone on it.

Those stairs are kewl, but the first thing I though was "definately NOT leftie friendly". I'd probably kill myself trying to use them...

Wayne said...

I know I'm late to this party, and my antics will probably never be seen, but thanks very much for posting these pics, Karen. Some things I see I like very much; others less so. Berms are a great idea.

Two observations: first, the vines over windows - besides Pablos's warning about bugs, and yours about being able to see out the window, it also blocks the movement of air. What's wrong with moving the vines 10 feet out?

Second - burning wood for heat. I'm conflicted about this. I have tons of wood I could burn for heat - just a matter of carting it up out of the woods. But it seems very much anti-green, if you like that term (and I don't, particularly). After all, it's less likely to be as efficient in terms of CO2 production as using electricity from coal-burning plants. Or is it?