Friday, October 31, 2003

I've added a few links on the right about "our" appliances. Well, we haven't really bought anything, but that's what we want to buy. Most entertaining is the little Video from Agri-County on the Staber Washing Machine. Of course we with recent European experience wonder what all the agitation about the Agitator is all about - all washing machines in Germany are on a horizontal axis anyway...
Here is last week's exterior & floor plan draft (it's a PDF file).
Hi! Have you been confused by the difference between Volt Ampere and Watts? Here is a good starting point. It's those reactances ("induktive Lasten") that make things more complicated.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Howdy! Well, last night we did not work much on our house plans...came home about 8:30 PM after a great dinner with Ellen who is in town for her two classes at Mayo.

However this morning on our way in Jennifer and I decided to go with the RF16 combo unit. This will only incur one-time shipping cost and will "encourage" us to only put in the freezer what we need for the next couple of weeks (we still have a turkey in our current freezer from last year or so...). Jennifer had a good point too: If we want, we can always add another freezer. And what we really use is the fridge, and the RF16 has 1.1 cu.ft. more fridge space than the R10.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Just a quick post, before I forget (or am too tired tonight)... Jennifer and I decided last night to definitely go with a DC powered fridge. We did some research and found out that liquid propane is not only a non-renewable energy source (duh, we knew that ;-) but also that is is basically just a by-product of crude oil or natural gas processing.

However, going with DC and wanting a decent-sized DC fridge really only leaves Sunfrost who seems to have a monopoly on larger DC fridges.

We haven't made up our minds yet whether to go with a fridge only (9.3 cu.ft. Sunfrost R10) and a chest freezer (5.8 cu.ft. from SunDanzer) or a fridge/freezer combination (10.3 & 3.9 cu.ft. Sunfrost RF16). It's about the same prize, but we'd end up with a cubic foot (or 3 inches in height) less fridge space, but 1.9 cu. ft. (or 50%) more freezer space. Jennifer prefers the combination and I prefer the separation - maybe it's because I grew up with a chest freezer back in Germany. Actually I just checked and our current freezer/fridge combo has a 6.58 cu. ft. freezer and a 14.28 cu.ft. fridge section. So maybe 3.9 cu.ft. is really, really small... The freezer would also be in the non-heated utility room below the kitchen, so that should reduce energy use even further.

What got this all started is that I ordered (from the Kill-A-Watt energy use meter. This site was the cheapest ($34.95) and no shipping cost. I ordered it on Monday and it came with the mail on Saturday. He even sent me this USPS tracking code, but that was no good (other than telling me that it was delivered). It didn't have "where is it now" information.

We used the Kill-A-Watt on Saturday to measure our energy usage of our vacuum (900 Watts). And then on Tuesday morning I plugged it in the fridge outlet. It showed (so I thought) 60 Watts usage. I was kind of surprised that when I opened the door the wattage did not change (so is the lightbulb on all the time???), but hey it was early in the morning...

So in the evening (about 12 hours later) it still read 60 Watts. I read the kWh and it showed 0.73 kWh. That's when I noticed that the 60 was the frequency, not the wattage. Then it started running and used about 212 Watts. Then I opened the door and it used 249 Watts. Ah! A 35 Watts lightbulb ;-)

That's when we compared the usage to the DC fridges. So our fridge, in a house that is at 58 degrees during the day and no door opening, uses .75 kWh per half a day. I haven't checked this morning but I'm sure it used more during those 3-4 "heating hours" where the ambient room temperature was higher. And now is October and the night temperatures dropped to the low 30s (that's right around freezing for our metrics readers out there). So I guess it is about 1.75 kWh/day on a year's average (1.5 kWh in the winter, 2 kWh in the summer). That is roughly 650 kWh a year.

Here is the comparison of freezer/fridge:
RF16 (@70°F): 0.49 kWh/day or 180 kWh/year.
R10 plus SunDanzer (@70°F): 0.19 + 0.28 = 0.47 kWh/day or 170 kWh/year.

So it's about a 1/4 of what we currently use.

[off topic: Did anybody ever wonder why fridge is spelled with a 'd' when refrigerator isn't? Go figure...]

So much for a quick post. Hope you enjoyed reading.


Monday, October 27, 2003

Okay, here we go. Day one (at least by the count of this diary). What do you think, will I even make more than 3 entries?

Projekt Licht 'n Stein. Alternative Strategies for Dwellings. Being "green" out of protest and financial necessity. Showing that 'one' can do it....

Today is Monday. The last Monday in October of 2003. If all goes well will be putting the last finishing touches on our Licht 'n Stein cabin in exactly a year. And move in on Halloween 2004. And have a house warming party with lots and lots of people on Thanksgiving weekend.

Got an interesting eMail from LeeAnn today...Our future neighbor to the south wants to log his property and will take our fence down but put it back up on the real survey stakes. Huh? She said that her colleague Tim had put the posts/stakes and yes, that the fence is slightly off. She is wondering if slightly off means inches, feets, yards? He never specified (and she never asked again). Oh and she offered to research waste removal (again!). And Jennifer had to send Dick a note following up on where his communication with the seller's attorney is at.

Initially I was not concerned about the fence being moved and the neighbor logging, because I thought it was the neighbor to the West (the old Fiorstrom farm). So by the time we got home Jennifer was not concerned anymore (at least not concerned enough to feel like calling that guy or LeeAnn). However now I was concerned and worried, and was getting all nervous and anxious. Talk about Yin and Yang and Opposites Attract ;-) Well, I configured her computer so she could access her eMail and send Dick that note and cc: LeeAnn. And I read her note again about that logging thing. Then I called LeeAnn and got the story above. Did not feel like calling the neighbor either. Of course LeeAnn thought it was nice that he called to let us know. Funny only that he already started today....go figure? Who knows maybe it's just another 'revenge' scheme...

So, we're just plowing along. I'll now write some posts about the last days.

Oh, wait, I forgot something. Kirby send his electric use spreadsheet (along with his blood pressure data, too, lol). Unfortunately they do not use 3 kWh per day with an electric cookstove...but rather 30 kWh. Of course now the panic sets in - how can *we* possibly use just 3.5 kWh per day? But the folks at do it, so hey, I need to be working on this usage spreadsheet....

Good night...

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Okay the time stamp is fake. I am writing this blog entry for Sunday on Monday. Playing a little bit catch up on what happened today re: Licht 'n Stein.

Called my parents today. They are somewhat "excited" about our project but I think they are more concerned about it. No electricity and no well water. My father, Dietmar [deetmahr], had a good point though on water collection: No matter how big I make our roof surface (i.e. the steeper I make it) I won't collect more water. Pretty simple, but easy mistake to fall for (at first). He knew because in Germany you get taxed for rainwater drainage (what a concept...) by the area your house occupies. Now he, having a "Walmdach" (meaning a low angle roof with slopes on all four sides), probably thought he wouldn't have to pay as much as the neighbors with their steep roof. Pustekuchen (that's German and intranslatable). So anyway. My beautiful spread sheet calculation did not work. Our roof, yes, has a surface area of 1,730 cu.ft. (720 in the south, 576 in the north and 434 for the "shed"). But the area it covers, and the area that for water collection purposes is only relevant, is the footprint of our house (and the shed). and that is only 1,285 cu.ft. But hey, it's still 75% of what I thought.

Okay, how many gallons of water in an inch of rain? Well, the easy way for a metrics-trained engineer (wink-wink) is to state that 1 cubic meter (m³) contains 1,000 liter. Isn't the metric system nice? So here is the long way. 3.8 liter in one gallon. 1 foot is 0.3048 m (because 1 inch is 2.54 cm). So....
1 cubic meter is 1 meter by 1 meter by 1 meter. And there are 1/0.3048 feet = 3.3 feet in a meter. so 3.3 feet ^ 3 or 35.3 cubic feet in a cubic meter.
Okay so 35.3 cubic meter are 1,000 liter. That divided by 3.785 is 264 gallons in 35.3 cubic feet. Or, if you will, and you will want to, let me tell you, there are 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot.

Okay, just like in all those fancy textbooks these days...first they explain you the manual, do it yourself, do it while you are riding on a bike and have nothing to look at, way. Then they tell you how easy you could have had the answer. And let me tell you, it is way cool! Because google knows. Google has a calculator now - I kid you not. Try it: Type in your Google Toolbar (what? you have not installed a Google toolbar yet? Oh, you are using a public library computer...okay (Dan, Eva, Kara, Todd) you are excused type in: How many gallons in a cubic foot? And low and behold there are 7.48 gallons. Okay so is Google the answer to the un-usability of the English system??? who knows....

So, since there are 12 inches in a foot, I just divide my square footage by 12 and multiply it by the gallons per cubic foot. That yields almost exactly 800 gallons - per inch of rain.

Now this was a dry year, let me tell you. No rain to speak off since July. But, as I saw today, Rochester Airport reported 20 inches of rain so far this year (normal is 40-45 inches for the whole year). With that amount of rain, we'd probably would have gotten...800...*20....16,000 gallons of water (that's 60,566 liters, Papa). So from January through October (and it rained another inch almost today, I would guess), for those ten months we would have had 1,600 gallons of water per day. Guess we're lucky, because my estimate from way back when was 1,500 gallons per month. Right now we are usually using 2,800 gallons with high-flush toilets and a really really inefficient washing machine. So a low-flush toilet, a low-flush shower head and a Staber horizontal, European styel front-loading, washing machine should do the trick to bring us down to that level.

If our water should really not last we always have some other options...Going to the laundromat to do our laundry (Wash-Center in German ;-) "Wascator" actually, a Danish (Huh?) name. Spend many hours there with my mom doing "big" laundry. Biggest memory is - why do people smoke in wash centers? strange...

Anywho...where was I? Oh yes, conversation with my parents. Well, now that I've done the math, I think I am still okay. Don't remember what my father said about their or Jürgen's water usage. Maybe 10,000 liters per month (that is 2641 gallons, so comparable with what we use here). I'd be surprised if they use more.

I still have to complete the water usage spread sheet. Especially for factoring in our water usage for having a child. Oh and tank size. I originally wanted to go with thre 1,500 gallon tanks. But since it was so dray this year maybe we'll increase that. And I also only found 1,700 gallon tanks for almost $1,500. Ouch - that is $6,000 for 6,800 gallons. But I guess that is still cheaper than the $22,000 for the well, given that water is 500-600 feet deep (150m to 180m). And we also are concerned with the quality of the water (due to field runoff of chemicals that just rush through the soil because of the underlying porous (?) lime stone. And our friend Barb's well just ran dry this summer. Boy that would suck if you invest 22,000 get chemicals in your water and in a few years it runs dry because of all the development that is going on.

Rainwater. Somehow it is stuck in my mind that it is very soft. I guess it is common knowledge but I think it was implanted in my brain through laundry detergent commercials, I think. Or, wait, I think I had friends and he, yes, Barbara & Holger, he installed rain water collection system and they used it for their laundry only (separate plumbing) and they said it is really soft.

Okay, I guess it's time to go to bed now. So: in a good year (45 inches) we'd have 32,000 gallons of water or 2,667 gallons per month. In a bad year we'd still have 1,300 gallons per month. Not too bad. And 6,000 gallons would give us roughly 4 months. I'll talk about evaporation and snow-wetness another time. That is another spreadsheet I prepared in August. And I also was able to explain our current water usage and show how with the same (or similar) usage patterns we would come down to 1,500 gallons. But it is time to go to bed now. Hope you're enjoying this stream of consciousness. I do ;-)


P.S.: Meant to give Jürgen & Susi a call for ages. So excited about their moving plans. And I really would like their feedback on all our ideas and thoughts. Oh and also need to write about the upcoming design reviews. and our walk with Kirby & Sarah last Sunday (gorgeous day). If only I had time ;-)