Inexpensive Home Building

Cut through the jargon and nonsense of home building and house construction by starting from zero dollars and trying to figure best-value bang-for-your-buck when choosing construction methods or construction materials. My research might answer some of your questions and at other times perhaps you have the knowledge or experience to post the answers to my questions and thereby help others too. The goal is an affordable and sustainable home for all.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Human-Powered Electricity Generators

Some people buy expensive exercise machines that consume electricity while their muscle power is wasted but you can reverse that and generate electricity while doing the exercises that you would do anyway. It's not practical to self-power average daily electricity consumption but it's good to know what you can do at least for emergency backup. One advantage of a bicycle-generator in the basement is that it will be there even if a storm destroys your outside solar panels or wind tower.

Guidelines (subject to revision, "your mileage may vary"):
  • 50W steady pace, average person, 50rpm?
  • 75W 1 manpower=0.1hp (1/10 hp), 1hp=0.75kW, 1kW=1.34hp
  • 100W steady pace, fit person, 50rpm?
  • 150W workout pace, fit person, 30 minutes
  • 250W strenuous pace, average person
  • 350W strenuous pace, fit person
  • 425W peak performance, fit person
  • 500W strenuous pace, top athlete, 20min-1 hour
  • 1000W peak performance, top athlete, best 1 minute
  • 1800W peak performance, top athlete, best 5 seconds, 120rpm
The good news is that a person could run a modest TV or laptop computer for as long as he/she pedals at minimum rpm. The 30min workout could charge a battery that could run an efficient room light, CD player, or mug warmer for moderate daily usage (not 24hrs).

If you want to make use of your daily exercise energy, it is generally more efficient to skip electricity and mechanically drive as many items as possible (washing machine, water pump, or other periodic chores of short duration).

If you have those little dynamos called children, I suppose you could get them to seesaw water into the house and "race" stationary bike-generators.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Energy Efficient Home Design Update

Please comment on the current thinking for a cost-effective home in a primarily cold climate:
  1. Concrete block (steel reinforced and concrete filled) with either reinforced concrete roof or structural steel roof.
  2. Earth-sheltered, walk-out-basement-style (exposed south side).
  3. Integral garage buffers exposed side from living area.
  4. Passive solar gain for exposed south side; dark colors for exterior walls, roof, garage floor.
  5. Instead of the complication of radiant-floor plumbing or conventional ducting, the concrete home would be an open plan with a massive Russian hearth (masonry stove), with brick oven, at the center of the living area that naturally can radiate into the concrete floor.
  6. The earth-sheltered, concrete structure would contain 100% of a home (kitchen, bathroom, i.e. all plumbing underground to prevent freezing), topped by a smaller, stick-built, 3-season, uninsulated "cabin cupola" (belvedere/widow's walk/lantern) with summer kitchen (solar oven or charcoal grill).
  7. Electricity is undecided but I seek information on practical Stirling engines.