The goals are easy. Er, at least, sound that way. A little self sufficient home. Not much to it, right? Lets break it down.
We are putting a lot into insulation inside and out. Windows are always a weakness. R25 walls are great except when you put an R2 hole in it for a window. We were lucky to find some good windows – double pane, low E, argon filled. Its not perfect (its still a big gaping hole in the wall!) but it is as good as we can get and still have windows.
Leaks are another area of weakness. This will be offset with diligent use of spray foam and caulking.
- Home Fire Sprinkler System
In the county, volunteer fire department, average response time is 20 minutes. Just makes sense – small upfront cost for potential huge returns if ever needed.
- Storm Shelter
We live in tornado country. We need a safe place to seek shelter during those storms. While it is possible to use the root cellar as a storm shelter, it presents the challenge of keeping the room usable for both veggie storage AND the 8 humans plus pet visitors for hours on end (sometimes even most of the night!). We are currently investigating if there is a way to passively use the cooler air in the storm shelter to help cool the main portion of the home.
- Solar Power
The goal is to be off grid. This requires a bit of planning and figuring as solar panels are costly to power the typical things found in an American home. To cut down on how many panels are needed we are looking at passive providers first and supplementing with energy users.
- Passive heating and cooling
Generally the largest power consumer in the home. The more we can generate passively (without the need for electricity) the less electricity we need to generate.
Energy using supplement: a http://www.mitsubishicomfort.com/ type system appears to be the most efficient option
- Passive hot water heating
Another big energy hog. With a standard system, energy must be used to heat the water and more is used to keep it heated while it is waiting to be used. Plan is to make batch heaters.
Energy using supplement : On demand hot water system
- Passive cooking
This will mostly be achieved through a brick rocket stove and a solar oven (or two!).
Energy using supplement : toaster oven, electric burner stove
- Passive Refrigeration
I have yet to find a passive alternative that will keep things “refrigerator cold”, especially down here in the Southern US. The best we can do is a root cellar for cool storage.
Energy using supplement : We will need a decent sized, very efficient, refrigerator
- Well water
To not be hooked to the municipal water source. The biggest obstacle thus far to figure out. The well will most likely be semi-deep (200-300 feet) which will require a fairly decent pump system. Interestingly, a deep hand pump isn’t much cheaper then an electric one. Also the water will likely be undrinkable being very high in iron and manganese, which will require a few different filters. A Big Berkey will filter until we get the system setup properly. Both of those issues looks to double the number of panels needed for the homestead.
- Rainwater collection
Knowing how much we will have to spend to have clean potable water, we want to reduce the amount of potable water used for well, not potable uses. Every metal/plastic roof surface will be used to gather as much as possible. This water will be used to flush toilets, wash laundry, water the animals and garden.
- Gray water irrigation
Water from washer, lavatory and bathtub will be used to auto-irrigate the yard and ornamental plants via a quick filter and underground piping.
- In the Garden
We plan to carry these same principals to the garden as well.
- Collecting rainwater from the greenhouse/outhouses
- Creating raised beds with gravity/passive auto-watering rainwater systems
- Solar powered lighting
At this point we only plan on a few goats, for landscape purposes, as well as about a dozen chickens for eggs. Not much has been planned towards this as we don’t intend on starting this part until after the garden goes in.