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PAHS/AGS style 'self heating/cooling' house Rd 2!(annualized geo solar, passive annual heat storage)

 
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Hello, I haven't been active here in quite awhile, but life took a left turn leaving all my permaculture dreams sort of on the backburner for awhile.

They're back to being within visible range again and so the planning resumes.  Also this new forum structure is totally different than I remember seeing before, but attempts to view it as I originally set it up show errors so if i'm posting in the wrong place or not seeing some followup that might be it.  

Ever since reading about Passive Annual Heat Storage and Annualized Geo Solar systems i've been fascinated by them.

My end/eventual goal is to have a self heating, self cooling, self humidity controlling autonomous house.  And the same for multiple outbuildings, with different setpoints of ideal humidity/temperature such as a greenhouse that would be hotter and more humid and a year round walk in/walk down icehouse to never pay a freezer/fridge bill again either since the electrical solar panel cost to run that is alot.  The goal is to have no real energy inputs other than the sun and potentially the wind.  It can have moving parts (pumps, fans, shutters) but ideally will minimize them as much as possible and preferring to avoid electronic sensors and controls as required for house operation or environmental maintenance.  The plan IS to have sensors embedded everywhere useful to verify that "things are working as they should".

I posted a bit years ago in the past and was surprised to find out that apparently this is still considered more theoretical than practical, since I thought the books contained real world examples proving they worked or mostly/nearly worked and math equations to serve as a proof of how it works.  It made sense to me, and i'd still like to try it.


I do not expect to instantly/straight out build a 'working' PAHS/AGS house, im wanting to start with basically a storage shed or workshop.    Something where "if it doesnt work it just reverts to being an unheated uncooled, or poorly heated poorly cooled storage shed" really.  It will be an EXPERIMENTAL storage shed, i'm willing to throw some money, time, and engineering intention at the PAHS/AGS idea (along with some additional modifications for humidity control, which I deem a serious air quality and comfort issues) to make this happen.  This is a bit of hobby science.  If there is more than one fundamentally different idea, there will be more than one storage shed built spaced out a little on the land/whatever is required.

This will not be a rapid project - I will probably not even have the land to build the storage shed on for i'm guessing 2-3 years, but that is a time within range where i'm willing to start slowly making some plans and drawing up designs and publically sharing my plans for all to critique.  I'm fully planning on making anything I learn from the project PUBLIC, or even accepting public requests from people who want to learn something about whats happening, the goal is not just to solve this problem for me, but because I deem figuring out answers like this to be essential to our future on this planet as well as solving certain other social problems that only seem to keep getting worse and worse like homelessness or people who cant even heat their houses.  I don't see others doing the research I want to have done so under the direct action mentality i'm trying to figure out how to do it myself with the idea to share it for others to do in their area.  If I could make this idea legitimately work I would love to go build a bunch of them on some of the local indian reservations as free to use homeless shelters, there are people dying every single year from simple inadequate heating and cooling and I have homeless friends right now as we speak that I don't even know if they survived the winter or not because their phones were shut off.  

If a low cost housing design that costs nothing to heat or cool could be figured out the whole plan is to to just let anyone who wants to copy/paste it adjusted for their local climes via math or whatever.  So i'm really hoping that some other people will throw in some ideas, observations, or insights about the design as it forms up over the next 2-3 years.


I'm going to start this public brainstorming real simple and slowly add to it as I go (it may even be a month or two between posts, that doesn't mean that it's dead, just that i'm currently struggling my way through college and other things and got too busy to work on a project that's still a ways off before I can break ground).


My immediate goal is to start design a PAHS or AGS style storage shed/workshop area then.  The only PAHS principle I DONT want to follow is using high solar gain through the windows into the living space to charge the thermal mass through the floor, I don't know if that is necessary.  It might be fine for if it was just a shed but this is to be a model for the house and that sounds uncomfy.  I'm considering something like putting in removable insulation panels in the floor combined with water or air tube in-floor 'heating'.  The idea being during hot summer you could put down the insulation panel, still have hot outdoor solar 'charge' the floor (for the coming winter) with even very hot heat and have it soak into that thermal mass as you go.  You could also control the upwards heat irradiation by selectively removing panels from the floor.  The panels also gives me the option of "well if this PAHS idea doesnt work out I can just run the torpedo heater in winter", and also helps with the same problem of how it seems to take multiple years to stabilize the thermal mass as it is - I dont want to wait that long until I use the workshop!  That would let me just temporarily heat the air (without the still cold ground sucking it all away) the first years for instance - I think that any viable PAHS house should have backup heating as well just in case unexpected problems were to occur, a fallback.  That's another reason i'm willing to take the risk designing around this because I don't see alot of downside if it doesn't work perfect.

Insert - another idea is burying the piping for the summer heat deep enough in the ground, that if the 'six month lag' proves correct for thick enough dirt I don't have to worry as much about the floor panels - because there should be super slow waves of hotter and colder heat coming up.  The floor panels are really a bit of a safety measure/letting you more safely 'overheat' the ground without making the interior unliveable and also providing reserve heat for things like... well this year - the Winter from Hell having been so much colder than recently, this is not a year i'd want to have average house temps for.  I'd rather overheat the ground every year and control the floor irradiation, and after you're through the winter if you still have too much heat coming up with all the floor panels open you can bleed it to the outside thru the windows and such.  Finally this provides some measure of a comfort control thermostat to handle individual preferences - if i'm running a fever I might not want the room hot, and if I have the chills after shoveling snow I might want to seriously warm up - I think the idea of a "single year round perfect temperature" should be abandoned as a goal because comfort will never perfectly match that in the real world.  My ideal is to have the ability to overheat any room, despite a cooler than average summer going into a much colder than average winter, and use something like insulative paneling to control the comfort of the heat entering the space so if you want 68 and I want 76 at the same hour of the same day we can have it.


I'm thinking of two possible projects, one is building an earthbag dome http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/articles/riceland.htm with some PAHS style principles - an 'umbrella' of insulated and water barrier soil going down into the earth around the base of the dome, meant to capture a volume of dry soil to be a thermal mass and for 'yearround thermal stability'.  I dont yet have a calculation of how much that needs to be but was waiting for other parts of the plan to seem solid as that should just be a variable changing in width and depth.  I will probably fill the earthbags with something like perlite, vermiculite or volcanic rock because that's a natural insulation with a goal of being close to superinsulated.  There will be windows for light but moveable insulation panels so these do not cause unwanted thermal gain or loss when the light/view is not needed.

The second is using 'more modern' building materials, which I wanted to be either a small steel hangar or steel shed as the outer shell, but on the inside would be reclaimed styrofoam probably thicker than average (R30-R40 wall) like a second internal structure.  This second structure would be thermocoupled again to the earth, and separate floor insulation panels could let me isolate the space to use now OR let me control the re-radiation of heat up from the floor.  For that matter the idea of using floor panels and a HIGHER than ambient heating of the thermal mass under one's feet might be considered - instead of many tons of earth taking years to get to 72 degrees why not less tons at 140 degrees and just controlling a 'radiant slit' of how much how fast is coming back out, or whatever?


I would like to shove sensors to various depths everywhere and track things with an Arduino.  It should be possible to make predictions about the rate of heat going thru the mass of dirt and at what rate - we can track this to see if the theories are right OR to see if there are signs of a malfunction somewhere/indications of problems.  I mean basically the whole point of AGS/PAHS is all a math problem, right?  Ultimately it's about a given size of dry earth, combining a total thermal btu storage, and very slowed rate of heat transferance via conduction, hooked to a house which hopefully doesn't lose the heat any faster than the thermal mass can keep supplied.  The addition of floor insulation panels gives alot of flexibility to maintain comfort IMHO and lets you oversize the heat storage.

I would also like to figure out ways to give some kind of "accelerated charge" to the thermal mass beneath one's feet, i'm sure a massive heat sink will take years to stabilize but there's no reason to have it take longer than necessary at least on the experimental construction anyway.  Putting in tubes to different depths and running solar water heating type heat levels through, potentially from a much larger solar gain area than would be used for 'maintenance', I might put that in the first summer to get the process seriously started.


For humidity control someone elsewhere in another topic pointed to this https://www.conservationphysics.org/ talking about passive "humidity buffering" or even approaching "annualized humidity storage" just like PAHS/AGS is for annualized heat storage.  Ideas of using brick, cob, and other materials.  Again this mostly seems to be an application of math - you build something that annualizes the average load passively, and then it's about mostly controlling the addition of moisture to the space in the first place, ie harder for lots of human traffic easier for a museum.  Just makes it real important to control the humidity of the incoming air to maintain desired averages/dehumidify before adding to the space and such.  The same math should be applicable to thermal loads - since the goal for the living space is "above the average yearly heat load" we are obviously storing a thermal mass of heat to maintain that space year round, which means controlling loss from that space where a superinsulated house and windows (or removable insulation panels for windows not needing to be open 24 hours a day for light or view - why double the window insulation if you can half the exposure time for less money? only concern is condensation/having tried this in an existing house.. :-/ suggestions sought...) isn't losing it too fast.  

The same principle of a large thermocoupled space though should apply just the same for a walk in freezer space though - here we want a below yearly temperature space (even below freezing) year round, so need to 'charge' the mass with cold in the winter as much as possible to last through the summer.  The main thing here being to have it a walk down space - if youve noticed how a root cellar stays cool, or why a chest freezer is so much more efficient than a horizontal door one.  For that matter maybe a part of the ideal PAHS/AGS heated space is to have a walk UP stairway of sorts since heat goes up/leaving it trapped due to rising/not going out the door when you go in and out?  Perhaps that is one solution to a space where you have to have people entering and leaving regularily and dont want all the heat going out the door - a walkway up into and no horizontal doors?  Lets stop fighting physics and work with it.

The same for a walk in greenhouse, except here the goal is to have an average temperature considerably above ambient yearly averages beyond the normal human comfort zone - but again this should just be an application of math.  If my goal is 88-92F year round that's no different than 68-72F year round, it's just more solar gain and possibly a larger charged area.  And as the temperature rises faster the need for that "walk up stairs/ramp"/no more horizontal doors could become more important for self maintaining spaces I think.  The bigger question for a greenhouse is the insulation of the space, and again i'm finding myself wondering if moveable insulation is the key..?  What if you had the equivalent of a big insulation shell, moving sideways on like a rail track, that would slide in place once the day went from solar gain heating the space to losing heat thru the clear covering?  It doesn't make sense to me to have something gain heat 4 hours a day and lose it 20 hours a day for a four seasons greenhouse in winter, I would think more sense would be had acting like a flower opening to the sun when available and closing up when not available for growth, heat and light.

Okay that finishes the long braindump - anyone comment anything you want.  

 
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Cool!!
I'm building a home that has similar goals, but different parameters, to meet specific needs. Lots of similar ideas, some weird things I have designed going into it. Way too much to write it all down, would take as long as building the house, what I have written up for public info is in my signature...

I look forward to hearing what you are doing, see if I can use any of it :)

Neat!! Excellent brain dump!!
 
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i plan to do something similar
i plan to have an almost vertical (triple?) poly wall south facing
dirt as insulation (the poly wall will have room below for snow to build up without effecting the light)
possibly have insulation on timers which roll in place each night to insulate the poly side
heat banking... possibly an insulated tank deep down which i dump heated water in for storage
jean pain
rocket mass earth heater?
still in the planning phase
will need to either buy a piece of equipment or hire locally for the earth moving
i will be following this with interest
 
Brian Shaw
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s. drone wrote:i plan to do something similar
i plan to have an almost vertical (triple?) poly wall south facing
dirt as insulation (the poly wall will have room below for snow to build up without effecting the light)
possibly have insulation on timers which roll in place each night to insulate the poly side
heat banking... possibly an insulated tank deep down which i dump heated water in for storage
jean pain
rocket mass earth heater?
still in the planning phase
will need to either buy a piece of equipment or hire locally for the earth moving
i will be following this with interest



For the earthmoving I wonder if the LifeTrac would work - https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/LifeTrac - i've been planning to build one after I had land to ease the rest of the construction and land maintenance.

What kind of insulation would you use?

One issue with heated water tank is more moving parts, AGS uses a totally passive thermosiphon if I remember/no pumps or fans even needed.  One thing I liked about using dirt itself was being 'dirt cheap' of course/using something already there.  The biggest quirk is keeping it dry - high water tables and overland flooding risks could bleed away that heat quite rapidly.  
 
Brian Shaw
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Cool!!
I'm building a home that has similar goals, but different parameters, to meet specific needs. Lots of similar ideas, some weird things I have designed going into it. Way too much to write it all down, would take as long as building the house, what I have written up for public info is in my signature...

I look forward to hearing what you are doing, see if I can use any of it :)

Neat!! Excellent brain dump!!



Glancing through your links with interest...  I too have a big interest in medicinal herbs, specifically traditional chinese medicine herbs, which are far more persnickety than any western herb you will ever grow.  For instance the goal is NOT to grow for the "biggest plumpest" whatever, but for peak medicinal properties, sometimes that means cases where say ginsing that has grown in the shade of a cold mountain for years is FAR more potent than one bigger plumper heavier grown elsewhere.  Also the soil is everything for medicinal properties, WHERE an herb is grown is just as important as what is grown.  You can have the right species but it's medicinal properties are ruined by being grown elsewhere - in the long run I want to literally recreate many small biospheres of not just special soil blends optimized for each herb (closely mirroring the conditions that the real herb is found most medicinally effective in) but a "temperature gradient" greenhouse.  Think something that has multiple 'layers' (since it's more efficient to design to let heat slowly bleed out layer by nested layer than to have independant tiny greenhouses) like areas that are 100deg, 90deg, 80deg, and others for cold growing herbs below average yearly ambients. (this is why I mention icehouses and such, they too will have 'gradients' from below freezing, to fridge temps where some growing WILL happen too, to normal yearround average temps)  I didn't want to mention all this at the outset because it risks overcomplicating the discussion but it's long term lifework research...  step ONE is to make PAHS/AGS work at ALL and if I get that concept working reliably for a couple key extremes (the hot greenhouse, and the human temperature living space among them) later v2.0 versions would start getting MUCH fancier.

I also plan to combine that with aquaculture tanks and other forms of 'closed cycle' production of animals to go with the plants.  Waste from one fertilizes the other.

I personally like the 'supersoil' mix of the Square Foot Gardening books for alot of reasons including easy planting, harvesting, weeding, and being lightweight... which brings into a second plan to have all the greenhouse production MOBILE meaning it's able to be moved from one location to another.  Even the orchard I want to have dwarf trees premounted on pallets so I can move them, because I know for a fact that my 'first land location' will not be the final location so instead of growing into the ground, i'm growing into containers big and small that will come with me when the time comes.  Less transplant stress on the plants if the whole environment goes with them...

I dont want to delve more into that cuz those are topics for their own threads elsewhere, just giving a peek into my overactive mind.  Step ONE is having the experimental workshop/shed that heats and cools and maintains itself, because this will serve as the basis for step TWO trying to build that into an actual house, on different land, applying the principles 'for real' once the bugs are worked out.  Thats also why I want all the containers including the food trees to be mobile to come with.

Because of disability stuff i'm wanting to eventually mega automate everything - one purpose for PAHS/AGS is to not have to go chop cords of firewood every year to not freeze to death, and to not worry about $12/gallon fuel during the next middle east conflict.  The SFG containers in raised beds for easier access is another part of this, and i'd even like to support a form of 'scrounged robotics'/I want to do hobbyist Arduino stuff and like the growing trays would be designed for (eventual) automation of a sort, where something could identify, pick up to move, and return to it's place the growing container.  This would allow for even easier seeding, weeding, harvesting without rolling all over the place or limiting vertical agriculture abilities but i don't have to implement that aspect at the beginning - just put in some design choices that will eventually allow such automation to occur. (designing racks in such a way that they could be machine grabbed and placed and 'self seat' if put in place with tolerable precision, etc)

Another reason for my plans of food mobility (right down to the trees) is realities you've observed of annoying codes, or potential local harassment at some future point - having the freedom to at least move somewhere else without decades of work built into the soil unable to come with me.  I dont see the point in improving the land just to have to leave it - let it come with.  If pre-designed with mobility in mind (the trees already in pallet sized containers, with fork lift points, and the lightweight supersoil from Square Foot Gardening) it doesn't even have to be a horrific nightmare to accomplish.


But i'm getting distracted from my house/greenhouse/icehouse/etc focus, step one will be the sample constructions still and seeing how well the principles work in the real world to have a year round four seasons workshop without a climate control bill.  :)  I've got years before I can implement any of the rest.
 
s. drone
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the build is taking place near the edge of zone 2 and 3 in ontario canada
it will not be completely passive .. i want to throw pretty much everything i can at it
but i do want to incorporate passive systems as well
when sucking the hot air from the top of the greenhouse down through the earth...(i think solar panels would need to be inside the greenhouse)
the air would be routed into kinda like a burrito of mid sized rocks wrapped in a tarp
i imagine it being kinda like a rhm bench
the inflow being mid way up the rock burrito
the outflow back to the greenhouse being at the bottom
the whole place will be built with logs then covered with dry sand etc and covered in pond liner or other tarp
somewhat attached(this is all still planning/imagining phase) could be a woodchip pile insulated by earth and possibly transmitting some of that heat to the earth covered side of the greenhouse
i have looked up the arc of the sun and in early winter only the south would need to be exposed
but to get through the long winter and get to actual warm temps outside it would need to also have sun come through the top
one solution could be an attached pit greenhouse with similar heat banking burrito
at the same level so plants could be rolled to the pit greenhouse once the sun gets higher in the sky
or possibly an A frame of poly steep enough to shed snow to the sides
(not towards the south) and it could be insulated more heavily when not needed then the insulation could be rolled back daily once sun starts to shine through it(i know more electronics... the roll up motors i have looked at are a 24V system)
supplemental light depending on how short the days get might be necessary to keep some plants happy
should not take a ridiculous amount of power
some 4 foot fluorescent shop lights would be the minimum in my mind to simulate more dusk and extend the day length
i really have no idea what i am doing though ... just planning
hopefully this year i can scout out the location for the build at the very least possibly work on drainage at the site although the earth will be piled up from there... it will need to flow the right way before even starting
TLDR: it wont be passive but the more passive systems incoporated the better in my mind
 
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