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First Draft of a Live-in Passive Solar Greenhouse!  RSS feed

 
Isaac Smeele
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Location: British Columbia, Canada
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Hi friends,

I've been working on some plans for a live-in passive solar greenhouse thingy!



I would love to hear what you guys think of it.

Happy Holidays!
 
scott romack
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It looks good,

Where I am I would have to have the greenhouse walled off from the house so it could be opened and closed in the warmer months.

You should really check out earth sheltering and passive annual heat storage in addition to your RMH.

You would have to to deep bedding for the chicken coop to keep the stink down.

What are people's objection to live in greenhouses? Earthships have them...
 
Isaac Smeele
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Location: British Columbia, Canada
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scott romack wrote:It looks good,

Where I am I would have to have the greenhouse walled off from the house so it could be opened and closed in the warmer months.

You should really check out earth sheltering and passive annual heat storage in addition to your RMH.

You would have to to deep bedding for the chicken coop to keep the stink down.

What are people's objection to live in greenhouses? Earthships have them...


I left it open to reduce building costs and just to be among the plants. I have left doors on either side near the green house to create airflow, also I would like all the windows to have the ability to be opened.
I have looked into the earth shelter options but they don't seem to have rain water collection as far as I have seen. also I don't have access to a back hoe or the proper hill to build one. I think it would be really cool to have a solar battery underneath but again its more of a cost and I am trying to keep costs down. I think I would rather burn more wood/have a larger rmh than have to spend extra money on a complicated heat storage set up that will only really function until December at the latest. As far as the chicken coop I should probably build it farther away and have its own smaller RMH. The objections I have heard to live-in greenhouses are that they can easily cause mold issues especially in the north, this structure would be built with wood so its definitely completely different than an earthship, also I have heard they are starting to split the greenhouses from the living space even in earthships in newer versions.
 
scott romack
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the wall in between would just be built with recycled glass doors and windows and could be added in later if needed. I like the connected greenhouse though...
 
scott romack
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heat storage can be made to last ~6 months (esp with your mass heater..) but yeah it requires a small amount of insulation around the earth mass. As far as a hill requirement. A south facing hill may be ideal but it's not required.. batteries and fancy stuff can be added in later as you will have almost no bills..
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I couldnt access the video Isaac
 
Isaac Smeele
Posts: 37
Location: British Columbia, Canada
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scott romack wrote:the wall in between would just be built with recycled glass doors and windows and could be added in later if needed. I like the connected greenhouse though...


Good idea!

scott romack wrote:heat storage can be made to last ~6 months (esp with your mass heater..) but yeah it requires a small amount of insulation around the earth mass. As far as a hill requirement. A south facing hill may be ideal but it's not required.. batteries and fancy stuff can be added in later as you will have almost no bills..


Thats crazy and this wouldn't require conventional insulation? I was planning on using Vacuum insulated panels as I'm still not convinced a wofati could function in my climate.

Roberto pokachinni wrote:I couldnt access the video Isaac


Hey sorry I don't know why it wasn't working it should be now.
 
scott romack
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They use rigid board insulation but people have used other more natural things.. http://www.norishouse.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html
 
Ron Helwig
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Location: New Hampshire
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I would put in stairs instead of a ladder, especially if there's going to be kids. Plus, as you get older stairs are better. In my cabin (12'x24') I have the stairs to the loft wrapping around the full-size fridge so they don't use too much straight space.

If you're going to have roosters you'll want the coop to be a LOT farther away from the house, at least if you want to get sleep at night. I'm inside the cabin right now and I can hear the roosters who are a few hundred feet away. I often hear then at all times of the night when I have to get up to pee (another reason to have stairs instead of a ladder - easier nighttime trips).

It might be nice to have access ports to the laying boxes inside the house, although the thickness of the wall would make that difficult. You'd probably need to make the coop better insulated.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Annualized thermal inertia is worth investigating.

For a greenhouse, that's pretty much what this book is about:

http://www.amazon.com/Forest-Garden-Greenhouse-Design-Permaculture/dp/1603584269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450185946&sr=8-1&keywords=forest+garden+greenhouse

Might be the best thirty bucks you ever spent.

For a smallish greenhouse, you might get away with renting a trencher for a day. But even renting a backhoe for a day is not that much money.

Another 5 or 600 bucks for some perforated plastic drain pipe and a fan or two, a thermostat or two...

Maybe 5-600 bucks for rigid insulation.

Let's say $2,000 extra. But that pays back every season by cutting your fuel needs by 60-90% for the life of the building.


But really, your straight up idea as presented is good as is, to my eyes.

 
tomas viajero
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While I congratulate you on a nice presentation of your ideas for a simple, integrated living system, I think the reality of living so close to chickens is another matter. Personally, I really like chickens, but having raised them for many years I wouldn't have them so close to my living space. They are filthy animals. I wouldn't have them closer than 40ft away from my house. Whether you like it or not you will track something in on your boots or clothing. The wisdom around here (upstate NY) is that they don't suffer terribly from the cold...but they don't like wind. Provide a safe place to get out of the wind with lots of sun and they'll prosper. It gets to -30C here, tho not for very long. Just my thoughts.
 
scott romack
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Here is a plan that may perform better in cold areas?
http://greenhouseofthefuture.com/
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I got the video now! I'm not sure what was wrong before.

Hey, Isaac, I met you at the Robson Valley Music Festival. You gave me your C.D. It was pretty cool. I'll comment on your house plan next.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I agree with this statement by Scott:
Where I am I would have to have the greenhouse walled off from the house so it could be opened and closed in the warmer months.


This would be worth the extra cost and effort, and at very little extra cost if recycled material (doors, windows, thermal wall stuff,-like cob with bottles in it) were to be used. If the greenhouse was to become unproductive for the center of the winter, it might be in your interest to close off the large glazed section to use it as an envelope to conserve energy in your main living area.

Whatever potential the greenhouse home has to create moisture issues, there is much less potential if the two have some degree of separation, like a wall, and the greenhouse has it's own self ventilating windows and doors. Although using part of the greenhouse as a porch/buffer to enter your home ie: sharing a main door, could be an asset to enveloping/buffering your house from the outdoors.

An additional RMH (or a relocated single, perhaps larger, unit), that has the wall between the greenhouse and the main living area as part of it's thermal mass, could expand your greenhouse's potential.

I would definitely consider relocating your RMH burner area so that it is closer to a door. As it is, in it's present position, you will have to bring your wood as far from your doors as possible (on the main floor), and thus that much more potential to make a debris mess. If any woody kindling debris and ash can be quickly swept out the door, it makes things a bit happier on the toes.

The sloped greenhouse glazing (As opposed to less extreme sloped or vertical glazing) brings a lot more summer heat into your home than most people will find comfortable. Without a lot of operable North windows, and possibly some operable skylights, you are going to get really hot, especially if you do not have a separating wall. The wall, though, if made, could be made thick enough to absorb a great deall of this heat, and slow it's movement into the main living area.

The wall's windows could have curtains, or shutters to help keep direct passive solar charge out of the main living area.

Personally, I really like chickens, but having raised them for many years I wouldn't have them so close to my living space.


Chickens in the house... ...I wouldn't do it. Too stinky, too noisy, to messy. Set up a tent by a coop and see what I mean.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Hi Isaac, nice video!

I think everyone posting here has made some really good points already, I agree with pretty well all of them. I think the 'greenhouse of the future' has been described as pretty much fluff and marketing, though.

I like the solar panels on the wall, as long as you are north enough that you can get them at the ideal angle for winter use without the brackets getting too bulky. I like the single slope roof as well, but is that enough pitch? Not sure what sort of roof you're planning on, but with most options I think more slope would be a good thing.


The farm I interned on in 2014 had a big solarium all along one side of the house; it was awesome. BUT, it was divided from the house by a sliding glass door. It also had doors to the outside at each end.

In the summer, keeping both doors open was not quite enough ventilation., and having this space open to the house would have made an unpleasantly warm house even worse. However, windows between the house and greenhouse allowed for a pleasant view of the plants, and the sliding door let us utilize the solar heating in the shoulder season when desirable, and access the greenhouse from the house when it was raining/cold.

Care should be taken that the wall between the house/greenhouse is not prone to mold; it was cedar siding in this instance, and even that was mildewing, though not badly, and to be fair the cedar was probably 30 years old.

I found the same ventilation issue with my small salvaged greenhouse; the required ventilation to keep from overheating was more than I expected. My greenhouse only gets sun from morning to early afternoon, so something with better solar exposure could get pretty ridiculous.


Important thing about a thermal battery: it works both ways! When I visited the the lab in August, Allerton Abbey was a glorious oasis of cool, relaxing air in the ridiculous brain-boiling august heat. I retreated there for the middle of almost every day. Honestly I would probably have left within a couple days if it hadn't been available, it was that hot.

Most of the doors and windows were not installed at that time. Just gaping holes in the walls. I don't think I can overstate how amazing it was. 100+ outside, and maybe high 70s inside... while you're literally 3 ft from an open doorway. I wish I'd had a thermometer to check this, but that's what it felt like. So, the thermal mass is smoothing out your interior temperature, bringing it closer to the annual average; and if the annual average without alteration is too low, you modify it by running a RMH.

It wouldn't stop working in December; you might run out of *annuaalized* thermal storage, but you'd be keeping it charged up by using your RMH. IE, the summer heat might not get you through the winter without any added heat, but having a big thermal battery would allow you flexibility in when you burn, as the air temp would fall to near the battery temp when unattended, and the battery temp would then fall quite slowly. Check out the testing they're doing in the abbey currently, if you haven't! http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/200/26205

As far as earthships having greenhouses, yes, but most(all?) the current designs have the ability to seal off the greenhouse! Looking at the tiny little floorplan pics on the official site, it seems that in many cases they've decided that the greenhouse should serve as a hallway between the rooms, which are then individually sealed off with doors/windows where they enter the greenhouse. I think this is a silly design, except for something like a guest room where the extra privacy could be nice.
 
Tim Nam
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-40 C is actually where the two scales meet, so its very close to -40 F, just throwing that out there...but if you get that cold, I'm guessing you're interior BC.

the model looks great. makes me want to go back and practice sketchup some more. I think if you're not planning on any windows on the W,N,E walls then an earthship/earth bermed concept might be good, as others have mentioned.
 
Jeff Higdon
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One thing I'd input is for your ventilation, put it at the highest point. mike oehler does this in his $50 and Up Underground Greenhouse and Mike Reynolds does it in his Earthships. Heat rises to the highest point, so provide plenty of space for it to escape. At the same time provide some earth tubes or other means to draw in fresh, cooler air.

Earthship Biotechure just released an app for their Simple Survival house that is pretty neat, and its affordable at $9.99 for your mobile device. It gives the plans and thinking behind a simple survival shelter that is similar to what you have, just more to it and more expensive probably. They estimate the complete cost for a one room house with a toilet, rainwater collection, solar, etc. is about $20,000. I'm sure you could build an Oehler/WOFATI design much cheaper and incorporate much of the same design ideas.

One thing I think is missing though is windows from two sides. It is important to have light from two directions, and this is often missed in the "first thought" underground houses as Mike Oehler says. Oehler has many good ideas of how to accomplish this. I think the understanding finally dawned on me when I got his DVD set, cut out the little paper drawings and started putting them together in the exercises he does on the DVD. I've got (terrible quality) pictures I on my blog of when we toured Mike Oehler's houses. Hopefully soon I'll get a post up with pictures of the Earthships pictures when I toured them in New Mexico a couple of years ago.

The Earthships do capture their own rainwater. Mike Reynolds is in Taos, New Mexico with an annual rain fall of only 7" and it is enough to supply all the needs of the occupants by reusing the water, even though it has a flush toilet.

Speaking of water, my family of four uses around 300 gallons a month for us and for all the goats, chickens, sheep, and rabbits. We do use more during the summer for watering the garden and the animals drink more.
 
David Spohn
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As others have noted, I'd be wary of having the chickens that close to the house. If you build them a coop employing some of the same passive solar/thermal mass principles as your house, they will be quite comfortable in the winter without any additional heat. I spent some years on a conventional farm growing up, and the chickens had little more than a scrap wood shack with a south facing window (not that I would recommend conventional farming).

I would also be concerned about it getting too hot in the summer, even in our climate, especially with the glass sitting at an angle. Ventilating it sufficiently may not be as easy as opening a window or a door. Sketchup has a great feature that shows you how the sun will hit your house over the course of the day at different times of the year. It's very helpful in showing, for example, how effective the roof overhang can be in reducing the light coming in during the summer while still maximizing the lower, winter sun.

This is my first post on these forums, but I've been lurking here for years (planning, designing, and redesigning) as I'm currently saving money in hopes of building a small retirement home using permaculture principles, preferably in BC somewhere. Your project sounds really interesting and I look forward to hearing more about it. Thanks for sharing the video!
 
Perry Tart
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Technically, when greenhouses are incorporated as a room in the house, they're called conservatories.

I like the idea of this so far, though I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Like, you could probably solve a lot of the mold issues if you did a cob or wattle and daub structure with a wood panel fa├žade. A possible compromise between completely closing off the greenhouse and having it completely open would be having floor to ceiling curtains cordoning off the greenhouse section - that would help in directing where you want heat to be without losing the air filtering potential of the plants.

Aside from the chicken coop being attached (which I agree has problems), an issue I have is with the loft bedroom. It's a romantic concept and looks great on paper, but you'd probably actually want real walls and maybe a door (maybe not a door, depending) between your bedroom and the rest of the house. That said, you could always put windows in those walls so it's still easy to see the rest of the house and get THAT vantage point; or you could even just build a balcony section and the bedroom sits behind it. Having just the one bedroom area also presents challenges. Planning on two or more rooms, even if they're small and possibly multipurpose (like a craft room or office or w/e that doubles as a guest room) will ensure that, whatever your situation becomes, you can grow into it more easily.

I don't see any provisions for a bathroom, or for washing dishes, or for washing clothes. Like no planning for that infrastructure whatsoever. That's a little concerning. Would this building be powered?
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Rick Austin has a greenhouse attached to his home. In a recorded presentation, not on his channel, he spoke of using 50% shade cloth over the greenhouse in the summer. If I recall corectly, this caused the greenhouse to be cooler than the outside temps, by 15 degrees? Perhaps this could ease the temperature in summer? Perhaps someone else knows where to find the precise temperature range Rick achieved.
This is a link to his youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/SurvivalistGardener

 
Will Thrillacres
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Hey Isaac, I dig the idea of having a loft in a greenhouse. A rocket mass heater would also be a great backup heat source.

A couple things stand out to me concerning your windows. First, you're going to want a large amount of dark-colored mass to soak up all of that direct sunlight. If all of the direct sun is getting soaked up by plants, you might find yourself charging your house with your rocket stove more often than not. Also, without some sort of awning/overhang to block the summer sun, it's going to get awful hot in there. Assuming 50 degrees latitude, you'll want to have a projection that is roughly half as wide as your windows are high. The Passive Solar Energy Book by Edward Mazria has a bunch of great information, you should check it out!
 
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