Jeff Steigerwald

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since Jul 08, 2010
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Recent posts by Jeff Steigerwald

Better than those in conventionally built homes - that is for sure. My SB is totally off the grid and heated by wood - it rarely gets below 77 F inside. I am in N. GA. and just got through our second major storm in so many weeks. PV panels have de-iced and are charging up the Surrettes. Solar hot water tank is holding right around 150 F. Could not be more cozy.
6 years ago
You may want to look at a Sedore 3000 multi fuel wood furnace. I am on my second season with mine and easily keep 2500 sgft very toasty. The Sedore is a downdraft/top loading stove that burns just about anything. I burn a combination of pine and various hardwoods harvested from my land. Like any stove, seasoned dry wood is best and that goes for the Sedore as well, since it is a down drsft design and burns from the bottom - less than perfect wood can be placed at the top of the stack to dry out in stove before being burned. The Sedore requires no electricity, does not contain a catalyst (the coal bed is used as a natural catalyst-very low emissions), can go for 16 hours on a load, can be cleaned while burning, and the pipe can be cleaned from going inside the stove. It does not come standard with a glass panel but does have the option to include a water heating tube that can be run to a hot water tank/ponic system. Might be worth a look.
6 years ago
We are doing a back to eden garden @ Rejuvenation Farm in N. Georgia. Our fall/winter crops did well and we are looking for good results from our spring plantings. We plant all of our seeds/seedlings in the soil and use the wood chips as mulch. We also added Alfalfa Pellets (horse feed) and composted cow poo to the chips to help offset ant nutrient deficiencies. As the chips, manure, and alfalfa break down - nutritious new top soils will form. The key is to always plant in the soil and do not mix the wood chips into the soil - just use it as cover.
7 years ago
I use a www.thesunbank.com evacuated tube collector and tank system. It works great and the tank is very well insulated keeping water hot-longer.
7 years ago
Important considerations to make in trying to decide whether solar hot water can work as a standalone system is as follows:

1) Where is your hot water tank located (indoors or out?). Below freezing temps at night will sap the heat out of all but the most expensive/well insulated tanks. A minimum of 55mm of high density polyurethane insulation is required to reduce overnight heat loss to less than 20 degrees @ 32 degrees outside temp.
2) Water storage tank size. My rule of thumb is 10 gallons of hot water per person using it. This will provide 2 days of showers per person. We limit showers to 2 gallons per person, but once that 2 gallons of hot water comes out - 2 gallons of cold goes into the tank to replace it and maintain pressure - tank temps will drop dramatically after half of the hot water is used and replaced with cold. Using a mixing valve and low flow shower features will help you sip hot water thus making it last longer during periods of poor sunlight. A 40 gallon tank managed properly works very well for my family of 4. If we had six trying to use it - it would really be tough.
3) Secondary heating element - Does your storage tank also have a means for boosting tank temps on cloudy days? Either an electric element of a gas flame will work miracles in getting a 65 degree tank back up to the 150 range. In my opinion a secondary heating element on the storage tank is preferable over a secondary tank. Having to circulate water between two tanks not only looses heat - it takes more energy and mechanical equipment A good aquarium heater is an example of a secondary heating element that would fit the bill on a 50 gallon tank system. The more passive the design - the better. I have an electric element on mine, but I am also operating on a stand alone PV system, so boosting the tank on cloudy days is not an option, but on real sunny days when my batteries are fully charged and tank temps are pretty low (below 105) I will redirect my surplus power production to heat the water tank to max temps. Thus a secondary storage of energy is accomplished. If we get a week of clouds and rain - I may not have hot water. We have had to take 60 degree showers before - it is exhilarating to say the least, but we lived. I can count on one hand the times we have had to do it, but it is something anyone living stand alone solar hot water should expect to do. IMO it is not worth the cost to add an on-demand LP heater to my system to avoid 3-4 cold showers a year. The cost of both the heater and the additional gas storage capacity and usage is just not worth it to me.
4) Can you limit hot water use only to navy showers (2 minutes/2 gallons of water)? I use hot water from a pot on my wood stove to warm my dish washing water and to warm up my laundry water for really soiled loads. The solar hot water is strictly for bathing. In the summer when sun is plentiful - I might splurge and use some hot water for dishes and dog baths - but that is about it. I treat it like gold.
7 years ago
I live off the grid with a 4.3 KWH PV system and 8 Rolls Surrette 6v/400ah LA batteries. I have a full size Kenmore side by side fridge that I brought with me from my previous home in the suburbs. To make it more efficient I turned both the fridge and freezer down to the lowest setting-this is the warmest setting if you want to look at it that way. I turned off the ice maker and went back to using trays that I empty into the ice dispenser on the freezer door (a nice lux item!). I have (2) 1 gallon water cubes that I rotate (daily) frozen between the freezer and fridge. These take up the top shelves of both sides, but the extra coolness from the frozen cubes keeps running minimal. The fridge, lcd tv, and LED lights are all I run on electric for the most part. When the sun is out - I will run the washer during the late morning/early afternoon - I line dry, so no dryer appliance needed. My heat comes from a Sedore 3000, Hot water from a SunBank solar hot water heater, and I cook on a Brown non-electric LP stove (100lb LP tank). I never have an issue with low batteries, even on multi day rain events.
7 years ago
A good way to compress loose straw in a framed wall is to slip coat the straw first with earthen plaster. The slip will help the straw remain compressed as well as help wick away moisture once the wall is closed up. When using this method it is important to let the slip coated straw dry thoroughly before enclosing the wall (a few days at least-the longer the better). I like to finish the interior side of the wall 2" pine lathing strips - leaving 2" gaps between strips. Once the wall dries and firms up - remove the long straw sticking through the lathe by pulling and/or cutting them out - the wall is now ready for earthen plasters.
8 years ago
Hello fellow Georgians!

I live in N. Ga. I am in the process of starting a 7 acre Permaculture Farm outside of Dawsonville. We have designed out the farm and are in the early stages of building a straw bale house. We have lots of other projects going on as well and would love to get other permies involved. We have a FB group named "Rejuvenation Farm" that you can join and we are working on getting a website and blog underway so we can better communicate with our community. I hope to meet many of you in the years to come.

Om ~ Jeff
8 years ago
Hey guys,

I'll be doing a Timber Frame Straw Bale and Slip Straw build this spring in Dawsonville GA. We have the project permitted and are in the process of prepping the site for the foundation. Workshops will be offered for free. Exact dates are not yet available but we anticipate the baling to begin in the May/June time frame. Drop me an e-mail at jeff@rejuvenationfarm.com and I'll keep you up to date on the workshop dates.

Jeff
8 years ago
Windmillium - A rubble trench foundation is a great suggestion - I would also consider using "concrete bag" blocks for your  first few levels under the ground to about 4 inches above the ground line.  You would then want to put down a "capillary break" using flagstone or any type of flat stone or tile, then stack the earth bags. 

The concrete bags will hold up well under ground - the capillary break will prevent water from crawling up onto your earth bags.  You should be able to use the cob all the way down to ground level to cover the earth bags and concrete bag blocks.  Good luck - this sounds like a fun project.
10 years ago