My welding hobby started shortly after I got a bid for a steel staircase. As with everything, the money always causes me to do the Carnett calculation:
How much is the equipment?
How much is the material?
How much did that guy say he wanted?
How much can I save?
Then I run off to buy the gear.
This of course leaves out the skill to do any of these things -- but the Carnett calculation includes the discovery phase, where I make all my mistakes, ask just about anyone for help, and somehow come out on the other side a more skilled operator. And 50 percent of the time, I really do save money.
My primary means of getting around town is a 1979 Land Rover that has been fitted out with a 2005 300 TDI engine. You may have seen me walking this morning with my head down. Yes, I walked 30 minutes for a cup of coffee. I enjoy walking, but it is hard to build a house without a truck.
My Land Rover doesn't have one temp gauge; it has two. I look at both and compare them and wonder why one is higher. None of the gauges are correct, so it really matters very little. That was till yesterday, when I found myself at 65 mph with my head out the window, the cabin filled with white smoke, and a serious panic on. I managed to find the shoulder, and bailed out, thinking the rig was on fire.
With the first-floor walls poured, it's time to erect the structure for the rest of the house before my panels show up. Does this look a little overbuilt? Well, there's a very good reason why folks don't build flat-roofed houses in the Great White North: It's called snow, and it's heavy. It makes little sense to design a house that would allow snow to sit on the roof, stressing the structure, instead of just sliding off.
Even though I spend most of my time thinking about geothermal heating systems and backyard solar plants for my green home, in the end, a house is a house; holes must be dug, foundations must be laid, steel delivered and erected, and so on. Here's a look at our progress in that less glamorous but wholly necessary department.
Any green home worth its weight in compost draws heavily on solar energy. Mine is equipped with all the standard offerings, such as a solar-powered boiler, the subject of my last column. Trouble is, the sun doesn’t always shine. So to make up the difference during cold, dark winters and rainy spells, I’m turning to another eco-friendly energy source: my backyard. The two 325-foot-deep geothermal wells I’m boring there will use the constant 50°F temperature of the Earth at that depth to meet all my extra heating and cooling demands.
Next week I'm going to build the primary steel staircase for the house. Over the last 24 hours the design has changed more than three times. It's not that I don't know what I want, it's just that I have a crazy architect, Timon Phillips, and an even more crazy friend, Vin Marshall, who engineered and designed what I'm calling the "mouse tower" concept and will be welding it with me. (Lesson one of a DIY build: If your friends are as nuts as you are, nothing in your home is going to be normal or easy.)
Polaris has just introduced an electric version of the Ranger 400 side-by-side. This is very exciting to me. As you may remember, I'm the guy who built a rather non-green jet turbine side-by-side, but 114 dB does get old after a while.
Every home needs lights. But for the Green Dream? Forget copper wire between lights and light switches, three-way switches and batteries; I'm looking at Verve's lighting control system—-a wireless solution that uses radio frequencies to control a home's lights, allowing you to put your light switches wherever you want--on your wall, in your pocket or even the dash of your car.
John B. Carnett, PopSci's staff photographer, is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. This is the first entry in his new blog tracking the build--follow along at popsci.com/green-dream
No, it's not a death ray. The folks at RawSolar are creating what looks like a very affordable solar thermal tracking dish. This is a mini version of the concentrating solar power systems you see commercially in the 25 kilowatt range.
Pre-fab panels instead of a wood frame save cash and energy
By John B. CarnettPosted 07.17.2009 at 2:15 pm 35 Comments
John B. Carnett, PopSci's staff photographer, is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. Follow his progress in his monthly magazine column (the first of which you're reading now) and on the Green Dream blog.
In the past 20 years, I've lived in some pretty weird places — a leaky loft, a sailboat, an old carriage house that I rehabbed myself. Makeshift bachelor pads were fine until I found myself with a wife and two small boys.