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Solar Home

Posted by BooBoo on February 27th, 2003 02:35 AM

Hello ... I sure help you can help. :)

My dream for several years has been to move to the country and have a solar powered and heated home.

My current city home should officially belong to it's new owner within the week and I want to place an offer on a fixer-upper on two and a half acres.

I would like a clearer prospective on the "converting" costs of this home as well as suggestions or possiblities to heat and power this home independent of public utilities ... before placing an offer on this prospective home.

Here's a list of what the home is currently set up with vs some of the alternatives I've seen in books and on line.

If you can help on any of these items ... I'll need to know what the worst case costs might involve, as well as, if I search (and where to search) for the best possible price per job/quality.

1. The home has well and septic
a. What can I expect to pay to empty waste?
b. How often?
c. Is there an alternative to tanks?

2. The well is providing red water based on the glimpse of a bathtub. It appears the plumbing had leakage :)
a. The house is said to be "1910 Farmhouse". Is it possible this well dates back to 1910?
b. This makes me uncomfortable. Can I drill for another (two and a half acres)?
c. What would another well cost?
d. How long does it take to get a contractor out for the job and how long will it take to have a new well completed?
e. Can I keep the old well for outside use (garden, washing car, etc.) to prevent pressure loss inside while watering outside?
(I'll have water tested for safety for use in garden)
f. If not, what costs would be involved to "retire" the well?

3. The layout of the house is a mess, but my greatest concern is the bathroom.
a. If I supply an inexpensive tub, sink, light, shower and toilet; I expect these items will cost roughly six to eight hundred dollars, how much should I expect to pay to install them if I want the tub and toilet moved to different locations in the room? (No tile)
b. How much would new "feed" plumbing cost including new water heater (electric as I expect to be using solar power) to be hooked up to the new well. I'm assumming the "eliminating" plumbing will not need to be replaced. There is a "Michigan Basement", one bathroom, one kitchen sink and laundry(main floor)

4. Again on layout ... 1700 sq ft, two story with basement, attached (delapetated) garage. Long, south facing with many windows for passive solar and only a few windows on north side ...
a. With age of house considered (1910), who would i call and what costs would be involved in gutting northern walls and ceilings to install new insulation? Electric lines run on visible sides of walls through piping of some sort.
b. Should I insulate whole house, or only north side? Entire roof or north side? Basement?
c. What's the most effective and safe insulation? Michigan temperatures reach/avg. -10f. 20avg. during the winter months.

I expect to eliminate a few walls and have an almost entire open (first floor) floor plan. And, I would like to see the ceiling rafters/beams in any rooms possible including, I expect to add decorative cover over insulation. The home has vynl siding (white).

5. With open (first) floor plan, and a few considerations for heating; I would feel safer having a fireplace heating back-up. A friend might give me an old wood burning stove (designed strictly for cooking). The antique is adorable and i would use it for storage and decoration,
a. But is it possible to use one of these old stoves?
b. Costs to vent? New chimney?
c. Still, I wish to have a fireplace on first floor near center in a large opening ... is this possible without building new chimney? I know advancments have been made in electric fireplaces, but, something about the wood burning ones ... just can't help myself :).
d. Cost of a fireplace is important as it may be an expense that can wait and my intent is to eliminate as many "living expenses" as possble (not to discredit the "environmently friendly" issue which is also a factor) and purchasing wood is an expense, but the heating considerations I face thus far are as follows:
1. Solar heat sink - a large space on south side dug out and filled with duct and covered in sand. The duct is tunneled into basement bringing a flow of warm air.
2. Geo closed loop - vertical or horizonal, water temps of 40-45 circulate thru out the home.
3. Electric water heater (solar driven) and baseboard type heating.
And, my personal favorite ...
4. Hot water from water heater channeled throughout house beneath flooring closed pressuse system.

Here's the thing ... I keep my home heated to a toasty 80 degrees or so. What do I do? Florida's not an option ... any other suggestions?
The fireplace would provide direct heat ... Yummm! I don't understand how any of the above options could possibly keep me warm. I thought maybe a combination of two, not including the fireplace, would be a good place to start, but which two? Gotta have my heat ... do I gotta morgage the house to get it?
This is really important and I've REALLY tried to do my homework on the options, but some of the sorces of info fall short of costs and comparisons. I really would like some pricing and ultimate heating capacity info on these options, AND, I don't know what the heading/title is for these type contractors to call for info. :(
If only I knew some experienced folk on the matter.

One last thing on heating ... if I have a chimney on the house and solar shingles on an attached building, will the smoke particles affect the productivity of my solar system? (solar roofing shingles)

One more thing (snicker), if I used one of the heating systems which require a water heater, is it possible to have two water heaters in the same home? One for heating, one for usage?

6. Now, I mentioned solar roofing shigles ...
a. Will these provide more power and last longer than panels?
b. Is there any maintnence?
c. As the garage is attached but needs removed, I thought of replacing it with a two or three car garage attachment to provide southern footage for solar collectors and use my home roof for skylights to accomidate passive solar. In the rear of property stands (sorta) a barn which also needs torn down (unsafe), I could use the storage if I build another garage or two in it's place and add more solar collectors if it is possible to run power the distance to the house.
1. How much power is needed for 1700 sq ft at maximum case considered ... oops, I meant to say, how many collectors? Cost?
2. The property includes a stack of wood, the exterior wall and roof sized wood (don't know what it's called but it's similar to the top 4x8 sheet of wood used to cover floors before final carpet/tile is applied, but much thicker) and the stack is probably eight feet tall. My guess, they were going to rebuild the barn. Don't know how long the wood has been out there, but can I save costs on my new garage(s) by having the builders build frames and use my wood for the coat and roof base?
3. Do you have an idea of what these buildings would cost to construct? No dry wall, no floor, bare minimal; just stucture, one garage door.
4. Will I need seperate contractors for building and solar installation?
5. Just out of curiousity ... what type of unit stores power for back up? Where is it usually housed? And of coarse, cost. I have a figure from a PBS "This Old House" program, if memory serves, that puts solar shingle costs incl installation, breakers, storage, etc. at $5.000.00 for an average sized home.

Well let's see, I've covered power, heat, building costs, plumbing/sewage ... can you believe I forgot something? Yup, I did, here goes ...

Five last things (with parts), short, I promise ... but hey, by now ... who's counting? :) :) :)

1. The property is surrounded by corn fields. I will be growing my own foods. Should I be concerned about pesticides on my soil and in my water?

2. The house is currently heated by forced air with a tank of something (propane?) outside. I have a gas stove and thought I might save the expense of a new electric stove, till later. If my atempts of natural heating fail me, I can use the forced as back up. But, what does a tank of fuel cost and how long does it last (at 80 degrees indoors)?

3. A large tree blocks my southern exposure, what does it cost to have removed? Can I have it sent to a cutter to be chopped and returned to me?

4. The barn (BIG barn) and garage to be torn down are a sorce for much wood. I like recycling but the cost of restoring the wood via
sand blasting, sanding or shaving might be a great expense, but I'd like to do it if I can. Does anyone have an idea of which method to clean up the wood, who to call, and maybe even an estimate of cost?

5. AND FINALLY!!! ... Does anyone know how the chicken crossed the country road? Just kidding, these all nighters diggin' up info are puttin' me on a coo coo farm. (that's humor for ya) Night All

Oh ... Thank You :)

Oh! One more thing ... I've been trying to find out if building kits for the garages will be cheaper than having a builder handle the entire job, any suggestions?

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