Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NHND in the Mountains update

Front now has it's two porches, exterior trim and casing is beginning to be installed

I went to the Catskills to check on the progress of the New House Next Door to the Mountains that is currently under construction and here is an update. (There are previous blog posts on this project that you can look at, too)

View from front porch/ front door looking south
The exterior isn't much changed since winter, but inside all rough HVAC, plumbing and electrical work is complete and spray foam insulation has been installed. Next step will be installing the wall board. Here are some photos. You can really appreciate the spectacular mountain vista from the front windows, which you could not in the previously posted over-cast winter photos.

View looking out South Windows in sitting area off Kitchen
 With the walls appearing to have more of a solid surface because of the trimmed spray-foam cavity insulation, you can see the shape of the interesting interior spaces created by the dormers, knee walls, and angled roof lines. You can also see the number of windows and the light and views they let inside.

Vaulted ceiling in Nantucket Dormer

My favorite space is the fun, open loft space over the living room and at the top of the stairs. With its wide, high, full-of-windows Nantucket dormer, it feels really unique and I like the way it allows the upstairs and downstairs rooms to connect with only a guard rail as separation. That seems to create a family connected-ness that I think makes sense for a house designed for extended family weekend gatherings.

Vaulted Ceiling in Nantucket Dormer- Partial view
Loft that Overlooks Double-Height Living Room (no guard rail yet- Akk!)
Second Floor Bedroom w/ Angled Ceilings and Dormers
Standing in Living Room looking toward front (south) showing loft above


Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Us with our solar panels
I went to the Tivoli "Solarize Northern Dutchess" workshop over the weekend and got re-energized on just how cool solar is.

We have a grid-tied solar generation system (PV or "photovoltaic") that was installed in January 2009. We don't use a huge amount of electricity (we use high-efficiency propane systems for hot water and base-line heat and, and a clean-burning wood stove for the majority of our heating needs) so we didn't need an enormous system. In the field behind the house and garden two masts with 8 panels each were installed to generate about 80% of our electricity annually. We did a freestanding system, as opposed to a roof-mount, as our house is surrounded by old shade trees; and the masts allow us to manually tilt the panels 4 times a year to optimize the angle to the sun and increase their production by about 20%.

Tilting the panels for different seasons
 Before I attended the Solarize event, I brushed up on my numbers. (which I'll admit, we don't really think about much after the excitement of watching the meter spin backwards wears off and we get used to the lower bills) Once a PV system is installed, it is there doing it's magnificent job of making electricity from sunlight without any moving parts or maintenance required. But I checked the inverter in the basement that counts all the electricity the system makes, and I made some calculations.

Since it was turned on, our system has produced about 33,700 KWH. At the current rate of 13c / KW delivered, that means it has saved us $4300! To be up-front, the system cost us more than that (even with all the fantastic incentives, rebates and tax credits available at the time) but that's thousands of kilowatts of energy that didn't need to be produced by a fossil fuel burning or nuclear plant, and I think that's great. And, in a few more years we will have broken even - and then for the many, many more years the system is active, we will actually be making money!

Even taking in the life-cycle costs of manufacturing and the eventual disposal of the panels and frames, solar is a very environmentally friendly product/system. Point of source power generation (making electricity at our house, to use at our house) is much more efficient than transmitting power over long distances, where much of the power generated at the plant is lost along the transmission lines. Using the sun for electricity generation makes no carbon emissions.

On the longer days of summer, we generate more power than we use, selling it back to the grid so our neighbors can use it. We buy power from the grid at night. It has a nice rhythm of give and take to it. Being grid-tied, solar becomes a community action- which is what was exciting for me about the Solarize event. If you can, I highly suggest you get solar panels.