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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / Seeing is believing - What has the Cabin shown you about energy?
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# Posted: 18 Dec 2013 10:01

I have always been careful to recycle, reduce, etc. I've always tried to conserve water and electricity (to save money and to do the right thing). But it wasn't until Cabin Living became a reality that my eyes were opened to how it all measures up. Curious if you've had the same...

- How little adjustments in shading and using blinds in the summer makes it cooler inside.
- How to maximize cool night air and breezes.
- How heat from a light can heat a room (bad in summer) and how much it cost in gas or electricity to run
- How appliances give off heat and humidity
- How cooking outside can keep the house cooler
- How sealing air gaps can reduce how much the heater runs
- How making even minor adjustments in a tight envelop can reduce equipment needs
- How the sun hitting the floor and hard surfaces can radiate heat
- How opening doors affects heat and humidity
- How different types of heat really work (radiant is great)
- How well windows and doors really perform

At the cabin we are less reliant on the grid and suddenly that world of abundance that we take advantage of is stripped from us. We now see how every little adjust matters. The cabin is smaller so it really magnifies the results, but it also helped to adjust my thinking. Now I try to use as much natural resource (sun, breeze, etc) to reduce what I need from the Grid.

Anyone else learning a lot from the Cabin in the way of energy?

# Posted: 18 Dec 2013 10:46 - Edited by: bobrok

I'm not sure if this is exactly on your topic, but what we have discovered is that if you don't abuse your batteries they could last a long time. Our storage batteries and solar panel were installed when the cabin was built in 1998, and I cannot believe thar these things are still performing. True, they are most certainly not at peak performance levels, but with careful monitoring we can still get 3 evenings of CFL lighting (no more than 2 lights on at one time) and a couple of hours of TV in the evenings even with only nominal recharging during the days. We usually limit ourselves to the news and the perhaps a show or two if we're tired and feel like sacking out for the evening.

I've read so much on here about good and bad battery performance that I'm thrilled that we don't have to even think about the expense of replacing these things anytime soon. Moderation in use has been our mantra.

# Posted: 18 Dec 2013 12:33

I was amazed at the difference a small window in the loft made. I am glad we decided to add one.
We benefit from a lot more light and much cooler in the summer.

# Posted: 18 Dec 2013 17:27 - Edited by: rayyy

Lol,know whatcha mean,cabincalls.I have been through 3 years of sweltering summer heat with out an air conditioner.You learn to adapt.I took many cold showers and layed in front of a fan instead.Because my water supply is limited to a 275 gallon water tank,I have learned to be much more conscientious about wasteing it.Supper insulating the cabin has been a great pluss,too.Yesterday it was 4 degrees F outside but yet my floors,ceiling,s and wall,s were a nice toasty 70 degrees.My 12 volt deep cycle batteries are in good shape because I never let them get discharged below 90%.Over discharging a battery is what kill,s their life spand.The Ecotemp L7 has been great for hot water(and cheap to operate)LED(12 volt) light's,propane frig,stove,heater and hot water.When people come to visit they have no clue that I'm not on the grid.Drives em crazy!

# Posted: 18 Dec 2013 17:34

A lot of people hear about "passive solar" and they think of a house made of used tires built into the side of a hill, or some "spaceship" thing that needs all kinds of computer monitoring equipment. However, simple design decisions can make a world of difference to the comfort levels inside a home. Add a window at the top of a stairwell or in a loft so that the cool air is drawn in downstairs and the naturally rising hot air will exit up top (thermosyphoning). Build a trellis on the west side of the house to help modulate the late afternoon and evening sun (heat gain can be worse on the west side of the cabin because of the low angle of the sun). Use an outdoor kitchen in the summer and an indoor wood fired furnace (kept in a small outbuilding) to heat your radiant floor and hot water in the winter while keeping excess moisture and heat out of the main building. Cover the exterior of the cabin in 2 layers of 1 inch thick rigid foam insulation (offset the seams and tape them) in order to reduce the cold from "thermal bridging" through the walls in winter. Simple decisions that in the beginning will improve your cabin and your life for years to come.

# Posted: 18 Dec 2013 19:00

Cabin placement is important. My kitchen is in the east so I have good morning light. The front of the cabin faces the west so we get the last of the daylight. Our sofa and bed are in front of windows so we get light for reading.

Our cabin is on the lake and we get the most amazing summer breezes wafting throughout the cabin. It is only hot a few days out of the summer. On the hot days we go boating or spend the day in the lake.

We're looking forward to finishing our cabin by building our four season porch. We plan on using it as a sleeping porch during the summer.

# Posted: 18 Dec 2013 22:08

it has shown me we don't need to use so much in life in general.
and just cause it is alternative powers for this and that still gives u power.its not less than electricity.its just a different option.a different way to do some things.
our sun shower is just as refreshing and more wonderful than a city shower...
heating up my coffee pot on the coleman propane stove is more of a wonderful experience than the coffee maker we have other wait for that perk...smells so good once it is going.
we read tv.
gar made screens that fit over the in the heat of summer and we take a nap...the screens cool us off.all pretty nice.

# Posted: 19 Dec 2013 11:22

Having lived in my 200 square foot cabin for three seasons now, I was originally a big Solar wannabe, but nature had different plans and quickly dropped an anvil on my head with reality and only maybe 3 hours a day sunlight in winter and prohibitive cost, so I came up with my own method which has worked very well and is actually less expensive than being grid hooked.

First, the best way to reduce electric demand is to work around it, eliminate electricity from the equation as much as possible, my current use is 0.45 kwh a day on the worst days.

Water is hand pumped from my well or from my stream, refrigeration of food is by cold water cooler, there is no frozen food and canned food is primary.

Heat is by propane heater and cooking propane stove (with wood backup) of which I use 5 gallons every 25 days.

Lighting is via LED's.

Power is via 2 12 volt 235 ah batteries that are charged for 7.5 hours on average every four days if needed by my uber efficient 500 watt generator that uses a quart of gas per charge session.

All in all, I wouldn't trade it for the world and every day brings new challenges to be overcome.

# Posted: 19 Dec 2013 13:42

The difference sealing and insulation make:

I have been working on a 128 sq ft "shizzer shack" with a composting toilet. Last winter I had 1" of polyiso, suntuf panel windows. no heater. I had some wonderful mornings during the winter. Really lovely. Weird I know.

This winter I put in argon windows and increased the insulation from 1" polyiso to 3.5" polyiso. I also added a vented propane heater (DV14).

So the sun is shining into the shack and along with the heater it's 16 (65F?) and I'm putting in the ceiling insulation. R22 Roxul covered with R10 polyiso. I have the insulation in place and I'm all like. Cool, it is so warm up here now (standing on the ladder up by the ceiling). But I get off the ladder. And cool indeed. There is a stratified layer, warm above, cool below. A thermocline if you will.

I get my spray foam dispenser and I start sealing the gaps between the polyiso. Completely sealing the ceiling. (blush)

Every time I finish a section I take a break. And every time when I get back into the room, the air is more homogeneous in temp. By the time I've finished sealing the room there is no longer a cold area and a warm area. It's still cooler at the floor. But basically it's within 4 degrees floor to ceiling.

Thought that was pretty neat.

It was -18 outside. A pretty good impetus to finally get the job done.

# Posted: 19 Dec 2013 14:25

I researched how radiant barriers work and incorporated a bit of that tech into my roof design. I'm using rigid foam insulation in the roof, with radiant reflective foil facing on it, and an air space above it for ventilation. This ventilation space above the insulation has the added benefit of keeping the cabin cooler in summer. When the sun is on the roof and heats the metal roofing and the plywood underneath, the plywood radiates heat toward the insulation. But with an air gap between the plywood and the foil faced insulation, the foil reflects the radiant heat from the plywood back toward it and the insulation heats up less, keeping the cabin cooler. It won't help keep the cabin warmer in winter, as some attic radiant barriers do. But hopefully during those few hot summer days with the sun beating down it will be cooler inside.

# Posted: 19 Dec 2013 15:07

Being in the desert, I planned carefully and am glad I did as most of what I did energy wise has paid off, so far...
- Faced the front door to the north
- Built a clerestory type roof with 4 awning windows
- Insulated floor w/ R30
- Got blackout type shades for summer
- Carefully calculated the overhang of the roof
- Roll roofing covered w/elastomeric reflective coating

More, but you get the idea. And yes, it is an eye/mind opener to live and build like this,, it all makes sense.... and is not that hard to do either.. It's just that we don't have to do it in the city because there is always electricity, gas etc... It has made me start to rethink my city home (actually in the country, but civilized More insulation, some solar panels at least, rain water collection, landscaping etc... a better way of living and way less expensive/wasteful to boot..

# Posted: 20 Dec 2013 12:11

That is what I am talking about Borrego. I just can't believe the waste in the city/suburban areas. I thought I was doing well, but with the planning and tweaks to the cabin I see there is so much area for improvement.

More importantly I love knowing that the little adjustment make a difference. I never had the hard evidence until the smaller space shed light on each choice we made.

# Posted: 20 Dec 2013 14:52

We recently discovered that if we just keep the bedroom door closed while we are sleeping at night, our body heat does a lot to keep the small room warm. The heater hardly comes on.

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