Independence from the electrical grid is both a learning and conservation component of Green Woodlands.For this facility we will be generating hyrdro-electric power from the pond and stream nearby and solar-electric from the sun. Being completely self sufficient and not being dependant on the electrical grid sets the stage for just about every building system we will employ.
Invisible Solar Panels
We have been experimenting with solar panels for about ten years now and quite frankly the modern glare of a glass panels just does not blend in with the wooded rustic environment and the connection to nature we are looking for.Our goal was to have a solar array that would power all the modern electrical conveniences in a regular house but we did not want to see it.We have used a flexible photovoltaic laminate product from Uni-Solar, this product actually rolls onto a metal standing-seam roof and in our application it is virtually invisible.
The Barn House with Invisible Solar Panels
Above is a picture of the Barn House around the first week of September 2007. The chimney is under construction but the solar panels are on the roof. Can you tell which part of the roof has the solar panels? We have asked many people that come by the property if they can and they cannot tell either.
No artificial lighting is the best lighting so we spent a lot of design time with “day lighting” or using the sun to light our building as much as possible.The big question we asked is do we need to “turn a light on” during the day or is there sufficient light coming from outside so we do not need to.This is a balancing act because we also do not want excessive thermal gain during the warmer months or harsh glare from the sun.
The sun does eventually go down so we do need to turn lights on eventually.Our tastes run towards antique style lighting and Energy Star Certification wasn’t around in the early 1900s so we contracted with a local company called Conant Custom Brass whose artists and engineers recycled antique light fixtures and retrofitted them to use only compact florescent lights for us.This gave us the modern Energy Star certified internal components, recycled antique lights and kept the business within our local community.
All Electrical Wires in Conduit
Commercial buildings usually run their electrical wires in conduit but that is not normally done with residential houses. On the other hand we are building the barn house to last 200 years. Running the electrical wires in conduit up front will prolong the life of the electrical wires many fold plus make it exceedingly easier and less costly to rewire or add to the electrical wiring design in the future. The other issue that will be mitigated with running the wiring in conduit is there is debate over the health effects that EMF waves from electrical wiring has on us. The conduit will add another shielding layer to inhibit EMF waves. Another benefit is the fire safety of having the electrical wiring protected by conduit.
No Phantom Load Electrical Design
You would be amazed at the electricity use of our modern appliances when they are turned off. That little trickle of electricity to keep that small LED light or clock on your dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, stove, stereo, microwave, trash compactor or TV adds up quite a bit. In order to turn these phantom loads off you either have to unplug the appliance or have an electrical switch to turn it off. This no phantom load wiring adds a bit of complexity to your electrical design and more electrical switches but when you measure every watt of electrical use it is the only way to say no to these phantom users of electricity.
Hydro Electric Power
Sixty years ago there was a mini hydro electric system that supplied electricity for a girl’s camp that used to be at this location. The dam, sluice way and even the old turbine are still here and will be revitalizing to supply electricity for this house and another building.
Excess Solar or Hydro Electric Power
During the summer months there will be times that our solar panels will generate more electricity than we need. This excess could be sold back to the electric company if we were connected to the grid but since we're not, that excess will be channeled to a water storage tank to heat our domestic hot water.
Once the hydro electric system is operational we expect excess electricity during many times of the year and that excess will also be directed to a water storage tank that will be used to heat the building,used for domestic hot water or recharge future electric power vehicles.
As a final and last resort we do have a propane back-up generator. If we have to use it then we have not achieved our goal. To say it a bit more frankly and to hold myself and others accountable, we have failed if we have to resort to using fossil fuels to operate this building for heating or electrical needs.