Welcome to our
Book of the House
Building an energy-miserly, 40-years-maintenance-free
cybernetic proof-of-concept house
Why & how & more - full details (more or less) on everything.
This update is overdue (apologies). On the structural side, we have a new and innovative way to make the flooring more energy-assistive with almost no compromise (certainly none you would notice) in comfort or quality. We identified one aspect of the HVAC system that would fail before our 40-year target and we are working on a “cure” for that. Much more significantly to the project, we evolved the automation in a very significant way and now have a true-to-its-definition cybernetic control system; click on the image on the right for a PDF briefing on that. Also on the electronics and control side, recent progress by vendors in the established DALI protocol is letting us offload lighting and fan control burdens to a DALI interface. We came up with a way to control the EcoVent register flow modulatorswithout a “Cloud” connection. And we came up with a way (with the help of an old pal, Forrest Mims) to avoid toilet paper outages. We added a top-of-class wooden workbench equipped at one end with oscilloscopes and other test gear, and at the other with a top-class digital soldering station. We also figured out a way to provide cool and useful info derived by the house on interactive panels without touching the outside internet and a way to use the same panels as a more convenient maintenance interface than hours in the rack closet. We added surge protection to the outdoor surveillance network ports and made significant progress building our master control rack. We are now working on radar heads for direct measurement of soil moisture for the watering / irrigation system and a different kind of radar head under the floorboards beneath the beds so if you doze off while watching TV, turning it off and adjusting the room lights get taken care of for you. There’s a little more; we’ll try to fill in with these and other changes as we update the rest of the site. Meanwhile: back to the beginning of our story... .
Our inspiration was a light bulb - specifically an LED bulb
When we first switched to LED bulbs we saw our electric bill drop and knew we could go more than 20 years without replacing them. Then we learned that LED fixtures last twice as long as bulbs, so we began wondering what else we could do to cut energy costs and avoid maintenance chores for a very long time. That led us to redefine the way the market was treating home automation products into the concept of an autonomous house - one that can adjust itself to the needs of its occupants as well as the needs of the structure, without requiring human intervention.
So we committed to a scary-big editorial project: designing and building a proof-of-concept house that comes as close as we can get to fulfilling these goals. But perhaps we should begin with a mutual understanding of how we interpret those.
ENERGY-MISERLY does not mean going off the grid. We just want to slow the meters and consume fewer resources. We make some significant inroads in comparison to standard materials and practices. As you will see, some of the most significant steps have to do with isolating the inside of the house from the environment outside, in part by aggressively addressing insulation.
40-YEARS-MAINTENANCE-FREE does not mean you'll never dust or vacuum. It does mean making selections that can help avoid needing major repairs or replacements for 40 years. We were surprised by how many products already meet that qualification.
CYBERNETIC adds memory and adaptability to the idea of self-controlled (not remote-controlled) true automation. Thousands of sensors, hundreds of actuators and almost a hundred computers and controllers work together to recognize the needs of both the occupants and the structure, and as much as we can make happen, satisfies those needs without requiring human participation.
Total cost of ownership (TCO)
For the design example house, approximately 3450 square feet on a build site in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) of South Carolina, near Aiken, we can look at a 40-year total cost of ownership versus traditional designs. (The data for this chart is from veteran custom homebuilder Don Cerra, who's earned a reputation as the “Greenest” builder in the CSRA).
The Book of The House
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