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Chest fridge that consumes about 0.1 kWh per day or about $5 worth of electricity per year.

Chest fridge that consumes about 0.1 kWh per day or about $5 worth of electricity per year.


I saw this fridge a few years ago on Build it Solar.com. It’s a great site like I keep saying with hundreds of practical projects. Several years later and now I’m asking the same questions as the author below. Why haven’t more people made the switch to this super energy efficient fridge?

“Using vertical doors in refrigeration devices is an act against the Nature of Cold Air. Understanding and cooperating with Nature rather than acting against it leads to much better efficiency.

My chest fridge (Vestfrost freezer turned into a fridge) consumes about 0.1 kWh a day. It works only about 2 minutes per hour. At all other times it is perfectly quiet and consumes no power whatsoever. My wind/solar system batteries and power-demand-sensing inverter simply love it.

It is obvious that a truly energy efficient fridge does not cost any more money than a mediocre one. It actually costs less. It also has amazing food-preserving performance because temperature fluctuations in its interior are naturally minimized.

So – WHY mediocre food-spoiling fridges are being made? WHO makes decisions to manufacture them? Who awards them “stars” and other misleading awards? Why people continue to buy and use energy wasting and food-spoiling devices? Does anyone care about understanding anything?

Nearly every household on Earth has a fridge that totally wastes at least 1 kWh of energy a day (365 kWh a year). How much reduction in greenhouse emissions can we achieve by banning just ONE inefficient household device in just ONE country? How many politicians debating for how many years will it take to achieve such a ban?

Rather than waiting for someone to do something I would like to volunteer to supply modified chest freezers and/or freezer modification kits to environmentally conscious people of Australia. Let’s do something in the right direction right now.”

Source: Mt. Best.net (lots more good info on this site)
You can read the full article here.
How to Convert a Chest Freezer to a Fridge

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Look at the larger picture in life with all the pieces together in order to make more informed decisions.

Look at the larger picture in life with all the pieces together in order to make more informed decisions.


Let’s compare aspects of building a sustainable home with children’s connect the dot (dot to dot) coloring books. If you look at just part of the picture, the full image is not apparent. Take for example the recent blog post about It Can’t Possibly be Worth It. A reader left a comment on the original blog post at I Need More Life that challenged the basic concept of living in the country and building your own home as impractical, and gave a list of reasons why it was easier and better to live in a big city. That got me thinking about the larger picture. The decision to build your own sustainable home goes way beyond just saving money on a mortgage (although that’s a huge part of the equation). Step back a moment and connect the dots.

Other considerations include:
– low impact lifestyle: We all know the world’s environment is getting wrecked right and left. It seems nearly impossible to live lightly on the land if you’re in a big city.
– healthy living: It’s more difficult to be healthy when you’re breathing polluted air, living in buildings that offgas toxic fumes, surrounded by unhealthy people who are spreading disease, loud noises, high stress, long commutes, sedate jobs, etc. Healthy living is a huge part of the back-to-the-land movement. This type of lifestyle is much more in line with how humans were meant to live in my opinion.
– peace of mind: You can’t put a price tag on good health or peace of mind, and I argue it’s much easier to have a peaceful life in a natural setting where things are quiet, calm and relatively free of pollution. 99% of big city crime is mostly unheard of in rural, remote areas. The story of the Country Mouse visiting the City Mouse comes to mind. And let’s not forget the risk of losing everything if you have a problem meeting your mortgage payment. Having a home free and clear of the banks certainly adds peace of mind.
– self sufficiency: What happens when the power goes out after a big storm or other natural disaster? Lights go out. Toilets won’t flush at some point. Cash registers and gas pumps won’t work, and on and on. You’re much more at risk in a big city in these situations than someone in the countryside who has planned for such emergencies.
– greatly reduced energy costs: In addition to not blowing money on a mortgage, you can also save a small fortune on energy expenses. Suggestions include: build an energy efficient home, get a wood stove and low cost wood supply, install at least one solar panel, solar water heater, LED lighting, superinsulation, weatherization package, cool pantry, root cellar and other features according to your climate.
– greatly reduced maintenance: Asphalt shingles, pressed board siding, sheetrock, synthetic carpeting and many other modern materials quickly fail, while stone, timberframe, rammed earth, earthbag, straw/clay can last for centuries.
– quality of life: Life is short. How do you want to spend your time? Stuck in a traffic jam or working in a garden and spending quality time with your family and friends? And keep in mind it’s not a black/white issue. You could always visit a nearby city for concerts, community activities and shopping.

Image source: Teacher Vision

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Boutique guest cottage in Brazil made with hyperadobe

Boutique guest cottage in Brazil made with hyperadobe


Earthbag rural retreat, Carrancas, Brazil

Earthbag rural retreat, Carrancas, Brazil


Hyperadobe wall

Hyperadobe wall


AUWA Earth Earthbag Workshops Australia

“Of all earth building techniques, Earthbag building (or ‘Superadobe’) is the easiest to learn and most forgiving in terms of what type of earth you can use – this means that anyone can start building structures for their backyard or additions to their home, using the earth beneath your feet.

Because Earthbag doesn’t necessarily have to be load-bearing, you can use it an an infill material for an existing structure or for Council-approved post-and-beam structures and still gain the huge benefits of building with the earth without needing to worry about engineering and Council approval.

Building with the earth provides you with huge health and comfort benefits. You can build any thickness wall and notice a difference but ideally, to achieve maximum benefits you should aim for walls with a thickness of at least 300mm. Using earthbag is a quick and easy way to achieve this thickness, giving you all the properties of a solid rammed earth wall but in a flexible form and without the need for awkward formwork – so you are free to design the house of your dreams!

Best of all, this method is achievable. It is so simple that it is possible even as a solo builder to construct using this – although why do that when friends and family love getting involved and make the process all the more enjoyable.

Earthbag earth walls provide you with:
– High thermal mass
– Great acoustic insulation
– Protection from electromagnetic radiation (for example from mobile phone towers and overhead powerlines)
– Humidity control
– Internal day/night temperature balance

There really are no excuses – get earthbagging today! Don’t forget – starting small is the key. There are boundless opportunities for trying out this technique and after completing a weekend workshop or better still, a week-long course, you will have the confidence to start on your own projects. Earthbag is great for garden projects such as kids cubby-houses, raised garden beds, retaining walls, outdoor benches, sculptural seating…the list of possibilities is endless.”

Source: AUWA Earth

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Underground houses by Vetsch Architektur

Underground houses by Vetsch Architektur


Modern, sustainable underground home

Modern, sustainable underground home


Hebridean Earth House

Hebridean Earth House


“Underground living refers simply to living below the ground’s surface, whether in naturally occurring caves or in built structures.

Underground homes are an attractive alternative to traditionally built homes for some house seekers, especially those who are looking to minimize their home’s negative impact on the environment. Besides the novelty of living underground, some of the advantages of underground houses include resistance to severe weather, an exceptionally quiet living space, an unobtrusive presence in the surrounding landscape, and a nearly constant interior temperature due to the natural insulating properties of the surrounding earth. The greatest draw for most, however, is the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of such houses. Because of the stable subsurface temperature of the Earth, heating and cooling costs are often much lower in an underground house than in a comparable above-ground house. When combined with solar design, it is possible to eliminate energy bills entirely. Initial building costs are also often exceptionally low, as underground building is largely subtractive rather than additive, and because the natural materials displaced by the construction can be recycled as building materials. However, underground living does have certain disadvantages, such as the potential for flooding, which in some cases may require special pumping systems to be installed.”

Source: Wiki
Image source: Erdhaus
Image source: Home-02
Image source: Hebridean Earth House

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The Island Earthbag Project

The Island Earthbag Project


Oooh, this sounds so good. Here’s an opportunity to build your own earthbag home without having to buy land.

“My wife and I (vegan and otherwise ordinary middle aged Americans with 3 children) recently purchased 31 acres, which includes a small semi-attached island just off the northern coast of Maine (USA). We are planning to film and document the entire design and development of a small Earthbag community.

The initial project starts with a collaborative group-effort development of a small cottage on the attached 2 acre private Island. We are interested in building a community of 6-8 families and individuals, which will be allowed to use 2-3 acres of our land ABSOLUTELY FREE to build their own Earthbag home.

Earthbag homes are a way for people looking for a home that is earth friendly and is built from natural materials that are readily available. Because of the design, giving thick walls and the insulating qualities of earth, these homes are designed to make good use of passive solar heat, facing south or east, depending on location. They homes are also designed so that sunlight during the day is absorbed by the interior walls, keeping the room warm after the sun goes down. Often, the only source of energy used is either fireplaces or small propane or electric heaters in individual bedrooms. An important step here is to insure that exterior walls are properly finished so that the daily heat from the sun does not leak back out in the evening.”

Source: The Island Earthbag Project

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Ramirez Bari V01

Ramirez Bari V01


Ramirez Bari V01 AL2

Ramirez Bari V01 AL2


Take some time and enjoy architect Jose Andres Vallejo’s stunning Photostream site and website.

Previous blog post about Jose Andres Vallejo’s house designs

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Vernacular architecture of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Vernacular architecture of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico


Desert vernacular architecture – “the word refers to the type of architecture that is indigenous to a specific time or place and is not copied / imported from anywhere else.” (click to enlarge)

Desert vernacular architecture – “the word refers to the type of architecture that is indigenous to a specific time or place and is not copied / imported from anywhere else.” (click to enlarge)


French vernacular architecture

French vernacular architecture


Iron Age roundhouse

Iron Age roundhouse


“Vernacular architecture is a term used to categorize methods of construction which use locally available resources and traditions to address local needs and circumstances. Vernacular architecture tends to evolve over time to reflect the environmental, cultural and historical context in which it exists. It has often been dismissed as crude and unrefined, but also has proponents who highlight its importance in current design.

It can be contrasted against polite architecture which is characterised by stylistic elements of design intentionally incorporated for aesthetic purposes which go beyond a building’s functional requirements.

The building knowledge in vernacular architecture is often transported by local traditions and is thus based largely – but not only – upon knowledge achieved by trial and error and handed down through the generations, in contrast to the geometrical and physical calculations that underlie architecture planned by architects. This of course does not prevent architects from using vernacular architecture in their designs or from being firmly based in the vernacular architecture of their regions.”

Green Home Building.com: “There are many wonderful building styles from all over the world that can inform us with their shapes, materials, arrangements, decorations, concepts for heating and cooling, etc. Vernacular architecture has been loosing ground over the last couple of centuries, as modern methods prevail. This is unfortunate since many of the old ways employ natural materials and simple concepts that are energy efficient. Also the buildings themselves are often beautiful. Perhaps you will find some ideas from among these pages to help with your own designs.”

Source: Wiki
Source: Green Home Building.com (lots of interesting books)
Image source: The Natural Vernacular
Image source: asdesigned blog
Image source: Green Home Building.com
Image source: Geograph

Comment: What type of architecture is most enduring, vernacular or non-vernacular buildings designed by architects?

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– Why Every American Homeowner Should be Concerned
“The following table represents a scenario where home energy bills increase by a very modest 5% per year over a 50 year time frame. Look up your current monthly energy bill to see what your cumulative energy bill will be years into the future.

Cumulative home energy costs (click to enlarge)

Cumulative home energy costs (click to enlarge)


The column highlighted in red represents the average American homeowner’s energy bill for 2010. Could this be your house? Well if it is, by year 30 you will probably have paid as much for energy as your mortgage cost or somewhere around $300,000. But you’re not through paying just yet. You can look forward to another $600,000 in energy costs over the next 20 years. Wake up America! Is your home a zero energy home? If not, you’d better consider your future.

At EarthCo Building Systems, we consider a zero energy home as the bare minimum for a house to be worth owning. We would also like to see people deploy other energy and resource saving technologies to produce truly sustainable housing of the future. This would include (where appropriate) rainwater collection systems, grey-water recycling, composting toilets, passive solar design with minimal mechanical systems, and if necessary solar powered air conditioning and heating systems, fresh air induction systems, well insulated building envelopes built with EarthCo Megablock wall systems, smart electronic control systems, and an indoor greenhouse to provide for at least 50% of a families total food supply. We believe these ingredients are prerequisites for producing sustainable housing solutions.”

Source EarthCo Megablock.com

Comment: I suggest trying to reach the goal of zero energy housing as much as practical even if you can’t obtain 100% efficiency. For instance, due to budgetary constraints you may have to postpone some of the costlier improvements until later. This may mean your home falls short of the goal by a few percentage points, but you’ll obviously be way ahead in energy savings than most homes.

Also note how fiat currency is regularly devalued through inflation. The US dollar, for example, has lost about 99% of it’s value in the last century! This is like a hidden tax that’s gradually eroding our buying power.

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Log end tile flooring

Log end tile flooring


Heart pine log end flooring

Heart pine log end flooring


Log end floor made with custom fit 2” thick slabs

Log end floor made with custom fit 2” thick slabs


End grain hardwood flooring is known for it’s unique grain patterns and superior hardness

End grain hardwood flooring is known for it’s unique grain patterns and superior hardness


End grain driftwood flooring

End grain driftwood flooring


Hexagonal end grain wood flooring

Hexagonal end grain wood flooring


Historic end grain cobblestone

Historic end grain cobblestone


Reclaimed log end wood tile flooring

Reclaimed log end wood tile flooring


I’ve assembled some of the best photos I could find on log end flooring. This type of flooring is made with end grain (with the wood grain oriented vertically). Log end or end grain flooring has been used for centuries in palaces, luxury homes and high traffic areas because of its beauty and durability. End grain is harder than long grain (horizontal grain) and that’s why it is used on professional quality chopping blocks and top quality flooring.

“Residential real estate agents say homes with wood floors hold their value better, sell faster, and fetch higher prices, according to a recent nationwide survey commissioned by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). By a three-to-one margin, real estate agents said that a house with wood floors would sell faster than a carpeted house. Some 58 percent said a house with wood floors would bring a higher price. Health benefits are also a factor for those considering hardwood flooring. Whereas carpets over the years gather mildew, mites, animal dander, dust and pollen beneath the surface that can cause respiratory problems and aggravate allergies, hardwood flooring has a very durable surface that is easy to clean and maintain. Properly maintained hardwood floors are extremely resistant to mildew and the other ails of carpets. Hardwood and laminated wood floors are the smart and healthy choice.

Hardwood flooring is always made up of a real hardwood surface, whether it’s solid or engineered hardwood. The result is a natural, real hardwood floor that can be resanded, stained, and varnished to match your tastes and changes in your decor. If it’s well cared for, it will last nearly forever. A solid hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished several times over many, many years.”

Source: Hardwood Flooring
Image source 1 and 2: Heart Pine.com
Image source: Signature Floors.com
Image source: Hardwood Flooring
Image source: Materialicious
Image source: Wood Flooring Trends.com
Image source: Flickr
Image source: Revival Flooring

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Sustainable building project spearheaded by Christopher Alexander in Mexicali, Mexico (click to enlarge)

Sustainable building project spearheaded by Christopher Alexander in Mexicali, Mexico (click to enlarge)


Lightweight vaulted roof system on houses in Mexicali

Lightweight vaulted roof system on houses in Mexicali


Christopher Alexander is the author who’s famous for such books as The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language. The project in Mexicali, Mexico is a fascinating insight into his work and into the potential of community building using sustainable building materials.

“Project history
Under the sponsorship of the Governor of Baja California, we built a small community of houses and community buildings. The families built their own houses, assisted by students. The construction system and method were new — designed and invented by us. We ran a small block-making factory on site, using soil-cement instead of raw concrete for the blocks. The vaults were woven baskets of thin lattice strips, with burlap and chicken wire stapled to them, and the shell of the vault then plastered over the top. Each house was different. It was inherent in the construction process that a family could lay out their own house, as they wished. We then placed stakes at the corners of all rooms, and the construction system, which included special corner blocks, allowed us to build the columns in the positions marked by stakes, then to build the walls between the columns, then stretch the beams and pour them, and then to weave the vault for each room as it fell out naturally.”

Source: Building Living Neighborhoods – Mexicali
Building Living Neighborhoods home page
The Mexicali Construction Process
Mexicali Revisited
Christopher Alexander – Wiki

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