Sunday, 3 March 2013

Game change, name change

Original blog header photo. This name no longer accurately describes our "odyssey" 

Interim blog header photo

As you can see from the partially completed new header there are some changes to talk about. All exuberant plans need to be reviewed and revised every so often. Ours are no exception.

If this turtle isn't careful, he will fall too!
When we first stumbled upon the trillium-covered terrain we now know as Turtle Falls our initial thoughts were to build a cottage in the truest sense of the word. More a cabin really...only seasonal use was the idea...a place to escape the crazy-making city and relax by the water's edge with a good book and a great margarita, all while soaking up a little bit of sunshine. at its simple best.

Then our simple little idea grew. Our first revision incorporated the idea of passive solar design. What a great concept, using the sun to heat your cabin for free. Then came the idea to go solar and get off the grid. And I must add somewhere in here that the cottage plan has now morphed into an all-season home. Lots of dreaming and studying ensued. The real benefit from all of that effort was becoming much more energy efficient humans as we practiced for the eventual living in an off grid home. We ridded our house of phantom power consumption, got our electricity bill down to a reasonable monthly dollar amount, and became aware of the incredible opportunity we all have with the renewable energy sources available to us.

Just when we thought we were getting close to finalizing our want list for our new "retirement home" by the lake Passive House hits us square in the face. Never heard of it before. More studying ensued. Result of all the studying...must build Passive House! With the efficiency that is inherent in a passive house it only seemed logical to build this kind of house for our off grid odyssey. Full speed ahead with plans, architect on board, passive house planners on board, contractor on board.

But something still doesn't seem right. I have many sleepless nights wondering how I will coax Ras into complying with the "minimize then energize" mindset necessary to live in an off grid house. She did say, after all the study and discussion of energy efficiency and solar and off grid stuff, "maybe we can have a wine fridge in the new house!" I chalk that up to her overwhelming exuberance and a momentary lapse into rose-coloured glasses land. My reply: "21 years we've survived without a wine fridge and you want to put one in the off grid house?" Off came her rose-coloured glasses. I still chuckle about that to this day.

This many solar panels the budget does not afford!
The thought of the football-field-sized solar array keeps dancing in my head! I keep wondering how to power my woodworking shop on those days...or weeks...when the sun doesn't shine. The fact that we will run over our initially targeted budget makes for the very possible reality that I will be building the kitchen and pantry cabinets. One needs a shop with power tools to do that in a timely fashion. Large woodworking tools need large amounts of electricity to run. Only with a football-field-sized solar array would this be possible. And for this, the budget certainly does not allow.

What to do? What to do? What about net metering?

Net metering seems to satisfy all our needs - power the house from the grid, produce enough electricity with our solar array to send back to the grid and therefore offset our electricity usage/bill while still having a battery back-up for those days when the grid goes down. We still have incentive to keep our consumption low to keep the size of the solar array as small as possible (hence no football field...) and we are still self sufficient in the event of a power outage. I've never been a fan of the micro-fit idea purely from the standpoint that if the power goes out you're still sitting in the dark, even with all those solar panels up on the roof. The monthly check is a nice idea but sitting in the dark...not so nice. Net metering is looking real good to us...even without the rose coloured glasses.

So this is where I am stuck at the moment. I started this blog when the plan was in its infancy and came up with the goofy name of Ohm Free: Our Off Grid Odyssey. The name reflected our goals at that time to be more energy efficient and self sufficient. Many revisions later finds us on a slightly different path and now the blog name needs a revision as well. We are still striving to be as energy efficient as possible, as well as self sufficient. We're just going to come at it from a different that suits our lifestyle a little better. The ohms might still be free but only after we've received our credit from the hydro utility for the energy we produce. The "off grid" got revised right out of the plan. The odyssey? still remains!

With this game change I now need a blog name change. I got as far as sketching out a little scene for the header but I'm stuck for a new name at the moment. I'm still working on it but no luck yet. I seriously need your help.  This is all I've got and, quite honestly, they're pitiful!
Passive House Casa Tortuga...blah
Turtle Falls Tales...nah
Ras & Mimi's Big Building Adventure...not
Net Metering Nerds...hmmm
Musings of an Energy Nerd...taken
Passive House For (By) Dummies...possible...

Got any suggestions? Sure could use the help! Please jot your thoughts down in the comment box. Hopefully, by the next post I will have a new name and a completed header...with your assistance.

Ciao for now!


Doris Belland said...

Remember, you asked. I therefore take no responsibility for these blog name suggestions:

1. The house that Ras and Mimi built

2. A power struggle at Tortuga Falls (I kill myself, I really do)

3.(Or the more literary:) Tortuga Falls: A power struggle

4. Gone with the sun: a power struggle at Tortuga Falls
5. Turtles, sun and electricity: A house-building odyssey

OK, I'll stop now. I will watch with eager anticipation to discover the route you'll take with your project. Good luck!


ms said...

safety net

Holly said...

How about Murph's Morph or Mimi's Monologue. I never know what's next with you. When does the building actually commence?

Flora and Joe, Heart Of Burlington said...

Here's a couple for you:

Watts wrong with that?


Ohm my God, watts happening?

From Joe and Flora at the B & B.

Brett Sichello said...

The Passive House that Pays!

Completely off-grid is very admirable but I'm a huge fan of the net-metering program. Particularly in Ontario because at least your power authority is offering a reasonable payback (34.7-54.9 cents/kWh) whereas here in BC there is really no incentive (9.99 cents/kWh).

I love the idea of a dividend cheque each and every month, year after year, decade after decade. For a small additional investment to reach Passive House certification and add solar panels, not only will your house use up to 70-90% energy which will offset any increase in monthly mortgage payments, you will receive a lovely cheque in your mailbox which can be put towards your mortgage, maintenance or other traditional investments! Now that is the smartest way to build in my opinion. Although they say you shouldn't treat a home as an investment I ask why not, if it can pay you to live in it and you can pay off the initial added costs in reasonable amount of time then why not? If the math adds up and you can prove that it will make you money over time rather than being a money pit like most conventionally built homes then go for it. That's my plan and that's why I'm so excited to see you making it happen!

Great post again Marilynn!

Brett Sichello