These are just some of the hundreds of folks who joined the 2008 National Solar Tour. This group
watched the movie “Kilowatt Ours” (http:/www.kilowattours.org/) during a lunch break. Other groups
toured in Baldwin, Jefferson, and Mobile Counties. The National Solar Tour is always the first Saturday
of October each year. Join us Saturday, October 3rd, 2009.
The Warren Home is in Hoover, AL. A 1962 structure was retrofitted to modern standards. The electric bills dropped
from $249/mo to $99/month budget billing and the gas bill was eliminated. The PV array is only 4KW. Earth Steward
Solar Consulting and GreenWorks Design/Build designed the project.
Southern Cypress was designed, built, and occupied by architect and ASA Solarite Debbie Coleman. The front of this 2,100 SF
home faces west.
During the hot Alabama summers, dogs lie in the shade on the cool earth beneath porches. On cold days. they seek a
sunny spot. These simple solutions for staying comfortable are easy to incorporate into the design of homes.
When combined with energy efficient construction and a well-desianed mechanical svstem. the sun's energy can further
reduce the need for auxiliary heat. At the same time, good passive solar design keeps out the summer sun to reduce air
conditioning needs. The home has an average energy bill of $85 per month (one-third the energy consumption of other homes
in the area). House plan can be seen on the Sun Plans website at www.sunplans.com.
We know that all energy comes from the sun. When we think of traveling, we think of the sun's energy
stored in very old dead ferns compressed into oil, brought to the earth's surface, and refined into fuel. But
the sun is still working to make energy for us today.
Alabama is blessed with a lot of sunshine, fertile river valleys and hills, and enough rainfall to grow
luscious pine forests. In fact, two thirds of our magnificent state is covered with pine forests.
Alabama farmer and inventor Wayne Keith has found a way to convert wood chips into fuel for three
pickup trucks and a variety of machinery on his farm.
Above, Morton watches as Keith dumps a small bag of wood chips into the hopper atop one old oil drum in
the truck bed. It looks like a scene from the end of the Sci-Fi movie Back to the Future
where “Doc” dumps some banana peels and other garbage into the fuel hopper of his Delorian/time machine.
Under the hood (below), the wood chip truck looks amazingly like any other farm truck, give or take a few wires and tubes.
First Straw Bale House in Alabama
Dr. William Henry Burritt, Huntsville physician and inventor, built what was believed to be the first straw-bale housed in
Alabama in 1936 and in 1938. Why did he build it twice?
Straw bale construction was still very experimental in the early 20th Century. Pioneers in America’s heartland had built homes
of the prairie grass a century earlier, when trees were hard to come by. Dr. Burritt was worried about rodents and insects
eating his walls. He lined the straw with copper sheeting to protect it. As soon as the electricity was connected, however, his
mansion burned to the ground.
For his next attempt, he ordered the straw treated with boric acid and eliminated the copper sheeting. The plan worked, and
the house stands solidly almost a century later. Learn more about this splendid and innovative structure by visiting the
museum atop Monte Sano in Huntsville, Alabama, of on the web at: www.burrittonthemountain.com.
See a 21st Century straw bale house on the Alabama Solar Tour in Royal, Alabama, October 3rd and 4th.
21st Century Straw Bale House in Alabama
Alden Bridle designed, built, and occupied this infill straw bale house in Blount County in 1997. He needed a good insulation barrier and a stable interior temperature. He wanted to build his house completely off-grid. He chose a wood stove heat and hoped the thick walls would keep out the summer heat. This worked well, but he did have a problem with summertime humidity and mold.
"It's not for the water skiing crowd,"says the designer.
Due to humidity and mold problems, an air conditioner was added in 2000, requiring double the solar panels. The additional panels also provide the majority of the hot water requirements for the house, using any excess power when available. A home heat pump would have required too much power. He hasn’t measured the humidity, but the mold problem has disappeared. When the 2006 Federal law offered tax credits for solar power, Alden added 6 panels to his solar array. Above, ASA founder Al Orillion stands beside the new array on the 2006 Alabama Solar Tour.
Alden’s latest addition is a super-efficient refrigerator. The system is located in a cold room in the basement with wall insulation built of straw bale and foam with an “R” value of about 50. In winter outside air will be used to cool the room. The compressors are outside the room to help keep the room temperature below the basement temperature. There are two cooling units, one for a 27 cubic foot refrigeration space and one for a 14 cubic foot freezer space. R 100 vacuum insulated panels are used in the walls of the refrigerator. Based on current operating data, these units together use about 250 KWH per year. To put this in perspective, compare this energy use rate with a 25 cubic foot Energy Star side by side refrigerator which is rated to use 578 KWH per year. Alden’s design uses 43% of the energy and has 61% more storage space than the Energy Star refrigerator.
The newest project is water tanks that will provide household water from rain water off the roof.
See this house on the Alabama Solar Tour in Royal, Alabama, October 3rd and 4th.
Contact Alden to learn more about this extraudinary home at firstname.lastname@example.org.