This Saturday is National Solar Tour Day

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Saturday October 4, 2008.  solar tour logo

Solar homes, active and passive, all across the country are open to the public for viewing and learning about solar energy through the ASES National Solar Tour Day

To find a location near you, go to the ASES website.

Every year, the first Saturday in October is National Solar Tour Day, as part of National Solar Awareness month.

We’re participating for the second time.  Over the last two years we had more than 120 people from all over the state visit our partially earth sheltered, passive solar designed home, to which we added 4kw of photovoltaic panels in July,’06.

<solar panels looking NE

From the ASES website:

The ASES National Solar Tour is the largest tour of sustainable energy features for buildings in the U.S.  Now in its 12th year, some 100,000 people across the nation will see how neighbors are using clean sources of energy to save on energy bills and protect the environment. Through a series of open-houses and informative tours participants learn about renewable energy options, energy efficient design, real-world costs, current rebates available, and other valuable insights.

The National Solar Tour highlights energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and methods that are working and available right now, in real places for real people. These sustainable energy choices help the owners reduce operating costs and improve comfort and health while investing in local communities.

Tours show attendees how home and building owners provide for their power needs from the sun, wind and other renewable sources.  An increasing focus of tours is on saving energy through building design, energy-efficient appliances and building materials.

Tour guests learn how sustainable energy choices protect against power outages, support energy independence and reduce carbon emissions and impacts on the environment. Many tours provide information on utility, state, and federal incentives for the installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions.

We started construction on our house in September of 1982.  Partially earth sheltered on an east-west ridge.  All glass on the south side.

<south windows in snow

south windows

(The window at farthest right still has an insulated cover – we put up in winter when nights get below forty to keep the warm air inside).  Note the sun is reaching almost all the way across the room.  This picture was taken in the morning, sun coming in from the east, in late November – early December.

On TVA’s  Generation Partners program, we’ve had to pay electric bills in only January and February of the last two years – a total of $50.  That’s for a house with three computers, two printers, a scanner, two tv’s, central heat and air, a swimming pool pump and an airconditioned wine cellar and includes our household water which comes to the house from a spring via electric pump.

Here is a list of energy-saving features of our house that we will show folks on Saturday:

Step 1 – Design, orientation & construction.

Earth sheltered, waterproofed with Bentonite clay.

Passive solar gain from large windows which face true compass & solar south.  Roof overhangs calculated to allow direct sun Oct. 10 to April 10 but no direct sun during summer. No east windows, 1 on the north, 2 on the West.  (Heat reflective)

Two water heaters for short runs to kitchen, utility, and bath water use areas.

Ducted for air circulation from cool tubes. Supplemental wood heat — circulating Rumsford fireplace & master suite wood stove & sauna.

Add on room constructed with Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF).  Roller shutter for light control and tornado resistance.

Step 2 – Energy conservation & efficiency.

Insulation, & multipane windows

Solar clothes dryer, paddle fans, night venting, compact fluorescent lights, energy star refrigerator & front load clothes washer, super efficient dishwasher & water heater.  Geothermal heatpump (separately metered for energy use monitoring) with heat scavenger for water heating.  Solar pool heater, two speed pool pump. Solartube for electricity free daytime lighting.

Step 3 – Photovoltaic solar electric power generation.

4 KW max from 40 panels.  Cost $39,000, installed.  Subsidies: Federal income tax credit $2,000, TVA Generation Partners installation rebate $500, Generation Partners electric bill credit of 15 cents for every kilowatt hour generated.

Maybe sometime I will get a chance to write about how we built the house, drystacking the concrete blocks for the earthsheltered wall, then using a fiberglass reinforced surface bonding cement on the house side and bentonite filled cardboard panels on the earth sheltered side.  (It’s volcanic clay and expands so that no water can get through.  It’s worked great these past 26 years).  But the construction is a whole ‘nother story.

Look for a site near you for an informative solar home tour THIS Saturday at the ASES website.


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  1. I signed up!!! I have been dying to learn about solar!!! Thank you!!! And I am spreading the word too.

    • OPOL on October 3, 2008 at 4:36 am

    Beautifully done sibyl.  This is fascinating, thank you.

  2. on multiple levels … sometime when I’m in the neighborhood?

    Tomorrow morning, final contractor coming through to see site and give bid for solar hot water.  

    To go in, I would hope, by the end of the month.

    Been focusing on retrofitting with greater energy efficiency. This will be the first ‘renewable energy production’ element of the home. Not quite there for solar electricity, but prepping the house with energy efficiency for doing so hopefully within the next few years.

    Great discussion and reminder of Saturday.

    • RiaD on October 3, 2008 at 4:52 am

    excellent essay!!

    (i’ve moved some of your essay ‘below the fold’ because you’ve been FP’d…. hope you don’t mind (^.^)

  3. interesting for us all. So, thank you for everything said and shown!

    I think there are probably so many of us, definitely, myself included, who would literally JUMP for changes that we could make to “contribute” to the REAL crisis facing us today, although, as you or any of can see, the ADM. thinks otherwise.  

    My commentary on the situation and what I find so disturbing is the fact that I think that SO MANY of us would attempt to “alter” so much that would serve, ultimately, to diminish the effects of global warming, but too much of it is way too expensive for most of us.  I fail to understand why the very things that we should utilize in the battle against global warming are, in so many ways, cost prohbitive — why?  If everyone WAS REALLY concerned about this environment and global warming, it seems that everything we hear, read, etc., would be brimming with incentives, discounts, etc.  This is where I am left totally confused — but, then, I am totally confused as to why we, to this day, are not members of the Kyoto Treaty!

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