Category Archives: Earthship Home

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The Benefits of Installing Hydronic Heating Systems for Floors and Walls

Off Grid Living:  The Benefits of Installing
Hydronic Heating Systems for Floors and Walls

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Off Grid Living - How to Use Solar Hot Water Heaters to Provide Floor and Wall Radiant Heating

Off Grid Living:  The Benefits of Installing a Hydronic Heating System for Floors and Walls

What are the Benefits of Hydronic Heating Systems for Floors and Walls?

North Dakota – While hydronic radiant heating has become more and more popular over the last several years, there are still many people who are not aware of the many hydronic heating system benefits when compared to a traditional heating plan. Radiant heat is clean and comfortable, while extremely energy efficient and flexible in design.

The single most important element that a heating system must give you and your family is comfort. Hydronic heating takes comfortable to a new level, as can be seen from the many benefits below:

  • Multi Zones – Radiant heating allows for personalized temperature control through the use of multiple zones throughout the home. This way parents and children can custom set their bedroom temperatures to their personal taste, while the kitchen and family room are kept comfortable for everyone. In addition, you don’t have to worry about keeping the doors closed in your rooms to trap heat. This is because radiant heat has no bursts of air that push warmth out of the areas you want it and into the spaces you don’t.
  • Warm Tiles and Floors – There is nothing as discouraging to the thought of getting out of bed in the morning then that frigid walk across cold bathroom tile on your way to the shower. Radiant flooring solves this problem by infusing the floors with heat, so that those previously chilly tiles become your source of warmth. People aren’t the only ones affected, since pets love nothing better than to stretch out on a warm floor.
  • Balanced Humidity Levels – It is far easier to maintain a balanced humidity level in the home with radiant hydronic heat because it will not dry out your home. Cold winter days already do enough to dry out skin without help from a forced air heating system, which sucks additional moisture out of the house in the process of heating the air.
  • Quieter – Radiant flooring and hydronic heating equipment work in silence while providing warmth for the whole house. There are no sounds of the heating unit kicking on and off during the night. Instead, steady heat radiates into the room with nothing to notice but the comfortable temperatures.


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How to Heat Water with Solar Hot Water Heaters and Stove Water Heating Jackets

The Benefits of Using Passive Solar Heating and Wood Stove Water Heating Jackets to Heat Water for an Off Grid Shed, Cabin or Home

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How to Use Off Grid Solar Collectors to Product Free Hot Water

How to Use Passive Solar Collectors to Product Free Hot Water for Off Grid Properties

Various Types of Solar Hot Water Heaters to Heat Water for Off Grid Homes

United States – There are many options for solar water heaters that range from inexpensive home-made jobs to high-end state of the art commercial models.

If you switch to a solar water heating system, your use of electricity or propane will drop significantly; that number will approach zero rapidly if your backup heating system is a wood stove or firebox with a water jacket rather than occasional use utility electricity.

The home-made options are typically not suited for use during times of the year when temperatures dip below freezing. You would need to winterized them before any threat of fall or winter weather arrives.  There are probably hundreds of variations that may be found on the internet. They range from coils of black plastic pipe on one’s roof to coils of copper inside a box with outer glass cover (creating a greenhouse effect).

Some of these utilize a DC electric circulating pump. It pushes the heated water into a storage tank and bring fresh cool water into the heater.  This pump may be activated by a switch that is temperature controlled. But some are directly connected to a solar panel and only run when the sun is shining (precisely the same times that the water is being heated and needs to be circulated).

Evacuated Tube Solar Hot Water Heaters

Evacuated tube models are composed of numerous rows of glass tubes with another smaller tube inside each of the larger tubes.  A vacuum is pulled between each of the two tubes which greatly lessens the loss of heat to outside weather.  Water or an antifreeze solution is then circulated through the inner tubes.

The advantages of evacuated tubes lie in greater efficiency and less heat lost.  So they work quite well even during surprisingly cool temperatures.  However they are somewhat fragile and may not be as suited to areas with a great amount of snow and ice due to the potential for breakage from buildup.

Flat Panel Solar Hot Water Heaters

These heaters look much like solar electric panels but contain tiny water passages which enable a great amount of surface area to come in contact with the heat from the sun.  While not as efficient as evacuated tubes, flat panels still work very well and are certainly more rugged when faced with heavy snow and icy conditions.

Typically an antifreeze solution is circulated through the tubes or panels and the hot fluid is routed inside to a heat exchanger which transfers the heat of the fluid to the home’s hot water.  There are some varieties of evacuated tube heaters that are called drain down systems, which do not require the use of antifreeze because the water drains away from exposed areas once the water cools off.

Thermo-Siphon Solar Hot Water Heaters

It is possible to set up a solar water heating system that doesn’t require an electric circulating pump.  This would be called a thermo-siphon system, operating on the principle that heat rises.

This was the type of system we planned to install for our cabin in the summertime.  The disadvantages would be the amount of work involved in installation, significant cost of commercial systems, and reliance on an electric circulating pump (unless it is set up as a thermo-siphon system).

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Solar Powered Lighting Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

Off Grid Living: Solar Powered Lighting
Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

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Solar Powered Lighting Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

Solar Powered Lighting Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

How to Install Off Grid Solar-Powered Lights

One of the first things you’ll learn when camping or off grid living is that without electricity, it gets dark quickly.

But solar power is a great way to provide a wide variety of lighting and security systems that will let see what is making that big bumping sound in the backyard at 2:00 am in the morning.

How Off Grid Solar Lights Work

Solar spotlights are powered by photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight to electricity on the atomic level. Each cell contains a thin, flat semiconductor panel with a positive charge on one side and negative on the other. Sunlight causes the semiconductor’s atoms to blow apart, releasing electrons; the electrons are recaptured as electric current between the positive and negative charges. The electricity then travels through a cable to power the spotlight. Solar energy is also stored in the interior battery for use at night or on cloudy days.

Uses for Off Grid Solar Security Lights

Solar spotlights are particularly useful in illuminating outdoor spaces where traditional extension cords or bundles of wiring aren’t practical, such as in formal gardens, large open lawns or residential entrances. Newer models offer light emitting diodes (LEDs), which illuminate more effectively and efficiently than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Whether you choose to light a wide area from above or train the beam from ground level on an individual object, such as garden statuary, you can easily install individual spotlights without hiring a professional contractor.

Best Places to Install Off Grid Solar Lights

The foremost concern with installing solar spotlights is ensuring that enough sunlight reaches the photovoltaic cell. Spotlights today usually feature a long power cable between the cell and the actual light, so you can place the cell in a sunny spot that receives about eight hours of light a day, and position the spotlight where you want it.

For ground-level lighting, stake the cell in the ground so the cell faces the brightest sun, and then stake the light in the ground a few feet away from the object you wish to illuminate. Train the beam upward to focus on the object.

Mounting solar spotlights over entrances, garage doors or decks involves screwing the light’s baseplate into the vertical wall or post over the area you want to brighten, then angling the light’s beam downwards. With these types, the solar cell may be attached to the light’s hood or via a power cable; in both cases, the cell still needs to receive sufficient sunlight for operation.


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