Sunday, December 25, 2011

Xmas Dinner and window blinds!

We had my family over for a Christmas lunch. It was the first time some
of them actually visited our house!  [They all live south fo the river, so 
convincing them to make the journey is like asking them to drive to
Fort Mac.  

And for Christmas, I got my dad to help me install the
cellular blinds on our living room windows!

House numbers and canopy decking installed!

With Rob's help, I was able to get all the carbonized wood for the main door canopy cut and installed!  And after the decking was in place, I was able to screw our house numbers down!  Yay!  We are now a known location in the world!

They even look great from the inside!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Carbonized Wood Colour Testing!

We have been using carbonized wood on our house with the help of Alberta Innovates Technology Futures. So, we are in full swing with the testing of workability, durability, and colour change over time. I made a couple of test-bed wood decking squares to see how certain finishes will take to the wood over the course of the year.  Robert from AITF has been extremely helpful in pulling all of this together and coming by to test the colours with a light spectrometer.  It only runs on Windows 95- and we only have a large, honkin' CPU and have to haul it all over the house where we are testing different locations for colour.  I think I sourced a laptop- which will hopefully make this a whole lot easier...

I used four different types of finish on the test bed.

From left to right: acrylic latex paint, Behr Super Spar clear varnish,
a board left natural, polyurethan, varathane finishes.

So far, I think I like the Behr finish.

Here's our testing set-up. It ain't fun haulin' this around the house.

Robert in action.

It's a tight squeeze on one of our stair landings.
We used carbonized wood for the landing since
construction and it hasvbeen in place for almost a year!

Robert in action, again!
Exterior wood decking - this one will see direct

This wood decking square will not see direct sunlight,
as it is shaded by the guardrail.

One of my new chores: brushing off the PV modules when the snow
sticks to it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lovely surprise!

We had a fantastic surprise today!  Esther Ferguson dropped off our house numbers! What a wonderful, brilliant gift, from the previous family that lived here.  Wow- they look fantastic- I'm itching to install them- hopefully tomorrow after I ready the basement for the secondary suites inspection!

If you'd like to see more of Duncan and Esther's metal creations, click here:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Baseboards, baseboard heaters, web boxes, guardrails and other details.

I've been quite delinquent in posting of late! It's getting harder and harder to post, as I spend ever spare minute unpacking, cleaning, moving, and installing things. There is still a long, long list of things to do.

Last weekend, we had our first true test of how comfortable the house is when the temperature goes down to -20 C.  It did fairly well- never dropping below 16 C inside without any heat on.  On a sunny day, it would hit 22 C inside, again without supplemental heating. We mostly used the wood fireplace to get the house comfortable. I had also just barely wired up the baseboard heaters in our bedrooms. Phew!

Got these baseboard heaters installed just in time.

Clifton configuring the web-box to our internet line.
One of the nice things is that Clifton from Great Canadian Solar hooked up the web-box to the inverter, so we can view/post our daily power generation!  You can see it by clicking here. 

So, we'll endeavour to keep everyone posted on how well the system is working. 

Another milestone was that we finally finished all the guardrails! Yay! So, here's Dan loading up the very last guardrail for the stairs!
Now it is much safer running up and down. Hooray!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Bike Commute!

I managed to bike home from work in just over 30 minutes! That's not even 3 times longer than my old commute. I hugged the top of the river valley and didn't dive down into the valley itself, and I peddled moderately- not full tilt fast.  This was faster than taking the bus! When I biked the trails in the valley, my commute time ballooned to 49 minutes- partly because I'm outta' shape and the hills were killing me. My goal: by next summer, get the river valley trail time to 40 minutes! 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Get the fire goin'!

It's now cold enough to start up our wood fireplace. Last night, it was -8 C, and -11 C the night before.

The house has been comfortable on the loft and 2nd floor.  It was +23 C on the loft floor and +21C on the 2nd floor, just from our solar gain/heat retention. We haven't turned on any electric baseboard heaters yet, partly because I haven't had time to wire them up! But a bit chilly on our main floor where we sleep, only getting to be 16 C. Serena made me get one of our plug-in heaters for the bedroom a couple nights ago.

So, we started up our wood fireplace and were amazed how much light if gave off from the flames. Adar pulled up his rocking chair to it, to read by the fire.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Have I mentioned we have awesome neighbours? Dave, pictured here, and Mary are awesome. They not only have kept an eye on our place and alerted me when things go awry, but Dave has also been busy helping Allan, aka Malkovitch, with the exterior and now he's building decking with the heat-treated wood for our exterior carbonized wood experiment!  Here he is the the 20-some panels of rough sawn 2x4s on a 1x6 sleepers he's made so far. With the exception of a few panels, we are going to leave them untreated on the roof deck. Robert from AITF and I are going to monitor and record how the colour changes over the course of a year. And hopefully, they will be durable as decking for a long, long time! 

Photos courtesy of Mary G.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The first of the carbonized wood decking!

Here are the first four pieces that our neighbour David made for our roof deck.  David is planing down rough-hewn 1x6 and 2x4 lumber to create 3'x3' squares.  It looks awesome! The colour is a nice medium brown too- we'll see how it weathers, stains, and fades. We are working with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures to test the durability of the heat-treated wood and hopefully make the case for a market for this material in Alberta!

Off to a posi+ive start!

I was ecstatic when I opened up our electrical bill for the period of Aug. 21 to Sept. 21! We were a net generator of electricity!  We used 263 kWh living in the basement- and with our trades using electricity to run their various saws, compressors, etc.
We generated 550 kWh, according to the utility bill. And our cost after all the rate riders, delivery charges, etc. was $3.26. I'm hoping the utility will PAY/credit US sometime!

Look Ma! The water boils in less than a minute!
Also in exciting news, we are having fun cooking our meals on an induction range. It was astounding how quickly water comes to a boil! Serena made pasta with a delicious bison meatballs, cherry tomato and garlic sauce. Yum!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our first weekend upstairs!

Yay! We made it upstairs last Saturday- moving from the basement suite to our house proper! We cleaned it just enough to get our beds installed and for the kitchen and bathroom to be workable. Now, we start the slow and steady unpacking, cleaning, settling in period. There are still hundreds of things left to finish up though. And I'm getting worse and worse at capturing everything with photos. I'm just keeping extremely busy doing all the little things around here.

I love how the kitchen tile catches the setting sun's colour.
& I'm hoping we have a less cluttered countertop.

Sunset earlier and earlier. * Sigh *

And last Friday, we got a nice stack of heat-treated wood
delivered! My awesome neighbour David is going to help
build our roof decking pavers! Yay!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ain't it done yet?

We're still living in the basement. And working. Finally, though, I can write a blog post because we now have internet access!  Yay!  It's been more than a month without internet service- unless I tethered my phone. But on the weekend, my data plan on the phone was tapped out. So, thank goodness today the Cable Guy who apparently lives in the neighbourhood came and installed our internet service! Amazing, how no internet kinda' does weird things to communication.

Anyway, here's the latest:

Yay! the corrugated metal is done! And you probably
can't see it, but there is a black mesh preventing birds from
roosting under the PV awning.

Yay! Malkovich fixed the bad dent on the exterior deck door!

The carbonized wood soffit!

Soffit turns into fascia.

The signed bit of fascia installed by our special guests!

Sunrise over Suncor. Or is it Mordor?

Exterior is 97% done!

Interior deck wall gets Hardie'd.

Another sunrise over Mor... I mean Suncor.

So far, our PV system says it's saved 2240 lbs of CO2.
Do you believe it? Does it know we use coal-fired
plants here in Alberta?
And today the bulk of the concrete
countertop was installed! Yay!

The orange sink looks awesome on the
charcoal grey concrete counter.

And we're very, very close to being able to use the
induction range. What should be our first meal?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sarika & Dr. Suzuki Drop By!!!

We were extremely fortunate and honoured to welcome Dr. David Suzuki and his daughter Sarika to our home for a tour! They are travelling across the country gathering stories for the Suzuki Diaries- and highlighting some interesting finds along the way. They brought their crew of the Nature of Things with them and visited the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence the day before. They wanted to see our re-use of materials like the brick wall, sub-zero-fridge doors, church pews turned to door casings and window seats and particularly our experiment with carbonized wood! They were keen to see how we used low-tech solutions for more ecologically friendly building. We were delighted to host them for a tour, while all the work was going on around them. It was an amazing day. 

Dr. Suzuki & I talking about low-tech
solutions,  the brick wall- and thermal mass.

He signed our inverter "For Mother Nature."

Even John Malkovich stopped by.
[Sarika made good friends with Allan,
who seems to have an uncanny resemblance.]
Sarika loved the SubZero pantry doors.

Adar got one of his books signed!

Group shot!
End-of-tour beers on the balcony!

Waving goodbye!

We were still buzzing at night and went for a walk to see if
the adrenaline would die-down. Serena took this photo from
the Goldbar bridge.