Friday, January 28, 2011

Serious About Windows

From the very beginning, Scott and I understood there would be three (at least) big-ticket items for the house: the roof, the solar heating system and windows. As the roof and the solar heating system near completion, it is time to turn our attention to the windows.

We actually began investigating windows even before Wayne had drawn up our blueprints. Early in the planning stages, Wayne took us to the Loewen Windows show room in Salt Lake. Loewen is the brand Wayne has in his straw bale house in Idaho. According to the literature, Loewen windows have extremely high thermal performance which has led to their Energy Star designation. And, as we saw in Wayne’s house, the douglas fir casing and brick mould are absolutely beautiful. As you can guess, they also have a price tag to match.

Still, we had agreed to spend what was necessary to have excellent windows. After all, since our walls have an R-value of 40 +, we better have high-performing windows to fill the holes we make in those walls. We were planning to go with Loewen window until two things happened. One - I asked my mom how she liked her wood windows. She said, if she were to do it over, she would NOT have wood because they require so much maintenance. And two - we learned about Serious Windows because Scott, always one for extensive research, learned they were the most efficient windows available.

Plus, get this, the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, in a retrofitting project, will be using Serious Windows. Hey! If they’re good enough for the Empire State Building, they are good enough for us. And we won’t even have to worry about cleaning glass 1,250 feet off the ground.

Yes, there is a big price tag for their performance, but we’re excited to have such a great product in our house. Last week, I took a big gulp and wrote the check. The windows should be delivered this summer!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ten Thousand Pounds of Insulation

Whenever we pick up a magazine these days, it’s common to see articles entitled “Seven Steps to a Green Home,” “Affordable Solar Energy” or “Create the Perfect Home with Alternative Building Systems.” We get a little chuckle when we read those articles because we continue to be reminded that those seven steps are not necessarily simple or affordable, and the definition of “perfect” encompasses a range as broad as the Rockies. However, when it came time to insulate the roof of our house, the nexus of simplicity, affordability and perfection seemed to land very neatly on our doorstep.

When we left the house in November, 16-inch scissor trusses had been set in place on top of the interior sheathing. Off and on throughout December, subcontractor Kirk Chappel and his employee, Brian Briel, added the exterior roof sheathing and built the east and west gable end walls. Our next task was to fill the cavity between the interior and exterior roof sheathing with insulation.

Wayne, our architect, designed an unvented roof that would have an approximate r-value of 60. To achieve this, we would use cellulose insulation purchased from Mountain Fiber Insulation in Hyrum, Utah. You might ask why we would bring insulation all the way from Cache Valley to Torrey when we could have, perhaps more easily, purchased it from Loa Builders. That is a fair question especially considering our determination to use local products and employ local people.

For us, there are two "locals." We chose to work with this Cache Valley business because the product is made from 100% recycled paper, it fit our needs exactly, we know the owners personally, they allowed us to use their heavy-duty equipment free of charge and they gave us a great deal.

Scott arrived in Torrey on January 11, one day prior to the semitruck delivery of 484 bales of insulation. With the help of Kirk and Brian, in less than four days, that insulation had disappeared inside our roof, and Scott was back in Logan the following Sunday. Here’s what happened, step by step.

This is our roof as we left it last November. Notice the 16-inch scissor trusses. The insulation will be blown between and across the trusses.

Here, on January 11, it looks like the roof is essential done, but the space between the interior and exterior sheathing is empty. In must be filled with insulation.

The insulation begins its life as 100% recycled paper - the crossword puzzles, comics, magazines and phone books we throw away every day.

This machine shreds, grinds and pulverizes the paper...

into cellulose insulation that is then treated with 100% borate fire retardant that also provides fungicide protection.

Using the Mountain Fiber equipment, the contents of 398 bales (almost 10,000 pounds) is blown into the roof cavity at a density that is so compact, it will not settle...hence an r-value of 60.

When Scott left Torrey, he brought 86 unused bales of insulation and the machine with him. It was covered with the tarp because it began to rain on the way back to Logan. We were lucky. The rain held off while Scott was working. The weather gods smiled upon us one more time.

Next week, Tyler Torgerson and his crew will install RMax Thermasheath as the next layer on the roof. This is a rigid foam plastic thermal insulation board composed of closed cell, polyisocyanurate foam which is bonded to reinforced aluminum foil facers. Our ASC standing seam metal goes next. Then, and finally, Phillip Winters will be able to install our solar heat exchange panels...all just in time to meet the deadline for our alternative energy grant.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our Front Yard

North, south, east or west, the view from our porch is beautiful enough to make your heart stop. It's a wonder we get anything done at all when all we want to do is look and look and look. All of the photos in this movie were taken from the front door of the yurt or from the house construction site.