The average home in Fairfield uses approximately 1,500 kilowatts of energy a month. The typical EcoVillage home uses a maximum of 300 kilowatts per month. We achieve this dramatic reduction through highly integrated system designs, which harness intelligent energy found in the natural envoirnment surrounding the home. With the use of special design techniques such as super insulation and passive solar design, we are able to improve the heating and cooling efficiency to a level which surpasses the most rigorous green building standards on the market today. By first improving the efficiency of the home, we are able to reduce the electrical loads required of our wind and solar systems. Below you will find just a few of the design principles we utilize in Abundance EcoVillage house design.
Passive Solar Design is the art of balancing the entire house, working with the sun’s energy to provide maximum climate control in any season. In our homes, window placement, overhang length, and flooring material help regulate the internal house temperature.
Window placement is calculated using the azimuth and altitude of the region. In Iowa, southern windows maximize heat during winter months. In the summer, the overhang, calculated at a precise angle, blocks direct sun, but still allows for significant day lighting. Windows on the North and West detract from climate comfort, and therefore are minimized. In addition, the sun porches on the southern side of the house acts as a passive heating unit during winter months. Our double-thick walls help to retain this precious heat , keeping residents toasty in the winter!
The EcoVillage houses feature a superior method of framing: 10 inch walls on a double stud frame. The average home in America is constructed with a 4-6” wall. Our 10” double thick walls and dual frame not only provide superior insulation, but also creates a remarkably solid structure that surpasses the most rigorous building inspection.
By nature of our highly efficient design, the energy for requirements EcoVillage homes are very low. Power is delivered to each home via alternate current, collected from both wind and solar. Power is stored in a centralized battery bank, where it is then distributed to each home.
At the EcoVillage, 5 houses share a 30 amp circuit, whereas one standard home alone would have 200 amps. We can downsize this system because the house itself is more efficient; retains heat easily, utilizes compact fluorescent or LED lighting which run no heat or excess energy, and our Earth Air Tubes climate control system uses a mere70 watts of energy, whereas traditional air conditioning uses a minimum of 200 watts.
The secondary energy system in an EcoVillage home is propane. Dryers, ranges, furnace, and backup for the solar hot water all run on propane. Although we’ve carefully designed each home to minimize propane use, propane requirements will vary from resident to resident, depending on living habits.
Earthtubes are a heating and cooling system, which utilizes the earth’s stable temperature of 56 degrees Fahrenheit, below the frost line. During the summer they act as natural air conditioning, utilizing the earth to cool the air before bringing it into the house and during the winter the earth actually heats the air it draws from outside before bringing it to the furnace. The tubes themselves are constructed from a high-density polyethylene plastic, which is the same material milk jugs are made out of. This is a nontoxic material so the air doesn’t absorb any contaminants.
Each house has 300-500 linear feet of tubing buried about 8’ to 10’ deep around its perimeter. Air comes from the outside through an air intake that is attached to the west side of the house, travels underground, and comes into the equipment room to the furnace fan. The furnace fan then distributes the air throughout the whole house. At depths of 8-10 feet, the average soil temperature in Iowa is approximately 56 degrees, although there can be seasonal fluctuations of as much as 12 degrees. During the summer, when the weather is hot and humid, moist air is drawn into the tubes and the soil cools the air. As the soil cools the air, the moisture condenses inside the tubes, and then drains away through an extensive drainage system. Thus air is brought into the house, cooler and dehumidified. During the winter, the cold air is drawn into the tubes, warmed by the earth and “preheated” for the furnace, so the system only has to heat the air an additional 10 or 20 degrees.
The system is designed to run continuously to receive the benefit of fresh air. The furnace uses a special brushless motor, which only uses about 70 watts of electricity. It is a very efficient system to run off-grid. The outside filter house has an access door and the filters need to be checked and cleaned annually. The filter protects the Earthtubes from dust and debris buildup inside the tubes and this will allow the system to last for the lifetime of the house.
Solar hot water is the elegant solution to hot water needs. Specially designed for the Midwest region, the Abundance EcoVillage solar hot water system is a robust system that challenges the coldest of Iowa winters.
The roof or nearby ground of the home is outfitted with two thermal solar collectors. When the sun is shining, these generate heat. The collectors themselves contain absorption plates and heavy insulation to maximize the temperature. Inside the collectors is a network of copper tubing containing antifreeze that connects into the house, wrapping the interior of your solar hot water heater. The antifreeze moves within the copper tubing via a solar DC pump. This DC pump is also powered by the sun’s energy, running off the small photovoltaic plate that turns on or off depending on the amount of light detected. Thus the system monitors itself, operating only when enough sunlight is detected for the system to run efficiently.
When the hot water faucet is turned on, water flows from the solar hot water tank, to the secondary tank, which is powered by propane. From here the temperature is regulated, and the water will either be warmed or cool depending on the setting. Our solar hot water systems are designed to operate with little or no maintenance, so residents can rest easy knowing that the sun is doing all the work for you.