Outfitting Your Yurt

Guest Post: The Benefits of a Composting Toilet

Today’s guest post comes from Robert Cimitile, of “Air Head” Composting Toilets. The issue of plumbing a yurt and choosing the bathroom fixtures is a constant question, and I’m seeing more and more yurt dwellers explore composting toilets as an option for their dream yurt.

“Air Heads” is allowing us to put a demo model (for admiring, not for use!) in our yurt showroom. Send me an email to schedule your yurt tour, and you’ll be able to see the composting toilet at the same time!

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A big question that inevitably comes up when talking about yurts, tiny houses, or boats, is “where will we go to the bathroom?” People have developed numerous ways to solve this issue, including outhouses, standard toilets, septic systems, and everything in between.

Composting toilets are gaining ground in popularity in recent years as great options for solving the potty problem. We’ve outlined some of the benefits to outfitting your yurt with a composting toilet.

No Waste Water

It is said that 27% of water used in the home comes from flushing the toilet. Typical household toilets use between 3 and 5 gallons of water with each flush. Based on an average of 5 flushes per day, that’s 6 to 9K gallons of water down the toilet a year! That’s a lot of work for the sewage treatment plant or your septic tank, both of which cost money. There are high efficiency toilets that significantly reduce the number of gallons used per flush, but no standard toilet can match the efficiency of a waterless composting toilet.

Waterless systems dramatically cut down on waste water and, therefore, ecological wear and tear. Composting toilets vary in their method of operation to compensate for being waterless. The Air Head diverts liquids and solids automatically into separate compartments. The liquid bottle can be easily detached and emptied. The solids will rapidly break down into compost in their own tank, which does not require being emptied until around 60 uses!

No Plumbing

A waterless toilet system means no plumbing! No pipes, soldering, or mysterious leaks. Installing the Air Head toilet itself requires a drill and a few screws and mounting brackets that we provide. There is also a vent hose with a fan shroud that you’ll install to make sure all toilet odors and gases are pumped outside. You’ll save money on plumbing materials and time with our simple installation. Some of our fans have made numerous videos on how to install an Air Head on boats, RVs, and tiny houses. The same principles apply to your Rainier Yurt.

Installation Videos

Compact

You certainly don’t want your toilet taking up lots of space in your yurt. That’s why we designed the “Air Head” to be as compact as possible. Placing the liquid and solid holding tanks underneath the bowl is what allows the toilet to have a small footprint – 18” x 19”.

composting_toilet1 composting_toilet2

Compost As an End Product

All that solid sewage you would have created with a traditional toilet or outhouse will be converted into compost with the “Air Head.” We provide you with a coconut husk brick for use as a composting medium or use other materials such as sawdust, peat moss, or corn based pet beddings.  In any case the medium goes inside the solids tank and when it mixes with the solids, aerobic bacteria go to work breaking down the material into soil. A turn of the attached crank handle will rotate the metal agitator inside the solids tank, thus churning the compost, spreading the active bacteria around, and helping break down the solids faster. Once fully composted, much of the harmful bacteria found in human waste is eradicated. The end product is composted soil that has little to no smell.

waste

No Odor

Between the fan that funnels gases to the outside, rubber seals located throughout the toilet, and the paper filters that catch and carry solids on their way to the tank, the “Air Head” is virtually odorless. Besides the obvious, cutting down on odors has the added benefit of keeping flies away.

The 12 volt fan we provide is necessary to keep the toilet vapors and odors moving through the vent hose and out of the yurt. If your yurt is off the grid, not to worry. A 5 watt solar panel will provide more than enough power for the fan, and we carry these in our online store.

Easy Disposal

When talking about composting toilets the elephant in the room is, of course, getting rid of the waste. Like many details we’ve discussed, waste disposal can vary greatly from product to product. We put a great deal of thought, time, and energy into making this step as easy and painless as possible.

It goes without saying that the liquids tank will need to be disposed of more frequently than the solids tank. With this in mind, we made an easily removable liquids tank that requires no contact, even visual contact, with the solids. Whew!

tank

When the solids tank does need to be emptied, simply remove the bowl and attach the nifty cap to the top of the solids tank. No chance of spills on the move!

The compost in the solids tank can be disposed of in a variety  of safe and legal methods based on your location and installation. Make sure to check what those are beforehand.

If you’d like to read more about the “Air Head” composting toilet please visit our website. If you’re ready to outfit your Rainier Yurt with an “Air Head,” make your online purchase here or give us a call: 740-392-3642.

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Guest Post: Why Pellet Stoves Are Great

Statistics have shown that heating costs are around a third of the costs of most homes’ utility bills. Therefore people are seeking cost saving and efficient ways to stay warm. One of these alternatives is the pellet stove. They look like a conventional wood stove but operate just like the modern furnace. Their popularity can be linked to the great features and characteristics.

Pellet Stove Efficiency

Image by s0gallchoir via Flickr

Image by s0gallchoir via Flickr

Pellet stoves are designed to use compacted pellets as the primary fuel. Though some stoves can use other types of fuel such as corn and wood chips, premium pellets are the recommended type of fuel. The use of pellets makes the stove more convenient than the ordinary stove. These pellets are ready for use, so no preparation is needed. Using pellets, you save costs and time on splitting wood. The big advantage is that a clean burning stove can be guaranteed, because these stoves have high heat efficiencies and little air pollution. According to EPA, pellet stove efficiency can range between 70% and 85%.

As of July 2015, EPA had certified seven pellet stove companies. This was done according to the regulations set out requiring stoves to undergo efficiency testing. At the time, Ningboa, a Chinese manufacturer, which retailed at $1,500 was rated at 81% and was considered to be the best rated pellet stove. This was closely followed by Smart stove, a product of England’s stove works, rated at 79%. Seraph Industries also have a stove that was rated at 78%. Basically, U.S.-made stoves have been rated at an average of 70% efficiency. However, it shouldn’t surprise you to find a pellet stove whose efficiency is between 55 and 65%. Here you can check out some of the most efficient pellet stoves on the market.

Operation and Handling of Pellet Stoves

The availability of pellet stoves in freestanding and fireplace insert designs makes them easy to handle. The stoves are designed in a way that they can be moved from one place to the other. This works perfectly for you if you are adopting the zone heating model. When it comes to their operation, pellet stoves are self-fed. Accordingly, you do not need to refuel every now and then. The stoves come with a hopper that is used to store pellets. Using the automatic feeding system, the pellets move from the hopper to the fireplace automatically. On average, the hopper holds between 16 and 60 kilograms (35 and 130 pounds) of pellets. This is enough to last for a day.

Air Pollution

Pellet stoves are considered to be a clean heating appliance. This however doesn’t mean that they do not produce any pollutants. These stoves are known to give out emissions such as sox, nox and volatile organic compounds. Though the production is low in these stoves, the dangers accruing cannot be ignored. One of the major concerns is the emission of particulate matter especially in urban centers. These are areas where the concentration of pellet stoves is high as the stoves are in close proximity.

Cleanup and Maintenance

One of the major concerns among stove owners is the stove’s maintenance. Thus getting a stove that isn’t so demanding when it comes to cleanup and maintenance, is a plus. Pellet stoves are considered to be among the easiest to clean and to maintain. The fact that these stoves do not produce a lot of smoke and moisture means that it doesn’t need regular cleanup. The stove’s chimney takes some time to clog with creosote, therefore fewer cleanups. A stove which has been used for an average of 8 hours a day, will only need the annual cleanup for the chimney to serve you all year round.

Image by Mike via Flickr

Image by Mike via Flickr

Pellet Stove Safety

A stove’s safety is the highest priority, especially if you will be using it as the primary source of heat. Pellet stoves are quite safe when compared to other stoves. The reason is that the stoves are professionally designed to remain cool to the touch even after hours of operation. This is very important, in particular when having kids and pets at home.

Another feature that makes pellet stoves safe is the nature of their chimneys. Due to the fact that the stoves do not produce a lot of smoke and little creosote is formed, the chimney fires shouldn’t be a major concern. If you have used conventional stoves, you may also have noted that a lot of heat accumulates around the stove. This is another safety concern, especially if proper clearance is not adhered to. This has been taken account in the production of pellet stoves, as they come with a fan that helps distributing the heat evenly and lowering the risk of fire outbreaks.

All these features among others make the pellet stove a great appliance, proving it to be worth its cost. The stove ensures the high quality standards and give you an exceptional value for money.

Guest Post: D.I.Y. Custom DC Low Voltage LED Lighting Solutions

Today’s post comes from Ron Friedman, who has shared several wonderful posts with us on off-grid solutions for outfitting your yurt. If you want to leverage the sun’s energy to power your yurt, or even dehydrate the bounty from your vegetable garden, Ron has shared many wonderful solutions with us.

Ron has a wealth of knowledge about LED lighting options, and has already shared a post about the subject with us! Today’s post goes further into using LED lights to illuminate your yurt without taking up precious floor space or draining your energy source.

Enjoy!


under-cabinet kitchen art 2I Lighting is a Maryland manufacturer of low voltage LED plug and play lighting solutions for indoor and outdoor applications. Featuring 10 mm or 5 mm wide LED lighting strips (I Luma line) these self adhering strips provide an almost invisible light source.

In a yurt or tiny house where space is at a premium this means zero loss of floor space.

The LEDs use up to 80% less power than typical incandescent systems and they are rated for 50,000 hours.

Considering the open space of yurts, along with the exposed ceiling rafters, it is possible to use these existing architectural elements to install a custom designed lighting solution.

5mm strip artThe I Luma self-adhering (3m industrial tape) strips provide 120 degrees of lighting. They simply mount on the bottom of your rafters. For attaching to oily woods, a backup clip must also be used.

Just swab the rafter with an included alcohol pad. Remove the tape cover, and press the lighting strip into its mounting position. Add the included clip for further mechanical attachment.

Available in white or black polycarbonate, lengths come in 3 inch increments up to 8 feet. They come in clear white or warm yellow light.

For long lengths, I Lighting provides a segmented strip where the LEDs are spaced evenly along the full length up to 8 feet long. This allows you to have a single appliance for the long rafter run rather than having many linked strips with a connecting wire.

The 5mm option uses only 1.6 watts per foot. The 10mm wide option uses 2 watts.

The I Lighting in-house design team will help you determine how much length or product you need. Just submit a plan and they provide the best design solution that is cost effective and with no wasted materials. You won’t need to strip and connect wires as the system is truly plug and play. All the parts you need come in the custom designed kit.

You are probably wondering how power gets delivered to the lighting system. Each lighting kit will come with the appropriate low voltage dc power supply based on the system demand. This converts your AC power to the required 12 volt DC.

Mount the power supply near an AC outlet. It can be hidden in a cabinet or bookshelf. You can have the circuit powered via a standard switch or simply use the included remote control that gives you on, off and dimmable features.

270_ind_spiral artThe kit will include a plug to your power source and wire to the starting point on the rafter. You can also run multiple power from one supply giving you area control with on/off or dimming. Wire is easily hidden by the lattice work of your yurt wall.

If building codes require, you can also use the I Lighting UL connector cable for behind walls. From there, start installing your strips.

At the top of the lighting strip and top of the yurt, I Lighting will supply a custom connecting harness that allows you to continue the current to your next strip using the simple plug and play mini connectors. The resulting system will be a very low energy demand. It will all be dimmable.

The LEDs will last for up to 10 years, and every system is custom designed for your requirements.

Ron Friedman
Friedman Associates
585-363-1980
ronjf1@gmail.com

D.I.Y. Corner

Yurts are the ultimate Do-It-Yourself kit!

You’ll receive your yurt in a crate, with labeled hardware boxes that are numbered corresponding to our 70 page yurt manual. If you follow each step in the sequence before moving on to the next one, you’ll have a successful build and be ready to enjoy your yurt for years to come.

But every once in a while, I get a call from one of “those guys” – the ones who think they know everything and think of the manual as suggestions rather than complete instructions. “Those guys” inevitably text me photos on a Saturday or Sunday telling me there’s something wrong with their yurts.

My typical reply: “I’ll say!”

Of course, the problem is that the customer was not following the manual. I will respond with something like: “First of all, your roof liner is on inside out, your walls are on inside out and upside down, the ribbon that is supposed to be at the center of your primary door is randomly at the back of the yurt, and you used the wrong cable for the all-important tension cable – the tension cable needs to be the pre-stretched one!”

The usual fix is to take everything down and start over.

So do yourself a favor, read the digital version of the manual cover-to-cover before your yurt kits even arrives. We’ll email you the manual when you place your order. The printed version will be included in the main crate, in the main hardware box, when your yurt arrives.

If you are not good at following this type of direction, appoint someone who is – just don’t attempt to recall from memory what you read days prior. Follow along step-by-step. I guarantee, you will have a much better experience and end result.

Once you have the basic yurt built – explore different creative options to make it your own. There are no rights and wrongs.

Do use your common sense. There are many things you can do yourself to enhance your yurt and your time in it.

These are the most common questions we get:

Q: Can I build a loft?
A: Sure! We recommend that you use basic “T-wall construction” and through bolt into the floor for structural stability. We do not recommend attaching to the rafters or lattice. The only “useable” space is in the center of the yurt. The smaller the yurt – the smaller that space is.

loft ladder-Final

Check out last week’s blog post about floor plans for more on lofts.

Q: Can I put a bathroom or kitchen in my yurt?
A: You bet. Bring your plumbing and electrical up through the floor into a shared wall.

Bath

Check out these past blog posts for more information:

Q: Can I hang pictures and things off the lattice?
A: Lighter items can hang from zip-ties or wire off the lattice. We do not recommend driving a nail or screw into the lattice, as you could split the lattice stick and weaken the structural ability. We recommend balancing the weight of heavier objects (such as a heavy mirror) between two connect points on the lattice, at least two feet apart.

Camp_0711yurt_1Q: Can I hang something from the compression ring?
A: Sure – just use common sense! The compression ring works because of balance: tension and compression. If you hang something from one point, you just messed with that equation; but if you hang something from four balanced points, you have a greater chance to equal out the weight and have a balanced load.

Q: Can I make my own dome cover and screens for the doors?
A: We are all for DIY creations that enhance your yurt-life. If you are handy with a sewing machine, an iron, magnets, or Velcro – you are in luck! We’ve had great feedback from yurt dwellers who’ve made their own dome screen, ceiling fan support, “magic-screen” door closure, curtains, awnings, porch covers, and anything else that you can dream up.

Q: How do I create more storage opportunities at my yurt?
A: Here are some ideas:

-Save your yurt crate and use it as an ‘out-building’ to store garden tools, snowshoes, and other necessities. Put a pad-lock on it to keep your possessions safe.
-Build your yurt up on a higher platform and utilize the space underneath for storage. Enclose the perimeter with vertical “skirting” and make an entrance out of the dome crate lid.
-Create a loft space over the kitchen and bathroom and have a movable ladder to access just what you need. Put smaller items in bins, basket or totes, and place them in the perimeter spaces created by the rafters.
-Use a murphy bed, so you can put it up during the day – table or desk as needed, bookshelves on the edges.
-Check out IKEA for more ideas! One of my favorites is a handful of baskets attached to the lattice for handy storage.

Q: Can I attach two yurts?
A: Of course you can. Again, there is no right or wrong here. If you are not a seasoned DIY’er we recommend using an experienced handy man or contractor who has done this before. We have several experienced individuals that can come to you to offer guidance too.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
-Henry David Thoreau

~Dana

~Dana

Give us a call if you have DIY questions of you own.

Like us on Facebook for more inspiration photos!

Energy Code

Word on the street is that the energy code is causing problems for yurt dwellers.

Some states in the US use the Uniform Building Code (UBC) but many states, provinces, and some countries use the ICC (International Code Council) rule books. The two ICC rulebooks are the IRC (International Residential Code) and IBC (International Building Code).

While the IBC establishes the basic requirements for exterior walls from a general building construction sense, the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) goes further to address energy use in buildings.

ibc_iecc

The beauty of the family of codes prepared by the International Code Council (ICC) is the two codes have been painstakingly reviewed to complement and not contradict each other. The IECC uses a similar format and language to the IBC, but also acknowledges the need to coordinate requirements.

The IECC addresses energy efficiency on several fronts including cost savings, reduced energy usage, conservation of natural resources, and the impact of energy usage on the environment.

The building code terminology for the yurt is “membrane-covered frame structure.” In order to be permitted, a yurt must meet requirements in the areas of snow load, seismic rating, wind speed, and fires safety, dependent on location. Other requirements like egress (emergency exit) and occupancy are dependent on the use of the yurt (residential, rental, or commercial).

Building code officials have no problem with the above provisions, but they do have a problem with insulation. They are being pushed to comply more strictly than ever before with the energy code, which regulates building design for adequate thermal resistance and low air leakage.

For yurt dwellers, it all boils down to the insulation.

photo 11 (5)

They want the insulation to be R-38 in the roof and R-25 to R-35 in the side walls (depending on location it could be substantially higher or lower.) The reflective foil we offer is R-9 for a single layer and R-10 for double layer.

However, there is a provision in our favor: “it is intended that these provisions provide flexibility to permit the use of innovative approaches and techniques to achieve effective utilization of energy.”

If building officials see your yurt as a permanent residential dwelling, chances are they will want to regulate the energy code.

The good news is the code is not intended to restrict the use of materials, construction, design, or insulation system. But the construction, design, or insulation has to be approved by the code official.

I am hearing about building officials who are willing to work with yurt dwellers using alternative energy sources like solar power and hydro-radiant floor coils. They can be flexible … so getting on their good side form the start is essential!

Practical-Yurts1Yurt dweller Steven Hatch experienced this when he attempted to get a building permit for his yurt in rural Utah. He went to the local county building inspection department and asked what he needed to do to get a building permit for his new yurt. They gave him a checklist of the requirements he would need to satisfy in order to comply.

From there he went to the Planning and Zoning Committee. This was the key to Steven’s success! He claims in his book, Practical Yurts: Building and Living in a Low Cost Alternative Structure: “working with the Planning and Zoning Committee in a small, rural area was helpful to me getting my permit. I think one might have more difficulty in a larger urban area. I don’t know that for sure, but that is my feeling.”

Steven used Rainier Yurt’s engineer to get site specific engineered drawings, showing that the yurt exceeded wind speed requirements, met the seismic requirements, and exceeded the snow load requirements. After much back-and-forth with the permit office, he worked through the perc testing and sewer permit with the Health Department.

Living-In-the-Round-CoverSteven wrote: “The only issue remaining was how I was going to insulate the yurt. The building inspection people were thinking it needed R30 and R45 and it wasn’t going to meet that requirement.. I printed out a copy of Dana’s “Yurt Insulation” blog post that discussed the Radiant Barrier Insulation and gave them a copy of Becky Kemery’s book, Living in the Round, to study. I also directed them to the portion of the code dealing with membrane covered frame structures and let them work at their pace to study and approve the permit. It took them about a week and they gave me a call and told me to permit was ready to pick up.”

$1800 later, Steven was free to start construction of his Rainier Yurt.

My take away is don’t give up! If you are told there is no way you can get a permit for a yurt, ask what you NEED to do to get a permit and ask for their help.

photo 25 (3)

For example: explore the skylight and French doors options to get more natural light into the yurt during daylight hours, requiring less electricity. Discuss limited demand options for hot water, electricity, and lighting. It’s a yurt we are talking about, not grandma’s rambler!

Ask questions – lots of questions! Start with mobile homes in the area – what R value to they have? Why are they calculated differently from stick built houses, but yurts have to comply with the R-value of a permanent residence? Is a yurt less permanent than a doublewide? Be persistent, share, teach, listen, learn, discuss. Repeat!

A mutually beneficial outcome just might happen when you educate the permit official about yurts and radiant barrier insulation and empower their help to assist you with complying with an alternative energy code using site-recovered energy and on-site renewable energy. Use your enthusiasm to explain to the official that alternative, sustainable, off-the-grid options will benefit the planet far more than your low R-value yurt will hurt the planet.

Give me a call if you need encouragement as you head to City Hall.

Enjoy the journey!

~Dana

~Dana

Acknowledgments:
Yurts, Living in the Round by Becky Kemery
Practical Yurts by Steven Hatch
Architectural Record Continuing Education Center Article on IBC and IECC
2012 International Energy Conservation Code Requirements and Definitions: http://esl.tamu.edu/docs/terp/2012/2012%20IECC%20Significant%20Changes.pdf

Guest Post: Solar Hot Water

I have for you today another fabulous guest post by Ron Friedman. If you’ve been wondering about an efficient way to get hot water to your yurt, he has a solution for you – solar hot water!

Enjoy!

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Solar heated hot water is an under-utilized technology, often overlooked due to our romance with solar electricity. But fuel for heating water is expensive and solar offers tremendous savings and payback times.

The systems for solar heated water usually include flat plate or evacuated tube systems that need a lot of room to capture enough useable solar radiation. Often the liquid in the system is used just to transfer the heat to the useable water in your hot water tank recirculating through a heat transfer system.

A new system is now being beta tested throughout the US that takes up a fraction of the space and delivers hot water directly to the tank. A company called Avalanche Energy, headed up by aerospace engineer Alex Pina, produces it. Their mantra is “solar for everyone.”

Evacuated tubes vs Thermal Square

Pictured here is the dish called the ThermalSquare. Flexible installation options mean that it is a viable option even if you live in a yurt. You can mount it to a pole or the ground, rather than the traditional roof mount. The system measures only 4’ x 4’ and will be available to the public in 2015.

SystemThe system is able to capture visible and infrared solar energy and move it directly to the useable hot water from the storage tank. In this graphic, you can see the solar first hitting the reflector #2 that directs the energy to reflector #3 before transferring to your water.

Depending upon how much water you require and your amount of solar capture, this system can replace your fossil fuel usage. The size of your storage tank will be critical. #4 in the graphic are pipes that feed the water directly into your storage tank.

Size your storage tank for the number of people that will use the water. For one to three people, I recommend a 60 gallon tank. For three to four people, an 80 gallon storage tank. If you have four to six people, you’ll want an even larger tank. Check the system for leaks. Just a tiny leak can have a huge impact on your hot water supply.

Comparing the ThermalSquare to other systems readily displays the benefits. This chart represents a California location with the incentives available in the state. Your state incentives will impact the pricing and may vary.

Untitled1
Cost, payback period, size, efficiency and daily energy produced are shown. Though the evacuated tube system supplies greater kwh of energy, the costs are more than double and the efficiency is significantly less.

Avalance-Energy-Yurt-Concept (2) on deck reducedAvalanche Energy will also be introducing solar electric systems in the future. Their goal is to produce electricity at double the efficiency of what is currently available. Another goal is to impact space heating.

Visit the company website at: www.avalanche-energyinc.com to apply to be a part of beta testing this summer.

Ron Friedman
Ronjf1@gmail.com
Skype: Ronjf1

Guest Post: Radiant Heat for Yurts

I’m so happy to share with you today another post from Ron Friedman of Sol Solutions. If you haven’t already, check out his previous post on solar generators for yurt dwellers! He’s created another super helpful, informative post, this time on radiant heat for your Rainier Yurt.

Here’s Ron!

***

What is most valuable to yurt dwellers is space. Every square foot is precious. When you start thinking about heating systems, we all think boilers or furnaces or woodstoves that take up room and require wall or roof penetrations.

But there are now solutions that do not impact your design and comfort criteria and you will not have to cut any holes in your yurt.

The solution is in radiant heating systems that can be integrated into the floor or with strategically placed panel radiators powered by a tankless electric radiant heater. If you have gas or propane, there are alternatives to the electric systems, but they don’t have the bells and whistles or the efficiency that these systems do.

radiant-heat1Let’s start with the Supergreen electric tankless radiant heater. We need to first determine the heat loss of your yurt. (Rainier’s yurt girl can help you with this.)

Once you know the BTU requiment of your structure, you can select the appropriate Supergreen model. Model choices are the RH350 which provides 23,844 BTUs, the RH450 at 30,708 BTUs, the RH650 at 47,768 BTUs, and the largest unit available, the RH850 which offers 61,416 BTUs per hour.

For this example, we’ll look at the 450 model at 30,708 BTUs per hour. Check to make sure you have enough power coming into the yurt. The RH 450 model specifies 9kw/40 amp and 240 volt 50/60hz. Most yurts will easily be heated by this model. A few key points to remember, the Supergreen only needs to heat a little bit of water or glycol for the system. It heats the fluid quicker than any other heater due to the far infrared technology and quartz tubes hidden inside. It uses less and less energy through self modulation.

You can select an in-the-floor system, a panel radiator (panel rad) system, or a hybrid that combines both.

radiant-heat2The in-the-floor system is very slick. You could put it in a slab below your yurt, or Hydronic Alternatives provides a thermal board with pre-machined channels for the piping that gets run back and forth in loops. The design criteria tells us how many feet or loops of tubing we need. You place the thermal board on the subfloor connecting with glue and screws. Then you walk in the tubing. Next you add your finished flooring as specified by Hydronic Alternatives.

This is a closed loop system, meaning the water is heated, flows through the system, then back to the heater. Pretty simple!

But what if the water is still hot when it gets back to the heater? Remember, Supergreen modulates and uses quartz tubes and far infrared technology. That means it senses the water temperature, it knows exactly how much energy is required to get it back to the preset requirement. The tubes are zero maintenance, minerals will not effect them.

In addition, Hydronic Alternatives offers a valve that senses the temperature remaining in the tube and sends it back around without even going back into the heater if the fluid is still hot enough.

radiant-heat3

Now let’s imagine that you still need to capture more BTUs from the system. You can add panel radiators in various shapes and sizes, and these have individual controls on them. Floor mounts or wall mounts are possible. If you want to control the heat flow, all you have to do is turn the dial.

But what about that need for a little European flare – say, a hot towel warmer? You can see the little knob in the picture below towards the bottom right. If you need to adjust, just pull and turn. The rate of flow will change the BTUs delivered to that location.

radiant-heat4

You also have automatic sensors that keep the yurt comfortable. If you want to get more creative and have use of straight walls or under cabinet space, Hydronic Alternatives also provides a cove molding-like solution. It provides both radiant and convective heat, and looks just like baseboard heating systems. There are just no fins, just a feed and return line.

These systems are zero maintenance. The Supergreen RH models have a 4 year warranty. There is no mineral buildup that will destroy metal heating elements. The quartz used in Supergreen is high tech it will not degrade. And the technology allows for the quickest heating times available. With these two systems, your yurt heating system should easily be less than $2,000!

Stay warm!

Ron Friedman
Design 4 Energy
Ronjf1@gmail.com
312-857-3793

Guest Post: Solar Generators for Yurts

I’m very excited for today’s guest post, written by my friend Ron Friedman.  Ron represents Sol Solutions, a company that makes portable solar power generators.  Just to warn you, this is a long post, so grab a snack and get comfy!  This is the best post I’ve read about putting a solar generator in your Rainier Yurt.

Take it away, Ron!

***

solar-yurt-post1Differentiating solar generators for yurts versus other structures will be dependent upon your particular design. You will not put a solar system on the roof, that’s for sure. Sizing will be dependent upon how much power you need. (Adding up the wattage of all your electrical items and the hours you want them on.)

If you have appropriately facing deck space or unshaded grounds, this may represent the correct location for placement of solar panels. A portable solar generator will be a simple solution, easily portable, and plug and play. But with a solar generator you will also have a charge controller, an inverter, and the critical component, battery storage.

The critical elements of any solar generator are:

  1. Battery storage capacity
  2. Solar pv input
  3. Charge controller
  4. Inverter rating
  5. Component quality
  6. Portability
  7. Balanced system design

Battery Storage

If you are living off grid, understanding battery storage, sizing, and capacity is essential. The battery system will allow you to have lights and more during the night as well as cloudy periods, or when your demand exceeds the power output of the panels alone.

Batteries are rated in amp hours, like 12 volt 100 amp/hours. But to determine how much power you need, everything is rated in wattage draw. This requires that you calculate watt hours from the amp hours of the battery.  In our example you multiply 12 volts x 100 amp/hours resulting in 1200 watts.

solar-yurt-post2You may think that that this gives you 1200 watts of usable power, but batteries are finicky and lead acid battery manufacturers recommend using only 2/3 of the power to prevent draining the batteries decreasing the life of the system. If you drain your lead acid battery system, they will be dead or certainly suffer an early demise. In our case 2/3 x 1200 = 800 watts of functional power. So a 100 watt draw notebook computer could run for 8 hours before charging the system would be needed. In most cases you will need more power available than this. You have to add all the wattage requirements of your electrical equipment, toaster, fridge, lights, fans, TV, (everything) to size your system properly.

The solar panels capture the solar energy. They are rated in watts like 100 watt panels or 235 watt panels.

Different manufacturers provide various watt panels. In many instances you have approximately 6 hours of sunlight to capture energy if the panels are situated properly. You can leave them pointing south, but a system on wheels allows you to easily adjust the angle of the panels through the day maximizing your solar harvest.

Fully recharging the 100 amp hour battery with a 140 watt solar panel can be calculated like this. Total usable watts was 800. Divide this by 140 watts from the solar panel. 800 amp/hours divided by 140 watts, or 5.7 hours charge time. But if you are running appliances during that time, it will take additional time for charging. And batteries just sitting at less than full charge or not charging them to capacity will impact their lifespan. Hence you will design a system to be able to provide usable power and charging power simultaneously.

Charge Controller

solar-yurt-post3Between your solar panels and your batteries, you need a way to control the voltage or current going to the batteries. It protects the batteries from over charging.

Once again there are many low end controllers available. If the system is not matched well you will loose a huge amount of power or you will damage your batteries. We highly recommend MPPT controllers (Maximum Power Point Trackers). These electronic components take a high voltage DC coming off the panels and lowers the voltage so the batteries can be charged safely.

It can get pretty confusing here but a 140 watt 12 volt panel does not provide 140 watts. The MPPT controller checks the output of the panels and matches it to the battery to maintain a safe charge in amps. They are much more efficient than low end controllers.

 Inverters and Inverter Rating

The power from the solar panels is DC.  Most US standard equipment is AC. So the power must be converted. The inverter changes that DC voltage to useable 120 volt AC. There are also inverter chargers that allow you to charge your battery bank from a grid connect or fossil fueled generator. The inverter charger would take that AC power and change it to DC allowing your batteries to be charged quickly and safely.

The rating on the inverter refers to the maximum amount of power it can take from the generator. So a 1500  watt rated inverter can take 1500 watts in AC power. But pulling the maximum amount of power will deplete the 100 amp hour battery from our example in about 30 minutes. (800 useable watts divided by 1500 watts)  For solar generators the general rule to keep in mind is to allow a 1.5 to 1 ratio where your useable power in this case would be 1500 watts with an inverter rating of 1000.

Now that you have this information, watch out for:

  1. Generators with little or no battery storage.
  2. An inverter charger is an excellent choice that allows for quick charging of your batteries with grid or gas/diesel powered generators.
  3. Be sure to follow the 1.5 to 1 ratio (useable power to inverter rating).

Quality Components

Like everything else, “you get what you pay for.”  But in the case of a solar generator, if you are living off grid, reliability is critical. Or if you are using a solar generator for emergency situations it has be dependable and functioning when the need arises.

American made solar controllers and inverters tend to have 2-5 year warranties. Look for this as a standard and be cautious with low end systems.

Metal rather than plastic housings will provide much longer and durable protection for your system. Plastics break down over time with sun exposure and are just not as long lived for rugged situations like off grid scenarios, emergency situations or construction sites.

The solar panels come from China, India, the US, Canada, Germany and other countries. From a sustainable point of view, purchasing as close to local as possible makes sense. And it will contribute to help in building a sustainable solar industry here in the US or wherever you happen to be on our space ship.

Watch out for:

  1. Solar generators with un-named components
  2. Plastic casings

Portability

solar-yurt-post4Solar generators often come with some type of portability. This provides power where you need it, when you need it, and the ability to track the sun. The weight of the batteries can be very extreme even approaching 100 pounds for a single battery.

Be sure a portable system is not sacrificing storage capacity for ease of mobility. Cheap plastic wheeled units save money but do nothing for ease of moving nor long life of the system.  Look for good bicycle wheels, proper weight distribution, ease of loading into truck, or moving from the home to a workshop or outdoor construction area where power is needed.

Watch out for:

  1.  Cheap or inexpensive wheels or no wheels
  2. Unbalanced very heavily designed systems

Balanced System Designs

solar-yurt-post5Balanced system design simply means all the components of a solar generator system are quality products, fit well together, and have ratings that support the functions you are seeking. Useable storage capacity (2/3 of the rated storage ),  good solar module panel input, and the appropriate inverter rating is critical. Remember the ratio 1.5 useable watt-hours to 1 watt of inverter rating with 6 hours or less of recharging time.

1500 useable watt-hours is a good starting point for storage capacity. This would look like a 250 watt solar panel (or input) and a 1000 watt inverter.

Provided by Ron Friedman and Chaz Peling, owner Sol Solutions.

Email: Ronjf1@gmail.com

Skype: Ronjf1

Photo credits to Sol Solutions, Greendiary, Dummies.com

Please mention you read about us on the Rainier Yurt blog!

 

Glossary

AC – alternating current. Standard for households here in the US.  (The charge can go in both directions)

DC – direct current (The charge only goes in one direction)

Watts – amount of electricity used by a power consuming device

Amps – volume of electricity

Amp/hours – this is the energy rating for a battery or battery system.  You can think of this as what is the maxium amperage that can be taken from the battery until it is drained. If you draw 5 amps for a period of time the battery will last for some specific amount of time. If you draw 10 amps, it will last less time. But that will leave the battery drained (lead acid). That is not what you want to have happen. Check the manufacturers guidelines or with your battery specialist. Some manufacturers suggest only draining the battery to 60% of capacity before it would require charging.

Volts – the amount of pressure of electric power

Lithium Battery – a relatively new battery technology that allows for very dense power storage. It can store multiple times the amount of energy  of lead acid  batteries and can be discharged down to 10% of capacity with little or no harm. They are also much lighter than lead acid batteries.

Lead Acid Battery – a long time established battery technology

Solar controller – a component that manages the power from the solar panels going to the batteries.

MPPT controller – an advanced solar controller providing greater safety and charging ability

Inverter – this component takes the power from the batteries and converts it to AC power common in most households

Inverter rating – the amount of power that the component can process from the battery system

Electric Generator – a device that creates electricity. A  solar generator takes light energy and converts it to electricity. A gas, diesel or propane powered generator takes mechanical energy and converts it to electricity.

Yurt Interior Flooring

Yurts don’t maintain their structural integrity as well if placed directly on the ground but should be firmly attached to a circular platform of the same size of the yurt you are purchasing.

If you are building a residential yurt fixed with plumbing and electricity it’s best to elevate at least 18”-24’ providing a crawl space. Any type of appropriate timber decking material is a great option.

We recommend working with your local lumber yard to make sure the material fits the platform plans according to site conditions and code requirements.  Some of our customers use Structural Insulated Panels and other similar flooring and deck material.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) for your platform will help you build your platform faster, with fewer parts.

The main thing to remember is that you MUST put down your finished yurt interior flooring BEFORE you start to put up your yurt. The lattice sits on the finished floor and cannot be lifted up to install the floor.

I know of a small group of very skilled carpenters that devised a way to build up a false perimeter to support the lattice and put the finished floor in after the yurt was finished.  This is not something you should attempt at home!

flooring-install

The interior flooring of your yurt should reflect  your  own taste and style whether that is luxurious, simple  or somewhere in between.

The most common flooring is tongue and groove wood flooring, however if tile or linoleum is what you are looking for a subfloor should be laid first.

interior.sleepingyurt061

Selecting hardwood floors for your yurt can be challenging  and not having extensive knowledge of their properties to better determine the most functional, versatile and enduring wood that best matches your life style.  When selecting hardwood floors for your yurt it helps to have some knowledge of hardwoods to better determine the most versatile and enduring wood that matches your lifestyle.

yurt-interiorIf you’re looking for a wood floor that can withstand the wear of daily use while providing the flexibility and strength for years to come, a couple great options are  American cherry, red oak, and hard maple.  Other alternatives but reliable products are cork, bamboo, or rubber flooring. Cork is a natural, durable and environmentally-conscious product. It has excellent properties, is easily maintained, and is comfortable to stand on. Rubber flooring, marmoleum is a more customer earth-friendly flooring with bacterial resistant and anti-static qualities.

Carpet is another popular choice for yurt interior flooring.  Berber is still a favorite.  Ceramic tile is becoming more popular in the warmer regions and with radiant heat coils in the colder regions. I am waiting for the first customer to do a concrete platform with stained concrete flooring.

You will find helpful customer service at most local flooring centers that can answer your questions.  The “big box” stores usually have something on sale too.  Also Craigslist and Little Nickle are great sources for overstock and installation deals. Be sure to know your square footage and tell them this is a round platform – they will calculate an overage percentage because it being a round shape.

There is no right or wrong … whatever you decide to do, make it your own!

Stick to your style and budget. As always, feel free to give me a call with questions!

Happy tip-toeing, tap-dancing and “Risky-Business-sliding”!!

~Dana

~Dana

Heating Your Yurt

What if I don’t want to use only a wood stove to heat my yurt?

Two is always better than one, so I recommend that if you can, you use two sources of heat for your yurt.  There will be times that you  have a power outage and must rely on your wood stove.  Likewise there will be times when you don’t feel like going outside (in the middle of the night during a blizzard when you have the flu…) to get more firewood.

There are many different electrical heat sources that are perfect for yurts.  Space heaters have come a long way and the technology is pretty cool. First and foremost I recommend a unit that is not hot to the touch. Glowing Red elements are a thing of the past – and they typically only heat up the objects immediately in front of the unit. Lets take a look at some of the modern options:

Energy Efficient Radiant Heating Panels

Radiant-Heat-Picture-3
Rarely has there been an energy efficient system that can be turned on and off like a light bulb that produces heat like the sun in the space that we need it.

Radiant-heat-picture-1Radiant heating panels, made here in the US, are now able to provide overhead sun like warmth to the exact space where you need it.  For best impact, suspending these modules from the ceiling, is the best way to receive extreme comfort. They can reach 170 degrees and produce a cone of comfort at an 80 degree angle from the hung unit. Being radiant heaters, they do not cause drafty air movement like convection heaters.

From 400 to 600 watts, the energy efficiency of this system is significant compared to all electric heating systems as well as gas and oil. And there is no duct work and no fans. It heats people and things that than radiate the warmth back to people again.

The panels are less than 2 inches thick and come in various lengths and widths.  A typical unit is 24 ¼” x47 ¾” x 1 1/8” weighing 11 pounds. Available in either 120 volt or 240 volt drawing 3.3 and 1.7 amps respectively this unit produces up to 1365 btus.  The 120 volt model can plug right into a standard wall socket.  Thermostats, switches, and automatic motion sensors are available.  The module is framed in aluminum or steel enclosed.

Radiant-Heat-Picture-2For yurts it can be freely suspended. And for design purposes the panels are paint-able.

Sizing a radiant heating system can be a little daunting for large commercial spaces. But for small homes, cabins, and yurts, there are some helpful guidelines.  If you are well insulated, the rule of thumb is to size the panels to 10% of your ceiling square footage.  Keep the units 2’-4’feet away from exterior walls.  Also allow 4’-8’ between modules. If you know you have a cold spot, the rule of thumb says add a small unit to that area.  Or test it out.

The thermostats setbacks will cycle the units on and off as needed.

For additional information, please contact:

Ron Friedman
Rochester, NY
585-643-0907
Ronjf1@gmail.com

dyson-image1
Goodbye cold corners. Hello hot (plus cool)
Dyson Hot + Cool heats the whole room faster than any other, and cools during warmer months.

Conventional heaters have limited settings. Like a watched pot that never boils, they can’t always heat a whole room quickly. Meanwhile central heating is sometimes wasted on the whole house when you only need heat a room. Dyson Hot + Cool is engineered to heat the whole room faster than any other. Dyson Hot + Cool costs approximately 30% less to heat a whole room than conventional fan heaters.

Dyson Hot + Cool can be set between 32 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit to heat a room.  An intelligent thermostat keeps it there. Dyson Hot + Cool monitors the room temperature by measuring surrounding air.  If a drop is detected, the heater turns back on to maintain the set temperature.

James Dyson says: “fan heaters rely on inefficient motors or dust friendly grilles.  As the heat rises you’re left with a partially heated room and a worrying burning smell.  We’ve developed a heater that heats the whole room, without you having to constantly adjust the temperature.”

dyson-pg4,5

It took 22 engineers – including experts in thermo dynamics and fluid mechanics – over three years to research, develop and test Dyson’s patented Air Multiplier™ technology for its application in a heater.

How it works: Using patented Air Multiplier™ technology, air is drawn in through a mixed flow impeller, a combination of the technologies used in turbochargers and jet engines. It is then accelerated through a 2.5mm aperture set within the loop amplifier.  This creates a jet of hot air which passes over an airfoil-shaped ramp channelling its direction.  Surrounding air is drawn into the airflow, amplifying it six times in a process known as inducement and entrainment.

Safety features: Dyson Hot + Cool has low surface temperatures throughout and no visible heating elements. And if tipped over, the machine has been engineered to automatically cut out.

Remote Control: Turning the Dyson Hot + Cool on and off, adjusting temperature, airflow rate and controlling oscillation can be done easily from across a room.  The remote control is curved and magnetized to store neatly on top of the machine.

Precision: Dyson Hot + Cool has temperature controls and an intelligent thermostat. Variable airflow and oscillation is controlled either by remote or on the front of the machine.

Cooling fan: Unlike conventional heaters it has a dual-mode function as a cooling fan. In keeping with Dyson’s Air Multiplier™ range it couples high airflow and velocity.

Dyson Hot + Cool is available now at on dyson.com and most major retailers at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $399.99.

  • Color – The Dyson Hot + Cool is available in iron/blue and white/silver
  • Easy to clean – quickly wiped clean with a cloth.
  • Weight – approximately 5.3 lbs.
  • Guarantee – Dyson Hot + Cool has been tested for the equivalent of 10 years of constant use and comes with a two year parts and labor guarantee.
  • Patents – Currently, worldwide there are over 170 patents and over 270 pending patent applications relating to 21 different technical aspects of the Dyson Air Multiplier™ fan range.
  • Environmental chamber – The temperature range in the chambers is from 32°F to 99°F, and 10% relative humidity to 80%.
  • Materials – Dyson Hot + Cool is constructed from tough Acrylontride butadiene styrene – ABS.  ABS is a tough thermoplastic used to make light, rigid and molded products.  It has good shock absorbing properties and is used to make car bumpers, crash helmets and modern golf club heads.  It’s used in Dyson vacuum cleaners and Dyson Airblade™ hand dryers, too.

About Dyson:

dyson-pg6,7

Research, design, and development are at the core of Dyson. One third of people at Dyson are engineers and scientists. Their expertise in fluid, mechanical, electrical, EMC, thermal, chemical, acoustic and software engineering allows them to design new technologies from the bladeless Air Multiplier™ fan to the Airblade™ hand dryer as well as challenge and improve existing ones. Dyson has over 1,900 patents and patent applications for over 300 different inventions (July 2011). Dyson’s RDD investment has quadrupled over the last 5 years with plans to double engineers to continue to invent new machines.

I saw this in person for the first time in Costco – they are as hot as they look! (Pardon the pun!)

For additional information, please contact:
uspr@dyson.com
312.237.3972

Another nifty little unit that I like (so much that I have two!) is the Eden Pure Heater.   This is an advanced quartz infrared portable heater that can help heat your yurt with efficiency.

edenpure-space-heater-750

Engineered and designed in the USA, the new EdenPURE GEN4 uses specially designed SYLVANIA Quartz bulbs as a heat source, along with our new “EdenFLOW™ Direct Air” technology for even more efficient and even heat distribution.

For those of you challenged with a smaller space to heat, our EdenPURE Personal Heater fits the bill comfortably, heating a more intimate space. Now 30% more efficient, the Personal Heater heats an area up to 500 square feet!

http://www.edenpure.com/

The EdenPURE Model 750 is new for 2013. Designed, engineered and manufactured in the US, this space saving heater heats up to 750 square feet. The Model 750 portable heater is equipped with patented copper heating chambers, infrared bulbs designed by SYLVANIA, antimicrobial copper and “EdenFLOW Direct Air™” Technology.

One thing I like about all of these products is that they are cool to the touch.  Little ones and pets won’t get burned if they get too close.  They can be relatively close to the walls and furniture and do not take up too much space.

Lastly, thank you to my buddy, Ron Friedman, for his input on the Radiant Heat Panels.  His technical support and education has been super helpful.

Rainier Yurts: (800) 869-7162

All my best,

~Dana

~Dana

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