Friday, August 23, 2013

And a weather station is active.

This week we added a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station with a Weatherbridge so we can upload weather to the web.  I want to be able to track not only temps but RH, rain rates/total rainfall, wind speed and direction and use that to help with not only gardening but with the house performance.  If you'd like to see what it's like at the house, go to, click on the 'maps and radarl' tab and enter Sanford NC or zip code 27330.  We're just North of Sanford on 15/501 (Rte 87), technically in Pittsboro (part of Chatham County) but the USPS zones us as Sanford.  Our weather station ID is KNCSANFO8

One reason we installed this station was to help track the rainfall and see if we're in a micro-climate here.  It appears that when areas around us have been getting 1/4" to 1/2" of rain, we get upwards of 2, sometimes 3 inches of rain in a very short period of time.  Recently I took a snapshot of the weather radar showing "maximum recordable" rainfall rates in a small section that was centered around our area.

The good news is that we haven't had to worry much about watering the veggie or flower gardens but the bad news is that the rain has reduced our tomato output to near-nill and some of our landscape shrubs had died of overwater.  I am learning the fine art of sculpting the grading in fine increments to steer water away from some areas and into others.  It's slowly developing into a working site and we hope to have a rain garden growing in the coming months.

Hummingbird activity has been unbelievable this year.  At times I can count over 20 hummers flitting about, sometimes 4 feeding from a single feeder with 2 more queueing up for the first open slot.   There are so many that we refill the feeders every day (total of 4 feeders, 32 ounces of water and 1 cup of sugar for a day's fill).

I'll try to post some of the pics we've managed to take recently of the activity though they move so quickly some are simply blurs on the screen.

In addition to hummers, we have a number of deer, a raccoon or two, a possum, one or two field mice, and several owls that inhabit the woods around the house.  Some days we have to escape inside to avoid the symphony of noises....

Updating the utility costs, this month's electric bill was $107 and the refill of our 120 gal propane tank (which is at 31% after 16 months of range/grill use) was $160.  Overall utility costs are quite low - though we are still working on the desuperheater function.  Neighbors supply all their hot water from the desuperheaters while ours is not changing the temp of the storage tank noticeably at all.  We believe there is a "plumbing" problem that is leading to either thermal syphoning or other loops that are bleeding the heated water into the house vice into the storage tank.  We're considering installing a check-valve but there may be other plumbing related issues that are causing this.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PHIUS Certification in hand! Punchlist? Rainwater collection upgrade, Energy consumption update

We finally received our certificate and plaque for the house from PHIUS.  We can now say we're certified to their standard.  The curious thing is that in the month or so since we received the plaque and certificate, the house has not yet been added to the PHIUS list of certified houses on their website.  Pictures to follow when I get the plaque mounted on the house.

  We're still waiting for the punchlist to be completed - "nail pops," paint, bathtub scratches, and a few other things.  We have done a lot of work around the house since my last post - we'll publish photos in the coming days to update the blog.  Landscaping has been a big part of the work and soon we'll turn to indoor work with the heat and humidity become unbearable (yesterday was 78 degrees and about 95% humidity so it was pretty unbearable for any outside physical work).

  As an update on the energy consumption, our latest electric bill was $80 and our HVAC hasn't been running much since that bill so I expect the next bill to be lower.

We upgraded the rainwater collection system to a total of 1350 gallons, 550 of which is filtered so we don't get rotting-pollen-scented water.  For the record 1/2" of rain produces about 100 gallons of filtered water (due to slower flow rate of sand/gravel biofilter) and several hundred gallons unfiltered.  We had 1 1/2" of rain over the weekend so have about 1200 gallons stored at the moment.  No need to use it yet because we're getting sufficient rainfall but in a month or so the veggies and newly planted bermuda/zoysia grass and flower gardens will appreciate the water.  I'll try to document the "first flush" and biofilter setup and experiences we had in making it all work.  Rainchains are nice but they're a bit messy where they collect all the oak seed pods pine needles and leaf bits. Blocks the drainage and causes water to spray off the chains instead of flow smoothly down the chains.  We plan to install gutter guards this spring so that will alleviate the majority of that debris and rainwater collection will be cleaner.