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.


  1. Hi! My wife Julie and i are in the process of building a passive house not that far away from you in Castalia. We were wondering, if it would be possible to meet in person and learn more about your experiences building your house and the costs associated. We are at a stage where we are getting bids and we want to make sure, that we are not missing something.
    thx in advance, Swen

  2. Swen,
    Julie contacted me via LinkedIn and I've accepted her as a connection. We'd be happy to connect to discuss our experiences. I'll send he an e-mail through her g-mail account. John

  3. John, I'm currently looking to build a few hours North of you but wanted to see if you were still happy with the Ideal Building Systems walls in your build or if you've had any problems with them? Your blog has been one of the few places online I've seen someone incorporate them into their build.

  4. Brandon, Yes, we are still very happy with the wall system. We haven't had any issues with them other than a couple of hairline cracks near some windows but Justin came out with his engineer and had no concern with the integrity of the wall. I think the one thing that is hard is the panel joints and getting them "right." The crew is used to doing commercial builds so they weren't concerned with highly visible joints. I did the joint filling work myself to try to get it better and I think I did but I would spend more time (and materials) getting them more flush with the surface of the walls. I would also spend some time knocking off any excess concrete "form" bumps along the corners and joints to make them even smoother - those are the places where the concrete had a bit of overflow on the forms and didn't get cleaned off before setting up. Overall I would definitely go with the wall system again - especially when you consider the walls are about R40 once you add the stud wall with blown-in cellulose making it about a 16 1/2" thick wall. Our heating and cooling costs are very low considering the size of space we condition (complete inside space including full basement and any overhead crawl spaces).