Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Renamed the Blog

So on our holiday adventure of driving our "Grease Truck" (1980 VW Rabbit that runs on vegetable oil) 3,000 miles to visit family in Texas and friends in Denver and back to Utah we decided we should expand the blog to not only talking about building our straw bale house but also about us converting diesel cars to run on vegetable oil. Since we're actively involved in both.
Straw bale news:
Our latest success in the house world is that we were able to find a thousand feet of the pex tubing needed for our forced water radiant heated floor for $100! It should have cost us close to $1,000 but we've been keeping our eyes out for supplies at a mis-shipped freight store in Salt Lake called NPS (I'm sure there are stores like it in other major cities). Besides that we are in the process of getting bids from various contractors for things we won't be able to do ourselves, like excavation and foundation pouring.
Grease car news:
Did you know that more fuel is sucked in to your engine that is actually used? The left over gets sent back to the tank for later use. That is very important to know if you are burning grease... long story so let me know if you need more details in that. The truck has driven much better this Christmas trip since we learned the importance of proper grease purging to make sure no vegetable oil ends up in the unheated diesel tank.

Monday, November 17, 2008

San Franscico Green Festival

We just barely pulled in the drive from our really great trip to the Greenest city! This is not really a straw bale specific posting- but I thought it might be a good place to process a bit of all that I learned. What I wanted to specifically gain from the conference I didn't- but I still came away with having learned a ton!
I went to the festival/conference hoping to gain insights into how I might enhance the recycling program at the school but only came away with a website to check out on that topic. However, San Franscico is an inspiration to the rest of the world for its "Waste Recovery." On every corner there are three separate bins labeled: recycling, composting, and landfill (not trash...landfill!) And people there get fined if they are not recycling! How cool :)
Anyway, back to the Green Festival... The meat of what I learned was that there are two parts to being responsible citizens of the world. One is the environment (recycling and decreasing our carbon footprint) and the second is about social responsibility (making sure the people making the products we buy are taken care of). The idea that I am taking away from the conference is that "How you spend your money is how you tell the world how you want it to be." If you're ok with giving your money to companies like Wal-mart or Exxon, then your ok with the world being a place that pollutes the environment or supports child labor in the production of clothing or chocolate, etc. So much information... good information... daunting information... I have to remember that we can only do so much at a time and to not become overwhelmed. Baby steps.
Some great websites:
http://www.betterworldshopper.com/worst.html -clearly lists the 10 best and worst companies on the planet.
www.responsibleshopper.org -great way to get to know how favorite brands/companies and how they rank environmentally and socially
www.globalexchange.org -learn what faretrade is and do holiday shopping that leaves you feeling good about the gifts you've bought b/c you know that the people who've made the products received a living wage in safe working conditions

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What is a straw bale house???

I just realized that I've emailed some of my friends and family about my blog assuming that the world even knows what a straw bale house is... most people might be thinking, "Isn't that the house in the three little pigs that burned down???!!!" That doesn't sound like a good idea at all!

Well actually, a straw bale house is more fire proof than a conventional house. Basically, it is a house that looks like an adobe house from the outside but the walls are about 18 inches thick b/c they are insulated with straw bales making our house super efficient. Our straw bale walls will have an R-value of about 49.5! Most conventional homes have an R-value of between 10 to 20. So our house will stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter because the resistance to heat flow (R-value) through our walls will be so AWESOME!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Link to helpful radiant info

This web page has some good illustrations on the different types of radiant heat.

I've been reading Carl Heldmann's book about being our own building contractor- very clearly and simply written. His website has tons of useful info on all different aspects of building.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Radiant Floor Research

After some research and discussion we're back on board for doing a hydronic radiant floor. The electric mats that go under tile/linoleum/wood floor seem just as much of a hassle as the water tubing in the concrete slab because if something breaks either way you still have to tare up a layer to fix the problem. And the cost is about the same for the supplies on 1- stained concrete floor/hydro tubing kit or 2- electric mats/whatever floor covering you plan to use.
That's what I know for now.
I'm going to try and make it over to the straw bale being built in the next couple of days!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Other Straw Balers in Town!

Today we drove up north to sell a "grease car" (car that runs on used vegetable oil) to a new convert and then stopped by Lowes to start the cost estimating portion of our building adventures. There are so many things in the house that we want to find salvaged but one hting we know for sure is that we want the best and most efficient appliances. Looks like we'll be spending about $6,000 just on those!
On the way home we thought we'd check out a house being built in town that we heard was a straw bale. Sure enough... literally two blocks away from where we are going to build, there is a really nice older couple that are building their dream home, too. They were so nice to show us around their partially built home. They have the straw bale walls halfway up and are planning to start plastering by the end of next week! We are going to head over and help when we get a chance this next week.
They told us how they came to decide against radiant floor heating (do to expense, space, fear or a leak). We will be having a serious re-thought about what we decide to do as far as that goes. Also, how they came to decide on a regular asphalt shingled roof, instead of metal (because they didn't want a faded "ugly" roof to replace in their lifetime).
It was a fun and very helpful impromptu visit...we came home with a dvd on straw bale building and a list of local contractors that they used and recommended!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thus far....

We've bought the land...
Found straw bale house plans...
Had them slightly altered and engineer stamped...
Blueprints arrived in the mail today! (a few minor errors to be fixed)
The lot has been leveled...
Surveyor expected to come in the next couple of weeks...
Russ will start calling around for estimates...
It's all very big and exciting to me. Hard to believe it is happening!