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Blog Cabin 2013: Q&A With Dylan Eastman (page 3 of 6)

Our project manager answers questions posed by fans of DIY Network’s favorite interactive series.

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Q. Will you be installing insect screens on porches?
A. The porches are set up to receive 8' x 8' screened panels. Although we are not going to install screens, this would make a great DIY project for the winner of the cabin.

Q. Why did you decide on an underground drain system rather than gutters?
A. Gutters tend to concentrate water in a few areas, which is fine if a property properly drains and/or features storm drains. Our site offered neither. Instead we decided to install square-cut eaves with drip edge and a perimeter foundation drain. Square-cut eaves prevent water from running down the fascia. The foundation drain also helps to reduce soil saturation around the crawlspace. With roof water absorbed over a much larger area than accommodated by four to five downspouts, we reduce concentrated soil saturation and prevent surface soil runoff.

Q. Will there be generator backup?
A. Since this area is fed by overhead power lines, outages due to trees and high winds are not uncommon. There is a standby generator to the north of the house. It feeds an automatic transfer switch, which ensures a safe and quick changeover to generator power.

Q. Will you install any solar features?
A. Though I would love a future Blog Cabin to feature renewable energy, active solar energy was not a good fit this year. Here’s why:

  • Poor solar exposure: Though we are blessed with a mostly south-facing house and a south beach, the south side of the existing house was narrow (compared to its east/west face). After adding a second-floor porch, only two smaller roof areas were available for panels. These areas become shaded by the gable during parts of the day.
  • High wind loads: Panels would have to meet 130 mph wind loads while remaining serviceable. All exterior hardware and fasteners are fashioned from hot-dipped galvanized, copper or stainless steel so the mounts would have been very expensive.
  • Use: Since this house will likely be used as a second home or a vacation getaway, the energy use will be high load/intermittent. Solar systems with battery backup are ideal for constant, low-load use situations. A standby generator is a much better fit for only occasional and high-load uses.
Instead of an active solar system, I focused on passive lighting, which is more efficient than pV or electrical lighting. Thanks to a south window layout, center cupola, open winder stairs, glass in interior doors and interior paint colors, interior electrical lighting is required only a few times during the day.

Since we have nearly constant wind speeds around 10 mph, a small micro turbine, placed on the dock, would prove a more fitting renewable energy system.

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