Tag Archives: humidity

Earthship Island, Day 3

So it looks like what’s going to happen with the blogging is Kat and I are going to alternate days. It’s really the only sensible way we can have enough time to make a post. If we both tried to post on the same day, we would spend all day on it and we do want to have time to work on other things.

That being said, today’s post is going to be Earthship technical.

So we showed you what the front of the tropical Earthship looked like last time, now we’re going to look at it in more detail. This first picture is from the side.

The first thing to note is the planters in this Earthship are outside. They are what you are looking at just beyond the bamboo railing. This also means they are part of the berm.

If we zoom in bit you can see this:

This is the outside end of a vent tube. Air it does provide, but the berm does not cool it like it would if the pipe were metal instead of plastic. Also, I don’t think the depth of the planter is quite enough to cool the pipe enough anyway, but to check that we would need some sort of remote, underground temperature sensor. One must also keep in mind that, in situations like this (i.e. building in a country like Indonesia), we’re pretty much building with whatever is available. There are several things in this place that could make a big improvement if only a different material had been used, but you use what you have.

If we head up onto the roof and look back at the planters, you can see the collection trench for the rain water. They used dead coral for the silt filter. There is a tonne of it lying around on the beaches here.

That trench channels the water along to the shown pipe with the screen over it. As the depth of the water increases in the trench, it will eventually drain through this pipe and into the red cistern.

This is a pretty decent setup, but there is one thing that would make it even better. If they had attached the screen to a sleeve that could easily be removed then (a) it would be easier to fix when it is damaged and (b) in the event of a tsunami you could quickly remove the sleeve and replace it with a cap. This would save your cistern from filling with sea water, which in the aftermath, it would be very desireable to have some fresh water, especially on a small island that has no natural source of water.

Unfortunately, the water channeling on the second Earthship here isn’t setup the same as this one. On Earthship2, it is channeled right into the cap of the cistern, which has been removed and a screen installed over top of it. The problem with this is that they embedded the edge of the screen in mortar, which you would think would make it quite secure, but as we discovered, both screens have suffered damage on Earthship2, one of them almost completely detached. With the screens embedded in mortar, this will not be an easy thing to fix. Had they done it the same way as Earthship1, the fix would have been simple.

On to the solar system.

There are four panels for Earthship1 and the system seems to be working just fine. We have DC based LED lights inside, as well as DC water pumps for the toilet and shower. There is a tiny 500W inverter with a single socket on it that we have been using to charge our phones and tablet. No issues to report there.

Earthship2, however, is currently without power. This is because its batteries are dead. We’re not sure if that is going to get fixed either as none of us are going to shell out the big bucks for new batteries. We contacted Earthship Biotecture, but haven’t received a reply yet.

I bet you’re wondering what that big black strip in the middle of the roof is there for? Well, let me show you a better view.

So the idea here is that this long, black metal duct will heat up in the sun and draw hot air into it. The vent tubes should then provide fresh air that is pulled into the main living area that is cooler. You can see one of the curved roof vents at the far end where the hot air is to be expelled.

The problem is there is nary a whisper of air coming from the vent tubes so inside isn’t really all that cooler than outside, especially at night. Things only really cool down if there is a nice stiff breeze blowing through the screen door.

At the opposite end of Earthship1, you’ll find this big black barrel.

This is supposed to provide solar heated water, but it has some flaws. The first one, is it’s made of plastic, so if the sun is shining on only part of it, the rest of the barrel doesn’t conduct that heat because plastic is an insulator. Secondly, not much of the barrel is actually exposed to the sun, so you’re really only heating a small amount of water at the top.

We noticed this when we took a shower today and we had full sun out. The water was almost down right cold. Again, this is probably one of those situations where they used whatever they had available, not necessarily what was most ideal.

I thought I would give you another look at the planters from above. It doesn’t look like they planted any food vegetation in these, just a bunch of grass and other things that were growing close by. We did find an aloe plant growing on the side of Earthship1 though, which for us Canuks who sun burn easy is a great thing to have.

Moving inside, if you look up at the ceiling you’ll find four of these screen vents to let the hot air out.

I you look above the front door, there are two big screen vents. As you can see, the screen is quite damaged. Replacing it will be quite the challenge as once again, it has been embedded in mortar.

This is our shower. It works quite well, though the water isn’t warm. It is gravity fed from the barrel on the roof. There is a pump that turns on to refill the barrel when it finds the water level has dropped.

This is the splash guard wall for the shower. I think all of us here are pretty unanimous on liking the look of the plastic bottles with the ends that look like stars or snow flakes.

This is our toilet. It too is working quite well. It is filled from a greywater well from under the planters. Everytime you flush, a pump comes on to refill the tank.

Lastly, we have the sink. We can wash our hands here, but you don’t want to drink the water as there isn’t a full filtration system setup in this Earthship. We brought a water filter with us so we can fill it from the tap and get drinking water without having to buy water all the time.

That takes care of most of it. There is some minor damage to the walls and floors, which apparently is due to earthquakes. It has made some of the doors difficult to open as a result as they rub on the floor now.

Earthship1 is in pretty good shape, but E2 isn’t. It doesn’t have the same facilities, the power isn’t working, so the pumps for the plumbing aren’t working either. There is no bed or bed frame and no lights, even if there was power. We are supposed to be working on making a bed frame another furniture for E2 but without power or proper tools, this is proving to be challenging.

I should also mention the humidity factor again, as it destroys a lot of things left lying around, especially anything made with iron based metal. Screens are rusted, tools are rusted, Kat found a can of nails that had all fused completely into one mass. It also doesn’t help that there is probably a lot of salt in the air from the ocean being so close by.

Overall, we’ve settled in and getting by, but Katrina’s living quarters are a little less than desireable and we need to improve on that.

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Kitchen Countertop Adventures

So I had left off previously talking about the new counter-top we were working on for the trailer. I can’t say that it is all complete, but we have made some progress.

We decided to put an epoxy finish over the wood to give it a nice shiny, protective coating. This has turned out to be a little tricky. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

We started off with the prep work. I took the counter out to our truck shelter which is acting as our work shop. Out there, Kat applied the stain and varnish to it.

Once that was done, I propped it up to it was all as level as I could get it. I taped all of the edges to prevent spill-over and I also prepared a sheet to cover it after we finished the pour.

If you’re wondering what the big log in the middle is for, that’s to hold up the cover sheet so it doesn’t touch the counter.

So, let the pouring begin!

We learned quite a few things doing this. First, epoxy likes it to be warm. The warmer, the quicker it will cure. Secondly, humidity is bad. This will encourage bubbles in your epoxy and that’s not a good thing.

Kat and I did this together because the epoxy starts to setup pretty quickly after you mix it. We managed to complete the pouring in short order. Fortunately, the counter-top isn’t that big.

Once the pour was completed, I spent some time trying to get rid of some of the bubbles, but that didn’t go so well. According to the instructions, gently exhaling on them should make them burst as it supposedly reacts with the CO2 from your breath. Well, I did a lot of blowing and the bubbles didn’t pop at all.

I also couldn’t spend forever working on this because it was starting to set, and also bugs kept falling in it. We did fish some big ones out and eventually I just covered it.

I used an old shower curtain for the cover, which worked really well. After that we let it sit for a long time, over a week.

When we finally went in to look at it, it was all nice and shiny, but there were a few bugs sticking out of it and lots of bubbles. Also, the tape didn’t work quite as well as we had hoped and there were a lot of drips down the sides that we had to shave off.

Here you can see Kat in her bug hat removing the tape.

I took some time and dug out the bugs I could find, as well as many of the bubbles. Then I did a filler coat on top of that. It has since dried, but I plan to do one more final thin coat as that last one came out a bit rough.

I did some searching online and found one website that said the most ideal setup for doing epoxy is in a vacuum. Not having a vacuum chamber readily available, we went with what we had. Hopefully, after this third coat, it will look nice. I’ll let you know how it goes after we get that done.