Welcome to our
Book of the House
Building an energy-miserly, 40-years-maintenance-free
cybernetic proof-of-concept house
Why & how & more - full details (more or less) on everything.
Our progress on the cybernetic aspects of the house in recent months has been significant.(Click on the image on the right to download a PDF briefing on what makes it cybernetic). We are about to meet with the local school board to determine where we might work cooperatively in pursuit of STEM grants to help the “laboratory” of the house bring some of its lessons to the classroom. We are working cooperatively with Blue Iris to add several AI features to their video surveillance software and to develop API (programming tools) to make it easier for others to interact with its already-amazing platform. Seagate is providing SkyHawk AI surveillance-optimized hard drives with a mean time between failures of more than 2 centuries. SilverStone has provided cases for the surveillance system and ASUS a motherboard.
Eaton, FSP, Geist and others are providing power path elements to make operations much more resistant to failure. Maxim and Bosch provided needed sensors to build our CAP sensor beds and, after an inspired suggestion from Bosch, we’re adding accelerometers in almost a hundred locations.
As we finish the surveillance server build and complete the revised power path installation, we’ll be ready to activate the 6 intranets and tailor the firewall to them. Our hardware hacking is more nimble than ever with constant purpose-built (or adapted) hand tools at our Weller pro-grade soldering/rework station. In addition to the bevy of Raspberry Pi 3 Model B boards we’re configuring for their applications, we are also including newer Model B+ boards and ASUS Tinker boards; we’re also having some discussions with HP about their thin clients for possible deployment at the apron of the driveway. We have not yet made more than preliminary progress in our work with small, inexpensive radar heads as sensors.
To help accelerate the overall progress of the build (and to help make up for lost time in 2017’s control redesigns as we made it cybernetic) we will soon apply for many non-STEM grants. It now looks like the electronics and the grant money, together, will let us be ready for late-2018 progress at the build site with electronics integration as we go, a summer 2019 burn-in (alas, a pun under the South Carolina sun) and a late-2019 world debut of the finished project.
Updating our last update
Our CAP role is expanding. It will monitor the status of the room door, connected doors (like the Jack & Jill shared bathroom), closet doors, water leaks under sinks or toilets or showers, whether TV sets are on, whether lavatory or shower exhaust fans are on, whether power is present at the outlets, whether wall switches are being activated and optionally more. The CAP will be able to make a nearby TV slowly reduce its volume and then turn off if you doze off while watching it Our top-of-class wooden workbench has new meters and power supplies joining its oscilloscopes and other test gear. Meanwhile: back to the beginning of our story... .
Our inspiration was a light bulb - specifically an LED bulb
When we first switched to LED bulbs we saw our electric bill drop and knew we could go more than 20 years without replacing them. Then we learned that LED fixtures last twice as long as bulbs, so we began wondering what else we could do to cut energy costs and avoid maintenance chores for a very long time. That led us to redefine the way the market was treating home automation products into the concept of an autonomous house - one that can adjust itself to the needs of its occupants as well as the needs of the structure, without requiring human intervention.
So we committed to a scary-big editorial project: designing and building a proof-of-concept house that comes as close as we can get to fulfilling these goals. But perhaps we should begin with a mutual understanding of how we interpret those.
ENERGY-MISERLY does not mean going off the grid. We just want to slow the meters and consume fewer resources. We make some significant inroads in comparison to standard materials and practices. As you will see, some of the most significant steps have to do with isolating the inside of the house from the environment outside, in part by aggressively addressing insulation.
40-YEARS-MAINTENANCE-FREE does not mean you'll never dust or vacuum. It does mean making selections that can help avoid needing major repairs or replacements for 40 years. We were surprised by how many products already meet that qualification.
CYBERNETIC adds memory and adaptability to the idea of self-controlled (not remote-controlled) true automation. Thousands of sensors, hundreds of actuators and almost a hundred computers and controllers work together to recognize the needs of both the occupants and the structure, and as much as we can make happen, satisfies those needs without requiring human participation.
Total cost of ownership (TCO)
For the design example house, approximately 3450 square feet on a build site in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) of South Carolina, near Aiken, we can look at a 40-year total cost of ownership versus traditional designs. (The data for this chart is from veteran custom homebuilder Don Cerra, who's earned a reputation as the “Greenest” builder in the CSRA).
Energy cost forecasts are based on current rates. Replacement costs that the engineered build would not encounter but that a traditional build would normally encounter one or more times include roof repair and replacement, HVAC system repair and replacement, hot water system repair and replacement, driveway repair and replacement, repainting, well pump repair and replacement and similar repair, replacement or maintenance costs that the engineered build avoids through its investment in superior materials optimized for longevity. TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) addresses the full estimated ranges of each factor to show best/worst case estimates. Averaging the ranges, the TCO for the engineered house is $673,900 versus $754,250, a difference of $80,350, which represents a 10.7% savings versus a traditionally built house, in this example.
The Book of The House
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